Tag Archives: Baseball

The current state of the MLB during the lockout 

There hasn’t been a lot of news from the MLB and baseball recently. The reason for this is the MLB lockout. The lockout is a disagreement between the players and the MLB. A lockout in professional sports isn’t unheard of, but there is no actual date when their lockout will be over. The lockout occurred because the collective bargaining agreement, also known as the CBA, which governed the 2017 through 2021 seasons, has expired without a new CBA agreed upon. The MLB entered a lockout without a CBA agreement between the MLB and the players. On December 2nd, 2021, all transactions and communications between players and teams were stopped, which resulted in one of the most frantic MLB free agency periods.

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The lockout’s impact is more internal with baseball, as baseball has several issues, such as the entire sticky substance debate. Over the early months of the season, baseball was dominant for pitchers, as the MLB record for most no-hitters in a season was broken this year with nine. The sticky substance issue is where several pitchers used some substance, which helped improve their grip on the baseball. The MLB launched a crackdown on the sticky substance problems, as umpires checked players after pitching an inning. As the season progressed and the crackdown began, pitchers’ numbers began to rise and worsen over the season, but it might not have totally been because of sticky substances. It was revealed later that the MLB had been switching baseballs to a heavier ball which was more prone to home runs. So how did this impact free agency?

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Free agency begins five days after the conclusion of the World Series. Free agency started on November 7th, but the first move was made on November 16th. Teams had two to three weeks to sign players. Typically free agency is a three-four month period, but with the lockout making it where teams cannot have contact with any players. Max Scherzer signed the highest-paid contract in MLB history this offseason, earning $44 million a year. Should Max Scherzer be one of the highest-paid players in the MLB? Yes, but being paid $44 million a year at age 37 is something that has never been seen before. Contracts like that make it impossible for small market teams to afford elite players. The Texas Rangers are also a great example of how the lockout impacted free agency. In 48 hours, the Rangers committed more than a half-billion dollars to four free agents, shortstop Corey Seager, second baseman Marcus Semien, outfielder Kole Calhoun and right-hander Jon Gray.

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 Free agency in the MLB is different compared to other major sports leagues such as the NFL and the NBA because of the salary cap. In the MLB, the salary cap is non-existent, allowing teams to sign players if they can afford it. This is why big-market teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, and Mets can afford big-ticket players, and smaller market teams such as the Orioles, Rays, and Athletics aren’t able to. To put this into perspective, the entire Orioles team salary is a total of $61 million. Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton combined are being paid $65 million a year, so two players on the Yankees are being paid more than everyone on the Orioles MLB roster. 

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The MLB lockout has impacted the MLB free agency as it rushed teams to sign players, but the lockout needed to happen. Hopefully, this lockout will fix some of the significant issues and controversies in baseball. Unfortunately, this lockout won’t really impact the salary cap but hopefully can resolve some of the other vital issues that have occurred through the MLB season.

Joshua Sheppard is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

How the Houston Astros became the villains of baseball

As Jose Altuve stepped up to the plate during game four on the 2021 ALDS in Chicago, he was berated by boos from opposing fans. Carlos Rodon, the White Sox’ ace pitcher, started the at-bat with a ball. The second pitch sped at 95 miles per hour straight into Altuve’s elbow, and the crowd erupted into applause. Altuve was once one of the faces of baseball, and a hero to baseball fans across the globe. However, the roles have switched, and Rodon is now the hero for nailing him in the elbow. The Houston Astros have quickly become hated. How did we get here?

Despite being founded in 1962, the Astros are seen as a newer, less historic, expansion team. Expansion teams are newer teams created to spread the influence of baseball and make more money for the league. During the 2010s, the Astros rose to fame as they equipped themselves with star pitchers like Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. Also, star position players like Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve helped expand the popularity of the team. Fans were entertained to see a new and fresh team on the block. In late 2016, Houston began planning a different approach to how they played.

In 2017, the Astros won over 100 games and were well on their way to the playoffs. They defeated the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS and the New York Yankees in the ALCS, both teams with legendary statuses. In an intense 7-game World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Astros proved victorious and won their first World Series ring. After that fantastic season, the Astros gained notability among fans and players across the nation. What fans didn’t know is that throughout the entire season the Astros had been stealing signs illegally.

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In both 2018 and 2019, the Astros scored above .600, gaining two division titles and one pennant. At the same time, the league was looking into the possibility that the Astros weren’t playing a fair game. Houston had been viewing a live feed of the game (including the passing of signs between the pitcher and catcher) and banging a garbage can a certain number of times depending on the pitch. Through this, the hitter understood what pitch was coming. Justice came in January 2020 when the league released their investigation and fined the Astros for $5 million. Astro’s manager AJ Hinch received a one-year suspension, and Houston lost their first and second-round picks for 2020 and 2021.

The Houston Astros have faced many difficulties within the past two years, as they have been bullied by fans and players alike. However, they are still a postseason contender. Now, as I am writing this, the Houston Astros are two wins away from another World Series ring. Their opponent is the Atlanta Braves, a fierce team that has become one of America’s favorites. In a best of seven series, the Braves are leading 3-2. You can watch Game 6 of the 2021 World Series Tuesday on Fox. The broadcasters have continued to refer to the past cheating of the Astros, so you aren’t going want to miss the broadcast. Do you think with the Astros recent past that America is firmly on the Braves’ side?

Jude Danner is a freshman member of The Quill

Ramping up for a season

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Going in to March, the NFL and the Players union came to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This change could lead to an addition to 2 more weeks to the NFL season, with the NFL wanting to keep the Super Bowl in early February the preseason could be at risk.

On July 1st, amid the global pandemic, the NFL decided to cancel 2 of the 4 preseason games, they would eventually eliminate the preseason as a whole for the season. There having been musings of eliminating the preseason or making it shorter. Traditionally there has been a set plan for all teams in ramping up to the season. Training camp began to take place in mid-July and the preseason would then end in late August. This situation has given players time to get back in to game shape. For the front office, it provides ample time to evaluate talent for the upcoming season. For late-round rookies this was their time to compete for a roster spot and playing time. Each season it feels like there’s always players who impress in the preseason and either land a spot on the active roster or practice squad.

COVID-19 created a unique situation for all pro sports league. The MLB was the first major American sports league to return, and in a normal season the teams would travel down to Florida or Arizona for a 6 week program called Spring Training. This set up allows for teams to play games each day and allows for players to work out in state of the art MLB facilities. Pitchers and catchers often report to spring training a few weeks before the other players due to the need to ramp up for the season and get their arm back into game shape.

This season the NFL and MLB had to adapt to the coronavirus while attempting to complete a regular season. The MLB was quick to begin, rushing the Spring Training process. It began on July 1st with games starting on July 24th. Providing players 3 weeks of training and a few exhibition games. For hitters this was a challenge but pitchers were the ones who were most affected by this plan. The MLB rushed to gain the first few days of views before the NBA and NHL began to play their bubble games.

The MLB was unable to secure the Spring Training facilities to potentially create 2 bubbles with both Leagues represented. Coronavirus cases in Florida and Arizona were at an all-time high during July, and sending the players to the facilities would cause a multitude of scheduling issues. The MLB also allowed for some of the top prospects to work out and play intersquad games at local minor league facilities. This made games in Florida and Arizona impossible due to the nature of the virus and the limited space. The MLB would have a 60 game season and then create a bubble for the playoffs in other host cities.

But what about the pitchers? The motions of pitching requires ample time along with a strict throwing routine. Pitching requires immense balance, correct arm angles, and the ability to use your wrist and elbow along with your lower body. Game shape for MLB pitchers is much harder to attain then it is for hitters. The increase of injuries for pitchers shows how intense the game can be and how even the best to ever play are constantly plagued by injury. The MLB’s inability to provide ample time for all the athletes while chasing TV times is irresponsible and will have major ramifications on the careers of all the athletes affected.

The NFL was unable to complete any preseason games along with no joint practices. Both leagues were at a major disadvantage. The inability to have proper time and proper competition cost both leagues dearly. The NBA and NHL were able to escape with only a few major injuries, but the NFL and MLB would be a completely different situation. Training camp brought no major injuries but on the second day of the MLB season, Future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander was recommended Tommy John surgery for an sustained in the season opener. On August 4th, then NL Cy Young favorite Mike Soroka, would be shut down for the season due to torn achilles. Other Major injuries include, Seranthony Dominguez, the only serviceable Phillies reliever and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg.

The NFL was forced to cancel the preseason based off the circumstances of COVID-19, and they had a more intense plan set in the CBA so there was little uncertainty if the season was in doubt. The cancelation of preseason has lead to an unprecedented amount of injuries. In week 2 of the NFL season, The San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets faced off at MetLife Stadium. In that game the 49ers sustained injuries to All Pro and former DROY Nick Bosa, Starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jerick McKinnon on the field. Bosa’s was the only one that was season ending, but all of the injuries have lingered for the other players leading to a high ankle sprain for Jimmy Garoppolo following a week 8 game against the Seattle Seahawks. The New York Giants lost franchise running back Saquon Barkley to another ACL tear in his week 2 affair against the Bears. Running backs Nick Chubb and Austin Ekler both sustained lower-body injuries early in the season. There has also been a lack of late round and undrafted players who are making a big difference. The Baltimore Ravens have always had an undrafted player on the active roster from the previous draft class. The only two players in the 2020 7th round that were starters for one week or more, kicker Sam Sloman, who won the Rams kicking job and QB Ben DiNucci who started for the injured Andy Dalton in week 8. There have been a few impressive undrafted players, the most notable being James Robinson, who’s filled in admirably for the Jags with the release of Leonard Fournette. Rodrigo Blankenship has been a stable get for the Colts special teams. But the late round talent has gone dry.

The NFL will be able to execute the season if they continue the control of the virus they have had so far but there is no guarantee. The lack of late round talent and the injuries of high end talent could be a concern for teams in finding inhouse replacements and having a next man up mentality. The MLB barely got over the finish line.. The injury to Justin Verlander could be one that leads to the decline of the first ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best pitchers to ever step on the mound. Mike Soroka will also have to make a huge comeback, as he’s in the middle of his early prime years and not being at 100% could hurt him, especially with the nature of his injury. In the NFL Saquon Barkley had his second year of injuries, after his electric rookie year he has become injury prone. This is more due towards the Giants inability to build an offense and protect their key players. Saquon is a generational talent but the injury bug could hurt him and his legacy if the Giants don’t protect him. The amount of lower-body injuries to running backs this season is high and shows how these all-pro backs aren’t able to be as prolific without the preseason tune up. Running backs take beatings week in and week out, and not being ready or seasoned has caused RB’s to fall apart early on.

The Game between the Jets and 49ers spurred a lot of controversy. The loss of Nick Bosa and the injury to Jimmy Garoppolo created concerns over the turf quality, but this was soon debunked. Nick Bosa was the Defensive Rookie of the Year last year and Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers to the SuperBowl. The amount of time needed to ramp up and condition is an issue for teams and it was obvious the 49ers were getting the bottom of the stick with their injury concerns.

As the season went on injuries slowed, there were minor freak injuries and major injuries that happened due to the nature of both sports. Ankle injuries are hard to blame on athletes but arm injuries are based off of how ready the player was and how hard they are being worked during the season. Verlander is an ace who is over 35 and is expected to throw every 5th day due to the nature of the sport. Saquon Barkley is expected to run the ball 25 times with no preseason to get him 100%. It’s hard for the league to see these injures and realize preseason and spring training are crucial for the game.

Andrew Sheppard is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

New Coach Brings New Strategies To MSJ Baseball

Baseball at Mount St. Joe is an institution, with a long and storied history. Over the past few years, the record for the varsity squad has not been as good as expected, but things might be turning around this coming season. Last year, the varsity squad finished just shy of the playoffs, ending with a deceptively solid 11-16 record. Although they ended with this losing record, there were some very well played games, including their defeat of Spalding in a tight 3-2 contest. Coach Rod Cameron was the head coach of the baseball program until this season, having a very productive and successful run as an assistant coach, and also as head coach. While he may not have won a championship as a head coach, he set up a team with great players and strategies to get the job done correctly. The man that was chosen to follow Coach Cameron, Coach Phil Kraska, has been coaching at the Mount for 10 years, assisting the varsity team as well as previously serving as the head coach for the JV team. Before that, Kraska won an MIAA Championship as a player as part of the 2004 Varsity team.

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Coach Phil Kraska, the new head coach for Mount Saint Joseph Baseball.

Coach Kraska has big plans for this season. He hopes to turn the program around and bring it back to its winning ways through rigorous offseason training and dedication. “We are doing a strength training program, trying to get our athletes stronger,” said Coach Kraska, “so that when we get to tryouts in February everyone is in shape and ready for the season.” Another issue that has plagued the Gaels are injuries, and this is something that Kraska hopes will be reduced, if not eliminated, through this offseason training.

Coach Kraska is very well-suited for the job as head coach, because he played for three fantastic coaches while attending the Mount. “I’ve played for Mr. Norton, Mr. Harris, and Mr. Cameron. They helped me while I was a player, and have helped me form my own coaching style,” he reminisced. All three of these coaches did great things at Mount Saint Joseph, and there is much to look forward to if Coach Kraska will be modeling his style from the experiences he had with his former coaches.

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Matt McManus, the southpaw ace for the JV team, pitching in the semifinal game against Calvert Hall. The Mount would lose this game 10-9. Photo by Nick DeLauro ’20

Another positive for the team this year is the incoming talent. Many of the rising juniors hope to make a great difference to the team. One of the names to watch out for is Matt McManus, who was dominant on the mound last season for JV, even throwing a no-hitter against McDonogh. Another player that could drastically change the game is Michael Marsh, a clutch player at the plate who led the JV team in home runs last season. Many of the players returning to the varsity team, including Justin Looney and Connor Rudel, will be the driving force of the offense.

When asked if there were any schools in particular that he would be looking forward to facing, Coach Kraska said, “Everyone! People will have a picture of what we were last year in their minds. We are going to come out and take them by surprise.” This is another great insight into how this team will be playing this year. With a new coach and new talent, there is a definite excitement for the upcoming season.

There are many new elements in the baseball program this season, and they could turn out to be extremely beneficial. Although the team did not perform to their full potential last year, there is much room to grow and a whole lot to build off of. Coach Cameron left Coach Kraska in a very good place to start for next year. Coach Kraska, as well as the whole school, hopes all of the offseason work and preparation translates into success on the field when March rolls around.

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Coach Kraska follows in the footsteps of his former MSJ Varsity Coach, Dave Norton, shown here with the team at Camden Yards. Photo Credit Brown Media

Ben McElroy is a Junior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

With Time Comes Change: Mr. Rod Cameron is Set for His First Season as Head Baseball Coach

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Mr. Rod Cameron, Mount Saint Joe’s new Varsity Baseball Coach, along with Orioles Hall of Fame 3B Brooks Robinson. After a lengthy search, Mr. Cameron was chosen to succeed Mr. Jody Harris as the Mount’s head baseball coach. Image courtesy of the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches.

My brother Brad and I sat down with Coach Cameron, the newly appointed head coach of the varsity baseball team, and the third head coach in the last five years. During our interview with Coach Cameron we discussed the many changes to the field, additions to the coaching staff, and a little taste of what is to come in the spring of 2017.

We started our conversation by asking him to walk through the renovations made to the field over the last four years. Compared to my freshman year (Jake Howell,  2013-2014 school year), the baseball field features a relocated bullpen due to the Smith Center renovation, new covers and banners on the outfield fence, additional fencing that leads down the right field line, a new backstop and scoreboard, and the newest addition being the dugouts. As a baseball player who is impacted by the renovations each year, it has been nice to see how far the field has come from what it was my freshman year through now. With Plevyak Field and the Smith Center, it is nice to see the baseball field come together to match the quality of our other sporting facilities.

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The view of the old MSJ baseball field, prior to the renovations to the backstop and dugouts.

Since baseball is still several months away, we asked Coach Cameron if he was going to make any changes to the winter workout program we had in place. “I think the first step is that from the time we stop [Fall Baseball] now early November through the end of the year will be a rest period,” Coach Cameron said. Any baseball player knows this is a big difference from years past. In off-seasons past, we would go from fall ball right into the weight room then right to tryouts. Coach Cameron wants to stress the importance of shutting down for a little bit to give your body time to recharge and refresh.

We then moved to address the announcement that he would be taking over at the helm for the varsity team. After Coach Harris’ departure, the position was open to the public, and there was a lot of interest. We asked him what he thought set him apart from other candidates. Coach Cameron credited his experience as the thing that he believed made him the most attractive candidate over other applicants. “Of all the talented people that interviewed for the job, I was the one with the one with the most experience, the one who was the most familiar with the program.” He also credited the connections that he had to the baseball community outside of Mount Saint Joe. An example of his connections to the community would be our newest addition to the JV team, Coach Ian Hendricks. “[Coach Hendricks] spent a number of years as a coach at McDonough. He is also the son of Elrod Hendricks who was with the Orioles for a decade,” Coach Cameron said of the legacy of the Hendricks family in Baltimore. But the additions do not stop there, Coach Cameron said that he plans to extend the coaching staff even more, adding coaches that will assist with every team, not just one. He plans to bring aboard Mr. Grebe to specialize with all the catchers. Having coaches that work with a specific position is something that I believe can really improve the team’s overall defense.

Renovations to the baseball field include a new backstop and new dugouts. Photo Credit: Brad Howell ’19

After discussing the changes to the coaching staff, we then moved on to a small preview of the upcoming season. When asked about the impact of the experience the senior class got as juniors last school year, Cameron responded by saying how the experience has the potential to make a tremendous impact for the outlook of the spring season, “It’ll be their [the 13 returning players] jobs to instill that confidence while the new guys are going through that period of adjustment [from JV competition to Varsity].”

It is not hard to see that Coach Cameron pours his heart and soul into this game, and I am looking forward to seeing all his hard work in the preseason translate into success when the time for tryouts comes in February.

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A panoramic of the new renovations at the MSJ baseball field. Photo Credit: Brad Howell ’19

 

 

Mount Saint Joe Varsity Baseball Begins Season

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Mount Saint Joe prepares to take on the Cardinals of Calvert Hall.

A new season is upon the Mount Saint Joseph varsity baseball team. The Gaels currently sit at 7 wins and 4 losses on the young season, and so far, after a stellar complete game win against Gilman, senior Zac Stoll’s pitching is leading the Gaels.

Last season the Gaels lost in a heart-breaker to their bitter rivals Calvert Hall in the M.I.A.A playoffs. As this season begins, the team still has that game in the back of their minds. Senior Sean Zaranski lent his opinion on the heart-breaking loss and how the team tries to move forward: “Even though this is a new season, that game lingers in the back of the returning players’ minds. I think that particular loss gives us motivation to not only beat Calvert Hall, but to fight hard throughout the season so that we can reach our goal of winning a championship. We know what it takes to get far in the season, and if we execute, we should be able to find ourselves in a similar situation battling in the playoffs.”

Zaranski’s comments echo how extremely important it is for this team moving forward to not forget about the tough loss, but to keep it in the back of their minds. They have the drive to want to improve from last season, and they have the drive to get over the hump this season.

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Head Coach Jody Harris meets with the infielders on the mound along with junior, pitcher, Matthew Conley.

One thing about this team is that they know that any one player can make an impact at any given moment. Zaranski reaffirmed this by saying, “I think that any player on this team can break out and positively impact this team. That is what makes us such a threat to any team in the M.I.A.A. Our personnel runs deep, and we have clutch players who can really get hot quick.”

Part of what is so impressive about this team so far is that, when you look at the box score after the games, there is a different impact player every single game. Zaranski really hit the nail on the head. When you have such a deep and talented roster, it can become challenging for the opposition.

Every year before the regular season begins, the Gaels travel to Myrtle Beach to compete in a preseason tournament to help prepare themselves for the season awaiting them. Zaranski spoke of the importance of this tournament at the start of a new year: “The Myrtle Beach tournament allowed our team to improve our chemistry. Chemistry between teammates is a major key on any sports team. During the tournament we were able to get a feel for how our teammates play in the field and learn more about each other’s strengths and weaknesses. However, this tournament was just the beginning. I believe that our team gets along well with each other, and the chemistry we have now will blossom as the season continues.”

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Mount Saint Joe celebrates with the Jack Conley Tournament trophy after winning the annual competition.

As the season marches on, make sure you come out and cheer on the Gaels as they continue to improve day in and day out. This team is definitely poised to show what they are capable of. Good luck to the Gaels on the rest of the season!

A big thanks to Sean Zaranski for lending his time to answer a few questions.