As most of you already know, today is a very sad day in the baseball world.  Tony Gwynn passed away at the age of 54 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Gwynn is one of those rare transcendent players - it didn't matter which team you rooted for, you respected and appreciated the contributions that Gwynn made to the game of baseball over his illustrious 20 year career.  His 8 career batting titles ranks second all-time behind Ty Cobb (tied with Honus Wagner)... not bad company.  His career batting average of .338 ranks 20th all-time and stands as a truly remarkable feat given the time which he played.  In fact, of the names ahead of him on the all-time batting average list, none played after 1960.

Gwynn is also one of the few players that made three of our All-Time Teams.  You'll see his name on our 1980's and 1990's All-Decade teams as well as the All-Time Padres roster.

But stats aside, Gwynn will be remembered for so much more than his on-field prowess.  I will fondly remember for for his smile and his one-of-a-kind voice; he was a true prince and an ambassador for the game that I love so much.

Of course, my thoughts and prayers go out to current Phillie Tony Gwynn, Jr. and the rest of the Gwynn family.  I pray you're comforted by fond memories and a peace in knowing that the man we refer to as Mr. Padre is in a better place.  Although the world lost a great man, heaven gained a pretty good 2-hole hitter.


During times like this, I like to dial into the local markets to see what they're saying.  I encourage you to check out a couple of links below:

Click Here for a piece written by Jim Salisbury at CSN.com which talks about the relationship between Gwynn Jr. and his father:

Click Here for a personal account from Jackie Preciado at The Friarhood on the impact of Tony Gwynn (she and her father are 30 year season ticket holders).
Roy Halladay turns 37 today, May 14th.  It's interesting to note this because May 14th appears to be the day of the year with the most Hall of Famers' birthdays.  By my count, there are five people in the Hall of Fame who share a birthday with Doc Halladay; Tony Perez, Earle Combs and Ed Walsh, as players, as well as Negro League founders/executives JL Wilkinson and Alex Pompez.  Who knows, maybe some day Halladay's name is added to that (already illustrious) list?  So happy birthday to the good Doctor - we hope that you are enjoying your retirement.

But that's not entirely the point of this post.  Looking at Roy Halladay's Baseball Reference list caused me to reflect on the career of Rick Reuschel... let me explain.  

As many of you know, Baseball Reference has a "Fan EloRater" which allows fans to compare the statistics of two randomized players from different teams/eras/decades side by side while casting a fan vote for the player that you feel is better.  It's a community based system that allows each person to determine his or her individual weighting for things like defense versus offense, peak versus career and regular season versus playoffs.  After casting your first vote, two more players are randomly picked and placed in front of you to vote on... you can literally do this for hours (not that I would do something like that).  The thousands of votes received are compiled into some sort of database and thus you end up with a constantly changing Fan Rating system.  Number one on the list, as of this post is Walter Johnson.

As of this post, Roy Halladay's EloRater score is 59 among pitchers which means he ranks 59th all-time as voted upon by the fans that have voted via the EloRating system.  And who do you think claims the 58th spot?

None other than Rick Reuschel. 

Now, I'm not writing this post in support of a "Rick Reuschel belongs in the Hall of Fame" campaign but there are some things that jump out at you about the Illinois farm boy they called Big Daddy that I think deserves to be noted.

First, he was somewhat of a compiler in that he pitched into his 40's.  At first glance, he seemingly hung on to tack on wins.  He was a crafty righty who didn't strike a lot of guys out.  He was successful because he didn't give free passes and he didn't give up the long ball.  He was a very good fielder and an above average hitter.  All of those things sort of contributed to his standing among other pitchers in terms of WAR - he ranks 34th in Career WAR among pitchers.

Second, he played for some really bad teams (and pitched in some hitter friendly environments)... his prime years were spent with the 70's Cubs who couldn't sniff the postseason if it smelled of roses and bit them in the nose.  Despite that fact, Reuschel posted an ERA below 3.50 (ERA+ of 116) from 1972 to 1981 (his age 23 to 32 seasons).  He was a three-time all-star and a two-time Gold Glove winner over the course of *19 seasons.  Had he played for better teams, his win totals are probably closer to 250, if not more.

* Saying that he played 19 seasons is sort of misleading because...

Third, he missed the equivalent of two and a half full seasons due to a shoulder injury which many feared would inevitably end his career.  He missed the entire 1982 season and pitched sparingly (and ineffectively) in 1983 and 1984.  He didn't really get his career back on track until 1985 at the ripe age of 36.  That year, with the Pirates, he went 14-8 while tossing 194 innings with an ERA of 2.27 (winning the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Award).  Reuschel would average 224 innings (3.27 ERA) over the next four seasons before tailing off his final two years (age 41 and 42 seasons where he only pitched in 19 games total).

He earned two Hall of Fame votes in his first and only year on the ballot in 1997.

Other notable players on the ballot for the first time that year - Dave Parker, Dwight Evans and Bobby Bonds.  Other Hall of Famers that were on the ballot in 1997 (in order of votes received)- Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Tony Perez, Ron Santo, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter and Joe Torre yet only Phil Niekro earned enough votes to be selected to enter the Hall of Fame that year.  Joe Torre actually fell off the balllot that year in his 15th and final year as an eligible ballot entry (he was selected by the Veteran's Committee).  Of all the players on the ballot, Rick Reuschel's 70 career WAR ranked third behind only Niekro and Ron Santo.  His JAWS score (reflects a players peak years) was good enough for third among the names on the ballot.  His highest WAR 7 (seven best WAR seasons totaled) ranked fifth.  

Let me be clear, Reuschel is not a Hall of Famer but pulling all of this together, I'd say that Reuschel deserved to hang on the Hall of Fame ballot longer than he did.  As mentioned, in his first and only year on the ballot in 1997, he only garnered two votes. 
If you follow this blog, you know that I'm not about shameless plugs or promotions... so far, we're ad-free, doing it solely for the love of the game (heart over capital)... but today, I'm shamelessly begging for your help.

Back in January, the Padres ousted their PA Announcer of 10 years and decided that they would hold open tryouts for the vacancy.  Fast forward to today - fellow BBA member, Mike Metzger (you can read his stuff at Padres Trail), has made it all the way to the Final 30 of this competition.  Pretty cool stuff... and our votes will help propel Mike into the Final 10.




So here's what you can do...

Click on this link to vote.

AND

If you're on Twitter, tweet @Padres using the hashtag #PadresPA25




HERSH



AL MVP - Mike Trout
NL MVP - Buster Posey

AL CY - Jered Weaver
NL CY - Madison Baumgartner

AL MOY - Joe Girardi
NL MOY - Bryan Price

AL Comeback - Michael Pineda
NL Comeback - Tim Hudson

AL ROY - Masahiro Tanaka
NL ROY - Billy Hamilton


AL Most Excited to Watch - Prince Fielder... New digs will revamp Prince's home run swing and look for him to have monster year.

AL Most Excited to Watch -  Stephen Strasburg... Look for him to start getting it together this year.




MC

AL MVP – Mike Trout
NL MVP – Freddie Freeman

AL CY – Yu Darvish
NL CY – Clayton Kershaw

AL MOY – Mike Scoscia
NL MOY – Mike Matheny

AL ROY – Masahiro Tanaka
NL ROY – Billy Hamilton

AL Comeback – Mark Teixeira
NL Comeback – Ryan Braun

AL Most Excited – Albert Pujols
NL Most Excited – Jose Fernandez



I think this may be the year that Trout unseats Cabrera. In the NL, could go to McCutchen again or possibly Goldschmidt. I think the Cardinals will take votes away from each other and possibly open the door for Freeman to nab the award if he proves last year wasn’t a fluke. Darvish and Kershaw are perennial contenders and should be again. I think Scoscia competes for his job and comes through with the Angels really turning things around this year. Matheny has continued the Cardinals tradition of excellence since LaRussa left and should get some recognition if they take the division again. Some consideration may go to Mattingly for the “Joe Torre Factor” of managing superstar personalities. I almost went with Pujols for comeback because I can’t imagine his career is done already. Ultimately, I picked Teixeira as coming back from injury will yield him more impact return numbers over Pujols. I am excited to see Pujols play and to see if he can get back to dominating the league. Although Braun is a PED user, he will most likely have a good year leading him to a comeback nomination. In the NL, it will be exciting to see if Jose Fernandez is for real and can dominate on a bad team. It would have been fascinating to see him and Matt Harvey battle it out again in the East this year.


OCP

AL MVP  - Mike Trout
NL MVP - Bryce Harper

AL Cy - Felix Hernandez
NL Cy - Clayton Kershaw

AL MOY - Lloyd McClendon
NL MOY - Ryne Sandberg

AL Comeback - Neftali Feliz
NL Comeback - Brett Anderson

AL ROY - Jose Abreu
NL ROY - Kolten Wong

AL/NL Most Excited to Watch -

My picks for "most excited to watch" are very cliché because they’re my MVP choices.  But I'd be lying if I said anything else.  I think that this is the year we see the two biggest stars of this up-and-coming generation (Trout and Harper) competing against one another (albeit different leagues) to prove who is the face of MLB for the next 5-10 years.

Trout… the Angels should be better and if they’re better, Trout could put up numbers we’ve never seen before.

Harper… overshadowed by Trout so far in his career, I think Harper is ready to send us a friendly reminder of just how good he really is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit 40 HR.


As for the Cy picks, I guess Felix could be considered a surprise pick.  Although it seems like he's been around forever, King Felix is only going to be 28 this year... I think that with some help on the offensive side (Robinson Cano) and a new fiery manager, we could see a great season from Felix.

Don't be surprised by Jose Abreu.  The Cuban defector does a lot of things well (including hitting the long ball).  His projections are out there (Steamer has him triple slashing .269/.353/.535)... if he comes anywhere near the numbers they're suggesting, he could be a lock for this award.

















Indeed, it's that time of year... time for us to show why we have yet to quit our day jobs. 

As it turns out, picking winners is really not that easy.  You don't need to go to far to see how bad we are at this stuff.  Last year, none of us picked the Cardinals to win the NL Central.  Even worse, none of us had the Red Sox higher than fourth in the AL East. 

But picking "winners" is a rite of passage for baseball bloggers.  So without further adieu, here are our choices... please don't bet on them.

HERSH

NL East
Nationals
Braves
Phillies
Mets
Marlins

The Nationals are the best team in the east and should put it together this year.  A year older and moving Ryan Zimmerman to first should help.  


NL Central
Cardinals
*Reds 
Pirates
Brewers
Cubs

The Cards are still the class of the central, but Reds will make them earn it; I don't see a repeat from the Pirates.  

NL West
Dodgers
*Giants 
Diamondbacks 
Padres
Rockies

The Dodgers have too much talent not to win the division, but I see a great improvement from the Giants this year and D'backs are much improved also.

AL East
Yankees
*Rays 
Red Sox 
Blue Jays
Orioles

Red Sox lost too much to repeat.  A.J Pierzynski will not replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate at 38 years old. The Yankees lost some players, but picked up some key players in Beltran, Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Tanaka.  The Rays will be good again because of Joe Madden.  

AL Central
Tigers
Royals
Indians
White Sox
Twins

The Tigers are class of central and there's nobody to challenge them.  

AL West
A's
Angels 
Rangers
Mariners
Astros

The A's might win 100 games with that rotation and the pick up of Johnson as closer.  The Angels will be fighting for their manager's job and have to make playoffs.

NL Champ: Dodgers
AL Champ: Yankees
WS Champ: Yankees

I see a Dodgers-Yankees world series this year.  The Dodgers might pull it out, but don't bet on it.  Yankees win it all.


MC

NL EAST

Washington Nationals
*Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Miami Marlins

The Nationals did not play to their potential last year, and should have won the division over the Braves.  Pitching was so-so except for Jordan Zimmerman who had his best year as a pro.  On paper, the Nats are the best team in the division.  The Braves young players overachieved last year despite their two highest paid players, BJ Upton and Dan Uggla, disappearing for the whole season.  Neither one hit their weight last year, but they were picked up largely by Freddie Freeman and good solid pitching.  The loss of Brian McCann could be tough not only because of production, but also the handling of a relatively young staff and pen.  The Mets are still in re-build mode and will only take them as far as injuries will allow.  Matt Harvey is out for the season which all but crushes any sort of run the Mets could take, however unlikely that would have been.  The Mets added many high risk/high reward players this offseason that could either keep them relevant or sink the ship entirely.  Granderson has shown tremendous homerun power the past few years, but Citi Field does not have the short porches he enjoyed across town.  The Phils still have name/star recognition on paper with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels.  The problem here is a combination of age and physical wear and tear.  I foresee a lot of injuries for the Phillies this year as they are very old in baseball terms. Rollins, Utley, Marlon Byrd, Lee, Carlos Ruiz, and A.J. Burnett are all 35 or older with Howard just behind at 34.  Of course if no one gets hurt, Hamels bounces right back, and the veterans produce like they still can, the Phils could very easily take the division.  The Marlins are once again the youngest team by far in the league with limited star power and experience.  Although the Marlins will undoubtedly struggle this year, they do boast perhaps the best young pitcher in the league in Jose Fernandez.  He was a Cy Young candidate on many lists last year, and could be primed for a breakout season once again. 

NL CENTRAL

St. Louis Cardinals
*Pittsburgh Pirates
Cincinnati Reds
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs

I think St. Louis is again the team to beat even with the loss of Beltran to the Yanks.  They picked up Jhonny Peralta coming off a suspension season but he still hit .303.  The rest of their high achieving players are still intact.  On the mound, they get a full year of Michael Wacha and are hoping for a good sophomore season out of Shelby Miller.  With ace Adam Wainwright and a consistent Lance Lynn, they have the best staff in the division.  The Pirates, coming off their first winning season in 22 years, are really only as strong as their pitching.  They have some nicely rounded pieces in the lineup with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Pedro Alvarez.  If Francisco Liriano can produce another 16-8 season and they can replace Burnett with a quality year from aging Wandy Rodriguez, then they could compete for the division.  They could very well be a wild card team again.  The Reds didn’t seem to do much to improve in the offseason, but they did win 90 games last year and vied for the division and wildcard.  The Brewers and Cubs also didn’t impress with offseason moves, however the Brew Crew did get back Braun from suspension.

NL WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres   

This is clearly the Dodgers division to win or lose.  They are becoming the NL’s version of the Yankees with a very large payroll and some big personalities to deal with for Don Mattingly.  They are a contender for best pitching staff in the league too, especially if Dan Haren can find the magic again.  After the Dodgers, it could go a number of different ways.  The D-backs and Giants could flip positions for 2nd and 3rd with the Giants still having strong pitching.  The D-backs probably have a little better lineup than the Giants.  Colorado and San Diego will most likely vie for the basement in this division, with neither team really upgrading since last year.  If anyone unseats the Dodgers, there must have been a meltdown of epic proportions in the west.


AL EAST

Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees*
Tampa Bay Rays
Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays

This is a tightly contested division going into 2014 with the Orioles beginning to show they can hang with the traditional power houses.  Boston is aging an again has injury risk this year.  They didn’t add much but lost a great player in Ellsubry to the Yankees.  The Yankees did the most in the offseason and had the most drastic change.  They lost Curtis Granderson, Cano, Mariano Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez.  They gained, either through signing or back from injury, Mark Teixieria, Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Alfonso Soriano, Brian Roberts, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Masahiro Tanaka.  The pitching struggled mightily last year which must change for them to contend.  The Rays have good young pitching to go with an okay lineup.  They could lose the 2nd spot due to the Yankees re-bulking up.  The Orioles are a wildcard, and could make a run, but don’t quite have the pitching the rest of the division holds.  The Jays won’t be much in contention after the first few weeks. 

AL CENTRAL

Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Minnesota Twins
Chicago White Sox

There’s no reason to think the division won’t play out exactly as it did a year ago.  The one for one trade of Kinsler for Fielder should prove an interesting experiment for both teams.  The Tigers still have the best hitter in the game as well as back to back Cy Youngs still in their prime.  The Tigers are aging, but still have decent lineup support for Miguel Cabrera.  The Indians have a good young nucleus that seems to play well together and understand roles.  There isn’t much star power, but they managed to win 92 games last year and nearly take the division.  The remaining three teams are pretty much the same as they were a year ago.  Not much improvement and nothing to suggest a serious run at the division.

AL WEST

Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels*
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros

The Rangers have a great balance of lineup and pitching and having Fielder in the lineup can finally add some support for Adrian Beltre that was lost when Hamilton left.  They have good young pitching just entering their prime with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Tommy Hanson.  They also added Shin Soo Choo and acquired Alex Rios last year.  The Angels can be very relevant again if Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton bounce back.  Both had down production last year and are crucial to the Halos’ success.  If the Rangers and Angels improve, the A’s could slip in this division.  They have good role players that produced last year, but also lost 18 game winner Bartolo Colon.  The pitching will need to match the lineup production for them to be division champs again.  Seattle acquired perhaps the best free agent of the year with Robinson Cano, but it won’t be enough to propel them to the top in the west.  They have a good 1-2 punch with Hernandez and Iwakuma, but the rest of the staff is under-experienced.  Finally, the Astros are also in a major rebuild and should not be relevant to the chase this season.


AL Pennant – Detroit Tigers
NL Pennant – Los Angeles Dodgers

WS Winner – Los Angeles Dodgers


I think this is the year they put it together.  They have immense talent on the field and on the mound.  They possess 4 solid outfielders, strong in the infield, and have 4th/5th starters that could be aces (or #2s on other teams).  The Tigers are a bit of a risky pick as there is more parity in the AL than the NL.  The Red Sox could come out strong again, and the Yankees, Rangers, and Angels all have potential.  In the end, it’s the Dodgers season to win or lose the whole thing.


OCP


AL East
Orioles
*Yankees
Rays
Red Sox
Blue Jays

There is so much talent in this group that I could see any of these teams emerging as the alpha dog.  The Orioles added Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez – two major contributors on a team that was so close last year (10 games over .500 at the break last year) which I why I have them pegged to win the division.  We all know about Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran but what the Yankees don’t have is just as big as what they do have (they don’t have Robinson Cano).  I think their pitching depth and speed will carry them to a postseason berth but I wouldn’t call them the favorites.  It would be safe to say that no one is going to overlook the Red Sox, right?  I mean, they can’t do what they did last year again, could they?  I don’t have them in the top three – they lost too much – but like I said, this division is definitely up for grabs and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them emerge if they stay healthy.

AL Central
Indians
*Tigers
Royals
White Sox
Twins

I know I’m a little late to the party with this one but there is a lot to like about the young Indians.  For starters, the top three in their rotation is not too shabby and their bullpen is very strong.  There is a lot to like across the diamond and I think that last years’ experience (losing the division by one game) will benefit them as much as anyone.  It’s obviously the Tigers division to lose but losing Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta will hurt and they are already down a starting shortstop in Jose Iglesias.  The Royals are getting better but trading away Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi was perplexing to me.  I don’t think they have enough but they could surprise me.  The White Sox have a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate in Jose Abreu but I just don’t see enough in their rotation to call them a contender.

AL West
Angels
Mariners
Rangers
A’s
Astros

Admittedly, I might be a year early with the Mariners as high as I have them but there is a lot to like here.  They have a ton of depth everywhere you look and they boast one of the most electric group of arms you’ll find in baseball.  Again, they might be too young to make it work but it will be fun to watch.  The Rangers should be fun to watch, too.  With Shin Soo Choo and Prince and the rest of the bats they’ve got, they should have no problems scoring runs.  I just don’t know if their rotation will hold up.  The A’s were probably a favorite for a lot of people but losing Jarrod Parker, their opening day starter, will hurt.

NL East
Nationals
*Phillies
Braves
Marlins
Mets

Have you seen Bryce Harper?  I mean, have you SEEN the dude this spring?  He looks like a cross between a lumberjack and a dude who ate a dude.  Considering the trainwreck spring training the Braves have had, the Nationals have to be the clear favorite in the NL East.  The Marlins are young and fun and could surprise people, the Mets have to wait for Matt Harvey and the Phillies have a lot of old guys trying to prove that they’ve still got it.  I guess I’ll take the Phillies out of that bunch.  Who knows, maybe there's still a little magic left in that bunch.

NL Central
Cardinals
*Brewers
Pirates
Reds
Cubs

The Brewers rotation is sneaky good and they have some real punch in their lineup… I wouldn’t be surprised if they de-throned the Cardinals but it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Cardinals don’t win.  They’re simply too deep and too talented.  Even if a couple guys get hurt, they’ve still got a ton of options to weather the storm.  I’m not as high on the Reds as others may be.  Let’s see Billy Hamilton get on base first before we crown him the second coming of, well, Sliding Billy Hamilton.

NL West
Dodgers
Giants
Rockies
Diamondbacks
Padres

The Dodgers are the cream of the crop in the NL.  A year together should make them even more dangerous.  The Diamondbacks have a lot of punch but their rotation could ill-afford to lose an arm and, unfortunately, they did when Patrick Corbin hit the shelf this spring.  I think that the Rockies could surprise people… if CarGo and Brett Anderson can stay healthy they might have enough to squeak in.  I picked the Giants to finish ahead of them but I’m watching the Rockies.

AL Champ - Tigers
NL Champ - Dodgers

WS Champ – Dodgers

If the Tigers get in, they’re probably the favorite to emerge from the AL because of their rotation.  In a head to head match up, I just think the Dodgers are a better all-around better team.  Rotation, bullpen, defense, offense… I think the Dodgers lead the way from wire to wire.  

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