Today, we're going to dive into the 2010's All-Decade team for the National League.  

This team was fairly easy for us to agree upon, with the exception of a couple positions.  There are a few players that didn't make the cut because of prime years spent in other decades/leagues; Brandon Phillips and Carlos Beltran could have made a stronger argument on this team had they played the entire decade in the NL.  

There are certainly some holes in this lineup that make it lack some luster, comparatively speaking.  Shortstop, second base and third base aren't particularly strong so the lineup probably wouldn't hold up against some of the better all-decade teams we've put together) but it was a fun team to look at and there is some decent depth in the outfield and within the rotation.

The most challenging position to agree upon was probably catcher, where we had Buster Posey eking out Yadier Molina.  Buster's hardware (3x WS Champ, MVP and batting title) gave him the edge, in our mind but Yadi is certainly worthy of a mention (8 All-Star appearances and 7 Gold Gloves).    

There was also some discussions at 1B which caused us to pause a bit.

There have been a lot of solid National League first basemen over the past decade so it's not a surprise that a second first baseman made the team in our infield spot.  Unfortunately, Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo weren't able to crack this lineup but we felt both were worthy of mention, as well as Matt Carpenter (who might be one of the most underappreciated players in the National League over the past decade).

We agreed on the first two outfielders rather easily; Ryan Braun * and Andrew McCutchen have the numbers and hardware to anchor the outfield.  The last two spots were up for debate with Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, Christian Yelich narrowly missing the cut.  

The rotation is strong enough to hold up against most; there are some big arms and personalities on this staff, with Clayton Kershaw the undeniable ace and Craig Kimbrel serving as the lock down closer.  We considered Adam Wainwright, Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Stephen Strasburg and the beloved Jose Fernandez but inevitably, felt that Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer had done enough in the NL to warrant spots on this staff (hard to argue against Max Scherzer's two Cy Young's).

Without further adieu, here's your 2010's NL Squad. 

C - Buster Posey
1B - Joey Votto
2B - Daniel Murphy
SS - Troy Tulowitzki
3B - Nolan Arenado
IF - Paul Goldschmidt
OF - Andrew McCutchen
OF - Ryan Braun
OF - Bryce Harper
OF - Giancarlo Stanton
SP - Clayton Kershaw
SP - Madison Bumgarner 
SP - Zack Greinke
SP - Max Scherzer
RP - Craig Kimbrel

Thanks for stopping in.  Let us know what you think!

2020 has surely been a tough year.  

Surprisingly tough for baseball fans who have had to seen all-time greats passing away at an alarming rate.  

The list of players who have died in 2020 includes Lou Brock, Joe Morgan, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Al Kaline, Don Larsen, among others; that's an incredible compilation of all-time, all-timers.

On Monday, the list got a little longer as we heard the sad news that ex-Phillie/White Sox, Dick Allen had passed away at his home in Wampum, PA at the age of 78.

Dick Allen is enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame and it was announced earlier this year that his #15 would be retired by the Phillies... he is also named as infielder on our All-Time Phillies team (I'll let you decide which of those accolades carries the greatest significance).

It is also speculated that he could end up voted in on the next Veteran's Committee "Golden Days" ballot (he was one vote short the last time they voted); a Golden Days vote scheduled for August was pushed back 12 months due to Covid so, rather unfortunately, if Allen is selected for enshrinement, he will have passed away without getting the official Call From the Hall.

The broader storylines that surround the "Wampum Walloper" and the debate that hangs over his Hall of Fame candidacy is complex, at best.  His enshrinement is not as cut and dry as it probably could have been but Allen wasn't cut and dry.  

He was controversial, rebellious, unapologetic, brash and somewhat reckless (his autobiography is titled, "Crash," for what it's worth).  He stood up for himself (held out for higher pay and didn't cater to the media) and chose not to fall in line at a time when black athletes were being asked to conform.  

He also skipped batting practices, drank too much, fought with teammates and feuded with management/ownership/the City of Philadelphia to the point where he was suspended 31 games for missing a team flight and eventually traded, presumably for the betterment of all parties involved.

He was ahead of his time, in some ways but he was a lightning rod, nonetheless.

What is NOT debatable... in his prime, Dick Allen was one of the most ferocious sluggers to ever play the game.  His towering home run shots are forever part of baseball lore.  From 1964 to 1974 (Allen's prime years), he boasted an OPS+ of 165 which is the best of any player with 5,000 plate appearances during that particular span... better than Willie McCovey, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays among  many other all-time greats.  Further, Allen's career OPS+ of 156 ranks 18th all-time.  In short, he could truly hit the cover off the ball... but he had some off years and the off-field stuff carved a wedge between him and the Hall of Fame voters (he never crossed 20% support during his 14 years on the ballot)... complex, for sure.

Regardless, of where you stand on his Hall of Fame candidacy, we are all thinking of Allen's family and friends today.

I found a great article at Cooperstown Cred that dives deeper into Dick Allen and his Hall of Fame credibility.  If you have some time, check it out.  

As we approach the end of another decade of baseball, we are excited to start thinking about the best players at each position from 2010 - 2019.  Admittedly, my colleagues and I went into this thinking it should be pretty easy to achieve consensus on this team since it's most recent in our minds compared to other decade teams.  There were a few no-brainers, but many of the positions required some debate and scrutiny.  As with past decade teams, it can be hard to separate a guy that absolutely crushed for a couple of years from a guy that was consistent through the whole decade.  Further, we had to weigh the service of players that split time between the two leagues versus players that remained in the league the entire decade.  Here is the team we assembled for your consideration...

C - Salvador Perez
1B - Miguel Cabrera
2B - Jose Altuve
SS - Xander Bogaerts
3B - Adrian Beltre
IF - Robinson Cano
OF - Mike Trout
OF - Jose Bautista
OF - Adam Jones
OF - Nelson Cruz
SP - Justin Verlander
SP - Corey Kluber
SP - Chris Sale
SP - David Price
CL - Fernando Rodney

Where to begin?  We'll start with the easy ones, the lock/no-brainer picks.  Trout and Cabrera were penciled in quite easily.  Miguel Cabrera was a legitimate star the last decade headed into this one.  He hit the ground running in his rookie campaign and sped out of the blocks en route to a six year stretch averaging 38 double, 32 homers, and 115 RBI.  Again that was last decade.  He may well have made our 2000s NL team if not for a guy named Pujols.  Cabrera continued his streak in the 2010s decade highlighted by consecutive MVPs and 4 additional top 10 finishes.  He also garnered 4 batting titles not to mention the first Triple Crown in over 40 years at the time.  As impressive as Cabrera's stats through the decade, equally so are Mike Trout's.  Trout has also come out of the gate swinging (literally) with mind boggling numbers in this past decade.  Starting his first full season in he has managed to either win the MVP or place 2nd in 6 out of 7 years.  That odd year was a middling 4th place MVP finish.  He's also currently on pace to undoubtedly finish 1st or 2nd again this year, an unprecedented run. 

The rest of the outfield and the infield was a little harder to fill out.  In the outfield, we came to an early consensus on Bautista and Cruz.  Both started to mash by 2010 and whereas Bautista has fallen off of late, Cruz continues to put up 30+ homers per year.  Adam Jones rounds out our outfield and although many people may shrug at that pick, we did value longevity over short bursts of dominance.  That's the reason Mookie Betts didn't make the team, he simply doesn't have the prolonged consistency yet.  Prior to this season, Jones has been averaging 29 doubles, 26 homers, and 82 RBI in the decade.  He has been consistently performing under the radar for the O's. 
In the infield, Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano have been 2 of the preeminent infielders over the past decade so we utilized the infield spot for Cano.  There careers are going in opposite directions with Altuve still in the middle of his prime and Cano starting to decline.

There were a few picks that made us scratch our heads and think "is this really the best guy?"  Starting at Catcher, we scoured the league and no disrespect to Salvador Perez, but we were surprised that no one else stood out.  He has been as consistent a hitting catcher as you'll find, he has 5 Gold Gloves in the decade and he has the World Series MVP.  Joe Mauer was probably the closest candidate but given Joe's switch to first in 2014 and the fact that he dealt with some injuries that ultimately let to his retirement in 2018, we felt that Perez was the better choice.  Beltre was another pick that surprised us with his numbers in this decade.  Indeed, he really found a 2nd half career resurgence with his one season in Boston and then several in Texas.  He became an all star for the first time with the Rangers, he topped 100 RBI 4 times, added 3 Gold Gloves, and is certain to be bound for Cooperstown.  We considered Josh Donaldson (3xAS, 2015 MVP) and Evan Longoria (one of the more consistent players on this past decade) but when you compare resumes, Beltre stands out.

Shortstop is unarguably the weakest position on this team.  Xander Bogaerts doesn't hold a candle to many other All-Decade shortstops but the list of potential candidates is fairly slim.  We looked at Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor.  We even considered Derek Jeter (a member of our AL 2000's team who retired in 2014)... ultimately, we went with Bogaerts.

The pitching staff for this decade team is very solid.  Verlander has a Cy Young and MVP and 3 other 2nd place finishes.  Kluber has 2 Cy Youngs and has dominated for the Indians, injuries this year notwithstanding.  Sale is the only hurler on our list without a Cy Young award, but he has finished in the top 6 for the past 7 consecutive years.  Price rounds out the staff and also has a Cy and has been very consistent everywhere he has played.  We painfully had to leave off King Felix Hernandez, whose reign of dominance ended rather abruptly in 2015 (he has really been a shell of himself since 2014).

Perhaps the most surprising part of the all decade team is the lack of a consistent dominating closer in the AL.  Many of the big names swapped leagues with no one establishing themselves as the premier closer.  Besides Rodney, the only other we found with any longevity was Joakim Soria.

Please let us know what you think, what we missed, and where we're way off base.  We appreciate the comments!
Recently, MLB discussions have centered on proposed rule changes. At least one looks like it will be implemented for the coming year. Baseball is steeped in tradition unlike any of the other major sports leagues. Although baseball still seems to be doing well financially, there continue to be concerns about its longevity among younger fans. The game is now seen as an older generation past time. At the heart of the criticism for why fandom is waning revolves around pacing and tradition that don't resonate with today's younger fans.  At the beginning of last season, rising star Bryce Harper was critical of baseballs outdated traditions claiming the game isn't as fun as it could be. In particular, a main point for Harper involved the unwritten rule of not showing emotion when something positive happens at the plate. Bat flips and watching a homerun ball used to get you an automatic buzz cut on your next at bat. Harper feels the game needs an infusion of fun and emotion to bolster its popularity.

So does the game need to change to be relative in today's society?

This year, there have been a few proposed rule changes. We'll highlight a few, and I'll give my own opinions.

1. Man on 2nd Base to start extra innings
     This will apparently be taking place at the World Baseball Classic and some minor leagues. With this proposed change, extra innings would begin with a man on 2B for each team. It's meant to make run production easier and end an extra innings game sooner. This is one where the purist in me screams no way! It is reminiscent of college football starting at the 25 for overtime. If a team is going to win, they should produce all the facets needed to win, from getting on base to moving runners to knocking in runners. Games should be won organically without outside help.

2. Increasing the strike zone up to above the knee
     This change would theoretically mean more action as the batter friendly strike zone would mean more hits, more runs, and more game action. I'm on the fence with this change. I've always been a proponent of  the "pitch strikes and see what the hitter's got" mentality. Yet this favors hitters considerably and would negatively impact lots of good pitchers that make their living on the edges. I'm not sure introducing more action would speed the game up, so it might not jibe exactly with that initiative. I like a good pitching match, but I like slugfests too. Like I said, on the fence.

3. Intentional Walk signaled from the dugout
     The dugout signal for intentional walk looks like it will make its debut this year. I don't have a problem with this change. Not because it will speed up the game, intentional walks are still pretty rare. I've just always thought it's dumb to throw 4 meaningless lobs when it's clear you're putting the guy on base. Purists have asked if not running the bases for homers would be next. To me that's a reward for the hitter to celebrate. I don't believe I've ever seen a passed ball or hit during an intentional walk lob. Plus, why put any undue strain on the pitcher. This rule I like.

Although baseball treasures its roots and history, some things are bound to change with the times. There were plenty of replay skeptics, but baseball has done a good job not making it intrusive. I'm not in favor of changes that would alter stats or the ability to compare players like shortening innings per game or games per season. Please comment on any changes you would implement.
Authored by Ben Reese

Maybe it's these new glasses with the rose-colored lenses, but the Phillies' future doesn't look too bad.
OK, they won't win the pennant this season or next or the one after that, but they will improve. Maybe not this season where they will still inhabit the cellar of the National League East unless they can get past the Atlanta Braves who are also "rebuilding."
However, for the first time in quite a while, the Phillies have good prospects in the minor leagues. But they won't be in Citizens Bank Park in 2016, at least not from the start of the season. 
In fact, they have good prospects, even some great prospects, at just about every position. They have pitchers, a couple catchers, infielders and outfielders who have the potential to be good major league players.  This hasn't happened since the early 1970s in Philadelphia. You'll remember these names and the statistics that go with them.
In 1972, the Phillies brought up a young shortstop named Larry Bowa, who many thought wouldn't be able to hit his weight, and a slugger named Greg Luzinski. The next year, Mike Schmidt, Bob Boone, Dick Ruthven and Larry Christianson arrived in Philly.
These players didn't immediately bring home a pennant. It took them several years before they all got going.
Actually, the first season for some of them was less than sterling. Schmidt, who was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995, hit only .196 in his debut season with 18 home runs.
These players formed the nucleus of the 1980 team, which won Philadelphia's first World Championship, beating the Kansas City Royals in six games.
By the way, that 1980 team had some other youngsters worthy of mention. Lonnie Smith added speed and some comedy in the outfield, Keith Moreland backed up Boone behind the plate and Bob Walk, Marty Bystrom, Randy Lerch and Dickie Noles spent quality time on the mound.
That said, the in-coming class of prospects might be as good or better. Some are already in Philadelphia and some are maybe one or two years away. But they are coming.
Maikel Franco is already in Philly. The young third baseman is expected to hold down that spot for many years to come.
Tops on the prospect list is shortstop J.P. Crawford, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2013. He has been steadily moving up through the farm system and is one of the top 10 prospects in all baseball right now.
Crawford suffered an injury in the Arizona Fall League but it won't affect his 2016 season. That season will probably begin at Lehigh Valley with at least a September call-up in his future.
There are also pitchers, a lot of them. The Phillies' front office traded away many of the "old guard" of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, etc., and got back arms.
From Texas, in the Cole Hamels deal, they got right-hander Jake Thompson, who helped pitch Reading into the Eastern League playoffs. They got Zach Eflin from the Dodgers in the Rollins trade and Mark Appel, the first pick in the 2013 draft by Houston, from the Astros.
If anything is certain it is that pitchers take more time to mature than position players. These three and the others coming up in the minors will be no exceptions. Don't look for them this season.
Behind the plate, there are two highly rated catchers in the system. Jorge Alfaro, who also arrived from Texas, has been one of the top catchers in the minors for several seasons. He was injured last season and will probably start the year in Reading.
The other backstop is Andrew Knapp, a second-round pick of the Phillies in 2013. The switch-hitter was having a decent 2015 at Clearwater in the Florida State League (High Class A) but exploded when called up to Reading, hitting .360 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI in 55 games. That alone could propel him to Lehigh Valley this season.
There are outfielders also. One of the keys to the Hamels deal was outfielder Nick Williams.
Williams is a five-tool players. He has speed and power and can play all three outfield spots. He played only 22 games in Reading after the trade and may end up back there to start the year.
Another outfielder with an intriguing resume is Roman Quinn. He was a second-round pick of the Phils in 2011 who started out his career as a shortstop.
Injuries have hindered Quinn's rise through the system, however. He missed a lot of 2015 with a hip injury.
When he is healthy, he is the ideal leadoff hitter. The switch-hitter hit .306 and stole 29 bases in 58 games for Reading in 2015 before his injury and probably will join Williams in the R-Phils' outfield to start 2016.
The newest addition to the prospect list in second baseman Scott Kingery, drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft. Kingery has a quick bat (he was the top hitter at the University of Arizona and led the NCAA in hitting for much of his senior season) and good speed. He will move quickly through the system but may arrive in Philly after the others.
These are just a few of the prospects rising through the Phillies' farm system. There are more, some closer to the majors than others.
But it does bode well for Phillies' fans, even without these glasses.
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