Moves the Yankees Should Make Before the Deadline If They’re Buyers

While I personally think the Yankees should be sellers due to the amount of age, injuries, and mediocrity on this current club, it’s clear they see themselves as still in the race in trading for Alfonso Soriano. Currently, they are seven games back in the loss column behind Tampa Bay and Boston for the division since they dropped both series against the two clubs. Since May 25th, they’re just 25-32 thanks to a horrible offense and mediocre starting pitching sans Hiroki Kuroda.

Fortunately, they are still two back in the loss column behind Baltimore for the second wild card spot so all hope is not lost, especially with the return (AGAIN) of the Captain. Still, they have plenty of work to do if they are gonna make a run at the playoffs. They boast  arguably the best bullpen in baseball, so the focus should primarily be on the lineup and the rotation.

1. Third-base: Yankees 3B provide the worst production at the position in baseball, putting up an atrocious .219/.278/.291/.569 line. The second worst 3B production is the Marlins with an OPS 39 points higher. With Kevin Youkilis likely gone for the year and Alex Rodriguez likely to be suspended for his involvement in BioGenesis, GM Brian Cashman needs to look to the trade market for a steady fill in at the hot corner.

The best choice would be Aramis Ramirez since the Brewers are horrendous and Ryan Braun is gone for the year for his involvement in BioGenesis. Ramirez is currently on the DL and has only played in 54 games this year but has put up a solid .271/.359/.414/.773. The injury concern and age is the only thing that should stop Cashman from trading for him. Other targets include San Diego’s Chase Headley (105 OPS+) who will probably cost some good prospects to get, and Michael Young (104 OPS+) even though the Phillies are still deluding themselves that.

2. First base: Mark Teixeira is out for the year, and Lyle Overbay hasn’t really provided much since the beginning of June. The potential market for first baggers is very rich. The Mariners could again be partners in a deal with the Yankees: Mike Morse (119 OPS+), Justin Smoak (122 OPS+), and Kendrys Morales (132 OPS+) all are instant updgrades over Overbay

3. Sell off: Just because the Yankees aren’t sellers, doesn’t mean they still can’t trade people off. Phil Hughes is the biggest trade piece they have, arguably as he is a rental. Although extemely inconsistent and mediocre (4.58 ERA), he can survive in the National League in a huge ballpark. Teams in the Senior Circuit desperate for pitching will be interested. The Braves will need an arm after Tim Hudson suffered that gruesome ankle injury. Turner Field could be a friendly fit for Hughes, as could Dodger Stadium.

With Hughes gone, Ivan Nova and David Phelps (currently on the DL) both can hold the fort beautifully at the back end of the rotation. They have to get Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia back on track if this team is going to make the playoffs. They also need to get rid of Joba Chamberlain, also soon to be a free agent. Just a change of scenery, because he’s worthless here.

4. Catcher: The Bronx “Bombers” have another giant black hole at the backstop position. The collection of Chris Stewart, Austin Romine and a brief season of Francisco Cervelli has put up numbers in the bottom third in the majors in production.

Unfortunately, the market for a catcher is very dry. The best options aren’t very pretty. John Buck has a .585 OPS since May 4th and Ryan Doumit has an 86 OPS+, but he’s raked in a small sample at Yankee Stadium. Still, they’re both upgrades over Chris Stewart.

5. Cut Bait: Management is still apparently committed to cutting the payroll to $189 million next season. Vernon Wells is on the hook for just $2.4 million, so they need to look into trading or out-right releasing him, especially after acquiring fellow right-hander Soriano. They also need to look into cutting Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis, as they are both on the DL and have been very unproductive when on the field.

Dream Lineup:

CF Brett Gardner

SS Derek Jeter

2B Robinson Cano

1B Kendrys Morales

3B Aramis Ramirez

LF Curtis Granderson

DH Alfonso Soriano

RF Ichiro Suzuki

C Ryan Doumit

Totally un-realistc, but you never know.

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My Mid-Season MLB Awards

Here are my picks for each major award in each league at the midpoint of the 2013 MLB season. MVP= Most Valuable Player, RoY= Rookie of the Year, MoY= Manager of the Year, CPoY= Comeback Player of the Year.

American League:

MVP: Baltimore Orioles 1B Chris Davis- .313/.388/.707/1.095, 37 HRs, 94 RBIs, 4.4 WAR. Right now this race is between MLB Homer Run Leader Davis and MLB Average Leader Miguel Cabrera and perhaps Mike Trout as a sleeper. Can’t go wrong with either Crush or Miggy.

Cy Young: Seattle Mariners RHP Felix Hernandez- 11-4, 2.43 ERA, 144.2 IP, 147 K, 27 BB, 1.09 WHIP, 4.7 WAR. King Felix is just as dominant as he was in his first Cy Young winning season in 2010. Easily the frontrunner right now, especially with a solid record. 

RoY: Boston Red Sox 3B/SS Jose Iglesias- .360/.410/.452/.861. The Rookie Class in the AL is literally non-existent. By default, Iglesias, who was really supposed to be a Rey Ordonez type player with no bat, is the winner by default despite having no power (1 HR, .091 iso, which is slugging minus average) and a lot of luck (.407 average on balls in play).

MoY: Joe Girardi, New York Yankees- 52-46, 4th in AL East, 3.5 games out of 2nd wild card spot. The media has probably already given it to Boston’s John Farrell, but Girardi has been dealt with such a weak hand given all the injuries on the Yankees. Their only consistent offensive player is Cano and their only above average starter is Kuroda. 

CPoY: New York Yankees Closer Mariano Rivera- 1.78 ERA, 31/33 save opportunities, 228 ERA+, 1.25 WHIP, 4.86 K/BB. You think it would be anyone else? After suffering that knee injury last May he’s come back and has pitched like he never left. Is he REALLY gonna retire? 

National League

MVP: St. Louis Cardinals C Yadier Molina- .336/.384/.483/.867, 7 HRs, 51 RBIs, 3.9 WAR. While he is on a team that is 1-8 very deadly, the race isn’t very strong in the NL and the fact is this: A catcher is leading the league in average at .336. Come on. Can’t be anyone else.

Cy Young: New York Mets RHP Matt Harvey- 8-2, 2.23 ERA, 137 IP, 157 K, 28 BB, 0.89 WHIP, 4.5 WAR. There are plenty of pitchers in the league that make a great case (Kershaw, Wainwright, Jeff Locke, Patrick), but Harvey has arguably been the most dominant pitcher out of all of them. 

RoY: Miami Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez- 5-5, 2.75 ERA, 104.2 IP, 103 K, 40 BB, 1.08 WHIP, 2.6 WAR. One of the few bright spots on the pathetic Miami Marlins, 20 year old Fernandez beats out Shelby Miller and an upstart fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig. 

MoY: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates- 57-39, 2nd in NL Central, current first wild card spot. Hurdle has led the Buccos to their best start since Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek were being managed by Jim Leyland. Can they keep it up this time and not fall apart like the last two years? We’ll see.

CPoY: Colorado Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki- .332/.399/.598/.988, 16 HRs, 54 RBIs, 3.4 WAR. He only played in 47 games last year but has also missed a month this year. Still one of the more productive overall players in the game. 

The Media Needs to Stop Inciting Racism and Glorifying Criminals

The way people receive news and information has evolved over the ages, and with the rise of the internet, social media, cable news, blogs, among other things have allowed information to spread much quicker, but also with a slant. Obviously, there are accusations of biased and slanted reporting and political agenda promotions by these media outlets like Fox News and MSNBC.

I think this past week, the whole media really showed just how bad and unprofessional they are. Start with the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. I believe that the only reason that this case reached the national stage is due to the agenda of race baiters like Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. using this to their advantage to incite racial tensions between blacks and whites (even though Zimmerman is part Hispanic). It only became worse when Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in the 2nd degree. Sharpton and Jackson have made their careers of race-baiting, blaming America’s white majority for holding down blacks, while making a fortune spouting this garbage.

If you’ve been watching or reading some form of news for the past year and a half regarding the Trayvon Martin case, you almost certainly heard the recurring talking points “If Trayvon were white he would not have been killed”. Now, it’s even worse. People are using these hypotheticals to complain about a seemingly unjust justice system as well as racial profiling even though the Zimmerman/Martin case was about self-defense and not about race. Just search on Twitter for how many people have whined about how anti-black racism apparently influenced the decision. Have you not heard about these violent riots in Oakland and Los Angeles? It’s really pathetic.

Here’s a question, why aren’t people like Sharpton and Jackson and many other prominent figures in the media outraged over the amount of black on black crime in this country, especially in Obama’s hometown of Chicago which has one of the highest crime rates in the US despite having some of the most strict gun laws? Is it because there isn’t much to politicize about that type of crime? Why is DOJ head Eric Holder, who is held in contempt by Congress as a result of the ATF gunwalking scandal on the Arizona-Mexico border, trying to push civil rights charges against George Zimmerman and ignoring all other crime?

Even worse than the Zimmerman media fiasco is the controversy surrounding Rolling Stone magazine’s cover for their August 2013 issue. The cover features a photo of one of the accused perpetrators of the bombings of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The caption of the cover reads: “How a Popular, Promising, Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster”.

Many people believe that the issue is insensitive to the victims and “glamorizes terrorism”. Defenders state that it “upholds the standards of journalism” and “shows that evil isn’t necessarily ugly”. “.

What?!

I read the article and it was obvious that the writer was trying to make excuses and be an apologist to this guy. They tried so hard to make the target audience, millennials, to sympathize with the scumbag because he’s young and apparently “misunderstood

Frankly, I’m disgusted by this rag’s decision to publish this story and present the killer like that. Wasn’t being on the cover of Rolling Stone supposed to be one of honor and prime celebrity status? When I first saw it, I thought “Wow, what are they trying to make him look like Doors frontman Jim Morrison?” It’s absolutely disrespectful to the victims of the attack especially considering that an alternate option was to honor the victims of the attack, such as that 8 year old boy Martin Richard or the Chinese woman who was a classmate of my sister’s at Boston University.

Clearly, this magazine, along with the rest of the media, has a fetish for covering perpetrators of terrorist attacks and mass shooting. For how long have you heard the stories of James Holmes, the Aurora, CO movie theater shooter, the Sandy Hook elementary shooter Adam Lanza and the brothers responsible for the attack on Beantown. Why haven’t we heard as much of the poor children taken by these monsters?

It’s obvious. The background stories of these monsters sell. You wonder why this keeps happening? Because these nut jobs see how the media covers them and they want to be like them. We’ve seen it following the Columbine shooting and the massacre at Virginia Tech. These psychos just wanted to be famous. The media has unfortunately complied with them.

The only thing I have to say to all of this is this: STOP. I am sick of this media tries to divide us by race by making the Zimmerman case as white vs. black and the verdict as being oppressive and unjust towards African Americans. I am also sick of the media continuing to cover the stories of these terrorists and mass shooters. They do these things to sell and get big ratings. It’s absolutely disgusting, it is unprofessional, and it is a disgrace to journalism. Stop with the propaganda and simply report the facts. How have we journalists lost our way? I see it as my goal in life to try to restore some sense and dignity in the industry.

Yankees’ Keys to the Second Half

Despite the concerns about all the injuries and the age on this squad, your New York Yankees are still within striking distance. Six games out of first behind Boston, only three behind for a playoff spot. Despite all the injuries and all that crap, the Yankees are 51-44. How can the Yankees improve and make the playoffs in the second half?

 

1. Get Guys Healthy and Productive: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson have combined to play in just 24 games this year. Teixeira re-injured his wrist and is now out for the season. Granderson had another freak injury after only eight games in May but should return soon. Jeter returned for one game last week but hurt his quadriceps, probably from the rust of not having played since October. A-Rod is on the way back down in Triple-A. And now, Robinson Cano seems to be banged up after taking a fastball off the leg from Matt Harvey in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Hopefully, the Bombers will have Jeter and Cano back in the lineup for this weekend’s showdown at Fenway Park.

2. GET THE OFFENSE GOING: The Yankees have one of the weakest lineups in baseball right now. They are 11th in the AL in runs scored and their team batting average, OBP, slugging %, and OPS are close to last in the league. Basically, the injuries have siphoned their power. The Bronx “Bombers” have only three players with an OPS above league average (Cano, Brett Gardner, and Lyle Overbay). Only three have an average above .260 (Cano, Gardner, and Ichiro). A year after hitting 245 home runs, the team only has 88 at the moment. In such a great hitter’s park, how can you be that bad? The team’s hope right now is to get Jeter and A-Rod back to keep bums like Eduardo Nunez, David Adams, and Luis Cruz out of the lineup every day.

3. More Consistent Pitching: The Yankees have the 2nd lowest team ERA in the American League, and that’s pretty much how they’ve been winning. You have a very reliable quintet of relievers in LOOGY Boone Logan, rookie Preston Claibourne, strikeout machine Shawn Kelley, fireman set-up man David Robertson, and of course, the great Mariano Rivera. The rotation overall has been a bit mediocre. Hiroki Kuroda has been stellar, 2nd in the league in ERA. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes have been pretty disappointing so far. David Phelps has had some very good starts but a couple of brief and piss poor ones have inflated his numbers. Then you got Ivan Nova, back with a vengeance. He’s looked impressive in two starts since being recalled. I hope to see everyone improve in the second half, particularly Pettitte and Sabathia.

4. Scavenging the Trade Market: The team is clearly quite a few moves from becoming a serious contender. They really need some help in both the outfield and on the left side of the infield, assuming Jeter and A-Rod can’t play there every single day. The Yankees have reportedly expressed interest in Michael Young, but there’s no telling if the Phillies want to try to buy or sell themselves. In the outfield, Brian Cashman should look to the Cubs as a trade partner, as Alfonso Soriano, Davd DeJesus, and Nate Schierholtz all could be very good fits for the club.

5. Beating Division Rivals: The Yankees are 20-17 against the other four teams in the AL East, but that is inflated by an 8-1 record against the Blue Jays, who were playing very bad baseball in April and May. They start the second half at Fenway and have 10 more games against the hated Red Sox after that. They also have 10 games against Toronto to play, nine against Tampa Bay, and just seven versus Baltimore. Beating these teams is crucial for a playoff spot and better chances to win the division.

6. Stop Winning So Many Games by the Skin of Your Teeth: The Yankees have been winning too many of their games by nail-biters. They are 16-9 in one run affairs and have a negative run differential on the season. Mariano is on pace for over 50 saves, for what would be only third time in his career. Clearly, this is due to the mediocre offensive output. Will it hold up like the Orioles last year or will their be a regression? Time will tell, but the Yankees need to start making victories more easier to come by instead of clawing for every single run. The returns of Jeter, A-Rod, and Granderson should at least make it somewhat better.

My Letter to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on Immigration Reform vs. Student Loan Rates and Priorities

I am pretty appalled at how the United States Senate is able to pass this terrible immigration reform bill with ease but can’t pass any legislation to prevent rates for new student loans from doubling to almost 6.8%. To me, that is a slap in the face to all young Americans for prioritizing this bill, which seems to intended to get more votes for the Democrats from these illegal aliens and for bi-partisanship from the Republicans. Here is a letter I wrote to New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, one of the eight senators who introduced this bi-partisan bill on the matters:

 

Dear Mr. Senator,

My name is Brandon Mauk. I am a life long resident of New Jersey, currently attending college at St. John’s University in Queens, NY. I have taken some loans and grants to go along with my academic scholarship in order to pay my hefty tuition.

This past week, the United States passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, a bi-partisan bill in which you and seven other Republican and Democrat senators helped introduced as what the media refers to you as “the Gang of Eight”. From my understanding, the bill will give over 11 million illegal aliens amnesty and the right to work in the United States but it will not enforce border security.

One of your colleagues, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) criticized the bill for allowing exemptions from taxes caused by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare” when hiring amnestied illegal aliens over legal immigrants and American citizens.

In the same exact week, the US Senate failed to pass legislation that would prevent newly enacted federal student loan rates from doubling from 3.4% to almost 6.8%. One of Barack Obama’s many promises when running for election as President of the United States was to help find ways to help us students get out of debt.

Without any government intervention once Congress returns to session after July 4th, this will affect young students and parents across the country and prevent many from even being able to afford college at all. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 7 million students will be taking in these new loans.

Frankly, I want to try to speak for all other young college students my age to express our dissatisfaction for the lack of any action from Congress to prevent this from happening. Personally, I am very disappointed that the Senate could not get anything done with this, but were so easy to pass this controversial immigration bill.

In an era where many more jobs require a college education in a country of almost 315 million people, what’s more important, people who come here illegally getting jobs or natural born or legalized Americans getting the education they need to have a future? This Congress may not have its priorities in order at all.

I really hope the United States Senate and the House of Representatives does the right thing and passes the proper legislation that will prevent this loan rate from doubling to keep college tuition more affordable. We are the future of the United States of America, we will not forget this.

– Brandon Mauk
St. John’s University, Class of 2016.

“Man of Steel” Review: Superman Makes Triumphant Return to Big Screen

WARNING: Possible minor spoilers

I think we’ve been spoiled for the last 13 years. Indeed, the box office in the 21st Century has been absolutely dominated by comic book adaptions of legendary superheroes. Marvel’s led the way with two different Spider-Man franchises, a still strong X-Men franchise, and the money printing cross-over saga of the Avengers. DC Comics has been carried Batman in his critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy.

None of this could have happened if not for the one who started it all, Superman. His story was the very first major comic adaption in the 1970s and 1980s and laid the foundation for these superhero films and the modern era of blockbusters. Starring Christopher Reeve as the titular character, the first two films were very successful but the franchise lost steam after two following bombs. An attempt to revive the series, Superman Returns, was launched in 2006 but failed to gain any momentum, which led to this major reboot, Man of Steel. 

This new installment is a re-telling of Superman/Clark Kent/Kal-El’s origins. The film opens with his father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sending his recently-born son to another world to ensure the survival of the Kryptonian race, very similar to how the 1978 classic did it, with Marlon Brando as Kal-El’s father. Eventually, the boy, named Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) discovers his origins and dons his famous tights and cape. 

Similar to Batman Begins, the film focuses a lot on the man himself and not the actual hero in the first act. For the most part, it was very effective without taking away from Supes kicking some butt. Cavill was very impressive as the character, particularly as Clark Kent. Amy Adams played a very good role as his famous love Lois Lane. 

But who really stole the show was Michael Shannon as the villain, General Zod. He plays a similar role to Terrence Stamp in Superman II, in which he tries to conquer Earth. But Shannon plays different type of villain than Stamp, as Stamp’s Zod was completely evil and psychotic, only seeking to rule Earth. Shannon’s Zod only acts for the survival of his race, and becomes somewhat of an anti-hero, despite his intentions to destroy Earth in the process of the restoration of Krypton. Shannon has created one of the more memorable and more human supervillains of the era of superhero cinema.

For the most part, Man of Steel succeeds as a reboot and as a film on its own right. The effects were good enough, the casting was great, the writing was solid. My only problem was the way the film seemed to drag on for what seemed to be 30-45 minutes following its climax.  Also, the action scenes were a bit too long and stale at points and the dialogue was at times bland and unimpressive.

In the end, I felt like a wanted more, but maybe that’s a good thing. Similar to Batman Begins, it was a good start to a new franchise that could lay the foundation to even better accomplishment for Superman. I just don’t understand the mixed reception from these “professional” film critics. Man of Steel is a worthy addition to this age of comic book blockbusters. 

Verdict: 8.7/10 – Great. Image