Blackmon 4 MVP

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 8.14.2017

Believe it or not, sometimes it’s hard to be noticed in the rocky mountain outpost of major league baseball. The Colorado Rockies are chasing down their post season appearance since 2009 and they are doing it behind a centerfielder having one of the best seasons in baseball.

Simply put, Rockies centerfielder Charlie Blackmon is having a career year.  Yeah you can always default to the  ‘he plays at altitude’ argument but in this case that argument doesn’t hold up. Away from Coors Field he is hitting .288 with 10 HR’s, 35 RBI’s, with 12 doubles and a .330 OBP.  Those are quality numbers for any leadoff hitter at any park.

In a nutshell, these are his National League stats through August 12th:

1st in runs: 105 | 1st in hits: 159 | 1st in triples: 13 | 2nd in batting average: .338 | 3rd in slugging: .618 | 6th in homeruns: 27 | 11th in OBP: 3.94 |15th in RBI: 74

While most people point to Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado for MVP and for valid reasons. Not only is Arenado one of the top 5 position players in all of baseball but he is also leading baseball in RBI’s and pretty much ranks in the top 10 across all the important offensive categories in the National League.

But let’s be honest, Arenado only has 100 + RBI’s because Blackmon is on base in front of him.

 

Blackmon has been a solid player for the Rockies for a few seasons but he was usually overshadowed by former shorstop Troy Tulowitzki and current right fielder Carlos Gonzalez not to mention Arenado. He overshadowed so much that a year ago the Washington Nationals made a run at acquiring the centerfielder. The Rockies didn’t pull the trigger and now that seems like one of the better decisions any franchise has made.

While there are several quality candidates for NL MVP none of them have gone as above and beyond as Blackmon has. From his hitting to his speed to his play in the vast outfield of Coors Field, Blackmon has proven himself to be MVP material.

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The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.31.2016

While many point to the end of the calendar year as the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, those folks are clearly not sports fans. While the yule log, spiked eggnog and massive amount are nice, they do not compare to the last week of October and the first week of November.

World SeriesSeveral years ago the World Series got kicked back a little bit. Now the baseball season overlaps with the NFL,college football, CFL and MLS for a two solid months. Add in the start of the NHL and NBA regular seasons and you have got sports on seven days a week.

After Halloween, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) starts playing football games during the week which means that there is football on seven days a week. Add this to the NFL games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday and it can be easy to see why some people get ‘football overload’ and turn to something else.

While the Holiday Season is great, it does not compare to this time of year. From the World Series to pivotal college football games to the MLS playoffs. The games this time of year are more important than the ones during the Holiday’s. So enjoy the Indian Summer some of you are getting and enjoy the sports overload.

End Of The Freak Show?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Timmy LincecumTim Lincecum was, at one point, arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Between 2008-2010 he was damn near unhittable. Winning two Cy Young awards and leading the National League in strikeouts for three straight years and snatching a couple of World Series titles to boot. Now he is just another minor leaguer hoping for another chance in ‘The Show’. A man whose career may be done at the tender age of 32.

Nicknamed ‘The Freak’ he’s a power pitcher with a small frame (5’11” and 170 lbs soaking wet). His career started to go sideways somewhere around 2011-2012. The control began to wander and the dominance wasn’t there each and every start. In 2015 he was diagnosed with degenerative hips and had a forearm injury. It took him nearly a year before he pitched in another major league game.

As much as it hurt the San Francisco Giants, Lincecum wasn’t resigned after the 2015 season. He was the face of the franchise for five or six years. He refused to quit though. He rehabbed his way back and worked out a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. While he showed promise in his first start (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 SO). Since then it’s pretty much been downhill to the point that the Angels released Lincecum this past weekend. He is now heading to the minor leagues with the hope of finding his form and making it back to the majors.

This may sound a little like an obit for a former two time Cy Young Award winner but it’s not.

Can Lincecum find his old form? It’s doubtful but he’s not going to stop trying. All pitchers, in particularly power pitches, have to, at some point, transform from being a power pitcher to a control pitcher. Their control has to be flawless. Their off speed stuff needs to become strikeout material. They need to adapt. Lincecum is willing and trying to do that. The results are just not there as of yet.

It’s hard to say but it will be interesting to see if Linecum can become a major league pitcher again. He has to find the pitches and delivery that work for him. He might be able to do that in AAA baseball but then again the league where he will be going, the Pacific Coast League, is know to be a hitters league. Best of luck Freak.

Avoiding Surgery With Stem Cells

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


A headline a few days ago caught my eye. It was how Los Angeles Angels pitcher Garrett Richards was shut down for the year with tear in his UCL and was undergoing stem cell therapy as opposed to Tommy John surgery. What? Come again? Turns out that he isn’t the first pitcher to try this. Not even the first on his own team!

Garrett RichardsAfter a quick search I found an article by the Los Angeles Times Pedro Moura. He wrote about the stem cell treatment being undergone by Richards and his teammate Andrew Heaney. Essentially, the doctors are taking stem cells from the bone marrow and injecting it into the affected elbow. The idea is that the body will heal itself and you can avoid a surgery that could put a pitcher out for a year or more.

A lot of questions come up with this. The most important is ‘how do you know it worked?’ If it didn’t and the pitcher has to have surgery anyway and that delays their return even more.

That’s not even the crazy part.

According to the article, the stem cells can have human growth hormone (HGH) add to them to speed up the healing process. HGH of course is outlawed by every sports league and by the FDA. So it’s ok to remove a healthy tendon from another part of the body (opposite arm or leg) or even take one from a cadaver to replace the torn tendon, but it’s illegal to boost the cells taken from your own body to heal the torn tendon without surgery.

Something seems amiss here.

There is a growing concern that kids are pitching too much and are requiring Tommy John surgery earlier and earlier to the point that some are calling it an ‘epidemic‘. Non-surgical options are not just needed, they are to the point of being required.

I recommend reading Moura’s article and draw your own opinion. The fact that stem cell therapy is already taking place at this level and there is a chance that a pitcher can opt to not have surgery leaves one to believe that this topic isn’t going to go away anytime soon. If HGH can speed up the healing process and allow a pitcher to not have to have surgery than perhaps this should be looked at by the FDA and major league baseball a little bit more.

Sports Hacking And It’s Risks

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Former St Louis Cardinals Scouting Director Chris Correa was finally sentenced today for his role in the 2014 hack of the Houston Astros. He faces 46 months behind bars and a fine of over $250k. It seems pretty harsh but it raises a bigger question which is how secure are sports organizations data?

I wrote about this issue last year when it came to light. I wanted to know two fundamental things; 1) how does a team go about protecting it’s data and 2) if data was taken did it truly provide a measurable competitive advantage? In this case the federal prosecutors claimed that it cost the Astros $1.7 million. Does $1.7 million equal 46 months in prison? I think that is very much up for debate.

Some may feel that the sentence is harsh but when you look at the amount of statistical data floating around in MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLS and how much teams have come to rely on that data to select and identify potential season ticket holders, then one could argue that this sentence provides a deterrent to other individuals from attempting a similar thing. It doesn’t provide a deterrent to outside actors.

The fact is that we as a society do not know the boundaries yet for cyber crime which is what Correa was convicted of. In this case it would appear to be a law enforcement issue as data was take from a database without the owners knowledge or approval and it involved US citizens. However what if this was similar to the Sony hack? How does that change the game? (Pun intended.) Is this then just a law enforcement issue?

Former Gen. Michael Hayden talked about some of this in presentation this past January (pick it up around the 15 minute mark and no you can’t see his slides). What if, and yes we are in hypotheticals here, but what if Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a negative remark Russia that Russia took personally? Would that put the Mavericks database at risk? Would it put their season ticket holders information at risk? We already have precedent with the Sands Casino hack back in 2014 of a high profile individual making remarks that the Iranians didn’t like. You saw what happened there.

What responsibility did the Astros have to secure their own data? Doesn’t the blame, in part, fall on them? Yes Correa had to make the choice to infiltrate their network however it does appear that once inside he had full reign. One could argue that the Astros should have had an extra layer of authentication like an RSA key in order to gain access to their proprietary network.

Sports organizations with all their data and high profiles need to start looking at themselves in the context of everything else. While this case is about gaining access to player information and potential player acquisitions, it raises a much bigger question about sports franchises level as a target to outside actors. What if China decided to hack the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys and release all of the season ticket holder info? Two iconic American brands hacked because the US Government did something that the Chinese didn’t like.

Impossible? It’s really not that far off. In any event Correa isn’t a terrorist or a state sponsor of one. He isn’t an Eastern European criminal gang but he is going to prison none the less. And one last point, neither of these teams have won the World Series in the last few years so is 46 months really a fitting punishment?

The Dark Hype

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Ask around baseball and just about everyone will tell you that New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey has some amazing stuff. His stuff was so good that many felt it was only a matter of time before he won a Cy Young or two. His potential was so high that ESPN’s E:60 did an hour long show on him even though he had never pitched a full major league season and was coming off of Tommy John surgery. Now with his season over due to another injury to his throwing arm it’s time to ask, should Matt Harvey been put up on the pedestal in the first place?

Harvey went down with a season ending arm injury this past week. It’s his second season ending injury in his very short major league career. Questions abound but it is pretty clear that he will never be the show stopping pitcher people made him out to be.

Here are the facts: Harvey has a combined 29-28 record as a starting pitcher. While he has some impressive stats like a career 2.97 era and a 4.41 strikeout to walk ratio, he has pitched only one full major league season (2015) and has only one complete game in his career.

With this in mind, it makes you wonder why ESPN’s E:60 would dedicate an entire show to a player who has yet to play an entire major league season.

ESPN weren’t the only ones of course, Sports Illustrated put him on the cover back in 2013.  The hype around him was palpable.

Now, he starts over again as he undergoes surgery.

The rhetorical question is, would Harvey have received the same coverage if he wasn’t in New York? The answer is no. If he came up in the Houston Astros organization no one would given a damn.

Madison Bumgarner and Felix Hernandez have each thrown over 200 innings in one of Harvey’s major league seasons. Clayton Kershaw isn’t far behind (he only threw 198.1 innings in 2014 but threw 232 in 2015) and neither is the Chicago White Sox Chris Sale or the Washington Nationals Max Scherzer.  Where is their hour long special and over the top coverage? This group has won World Series titles, the Cy Young award, thrown no-hitters and perfect games.

Matt Harvey hasn’t.

Look Matt Harvey sells. He’s an interesting guy and makes a good story in the biggest media market in the world. This means that he makes media companies money but that doesn’t make him a great pitcher. The media put Harvey up on a pedestal, labeled him ‘The Real Dark Knight’ and they got it wrong. It’s not the first time it has happened and it certainly won’t be the last.

If you are going to be given this kind of coverage he should have to earn it. You should be carrying your team to championships, winning awards, and making All-Star teams. If you do this that means you are shutting down the opposing teams best hitters. It means you end your teams four game losing streak during the dog days of summer. It means that you go to the manager and say, ‘yeah I can pitch on two days rest’ when it’s game seven of the World Series and then go shut the opposing team down.

That’s when you get the big media coverage. Not before.

None of this is Matt Harvey’s fault. He would much rather be out on the mound showing everyone that he is better than the pitcher everyone thought he would be. But he’s not and media is going to let him know it. The media rushed to judgement and put another young athlete on a pedestal he didn’t belong on. It’s them who should be having season ending surgery and not Harvey.

BAM is for Billions

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


BAMIt wasn’t a secret that Disney was looking to take a stake in MLBAM (BAM) but the end number may surprise some folks. According to Bloomberg Disney is buying 33% of BAM for $3.5 billion with an option to buy more in a few years. That is a valuation of over $10 billion. Not bad for an entity that doesn’t even turn a profit yet.

A few years ago Fast Company did a profile on BAM and within that article there was an estimated IPO price for BAM in 2005. That number was $2.5 billion so the company has essentially increased around $8 billion over the last 11 years. If you did some loose math based on that article you could see that BAM was more or less breaking even.

That’s not to say that MLBAM isn’t worth a $10 billion valuation. They are a white label solution as their CEO Bob Bowman would say. They are the streaming backend for MLB, WWE, NHL, Watch ESPN and have even done the Super Bowl. They made bets that paid off and with this purchase by Disney, it puts them in a position to stay in the lead when it comes to live video streaming.

Disney for it’s part made another shrewd investment. It’s no secret that their cash cow, ESPN, is having to adjust to the new realities of cord cutting. Enter an investment by it’s parent company and Disney has created an A to Z revenue stream when it comes to over the top video. It’s like selling the car and the gas that goes in it.

This is a very smart purchase by Disney. They have the cash to do it and it’s very well timed. It’s no wonder that the Disney board wants Bob Iger to stick around a bit longer. It will be interesting to see if BAM competitors like NeuLion look to cut deals or merge with CDN or network. In the meantime the only one doing better in this space is probably Amazon.com.

The Sunday: Hooks & History

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The KO

So Saul “Canelo” Alvarez knocked Amir Khan out cold on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Finally a boxing match with an actual finish!

 

Big Fly

NY Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon is 42 years old (and that could be debatable). He hit his first ever home run on Saturday night in San Diego. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds and it nearly broke twitter.

Not to be outdone, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh homered off a tee. Then dropped the bat and dabbed.

 

The Hook

An nothing may have been more impressive than Sporting KC’s Brad Davis’ goal against his former club last weekend.

 

FIRED UP

How fired up does Diego Simone of Atletico Madrid get during a Champions League match? So much so that he hit his assistant.

 

They Did It

Leicester City did it. They won the Premier League title when Tottenham drew with Chelsea on Monday. The best City had ever finished with second back in 1929. The biggest winners? The people who put money down on City to win the Premier League Title at 5,000-1 odds.

 

The Youngster

Speaking of history, the Arizona Coyotes made it this week by hiring the youngest GM in major sports history. John Chayka is just 26 years old and he is now in charge of leading the Coyotes to the promised land. So yes, this officially makes the Coyotes the NHL’s version of the Oakland A’s.

Put A Roof On It

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Opening Day 2016 in Major League Baseball (MLB) was not without it’s weather events. Two games were postponed and another one was delayed. There would have been three postponements if it wasn’t for the Milwaukee Brewers having the forethought to build a stadium with a retractable roof. If there were so many postponement and delays, why don’t more baseball stadiums have roofs?

brewers VS giantsIt was coming down in Milwaukee, Wisconsin today. It looked like it was coming down sideways there for a while. Inside Miller Park though the players were in short sleeves as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 12-3. There was no such luck in Cleveland, Ohio or in the Bronx where the New York Yankees Wild Card rematch against the Houston Astros was postponed due to inclement weather. For whatever reason, Yankee Stadium and Progressive Field in Cleveland do not have retractable roofs.

Why?

It was more or less an tradition thing although the Indians could make the argument that the technology wasn’t in place when they built their ballpark back in the early 90’s. But why don’t the Yankees have one? Their stadium opened in 2009. Where they unconvinced about global warming? Where they thinking that it was going to be warmer in October or think that thunderstorms were not going to happen during the summer?

In 2012 Hurricane Sandy battered a good portion of the Northeastern United States. The very outer bands were making their presence felt in Game 4 of the World Series in Detroit, Michigan where the aforementioned Giants were in the midst of sweeping the Detroit Tigers. What if the Giants didn’t win that game? Hurricane Sandy would have delayed the World Series at least a few days. With a retractable roof, the game would have been played the next day.

What if the World Series was in New York or Boston or Philadelphia that year? We’re talking postponements of a week or more.

It’s not just a matter of comfort but of economics. How much does it cost to postpone a game? How cumbersome is it for the fans? Will that effect future games they may come to? Wouldn’t a retractable roof provide more comfort for fans and hence have them attend more games?

The fact is that humans cannot control the weather. They can control what it effects though. While there are very few plans to build any new baseball stadiums any time soon, when they do build the next generation of stadiums, they should consider a retractable roof. For economics sake.

Digital Dugout

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Normally Major League Baseball (MLB) is the last sports league to adopt change much less technological change when it involves the game itself. Tradition is very important to the gatekeepers of baseball which is why a partnership with Apple to allow iPads in the dugout during games is all the more shocking. This change is a quantum leap in a lot regards and puts MLB in front of the other major sports when it comes to using technology during a game.

Apple’s iPad Pro and an app called Dugout will allow each team to access their own proprietary data during a game. This is includes video if the player or coach so desires. Now think about this for a second, the NFL and their much ballyhooed deal with Microsoft to allow Surface tablets on the sidelines only allow pictures and even those are limited. Meanwhile, the old school MLB is going to allow actual video and hopes to get to a point where it’s real time sometime in the near future.

The handoff  is going to be key. As Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon pointed out, until you have AI moving at the speed of thought there is going to be limit to the technology. The anticipation, preparation, etc will eventually come but Maddon makes the same point that Bill Gates made years ago which is that the computer needs to be as easy as a piece of paper.

There must have been some hesitation in the offices of general managers and mangers across the league when this idea was initially floated. Why? Well there is always the old school fear that the other team will ‘steal your signals’ but the most recent technological example is when the Houston Astros were ‘hacked’ by the St Louis Cardinals.

Regardless of the past, come Opening Day players and coaches can ditch the binders (if they want) and grab the iPad to access information. A massive leap indeed for MLB and a move that will have other leagues monitoring the move closely.