MLB All-Star Game Voting Has Begun

Just 3 weeks into the regular season, polls are officially open for Major League Baseball’s All-Star game voting. You can vote early and often by clicking here to go directly to the ballot.

The 2016 All-Star Game takes place July 12th, at Petco Park in San Diego, CA, with some of the best craft beer selection you could ask for. Voting ends June 30th at 11:59 PM ET. Fans can vote up to 5 times in any 24-hour period.

This is what my first ballot looks like, considering the small sample size of work everyone has done so far.

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As of Sunday, April 24th at 1:00 PM CT…

  • Cubs OF Dexter Fowler leads the league in Wins Above Replacement (1.8 WAR) and is tied for the most doubles hit (9).
  • White Sox OF Adam Eaton leads the league in Defensive WAR (0.8) and runs saved (7) while batting .309.
  • Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy leads the league in Batting Average (.411) *with the required number of at-bats*
  • Nationals OF Bryce Harper and Rockies SS Trevor Story lead the league in Home Runs (8), while Harper leads all in Runs Batted In (22).
  • Astros 2B Jose Altuve leads the league in Stolen Bases (7).
  • Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo and Orioles 1B Chris Davis lead those in their respective leagues at their position in Home Runs (6).
  • Orioles 3B Manny Machado leads the league in Hits (27), Total Bases (53 and, On-Base Plus Slugging (1.225 OPS), while batting .397.

You can make your votes and see the stats lined up from each player from the MLB website here.

Let us know who you are voting for on Facebook or Twitter. 

My Reason To Watch the World Series: Juan Uribe

The Fall Classic kicks off in Kansas City tonight on FOX at 7:07 PM CT. The Royals are making back-to-back trips after a nearly 30-year World Series drought. It’s been 15 years since the Mets were in the World Series and they haven’t won since 1986, the year after the Royals last did. Fun Fact: Neither team has ever won Game 1 of the World Series. Combined both teams are 0-7 in that regard. Also, Joe Buck will have the call and everyone will be convinced he hates their team. Both Royals and Mets fans are readying their angry tweets.

Both teams are very exciting for the objective baseball fan. The Mets have an incredible starting rotation and the Royals have the best bullpen. Daniel Murphy is doing video game things hitting 7 home runs in the playoffs and Ned Yost doesn’t give two shits about your baseball sensibilities when it comes to bunting and running. I, however, don’t care for either team.

As a fan with illogical and irrational feelings, I hate the Royals the most. I’m a White Sox fan and while people in Chicago struggle with my lack of Cub-hate, I target my frustration and dislike to the other teams in the AL Central. Whichever team is preventing the White Sox from making the playoffs the most (besides themselves), that’s who gets the majority of my distain. The Detroit Tigers used to be that team, but now the Royals carry the torch for my White Sox rivalry rage.

Sox Fight Gif

The Mets receive a different brand of loathing from me. Having grown up around Chicago, there’s natural detest in me and many for that giant east coast city, their tough-guy accents and pizza arrogance. For the record, I love New York but love when my teams face theirs way more. However, there’s one player who was just named to the Mets playoff roster who I can’t say a single bad thing about. His name is…

Uribe Puppies

Juan Uribe.

Juan Uribe is everything that is good about baseball. He has fun. His teammates love him. He’s also no stranger to the big moment. Over his 15-year career, this will be Uribe’s 3rd appearance in a World Series. He made the final throw-out to win it all for the 2005 White Sox, homered for the Giants in another winning effort in 2010, and now he’s back to keep the 5-year trend alive.

Uribe makes the Mets’ World Series roster wearing his third different uniform this year alone. He joined the Mets in a trade with Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves, and started the season as a Los Angeles Dodger. Uribe actually ended the 2014 regular season as acting manager of the Dodgers, while also paying tribute to Don Mattingly and Tommy Lasorda.

As a manager, Uribe has a 1.000 winning percentage and a Gatorade shower as well.

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Now Uribe can end this season with his third World Series ring. He has a chance to become the 4th player in MLB’s expansion era to win 3 world championships with 3 different teams, after Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, and Lonnie Smith. His Mets tenure hasn’t been particularly special, batting .219 with 6 home runs and 20 RBIs in 128 at-bats (Murphy has matched that production in these playoffs alone), but it’s hard not to root for the guy.

Of course my White Sox sentiments have a heavy influence on my admiration for Uribe. In the 10th anniversary year of their World Series win, at least one of the players from the roster are competing for it again. He’s one of 5 players from the 2005 White Sox roster who were still active in 2005 (AJ Pierzynski/ATL, Mark Beuhrle/TOR, Neal Cotts/MIN, Brandon McCarthy/LAD). Uribe also gave me one of my favorite baseball memories, catching a ball in the stands during the World Series that I’ll contend was better than Derek Jeter’s famous dive…somewhat irrationally, I’ll.

A year ago, I actively avoided the World Series. I had seen the Giants thing before and you already know my feelings about the Royals. This year, I’ve got Juan Uribe and will happily buy his jersey if he gets to light victory cigars again.

Uribe WS

Who are you rooting for to win the World Series? Let me know on either Facebook or Twitter

I’m a Fan of Marlins Man

For those who are new to watching playoff baseball, you may notice something that doesn’t match either the Cubbie blue or Cardinal red color scheme behind home plate. Sitting behind the gentleman in the pink hat at Wrigley Field, was a bright orange Marlins jersey and a matching visor. He’s…

Marlins Man!

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Many first noticed Marlins Man among the Kansas City Royals blue a year ago, making his presence known in national HD TV while glowing in bright orange. Social media greeted the sight as you’d expect…with the anger and burning ire of a thousand suns. I didn’t get it at first either, but then Marlins Man grew on me and my level of admiration grew with every snarky Tweet and comment directed his way.

Laurence Leavy, a law firm owner that specializes in labor law, used to own season tickets to multiple South Florida teams, including the Marlins (duh), Dolphins, Heat, and Miami Hurricanes. He told the Sun-Sentinel last week that he would spend $200,000 to $300,000 on season tickets for his clients and that it really helped his practice, especially in the 90’s. Unfortunately the teams around Miami, outside of the Miami Heat, all forgot how to win and Levy couldn’t even give tickets away.

Then Leavy was diagnosed with liver cancer. It turned out to be a large blood mass in his liver and kidney stones, but the health scare made him reexamine his life. Rather than go to the local sporting events for work, he decided he would go to bigger ones across the the country…for fun. Instead of taking clients to these games, Marlins Man wanted to take sports fans who would truly appreciate the experience with him.

Leavy will invite friends and total strangers on Facebook to go to games and events with him for free. It could be the Stanley Cup, a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park, the Kentucky Derby, or Game 3 of the NLDS at Wrigley Field. The only thing Leavy asks of his guests and fellow sports fans that they “pay it forward” by performing an act of kindness for someone else in need. Once they prove they have done so, Marlins Man then sends them a t-shirt with his face on it and in bold print “Pay It Forward”.

“Think of an idea to change the world – and put it into action.”

I used to think Marlins Man was simply doing what every sports fan dreamt of. He was attending the biggest games in the world, witnessing the coolest moments from the best seats, because he could. Shaquille O’Neal interviewed him during the NBA playoffs recently asking “Why do you do it?” Marlins Man answered exactly how I would have, “Why not?”. He also gets noticed, obviously. If his favorite teams weren’t going to be represented in the playoffs, he might as well do it for them.

Learning that Marlins Man is using his celebrity for more than himself makes the whole thing incredibly cooler to me. It makes me want to share that part of his story to those who probably don’t know it. When journalists ask him about the people he helped, Leavy will reference hundreds of emails and voicemails on his phone from people he took to games, telling their stories of good deeds they performed as a result of his.

It’s not an ongoing vacation, as one would assume (*raises hand*). Leavy works billable hours from the hotel rooms he stays in and if you notice he’s on his phone during games, he’s running his law firm of 37 employees from the front row.

A year ago, the Kansas City Royals asked Marlins Man to wear something blue and not his signature orange uniform. Leavy respectfully declined and showed up to ballpark wearing one of the 8 bright jerseys he keeps packed. You go, Marlins Man. I look forward to catching him at the next one…

…and paying it forward just for knowing about it.

For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter

The 2015 Cubs from a White Sox Fan’s Perspective

I’m jealous, but I’m not.

On the one hand, the Chicago Cubs are in a one-game playoff game tonight in Pittsburgh. A year ago, the San Francisco Giants played in the Wild Card game, beat the Pirates, and went on to win the World Series. The Giants rode their ace, Madison Bumgarner, all the way to Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals and so much champagne was had after. The Cubs have a chance to do the same thing tonight with the best pitcher in baseball this season, Jake Arrieta.

The fact that the Cubs are built to sustain a run of opportunities like tonight for years to come, that their manager is a baseball genius with one of the cooler demeanors in the sport, and that every postgame is a party for their club makes me jealous. I’m jealous of the fun personalities on the team and how hard it is to find someone worth disliking. Is there anyone?

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I’m not jealous of the nerves and emotions Cubs fans have been going through since Sunday. Hard to imagine that a 97-win season’s fate is being left to one game, on the road, against another one of the league’s best pitchers, Gerrit Cole, and arguably the best bullpen in baseball. I’ve been there before…2008, Game 163 between the White Sox and Minnesota Twins, John Danks vs. Nick Blackburn, decided in the bottom of the 7th off a Jim Thome home run…the only run scored in the game.

Jim Thome Game 163

I’m also not jealous that despite having baseball’s 3rd best record, the two better records belong to two teams in their division. It’s not like the Pirates and Cardinals are going away anytime soon either.

The Cubs are ahead of schedule though. You would be lying if you told me that you expected a team with as many rookies playing as the Cubs have would be where they are this evening. Cubs president Theo Epstein tempered their expectations to fans and media alike, anticipating a season of growth toward 2016. They grew alright. They grew in a hurry.

I’m jealous that the Cubs were able to trade Jeff Samardzija to Oakland for Addison Russell, and all the White Sox got back was a 4.96 ERA and an 11-13 record from someone who started on opening day. While the Cubs were promoting their rising prospects to the Major League, the White Sox were trying to “win now” signing a closer, a number of back-end bullpen pitchers, Melky Cabrera, and another left handed DH on the wrong end of his career named Adam (LaRoche). While Cabrera turned out to be as advertised, the rest of White Sox GM Rick Hahn’s winter acquisitions weren’t. Then after 4 seasons of a .458 win percentage, White Sox brass somehow felt Robin Ventura was still worth keeping. On the other end of town, the Cubs fired manager Rick Renteria after one season simply because Joe Maddon was available.

The contrast between the two organizations is pretty glaring. One is the biggest surprise in the National League and the other is the biggest disappointment in the American League. One organization was able to gut their club, go through multiple bad seasons in order to acquire high draft picks and international assets, and are now reaping the benefits of a lot of patience. The other organization and their fan base still dealt with the multiple years of losing, but not on purpose. Rather than take advantage of chances to stock up for the future, the White Sox burned it on older free agents and loyalty to declining veterans.

This isn’t meant to be an open “It sucks to be a Sox” letter. Far from it. I still had fun supporting my team this year. White Sox fans celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the 2005 World Series team. Chris Sale was electric, breaking the single-season franchise record for strikeouts. Jose Abreu became the 2nd player in baseball history to hit 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in his first two seasons. And young talents like Carlos Rodon and Trayce Thompson emerged as bright spots for next season. Things were just a lot more fun on the north side and I have no problem admitting that.

I attended 3 games at Wrigley Field this season. There’s this unbelievably cool feeling that overcomes you climbing the stairwell to see the scene of the field and the scoreboard. The stadium was packed and the fans seemed to hang on to every pitch of consequence. I don’t know if it’s the crowd having an effect on the players or the other way around but the energy is certainly shared between two, and it was so romantic to experience. That Brad Pitt/Billy Beane line in Moneyball certainly applied.

U.S. Cellular Field wasn’t necessarily void of those feelings, as many would lead you to believe. In the 8 games I went to this summer, they only lost once (maybe I should have gone to more games). There were 2 different occasions that made me forget about the team’s record and their struggles. Both were Sale starts and both ended with late inning dramatics for the win. The first came against reigning AL CY Young winner Corey Kluber and the second was against former White Sox great Mark Buehrle. The ballpark was nowhere near as full as a Cubs game this year (keep your attendance jokes. I don’t care), but you couldn’t tell with how loud it got after every strikeout and base hit. Ultimately there weren’t many games like that, but that’s baseball for you.

At no point did I actively root against the Cubs, unless they were playing the White Sox. Being in two different leagues, neither team has any effect on the other’s chances to go to the playoffs. I care way more about what happens to the Tigers, Royals, and Twins than I do the Cubs because they are actual division rivals. Do I feel left out not wearing Cubby blue while living in the northwest suburbs? Not really. Admiring from afar as an objective baseball fan is fine enough, and I still think “Go Cubs Go” is the worst.*ducks*

…while I’m at it, I also put ketchup on my hotdogs. *ducks again*

I do genuinely hope Cubs fans are enjoying this ride. I was lucky to do so with a 99-win team 10 years ago, where everyone on the roster contributed with big moments…similar to this Cubs team. If things don’t go their way tonight, the season was still one of the organization’s best in the last century. “There’s always next year” has a totally different feel to it when you have Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, Arrieta and Maddon returning to your dugout. Live in the moment and don’t even think about BS curses. My hope is that both teams are competitive for years to come and the prospects of a crosstown World Series become way more than a pipe dream. 

Have fun tonight, Cubs fans.

Sincerely,

Michael Piff

PS. Please don’t flip my car when you win it all.