National Landscape Hasn’t Changed Much

It seems as though player movement becomes contagious. Teams watch clubs in their division make moves to strengthen their organization and it becomes a motivating factor to follow suit. While not all the meaningful transactions took place in San Diego, this past Winter Meetings kept participants on guard as transactions came quickly.

It seems more of the earth shaking moves took place in the American League, but the NL had its share of big transactions as well.

The Atlanta Braves have a new leadoff hitter in Nick Markakis. Markakis must first undergo neck surgery from a condition that has bothered him for some time. That may have been among the reasons the Orioles did not finalize a deal to retain his services. Markakis takes the role vacated when Jason Heyward was traded to the Cardinals. Pesky Alberto Callaspo slips into the two hole in the batting order as a free agent acquisition. The team hopes the additions of Shelby Miller to the rotation and Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino to the bullpen help make up for injury losses. Of course, the Braves may not be finished. Justin and B J Upton may be on the move.

The Cubs are beginning to give the north side of Chicago some hope. My fear is that expectations will be too high for the coming year. It will take at least two seasons in my opinion for all the young players and new veterans to come together and play as a unit. However, this club is headed in the right direction and could be lethal when they mature together.

Of course, adding Jon Lester as the ace of the staff is the foundation for the pitching future. He brings his cutter and mature mound presence to a club where his leadership will be as valued as his ability to pitch. Along with the newly refined Jake Arrieta, the team has an outstanding one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Jason Hammel returns to the team as the third starter. Very quietly, the Cubs added veteran flamethrower Jason Motte to the bullpen. If he’s healthy, that’s a big addition. The catching tandem of Wellington Castillo and newly acquired Miguel Montero could be formidable. Montero gets a fresh start in a new environment. He needs to renew his passion for the game and get back to solid catching fundamentals.

The Reds picked up starter Anthony DeSclafani is a deal for one time ace Mat Latos. Latos had come to the Reds as the focal point of the blockbuster deal with the Padres in December 2011. That deal included Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal. DeSclafani has good stuff and is a fine prospect. Probably the team’s fifth starter now, he can work his way up the food chain if he irons out some inconsistency in his command. Latos has had some injury issues, but if he’s healthy, he can really help the Marlins.

The Padres have still not finalized the much discussed deal for Matt Kemp. If they do get the outfielder from the Dodgers I have some very real concerns. First, will Kemp be happy in a lineup that doesn’t have much offensive pop? Will he be happy away from the brighter lights of Los Angeles? Even though it’s a short drive away, the two cities are totally different in feel and living environment. The issue for me is not the package of players returned to the Dodgers for Kemp, but more Kemp’s contract. Will the Padres be able to supplement the lineup with quality players or will one contract eat much of their available payroll? As I write this a proposed deal for outfielder Wil Myers from the Rays is in the works.

One thing is certain. The Padres front office is making every effort to change the offensive side of the club. They have been in discussions with many free agents and have thrown their hat in the ring for potential trades. Some may come to fruition.

In addition to the Cardinals adding Jason Heyward to right field, they have signed first baseman/third baseman Mark Reynolds as depth off the bench. It’s has some significance, because Reynolds is the type of guy that can win a ballgame with a home run as a pinch hitter in the late innings. Yes, he strikes out a ton. However, there is no doubt about his power. Jordan Walden came in the Heyward trade from the Braves and can add some depth to the bullpen. He along with free agent acquisition Matt Belisle of the Rockies will be new to the pen.

The Mets have added the bat of Michael Cuddyer to their lineup and he could be hitting in the cleanup spot. John Mayberry, Jr. signed as a free agent and could add some depth at first base and in the outfield.

The Pirates handled the loss of catcher Russell Martin by bringing Francisco Cervelli over from the Yankees. It was a great move for Pittsburgh, as Cervelli offers outstanding defense to a pitching staff that has prospered under Martin’s guidance. Cervelli is really a bit underrated in my opinion. And bringing back starting lefty Francisco Liriano really helped the continuity of their rotation. They’ll have an all Francisco battery. But the move I really like is the addition of utility player Sean Rodriguez in trade from the Rays. Rodriguez is a solid hitter with some power. He can play all over the field and his versatility will add great depth to the Pirates. Good move IMO.

The Phillies have added pitcher Odubel Herrera and outfielder Andy Oliver via the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. I have not scouted either player.

The Giants added infield depth by signing Carlos Triunfel. He was a good infield prospect several years ago for the Mariners.

The Brewers may have found their first baseman in Adam Lind. He has enough power to be a threat in the middle of the lineup and can help take some of the pressure off Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. He also adds a nice left-handed bat to the middle of the order. I think it was a nice move. He may not hit much for average, but Miller Park is a nice play pen for his swing.

The Rockies have not made many significant moves, but did add left-handed hitting Daniel Descalso to their roster. They also have picked up right-hander Jairo Diaz in trade from the Dodgers. He’ll likely assume a bullpen role.

The Nationals have added second baseman Chris Bostick from the Rangers in a move that could provide the team with some infield depth in the event of a future trade.

You can find my thoughts on the Dodgers and Marlins in previous editions of BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD.

Tomorrow: The remaining American League teams.

Thanks for reading my work on and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

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Upgraded Models On Display This Coming Spring

Take a stroll along the 2015 Major League landscape and you’re likely to find the offerings sure look different. Stop in the showroom and kick the tires of the Chicago White Sox newest model. Everything looks upgraded. More bells and whistles. More chrome. All the latest technology. Early test drives this coming spring should show obvious upgrades in class and style. Effective, efficient market driven changes.

The White Sox owned the first portion of the Winter Meetings last week in San Diego. They began retooling their product with the acquisition of free agent first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche. An outstanding defensive first baseman, LaRoche offers more length to the lineup and gives the club an additional power source to compliment Jose Abreu. With the losses of Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn to retirement, the White Sox will have LaRoche and Abreu as interchangeable parts between first base and designated hitter. It will help them both.

Pitching upgrades really set the new edition White Sox into a new category. Having David Robertson available to close games on Chicago’s south side will give the team confidence heading to the ninth inning with a lead. He’s reliable. And consistent. The bullpen also benefits from the experience of newly acquired free agent Zach Duke, a lefty who has found a home in the pen. Perhaps another lefty reliever is still out there to be added to the relief corps.

With Jeff Samardzija on the club, the White Sox have upgraded their rotation. Teams will now have to face a very formidable top three starters of Chris Sale, Samardzija and the underrated Jose Quintana. John Danks and Hector Noesi probably round out the starting five at this early date. Sale, Quintana and Danks are left handed. A nice bonus. Carlos Rondon looms somewhere. Rotation? Bullpen? And Erik Johnson is a big, strong starter as well. So the White Sox now have some pitching depth. New backup catcher Rob Brantly adds a different dimension to the catching corps.

The addition of outfielder Melky Cabrera might be the most significant upgrade of all. He brings a very potent bat to the lineup and should help set the table behind Adam Eaton. Opposing pitchers will have to navigate Eaton, Cabrera. Abreu, LaRoche and Avisail Garcia each and every day. Two of those first five hitters add new life and a new look to the new model. I really like what the White Sox have accomplished. And I don’t think they’re finished. Perhaps Dayan Viciedo will find a new home before the start of the new model year. I would guess the club still has some other changes in mind.

If the White Sox got a face lift, the Miami Marlins have undergone an entire reconstruction. The model that rolls off the lines in February/March will put the club in an entirely different conversation. Contenders. Not pretenders. The club is loaded.
For those that have followed me in the past, the Marlins are one of the teams I have been excited about for the past two seasons. I have felt they have some of the best and brightest young stars in the game. Not just Giancarlo Stanton. I’m talking Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Adeiney Hechavarria. Not to mention Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, and Nathan Eovaldi. Exciting, young stars on the horizon. Add in Dee Gordon at the top of the order and the paint gets a bit brighter and shinier. If he gets on base consistently, think of the pressure he will put on the defense before the longer lumber strolls to the plate. If he can get on base consistently. With Michael Morse in the middle of the lineup, Stanton gains a bit more protection. A good thing.

If Dan Haren elects to pitch for the Marlins and not retire, the starting rotation will be lengthened with his experience and ability. The addition of Mat Latos gives them a strong starter at the top until Fernandez returns from his rehabilitation. Jared Cosart is still only 24 and has a chance to blossom into the pitcher many projected to become an ace. Of course Alvarez continues to improve. Tom Koehler at the back end of the rotation is very capable as well. The team lacks a left handed starter. But Justin Nicolino may respond to that need. Or Adam Conley.

Aaron Crow enters the bullpen picture as a middle reliever, and his experience will be welcomed, I’m sure. Steve Cishek is a very under the radar closer.

The new model Marlins are for real. They want to win. They have a very capable front office with good scouting and development personnel. If ownership keeps building upon this new model, the net result will be scary for the National League East. These guys are pretty darn good.

Tomorrow: Other National League club improvements.

Thank you for reading my work at MLBPipeline and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

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Winter Meetings-Reconstruction Zone (Dbacks and Dodgers)

Personnel from every aspect of baseball met last week at the Manchester Hyatt in beautiful San Diego.

The past two years at the Winter Meetings have been rather uneventful, to say the least. This year, the ground shook from the moment we arrived. It was exciting, eventful, invigorating and exhausting, all at the same time. Fans from every team waited and hoped to learn about every morsel of information about their club’s future.

In this several-part blog, I will recap my thoughts about the week that changed the landscape in the sport we all love. Dbacks and Dodgers today. Two more teams tomorrow.

The Diamondbacks entered the off-season with a very thin starting rotation. Their goal was to obtain reliable Major League quality pitchers and stock their farm system with able pitching depth. They accomplished that goal. And then some.

When the season begins in April, it will not be a surprise to see a rotation of Jeremy Hellickson (new) Josh Collmenter, Rubby De La Rosa (new) Allen Webster (new) and one from either Randall Delgado or Trevor Cahill take the mound until Patrick Corbin and/or Bronson Arroyo return healthy. Wade Miley is gone. He’ll take the ball in the new Red Sox rotation. I like both De La Rossa and Webster. I think they will offer the Dbacks quality starts. Both have upside remaining. Both are ready for the biggest stage IMO.

Webster’s fastball sits at 92-93, but he can hit 97. His changeup is a swing and miss offering and his second best pitch at 85mph. Also uses a slider. Gets sink on his pitches and that can be a blessing at Chase Field. I think he’s ready to break out.
De La Rossa: He’s teased front offices of both the Dodgers and Red Sox. A Tommy John operation interrupted his progress. Throws a mid-90’s fastball, a changeup and a slider. Not quite Tyson Ross, but he reminds me of the Padres rising star.

Robbie Ray is a lefty the club got in the deal that cost them Didi Gregorius. Based upon what I saw in the Fall League, I believe Ray needs more development time to work out control and command issues. He has the stuff, but he has to improve on repeating his delivery and getting ahead in counts. If he has a good spring, he may even be the 5th starter. But I don’t think he’s ready for that yet.

The Dbacks moved catcher Miguel Montero to the Cubs for pitchers Zack Godley (reliever) and Jeferson Mejia (starter). The transaction was more about moving $40mm off the payroll IMO. At a manager’s luncheon with Chip Hale at the Winter Meetings, Hale was asked about his starting catcher? His answer? Tuffy Goeswisch. Frankly, I don’t think the team’s starting catcher is currently on the roster. The overall first selection in the Rule 5 Draft was catcher Oscar Hernandez of the Rays organization. The Rays are weak behind the plate. Hmm. But Hernandez is a fine defensive catcher. He will have to remain with the club the entire season, be returned to Tampa Bay for $25,000 or a trade must be completed with the Rays to allow Hernandez to be sent out to the Minor Leagues. He will likely remain with the club. Another catcher is still out there for the Dbacks.

The other piece to the reconstruction project of the Dbacks is the acquisition of Yasmany Tomas, a cuban player reported to have outstanding power. I have not seen him play. I always reserve comment and judgment until I get to scout a player. Tomas is slated to play third base, allowing Mark Trumbo to remain in a corner outfield role. That means David Peralta, A J Pollock and Trumbo in the outfield. Chris Owings (if healthy) would play shortstop with Aaron Hill at second. And of course, Paul Goldschmidt returns from injury to play first.

The Dodgers blew the roof off the hotel with their non-stop activity beyond day one. The White Sox had dominated the meetings until Andrew Friedman and company stepped it up. They will now have Jimmy Rollins replacing Hanley Ramirez (Marlins) at shortstop. I think Rollins still has some petro in the tank. Maybe a half a tank’s worth. He can field better than Ramirez and he can still hit. He will be around until Corey Seager is ready for the job.

The rotation will likely be bolstered with the additions of Brandon McCarthy as a free agent and Joe Wieland from San Diego. McCarthy returned to using his wicked cutter after arriving in New York after a trade with the Yankees from the Dbacks. Wieland has always been a top pitching prospect. But he’s been injured with the Padres.
Wieland has had Tommy John surgery and has taken a bit of time to return to form. When he’s healthy, he sits in the low 90’s with his fastball and has an outstanding curve ball and a changeup in his repertoire. But he’s unproven for the 5 hole in the Dodgers rotation. My jury remains out on that one. I’m skeptical.

I’m not one that will criticize the trade of Dee Gordon to the Marlins. Yes, his speed is outstanding and game changing. But I don’t know if he can sustain an on-base percentage that releases the speed to steal bases. On the other side of the ledger, Howie Kendrick coming over from the Angels to play second is huge. He has a loud, line drive, middle of the field bat. He can drive in runs and score runs. I’ve always liked him and I think he will make up for the loss of Ramirez in the lineup.

The Dodgers had Andrew Heaney. Briefly. They moved him to the Angels for Kendrick. So what they have is a proven second baseman with a nice bat in exchange for an unproven and very top quality left handed starting pitcher. The deal was good for both Los Angeles teams.

That brings me to trading Matt Kemp to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, Zach Eflin and Wieland. And lots of millions of dollars. The deal may not even be official yet. But losing Kemp will hurt the Dodgers. It takes a huge bat out of the lineup. A bat that was showing signs of coming to life in the second half last season. If Kemp is healthy, he will be lacing the gaps at Petco with doubles. He’ll try to prove the Dodgers wrong. Joc Pederson, a very high upside rookie will be replacing Kemp in the outfield. But he isn’t Matt Kemp. At least not yet.

Are the Dodgers better? I don’t think so. I think they’ll miss Kemp. But I don’t think they are finished yet. They’ll get more pitching help. They added Joel Peralta and Juan Nicasio to the bullpen. But I have my doubts about the five spot in the rotation. And I hope McCarthy can stay healthy.

In my estimation, the Dbacks have improved because of Tomas. The pitching is yet to be seen. I do like the upside of Webster and possibly De La Rossa. I think Hellickson offers Major League experience, but I worry about his tendency to give up the long ball. Especially at Chase Field. And I think his slow pace is detrimental. I hope he can pick that up a bit in his new environment.

I think the Dodgers will try to improve at third base, on the mound and on the bench. There is more ground to shake in Los Angeles. The team we see now will not be the one the Dodgers field in April.

Come back tomorrow when I discuss the White Sox and the Marlins.

As always, thanks for reading my scouting profiles at

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Pounding The Ketchup Bottle

It’s amazing how much one free-agent pitcher means to the direction and flow of the Winter Meetings. It seems as though once LHP Jon Lester decides from among his many suitors, the most highly regarded remaining starting pitchers will fall in line. Where does Lester pitch next year? And for how many years thereafter? We shall see. I don’t hear as much about the Cubs being the frontrunners anymore. The buzz here still points to Boston and the Giants. But the Dodgers loom. And the story changes depending upon the source of the information. Red Sox manager John Farrell is confident Lester will return to Boston. Could be. I have no idea. I thought his relationship with Cubs front office personnel could tip the scales in the direction of Chicago. I think we’ll know tomorrow morning. And then…other pitchers should fall into slots. But maybe not Max Scherzer. Perhaps we won’t know about him until Spring Training. But Lester could go to the Cubs or the…or the…or the. Frustrating. Powerful.

While our personnel were in a meeting this morning, the Indians got a big left-handed bat in the name of Brandon Moss to play in the outfield, first base or as their designated hitter. He should help the Tribe…if his hip allows. Moss had a tough second half last year and had hip surgery following the season. He is currently in physical therapy and feels he will be two weeks behind other players in Spring Training. I think that may be optimistic. A hip injury for a hitter is a major concern. Hips do so much of the work in swing mechanics. I hope Moss doesn’t return until he is fully healthy.
Just a hunch, but I think the odd man out in the Indians equation could be David Murphy-also a left-handed hitter. Also an outfielder. Not much power. Decline in his 2014 season. Too many redundant position players. Someone probably goes.

Joey Wendle has a chance to be a good hitting second baseman. Some consider him more a utility player than a starter. I’m not one of them. I think he can play full-time for a team like the Athletics that isn’t deep in middle infielders. But he’s a year away from prime time. If the A’s don’t improve that role with a Major League ready guy by the end of Spring Training, Wendle may be rushed. I just don’t see that happening

The Diamondbacks formally announced the signing of Yasmany Tomas. He allegedly has a difference making bat. It could be very exciting for Dbacks fans.

The environment for these meetings is fabulous. The weather in San Diego could not be nicer. We are located adjacent to shops and restaurants right at the harbor. The hotel overlooks beautiful views of the water and downtown San Diego. Meeting rooms, the press room and the hotel sleeping rooms are all a short walk from each other.

Yesterday outside the hotel at Seaport Village we had a guy that trains exotic birds and makes money permitting tourists to take pictures. We had a guy that eats fire performing in the middle of the courtyard. We had Santa Claus greeting little kids, a ballon artist and a guy who thinks he’s Frank Sinatra singing non-stop for hours. Something for everyone. Like a circus. So far I’ve had one great lunch, one good lunch and one lousy dinner. Two out three isn’t bad.

Without a doubt, when we are at dinner tonight some major, huge amazing story will break. Isn’t that what always happens? Our team is working hard to uncover every lead and leave no stone unturned to bring our readers the most up to date and current information. Every shred of a lead is followed. I work with amazing reporters who are the best in the business. I learn from them every day. But we can’t make chicken soup if we don’t have the chickens. Does that make sense to you? You know what I mean, right? We don’t start rumors. But I still have a feeling this is going to be a huge week. Trades. Signings. Why do I think that? There are teams with too many outfielders and teams without enough. There are teams with middle infield surpluses and teams with few middle infielders. Any everyone needs pitching.

The Rule 5 Draft is Thursday. I’ll get more into that in subsequent blogs.

So here we are. We wait. It’s like slow ketchup. Once the drips start, it pours easier and faster. I’m willing to wait. So are you, right? The wait is worth it if you like what your team has done. But you want your team to do something. Something good. You wait for word about your club. But don’t get excited about rumors. Get excited when you read that it’s official. Then you can slot the guy into the lineup in your head or in the rotation in your mind. I know. I’m chronologically advanced and I’ve spent years and years and years pounding that ketchup bottle in December. Sometimes it never pours. Sometimes it does. For your sake, I hope you get what you want. Let me know at my twitter account @BerniePleskoff. What are you wishing and hoping for? Keep pounding that bottle.

I have a scouting profile of Joey Wendle up today on Hope you check it out. And thanks for following me and reading my work. I’ll be back tomorrow with the Tuesday edition of my Winter Meetings blog. For now, let it flow. Please.

That’s it. I’m done. Breaking news will be posted @BerniePleskoff

From Atop My Soapbox

Those who have followed me on twitter the past few years know how greatly I value defense in baseball. They also know how effusive I am in my regard for the defensive prowess of Didi Gregorius. I have extolled his remarkable defensive ability since the first time I saw him in a Cincinnati Reds Spring Training camp.

I really began to consider Gregorius an elite shortstop in the 2012 Arizona Fall League. His athletic ability, his grace, his amazingly soft hands and quick feet, his outstanding range and his cannon of an arm were poetic to me. Every time I saw him I liked him more and more.

Over the years I had seen other young, inexperienced shortstops in the Fall League that I couldn’t stop writing about. Players like Alcides Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria and others had dazzled me in the AFL, but none quite caught my attention as much as Gregorius. He was, and is, special.

Gregorius was part of a three-team trade in 2012 between the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dbacks sent Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw to Cleveland. The Reds sent Drew Stubbs to Cleveland. The Indians sent Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to Arizona. The Indians sent Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald and cash to the Reds. Do you have all that?

When the deal was made, I was ecstatic. I would get to see Didi play shortstop on a regular basis. He didn’t disappoint. His defense was majestic, as expected. Maybe even better. His offense was raw and behind his defense. I kept writing that patience is required. He will come around with the bat. I sighted Omar Vizquel as a perfect example of a defensive wizard who was challenged offensively. Until the light went on. Until he gained enough experience to learn how to hit Major League pitching. Omar: 1989 .220, 1990 .247, 1991 .230, 1992 .294. He kept improving and improving and finished his 24-year career at .272.

No, Didi is not Omar. But in my opinion Didi is very close to Omar defensively.

But when the light goes on for Didi, and I think it will, he’ll be playing shortstop for the New York Yankees. And he’ll get his share of home runs into the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. And he’ll improve as a hitter. In time.

Yesterday I heard Steve Sax discuss Gregorius on MLB Radio. It was as if I was hearing my own words coming back to me. Sax indicated Yankees fans will be thrilled with what they see from Gregorius. He predicted audible oohs and ahs from Yankees fans at the plays Didi will make. He said Gregorius was among the finest defensive shortstops he had every seen. High praise from a guy who played the game. And who watched him play regularly with the Dbacks.

Nobody can replace Derek Jeter. Someone will play his position. That someone will be Gregorius against right-handed pitching initially with Brendan Ryan playing against lefties. And by the way, Ryan is a fantastic defensive shortstop in his own right.

Being chronologically advanced, I have had the great pleasure and privilege of seeing countless fantastic defensive shortstops. Several like Ozzie Smith and Adam Everett come to mind. Of course, Escobar and Hechavarria make my list. In today’s game, I find Andrelton Simmons the gold standard. Not even Didi matches up with him It’s close, but Simmons takes my prize. More are on the way.

In exchange for Gregorius, the Dbacks bolstered their pitching by obtaining lefty Robbie Ray and helped their organizational depth by receiving shortstop/second baseman Domingo Leyba from Detroit. The Yankees sent right-handed pitcher Shane Greene to the Tigers.

Ray is a work in progress. Still young and relatively inexperienced at 23, the lefty starter could find himself at the back end of the Dbacks rotation. The team is not deep in pitching. If they can afford more development time for him, so much the better. He still has inconsistent command and control, but I saw improvement during his Arizona Fall League season. The same improvement Dbacks brass must have seen. I think his upside could help make this a nice transaction. The real prize could well be Leyba. He has a strong, projectable hitting tool and an ability to grow into a fine defensive infielder. He probably profiles best at second base-a future need for Arizona. His presence in the deal really helps balance things out a bit.

In essence, the Tigers have traded Doug Fister, Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba for Shane Greene and lefty reliever Ian Krol. Ray was the primary player dealt by Washington to Detroit for Fister in 2013. Krol is serving in the Tigers pen.

Greene could fill a rotation role (that at one time may have been reserved for Ray) if and when the team loses Max Scherzer and/or another starter like Rick Porcello. Is Greene capable? He just turned 26 and is coming off a season of 14 starts in New York. He threw 78 2/3 innings. He yielded 3.3 walks per nine and struck out 9.3 per nine. Those are solid numbers. The walk rate will probably improve. He had an ERA of 3.78 and a WHIP of 1.39. He is a pitcher with promise and upside. He could certainly be a very good addition. But giving up Doug Fister? I’m still scratching my head about that one.

Arizona now turns to very capable shortstop Chris Owings to replace Gregorius. Owings is a better hitter than Didi to date in his young career. For me, Gregorius is a far better defender. The team traded Owings’ good offense and good defense for Didi’s fair offense and great defense IMO. Prospect Nick Ahmed waits in the middle infield wings along with very, very capable utility infielder Cliff Pennington. If he shows he can hit, Aaron Hill will probably get most of the playing time at second base.

But Didi won’t be there to glide deep in the hole, plant his feet and then shoot a 90 mph or more strike on time to first base. Some have said he hits higher than 90. With accuracy. Didi won’t be there to glide behind second base, plant and then throw out the runner by an eyelash. Didi won’t be there to race out to short center or deep along the left field foul line to pull a ball out of the air in what looks like an effortless manner. He’ll be in New York. I wish him well. Soon-maybe even this coming season or the next one at the latest, we’ll talk about his hitting. He’s Omar Vizquel. Steady offensive improvement. Maybe more pop in his bat. Acrobatic defense. Run saving defense.

Yankees fans—enjoy. He’s a treat to watch.

Thanks for reading my scouting profiles on and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. I’ll be writing this blog every day from the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

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Pre Winter Meetings Thoughts

It’s always difficult to write a hot stove article or blog because things can change the moment a prediction is made in writing. I was reading a piece today that predicted where players would go. Of the free agents already signed, the site was wrong on each. But at least the reasoning for their choices was sound. But baseball players and baseball teams can change direction quickly.

Here are some of my thoughts as we head to San Diego for the annual gathering of both Minor League and Major League baseball folks at the Winter Meetings.

The Indians are said to be kicking the tires on trading for Oakland’s Brandon Moss. Moss is a left-handed hitter. The Indians are loaded with lefty bats that include Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Bourn and David Murphy. However, Moss could be a legitimate home run threat that would improve the lineup. He can play both 1B and the OF as well as serve as a DH. Much may depend upon the future of switch-hitting Nick Swisher.

If the Tigers were to go “all in” for Andrew Miller (and I believe he will sign with the Yankees) they would improve their club tremendously. Miller has exactly what the Tigers need. A late game, shut down lefty.

I think adding Miller to the Yankees makes great sense. He would be facing mostly right-handed hitters in the late innings, avoiding the short right field porch lefties hit with regularity. It makes great sense for him to pitch for the Yankees.

I believe the relationship established by Theo Epstein in Jon Lester’s Red Sox days give the Cubs a great chance to sign the lefty. I believe a trust has been established between the two. I also believe Lester may like the challenge of helping the Cubs finally get over the top. Lester sets the starting pitching market.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Chase Headley headed to the Giants to fill the void left when the Panda decided to buy his bamboo in Boston.

Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario could be on the move. I get it. He still has trouble blocking balls in the dirt and he just isn’t making enough progress behind the plate. And his offense tailed off last season. But if he’s traded, some club will get a guy with home run power and a good batting average as a catcher.

I’m still trying to figure out how the Orioles make up for the loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis? Is Chris Davis the Chris Davis of Texas, the Chris Davis of two years ago or the Chris Davis of last year? Will Manny Machado be healthy? I think he will be. And I also think Matt Wieters will have a big year and contribute greatly to the offense. Melky Cabrera fits in Baltimore for me.

What are the Phillies thinking? Who knows. But they have to get younger. They have to improve their farm system and organizational depth. They have to get what they can for the veterans that have any market value remaining. And that means that may have to swallow hard and start eating some “dead” contract money. If they pay down much of Ryan Howard’s contract, they may yield some prospects. He has value at the right price for certain teams.

The Dodgers concept of adding depth makes perfect sense. It allows them to deal from a position of strength. Bringing in Chris Heisey gives them another option to place in front of teams in need of outfielders.

I was hoping the Indians would get Chris Denorfia. I’ve always liked his game. Gets his uniform dirty, gets big hits and knows how the game is played. Haven’t heard much on that front lately.

The risk/reward for the Dbacks bringing Chad Billingsley on board tilts heavily to the reward side. If the price is right for Arizona, they could add an option with big league experience to their pitching depth. If he has recovered from injuries, there is little to lose. The Dbacks need pitching.

Yes, Mark Trumbo has value to almost every American League club. Guys that can hit home runs don’t grow on trees. He can hit home runs. Like every transaction-the key will be the price paid. An American League team with pitching depth could find a very nice Christmas present in Trumbo. I’m more worried about his feet than his defense. He can play a bit at 1B and be a designated hitter. But keeping him healthy is an issue.

I haven’t heard a word about Sergio Romo. He’s another guy the Tigers should be talking about. Will he leave the Giants? Who knows?

I heard the Marlins are also interested in Brandon Moss. Watch out for that team. I said last year that I liked their future. I’m a huge Christian Yellich fan. I look for a big, big year from him.

Look for the Padres to play in the international market.

We don’t hear about James Shields on the free agent front. I guess until Lester and Max Scherzer settle somewhere, the Shields’ of the world have to wait. Somebody should come in now and strike. Why wait? Teams want to see pecking order dollars. Scherzer, Lester and then a drop off in money. That’s where Shields will probably fit.

Have I missed it, or is catcher Ryan Lavarnway still out there? Long swing, true. But he can certainly be an upgrade as a back-up catcher for lots of teams.

Robbie Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. Not bad. To me, Seager is a very underrated player and I think this will be his blossom year. Especially with both Cruz and Cano hanging around in the lineup.

Latos or Leake for Cespedes? Could happen. The Red Sox have Castillo, Cespedes, Craig, Betts, Nava, Victorino, Ramirez, Bryce Brentz and Jackie Bradley as quality outfielders. Ya think a few of them may depart? Jackie Bradley we hardly knew you.
I still think if Cespedes is dealt, Mookie Betts starts in the outfield with Castillo and Ramirez. Have I missed any of them? That’s quite a list.

If you are coming to Phoenix for Spring Training you owe yourself one favor. Drive on the 101 heading east at sunrise. The sun coming up over the McDowell Mountains is just magnificent. Just thought I’d share that.

Just my opinion. The White Sox have made great strides this off season. I think they should keep Alexi Ramirez and keep building with him in the middle of the diamond.
But I think the Dodgers or Mets will make compelling offers for Ramirez.

I credit the Blue Jays for making some very good moves so far. Adding Russell Martin, Michael Saunders and especially Josh Donaldson to an already wonderful lineup that includes Bautista, Reyes and Encarnacion puts them right at the top of the pack in the AL East. They may be able to slug their way to victories with adequate quality as opposed to outstanding quality pitching. But watch out if they get one more starter and/or a relief arm.

Thank you for reading my prospect profiles on Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff every day from the Winter Meetings for the latest and most up to date news possible.

That’s it. I’m done.

We Might Be Talkin’ Filet Mignon

It’s very possible filet mignon is on the menu, but the Athletics may have to wait a few years for the first big taste.

I have to admit right off the bat that I’m a huge Josh Donaldson fan. I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the game.

Donaldson plays a position that has been weak in the American League for a few years. In my opinion, he follows only Adrian Beltre in overall 3B value. I like Evan Longoria, but I think Donaldson may be even better. Kyle Seager is up and coming. I remember being upset when Donaldson was left off the 2013 All Star team. I couldn’t believe it. But Beltre was omitted that year as well.

Some may not know that Donaldson was a Minor League catcher and was converted to third base when a huge need went unresolved. Now he has become an outstanding defender as well as an impact bat in the lineup.

General manager Billy Beane has indicated the gap between the Angels and the Athletics was difficult to close and having Donaldson wouldn’t really make the difference. Rather, he wanted a group of near Major League players to add depth to his roster.

At age 24, Brett Lawrie is four years younger than Donaldson. Lawrie, from Canada was developed by the Brewers and traded to the Blue Jays for pitcher Shaun Marcum. Lawrie is a former first round pick (16th overall) from the 2008 draft. He was a second baseman in the Brewers system and can still play there. Like Dondaldson, he is eligible for arbitration. Lawrie actually becomes a free agent in 2018. Donaldson not until 2019. So both are under team control for years to come.

Here’s my problem. Lawrie has not played a full season as a Major League player. He played in 125 games in 2012, then 107 and 70 this past season. His injury history is an issue. Can he stay on the field? If he can, I think he can be productive. But as productive as Donaldson? That’s my second question. Health is first, productivity second.

In that same three year time frame, Donaldson has played 75 games in 2012 (half the season was played at Triple-A Sacramento) then 158 and 158 this past season. Lawrie hit .247 in his limited time this year, Donaldson .255. Donaldson drove in 98 runs. Lawrie 38. Donaldson hit 29 homers. Lawrie 11. What am I missing here? There’s more. Much more to this deal.

It wasn’t Donaldson for Lawrie even up. The Athletics also yielded RHP Kendall Graveman, LHP Sean Nolin and SS Franklin Baretto. Baretto may be the hidden gem.

Graveman threw 4 2/3 relief innings for the Blue Jays this past season. He worked in five games and finished with an ERA of 3.86 and a 0.85 WHIP. He struck out four and didn’t issue a walk. His history with Toronto has been as a starting pitcher. That’s where the A’s will likely use him. He has a chance to pitch in the Oakland rotation this coming year. A chance. He has 37 Minor League starts. He never appeared as a reliever. His composite ERA is a very, very solid 2.30. His WHIP 1.07. We’re not talking chopped liver here. We’re looking at a very strong history in parts of two Minor League years from a 6-foot-2, 195 former pitcher for Mississippi State University. He was an eighth round Blue Jays draft pick in 2013. Left handed hitters hit better against him than righties. That’s to be expected. So-in summary, Graveman is a viable prospect. He has become the No. 14 prospect on And he’s not chopped liver. He’s a nice entree and a good addition to the Athletics menu.

Sean Nolin is a left-handed starter. I saw him in the recently concluded Arizona Fall League. He has become the No. 9 prospect on the MLB Top 20 Athletics prospect list.
Nolin threw 22 1/3 innings in Arizona. I saw several of his starts. He finished with a 2-1 record and a 4.03 ERA. He had a 1.16 WHIP.

Nolin is a big guy at 6-4, 230 pounds. The fact he’s left handed adds to his value. He has a composite 27-17 record in five Minor League seasons with a 3.06 ERA. His WHIP is 1.21. Nolin has started 86 of the 92 Minor League games in which he has appeared. He pitched for San Jacinto College in Texas and was a sixth round 2010 Blue Jays draft choice. Again, he has a chance to pitch out of the Athletics rotation at some point. A chance. So-in summary, Nolin is a serviceable lefty with good command and control. He is more prospect than suspect. He’s not a salami sandwich, but he’s not prime rib, either. He’s another nice addition to the entree menu.

Now for the prize of the lot. Franklin Barreto is a 5-foot-9, 175 pound shortstop with good range and a bat that plays. He’s only 18 years old. He was’s No. 2 international prospect in 2012. I remember all the discussion about him. Toronto landing him was a coup. Oakland grabbing him may be an even bigger coup. He is already the No. 3 prospect in the Athletics system as assigned by

Barreto finished 2014 with an average of .311. He had 90 hits in 328 plate appearances in the low Minors. Among them were 23 doubles, four triples, and six home runs. He drove in 61 runs. He stole 29 bases in 34 attempts. He made too many errors (26) but he’s still learning. So-in summary, Barreto was a highly prized prospect coming out of Venezuela as a teenager. He can hit. He can hit for average and for power. He can play shortstop, although his offense is ahead of his defense. Barreto is no bowl of chicken soup. He’s possibly filet mignon.

So yes, the Athletics shipped a very, very fine All Star caliber, possibly game changing 3B to the Blue Jays in return for a good 3B when healthy and three prospects. Two are on the brink of being Major League ready. One could become a star in several more years.

While I think the Blue Jays will be very happy with this deal, I believe the Athletics are once again rolling the dice. Prospects are prospects. They aren’t proven players. The gap between daily competition in the Minor Leagues and big league players is huge. Huge. But. If Lawrie stays healthy and if one of the two pitchers can pitch, the deal will help Oakland. The operative word is “if”. The crescendo won’t take place until we find out if Barreto is filet mignon or…flank steak.

Thank you for reading my prospect profiles at and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

The Giants Had The Magic Weapon

The San Francisco Giants have won three World Championships in five years. Not too shabby. It’s so tough just to get to the postseason. This club has a ring for each of three fingers. And for me, this clinches a Hall Of Fame induction for manager Bruce Bochy.
Congratulations to the players, the front office, the workers in the organization and the fans. Well earned. Well deserved.

Part of being a good manager is keeping your team loose, knowing when and what trigger to pull and knowing what you’re doing. Having conviction. Bochy handled his roster like a Concertmaster handles his orchestra. He knew which instrument had to play at which time to make beautiful music. Together.

In essence, Bochy and the Giants accomplished the victory with a rotation of one starter. They got good effort but no results to speak of from Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavy or Tim Hudson. Bumgarner was the violin section, the horn section, the percussion section and everything else combined. He did everything but turn the sheet music. That was left to Jeremy Affeldt who pitched extremely well in Game 7 and to a great extent, Yusmeiro Petit who also contributed from the mound early in the Series.
But for all intent and purposes, this was the Madison Bumgarner World Series.
There will be countless words spoken and written about his heroics. He earned every syllable. All I can say is what I said on twitter tonight. I’ve watched lots of baseball in my life and Mr. Bumgarner’s mastery of his craft was probably the best I have seen over a sustained period of the Postseason. Others have been great. This was special. The man was on a mission. I’m glad I saw it. Bruce Bochy knew the exact moment to insert his magic weapon and had enough intestinal fortitude to let him finish the job.

Pablo Pandaval and Hunter Pence provided the offensive fireworks to allow the Giants to eek out enough runs to turn Bumgarner loose. The Panda can get hot and use the entire field to bring havoc to the opposition. Pence gets loose and confident and smacks the ball around the diamond with authority himself. Together they form a dynamic duo in the middle of the lineup.

I was disappointed in the lack of plate discipline of Buster Posey. He swung at bad pitches throughout the World Series and didn’t offer much offensive help at all. In fact, when his team had a chance to fight back in Game 6 when they were down 7 runs, he swung at the first pitch with the bases loaded and grounded into an inning ending double play. That took the rolling train right off the tracks. The train landed in a ditch and forced the Bumgarner Game Of A Lifetime-tonight.

Gregor Blanco almost became the Bartman of the Bay. His misplay with two outs and nobody on base in the 9th inning caused acid reflux, nausea and a case of the yips in the Giants dugout. But all is well that ends well. For the Giants, it ended with Pablo Sandoval catching a lazy foul pop up and collapsing to the ground in joy.

I could hear and feel the ground shake when Sandoval went from first to third base in the second inning. And when he fell to the ground with the final out in the 9th. And he did it right in front of the fabulous Panda heads if I’m not mistaken.

The Royals laid an egg tonight because they couldn’t really cash in when they had the chance. The door was open in their half of the second inning and they could only muster two runs. It seemed like a lot, but it could have and should have been more.

The Royals matched the Giants for ineffective starting pitching with the exception of rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura. We may be talking about that young man for a long time to come. He can hit 101 with his fastball and has the secondary pitches to buckle knees. What I like is that he has ice water in his veins.

Manager Ned Yost played his game without going to ANY of his right-handed pinch hitters against Affeldt or Bumgarner. Left sitting on the bench watching the action were bats that belonged to Josh Willingham, Terrance Gore, Jayson Nix and back up catcher Erik Kratz. Wouldn’t one of them have been worth giving a crack at Bumgarner? Would a bunt by Jarrod Dyson have possibly started a rally? We’ll never know.

The fans in both San Francisco and Kansas City were gracious, exciting, excited and tremendously loyal. I didn’t read or hear of any poor behavior or rude conduct. Everything in both cities was flawless. It’s just a shame one team had to lose. But the Royals didn’t lose. The Giants won. They snatched one more game in the series than Kansas City. It came down to the magic weapon they had and the Royals didn’t. That was Madison Bumgarner. Period.

Now, it’s back to Phoenix and the Arizona Fall League for me. Please join me on twitter to read about the prospects on your favorite team. I’ll be discussing every Major League club and the guys they have playing in the AFL. This coming Saturday is the Fall Stars Game. I’ll be there. I hope you will be, too.

You can find my World Series scouting profiles of Giants young players on their team page and Royals young players on their team page. Just click on “news” at the top of the page and scroll down for my articles.

Again, thank you to San Francisco and Kansas City for 7 great games. Thank you to each of you for following me on my World Series blogs. And congratulations to the 2014 Champions of Major League Baseball-the San Francisco Giants.


One Team Will Win The Rings

It wasn’t as bad as it looked. Jake Peavy made some good pitches. The Giants hitters found some holes. They also slammed some hard drives to the outfield, but it looked worse than it really was. But make no mistake-the Royals smoked the Giants tonight. This game was over in less than an hour, for sure.

Peavy and Tim Hudson have huddled in the clubhouse about the pitches Peavy made tonight and just how they would handle the Royals. Hudson said he wants to go at least 6 or 7. He has great faith in his bullpen.

I think Yordano Ventura was outstanding, to say the least. He said he wanted to start the game with the Royals thinking he was a little wild. Sort of keeping them loose. It was his plan warming up before the game. It worked. He went more to his secondary pitches in about the third inning-mixing and matching them with his 95-98 mph fastball.

I was concerned that Ventura would be “cold” after sitting through that seven run Royals rally. In fact, he was. He walked the bases loaded. Then Buster Posey did something I couldn’t believe. He swung at the first cookie he saw and slammed into an inning ending double play. With Ventura unable to throw strikes, it seemed strange to me that Posey would be up there swinging. But he was. That double play was like a dagger to the heart. It was the end of the night for San Francisco.

Every Royals starter had at least one hit. Escobar, Cain, Hosmer, Perez and Moustakas had two each. Moose also had a homer. The 6th off Hunter Strickland in the postseason, including two in the World Series.

The Royals have their big four of Finnegan, Herrera, Davis and Holland all available for tomorrow. The Giants have Lincecum, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez and Casilla ready to go. And of course, if needed, Shields is lurking for Kansas City and Bumgarner waits in the wings for the Giants. I don’t think Bochy will hesitate to make the call to Bumgarner if the situation fits.

The MVP? For the Royals it would be either Ventura or Cain for me. For the Giants I would vote for Bumgarner or Pence. In reality, there are more than one or two most valuable players in this 7 Game Series.

Yordano Ventura dedicated his game to his dear friend, the late Oscar Taveras. Speaking in front of a Dominican flag that he draped before him at his press conference, Ventura was emotional in thinking and speaking of Taveras.

Lorenzo Cain made another great play in tonight’s game. Now the entire world is aware of the complete player he is.

I have no prediction for Game 7. All I know is that like every little kid, I used to pretend I was hitting in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and two outs in the 7th game of the World Series. The games were always in Cleveland. And they were always against the Giants or the Dodgers in my mind. I never struck out. We won every game. What a thrill it must be for a Hunter Pence or a Joe Panik. A Tim Hudson or a Jeremy Guthrie. No pretending for them. This is the real deal. They get to keep all the marbles if they win. And wouldn’t it be great if it was tied in eight innings and someone’s 9th inning heroics won the game. I’d be loving that.

It’s been a fabulous Series so far. I’m glad you’re with me and I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you. Come back tomorrow, please. We’ll end the season together.
Just think—February, March, April, May, June, July, August. September and now…the end of October. The last game of the year. One team will win the rings and be crowned the 2014 Champions of Major League baseball.

Thanks so much for following me twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my scouting profiles on

That’s it. I’m done.

World Series: “It’s All About The Ring”

Travel day from San Francisco was rather uneventful. It consisted of San Francisco to Chicago to Kansas City. There was one minor hiccup. Our plane was late getting to Chicago. I had very little time for the connection and had to go from a terminal on one end of the airport to the very last terminal and the very last gate at the other end. Lets just say I’m not fast on my feet. But I gave it everything I had (which was very little) and arrived in my seat just in time for wheels up. I was concerned about my luggage making the transfer in time, but my luggage was among the first to arrive. It was all very smooth. As it turns out, there were several people from San Francisco making the same connection and the plane was held 15 minutes. Kudos and thanks to the airline.

I believe baseball fans must be among the most passionate people in the world. They are loyal to their team beyond the imagination. For example, I met a couple on the Chicago to Kansas City plane that were on their way back home to K.C. They were at Games 1 and 2, left for Myrtle Beach, Florida, left their belongings in Myrtle Beach, drove to Charleston, caught a plane to Chicago, and transferred there for the plane to Kansas City. They’ll be going to games 6 and 7 (if there is one.) All dressed in their Royals garb, they indicated their son remembers sitting in the same seats at Kauffman Stadium when he was 11. He’s now 40. They’ve had season tickets for over 50 years.

We often forget the “behind the scenes” people at the stadium when we go to a game. I get to the park early and see the faces of America. They work so hard making sure the food gets out on time, the stands are clean, fans are escorted to their seats properly and the health and safety of everyone is cared for. These are wonderful, wonderful people who are proud to wear the black and orange or the royal blue and white. Or the home colors of any other stadium. They work hard and they don’t get the praise and recognition of the names we know. I tip my cap to each of them. They have made my experience at the ball park richer and more rewarding with their smiles and their kindness. I suggest we all take a moment to say thanks to a few the next time we’re at the park.

A couple voices we hear but faces we never see belong to the public address announcers in each park. San Francisco and Kansas City have two of the best.
Renel Brooks-Moon has one of the most mellow, pleasant and confident voices I have heard. She is passionate, yet professional. She loves her San Francisco Giants. As a matter of fact, her Game 3 program from the 2002 World Series is in the Hall of Fame. Why? She’s the first woman World Series public address announcer. She says she loves to introduce Buster Posey because the fans go crazy. Does she use passion when introducing the opposition? She says they get her respect, but not her enthusiasm. Love it. Just the right touch.

Mike McCartney has one of those voices to dream for. He bellows in a mellow way. He is as clear as a bell and introduces players his Kansas City Royals players with gusto and charm. He’s also respectful of the opposition, but there can be no doubt who signs his checks. That’s as it should be. The public address announcer sets the tone of the game. for the fans. And the tone set by Mike McCartney is professional, exciting and enthusiastic.

Aaron Lewis sang the National Anthem at Game 5. As so many have done before, he was flustered a bit and mixed up a couple words. Now, he is “asking for the Nation’s forgiveness.” He said his nerves got the best of him. There is nothing to forgive. He did a wonderful job. He has a great voice and I would guess 99.5% of us would likely forget a word or mix up a phrase under those same bright lights. Is there any among us that have not made a mistake? I know I flub up all the time. We’re human. So is Mr Lewis.
I only write this to share how badly he feels. Join me in remembering what a great voice he has. And please don’t get all over me when I mess up a tweet or miss a word here and there. I know the feeling of not getting it right all the time. Mr. Lewis did a fine job.

For the Royals to win tonight, I think they need to put Jake Peavy pitching from the stretch often. He pitches better from the windup. Putting pressure on him and making him think of base runners changes his game a bit. If he hangs a curve ball or two, the Royals could take the game and even the series. But they have to get to him early. And when he hangs one, they have to clobber it.

The Royals have to see some pitches and not go to the plate hacking. They’ve had a tendency to swing from their heels the minute they get in the batter’s box. They need to put some pitches on the pitcher’s arm. That goes for every pitcher they see-not just the starter. Make the pitcher work a little unless you see a cookie you can drive.

The Royals Yordano Ventura has to keep his fastball in the high 90’s range and not look to light up the radar game over 100 mph. Sure, fans like to see it . I like to see it. Television announcers like to see it. But when he hits 100, he often gets the ball up in the zone and gets hit. His pitches straighten the higher up the velocity ladder he climbs.
He is best when he uses his fastball to miss some bats and then his sharp secondary pitches to put the hitter away. If he can keep the game close for 6 innings, his team has a chance for a W.

I like the Royals tonight. When I was on the radio in San Francisco I said I thought the Giants would win in 6. If I’m on the radio in Kansas City, I’ll say the Royals will win in 7. So much for my integrity. I know how to play to the home crowd. I’m only kidding. I think the Giants will take this series—now in 7 games. Not 6.

Pitching-as it usually is-will be the key. I like Ventura over Peavy. And then? Who pitches Game 7? I really don’t know. I think the managers know. But I wouldn’t bet on anything just yet. Things have a tendency to change in a hurry as the pressures mount. Being the World Champions is what it’s all about. The public quickly forgets who came in second. Last year it was Boston that won the crown. They beat…I remember now. St. Louis. But it took a moment. Players will tell you that “it’s all about the ring.” They all have nice contracts and security. They don’t all have the ring. “It’s all about the ring.”

I’ll have another blog following tonight’s game. Hope you’ll find it then. And I hope you will follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. My World Series player columns remain available on the team sites of As always, thanks for reading.

That’s it. I’m done.


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