PCI: Who Will Win the 2021 World Series?
Providence College Investigates: The MLB
The New York Yankees
By Margaret Maloney ’23
In 2020, the New York Yankees lost a tough battle against the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series, losing three games to two. The Yankees largely missed out on the World Series last year because of their weaknesses in pitching and hitting. These deficiencies have been accounted for in the offseason and will help lead the Yankees to victory in the World Series in 2021.
On April 1, Yankee Stadium came alive again to watch the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays. The game went to 10 innings, and New York fell short with a 3-2 loss. But this first loss of the season does not reflect the potential that the team has to make it all the way. The Yankees’ starting pitcher for this game, Gerrit Cole, has won many games for the team in the past because of his unstoppable pitching.
Sarah Langs of MLB.com puts Cole at the top of tier one in her 2021 starting pitcher rankings. “Cole has 696 strikeouts since the start of 2018, 61 more than any other pitcher in that span,” reported Langs. “He’s posted a sub-2.90 ERA in each of the past three seasons, including a 2.84 mark in 73 innings in his debut season with the Yankees in 2020.”
While Cole did not perform to the best of his ability on Opening Day, this does not mean the rest of his season will continue this way. Gerrit Cole has great potential to be the best pitcher in the league and to carry his team to the World Series in 2021.
Another key player for the Yankees this season is starting second baseman, DJ LeMahieu, who has been their most valuable player for two years running. LeMahieu signed a six-year, $90 million deal with New York in January. He is coming off a season in which he led the American League with a .364 batting average, a .421 on-base percentage and a 1.011 OPS, also pacing the league with a 177 OPS+.
LeMahieu, so far in 2021, has a batting average of .300, a .382 on-base percentage, and a .799 On-base-plus-slugging-percentage, which predicts a very promising season for him as a baseman and as a batter. LeMahieu will play a crucial role in leading the Yankees to the World Series, and considering his performance so far, he will execute to his full potential.
There is much talk of the Los Angeles Dodgers winning for the second year in a row and continuing on their hot streak. However, the Yankees have a retooled roster of talented players, which will allow them to take home a World Series win.
The Philadelphia Phillies
By Ben Bilotti ’23
The common picks to win it all this season are the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Braves, Mets, and White Sox. While these are all strong choices, I am going to go a different route. My pick to win the Fall Classic this year is the Philadelphia Phillies, a true “dark horse.”
Simply put, the Phillies were not great last season. In a shortened 60-game season, the Phillies finished below .500 with a 28-32 record. However, this was largely due to a flawed bullpen. Last season the bullpen was historically bad, posting a 7.06 combined earned-run average. That is the second-worst bullpen ERA in Major League history.
The Phillies’ front office recognized this was a clear problem and took action. In the offseason, they acquired Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, and Brandon Kintzler, who are all relief pitchers who have had success in the past. The bullpen was not the only area improved, as key pieces were added to the starting rotation as well, such as veterans Matt Moore and Chase Anderson.
It is still early in the season, but, so far, all offseason acquisitions have contributed in a positive manner. These new additions, paired with rotation staples Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Elfin, make up a very serviceable rotation. If all goes well, it could be one of the best in baseball.
The pitching staff is well-rounded and improved, which brings us to the lineup. When everyone is healthy, the Phillies’ lineup is prolific. Players such as Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius, and Andrew McCutchen are all looking to bounce back and contribute. Gregorius and Hoskins have already shown their power strokes are back. The Phillies also have the best catcher in baseball, J.T. Realmuto, who is a top-tier defensive catcher and the best hitting catcher in the game. He can also move down the base paths, proving that he truly impacts the game on all levels.
The Phillies also have Bryce Harper. The narrative over the years is that the $330-million man is overrated. I believe the opposite. Advanced statistics (as well as the eye test) prove that Harper is an above-average player. His average exit velocity, walk percentage, and advanced metrics such as expected batting average all put Harper in the 90th percentile or higher. These statistics are impressive and prove that Harper is going to be a key contributor to the Phillies’ offense.
In the end, even though the Phillies’ odds of winning the World Series to begin the year were very low, I believe they have what it takes to pull it off. Their starters can get quality starts and go long into games. The bullpen has also significantly improved, and the team’s role players look to be filling their spots just fine. When all is said and done, the Philadelphia Phillies will be the 2021 World Series champions.
Former Pro Finds Home at PC
Kapstein Enrolls in PC After Career in Minor League Baseball
By Thomas Zinzarella ’21
While many 18-year-olds look forward to their freshman year at college, Zach Kapstein ’22SCE had something else on his mind: baseball. After being drafted in the 44th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox, Kapstein opted to sign with Boston in pursuit of his childhood dream of one day playing in the major leagues.
“I went from my high school graduation from small town Tiverton, RI to six days later in Fort Myers, FL sharing a hotel room with the Red Sox 1st overall pick in 2006.”
It is a road that not many baseball players get the pleasure to venture down, so Kapstein jumped at the opportunity to play. “Our goal was to get drafted and get a shot in the minor leagues,” Kapstein said. Less than six percent of high school baseball players get the opportunity to play college baseball and only half a percent of high school players will eventually get drafted by a major league baseball team.
For Kapstein, it all started after playing in the Area Code Underclass Games the summer leading into his senior year of high school. The Area Code Games are an exclusive showcase that draws in the top 225+ high school players in the country. Major Leaguers like Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Giancarlo Stanton have taken the field in this prestigious event.
During that summer, Kapstein competed against six future Major Leaguers including Kris Bryant, Christian Yelich, Dylan Bundy, Joc Pederson, Kevin Gausman, and Archie Bradley. At the games, scouts from all 30 MLB teams are present, as well as scouts from some of the top colleges in the country.
Following the event, Kapstein received some college interest from powerhouse programs like the University of Southern California, the University of Texas, and fellow Big East foe at the time, West Virginia University.
After being drafted in June and signing a minor league contract with the Red Sox, he was assigned to their Rookie League affiliate level in the Gulf Coast League. Kapstein would spend 2010 and 2011 in the area before being promoted back to the New York-Penn League and the Lowell Spinners. Injuries shortened some of Kapstein’s minor league seasons. Life as a catcher is never easy. As he rose up to the full season single-A affiliates, he transitioned to the outfield. Kapstein reached as high as A+ with the Salem Red Sox, before being traded in 2015 to the Baltimore Orioles.
In the Minors, Kapstein was teammates with big league club players on assignment like Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Stephen Drew. One story he always gets asked about is the time he spent with former Red Sox and current Los Angeles Dodgers superstar outfielder Mookie Betts in the Minors.
After Betts was drafted in 2011, Kapstein and he were teammates in Fort Myers that summer and fall during instructional league. They spent time together in extended spring training in 2012 before both were assigned with the Lowell Spinners the following summer.
Betts struggled initially in the Minors. Alex Spier, a Boston Globe sportswriter, in his book Homegrown, talks about how Betts almost quit baseball entirely. Kapstein had a front row seat to Betts make the big adjustments in 2012. “That summer every ball he hit was hit hard…it was a complete 180 from the summer before,” Kapstein revealed. “He just flipped a switch…we kept saying to ourselves, this kid is going to be in the Major Leagues in two years.”
After one year playing in the Orioles organization, Kapstein signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. He began to think that it may be time to hang up the cleats. Kapstein was offered a coaching position inside the White Sox organization and accepted it. He spent two seasons with the Great Falls Voyagers and Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, the Rookie League and Single-A affiliate of the White Sox respectively..
When asked about his time playing and coaching, Kapstein responded: “I saw a lot of America in which I wouldn’t have seen…you really saw a lot of the fabric and the core of America. With me loving history, being a history major now…I saw a lot of the Mid-Atlantic area that played a huge part in the Civil War… I got to see Gettysburg when I was with the Orioles.” He also added that it was “interesting to see places I had seen on a map or read about in history and to drive through them.”
When he figured it was time to go back to school, all Kapstein could envision was majoring in history. Sure enough, he is now a history major at PC’s School of Continuing Education.
Coming in, Kapstein was always fascinated with the history of the U.S., but especially the Civil War and the American Revolution. He has family members who fought in the Vietnam War, World War II, and even World War I. One of his favorite classes he is taking right now is a class on the history of the Holocaust.
He is not the only Kapstein connection to baseball and PC, however. His uncle Jeremy Kapstein was one of the first player agents and played a pivotal role in abolishing the reserve clause and creating free agency in baseball. As an agent he represented players that included Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, and Carlton Fisk, among many others. “He got his start at PC,” Kapstein stated. As a student at Hope High School in Providence, Jeremy was able to work the Providence College Men’s Basketball games by keeping track of the stats during the games.
After graduation, Kapstein either wants to get back into coaching at the college or professional level or use his history degree in a more traditional way. Kapstein has thought about teaching history and coaching football and baseball at the prep school or the high school level.
Today, besides going to school, Kapstein still gives advice to high school athletes who are in the same boat as he was almost a decade before. “It was definitely a learning experience. It has you grow up very fast and makes you more mature,” Kapstein stated. “You don’t have anyone saying you have to be up at 7 a.m., you got to do this class, you’ve got to be in the cage. It’s all on you. It makes you very punctual, very responsible, and professional.”
If Kapstein does become a history teacher, he will have to get used to the routine of going not into the batting cage this time, but rather, into the classroom.
Remembering Baseball’s Best
By Jack Belanger ’21
Two weeks ago, the baseball world lost its former home run king, Henry “Hank” Aaron, marking the ninth baseball Hall of Famer to pass away within the past calendar year. Aaron’s passing calls us back to a much different time, when baseball was America’s National Pastime and the best players were icons. Baseball reigned during the ’50s and ’60s, and with each death of aging legends, the further we move from baseball’s golden era.
Each of the Hall of Famers were giants and represented what was once great about the game. Aaron’s chase to break Babe Ruth’s long-time home run record captivated the entire country in 1973. Less than 30 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, Aaron becoming baseball’s home run king was another victory for the Black community.
The late Bob Gibson pitched three complete games for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1967 World Series and won all three starts. For comparison, not one pitcher made it past the sixth inning in the 2020 World Series. Instead, the country got to see journeymen relievers come out to pitch a single inning at a time on baseball’s biggest stage. In the NBA, you want your best player taking the last shot. In the NFL, you want your quarterback taking deep passes down field as the clock ticks down. For the fan’s sake, would it not be more exciting to see a team’s best pitcher on the mound when the game is on the line?
The late Los Angeles Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda, had a personality that is completely devoid in the game today. The longtime manager was never shy to get after an umpire for a bad call and brought more energy to the dugout as a 70-year-old than most players show today. His love for the game led him to working in LA’s front office well into his 90s. Don Sutton, another popular Dodger who passed away, established himself at LA’s ace during the 1970s and went on to be one of the few men who have won 300 games in the major league.
Tom Seaver, Al Kaline, and Joe Morgan were the faces of their franchises in New York, Detroit, and Cincinnati respectively. Each won the World Series and were the top performer on their teams for the majority of their careers. Lou Brock set the all-time steals record temporarily and helped St. Louis to multiple titles. Whitey Ford was a crucial part of the New York Yankees dynasty, winning a total of six World Series titles.
Baseball may not have the same pull that it once did, but that should not diminish the significance of those who came before. The men that we lost were more than just great players. They were household names, heroes to many, and in Aaron’s case: an activist. They were the bridge that connected us to our ancestors who watched them play over 50 years ago.
PCI: Who Will Win the World Series?
The Atlanta Braves
by Leo Hainline ’23
In a season that seemed destined to fail, Major League Baseball (MLB) thankfully got its act together and is now at the final stretch of the postseason. The National League Championship Series (NLCS) is set between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. The American League Championship Series (ALCS) will feature the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Dodgers are favored to win and have won all five of their playoff games, they run into an equally hot team in the Braves, who will knock off LA and go on to win the World Series.
The MLB playoffs, while having some occasional upsets, have not produced any shocking results. The Braves upsetting the Dodgers in the NLCS will be the series that rocks the league. The team is peaking at the right time. While their pitching was subpar at times throughout the regular season, their rotation has found its rhythm in October, producing four shutouts in their five postseason games played. In 49 innings this postseason, the Braves have shut out their opponents in 46 of them.
Atlanta has more than enough power offensively to outscore anyone. From the top to the bottom of the order, the Braves possess guys opposing pitchers should fear. Ronald Acuña, Jr., Freddie Freeman, Adam Duvall, and Marcell Ozuna can all knock one out of the park at any given at-bat, and their supporting cast features almost no offensive liabilities.
The overall composition of the Braves squad is perfect for a postseason run. In Freeman they have a veteran leader who has been with the team for over a decade . They have an ace in Max Fried who can single-handedly win a game. The rest of the rotation is full of young pitchers who are gaining confidence at the perfect time. And the lineup is composed of players who embrace the spotlight while adding character and a winning culture to the dugout. This team will not back down against the Dodgers, nor will they back down from whatever team they face in the World Series.
The Braves have the advantage of having yet to play the Dodgers this season. Los Angeles only lost one series all year and will come into the NLCS with confidence. But Atlanta will give them a challenge they have yet to see this year, which could very well throw LA off their game. While the NLCS and ALCS, as well as the World Series, are all best-of-seven series that theoretically would work in the favor of the “better team,” the Braves winning a game or two off the bat could get the Dodgers discouraged. Indeed, Atlanta has the roster to beat Los Angeles and then go on to win the World Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers
by Joe Quirk ’23
The Los Angeles Dodgers entered this season feeling like they had an easy path to the 2020 World Series. After losing in the National League Division Series last season to the Washington Nationals, the Dodgers were left with a sour taste in their mouths. It was a tough loss to take after losing the previous two World Series. Somehow, manager Dave Roberts could not find a way to turn an already elite club into world champions. But, with the help of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, L.A. was able to improve their roster further.
This past offseason, the Dodgers traded Alex Verdugo, a talented, young outfielder, to the Red Sox for Mookie Betts, a former MVP and one of the best outfielders in baseball. Betts joined an outfield that contains recent high-profile signing A.J. Pollock and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger. That is not even mentioning the rest of the lineup, which features Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Enrique Hernandez, and Max Muncy. The Dodgers are a team that can hit both for power and for batting average in addition to their strong defensive play in the field.
While it may seem like most of the Dodgers’ talent is on the offensive side, this is not the case. The Dodgers possess a strong rotation featuring Walker Buehler, a budding young star with playoff experience, and Clayton Kershaw, one of the best pitchers to ever play. Rookie Dustin May is also pitching very well, as he posted a 3-1 regular season record with a 2.57 earned run average. The bullpen also contains the likes of Joe Kelly, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Kenley Jansen, one of the stronger closers in the league. While it is not the best bullpen in baseball, it is certainly capable of getting the job done. Combine that with some elite starters and arguably one of the best lineups in baseball, the Dodgers seem destined for the championship.
There is some cause for concern with Kershaw, however. The legendary pitcher was scratched from his game two start against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday with back spasms. Getting him back and healthy will be key for Los Angeles moving forward.
This experienced playoff club has easily made it through the first two rounds of this extended playoffs, and now look to knock off the up-and-coming Braves in the NLCS. After that, all that stands between Los Angeles and the championship is the Houston Astros, who lack in the pitching department, or the inexperienced Tampa Bay Rays, who have a lineup that pales in comparison to the Dodgers.
PCI: Did the MLB Do Enough to Punish the Astros?
Yes, They Did Enough
This past offseason was one of the most active and dramatic the MLB has seen in recent history. Compared to the past couple of offseasons, this year MLB fans witnessed big name free agents getting paid faster, more trades, and the biggest scandal the sport has seen since the steroid era. Many could not believe the Houston Astros, the 2017 World Series Champions, were accused of conducting an elaborate system to steal other team’s signs.
After the report from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred came out, the country was shocked by the levels of sophistication the Astros used. It was revealed that the Astros had set up a camera in center field and then put up a monitor between the clubhouse and dugout. Players could study the signs the pitcher was receiving from the catcher, identify what pitch was going to be thrown and then communicate that to the batter either by noise (banging on a trash can) or possibly other means.
So, what did this trash can orchestra lead to? The MLB handed Houston one-year bans for their manager and GM (both fired), forfeiture of first and second round picks in the next two drafts, and a $5 million fine. Houston then fired their manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox and Mets then fired their managers Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran for their roles when they were with Houston.
I believe that this punishment was completely fair. Obviously the two in charge needed to be suspended. There was no precedent for this because the game has not seen a scandal like this. A year was fine since the scandal only lasted a year. In the end, the Hinch and Luhnow will likely not be allowed in the MLB anytime soon. It would not be fair to punish other coaches and players involved because they are scattered on different teams, and punishing them now would also unfairly punish those teams. If you are not punishing all the players, you also cannot punish those still on the Astros. The fine given was the most the MLB could give and losing draft picks, will significantly hamper the club’s future.
Many people also wanted a postseason ban or removal of the World Series title. Both of these are trivial. The MLB wants to continue and put this behind them. Keeping one of the best teams or any team for that matter out of the postseason not only affects that team and the city’s local economy but also the league. As for the removal of the title, that does no good. Everyone will still remember the Astros as champs; you cannot just crown one of the teams they beat the new champion. There is no satisfaction in that, and it will only create controversy.
-Joseph Quirk ’23
No, Far From It
If a player in the MLB tests positive for steroids, they receive an 80-game suspension, a second failed test leads to a full season, a third leads to a lifetime ban from baseball. Former player/manager Pete Rose was banned from baseball for betting on games. Even players who were suspected of taking steroids have had their reputation tarnished to the point that it has prevented them from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The punishment for using cameras to steal an opponent’s signs: nothing. After Major League Baseball investigated and found the Houston Astros guilty for using technology to steal signs, manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a year by the league and subsequently fired by Houston. The team was fined and lost four draft picks over the next two years. Meanwhile, the players were granted immunity for their cooperation in the investigation.
While the MLB recognized handing suspensions down to the players would trigger a battle with the Players’ Union, not even giving a fine to any of the players puts all the blame on Hinch and Luhnow. While both knew of the scheme, Hinch broke a TV monitor twice to show his displeasure in the scheme.
It is unfair that Hinch and Lunhow are taking the full brunt of the punishment of the scandal. It may be the leaders’ jobs to make sure that their team complies with the rules (which both failed to do), but they are working with grown men who were very aware they were breaking the rules.
Finding the extent of the involvement of each player is hard to pinpoint exactly, but if there is no punishment to teach players to not cheat, what is preventing another scandal from happening again? Even a basic fine can dissuade players on cheaper salaries from participating.
The only player from the 2017 team who has gotten any sort of punishment was Carlos Beltrán. Beltrán was hired by the New York Mets in the fall to become their new manager.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made it clear that it will be on the leadership of each team to make sure everyone in the dugout and front office complies with the rules, taking the pressure off the players. What hurt Hinch was that he trusted his players too much and failed to intervene when he needed to.
Very few players have come forward to apologize, and no one still on the team has spoken. The people who led this scheme need to be held accountable for breaking the rules. The men who failed to stop it will serve their time, but how about the ones who were the ringleaders?
-Jack Belanger ’21
PCI: Are More Home Runs God for Baseball?
Yes, Home Runs Make Games Exciting
By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
A decade after the messy death of the steroid era in Major League Baseball, a new controversy has shaken the baseball world: the juiced ball era. The league has seen an astronomical rise in home run totals that put to shame even the numbers put up by steroid-enhanced players of the turn of the century. This dramatic increase in home runs will prove to be the jolt of energy necessary to revive the sport.
Indeed, it is no secret that baseball has seen a steady decline in popularity. In 2018, the league saw a harsh 4% drop in ballpark attendance, the largest slip in a decade.
Fewer people are also watching the game at home. The 2018 World Series drew only 14 million views per game. In comparison, the 1991 World Series brought in approximately 36 million viewers per game, a startling difference of 22 million.
The MLB has taken steps to remedy these troubling trends, mostly centered around increasing the pace of play. In 2019, the league shortened inning breaks, capped the number of mound visits per game at six, and experimented with a pitch clock during spring training.
Over the past few years, the league has also taken another subtle yet substantial step: remodeling the baseball itself.
The new ball is characterized by a less dense and better-centered core, smoother leather, and significantly lower seams. As a result, the ball has less drag and a smoother flight pattern when hit, causing the ball to travel further. And travel further the ball has.
On Sept. 11, the MLB surpassed the previous record of 6,105 total homeruns hit in a season, with nearly three weeks still left to play.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has denied that the league is intentionally juicing baseballs, yet he has made comments recently that suggest the league would be looking at the specifications of the ball. This is seen as a likely attempt to increase drag and decrease flight distance.
It is justified for the commissioner to want to take a look at the ball specifications, but instead of making the baseball less aerodynamic, he should aim to make it even more aerodynamic. Baseball desperately needs the long ball to add some much-needed excitement to the sport. Indeed, there is a reason All-Star Weekend features the Home Run Derby as its main attraction.
No fan goes to the stadium hoping their favorite player will lay down a spectacular bunt. It is the homerun ball baseball fans want, and it is the homerun ball the league needs in order to survive.
To stave off the plague of falling ratings and shrinking crowds, Manfred and the MLB must emphasize home runs as much as they can, as it may very well be baseball’s best chance to regain popularity.
No, It Takes Away From the Roots of the Game
By Scott Jarosz ’21
As of Sept. 24, there have been 6,550 home runs hit this season in Major League Baseball. This figure comes with one week remaining in the regular season, as the last games are to be played on Sept. 29. This number has become a significant talking point throughout the baseball community, as home run production this season is the highest it has ever been by a staggering amount.
As a point of comparison, in the 2018 season, there were a total of 5,585 home runs hit. Going back further, in the 2015 MLB season, there were 4,909 total home runs hit. This increase in home run production in Major League Baseball raises the question: are more home runs good for baseball?
The rapid increase in the overall home run production throughout MLB history can be interpreted in several different ways. For one, some have argued that the increase in home runs is a result of the usage of new and improved technology by MLB teams. When watching any given MLB game from the 2019 season, batters can frequently be seen before or after at bats watching footage on tablets in order to prepare for upcoming at bats or review past at bats.
However, this theory fails to completely explain the shocking increase of 890 runs since the 2018 season.
A more common explanation of the significantly higher home run total this season is the possibility that the league is “juicing” the baseballs used in its games. Although this speculation has been going around for quite some time, it gained attention in July when Houston Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander gave his view on the issue, questioning MLB’s recent purchase of baseball-manufacturer Rawlings and accusing the commissioner of using juiced baseballs.
If the increase in home runs can truly be attributed to juiced balls as many players and fans believe, it is bad for the sport. Not only is it unfair to pitchers who are judged on their in-game performance, but it also takes the game away from its roots. If the MLB purchased Rawlings so it could alter the composition of baseballs, it would be problematic on many levels.
One of the most common explanations for the league wanting to juice baseballs is to increase the fan base, as home runs are considered among the most exciting plays in baseball. If this is true, the MLB is failing to understand that a significant portion of its fans watch the game because of its tradition and would oftentimes prefer to see a pitching duel that results in a 2-1 final score as opposed to a 12-10 slugfest.
Overall, it seems that the increase in home runs in the MLB is not beneficial for the sport, as it takes away from baseball’s roots and also can lead to longer games, which is an issue that the MLB has recently made a substantial effort to try to resolve.
No Stars? No Problem for Celtics
Jaylen Brown Breaks Out to Give Boston Series Lead
By Jack Belanger ’21
It has not been an easy season for the Boston Celtics this year in terms of injuries, but the team nevertheless has found ways to win. Once starting forward Gordon Hayward went down with a season-ending injury on opening night, all-stars Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were able to lead a young team to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The team took another big hit when it was announced that Irving would undergo a season-ending knee surgery on March 11.
Without Irving, Head Coach Brad Stevens was able to get the most out of young players, as Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum stepped up and led the team to a 9-6 record to end the season and set up a first round match-up against the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo. Without the Celtics’ top two players, plenty of experts picked the Bucks to win as they saw Antetokounmpo as the best player on either team.
Five games into the series, Antetokounmpo has played exceptionally well, averaging 25.4 points per game. Luckily, Boston has been able to match his performance with Brown breaking out and leading the Celtics in scoring, averaging 21.8 points per game. Brown’s stellar play has given the Celtics the push they needed and helped them take a 3-2 game lead over the Bucks after five in the best-of-seven series.
While the team still has an all-star in Horford on the court, it is the improved play of Brown, Tatum, and point guard Terry Rozier that has been the difference for the team in the series. In Game 1 the trio combined for 62 points, including 23 from Rozier who hit a three-pointer with half a second left. That shot would have won the game for Boston had Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton not hit a buzzer-beater shot to force overtime, where Boston would win 113-107.
In Game 2, Brown was in complete control as he scored 30 points, leading Boston in scoring. He made 12 shots from the field, including five three-pointers. Overall, the team had six players score over 10 points as the Celtics dominated the Bucks 120-104, taking a 2-0 series lead before games 3 and 4 took place in Milwaukee.
Game 3 was a disaster for the Celtics. Boston was slow from the start and the Bucks took advantage, leading 27-12 after one quarter. Boston would only shoot 40 percent from the field for the game and ultimately lost 116-92.
While Boston took a tough 104-102 loss in Game 4, allowing Milwaukee to tie the series to two games apiece, the ending of the game gave Celtics fans comfort that the team would not have another poor performance. Boston was down by as much as 20 points early in the third quarter, but the team was able to go on a run to tie the game and even take the lead with less than a minute left in the game. Ultimately the Bucks were able to win the game on a tip-in by Antetokounmpo. Boston’s resurgence in the second half was largely thanks to Tatum’s 18 points in the second half and Brown’s 34 points for the game, including 10 points in the final quarter.
In Game 5 back in Boston, the Celtics held control throughout the entire game. Brown played tough defense on Antetokounmpo, holding him to only 16 points. The Celtics were also energized by the return of point guard Marcus Smart who missed the first four games with a thumb injury.
Smart was able to seal the game for Boston, as the Bucks had closed the game to 84-79 with less than a minute to play. As Milwaukee ramped up the pressure, Boston lost control of the ball, but Smart was able to dive on the loose ball and make a great pass with two defenders on him to a wide open Horford under to hoop to put Boston up seven and seal the Game 5 win.
The two teams head to Milwaukee for Game 6, where Boston will have a chance to win the series where they will play tonight at 8 p.m. The Philadelphia 76ers will be the next opponent for the winner of this series. The 76ers beat the Miami Heat in five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Shohei Ohtani Starts Off Hot
Rookie Shows Promise Hitting and Pitching
By Thomas Zinzarella ’21
For most baseball fans, this past off season’s free-agency period was a lackluster performance by all 30 teams. There was almost a consensus around the league that each general manager wanted to wait until next off season to snatch bigger prize free agents such as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
One player who filled the news void this off season was none other than 23-year-old Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani, who has been nicknamed the “Babe Ruth of Japan,” came over unexpectedly and left every MLB team chasing after the future star. Ohtani voided the opportunity to wait for the big payday in two years and settled with the Los Angeles Angels for the league minimum of $545,000 per year over the next three years.
So why the nickname and the hype? Ohtani brings skills that have never been seen before in the major leagues. He is a two-way player who excels as both a hitter and a pitcher. Scouts have compared his hitting abilities to those of Ken Griffey Jr. while his pitching has resembled Stephen Strasburg.
After a string of less than stellar performances on both the mound and at the plate during spring training, Ohtani has finally lived up to the hype. In 30 plate appearances so far, Ohtani has 11 base hits, maintaining a .367 average and a slugging percentage of .767. He even hit a home run off of the reigning CY Young Winner, Corey Kluber, in his second game of the season.
Ohtani has been even more dominant on the rubber, holding hitters to a mere .093 batting average and a slugging percentage of .163. In his first home debut as pitcher against the Oakland A’s, he carried a perfect game into the 7th inning before it was broken up by Marcus Semien.
Ohtani’s success has shaken the whole baseball industry as more front offices begin to look into the two-way player. Brendan McKay, who was the Tampa Bay Rays’ first round draft pick from this past June’s draft, is a two-way player and is thriving in the minors.
Many believed that after McKay was drafted, he would exclusively be at first base. Currently playing for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in the Midwest League (Single-A), McKay is off to a red-hot start batting .438 with six RBI in 16 plate-appearances. On the hill, McKay has compiled a 3.60 ERA in five innings pitched while striking out eight. The Rays’ front office believes it can work and why not? McKay did the same through his career at University of Louisville.
Another two-way player is the Reds’ No. 2 overall pick this past June, 18-year-old Hunter Greene. Greene, who has been praised for both his glove work at shortstop and his 100-mph fastball on the mound, was allowed by the Reds’ to test the waters at both the plate and on the mound in his first minor league season this past summer.
Although it has been decided that Greene’s future will be on the mound, the Reds’ decision to let him pitch shows that Major League clubs are starting to think about using these players’ various talents and experimenting with the two-way player possibility.
He may only be 23-years-old, but the future of the two-way player in the MLB resides on the shoulders of Shohei Ohtani.
Red Sox-Yankees Rivalry is Back On
By Jack Belanger ’21
After the first week of the Major League Baseball season, there is already plenty of excitement around the league. Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels is showing he can dominate on, the mound, and at the plate, the Astros strong play has carried over from last year, and the Mets have surprisingly jumped out hot to start the year. The most interesting storyline this year could be the potential resurgence of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, who played their first series this week.
Both teams added fuel to fire this offseason as the Yankees hired Red Sox enemy Aaron Boone as their new manager and signed 2017 home run leader Giancarlo Stanton.
The Sox made moves of their own by signing outfielder J.D. Martinez and hiring former Red Sox infielder Alex Cora as their manager. Making the playoffs is not the goal for these teams as both owners expect their teams to compete for a title year in and year out. This year, the teams could potentially meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Coming into their first series of the season at Fenway Park, the Red Sox and Yankees each pegged their top three starters to pitch in the series. Each team sent their ace out for the first game as Boston’s Chris Sale faced off against New York’s Luis Severino. Sale pitched like the true ace he is and only gave up one run in six innings. Severino, however, struggled and allowed five runs in five innings. Overall, the Sox won 14-1, highlighted by right fielder Mookie Betts’ grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning. The game had a playoff atmosphere right from the beginning, as the Sox were looking to make a statement win over the AL East favorites. Boos and jeers were constant throughout the night, especially when Yankees stars Aaron Judge and Stanton came up to bat.
The next night the Yanks returned a favor as they scored four runs against pitcher David Price in the first inning and scored eight runs through four innings though the Sox fought back to make it a close game. A brawl also broke out after Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelley hit Yankee Tyler Austin. Austin then charged the mound and both team’s benches cleared out. This opening series has brought a spark back to the rivalry that will continue throughout the season.
Last season was the first year since 2009 that both the Yankees and the Red Sox make it to the playoffs. For the past eight seasons, Boston and New York have had their fair share of disappointing years, causing the rivalry to cool down.
Last season saw the Red Sox win 93 games and their second consecutive division title but lose in the American League Divisions Series, this time to the eventual champs, the Houston Astros. The Yankees, on the other hand, came into 2017 looking to continue to rebuild after only winning 84 games in 2016, and wound up winning 91 games due to a break-out season by rookie sensation Judge and were one win away from going to the World Series, also losing to Houston. The Yankees beat the Red Sox in the season series, 11-8.
Hall of Fame Introduces Four New Members
By Sullivan Burgess ’20
On Sunday, July 29, 2018, Cooperstown, New York will welcome four new inductees into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. This marks the fourth time in history four players were voted into Cooperstown, compared to last year’s three players.
This year’s new members include third baseman Chipper Jones, rightfielder Vladimir Guerrero, designated hitter Jim Thome, and relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman.
To be entered into the Hall of Fame, a player must have first played in the MLB beginning 15 years before and ending 5 years prior to election. Second, the players must pass through a screening committee after five years of being retired. To be voted in, a player must take in 75 percent of the elector’s vote, which is 317 votes from the electors.
Jones lead this year’s ballot with 97.2 percent of the writers’ votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which is around 410 votes of the 422 ballots. Guerrero, Thome, and Hoffman respectively finished behind Jones with 392, 379, and 337 votes from the writers.
Jones told ESPN, “It was waterworks.” With an overall career batting average of .303 percent, 2,726 hits, 468 homeruns, 1,623 RBIs, the Atlanta Braves’ eighth time All-Star, National League MVP, and 1995 World Series Champion, more than qualified for his eligibility for the Hall of Fame. He now joins Ken Griffey Jr. as the only other No. 1 draft pick to enter the Hall of Fame.
As for Thome, who ranks eighth of all-time on the home run list in his 22 seasons for teams including the Indians, the Phillies, and the Dodgers, his career was another no-brainer for the writers. Thome was also emotional after receiving the phone call from his former hitting coach Charlie Manuel, who stated “This is totally deserving and, for me, ranks up there with anything I’ve ever seen happen in the game of baseball. For someone that I met as a 19-year-old and saw improve as much as anyone over time, it makes me smile to think that all that hard work, all those swings in the batting cage, is now paying off for him.”
Guerrero, a nine time All-Star, is a generational hitter who was only one of 13 players to have numbers over .315/.550. He is still in shock about his election, as he is the first position player from the Dominican Republic to make the Hall of Fame, and loves to represent his country in the best way possible.
Lastly, Trevor Hoffman, a seven-time All-Star relief pitcher who marked 1,133 career strikeouts and is second in saves behind Mariano Rivera, the Yankee relief pitcher who highlights his first year of eligibility next year, was elected as well.
Fans of the game have said nothing but positive remarks for the players elected, yet as the reports went out for the rest of the voted players from the league who were not elected, the media and fans took note.
The two most notable players this year that remain on the ballot are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Their careers are both filled with historic moments and controversey involving alledged steriod use that has caused a divide amongst voters.
Fans of these players remain optimistic about their future as they seem to rise each year in ballot votes and hope new votes in the future will finally bring them to Cooperstown.