Category Archives: Uncategorized

Just how good are the Chicago Cubs?

The Chicago Cubs are, without question, one of the top-rated sides in Major League Baseball and will fancy their chances of advancing to the World Series next season. Despite their best efforts, the Cubs were knocked out at the final hurdle, losing to the New York Mets in the NLCS game. The Mets went on to face the Kansas City Royals in the World Series for the biggest prize in baseball.

While this was a huge disappointment, Chicago played incredibly well throughout the year and will take great heart from their performances this season. Next year, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Cubs go all the way for the first time since 1908.

In the regular season, the Cubs scraped into the playoffs after recording a 97-65 win/loss ratio, which was good enough to secure third place in the NL Central. Manager Joe Maddon will be particularly impressed with his side’s resilience throughout the campaign and will know that, after a full season of being in charge of the Cubs, he has the full support of the team, fans and hierarchy after an excellent year in Chicago.

Continuity and stability are the two main traits for success and they are both exactly what the Cubs need right now. After failing to reach the World Series in the post-war era, Chicago are finally on the brink of the big time.

   by  rexhammock 

Next season, the Chicago Cubs are one of the leading candidates to win Major League Baseball’s World Series. At the time of writing, bet365 price them at odds of 8/1, along with the Toronto Blue Jays – who are also an exceptional side.

While it may be a little too early to suggest that the Cubs can justify these odds, they are certainly a strong outfit and will be full of confidence after their positive showing in the postseason. As previously mentioned, they must improve on their regular season form in order to build momentum next year but they must not peak too soon or else they risk burning out in the playoffs.

Compared directly to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Cubs are on par with the Canadian outfit. Both sides are favoured by the bookmakers but we have a full offseason and free agency period to get through before the 2016 preseason begins.

Toronto are looking to win now, and they exercised their options on star right-handers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion earlier this week. While the Cubs arguably possess the more complete team unit, the Blue Jays have a number of top impact players who are capable of winning matches with superb individual efforts.


Simply put, the Chicago Cubs are VERY good right now. In fact, they may be the team to beat next year. Despite losing 4-0 to the Mets in the final stages of the playoffs, the Cubs are in a great position and with some solid work in the offseason, they will challenge for the World Series next season. With Maddon at the helm, Chicago are in fine hands and their supporters should be excited about their chances in 2016.

   by  Michael Rehfeldt 

Baseball Training Aids and Equipment

Trainings aids for baseball includes hitting cages, training bats, pitching machines, training gloves, training balls and several more. With so many training aids available, it is quite difficult for a player to understand which equipment will be helpful for the player to achieve their goals. Most of the people know about the game baseball. However, not many actually have an idea of what it takes for developing and training the required skills for playing baseball.

Several skills are required for playing baseball. If you are interested in the game and want develop your skill, it is very important for you to have a knowledge of what is your skill level currently. This will be very helpful when you select certain equipment that can be best for enhancing your skills.

Training aids for different types of players

Players who are just starting to learn and play baseball will never possess the same levels of skills as those players who play in big leagues. When you learn to play baseball, you must always start with basics. All the beginners need to start by learning the basics. They need to learn how to catch, pitch and hit. For more advanced baseball players, the training has to be specifically done in order to improve certain areas of their game. For instance, a player who pitches should use pitching equipment while a player who struggles with batting must focus on hitting equipment for training. One great thing for all players is that there are equipment for all sorts of players, of any skill level.

Where to find training aids

Coaches or players can look for these products anywhere, from an online retailer to a local sports store. There are numerous companies providing these products. While some of these companies carry only a specific inventory, while others carry products ranging from memorabilia to fan apparel. All the baseball companies thrive to provide the best possible products for baseball players. These companies are trying to create a wide selection of products that they can offer to all sorts of baseball players.

Searching in the internet for baseball training aids can be very helpful (I know that top5onlinecasino website owner is a baseball fan don’t hesitate to contact him for help). The search result can be further narrowed down if you specifically know your needs. Searching for ‘Pitching training aids’ or ‘Hitting training aids’ will provide the necessary results if you know about your specific needs.

How helpful are baseball training aids

Training and practice are extremely essential if you want to develop the necessary skills for playing game safely. A lot of time and effort has to be put in training. As the skill level of players increase, they can make use of different training aids and equipment. These training aids continuously challenge the ability of the player, which further helps the player in improving.

Many players and coaches have noticed that using baseball training aids is helpful in making training sessions more productive. These products are very effective and certainly help players in positive manner. Making use of them during practice and training sessions is always helpful.

The rise of South African baseball

If there’s one thing that can really unite South Africa as a country, it’s the love of sport. And whilst the nation’s cricket and rugby teams may often grab more global headlines, the emergent South African baseball scene has recently started to gain momentum.

South African emergence


The Rainbow Nation made their first big impression on the international baseball circuit in 2006 where a team of amateur players headed to the prestigious World Baseball Classic championships. Although many were questioning the ability of the team, they quickly defied the doubters by nearly causing a huge upset to the established Canadian baseball team.

This has mirrored the rise of baseball as a rapidly rising sport in South Africa. Facilitated by the likes of the South Africa Baseball Union, the game has managed to bridge the divided country by offering a game that is relatively untouched by the struggles of the past.

And now the sport has reached a pivotal point where it has started entering the national consciousness, with many supporting the national team and enjoying baseball themed games at Springbok Casino that reflect on the emerging popularity of this game.


Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 9.27.29 PM

The route that South African baseball has taken has been somewhat unorthodox, but in a way, it mirrors the nation’s idiosyncratic relationship with the world.

The game was first introduced to South Africa in 1895 when a group of American migrants who arrived on the shores in response to the gold rush that preceded the Boer War settled in the Transvaal province. It was here that they brought baseball equipment, taught the rules of the game, and even set up an official league in 1899.

Interestingly, given the cosmopolitan nature of the Rainbow Nation, there was also a big Japanese influence in the development of the game. This is because in 1934 a group of Japanese sailors had to wait three months for their next ship home, and in the ensuing period they played a game with the American locals at the Westbourne Oval in Port Elizabeth. The resulting success of the match quickly led to the development of the Easter Province Baseball Association.

Golden age

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 9.28.45 PM

From here, South African baseball grew at a fairly organic rate despite lack of financial assistance and political infighting.

The 1950s are often considered a golden era for South African baseball as it was during this time that audience numbers started swelling, and matches were held at many prestigious sporting arenas, often attracting the support of many American owned companies.

However, with international pressure on the Apartheid system restricting foreign interest, the game began to suffer as the century progressed. But with the recent political advances, baseball appears to be enjoying a long sought after resurgence this this sports-mad nation.

Jose Fernandez’s Return Highlights a nice Thursday of Baseball



Baseball is a better place when Jose Fernandez is a part of it. After a 13-month layoff, Fernandez returns in Miami tomorrow afternoon for a start against the San Francisco Giants; trying to give his team without their other star a series win over the World Champions.

Ironically enough, tomorrow also marks the return of Matt Cain who will be making his first start of the season.

All in all, it’s a nice little slate tomorrow. Since Friday is observed at most companies for Fourth of July, it’s a start of the weekend with some nice offerings as part of the slate:

  • Max Scherzer starts in Atlanta against Manny Banuelos who is making his Major League Debut.
  • Four afternoon games dot the slate as you’re probably finishing up your workday. Aside from Fernandez going for the Marlins, you’ve got Corey Kluber, Francisco Liriano, and Jacob deGrom on the bump in those games.
  • Wade Miley is sent like a lamb to slaughter against Toronto and their mighty right-handed hitters.
  • Colorado at Arizona could be a total slobberknocker, with Chris Rusin opposing Jeremy Hellickson. Nolan Arenado has the longest active hitting streak in the big leagues at 18.

And after tomorrow is through, it’s Fourth of July weekend. No greater time during the baseball season. Just baseball, cookouts, fireworks, family and friends. And some Daily Fantasy Baseball mixed in. Another great and quiet gift that the baseball season gives to each of us each year that sometimes goes by unnoticed if you aren’t paying attention.

Odds & Ends from Friday Night


Here are other things that happened around the baseball world last night, in case you missed them:

  • Anthony Rizzo hit his 9th and 10th home runs of the season last night in Washington. He would have had a three home run ballgame, except Denard Span robbed him of his third late in the game.  The Nationals hung on to win the game 7-5.
  • In that game, Bryce Harper doubled off the wall. The ball initially looked like it would get out, but the big park in Washington held it. He was clearly pissed off that Ryan Zimmerman did not try and score, and gave himself up without getting into a rundown. It was a weird play.
  • Harper seems like he’s a fine ambassador of the game at this point.
  • Baseball’s first ‘switch-pitcher’ made his MLB debut last night at Fenway Park. Pat Venditte threw two scoreless innings to finish the game for Oakland. And sure enough, his B-R page already lists him as being able to throw right or left handed.
  • The Brewers smashed the now 32-22 Minnesota Twins, 10-5 in Minnesota. And damnit; I knew I should have bet the house on the Brewers as the Twins were pretty heavy favorites for a team with Kyle Gibson on the mound. It’s always the ones you stay away from that work out just as you envision them.
  • The Reds went down without a whimper 6-2 in Cincinnati to Tyson Ross and the San Diego Padres. The Reds are now 23-30, and they’re in the tank. Those two losses they had this week in Philadelphia prior to beating Aaron Harang on getaway day were about as bad as you can achieve. Jay Bruce is back down to .217 on the year.
  • Carlos Martinez struck out 11 Dodgers last night late at Dodger Stadium, and the Cardinals won a 2-1 ballgame that they always seem to win. I don’t know how the Cardinals manage to always win these type of games or how they seem to just roll along without issue as new guys like Martinez and Randal Grichuk just step up and into the lineup as regulars; it’s just the way guys play when they wear the Cardinal uniform.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays won 1-0 in Seattle with a Logan Forsythe home run being the only run of the game. Robinson Cano went hitless to lower his season average to .243 on the year. Jake Odirizzi exited the game in the fifth inning with left side tightness.

MLB Power Rankings –With sneak peak by

The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals came into the season with plenty of pressure and expectations in the AL Central, especially as the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians have improved. However, the Tigers and Royals have shown themselves to be very strong teams as they are were unbeaten through the first two series of the season. They have won their first six games. Read more about MLB betting favorites in this 2015 review.

The Detroit Tigers swept the Minnesota Twins and the Indians to start the season but lost their first game to the Pittsburgh Pirates to go 6-1 to start the season. Star player Miguel Cabrera is still a stud for the Tigers and went .517 in his first seven games with 9 RBI. J.D. Martinez also has 9 RBI plus four home runs.

Meanwhile, the pitching has not been hurt by the departure of Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander’s injury. David Price has not given up a single earned run in 14.1 innings. The same can be said for Shane Greene, Joe Nathan and Tom Gorzelanny. It is no surprise that the Tigers have 6/1 odds to win the ALCS and 10/1 odds for the World Series.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals are out with the goal of trying to show that their ALCS title from last year was no fraud. The Royals only have 16/1 odds to win the World Series and 8/1 odds to get their second straight pennant.

The Royals swept the White Sox and Los Angeles Angels to start the year. Yordano Ventura won both his starts so far this season and has a 2.31 ERA. Wade Davis has also been reliable from the bullpen as he has pitched in four one-inning efforts and has not given up an earned run. Greg Holland also has pitched three perfect innings for three saves.

As for the Royals’ offense, Salvador Perez may be an interesting figure to watch for. He has a .417 average with three home runs and 8 RBI. In fact, the team’s 39 RBI is far greater than the 15 the Royals have given up.

The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals should be interesting to see in 2015 and they are good MLB betting favorites. However, they should be aware of their AL Central competition just as well as there are plenty of teams that could compete with them this year.

In particular, the Cleveland Indians are at 9/1 to win the ALCS and 20/1 to win the World Series. The Royals are 2-4 and will miss Yan Gomes for two months with a knee injury. Still, Corey Kluber has been a proficient pitcher with 17 strikeouts in 13.2 innings.

Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox have 12/1 odds to with the ALCS and 25/1 odds to get a Series win. Chris Sale’s injury and the question of when Carlos Rodon will be added to their rotation have floated around the team throughout the start of the season. In addition, the White Sox only have a .237 average and Jose Abreu only has one RBI.

The Minnesota Twins are also long shots at 66/1 to win the league and 150/1 to win the Series. At 1-5, the Twins may be afterthoughts if they keep struggling. This is in spite of Joe Mauer’s .300 average.


Whether it’s Buck Showalter, or Beau Bridges; this is a sweet Baseball commercial (It’s’ Buck)

Baseball has rolled out a really great commercial to start the 2015 season which we enjoyed – because it truly lets you know how great the players we watch on a nightly basis are; with their varying origins and skill-sets.

I have a friend who saw this commercial and texted ‘what a great commercial there narrated by Bridges’. I heard it, knew which one he was talking about, and while I didn’t look up during it; it does sound like Beau or Jeff Bridges (all Bridges sound the same). I replied that I thought it was Buck Showalter.

Conclusion: baseball is wonderful, and Buck Showalter sounds an awful lot like Beau or Jeff Bridges. Great commercial if you haven’t seen it, encapsulated forever here now.

The Last Idle Sunday


For the last time, there is no regular season baseball on a Sunday. The stadiums sit empty for now with just one week to go until the regular season kicks off at Wrigley Field.

We can make it through one week of anything. Especially this week with MLB ’15 the Show rolling out, a few season predictions posts still yet to come, and our season preview podcast. But one week from now we embark upon what could be the most exciting season of baseball we’ve ever seen. And they’re all so good that after a while, they blend together.

All the renewed hope comes with the start of a fresh 162.

Baseball will start every game at the same time on the season’s final day

This is absolutely awesome for those of you who say baseball isn’t exciting or doesn’t feature enough drama.

Per a report in the LA Times, the idea stems from trying to create the maximum amount of drama leading into the playoffs:

“If a game impacts another game, they’re all occurring at the same time, so no team would be put into a lame-duck situation because their fate already had been decided by an earlier result,” said Tony Pettiti, MLB chief operating officer.

“If we do have games coming down to the wire, we want to make sure we maximize that day.”

I love it! I absolutely dig it. It’s going to be a Sunday in September, and baseball is forgetting about juicy television revenues in multiple markets in order to get people talking about this one final day which will surely have several teams vying for playoff positioning. This should have been done years ago.

Happy Belated Birthday, Darryl Strawberry


It’s hard to believe my first favorite player Darryl Strawberry turned 53 this past Thursday – there was a post on ESPN SweetSpot by David Schoenfield to honor the popular semi-star of the 80’s and early 90’s.

There were a couple of good snippets out of that post:

Lloyd McClendon, Strawberry’s minor league roommate: “There was a lot of pressure on him, and he didn’t know how to handle it. … He was young, he didn’t have good work habits. In this game, it’s easy to stay in bed all day, especially on the road. What Darryl didn’t understand is that you have to get your body regulated. You’ve got to get up early, walk around and do things — go to the mall, take in a movie. It’s very easy to lie around and grab a bite and go play. But you’re not getting yourself ready either physically or mentally to play the game.”

I had never read that account before on Strawberry. It sheds some light into what the party lifestyle of a Major Leaguer was in that day in age. And if that doesn’t, this does:

He is living in self-imposed exile, talking about his former home cities, New York and Los Angeles, as his versions of Sodom and Gomorrah.

“It became a lifestyle for me,” Strawberry says. “Drink, do coke, get women, do something freaky … all that stuff. I did it for so long. I played games when I was drunk, or just getting off a drunk or all-night partying or coming down off amphetamines. With alcohol and drugs it was the excitement. That’s how I got addicted. It was an exciting way to escape from everything else. Coming to the major leagues at such a young age and coming to New York … maybe someplace else it would be a little different, but New York is a party place, an upbeat place.”

And Strawberry is now an example that no matter how many times you hit rock-bottom, there is hope. He’s a born again Christian today who has a recovery center in Orlando named after him. He’s lived to be 53. He didn’t retire as the ‘Black Ted Williams’ as scouts said he would, and he doesn’t have 500 career home runs to his name. But that’s really not important. Strawberry’s once in a generation talent left it’s mark on the game with moments and stories you hear. I remember my uncle talking about this Olympic Stadium home run in Montreal off Strawberry’s bat (along with a few foul balls he hit in Cincinnati that were over 500 feet).

Strawberry disappointed me many times when I was a youngster (he was out of the lineup the first game I ever attended with my parents and left me crying in the stands as an eight year old, he probably went on a bender the night before) but I am proud of the person he’s become and proud to say he was my first favorite player. It was because of his swing, his power, and his last name.

Daily Fantasy Baseball – On Fanduel

The last few years, rookies have made a pretty major impact at the MLB  level. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Jose Fernandez are just a few who hit the ground running at the highest level of professional baseball. As the 2015 approaches, there are a few with high potential. Anyone playing in FanDuel fantasy baseball leagues should be at least looking at these guys early on in the year to see if they are worth taking a gamble on. After all, they will start at relatively modest prices an could be steals.

Kris Bryant

Last year, Bryant was a star in the minors. Some wondered why the Chicago Cubs didn’t really give him much of a shot at the majors, but 2015 should be different. There is a lot of optimism around the club in general, and the infielder is a guy who hits for power and average. In all of his games last season across different minor league levels, he hit .325 with 43 home runs.

Addison Russell

Staying with the Cubs, they have a middle infielder who could be a steal as a rookie if he can find an everyday position. Chicago already has Javier Baez and Starlin Castro, so Russell might be forced to move away from shortstop.

However, he is still a guy who is an advanced hitter with plenty of speed to pick up extra bases and stolen bases. Anyone playing in FanDuel fantasy baseball leagues should pay attention to how he does in Spring Training to get an idea on when he might be called up.

Carlos Rodon

Most of the top-tier rookie talent seems to be in the National League in 2015, but Carlos Rodon has a chance to be special for the Chicago White Sox. The team has worked hard to improve their starting rotation, and they will give him a shot to make the opening day roster if he does well in Spring Training. The 3rd overall pick from a season ago has already shown that he is pretty stable on the mound.

Welcoming the newest member of the Diamond Hoggers Family!

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 11.37.29 PM

So the biggest news of the past few days had nothing to do with baseball in my world (and that’s big wrestling with the Heyward trade and the Stanton contract).

On November 18th (born on the same day as Big Papi Ortiz) at 9:18 AM, my daughter Harper was born 8 pounds and 7 ounces. I have seen a lot of amazing things in my life with these eyes, but I have never seen anything in my life that comes close to comparing with the first time that I saw my little daughter. The sheer emotion and happiness overtook me.

I knew when I looked at this amazing little creation that for the rest of my life I was done putting myself first. I love this little girl more than I have ever loved anything. I can’t believe how blessed I am to be able to have the opportunity to be her dad!

And no, she wasn’t named after Bryce Harper! My wife just liked the name. But it’s a nice little coincidence in case he ends up hitting 600 home runs and racing into the Hall of Fame.

Which Free Agents Should the Mets be Targeting for the 2015 MLB Season?


With December just around the corner, baseball’s hot stove is as warm as ever as teams prepare to address their roster needs via free agency or trades. The Mets will go into those winter meetings searching for upgrades to their two most blatantly obvious positions of need at shortstop and corner outfield.

The many possible options for each position (big names like Hanley Ramirez and Nelson Cruz have been thrown around) have been discussed ad nauseam over the last few months, but those aren’t the only two spots where the Mets need improving.

With the recent outrighting of left-handed relievers Dana Eveland and Scott Rice, the Mets suddenly find themselves in the market for a lefty out of the bullpen. They could also use a right-handed power bat who could play first or the outfield.

While the addition of a lefty arm or two or a bat off the bench won’t drastically shift the Mets’ odds to win the National League in 2015 like the signing of Ramirez or Cruz, those moves are nevertheless significant in building the kind of affordable lineup the Mets would need to compete for a pennant.

This year’s free agent market has a couple of very interesting lefty arms, from established veteran relievers (Scott Downs and Jason Grilli) to a couple of very promising converted starters (Zach Duke and Andrew Miller).

Miller will be in particular demand after striking out 103 batters (5th in MLB) last season, but Duke wasn’t too bad himself. He had a breakout year with Milwaukee with 74 strikeouts in 58.2 innings and would be a terrific addition alongside Jeurys Familia as potential setup men.

The market on big impact bats in the Mets’ price range isn’t as plentiful, though, and it could get a little shallower if Michael Cuddyer comes off the market. The 35-year old had been a popular choice as a stopgap, but he may not be available for much longer after the Colorado Rockies extended him a $15 million qualifying offer.

Michael Morse, a contributor on the San Francisco Giants’ World Series run, would be a decent fallback target. He can play in the outfield and can platoon at first base with Lucas Duda against left-handed pitching.

Morse won’t be quite the ideal guy if the Mets need him to be an everyday corner outfielder, especially given his injury history. But he would be a nice addition as a utility bat and could be part of a larger piecemeal solution to the outfield question.

The Real Reason There is a Poker Game Called Baseball


Baseball and poker are arguably the two pastimes most associated with America. Both sports have grown alongside each other since the early 1900’s. Historian Jacques Barzun wrote that “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”

Fifty years later, writer James McManus amended Barzun’s quote, replacing “baseball” with “poker” when discussing the growth of poker’s popularity. Both writers are indeed correct, but would have been more accurate if they had simply mentioned both sports.

Playing Baseball on the Felt


Anyone who has played in poker home games has probably has come across a card game called Baseball. The game, which is almost never seen in casinos, creates a lot of action and earned its name due to some interesting rules.

Typically the game follows the normal Seven Card Stud High-Lo rules, with a few additions which can vary from game to game. 3s and 9s are wild, and if you are dealt a 4 face-up, you will receive an extra down card.

For those who follow traditional baseball, these numbers might sound familiar: 3 strikes for an out, 9 innings, and 4 balls for a walk. While these similarities are most likely the reason that the poker game Baseball got its name, there are many other connections between the two sports.

Coincidental Similarities

Some of the similarities between baseball and poker appear to be intentional, or at least a result of subconscious forces:

  • Baseball’s 2014 World Series Champions will be crowned in just a few weeks. One month later, poker will crown the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion in Las Vegas.
  • The typical poker table has nine players, just as a baseball team.
  • When training to become dealers, students are taught to “pitch” the cards.
  • Players “catch” cards and get “hit” by the deck.
  • Cards that are needed to give a player a winning hand and defeat their opponents are “outs.”
  • Both require patience, mental focus, and a great deal of practice in order to be successful.

A Natural Career Move for Many

With all that they have in common, it’s no surprise that the two games attract the same people. Players like Babe Ruth, Ricky Henderson, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriquez are all known as avid poker players.

Conversely, there are several professional poker players who have made the move from the baseball to the poker tables.

Chad Brown, who died from cancer earlier this year, was lucky enough have multiple career choices; baseball, acting, or poker. He moved from one to the next until he found his true calling at the poker table and had an incredible amount of success in the game he enjoyed up until his last few months.


Eric Baldwin led his school to the 2005 NCAA National Championship in baseball, but upon completing his degree he decided to pursue a career in poker. He has earned several championship titles in poker including an elusive World Series of Poker bracelet.

However, one former baseball player that began to play poker seriously at the end stands above all of the others.

A “Bulldog” on the Mound and On the Felt


Former Dodger Orel Hershiser is known for his competitive spirit. During his baseball career, this earned him a number of World Series victories and MVP Honors. At the poker tables, the same drive has earned him $90,000 in tournament winnings.

Hershiser said that poker “is something you can be competitive at while sitting down. As your body starts to fail you as an athlete, you find it hard to find places that can get your adrenaline flowing.”

Hershiser is primarily a cash game player, but his skills at the tournament table became evident during the NBC National Heads-Up Championship, where he surprised poker pros and poker fans alike by finishing in fifth place.

A Natural Name for the Game

By now, the reason why a poker game called Baseball exists should be fairly evident. The two great American pastimes are seemingly linked at the most basic of levels. In fact, not having a poker game called “Baseball” would be an aberration.

The connection between poker and baseball is perhaps as old as the two games themselves, and the similarities are seemingly endless. As Jackie Robinson once said:

“Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead.”