The Final Post from ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’

After 434,498 words, 664 blog posts, 614 comments, 72 months, dozens of interviews, and hours upon hours spent pecking away at the keyboard, I’ve decided to end my run writing for ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’.

I first began thinking about calling it quits way back at the beginning of 2015, when a somewhat uneventful offseason left me struggling to come up with a topic to write about from one given week to the next. But when that season began, things got a little easier, with there being a lot more to write about, so my mind somewhat drifted from the notion of quitting.

But as time went on, I found myself not enjoying the work it takes to keep up this blog nearly as much as I had in the past (some posts take several days to construct). While I still had a lot of thoughts and opinions surrounding all of the things going on in baseball, and was keeping up with absolutely everything that was going on, I didn’t feel the urge to write about it on here with the frequency I had in the past.

That feeling only grew stronger in 2016.

In 2014, I blogged 129 time throughout the year — the most I’ve ever done in one single year. That number has been noticeably lower each of the past two years, and I don’t feel the quality of the writing has been where it used to be either, with all of this tracing back to the original reason I finally decided to quit blogging: I stopped enjoying it.

In fact, there were a number of times that I contemplated quitting during the season, simply dropping it without warning or a reason as to why I was giving it up. But I didn’t want to do that. I’ve followed far too many blogs that simply fade away without as much as a farewell. That’s always left me scratching my head, and I made up my mind that I wouldn’t join that group. I wanted to see the whole year through — and now I have.

Originally, the plan was to publish this post around Christmas time, but I had a few posts already completed, and I didn’t want to have them go to waste. Therefore, I kept up this blog for a month longer than I anticipated, which ended up working out nicely. It was January 20th of 2011 that I began this blog, and now it’s a January 20th of 2017 that I’m ending it — a nice round six years of blogging.

I began writing this particular post back in August of 2015, as although it wasn’t until the end of 2016 that I decided wholeheartedly that this would be my last year of writing, I didn’t want to just throw something together at the last second. I wanted to say everything I wanted and needed to, and I wanted the wording to be as close to perfect as I am capable of. Whether or not this blog post is perfect, I don’t know. I’d pretty much guarantee that it’s not. But I can guarantee that I put every ounce of my heart into writing this one post, and that’s all that truly counts.

Giving up blogging comes with its own set of strong, mixed emotions. This blog has been a huge portion of my life for the past six years. It’s allowed me the opportunity to correspond with dozens of interesting baseball figures and players, and even rewarded me with a trip with my grandpa to the 2012 Home Run Derby in Kansas City. I’ve gotten more than my fair share of good things out of this blog, and I feel extremely blessed for all of it.

I am now 21 years old, and, as previously stated, have been writing on this blog since January of 2011. That’s over a fourth of my entire life. I’ve poured my opinions and heart into a wide variety of posts, and I have truly had a blast doing so. But, although I’ll undoubtedly miss writing from time to time, the time has come for me to give it up. I’m moving on to the next chapter in my life, and I’m excited to find out what that will be.

Although I won’t be writing anymore on here, I’ll still be keeping track of all that’s going on around baseball, and my opinions will be as strong as ever. I’ll keep reading books and articles about baseball, I’ll keep watching MLB Network on a religious basis, and I’ll keep discussing baseball with my family and friends. My passion for the game hasn’t gone away — if anything it has gotten astronomically stronger. It’s my passion for writing about it that has faded. Thus, it’s time I step aside and give the next guy with opinions and a computer a chance.

So thank you, to every single person who has ever read anything I’ve had to say. At times, it probably didn’t seem like I knew what I was talking about, and most of the time I was simply recycling news that had been already relayed on larger markets, but people read what I had to say anyway. That means a tremendous amount to me.

At the end of the day, this blog wasn’t merely for me, but for all of the readers who share my passion for baseball. I hope I entertained you and informed you over the past six years as I covered the single greatest sport in the world. God bless.

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Q and A With Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly was drafted by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft, despite recording a 5.65 ERA his final year at the University of California-Riverside.

Joe KellyFollowing the draft, Kelly performed well in the minors and made a steady progression through the ranks from 2009 to 2012, earning a mid season call up in 2012 to the Cardinals, where he proceeded to post a 3.53 ERA over the course of 107 innings pitched.

Kelly had a terrific following year in 2013 with the Cardinals, recording a 2.69 ERA over 124 innings and looked to be on his way to becoming one of the Cardinals’ top pitching options in their rotation. But after a 4.37 ERA seven game start to the 2014 season, Kelly was traded to the Red Sox where he has remained ever since.

The 2015 season saw Kelly take the mound for the Red Sox 25 times, but his outings varied in consistency and his overall results were subpar. Following the up and down year, Kelly was shut down for the final portion of last season due to shoulder soreness, after a cumulative 4.82 ERA.

Despite the poor year for Kelly in 2015 and subsequent talks that he may be moved to the bullpen full time, many people still feel that he can turn things around to become an effective major league starting pitcher once again. After all, he still owns a decent career ERA of 3.82, and there have been plenty of signs in the past that he has the potential to still pan out.

Joe Kelly — pitcher for the Boston Red Sox — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I became most interested when I was about 5 years old. Growing up, my biggest influences were my parents. They were always so supportive and loving.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My favorite baseball player was Ken Griffey Jr. He was the best player in the league. Everyone loves a winner.

3.) You were drafted by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an awesome feeling. I was with my family and closest friends at a local pizza parlor. It was also my 21st birthday, and we had a great time celebrating all night.

4.) You made it to the World Series in 2013 with the Cardinals, and started game three. What was that overall experience like for you?

Being in the World Series is a great experience that I will never forget. I can’t wait to hopefully make it back and get a ring.

5.) For the Cardinals, you pitched in around 70 games before being traded to the Red Sox midseason in 2014. What were the biggest differences you noticed about switching to pitching in the American League? How difficult was it to make the transition during the season?

The biggest difference is that you don’t get to face the pitcher hitting. You actually have to focus on the number nine hitter and work for your out. It was hard in the middle of the season, because it was such short notice. I had to live in the hotel for two months in Boston.

6.) Throughout your career in the minors and majors, you’ve made the switch back and forth between the bullpen and starting rotation numerous times. How do you enable yourself to thrive in whatever role you are placed in?

I just try to keep pitching simple, whether it’s in the pen or being a starter.

7.) The Red Sox made the major additions of David Price and Craig Kimbrel this past offseason to bolster your rotation and bullpen. How do you feel their presence will impact the overall makeup of the Red Sox in 2016?

I think we have a really good team, and should compete for the top spot in the AL East. Adding those two guys is huge. They are great teammates and leaders. I can’t wait to play with them.

8.) After a somewhat poor start to 2015, you won eight consecutive starts from August through September before being shut down due to shoulder soreness. What do you feel you were doing differently that allowed you so much success?

I just started to locate my fastball with more consistency and mixed my off speed pitches well. I hope that I will pick up right where I left off at last season.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

Favorite show is ‘Breaking Bad’, and favorite food is ‘In-N-Out’.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would tell kids to just have fun, throw the ball as hard as you can and swing as hard as you can. You can always teach proper mechanics later on in life.

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Big thanks to Joe Kelly for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @JosephKellyJr

First for Cubs: World Series or All-Star Game?

It was reported recently that Wrigley Field will be the site of the Major League Baseball All-Star game sometime in the very near future. Logic would point to them being the hosts in 2019, after the All-Star game has been on display in San Diego this season, Miami in 2017 and Washington D.C. two years down the road. However, no official announcement has been made as to the exact year the midsummer classic will be held up in Chicago.Cubs

The last time the Cubs hosted the All-Star game was back in 1990, with standout players such as Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr. and Rickey Henderson, among many others, leading the American League to a 2-0 win over the National League. With such a long drought, it would seem only right that the Cubs receive another All-Star game.

Even so, as everyone around the baseball world knows, it’s not the 26-year All-Star game drought that the Cubs are famous for; it’s their 71-year World Series appearance drought (108 years since their last World Series title). But despite the fact that the Titanic sinking is more recent history than the last World Series Championship for the Cubs, there are many people who believe that 2016 could finally (this time for sure) be the Cubs’ year.

Currently possessing an unbelievable roster — even better than the one that took them to the postseason in 2015 — the Cubs appear to be in good shape headed into this year. They added veteran John Lackey this offseason to their already good rotation of Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Combine that with the pickup of Jason Heyward to man the outfield, and young stars Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo looking to build on great 2015 campaigns, the Cubs are definitely a team to watch closely this coming season.

With all of their talent, however, comes the question of which is more probable to come first: a World Series Championship for the Cubs or an All-Star game at Wrigley Field?

Given that Chicago (as previously stated) won’t be able to host the All-Star game until at least 2019, the Cubs have three full seasons to realize the dream that has been used as a trivia question for decades. But just getting to the Fall Classic is extremely difficult, as has been proven in the past, so your guess for which comes first is just as good as mine.

Despite all of that, I have to find myself believing in the Cubs and their chances of finally winning the World Series in the next three seasons. Sure, some of that belief may just be me as a baseball fan hoping for the Cubs to break their century-long World Series drought, but I honestly think they have a group of guys that can pull it off. Only time will tell if they win a title before they once again host an All-Star game, but after 108 years of disappointment, why can’t 2016 (or 2017 . . . or 2018) be their year?

Q and A With Ray Black

Ray Black was drafted by the Giants in the 7th round of the 2011 draft, but the journey to draft day wasn’t exactly a smooth one. Black underwent Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school after suffering an arm injury — the first of what would turn out to be many bad luck injuries. Thankfully, although the Tommy John surgery meant Black would have to be redshirted his freshman season, the University of Pittsburgh still honored their baseball scholarship offer to him, allowing Black to head there to play ball in 2009.Black

But the poor luck continued for Black in college when he tore his right meniscus during a workout before his sophomore season. Following a broken hand later on, Black then suffered a torn labrum after being officially drafted in 2011, which postponed him making his professional debut until all the way to April of 2014, despite being drafted almost three years prior. However, even after all the setbacks, when Black finally made his debut two years ago, he showed off every bit of the talent he possesses.

After posting a terrible 11.05 ERA over just 36.2 innings pitched in college, Black took off in 2014, and has done nothing but impress in his professional career, striking out 122 batters over his 60.1 career innings and holding opposing batters to a .146 average. In 2015 season alone, Black recorded a 2.88 ERA and struck out 51 over just 25 innings pitched.

Black spent all of 2015 at High-A, which isn’t where you’d necessarily expect to see a 25-year-old pitcher — one with a shot at making it all the way to the big leagues, that is. But Ray Black isn’t your average prospect, and there’s certainly nothing average about his fastball. Black can crank it up to triple digits consistently, and has been up around 103-104 at times. It’s that fastball that’s keeping Black as a standout in the Giants’ farm system despite numerous setbacks, and that will ultimately be the key to taking him all the way to the major leagues.

Ray Black — top prospect in the Giants’ organization — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I started playing when I was around 4-5 with my father in the backyard. He was probably my biggest influence. He always told me, and still does to today, “Whatever you decided to do, do with 100 percent conviction”. I joke with him that he’s the most knowledgable farmer on the topic of pitching mechanics.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

My favorite player was Nomar Garciaparra. I was a shortstop growing up, and Derek jeter was the most popular choice amongst kids my age. To be honest, he [Garciaparra] was really good. Boston was my team growing up, and he played with hustle.

3.) You were drafted by the Giants in the 7th round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The draft is a crazy time for a lot of guys. Most people will tell you the draft process didn’t go as expected for them. A lot of scouts had told me they didn’t see me going after the 5th round. So on draft day, I got a call in the 4th round and 6th round by the Phillies and White Sox. After brief negotiations, it was likely we wouldn’t come to an agreement, so they passed on me. I was frustrated at this time, so I started to walk out the door to meet with some friends, and my dad yelled out to me, “You just got drafted by the Giants”. I was excited. They had won the World Series in 2010, and I knew they were a good pitching organization. Shortly after, I was relieved the process was over.

4.) With you going through several surgeries before you ever even began your baseball career, what kind of effect did that have on your overall mentality? Did you ever have doubts about being able to pitch while staying healthy?

Injuries have taught me not to take the game for granted. My career could have — and probably should have — ended with my shoulder surgery. The process was difficult; I would ask “why me?”. But I kept my faith and worked through the process, knowing that light was at the end of the tunnel. There are times I overreact even to this day when I have arm tenderness, because I always assume the worst. But mentally and physically, I feel healthy and believe those injuries are in the past now.

5.) Once you were finally 100 percent healthy following the first month of the 2014 season, you were lighting up the radar gun in a way that you never had before. Hitting 100 consistently with your fastball, what do you attribute to you being able to throw faster than ever after being given a low chance of ever reaching high velocity again?

I think a lot of it had to do with the rehab process. My trainers put a program together to strengthen my arm. I’ve continued doing those exercises daily, and I take pride in my work ethic. There are always places to improve an individual’s game. For me, I strengthened my lower half, increased core exercises and continued shoulder rehab.

6.) You were selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League this past year. What did you work on most over your time spent out there? What did you take away from pitching against some of baseball’s best hitting prospects?

I really worked on my secondary pitches out there. When a good hitter is sitting fastball they’ll be able to hit it regardless of velocity. So with throwing my slider more often and showing it for strikes it takes people off my heater. I was humbled out there giving up some hits, and I held my own as well. But playing against some of the games best prospects is a privilege.

7.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

Life on the road is difficult at times. I enjoy hunting, so it’s hard missing archery, but being around guys your own age with similar interests is enjoyable. We’ll play cards, usually watch almost every sporting event when it’s on TV, and play video games. Sometimes I feel like I’m still a kid, blessed to be able to continue playing the same game I’ve been since I was a kid.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2015? What are your goals for 2016?

This past season was a tough year for me. I got hurt early, tried my hand as a starting pitcher (which didn’t go well) and by the time I was back in the pen and throwing again I questioned my own abilities. I got to the point of being afraid of contact. I tried throwing my best pitch, every pitch, and it would make my mechanics difficult to repeat. I ended the year with a better ERA than 2014, but my WHIP was higher. So I was able to improve on stranding runners in situations I had to, and I was able to get strikeouts in key situations, like runners in scoring position with less than two outs.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I like ‘Gotham’ right now. My favorite TV series was ‘Sons of Anarchy’, and I enjoyed ‘Band of Brothers’. I have a very deep appreciation for our military. It amazes me what they can do. And there’s nothing like deer back straps. I think everyone should experience venison.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I think the best advice I can give is what my father told me: Work for what you want. You can’t just wish for something to happen. If you want to be successful in anything, it starts with a strong work ethic; commit to something and do it with 100 percent conviction. Also, believe in yourself. I wasn’t always a starter; I sat at times in little league; I didn’t make every team I tried out for; I didn’t always throw the hardest. Just keep your goals in mind and work towards them daily.

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Big thanks to Ray Black for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @rayblack37

Q and A With J.P. Crawford

J.P. Crawford was drafted by the Phillies in the 1st round of the 2013 draft, after batting .452 his senior year at Lakewood High SchoolCrawford.

Since the draft, Crawford has made quick work of the minor leagues, thanks to his all around great gameplay that includes fantastic defense at shortstop.

Making it all the way up to Double-A in his second full professional season, Crawford recorded 6 homers and 42 RBI’s in 2015 to go along with a .380 OBP, and could very well make it to the big leagues in the very near future.

Crawford has already played in two futures games and is the bright spot at the top of a loaded Phillies farm system that looks to get them back into contention within the next few years.

J.P. Crawford — the number five prospect in all of baseball — took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I became interested in baseball when I was about 4-5. My older sister was my biggest influence. We would always push each other to do better.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

[Derek] Jeter and [Jimmy] Rollins were my favorites growing up because I played shortstop and my dad told me to watch how they respect the game.

3.) You were drafted by the Phillies in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. What was that moment like for you?

That moment was great. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Hearing your name called by the commissioner, and knowing your life is about to change. That moment really changed my life.

4.) You were selected to play in the Future’s Game in both 2014 and 2015. What was the experience like each time? 

It was such an honor to be there to partake in those events; to play with future all-stars, future hall of famers. It was great.

5.) In 2015, you were promoted to Reading after 21 games due to a superb start of a .392 average. Following your promotion, what kind of adjustments did you find yourself having to make with the transition to Double-A?

In AA, the main thing was just staying with your plan, and not trying to do too much. [Also], the pitchers knew how to pitch a lot better.

6.) With the Phillies having struggled for the past few years, how confident are you that the crop of talent (yourself included) making their way towards the big leagues will help transform the Phillies back into a competitive club?

I think we’re going to make a huge impact in a couple years if all this goes as planned. We have a great group of guys who are really close and play great team ball.

7.) Striking out a mere 54 times in 430 at-bats last season, what type of approach do you take at the plate that enables you to make contact so consistently over the course of any given season?

It’s just staying with my plan. If the pitch is a pitch you don’t wanna hit, then I take it. With two strikes, [I] shorten up and put it in play.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2015? What are your goals for 2016?

I think everything went well last year just fell one game short [of the Championship]. But next year [my goals are] to just stay consistent and healthy, and whatever level I reach I’ll be happy and ready to help my team win.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

The ‘Walking Dead’; my dad’s BBQ.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

My advice would be to want to win — but have fun doing it!

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Big thanks to J.P. Crawford for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @jp_crawford

Blogging Resolutions for 2016

Happy New Year, everyone!

As I’ve done for the past several years, I wanted to take the time to go over the main things I’m hoping to accomplish, blogging wise, throughout the coming year. All but one of the goals listed are basically the same as 2015, but I wanted to post them anyway just to give everyone an idea of what to expect in 2016.

The five main resolutions/goals I have for this blog in 2016 are as follows:

1. Blog at least once every 5 days:

This is the exact same goal number one that I set in 2015, but I feel it’s one of the most important ones. If I were to go more than five days in between entries, this blog wouldn’t be nearly as up-to-date as I would like it to be, or as I feel it should be. But any more often than once every five days on average would make things way too stressful for me to even want to attempt to tackle. For that reason, I’m keeping it at a maximum of five days. That number worked well in 2015, and I feel it will work equally as well in 2016.

2. Post 100 blog entries:

I didn’t succeed in reaching this number last year, but I’m going to make it a point to hit 100 somehow in 2016. It just seems like a nice round number. I was able to publish a record 128 blog posts in 2014, but I never feel that I will be able to come close to that again. In 2015, the number I hit was 95. That’s a lot of entries in a year, but I would like to hit 100 this year. Due to me being extremely busy throughout most of the year, I don’t have the time to dedicate to writing nearly as often as I used to, but I still wanted to keep this blog going. (For now, at least.)

3. Get more views than 2015:

My visitor numbers saw a huge drop in 2015 from 2014, so I feel this will be an easy goal to reach. If I can blog as often as I want to, I think my visitor numbers should also increase, but that’s out of my control. All I can do is write the posts and hope people continue to come back to read them. One of the things I would like to do and am planning to try to do is to write about things that aren’t necessarily being talked about by the bigger media markets. A lot of times I simply recycle news on here, but I’d like to have a few more original posts in 2016.

4. Go on a 4-post-blogging-streak:

In 2015, this was a three-post-blogging-streak. This year, however, I’ve raised it to four. Likely, this will occur around the All-Star break when there is a ton to write about, as it has in the past. However, it could be any time throughout the year. Getting posts up on back-to-back days is somewhat difficult, and doing so on numerous days in a row is obviously even harder. But I always like to post entries on multiple days in a row each year, and I feel confident that I can reach my goal of four days in a row at least once, if not twice, this year.

5. Reply to every comment that is left:

This has been one of my goals since this blog was first developed. Whenever a comment is left — being either a comment or a question — I like to always write the person back. It’s my way of letting the reader know that I’m paying attention and am interested in what they have to say. After all, it’s the readers that make this blog worth producing, and I feel that replying back to every comment is the least that I can do. This is always the easiest goal of the five for me to accomplish, but I feel like making it a goal once again anyway.

So, there you have it. My top five blogging resolutions/goals for 2016.

As I stated last year — a recurring theme in this blog post — I hope to make this my best year of blogging yet. If I can accomplish what I want to (and plan to), I feel it truly will be. That’s always the overall goal, to get better and better. I think 2016 is going to be an exciting year.

Last Blog Post Until 2016

This was originally going to be my last blog post ever. I had decided back in August that I wouldn’t be continuing this blog into another year and would end things with a final, definitive post in December. But things have changed. I have several interviews with some amazingly talented ballplayers already conducted, and I don’t want those to not be published. In addition, the closer the final day got, I found myself not wanting to give up blogging. That day is coming (likely in 2016), but that point hasn’t arrived just yet.

With all of that said — back on January 1st of this year, when I posted my blogging New Year’s Resolutions/Goals, I stated that I was going to attempt to blog at least once every five days in 2015, post 100+ entries, get more views than the year before, go on a christmas3-post-blogging-streak and reply to every comment that was left.

I was successful in blogging at the set pace, posting three blog posts on back-to-back-to-back days and replying to every comment, but I only wound up posting 95 entries this year and didn’t surpass my total views from last year. Even so, I think it was a rather successful year of blogging.

After another long, tedious blogging year, this will be my final post until 2016 rolls around (as the title suggests). It’s Christmas time, and therefore I don’t want to spend it working multiple hours on putting any blog posts together. I’ll save that for January. Meaning, if any major baseball news stories break, no matter how big they are, I won’t be writing about it. At least not until 2016.

My first post of the new year will be my blogging resolutions/goals for 2016, followed by my Hall of Fame ballot a few days after. Then I’ll take the time to recap the elected members after they’re announced, and write a five year blog anniversary post on the 20th. Along the way I’ll hopefully post an interview or two, in addition to providing my thoughts from time to time on the latest baseball news. After that, heading into February, things are up in the air.

To conclude the year, I just want to take the time to thank everyone who’s read my blog throughout the past year, and throughout its nearly five year existence. Whether you’re a regular or just check in from time to time, if it weren’t for you all I’d have no reason to blog. So thank you. I’m going to do my best to make 2016 the best year yet — even better than 2015 — and hopefully you will all continue to come back every so often to read what I have to say.

Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a Happy New Year.

I’ll be back in 2016.