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.

Last Blog Post Until 2017

Another year has nearly come and gone, and so goes the previous twelve months of blogging. After nearly giving up my baseball blog at the end of last year, I decided to continue it into this year, but am leaning towards making early 2017 as the expiration date for my blog. christmas

No matter what I decide, though, this will definitely be my final blog post until next year arrives in 9 days. With Christmas time upon us, I don’t want to have to worry about hoping on here to post a blog entry every fifth day, and therefore will be holding off until the new year.

When 2017 does arrive, the first day of the year will see some sort of post, but I haven’t decided what it will be about yet. Normally, I write about the goals I have for the coming blogging year, but with me not guaranteeing that I’ll see the entire year through, I’m not sure what it will be about yet.

Regardless, after that will come my unofficial Hall of Fame vote, with the official election results being written about in a post when things are announced on January 18th. It should be interesting to see who gets inducted with such a strong class this year.

January 20th will mark the sixth year of my blog, and that’s the make-or-break point for the entire year. I’ll either decided to make that my final post ever or I will continue on for as long as I can. It has yet to be determined.

Should I decide to keep going, I’ll likely post another entry towards the end of the month regarding the release of the 2017 Top 100 Prospects list by MLB.com. I always find it interesting to talk about and review, and will be sure to write about it if I’m still going.

But no matter what I decide to do beyond January 20th, the first three weeks will be fairly straightforward blogging, assuming no big baseball news takes place.

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

I’ll be back in 2017 (at least for a short while).

Time Running Out for Teams Looking to Make Playoffs

There comes a point in every baseball season when teams who have kept hope alive all year long for a turnaround that would see them subsequently powering their way to the playoffs have to face the reality that time has simply run out.cole

For the Braves and Twins, that point in the season has already come and gone, as they have both officially been eliminated from playoff contention. For another nine squads still technically in the race, a shot at the postseason is looking very slim, as they’ve already been eliminated from the possibility of winning their given division, with their elimination number to grab even a wild card spot growing smaller and smaller everyday.

Eight teams have elimination numbers in the single digits (the Rays are just two loses away from complete elimination) with just under twenty games left in the regular season. With things slowly begin to wind down, a rough idea of the teams that will make up the postseason is already starting to take shape.

The Cubs are well on their way to a 100-win season, and should become the first team to clinch a playoff spot in the coming weeks. Likewise, the Nationals and Rangers are approaching 90-win seasons, and look to be postseason-bound.

However, on the flip side, teams such as the Marlins, Pirates and Rockies in the National League, and the Astros, Mariners and Royals in the American League, are going to have to go on major runs to have any shot at a Wild Card spot. Given, baseball is a game in which any team can go on a major run at any point in the year and make the postseason in spectacular fashion (the Mariners have won six straight), the chance of doing so with so few games left is a major feat to attempt to accomplish.

But even if a team or two does shock the world and make the playoffs, the most difficult part of their journey won’t be complete. They’ll then have to go up against powerhouse teams such as the Cubs, who seem determined to make the World Series and end their century-long World Championship drought. For that reason, it’ll be interesting to watch all the teams around baseball to see what goes down over the next few weeks.

Time may be running out, but the fun is just beginning.

My Initial 2016 MLB All-Star Game Ballot

We aren’t even a month into the baseball season, and the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star game ballot has already been released. I feel it’s a little too early to be casting votes for the Midsummer Classic, as some superstar players have gotten off to rough starts and will likely get back to their former glory by the time the All-Star game arrives on July 12th out in San Diego, while some previously unknown players who have busted out of the gate will likely be merely trickling along by that time.San Diego

But even so, I decided to go ahead and post a blog on the subject, regardless of the earliness of it all.

Voting itself is simple. Although there are no longer paper ballots that you can pick up and fill out at your local ballpark, you can head over to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You can vote up to 5 times per day, and 35 times total, for the players of your choice. (Voting is open until June 30th.)

Due to the All-Star game still being over two months away, I divided things up a bit this year. I’m going to go ahead and cast 15 votes for the players I feel are All-Star worthy as of now (the players discussed below), with a plan to go back and cast my other 20 available votes in the final week leading up to the actual game. Odds are, at least a few of them will be different, but as for right now, here are the players at each position that I feel are deserving of playing in the 2016 MLB All-Star game:

FIRST BASE:  Joe Mauer (AL),  Adrian Gonzalez (NL)

With guys such as Eric Hosmer, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis to choose from in the American League portion of things, this wasn’t necessarily an easy decision, but I ended up going with Joe Mauer. Leading the pack in batting average, Mauer has really gotten off to a nice start of what looks to be a bounce back season.

For the National League, I chose Adrian Gonzalez. He is second in the National League first basemen group in average, and is off to an equally good start as Joe Mauer. Amazingly, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo are all batting down around .200, making this a somewhat easy choice.

SECOND BASE: Ian Kinsler (AL),  Neil Walker (NL)

Picking between Jose Altuve and Ian Kinsler was rather difficult, as both have stats very similar to the other. In the end, however, I chose Kinsler for the all-around game he brings to the table. While Altuve has had a hot bat to begin the season, it’s Kinsler who I feel can continue to hold his streak the longest.

There are multiple options for National League secondbaseman, with Daniel Murphy and Jean Segura’s high averages jumping out as All-Star worthy. But I wound up picking Neil Walker, who has a combination of a good average, along with a high early homer total that make him All-Star game worthy.

SHORTSTOP:  Carlos Correa (AL),  Zack Cozart (NL)

After winning the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year award, I currently have Carlos Correa being the AL starting shortstop at the All-Star game as well. Correa plays a great defense and has just as much pop in his bat as anyone around baseball. Therefore, I picked him on my ballot.

The National League shortstop spot goes to Zack Cozart in my mind. While Trevor Story leads the pack in homers and RBI’s, the majority of those came during his extremely hot (and historic) first several games. Recently, Story has cooled off a ton, and the shortstop spot is Cozart’s to lose, in my opinion.

THIRD BASE: Manny Machado (AL),  Nolan Arenado (NL)

There are a ton of worthy candidates in the American League for All-Star game third baseman, but, unfortunately, I could only choose one on my ballot. Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and even Adrian Beltre all have cases. But I went with Manny Machado, who has been incredible to start the season.

Going against Maikel Franco and Kris Bryant was extremely hard to do, especially with them getting off to good starts, but I didn’t go with either of them. Instead, I went with Nolan Arenado. Although his stats aren’t much better than any of the other options, Arenado is one of the best both offensively and defensively at the position.

CATCHER:  Salvador Perez (AL), Wellington Castillo  (NL)

Though his average is a good distance away from the magic .300 mark, Salvador Perez is deserving of the All-Star catcher slot. He is having a great season in Kansas City, once again, and easily earns my vote. Always consistently good, Perez is one of the best catchers in the game, and should be honored as such.

Yadier Molina is always the heavy favorite for National League starting catcher, and he is once again on top in batting average. But I didn’t go with Molina. Instead, I went with breakout catcher, Wellington Castillo. Castillo is having a great year to this point, and he has a very good case for being named the starter in July.

DESIGNATED HITTER: David Ortiz

David Ortiz could be hitting .100 by the time the All-Star game rolls around and he still would be worthy of the vote. Being his final season, and with all he’s done over his career, he deserves it no matter what. But the stats are there, regardless. Ortiz more than deserves to play in his final All-Star game.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down several dozen players to three All-Star picks for each league, especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:

Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout and Steven Souza Jr. (AL)

Picking Mark Trumbo and Steven Souza Jr. was a bit tough, but they’re having too good of seasons for me to ignore. Although they likely won’t be the top vote-getters when all is said and done, they earn my vote for now. Mike Trout, on the other hand, was a no-brainer. Despite a slow start, Trout is heating things up, and is still a superstar.

Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes and Ryan Braun (NL)

As with Mike Trout in the AL, picking Bryce Harper for National League outfield was the easiest choice of the three. But after a lot of debate between the candidates to fill the other places, I wound up choosing Yoenis Cespedes and Ryan Braun, who are each having uniquely great seasons, and are each very exciting players to watch.

My First Games of 2016 Taking Place This Week

If you’ve been following this blog for any extended period of time, or if you’ve simply taken the time to peruse through the hundreds of posts I’ve written, you know that one of the many things I enjoy doing during any given baseball season is going out to the ballpark and getting autographs from some of baseball’s up-and-coming top talent.

This season, I’m planning to be much more selective than I have been in the past with which games I go to (due to a number of factors), but I still plan on making it out to my fair share of games in 2016.

ProspectsTuesday kicks off my baseball season, as I’m heading out to watch the Mudcats take on the Salem Red Sox. The top three prospects of the Red Sox farm system — Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi — are all apart of the current Salem team, so I’m really looking forward to attending this game.

On the other side of things, the Mudcats have their top prospect, Dansby Swanson, as well as 2014 first round draft pick, Braxton Davidson. With so much talent, I’ll either leave the game very elated — having gotten an autograph from most if not all of them — or very disappointed.

But while that game features four of the top 25 prospects in all of baseball, making it one of the best minor league games I’ve ever been to (talent-wise) in my life, the next game on the docket for me isn’t far behind.

On the following Sunday, April 24th, I’m planning on heading out to Durham to see them take on the visiting Indianapolis Indians — the Pirate’s Triple-A affiliate. I’d been looking forward to seeing this team since last season, when I projected so many good players to be apart of their roster. Three of their top four prospects makeup this team, in Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon, in addition to Alen Hanson, their number ten prospect. Thus, it should turn out to be a great game.

All in all, this coming week, I’m planning to see eight of the top 53 prospects in person (including Blake Snell for the Bulls). With this season so uncertain as to how often I’ll be out at the ballpark, it’s nice to get off to such a great start to the year. No matter how the season winds up panning out for me autograph-wise over the next five months, I’m still planning to blog about it all (as I have in the past) after I’ve attended my last game sometime in September.

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

Blogging Plan for the Final Month of 2015

It seems like just yesterday that I posted my first blog post of 2015 way back in January, however, the month of December is truly only a few short days away. But just because the year is winding down doesn’t mean my blogging is.

While the month of December is never an exceedingly busy blogging month, there are some things I’m planning to write about.

The MLB Winter Meetings are quickly approaching, set to take place from December 6th to the 10th in Nashville, Tennessee. With some of the biggest offseason transactions usually taking place during those meetings, there is sure to be a ton to write about as teams begin reshaping their teams into what they hope will be 2016 contenders.

Following that, at some point (the date hasn’t been announced), the GIBBY Awards (Greatness In Baseball Yearly) are due to be announced, though I haven’t seen anything about that yet. That seems rather odd, with there usually being something about it written several weeks in advance. But as far as I know, the awards are still being handed out. If so, I’ll be sure to post something about it.

Most of December, I’ll just be writing about what seems relevant at the particular point in time, but the one thing I know I’ll be doing, other than what I previously mentioned, is interviews. I posted my first 2015 offseason interview last weekend, but there are two more already complete, with there to be more in the works, theoretically. Those two interviews will likely be posted this coming month.

Other than that, everything is up in the air. You’ll just have to check back to see what I decide to write about.