Author: bkarsten

I am a student at Eastern Michigan University. This blog is for a social media class. I am interested in sports, so I will be happy to share my thoughts of anything going on about sports.

2014 in review in poetry

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

 

This is the final entry for Designated For Assignment. Coming January 5, 2015, D4A becomes “On the Warning Track”, dedicated to baseball at all levels.  See you there at http://onthewarningtrack.com.

Our Brandon Karsten gives his year in review a poetic twist. Good night to all and to all a good night.

 

By Brandon Karsten

This year started with the crowning of a national champ in Florida State.

When it came time to select Jameis Winston for the game’s MVP, there was no need to hesitate.

This year’s Super Bowl was quite boring.

Seeing Peyton Manning’s Broncos fail miserably reduced all of us to snoring.

 

The Winter Olympics for this year saw Russia playing host.

After two weeks of competing for medals, Russia came away with the most.

From March to April, we saw UConn march from a seventh seed to champions in the Final Four.

With so many exciting finishes, next year we’ll be back screaming for more.

 

With the beginning of spring came another season of baseball,

And with it came the eager anticipation of who will win in the fall.

Before Spring Training, Derek Jeter said the 2014 season would be his last,

And seeing him get the game winning hit in his last Yankee Stadium at-bat was a blast.

 

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was caught with something on his neck called pine tar.

And with that stunt he did not go very far.

One pitcher who was dominant this year was Clayton Kershaw.

On his way to the NL Cy Young and MVP, he left all of us in awe.

 

We saw an exciting World Cup in Brazil.

Every minute of soccer action seemed to offer a thrill.

The most talked about incident was Uruguay’s Luis Suarez’s bite,

But Mario Götze’s game-winning goal in the Final showed Germany’s might.

 

In the NBA Finals, the Spurs finally got to the Heat,

Showing the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can be beat.

It was hard to hear L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling ripping black fans and Magic.

Seeing that racism and prejudice in sports still exists today is quite tragic.

 

LeBron ultimately decided to return home to the Mistake by the Lake,

And we hope to see if a Cleveland title drought will finally break.

In the NHL, the L.A. Kings won Stanley’s Cup with Alec Martinez scoring the game-winner.

In five games, the New York Rangers were done like a TV dinner.

 

The NFL had a PR crisis with Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé Janay.

Rice and Adrian Peterson showed when it came to domestic violence, the NFL was in disarray.

Rest in peace Ralph Wilson, Don Zimmer and Kevin Ward, Jr. and others who died in 2014.

But we can’t forget Tony Gwynn, one of the best sluggers baseball has seen.

 

The person we’ll miss the most is Robin Williams, Giants fan and king of funny.

His wit and humor seemed to turn even the gloomiest of days bright and sunny.

With him gone, in our lives he has left a big gaping hole.

I think what we will miss is what he put into every one of his movies: Soul.

 

Robin would be happy to know that the Giants won the World Series, their third in five years.

But the story was the red-hot Royals who brought K.C. fans a lot of joy and cheers.

Those Royals ran into a pitcher by the nickname of MadBum.

After seeing Madison Bumgarner pitch in the Fall Classic, he left all of us feeling numb.

 

This year for Michigan football was a complete joke.

AD Dave Brandon resigned and the next guy looking for a job was coach Brady Hoke.

With 2015 upcoming, something new called a college football playoff will begin.

Right now it’s hard to predict who will win.

 

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton signed the biggest contract extension in sports history.

Whether that will help the Marlins make the playoffs in 2015 is only a mystery.

Let’s rejoice in the reason for the season: God sending His son to show us the light.

I say Merry Christmas to you all and to all a good night.

 

Brandon Karsten is a contributor to Designated Four Assignment. He can be found on Facebook or reached through bkarsten2009@hotmail.com.

Seattle’s Chris Young, the comeback kid- er, man

Photo credit: Otto Greule Jr. Getty Images

AL All-Stars take Midsummer Classic 5-3

jeter all-star

By Brandon Karsten

Baseball’s stars came out Tuesday night at Minneapolis’ Target Field for the 85th Major League Baseball All-Star Game between the American and National Leagues. The AL won 5-3, but one star outshone them all in the last Midsummer Classic appearance of his illustrious career.

New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter went 2-for-2 at the plate with a double, a single and a run scored. Before the start of the fourth inning with the A.L. ahead 3-2, Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez jogged out to take Jeter’s place. Then the stadium came to life with people standing and clapping, and flash bulbs twinkling randomly throughout the stadium in acknowledgement of the last time the American League All-Star Team will have a player named Jeter occupying shortstop.

A.L. starting pitcher Felix Hernandez gave up one hit, an infield single to Andrew McCutchen, and struck out two batters in the first inning. With the A.L. up to bat, and after Jeter received a standing ovation, he used his classic inside-out swing to slash a double down the right field line off starting St. Louis hurler Adam Wainwright. Mike Trout followed with a triple to right to score Jeter for the game’s first run. Detroit’s dangerous slugger Miguel Cabrera cranked a two-run homer over the left field fence to put the American League up 3-0.

Boston’s Jon Lester took the hill to start the top of the second frame and ran into trouble. The left-hander gave up a one-out single to Aramis Ramirez of Milwaukee. Chase Utley of the Phillies hit a double to centerfield to score Ramirez and the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy followed up with another two-bagger to score Utley.

After Ramirez replaced Jeter at shortstop in the fourth, the newly inserted pitcher Chris Sale, of the Chicago White Sox, hit Utley with a pitch and Dee Gordon of the L.A. Dodgers pinch ran in his place. Lucroy the former Twin, tied the ballgame for the Senior Circuit with his second double of the ballgame to score Gordon and tie the game at three.

Both squads were held scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning when St. Louis reliever Pat Neshek, another form Twins player,  surrendered two straight singles to Oakland’s Derek Norris and Ramirez. Trout came through again, this time with a double down the left field line to score Norris and put the A.L. All-Stars ahead 4-3. With Ramirez at third, Houston’s Jose Altuve hit a sacrifice fly to left to plate Ramirez for a 5-3 AL lead.

Cabrera went 1-for-3 with two runs batted in, and his lone hit was the two-run dinger in the first, which was the first of his All-Star Game career. Trout’s two hits and a pair of RBI earned him the All-Star Game MVP Award.

On the N.L. side, Yasiel Puig struggled at the plate, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Lucroy finished his first All-Star Game with a 2-for-2 performance at the plate with the two hits as doubles. Detroit’s Max Scherzer was the winning pitcher for the A.L. All-Stars while Neshek got the loss and Minnesota’s closer Glen Perkins hurled a perfect ninth inning to get the save to help the American League earn home field advantage for the World Series.

You can reach Brandon Karsten at bkarsten2009@hotmail.com or find him on Facebook.

MLB: V-Mart gets better with age

victor-martinez-07.jpg

This year, Victor Martinez has not let age or injuries slow him down. (Photo courtesy of AP)

by Brandon Karsten

Reports of the death of the baseball career of Detroit Tigers’ slugger Victor Martinez have turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Despite seeing the Tigers go through a bit of a May malaise recently, with eight losses in ten games, Martinez has become the bright spot in the Tigers’ lineup with his consistency at the plate.

One would only have to look at Martinez’s stats to see that this year, the 35-year old has gotten better with age. Entering play last Thursday, he led the team in batting (.341), on-base percentage (.396) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.996).

The Tigers signed the former Indian (six years) and Red Sox (two years) catcher as  a free agent prior to the 2011 season.  At the time, it looked like the right move in the hopes of getting Detroit and the Illitch family ownership one step closer to that elusive and coveted World Series ring. Martinez brought with him the potential to hit for power from both sides of the plate, whether he was the DH, catcher or first baseman. The 2011 season saw Martinez hit at a career-high .330 and knock in 103 runs, which was the fourth time he drove in more than 100 runs in his career.

But then a knee injury incurred during the following Spring Training kept him out of the lineup for all of 2012. Despite the obstacle of having no Martinez in the lineup, the Tigers made it all the way to the Fall Classic thanks to Miguel Cabrera’s MVP season. There, they fell in four games to the San Francisco Giants.

One could say this year’s resurgence by Martinez could be traced back to 2013. He started pretty slowly in the first couple of months of the season, but really heated up once the calendar flipped to July. He ended the regular season with a .301 average, which was the seventh time in his career he finished above .300.1

Over the past winter, the Tigers traded Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. With Fielder gone, it left the door open for Martinez to fill in at the clean-up spot as well as serve as lineup protection for Cabrera.

Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com pointed out that Martinez thrives in two-strike count situations. Castrovince found that, as of May 20, Martinez’s .363 average led the majors with two-strike counts.2 With the ability to come through with two strikes, Martinez has also been one tough guy to strikeout. His 13 strikeouts, entering play Monday, matches his total home runs.

With numbers like that, one would have to think he would be a candidate for the designated hitter spot for the All-Star Game in Minneapolis, right? Except, that’s not the case. MLB.com writer Jason Beck wrote last week that Martinez sat third in the fan votig at the DH position, with Boston’s David Ortiz and Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz ahead of him.3

If winning trends continue for Martinez the rest of the year, and with free agency coming up after 2015, he will have made his own case as to why the Tigers should keep him for however long his baseball career lasts.

 

[1] baseball-reference.com

[2] mlb.com (May 20)

[3] mlb.com (May 27)

 

Brandon Karsten is a contributor to Designated Four Assignment. He can be found on Facebook or contacted by email at bkarsten2009@hotmail.com.

Dodgers in deep trouble?

The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw on the DL. Are they in trouble?

by Brandon Karsten

The Los Angeles Dodgers were a great story to follow last year. They got off to a bad start and were well below the .500 mark in late May. Then, all of a sudden, manager Don Mattingly went from being in the hot seat to having his name thrown into the race for NL Manager of the Year.

How did that happen so quickly? Thanks to a player, Yasiel Puig, who, like the team itself, seemingly came out of nowhere…  a beat-up team regained its health. However, injuries to key players in the early going this year threaten to stall the momentum the Dodgers picked up in 2013.

The Dodgers came into the season boasting a solid starting rotation, with reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw as the centerpiece of the staff.  Former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren were set to follow him in the rotation. However, the Bums’ starting rotation suffered a setback when Kershaw was scratched from the home opener versus San Diego, and he ultimately landed on the disabled list due to strained muscle in his upper back.1

Kershaw joined fellow starters Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley on the sidelines,  but is expected to rehab for about two or three weeks and team doctors expect him to be out until May.2 Billingsley is still recovering from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last yea,r while Beckett went down with a thumb sprain. Since he was in Arizona recovering from a strained calf muscle, Greinke didn’t make the opening series trip to Australia.  But, he pitched effectively in his first start of the year, with five innings of two-run ball against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.

Another injury the Dodgers have to deal with is to right-handed reliever Brian Wilson. Wilson was acquired by the Dodgers in the middle of the 2013 season in order to bolster the bullpen down the stretch. He has undergone two Tommy John surgeries in his career and is looking at time on the on the disabled list with nerve irritation in his right elbow. Wilson was placed on the 15-day DL and is expected to throw some innings in minor league games.3

Matt Kemp was on and off the DL most of last year and played in only 73 games in 2013. He was still recovering from shoulder surgery to start the 2013 campaign. He then re-injured his surgically repaired shoulder in early July and didn’t return to the big league club until mid-September, only to see limited action again with soreness in his ankle that caused him to miss the playoffs.4 After spending most of spring training recovering and missing the Australian Opening Series, Kemp was back in time for last Friday’s home opener.

As of this writing, the Dodgers are more than staying afloat with a 6-3 record. Once they get their injured players back,they should become a powerhouse in the National League.

1 – mlb.com

2 – sportsillustrated.com

3 – mlb.com

4 – usatoday.com

 

Brandon Karsten is a contributor to Designated Four Assignment. He can be found on Facebook or contacted by email at bkarsten2009@hotmail.com.

MLB Preview: Will the Pirates raise the Jolly Roger in 2014?

Andrew  McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to go deeper into the postseason in 2014.

by Brandon Karsten

Key acquisitions: IB Chris McGuiness, RHP Edinson Volquez, C Chris Stewart.

Key losses: RHP A.J. Burnett, 1B Justin Morneau, 1B Garrett Jones, OF Marlon Byrd

The Pittsburgh Pirates created a buzz througout Major League Baseball in 2013. The Bucs not only had their first winning season since 1992 (When a player named Barry Bonds was patrolling left field at Three Rivers Stadium), but also locked up the NL Wild Card with a one-game winner-take-all victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Pirates lost the Division Series in five games to the eventual National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals, but the season’s achievements gave the team new confidence. With the off-season dapartures of some of the players that got them over the hump last season, the Pirates will have to rely on some of their home grown talent keep that buzz alive in the Steel City.

To continue to build on last year’s success, Pittsburgh will have to turn to its mega-star, Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen won the National League MVP after finishing third in the MVP voting in 2012 and got his second straight Silver Slugger Award. But while McCutchen is the rock of the outfield, who’ll be helping him out?

With the free-agent departure of Marlon Byrd to the Phillies, the Pirates have three other experienced outfielders on the roster: Starling Marte, Travis Snider, and Jose Tabata. The lack of outfield depth may force the Bucs to pick up another player off the end-of-Spring Training waiver wire.

The infield has undergone some changes as well. Pedro Alvarez will continue to be a mainstay at the hot corner and in the heart of the lineup. Although Alvarez struggled at the plate with a .296 on-base-percentage, he led the National League in home runs (36) and cracked the 100 RBI plateau for the first time in his career. With Garrett Jones and Justin Morneau gone, Gaby Sanchez will get the bulk of the at-bats at first base. Travis Ishikawa will spell him from time to time.

Russell Martin returns as the starting catcher, but the Bucs need find a solid back-up catcher after Michael McKenry was designated for assignment. The Pirates got veteran backstop Chris Stewart in early December from the Yankees in exchange for a player to be named later. However, Stewart suffered a knee injury during a Spring Training on March 12 and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s expected to miss four-to-six weeks. For now, Tony Sanchez will back up Martin.

LINEUP
C: Russell Martin
1B: Gaby Sanchez
2B: Neil Walker
SS: Jordy Mercer
3B: Pedro Alvarez
LF: Starling Marte
CF: Andrew McCutchen
RF: Jose Tabata

The starting rotation looks almost similar to 2013 with the exception of A.J. Burnett. Burnett went across the state of Pennsylvania to Philadelphia for a one-year, $15 million deal with an option for 2015.1 New to the rotation is Dominican righty Edinson Volquez, who signed a one year and $5 million contract 2 The Pirates will be counting on Gerrit Cole, who made his major league debut in the middle of the season, to build off his 12-game debut. (5-3, 2.91)

ROTATION
SP: Francisco Liriano
SP: Charlie Morton
SP: Gerrit Cole
SP: Wandy Rodriguez
SP: Edison Volquez

The bullpen remained pretty much the same from last year. Jason Grilli proved last year he was a reliable closer with 33 saves in 35 chances. When Grilli was injured in midseason, the Bucs showed they had a solid replacement in Mark Melancon.

BULLPEN
Jason Grilli
Mark Melancon
Tony Watson
Justin Wilson
Jeanmar Gomez
Stolmy Pimentel
Bryan Morris

BENCH

Clint Barmes and Josh Harrison are the utility infielders, with Harrison also the fifth out fielder for now.

Pittsburgh’s top prospect, outfielder Gregory Polanco,  was sent down to AAA Indianapolis aftera decent showing  in Spring Training. He’ll start the season at Triple-A Indianapolis, but could join the Pirates during the season.

Also waiting for a major league call-up this year will be Jameson Taillon. The righty Taillon spent most of 2013 at Double-A Altoona with some starts in Indianapolis. Taillon, the 2010 second overall draft pick, was one of the first cuts in the Pirates Spring Training camp and will start the year in Indianapolis.3

OUTLOOK

Just like last year, Pittsburgh will have to fight with St. Louis to win the NL Central. The defending NL Champion  Cardinals lost Carlos Beltran to free agency and traded away 2011 World Series hero David Freese, but still maintain a solid rotation in Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.

With most of the key players back and a taste of the postseason in their mouths, the Pirates appear to be hungry and are primed to continue where they left off in 2013.

1 – mlb.com

2 – mlb.com

3 –  wtae.com

Brandon Karsten is a contributor to Designated Four Assignment. He can be found on Facebook or contacted by email at bkarsten2009@hotmail.com.