THE AUTHOR

Ian Casselberry is a freelance writer, currently based in Asheville, NC. He is an editor at The Comeback and Awful Announcing

Previously, he has been a contributing writer for Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew, MLive.com and SB Nation. In addition, he was a lead baseball writer for Bleacher Report. 

You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook, where he craves your attention.

He still plans to write that novel someday. 

("Pearls Before Swine" © 2005 Stephan Pastis)
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Entries in MLB (46)

Tuesday
Jul282015

Troy Tulowitzki and I will always have this moment

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Toronto Blue Jays late Monday night/early Tuesday morning.

I'll save the baseball side of it for whatever I write at The Outside Corner, though Rockies fans have to be bummed about the face of the franchise being traded. (Even if it was expected.) On a personal note, Tulowitzki and I will always have this moment from this past June when he read a "mean tweet" of mine. 

No hard feelings, Tulo? It was a joke. I don't even remember when or why I tweeted that. If we ever meet, we can talk about what a great city Toronto is. Probably my favorite place I've visited. I love it there. OK, we can talk about the tweet too, if you even remember it by that point. 

Wednesday
Jul152015

The Outside Corner's 2013 MLB midseason awards, including my picks

With Major League Baseball having its All-Star break, everyone writing about baseball is handing out midseason awards. Obviously, we're no exception at The Outside Corner. Here are the winners of our staff vote:

American League MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels 
National League MVP: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

AL Rookie: Lance McCullers, Houston Astros 
NL Rookie: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers

Those were the picks on my individual ballot too. I'd love to say I swam against the current on some of these picks, but most of these winners were pretty clear. 

Had we voted for top managers in each league, I'd have picked the Yankees' Joe Girardi in the AL and Chip Hale of the D-Backs in the NL. 

If you really want to know, here are all the picks I submitted to my editor, ranking candidates from 1 to 5:

AL MVP
Mike Trout, Angels
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
George Springer, Astros
Manny Machado, Orioles

NL MVP
Bryce Harper, Nationals
Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Buster Posey, Giants
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Todd Frazier, Reds

AL Cy Young
Chris Sale, White Sox
Dallas Keuchel, Astros
David Price, Tigers
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Corey Kluber, Indians

NL Cy Young
Max Scherzer, Nationals
Zach Greinke, Dodgers
Gerrit Cole, Pirates
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Johnny Cueto, Reds

AL ROY
Lance McCullers, Astros
Devon Travis, Blue Jays
Carlos Correa, Astros

NL ROY
Joc Pederson, Dodgers
Kris Bryant, Cubs
Noah Syndergaard, Mets

Monday
Apr062015

My 2015 MLB predictions

Happy Opening Day, everyone! Technically, the 2015 MLB season began Sunday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago (the piss-soaked Wrigley Field, from all accounts), but for most fans, baseball begins today (Monday, April 6). 

With that, here are my predictions for the upcoming season on the record. My picks from last year are available here, where you can see that I was terribly wrong on the Rays, Red Sox and Braves. And I think I finally have to give up the idea that Evan Longoria is ever going to win an American League MVP award.

But I still haven't given up on the Washington Nationals winning the World Series! For the third year in a row, they're my pick to win it all. Not exactly going out on a limb there. The Nats are the popular pick among most baseball writers, it seems. Here are the rest of my picks for division winners, postseason and regular season awards. 

AL East: Blue Jays
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Mariners
Wild Cards: Athletics, White Sox

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
Wild Cards: Pirates, Marlins

AL playoffs: Blue Jays over White Sox, Indians over Mariners
ALCS: Indians over Blue Jays

NL playoffs: Nationals over Pirates, Dodgers over Cardinals
NLCS: Nationals over Dodgers

World Series: Nationals over Indians

AL MVP: Jose Abreu
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
NL Cy Young: Jordan Zimmermann

AL Rookie of the Year: Carlos Rodon
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant

Oh, and my "bold prediction" is that the Reds' Bryan Price will be the first manager fired this year. You can also see these picks alongside those of my colleagues at The Outside Corner, my baseball writing for the third consecutive season. Bloguin has been berry, berry good to me.

My fellow Tigers fans probably aren't going to be happy with my predictions. (Or given my track record with picks, they might be thrilled.) I'm probably underrating them this season, and I'm beginning to feel like I'm overrating the Indians. But it's going to be difficult for this team to make the postseason again, I believe. 

All right, check back in November to see how wrong I was!  

Tuesday
Jan062015

My 2015 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

On Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 6), the 2014 class for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced. Last year, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) elected three players to Cooperstown, a somewhat surprising total, considering no players were voted in the previous year. But that speaks to how outstanding Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were during their careers. 

I think it's notable who isn't allowed to cast ballots in BBWAA voting. For instance, broadcasters. Bob Costas and Vin Scully don't have a vote, if you can believe that. Nor do beat reporters for MLB.com, who may well see more baseball on a daily basis than anyone. 

But many baseball writers whose work is on the internet don't have a say in the process. (Though to be fair, the BBWAA has been more inclusive of internet writers, with writers from ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports and CBSsports.com allowed into the organization over the past two years.)

That's where Howard Cole, who created the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA), comes in. The IBWAA presents an alternative view to the traditional vote, giving a voice to those who don't have one. No, the IBWAA vote doesn't count, in terms of determining Hall of Fame election. But the balloting provides an intriguing comparison. 

You can read interviews with Howard regarding the IBWAA at the Los Angeles Daily News and Big League Stew.

This is my second year of membership in the IBWAA, and thus the second time I participated in its Hall of Fame balloting. I'm obviously grateful to be recognized among peers, but above all, appreciate some glimpse into how difficult this vote really can be. 

Read More >>

One key difference in the IBWAA ballot is that members voted to expand the ballot to 15 names, instead of the 10 that the BBWAA is restricted to (a limit that a growing number of voters are objecting to). Also, Barry Larkin — who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012 — hasn't received 75 percent of the vote in IBWAA balloting, while Mike Piazza got the necessary percentage of votes in 2012 and Craig Biggio was voted in by the IBWAA last year. Hopefully, those disparaties are cleared up in the next year or two, since it leads to unnecessary confusion. 

Last year, I used up all 10 spots on my ballot and probably would have included another two or three players, had I been allowed. Yet with 15 choices available this year, I actually didn't like having the extra space. Many voters would disagree, but I like having to make difficult choices. I'll admit to putting a couple of extra players on my ballot simply because I had the open slots. 

So with that said, here is my 2015 IBWAA ballot. 

1. Randy Johnson
2. Pedro Martinez
3. John Smoltz
4. Barry Bonds
5. Roger Clemens
6. Jeff Bagwell
7. Tim Raines
8. Barry Larkin
9. Curt Schilling
10. Mike Mussina
11. Alan Trammell 
12. Gary Sheffield

 

I thought it was especially important to vote for Alan Trammell, who's in his second-to-last year of eligbility on the ballot. Some might call that a homer pick, since I'm a Tigers fan. But I feel like Larkin and Trammell have very similar numbers, though Tram played one more season and Larkin won a National League MVP award in 1995. (If Trammell had won the AL MVP in 1987, would he be in the Hall of Fame now?) 

Initially, I wasn't ready to vote for Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina, but in comparing their numbers to John Smoltz, I felt I couldn't put one on my ballot without the others. (Although when limited to 10 spots on my ballot for an imaginary vote at Bless You Boys, I did exclude Smoltz in favor of Schilling, which was my toughest choice.)

In looking at my ballot, which I cast in early December, I think I probably should have included Edgar Martinez as well. I had until Dec. 31 to submit my vote. In retrospect, perhaps I should have waited and pondered over the ballot a bit longer. 

Also, I've explained this before, but I'm on the side that is willing to vote for those associated with or suspected of PED use. Though I realize many disagree, I feel that we don't know who was taking those substances and who wasn't while they were playing. Excluding Bonds and Clemens — two of the best baseball players I've ever watched — from the Hall of Fame distorts the history of the game.

So I don't think it's fair to single a few players out, especially if there was no actual proof that certain players used PEDs. Suspicion isn't enough to exclude them, and I think it's horribly unfair for some voters to do so. 

As you can see, I voted for the players associated with or suspected of PED use. I know many voters and fans feel differently, believing that Bonds, Clemens and Palmeiro are known cheaters whose achievements are tainted. Others also suspect, with no viable proof, Bagwell and Piazza, which is presumably why they haven't been elected yet. 

In my view, we don't know who was taking PEDs and who wasn't, so I don't think it's fair to single a few players out — even if they were discovered to have taken such substances. I also feel that excluding Bonds and Clemens — two of baseball's greatest players — from the Hall of Fame distorts the history of the game.

I'm not certain I got my ballot right this year. As I mentioned, I already have a regret or two, though those aren't irrevocable decisions. But I feel good about it overall and have no problem defending it. I'm eager to see how the BBWAA vote turns out on Tuesday afternoon. 

Monday
Jun092014

Manny Machado has some problems and needs to simmer down

Since he was called up to the majors — in what looked like a panic move late in the 2012 season — one of my favorite MLB players to watch has been the Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado. 

Yet after his actions over the weekend in a series versus the Oakland Athletics, I think it has to legitimately be asked whether or not this guy has some problems. At the very least, he seems to have issues with controlling his emotions and misjudging how his actions could lead to someone getting seriously hurt.

For those not familiar with Machado's actions, here's a recap.

On Friday, he was tagged out running between second and third base by Oakland's Josh Donaldson. Whether Machado took issue with the tag — which looked harmless, but perhaps felt like a slap at the stomach — or didn't like having to come to a sudden stop on a surgically repaired left knee, he threw his batting helmet, jumped up and got in Donaldson's face.

Both teams left their dugouts and ran onto the field, but there was no skirmish or brawl. However, it only came to that because of Machado's inexplicable overreaction. If you watch the video (embedded below), Donaldson is in disbelief, smiling and holding his hands out like "What the hell is your problem, man?" 

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Donaldson was hit by a pitch from Wei-Yin Chen later in the game, a ridiculous bit of retaliation, considering the harmlessless of the tag. But the Orioles probably thought they were sticking up for their teammate, so that's baseball. And it should've ended there. 

There was no follow-up incident on Saturday, but hard feelings were apparently still simmering with Machado in Sunday's series finale. Two separate times, the third baseman hit A's catcher Derek Norris in the head while swinging, making contact on the follow-through. Norris had to leave the game after the second blow, occurring in the sixth inning, visibly shaken but likely pulled out as a precaution. 

Machado hitting Norris once may have been viewed as an accident, but twice seemed intentional. The A's also didn't like that Machado didn't show any concern or remorse for what he'd done, which would've been courteous, at the very least. Norris said after the game that he thought he even saw Machado smiling a bit. 

Consequently, the A's looked to enact some payback by throwing at Machado. In the eighth inning, Oakland reliever Fernando Abad threw a pitch far inside, toward the infielder's legs. Understandably, Machado didn't like a pitch coming that close and glared at Abad. Undeterred, Abad threw the next pitch near the batter again.

Machado responded by flinging his bat into the field, toward third baseman Alberto Callaspo. He may have tried to make it look as if the bat slipped out of his hands, something that typically happens in a ballgame. But if you watch the replay, there was no involuntary action. Machado puts his body into the throw.

Additionally, he flings the bat after the ball hits the catcher's mitt. Yes, those things happened within one second of each other, but Machado's body language seems to portray intent. No one who saw the incident believes that what Machado did was an accident. It was that blatant. 

As you would expect, that incited both teams to take the field again. Oakland catcher John Jaso went after Machado and had to be held back. It's one thing to stick up for teammates and act like you're ready to fight in the name of bravado. But hitting people in the head and throwing bats at opponents is phenomenally dangerous behavior. The A's were justifiably upset. 

Though Machado's reaction to being tagged on Friday seemed out of line and unprovoked, I can at least understand him getting upset and reacting poorly. As someone who shows a bad temper more than he should, I can see being so amped up that it doesn't take much to make you ignite. Machado may be particularly sensitive about his knees. Or maybe he got himself angry as motivation for a series against the best team in the American League. This was an important series. 

There's no defense for the stuff on Sunday. It was unprofessional and showed a troubling lack of self-control and maturity. Yes, Machado is only 21 years old. And in terms of emotional development, he may be even younger, given that he entered the virtual fantasy world of being a pro athlete right out of high school. (He's already shown signs of being a bit entitled.) But it's beyond clear that the kid needs to grow up. 

Baseball fans and media have a way of overreacting to behavior that's viewed as showboating and showing more personality that the sport's unwritten rules have imposed upon the game. Yasiel Puig, Carlos Gomez and Bryce Harper are among those viewed as me-first showoffs who don't play the game properly and dare to do more than simply keep their head down and run around the bases. 

But Machado isn't just offending the old-school sensibilities of baseball here. This is dangerous shit. Norris is apparently all right, but could have suffered a concussion (or worse) by being hit in the head. What if the bat Machado threw had hit Callaspo, third-base umpire Angel Hernandez or even a fan in the stands? And for what? Because he didn't like how Oakland was playing baseball against him?

Granted, baseball shouldn't mete out justice by throwing a ball at a batter. That's obviously dangerous too, and it wouldn't take much for a ball that's supposed to be aimed at the leg or foot to slip and end up near the head. But I don't think many would disagree that using the bat as a weapon is taking measures much too far. 

MLB needs to suspend Machado for his actions, if for no other reason than making a statement that this behavior is unacceptable. Sit him down for five games. And if baseball doesn't do something, the Orioles themselves should at least bench their temperamental young star to make it clear that he needs to control his emotions better or someone could get badly hurt. 

As I said earlier, I've been a fan of Machado's as soon as he put on an Orioles uniform. The one-handed follow-through on his swing and his strong lower half remind me of Alex Rodriguez at his best (pre-PEDs, obviously). In his first full big league season, Machado hit .283 with a .746 OPS, 14 home runs, 71 RBI and a league-leading 51 doubles. Just wait until the kid grows into his body and learns to actually hit for power, the experts said. Those doubles would become home runs. 

Even at 19 when he made his big league debut, he quickly looked like someone who belonged in the majors, not a kid overwhelmed by being asked to do too much too soon. Not only did he show he could handle major league pitching right away, but he moved from shortstop to third base with no issue at all. His defense at third base is outstanding, worth watching every night. 

It would be a shame for Machado to be viewed as one of baseball's bad guys, rather than one of its brightest young stars. (To the A's and their fans, it might already be too late for that.) Maybe he had other stuff going on that fueled these incidents against the A's. Maybe this behavior is unusual. Maybe this is just a kid showing some immaturity.

But if it's not, the Orioles and MLB need to act decisively for his sake. 

Sunday
Mar302014

My 2014 MLB predictions

Baseball's Opening Day is on Monday, although the 2014 season will open Sunday night as the Dodgers face the Padres. Actually, the regular season truly began a week ago when the Dodgers and Diamondbacks played a two-game series in Australia. 

But for most baseball fans, the season begins on Monday with virtually every team taking the field and games being played throughout the afternoon, evening and night. (The Yankees and Astros will wait until Tuesday.) 

So this is a good time for season predictions. For what it's worth, here are my predictions for last season. I got the AL Manager of the Year and NL Cy Young Award winners correct. I think I'll do better this year. This is how I see the division winners, postseason and regular season awards shaking out. 

Read More >>

AL East: Rays
AL Central: Tigers
AL West: Athletics
Wild Cards: Red Sox, Orioles

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
Wild Cards: Pirates, Braves

AL playoffs: Rays over Red Sox, Athletics over Tigers
ALCS: Rays over Athletics

NL playoffs: Nationals over Pirates, Cardinals over Dodgers
NLCS: Nationals over Cardinals

World Series: Nationals over Rays

AL MVP: Evan Longoria
NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez

AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw

AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu
NL Rookie of the Year: Javier Baez

There are a couple of different picks than I made when I was on ESPN Asheville with Pat Ryan and Bill McClement last Tuesday. On the air, I picked Prince Fielder to win AL MVP and Bryce Harper to earn honors in the NL, along with Felix Hernandez nabbing the AL Cy Young Award. I changed my mind after putting some more thought and research into those picks.

So I guess I'm already waffling. But these are on the record, as far as being seen online. They're the same picks I made for The Outside Corner. (I'm the only one who didn't pick Mike Trout for AL MVP.) Maybe we'll revisit these in November, if anyone cares by then. 

Monday
Jan062014

My IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot 

The 2014 class for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced on Wednesday. Hopefully, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voters elect a candidate this time around. Last year, no player on the ballot received the necessary 75 percent of the vote. 

There are plenty of baseball writers working on the internet who would like to have a say in that process. Thus, my friend Howard Cole created the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) to present an alternate view and give a voice to those who don't have one. The IBWAA vote does not factor into actual Hall of Fame voting. But the balloting does provide an interesting point of comparison. 

The results of the IBWAA balloting were just announced. You can click over to LA Weekly, where Howard posted the results, explained the process and basically provided a statement of purpose. Four players earned the 75 percent necessary for election. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio make up that quartet. 

What did my ballot look like? I took up all 10 available spaces on my ballot. But paring it down to that number was difficult. I could've voted for 14 or 15 players. But here are the players who received my vote.

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1. Greg Maddux
2. Barry Bonds
3. Roger Clemens
4. Tom Glavine
5. Frank Thomas
6. Craig Biggio
7. Jeff Bagwell
8. Rafael Palmeiro
9. Barry Larkin
10. Alan Trammell

 

If you're wondering why Barry Larkin — who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012 — is on my ballot, he hasn't been named on 75 percent of IBWAA ballots. However, Mike Piazza was last year, so he wasn't included in this year's voting. Piazza is still on the BBWAA ballot, and we'll see if he wins election this year. 

Because I voted for Larkin, I also voted for Alan Trammell. Call it a homer pick, since I'm a Tigers fan and grew up watching Trammell. But I feel that Larkin and Trammell have very similar numbers, though Tram played one more season and Larkin won a National League MVP award in 1995. (If Trammell had won the AL MVP in 1987, would he be in the Hall of Fame now?) 

Unfortunately, that stance prevented me from including Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina — both deserving of Hall of Fame status — on my ballot. I guess I'll be voting for them next year. Had we followed the BBWAA ballot, my Larkin vote would've gone to Piazza. Would I have voted for Trammell under those circumstances? Probably, because I think if Larkin is in, Trammell should be too. But I may have opted for Schilling. 

Where's Jack Morris, Mr. Tiger Fan? It's taken me about 10 years, but I've pretty much done a 180 on Morris. Though I feel that he's one of the best pitchers I watched while growing up, I do watch and perceive baseball differently now and don't believe he's a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher. 

As you can see, I voted for the players associated with or suspected of PED use. I know many voters and fans feel differently, believing that Bonds, Clemens and Palmeiro are known cheaters whose achievements are tainted. Others also suspect, with no viable proof, Bagwell and Piazza, which is presumably why they haven't been elected yet. 

In my view, we don't know who was taking PEDs and who wasn't, so I don't think it's fair to single a few players out — even if they were discovered to have taken such substances. I also feel that excluding Bonds and Clemens — two of baseball's greatest players — from the Hall of Fame distorts the history of the game.

While many see the Hall of Fame as a measurement of a player's merit, the institution is a museum meant to chronicle the sport's history. That story can't be told without baseball's leading home run hitter and perhaps the best right-handed pitcher of all time. 

Did I get it right? I can't say for certain. What I can say is that this isn't as easy as it might appear. The BBWAA voters had a tough job with this year's ballot and it figures to get even more difficult next year. 

Thursday
Dec122013

The Mariners' offseason looks similar to a year ago

It's been a crazy week with baseball's winter meetings taking place in Orlando, Fla. Typically, this is when the biggest trades and free agent signings take place, with all the MLB general managers, agents, reporters and some players in one place at the same time. 

Even without writing on every story and news development, it's full-time work to keep up on everything and be ready when those big transactions happen. Or if they happen. Sometimes, there's a lot of smoke and sizzle, but ultimately no fire or steak. I think I mixed two metaphors there. 

One of the teams making some notable moves is the Seattle Mariners. The M's shocked baseball by outbidding the Yankees for Robinson Cano, eventually agreeing to a 10-year, $240 million contract with him.

But is general manager Jack Zduriencik really doing anything different this year? As I write in my latest post for The Outside Corner, adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison — ideally suited for duty at first base or designated hitter — after Cano look similar to moves he made a year ago, when he added Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse, each ideally suited for first base or DH. 

You can read the full article here.