Thursday, January 31, 2013

Remembering Jackie Robinson

"[Jackie Robinson] challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration."

-- Martin Luther King Jr.

Today would have been Jackie Robinson's 94th birthday.  

After a time at UCLA (where Robinson became the first athlete to letter in four sports), Robinson spent time in the US Army during World War II, experiencing some of the same racism that would serve as a precursor to his experience in baseball.  

In 1945, Robinson was signed to a contract with the (then) Brooklyn Dodgers by the legendary Branch Rickey.  Robinson made his major league debut in 1947 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.  From there it was a storied career, filled with historic highs and ugly lows.

To accomplish all that Jackie Robinson was able to do, in addition to the mental strength and courage that Robinson displayed is truly remarkable and worth remembering why there is only one 42 in baseball.  

Some Robinson facts:

  • Finished with a career batting average of .311
  • First African-American inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame
  • Stole home 19 times
  • Earned the NL MVP in 1949
  • Became the highest paid player on the Dodgers
  • Became the first MLB player on a postage stamp
  • Served on the board of the NAACP
  • Won the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Won the first ever Rookie of the Year Award in 1947
  • Close to 30,000 African-Americans were in attendance in his major league debut.

Let's take a moment to remember all the contributions that Robinson gave to baseball today.

"A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives."  
-- Jackie Robinson

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bob Costas eulogy for Stan Musial [VIDEO]

"It is more important to be appreciated than to be glorified."  

Last week, I had a short post for the passing of Stan Musial.  I had a plan to write a lengthier, more fitting post, but couldn't seem to get any sort of creative juices flowing that seemed to do justice for "The Man."

(It was also incredibly time-consuming to research and mention all of Musial's records, feats, and accomplishments.)

Then I was able to watch this clip of Bob Costas' eulogy at Musial's funeral.  It says everything I could never hope to say in written words; a near-perfect reverence to one of the games most graceful gentleman.  

If you have 20 minutes today, I would recommend watching this in it's entirety.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's All About the Name

It's been a pretty sad week in baseball with the passing of legendary manager Earl Weaver and Cardinal's great Stan "The Man" Musial, so we thought it we needed a pick-me-up.

I have a pretty weird, German last name so it's not surprising that I haven't turned out to be a star athlete or politician but these guys didn't let their names prevent them from making the big leagues...

Here's our tribute to an All-Star cast of innuendo names and funny titles.  


R.I.P. Stan Musial (1920-2013)

"I love to play this game of baseball, I love putting on this uniform."

-- Stan "The Man" Musial,
1920 - 2013

There isn't really much you can say when a legend like Stan Musial passes to the great diamond in the sky.  Baseball loses a legend.  

I tried to put into words (and I still may later) my thoughts about Musial and what he meant to a game we love.  I actually was having trouble though, trying to come up with any memorial or tribute.  Nothing that was coming to my head seemed fitting.  I would actually start a paragraph and when I'd look up Musial's unreal career stats, I'd look back at the type and think it wasn't good enough.  

Which may be fitting in itself.  I had NO idea that Musial was like, that good.  It's hard to make an argument that a first-ballot Hall of Famer is "underrated," but that's exactly what Musial was...underrated.

Playing in the quiet, quaint midwest rather than the bright lights of Brooklyn or the Bronx, Musial spent his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals.  All he did there was make 24 All-Star appearances except for one year where he was serving the United States Navy during World War II.  

Soft-spoken and shy, Musial would rather play the harmonica than talk to the reporters.  After his playing career, he served as the Cardinals GM and won a World Series as a General Manager.  

Think about this,

Second in total bases (6,134), 
Third in doubles (725), 
Fourth in hits (3,630), 
Sixth in RBIs (1,951) 
Ninth in runs (1,949) 
Only 696 strikeouts
 .331 career batting average
Three time NL MVP
 He received MVP votes in 18 seasons
Seven NL batting titles
He won his seventh title, 14 years after his first.

So right now I'm stuck.  I still may write something and put it up but for now, this seems fitting: 

What a few others had to say about Stan"the Man."

Preacher Roe, when asked how to get Musial out,
"I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base."  

Bob Costas,
"He didn't hit a homer in his last at-bat; he hit a single. He didn't hit in 56 straight games. He married his high school sweetheart and stayed married to her, never married a Marilyn Monroe. He didn't play with the sheer joy and style that goes alongside Willie Mays' name. None of those easy things are there to associate with Stan Musial. All Musial represents is more than two decades of sustained excellence and complete decency as a human being,"

Former Chicago Cubs manager Jimmy Wilson,
"Nobody can be that good.  Nobody."

Carl Erskine,
"I've had pretty good success with Stan (Musial) by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third."

Joe Garagiola,
"He could have hit .300 with a fountain pen."  

Albert Pujols, 
"I don't want to be called that. There is one man who gets that respect, and that's Stan Musial. He's The Man. He's The Man in St. Louis. And I know 'El Hombre' means 'The Man' in Spanish. But Stan is The Man. You can call me whatever else you want, but just don't call me 'El Hombre.'"

Vin Scully
"How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away." 

Warren Spahn,
"Once Musial timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."

Ford C. Frick,
"Here stands baseball's perfect warrior.  Here stands baseball's perfect knight."  

And lastly,

Stan Musial,

"I like to make people smile. The only thing I liked that much was hitting."

Thanks for making all of us smile Stan, you will be missed.
-- TFC

Saturday, January 19, 2013

R.I.P. Earl Weaver 1930-2013

"On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.'" -- Earl Weaver

Before there was "Moneyball" there was Earl Weaver.   Before there was Jim Leyland smoking in the dugout, Earl Weaver had finished cartons.  Before Bobby Cox was throwing tirades, Earl Weaver had been ejected from 90 games in his Hall of Fame career. 

It's a sad day in baseball as long time Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver passed away today at 82.  In Weaver's managerial career, all with the Orioles, he won six Eastern Division titles, four AL pennants and a World Series championship in 1970.  He won 1,480 games, had four 100 win seasons and only ONE (yes one) losing season. 

It's always a mixed bag for baseball fan's my age when legends passed away, trying to write a tribute.  I am not old enough to remember Earl Weaver nor alive to hear any of his legendary umpire tirades.  And I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about Weaver, other than his managerial career but reading some of the articles on him is fascinating.   I'm sure my dad or someone his age can provide a little bit more insight and could be a bit resentful from a 20 year old's tribute to Weaver on a blog.  But who cares?  It's like the teenage kid who's the biggest Led Zeppelin fan that gets crap from his hippie uncle..."But duuuude, you weren't there."  

Weaver transformed the way the game was played.  A stats junkie, he was one of the first to utilize platoons, he hated bunting and kept cue cards about stats for certain players against certain pitchers.  

Without Weaver, we may not have seen a few of the greatest players to come through the league.  He pressed to keep a young, struggling Eddie Murray in the big leagues.  All Murray did to reward Weaver's faith was post a Hall of Fame career with over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.  Weaver moved Cal Ripken Jr. to shortstop where he was supposedly "oversized."  You should know what happened next.  

And of course, there was Weaver's altercations.  Anyone who flipped his hat backwards to get as close to umpires as possible without touching them when arguing gets my approval.  His temper and fiery persona would get him ejected from 98 ballgames.  His style even agitated his own players with clubhouse feuds that would make John Gibbons look like a teddy bear.  

But one thing that never changed about Weaver is that he did things his own way.  His style was ahead of his time, meticulous, innovative and provocative but you can't argue with the results.  When the Orioles unveiled Weaver's statue outside Camden Yards, Weaver said, "I guess there will be a lot of kids looking up to me, too, saying, 'Who is this?' I just hope their dads and grandfathers have the statistics to show why I'm standing there."   Well, Earl, the statistics speak for themselves.  How about YouTube too?

RIP Earl Weaver.  You will be missed in Baltimore and across baseball.  

And this one...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Good day for Cubs fans

Today marks the start of the Cubs convention.  It's 20 degrees out, although there's no snow on the ground, and it's time to talk to Cubs baseball.  It's at a new venue this year, the Sheraton instead of the Hilton, and the early word is that this is a good change.  Follow Brett Taylor over at Bleacher Nation if you want updates about everything to do with the convention.  If you're going, we would love it if you would share pictures, stories, or anything else you'd like.  I unfortunately am not going, but am excited for Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic just around the corner.

There are expected to be some announcements about the Wrigley renovation plans this weekend, but this little tidbit was released early.  The plan is to build a Sheraton hotel where the McDonald's is currently located at the corner of Clark and Addison.  Take a look at this article from Crain's Chicago Business. Don't worry fast food fans, part of the deal is that if they tear down the McDonald's, it has to be replaced in some capacity, so you'll still be able to get your Big Mac while you stare at the marquee at 2 in the morning after a night of douching it up at John Barleycorn (Yes it was named the douchiest bar in Chicago).

Stay warm baseball fans, and enjoy hockey coming back tomorrow, the Hawks play the Kings at 2 on NBC

Thursday, January 17, 2013

USA World Baseball Classic Roster

The United States roster for the World Baseball Classic was released this morning, and as expected, it leaves a lot to be desired.  Here are the guys that have committed to playing:


Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins)
Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers)
J.P. Arencibia (Toronto Blue Jays)

Joe Mauer

Mark Teixeira 1B (New York Yankees)
Brandon Phillips 2B (Cincinnati Reds)
Jimmy Rollins SS (Philadelphia Phillies)
David Wright 3B (New York Mets)
Ben Zobrist UT (Tampa Bay Rays)
Willie Bloomquiest UT (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Brandon Phillips

Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers)
Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles)
Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins)
Shane Victorino (Boston Red Sox)

Giancarlo Stanton

Starting Pitchers
R.A. Dickey (Toronto Blue Jays)
Kris Medlen (Atlanta Braves)
Derek Holland (Texas Rangers)
Ryan Vogelsong (San Francisco Giants)

Derek Holland (Left) will bring his Harry Caray impersonation to the WBC

Relief Pitchers
Jeremy Affeldt (San Francisco Giants)
Vinnie Pestano (Cleveland Indians)
Chris Perez (Cleveland Indians)
Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)
Tim Collins (Kansas City Royals)
Heath Bell (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Steve Cishek (Miami Marlins)
Glen Perkins (Minnesota Twins)
Mitchell Boggs (St. Louis Cardinals)
Luke Gregerson (San Diego Padres)

Craig Kimbrel
My Thoughts
I like the lineup a lot for team USA.  They got some of the best guys at their position all the way around.  Sure there are some big names missing like Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen and Prince Fielder, but Phillips, Wright, Teixeira, Stanton, Jones, and Braun are all great players.  The addition of Zobrist and Bloomquist, who can both play pretty much any position is an extremely smart decision by manager Joe Torre.  I would have the lineup looking something like this:

Phillips 2B
Mauer C
Braun LF
Stanton RF
Wright 3B
Teixeira 1B
Jones CF
Rollins SS
Victorino DH (maybe outfield somewhere)

This lineup would be stacked, although it could be arranged a lot of different ways.  I think the set in stone spots should be Braun and Stanton hitting 3-4.  That's a whole lot of pop in the middle of the lineup.

The pitching staff on the other hand is not so great.  I love Dickey being in there, as he has earned it with his recent performance.  Guys like Medlen, Vogelsong, and Holland are all good pitchers, but the list of guys that aren't on this roster are GREAT.  Guys that could have been on the roster include David Price, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, Stephen Strasburg, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee.  There is a lot of talent in that pool, yet none of them will be pitching for the stars and stripes for various reasons.  Not a knock on these guys at all, but it would be great to see at least 2 of them donning the red, white and blue.  The bullpen is pretty good, with a lot of names you don't know.  Collins, Pestano, and Gregerson are all very good relievers.  The highlight here is Craig Kimbrel.  Undoubtedly the most dominant reliever in baseball, Kimbrel should be able to shut the door for Team USA.

My Prediction
While I want to pick the USA to win it all, I just don't see it happening with this rotation.  The other countries such as Japan, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic seem to care much more about this tournament than the Americans do.  Be sure to watch their games, as the passion of some of the Latin American teams is incredible for an exhibition tournament.  Now I don't know who will be on the other rosters, but I will pick Team USA to lose in the semi-finals.  The lineup is very good, but I just don't think the pitching staff will get them to the championship.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wait for it...

Let's go! 

Where have we been??

We've been pretty MIA recently in terms of blog posts.  Wade has begun tax season, I have been sick, and Chris, well who knows about Chris, we're just happy with a text on Monday informing us that he survived the weekend.  In reality, baseball news has been slow, slow, slow outside of the Hall of Fame announcement, or lack thereof.  But baseball is right around the corner, and we will be bringing season previews to you shortly.  Look for your favorite team coming up starting most likely in the beginning of February.

But for now, is everyone excited about the World Baseball Classic yet???  The once every 4 years tournament, which was created after baseball was nixed from the Olympics (but speed walking, handball, and synchronized swimming are in there??? Come on IOC!!)


The official rosters won't be announced until later this week but here are some notable players from the USA and Canada that have agreed to play.

Justin Morneau (Twins)
Russell Martin (Pirates)
John Axford (Brewers)
Jesse Crain (White Sox)
Michael Saunders (Mariners)
Brett Lawrie (Blue Jays)

Mark Teixeira (Yankees)
David Wright (Mets)
Joe Mauer (Twins)
Shane Victorino (Red Sox)
Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers)
RA Dickey (Blue Jays)
Ryan Vogelsong (Giants)
Andy Pettitte (Yankees)
Chris Perez (Indians)
Vinnie Pestano (Indians)
Craig Kimbrel (Braves)
Luke Gregerson (Padres)
Glen Perkins (Twins)

This is a good core for the stars and stripes, with some good bats in Tex, Mauer, and Wright.  You can never get all of the players in this tournament, but the USA has the largest talent pool to choose from.  I'm excited for the roster announcement later this week.  

Look for a recap later this week from us on the WBC rosters and don't forget to follow us @FullCountBlog.   Thanks for reading and it's not baseball related, but welcome back hockey and here's to hoping for another Hawks Stanley Cup, although I'm not confident in it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hot Stove Wrap Up - What the Hall?

Quote of the Day:

''This is not to be voted to make sure that somebody gets in every year. It's to be voted on to make sure that they're deserving. I respect the writers as well as the Hall itself. This idea that this somehow diminishes the Hall of baseball is just ridiculous in my opinion.''

-- Commissioner Bud Selig

Baseball fans, now that the slow days of winter are over we can finally look forward to the start of spring training on the horizon.  Most of the big free agents have been signed and while a big trade could still happen, it's mostly time to plug a few holes in the lineups.  

But until we get back to our regularly scheduled programming (like reviewing Jason Frasor or Brett Myers deals, examining Mike Napoli's medical records) we need to talk about something that happened this week. . .


In a much-anticipated announcement on Wednesday, it turns out that NO ONE was elected in sport's most hallowed Hall of Fame.  

In order to qualify for the Hall of Fame, a candidate must receive 75% of the vote.  Ten year members of the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) can select ten players to put on their ballot.  

Here's a few notable players and their votes by percentage.  

  • Craig Biggio 68.2 
  • Jack Morris 67.7 
  • Jeff Bagwell 59.6 
  • Mike Piazza 57.8 
  • Tim Raines 52.2 
  • Lee Smith 47.8 
  • Curt Schilling 38.8 
  • Roger Clemens 37.6 
  • Barry Bonds 36.2 
  • Edgar Martinez 35.9 
  • Alan Trammell 33.6 
  • Larry Walker 21.6 
  • Fred McGriff 20.7 
  • Dale Murphy 18.6 
  • Mark McGwire 16.9 
  • Don Mattingly 13.2 
  • Sammy Sosa 12.5 
  • Rafael Palmiero 8.8 

This isn't great.  Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Biggio all were in their first year of eligibility with arguably first ballot Hall of Fame numbers.  The elephant in the room is that with the exception of Biggio, all have been linked to PEDs.  Steroids are clearly complicating the ballot. 

A few notes:

  • Biggio?  Really?  3,000 hits with one team, a class act on and off the field.  I'm not really sure what one has to do other than that to be Hall of Fame worthy.  There has been a "first ballot" bias in the past but Craig Biggio deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I really don't see how he doesn't get in.  
  • It's a screwed up process.  With more and more players becoming Hall of Fame eligible and with only ten spots on a ballot, this could be a long term problem since the voters clearly don't have a consensus about what to do about the PED factor.  A simple solution?  A 15-20 player ballot but I also don't see this happening anytime soon.  While it's not unprecedented to have no one admitted (the last time it happened was 1996), it would definitely not be a good thing if the same thing happens next year.  
  • Could it happen next year?  Probably not.  Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Greg Maddox will be eligible for the first time next year with sure-fire Hall of Fame numbers.  Jack Morris also could get in on his last year on the ballot. Then again, I thought Biggio was a lock to get in but we all so how that went down.    
  • Speaking of Morris, is it possible that the winningest pitcher of the 1980s and the definition of clutch pitching could not make the Hall?  It's actually very possible.  While Morris has 254 career victories and averaged an incredible 7 IP, his 3.90 ERA would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall.  I expected him to get in this year, but with Maddox and Glavine on the ballot next year, it will be tough, though his percentage did climb this year.
  • See Mike Piazza to see how divided voters are about candidates from the steroid era.  Piazza with the most home runs by a catcher ever, and also never linked to performance enhancing drugs nonetheless was a contemporary of the steroid era.  While it's entire plausible that Piazza used PEDs, it's also completely unfair to accuse him of it.  And that's the situation -- it's impossible to know who used and who didn't.  57.8% is awfully low for someone with career numbers like Piazza.  
  • As tough as it is for Piazza, it's even worse for guys like McGwire, Sosa, Bonds and Clemens.  Players with clear Hall of Fame numbers are getting shunned like a goth chick at senior prom.  The dark cloud of steroids will probably prevent guys like Sosa and Palmiero from getting in, though guys like Bonds and Clemens have an outside shot if they'd ever stop being such d***s.  Palmiero and McGwire actually went down from last year.  Not a good trend for them.
  • It would be a lot easier for me to accept many Hall voters stances on steroid era players if they weren't so maddeningly inconsistent and borderline clueless.  One voter had Aaron Sele on the ballot.  Yes, that Aaron Sele.  I don't know which is worse, Biggio and his 3,000 hits not on 75% of the ballots or Aaron Sele being on one ballot.  Sandy Alomar managed to some-freakin-how find his way on 16 ballots.  
  • Kenny Lofton and Bernie Williams fell off.  Maybe these guys weren't Hall of Famers, but in my opinion, they deserved to be in the conversation for more than one year.  BOOM, you just got "Lou Whitaker'd"    
  • Baseball's Hall of Fame is now void of it's all-time hits leader (Pete Rose) and its all-time home run leader (Bonds).  Four voters had write-in votes for Pete Rose though his name is not on the ballot.  
  • Two time MVP Dale Murphy failed to cross the 75% threshold in his 15th and final try on the ballot.  Murphy was a great guy and a good player, but not Hall of Fame good.  
  • What would I do if I were a member of the BBWAA?  That's a tough call.  I probably wouldn't vote for anyone linked to steroids on the first couple of ballots.  That's fair.  Call me old school but I don't think they should get in, at least for a while.  I might make execeptions for guys like Clemens and Bonds but they are so unlikable it would be hard for me to write their names down.   
  • Guys like Biggio, Piazza, and Bagwell?  I'd put them in for sure.  I won't punish a whole generation of players for the crimes of others.  But it's a tough call.  I'd probably take months to fill out my ballot and agonize over it many sleepless nights.  I'd take it VERY seriously.  
  • A compromise?  PED users can be elected to the Hall of Fame, but can only be inducted posthumously.  It's a wild proposal but I actually kind of like it.  
  • While I understand why writers would leave a PED user off the ballot, I don't like when they justify it by saying they are trying to preserve the "integrity of the game."  Where were these journalists when PED’s were at their most rampant?  They were celebrating the resurgence of baseball while ignoring Brady Anderson hitting 50 bombs and Ken Caminiti looking like a WWE wrestler.  If you want to leave them off the ballot, fine, but at least add to the discussion instead of sitting on some sort of moral high horse in MLB's kangaroo court.  
  • Seriously though, this is a group that makes up hall of fame voting rules as they go along, they then will change those self-made rules from year to year and from player to player, they hold life-long grudges, are scared to death of advanced metrics and miss the good old days when their opinion was the only opinion, be it right or (often) wrong.  There are some great baseball journalists in America.  But there are some clowns too and they get a vote.  
  • Technically, this doesn't mean that no one will be inducted this year. Three inductees were chosen last month by a special panel considering individuals from the era before integration in 1946: Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White. All have been dead since at least 1939.  That kind of takes the luster off the ceremony.  
  • No one was happier about the Hall of Fame voting results than some of the actual Hall of Famers.  A few quotes for your reading enjoyment. . .

"If they let these guys in ever - at any point - it's a big black eye for the Hall and for baseball. It's like telling our kids you can cheat, you can do whatever you want, and it's not going to matter." -- Goose Gossage
    "It's not news that Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Palmeiro, and McGwire didn't get in, but that they received hardly any consideration at all. The real news is that Biggio and Piazza were well under the 75 percent needed." -- Mike Schmidt 
    "Wow! Baseball writers make a statement.  Feels right.'' -- Dennis Eckersley
    "I'm kind of glad that nobody got in this year. I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would've felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were.'' -- Al Kaline

Some other stuff happened in baseball too.  For now, it's time to wrap it up.  We have a fall of fame that doesn't include the all-time home run and hits leaders.  The pitcher with the most Cy Youngs, two players that also broke Roger Maris' home run record, the best hitting catcher in baseball history

What we know is that the baseball Hall of Fame process is complex.  It is a debate between greatness and purity that has anything but a simple answer.  

My final thoughts?  I tend to agree with Ken Rosenthal, who correctly quasi-predicted that no one would get in this year.  

"Baseball is a talking sport, a sport that produces arguments like none other. The Hall arguments are especially passionate. You may agree with some, disagree with others. But the debate over the PED users, while occasionally maddening, is not a bad thing for the Hall, or for baseball. We’re talking, after all, about the game’s soul."
We may not be happy about the results, but it is no doubt part of the process that baseball will have to figure out.  For now, let's look ahead to spring training.  Coming up soon, we'll start to get out of our New Year funk and pump out some transaction reviews, some more Hot Stove Updates as they happen and start into our team previews for 2013.  Until then, here's some more good Hall of Fame opinions.

Vote about Greatness, Not Perfection

The Baseball Hall of Fame's Shocking Message: In the End, Cheaters Lose

Baseball Hall of Fame voting process is fine

Hall of Fame 2013

Hall of Fame is a Mess

Mahler: In baseball hall of fame, character shouldn't count

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

R.A. Dickey Trade

Happy New Year everyone!!  We are back after a brief holiday hiatus to bring you more of this off-seasons' reviews.  Today I'll look at the busy Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets as they agreed on a deal that send defending Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey to the Mets in return for some pretty high end prospects.  Here is how the trade looked:

Blue Jays Receive:
RHP R.A. Dickey (Dickey then agreed to 3 year, 30 million dollar contract)
C Josh Thole
C Mike Nickeas

Mets Receive:
C Travis D'Arnaud
RHP Noah Syndergaard
C John Buck
OF Wuilmer Becerra

Now let's take a look at the individual players involved:

R.A. Dickey
The centerpiece of this trade is the 38 year old knuckleballer.  Dickey had been a journeyman earlier in his career, but the last 3 seasons with the Mets, he has established himself as one of the games' most reliable pitchers.  Dickey's best season was 2012, where he won the Cy Young and struck out a career high 230 batters while winning 20 games and maintaining a 2.73 ERA.  While some people are worried about the affect a domed stadium will have on Dickey, he has had tremendous success pitching in both Toronto and Tampa Bay in the past.

Josh Thole
Thole is a relatively young catcher, but the main reason he was included in this trade was to catch Dickey's knuckleball.  Thole is a career .261 hitter, so he is serviceable with the bat, but he is much better known for his defense.

Mike Nickeas
All you need to know about Nickeas is that he was included in this deal to catch Dickey in case Thole gets hurt.

Travis D'Arnaud
D'Arnaud is one of the best hitting prospects in baseball and according to almost everyone, is the top catching prospect in baseball.  He tore his ACL in 2012, but the Mets were ok with his medicals.  Before his injury in 2012, D'Arnaud hit .333 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in just 300 at bats.  Granted that was in the very hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, but D'Arnaud is definitely a very good hitter.  His future might be at first base, but for now, he presents the Mets a really nice option as many consider him to be close to Major League ready.

Noah Syndergaard
The 20 year old Syndergaard is also a very high end prospect.  He was the third best in the Blue Jays organization and is a top 100 prospect.  Syndergaard has great size, coming in at 6 foot 5.  He throws in the mid to upper 90s and has a good breaking ball and a decent change up.  He was great in A ball last year, with a 2.60 ERA and 122 strikeouts in just over 100 innings.  Look for Syndergaard to start in High A or Double A ball this year and to move through the Mets' system rather quickly.  I am a huge fan of Syndergaard and see him as a future number 2 or 3 starter.

John Buck
Buck changes teams for the second time this off-season.  He won't hit for a very high average, but he does have quite a bit of power and has a decent glove behind the plate.  He will be able to start if D'Arnaud isn't ready for opening day, but can be the back up and provide some pop off the bench as well.

Wuilmer Becerra
Becerra is a 18 year old international signee from Venenzuela.  He played in 11 games for Toronto's rookie league team last year before turning 18.  While he is still extremely raw, Becerra is extremely athletic and has a ton of raw power.  If all goes right, he could be a solid corner outfielder in the future, but right now it is just way too early to tell.

Who won this trade???
To me, this is an extremely win win trade for both teams.  The Blue Jays are truly going for it.  They have now traded 4 of their top 5 prospects this off-season, but they have gotten quite a bit of talent back.  They get the former Cy Young Award winner in this deal and they were able to sign him for a 10 million dollar a year contract, less money per year than players like Ryan Dempster, Andy Pettitte, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, and Dan Haren received this off-season.  The Mets are in a bit of a rebuilding phase.  They get two big parts in this deal, with top prospects D'Arnaud and Syndergaard.  While there is no such thing as a can't miss prospect, D'Arnaud could be one of the games' best young hitters and Syndergaard has the makeup to become a front end of the rotation starter in a couple of years.  If the Blue Jays can win in the next couple of years, this trade is absolutely worth it.  I commend them for going for it and I also commend Mets GM Sandy Alderson for getting the absolute max return for Dickey.

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