All posts by Stanzo

Currently banned from TopGolf. Rutgers student, avid Yankees fan, 2-time Intramural Basketball champion. I tell terrible jokes 95% of the time, the other 5% are probably above average

Top 10 Players in Baseball Right Now Countdown: Catchers

I know it isn’t exactly baseball season. We’re in the midst of the NFL playoffs, the NBA is starting to heat up (even though the Knicks are cooling off), and Rutgers almost beat #4 Michigan State on the road the other night. The NHL is also at the midway point of its season, having announced its All-Star rosters this week (chill hockey hardos, BTB is a puck-friendly blog.) But ever since the Yankees’ postseason run, I couldn’t bring myself to get out of baseball mode. After the Giancarlo Stanton trade, I was fully thrust back into it. Yet unfortunately, this is easily the slowest MLB offseason I can remember. So how do you blog about baseball in the offseason when no one is getting signed? Do a top-ten ranking of the best players at every position right now. I figured catcher was the logical place to start, and as always I’ll do my best to keep my Yankee-fan bias out of these rankings.

10. Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays

Though Ramos’ 2017 campaign was less than stellar, he was coming off of a torn ACL. That’s no easy task for any athlete, especially a catcher. His 2016 was spectacular, however, when he batted .307 with 22 HR and 80 RBI for the Nationals. Let’s see if he can put it together again for his first full season with the Rays.

9. Brian McCann, Astros

McCann split time behind the plate with Evan Gattis last year while also seeing at-bats at DH in the Astros’ stacked lineup. Hitting 18 HR and 62 RBI in only 97 games, McCann clearly still has something left in the tank. How much more time he’ll spend catching, however, is another issue.

8. Jonathan Lucroy, Free Agent

Lucroy had a down year in 2017 to say the least, hitting .265 with 6 homers and 40 RBI in 123 games for the Rangers and Rockies. This is the same guy we saw hit .292 with 24 homers and 81 RBI just a year earlier. If he can find the right situation, Lucroy can certainly be a difference maker once again in 2018.

7. Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers

The Dodger lineup is stacked top to bottom, and their backstop is no exception. Grandal hit 22 homers last year after hitting 27 in 2016, all while managing one of the top pitching staffs in the league.

6. J.T. Realmuto, Marlins

Realmuto reportedly wants out of Miami, and for good reason. After trading stars like Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon this offseason, a major rebuild is underway. Realmuto’s trade value is certainly high, as he is only 26 and has played great for Miami the last two seasons. You hate to see players like him and Christian Yelich stuck in situations where not only is their team rebuilding, but there seems to be no hope in the near future.

5. Willson Contreras, Cubs

After winning a World Series in his rookie campaign, Contreras showed no signs of slowing down in 2017. He hit .276 with 21 HR and 74 RBI. In a lineup that features young stars like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the 25-year old Contreras often gets overlooked. He shouldn’t, as he is one of the most promising young catchers in baseball.

4. Yadier Molina, Cardinals

Molina has been one of the game’s best catchers for what feels like forever now. The eight-time Gold Glover excels not only behind the plate, but at it. The career .284 hitter hit .273 with 18 homers and 82 RBI in 2017.

3. Salvador Perez, Royals

The 5-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glover and 2015 World Series MVP is still one of the game’s best. He’s eclipsed 20 home runs in each of the last three seasons, and like Molina is one of the best two-way catchers in baseball.

2. Gary Sanchez, Yankees

I told you I’d keep my Yankee bias out of it, but if you don’t have Sanchez this high then you haven’t been watching baseball. His breakout 2016 was followed up with a stellar 2017 in which he hit .278 with 33 homers and 90 RBI after missing the first month of the season with an injury. Not to mention his stellar postseason, which included three home runs. However, Sanchez has a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the plate. He has a great arm, but his ability to block pitches in the dirt is not nearly where the Yankees need it to be.

1. Buster Posey, Giants

Other than Jose Altuve being the game’s best second baseman (spoiler alert), there may not be an easier call than saying Buster Posey is the best at his respective position. As the owner of three World Series rings, a Gold Glove, an MVP award, and a batting title, Posey has been the best catcher in baseball pretty much since he burst onto the scene in 2010. He hasn’t stopped since, as he hit .320 with 12 homers and 67 RBI last year. Young stars like Realmuto, Contreras and Sanchez are certainly coming on strong, but make no mistake, Posey is once again the best backstop in baseball going into 2018.

 

Check back for more Top 10 countdowns in the coming days and weeks!

Gut Reaction to Every Wild-Card Weekend Game

Wild-card weekend was not exactly “wild”, as of the four games, only Chiefs/Titans was really particularly entertaining, and that was after a brutal first half. My football analysis ability isn’t exactly Mel Kiper level (my hairline is way better though), but here are my gut reactions to the four games this weekend.

Titans 22, Chiefs 21

Poor Chiefs. I don’t feel for their fans as much as I do Bills fans, but it’s definitely close. I feel like every year, the Chiefs tease us and make everyone go “wow they’re legit,” only to ultimately fail in the playoffs. That team still has a lot of promise going forward, but you have to expect Alex Smith’s time in Kansas City has come to an end. As far as the Titans, Marcus Mariota put the team on his back to propel them to the win, and Derrick Henry made us all wonder why the hell he hasn’t been the team’s feature back all along. Now the Titans head to Foxborough to take on a Patriots team that hasn’t played since the ESPN article saying Brady/Belichick/Kraft actually aren’t all best friends. No disrespect to the Titans, but I would NOT want to be in that position right now.

Falcons 26, Rams 13

The Falcons looked like a team that was just in the Super Bowl last year (how did that game go again? I forget), and the Rams looked like a young team that had never been in the playoff spotlight before. This game was pretty hard to watch, but the takeaways are clear: the Falcons have as good of a shot as anyone to win the NFC, and the Rams aren’t quite there yet, but have the pieces to be a Super Bowl contender for years to come. The Falcons will now go to Philly to take on the Carson Wentz-less Eagles in what should be an extremely intriguing game. Despite the Eagles being the #1 seed and at home, the Falcons have to be the favorites in that one.

Jaguars 10, Bills 3

The videos of Bills Mafia tailgates were absolutely the highlight of this whole weekend.

Unfortunately, the highlights for the Bills ended as soon as the tailgates did. In what was a painful game where Blake “Vick” Bortles ran for more yards than he passed for (88 to 87), the Bills failed to score a touchdown. You hate to see Tyrod Taylor go down on the last drive of the game, although a Nathan Peterman game-ending INT made for a great time. The funny thing is, as bad as the Jags are, you can’t count them out against the Steelers. Obviously Bortles has to be WAY better for them to have a chance, but that defense is absolutely legit, and if they can get Fournette going that could be a great game.

Saints 31, Panthers 26

Had the Saints -6.5, was looking great until Christian McCaffrey’s 56 yard touchdown catch late. Thanks, Obama. Regardless, my main takeaway from this game is how fucking hard Cam Newton gets hit and wondering how he’s still alive. He couldn’t even make it to the sideline without falling down after one hit he took! Truly amazing what this guy can do. He did a great job of keeping the Panthers in it, but Drew Brees and the Saints proved too much. They now go to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in what should be a wildly entertaining game.

Was There Ever a Better Feeling than a Snow Day Growing Up?

Pretty self explanatory but getting a snow day when you were growing up was the absolute shit. Waking up dreading a long day of sitting in class only to be told by your parents that you can go back to sleep was a feeling like no other. If you were lucky enough, you would get the call the night before, and know that you could stay up late doing whatever with your friends without having to wake up early the next day. Unfortunately, Ramsey NEVER used to do that when I was younger (they did last night though, they’ve really gone soft.) Continue reading Was There Ever a Better Feeling than a Snow Day Growing Up?

What I Want to See in Sports in 2018

When you look back on 2017, not just what happened in sports but as a whole, I think I speak for everyone when I say the only logical reaction is “what the actual fuck just happened?” Definitely a year to remember, but one you wish you could forget. In terms of sports it was certainly an eventful year for my teams. The Yankees were supposed to miss the playoffs and came up one win short of the World Series, the Giants were supposed to contend for a Super Bowl and ended up with the #2 pick in the draft, the Knicks almost let Phil Jackson trade Porzingis only to fire him a week later, and Rutgers tried. On a day when everyone is making “New Year’s Resolutions,” I made a New Year’s wish list for sports because it’s more fun to ask for things out of your control to happen (no one gives a shit that you swear you’re gonna start going to the gym again Brad, get off Twitter.) Obviously it would be easy/unrealistic to say I want all my teams to win championships, so I got a little more creative with it. Here’s what I hope 2018 has in store in the world of sports.

The Patriots Lose in the Super Bowl

No, I don’t just want the Patriots to not win the Super Bowl. I want them to make it there, and then lose. Why? Because love them or hate them, you can’t deny that the big game is always better when the Pats are in it. Was it horrible to see them win last year in the best comeback/worst collapse in Super Bowl history? Obviously, but you can’t deny that it was an amazing game. Every Super Bowl Tom Brady and company have been in has been extremely entertaining (especially 42 & 46 in my opinion.) Give me Brady throwing a game-ending pick six in overtime or something. Fun for the whole family!

Duke Loses in the Final Four

The same logic applies here as my Patriots argument. I would love to see nothing more than Grayson Allen’s Ted Cruz-looking ass get embarrassed by 40 by North Carolina on national TV. March Madness is the best sporting event there is (don’t @ me), and seeing Duke lose just makes it that much sweeter.

The Mets Pitching Staff Stays Healthy

Hear me out on this one. I’m a Yankee fan, but I would love to see this happen for two reasons. First of all, as a baseball fan, I would love to see what a healthy staff of Syndergaard, DeGrom, Matz, Harvey, Wheeler staff could do in a full season. And second, if they Yankees could still beat the crap out of those guys, it would shut up every annoying Mets fan I know.

The Giants Pick a Franchise-Altering Player

I’m torn on who I want them to take at number two. I love the idea of Saquon Barkley in the backfield, but if you legitimately think Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield could be your next franchise quarterback, how do you pass that up? Knowing the Giants, they could also trade back and take a lineman later on, but they would need to get a substantial return to do that. All I know is that this is hopefully the last time they get a draft pick this high for a long time, so they need to choose wisely.

Rutgers Upsets a Big Ten Team at Home

I’ve wanted to storm the field since I got to Rutgers. Unfortunately, the football team has not exactly done a great job at beating their Big Ten opponents recently, or even losing by a reasonable margin for that matter. But after storming the court after the basketball team beat Seton Hall a few weeks ago, all I know is I need to experience that at High Point Solutions Stadium before I graduate. (The fact that 2018 will be my last go-around of tailgates is like the Sunday Scaries times a million, by the way.)

The Yankees Win the World Series

All right sue me, we came within a game of getting there last year and we just traded for Giancarlo freaking Stanton. You’re damn right I want a World Series this year.

Let’s hope 2018 is a year to remember for the right reasons. All of us here at Below the Belt are ecstatic to bring you another year of average blogs.

Why Greg Bird Will Be One of Baseball’s Most Slept On Players in 2018

The biggest news of the baseball offseason thus far has surely been the Yankees acquiring NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for pennies on the dollar, giving their already potent lineup another weapon. The Yanks led all teams in the majors in homers last year with 241 home runs, while Stanton won the individual home run race with 59. The last time the team with the most home runs in the previous season added the league home run leader was also the Yankees, when they traded for a guy by the name of Babe Ruth. Not really sure who that is, he doesn’t even have a Twitter so he probably wasn’t even that good. But that is neither here nor there.

The Stanton trade gives the Yankees a modern day “Murderers’ Row” (the nickname of Ruth’s Yankee teams in the 1920s/30s), or as I like to call it, “Murderers’ Row and Toe”, a shoutout to lovable infielder Ronald Torreyes, who as of now projects as a starter for the 2018 Yanks. The names that stand out in the lineup are obviously Stanton, as well as Aaron Judge, the 2017 AL home run leader and Rookie of the Year. Catcher Gary Sanchez also often comes up in discussion, as his first two seasons in pinstripes have been nothing short of great. Even shortstop Didi Gregorious receives a fair amount of attention, and deservedly so after a career year in 2017. Gregorious hit a team-high .287 to go along with 25 home runs, not to mention playoff heroics like his game-tying three run dinger in the Wild Card game vs. the Twins or his two homers off Indians ace Corey Kluber in the decisive ALDS Game 5. But there’s one more power bat in the 2018 Yankees lineup that no one is really talking about, and that’s Greg Bird.

The start of Bird’s career has been interesting to say the least. He broke onto the scene late in 2015, helping the Yankees secure a wild card spot as their everyday first baseman while Mark Teixeira was hurt. Bird hit .261 with 11 homers and 31 RBI in 46 games, including two home runs in his first career start. I was at that game, and it definitely made you excited to think about what a perfect marriage Bird’s sweet lefty swing and Yankee Stadium’s right field short porch could completely be.

After missing all of 2016 with a torn labrum, Bird looked to have a big impact on the 2017 Yankees. With the departure of Teixeira, Bird was to be the team’s new starting first baseman. He absolutely raked in spring training, hitting .451 with 8 homers and 15 RBI in 23 games. Sure, it was spring training, but those numbers are too good to ignore. However, after fouling a ball off his foot late in spring training, Bird appeared to get into a funk. Starting the season as the team’s #3 hitter, Bird started an abysmal 6-60 before going on the DL. The foot injury was somewhat of a mystery, and we weren’t sure if we would see Bird again in 2017. This led to a revolving door of Yankees trying to hold down the first base spot, including Chris Carter (yuck), Tyler Austin, Ji-Man Choi, Matt Holliday, Garrett Cooper, and Chase Headley. However, no one played well enough to gain a stronghold on the position until Bird finally returned to the team in late August.

In the month of September, Bird hit .235 with 6 homers and 16 RBI. Not quite the average you want to see, but the power stats were much better than anything the Yankees had seen from first base all year. In the playoffs, however, Bird performed at a new level. He led the team in OPS and slugging, hitting three home runs along the way. The biggest of which was a solo homer off Andrew Miller in Game 3 of the ALDS that gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead and kept their season alive.

I was there and that was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard the Stadium. It literally felt like it was shaking. The video is way better with the song from Titanic in the background (as are most sports highlights), and I watch this one at least five times every day.

In a lineup where most pitchers will have to approach each game trying to figure out how to pitch Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez, Bird should see plenty of pitches to hit in 2018. This is a guy with the capability to hit 30+ home runs a year, and he could bat as low as seventh in the order next season. Am I trying to say Bird is going to be on the level of the three guys I just named? Absolutely not, but I feel like he’s going to get overlooked, at least to start the season, because of their presence and the fact that he’s yet to play a full MLB season. Get me to opening day right now, I need to see this lineup in action. Let’s go Yanks baby.

I’m a Giants Fan and I Feel Bad for Eagles Fans

Obviously the biggest news out of the NFL yesterday was Eagles quarterback and MVP hopeful Carson Wentz having his season cut short by a torn ACL. Now, by no means am I an Eagles fan. Short of the Cowboys and Patriots, there is no NFL team I dislike more than them. Every time I see one of my South Jersey friends retweet the Miracle at the Meadowlands video I wanna blow my brains out, and living with an Eagles fan (shoutout Phil) during this particular NFL season, given their success and whatever the hell the Giants are doing, has not always been fun. But if your first reaction to the Wentz news is not to be a little disappointed, you’re not a true sports fan. Continue reading I’m a Giants Fan and I Feel Bad for Eagles Fans

Life is Beautiful, Yankees Trade for Giancarlo Stanton, This is My Favorite Day of Existing Ever

Wow this is really freaking cool. All day Friday, there were rumblings that Stanton to the Yankees could go from a pipe dream to a reality. I was still skeptical until I saw this tweet a few hours before I went to sleep.

To which I promptly reacted to as such

I’ve never said or heard of that phrase in my life, that’s just the first thing that popped into my mind when I read that tweet. Regardless, I went to sleep and woke up to literal Christmas.

Holy fucking shit, this is one of the best things to ever happen to me. The reigning NL MVP, who also just led the majors with 59 home runs, joining the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, who just led the AL with 52 home runs, in the same Yankees outfield? That’s literally a wet dream. Not to mention Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious, and Greg Bird? This is easily the most stacked Yankee lineup I’ve seen in a long time, if not in my lifetime. I mean look at this shit.

You figure that Gleyber Torres slides into that lineup somewhere early in the year, either at 2nd or 3rd base, and it just gets even scarier. I’m a Yankee fan, but this should be borderline illegal. Some games may never end. Will the White Sox even be able to get this lineup out 27 times in a game? Is Rob Manfred gonna have to put a mercy rule into play? Regardless, this lineup is scary as hell.

I’ll be the first to admit, I was salty when Shohei Ohtani wouldn’t even give us the time of day earlier this week. I said all along he would go to the Yankees or Dodgers, but I didn’t anticipate him as being weird enough to not care about money or winning. Regardless, trading for Stanton made us Yankee fans forget about him real quick. Basically the Yankees are a spoiled 16-year old girl whose Daddy didn’t get her the new iPhone for her birthday, and she got so upset that he went out and bought her a Mercedes.

So where do the Yankees go from here? They still need to fill out their rotation. Severino, Tanaka, and Gray are locks to come back. Does Jordan Montgomery get another shot at it after a solid rookie campaign? Do we re-sign CC? Does Chad Green become a starter again? Personally, I want to see Green back in the pen where he killed it last year. I have no problem with Montgomery as a 4th/5th starter, and I’d love to see CC come back at the right price. Trading Brett Gardner for a starter is also an option, and Chance Adams is still waiting in AAA.

This is really fun. It’s a video game lineup. After the heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the ALCS over a month ago, I haven’t had much to be happy about in sports. Sure the Knicks are decent but they’re still the Knicks, Rutgers football is not exactly something you can watch soberly, and I don’t know where to start with the Giants. But as of right now, it’s baseball season for me. I’ve convinced myself of it. Yes it is December 9th, and yes it is snowing, but it’s officially baseball season. I’m probably just gonna watch Stanton highlights every day from now until Opening Day.

To all the angry Mets fans, I actually feel legitimately bad for you. Hey, who knows, maybe one of these years all your pitchers will stay healthy enough for you guys to lose to us in the World Series! Wouldn’t that be something. And Red Sox fans, have fun facing us 18 times next year, I thoroughly look forward to seeing how many times Stanton/Judge/Sanchez can take David Price deep over the Green Monster until he retires mid-game.

Merry Christmas Yankee fans, and a Happy New Year it will be indeed.