With the dishonor of being one of the worst teams in baseball at 45-53 the Phillies are deep into rebuilding mode. Finding themselves in the gutter yet again this season the Phillies have come a long way from their World Series championship teams in the late 2000’s. Ranking 28th of 30 teams in hitting and 14th of 30 in pitching, has led to misery for fans. The most surprising thing has been the flip flop of positioning. Citizens Bank Park has been a notorious hitter friendly park yet no Phillies player is hitting over .300. Unfortunately for Philly fans they’re use to this type of losing and have found ways to keep things entertaining. When the Philly Phanatic is the best part of most games it does not bode well for the team on the field.
There have been many downs and not many ups for the Phillies but there have been some standouts. By far one of the best players for the Phils this year despite his recent struggles has been Odubel Herrera. Herrera hitting .285 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI’s and at only 24 years old is a player a team can build off of, though he’ll need to improve his fielding to achieve that goal. Another nucleus to build off would be Maikel Franco, though only hitting .257 he has 18 home runs and leads the team with 55 runs batted in. Though like Herrera, Fraco needs to work on his fielding and at only 23 has plenty of time to do so. On the pitching side Hector Neris (3-3 2.70) and Jeanmar Gomez (3-2 2.76) have been just a few of the standouts. At 27 and 28 years old respectively each player should be coming into their prime and could steady the top of the rotation for the next 3 to 5 years.
If the Phillies can build off of some of their young players and if their draft prospects pay dividends soon, fans can have more than mascot races and the Phanatics shenanigans to look forward to. If not, you can always join the Phanatic in trying to “catch ’em all”.
The All Star break gives players a respite from a grueling season and the defending National League champions the New York Mets could definitely use the break. Ravaged by injuries the Mets will use the break to get some players healthy and make a late season push. They currently find themselves tied with the Miami Marlins for second place in the NL East at 47-41, trailing the Washington Nationals (54-36). Second place is not where fans and the team expected to be after a trip to the World Series last year.
If the Mets hope to repeat as National League champions they’ll need players to come off the disabled list and contribute to a team that sees themselves only 6 games over .500. Two players the Mets cannot count on for this season are Matt Harvey (lost to thoracic surgery) and we’d be shocked if David Wright came back from neck surgery this year. Noah Syndergaard skipped the All Star game due to shoulder fatigue. Manager Terry Collins during the All Star game said he expected Syndergaard to rest up and be back in form after the break. Despite these injuries the Mets hung on, and are tied for the wild card spot with the Marlins. The National league east crown is not out of the question being six games back but with the way the Nationals have been playing it would be hard but not impossible to overcome.
As with every season there are highs and lows. The lows have been stated, injuries have ravaged the NL champs but they have just enough talent to hang around. The standouts have been some of the usual suspects along with some nice surprises. Syndergaard (9-4 2.56) before his shoulder fatigue was outstanding and at only 23 should be the ace of the rotation for years to come. Yoenis Cespedes is having a great year hitting .302 with 21 home runs and 52 runs batted in. A pleasant surprise has been Steven Matz with his 7-5 record and 3.38 era, garnering consideration for rookie of the year. The other pleasant surprise for Mets fans has been the return of Kelly Johnson. Johnson returning to the Mets after struggling with the Atlanta Braves (31-58) is hitting .308 in 52 at bats with 3 home runs as a Met. If Syndergaard can return to form from shoulder fatigue and if the Mets can avoid any more devastating injuries they’ll be right in the thick of it come October poised to defend their title.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a gracious first stop on our journey to see all 30 baseball stadiums in the next two years aka “The Great Baseball Stadium Journey”. PNC Park home of the Pirates with its majestic views and thriving nightlife surrounding the ball park area make it a premiere spot for entertainment. Though PNC park holds only about 38,000 fans this intimate setting lends to great baseball game atmosphere. You never feel far from the action, and no matter where you sit you have a great view. Though the best seats are facing the outfield gazing upon the Allegheny river as pictured below. If baseball isn’t your thing make sure to check out our other article series in “The Great Baseball Stadium Journey”. We have a link below to “One thing you must do in each city” with “One thing you must eat in each city” coming later tonight.
There are great options to choose from when deciding what to eat in the ballpark from Primanti bros to Manny’s BBQ. My personal favorite were the bucket of wings. But there are so many choices that you’ll find something for everyone. Be warned as with all ballparks the cost of food is pricey. Though the bucket of wings was not a bad deal. Around $23 dollars for 20 wings. At a little more than a dollar a wing it wasn’t bad considering most stadium concession pricing.
Where Pittsburgh and PNC park truly shine are in its fans and game atmosphere. Even though the day Dinosaur Spaceship attended the game (June 25th 2016) the Pirates were 13 games back in the NL Central. Fans we spoke with were holding out hope for a wild card berth, though they stated would attend the games regardless to support their team. From the cannon blast on the outfield scoreboard after every strike out to the jolly roger PNC park exudes charm. A very nice guest assistant by the name of Alicia F. told me a little of history of the stadium and its attractions. How it was purposefully built to enjoy the mentioned Allegheny river and views of the city, the Pittsburgh Brewing company (Iron City Beer), Primanti Bros and some special members only section of the stadium that show off Pirates memorabilia. You won’t find long selfie sessions here. I learned Pittsburgh fans love their teams and this city enjoys that benefit which not all can say they do. You also can’t forget about the Pierogi race.
Lastly we would like to thank you, our readers, we know there are a lot of stadium journey sites and e-books out there, but with all we do at Dinosaur Spaceship we aim to put that classic unique touch on our journey. We will never charge for the information we give and are not sponsored by MLB, the cities or teams we visit or any source that would benefit from our endeavor. We started this journey because we love baseball and wanted to guide those who follow the same path, enjoy the trip.
After three back to back post season appearances the Pittsburgh Pirates had a lot expectations going into this year, which they have not been living up to. The Pirates needed to atone for last years early exit in the playoffs to the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card round. Star players are not performing like star players (Andrew McCutchen .239, Francisco Liriano 4-8 5.33) and the little bit of luck needed in a long baseball season have not been happening for them. The Pirates have not advanced to the next round in the post season since 2013. The most disappointing was the previously stated loss to the Cubs. Pitching has really let the Pirates down this year ranking in the bottom half of the league. Though they do rank 9th overall in the majors in hitting. The Pirates inability to combine both pitching and hitting has led to their below .500 record.
Though the season is not lost for the Pirates. Thanks to other teams struggles in the National League, Wild Card spots are wide open. The current leaders the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins have their issues and the Dodgers just lost Clayton Kershaw to the 15 day DL with a herniated disk. The Pirates are only 3.5 games back ahead of them the New York Mets (40-37) and the St. Louis Cardinals (40-37). The Cardinals are pretty solid overall and should start hitting their stride. As a team they are 9th in the MLB in pitching and 12th in hitting. The Mets have the 3rd ranked pitching staff in the majors led by Noah Syndergaard (8-3 2.49) struggles this year though rank dead last in hitting. If the Mets can find a bat or two before the all star break it’ll be tough for the Pirates to make up ground.
That’s not to say there have not been high points for the Pirates, sweeping the Dodgers last weekend was a great start to righting the ship. Especially since the Dodgers had been riding a 6 game winning streak having won 8 of 10. Notable players who have excelled this year are Starling Marte (.331 6 HR), Gregory Polanco (.299 10 HR) and Matt Joyce (.292 8HR). On the pitching side Mark Melancon ( 0-1 1.48 22 SV) has done an outstanding job shutting down games. The young Gerrit Cole with a small sample size of 12 games this year looks promising and is 5-4 with a 2.77 era.
If Pittsburgh keeps hitting the way they have been and get players like Liriano and McCutchen get back on track they’ll have a real shot at the Wild Card. Great offense is being wasted with bad pitching performances and have made it hard for the Pirates to get on a roll through the first half of the season. Look for them to try and add an extra bat (because you can’t ever have too many) and some help for their pitching staff. If the front office can make these additions the ol’ jolly roger may be raised come post season and they’ll have a good chance advancing in the playoffs.
The first stop on “The Great Baseball Stadium Journey” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a rounding success. PNC park was majestic and the site lines from our seats were incredible. We’ll be posting our article tomorrow afternoon along with the companion pieces and a mid season review of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the meantime here are some pictures from our trip.
After a slow start to the season the Los Angeles Dodgers (41-33) have turned things around and if the season were to end today they’d be one of the two wild card teams for the National League. The Dodgers are riding a hot streak 8-2 in the last 10 games having won 6 in a row going into Pittsburgh. Though the San Francisco Giants (47-27) are 9-1 in the last 10 games winners of their last three. Thus the Dodgers still trail the Giants in the NL west by 6 games. It is an “even numbered year” so if history repeats itself the Giants will win it all. The Dodgers will need to continue playing solid and improve their head to head match-ups with said Giants. For a team with such high expectations not to mention such a high payroll it can be said they’re under performing. The Dodgers need to focus on winning baseball games. Clubhouse chemistry has been an issue in the past and we’ll see this year if new manager Dave Roberts can steer the ship in the right direction. Roberts held firm when the team was playing poorly and one of the reasons he was hired was due to his leadership and ability to be cool under pressure.
The pressure is definitely on for the Dodgers having been eliminated in back to back National League championship series. Phenomenal pitching is keeping the Dodgers in the hunt like most years. With the staff currently sitting with a 3.32 era third best in the majors trailing only the New York Mets (3.19) and Chicago Cubs (2.76). Though if their star players don’t start playing like it they’ll find themselves out of the playoffs sooner if not entirely. Adrian Gonzalez (.267) is not looking like the player he was in years past. He is hitting 20 points below his career average but more importantly only has 6 home runs on the season. The silver lining for Gonzalez is he still has managed to drive in 32 runs. The Dodgers will need his “A” game if they’re to advance to the World Series this year. Though it is not only Gonzalez who has seen his numbers drop. Yasiel Puig is hitting only .244 with 5 home runs. Which does not make up for all his strikeouts; 45 in 55 games played. Not having a good year could be said for many other Dodger hitters. The Dodgers overall are 27th in the majors, hitting .235 collectively. Lower, believe it or not, than their neighbors to the south the San Diego Padres (31-43). A team that didn’t score a run until the 4th game of the season.
The Dodgers do have some players who are performing better or as expected. The indomitable Clayton Kershaw (11-1 1.57) has anchored the rotation. When things were bad early this season, the team could count on him to snap them out of a losing streak. Kenley Jansen (3-2 1.48) has blown three saves thus far but has been solid overall. It’s best this happens early in the season and not the post season. The brightest star for the Dodgers has to be rookie Corey Seager. Seager is a leading candidate for rookie of the year hitting .289 and belting 16 home runs while leading the Dodgers with 37 runs batted in.
Seager and Kershaw cannot do it all on their own. The Dodgers need Yasiel Puig, Yasmani Grandal (.192), A.J. Ellis (.191.) and Joc Pederson (.239) to start playing a lot better. This may be an “even numbered year” but the Dodgers don’t have just the Giants to worry about. They also have to look out for the Chicago Cubs (47-24) and Washington Nationals (43-30). Will it be the year the Cubs escape the curse? Will it be another one in the books for the Giants? Or will the Nationals and Dodgers mix things up. If you’re a Dodgers fan you can only hope this current streak is a sign of more sunny days ahead.
With the All Star Game fast approaching it’s time to shift our reviews from “Quarter Season” to “Mid Season” At the start of the season there was hope for Yankees fans. The addition of a couple new players and the resurgence of Alex Rodriguez bode well for the 2016 season. Many pundits had them winning the AL East. But as the beginning of July approaches the Yankees find themselves (35-36) 6 games back in the AL East trailing the first place Baltimore Orioles followed by the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees are in the unenviable spot of riding it out or cleaning house and reloading for next year. General manager Brian Cashman has stated he’s not ready to wipe the slate clean yet. But alas things have not gone the way the pinstripes wish it would have. Poor play and injuries to key players like C.C. Sabathia (5-4 2.71)and Mark Teixeira havae contributed to a poor first half of the season. Teixeira was also struggling mightlily at the plate hitting only .180 with 3 home runs. A good team snaps out of their slump and the Yankees have come a long way from being 8-15 at the start of May. The bad news is they haven’t gained ground either, still 6 games back now towards the start of July.
There are some bright spots, though few and far between, which is not enough for a team and city that is use to winning. Didi Gregorius (.286) has been solid behind the plate but his fielding has been less than desirable and under the average of most shortstops, currently sitting at minus 7 runs saved. Gregorius will need to improve his defense if the Yankees are to make up ground. The shortstop is the catalyst of the defense. Carlos Beltran is having a great year hitting .286 with 19 home runs and 51 runs batted in. On the pitching side the Masahiro Tanaka (4-2 2.91) has proved solid despite the lack of run support from his teammates. Though the standout has been Andrew Miller (4-0 1.17). Miller has been solid out of the bullpen and also picking up 7 saves in spot opportunities. Yankees fans are some of the most ravenous and these silver linings are not enough. Brian Cashman has not been getting the job done and if the trend continues the Yankees will be missing the playoffs. Which would be a big disappointment to a team with such high hopes going into the season and after the loss last year to the Houston Astros in the American League Wild Card game. Should the players stay or should they go? That is the question and not a choice that will easily be made.
Starting June 25th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Dinosaur Spaceship will embark on an epic quest to see all 30 major league baseball stadiums in the next couple years. We’ll share our thoughts of the overall stadium experience along with companion articles. Our companion articles will be split into two segments. “One thing to do in each baseball city” and the other “One thing you must eat in each city”.
After kicking things off in Pittsburgh we’re on our way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to see what the Phillies have to offer. We then head to New York City to check out Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. With our east coast leg ending in Boston to see Fenway Park. If you have suggestions of what we should “see” or “eat” while visiting each city please leave it in the comments and if we end up choosing your suggestions we’ll be sure to give you a shout out.