Picks of the Pen

When Hagerstown isn’t being known for it’s ridges of Stonehenge limestone, it often receives national attention due to its standing as the launching point for the careers of highly touted Washington Nationals draft picks.  Within weeks, they depart, and the jubliant throngs once dancing in the street resign back to the strange, aeronautic allure of the Hagerstown Aviation Museum.

And yet, here he is, The National Hero Himself, Stephen Strasburg, back again to prove he’s just as indestructible as we all feared, after a season’s absence due to Tommy John surgery and bulge his eyeballs out of his head.

You’ve all see Terminator.  You know how this ends.

Links!  Now!

Blaine

This weekend the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees began another late season series, pitting foes against each other as each continue its attempt to claim a spot in the postseason. The rivals entered Friday night’s game dead even in the AL East standings, but this may not have been the case if it wasn’t for a certain Beantown center fielder.

Jacoby Ellsbury continued what’s been an impressive 2011 season last week, by walking off for the Red Sox not one but two times.  Ellsbury accomplished the feat on back to back nights, leading Rick Meegan over at BoSox Injection to wonder if Ellsbury can keep up this ridiculous pace for the remainder of the season.

Over at ESPN, Tim Kurkjian added his two cents to the Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland discussion.  As many have done, Timmy points out that a true winner of the deal will not be established for a few years.  But, we will at least be able to see what impact the Chief has on his new club and if the addition is enough to catapult the Tribe into the playoffs.

Jonathan

The trade deadline not only means a bunch of trades, but it also brings everyone opinion on the winners and losers. Baseball Nation got in on the act in a slightly different way. Grant Brisbee imagines what every baseball General Manager (and even Brad Pitt) was saying as 4:00 on Sunday was approaching. What resulted was a hilarious discussion and clever column detailing stereotypes of baseball’s leading decision makers.

Sunday’s Angels and Tigers game was one of the most fascinating games of the year. Not only did Justin Verlander almost throw a no-hitter, but the game almost blew up in the seventh when Carlos Guillen showboated down the first baseline after hitting a homer off of Jered Weaver. The display almost cost Alex Avila’s head and got an infuriated Weaver thrown out of the game. Kalup Anderson from Halo Hangout sums up the debacle, which Angel outfield Torii Hunter described as, “That was stupid–it was all stupid. Everybody was stupid.”

Justin

Finally, Alex Rodriguez catches a break.

It’s not so much that I believe underground poker games are necessarily bad.  Hell, I grew up under the card tables of North Philadelphia; learning about life, love, laughter, amidst the demented cackles and frequent gunshots of a place people only really described as “….used to be such a nice neighborhood.”  And now I write for a baseball blog.  Who came out the winner in that deal?  Me.

But it’s great to see A-Rod get beat up a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, the press will gladly cushion the blow so that he is not too despicable to not be worth a headline.  An epic downfall has its perks for the media, but if they can keep him out of the gutter, they can squeeze some more stories out of him.

The point is, A-Rod’s doing fine.  Huzzah.

Elsewhere, a team like the Padres has to be somewhat relenting any attempt at a division flag.  However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of small bursts of unlikely heroism.  Chicken Friars’ Ernie Padaon breathlessly and concisely reviews their limited success.

Alex

Over the past few weeks, much has been made of Dan Uggla’s record low batting average for a player with a 25+ game hitting streak.  Baseball’s hottest hitter has now hit in 28 straight games, effectively raising his batting average from .173 to .220. Clearly, Uggla has made some significant adjustments since his first half struggles, and over on ESPN’s stats and info blog, his tale of two seasons is examined. Uggla has changed his approach at the plate in more ways than one, allowing him to climb within one game of the longest hitting streak in Braves history.

The AL Central has a reputation for being one of the least competitive divisions in MLB, and you should look no further than this season for proof. After the Cleveland Indians got off to a surprisingly hot start, Detroit has emerged as the runaway favorite for the division crown. Behind the dominance of Justin Verlander and production of a balanced offense, the Tigers have opened up a four game lead in the Central, and as John Parent over at Motor City Bengals points out, it is their division to lose. This team has separated itself from the rest of the pack, and in all likelihood will not face immense competition down the stretch.

Topics: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Stephen Strasburg, Ubaldo Jimenez, Washington Nationals

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