Cleveland Indians

Baseball's Mark Payton will return for senior season

Senior Mark Payton announced that he will return to Texas for his senior season. He announced Friday afternoon that he would be turning down a contact with the Cleveland Indians who selected him in the 16th round of the MLB draft last month. Before starting at Texas, Payton was drafted in 2010 by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round.

"I love playing at Texas and I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to go professional, but we weighed both options and decided it was best for me to come back to school, finish up my degree and take another run at the College World Series," Payton said. 

Payton has started 167 games through three years at Texas and currently has a career batting average of .319 with 35 doubles, 14 triples and 83 RBIs. With his 14 triples, Payton is tied for sixth in the Texas record books. 

Last season, Pyton led the Big 12 in batting average with an average of .393, which ranks fourth in the last 40 years. He was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection.

"We are thrilled to have Mark Payton coming back for his senior year," head coach Augie Garrido said. "His experience and leadership will play a key role in getting us back to winning championships at The University of Texas." 

 

Useless division projections: American League Central

The weather is getting warmer. The days are getting longer. Spring training is in full swing, and you can almost smell the freshly cut grass, hot dogs and peanuts of your local ballpark. The Rangers and Astros will kick off the season in just a few short weeks, and it is now time for a round of useless division predictions so we can all start getting our mind out of basketball mode and into its baseball preset.  If you saw the Orioles finishing in second place in the notorious American League East or the Oakland A’s winning the AL west, then these projections aren’t useless. As it stands, we never know what twists and turns will take place over the course of 162, but we’re going to try to look into the future and see where things will stand come October.

American League Central:

Minnesota Twins, 5th place

This rebuild job is still a ways away from nearing completion. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are still a couple of the most feared hitters in the game when they are healthy, but the key phrase in that is “when they are healthy”. The starting rotation, led by new addition Vance Worley, is shaky at best, and the bullpen isn’t much better. But, like the Padres, they play in a gorgeous ball park.

Cleveland Indians, 4th place

The Indians could be the American League’s 2013 version of the 2012 Orioles or A’s. Terry Francona was hired over the winter to head the ship, and the additions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourne, Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds will make them formidable. The hole with the tribe is the starting pitching, led by Justin Masterson. If some miracle is performed where Ubaldo Jimenez can regain the form he had in Colorado, the Indians could be in a position to make some noise. If a few breaks are caught, they could hang around till August, but the curse of Cleveland looks too big to overcome.

Chicago White Sox, 3rd place

They lost their motor of the last eight seasons when A.J. Peirzynski took his catching talents to Texas, and they failed to add anything over the winter that would make you think they can win the division. Paul Konerko is another year older, Alex Rios could be an all-star or he could be a glorified AA centerfielder, and Adam Dunn will reach 200 strikeouts yet again. All the hopes and aspirations on the South Side reside with Chris Sale at the top of the rotation, and they should be about a .500 team, but I don’t expect much else.

Kansas City Royals, 2nd place

It’s that crazy itch again, the same one that made me choose the Pirates to win the NL Central. Maybe it is something about the central divisions. The Royals are finally primed to get close to 90 wins, and if the Tigers falter, could potentially win the division. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are going to have to breakout, and James Shields is going to have to be the ace they traded for when they gave up super prospect Wil Myers. This is the year the Royals put the finishing touches on their rebuilding project and push it into “win now” mode. Of course, they could always go back to their Royal ways and find a way to win 72 games and finish 12 games back.

Detroit Tigers, 1st place

The defending American League champs are just as dangerous a year later. Justin Verlander is still awesome, as is Miguel Cabrera. Prince Fielder has a year under his belt in Motown, and they get Victor Martinez back from an injury that kept him out for all of 2012. They signed Torii Hunter in the offseason, coming off one of the best seasons of his career in Los Angeles. This is the best team in the division, and they should win it going away. If Cabrera can keep up his consistent greatness, followed by Fielder, Martinez and Hunter, the Tigers should be poised to defend their American League championship crown. 

The decision to call up Trout may have saved Las Angelas' season. He has been playing at an MVP level while guiding the Anels back into playoff contention after a poor start.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The date was Apr. 27, a day that could very possibly go down in baseball infamy. The Angels had just been walked off by the Cleveland Indians, bringing their record to a blasphemous 6-14, dropping them nine games back of the Texas Rangers. Then general manager Jerry Dipoto made a move that the rest of the baseball world had been clamoring for in weeks prior as the Angels dug themselves a deeper and deeper hole in the division race only three weeks into the season. He called up the dynamic Mike Trout. It remains to be seen if the Angels can slide their way into the last wild card spot before the postseason begins, but if they don’t, Trout will carry none of the blame.

While Trout is out on the West Coast bringing back old memories of Mickey Mantle, Miguel Cabrera is possibly in the midst of the quietest Triple Crown hunt since Carl Yastrzemski did it back in 1967. He leads the American League in RBIs with 133 and boasts the league’s best average at .329. He has 42 home runs, trailing the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton by only one. One would have to assume that even in the midst of Trout’s transcendent rookie campaign, if Miguel Cabrera ends up pulling off the Triple Crown, the award is all but his.

And while sabermetricians and baseball purists rage war over who should win between Cabrera and Trout, there are three other names in the American League, among others, that should at least be given consideration. If Cabrera and Trout weren’t in the midst of historical seasons, these three would be given much more notice than what they’ve received.

Adrian Beltre: While Beltre isn’t having nearly the year the other two front-runners are having, his season is nothing to sneeze at, not by a long shot. He’s eighth in the league in RBIs with 98, sixth in the league with 35 homers and fifth in average, sporting .315. While none of the numbers are earth-shattering, he is arguably the most valuable player on the best team in the American League. He’s been on a torrid pace since August, hitting .323 and belting 11 home runs and has by far been the most clutch contributor in the lineup. He is the best defensive third basemen in the game, consistently taking base hits away from the opposition, and defense is often an underrated aspect of the voting.

Josh Hamilton: Continuing with the Rangers theme, Hamilton has turned in quite the season himself. First in the league with 43 home runs, second in RBIs with 124, but the case gets a bit fuzzier when you analyze the average. While his .285 average isn’t bad by any stretch, he falls short compared to the elite he’s being compared with in 2012. He hit an eye-popping .359 in his 2010 MVP campaign, so he will fall well below what everyone knows he is capable of. Through the first quarter of the season, it looked like Hamilton was well on his way to his second MVP, belting 21 home runs by the end of May and hitting .368. Then the bottom fell out for about a six-week stretch, and Hamilton has yet to make up the ground that Cabrera and Trout did since then.

Adam Jones: With the “Angels in the Outfield”-type story going on up in Baltimore, you have to include one on the list. Step on up, Adam Jones. Leading the charge for the magical Orioles, Jones has career highs in home runs with 32, a batting average of .292 and will likely break his career record for RBIs. He has 81 thus far and only needs two more over the last eight days of the season to surpass his high water mark. Jones has been the heart and soul for a team looking to make the playoffs since 1997. He has an offensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 5.5, second to only Cabrera and Trout. While the pitching has held among other factors, Jones’ stellar season has largely contributed to the Orioles rise from the dead.

While there are other candidates that deserve to get some notice for the campaigns they have put up, such as Derek Jeter’s amazing comeback from a subpar 2011, Joe Mauer’s consistently great numbers up in the lowly Twin Cities or Edwin Encarnacion’s power surge in Toronto, there are really only two horses in this race. If Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, you can probably raise the white flag on the whole contest. If Hamilton can fend him off and if Trout leads the Angels to the postseason after their embarrassing start, things will get awfully hairy for the voters. It’s been a wild ride thus far, and the final week of the season might upstage the whole thing.