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Monday, February 27, 2017

Baseball

Colby Rasmus now clean-shaven despite viral beard photos

Colby Rasmus

Colby Rasmus is actually sporting a clean-shaven look now despite photos of him in a funny-looking beard going viral on Wednesday.

For Tampa Bay Rays picture day, Rasmus was seen with this beard:

The photos were noticed and blogged about Wednesday, producing several memes:

It was no doubt funny stuff, but unfortunately the bearded look Rasmus had for picture day no longer exists. The Rays shared this photo of Rasmus on Wednesday:

The pictures from picture day were taken on Saturday. But it’s not like Rasmus hasn’t gotten his Abraham Lincoln on before:

Joe Maddon shows off his tricked-out RV (Video)

Joe Maddon

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is living large.

In an appearance on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel set to air Tuesday, Feb. 21, Maddon showed off the luxury RV he spends time in, which boasts no less than four TVs, one and a half bathrooms, and heated floors.

Maddon’s RV is already the stuff of legend. It’s known as the “Cousin Eddie,” and it was the site of his very first meeting with Chicago Cubs executives before he accepted the managerial position with the team. Those days are over, though. Maddon describes the RV as a “refuge” and says the only business he intends to use it for is hosting a party for his coaching staff. It’s hard to blame him for that.

Rick Ankiel once drank vodka before start to deal with pitching anxiety

Once a highly-touted young pitcher, Rick Ankiel dealt with perhaps the most famous case of the yips of all time.

Ankiel famously melted down in the 2000 playoffs, uncorking nine wild pitches and 11 walks in just four innings over three separate appearances. He was never the same pitcher again, and he was so impacted by the playoff meltdown that he drank vodka before making his first start of the 2001 season.

“Before that game…I’m scared to death,” Ankiel told St. Louis’s 590 The Fan. “I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Lo and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy, I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game.

“It was one of those things like the yips, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”

As Ankiel noted, it did work, if only for one start. He beat Randy Johnson and the eventual World Series winning Arizona Diamondbacks, allowing two runs and walking just three in five innings to go along with eight strikeouts. The renaissance was impermanent, though, as he ended up walking 25 batters in 24 innings during that season.

Full credit to Ankiel, as he eventually became an outfielder and managed to stay in the majors until 2014. It’s still remarkable to hear what he went through as his pitching career collapsed before his eyes.

Image via Lory Ankiel/Instagram

Ranking the MLB divisions from toughest to easiest

Joe Maddon Cubs

It’s a general fact of life in Major League Baseball that some teams simply have more difficult roads to the postseason than others do. In 2016, the American League East produced three playoff teams and a fourth with a record over .500, while the Chicago Cubs won the National League Central by 17.5 games and had competition from only one other team over the .500 mark. Being in a weak division can give you something of an easier pass to the postseason, while a tough, competitive group can really toughen you up and give you a harder road to October.

With that in mind, we’ve ranked MLB’s six divisions from toughest to easiest entering the 2017 season.

1) American League East

There may have been an exception or two, but in general, the AL East would top this list going back a decade. Once upon a time, this was just the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The Yankees have fallen from grace slightly, but everyone else has risen. This is the only division in baseball in which every team in it has made at least one postseason appearance since the start of 2012.

In 2017, at least three, and probably four teams can dream of October. The Red Sox have made the moves to cement their stranglehold on the division by adding Chris Sale to the equation, and it’s not far-fetched to think David Price will be a bit more comfortable in his second year in Boston. Sure, they’ll miss David Ortiz, but they’ll still have enough offense to make the playoffs.

The Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Yankees are in the picture, too. The Jays have lost players, but still have a powerful offense and improving pitching staff. The Orioles return many of the same players that won them 89 games in 2016. The Yankees can make noise if they get enough improvement from their younger players, too. Even the Rays are no pushovers; they’re likely the worst team in the division, but in other divisions, they could easily wind up a .500 team. Every game here will be a battle, and the winner will have earned it.

2) American League West

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Mike Trout admits Angels’ struggles are ‘frustrating’

Mike Trout

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim boast the best player in baseball, but the team has made the playoffs in just one of Mike Trout’s five MLB seasons.

After a 74-88 season in 2016, Trout admitted that the team’s repeated failure to make the playoffs has grown frustrating for him.

“It’s frustrating, for sure,” Trout said, via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today. “You want to get to the playoffs. It’s fun. You’ve seen the World Series last year. You want to be in that atmosphere.”

The Angels have added players such as Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa to try to get the team back to the playoffs, and those moves have been met with Trout’s approval.

“Cam’s obviously fast,” Trout said. “I got to see him play when he was with Detroit. He brings a lot to the table. Last year we were trying to fill some holes in left field. … It’s going to be fun. The outfield’s going to be fast.”

As long as the Angels have Trout, they can’t be totally written off. Their new additions are fine, and their possible closer has lost some weight, but they’ve got a ways to go to get back to the playoffs.

Bryce Harper uses barbed wire bat from ‘The Walking Dead’

Bryce Harper heckler

Bryce Harper had a new weapon with him at spring training on Sunday, and its name is Lucille.

Harper was seen at Washington Nationals camp carrying a bat that is wrapped in barbed wire:

Those who watch “The Walking Dead” will immediately notice that the bat is the same one used by the villain Negan in the show. Harper received it a few days ago from the show and apparently likes it because it’s heavy.

The Lucille bats are apparently becoming a common thing around MLB spring training clubhouses. A few days ago, Detroit Tigers slugger J.D. Martinez showed off his bat:

Fans may feel that “The Walking Dead” has jumped the shark, but it’s alive and well around MLB. And credit to Harper for always incorporating gear that is relevant to pop culture, such as this T-shirt.

Red Sox C Blake Swihart struggling with throws back to pitcher

Blake Swihart

The Boston Red Sox have to be concerned about catcher Blake Swihart showing signs of Mackey Sasser Syndrome in spring training.

Swihart, a 2011 first-round pick by Boston who has seen MLB action the past two seasons, has struggled with his throws back to the pitcher during spring training.

CSN New England has provided the video evidence. The first clip comes from Friday:

And this was from Sunday morning:

Swihart did improve on his throws Sunday, but there were still issues.

When you’re talking about something that should be automatic and not cause any issues, just having minor struggles is a reason for concern.

Swihart is competing with Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez for two catcher spots on the big league roster. These issues won’t help his case and could contribute to him starting the season in Triple-A.

H/T Bro Bible

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