Frank Wren Dismissed as Braves GM: Details, Comments, Replacement and Reaction

With their playoff hopes shot amid a September collapse, the Atlanta Braves began what could be a housecleaning session Monday, dismissing general manager Frank Wren.

In conjunction with Wren's dismissal, the team announced John Hart will oversee baseball operations while it looks for a replacement:

Hart, 66, was serving as a senior adviser in the organization. He was previously the general manager of the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. After stepping down from the general manager post with the Rangers in 2005, Hart stayed with the organization in an advisory role until 2013.

It is unknown at this time whether Hart will receive consideration for the Braves vacancy, but his vast experience should make him an interesting candidate.

Bruce Manno, the Braves' assistant general manager, was also fired, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported:

Braves president John Schuerholz spoke about the decision to move on, via the Braves and Kevin McAlpin of 680 The Fan:

Scott Miller of Bleacher Report passed on information regarding manager Fredi Gonzalez's future with the organization:

Wren's firing comes one day after the Braves were officially eliminated from playoff contention thanks to a 10-2 loss to the New York Mets. Atlanta, which spent most of the season battling for the National League's second wild-card spot, has gone 4-14 in September to fall out of contention.

"It's disappointing," Wren told The Associated Press following the loss to the Mets, per Fox Sports. "I think we had a club we thought could go into the postseason and have a good chance because of our pitching."

The Braves do indeed have one of baseball's best pitching staffs. They're fifth in ERA, first in quality starts and 10th in wins above replacement. Atlanta's struggles have instead come at the plate, where it ranks near the bottom in nearly every major offensive category. The Braves have scored three or fewer runs in 14 of their 18 games this month and rank 29th in runs scored for the season.

The collapse was the team's second in the past four seasons, as the Braves dropped their last five games in 2011 to fall out of the playoffs. Wren, who took over Schuerholz's post as general manager in 2007, has seen the brunt of the criticism head his way.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported Sunday that Wren's job was "in peril." The 56-year-old Florida native had been with the Braves for well more than a decade, serving as Schuerholz's second in command before taking over. He is the first person in a major position of power fired by the team since 1990.

While Wren's dismissal seemingly paints an ominous sign for manager Fredi Gonzalez, Heyman reported that's not necessarily the case:

The Braves have seven games remaining on their 2014 schedule, so it'll be interesting to see whether that stance holds up over the next week.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Football is escape, not a moral maze. Isn’t it?

It is not the job, we are told, of those who regulate football to regulate football. What?

Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea. Photo: Getty
Is it possible to “love the club but bitterly regret the identity of the owner”? Photo: Getty

“I wanted them all to go home happy just this once, and for a great football story to happen, however compromised by all the money.” David Conn’s description of his feelings on Sunday 13 May 2012 as he stood in the crowd watching his team, Manchester City, win their first league title for 34 years, encapsulates the conundrum of modern football for football fans. To win the big prizes your team needs big money, and when the money needed is a big as the modern game demands, it comes at a price.

Conn has written more than most about how the game has been misshapen by money, about the growing wealth gap and the failures of governance. For years he has kept pricking at the collective football conscience in the way the best journalists do. What makes him able to this so effectively is the fact that he is a still a fan, that he understands the passions of fans. In his book Richer Than God he explores what being a fan means in the age of mega-money, and questions the nature of football clubs and what it means to be a supporter. Like many of us, he finds himself compromised.

I’ve written a lot about community and identity, about what makes football clubs the attractive commercial enterprises they are. But, really, is that just a load of old romance? I sometimes wonder whether I am supporting an idea that ceased to exist a long time ago. I’m not alone in that, but I also recognise that many fans scoff at the idea of thinking that hard about it at all. Who cares where the money comes from if it delivers entertaining, winning football? Football is escape, not a moral maze. Isn’t it?

It’s a subject Times columnist Matthew Syed has addressed (£) when he questioned why many Chelsea fans not only do not question the way their club has been bankrolled in modern times by Roman Abramovich, but get positively irate about anyone who does. While accepting that some fans “love the club but bitterly regret the identity of the owner”, he condemns the “egregious” justification offered by many others that football “is an escape” and they “don’t want to get bogged down in thinking about politics”. He concludes: “This is offensive because it goes to the heart of a wider malaise in football. It is the idea that football is subject to a different set of rules to everything else.”

The article not only prompted huge debate, it also provided further evidence that football fans often don’t help themselves by hurling abuse and descending into partisan point-scoring when there is a bigger picture to focus on. Syed drew attention on Twitter to some of the viler abuse he received, further underlining his point about the shortcomings of football fans. But while I certainly don’t condone the abuse, I do take issue with the thrust of his argument.

I do so for two reasons. One is that, as Syed’s Times colleague Gabrielle Marcotti (£) argued, football’s moral compass is not so different from the rest of society’s. He points out that there are plenty of companies – the banks or BP to take just two examples – that have done bad things but who we keep doing business with. We do so, he says, because “we run our own cost-benefit analysis” and “figure that it’s in our interest to keep them around because they contribute more than they take.” Abramovich plundered the assets of a nation state in a rigged auction, BP ruined the Gulf of Mexico, but if you’re a Chelsea fan needing to fill up the car on the way to the European Cup Final what are you going to do? Football reflects wider society.

My second reason for taking issue with the thrust of Syed’s argument is that, once again, it makes the problems in the game the fans’ fault. I’ll admit to being slightly sensitive to this line of argument, a state of affairs I attribute to having seen fans blamed for pretty much everything that has gone wrong in football for over 30 years. One of the comments under Syed’s piece asks: “Why should your average football fan take a stance when the authorities have deemed it OK?” And that brings in the perspective missing from Syed’s argument.

In most instances, fans have absolutely no say in who owns their clubs. They could, of course, vote with their feet and not watch any team funded by money of dubious origin. But arguing that fans should simply boycott not only displays a total ignorance of how fandom works around football clubs, it’s about as much practical use as Wolfie Smith shouting “Power to the people” in the middle of Tooting Broadway.

What would be productive is to look first at the football authorities, the people who run the game – with the current definition of ‘run’ seeming to be “don’t run”. The standing joke about the current fit and proper person’s test for prospective owners is that it consists of two questions; 1) Are you a fit and proper person? and 2) Have you got lots of money? A simple yes to both parts is required.

It is not the job, we are told, of those who regulate football to regulate football. What’s more, the free market cannot be interfered with and it is not for the game to make judgements on how its benefactors made their money. All of which is, in my considered opinion, baloney.

It is not only possible but desirable for the people running a sporting competition to enforce whatever set of standards they want. It is also possible to deploy ethical judgements in business, it happens on a regular basis.

The argument that hard-headed reality eschews ethical or wider issues is too often left unchallenged. So by all means encourage fans to question ownership structures and to start to bring those ethical pressures to bear. But do that alongside pressure on the people running the game who are in a position to deliver real change.

The football authorities can set whatever framework of values they like. They do so in Germany, for example, where the authorities issued a statement that the game “should not place its social function in doubt” and operate within an understanding of the bigger picture. And yes, I know I always go on about Germany, but that’s because the German game is living proof that the There Is No Alternative line peddled in England is bunkum.

In the conversation that is raging about the game’s future, we need to start drilling into some detail. A good starting point would be work out how to make fans the genuine stakeholders modern customer-relations-speak insists we are. That would encourage those fans who do care about those wider issues Syed regrets are too often ignored, and start to convince those who doubt there’s anything that can be done.

It’s got to be better than blaming the stupid fans. Again.

Martin Cloake’s latest book, Taking Our Ball Back: English Football’s Culture Wars, is out now

MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 1 Week Remaining

We've reached the final week of the 2014 MLB regular season, and there are still five playoff spots up for grabs.

Only the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels, Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers have officially punched their ticket to the postseason to this point, so there will be no shortage of action in the season's final days.

With the season on the line for some, and a chance to play spoiler for others, there was once again plenty of shuffling in this week's rankings.

When putting the following rankings together on a weekly basis, the following four factors are considered:

  • Previous week's record
  • Recent performance beyond the last week
  • Quality of opponents
  • Key injuries/trades

With that in mind, here is an updated look at where all 30 MLB teams stand with one week remaining. Be sure to check back here every Monday morning for the most recent edition of our MLB power rankings.

Begin Slideshow

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Top 10 Pickups for Week 26

One final week, one last batch of waiver-wire additions just the way you like 'em: hot and fresh out of the oven.

With the end of the fantasy baseball season here, this is a last-ditch rundown of the top waiver-wire pickups as you get set to finish up your lineup decisions and roster additions.

Some players mentioned last week—including Jose Quintana, Kevin Gausman, Rusney Castillo, Brandon McCarthy, Oswaldo Arcia, Avisail Garcia, David Freese and Alejandro De Aza—are already owned in many leagues, but they remain quality pickups if they're available.

In the interest of keeping the names new, though, let's avoid any repeats. Here are the top 10 waiver-wire pickups for the final week.

Begin Slideshow

10 MLB Stars Who Must Show Up in Pennant Race’s Final Week

Seven days. That is all the time some MLB stars have to make their mark as the pennant race has officially entered its final week.

With a couple of division winners and both wild-card spots still very much undetermined, the need for the best players in the game to show up night after night has never been greater.

Who are the 10 with the most at stake, though?

Before we get into the answer to that question, let’s lay the foundation.

First off, players on clubs that have already clinched their division will not be included. For the purpose of this article, they have already done their part.

Also, if a player is already performing at a high level, they will not be mentioned. That means that the entirety of the Pittsburgh Pirates offense will not be included. After all, each of the regulars had at least a 125 wRC+ in September when play began Sunday, per FanGraphs, and the unit has been on point for some time.

Here are the 10 MLB stars who must come up clutch in the final week of the pennant race.

Begin Slideshow

Predicting 3 Consequences of Braves’ Disappointing 2014 Season

Great things were expected out of this Atlanta Braves team. With a core group of players returning from career-best seasons, and young players growing into new roles, the excitement at the onset of spring training was hard to ignore.

While nearly half of the team’s rotation went down in March, the front office was able to find replacements and field a team that posted baseball’s second-best record in April (17-9). But it’s been all downhill from there, and after an abysmal 4-14 September, the team has slipped three games below .500 and was eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday’s loss to the Mets.

What will be the outcome of this disastrous stretch run, the team’s second massive September collapse in the past four years? Will coaches be fired? Could there be a massive shake-up in the front office? Which players will be sent packing this offseason? Let’s take a look at some of the possible consequences to the Braves disastrous 2014 season.

 

Someone in charge will be fired

The calls for someone’s head in Atlanta are getting louder as the inevitability of playoff elimination turned into reality yesterday. These calls have come from fans, but they have also been hinted at by beat writers who sense a difference in the clubhouse and the organization.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren are the two most likely candidates to feel the wrath of the Braves' second-half collapse.

The primary knock against Wren is the ill-advised, long-term, big-money contracts he’s given to players who have come to Atlanta and flopped.

Derek Lowe was paid by the Braves not to play for them in the final year of his disappointing contract. Kenshin Kawakami became the highest-paid pitcher to spend most of a season in Double-A. Dan Uggla was jettisoned with almost $20 million remaining on his contract, and B.J. Upton has three years and over $45 million left on his contract.

With a payroll that ranks as the 13th-highest in baseball, Atlanta can’t afford to make so many mistakes with high-dollar contracts. Those repeated mistakes could culminate in a new direction for the Atlanta front office.

In the dugout, Fredi Gonzalez has come under fire for his suboptimal lineups, which feature poor on-base guys like B.J. Upton and Andrelton Simmons at the top of the order. The team’s best leadoff option has been Jason Heyward (.351 on-base percentage), but Gonzalez has only listed him first in 94 of the team’s 154 games.

Upton has been used 36 times to leadoff and 55 times to hit second in the lineup while posting just a .282 on-base percentage in each spot. Those lineup decisions have cost the Braves run-scoring opportunities and wins.

The players deserve some of the blame for their poor performance, but it shouldn’t take 90 games for a manager to figure out that a guy who didn’t get on base last year isn’t going to get on base this year.

Gonzalez also seems unable to motivate his players or rally them towards better performances. The loss of veterans Brian McCann and Tim Hudson last offseason left a leadership void in the clubhouse that remains unfilled. What is needed is a manager to step in and fill that void, a role Gonzalez has either not recognized or is unable to fill.

Several days ago I laid out more reasons why both Wren and Gonzalez should be canned, eventually settling on Gonzalez as the one who definitely needs to go.

Recent rumblings from Braves.com beat writer Mark Bowman suggest that Frank Wren will be the one to go, possibly before the season ends.

 

B.J. Upton must be traded

According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the Braves tried to trade B.J. Upton at this year’s July 31 deadline. That rumored move may have also included other players departing Atlanta and was intended to shake up the clubhouse and give the team a new look.

That sentiment should be repeated in earnest this offseason. Atlanta has collected too many players with too many strikeouts. Last year’s team set a franchise record for most batter’s strikeouts in a season, and this year’s club may challenge that record.

While the strikeouts were tolerable last year because they were accompanied by good on-base (.321) and slugging numbers (.402), this year’s squad has posted the lowest team on-base percentage (.306) and slugging percentage (.362) since 1989. When players aren’t getting on-base or hitting for power, the strikeouts they’re accumulating come into sharper focus.

The 2015 Braves must have fewer players who are prone to large strikeout totals, and more players who can get on base above league average (.312). The guy who has become the poster boy for these problems is B.J. Upton.

When the Braves signed Upton, they knew they were getting a player who struck out a lot, but they thought they were also getting a player with good on-base and power skills. His on-base (.336) and slugging percentages (.422) in eight years with the Tampa Bay Rays was much higher than they have been in two seasons with Atlanta (.276 OBP, .311 SLG).

 

A star player will be traded

In order to rid themselves of B.J. Upton, the Braves may be forced to part with a player of value. What team in its right mind would take Upton and his contract if it wasn't also receiving something useful? The top three candidates to depart this offseason are Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis.

Both Heyward and Justin Upton can become free agents at the end of next season. Atlanta may not have the money to sign both players, and trading one or both of them now, instead of at next year’s trade deadline, could return the most value.

While Evan Gattis is still four years away from free agency, the presence of catching prospect Christian Bethancourt could make Gattis expendable. His value as a slugger is higher to an American League team, who could use Gattis both behind the plate and as a designated hitter. As a young player who is still a year away from arbitration, Gattis also represents a low-cost player who would offset the cost of the overpaid B.J. Upton for any potential suitor.

Starting pitcher Mike Minor could also be a player included in an offseason trade. While Atlanta will be looking for starting pitching this winter, Minor’s increasing price tag via arbitration could make him expendable when the team searches the free-agent and trade markets for lower-cost options.

The Braves’ sudden collapse has been tough to watch. After showing so much promise in the opening weeks of the season and leading the NL East for 74 days, the whimper with which they are ending the season will not come without consequences.

As the team’s elimination became official yesterday, upper management may not wait for the official end of the season to issue pink slips to those coaches or managers they deem at fault for the club’s failings. Pretty soon we won’t have to simply speculate about what the consequences will be for the 2014 Braves’ disappointing season.

 

All stats are through the games of September 20 and taken from Baseball-Reference.com. All standings are through games of September 21. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Previewing Must-Watch Red Sox Prospects in Upcoming Fall League Action

The 2014 season is about to come to a close for the Boston Red Sox, but not every one of their players will be heading home for the winter. 

The Sox have relied on a plethora of prospects in 2014, and not always to great effect. Yet the Sox still have an intriguing core of young players in the majors and upper minors who should factor in prominently to Boston's plans for 2015 and beyond. Given all of the competition for playing time in Boston's system right now, not every player gets all the at-bats or innings pitched that he ideally should.

Thankfully, the Arizona Fall League and Puerto Rican Winter League provide players with a platform in which to gain more experience in between MLB seasons. Often used as a showcase for prospects who are close to the majors, missed time with injury or are simply deemed to require more reps, AFL ball in particular often pits some of the most exciting young players in the game against one another. 

This season, the Red Sox are sending seven players to their AFL affiliate, the Surprise Saguaros, a team they share with the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. With that in mind, let's take a look at the five most interesting Red Sox prospects who will see some playing time this fall and winter. 

Begin Slideshow

MLB Free Agents 2014-15: Forecasting the Best Values on the Market

If you're looking for the best of the best in baseball's upcoming free-agent class...you've come to the wrong place. You won't find names like Jon Lester, Pablo Sandoval, Max Scherzer or James Shields on the pages that follow.

That's not to say that those players aren't valuable commodities—you'd have to be insane to think that they weren't. But when it comes to the contracts that they are going to receive, in terms of both dollars and in length, well, these aren't the droids you're looking for.

Instead, our focus will be on the role players, the rotation fillers and middle relievers, the veterans whose better days are behind them and some youngsters who never quite lived up to the hype. They're all quality players worthy of a spot on a major league roster, but none are going to command much in the way of dollars or years on the open market.

Who are we talking about, exactly? Let's take a look.

 

*For our purposes, we are operating under the assumption that any player who has an option on his contract for 2015—any kind of option—will have it picked up and, thus, not officially become a free agent.

Begin Slideshow

B/R MLB 500: Top 70 Corner Outfielders

After a brief check-in with designated hitters, the B/R MLB 500 will now conclude its position-by-position tour with corner outfielders.

Corner fielders will be scored as such: 30 points for Hitting, 35 points for Power, 15 points for Baserunning and 20 points for Defense, for a total of 100 points.

The Hitting category involves not only looking at how good guys are at putting the bat on the ball and how they hit the ball, but also things like patience and plate discipline.

The Power category is not so much about raw power. It's more of a look at how much power guys have in actual games, which involves looking into how they tap into their power for extra-base hits.

The Baserunning category could be complicated, but we're going to keep it simple by focusing on how good guys are at stealing bases, taking extra bases and avoiding outs on the bases.

For Defense, we'll be putting more of an emphasis on arm strength than we did with center fielders. But range will still count for a lot, and that means looking not only at speed, but also reads and routes as well.

One thing we're not doing this year is a category for health. Rather than handle them separately, any health concerns we have will be applied to a specific category that could be impacted.

Please note that a score in the middle (i.e., 15/30 or 17/35) denotes average, not failing. And while the discussion will be centered on 2014, we also have one eye on 2015. Part of that includes B/R prospect guru Mike Rosenbaum providing scores and scouting reports for some MLB-ready corner outfielders.

Lastly, any ties will be resolved with the following question: "If we could pick only one, who would it be?"

When you're ready, you can read on.

Begin Slideshow

Updated Round-by-Round MLB Playoff Predictions Heading into the Final Week

When it comes to the MLB playoffs nothing is more important than pitching.

From Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers to Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers, there is an array of aces getting set to take part in October baseball. While top arms are a crucial part of the equation, the clubs that have the most success also are capable of scoring runs in a variety of different ways. Plus, it always helps when a key player or an entire team is just hitting stride as the postseason approaches. 

Begin Slideshow

Updated Round-by-Round MLB Playoff Predictions Heading into the Final Week

When it comes to the MLB playoffs nothing is more important than pitching.

From Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers to Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers, there is an array of aces getting set to take part in October baseball. While top arms are a crucial part of the equation, the clubs that have the most success also are capable of scoring runs in a variety of different ways. Plus, it always helps when a key player or an entire team is just hitting its stride as the postseason approaches. 

Begin Slideshow

AL Contenders Better Hope Oakland A’s Don’t Back into the Postseason

It's been a while since anyone was afraid of the Oakland A's. 

After boasting baseball's highest-scoring offense and the game's best record for much of the first half, the A's have plunged into a vertigo-inducing free fall. They're 26-34 since the All-Star break and 19-29 since they traded slugger Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for ace Jon Lester.

The point of the Lester deal was to bolster the rotation for a deep playoff run. Now, Oakland is scrambling desperately just to get to October.

"The production across the board from everybody was much better in the first four months or so and hasn't been since," manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com's Jane Lee. "And when you continually struggle, it can affect your confidence..."

Yet, even with all of the fecklessness and hand-wringing, the A's would be in the first wild-card position if the season ended today.

After defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 in 10 innings Sunday afternoon, Oakland stands at 85-70. At 84-70, the Kansas City Royals are nipping at their heels. And the Seattle Mariners, at 83-72, lurk just two games back.

That means the A's will have to scratch and claw to qualify for a postseason that once seemed like a foregone conclusion.

So you might think this is the club every other American League contender wants to face, the playoff patsy. You'd be wrong.

First, consider the starting corps. While the injury-bitten, AL West-winning Los Angeles Angels are reportedly mulling a three-man rotation for the division series, per Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, Oakland is drowning in depth.

After Lesterwho has posted a 2.20 ERA in 10 starts with the A's and owns an even stingier 2.11 career postseason ERAthe A's can toss out Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. That's a shutdown top four, maybe the best in the game.

As for the bats...well, about that. Oakland's team batting average has plummeted 20 points in the second half, from .251 to .231, and they've averaged 3.9 runs per game, down from 4.9 in the first half.

Slumps have spread like a virus, but no player embodies Oakland's second-half futility more than Brandon Moss. Moss was one of the premier power hitters in baseball prior to the All-Star break, belting 21 home runs.

Since the break? The outfielder/first baseman has managed just four big flies to go along with an anemic .175 batting average.

Still, Sunday's win over the Phillies served as a reminder of what the Athletics can do with the lumber. Third baseman Josh Donaldson led the charge, going 3-for-5 and launching a two-run, walk-off blast. Moss added a double and an RBI. 

And othersincluding role players Nick Punto and Nate Freimanchipped in with big hits off the bench. It was the sort of balanced attack that made the A's so dangerous early in the season. 

If they could recapture that, or even a semblance of it, it'd likely be enough to support their superlative arms.

"Every win right now is big for this team. Every win is important," Donaldson told MLB.com's Lee on Sept. 20 after the A's beat Philadelphia 3-1. "It gets the momentum going on the right track, and hopefully we can build on this thing tomorrow and the rest of the year."

"A game like that can be real emotional," Melvin said after Sunday's win, per MLB.com's Aaron Leibowitz. "Obviously a good feeling amongst the group right now. You always hope that will carry over."

The A's may be showing signs of life, but some have already written their obituary, like Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News:

Autopsies will abound once it's over. But from this view, the demise of the A's has everything to do with the evaporation of esprit de corps that made the team special and dangerous for 2½ years. There was something substantive to Oakland being greater than the sum of its parts, that everybody got along so well, and the Bob Melvin mantra of "play for today" was a genuine rallying cry to their success.

Perhaps. But this team still has a decent shot to get in. And if the A's do, they might remind everyone why they used to be so scary.

 

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Nintendo to Debut 3DS XL That Looks Like a NES Controller

Nintendo 3DS XL NES

A Nintendo 3DS XL that sports the classic look of the NES controller? Yes, please! This isn’t the first time Nintendo has released special edition designs for their 3DS portable gaming consoles, but it’s the first to feature a design of another console instead of a classic character, like Mario or Zelda. The box it comes in brings another bout of nostalgia since it was designed to look like the NES console.

The limited edition 3DS XL will be released with two other designs: the Super Smash Bros 3D XLs (which will come in red and blue) and the Persona Q.

 

Nintendo 3DS XL New Nintendo 3DS XL New1

The limited edition consoles will be released next month, just in time for the holidays. The NES controller and Persona Q will be Gamestop exclusives, and they’ll all retail for $199.

VIA [ Geekologie ]

The post Nintendo to Debut 3DS XL That Looks Like a NES Controller appeared first on OhGizmo!.

Nintendo to Debut 3DS XL That Looks Like a NES Controller

Nintendo 3DS XL NES

A Nintendo 3DS XL that sports the classic look of the NES controller? Yes, please! This isn’t the first time Nintendo has released special edition designs for their 3DS portable gaming consoles, but it’s the first to feature a design of another console instead of a classic character, like Mario or Zelda. The box it comes in brings another bout of nostalgia since it was designed to look like the NES console.

The limited edition 3DS XL will be released with two other designs: the Super Smash Bros 3D XLs (which will come in red and blue) and the Persona Q.

 

Nintendo 3DS XL New Nintendo 3DS XL New1

The limited edition consoles will be released next month, just in time for the holidays. The NES controller and Persona Q will be Gamestop exclusives, and they’ll all retail for $199.

VIA [ Geekologie ]

The post Nintendo to Debut 3DS XL That Looks Like a NES Controller appeared first on OhGizmo!.

3 Potential New Starters for Atlanta Braves in 2015

The season got away from Atlanta late in the year. With a poor second half and terrible September, the Braves are out of the playoff chase. However, a sour ending to the season does not mean there's nothing to build on for 2015.

The Braves did a number of things really well this year, namely on the pitching side. Other than those hurling asterisks who pitch at Petco Park, Atlanta pitchers have allowed the second-fewest runs in the National League, trailing only the Washington Nationals.

Their starters also lead all of baseball in quality starts on the season.

Of course, not all of these starters will be back in 2015. Both Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang were on one-year deals and will become free agents. An abundance of questions remain pertaining to Mike Minor and his role in the rotation next season as well.

Returning from injury will also be arms like Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. It remains to be seen how Atlanta will use these guys and how much faith it has in them long-term.

The only rotation spots seemingly not up for grabs will be held by Julio Teheran and Alex Wood. Both young hurlers have been very good this year and don't become free agents until 2020.

After them, the possibilities are vast.

Begin Slideshow

NL Rookie of the Year: Jacob deGrom Has Been Better Than Billy Hamilton

Last year, Jose Fernandez edged out Yasiel Puig for the National League Rookie of the Year award.  This time around, there are once again two candidates who have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom and Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton are the front-runners, but which candidate is more deserving of the award?

C. Trent Rosencrans, a Reds beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer Cincinnati.com, believes that Hamilton's chances of winning the award are slim, and a poor September hasn't helped.

Hamilton, like his team, has struggled in the second half. And the two are likely intertwined. After hitting .285/.319/.423 in 90 games in the first half, he's hit .214/.265/.276 in 55 games since the break. So far this month, Hamilton's hitting .156/.255/.200 has been caught stealing (2) as much as he's been successful stealing (2). 

Hamilton electrified the baseball world in 2012 when he broke Vince Coleman's record for the most stolen bases in a minor league season.  He ended the season with 155 steals, 10 more than Coleman's previous record of 145.  

Last year, he showed that his speed did indeed translate to the MLB.  When the rosters expanded in September, Hamilton stole 13-of-14 bases in mainly a pinch-running role.  Every time he came into the game, everyone in the ballpark knew he was going to steal, yet he was rarely thrown out.

This year, his first full season, he has been impressive.  His bat has always been suspect, but he has still managed to steal 56 bags. 

deGrom, on the other hand, was not nearly as well known.  On Opening Day, he was pitching in Las Vegas for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.  He was overshadowed even then, pitching in a rotation stocked with more-hyped prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.

Different backgrounds aside, the voters are going to have a very tough decision to make after the season.

Both players have their pros and cons.

In addition to the 56 stolen bases, Hamilton has 39 extra-base hits and has played a tremendous center field for the Reds. 

His .255 batting average is solid, but definitely not spectacular.  Hamilton’s .296 on-base percentage is poor, especially for a leadoff hitter, his .657 OPS is well below the major league average and he has been caught stealing 23 times, which leads the MLB. 

deGrom, on the other hand, has been stellar in all aspects of the game.  He has a terrific 2.68 ERA and has registered as many strikeouts as innings pitched.  Despite pitching for the Mets and their anemic offense, he has an 8-6 win-loss record. 

A pitcher’s record does not always reflect his overall value, but in this instance it speaks volumes to how well deGrom has been this year.  He has had several potential wins blown by the shaky Mets’ bullpen and poor hitting.

Now let’s address two of the biggest flaws in the voting process.  Voters are enthralled with contenders and position players and have a tendency to let those factors sway their decisions.

Neither the Reds nor the Mets are in any kind of contention for the division title, or even the wild card, so let’s throw that out.

Then it gets interesting.  Position players seem to get a bit of an edge in the voting because they are thought to affect the team more.  After all, they are on the field every day while a pitcher pitches only every fifth day.  

deGrom didn’t make his debut until May and he also spent spent some time on the Disabled List in August, but Hamilton has played 149 games so far, meaning he has played nearly every game.  Despite that, deGrom has still been the better player.

He is a complete pitcher with an overpowering repertoire.  He throws hard with outstanding off-speed pitches, and has a fantastic career ahead of him. 

Hamilton, on the other hand, is not near as complete of a player.  He is fast, probably one of the fastest to ever play the game.  But should he win an award just because he has one outstanding tool?

I don’t think so, and for good measure, here’s an impressive stat to ponder.  deGrom, a former infielder at Stetson, has a .222 batting average this season.  That is only 30 points lower than Hamilton’s average, and serves as a very telling statistic about deGrom’s wide range of skills.

deGrom should win the Rookie of the Year.  He is a better player than Hamilton and leads all NL rookies in ERA and strikeouts.

The only categories that Hamilton leads NL rookies in are stolen bases and number of times caught stealing.  If deGrom does not win the award, it will be because the voters held it against him that he missed some time due to injury and the fact that he happens to be a pitcher. 

deGrom has pitched better than Hamilton has performed as a position player, and if deGrom doesn’t win, it will be a shame.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Masahiro Tanaka’s Healthy Start Gives Yankees Hope

Working off the assumption that Sunday was an accurate indicator, Masahiro Tanaka is fine, and so is his future with the New York Yankees.

Nearly two-and-a-half-months since he last took the ball in a major league game, the right-hander displayed virtually all the bells and whistles he brought from Japan and let loose in his first 18 starts as a Yankee. The live fastball, the disappearing slider, and most important, his signature bottomless splitter were all there as Tanaka easily handled the Toronto Blue Jays for 5.1 innings in a New York victory Sunday at Yankee Stadium. 

This should elicit a massive sigh of relief from the Yankees, an organization holding its breath during this start even if it wouldn’t admit so publicly. Watching Tanaka allow one earned run and strike out four through 70 pitches after rehabbing from a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament has to give the Yankees hope—not for this forgettable season but 2015 when high expectations will return regardless of any other problems the team faces.

The fans at Yankee Stadium were clearly pleased:

That partial tear, discovered after Tanaka’s July 8 start, seemed so Yankees. The club spent $175 million to acquire the 25-year-old before the season, which includes a $20 million posting fee. Through his first 16 starts, Tanaka came as advertised, putting up a 2.10 ERA and striking out 127 batters in 115.2 innings while walking only 18. He looked every bit the American League’s Rookie of the Year and a Cy Young Award candidate.

However, his next two starts were curious because Tanaka did not look like himself, allowing nine runs in his next 13.2 innings, striking out only eight hitters. After that July 8 outing, Tanaka complained of discomfort. An MRI later revealed the ligament was partially torn, and nightmares of Tommy John surgery haunted the Bronx.

The organization got good news the next day when Tanaka flew to Seattle to meet with doctors, who believed the ace could rehab the injury and take a platelet-rich-plasma injection rather than undergo a surgery that would likely snatch him from the rotation for at least a year.

Tanaka rehabbed and things were going according to plan, but a few weeks ago, he complained of soreness in his arm and was evaluated by a team doctor. Again, the organization held its breath until learning it was nothing more than fatigue

From that point, the Yankees worked to get Tanaka back into their rotation before the end of a season that won't include a postseason berth for the second year in a row. There had been concerns about rushing the young pitcher back, but the decision was simple, and understandable, for the Yankees: They wanted to know as soon as possible if their No. 1 arm could handle the rigors of pitching with the rehabbed elbow or if he would indeed need surgery

The team did not want to hold him back and then realize next February or March that its stud import needs surgery after all.

“We feel that if his arm is going to be OK, it's going to be OK,” manager Joe Girardi told NJ.com. “And if it's not, we want (Tanaka to have surgery) so that you don't miss parts of two seasons. It would be three (seasons) possibly.”

The Yankees aren’t completely in the clear with Tanaka’s elbow just yet. There will be more evaluations in the coming days, but watching his splitter/sinker crumble out of the zone, top out 91 mph and miss batsthree of his four strikeouts came on that pitch—will give everyone confidence that the rehab worked.

That is vital for the Yankees going into next season, because as it stands right now, Tanaka is the one guy on the staff capable of winning those 1-0 or 2-1 games. The last time CC Sabathia threw a complete game was July 9 of last year, and his ERA over his last 40 starts is 4.87. Beyond those two, trusting the rotation to the likes of Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova or Vidal Nuno does not inspire confidence for 2016.

Those close games Tanaka is capable of winningseven times this season he has thrown at least seven innings and allowed no more than two earned runsmight come in bunches next season as the aging, declining and injury-prone lineup that the Yankees fielded this season does not project to get any better by next April.

Also, hefty financial commitments to the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Sabathia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran going into next season make the Yankees an unsafe bet to land any kind of impact starter in free agency. Their slim farm system means they won’t be able to trade for one either.

At one time, financial resources allowed the Yankees to mask mistakes and injuries. These aren’t those Yankees anymore.

All of that makes Tanaka’s health so much more important. That is why Sunday’s start not only provides hope for his future but also for the future of the franchise.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

In Event of NL Wild Card Game, Pittsburgh Pirates Have Key Choice to Make

The 2014 Major League Baseball season is reaching its end, and it looks as if the Pittsburgh Pirates are primed for another postseason run at the organization's first title since 1979.  

With just eight games remaining in the regular season, the Pirates lead the Milwaukee Brewers by three-and-a-half games for the second and final wild-card spot.  

If the season were to end today, the Pirates would be travelling to San Francisco to play the Giants in the National League Wild Card game.  

Whether or not the Pirates overtake the Giants, whom they trail by just one game, manager Clint Hurdle will have to make the crucial decision of which starting pitcher to put on the mound for the elimination game.  

Francisco Liriano, the ace of Pittsburgh's staff in 2013, has pitched brilliantly over his last five outings, going 3-0 while allowing just three earned runs in 33.0 innings pitched.  

Liriano got off to a rocky start in 2014, going 1-6 with a 4.60 ERA through June.  

Since then, however, Liriano has turned his season around, improving his overall record to 6-10 while pitching to an ERA of 3.45.  

Given that Liriano has been the Pirates' No. 1 pitcher over the last two seasons, it would not be a surprise to see Hurdle give him the ball in the biggest game of the season.  

At the same time, however, it would not be a surprise if Edinson Volquez was given the nod to pitch in the one-game playoff, as he has been arguably the most consistent pitcher all season for the Pirates.  

Volquez has pitched brilliantly all year, going 12-7 with a 3.15 ERA in 31 games pitched for Pittsburgh.  

Now, Liriano does have more experience pitching in big games, which may be a deciding factor for Hurdle come playoff time.  

In four postseason games pitched, Liriano is 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA.  He pitched well in the division series against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, allowing two earned runs on three hits over 6.0 innings pitched en route to a no-decision.  

Volquez, on the other hand, pitched in his only postseason game in 2010 with the Cincinnati Reds, allowing four earned runs in just 1.2 innings pitched.  

Hurdle could also elect to go with Gerrit Cole, but that is unlikely. While Cole has become one of the best young pitchers in the National League over the last two seasons, he would probably be unable to pitch in the Wild Card game.  

If the rotation remains the same over the next week, Cole will make his final start of the regular season in Pittsburgh's final game September 28. The Wild Card game is scheduled for October 1, which would mean Cole would be on only two full days of rest.  

In going by the rotation's order, Jeff Locke would be the next pitcher in line to start October 1.  

Locke has pitched well over his last three starts, going 2-0 while allowing just three earned runs in 19.0 innings pitched. However, his inconsistency on the mound is something Hurdle will likely take into consideration when deciding on who will make the start.  

In his four starts prior to his current hot streak, Locke allowed 17 runs in 24.0 innings pitched. So, it would be hard to predict which side of Locke we would see in the playoffs.  

Liriano and Volquez are clearly the two pitchers most likely to pitch in the Wild Card game, but Hurdle could also elect to go with Vance Worley, who has pitched brilliantly for the Pirates in 2014.  

In 16 games pitched, Worley has gone 7-4 with a 3.18 ERA. He has made his case for a permanent rotation spot in 2015, but right now the Pirates are concerned with just one game.  

Baseball truly is a game of mixing and matching for managers, and Hurdle will have to make one of the toughest decisions of his managerial career next week, providing the Pirates do hang on and clinch a wild card spot.

 

*Statistics Courtesy of Baseball-Reference. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Pirates’ Neil Walker Sets Franchise Record for Home Runs by a Second Baseman

Now with 21 home runs on the season, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker holds the franchise record for most homers in a single season by a second baseman, per MLB Stat of the Day. The previous record of 19 was set by Hall of Fame inductee Bill Mazeroski in 1958. 

Walker's 20th homer this season came last Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, and he then hit his 21st Wednesday night against the Boston Red Sox. His 21 home runs and 70 RBI are both second on the Pirates this season, trailing only reining NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, who has 23 home runs and 75 RBI heading into Sunday's action.

Walker has been a steady hand at the plate and in the field since becoming the Pirates' full-time second baseman in 2010. In each of his five full seasons, he's posted an OPS of .735 or better and a fielding percentage of .985 or better. According to FanGraphs.com, he's recorded at least 1.8 WAR in each of the five seasons, including a personal-best 3.5 this year.

Mazeroski spent his entire 17-year career with the Pirates, playing from 1956 to 1972. A seven-time All-Star, he hit double-digit home runs in six seasons but never hit more than 16 in a year after 1958. Mazeroski stands in ninth place on the franchise home runs list with 138 and is sixth in RBI with 853. Above all, the former second baseman is known for hitting a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

All stats courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Red Sox’s David Ortiz Sets Franchise Record with 8th 30-HR, 100-RBI Season

Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz recently set a new franchise record with his eighth season with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI, per ESPN Stats & Info. Ortiz broke a tie with Red Sox legend Ted Williams, who had seven such seasons in his Hall of Fame career.

The man known as "Big Papi" hit his 33rd and 34th home runs of the season Friday night against the Baltimore Orioles, with No. 33 being a solo shot that put him at 100 RBI. No. 34 was a two-run homer in the 10th inning that boosted the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory over their division rivals.

The 38-year-old DH continues to perform well in his 18th major league season, even as his team limps to the finish line.

Ortiz's 102 RBI are only one less than he had last year, and he's already exceeded 2013's home run total of 30.

Ortiz's pair of home runs gave him 465 for his career, matching Dave Winfield in a tie for 33rd place on MLB's all-time home runs list. The aging DH then went deep again during Saturday's game against the Orioles, taking sole possession of 33rd place with 466 home runs.

Meanwhile, Ortiz now has 1,533 RBI in his carer, sitting alone in 47th place on the all-time list.

As reported by MLB Network's broadcast Friday, only four Red Sox have ever had as many as five 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons with the team. In addition to Ortiz and Williams, Manny Ramirez posted six and Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx had five.

If you count his production with the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers, Ramirez had 12 such seasons, including nine in a row from 1998 to 2006.

Foxx incredibly had 12 consecutive 30-homer, 100-RBI campaigns from 1929 to 1940, with the first seven coming as a member of the Philadelphia Athletics.

 

All stats courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com