A Hackney toyshop wants to dress the Boris bikes in animal print

“Boris beasts”, anyone?

The toyshop's mock-up of Boris astride one of their designs. Image: TellTails

With their grey/blue palette and bulky frames, London’s hire bikes are not known for their style.

Luckily for the discerning Londoner, toyshop TellTails has come up with a plan. Based in Hackney (where else?), it’s making a redesign the cornerstone of its unlikely campaign to be the bike hire system’s next sponsor.

According to their page on crowd-funding platform Indiegogo, TellTails would attach their own tailor-made tails to the bikes and give them an animal print paint job in order to turn London into a (no, really) “style Serengeti”. The manifesto continues:

We believe in a London bike sponsored by the people, for the people. A bike that represents the natural irreverence, exuberance and rebellious nature of the British people. A wild, wondrous bicycle that one might mount to feel like a Saxon king rather then a banal banker.”

TellTails claims that the redesign would simultaneously serve as a political statement, an “act of style” and a tourist attraction. Oh, and the tails would act as “superior mud guards”, too. But it’s sadly silent on whether all bikes will be cheetah-themed as in the campaign’s photo, or whether monkey, tiger and dinosaur tails would also be available.

Barclays announced last December that it would not renew its sponsorship deal with TfL once it expired in 2015. But we suspect TellTails’ bark is worse than their bite: at time of writing, they’re on £792 out of a £37.5m goal.

Indians Turn Replay-Reviewed Triple Play Against Dodgers

The Cleveland Indians may have turned the most unusual triple play in MLB history Tuesday night, and they can thank instant replay for making it happen.

The Los Angeles Dodgers had runners on the corners with no outs and Adrian Gonzalez at the plate. Then, their aggressive baserunning came back to hurt them.

Gonzalez hit a shallow fly ball to left field. After catching the ball for the first out, Indians left fielder Michael Brantley nailed Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon at the plate. Yasiel Puig took off for second base at some point during the play, and even after a slight delay, Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes' throw made it close at second. 

Puig was originally ruled safe, but Indians manager Terry Francona challenged the play. After the first replay overturned the call on the field and the triple play was initially awarded to Cleveland, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wanted the play at home plate reviewed. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, both reviews went against them.

Check out the unusual 7-2-4 triple play:

Cleveland should be given a lot of credit on the play. Throwing out Gordon and Puig on the bases is no easy task. Throwing them both out on the same play is just incredible.

Thanks to replay, the Indians were able to record the rare triple play.

[MLB.com]

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Each MLB Team’s Best Prospect Trade Chip for the Deadline

July has begun, which means there's now less than a month until the non-waiver trade deadline. It also means there's bound to be all sorts of rumors and speculation in the coming weeks as teams become buyers and sellers on the trade market. And, of course, actual trades will be going down and shaking up pennant races and the playoff picture.

While the big leaguers involved in those deals will be the focus because of what they can do for their new clubs over the rest of the 2014 season, there's another side to many trades that deserves some attention too. That would be the prospects included to help land said big leaguers.

That's what this is all about—shedding some light on the youngsters whose names could be bandied about and who even might be swapped between now and July 31. What follows is a rundown of 30 prospects, one from each team, who fit that bill.

Not every team is going to be dealing a piece of its future, of course, but even rebuilding clubs—like the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays, among a few others—might consider trading a prospect who isn't considered a key part of their franchise in 2015 and beyond but who could be tacked on to polish off a deal.

To be clear, these 30 prospects aren't necessarily the best in their current organization, but they just might be trade chips for one reason or another. Maybe they're elite talents who would entice just about any suitor, or perhaps their value is at a high at the moment. Or it could be that they're blocked by a player at the same position in the majors.

Ultimately, whether they're in the majors or the low minors right now, these 30 young players all qualify as prospects, meaning they have yet to exceed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors. And they could be changing jerseys this month.

 

Statistics are accurate through June 30 and come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

Ranking the Baltimore Orioles’ Best All-Star Game Candidates

The 2014 MLB All-Star Game is less than two weeks away now, and fans of the Baltimore Orioles are eager to see who will be chosen to honor their club in the Midsummer Classic.

Last year, the Orioles were fortunate enough to have five players (Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy and Chris Tillman) selected to play in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field.

This year's contest, though, will undoubtedly feature less Orioles than its predecessor.

It's an obvious statement at this point in the season to mention that the Birds have been underachieving immensely given their core players and sheer offensive production from last year.

Still, no one could have predicted that Davis, Hardy and Machado would only have combined for 22 home runs through half a season's worth of games.

Adam Jones is the only 2013 All-Star to live up to the label so far, and because of that, he has a great chance to be selected for this year's All-Star Game and could possibly even find himself in the starting lineup.

Let's take a look at Jones and the Orioles' other candidates for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game and rank them based on their chances of being selected to participate.

Begin Slideshow

The knitting needle age: this US verdict shows our abortion rights are always under threat

If you are a woman of my generation, you were born into an era of extraordinary good fortune, where you have the right to decide what happens to your body. But we mistook a truce in the war on women for a victory.

Supporters of employer-funded contraception rally in front of the Supreme Court. Photo: Getty
Supporters of employer-funded contraception rally in front of the Supreme Court. Photo: Getty

You don’t see it so much on pro-choice placards. It doesn’t have the recognisable profile of the coat hanger, but it’s the knitting needle’s shape that made it useful to women desperate to end their pregnancies. A simple household object, easily available when women’s work routinely included the creation of sweaters and socks for the family, pulling loop over loop; a fine metal spear with a pointed end that could be inserted into the uterus, in the hope of destroying the unwanted foetus and inducing miscarriage.

Not that useful, of course. Few women had the skilled knowledge of their anatomy that would let them navigate their internal organs successfully. The result might be nothing, or it might be worse: a self-inflicted puncture wound, infection, bleeding, death. Before abortion and contraception were made legally and widely available, physicians reported women being brought into hospital with knitting needles or similar objects trapped in their wombs. This was something normal, the bleak and gory price of a society that gave women no safe recourse when dealing with a pregnancy they could not continue.

Fitting, then, that the most recent assault on American women’s right to decide whether or not they get pregnant comes from one of that country’s largest purveyors of knitting needles. On Monday, craft store chain Hobby Lobby won a Supreme Court decision protecting it from paying for insurance for employees under the Affordable Care Act that covers certain forms of contraception which the company considered to be “abortifacients”, including the Mirena coil. This requirement, according to the judgement, would impose a “substantial burden” on the “religious freedom” of the company.

The fact that these contraceptives, by definition, prevent rather than end a pregnancy was apparently unimportant to the five judges who supported the majority verdict (all three female justices dissented, as did one of their male colleagues). Similarly, there was little effort to address what it means for a company to have “religious freedom” – maybe the Hobby Lobby stores really are all engaged in constant silent observance of the Holy Spirit, although it’s hard to tell, what with them being inanimate brick shells.

And what about the other burden here, on women who find their reproductive options shaped, not by their own wishes and needs and their doctor’s advice, but by their employers’ scruples? The judgement seems far more concerned by how heavy a Mirena might weigh on an employer’s conscience, than by the weight of living flesh on a woman’s body as an unwanted foetus multiplies cell by cell, becomes an embryo, a baby, a child, all the time unwanted, all the time living on the woman who didn’t want to be a mother.

The idea that women have a right to be something other than a resource for other life to consume is something I’ve been able to grow up taking for granted, but in truth it’s a phenomenal novelty. The 1967 Abortion Act in the UK, Roe vs Wade in the USA in 1973 – these and the other watersheds like them are all firmly within living memory. In Spain, abortion was wholly criminalised until 1985, and now the governing People’s Party is on the verge of outlawing abortion in all cases other than rape or medically certified risk to the life of the pregnant woman. Similar efforts to amend UK law have had little effect so far, but make no mistake: if you are a woman of my generation, you were born into an era of extraordinary good fortune. We mistook a truce on our bodies for a victory.

While we enjoyed the luxury of choice, the forces against women were finding new ways to attack. Advice aimed at giving women trying for a baby the best chance of a healthy child has been turned into injunctions that treat all fertile women as “pre-pregnant”, valuing the potential life that could inhabit her over the woman’s own life and decisions – whether she wants to be pregnant or not. The right of women to seek the medical treatment they need, and to do so in private, has been placed at odds with the freedom of speech of those who picket clinics. Niggling disputes about the exact point at which a foetus becomes “viable” have consumed our attention, and barely anyone thinks to mention that the woman herself is not merely “viable” but living, conscious and competent to decide her own best interests.

Anti-abortion protesters think that the world needs to have its face rubbed in the unpleasant truth of what abortion is. As if women seeking abortions didn’t know that a baby is, precisely, the thing they don’t want; as if we didn’t know that abortion, induced or otherwise, is a mess. These are not the things we need to be reminded of. What we have forgotten is what the world looks like outside our blissful bubble of choice. It looks like unmarried mothers imprisoned, and their babies left to die and given no resting place. It looks like being sexually assaulted and ripped off by the backstreet quacks you’re driven to. It looks like poverty and pain. It looks like a knitting needle stabbed into a cervix. Perhaps it is too hard to believe that such a world existed: but all we need to do is let things continue as they are, and we will see it again soon.

The knitting needle age: this US verdict shows our abortion rights are always under threat

If you are a woman of my generation, you were born into an era of extraordinary good fortune, where you have the right to decide what happens to your body. But we mistook a truce in the war on women for a victory.

Supporters of employer-funded contraception rally in front of the Supreme Court. Photo: Getty
Supporters of employer-funded contraception rally in front of the Supreme Court. Photo: Getty

You don’t see it so much on pro-choice placards. It doesn’t have the recognisable profile of the coat hanger, but it’s the knitting needle’s shape that made it useful to women desperate to end their pregnancies. A simple household object, easily available when women’s work routinely included the creation of sweaters and socks for the family, pulling loop over loop; a fine metal spear with a pointed end that could be inserted into the uterus, in the hope of destroying the unwanted foetus and inducing miscarriage.

Not that useful, of course. Few women had the skilled knowledge of their anatomy that would let them navigate their internal organs successfully. The result might be nothing, or it might be worse: a self-inflicted puncture wound, infection, bleeding, death. Before abortion and contraception were made legally and widely available, physicians reported women being brought into hospital with knitting needles or similar objects trapped in their wombs. This was something normal, the bleak and gory price of a society that gave women no safe recourse when dealing with a pregnancy they could not continue.

Fitting, then, that the most recent assault on American women’s right to decide whether or not they get pregnant comes from one of that country’s largest purveyors of knitting needles. On Monday, craft store chain Hobby Lobby won a Supreme Court decision protecting it from paying for insurance for employees under the Affordable Care Act that covers certain forms of contraception which the company considered to be “abortifacients”, including the Mirena coil. This requirement, according to the judgement, would impose a “substantial burden” on the “religious freedom” of the company.

The fact that these contraceptives, by definition, prevent rather than end a pregnancy was apparently unimportant to the five judges who supported the majority verdict (all three female justices dissented, as did one of their male colleagues). Similarly, there was little effort to address what it means for a company to have “religious freedom” – maybe the Hobby Lobby stores really are all engaged in constant silent observance of the Holy Spirit, although it’s hard to tell, what with them being inanimate brick shells.

And what about the other burden here, on women who find their reproductive options shaped, not by their own wishes and needs and their doctor’s advice, but by their employers’ scruples? The judgement seems far more concerned by how heavy a Mirena might weigh on an employer’s conscience, than by the weight of living flesh on a woman’s body as an unwanted foetus multiplies cell by cell, becomes an embryo, a baby, a child, all the time unwanted, all the time living on the woman who didn’t want to be a mother.

The idea that women have a right to be something other than a resource for other life to consume is something I’ve been able to grow up taking for granted, but in truth it’s a phenomenal novelty. The 1967 Abortion Act in the UK, Roe vs Wade in the USA in 1973 – these and the other watersheds like them are all firmly within living memory. In Spain, abortion was wholly criminalised until 1985, and now the governing People’s Party is on the verge of outlawing abortion in all cases other than rape or medically certified risk to the life of the pregnant woman. Similar efforts to amend UK law have had little effect so far, but make no mistake: if you are a woman of my generation, you were born into an era of extraordinary good fortune. We mistook a truce on our bodies for a victory.

While we enjoyed the luxury of choice, the forces against women were finding new ways to attack. Advice aimed at giving women trying for a baby the best chance of a healthy child has been turned into injunctions that treat all fertile women as “pre-pregnant”, valuing the potential life that could inhabit her over the woman’s own life and decisions – whether she wants to be pregnant or not. The right of women to seek the medical treatment they need, and to do so in private, has been placed at odds with the freedom of speech of those who picket clinics. Niggling disputes about the exact point at which a foetus becomes “viable” have consumed our attention, and barely anyone thinks to mention that the woman herself is not merely “viable” but living, conscious and competent to decide her own best interests.

Anti-abortion protesters think that the world needs to have its face rubbed in the unpleasant truth of what abortion is. As if women seeking abortions didn’t know that a baby is, precisely, the thing they don’t want; as if we didn’t know that abortion, induced or otherwise, is a mess. These are not the things we need to be reminded of. What we have forgotten is what the world looks like outside our blissful bubble of choice. It looks like unmarried mothers imprisoned, and their babies left to die and given no resting place. It looks like being sexually assaulted and ripped off by the backstreet quacks you’re driven to. It looks like poverty and pain. It looks like a knitting needle stabbed into a cervix. Perhaps it is too hard to believe that such a world existed: but all we need to do is let things continue as they are, and we will see it again soon.

Perfect Trade Scenarios for Boston Red Sox at Deadline

The Boston Red Sox are 38-46, 7.5 games out of first place in the AL East and with four teams in front of them for the second wild-card spot. They are a bad offensive team, an average defensive team and average pitching team. And they are running out of time.

The MLB trade deadline is now less than a month away, and the Red Sox need to decide if they'll be buyers or sellers. According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington believes he's going to be a buyer at the deadline. But if Boston keeps sliding backwards, the wisdom of such a decision can fairly be called into question.

The Red Sox have been unlucky at times, yes, and they've suffered their fair share of injuries. But none of that changes the fact that it's unlikely Boston makes the playoffs this year, and it'd be unwise to jeopardize what is a very promising future. This isn't a team that needs a complete rebuild, but it might be one that needs to reload for 2015.

With that in mind, here are some best-case scenarios that could await the Red Sox on the trade market if they do indeed decide to sell in the coming weeks.

 

Pitching depth comes into play

The old adage that you can never have enough starting pitching is certainly true, and Cherington should be commended for the deep staff he's put together this year. But if the Red Sox decide that it's time to focus on 2015 and beyond, the time is right to part with Jake Peavy, and it may be time to part with Felix Doubront, too.

Peavy has had a fairly poor year, but he still makes sense as a playoff-tested back-end starter for a competitor that's desperate for pitching help. The Sox wouldn't receive a huge return for him, but they could create permanent space for Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa in the rotation.

Doubront is a more interesting case, as even non-contenders might be interested in gambling on his services as a reclamation project. It was only last year that Doubront put together a dominant stretch of starts, and he's certainly good enough to pitch near the back of the rotation for several MLB teams.

With Peavy and Doubront gone, the Red Sox would still have enviable rotation depth at Triple-A with Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster, and Matt Barnes and Henry Owens aren't too far behind, either.

If the Sox decide they're not going to sign Jon Lester, he'd be an ideal trade candidate who could pay huge dividends, of course, but I'm not advocating that move here, as I think he needs to be re-signed.

 

Someone still wants Will Middlebrooks

It wasn't so long ago that Middlebrooks was considered a key cog in the Red Sox's "player development machine." The third baseman hit .288/.325/.509 as a 23-year-old in 2012 and looked primed to be a middle-of-the-order bat for Boston for years to come.

Injuries and ineffectiveness have derailed Middlebrooks' career since then. "WMB" has hit just .222/.277/.408 over the past two years, and his grasp on a roster spot when he returns from his latest injury will be tenuous as best. The Red Sox have considered trying Middlebrooks in left field in order to increase his versatility, according to Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com.

The Red Sox are also fairly crowded when it comes to the left side of the infield, with Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Garin Cecchini and Deven Marrero all potentially vying for playing time at some point in 2015. There's not a spot for everyone, and it might be time for Middlebrooks to go.

There's no point selling Middlebrooks for 50 cents on the dollar, and so if no team makes a legitimate offer for him, Middlebrooks should be afforded semi-regular playing time in Boston for the rest of the year. But if someone thinks there's still the potential for Middlebrooks to be an everyday starter on a first-division team, the Red Sox would be wise to flip him for a safer player, or at least one at a position of need.

 

A chance to undo Drew

When the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew on May 21, it was a largely unpopular move, but one that made a ton of sense. The team had a 20-23 record, was firmly entrenched in the battle for the AL East and had a need on the left side of the infield. Yes, the signing meant moving Bogaerts to third base, but that was really the only negative.

Obviously, things haven't gone as planned. The Red Sox knew Drew's bat would need time to come around, but the .136/.174/.182 line he's produced pretty much represents the worst-case scenario come to life. The Sox have gone just 11-16 since Drew's first game on June 2, and he's truly not needed on the roster any longer.

Plus, there's the strange case of Bogaerts, who has hit just .143/.186/.264 since moving to third base. I think this is a case where correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation, but it's a weird coincidence at best and a legitimate cause for concern at worst.

Despite Drew's struggles, there are still plenty of teams who would take on a plus-plus defensive shortstop with offensive upside. The Red Sox won't get a huge haul for Drew, but they could end up with a C-level prospect, a middle reliever or some salary relief. The real benefit they'd receive would be the ability to shift Bogaerts back to shortstop and evaluate his performance there for the rest of the season.

Signing Drew was a worthy gamble, but there's no shame in admitting it didn't work and moving on.

 

Casting off the spare parts

If the Red Sox do indeed decide it's time to sell, Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Holt should be playing every day. Workman and De La Rosa deserve more permanent rotation spots, and guys like Christian Vazquez and Travis Shaw deserve their moments in the spotlight, too.

That means it becomes necessary to create playing time and roster spots for Boston's young players, and the best way to do that is to shed the complementary pieces scattered throughout the roster.

Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp could be attractive pieces for teams looking for power. A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross could fill a need behind the plate for a contender looking for a backup. Even Daniel Nava should be available at the right price, though Boston should be more hesitant to ship him off.

Casting off some of these players would be painful for fans, but there's no use in giving these veterans at-bats when the Sox could be using this time to evaluate their future. The return for these players would be unsubstantial, but the true reward would be letting the next wave of talented Red Sox play everyday.

 

The reliever market pays dividends

This is going to be a wildly unpopular suggestion, but it's also a natural one: If the Red Sox do decide to punt the rest of 2014, they should be open to trading Andrew Miller and Koji Uehara.

The two pitchers have combined to form one of the most dominating setup/closer duos in the majors this year. Uehara owns a 1.40 ERA, 11.41 K/9 and 1.16 BB/9. Miller owns a 2.48 ERA, a ridiculous 15.15 K/9 and a 2.76 BB/9. They've been lights-out at the back of the bullpen.

Unfortunately, neither Uehara nor Miller is under contract for 2015. That means it would behoove the Red Sox to examine the trade market for these two, as the return in value teams receive for relievers is generally disproportionately high near the deadline. That's the argument John Tomase of the Boston Herald made earlier this week, and it's one that makes a ton of sense.

If you want to argue that Uehara and Miller should be extended rather than traded, it's a reasonable point. Big, multi-year contracts for relievers rarely end well, however, and Uehara is already 39 years old.

Instead, the Red Sox are better off listening to offers, dealing Uehara and/or Miller if the price is right, and then attempting to re-sign one or both players this offseason. It's fairly rare for a player to be dealt and then re-sign with his original team, but it's not unheard of, and there's no reason to think a trade would lead to bad blood.

Saying goodbye to Uehara in particular would be painful for many Sox fans, but it wouldn't have to be goodbye forever, and a trade could pay serious dividends for the Red Sox down the line.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

The Sleeve That Could Save Baseball: Exclusive Look at New MLB Technology

In a conference room in Orlando, Florida, back in 2004, I sat across the table from Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Glenn Fleisig. I was attending their Injuries in Baseball conference and had the chance to interview both of them for my radio show.

I asked Dr. Andrews why he had founded the American Sports Medicine Institute, one that spent its time researching the very injuries that he fixed in his operating room across the street.

"I'd like to put myself out of business," he said. Fleisig laughed, but Andrews explained further. "There's too many of these arm injuries and it's worse with kids." Andrews talked for the next 10 minutes about pitch counts, research studies and the sheer number of surgeries he was doing on pitchers. 

As we know, those numbers didn't lessen in the intervening 10 years. In fact, they exploded. Tommy John surgeries alone have increased by 700 percent in that decade, with top surgeons like Dr. Tim Kremchek saying the percentage they see of youth pitchers needing the procedure is growing at an even faster rate.

What we've lacked is a real weapon in this fight. Now, thanks to the work of Joe Nolan, baseball finally could have that weapon. Nolan and his company, Motus, a well-known provider of biomechanical analysis from Florida, has created what they very simply call the Motus Pitcher Sleeve. It could be the Holy Grail of pitching.

Over the past two decades, biomechanics has made giant advances, including markerless technology and portable units (including those used by Motus), but baseball has remained resistant to the use. Most of this is the glacial pace of change in baseball, but it's also the natural instinct to push against a change that feels generational.

Pitching coaches who grew up in the game, doing the same drills that were taught to them by their pitching coach, who learned them from who knows where, simply aren't equipped to deal with a whole new flood of data. Giving them kinematics, kinetics, angles and newton-meters is like an old-school mechanic at the corner service station taking a look under the hood of a Tesla

Motus gave Bleacher Report an exclusive look at this new technology, pulling back the curtain on this new device. While it is still in prototype stage, Motus is hoping to have it consumer-ready by next year. However, they have several prototype units that they have in testing with pitchers at various levels. In fact, two MLB teams—the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates—are currently testing the sleeve with their pitchers.

Motus Global is one of sports' premier biomechanical facilities. Headquartered in Long Island, Motus has an incredible facility on the grounds of the IMG Academy in Florida. For years, Motus has been doing full motion capture for major league teams. 

While they cannot give out the names of these teams, it is believed that there are five to 10 that use them at some level. However, the equipment is expensive and, while mobile, hardly accessible. Even at a reasonable cost for a test, there was a need for a new device that could be consumer-ready. I did some checking, and there's nothing like this in development at any of the major companies, though there has been some speculation that Apple's iWatch may have similar sensors.

Now the Motus Pitcher Sleeve is ready to be unveiled. Ben Hansen, Motus' vice president of technology, has led the development and explained the device in detail. 

The Sleeve, as I will refer to it, looks like a normal compression sleeve. It visually looks no different than the normal Nike or Evoshield sleeves worn by pitchers and other athletes. The only difference is a small sensor near the elbow that contains both accelerometers and gyroscopes similar to those found in modern smartphones and game controllers.

It's barely noticeable, as you can see in the above video and the picture below.

There's very little calibration that needs to be done. The athlete uses a smartphone app to put in his height and weight, and from there, the app can make some assumptions about the athlete's arm and body that have been validated from Motus' motion-capture database. 

In fact, the Sleeve is nearly as good as the motion capture. I asked Hansen to compare the Sleeve's data to motion capture.

"If the motion capture is a 10, then the Sleeve is almost a 10," he said. "It's already capturing at a higher rate (1,000 frames per second versus their current 500 fps for motion capture). It requires no setup, and when we compare various measures to the database we've built doing years of motion capture, it's very good."

Those measures alone will astound. The Sleeve can not only capture things like arm speed and release point, but it can calculate the angles of the elbow and shoulder. It can directly measure, in real time, the forces acting on the ulnar collateral ligament. 

This directly counteracts one of the main problems with motion capture. For all they're worth, motion-capture studies are done in a non-game setting. The player is forced to wear up to 50 markers and is usually required to wear a form-fitting suit. No matter how hard they try, it's impossible to pitch normally.

Game conditions and the adrenaline they generate have never been captured; the Sleeve has the ability to do that right out of the box. 

Where the Sleeve might do the most good is in capturing not just the pitches in-game, but practice and long toss as well. Hansen acknowledges that the long-toss mode is still very much in development, but knows how valuable it could be. One of the main worries that many have about long toss is that throwing more distance can put more forces on the arm and change the mechanics.

"This tells you immediately," Hansen explains. "It can warn you when the forces are up, in real time. Coaches can see if the pitcher is changing things in long toss." The teams that don't allow long toss (and yes, they do exist in MLB) will have a harder time maintaining that stance if the Sleeve gains wide usage."

One of the most interesting things the Sleeve can calculate is fatigue.

"It will give a measure of fatigue as well as efficiency. The easy thing to see is arm speed slowing down, but it also takes into account changes in mechanics like elbow angle, release point and others."

The app breaks this down simply and can give a coach or a parent a "red flag" that the pitcher is fatiguing, independent of any simple pitch count.

It's one thing for Motus to say its device is able to do these amazing things, but the testing so far backs them up. Even more important than that is that they have some big-time help in developing the app. One of the top names in the battle against pitching injuries is already on board.

"The only weapons we've had against arm injuries have been my lab and pitch counts," said Dr. Glenn Fleisig. Fleisig is the research director at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham. Alongside colleague Dr. Andrews, Fleisig developed the pitch-count rules used by Little League and wrote the recent statement on the Tommy John epidemic. He is also a member of the MLB committee looking into arm injuries.

Fleisig has long been the go-to guy on biomechanics, with MLB teams sending some of their pitchers to his Birmingham lab for a full motion-capture analysis. "[Motion capture] is still the gold standard but this sleeve is a great tool. It gives the results in a simple, focused way that coaches and parents can understand. It's a slick app!"

Fleisig sees every pitching gadget out there, but Motus came to him early and he was impressed. "This isn't a toy. This isn't a simple counter. This is a real tool. We've known, you and I, that not all pitchers are created equal. Billy might throw 80 mph and be low-stress, and Jimmy might throw 80 mph with high stress. We've known this, but now we get instant feedback from the Sleeve."

Measuring fatigue in-game and in workouts is also huge for Fleisig. "We can't individualize rules. We have to use safe averages when we talk about pitch counts or innings limits, especially at the youth level. Now, coaches will be able to see when those aren't giving a complete picture."

Fleisig, who is involved in the development of the Sleeve, acknowledges that it's not perfect.

"It's not as good as my lab, but it's very good. It gives results but might not tell you why those results are happening. I think one area it will be very good for is working with mechanical changes and seeing whether or not there's any result. I also think that it will open up some eyes and lead some to wanting a full biomechanical analysis."

With Fleisig and ASMI on board with this, the Sleeve has instant credibility beyond Motus' own testing, but there's another step that Motus has taken in testing. They've put the Sleeve, in beta form, on the arms of pitchers at several levels. Two MLB teams are testing it with their own pitchers, as are some other teams all the way down to the youth level.

I was able to speak with two Orioles officials inside the organization who have followed its use.

"We're not using it in games yet, but we really like the amount of data we get and it has exciting potential," said Kent Qualls, the Orioles' director of minor league operations, via phone. "We tried it some in the spring and we're hoping to get it into games in the instructional leagues this fall. We love the kind of data we get from ASMI's lab or from TrackMan, but this is another level. There's a lot of information but it will take some time to figure it out. We really want to get it into games."

One thing that's interesting is that the Orioles don't seem to trust the system entirely. I spoke with another Orioles official who spoke off record, telling me, "There's a disconnect between what we see with our eyes and what [the Sleeve] tells us. It seems to be a bit ahead of us on fatigue. I think that's on us. We'll see a guy and think, 'Is he getting tired?' and then wait for a clear sign, usually from the hitter. [The Sleeve] isn't emotional and doesn't care who's wearing it or how much he makes. I think it's better at it than a person, but it's going to be hard to let go."

The Pittsburgh Pirates are also testing the Sleeve, though they have been much closer to the vest with this than the Orioles. That's standard operating procedure for Neal Huntington's front office after his team was regularly attacked in the media for trying to change a team's culture early in the process. Now that they're winning, those attacks have been muted.

"Motus is great and got a lot of credibility from their work the last few seasons with Andrew McCutchen," said one Pirates official. "Cutch loves what they've shown him with his swing, and other guys follow, even the pitchers."

The Pirates know how important pitching injuries can be. "If this Sleeve was here last year and you tell me that it could have picked something up in [Jameson Taillon's] delivery? We would have to be stupid not to at least look into that."

Taillon, the team's top 22-year-old pitching prospect, was expected to be a big part of the team's rotation this year, but he was forced to have Tommy John surgery early this spring and will miss the season. With 23-year-old Gerrit Cole on the DL due to shoulder fatigue, the Pirates understand just how devastating pitching injuries can be.

The Pirates official refused to discuss—even off the record—how the team was deploying the Sleeve or what data it was using from the Sleeve. It was clear the Pirates are using it widely, and from the discussion I had, they seem as interested as the Orioles in using it in-game. There may be one or two other teams ready to test the Sleeve as well, but at this time, those teams are unknown.

Both teams did bring up a major issue with the Sleeve currently: It's not allowed in games.

However, there's really no reason it couldn't be. While MLB currently does not allow any wearable technology to be used in-game—and it would have to be approved by the rules committee, the Motus Sleeve is no different than a compression sleeve as used. It wouldn't distract a batter or give any real advantage that wasn't also available to the other team.

About the only issue is that Bluetooth LE, the technology used to connect the sensor to the smartphone, has a limited range. In most stadiums, a pitcher would be too far from the smartphone to transfer real time, but the sensor has enough memory to collect several innings of pitches and transfer those when it does get in range.

Mike Schneidler understands pitching and arm injuries. A former college pitcher with a couple scars on his own elbow, Schneidler now coaches Little League players on Long Island. When he first was given the chance to work with the Sleeve, all he could think was, "This could have saved me some pain."

Schneidler uses the Sleeve as part of a test, but he says that the kids already love it. "These kids are more in tune with the tech. They have Wii and Kinect and iPhones so you don't have to explain that part to them. They're also more in tune with injuries than you'd think. These are their heroes. Matt Harvey goes down, Jose Fernandez goes down and they're at practice talking about Tommy John surgery."

The kids don't seem to need any more adjustment to the Sleeve than pros. "They get it. They can see what they're doing on the app. You can't expect a 12-year-old to get the physics, but they can see the green and the red," Schneidler explains. He sees the use of the Sleeve as just another part of coaching. "I'm translating it into their terms. I do the same thing when we're learning bunt defense. I have to get them to get it. Same thing here."

While Schneidler is a former college pitcher and has some high-level knowledge, he doesn't think the Sleeve will require that. "A parent can understand it. They may not get all of it, but even if you just use a few things like arm speed and fatigue, [Motus] have done a good job at making it usable."

Schneidler can see a day when the Sleeve is used instead of pitch counts. "A pitch isn't a pitch," he said, echoing Fleisig's statement. "You get a little 11-year-old and he's going high effort on every pitch. Thirty pitches for him isn't like a bigger kid who's just up there playing catch. The [pitch count] rules are good, but they're not perfect. Every kid is different and [the Sleeve] tells you that."

Schneidler isn't yet testing the Sleeve in games. "There's enough pressure on these kids, but I don't see why it would change anything. A lot of them are already wearing Under Armour or something." He doesn't see any reason why it wouldn't work in games and looks forward to being able to do so. 

Just to check with someone who had not seen the device, I went to Dr. Tim Kremchek. Kremchek is not only the team physician for the Cincinnati Reds, but he has been very vocal in the battle against youth arm injuries. I showed him the video of the sleeve you saw above, and he was impressed.

"I think this has the potential to be huge! What we do know is that fatigue causes injury, fatigue causes a change in mechanics, which in turn causes increased stress and varus torque on the medial elbow. Knowing when these occur will greatly diminish injury to the elbow, and I believe the shoulder too."

I needed one more opinion.

"It sounds like science fiction," said Chris O'Leary, a biomechanical guru who has worked with several pro teams and is one of the best-known pitching mechanics writers. "But when you think about how far technology has come in five years, with phones and miniaturization, it shouldn't. It's inevitable."

So major league teams believe that the Sleeve is a game changer. Top doctors and biomechanists believe it is a game changer. Even coaches and pitchers who have been exposed to the Sleeve believe it is a game changer. The only question left is whether it will be adopted. 

Baseball largely rejected the use of biomechanical analysis because it didn't have the proper personnel to interpret and use the results. In cases where teams did use biomechanics—especially the current example of the Milwaukee Brewers—teams have seen significant reduction in injuries.

The Brewers are the only team in MLB to have no Tommy John surgeries at the major league level in the last five years. They're also the only team in that period to do biomechanical analysis on all of their pitchers. I don't believe that's a coincidence.

With the Motus Sleeve, cost certainly won't be the issue, and the ease of use of the smartphone app should help not only at the major league level, but also the parent who doesn't have a technical background.

Nolan says that the goal is to have the consumer version cost around $150, which is less than the cost of a single biomechanical evaluation. It's certainly less than the cost of a visit to the emergency room or Dr. Andrews' office.

Add in all the value of the Sleeve, the data it collects and the possibility that the data could be analyzed at a higher level, and there's endless possibilities. I asked Dr. Fleisig if he could see adding an in-app purchase someday where a parent could pay a fee to have him personally take a look at the pitcher's data. He laughed, but not dismissively.

"Maybe," he said.

The Motus Sleeve could be the biggest change for pitchers and pitching since Tommy John surgery. In fact, we may have the first real weapon in the battle to reduce the number of injuries and surgeries. This is more than a game changer; this is a game saver. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

The Sleeve That Could Save Baseball: Exclusive Look at New MLB Technology

In a conference room in Orlando, Florida, back in 2004, I sat across the table from Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Glenn Fleisig. I was attending their Injuries in Baseball conference and had the chance to interview both of them for my radio show.

I asked Dr. Andrews why he had founded the American Sports Medicine Institute, one that spent its time researching the very injuries that he fixed in his operating room across the street.

"I'd like to put myself out of business," he said. Fleisig laughed, but Andrews explained further. "There's too many of these arm injuries and it's worse with kids." Andrews talked for the next 10 minutes about pitch counts, research studies and the sheer number of surgeries he was doing on pitchers. 

As we know, those numbers didn't go down in the intervening 10 years. In fact, they exploded. Tommy John surgeries alone have increased by 700 percent in that decade, with top surgeons like Dr. Tim Kremchek saying the percentage they see of youth pitchers needing the procedure is growing at an even faster rate.

What we've lacked is a real weapon in this fight. Now, thanks to the work of Joe Nolan, baseball finally could have that weapon. Nolan and his company, Motus, a well-known provider of biomechanical analysis from Florida, has created what they very simply call the Motus Pitcher Sleeve. It could be the Holy Grail of pitching.

Over the past two decades, biomechanics has made giant advances, including markerless technology and portable units (including those used by Motus), but baseball has remained resistant to the use. Most of this is the glacial pace of change in baseball, but it's also the natural instinct to push against a change that feels generational.

Pitching coaches who grew up in the game, doing the same drills that were taught to them by their pitching coach, who learned them from who knows where, simply aren't equipped to deal with a whole new flood of data. Giving them kinematics, kinetics, angles and newton-meters is like an old school mechanic at the corner service station taking a look under the hood of a Tesla

Motus gave Bleacher Report an exclusive look at this new technology, pulling back the curtain on this new device. While it is still in prototype stage, Motus is hoping to have it consumer-ready by next year. However, they have several prototype units that they have in testing with pitchers at various levels. In fact, two MLB teams—the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates—are currently testing the Sleeve with their pitchers.

Motus Global is one of sports' premier biomechanical facilities. Headquartered in Long Island, Motus has an incredible facility on the grounds of the IMG Academy in Florida. For years, Motus has been doing full motion capture for major league teams. 

While they cannot give out the names of these teams, it is believed that there are five to 10 that use them at some level. However, the equipment is expensive and, while mobile, it's hardly accessible. Even at a reasonable cost for a test, there was a need for a new device that could be consumer-ready. I did some checking and there's nothing like this in development at any of the major companies, though there has been some speculation that Apple's iWatch may have similar sensors.

Now the Motus Pitcher Sleeve is ready to be unveiled. Ben Hansen, Motus' Vice President of Technology, has led the development and explained the device in detail. 

The Sleeve, as I will refer to it, looks like a normal compression sleeve. It visually looks no different than the normal Nike or Evoshield sleeves worn by pitchers and other athletes. The only difference is a small sensor near the elbow that contains both accelerometers and gyroscopes similar to those found in modern smartphones and game controllers.

It's barely noticeable, as you can see in the above video.

There's very little calibration that needs to be done. The athlete uses a smartphone app to put in his height and weight and, from there, the app can make some assumptions about the athlete's arm and body that have been validated from Motus' motion-capture database. 

In fact, the Sleeve is nearly as good as the motion capture. I asked Hansen to compare the Sleeve's data to motion capture.

"If the motion capture is a 10, then the Sleeve is almost a 10," he said. "It's already capturing at a higher rate (1,000 frames per second versus their current 500 fps for motion capture). It requires no setup, and when we compare various measures to the database we've built doing years of motion capture, it's very good."

Those measures alone will astound. The Sleeve can not only capture things like arm speed and release point, but it can calculate the angles of the elbow and shoulder. It can directly measure, in real time, the forces acting on the ulnar collateral ligament. 

This directly counteracts one of the main problems with motion capture. For all their worth, motion capture studies are done in a non-game setting. The player is forced to wear up to 50 markers and is usually required to wear a form-fitting suit. No matter how hard they try, it's impossible to pitch normally.

Game conditions and the adrenaline they generate have never been captured; the Sleeve has the ability to do that right out of the box. 

Where the Sleeve might do the most good is in capturing not just the pitches in-game, but practice and long toss as well. Hansen acknowledges that the long-toss mode is still very much in development, but knows how valuable it could be. One of the main worries that many have about long toss is that throwing more distance can put more forces on the arm and change the mechanics.

"This tells you immediately," Hansen explains. "It can warn you when the forces are up, in real time. Coaches can see if the pitcher is changing things in long toss." The teams that don't allow long toss (and yes, they do exist in MLB) will have a harder time maintaining that stance if the Sleeve gains wide usage."

One of the most interesting things the Sleeve can calculate is fatigue.

"It will give a measure of fatigue as well as efficiency. The easy thing to see is arm speed slowing down, but it also takes into account changes in mechanics like elbow angle, release point and others."

The app breaks this down simply and can give a coach or a parent a "red flag" that the pitcher is fatiguing, independent of any simple pitch count.

It's one thing for Motus to say their device is able to do these amazing things, but the testing so far backs them up. Even more important than that is that they have some big-time help in developing the app. One of the top names in the battle against pitching injuries is already on board.

"The only weapons we've had against arm injuries have been my lab and pitch counts," said Dr. Glenn Fleisig. Fleisig is the Research Director at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham. Alongside his colleague Dr. Andrews, Fleisig developed the pitch-count rules used by Little League and wrote the recent statement on the Tommy John epidemic. He is also a member of the MLB committee looking into arm injuries.

Fleisig has long been the go-to guy on biomechanics, with MLB teams sending some of their pitchers to his Birmingham lab for a full motion-capture analysis. "[Motion capture] is still the gold standard but this sleeve is a great tool. It gives the results in a simple, focused way that coaches and parents can understand. It's a slick app!"

Fleisig sees every pitching gadget out there, but Motus came to him early and he was impressed. "This isn't a toy. This isn't a simple counter. This is a real tool. We've known, you and I, that not all pitches are created equal. Billy might throw 80 mph and be low-stress, and Jimmy might throw 80 mph with high stress. We've known this, but now we get instant feedback from the Sleeve."

Measuring fatigue in-game and in workouts is also huge for Fleisig. "We can't individualize rules. We have to use safe averages when we talk about pitch counts or innings limits, especially at the youth level. Now, coaches will be able to see when those aren't giving a complete picture."

Fleisig, who is involved in the development of the Sleeve, acknowledges that it's not perfect.

"It's not as good as my lab, but it's very good. It gives results but might not tell you why those results are happening. I think one area it will be very good for is working with mechanical changes and seeing whether or not there's any result. I also think that it will open up some eyes and lead some to wanting a full biomechanical analysis."

With Fleisig and ASMI on board with this, the Sleeve has instant credibility beyond Motus' own testing, but there's another step that Motus has taken in testing. They've put the Sleeve, in beta form, on the arms of pitchers at several levels. Two MLB teams are testing it with their own pitchers, as are some other teams all the way down to the youth level.

I was able to speak with two Orioles officials inside the organization that have followed its use.

"We're not using it in games yet, but we really like the amount of data we get and it has exciting potential," said Kent Qualls, the Orioles' director of minor league operations, via phone. "We tried it some in the spring and we're hoping to get it into games in the instructional leagues this fall. We love the kind of data we get from ASMI's lab or from TrackMan, but this is another level. There's a lot of information but it will take some time to figure it out. We really want to get it into games."

One thing that's interesting is that the Orioles don't seem to trust the system entirely. I spoke with another Orioles official who spoke off record, and he told me, "There's a disconnect between what we see with our eyes and what [the Sleeve] tells us. It seems to be a bit ahead of us on fatigue. I think that's on us. We'll see a guy and think, 'Is he getting tired?' and then wait for a clear sign, usually from the hitter. [The Sleeve] isn't emotional and doesn't care who's wearing it or how much he makes. I think it's better at it than a person, but it's going to be hard to let go."

The Pittsburgh Pirates are also testing the Sleeve, though they have been much closer to the vest with this than the Orioles. That's standard operating procedure for Neal Huntington's front office after his team was regularly attacked in the media for trying to change a team's culture early in the process. Now that they're winning, those attacks have been muted.

"Motus is great and got a lot of credibility from their work the last few seasons with Andrew McCutchen," said one Pirates official. "Cutch loves what they've shown him with his swing, and other guys follow, even the pitchers."

The Pirates know how important pitching injuries can be. "If this Sleeve was here last year and you tell me that it could have picked something up in [Jameson Taillon's] delivery? We would have to be stupid not to at least look into that."

Taillon, the team's top pitching prospect, was expected to be a big part of the team's rotation this year, but he was forced to have Tommy John surgery early this spring and will miss the season. With Gerrit Cole on the DL due to shoulder fatigue, the Pirates understand just how devastating pitching injuries can be.

The Pirates official refused to discuss—even off the record—how the team was deploying the Sleeve or what data they were using from the Sleeve. It was clear that they are using it widely, and from the discussion I had, they seem as interested as the Orioles in using it in-game. There may be one or two other teams ready to test the Sleeve as well, but at this time, those teams are unknown.

Both teams did bring up a major issue with the Sleeve currently: It's not allowed in games.

However, there's really no reason it couldn't be. While MLB currently does not allow any wearable technology to be used in-game and it would have to be approved by the rules committee, the Motus Sleeve is no different than a compression sleeve as used. It wouldn't distract a batter or give any real advantage that wasn't also available to the other team.

About the only issue is that Bluetooth LE, the technology used to connect the sensor to the smartphone, has a limited range. In most stadiums, a pitcher would be too far from the smartphone to transfer real time, but the sensor has enough memory to collect several innings of pitches and transfer those when it does get in range.

Mike Schneidler understands pitching and arm injuries. A former college pitcher with a couple scars on his own elbow, Schneidler now coaches Little League players on Long Island. When he first was given the chance to work with the Sleeve, all he could think was, "This could have saved me some pain."

Schneidler uses the Sleeve as part of a test, but he says that the kids already love it. "These kids are more in tune with the tech. They have Wii and Kinect and iPhones so you don't have to explain that part to them. They're also more in tune with injuries than you'd think. These are their heroes. Matt Harvey goes down, Jose Fernandez goes down and they're at practice talking about Tommy John surgery."

The kids don't seem to need any more adjustment to the Sleeve than pros. "They get it. They can see what they're doing on the app. You can't expect a 12-year-old to get the physics, but they can see the green and the red," Schneidler explains. He sees the use of the Sleeve as just another part of coaching. "I'm translating it into their terms. I do the same thing when we're learning bunt defense. I have to get them to get it. Same thing here."

While Schneidler is a former college pitcher and has some high-level knowledge, he doesn't think the Sleeve will require that. "A parent can understand it. They may not get all of it, but even if you just use a few things like arm speed and fatigue, [Motus] have done a good job at making it usable."

Schneidler can see a day when the Sleeve is used instead of pitch counts. "A pitch isn't a pitch," he said, echoing Fleisig's statement. "You get a little 11-year-old and he's going high effort on every pitch. Thirty pitches for him isn't like a bigger kid who's just up there playing catch. The [pitch count] rules are good, but they're not perfect. Every kid is different and [the Sleeve] tells you that."

Schneidler isn't yet testing the Sleeve in games. "There's enough pressure on these kids, but I don't see why it would change anything. A lot of them are already wearing Under Armour or something." He doesn't see any reason why it wouldn't work in games and looks forward to being able to do so. 

Just to check with someone who had not seen the device, I went to Dr. Tim Kremchek. Kremchek is not only the team physician for the Cincinnati Reds, but has been very vocal in the battle against youth arm injuries. I showed him the video of the sleeve you saw above and he was impressed.

"I think this has the potential to be huge! What we do know is that fatigue causes injury, fatigue causes a change in mechanics, which in turn causes increased stress and varus torque on the medial elbow. Knowing when these occur will greatly diminish injury to the elbow, and I believe the shoulder too."

I needed one more opinion.

"It sounds like science fiction," said Chris O'Leary, a biomechanical guru who has worked with several pro teams and is one of the best-known pitching mechanics writers. "But when you think about how far technology has come in five years, with phones and miniaturization, it shouldn't. It's inevitable."

So major league teams believe that the Sleeve is a game changer. Top doctors and biomechanists believe it is a game changer. Even coaches and pitchers that have been exposed to the Sleeve believe it is a game changer. The only question left is whether it will be adopted. 

Baseball largely rejected the use of biomechanical analysis because it didn't have the proper personnel to interpret and use the results. In cases where teams did use biomechanics—especially the current example of the Milwaukee Brewers—teams have seen significant reduction in injuries.

The Brewers are the only team in MLB to have no Tommy John surgeries at the major league level in the last five years. They're also the only team in that period to do biomechanical analysis on all of their pitchers. I don't believe that's a coincidence.

With the Motus Sleeve, cost certainly won't be the issue, and the ease of use of the smartphone app should help not only at the major league level, but also the parent who doesn't have a technical background.

Nolan says that the goal is to have the consumer version cost around $150, which is less than the cost of a single biomechanical evaluation. It's certainly less than the cost of a visit to the emergency room or Dr. Andrews' office.

Add in all the value of the Sleeve, the data it collects and the possibility that the data could be analyzed at a higher level and there's endless possibilities. I asked Dr. Fleisig if he could see adding an in-app purchase someday where a parent could pay a fee to have him personally take a look at the pitcher's data. He laughed, but not dismissively.

"Maybe," he said.

The Motus Sleeve could be the biggest change for pitchers and pitching since Tommy John surgery. In fact, we may have the first real weapon in the battle to reduce the number of injuries and surgeries. This is more than a game changer; this is a game saver. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

My Journey from Baseball Star to ALS Patient, 75 Years After Lou Gehrig

I once prided myself on my strong hands. They helped me become a baseball star and eventually captain the Boston College Eagles in 2007. They helped me grip the bat, fire the barrel through the zone and squeeze a fly ball safely into my outfield mitt.

Today, they are unable to type this very story, as I depend on eye-tracking technology to deliver the message that my sturdy voice and fingers once did.

What if you woke up today and someone told you that you have two to five years to live? How would you handle the news? What if they also told you that during those two to five years you would lose control of all your extremities and your ability to speak, eat and breathe? How would that resonate with you and those you love? But don't worry, your mind will be totally intact to enjoy the entire progression—or regression.

That day came and went for me on March 13, 2012.

My name is Peter Frates, and I was diagnosed on that date with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease. As we mourn the 75-year anniversary of Gehrig's famous Fourth of July "Luckiest Man" speech, I am here to tell my own story and raise awareness of the effects of this terrible disease.

Growing up in Beverly, Massachusetts, sports were at the forefront of everything I did and strived toward. While football and hockey were likewise things that came easily to me, baseball was my one true love.

When I first knew that playing Division I college baseball would become a reality, it was nothing short of a dream come true. Not only would I get to play at the highest level, but I'd do so in front of so many of the friends and family members that helped me get to where I was.

To take a second to brag a bit, there were some special moments during my time on the diamond at BC.

On April 14, 2007, I set the modern team record with eight RBI in a game, thanks to a grand slam and three-run homer. I would ultimately lead the team in stolen bases and home runs that senior season, while being privileged and honored to hold the position as captain.

But perhaps the biggest moment of my baseball career actually occurred during my junior year. In the Beanpot Championship against Harvard, I hit a home run over the right-field wall in historic Fenway Park—a place any Boston-area kid grew up dreaming of playing in.

After playing professionally overseas in Germany and returning to play in competitive summer leagues back in the U.S., however, I started to notice something changing.

It all started with some twitching in my upper body and arms. Drinking some Gatorade or throwing a few more bananas into my diet would surely fix that.

Then came the first big hint that something was not right: I started to struggle on the baseball field. The place where things were supposed to be so easy was suddenly a breeding ground for frustration.

You see, I was used to showing up to the ballpark after battling Cambridge traffic, tossing on a uniform and running right into the batter's box to lead off the game. A helmet, bat and a few practice swings were all I needed to hit .400 in these area leagues.

Except now, that .400 average had sunk into the .270s. Wood bats that would normally last weeks or months would now last only days, or even innings.

It all came to a head in a game against a pitcher from UMass who was throwing in the 90s at the time. I loved the fastball, and since he threw so many of them, this seemed like it would be no big deal for me to have success.

Then I stepped into the box, and the pitch I once feasted on was now being blown right by me. My bat speed was slowing, and I just could not catch up to the heat anymore.

Though incredibly discouraged, I had one more chance to redeem myself in the later innings. Ready to jump on the first fastball he threw, I started my swing—then immediately tried to hold up on a pitch riding in on my hands.

But it was too late, and it struck my wrist as squarely as it could. I didn't know it then, but this was the moment in time when my life would change forever.

The wrist wasn't broken, but it just was not getting better. It was painful and weak, and it was starting to prevent me from doing things as simple as buttoning my shirt.

On top of this, my day-to-day work schedule was being thrown into flux. Normally on the road by 6 a.m., I was now lucky to leave my apartment by 10 a.m.—often stopping for naps in the rest areas of the highway.

My energy had vanished, and I was scared for the first time. It was time to find out why.

After seeing a hand specialist, a neurologist and a neuromuscular specialist—feeling like a guinea pig in a bombardment of months of tests—we were no closer to finding the root of the problem.

Then, while watching October baseball one evening with my dad, I decided to Google my symptoms and do some investigating of my own. What I stumbled on next made my heart jump up into my throat.

I was staring in disbelief at an ALS website, with a list of symptoms as if someone had been following me around and watching my every move. The patient they were describing was me.

It took many more months of tests and uncertainty, but my worst suspicions were finally confirmed.

I was mentally prepared for the fight of my life, but the hardest part of it all was telling my now-wife, family and friends that I no longer knew what the future held for me. The truth was I was now staring a disease in the face that had no cure and no effective treatment.

Prescribed little more than various over-the-counter vitamins, I was entering a gun fight armed with the equivalent of a plastic spork.

This ironically was also an important turning point for me, as I felt as though I wasn't living up to my potential in life. I could have been the president of a company; I could have done something great. But nothing was fulfilling or felt like what I was put here on Earth to do.

Upon my diagnosis, it became abundantly clear that my calling was to raise ALS awareness and to fight for a brighter future for all those affected today and those yet to come.

One of the early duties as part of this fight for awareness was throwing out a first pitch on the Fenway Park stage. As you can see, my strong throwing arm was already not quite the same just three months post-diagnosis, as ALS had quickly taken its toll.

Shortly after, I thought back to the day I watched Lou Gehrig's speech for the first time. Back then, it was nothing more than a sad story about one of baseball's greatest stars. It suddenly hit home for me and sent a clear message.

Lou Gehrig now inspires me every day; I have a poster of his speech on the wall of my garage. It is the last thing I see when I leave the house. I use his words to help me attack the day and keep up the fight against the beast that is ALS.

Gehrig was likewise a guy who faced ALS head-on. Even as the game he loved most, and ultimately his life, were taken from him far too soon, he was a very positive guy and bowed out graciously—as we all know from those brave words in Yankee Stadium in 1939.

His legacy has lived on with everybody who has since been diagnosed. He also serves as a harsh reminder that 75 years later, we still don't have a cure or effective treatment. To put it simply, that's just unacceptable.

MLB as a whole has shouldered some of this burden, and rightfully so. The fact is, the illness bears one of its legends' names, and the league has both the audience and the power to make change.

As an example of this, an event back in November involving various prominent baseball figures raised over $1 million of crucial research funds in a single night. MLB will provide an additional $300,000 research donation as part of honoring Gehrig this summer.

It's a good start, but the fight is never over, and we can all do more.

The solutions may not arrive quickly enough to benefit me. They may not be found in time to save those soon to be diagnosed. But we need to continue to fight to make progress on ALS, whether it's donating to research or simply spreading the word. I don't want what has happened to me to happen to those we know and love.

Today, my speech is almost entirely gone. It can be extremely frustrating and stressful, but my eye-tracking device is my saving grace.

My wife and I are also expecting a baby in September. It is this excitement that keeps my engines going at full strength. The thought of seeing the face of our first child and knowing that I am a father is a moment I will cherish beyond words.

I may not be able to say "I love you" with my own voice, but the love I will feel will be every bit as strong. I may not know how many years I have left, but I will fight harder and harder each day to be there as a father and a husband.

My dream is for this article to be found by someone in a Google search one day—much like the one that linked my symptoms to ALS—and for he or she to wonder how anyone ever could have died from something treated so easily.

I want the 100th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's speech to be a celebration of a courageous man who became the poster boy for a disease with a cure, not a cruel reminder of how nothing has changed in a century.

I'd now like to leave you all with an important statistic.

Over the course of a person's life, he or she will spend a total of 1,374 days reading books, and another 1,259 days online. Yet the life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with ALS is a mere 1,000 days.

That needs to change, so let's not wait for tomorrow.

 

Find out more about Peter and his story at the Pete Frates #3 Fund website and the Team Frate Train page on Facebook. Learn about ALS and how to help at the ALS Association website. Also, see what MLB is doing to help cure ALS via its 4ALS Awareness campaign.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Gregory Polanco’s Success Latest Sign Pirates Know How to Find Elite Talent

When the Pittsburgh Pirates introduced general manager Neal Huntington on September 25, 2007, a once-proud franchise was in disarray. Nearly seven full years later, the Pirates are coming off a postseason appearance and overflowing with young talent.

Since the start of play on May 6, Pittsburgh has won 30 of 50 games to climb within two games of the second wild-card position in the National League. Over that span, 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen has raked, 25-year-old Starling Marte has provided all-around value and super prospect Gregory Polanco has arrived to stake a claim to the NL Rookie of the Year award.

That trio, led by the emergence of Polanco, is the latest sign of a franchise heading in the right direction due to a knack for finding elite talent in the international market, annual June amateur draft and trades.

Alongside the young, ascending outfield, the Pirates roster is filled with under-30 players, most of whom have been added to the organization during Huntington's tenure. From third baseman Pedro Alvarez to staff ace Gerrit Cole to closer Mark Melancon, the Pirates have become a model organization for unearthing contributors.

The following chart highlights how Pittsburgh acquired its best and most valuable contributors. As you can clearly see, the free-agent market isn't a major source for a low-revenue Pirates team. Instead, Huntington and the front office must continue to develop elite talent to win.

When looking back to the date Huntington was hired, a stark contrast becomes evident. The 2007 Pirates were in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, on the path to a 15th consecutive losing season and with little hope of reversing course.

With a roster filled with underwhelming players such as Ronny Paulino, Jack Wilson, Matt Morris and Salomon Torres, the pre-Huntington days never showed direction or much promise. For every young star like Jason Bay, the team would fail in the draft or international market, wasting prime years from All-Star-caliber contributors.

Now things have changed due to a roster littered with elite talent at the same time. In baseball, it's not just about talent evaluation, but rather the ability to develop players and graduate them to the big leagues around the same time.

That's part of the reason the Pirates won 90-plus games in 2013 and are on the path to another pennant race this summer.

Polanco, of course, is the youngest and most recent talent to arrive from Pittsburgh's farm system. After tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A Indianapolis, the five-tool talent was summoned to the big leagues in early June, giving manager Clint Hurdle an embarrassment of riches across the outfield.

Former Philadelphia Phillies manager and current senior adviser Charlie Manuel recently gushed about Polanco's skill set, per Hal Bodley of MLB.com: "And Polanco, the exciting rookie, is the final piece," said Manuel. "He's been everything the scouts predicted. He's got great plate discipline for a rookie, speed and power."

While Manuel may have been speaking solely about the exciting outfield configuration at PNC Park, the thought could work in this sense: Polanco is the final piece of the rebuild that began in the late days of the 2007 season.

When the Pirates broke through in 2013—finally finishing over .500 for the first time since the days Barry Bonds patrolled left field at Three Rivers Stadium—baseball had a Cinderella story for the summer and fall. Beneath the fuzzy narratives, however, a possible long-term contender has emerged.

Pirates international scouting director Rene Gayo has had a large influence on the current roster, as evidenced by the slew of international talents on the roster and in the system. He recently spoke about what he saw when scouting Polanco, per John Perrotto of Sports on Earth.

"There's a fine line between projection and insanity," Gayo said. "But I thought once this guy gets man strength, he's going to be a special animal. He jumped out at me."

Much like in the case of Manuel's comments, that quote can be used in reference to the entire Pirates organization and future. A quick look at Cot's Baseball Contracts illustrates a stark reality for Pittsburgh's NL Central opponents: The sextet of McCutchen, Marte, Polanco, Alvarez, Cole and Melancon is under team control through at least the 2018 season.

In the current landscape of Major League Baseball, there's no perfect way to build a baseball team or long-term contender. In Oakland, Billy Beane has a knack for finding talent where others fail to look. In Los Angeles and New York, money is available to purchase high-end contributors. In Miami, drafting and development trump all. In Detroit, general manager Dave Dombrowski consistently wins trades.

For the Pirates, a knack for finding elite talent is becoming evident. With the exception of highly priced free agents, the rising NL power has used almost every avenue to rebuild a franchise that was once moribund and lost.

 

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs and ESPN unless otherwise noted. Stats valid through the start of play on July 1.

Comment, follow me on Twitter or "like" my Facebook page to talk about all things baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB International Free Agency 2014: Live Coverage of All Rumors, Signings

Major League Baseball's international signing period for 2014-15 began this morning at 9 a.m. ET, and after a series of technical difficulties, Prospect Pipeline has you covered with up-to-the-minute information on the day's biggest signings.

With many deals already being reported, here's everything you need to know about the top prospects in this year's class and their suitors.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Pitchers at Every Minor League Level

Few things thrill fans like watching a homegrown talent toe the rubber for their favorite big league club and shut down the opposition. But before they can dominate in front of tens of thousands of fans every fifth day, pitchers need to prove themselves in the minor leagues.

Roughly three months into the minor league season, pitchers at every level are opening eyes with their performances on the mound, some better than others. It's important to note that those pitching in short-season leagues have far smaller sample sizes than those in full-season outfits, but hot is still hot—and cold is still cold—regardless of how many games a pitcher has under his belt.

That said, here's a look at the hottest and coldest pitchers at every level of the minor leagues.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of MiLB.com and current through games of July 1.

Begin Slideshow

Julie Bindel: There’s no gay gene – and I love the idea I chose to be a lesbian

If I had a piece of North Face clothing for every time a straight woman has said to me, “I wish I were a lesbian, but I just don’t fancy women” I would be able to open a Dyke Wear Emporium.

A member of the Gay Liberation Front under a banner, 1971. Photo: Getty
London, 1971: The Gay Liberation Front's manifesto was radical and uncompromising. Photo: Getty

I heard Cheryl and Mary say
There are two kinds of people in the world today
One or the other a person must be
The men are them, the women are we
And they agree it’s a pleasure to be
A lesbian, lesbian
Let’s be in no man’s land
Lesbian, lesbian
Any woman can be a lesbian

So sang Alix Dobkin in her 1973 song, Every Woman Can Be A Lesbian. I came out, or rather was outed, aged 15 while still at school in 1977, and favoured Marc Bolan and The Jackson Five over feminist hippies strumming guitars. It was not just folk music I felt uncomfortable with. The word “lesbian” was so steeped in negative connotation I could not bring myself to use it. Watching The Killing of Sister George with its gross characterisation of lesbians only compounded my self-hatred. There was no one to talk to, and I knew no other lesbian or gay person.

I had been outed by horrible boys at school who I refused to shag. They had noticed the rather blatant signs of my massive crush on my best friend. As I was enduring heckles of “lez be having you” and “dirty lezzer” in the school yard, my crush, who had been my best friend, was off asserting her heterosexuality with several of the boys.

I have no idea what would have happened to me had I not met David. My Saturday job was in a hair salon in my home town of Darlington, where David was a trainee. In between sweeping floors and washing heads we would tentatively size each other up. One day I said to David, “I like girls” and he said, “I like boys”, and linking arms we strolled down to the gay bar in the next town, using each other for protection.

Today I am a very happy lesbian and would recommend it for any woman. I have gone from self-doubt and loathing to sheer militancy and pride, and I have the pioneers of Gay Liberation and feminism to thank for my happy state.

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was founded in 1970, and its first meeting comprised of 19 gay men and lesbians. It took its inspiration from the early days of second wave feminism, was radical and uncompromising. Its manifesto was revolutionary and uncompromising, and eschewed the accepted explanation for homosexuality, ie that same sex attraction resulted from a rogue gene:

The truth is that there are no proven systematic differences between male and female, apart from the obvious biological ones. Male and female genitals and reproductive systems are different, and so are certain other physical characteristics, but all differences of temperament, aptitudes and so on, are the result of upbringing and social pressures. They are not inborn.

The GLF fizzled out, with most of the lesbians leaving the men behind, complaining of sexism. Many of those women began to campaign for women’s liberation, which, they argued, would automatically result in women being free to escape the confines of heterosexuality.

By the time I was dancing to Ring My Bell in the gay disco with women so butch they looked like they could kick-start their own vibrators, the Gay Liberation Front’s hey day was over. But feminism was at its peak, and it was in 1979 that I met the Leeds women, all of them lesbians, all speaking about their sexuality as a benefit of women’s liberation and freedom from what Adrianne Rich named “compulsory heterosexuality”.

In 1981 the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group published the pamphlet: Love Your Enemy? The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism (LYE). “All feminists can and should be lesbians,” the group pronounced. Appealing to their heterosexual sisters, the group urged them to get rid of men “from your beds and your heads”.

The publication of LYE was the one of the first times that the notion of sexuality as a choice had been publicly raised in the UK women's movement. Most feminists at the time believed that sexual attraction was innate and that there was no possibility of exercising choice over one’s sexual preferences.

If I had a piece of North Face clothing for every time a straight woman has said to me, “I wish I were a lesbian, but I just don’t fancy women” I would be able to open a Dyke Wear Emporium.

The Leeds feminists were not the first to pose the question about sexual preference being a liberatory choice. Indeed, they were inspired by a book by Jill Johnston, an American writer, who gained international notoriety in 1973 with the publication of her collection of essays Lesbian Nation: the Feminist Solution. Johnston argued that women should not sleep with “the enemy” (men), but should become lesbians as a revolutionary act.

I loved the sense that I had chosen my sexuality and rather than being ashamed or apologetic about it, as many women were, I could be proud, and see it as a privilege. In those days I would wear badges proclaiming “We recruit!” and “How dare you assume I am a heterosexual?”

But things have changed, and, these days we appear to have returned to the essentialist notion that we are either “born that way” or will be unthinkingly heterosexual. We have given up our choice for a medical diagnosis with no scientific basis.

When US actor Cynthia Nixon announced that she was a lesbian in 2012, having previously been in a heterosexual relationship, she proudly added, “I've been straight and I've been gay, and gay is better.” Nixon, despite being a positive role model for those in the closet, and a massive challenge to the bigots who like to assume we are full of self-loathing, was pilloried by some of the LGBT community who accused her of playing into the gay-hater’s hands. If you can “choose” to be gay, they will argue we can “choose not to be”.  

I and many other lesbians do not wish to dance to the bigot’s tune. Despite the prejudice and bigotry lesbians face, even today after 45 years of gay liberation, being able to reject heterosexuality can be a positive choice under patriarchy. In the brave words of Cynthia Nixon,

“…for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

“Straight Expectations”(Guardian Books, £12.99) by Julie Bindel is out now

Julie Bindel: There’s no gay gene – and I love the idea I chose to be a lesbian

If I had a piece of North Face clothing for every time a straight woman has said to me, “I wish I were a lesbian, but I just don’t fancy women” I would be able to open a Dyke Wear Emporium.

A member of the Gay Liberation Front under a banner, 1971. Photo: Getty
London, 1971: The Gay Liberation Front's manifesto was radical and uncompromising. Photo: Getty

I heard Cheryl and Mary say
There are two kinds of people in the world today
One or the other a person must be
The men are them, the women are we
And they agree it’s a pleasure to be
A lesbian, lesbian
Let’s be in no man’s land
Lesbian, lesbian
Any woman can be a lesbian

So sang Alix Dobkin in her 1973 song, Every Woman Can Be A Lesbian. I came out, or rather was outed, aged 15 while still at school in 1977, and favoured Marc Bolan and The Jackson Five over feminist hippies strumming guitars. It was not just folk music I felt uncomfortable with. The word “lesbian” was so steeped in negative connotation I could not bring myself to use it. Watching The Killing of Sister George with its gross characterisation of lesbians only compounded my self-hatred. There was no one to talk to, and I knew no other lesbian or gay person.

I had been outed by horrible boys at school who I refused to shag. They had noticed the rather blatant signs of my massive crush on my best friend. As I was enduring heckles of “lez be having you” and “dirty lezzer” in the school yard, my crush, who had been my best friend, was off asserting her heterosexuality with several of the boys.

I have no idea what would have happened to me had I not met David. My Saturday job was in a hair salon in my home town of Darlington, where David was a trainee. In between sweeping floors and washing heads we would tentatively size each other up. One day I said to David, “I like girls” and he said, “I like boys”, and linking arms we strolled down to the gay bar in the next town, using each other for protection.

Today I am a very happy lesbian and would recommend it for any woman. I have gone from self-doubt and loathing to sheer militancy and pride, and I have the pioneers of Gay Liberation and feminism to thank for my happy state.

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was founded in 1970, and its first meeting comprised of 19 gay men and lesbians. It took its inspiration from the early days of second wave feminism, was radical and uncompromising. Its manifesto was revolutionary and uncompromising, and eschewed the accepted explanation for homosexuality, ie that same sex attraction resulted from a rogue gene:

The truth is that there are no proven systematic differences between male and female, apart from the obvious biological ones. Male and female genitals and reproductive systems are different, and so are certain other physical characteristics, but all differences of temperament, aptitudes and so on, are the result of upbringing and social pressures. They are not inborn.

The GLF fizzled out, with most of the lesbians leaving the men behind, complaining of sexism. Many of those women began to campaign for women’s liberation, which, they argued, would automatically result in women being free to escape the confines of heterosexuality.

By the time I was dancing to Ring My Bell in the gay disco with women so butch they looked like they could kick-start their own vibrators, the Gay Liberation Front’s hey day was over. But feminism was at its peak, and it was in 1979 that I met the Leeds women, all of them lesbians, all speaking about their sexuality as a benefit of women’s liberation and freedom from what Adrianne Rich named “compulsory heterosexuality”.

In 1981 the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group published the pamphlet: Love Your Enemy? The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism (LYE). “All feminists can and should be lesbians,” the group pronounced. Appealing to their heterosexual sisters, the group urged them to get rid of men “from your beds and your heads”.

The publication of LYE was the one of the first times that the notion of sexuality as a choice had been publicly raised in the UK women's movement. Most feminists at the time believed that sexual attraction was innate and that there was no possibility of exercising choice over one’s sexual preferences.

If I had a piece of North Face clothing for every time a straight woman has said to me, “I wish I were a lesbian, but I just don’t fancy women” I would be able to open a Dyke Wear Emporium.

The Leeds feminists were not the first to pose the question about sexual preference being a liberatory choice. Indeed, they were inspired by a book by Jill Johnston, an American writer, who gained international notoriety in 1973 with the publication of her collection of essays Lesbian Nation: the Feminist Solution. Johnston argued that women should not sleep with “the enemy” (men), but should become lesbians as a revolutionary act.

I loved the sense that I had chosen my sexuality and rather than being ashamed or apologetic about it, as many women were, I could be proud, and see it as a privilege. In those days I would wear badges proclaiming “We recruit!” and “How dare you assume I am a heterosexual?”

But things have changed, and, these days we appear to have returned to the essentialist notion that we are either “born that way” or will be unthinkingly heterosexual. We have given up our choice for a medical diagnosis with no scientific basis.

When US actor Cynthia Nixon announced that she was a lesbian in 2012, having previously been in a heterosexual relationship, she proudly added, “I've been straight and I've been gay, and gay is better.” Nixon, despite being a positive role model for those in the closet, and a massive challenge to the bigots who like to assume we are full of self-loathing, was pilloried by some of the LGBT community who accused her of playing into the gay-hater’s hands. If you can “choose” to be gay, they will argue we can “choose not to be”.  

I and many other lesbians do not wish to dance to the bigot’s tune. Despite the prejudice and bigotry lesbians face, even today after 45 years of gay liberation, being able to reject heterosexuality can be a positive choice under patriarchy. In the brave words of Cynthia Nixon,

“…for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

“Straight Expectations”(Guardian Books, £12.99) by Julie Bindel is out now

Will Dermis Garcia Be Prize, Future Superstar of 2014 International Class?

One name you are going to hear about a lot over the next 24 hours is Dermis Garcia.

Garcia, a 16-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, is viewed as one of the top prospects eligible to sign on July 2—the first day of the 2014-2015 international signing period—and he is expected to receive one of the largest bonuses among players in this year’s class.

According to Kiley McDaniel of Scouting Baseball, the New York Yankees are widely believed to have a deal in place with Garcia for $3 million, as the organization is expected to blow past international spending restrictions and sign a slew of international prospects.

That said, Garcia isn’t considered to be the top prospect in this year’s class. In fact, where he ranks among this year’s J2 players depends on whom you ask, which in turn raises questions as to whether or not he’ll ever emerge as the prize of this year’s class.

Before his signing is made official on Wednesday, here’s what you need to know about Dermis Garcia.

Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required) recently ranked Garcia as the No. 9 prospect for this year’s international signing period, proclaiming the right-handed slugger has “70 raw power that rates as the best in the class.”

Meanwhile, Garcia’s power also caught McDaniel’s eye (subscription required) during a scouting excursion to the Dominican Republic in January:

Garcia is stronger now but also matured, growing into his 62/190 frame and leveraging those newfound abilities in a more efficient swing. Garcia launched a number of homers to his pull side yesterday, flashing plus raw power that was also the best Ive seen this week.

However, Badler also expressed concern about the utility of Garcia’s power at maturity, noting his lack of plate discipline while questioning the potential development of his hit tool:

The question every scout seems to have is whether Garcia can make the adjustments to get to his power in games. Garcia can crush a mistake, but he often sells out for power, flying open early and getting caught off balance with a fair dose of swing-and-miss in his game, which some think is tied to pitch recognition and plate discipline.

McDaniel isn’t as worried about Garcia’s approach, and he suggests that any mechanical issues with his swing can be ironed out as a professional:

While his balance and hitting tools are both very good, Im not nuts about how he loads his hands and how his handsfirst movement from the loaded position is sometimes down, though both should be fixable with pro instruction given Garcias age.

While it’s easy to project Garcia as a middle-of-the-order hitter when all is said and done with his development, evaluators have expressed doubt over the 16-year-old’s ability to remain at shortstop long term.

Garcia “won’t play shortstop,” according to Badler, but “has a chance to play third base, depending on how big he gets.”

McDaniel, on the other hand, isn’t comfortable writing him off at shortstop just yet:

Garcia has enough defensive ability that you cant rule out him sticking at shortstop. There have been examples, like Xander Bogaerts and Reid Brignac among recent AL East examples, of bigger athletes that look ticketed for third base in A-Ball that eventually worked their way into becoming big league shortstops with work. If I had to guess, Id say Garcia ends up at third base and that seems to be the assumption with scouts, but the bat easily profiles if that happens.

In general, Garcia’s defensive tools and skill sets seemingly are a cleaner fit at third base than shortstop.

Though he possesses average speed at the present, Badler believes Garcia “will slow down as he gets bigger,” even suggesting that his size could push him to right field. However, he makes sure to mention Garcia’s plus arm and notes that “his hands should work at third base.”

Meanwhile, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, who ranked Garcia as the No. 1 international prospect in this year’s class, also praises the youngster’s arm strength while offering several generous player comparisons: “Some believe hes going to have a plus-arm in the future, and hes been compared to Twins prospect Miguel Sano, a teenage Alex Rodriguez and a young Shawon Dunston.”

Basically, Badler, McDaniel and Sanchez are in agreement that Garcia’s power is one of the loudest tools (if not the loudest) among hitters in this year’s class and will give him the chance to be a star in the major leagues.

Yet, it’s also clear that there’s an enormous gap between the 16-year-old’s present ability and overall potential—as is the case with any international player his age—which in turn makes it difficult to accurately project his future in professional baseball.

However, it’s a reasonable assumption that the Yankees will be gambling on Garcia’s enormous power potential should the organization ultimately sign him on July 2, as McDaniel predicts.

Garcia may not be the best prospect in this year’s international class, but his combination of size and raw power, and therefore his high ceiling, certainly provides something to dream on. He’ll likely require numerous seasons in the minors to refine his game, but the finished product could be a middle-of-the-order monster.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Stock Up, Stock Down for San Francisco Giants’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 13

The San Francisco Giants are as happy as any team to be out of June, a month during which they saw their huge lead in the NL West evaporate thanks to a 4-15 run heading into July.

But the big league club hasn’t been the only part of the organization that has struggled. Whether injury or simply poor performance has been the case, many of the teams’ top prospects have disappointed through the halfway point of the minor league season.

It’s no secret that the Giants aren’t exactly loaded in the prospect department, but it’s particularly disconcerting to see those expected to succeed—the organization’s top young players—having such poor performances. Let’s take a look.

 

10. Clayton Blackburn

2014 Stats

8 GS, 2-5, 3.40 ERA, 9 BB, 32 K, 42.1 IP (Double-A Richmond)

2 GS, 0-1, 3.60 ERA, 0 BB, 9 K, 5 IP (Rookie)

 

Overview

Blackburn shares a first name with the game’s best pitcher, and while he’s not quite on Kershaw’s level, the 6’2” right-hander has still put together a pretty nice season at Double-A Richmond.

But like so many other top Giants prospects, Blackburn has been hurt for a great deal of the season. He put up a 3.40 ERA in Triple-A with a solid 32/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio prior to his injury, but he hasn’t played since May 19, with the exception of a few rehab appearances in rookie ball.

Overall, the prognosis has been positive for Blackburn, but he’ll have to find a way to maintain his strong performance after a long absence when he finally returns to Richmond, which could be coming soon.

 

Stock

Even

 

9. Joe Panik

2014 Stats

8 G, .174/.240/.217, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 0 R (Majors)

70 G, .321/.382/.447, 14 2B, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 50 R (Triple-A Fresno)

 

Overview

Struggles at the big league club necessitated Panik’s recent promotion, though the second baseman also helped his case by putting together a fantastic season in Triple-A.

Panik hasn’t found the same success that he achieved in the minors through the small sample size of 25 plate appearances with the big league club, but it’s not time to “Panik” just yet. (Har dee har.) The young prospect is still working through some early struggles, especially on the defensive side, but with Brandon Hicks’ even worse play and Marco Scutaro’s return nowhere in sight, Panik might be around to stay.

At the very least, seeing Panik put up such impressive numbers at Triple-A after a down season the year before has been one of the few successes in a system that has not had much to celebrate overall.

 

Stock

Even

 

8. Ty Blach

2014 Stats

15 GS, 6-4, 2.75 ERA, 20 BB, 50 K, 78.2 IP

 

Overview

If you’re looking for something to complain about with Blach this season, he hasn’t struck out very many batters, which doesn’t really bode well for his future at the higher levels.

But that’s about it. The left-hander out of Creighton has made a nice transition from High-A, posting a .275 ERA across 15 starts in Richmond, and he’s really on a roll right now. By allowing two runs on Sunday, Blach surrendered multiple runs for the first time since June 4, a span of four starts.

The consistency has been a huge plus. In fact, Blach has yet to allow more than three earned runs in any start this season, and he’s also surrendered just two unearned runs all year. He hasn’t been lights out by any means, but to have a dependable arm like that is a big advantage for any club. Blach even struck out nine batters in six innings in his second most recent start, which could be the start of a positive trend.

 

Stock

Up

 

7. Heath Hembree

2014 Stats

33 G, 1-1, 15 SV, 3.58 ERA, 9 BB, 36 K, 32.2 IP

 

Overview

As I wrote last week, Hembree’s unimpressive ERA isn’t very indicative of his performance in 2014, as his total has been skewed by one very poor outing.

That doesn’t let him off the hook for some general inconsistency, but even with the struggles here and there, Hembree has good peripherals (36 strikeouts vs. nine walks), and he ranks second in the Pacific Coast League in saves. His strikeout rate has also been especially promising (9.9 per nine), which is right in line with the rates he has posted throughout his career.

With Sergio Romo faltering recently, perhaps the Giants’ supposed future closer will have a shot at the big league job before long. Remember, he nearly made it to the majors out of spring training this year...

 

Stock

Even

 

6. Christian Arroyo

2014 Stats

31 G, .203/.226/.271, 3 2B, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 10 R (Single-A Augusta)

9 G, .184/.244/.342, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R (Low-A Salem-Keizer)

 

Overview

A thumb injury has limited Arroyo’s playing time this season, but that’s far from his only worry. When healthy, the Giants' 2013 first-round pick has struggled mightily, including a concerning .184 batting average in 38 at-bats in Low-A, where he’s played in nine games so far.

What looked like an early-season slump for Arroyo has extended into a prolonged slide that has to be seen as a legitimate concern for an organization that put so much stock in a player who wasn’t expected to be drafted so early in 2013.

But it’s still too early to panic. Arroyo has played in only 40 total games this year, and he was drafted in the first round for a reason. He also batted .326 last year, so we know what he can do. It’s just a matter of proving it.

 

Stock

Down

 

5. Mac Williamson

2014 Stats

23 G, .318/.420/.506, 7 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 16 R

 

Overview (From Last Week)

Though Williamson’s stock is technically down thanks to his season-ending Tommy John surgery, his excellent performance prior to the injury makes it hard to penalize a hitter who has consistently put up good numbers for the Giants organization.

The good news is that Williamson will likely be ready for spring training because position players generally recover from Tommy John surgery faster than pitchers do. When Williamson does come back, however, he’ll need to get a move on. He turns 24 next season and still has yet to make it to Double-A.

 

Stock

N/A

 

4. Adalberto Mejia

2014 Stats

14 GS, 4-6, 5.73 ERA, 18 BB, 55 K, 66 IP

 

Overview

For the first time in his professional career, Mejia is having a down year, and it’s a major down year. With a 5.73 ERA as a result of 79 hits allowed (including eight homers) in 66 innings, it’s clear that the jump to Double-A has proven to be very difficult on the recently turned 21-year-old.

For most pitchers, their first struggle in the minors is the first struggle in their baseball lives, and the way in which they respond to that first bump in the road is very telling when it comes to their future success. It could say a lot about Mejia if he can respond well to the first signs of adversity in his minor league career.

Mejia also still has the stuff to be a solid pitcher, and he’s very young for the Double-A level. That being said, he’ll also need to rebound from this tough patch going forward.

 

Stock

Down

 

3. Chris Stratton

2014 Stats

14 GS, 5-7, 4.79 ERA, 30 BB, 80 K, 77 IP

 

Overview

It’s fair to say that 2014 hasn’t gone as Stratton hoped, but his season hasn’t been all bad. A major positive has been the strikeout total, aided by Stratton’s 10 strikeouts in five innings on Friday. He’s also putting together better starts as of late, with a pair of seven-inning appearances in June and his recent double-digit strikeout performance.

Still, control is an undeniable issue with Stratton, and he’s also allowed an alarming 12 home runs. That 4.79 ERA is also still much too high for the Giants’ liking, though if Stratton continues to pitch as he has been recently, he won’t have to worry about that anymore.

 

Stock

Even

 

2. Edwin Escobar

2014 Stats

17 GS, 3-7, 5.00 ERA, 29 BB, 88 K, 95.1 IP

 

Overview

Escobar continues the trend of top Giants pitching prospects with ugly stats this year, but unlike some others, he’s improving.

Back-to-back seven-inning outings have put Escobar on the right track, and he was recently named to the Futures Game to boot. With an ERA that’s on the verge of finally dipping below five and a couple of recent successful starts to speak of, Escobar could be on track for a rebound as he continues to learn how to pitch in the higher levels of the minors.

 

Stock

Up

 

1. Kyle Crick

2014 Stats

13 GS, 5-3, 3.52 ERA, 38 BB, 60 K, 53.2 IP

 

Overview

Crick’s most recent start on June 25 is the epitome of his ability right now. He allowed only one hit in five innings with 10 strikeouts, but he also walked five batters. With a significant lack of command coupled with top-of-the-rotation stuff, it’s easy to see why Crick is the Giants’ best prospect. Similarly, it’s easy to see why he has a ways to go before he’ll be ready to make an impact at the big league level.

The good news is that Crick has been able to post a respectable 3.52 ERA this season, despite walking 6.4 batters per nine innings, which is a testament to his phenomenal repertoire of pitches. But the Giants are looking for Crick to improve his control, as that’s the one thing holding him back right now. As soon as he can learn to consistently command his pitches, Crick can become an instant impact player in the majors.

 

Stock

Even

 

There is a seemingly endless supply of organization prospect lists all over the Internet. For the sake of consistency, this list follows the rankings from Baseball America’s 2014 Top 10 Prospects Index.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Is it time to ban violent sport?

There is no glory in setting out to cause injury to another human being.

We should be promoting sports that aren't effectively formalised pub brawls. Photo: Getty
We should be promoting sports that aren't effectively formalised pub brawls. Photo: Getty

Last week Lance Ferguson-Prayogg died after a white-collar boxing event in Nottingham.  White-collar boxing is a strange modern phenomenon, a violent battle for which graduates only need apply, where MMA meets MBA.

The sport started in New York in the 1980s (well you didn’t think I was going to say Sweden did you?). Bouts now take place around the world including in the UK, with one London club boasting over 1,000 members. Princes William and Harry and Kate Middleton have been to watch charity white collar boxing events staged by their high society chums.

Sadly, “it’s for charity” has become the ultimate 21st-century excuse for things we wouldn’t put up with otherwise: topless calendars, demands for Facebook clicks and unlicensed boxing. What next? Cock fighting for Comic Relief?

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) has been making their opposition to unlicensed boxing known for over a decade.

It is outrageous that you can do this without a licence but is it any less offensive that you can do this with a licence? The BBBoC’s main concerns are that participants do not receive MRI head scans and that there is no upper age limit for participation. I can’t help thinking if a scan showed brain material present in the skull, that’d be a good reason not to allow anyone to punch it. The fact is that from Davey Moore to Kim Duk-koo to James Murray there is no getting away from death as a side effect of a sport where the whole objective is to render your opponent unconscious.

White collar boxing, along with the Ultimate Fighting Championship or cage-fighting, is a recent phenomenon. But the principle behind them strikes me as grossly outdated. We need to draw a line between sport and violence. Yes, sport often carries a risk of injury and there is something noble about taking that risk. But there should be no glory in setting out to cause injury to another human being.

As a feminist I’m all about equality, but that doesn’t always mean taking the status quo for men and giving it to women. In 2005 in Denver, Colorado, Becky Zerlentes became the first woman known to have died from injuries sustained during a sanctioned boxing match. This is not the equality I want.

I won’t deny that I was initially swept along with the surge of enthusiasm for letting women participate in Olympic boxing. But should boxing be in the Olympics at all? I’d rather we focused our efforts on the other gender-exclusionary sport: the lack of a men’s synchronised swimming category.

The Olympic authorities say that male synchronised swimming is not popular enough. This is like saying “you can get in the lifeboat when you dry off”. Or (and as a comedian I’ve heard this one a few times) “you’d be perfect for our TV show, but you’re not famous enough”.

Let’s use the power of the Olympics to promote the sports that aren’t effectively formalised pub brawls. Or bring it into line with fencing and many other martial arts by using modern technology to detect contact without the need for concussion. This wouldn’t stop you or I going to the gym and punching a bag, learning self-defence or high-kicking our way through a pile of breeze blocks.

When I mention to friends my idea that we should put an end to boxing and cage-fighting they jokingly warn me to focus on annoying people who aren’t so strong and prone to violence. It’s a fair point but also exactly the one I want to make. If we want a society where the threat of violence isn’t a factor in decision-making, we need everyone in our society to understand viscerally that violence is always wrong.

Please do not bother trying to tell me that boxing and “fight” clubs are where the young men, and now gloriously equal women, of Britain “get their aggression out”. This is profoundly unscientific. It’s like suggesting Suarez be given a lump of raw meat to gnaw on at half-time. Exercising regularly makes people want to exercise more. Which is great if you’re a bag-puncher or even a synchronised swimmer.

The big money professional fights would go overseas. But are we really involved with violence for the money? The 21st century deserves a culture free from violence and the glorification of violence. We are better off without these things. Bye then. And please take Luis Suarez with you.

Is it time to ban violent sport?

There is no glory in setting out to cause injury to another human being.

We should be promoting sports that aren't effectively formalised pub brawls. Photo: Getty
We should be promoting sports that aren't effectively formalised pub brawls. Photo: Getty

Last week Lance Ferguson-Prayogg died after a white-collar boxing event in Nottingham.  White-collar boxing is a strange modern phenomenon, a violent battle for which graduates only need apply, where MMA meets MBA.

The sport started in New York in the 1980s (well you didn’t think I was going to say Sweden did you?). Bouts now take place around the world including in the UK, with one London club boasting over 1,000 members. Princes William and Harry and Kate Middleton have been to watch charity white collar boxing events staged by their high society chums.

Sadly, “it’s for charity” has become the ultimate 21st-century excuse for things we wouldn’t put up with otherwise: topless calendars, demands for Facebook clicks and unlicensed boxing. What next? Cock fighting for Comic Relief?

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) has been making their opposition to unlicensed boxing known for over a decade.

It is outrageous that you can do this without a licence but is it any less offensive that you can do this with a licence? The BBBoC’s main concerns are that participants do not receive MRI head scans and that there is no upper age limit for participation. I can’t help thinking if a scan showed brain material present in the skull, that’d be a good reason not to allow anyone to punch it. The fact is that from Davey Moore to Kim Duk-koo to James Murray there is no getting away from death as a side effect of a sport where the whole objective is to render your opponent unconscious.

White collar boxing, along with the Ultimate Fighting Championship or cage-fighting, is a recent phenomenon. But the principle behind them strikes me as grossly outdated. We need to draw a line between sport and violence. Yes, sport often carries a risk of injury and there is something noble about taking that risk. But there should be no glory in setting out to cause injury to another human being.

As a feminist I’m all about equality, but that doesn’t always mean taking the status quo for men and giving it to women. In 2005 in Denver, Colorado, Becky Zerlentes became the first woman known to have died from injuries sustained during a sanctioned boxing match. This is not the equality I want.

I won’t deny that I was initially swept along with the surge of enthusiasm for letting women participate in Olympic boxing. But should boxing be in the Olympics at all? I’d rather we focused our efforts on the other gender-exclusionary sport: the lack of a men’s synchronised swimming category.

The Olympic authorities say that male synchronised swimming is not popular enough. This is like saying “you can get in the lifeboat when you dry off”. Or (and as a comedian I’ve heard this one a few times) “you’d be perfect for our TV show, but you’re not famous enough”.

Let’s use the power of the Olympics to promote the sports that aren’t effectively formalised pub brawls. Or bring it into line with fencing and many other martial arts by using modern technology to detect contact without the need for concussion. This wouldn’t stop you or I going to the gym and punching a bag, learning self-defence or high-kicking our way through a pile of breeze blocks.

When I mention to friends my idea that we should put an end to boxing and cage-fighting they jokingly warn me to focus on annoying people who aren’t so strong and prone to violence. It’s a fair point but also exactly the one I want to make. If we want a society where the threat of violence isn’t a factor in decision-making, we need everyone in our society to understand viscerally that violence is always wrong.

Please do not bother trying to tell me that boxing and “fight” clubs are where the young men, and now gloriously equal women, of Britain “get their aggression out”. This is profoundly unscientific. It’s like suggesting Suarez be given a lump of raw meat to gnaw on at half-time. Exercising regularly makes people want to exercise more. Which is great if you’re a bag-puncher or even a synchronised swimmer.

The big money professional fights would go overseas. But are we really involved with violence for the money? The 21st century deserves a culture free from violence and the glorification of violence. We are better off without these things. Bye then. And please take Luis Suarez with you.

Projecting All 30 MLB Teams’ All-Star Representative

There are all sorts of factors that go into constructing MLB All-Star Game rosters. 

There's the fan vote, the players' ballot and the selections made by the All-Star managers. To further complicate the equation, the rules state that all 30 clubs must be represented at the Midsummer Classic. 

What follows are projections for the 30 players who are most likely to represent their teams at the All-Star Game on July 15. Plenty of teams will have more than one player in attendance at Target Field in Minnesota, but here are the standouts who are locks to take part.

Begin Slideshow