Justin's goal is to be informative, opinionated, and comical regarding the happenings on the gridiron and diamond.

Entries here are based from his own perspective, and are not originated from anyone or any group.

A Rutgers graduate & web enthusiast, Justin is also an obsessive NFL, MLB, and college football fan.
Recent Tweets @jgroc
Recent Tweets @jgroc

Two years ago today, the Yankees came back and won at the Red Sox after being down 9-0.

Lego baseball. #MLB #Yankees #NYY

After being told that he had a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right elbow during last Tuesday, New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell has decided to undergo Tommy John surgery which will effectively end his 2014 season. Before hearing of the diagnosis on Tuesday, Parnell felt tightness in the elbow.

Parnell has had trouble with his velocity during the start of 2014 – struggling to surpass 90 miles-per-hour on the radar gun. He even blew a save on Opening day, and the Mets would eventually get swept by the Washington Nationals during the season opening series. Back in December Parnell underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc and entered the regular season on the active roster despite a short spring training.

While it is unclear how the recovery from the surgery had anything to do with Parnell’s elbow situation, one cannot help but wonder. Back injuries in general are very serious and returning from one can easily affect a player’s performance given that the back is a very integral structure to the physical core. Parnell previously hit the mid-90s on his fastballs during past seasons, and has struggled to do so thus far during this season.

Jose Valverde will take over closing duties for the Mets for now. Parnell is the third Mets pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery, along with Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner.

- MLB Nation

How I’m spending my Sabbath day. #mlb #dork

Big Papi takes a selfie with Barack Obama.

The Los Angeles Angels have locked up arguably the game’s best all-around player in outfielder Mike Trout. Trout is only 22 and displays strong capabilities in many facets of the game through his hitting, fielding, and being a terror on the basepaths. Yesterday it was confirmed that the club and Trout agreed to a six-year deal worth $144.5 million – a deal that will take him to the prime age of 29.

From the Angels’ standpoint, they get to keep the player that has become one of the faces of the MLB. For the longest time New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has been the face of the entire league, but Trout is capable of taking over that role given his talent at such a young age along with the strong chance that he can only get better going forward. With the Detroit Tigers making first baseman Miguel Cabrera the highest annually-paid player ever during last Thursday, the Angels decided to reward their young star. Trout is very likely to keep his production at a high-level and this deal will help the club avoid future arbitration hearings.

From the standpoint of Trout, the superstar gets rewarded handsomely. Although signing a 10-year deal might make sense given his young age, Trout has the ability to sign another lucrative long-term deal in the future if he reaches the open market once this extension expires. It was likely that Trout decided to take a six-year offer in the potential chance of getting paid even more handsomely after the expiration of this deal. Despite the signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton not exactly paying the amount of dividends that the club had hoped for, Trout still has much to prove only due to his short tenure in the MLB thus far. With his entire career still ahead of him, Trout should continue to keep playing at a high level.

Trout and Cabrera are likely to keep duking it out against one another for the American League MVP award in the short-term future, at least. While Cabrera may be the better hitter, Trout is an all-around solid investment given his versatile talent and age.

- MLB Nation

Shortstop Jose Reyes left Saturday’s spring training game prematurely due to suffering a mild strain in his left hamstring. The Toronto Blue Jays have listed him as being day-to-day.

MRI results on Reyes reveal a mild strain in his left hamstring. He’s currently listed as day to day. #BlueJays — Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) March 24, 2014

Reyes has had a long history with suffering from hamstring strains, and with the season set to start in a week it could be likely that he starts the regular season off on the disabled list. The American League East will arguably be the most competitive division in the MLB so losing Reyes will not help. At some point, the Blue Jays should consider moving on from Reyes despite him being signed through 2017 (with an option for 2018). It will be a challenge given that his yearly average salary is roughly over $17 million (he will make $22 million for each season from 2015 though 2018 – the last season being an option).

Despite the acquisitions of last offseason, the Blue Jays were a dud in 2013. Starting pitchers R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle were middle-of-the road arms – with the former winning the National League Cy Young just two seasons ago. Both players are signed through the 2015 season, with Dickey’s 2016 being an option, and do not have team-friendly salaries – Dickey is owed $24 million over the next couple of seasons while Buehrle is owed $37 million.

- MLB Nation

Russell Wilson is most known for what he has done on the gridiron nowadays after helping the Seattle Seahawks dominate the Denver Broncos back in early February during Super Bowl XLVIII. What is even more fascinating about the young signal-caller is that he was drafted by a professional MLB team in addition to being the Seahawks’ third round draft pick back in 2012. Back in 2010, the Colorado Rockies drafted Wilson back in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft. The Texas Rangers later acquired him during December 2013′s Rule-5 Draft.

Wilson is currently in spring training with the Rangers. Former two-sport star Bo Jackson publicly offered some advice for Wilson and any other multi-sport athlete.

“Stick to what got [Wilson] in the headlines, not baseball,” said Jackson on Tuesday to Comcast SportsNet Chicago. “Twenty-five or 30 years ago when I did it, I’m not trying to say anything negative about other athletes, but the talent pool wasn’t that deep. Stick to whatever sport you’re comfortable with and let everything else go.”

Jackson would also mention that players who plan on playing two sports will be “riding the bench in both”.

Before Wilson went on the win Super Bowl XLVIII, it was easier to say that he should pursue a career in the MLB over the NFL. For starters, he plays a position in the NFL that usually is unforgiving to those who are sub-six feet – often limiting a quarterback’s vision downfield behind those big offensive lineman. For the longest time NFL franchises have coveted big, burly quarterbacks with big arms. Wilson is not the most physically gifted in terms of quarterback physique. Many outsiders often care less about “measureables” though.

The biggest worry about life after the NFL is whether retired players will be able to live a long, healthy life. The NFL has become obsessed with protecting its players with the constant happenings of concussions. Quarterbacks have it bad in that they are often unprotected during the release of a pass. Finally, for the most part there is less guaranteed money in the NFL.

In the MLB, size does not always matter. Mashing a baseball around the fence does not require a 6’5”, 250-pound frame. Also, there is more of a chance for players to have success late in their careers (late 30s in age) in the MLB than the NFL. Retired MLB players are generally healthier given that they have taken less physical abuse over the course of a long career.

Wilson seems to be the most comfortable with playing in the NFL. Back during with the Rockies in January 2012, he told the club that he planned on pursuing an NFL career. If Wilson’s heart is left on the gridiron than the choice for him is obvious. A Super Bowl win will also keep him in a Seahawks uniform for some time to come given his success thus far and his ability to give the franchise its first Super bowl victory.

- MLB Nation

With the Detroit Tigers losing infielder Jose Iglesias to injury for quite some time, the club is being reported as to looking into acquiring the Seattle Mariners‘ Nick Franklin. Stephen Drew is still out there in free agent waters but if the club were to sign him then they would have to surrender a first round draft pick which makes it unlikely that the club will pursue him.

The Tigers are in a “win now” mode but despite that, they have not shown any public interest in signing Drew. Iglesias is expected to return in the late 2014 season after recovering from a shin injury. By that time, Drew could still be available to sign without having to surrender a draft pick. If Drew is still on the open market after the June draft then signing him could make plenty of sense for the short and long-term to help replace the void left by Jhonny Peralta.

In 2013, Franklin had 412 plate-appearances and hit .225/.303/.382 with 12 home runs and 45 runs batted in. Keep in mind that he just turned 23 so there could still easily be some growing pains during his development.

- MLB Nation

Infielder Manny Machado has not seen action during all of this spring training after recovering from a knee injury that he suffered way back near the end of the 2013 regular season against the Tampa Bay Rays. After undergoing knee surgery, he has not been able to resume doing any activities due to the scar tissue accumulating in his knee.

“The way I understand it, it’s scar tissue that flared up and got a little sore, and we decided not to push it,” said Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Which is what we talked about all along — we are not going to push it to the point where it ends up being something.

“We want to resolve this. The trainers have talked to the doctors, you expect that. The surgery side, the knee and everything feels great. That’s been the most encouraging part” (Associated Press).

Machado had a medical appointment coming up shortly but that was pushed back due to him not being able to perform any side work to help ease him into the season. Baltimore opens up the season against the Boston Red Sox and the idea of opening the season without Machado is certainly a possibility at this point. Showalter declined to admit that it may be the case, saying that there is still plenty of time to get Machado the at-bats he needs during this spring training.

The Orioles have a very talented lineup so losing Machado to start the season should not hamper them completely. What the club should be worried about is whether his knee will hold up during the course of the season after whenever he comes back. Also, will Machado be 100% healthy? This may be something that inhibits him from having the kind of season that many hope. Machado is certainly an investment worth protecting given his young age.

This is certainly not the kind of progress that Orioles brass were hoping for. The club will take their time with his recovery process to make sure that he comes back at 100% and nothing short of that.

- MLB Nation

Rob Ryan celebrating St. Patty’s day. This guy looks like a fat, drunken Gandolf and I love it.

Under the current MLB collective bargaining agreement, we have seen many players hit free agency under labels such as Type A, Type B, etc. free agents. Depending on how one is classified, a team that signs one of these free agents is then required to surrender a draft pick that is determined based on a player’s categorized type.

Former Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew and Seattle Mariners first baseman/designated hitter Kendry Morales have yet to sign on the dotted line for a prospective team going into the 2014 regular season. Any sort of long-term deal that they would agree to with a team would require that team to surrender a draft pick (in most cases a first-round pick). Right-hander Ervin Santana ultimately agreed to take on a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves after hoping to land a long-term deal. Outfielder Nelson Cruz did the same with the Baltimore Orioles. Both Santana and Cruz rejected qualifying offers, offers that are short-term from the team that they played for last, in hope to land more lucrative deals.

Drew and Morales have shown signs that they would be willing to wait until late June to hopefully sign long-term deals. Why wait until then? Come that time, both players will not be hamstrung from being categorically typed and it will allow teams to sign them to a deal that both sides would have to agree on – without draft pick compensation. Drew and Morales are represented by Scott Boras, every MLB general manager’s worst nightmare due to his ability to maximize his clients’ contract demands.

“The system they’ve been dealt has basically prevented them from free agency,” said Boras. “They want to make sure about their next step, whatever that will be. It means either signing a long-term contract now — and we’re still taking offers on those — or a number of other prospects that could occur after the season starts or in June, after the draft happens.

“Like any players, they want to play baseball. But they’re also looking at the long-term aspect of their careers. This system has placed them not in free agency, but it’s placed them in a jail” (Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com).

Both Drew and Morales were offered one-year deals north of $14 million. The cash is nice, for sure, but these players would rather not play out another lameduck season while wondering where they will be in 2015. Drew hit .253/.333/.443 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs last season, while Morales hit .277/.336/.449 with 23 home runs and 80 RBIs. Both players are currently 30 years old.

At this point in the calendar year, long-term deals may not be as likely to be given out since all teams are riding the renewed hope for a successful campaign entering a brand new regular season. Once things get rolling and trade talks increase as we enter the heart of the summer, needs become apparent by major league front offices. If Drew and Morales are indeed hard pressed on getting that long-term deal to assure themselves stability with a club, then waiting may be the best option at this point. If both are still around on the market by July, things could easily become interesting in regards to where their services may be needed.

- MLB Nation

Back in late January, Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti stated that outfielder Matt Kemp was expected to return to game action “in the midst of spring training”. For those who are scratching their head, Kemp underwent ankle surgery last October after being a part of a home plate incident during the middle of July 2013 while playing at the Washington Nationals.

Kemp had an injury-plagued 2013 season altogether after trying to come back from shoulder surgery prior to last season, and also dealing with the constant pain through the season following it. He spent a stint on the disabled list because of the reoccurring issue. Kemp has not played a game in the Cactus League yet during this spring.

Los Angeles opens up the regular season in Sydney, Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks from March 22 through 23. Kemp is still unlikely to play, but he should be ready about a week and a half later on April 1 when they resume opening up the season back in the states at the San Diego Padres. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly states that Kemp is indeed getting closer to seeing action during this spring.

“We’re seeing him take fly balls, getting jumps,” said Mattingly on Saturday. “He’s swinging the bat good. It won’t be long before he’s in a game” (MLB.com).

Whether that action comes before or after the Sydney series remains to be seen. Mattingly acknowledged that he has not put any sort of timetable on it. If Kemp’s progress keeps taking the turn for the better at this rate, he should see spring training action before April. It is well known how crowded the Dodgers’ outfield is right now so Kemp should take all the time he needs in order to make the most of his 2014 season.

Depending on the progress of Kemp is how quickly and likely that the club may try to use one of their outfielders as a trade-chip to address any other issues that may come up for the team as the season progresses. Yasiel Puig is nearly untradable given his production and his cost-efficient salary at the moment. Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford are more likely going to be dangled. Kemp himself could be dangled, but he has not been healthy for some time now. All three outfielders have longer-term contracts so any interested club would have to inherit their contracts as well.

Kemp signed an eight-year deal worth $160 million after the 2011 season.

- MLB Nation

Left-hander Cole Hamels will be taking another week off from throwing from a mound and feeling fatigue in his arm.

Cole Hamels suffers setback. Said he is fatigued. No pain in shoulder. But obviously not good news. Wouldn’t say if he could pitch in April. — Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) March 6, 2014

The good news is that there is no pain, but taking a week off with Opening Day coming up sooner rather than later is not good news. Hamels is recovering from biceps tendinitis from back in November. After throwing during his last session on Saturday, he admitted that he was not feeling 100%.

"The only thing that’s a concern for me is the fact that we have to push him back," said Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "The fact that he’s throwing, not having any pain or anything like that, this is part of the rehab. Things happen. It doesn’t always go in a straight line. It’s really more a matter of fatigue. We don’t have any issues about his health, as far as his structure or anything like that. We just have to be patient” (Associated Press).

Cliff Lee is likely to get Opening Day honors, with Hamels likely to miss a start or two to open the season if his arm condition worsens. Hamels said that he threw 35 pitches during his Saturday session but “it felt like a thousand” (AP). The Phillies will need a lot of things to go right this season if they plan on competing in the National League East, but they are already starting off with some bad luck.

- MLB Nation

The Boston Red Sox and ace southpaw Jon Lester have reportedly been engaged in talks about a contract extension.

The Red Sox and Jon Lester ‘s agents have already engaged in at least two conversations concerning an extension for the lefty

— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) March 2, 2014

The extension is likely going to be in the five-year, $100 million range – similar to the extension that Homer Bailey got from the Cincinnati Reds. On Friday, it was also reported that Lester’s representatives were in Red Sox camp which is definitely a sign that both sides are in ongoing discussions. Both sides seem to want to get this deal done. Lester has also stated his desire to remain in Beantown.

“I don’t like change,” said Lester. “I like being where I’ve been. I like the people. I like the surroundings. It feels like home” (Jon Heyman, CBSSports.com).

The Red Sox organization also recognizes Lester as an integral part to the franchise.

“We appreciate him saying he wants to be a Red Sox. We’re crazy about him,” said chairman Tom Werner. “We’d all love him to stay and hope he’s pitching for the Red Sox past this year. He’s been such a valuable player for us. It would be a great deal for the organization if we can figure out an extension” (Heyman).

Lester is currently in an option year making $13 million. When comparing him to Bailey, Lester is easily the better pitcher. Lester has posted sub-four earned run averages in six of his last seven seasons. Bailey has a career ERA+ of 96 – which is slightly below average (100 is average).

Lester will hit the open market if he is unsigned come post-2014. He can easily make a lot of money if the Red Sox allow him to get there. However, from the sound of things, both sides seem eager to get an extension done.

- MLB Nation