The Transformation Of Brandon Nimmo

The Transformation Of Brandon Nimmo

How the young star went from the odd man out to a dependable stud.
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Throughout the course of the past few years, the Mets have been building a youth movement in New York. And while the lineup and rotation are lined with a combination of budding and developed stars from top to bottom, one certain player has the chance to become the future of the Mets organization: Brandon Nimmo.

Nimmo’s name often goes overlooked in Queens, as the Wyoming native has served as the fourth player in a three-man outfield. Over the course of the past 3 years, Nimmo has had less plate appearances for the Mets than Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jay Bruce. While all three of the aforementioned players outclass Nimmo on paper and certainly deserve a spot in the Mets lineup, Nimmo has proved himself to be a formidable part of an already talented team, and yet, has historically received minimal opportunities to showcase his talents.

Last season, Nimmo only played 69 games at the major league level with 215 plate appearances. When you consider that Conforto and Cespedes both had their seasons shortened by injury, and Bruce was traded to Cleveland in August, there were ample opportunities for the Mets to utilize Nimmo’s untapped potential. Still, the Mets continued to stunt Nimmo’s progression as veterans such as Juan Lagares, Curtis Granderson, and Nori Aoki headlined the outfield on most days in 2017, relegating Nimmo to the bench, or worse, the minor leagues.

However, in 2018, the New Mets have crafted a formidable roster that posts young players across the entire diamond. A new generation of players in Conforto, SS Amed Rosario, and of course the entire starting rotation has already proven that they can compete at the highest level, as back-to-back playoff berths in 2015 and 2016 solidified the Mets as legitimate contenders in the National League.

And now, in 2018, the Mets are looking incredibly strong, as the team won 5 of its first 6 games. However, with Michael Conforto returning from injury a full three months earlier than expected, Brandon Nimmo’s future hangs in the balance once again. It remains to be seen how the Mets will use Nimmo going forward, but if his .375 AVG and .615 OBP are any indicators, the Mets would be wise to find a slot for Nimmo in the lineup. With Cespedes in LF, Conforto in CF, and Bruce in RF, it would seem that Nimmo is the odd man out once again. However, with Nimmo being thrusted into the non-existent fourth outfielder slot, only one option remains for the Mets if their plan is to somehow work all four outfielders into the lineup on any given day.

If Cespedes, Conforto, Bruce, and Nimmo are all going to find their way into the lineup, one of them must move from the outfield into the infield. The obvious choice for New York would be to move Adrian Gonzalez from 1B to the bench and Jay Bruce from RF to 1B. However, Gonzalez has been hitting the ball incredibly well throughout the early stages of the 2018 season, as he’s hit .294 through his first 21 ABs, solidifying his spot as the team’s starting 1B. Additionally, Bruce hasn’t taken any reps at 1B since May of 2017, and has only played the position a handful of times in his career.

And while he might be the most fit of all the Mets outfielders to make a positional shift, it would still make sense for the Mets to run a lineup that features Cespedes, Conforto, and Bruce in the outfield, with Nimmo holding down the first position on the bench, as his unmatched ability to come up clutch in a big pinch hit situation will be much needed for New York throughout the course of the season. Collectively, the team has hit .203 in pinch-hit situations since 2016, whereas Nimmo alone has utilized pinch hit situations to hit for a staggering average of .311 since the start of his career.

Essentially, Brandon Nimmo is a major focal point when it comes to reaching base for the Mets. Only Michael Conforto held a higher OBP for the team in 2017, as Nimmo’s prowess in the box was a major catalyst for the team’s wild-card run only one year prior. And now, with the 2018 season fully underway, Brandon Nimmo’s future looks to be solidified as the clutch pinch hitter the Mets have desperately needed for so long.

For a team that was starting Nori Aoki and Travis Taijeron just six months ago, the Mets finally have a good problem: too much talent, and not enough spots in the lineup. And although the season is still young, Brandon Nimmo is already becoming a shining example of this concept. Hopefully, for the Mets, talent can bloom throughout the course of a season that has already looked incredibly promising.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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11 Things Fastpitch Softball Players Know To Be True

You'll never remember your Facebook password, but you'll remember softball cheers for the rest of your life.
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There comes a time in every little girl's life when she must come to terms with the fact that she will never play Major League Baseball. So, she turns to softball. From tee-ball to coach-pitch to travel ball, to playing on your school team, softball has played a crucial role in your life. It taught you the value of teamwork, the importance of sunscreen, and introduced you to your best friends. For former and current fastpitch players alike, these truths are universal.

1. The rays of a thousand suns couldn't even out your tan lines.

Tan arms and a V-neck tan line is the unofficial uniform of the softball player. Years after you stop playing softball, at 2 p.m. on the second Monday of every month when the sun is shining through your bathroom window at a 90-degree angle, you'll swear you can still see the slightest hint of a racerback tan line between your shoulders. Good luck finding a flattering sundress!

2. Pitchers are a different breed of human.

It's a tale as old as time: You saw that the pitchers got to skip all of the intense drills at practice so they can go off to the side with the catcher to chat and have a catch for an hour and you said, "I gotta get in on that." So, your dad paid for your pitching lessons, you mimicked Jennie Finch as best as you could, and three years later, you're contemplating changing your name just to forget about that time you spent as a pitcher. Successful pitchers must have no other interests, future career goals, or a family who loves them because pitching just destroys everything you believe in. If you do survive being a pitcher, congratulations, because you are now fully equipped with nerves of steel that will allow you to conquer the worst that life has to throw at you.

3. An 8 a.m. game on Sunday means you had a really bad Saturday.

Where is the most tranquil and somber place that people often go to on Sunday mornings to reflect on their wrongdoings? No, not church. It's the softball field. When you have to be at the field before the sun, you start thinking irrationally, like "Maybe if I used the Demarini instead of the Stealth in the third inning of the second game yesterday we would've only lost by six runs instead of seven which would have put us in the winner's bracket!" Have fun running a lap for every error you made the day before.

4. If the other team is wearing shorts, you know you're going to win.

There's just so much leg! Shorts and softball go together like ketchup and strawberry jelly, as in, that's what your knees are going to look like if you even attempt to slide wearing a pair of shorts. Don't even get me started on the tan line from mid thigh to mid shin. You know the one. This is the big leagues, ladies, put on some pants.

5. If you aren't dirty after a game, you didn't play hard enough.

If you don't come home from a tournament, look in the mirror, and go, "Wow I got a good tan today!" only to take a shower and find out that it was all just dirt, then you probably missed that slide sign from the third base coach when you were rounding second.

6. Cheers are a necessary evil.

Cheering in softball is like having a dead-end job that you hate; it's unfulfilling, robs you of your dignity, and tires you out, but you have to do it anyway. You'll never remember your Facebook password, your parents' anniversary, or that you left your laundry in the washer, but you'll remember softball cheers for the rest of your life. Unless, of course, you fall into the water and bump your little head like that damn froggy.

7. Pre-wrap is a hot commodity in the dugout.

"I'll trade you a bag of Ranch sunflower seeds for your light blue pre wrap."

"No way, I had to get my mom to drive me to three different Sports Authority's last night just to find this color!"

8. You may get along with other teams between games, but they are not your friends on the field.

It's perfectly normal to meet another player in line for the bathroom at a tournament, compliment her on her cheetah print hair ribbon, and then trash talk her on the field half an hour later. You can make it up to her by giving her a high five and a poignant smile in the handshake line after the game.

9. If you get hit by a pitch and there aren't lace marks in your skin, it's really just a waste of time.

You love being able to showcase your bruises at school on Monday when all of your non-softball friends ask, "Does it hurt to get hit with a fastball?" and you can coolly and calmly answer, "Nah." Bruises up your street cred, and lace marks are just bonus points. So, when you don't have any stitching embedded in your skin, you wish you could just have the chance to bat. Take your base.

10. When the bat meets the ball juuuuuust right, it is the most powerful feeling in the world.

Your dad was right when he told you to keep your head down when you swing. You always thought that the "sweet spot" of the bat was just a myth until you hit your first home run. The rush of adrenaline will make you feel so powerful that you'll try to see if you can pick up a car in the parking lot with your bare hands after the game, but you still can't.

11. You will always consider your team to be your best friends.

After spending every weekend together, you and your team create a bond so close that it borders on uncomfortable. You may take out your frustrations on each other from time to time like when someone steps on the freshly chalked line before the game, or when you all fight over the ball with the best, most prominent laces for your warm up toss. But at the end of the day, your team will always be the biggest bunch of weirdos you know, and that is irreplaceable.

Cover Image Credit: Art Mad

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As A Cardinals Fan, I Let Albert Pujols Go A LONG Time Ago

They say time heals all wounds, but is that the case with St. Louis Cardinals fans and Albert Pujols?

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It's hard to properly encapsulate what Albert Pujols meant to the city of St. Louis. He's without a doubt in my mind, statistically, one of the greatest Cardinals players of all time right up there with names like Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, and Stan Musial. His list of accolades in a Cardinals uniform is borderline unbelievable: Rookie of the year in 2001, 9x All-Star (8 consecutive from 2003-2010), 3x MVP, 6x Silver Slugger and 2x Gold Glove winner. Not to mention, he was an integral piece of two World Series victories in 2006 and 2011. The recipe was right there to continue his career as a Cardinal and retire an immortalized legend, but things somehow took a turn for the worst after the 2011 World Series.

Pujols was up for free agency in 2012, and even though the city was celebrating its 11th World Series title (second-most of all time) but the future of the team was in the back of everyone's mind. For context, Cardinals Manager and 3x World Series Champion Tony La Rusa announced his retirement in early November, just days after the victory parade.

Nearly a month later, Pujols announces that he decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels for a record-breaking 10-year, $254 million contract. To say Cardinals fans were perplexed and shocked is an understatement. What could the Angels offer that St. Louis couldn't aside from more money and better weather, especially coming off of a World Series win? Regardless, the Cardinals never seized on the opportunity to sign Pujols to a contract extension, a mistake they didn't want to repeat with newly-acquired superstar Paul Goldschmidt.

I think what hurt most about Pujols leaving St. Louis as he was a Cardinals-bred player through and through. He was drafted in the 13th round out of the 1999 Amateur Draft by the Cardinals before making his MLB debut in 2001. That's been the Cardinal manifesto for nearly the entire Modern Era: draft or acquire young Minor League talent, develop them before implementing them into the Major League system. It felt downright hurtful that Pujols would opt for the bright lights of Los Angeles over a city that had every intention of supporting him

But with most things, time passed and Pujols eventually became a peripheral point for Cardinals fans like myself who would briefly re-enter their lives on the occasional article or ESPN highlight. So when it was revealed that the Angels will be playing the Cardinals in June at Busch for the first time since Pujols left, he was suddenly back on every Cardinals fan's radar again.

So Angels and Cardinals media outlets were abuzz, prompting this interview with Graham Bensinger during Spring Training and the way Pujols frames the negotiations were really peculiar to me. He said he didn't feel truly wanted by the franchise, but we'll never know the whole truth unless we were actually there. I do know one thing though, every Cardinals fan wanted Pujols to be a Cardinal for life and he would have gone down as one of the greats without a doubt in anyone's mind. He spent his best years in St. Louis though and helped bring us two World Series' and for that, I'll always be grateful.

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