March 4, 2014
MLB Opening Day is just a couple weeks away which means it’s time for my yearly ritual of predicting the six division winners and ensuring that those teams don’t have the season they are hoping for. What can I say? It’s a gift. (I don’t think the Blue Jays would call it that after the 2013 season). So let’s get on with it.
Last season proved that anything can happen in this division. A year ago I wrote “The Red Sox aren’t going to make a 25-win improvement over 2012.” So now I say, “I told you so.” Of course they didn’t win 25 more games than 2012. They won 28 more games. Just like I suspected they would. I’d like to see them try to do that again. But I think they will have a tougher road this year. They won’t be the team of destiny anymore. The Yankees will be trying to give Derek Jeter one final postseason and the Blue Jays have to be better right? The Orioles and Rays will be very good, too. I say all five teams finish over .500 and it’s the Rays that claim the division crown.
It almost feels like cheating to pick the team that won it last year. But when the same team has won for the last three years, it just seems stupid not to pick them. Am I right? Especially when they haven’t won a title yet. The Tigers ought to be a hungry bunch. The may have the best hitter and pitcher in baseball with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. They won’t run away with it. But Detroit wins the Central again.
Once again, people seem to think the Angels are back. I don’t think so. There’s too much up in the air with Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. I don’t see them returning to elite players. So that leaves the Rangers and the A’s to battle it out (with Seattle improving but not there yet). I’ve learned my lesson. I keep picking against Oakland and I keep getting it wrong. No more. Despite the Rangers adding Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, I’m taking the A’s to work their magic again and defend their title. If you don’t believe me, watch Moneyball and you will.
I’d like a mulligan. (Does it count as a mulligan if you pick the same team as last year?) It seems like Washington is due to have some stuff go its way. Just a couple more wins than last year should be enough to get the job done. Especially when the Nationals are going to be rolling out Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman and Fister to the mound all season. The Braves will give them a run, but its about time something went right in Washington.
We know it won’t be the Cubs. The Brewers should be better than the 74-win team from last year and make it a four-team race for a while, but in the end it will come down to the three teams (Cardinals, Pirates and Reds) that all won at least 90 games last year. One of them won’t get there this year. Sadly, I think it might be the Pirates that drop off the pace. The Reds won the Central in 2010 and 2012 so obviously 2014 is going to be their year as well. I like their rotation the best and if they can get Billy Hamilton on base, their offense will be scary.
Question: How many division titles do you have to buy before you become hated like the Yankees? The Dodgers are determined to find this out. No team has more superstars right now. They ran away with the West last year and should win it easily again. The real question for this team is can it make a deep run in October.
February 27, 2014
With MLB Spring Training underway, Opening Day can’t come soon enough. Excitement is building as fans ponder a variety of scenarios as the 2014 MLB season approaches. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest questions that can only be answered by playing 162 glorious games.
No. 5: Can Billy Hamilton Reach Base with Regularity?
There is no debate as to who is the fastest player in baseball. His name is Billy Hamilton and he may be the fastest man in all of sports. The Cincinnati Reds center fielder played in 13 games in 2013—he stole 13 bases in 14 tries. What he does on the base paths is nearly criminal, the only question is can he reach base with regularity?
Hamilton will lead off for the Reds and will get every opportunity to make a name for himself. Many worry that Hamilton tries to muscle the ball too often. He’s only listed at 160 lbs. which tells the story that he shouldn’t try to smack the long ball.
In order to be considered a success in 2014 Hamilton must have an on-base percentage somewhere around .350. Patience at the plate and taking the ball the other way will make Hamilton an All-Star. If he reaches base early and often he may steal 100 bases and the Reds will be a playoff team. As a friendly reminder, no one has stolen 100-plus bases since Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987. That in itself should size up Hamilton’s capabilities.
No. 4: Will the Washington Nationals Rebound from a Disappointing 2013 Campaign
Most franchises would consider 86 wins in 2013 an exceptional season. Not the Washington Nationals who won 98 in 2012 and were penned by many to reach the World Series.
This time around some things are different for the Nationals but the lofty expectations are the same. New manager Matt Williams runs a tight ship but that’s not keeping the Nats from keeping loose. Williams is well-organized and meticulous and knows a little something about the game. The former slugger hit 43 home runs in 112 games in 1994 with the San Francisco Giants before the strike-shortened season cut his run at Roger Maris’ then record 61 home runs in a single season short. Williams is a gamer and every sports enthusiast can appreciate that.
He has a slugger on his new team in Bryce Harper who seems like he might be 35 but is only 21 years old. The baseball prodigy is just now growing into his body and with 1,094 career bats already underneath his belt Harper is ready to feast on the opposition.
The Nationals also have a deep pitching rotation and should win somewhere around 92 games this season. An appearance in the playoffs should be penciled in, this team is for real.
No. 3: Will the Dodgers Live Up to the Hype?
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team on paper right now. Stacked from top to bottom, the Dodgers are a World Series-or-bust team this season.
Before we delve too deep it should be mentioned that the new ownership group led by Magic Johnson is doing a spectacular job. They’ve put a quality product on the field and there schedule is laced with in-stadium promotions to attract all sorts of fans. It’s a great time to bleed Dodger blue.
Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu lead the pitching staff while Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig bolster the lineup. The 2014 Dodgers have everything it takes to win the only question is do they have the recipe for success?
No. 2: Can the Seattle Mariners Make the Playoffs?
The Mariners decided they want to win now and dropped a bombshell on baseball when they signed prized second baseman Robinson Cano this offseason. He alone is enough to fill Safeco Field on a regular basis.
Add star pitcher Felix Hernandez and a throng of young talent to the mix and the Mariners carry positive momentum into the season. The big question is will they make the playoffs? Although it may seem like a foregone conclusion don’t forget the Mariners play in the toughest division in baseball.
There are only five playoff spots available and the AL West has the Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim all contending for the postseason. The Mariners play divisional rivals in 22 of their first 27 games. The first month of the season will be telling for the Mariners. Are the up to the challenge?
No. 1: Will Derek Jeter Stay Healthy?
New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter announced he’ll retire after the season bringing a bit of sadness to all. The man has so many accomplishments they could be an entire article in themselves. Here’s a small taste of jaw-dropping Jeter stats—he has 200 career postseason hits. That’s simply marvelous.
The biggest question in baseball this offseason is will he stay healthy this season to play throughout his farewell tour?
He played just 17 games in 2013 but is giving it another go in 2014.
For the sake of baseball in all of its greatness let’s keep our fingers crossed that Jeter can remain healthy and play often this season.
February 25, 2014
A new MLB season is just about a month away. That means your fantasy drat is even closer than that. Are you ready? Me either. But I do know that you can’t win you fantasy league on draft day. That takes much more than one day of investment. But if you draft a few stars that don’t perform, that one day could take you out of the running. With that in mind, here’s a few guys you can be sure won’t end up on my roster on draft day.
His 2013 season was a big disappointment. Will Pujols be able to regain his form after all the injury problems? Maybe. But I don’t want to keep my fingers crossed all season. Besides, his numbers have dropped ever year since 2008. Let somebody else draft him for his name and you can snag somebody who will be more reliable (at 1B) like Freddie Freeman or Eric Hosmer.
Here’s another guy who had a nightmarish 2013 season. A thumb injury and a 65-game suspension will sure put a damper on your production. Braun’s probably going to put up some decent numbers, but don’t expect to draft him and get the MVP player from 2011. I’d take him with my fourth or fifth pick in the draft, but if you want that long he will probably end up on some other guy’s roster. I’m OK with that.
I actually love Posey. But I don’t see him re-creating his MVP season from a couple years ago and there are a few catchers that put up nice numbers last season and should do it again this year. I’m not going to tell you not to draft him. But I’d rather wait a few rounds to take a catcher than take him with one of my first couple of picks.
Derek Jeter’s name alone will probably get him drafted higher than he should be. Somebody in your league will expect him to be the leader of a high-powered Yankees lineup and think that they got a steal with a mid-round pick. Maybe. But he’s old. And he only played 17 games last year. I doubt he’ll make it through this season without getting hurt. Only a true Yankee fan should consider owning him. That’s not me. No thanks. You can have him.
Somebody is going to pile up a lot of saves. Jim Johnson and Craig Kimbrel had 50 last year. Five other guys had at least 40. If one of them falls into my lap then that’s great. If not, that’s OK too. No stat is easier to find during the season than saves. Closers come and go so unless you know something I don’t, then let someone else waste a higher pick on the top rated closers and find somebody lat
February 13, 2014
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and think of spring. If you’re thinking of freshly cut grass, roasted peanuts and grilled hot dogs then you’re ready for the 2014 MLB season.
Trust us, you’re not alone.
The majority of pitchers and catching on the verge of reporting to camp brings relief to a rough winter. Just the sight of players outside in the sun sporting t-shirts brings a smile to ones face. Finally, the end of the offseason is near.
It may have only been three months since the World Series ended but that is not kosher with baseball diehards. We were thirsting for more the day after the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series.
With the new season taking flight let’s take some time and size up the competition by naming the top three surprise teams of the upcoming season.
No. 3: Minnesota Twins
So what if the Minnesota Twins finished last season with a 66-96 record, the fan base need not hang their collective head. This team is going to be exciting in the near future. The team still has franchise cornerstone Joe Mauer. They also beefed up their pitching staff by adding the likes of veterans Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes in the offseason.
But that’s not the complete reason why you should fall in love all over again with the Twins this season. The youth in Minnesota has baseball abuzz and for good reason. The season may start off a bit slow for the Twins but things will only go north from there.
Keep in mind that the Twin Cities host the 2014 MLB All-Star Game. By that time prized prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano could be in the dugout.
Who should we gush over first? Sano it is—the 20-year-old third baseman hit 35 home runs in 123 minor league games last season at multiple levels. Here’s the kicker—he thinks he can hit between 45 and 55 long balls at the major league level. At 6’4”, 235 lbs. he certainly has the size. It’s safe to say he has plenty of confidence too.
Buxton. Buxton. Buxton is his name, get familiar with it because soon enough you won’t be able to forget it. He’s the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball and is being compared to, gulp, Mike Trout. He’s coming, you’ve been warned.
No. 2: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Now that everybody has written them off after a miserable 2013 campaign the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are bound to surprise this time around. The AL West is the most loaded division in all of baseball with the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners headlining this season.
Don’t be shocked when the Angels spoil the party. After all they have a star-studded lineup as well. The aforementioned Trout is the most dynamic player in the game. Fact—they also have Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton who are out to prove that they still have gas in the tank. Say what you want about these aging players but opposing pitchers still want nothing to do with them. For example, Hamilton batted .329 in his final 45 games in 2013. Watch out.
The team’s success will hinge on three young pitchers named Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Both Santiago and Skaggs joined the Halos via offseason trades and look to make a good first impression. All three of these young men have what it takes win games in The Show.
Quietly, the Angels are cooking up a recipe for success.
No. 1: Arizona Diamondbacks
Ask any member of the Arizona Diamondbacks what they thought about last season and they’ll consider it a failure. Technically, 81-81 is not a failure but by no means is it good enough.
The front office made key acquisitions in the offseason in order to contend for the NL West crown. Adding starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, proven closer Addison Reed and all-around thumper Mark Trumbo spoke volumes of their intentions.
They are meant to be taken seriously now and in the future.
The team will have to topple their bitter divisional Los Angeles Dodgers in order to achieve their goals but will be up to the task. They have an MVP-caliber first baseman in Paul Goldschmidt and mimic the intensity and grittiness of manager Kirk Gibson.
Thanks to the Dodgers the D’Backs may have been written-off as contenders by many in 2014. Don’t be mistaken—this team is for real.
January 24, 2014
Just when fans may have thought the franchise was going into a period of dark ages, think again. The Yankees are the most iconic team in sports history—they win often. With 27 World Series rings to date many have grown too loath the “Evil Empire” but one can’t help but respect them.
They last won it all in 2009 and with the passing of legendary owner George Steinbrenner in 2010. Steinbrenner was infamous for going out and acquiring any player he deemed fit to don the famous pinstripes, many times with a hefty payday. Since 2008 when the team spent a massive $441 million during the offseason in free agency, the team only spent a total of $227.8 million combined.
It seemed as if the Yankees have tightened the reins on the checkbook since “The Boss” passed onto baseball heaven.
The team let second baseman Robinson Cano walk via free agency this offseason and head west to the Seattle Mariners. The going price for Cano was only a cool $240 million. Wait. Those were the contracts the Yankees used to acquire and suddenly they were passing.
Was their new philosophy to build from within?
Suddenly baseball fans everywhere began to debate if the Yankees were in decline without Steinbrenner’s robust leadership.
Had they’re buying power lost its punch? Had the Yankees lost their appeal?
This offseason, the team has once again emptied its pockets.
But why would the team go back to spending so much?
The answer is simple—they’re the New York Yankees. The have a reputation to maintain.
Since 2010 the Yankees have won 95, 97, 95, and 85 games, respectively.
Many MLB teams may consider 85 wins, the Yankees’ amount in 2013, an acceptable season. Not the Yanks. Couple that with the fact that the despised Boston Red Sox won their third World Series since 2004 and the Yankees had to make a splash this offseason.
Yes, they lost Cano, but they acquired free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka.
Correct—there’s a disturbance in the force. The Yankees have once again drawn a line in the proverbial sand and let it be known that they are the team to beat. Many teams had their hat in the ring for the Tanaka sweepstakes yet the Yankees came out king of the mountain.
Their star-studded lineup is shining a bit brighter at the moment. It’s been proven in sports that money doesn’t always buy championships, but the Yankees have definitely bought themselves some momentum heading into the 2014 MLB season. It may have cost the Yankees $491 million this winter but winning it all is simply priceless.
For better or worse balance has been restored in baseball. Hat tip to the Yankees for being so special.