March 13, 2013
MLB’s 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. So let’s get on with it.
It’s gotta be now or never for the Blue Jays right? The Red Sox aren’t going to make a 25-win improvement over last season and the Yankees have been ravaged with injuries. The division door is wide open and Toronto has added several star players. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera should be able to help the Blue Jays to the top in the A.L. East.
It almost feels like cheating to pick the team that won it last year. Almost. The Tigers ought to be a hungry bunch after losing in the World Series last year. They may have the best hitter and pitcher in baseball in triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. And I don’t see anyone else in the Central making a run at 90 wins.
In 2012, the Oakland A’s surprised everyone and stole the title from the Rangers. Now it’s the Angels that everyone thinks will take the title after they recruited one of the biggest stars in Texas, Josh Hamilton. Adding Hamilton to a lineup with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols makes the Angels scary, but I’m going with another surprise in the West and taking the Rangers.
Everyone in Washington is left wondering “what if” after the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg at the end of the season and then collapsed in the playoffs. They’ll have a chance to redeem themselves this October after taking the N.L. East crown. Atlanta will fight them to the end and the Phillies won’t go quietly, but the Nats are the best overall team right now.
With all the injuries in St. Louis, this looks like the Reds’ division to lose. They won 97 games in 2012 and added a dynamic player in Shin-Soo Choo. Plus…The Astros are gone. The Cubs are the Cubs. The Pirates are still trying to find a way to finish above. 500. So I guess that leaves Milwaukee. Can the Brewers make a run at Cincinnati? It will depend on what they can get from the starting rotation.
This will be the most interesting race I believe. There is a young up-and-coming team in Arizona; the defending world champs in San Francisco and the new Yankees in Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks are probably another year away and the Giants appear to be out-manned by the All-Stars the Dodgers brought in to win last year. A full season with guys like Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez and the addition of Zack Greinke make L.A. the pick.
December 17, 2012
Josh Hamilton joins Los Angeles Angels: The balance of power could be shifting in the AL West as the Los Angeles Angels have signed Josh Hamilton, formerly of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton’s deal is a reportedly $125 million over five years. Give the Angels credit for making such a splash yet again in the offseason. Over the past two winters, they’ve had the biggest signings in baseball with Hamilton this year and slugger Albert Pujols last year. One thing’s for certain, though – if L.A. somehow misses the playoffs again, ownership won’t be happy after investing a boatload of money for the next several seasons.
Andrea Bargnani bashes team: Toronto Raptors forward/center Andrea Bargnani recently spoke to an Italian newspaper, reportedly calling his team ‘pretty much the worst team in the NBA.’ Few would dispute that with the Raptors and Washington Wizards battling it out for rights to shack up in the league’s basement. Bargnani’s honesty should be lauded as far too often, players dance around questions. Unfortunately for him, though, making the comments while he collects dusts on the bench recovering from an injury looks bad. The franchise needs him healthy to even have a chance at respectability and calling the team he’s not able to help right now among the worst in the league implies that his teammates aren’t all that good.
High school girls’ basketball team wins 107-2: No, 107-2 isn’t a team’s record over several seasons. Rather, 107-2 was the score of an actual, singular game. Indiana’s Bloomington South High School defeated Arlington by that ginormous amount, drawing the criticism of many. There are two sides to the argument, of course. If you’re Bloomington, do you continue to play as hard as you can or take your foot off the pedal a bit? I don’t necessarily have a problem with either approach in college or the pros, but in a high school contest, that’s probably a bit ridiculous. To his credit, the Bloomington coach played all nine of his players. Hopefully, the reserves logged a ton of minutes in the game.
NHL lockout gets uglier: If you were hoping for a timely end to the NHL lockout as an early Christmas gift, you’re probably out of luck. Word broke last week that the players could break up their own union and things could go downhill from there. According to ESPN, by voting to disband the group, players could be protected by antitrust laws, which prohibit companies from locking out employees not a part of the union. If they are locked out, laws require said companies to pay triple the amount of wages owed to employees … er, players in this case. The NHL quickly reacted, filing a class-action complaint in federal court and an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Eventually, things will still end up with Sidney Crosby scoring goals and owners entertaining clients in their private suites since there’s simply too much money to be made. But when that happens remains a big question mark.
Enter … Pokertox: Okay, so we could debate for hours if poker is really a sport, but just go with it for now – I promise, it’ll be fun. Dr. Jack Berdy in New York is introducing Pokertox to the world. Pokertox, essentially is Botox for poker players. The procedure would ideally reduce telltale facial reaction players might make in certain situations while playing the game to give them a better poker face. Sounds a bit strange, but when you think about it, it would have to help, right?
Non-FBS Schools reportedly leaving Big East: For years, the Big East has endured a bit of a power struggle. The schools that played football have wanted to improve that side of the conference, but there were many members that either didn’t play football or didn’t participate in the FBS. With the recent defections from the conference, reports are now that the Big East’s non-FBS football members (that’s Georgetown, DePaul, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Providence if you’re scoring at home) plan to leave. Reports have the seven potentially ending up in the Atlantic 10 to create a new basketball super-conference. Others say that the seven schools could join forces with other Catholic basketball-focused colleges and create a new league. Either move really makes significantly more sense than remaining in the Big East since each member would have the same goals. They would also be less prone to being affected by the recent realignment nightmare since the other conferences are heavily football-focused and wouldn’t be as interested in adding a non-FBS football member.
June 1, 2012
If you would have told me on Opening Day that on June 1st the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles would be leading their divisions, I would have laughed at you and likely offered you a sizable bet to the contrary. Luckily for me, nobody around me thought that possible. Yet that is exactly where the MLB standings are at right now. So I thought it would be interesting to go through each division and predict whether the current leader will still be there when it matters, in September.
East: Baltimore Orioles & Tampa Bay Rays (Tied)
The Baltimore Orioles have been an amazing surprise this season, but have started to slump. After losing their last 5 games, they are now tied with the Tampa Bay Rays, a team a little more believable. But where are the powerhouses of the AL East? The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have to rebound, right? Even the Toronto Blue Jays were supposed to be contenders this season. My prediction is with the Orioles already slumping and the Rays with only a 1.5 game lead, the Yankees will make a run and claim the East.
Central: Chicago White Sox
The division claimed to be one that would be easily dominated by the Detroit Tigers is currently up for grabs. The Tigers have been disappointing as of yet, with the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians playing some inspired baseball to this point. However, the Indians jumped to a HUGE lead last season before slumping, so in my mind I think it will come down to the White Sox and Tigers. Being a Tigers fan, I have to hope that the Tigers right the ship and win the AL Central.
West: Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers may not only be the best team in the AL West, but in all of baseball. The Rangers have been very impressive to start the season and, coming off to back-to-back World Series losses, many are saying the third time is a charm. The Los Angeles Angels brought in Albert Pujols to try and catch the Rangers this season, but so far it doesn’t seem like it will be enough. I think the Rangers will hold on to their spot atop the AL West.
East: Washington Nationals
The one thing that may be more surprising than the Washington Nationals leading this division is that the Philadelphia Phillies are in dead last. Now, that is still only 3 games back, but I don’t think anyone thought of the Phillies as a bottom dweller. This is a very competitive division, with the Miami Marlins right on the heels of the Nats. If Giancarlo Stanton can keep powering the Marlins they could take the crown, but I am going with a dark horse and picking the Atlanta Braves to win the division.
Central: Cincinnati Reds
The NL Central really isn’t the division it once was, not to take any credit away from the Cincinnati Reds. The St. Louis Cardinals without Albert Pujols and Milwaukee Brewers without Prince Fielder haven’t been as good as they were last season. With the Chicago Cubs already 10 games back, fans in Chicago may already be looking forward to next season. The Pittsburgh Pirates pose the biggest threat, but until they put a full season together, I won’t be a believer. Cincinnati should be the division champions this season.
West: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers were terrorizing the league to start the season, but injuries are closing the gap with their competitors. They still own a 5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants, but have lost 4 in a row and need to get back on track. The Arizona Diamondbacks won the West last season, but haven’t been able to recapture the magic so far this year. San Francisco should make the Dodgers sweat, but ultimately the West belongs to Los Angeles.
October 19, 2011
The Fall Classic gets underway tonight in St. Louis and the Cardinals will try to put the Hollywood ending on their unlikely run at a World Series championship. Unfortunately for the redbirds, I don’t see them having their happy ending. Here are five reasons why I think that the Texas Rangers will be the ones who are celebrating a championship at the end of the series.
Both of these teams have been to the World Series in recent years. The Cardinals won their 10th championship in 2006 and the Rangers lost to the Giants just last year. I believe the Rangers are coming into this matchup hungrier because of the way last season ended and the fact that many of the Cardinals already have a ring. Texas should have learned from the experience last year and will be ready for the big stage.
It doesn’t get much better in the middle of the order than Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz are pretty good too. That being said, the Rangers lineup is stronger from top to bottom and Texas finished the season in the top three in virtually every major offensive category. If one or two of the Cardinals’ big three struggles, they will have a tough time keeping up with Texas.
He struggled in the first round against Tampa Bay but now he has the hottest bat on the planet. He hit .364 with six home runs and 13 RBI in against Detroit. We would likely be talking about a Cardinals and Tigers rematch from 2006 if not for the numbers Cruz put up. His two extra inning home runs were the difference in the ALCS. And the Cardinals are going to have to pitch to him because of the quality of hitters around him.
Neftali Feliz’s job got much easier when the Rangers acquired Koji Uehara and Mike Adams midway through the season. The quality and depth of setup men the Rangers have now is much better than what they had last year against the Giants. The Texas relievers allowed just four earned runs in more than 27 innings against Detroit in the ALCS. If they have another series like that, they will be World Series champions.
St. Louis has certainly played a lot of great baseball over the last month, but they are lucky to be here. If not for a collapse by the Braves, the Cardinals wouldn’t have won the wild card and even been in the playoffs. Prince Fielder’s performance in the All-Star Game has given the Cardinals home field advantage in this series. Everything Tony La Russa has done has worked. Does he have enough tricks left up his sleeve to pick up four more wins?
Prediction: Rangers in six.
July 18, 2011
I’ve got to preface this by saying I’m not a New York Yankees fan. The Yankees play by the rules, but to me, George Steinbrenner made them the perfect team to hate. As a baseball fan, that makes this all the harder to say.
Derek Jeter is the most symbolic baseball icon of our generation.
Note that I didn’t call him the best player. In my opinion, that title belongs to Ken Griffey, Jr., who is one of the few major stars not to be linked to steroids in any significant way. He was a Gold Glove centerfielder and if The Kid could have stayed injury-free over his career, he may have ended it as the all-time home run champion.
Still, when we look back on this era in baseball, Derek Jeter should be the first name to come to mind.
In case you’ve been stranded with Bob Denver and Alan Hale on a deserted island, Jeter had his 3,000th career hit this past week, becoming only the 28th player in history to do so. He did it in grand style with a 5-5 performance and crushing a home run with the historic hit. Along with Cal Ripken, he also helped change the perception that shortstops can’t hit for power, slugging at least 15 home runs in eight different seasons.
But the 12-time All-Star has done more than rack up a ton of hits.
Jeter will perhaps be remembered the most for being a flat out winner. He led the Yankees to five World Series championships (so far) and countless postseason appearances over his storied career. He hasn’t merely gone along for the ride, either. In 147 career playoff games, Jeter has hit 20 home runs and has a career .309 average.
He’s also been extremely durable, having played in more than 110 games in each season since his rookie year in 1996. Jeter hasn’t had a major breakdown since he’s been playing and the stability he’s been able to provide at shortstop is a big reason the Yankees have been a contender throughout his career.
And he was more than an offensive threat, too. He accumulated five Gold Gloves at shortstop – possibly the most difficult position to play on the diamond. Not only was he a threat with the bat, but he was one of the best defensive players in his era.
Another reason Jeter will be remembered as an icon is that he avoided the steroid speculation that’s plagued many of the stars of the 1990s and 2000s. He hasn’t been linked to the drug in any serious way and 20-30 years from now, will stand out among many of his contemporaries.
Lastly, Jeter’s a lifer as a Yankee … well, at least so far. Should he finish his career in Yankee pinstripes, he’ll be one of the few current MLB players to remain with the same team for the duration of his career. Many of the stars of this era can’t say the same thing. The aforementioned Griffey, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, and Greg Maddux all played for more than one team.
Can anyone catch Jeter for the title of ‘Biggest Icon’ of our generation? The obvious answer is St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Albert Pujols. Pujols could end up as one of the most dominant MLB players of all-time by the time it’s all said and done.
But for now, the pick is Jeter. Add it all up, and there’s no better candidate as the definitive player in our generation.