March 4, 2014

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2014 MLB Division Winners

By: Joe Williams

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.

A.L. East

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.

Boston Red Sox

Can the Red Sox repeat as AL East Champs in 2014?

A.L. Central

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.

A.L. West

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.

N.L. East

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.

N.L. Central

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.

N.L. West

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.

May 21, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

Now that we’ve made it a quarter of the way through the MLB season we know a few things we thought at the start of the season are right (Texas is good, Houston is not) and a few are wrong (Boston is good, the Dodgers are not). So it’s time for the first power ranking post of the season.

After losing six in a row, the Orioles have fallen close to the middle of the pack.

1. Texas Rangers (29-16): It sure looks like they picked the right time to lets Josh Hamilton leave town.

2. Atlanta Braves (26-18): One Upton brother has been their best player, while the other has been their worst.

3. Boston Red Sox (27-18): Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a combined 12-1 so far.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (28-16): The Cards lead the majors in ERA.

5. Cincinnati Reds (27-18): The Reds are 16-6 at home, the best record in the majors.

6. Cleveland Indians (26-17): Five straight wins and 8-2 in the last 10 makes the Tribe the hottest team in baseball.

7. New York Yankees (28-16): Who would have thought they would be in first place without all of their injured stars?

8. Detroit Tigers (23-19): The Tigers have scored 20 more runs than their opponents this month but are just 8-9 to show for it.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates (26-18): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.

10. Arizona Diamondbacks (26-19): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.

11. Colorado Rockies (24-21): The Rockies are leading the majors in runs scored with 222.

12. Tampa Bay Rays (23-21): Reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price has be awful, but Matt Moore (8-0) is filling the void nicely.

13. San Francisco Giants (25-20): The defending champs are known for their pitching but their batting average ranks second in baseball.

14. Baltimore Orioles (23-21): Six straight losses have the Orioles five games behind the Yankees.

15. Oakland A’s (24-22): The A’s are 24th in batting average, but 9th in getting on base. Why? They lead the majors in walks with 187.

16. Washington Nationals (23-22): Anybody know what’s going on with Strasburg? He’s been offered to me in my fantasy league and I just can’t decide.

17. Kansas City Royals (20-21): After a hot April (14-10) the Royals have cooled off.

18. San Diego Padres (21-23): San Diego has recovered from a 2-10 start. Can they keep it up?

19. Philadelphia Phillies (21-24): Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay are 7-13 combined. Ouch.

20. Seattle Mariners (20-25): King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are lights out pitchers right now. They aren’t getting much help though.

21. Chicago Cubs (18-25): Matt Garza is finally back….and the Cubs need him to be great.

22. Chicago White Sox (20-23): Paul Konerko, Jeff Keppinger and Adam Dunn are hitting .220, .199 and .172. They’ll keep losing if that doesn’t improve.

23. Minnesota Twins (18-23): After losing eight of the last ten, the Twins are in the AL Central cellar.

24. LA Angels (17-27): Here is the first of three teams battling it out for most disappointing team of the season.

25. New York Mets (17-25): Where would this team be without Matt Harvey?

26. Milwaukee Brewers (17-26): With the Astros moved to the American League, the Brewers are in danger of being the worst team in the NL Central.

27. Toronto Blue Jays (18-26): Toronto tried to fight fire with fire by signing big name free agents but so far they are getting burned.

28. LA Dodgers (18-25): The Dodgers by far the most disappointing team in the National League and maybe in all of baseball.

29. Miami Marlins (13-32): The Marlins have scored just 122 runs and are last in the majors. They are also last in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

30. Houston Astros (13-32): The Astros have allowed a whopping 266 runs this season and are last in the majors. They are also last in ERA, quality starts and WHIP.

April 3, 2013

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Who’s better: Bryce Harper or Mike Trout?

By: Matt Bowen

Finally, spring has officially sprung as the 2013 MLB season is upon us. While there’s plenty to debate about in regards to the rest of the league, the main focus will be on Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

Bryce Harper started the season off with 2 Home Runs on Opening Day.

The two sophomore sensations are nothing short of miraculous as they helped reshape baseball forever last season. Their ridiculous display of athleticism and flare for the dramatic are simply astounding. Teams have long groomed their prized prospects until they’re deemed fit by outdated unwritten rules.

Now, thanks to Harper and Trout, many prospects will be brought up as early as 19 years old. They’ve changed the way GMs think, how fans act and how fantasy diehards draft.

One thing is for sure, the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have the center piece of their respected franchises for the next decade.

Baseball couldn’t ask for anything more from these young men in terms of proximity—what we have is a classic East vs. West battle, which ensures Major League Baseball that the entire country is engulfed in the debate.

So, who’s better?

Harper has been highly touted since he left high school early to play college ball. He was hitting homers out of major league ballparks before kids his age got their driver’s license.  The buzz surrounding his arrival at “The Show” reached a fever pitch. The Nationals couldn’t hold him back any longer as they wanted to cash in and put their best possible team on the field.

Harper didn’t disappoint as a rookie, but there’s room for improvement. Relax; before you jump out of your seat screaming, I’ll say it for you—he was only 19 last season. He hit a modest .270 last season with 22 home runs, which is nothing to scoff at from a kid who’s seen minimal big league pitching.

Things can only go up from here. Soon he’ll become comfortable filling in his big league shoes, become patient at the plate and learn the ropes of the outfield.

He started 2013 off with a bang as he hit two homers en route to a 2-0 Nationals win on Opening Day. To put his growing legacy into perspective, he received a standing ovation, at 20 years old, in the fourth inning. Whoa!

Trout is a year older than Harper but is currently viewed as the more well-rounded talent. Trout’s 49 stolen bases in 139 games in 2012 have him going No. 1 in many fantasy drafts, even ahead of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.  Oh, not to mention he hit .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBI.

For sake of this debate, Trout did get a cup of tea with the Angels toward the end of 2011. He hit .220 in 123 at-bats. On the other hand, Harper got 74 at-bats at AAA Syracuse before his call came last season.

Never mind his taste of the majors in 2011, Trout made the Angels immensely better and turned into an MVP candidate in 2012. He even has many thinking he’s the best player in baseball.

This is where Harper has the advantage this season—all the pressure is on Trout right now. It’s true that both players have big expectations to meet, but Trout has all eyes on him. With slightly less attention on him, Harper can easily slide safely back into the pole position amongst themselves.

So, who’s better? Who cares! They are both awesome. Watch them as much as you can. Appreciate them. They have revolutionized baseball and given us a new batch of stars to root for.

One last thing to ponder—the scary thought is that both of these boys have yet to fill out. We have to wait until they turn 25 years old before they’ll be “full grown.”

This is one debate fans will be having 50 years from now. And that is why we love this game.

April 1, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Final Four set: The NCAA Tournament will conclude next week and the Final Four has been set. Like many years, the top seeds have disappointed for the most part. Included in the Final Four are No. 4 seeds Syracuse and Michigan, and No. 9 upstart Wichita StateLouisville was the lone No. 1 seed to get into the elite club. My bracket is completely busted at this point, but since I had the Cardinals to win it all, I can still finish respectably. And after two weeks of NCAA Tournament action, I’ve got to say Louisville is looking like the nation’s best team.

Kobe Bryant is now 4th on the all-time scoring list.

Opening Day is here: With Spring Training over, Major League Baseball officially got its season underway on Sunday night with a game featuring the Texas Rangers and new AL West team, the Houston Astros. As always, there are plenty of questions heading into this season. Will Stephen Strasburg continue his dominance after surgery? Can the Yankees overcome all of their injuries? Will the Angels’ additions of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton the past two years pay off? If you forced me to make an early season World Series pick, I’ll go with the Nationals vs. Angels, but don’t take that too seriously.

Dallas Cowboys all in with Tony Romo: The Dallas Cowboys have shown plenty of confidence in starting quarterback Tony Romo over the years. After another disappointing season, Romo was rewarded with a six-year $108 million extension. The deal could take Romo, who turns 33 this month, to the end of his NFL career. The $55 million guaranteed money he will get even topped the deal Super Bowl quarterback Joe Flacco recently got with the Baltimore Ravens. Many Cowboys fans likely aren’t all that thrilled with the new deal for a quarterback who hasn’t gotten them to a Super Bowl since he’s been with the team. But finding a franchise quarterback isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do and the Cowboys think they’ve got their man in Romo.

Kobe Bryant passes Wilt Chamberlain on all-time scoring list: Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant passed legend Wilt Chamberlain this past weekend for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list when he tallied point number 31,421. Statistics aren’t valued in basketball as much as they are in baseball, but Kobe’s achievement is still a big deal. Next up for the Mamba is none other than Michael Jordan, whose 32,292 points are third on the list. Bryant should easily pass up Jordan next season, but getting into the top two could be quite a feat. Karl Malone is second at 36,928 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list at 38,387. Bryant will likely need to play at least four more seasons to have a shot at catching Malone, so Jordan could be the last person he passes on the list. But if there’s anything Kobe has proven over the years, it’s that he shouldn’t be doubted.

Good news and bad news for Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pittsburgh Penguins experienced some highs and lows last week. The team traded for star winger Jarome Iginla earlier in the week in a move that may put the team over the top to win the Stanley Cup. But on Saturday, Pittsburgh lost captain Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw after he was hit in the mouth with a puck during a game. Crosby underwent surgery on Sunday and is now out indefinitely. The Penguins are still in pretty good shape, but losing Crosby to injury yet again has to be frustrating for the team. Crosby is regarded by many as the league’s top player but has dealt with setback after setback in the league.

Miami Heat winning streak ends: The Miami Heat’s long winning streak ended with a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, 101-97. Even though the Heat’s streak was snapped at 27 games, Miami still put together one of the most impressive stretches the league has ever seen. Plus, while the loss meant they fell short of the Los Angeles Lakers historic 33-game streak back in 1971-72, the Heat’s real target is another NBA title. The goal here is to keep everyone healthy for a long playoff run.

March 13, 2013

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2013 MLB Division Winners

By: Joe Williams

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.

After signing multiple star players this off-season, can the Blue Jays win the AL East?

A.L. East

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.

A.L. Central

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.

A.L. West

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.

N.L. East

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.

N.L. Central

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.

N.L. West

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.