May 14, 2013

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Early MLB Observations

By: Joe Williams

Don’t look now but the MLB regular season is already a quarter of the way over. Several superstars have yet to take the field (most reside in New York) and some teams have played themselves out of playoff contention already (I’m talking to you Houston and Miami). We’ve also got a few teams playing surprisingly well (speaking of New York) and some players off to red-hot starts (can John Buck keep this up?) Here are a few more observations on the season so far.

Could Miguel Cabrera win back-to-back Triple Crown titles?

The A.L. East is upside down. Wasn’t this supposed to be the year that the division was open for the taking because the Yankees and Red Sox aren’t very good? And wasn’t Toronto going to be a strong contender with all the big names that went to Canada? So far New York and Boston are well over .500 and the Blue Jays are one of the worst teams in baseball.

The Angels and Dodgers also went all-in and signed some high-profile players but are underachieving big time so far. And not even switching leagues can help the lowly Astros. They are on pace for just 40 wins!

Is there a chance Miguel Cabrera could win back-to-back triple crowns? He’s leading in RBI, second in batting average and currently four home runs off the pace in the American League.

Stephen Strasburg, Kris Medlen, Cole Hamels and R.A. Dickey all have five losses already. These guys are some of the best pitchers in baseball.

If the playoffs began today, the qualifiers in the American League would be the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. Looks like all the usual suspects here. In the National League it would be the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals. No surprises here either. But with about 120 games to go only two teams are more than 10 games off the wild card pace so anything can happen.

Unless of course we’re talking about the Cubs. Anybody think they will break the curse this season? Me either. But one streak that should be coming to an end is in Pittsburgh. They may or may not get to the playoffs but the Pirates should be able to finish over .500 for the first time since 1992.

It’s no surprise that Miguel Cabrera is the best player in fantasy baseball so far but I didn’t even know who Matt Harvey or Jean Segura are before this year and they are the second and third best in fantasy.

Speaking of fantasy baseball, if any of you know B.J. Upton or David Price please let them know I could use some production for my team. Thanks.

February 26, 2013

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NBA Playoff Races To Watch

By: Joe Williams

With about 25 games to go in the NBA regular season, we’ve got a pretty clear picture of the teams that will make the playoffs and the ones that will be in the lottery. What we don’t know is who will face who once the playoffs get started. And that will go a long way toward determining what happens in the NBA playoffs. Here are a few races I’ll be keeping my eye on as we inch towards the final game of the regular season.

Will the Lakers make the NBA Playoffs?

The Heat will be the top seed in the East. We know that. But the second and third seeds could go to Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago or Atlanta. These teams ought to be desperate to finish second or third. That will get them home-court advantage in the first round, but that doesn’t really matter too much. The important thing for these teams is to get on the other side of the bracket and avoid a second round meeting with the Heat. You don’t want to face the defending champs any sooner than you have to.

Speaking of avoiding the Heat…Boston and Milwaukee shouldn’t be too worried about anyone below them stealing a playoff spot. But they will be battling to get the seventh seed and avoid the Heat in the first round.

In the West, the final playoff spot is getting all the attention. Can the Lakers squeak into the playoffs? That’s what all the talk is about, but I’m not counting out Dallas or Portland yet. All three teams are tied with 30 losses at the moment and are going to have to get red-hot to catch Houston or Utah. On second thought, after looking at the Blazers schedule, I’m counting them out. Their final 16 games are against teams in the playoff race. If they find a way to get in, nobody will be able to say they didn’t earn it.

Of course, whoever does get that final spot is going to be facing the team with the best record in the NBA, San Antonio. It would be quite the series if the Lakers do end up as the eighth seed.

The Clippers and Memphis must keep winning to stay in the top four and get home-court in round one. With so many good teams in the West, home-court will be important.

One more race that is a little bit interesting will be to see which team finishes with the worst record and gets the most ping pong balls in the lottery. It looks like this will come down to Charlotte and Orlando.

December 19, 2012

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Why the NFC East is the Best Division in All of Sports

By: Matt Bowen

Excitement and suspense fills our NFL imagination’s as the 2012 season once again comes down to the wire. With so much at stake during the final two weeks across the league, the tightest playoff race belongs to the tumultuous NFC East.

Last season, the NFC East winner was decided in a Week 17 matchup between the Cowboys and Giants.

Every sports fan, whether they like it or not, knows the NFL is No. 1 when it comes to media coverage and generated revenue. At the top of the food chain is the NFC East, a division that holds four of the most popular teams in all of sports. It may seem odd that the Dallas Cowboys belong to a division with three east coast teams, but the Cowboys are larger than life—a smaller media market simply wouldn’t suffice for Dallas. Joining the biggest thing in Texas are the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

Like last season, this year will be decided in Week 17. The Cowboys and Giants met in 2011’s final week for a winner-take-all showdown which crowned the victor the divisional champion and granted them a ticket to the playoffs. History tells the rest of the story as the Giants took the game and eventually the Super Bowl.

This season has been no different as the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants all have an 8-6 record heading into Week 16. The Eagles may be out of the running, but Philly fans are as faithless as they come. At the moment, the Redskins are on top, but there’s plenty of football left to be played.

Heading into this season, the defending Super Bowl champion Giants were the runaway favorite, the Cowboys were in a must-win situation and the Redskins weren’t expected to win the division, but were optimistic thanks to the acquisition of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Now, the Giants are coming off a 34-0 drubbing by the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys have won 5-of-6 and the Redskins, led by not one but two rookie quarterbacks(Kirk Cousins being the other) have won five straight and control their own destiny.

Week 16 pits the Redskins against the Eagles, who would like nothing more than to spoil the party. The Cowboys go up against the New Orleans Saints, who are only 6-8, but thanks to quarterback Drew Brees are as dangerous as they come. And finally, the Giants face the Baltimore Ravens, which is a desperate game for both sides.

If both the Redskins and Cowboys win in Week 16, this would set up a virtual win-and-in situation in Week 17.  Nothing screams playoff football like a playoff game in the final week of the regular season. Like last season, every football fan in the world will be glued to their television to see who exactly makes it to the postseason party.

This is why the NFC East is the best division in sports. As much as every sports fan may dislike that this division seems to get all of the attention, they sure do put on a good show. Enjoy the theatrics as sports history unfolds before our very eyes.

October 22, 2012

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Should the Yankees trade Alex Rodriguez?

By: Anson Whaley

A few seasons ago, the question would have been so ridiculous it wouldn’t have even merited a credible response. This year, however, the Yankees will need to consider the question: Should they try to trade Alex Rodriguez?

Will Alex Rodriguez still be a Yankee next season?

Before we even begin to answer that question, though, the fact is that Rodriguez has a no-trade clause, which will allow him to play in New York next season if he so desires. And Rodriguez, for his part (so far, anyway), has determined that the Big Apple is it for him for at least next season, per a report on ESPN. But for argument’s sake, let’s say he decides the big city life is no longer for him and gets sick of tracking down Australian models in the stands. Should the Yanks indeed send him packing?

It’s difficult to imagine they wouldn’t at least strongly consider the possibility. Once arguably the game’s most dominant player, Rodriguez’ age is catching up with him. His totals of 34 home runs and 119 runs batted in over the past two years would have been pedestrian for a single season in his prime around the turn of the century. And his sub-.275 batting average over that span is well below his career .300 mark.

A-Rod’s decline in power has come far more swiftly than even he could have imagined. Up until 2011, Rodriguez had hit at least 30 home runs in nearly every full season he played. But he’s failed to record even 20 in each of the past two years. Some will attribute it to the claims of steroid use earlier in his career, but age can’t be ignored, either. At 37, he’s not only well past his prime, but he’s practically hit the age most players start thinking about mutual funds and reality shows. Don’t, however, expect Rodriguez to be leaving to play golf or do any of that anytime soon. With more than $100 million still on the table over the next five seasons, he’d be giving up an absolute fortune if he walked away from the game.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, that’s the primary reason why striking a deal with another team would be difficult. Set to earn nearly $25 million per season over the next five years, no team in their right mind would fork over even close to that much for the star in serious decline. If a deal were struck, New York would almost assuredly need to include a boatload of cash. We’re likely not talking $50 million, either. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees be forced to pay the majority of the money still owed to him.

So why would they do that? I think we saw the answer in the playoff series’ against the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles. After an abysmal start, Rodriguez was benched a few times and the Yankees apparently decided they were better off without him – think about that for a second. Why pay a player in whom you have no confidence?

Even if the Yankees decide to fork over $80 or $90 million, they’d still be saving a nice chunk of change that they could spend elsewhere. At first glance, that sounds ludicrous. But if a team is unwilling to play one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history in the postseason, what’s the point in keeping him around?

The other thing is that Rodriguez has gone from an unthinkable asset to a bit of a liability. The off-field distractions (i.e. that little Australian model thing I mentioned earlier) just aren’t worth it if A-Rod isn’t producing. And instead of being an everyday player, he has only appeared in 130 games one time in the past four years. Teams are hard-pressed to put up with certain distractions for stars, but the simple fact is that Rodriguez is no longer a star. He’s a capable major-leaguer, but not much more at this point.

And because of that, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the two sides eventually parted ways.

July 10, 2012

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MLB Second Half Predictions

By: Joe Williams

Good news baseball fans…now that we’ve reached the MLB All-Star break, baseball business is about to pick up. Every team has at least 75 games to play (more than the NBA season that just finished) and with the expanded playoffs beginning this year, we will see a lot more meaningful games in the last few weeks of the season. It’s going to be a wild ride. Here’s what I see going down:

Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers are favorites to do a lot of winning in the second half of the MLB season

The Texas Rangers will finish with the best record in baseball and be the only team to win 100 games.

Even though there isn’t a team under .500 in the A.L. East, the New York Yankees will win the division comfortably.

The Boston Red Sox will get healthy and make a run but fall short of reaching the playoffs.

The Detroit Tigers will right the ship and overtake the White Sox to win the A.L. Central.

The Washington Nationals will be the surprise team of the season and win the N.L. East.

Speaking of surprise teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates will stay in the race all the way to the end, but the Cincinnati Reds will be N.L. Central champs.

The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers will stay neck and neck all season and the Dodgers will edge the Giants out of the N.L. West crown.

There will be a lot on the line heading into the final series of the season. Pittsburgh vs Atlanta, Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Francisco, St. Louis vs Cincinnati, Cleveland vs Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees vs Boston and Tampa Bay vs Baltimore will all determine the playoff fates of both teams.

Also, the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros will face off as they both try to avoid losing 100 games.

Josh Hamilton wins the A.L. MVP award.

Andrew McCutchen wins the N.L. MVP award.

Jered Weaver wins the A.L. Cy Young award.

R.A. Dickey wins the N.L. Cy Young award.

Everyone knows the Cubs will be making changes as we get close to the trade deadline. So will the Phillies as they become sellers and look to 2013.

Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke are two of the most talked about names in trade rumors. Neither one is going anywhere.

The Cincinnati Reds will make it to the World Series, but come home empty handed after losing to the Texas Rangers.

And of course, all the players on my fantasy team will stop striking out, start hitting home runs, and I will enjoy the glory of a fantasy championship.