March 29, 2013

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Welcoming the Houston Astros to the AL West

By: Matt Bowen

Opening Day is only a few days away and Major League Baseball will have a slightly new look this year for the first time since 1998, when the Milwaukee Brewers switched from the American League to the National league because of expansion teams Tampa Bay and Arizona.

The Astros will be moving from the NL Central to the AL West in 2013.

Now, for the first time in league history, each league will have 15 teams. Also, each division will have five teams. The Astros are set to join the AL West amongst the likes of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and their in-state and now divisional rival Texas Rangers.

Baseball is so excited for the move that the MLB decided that the very first game of 2013 will be the Astros hosting the Rangers. Houston righty Bud Norris gets the Opening Day nod against Texas lefty Matt Harrison.

One man to keep your eye on during the broadcast is Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan, who spent some of his best days of his Hall of Fame career in an Astros uniform, which will look strikingly familiar.

The Astros needed a new look, so they turned back the clock and mimicked their jerseys first introduced in 1975. Sure, they’re not quite as vibrant as the multiple shades of orange, but they definitely have that vibe. Don’t be surprised when the team goes full throwback a few times this season.

After all, the Astros have a new lease on their baseball life in the AL West. Yes, they lost 107 games last season, but a new chapter in their history is about to commence. Thanks to swapping leagues and the new look, Astros fans should have a new outlook.

The organization may have a ways to go before they reach glory, but they are beginning to put the right pieces in place. New manager Bo Porter is a great start. In his recent past, Porter was the third base coach for the Washington Nationals, who made the playoffs last year with an NL-best 98 wins last season. Knowing how to win is invaluable in sports and Porter has tasted victory. Now, his No. 1 job is to change the mindset in Houston.  Porter is doing just that as he’s prepping his men to be champions. Fans can’t argue with Porter’s passion.

Another thing to look forward to as an Astros fan is young players Jose Altuve and Matt Dominguez. Altuve hit .290 in 2012 with 33 stolen bases as a second baseman. He may be small in size (5’5”), but he has a big game. Last year was his first full season in the majors and he may have run out of gas down the stretch. Expect him to be ready to go for 162 games this season.

Dominguez is a 23-year-old prospect that’s been champing at the bit to make an impact at the major league level. After being dealt to the Astros last season from the Miami Marlins, he hit five homers in just 109 at-bats and hit .284. He’ll be a welcomed star for the Astros by season’s end.

Just like the team’s motto on their webpage this season, “It’s a whole new ballgame” in Houston.

March 14, 2013

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5 MLB Teams Destined to Have a Bounce-Back Season

By: Matt Bowen

With the 2013 MLB season set to begin in April there are five teams destined to have a bounce-back season.

For the teams mentioned in this article, the 2012 season was a major league letdown. Regardless, what’s done is done and there’s no reason to dwell on it.

With optimism flooding the mentality of every MLB team and their fan bases this time of year, there’s no time like the presence to turn the corner.

After all, only the San Francisco Giants went home happy in 2012.

Dustin Pedroia is one reason Red Sox fans should believe their team can turn it around in 2013.

For some teams, becoming a respected and prominent team this year is the ultimate goal. For these teams, it’s now time to forget about 2012 and put solid numbers in the “Win” column.

The Boston Red Sox Won’t End Up in the Cellar Again

Things have drastically changed in Boston, but fans need not worry about becoming cursed again. The team will be just fine in Bean Town. Despite finishing 69-93 last season, things are looking good.

They successfully shed about $250 million in salary with a massive nine-player deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. Although a ton of talent left town, they still have the familiar faces of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Here’s where fans will fall in love with the latest edition of the Red Sox—they’re going to be gritty, which is a perfect fit in Boston.  With a nice mixture of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance, the chemistry in the clubhouse should be lively and fun.

One player to keep your eye on is a young outfielder by the name of Jackie Bradley. He’s quickly winning over his teammates and hitting around .500 this spring. Expect him to be a staple in the Red Sox lineup before season’s end.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Look to End 2013 the way the 2012 season began—Winning

It’s hard not to root for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They haven’t made the postseason since the early 1990s and looked destined last season, but stumbled down the stretch. In fact, they haven’t had a winning season in 20 years.

Their superstar, Andrew McCutchen, is an all-world gentleman. He did something last season that hasn’t been done in Pittsburgh in decades—he signed a six-year contract to stay in the Steel City.

He believes and so should the fans. We know they know how to lose, but they’ve definitely tasted victory. Now, 2013 is the year to put it all together.

Although pitchers Garrit Cole and Jameson Taillon won’t start with the big club on Opening Day, they’ll be front-row and center by the time August rolls around.  When they arrive, the whole world will have all eyes on the Pirates.

The Kansas City Royals Will Make the Playoffs

It’s true; your eyes are not playing tricks on you. The Kansas City Royals will make the playoffs in 2013.

For years the Royals have had one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, but that potential hasn’t quite translated into wins.  This is the year that is does.

The organization traded one of their highly touted prospects named Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays in the offseason for quality starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.

This is a positive first toward making the playoffs. After all, how far can a team go if their pitchers can’t take them deep into ball games?

While Myers’ MLB debut is highly awaited, the Royals have an entire roster of prospects just like him. Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez are just a few names in the Royals dugout that have insane amounts of talent.

Don’t be shocked when it all comes together this season.

Don’t Write Off the Seattle Mariners as Dead Meat in the AL West

Sure, the AL West is loaded with talent thanks to the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Oakland Athletics, but the Seattle Mariners are not a team to sleep on.

The team still has one of the best pitcher’s in the game in Felix Hernandez. They also players like Jason Bay and Michael Morse. These guys will be playing with a chip on their shoulder looking to prove they still have gas in the tank.

Combine these vets with youngsters like Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and others and the Mariners have a nice squad on their hands.

Here’s where the 2013 Mariners will be most dangerous—they will be overlooked, circled on every opponent’s calendar as an easy victory. This is where others will be wrong. Following by the example set by the veterans, the entire roster will play like today could be their last. In a sense, they’re a team of castaways sent to the Northwest to be forgotten about.

Expect that “Us Against the World” mentality to fuel the Mariners throughout the season.

This Will Be the Year Chicago Cubs Fans Start to Believe Again

Chicago Cubs fans deserve credit—every year since 1908 the team has gone without a title. Yet, every year the fans come out to Wrigley Field in droves to support their Cubbies.

This is now year two of the Theo Epstein era. Reminder, Epstein is the General Manager whose formula brought the Boston Red Sox two World Series titles in the first decade of this century. Given, the Cubs aren’t the favorite to win it all this season, but they’ll be better than their 101 losses a season ago.

How will they be better?

Superstar Starlin Castro will mature and take every second seriously. He’s been known to be lax in the past.  They also have Anthony Rizzo, who will face a make-or-break season. Don’t expect him to be considered a bust this season.  Rizzo was once one of the top prospects in baseball and is still only 23 years old.

It is rookies Javier Baez and Jorge Soler that will be the sparkplugs in the Cubs offense this year. They may take a few months to get their feet wet, but they’ll quickly become fan favorites.

“Hey Chicago whaddya say…”

Things are looking up.

October 11, 2012

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Can the “Swingin’ A’s” Do the Unthinkable?

By: Matt Bowen

Major League Baseball has had many surprises this year; Mike Trout’s rookie season, the Washington Nationals winning the NL East, Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, and of course, the prolific Oakland Athletics.

Can Oakland continue their hot streak all the way to the World Series?

Not only did the A’s shock the world and come from 13 games back to steal the AL West from the Texas Rangers on the final day of the season, they have a massive amount of swagger right now.

Originally two games down in their American League Divisional Series, the Athletics used a ninth inning rally in Game 4 to tie the series and send it to Game 5. Although they face Tigers ace Justin Verlander, they look like they can conquer anything right now.

Just how do they do it? It’s no secret GM Billy Beane is a mad scientist in his formulaic Moneyball approach to baseball. To put this in short; it doesn’t matter what your name is, if you can play a lick of baseball, Beane will find you, make you a member of the A’s and get the most out of you.

The A’s have one up-and-coming star in youngster Yoenis Cespedes and a cast of characters to fill the roster. They win with pitching and defense. They don’t win pretty, but they “just win baby.”

Their enthusiastic fans deserve credit for cheering with a fervor that is unmatched in baseball. If one were to simply listen, you may think you were at a soccer match rather than a baseball game. Their fans have fun and give baseball a vivacious feel where other parks may seem like libraries.

So, just how far can the Athletics go this season? They’ve proved that they can do anything and don’t put it past them to ride the lightning all the way to a World Series title. The have the most momentum of any team right now and the truth is, they believe.

The United States of America loves an underdog and on October 11, everyone in the country outside of Detroit will be rooting for them

June 8, 2011

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Ten MLB Teams That Will Miss The Playoffs

By: Joe Williams

The MLB season is a little more than one-third of the way over. Therefore, its time to eliminate a third of the teams. Who are the ten MLB teams that aren’t going anywhere in 2011?

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are a victim of circumstance. If they were in any division other than the A.L. East, I might say they still have a shot. 27-31 isn’t terrible considering their recent history, but they have four solid teams in front of them. It’s too tall a hill to climb, especially with the health of Brian Roberts and Luke Scott up in the air.

Minnesota Twins

Looking at the standings in the A.L. Central is like an optical illusion. Cleveland at the top? Minnesota at the bottom? The Twins have picked up five games on Cleveland in the last five days, but they have dug themselves too deep of a hole. Nobody saw this team going 22-37 to start the year.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals surprised everyone with a 10-4 start. That’s the good news. They’ve gone 16-30 since. That’s bad news. They are 20-18 at home, but just 6-16 on the road. With another 59 road games on the schedule, Kansas City fans are going to be anxious for football season in the fall.

Oakland A’s

Aside from a three-game sweep of the Orioles, Oakland has only won two other games in their last 19. Couple that stretch with Texas winning eight of nine and the A’s are done.

Washington Nationals

They’ve got a shot to finish with 75-80 wins. It’s not about 2011 for this team. With Bryce Harper and Steven Strasburg likely on the way in 2012, the focus is on the future. That’s a good thing because they are 10 games out in the N.L. East and have 10 teams in front of them for the wild card.

New York Mets

Let’s just say the Mets are a mess. They have financial problems, ownership problems, injury problems and just about any other problems a baseball team can have. On the bright side, they are close to .500 so their record is better than one would think. That being said, the Mets won’t have Bud Selig worrying about November weather in New York.

Pittsburgh Pirates

They are the Pittsburgh Pirates. What more needs to be said? Until they prove they can win more than they lose for an entire season, talking about the playoffs is a waste of time. At 28-30 with a winning record on the road, the Pirates have some things to be positive about. One thing I’m positive about…they won’t be in the post season.

Wrigley Field

Chicago Cubs

This looks like a team in the midst of a century long slump. The roster is full of once-great, overpaid veterans that aren’t performing on the field and are just as bad off the field. These guys can’t get along and lately they can’t get a win. If the MLB rosters were wiped clean and they re-drafted the entire league, no team would benefit more than the loveable losers in Chicago.

Houston Astros

They have the worst record in the National League. They are the only team in baseball in 6th place in their division. The roster only has a couple names the average fan will recognize. Not a good sign. But on the bright side, the Cubs are trying their best to get Houston into 5th place in the N.L. Central.

San Diego Padres

They blew their shot last year. They led the N.L. West for most of the season and faded when it counted. Adrian Gonzalez is in Boston and surprisingly, the San Diego offense is the lowest-scoring in baseball. The bullpen is great but it doesn’t help much if you can’t score.