June 18, 2013
There is another month of baseball to play before the MLB All-Star break so we should know who is good and who isn’t at this point, but I’ll bet there isn’t anyone out there who would have guessed that the best teams during the month of June would be Kansas City, Toronto, San Diego and Oakland. Meanwhile, teams like the Yankees, Rangers and Dodgers are struggling. Where will that leave those teams in today’s power rankings?
1. St. Louis Cardinals (44-25): As a Cubs fan, you never want to see the Cardinals at the top of the list but there’s no denying they have the best record in baseball and are +102 in run differential.
3. Cincinnati Reds (42-28): If the Reds were in any other division, they’d be in first place.
4. Oakland A’s (42-29): The A’s have made a huge jump from the 15 spot a month ago. That’s what an 18-7 record will do for you.
5. Boston Red Sox (42-29): Boston leads the majors in runs scored with 363.
6. Texas Rangers (38-31): Just like the end of last season, the Rangers have been caught by Oakland.
8. Baltimore Orioles (40-30): Baltimore has quietly taken the lead in the wild card race and pulled within just 1.5 games of Boston.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks (37-32): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.
10. Pittsburgh Pirates (41-28): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.
11. New York Yankees (38-31): Could this be the beginning of the end for the Yankees. They’ve lost ground in the AL East and wild card races.
13. San Diego Padres (36-34): Seven straight wins will and the Padres are back in the hunt after a 2-10 to the season.
14. Tampa Bay Rays (36-33): Wil Myers has been called up. Now let’s see what he can do.
15. Kansas City Royals (34-34): The Royals have been the best team in baseball, going 12-4 in June.
16. Washington Nationals (34-35): It’s turning into a disappointing season in the capital. The Nats better get back on track soon or it will be too late.
17. Cleveland Indians (34-35): Here’s a team that has really cooled off and is just 5-10 in June.
18. San Francisco Giants (35-34): The Giants will have to do better than 14-22 on the road if they want to defend their title.
19. Toronto Blue Jays (33-36): The Jays have six wins in a row and are climbing out of a big hole.
20. Philadelphia Phillies (34-37): The Phillies are second in the majors in quality starts but don’t have much to show for it.
21. Minnesota Twins (30-36): The Twins are near the bottom in just about every pitching category. Not good.
22. LA Dodgers (29-39): Talk about a wasted season…nobody is farther away from next-to-last in their division than the Dodgers.
23. LA Angels (31-39): Here is another team that was supposed to contend and has let their fans down.
24. Milwaukee Brewers (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Cubs for last place in the NL Central.
25. Chicago Cubs (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Brewers for last place in the NL Central.
27. Chicago White Sox (29-38): It looks like it will be a tight race for worst team in Chicago.
28. New York Mets (25-40): The Mets are making a strong run towards the worst record in baseball with a 3-10 start in June.
29. Houston Astros (26-45): An 8-8 record so far this month is a big improvement for the AL West newcomers.
30. Miami Marlins (22-47): The Marlins are playing better, posting an 8-6 record so far this month.
December 28, 2012
For the majority of NFL teams, there is just one game left in the season. Some of them know who they are. I’m talking to you Kansas City and Jacksonville. Others enter week 17 in do or die mode. You hear me Washington and Dallas? No matter who you are rooting for, this post season is setting up to be a great one. Now on to the rankings.
1 Atlanta Falcons (13-2) — The Falcons have clinched the top seed in the NFC and won’t have to play outside again until next season. Let’s see how they handle three weeks between meaningful games.
7 Seattle Seahawks (10-5) — Pete Carroll’s squad could still win the NFC West, but they are probably headed to Washington or Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.
9 Washington Redskins (9-6) — The Skins are 6-0 since they had their bye week but it’s going to have to be 7-0 for them to win the NFC East.
11 Dallas Cowboys (8-7) — Once again the Cowboys head into week 17 with everything on the line. You can bet this will come down to the fourth quarter.
12 Indianapolis Colts (10-5) — The turnaround of the Colts is one of the most impressive stories in the NFL. They are here to stay too.
14 New Orleans Saints (7-8) — Finishing at .500 would be pretty impressive considering all the drama in New Orleans this season.
15 Chicago Bears (9-6) — The Bears need to beat the reeling Lions and then root for Green Bay to knock off the Vikings.
16 New York Giants (8-7) — The defending champs have lost five of seven and need lots of help on Sunday to sneak into the playoffs.
17 Miami Dolphins (7-8) — If the season was 18 games like the commissioner wanted, the Dolphins would have a good shot to get in with the way they are playing.
18 St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) — After finishing 2-14 last season, the Rams are one of the most improved teams in 2012.
19 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) — Five losses in six games is not how the Steelers saw the stretch run going and they are out of the playoff hunt.
20 Carolina Panthers (6-9) — The Panthers waited too long to get hot. They have been one of the better teams after starting 2-8.
21 Tennessee Titans (5-10) — Clearly they are ready for the offseason. Nobody likes going to Green Bay in December but losing 55-7 is as bad as it gets.
22 New York Jets (6-9) — Looks like the Jets could go three for three on getting rid of quarterbacks this offseason. Should be interesting.
24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) — The Bucs won four straight to climb into the playoff hunt…then lost five in a row to fall out of it.
25 Arizona Cardinals (5-10) — It doesn’t appear that the Cardinals know who their quarterback is. But have they at least figured out who their quarterback isn’t?
26 Detroit Lions (4-11) — Were these guys really in the playoffs last year? What happened?
27 Cleveland Browns (5-10) — The Browns are making progress. Winning in Pittsburgh on Sunday would be another step forward.
28 Buffalo Bills (5-10) — Will either team show up when the Bills and Jets meet in the season finale?
29 Oakland Raiders (4-11) — If it wasn’t for beating the Chiefs twice, the Raiders could have the worst record in the league.
30 Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) — Will the Eagles knock the defending champs out of the hunt or improve their draft position?
31 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) — The Jags already beat Tennessee once. If they do it again, it could cost them the first pick in the draft.
32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) — Don’t expect the Chiefs to finish with a win in Denver against the hottest team in the league.
December 19, 2012
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.
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 4, 2012
Each NFL season is full of surprises, never disappointing fans hungry for action. Never a dull moment, the 2012 season is no different as teams and individual players’ true identities have now begun to show.
Albeit only four games in, that means there are only 12 left. The parity in the league is what fans should love best, as the cliché “any given Sunday” is 100 percent true. Through four weeks of play, 10 teams have a 2-2 record and only three remain undefeated. This promises fans a tight race to the finish as this year’s competition will hold surprises until the waning moments of Week 17.
That being said, let’s check out the NFL top three surprises through the quarter mark of the season.
RG3 is the Truth
OK—so this may not be a surprise, but Robert Griffin III has looked like he’s in contention for NFL MVP this season. He’s already totaled eight touchdowns and has only thrown one interception. This tells one that he is wise beyond his years when it comes to handling pressure in the pocket.
He’s thrown for 300-plus yards twice and most importantly the Washington Redskins are 2-2. What speaks volumes in regards to RG3’s remarkable blend of skills and smarts is his completion percentage, which sits at 69.4. This kid simply can’t play enough as fans would be willing to pay to see him play seven days a week.
The Minnesota Vikings are Looking Good
Who would have bet that the Vikings would be on top of the NFC North after four weeks of the season? What’s even more surprising is that the Vikings are in it for the long haul. Led by Jared Allen, their defense is as good as any in the NFL. They’ll keep the Vikes in every game this season.
Thanks to the somewhat miraculous rehabilitation of running back Adrian Peterson after knee surgery, one of the game’s best is still looking like… well, the best. He may only have one 100-yard game so far, but the way he’s bouncing in and out of holes means nothing but trouble for opposing defenses the rest of the season. He’s truly electric.
The biggest surprise for the team is that second-year quarterback Christian Ponder is making the organization look smart to draft him 12th overall in the 2011 draft. He has thrown four touchdowns and zero interceptions to this point. His completion percentage of 68.3 is a great improvement over his 54.3 percent last season, telling us that he is really learning the offense and is becoming comfortable as a starting NFL quarterback.
Don’t be shocked when the Vikings make the playoffs this year. After all, let’s not forget about Percy Harvin, who has proven to be more than just a flash in the pan and has solidified himself a legitimate threat to find the end zone every time he touches the ball. Wow!
The Arizona Cardinals are 4-0
Before the season started, there was much talk about the Arizona Cardinals being the worst team in the NFL. Role reversal, after four games, they are the best.
So, will the Cardinals suddenly plummet? Don’t plan on it. This team now believes in itself and won’t take no for an answer. Week 5 against the St. Louis Rams will be Thursday Night Football. A win then will give the team a 5-0 record with 10 days to rest and improve.
Momentum is a hard thing to halt in the NFL. The Cardinals are for real.
August 21, 2012
When the Washington Nationals announced a plan early this season to shut down prized pitcher Stephen Strasburg once he reached a strict innings count, there was little pushback from fans. The move appeared to be a sensible one and they were only protecting what has become the best young pitcher in all of baseball.
Now that the Nats are likely heading to the playoffs, though, there’s not the consensus there once was. Fans, and even players, are starting to make their feelings known that the club should continue to play Strasburg now and worry about the future later.
In case you’ve missed it, the Nationals reportedly have a plan in place to shut down Strasburg once he reaches a set number of innings. The number being bandied about the most is somewhere in between 160 and 180, though management hasn’t openly confirmed that. As of this weekend, he’s getting close to that number as he had just under 140 innings pitched so far this year. If Strasburg goes deep in his next few starts, that could mean he’s done after three more games.
Veteran utility player Mark DeRosa was the latest to speak out on the matter, saying last week that the loss of a team’s best pitcher would be ‘devastating.’ To have fans speak out is one thing, but when players do it, management takes far more notice.
The problem isn’t that the Nationals really have such a plan. Regardless of where you come out on the matter, it’s hard to blame a team for wanting to protect a pitcher that can be a legitimate ace for at least 10-12 more seasons if he stays healthy. It’s incredibly difficult to find quality starting pitchers and it’s unfair to say that Washington is foolish for potentially throwing one season away in the hopes of keeping him off of the DL.
Assuming the shutdown plan exists, a better strategy for Washington would have been to spread his starts out and/or limit his innings per start from the beginning of the season. That way, the team could have ensured they’d have him ready for a stretch run. Strasburg has gone at least six innings on 18 separate occasions this season. Why not limit him to five in most of those games or have him skip a start from time to time instead? Saving a few innings here and there could have meant they’d have him around for the playoffs while sticking to the planned restriction. Strasburg hasn’t gone deeper than the seventh inning in any of his starts, so the Nats have definitely tried to be a bit conservative. But I would have taken that a step farther to stretch his innings even deeper into the season.
But perhaps only 20 innings away from the limit now, that advice has come too late. So what should the team do now?
If it were up to me, I’d pitch him the rest of the way with some restriction. The Nationals have about 40 more games left, which means Strasburg would have eight starts remaining. They could keep him to five innings in his remaining outings and also skip his turn a few times along the way. And when it comes to the playoffs, even if the team goes on to win the World Series, Strasburg would have a maximum of about six more starts. The team could limit him to six innings, he’d only have a maximum of about six or seven starts. They could limit him to six innings in each of the postseason games and while removing him in the middle of a close contest would be agonizing, having him for half of a game is better than not having him at all.
In the end, I can understand Washington’s concern about protecting their investment. But for a franchise that hasn’t seen a winning team since they’ve moved back to Washington, fan frustrations are understandable. If management is wise about his use down the stretch, they can take a conservative approach with him and ensure their best pitcher is on the field when the playoffs roll around at the same time.