Category Archives: MLB

2014 World Series Preview

mlbThe two participants in the 2014 World Series are wild card teams.  Both of those teams did not win over 90 games in the regular season – the first time it has happened in World Series history.  One of those teams made its first appearance in the playoffs in almost 30 years.

In short, this past season has been “bizarro world” in major league baseball.

And this should make for one interesting preview.  Speaking of which…

San Francisco Giants vs. Kansas City Royals.  Here we go again: it’s experience vs. youthful exuberance.  The Giants are playing in their third World Series in five years.  Let me say that again: the Giants are playing in their THIRD WORLD SERIES IN FIVE YEARS.  Giants manager Bruce Bochy has to be considered the best manager in baseball.  If he does deliver San Francisco its third World Series title of the decade, no one would dispute his standing.

On the other hand, the Royals keep surprising the hell out of me.  Looking back at the start of the post-season, I could easily say that Kansas City has no business advancing deep into the post-season – let alone the World Series.  The Royals hitting does not scare most pundits, and their starting pitching does not give many to pause.  Hell two of the teams they beat to get to this point (the Angels and Orioles) were far better teams on paper.

But the Royals have one thing that is totally immeasurable: heart.

Kansas City swept both Los Angeles and Baltimore, two of the best teams in all of baseball.  And sure the Royals have a speedy team that is deadly on the base pads, as well as arguably the best bullpen in baseball.  However, there was little doubt that toughness play a big role in the Royals reaching the World Series without even losing a game.

I’ve made the mistake of not picking the Royals in the AL Divisional and Championship Series, but I will not make the same mistake for the World Series.  Call it destiny, call it selling one’s soul to the devil, but I do not see the Giants derailing the Royals a World Series title.  Kansas City’s bullpen is way to strong to overcome, and it should put the finishing touches on what has been a magical season.

Royals in 6.

2014 MLB Playoff Preview: ALCS and NLCS

mlbThe championship series is here, and needless to say there were some surprises.

First of all, I should have known better but the St. Louis Cardinals, aka “Team Cockroach”, got me AGAIN.  The Cardinals simply out-played, out-hustled, and more importantly out-managed the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Speaking of the latter, manager Don Mattingly almost single-handedly lost Game 1 when he left Clayton Kershaw on there too long.

Secondly, the two best teams in baseball were unceremoniously bounced out of the playoffs.  The Washington Nationals were out-toughed by the San Francisco Giants, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near El Segundo were swept – SWEPT – by the young and inexperienced Kansas City Royals.

All of that makes for an old-school “Final Four” in Major League Baseball’s championship round.  Let’s go…

American League

Baltimore Orioles vs. Kansas City Royals.  It’s nice to see the Royals competing for the AL pennant again.  Shades of George Brett and the 1980s are back and are likely here to stay.  However, the Orioles are simply better.  As long as Baltimore keeps Kansas City off the base pads where it could do some major damage with its running game, it will advance to the World Series.  Don’t forget that the Orioles can mash a helluva lot better than the Royals as well.  Orioles in 6.

National League

St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants.  Old-school matchup on all levels here in terms of style and personnel.  Both teams are grinders that look to wear opposing teams down.  This should be a classic, competitive series.  That said, I’m not going to pick against the Cardinals again.  Cardinals in 7.

A VERY Late 2014 MLB Playoff Preview: ALDS and NLDS

Major_LeagueBaseball_logo

Yeah I know I’m late as hell with this Major League Baseball playoff series, so sue me.  I’m a slacker and dammit I’m proud of it.

That said, I love the fact that the American League Divisional Series are matchups featuring experience (Tigers and Angels) vs. youth (Orioles and Royals).  And how cool is it to see the Royals back in the postseason?

On the other hand, all of the playoff participants in the National League Divisional Series are experienced.  In short, this should be one October to remember.

Oh and by the way, I know the ALCS started last night – and I am STILL sticking with my picks.  So without further ado…

American League

Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers.  This is the first of two classic “youth vs. experience” matchups in the ALDS.  The Orioles are a young team that has been on a tear for most of the regular season, roaring past the Toronto Blue Jays and my beloved New York Yankees around the All-Star break and remaining in cruise control the rest of the way.  They are the favorites to advance to the World Series – maybe a “Beltway Series” with the Nationals (more on them later).

The Tigers on the other hand are old faithful.  Sure they didn’t completely “wow” us this season despite the talent they have.  Sure, Justin Verlander underachieved a bit.  Sure David Price struggled a bit when he was traded from the Tampa Bay Rays.  Sure, Miguel Cabrera is probably not in the best shape.  But man are those boys seasoned, especially come playoff time.

It is normally a good idea to go with experience over youth – except in this case because, well, the Orioles are just better.  Orioles in 5.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Near El Segundo vs. Kansas City Royals.  Just as with the Orioles-Tigers series, this series is youth vs. experience.  Hell in Royals haven’t tasted the postseason since I was a little kid in the mid 1980s.  I for one am excited over the Royals making their first postseason appearance in almost 30 years.  Unfortunately for the Royals, the Angels are a juggernaut who will run roughshod over the Royals.

The Royals are a good, feel-good story that will not be around for us to digest for long.  Angels in 4.

National League

Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants.  This is an interesting matchup.  Will the Nationals’ pitching staff propel them past the veteran wild-card Giants?  Washington has the best pitching staff statistically in baseball with a 3.04 ERA.  The Nats are hot right now, and have been since the All-Star break.  Between ace Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Doug Fister (and maybe Tanner Roark ot of the bullpen), I do not see San Francisco’s bats getting over Washington’s pitching.  Nationals in 4. 

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals.  Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke vs. “Team Cockroach”.  The Dodgers are much better on paper than the Cardinals, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals from beating them last postseason.  The Cardinals are hard to figure.  They are not among the most talented teams on paper, yet those cats keep winning – hence the name “Team Cockroach”.  Again, the Dodgers are better than the Cardinals.  Yasiel Puig and Co. should be able to do work on St. Louis.  But until I see St. Louis underachieve in a playoff series, I will not pick against them.

Oh what the hell, I’ll pick against St. Louis (and I’ll probably get burned AGAIN).  Dodgers in 5.

Derek Jeter Will Be Missed

Derek_Jeter_Hit_-2722_editDerek Jeter played his last game as a Major League Baseball player yesterday.  All of those seasons have been as a member of my beloved New York Yankees.

This is not going to be a long loquacious rant.  This is going to be a short and sweet tribute to one of my favorite baseball players of all time.

There are naysayers that are quick to point out that Jeter was not statistically a great player.  I’ll count the ways for them:

  • Batting average: .310
  • Hits: 3,465
  • Home runs: 260
  • RBI: 1,311

Aside from the batting average and number of hits accumulated, a lot of critics like to paint Jeter’s power numbers as statistically pedestrian at best.  Don’t believe me?  Check out what ESPN’s Keith Olbermann had to say about Jeter.

To Olbermann – and other critics – here are the stats that I would like to present:

  • 14× All-Star (1998–2002, 2004, 2006–2012, 2014)
  • 5× World Series champion (1996, 1998–2000, 2009)
  • World Series MVP (2000)
  • AL Rookie of the Year (1996)
  • 5× Gold Glove Award (2004–2006, 2009–2010)
  • 5× Silver Slugger Award (2006–2009, 2012)
  • 2× AL Hank Aaron Award (2006, 2009)
  • Roberto Clemente Award (2009)
  • New York Yankees captain (2003–2014)

Oh and to top it all off, anytime a player gets cheers by fans of his arch-rival is a sign that he is indeed an icon.  Watching the Boston Red Sox crowd at Fenway Park not only stand and applaud him after the last hit of his career, they chanted his name!

Look, I’m not going to argue that Jeter deserves to be on the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmoretwice.  Hell I’d barely place him into my top 10 Yankees of all time.

However, there is something to be said about exuding some class.  Jeter is class personified.  His picture should show up in Webster’s definition of the word.  Not only would Jeter be on that Mt. Rushmore of baseball players, I think he is among the classiest athletes of all time.

Major League Baseball, Yankee fans, and sports fans will miss Derek Jeter.  I already do.

Athletics and Tigers Big Winners of MLB Trades

mlbIt’s that time of year again in Major League Baseball.

Teams are entering the stretch runs of their respective pennant races.  Some are winning their divisions, while others are either pushing their division leaders or contending for a wild-card spot.  But for every successful team, there are many more that frankly suck.

Whether those teams are contending for playoff spots or stinking up the joint, virtually everyone looks to be involved at the trading deadline.  Contending teams mortgage their future for the present, while sucky ones unload their best players for prospects and build for the future.

The two teams that stood out the most for me were the Oakland Athletics and the Detroit Tigers.  While both teams made big strides to try and separate themselves from the rest of the American League, I thought the A’s were more aggressive and perhaps landed the biggest fish in Jon Lester – and giving up stud Yoenis Cespedes.

For one thing, the A’s needed to do all they can to stay ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.  Before the trade the A’s and Angels are by far the two best teams not only in the American League, but in all of baseball.  The Angels can mash the hell out of the baseball.  And while the A’s can mash the baseball as well (they have the largest run differential in baseball), they really needed a quality starter to not only quell those bats in L.A. but to advance past teams like Detroit and advance to the World Series.

What was really telling was how desperate A’s GM Billy Beane has become.  He is normally a “build a team through the farm system” type of guy, often relying on sabermetrics and analytics.  In trading for Lester – and not being assured of keeping him after the season – Beane is truly ALL in.  It’s World Series or bust for Oakland.

Speaking of Detroit, getting starting pitching David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays was huge as well.  He gives the Tigers one hell of a starting rotation with Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello (one of my fantasy pitchers).  Adding Price puts the Tigers in the “best teams in the American League (and all of baseball)” conversation.

Trades like the ones made in Oakland and Detroit are what make the MLB season very exciting.  It’s going to be fun watching the A’s and Tigers (and Angels) battle it out for American League supremacy down the stretch – and perhaps into October.

Now on to football season…

MLB Mid-Season Checkpoint…

mlbHow about that All-Star Game last night?  By that I mean, how about Major League Baseball and Fox forgetting to honor the late Tony Gwynn during that Derek Jeter love-fest last night?

Be that as it may, the first half of the 2014 MLB regular season had a few surprises (Milwaukee in first place, defending champion Boston in last place).  This “checkpoint” is a litmus test of sorts against my predictions before the season.  And while the season is not over, this checkpoint kinda helps determine whether I should stay out of the MLB prediction business.

Let’s go…

American League

East Division

Predicted Finish

  1. Boston Red Sox (98-64)
  2. New York Yankees-* (95-67)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays-* (93-69)
  4. Baltimore Orioles (88-74)
  5. Toronto Blue Jays (80-82)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Orioles (52-42)
  2. Blue Jays (49-47)
  3. Yankees (47-47)
  4. Rays (44-53)
  5. Red Sox (43-52)

Analysis:  It wasn’t a big shock to see the Orioles playing well – I did predict them to finish over .500.  It’s seeing Boston, who are virtually the same team that won last year’s World Series, hit bottom that is more shocking.  Good to see the talent in Toronto finally becoming productive.  As for my Yankees, it’s shocking to see them so competitive, with no pitching and hitting to speak of.

Central Division

Predicted Finish

  1. Detroit Tigers (96-66)
  2. Cleveland Indians (90-72)
  3. Kansas City Royals (88-74)
  4. Minnesota Twins (74-88)
  5. Chicago White Sox (72-90)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Tigers (53-38)
  2. Royals (48-46)
  3. Indians (47-47)
  4. White Sox (45-51)
  5. Twins (44-50)

Analysis:  No real surprises here.  The top three teams of this division are competitive as I predicted.  I am good at my job!!!

West Division

Predicted Finish

  1. Texas Rangers (93-69)
  2. Oakland Athletics (92-70)
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near El Segundo south of Hollywood (81-81)
  4. Seattle Mariners (78-84)
  5. Houston Astros (60-102)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Athletics (59-36)
  2. Angels (57-37)
  3. Mariners (51-44)
  4. Rangers (40-56)
  5. Astros (38-57)

Analysis:  The big miss here was on the Rangers.  Talk about the bottom falling completely out…

National League

East Division

Predicted Finish

  1. Washington Nationals (94-68)
  2. Atlanta Braves (90-72)
  3. Philadephia Phillies (87-75)
  4. New York Mets (70-92)
  5. Miami Marlins (60-102)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Nationals (51-42)
  2. Braves (52-43)
  3. Mets (45-50)
  4. Marlins (44-50)
  5. Phillies (42-53)

Analysis:  Washington and Atlanta are at the top of the division, no shock there.  I thought too much of the Phillies though.  How Philly’s general manager Ruben Amaro still has a job is a mystery to me…

Central Division

Predicted Finish

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates-* (94-68)
  3. Cincinnati Reds-* (93-69)
  4. Chicago Cubs (75-87)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (70-92)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Brewers (53-43)
  2. Cardinals (52-44)
  3. Reds (51-44)
  4. Pirates (49-46)
  5. Cubs (40-54)

Analysis:  I correctly predicted that this division will be the most competitive in baseball.  I’m shocked as hell to see Milwaukee on top.  Props to Ryan Braun, I guess…

West Division

Predicted Division

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72)
  3. San Francisco Giants (85-77)
  4. Colorado Rockies (81-81)
  5. San Diego Padres (65-97)

Record at All-Star Break

  1. Dodgers (54-43)
  2. Giants (52-43)
  3. Padres (41-54)
  4. Rockies (40-55)
  5. Diamondbacks (40-56)

Analysis:  Dodgers are on top of the division after a rough start – yay me.  And while the Giants are in the thick of it as I predicted, I didn’t think the D’Backs would suck THAT bad.

2014 Major League Baseball Preview

mlbThe 2014 Major League Baseball season is only five days away.

There are a lot of storylines heading into the season.  Will the Red Sox repeat?  Will the Yankees and Nationals bounce back?  Will the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig become a star and not a headcase?  Will the Pirates take the next step?  All of those questions will be answered in this preview and proven wrong during the season.

So, without further ado…

Note: *- wildcard team

American League

East Division

  1. Boston Red Sox (98-64)
  2. New York Yankees-* (95-67)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays-* (93-69)
  4. Baltimore Orioles (88-74)
  5. Toronto Blue Jays (80-82)

Analysis:  The AL East is still the best division in the majors.  Any of these teams could contend for division titles outside of the AL East.  Hell, I think that the Blue Jays will finish near or at .500.

At any rate, the Red Sox have close to the same squad that won it all last season, and is the team to beat in the division.  Hell, I’d be shocked if the Red Sox do not contend for the AL pennant.  The team that should be much improved is New York.  My Yankees acquired arguably the most sought-after pitcher in Masahiro Tanaka, who should be the guy that should help take the pressure off of CC Sabathia.  More importantly, the arrivals of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran should boost an offense that includes a healthy Mark Teixeira.  As  long as Tampa Bay employ Joe Maddon as its manager, the Rays will always be there in the end.  It’s too bad that the Orioles and Blue Jays are in this division – two good teams that would at least contend for division titles elsewhere.

Central Division

  1. Detroit Tigers (96-66)
  2. Cleveland Indians (90-72)
  3. Kansas City Royals (88-74)
  4. Minnesota Twins (74-88)
  5. Chicago White Sox (72-90)

Analysis:  Even with the changes the Tigers endured in the offseason, they are still the class of the division.  Iconic manager Jim Leyland retired shortly after the end of the playoffs, and Detroit traded away slugger Prince Fielder to the Rangers.  As long as they still have Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers should be fine.

Everyone else in the division is playing for second place.  The Indians were a great story last season, and should be in the mix for a wild-card spot this season.  Terry Francona is one of the best managers in the majors and should have Cleveland ready to go this season.  And as great a story as the Indians were, the Royals were an even better story.  Ned Yost is doing a good job in managing Kansas City, and “Big Game” James Shields is the undisputed ace of the Royals’ pitching staff.  As for Minnesota and Chicago, have fun waiting for football season.

West Division

  1. Texas Rangers (93-69)
  2. Oakland Athletics (92-70)
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near El Segundo south of Hollywood (81-81)
  4. Seattle Mariners (78-84)
  5. Houston Astros (60-102)

Analysis:  The Rangers are looking to avenge last season’s flame-out near the end, when they allowed the Athletics to pass them en route of winning the division for the second year in a row.  When Texas acquired Prince Fielder during the offseason, I thought that move will help put it over the top.  After all, their lack of hitting hurt the Rangers last season.

Oakland will still be a good team this season, but I don’t think the Athletics have the horses to hang with the Rangers this time around.  The Angels have to be the most overrated team in the majors.  The Angels have this going for them, they serve as a cautionary tale for other teams: you cannot buy a championship.  Sure the Mariners have Robinson Cano – and waaaaaay overpaid to do so – but they are still mediocre.  And I would encourage Astros fans to hang in there until football season, but the Texans suck too.

National League

East Division

  1. Washington Nationals (94-68)
  2. Atlanta Braves (90-72)
  3. Philadephia Phillies (87-75)
  4. New York Mets (70-92)
  5. Miami Marlins (60-102)

Analysis:  I think the 2014 should be renamed “Nationals Revenge” because I think the Nats have a lot to prove after last season’s meltdown.  The Nats were a M.A.S.H. unit last season, and still finished within reach of a wildcard spot.  Plus, seeing Nats slugger Bryce Harper so yoked up is an indicator that he and the Nats mean business this year.  The Braves will contend as usual, but I dunno if they have the horses to overtake the Nats this season.  I mean sure, there are the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward, but what about that starting pitching?  Kris Medlen?  Mike Minor?  Really???

And there are the Phillies.  Poor guys.  This is a talented team that has underachieved in recent seasons, been doing so since they won the World Series in 2008.  Maybe new manager Ryne Sandberg will help Philly get it together?  I doubt it, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, the Mets are still the Mets, and will be among the cellar dwellers in the division.  They MIGHT be a slightly improved team, but that’s not good enough in a division with the Nats and Braves.  As far as the Marlins are concerned, I’m still amazed that management has not been “French Revolution”-ed and run out of town by the locals.  How the Marlins were able to rip off the city for that new crib, still suck and get away with it is beyond me.

Central Division

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates-* (94-68)
  3. Cincinnati Reds-* (93-69)
  4. Chicago Cubs (75-87)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (70-92)

Analysis:  This division and the AL East are the best divisions in baseball.  The Pirates and Reds will repeat as wildcards, and the Cardinals will luck their way into another division title.  Look, I lived in Cincinnati for four years, so I had learned to hate the Cardinals as much as I do the Red Sox – so I may be a bit biased against St. Louis.  However, there is no denying that St. Louis (and Tampa Bay) is the best run organization in baseball.  The much-improved Pirates (it’s about damn time they were good again), and Reds will make the Cards sweat in defending its Central Division crown.  Hell, this division didn’t resolve itself until the last couple of weeks of the season.  I am looking forward to seeing how this division shapes out after the All-Star break.

As for fans of the Cubs and Brewers, what can I tell you?  The Chicago will still suck and Milwaukee is still stuck with its lying drug cheat (Ryan Braun).  By the way Chicago, nice new perverted mascot…

West Division

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72)
  3. San Francisco Giants (85-77)
  4. Colorado Rockies (81-81)
  5. San Diego Padres (65-97)

Analysis:  The Dodgers-D’Backs rivalry will make this division “must-see TV”.  Seeing managers/old school former players Don Mattingly and Kirk Gibson jaw at each other during the big brawl between the two teams last season was epic.  Speaking of the Dodgers, they should repeat as division champs this season.  They have a powerful starting lineup led by Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and the enigmatic Puig.  L.A. also has the best starting pitching rotation in the majors led by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren.  Having closer Brian Wilson doesn’t hurt either.  The only thing that will get in the Dodgers’ way is themselves – see the latest stunts pulled by Puig.

The aforementioned D’Backs and Giants are good, but not great.  Both will fight it out for the right to play spoiler to the Dodgers/second place in the NL West.  The Rockies are just mediocre, nothing to get too excited about.  As for the Padres fans, there is always football season!

American League champions:  Boston Red Sox

National League champions:  Los Angeles Dodgers

2014 World Series champions:  Los Angeles Dodgers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,194 other followers

%d bloggers like this: