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A Nice, Quick 2015 MLB Preview

mlbThe 2015 Major League Baseball season is upon us.  Lots of storylines abound for the upcoming season.

In the American League: will Alex Rodriguez bounce back?  Will the New York Yankees rebound?  Will the Boston Red Sox’ hitting take them to an AL East division title?  Will Robinson Cano lead the Seattle Mariners back to prominence?

In the National League: will the Washington Nationals FINALLY put together a successful postseason?  Ditto for the Los Angeles Dodgers?  Will someone FINALLY take out the St. Louis Cardinals, aka “Team Cockroach”?

Inquiring minds want to know.  In the meantime, on to the quick-ass preview (predicted records in parentheses)…

*-denotes wild card team

American League

AL East

  1. Baltimore Orioles (89-73)
  2. Boston Red Sox (87-75)
  3. Toronto Blue Jays (85-77)
  4. New York Yankees (81-81)
  5. Tampa Bay Rays (74-88)

(Memo to my beloved Yankees: please win!  Prove me wrong dammit!)

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers (85-77)
  2. Cleveland Indians (83-79)
  3. Kansas City Royals (80-82)
  4. Chicago White Sox (75-87)
  5. Minnesota Twins (68-94)

AL West

  1. Seattle Mariners (94-68)
  2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim below El Segundo in Orange County (90-72)*
  3. Oakland Athletics (88-74)*
  4. Texas Rangers (72-90)
  5. Houston Astros (65-97)

National League

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals (96-66)
  2. Miami Marlins (84-78)
  3. Atlanta Braves (80-82)
  4. New York Mets (76-86)
  5. Philadelphia Phillies (70-92)

(“METS” = “My Entire Team Sucks”)

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (89-73)
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74)*
  3. Chicago Cubs (86-76)
  4. Cincinnati Reds (81-81)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (75-87)

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)
  2. San Francisco Giants (90-72)*
  3. San Diego Padres (85-77)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks (75-87)
  5. Colorado Rockies (69-93)

Postseason awards

AL MVP: Robinson Cano

NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen

AL Cy Young Award Winner: Felix Hernandez

NL Cy Young Award Winner: Clayton Kershaw

American League pennant winner: Mariners

National League pennant winner: Nationals

2015 World Series winner: Nationals

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.

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