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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

Jeter Is Not the Greatest Yankee, but Its Biggest Icon

YankeesDerek Jeter announced that the upcoming 2014 season will be his last.  That saddens me as a Yankee fan.

Jeter will be remembered for a lot of things.  First of all, he was known for treating people around him well.  From the rookies to the lower level employees and bat boys, Jeter treated the “lessers” around him with dignity and respect.

On the field, Jeter was just as exemplary.  He was “The Captain”.  He will be remembered for his clutch plays.  He hit a home run that won a World Series game vs. the New York Mets.  He will also be remembered for playing the game the “right way” – i.e. no performance enhancing drugs (unlike Alex Rodriguez aka “A-Fraud”).

However, Jeter will be most remembered for the two following plays:

and…

Now folks (including Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless from ESPN’s “First Take”) are asking themselves where should Jeter should be placed among the New York Yankees’ all-time greats.  Here is how I would rank the greatest players to don a Yankees uniform:

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Lou Gehrig
  3. Reggie Jackson
  4. Joe DiMaggio
  5. Mickey Mantle
  6. Derek Jeter
  7. Mariano Rivera
  8. Goose Gossage
  9. Don Mattingly
  10. Dave Winfield

Jeter may not be the greatest Yankee, but I would argue that he was its biggest icon.  He was the face of baseball most of his career.  And again, reference the two videos above as proof of Jeter’s icon status.

By the way, the baseball writer who does not vote Jeter in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer should have his voting privileges revoked permanently.

Cano Reminded Yanks too Much of A-Rod

YankeesToday is a sad day for me as an ardent fan of the New York Yankees.

Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners have agreed to sign a 10-year, $240 million contract.  Meanwhile, my Yankees decided to give Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million over seven years.

Did I think my Yanks over-paid for Ellsbury?  Hell yes I do.

Did I think my Yanks were right in not overpaying for Cano?  Hell yes I do.

There was no way in hell the Yankees would have given 10 years to Cano for this simple reason: dude is 30 years old.  Would you justify paying 40-year-old $24 million?  I didn’t think so, but apparently the Mariners do.  The only 40-year-old I have seen excel as a batter was Barry Bonds (no need to ask the steroid questions anymore).

And yes, I understand that you cannot simply let a guy who played in almost every game last season (Cano played in 160 games), batted .314 (lifetime .309), 27 home runs and 107 RBIs walk.  And yes, Cano was by far the straw that stirred the drink on offense.  And yes, Cano is in his prime and will probably stay in this run for a while.

Just not at 40 years old.

I believe the Yanks are still smarting over giving Alex Rodriguez that ridiculous 10-year, $275 contract extension a few years back – especially when they were bidding against themselves.  It’s too bad they wised up in one area (Cano) while taking a step back in overpaying for an oft-injured – but good – player (Ellsbury).

I’ll say this: I just wished the Yanks and Cano (and Jay-Z) had come to terms on a seven- or eight-year contract.

2013 World Series Preview

mlbThe 2013 Major League Baseball season is about to come to a close (cue the sadness for most of us).

Fortunately for us, the World Series is giving us perhaps the best matchup we have seen in quite some time.  The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals were the best teams in the American and National Leagues, respectively – and justified their win-loss records in the preceding rounds of this postseason.  Couple that with both teams’ rich baseball traditions and huge fan bases, this should be a highly-watched World Series – the first in a loooooooong-ass time.

What I like about this matchup is the fact that both teams are evenly matched when it comes to their offenses.  Both teams possess power.  Boston’s’ Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Daniel Nava both are batting over .300.  A few more players (Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jarrod Scott Saltalamacchia) are batting over .270.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals had all but two of their starting offensive players batting over .275.  Four of those players (Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter) batted over .300.

Basically, the majority of Boston’s and St. Louis’ nine starting offensive players are a tough out – literally and figuratively.

However, there is one advantage the Cardinals have over the Red Sox: starting pitching.  They have three guys (Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Lance Lynn) who is capable of shutting down ANY starting lineup in MLB.  Two fo those guys won at least 15 games (Wainwright and Lynn won 19 and 15, respectively).  Wacha could easily (along with Carlos Beltran) be the Cardinals’ postseason MVP for his outings against the Pirates and Dodgers.

Boston just doesn’t have the horses in its starting rotation to even ADEQUATELY compete with St. Louis.  Beyond Jon Lester and Clay Bucholtz, what does Boston have?  John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront?  No thank you.

Are both teams tough as nails?  Hell yeah!  Both teams seem to always find ways to win when many of the naysayers (especially yours truly), counted them out.

However, based on pitching alone, I’m rolling with the Cardinals to win their 12th World Series.  Cardinals in 7.

2013 MLB Playoff Preview: League Championship Series

mlbAmerican League

Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers, led by stud Justin Verlander, beat the Oakland A’s in last night’s Game 5.  The Tigers’ offense scored the runs it had to, and Verlander was on fire – a dangerous combination for the remaining teams in the playoffs.  Unfortunately, Detroit won’t be able to send Verlander back to the mound until Game 3 in Detroit at the earliest.  Meanwhile, the Tigers will send Max Scherzer to the mound in Game 2, so at least they have both their aces going in back-to-back games.

The Red Sox are rolling (unfortunately), and seens hell-bent on proving to the sports world that former manager Bobby Valentine was the mother of all fuck-ups.  They validated having the best record in the major leagues in making quick work of division rival Tampa Bay in the ALCS.  It will be interesting watching how sluggers Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz will do against the Tigers’ pitching staff.

Believe it or not, this will be the first postseason series between these two teams.  Both teams have similar batting and pitching stats for the season.  This will be a classic hard-fought series, but I think the Tigers’ pitching is a bit better than the Sox’, and that will be the difference.  Tigers in 7. 

National League

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers.  Both teams are hot and rolling.  While the Cardinals had a bit of trouble dispatching the division rival Pirates, they are still clicking on all cylinders.  This series will come down to what happens in Games 1 and 2.  The Dodgers will be starting aces Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw respectively.  If the Dodgers are victorious in both games, I do not see the Cardinals winning 4 out of the next 5 against the likes of Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and company.  Sure, Adam Wainwright is scheduled to start for St. Louis in Game 3, but it will be on the road and all the weight would be on his shoulders if his team is down 0-2 in the series.

It’s hard for me to count out the Cardinals – after all, I call them “Team Cockroach” for a reason (you can’t kill those fuckers).  However, I think the Dodgers are too strong and will overcome the consistency of a well-managed Cardinals team.  I just think it’s L.A.’s time.  Dodgers in 6.

Despite the Mistakes, Bud Selig Changed MLB for the Better

black-sports-online-bud-selig-blacks-in-baseball-task-forceI know that most of you upon reading this rant’s title are thinking one of two things…

“What the HAIL?!” and “That’s not what you have been saying about Bud for a while Klownboy.”

Look, I’m not going to argue with you all on either of those thoughts.

First of all, Bud Selig has been perceived as (and will continue to be thought of going forward) as the weakest commissioner in all of professional sports.  He has never won any major showdowns with his union (the Major League Baseball Players Association).  He and his owners caved when Major League Baseball was on the brink of lockouts and strikes over the last few years.  He was especially feeble against Donald Fehr, the former head of the MLBPA, when it came to testing for performance enhancing drugs.

And the time he did fight back, we witnessed the most bizarre and unpopular strikes in sports history in 1994.  For those of you “new schoolers” who were too young to remember, the Major League Baseball strike of 1994 not only wiped out the second half of the season – it also wiped out the World Series.  I’m sure the last remaining fans of the Montreal Expos are still plenty forgiving of Selig.

Here are a few more things that good ‘ol Bud did to the sport:

  • After the 1994 strike, the fabled “Home Run chase of 1998″ where sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were allegedly ‘roided out of their minds while smashing Roger Maris’ single-season home run record occurred on Selig’s watch (Selig allegedly knew of this and turned a blind eye).
  • His behind the scenes enabling allowed Frank McCourt to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers, in which McCourt would later run into the ground.
  • Selig made the controversial decision to declare the 2002 All-Star game a 7-7 tie after 11 innings because both managers used their entire rosters.
  • He made the Houston Astros - not the Arizona Diamondbacks - switch leagues to start the 2013 season.
  • And last, but not least, granting home field advantage in the World Series granted to the winner of the All Star Game in the same season in 2003.

Now is the time to point out the many good things Selig did for baseball.  They are:

  • Alignment of teams into three divisions per league, and the introduction of playoff wild card teams
  • Interleague play
  • Two additional franchises: the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays
  • Dedicating April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day
  • Stricter Major League Baseball performance-enhancing drug testing policy
  • World Baseball Classic
  • Introduction of instant replay.
  • Introducing a second wild card playoff team in each league last season

And more importantly, Selig made his owners AND players money – lots and LOTS of money.  All of MLB franchises increased in value, with my beloved New York Yankees valued the highest at $2.3 billion and the Rays “bringing up the rear” at $451 million.  The average salary of a baseball player is $3.2 million.

As for the TV revenue, here is how Selig negotiated those deals.  Last season MLB made deals with Fox and the Turner networks.  Fox now pays around $4 billion over eight years (close to $500 million per year) while Turner pays around $2.8 billion over eight years (more than $300 million per year).  The deal Selig cut with ESPN last season was even more lucrative – a $5.6 billion deal that pays around $700 million per year.

So you see folks, while good ‘ol Bud made his fair share of gaffes and half-baked decisions, you can’t deny the dude helped baseball become more popular with fans and put it on a fast track to the money train.  And the sport itself should be thankful for that.

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