MLB Gave the Sports World a Two-Day Hangover

In a span of about 90 minutes on Wednesday night, Major League Baseball melted the proverbial faces of the sporting world with three dramatic win or go-home games. For a generation of sports fans that want/need/must-have information at every possible juncture, Wednesday night’s finish was just about perfect. And if that wasn’t quick enough, 48 hours later, we begin the playoffs. A couple of quick thoughts about what went down on “Wild Card Wednesday” and the days ahead for this crazy, drug-free season. Read the rest of this entry

When you graduate college and get a real job (and maybe even a family), the number of great, truly personal days a year you get excited for decrease dramatically. Not surprisingly, so does your amount of day drinking. In any case, for me, there are maybe four to five days annually that automatically put me in a better mood. Today is one of them. No, I’m not gonna skip out of work and head to a bar or stadium to catch the games, but when I do come home from work, there will be baseball highlights on TV. In fact, there will be baseball highlights on TV every night from now until October.  And that’s pretty damn fantastic.

We covered the Senior Circuit here.  Now, we get to dig into the Big Boys.  Despite Boston’s free-for-all this off-season, there still figures to be some pretty intense competition in each division.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we had three new division winners this season.  In any case, there’s a lot to cover so let’s get on with it.


Just when you started getting used to a three team AL East triumvirate, the other two cellar-dwelling teams began making serious moves this winter in an effort to get out of the St. Devil Ray Memorial AL East Basement. In the meantime, two thirds of the triumvirate took significant hits to their own personnel: one expectedly, and the other, well, not so much. The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, took a team that won 89 games last season and made it better. Much better.  With the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox have the best lineup in the American League, bar none. Their pitching staff has three playoff-tested and proven starters in John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester.  Their fourth starter, Clay Buchholz, won 17 games with a 2.33 ERA last year. Their bullpen also features a wide array of hard-throwing specialists, two of which are former All-Star closers. If that wasn’t enough, they added Dan Wheeler, one of Tampa’s top relievers the past three seasons.  In other words, the Sox are loaded. If Beckett and Lackey can regain just a bit of their prior form, Boston should have no problem cruising to 95+ wins. Read the rest of this entry

Forecasting the Year in Sports: 2011

It’s usually around 9pm on New Year’s Eve that people sit down and start discussing how this New Year will be different.  ”Time to get back in shape!”  ”I’m going to finally make amends with my family!”  ”I am gonna finish that screenplay!”  By 12:30am, when you’re scouring the buffet table for left over appetizers whilst slurping down martini number twelve and trying to recall the name of the classy lassie you inappropriately groped at midnight, those resolutions seem like miles away.  ”It’s not January 1st yet!” you’ll drunkenly stammer (as you light that “one, last” smoke).  Well, we all know 365 days from now you’ll probably be sitting here saying the same thing — that’s easy to predict.  The year in sports?  Not so much.  Nonetheless, here’s how I think things might play out: Read the rest of this entry

On Tuesday, we took a look at the American League and surmised a few things: 1) the three best teams are probably all in the East; 2) Minnesota and Los Angeles may have lost a few important pieces to their lineup but are still in good shape to take their divisions, and 3) Kenny Powers = pageviews.  So thanks for that.
Today, we break down the National League, or the “Quad A League,” if you are so inclined.  For the last 15 years or so, the National League has proven itself inferior to its little brother.  While the NL has faired decently in the World Series (6-9), they are 0-15 in All-Star games and 546-713 in Interleague Play.  So, what are we to make of this?  Other than the fact that the playoffs are a crapshoot, the National League has a ways to go.  It would probably help if the Mets could find a way to efficiently spend money or if the Pirates were able to get over whatever has plagued them since 1992, but, oh well.  At this point, NL fans can only hope for Albert Pujols and Justin Upton to stay healthy as well as the quick ascension of Stephen Strasburg and Jason Heyward. 
Unfortunately, we don’t have that long to wait.  Onto the picks.  Today, it’s all East to Least (*denotes Wild Card):
National League East
  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. New York Mets
  5. Washington Nationals

Heyward's early comparable: "Albert Pujols with an outfielder's glove." No pressure.

Total no-brainer.  As good as everyone says the Braves look, they won’t be able to handle the Phillies.  The Washington Post recently discussed how the Phillies have epitomized the concept of a “Modern Dynasty.”  Tough to disagree with the author’s reasoning, but it was only up until a few years ago that the Braves and Yankees were winning division titles on a yearly basis.  So, no, let’s not call them a “dynasty” just yet, but a third straight World Series appearance would help.  With eight All-Stars in the lineup on Opening Day, that shouldn’t be too far-fetched.  The Braves are more than a sentimental pick: their reliance on multiple veterans returning from injury notwithstanding, they have two of the game’s most important young players in Heyward and Tommy Hanson.  If Atlanta’s vets fail to resemble their former selves, then the Marlins have a shot to swoop in.  The Mets are in a slow, snake-bitten decline.  If they can ever get healthy and some decent starting pitching, they might get back to .500.  Here are the three times this season the Nationals will get any attention: 1) When Barry shows up; 2) When Strasburg pitches; and, 3) When they draft Bryce Harper (which probably won’t happen).

National League Central
  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Chicago Cubs
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Sure the Cardinals made waves with the pickup of Matt Holliday, but they also pulled off one of the most underrated moves of the off-season by snagging Felipe Lopez.  The Cards come dangerously close to matching the Phillies in offensive firepower and top-flight arms.  With a full season of Holliday and the maturation of Colby Rasmus, this team should be clinching in August.  And we haven’t even mentioned the irreplaceable Albert Pujols.  Speaking of windows, one is about to close in Chicago — Aramis  Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano have all seen better days.  There’s not enough there to overtake the Cardinals.  Charging into third, despite their manager’s best intentions, is Cincinnati. With a slew of promising young arms, Dusty will have his hands full.  What?  Corey Patterson’s available?  Well, pick him up!  Quick question: What do Milwaukee’s starting pitching and “Paranormal Activity” have in common?  They both scare the bejesus out of me.  Houston has a long way to go: weak farm system and tons of enormous salary commitments to players past their prime.  It’d be great for Yinzers if the Pirates at least could get off to a good start before they settle into last place; if the Penguins fail to repeat and Big Ben goes to jail, the city might implode. 

The Man himself. With a full year of Matt Holliday, Big Al has a shot at 50 HR.

National League West
  1. Colorado Rockies
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. San Francisco Giants
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. San Diego Padres
Here’s a division that promises to be exciting for most of the season.  A few years ago, Arizona seemed primed with all of its young talent to take over the division for the next decade.  Then, Colorado made the World Series.  A Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain later, the Giants have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball, as well as a promising young catcher who may already be the 2nd best hitter on the team.  And in between all of this, the Godfather comes to LA and manages the Dodgers back to the playoffs with a combination of insane veterans and untested youngsters.  And while everyone thought San Diego was left for dead, they fought their way out of the cellar last season with Adrian Gonzalez and a bunch of guys who were basically non-tendered in 2009.  So, what do we know?  The Rockies are probably the most well-rounded team.  The Dodgers have a better lineup but more questions about their starting pitching.  The Giants have the best pitching, but can’t score runs.  The Diamondbacks are a mess of inconsistent talent and consistent injury problems.  San Diego has too many Hairstons and an Eckstein on their team.  No thanks.
Anyway, here’s how the playoffs shake out:
LDS: Yankees over Angels, Red Sox over Twins
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NL: Phillies over Rockies, Cardinals over Braves
NLCS: Phillies over Cardinals
World Series: Red Sox over Phillies
Dramatic?  Not really.  Desired outcome?  No way — who wouldn’t want to see Bobby Cox go out on top or Mark McGwire stick it to the media?  But, the Phillies are an NL team with AL talent and the Red Sox have enough offense to make the playoffs.  There, defense and pitching are of the utmost importance and the Red Sox have more of that than just about anyone.  And whatever shortcomings they may have offensively, they’ve got the best front office in baseball to figure it out. 

Your 2010 American League Magnum Opus


A few years ago I was the Sports Editor for my graduate school’s student newspaper. Every spring, I’d write 5,000-word baseball previews that were not only full of premium analysis and expert opinion, but they were also hilarious (to me). I’m pretty sure nobody read them. In actuality, I was fortunate enough to have an Editor-in-Chief who gave me that much space because she either didn’t care or was really a huge baseball fan. I can’t remember which.

Anyway, I think it’s time to bring some of that well-reasoned analysis back. Maybe not in the form of a 5,000-word Magnum Opus, but seeing how Opening Day is almost upon us, it’s time to make some predictions. And really, could my predictions be any worse than John Kruk’s? I think not.

We’ll do the American League today and the National League later in the week.  And since there is no East Coast Bias at the Deuce of Davenport, we’re going left to right, baby (*denotes Wild Card winner):

American League West

  1. Los Angeles Angels
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland Athletics

Best nickname in baseball.

Coming into 2010, you can make an argument for each of these teams to win their respective divisions. Seattle’s big offseason was well-hyped, but I’m not buying it. Beyond Felix El Cartelua and an already-injured Cliff Lee, the rotation is not particularly impressive and neither is the offense. Sure, the defense will be stellar, but you have to score runs at some point. Relying on Milton Bradley to stay on the field and bat cleanup for 140 games is about as likely as a Pink Floyd reunion concert: don’t count on it. The Angels quietly added Hideki Matsui to compliment a nice offense and Joel Pineiro to round-out a rotation that pitched in the ALCS last year. This division is Anaheim’s to lose, with Texas and its young talent coming on strong. Oakland will be a pitching and defensive monster, but offensively, they will suffer the same fate as the M’s.

American League Central

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Cleveland Indians
  5. Kansas City Royals

They say in baseball that the heart of every great baseball team is up the middle. If that’s the case, then the 2010 Twins should be pretty good. Reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer will lead a team that has two very capable veterans at second (Orlando Hudson) and short (JJ Hardy) and an up and coming centerfielder (Denard Span) who had an on base percentage (OBP) of .392 in 2009. If that’s not enough, they’ve got another MVP at first (Justin Morneau) and a guy with 564 career homeruns at DH (Jim Thome). Throw-in a solid rotation with a revamped Francisco Liriano at the backend, and you’ve got a pretty formidable team. Yes, they lost their closer, but their bullpen should be good enough to get them to October. Note to Mr. Kenny Williams: Dodger cast-offs Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones does not represent an offensive upgrade. In Detroit, Dontrelle Willis is competing for a spot in the rotation. I love the D-Train, but I’m sorry, that’s not going to get it done. I wish Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro would put Grady Sizemore out of his misery and trade him. He deserves better. So does reigning Cy Young winner Zach Greinke, for that matter.

American League East

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox*
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

This is a division of behemoths, plain and simple. Toronto fought the good fight long enough but decided to finally give in and accept their fate. Baltimore, on the other hand, seems ready to step up and take their shot (or beating, depending on how you look at it). While the O’s are going to struggle to get to .500, this isn’t your typical 4th place team. That’s because the teams in front are three very well-oiled, albeit different, baseball machines.

A literal interpretation of this year's American League East division race.

Short on experience but long on talent, Tampa has the bullets to go after Boston and New York. This 2010 Rays team may be the best yet, but to me, their pitching isn’t quite there. For some reason, the much-ballyhooed Matt Garza hasn’t been able to put it together for an entire season. Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and David Price show tremendous promise, but the likelihood all three of these young guys are able to pitch consistently well is not great. If they falter, Jeremy Hellickson isn’t too far behind, but he’s even greener.

Setting the trend for pitching first, defense second, and everything else third, the Boston Red Sox will attempt to beat their rivals with an incredible cache of starting pitching talent and superior defense. The offense has potential in the rebirth of Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz as well as a pretty deep bench. But in the AL East, you gotta slug, and the Red Sox will struggle to do that.

New York is perhaps the polar opposite of the Rays and Red Sox: what you see is what you get. A relentless team of professional pitchers and hitters, they will score runs and pitch effectively. Whether or not they can do so for an entire season is the real question. Talent-wise, this team is better than last year’s World Champions, but the Core Four and their colleagues are almost all on the wrong side of 30. If any of those guys miss a significant amount of time, or begin to show their age, the Yankees will struggle.

So there it is in less than 1,000 words. Check back for the NL and playoff predictions later in the week.