It’s that time of the year again. With Opening Day four days away, it’s time for my annual predictions. Let’s get started.
1.) Toronto Blue Jays
2.) Tampa Bay Rays
3.) Baltimore Orioles
4.) Boston Red Sox
5.) New York Yankees
I’m on the Blue Jays bandwagon. I think that this year is a good opportunity for someone in the AL East to win it all as the Yankees are dealing with old age and injuries, as you can see I have them in last place.
1.) Detroit Tigers
2.) Kansas City Royals
3.) Chicago White Sox
4.) Cleveland Indians
5.) Minnesota Twins
I believe the Tigers may run away with this one. The Royals made a risky move in which they received James Shields from the Rays which is a main reason I have them climbing to second. But it’s a distant second.
1.) Los Angeles Angels
2.) Oakland Athletics
3,) Texas Rangers
4.) Seattle Mariners
5.) Houston Astros
In my mind this is easily the most competitive division in baseball.
1.) Washington Nationals
2.) Atlanta Braves
3.) Philadelphia Phillies
4.) New York Mets
5.) Miami Marlins
I see this as a two-team race, but don’t be surprised if the Phillies make a run at a division title.
1.) Cincinatti Reds
2.) St. Louis Cardinals
3.) Milwaukee Brewers
4.) Pittsburgh Pirates
5.) Chicago Cubs
Very underrated division. Every team except the Cubs could challenge for a division title. As I’ve said before; the Brewers are dangerous.
1.) San Fransisco Giants
2.) Los Angeles Dodgers
3.) Arizona Diamondbacks
4.) San Diego Padres
5.) Colorado Rockies
This is another toss-up. I believe it to be a two-team race, but the D-Backs are an interesting team that could surprise people.
AL Wild Cards:
1.) Oakland Athletics
2.) Texas Rangers
Both Wild Cards will come from the West because they get to play the Astros more. That simple.
NL Wild Cards:
1.) St. Louis Cardinals
2.) Atlanta Braves
The NL Central will be a close race and I think whichever team gets second will get the first Wild Card. Same for the East. The Braves added the Upton brothers and look to be in for a good year.
World Series Prediction:
The trophy goes to the Nation’s capital: Nationals over the Angels in six games.
- Allen Craig will hit 34 home runs and finish second in MVP voting.
- Adam Wainwright will throw a perfect game.
- Wainwright will win the Silver Slugger Award for pitchers.
- Shelby Miller will win Rookie of the Year
- The Pirates will finish over .500
- The Yankees will finish under .500
- Jon Jay will win a Gold Glove
- The Cardinals will acquire an elite shortstop
- Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras will be starters by the end of the year.
- The Astros will lose 108 games.
- Jason Motte will shave his beard. (Gasp!)
- Everybody in the Opening Day lineup will be on the DL at some point in the year.
- The Cubs will not win the World Series. (I had to.)
No preview post tomorrow. The “Most Likely To…” is too similar to this post and I have a busy day ahead of me. As always, thanks for reading.
5 more days.
Free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse has reached a three-year, $33 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. The deal was first reported by CBSSports’ Jon Heyman. Lohse is coming off a fantastic year with division-rival St. Louis Cardinals. In 2012 he went 16-3, with a 2.86 ERA.
His former team offered him a one-year $13.3 million contract in order to receive draft pick compensation. The Cardinal’s really had no interest in resigning him and Lohse immediately turned down the offer. Because he signed with the Brewers, the Cardinals will receive the 28th pick in the upcoming draft and Milwaukee will lose their 17th pick.
Suitors such as the Rangers and Dodgers seemed unwilling to pay Lohse like an ace. Although last season’s stats would suggest otherwise, he’s mainly put up the numbers of a second or third starter in his career. Other than ace Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers don’t have too much firepower from their starting rotation.
In my NL Central predictions article, I said that the Brewers are a much better team than given credit for. Obviously this signing can do nothing but help them as long as Lohse pitches like he did in 2011 and 2012, NOT like he did in 2010.
Let’s have a look at Lohse’s rising performance since 2010.
2010: 4-8, 6.55 ERA, 0.7 WAR (Mind you, he was absolutely plagued with injuries in 2010.)
2011: 14-8, 3.39 ERA, 2.5 WAR
2012: 16-3, 2.86 ERA, 3.6 WAR
That is a noticeable incline in his performance. I can tell you this; even in his down years, Lohse was always good to eat up some innings. In 2011, he was crucial in the Cardinals’ unpredictable run that ended in a World Series title. In 2012, the Cardinals probably don’t make the playoffs without Lohse. After the rotation suffered some injuries, he stepped up as the number one starter and came within one inning of throwing a no-hitter on Opening Night against the Marlins. He then went on to be one of the National League’s best pitchers in 2012.
Did the Brewers pay a little too much for Lohse? Maybe. Did they lose a draft pick in the process? Yes. But did they make their team better? They most certainly did. The Brewers are a much better team with him on board. If he can stay healthy, I see no reason why he can’t be a top of the line pitcher in 2012. He could even help the Brewers slide into a playoff spot.
I’ve heard it a lot over the last couple of days. “Dude we like, invented baseball, why don’t we dominate the World Baseball Classic?” Usually it’s tweeted or said in an arrogant “Merica!” attitude. I don’t mean to insult those people because it’s a fair question on the surface. Unfortunately for the United States, it doesn’t work that way.
Just because you’re the inventor of baseball doesn’t make you the best. The United States is a very talented team, no doubt, but so are a lot of other teams. Teams such as the Dominican Republic have arguably more talent than the U.S. with players such as Jose Reyes, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz heading a star-filled lineup.
Then you have teams like Italy and Japan. Both of these teams find themselves without a surplus of Major League players yet still find a way to win games.
A ton of American MLB players decide not to play in the World Baseball Classic because of the risk of injury or because they just don’t value it. That’s a selfish attitude to have.
Is the Classic an inconvenience to MLB teams? Yes.
Is there risk for injuries? Yes.
The bottom line is this: The sport is bigger than any one player, team, or even league. It’s nice to see the players on Team USA like Brandon Phillips really take pride in playing for their country. I can’t imagine too many cooler feelings than buttoning up a jersey with “USA” across the front and your name on the back.
The U.S. is missing players like Mike Trout, Derek Jeter, Mark Texeria, and others because of various reasons.
If you honestly think the U.S. should just be handed over the trophy just take a look at the rosters for other teams. There is some serious talent.
On Tuesday, the United States will take on Puerto Rico in their first second round game. I, like many others who have taken to the Classic, am very excited to watch this game. It’s a classic matchup between baseball powerhouses.
The teams are close to equal, but I’d give Team U.S.A. a slight edge. But what I won’t do is hand them the victory. Nothing is guaranteed and the playing field is equal. It should be fun.
You couldn’t write the script any better, especially for this St. Louis team. With their season on the line, the St. Louis Cardinals strolled into what became a very hostile Turner Field to take on the Atlanta Braves. As we all know, these two teams had a score to settle after the Brave’s historic collapse of the 2011 season and the Cardinals’ record breaking, eye-popping comeback to clinch the NL Wild Card.
But things have changed. Major League Baseball added an extra Wild Card this season and with it came a one game playoff to decide who would move on to the NLDS. Instead of an avalanche type ending to their season, the Braves held strong to go 94-68 on the year and easily clinched the first wild card spot. If things were as they were last season, the Cardinals (88-74) would have been at home instead of having a chance to advance. Unlinke the Braves, the Cardinals did not easily clinch their spot. In fact, it took them 161 games to finally surpass the grasp of the Los Angeles Dodgers. So while the Braves were revving up their engines for one exciting “play-in”, the Cards were fighting the entire time, keeping the intensity of their game while the Dodgers fell away at the last second.
And so, the stage was set. The Atlanta Braves would have a chance to seek revenge on the underdog Cardinals as the two teams squared off in an exciting thriller for one night only. There was talk all week about Chris Medlin, the starting pitcher who led the Braves to 23 consecutive victories that he started (10-1, 1.57 ERA). Cardinals fans everywhere were concerned that he would overmatch the Redbirds and the Braves would sweep right past them as their season ended. So, in return, the Cardinals threw Kyle Lohse over Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. Why would manager Mike Matheny be compelled to do this? Lohse earned this start, possibly the biggest of his career to date, by going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA during the regular season. This move sparked some controversy because of Lohse’s postseason history (0-4). However, as we saw, none of that matters in a one game playoff.
Both pitchers cruised through the first couple innings, each countering the next and appeared that this game would turn into a pitcher’s duel. But come on. This is baseball. You can never expect anything. Lohse ran into trouble with Dan Uggla on first and two men out with David Ross at the plate. With two strikes, Lohse got Ross swinging on a changeup that looked like strike three until time was called (while Lohse was in his motion) by the homeplate umpire. So instead of there being three outs, Ross launched the next pitch into the seats to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead. This was only the beginning of some controversial calls.
The Cards took the lead after an Allen Craig RBI double, a Yadier Molina RBI groundout and a David Freese sacrifice fly. Then, in the sixth, the Redbirds got some insurance on a Matt Holliday solo jack, giving them a 4-2 lead. But the fun didn’t stop there. After Freese reached on a throwing error by Dan Uggla, Adron Chambers came into to pinch run for him. With one out and the infield drawn in, Pete Kozma hit a groundball to Andrelton Simmons at short, which was subsequently overthrown to home and Kozma advanced to second. On the next play, Matt Carpenter hit a dribbler towards first base and beat the tag while Kozma scored all the way from second base, giving the Cards a 6-2 lead. But you had to expect the Braves would score again.After a Micheal Bourn groundout, the Braves trailed 6-3. That was all the Cards needed as they strode to victory.
However, during the bottom of the 8th, with runners on first and second, a popup was hit to shallow left field. Kozma ranged back and appeared to have a clean play but then turned in dismay to Matt Holliday as the ball dropped and the bases were loaded with one out for none other than slugging catcher Brian McCann. But…….
An infield fly was ruled by the officiating crew that will forever go down in history. Manager Fredi González argued the call and the game was put under protest, which was later denied. This drastically changed the course of the game, as there were now two outs with runners on first and second instead of one out with the bases loaded. Jason Motte struck out McCann and ended the Atlanta threat. What happened just before this should bring great shame to any any Braves’ fan. Fans chucked empty bottles and cans onto the field in anger as their best scoring chance was “stolen”. There was an 18 minute delay as the grounds’ crew picked up the field and listened to the deafening booes of disgruntled fans. Even after Dan Uggla grounded out to end the game, the fans retaliated by doing so again. Well I can tell you one thing.
Braves fans can throw as many things as they want when they watch the classy Redbirds crush their postseason hopes for the second straight season as they take on the Washington Nationals Sunday in the NLDS. No really, throw all you want.
This is a pivotal series for the Cardinals. They begin a three game homestand against the worst team in baseball with a one game lead for the second Wild Card spot. I don’t think a sweep of the Astros is too much to ask, although with how the team has recently performed, I am scared that the ‘Stros may give the Redbirds some competition.
Kyle Lohse will start Game 1 of the series tomorrow night against Fernando Abad (0-4, 5.08 ERA). Lohse is coming off a disappointing loss last week against the Padres, in which he pitched six strong innings, striking out eight and giving up just two earned runs. He certainly deserved a win, but his offense was unable to counter his performance with any support.
Anything less than two wins out of this series is just unacceptable. If we can’t beat the Astros at home, we are in some serious trouble. Not only that, but the Cards are in a position to gain some substansial ground in a tight race. They play the Astros six times in the next two weeks and the Chicago Cubs twice.
In my opinion, if the birds can’t come up with a 6-3 record over this span (which is still cutting it), you can ride them off. If they can’t capitalize on such a great oppurtunity to beat up on two awful teams, then we have no business taking on any serious contenders. It is times like these when a team really defines itself. If the Cards fail to win any of these games, then they will fall right off the table as their rivals pass them in their dust. If they can come up big, they will prove to all of their fans what true heroes they really are.It is crunch time, and there will be no better chance to win than now.
There is nothing quite like September baseball. Teams that fans thought may have been ridden off can suddenly come down the stretch and earn a playoff spot. Teams they thought would be “no doubters”, are suddenly losing traction and just holding on by their fingernails. Dedicated fans that have ridden out the entire season finally have something more intense and meaningful than the middle months.
And then you have the St. Louis Cardinals.
Much like last season, the Cardinals find themselves trailing the Reds in the NL Central and in the middle of an airtight Wild Card race. With the new Major League Baseball rules, each league will have one more wild card. If it wasn’t for this, they would be in a much less lenient spot. With only 1 game lead for the second Wild Card spot, the Cardinals need to find ways to win on their tour of the west. They play the Padres (68-75) tonight, and after two embarrassing losses to a sub .500 team, it is time for the Redbirds to make up some ground.
As the game progressed into the middle innings last night, I couldn’t help but notice a team that looked defeated. This team has been through a lot this season and it is finally starting to take its toll. Injury after injury, this team is losing depth from the Depth Chart at an alarming rate. Shortstop Rafael Furcal and first baseman Lance Berkman have ended their seasons (Berkman is considering retirement) and guys like Jake Westbrook, Carlos Beltran and recently Matt Carpenter and David Freese are playing through pain and suffering just to try and make a difference. There is something to be said about the injuries, but you can only make so many excuses.
There is no reason they should lose a series to the Padres, especially at a time like this. Errors, untimely hitting and just lack of confidence are swimming through the Cardinals’ clubhouse faster than Micheal Phelps. However, there is still time for recovery.
There are still 5 games left in this road trip, and if the Cards can salvage a 5-2 record, they come out with at least a 5 game lead over the Dodgers for the Wild Card spot, potentially six. If the Cardinals come out with more losses, this could be the trip that puts the nail in the coffin of their playoff hopes.
No Cardinals’ fan wants to see them be so close and have it slip their fingers with sub-par play. That could be devastating to a young team with a rookie manager. Instead, they would rather see some September magic that makes this month so exciting. They want to see something spectacular, like what the 2011 World Champions pulled off. But most of all, they want to see the Cardinals play the rest of their 40 games with a relentless passion that only a resilient team could pull off.
The 2012 non-waiver trade deadline had just as much, or even, more excitement than other deadlines in a long time. Normally elite franchises like the Phillies were selling and teams with a history of being bad like the Pirates were buyers.
The team making the most moves was the Houston Astros, who essentially put their whole team up for auction like some kind of yard sale. The team took a lot of criticism for all the trades they made, but there really wasn’t anything else they could’ve done. The team traded Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, and Wandy Rodriguez, among a bunch of others, all in one month. They weren’t going to fool anyone. Even the biggest of Astros fans will be quick to admit that their team is, well for the lack of a better world; horrible.
What they got back is a ton of prospects. Some analysts argue they got a mediocre return, others think it was a good return. Astros general manager, and former Cardinals’ executive, Jeff Luhnow said that they were looking to add minor league depth. This means they just wanted more young players in general, not just the elite prospects although the players they got back are no bums.
The Pirates made their first “big” trade in a long time when they acquired Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. They then traded for Travis Snider and Gabby Sanchez. This is team isn’t going “all-in”, but they’re definitely not selling, which became a Pittsburgh tradition in July. With the extra wild card this team has a real chance to make the playoffs and boy does that city deserve it.
The Dodgers, with their new ownership, made their fair share of trades. They acquired Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League, and Shane Victorino in separate trades. The team was linked numerous times to Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, but reports indicated that their refusal to give up top prospect Zach Lee probably broke the deal.
Just a few miles from Chavez Ravine in LA, the Angels pulled off arguably the biggest blockbuster by acquiring Zach Grienke from the Brewers in exchange for their top-rated prospect among others. The Angels now have one of the better rotations (if not THE best) in baseball. With Grienke, Weaver, Haren, Wilson, and Santana, this team will be a force to be reckoned with come October.
The Phillies waited as long as possible to begin dealing. Finally, they made the tough decision to sell by trading away Shane Victorino (Dodgers) and (Hunter Pence). They’re no rebuilding project though and are re-tooling for 2013.
Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson, and Geovany Soto were among those traded from the Cubs. The Rangers made a big move in acquiring Dempster to help their beaten-up rotation. Soto will again be teammates with Dempster, only this time they’ll both be on the Rangers. The Braves needed a starter after Dempster denied a trade there and they could also use a right-handed bat off the bench. They got them both in one trade as Maholm and Johnson were shipped to Atlanta.
Of course teams can still make trades, but for now the deadline drama is over and the news returns to the actual games.
With the addition of an extra wild card team, the MLB trade market has changed. Fewer sellers, more buyers, and a whole lot of neutral teams shape the market.
There’s really not that many teams that will be full-on sellers at the deadline. Teams like the Astros, Cubs, and Twins are among the few that will be willing to give up major league talent for up-and-coming prospects.
Teams that in the past have been sellers for a while, are now considering being buyers. The Oakland Athletics come into today tied for an AL Wildcard lead. A team that for the past couple of years have been trading away big-time players for prospects, but this year may be different. Now, it’s doubtful the Athletics end up going all-in this year and giving up half of their minor league system, but trading one or two for a major league player that can help them now isn’t a bad idea.
Teams in cities like Oakland and Baltimore, among others have fans craving playoff baseball. The fan base would riot if the team acted as a seller even when there is just a glimpse of hope for a playoff berth. I would be angry too.
This is why these teams will likely take on the “neutral” persona. Some clubs there only chance may be the Wild Card. These teams will have to be wise with their moves and very cautious. They can’t give up too much just for the hope of one more game.
Just imaging if one of these teams gave up three of their top prospects for an elite major league player and then they go on to lose that one game wild card play-in. Basically, what they did was sacrifice the future top talent for one game. One game, that they ended up losing.
Is the Wild Card game really even a part of the playoffs? Technically, yes, but realistically, no.
The Cardinals situation is a bit more complex. First off, this is not a team designed to be sellers. It will be a long time before the club even considers selling. That would go against the aggressive, win-now attitude of the ownership.
After winning a world championship last year, the team bought time. Of course Cardinal fans want to win the prize every year, but realistically the best fans in baseball realize that’s highly unlikely. So there’s really not too much pressure on GM John Mozeliak to go all-in and the fans understand.
This year’s trade deadline will be interesting to watch unfold. The changes coming into 2012 will make it fun to watch this play out.
(editors note: This is a guest post by my good friend, we’ll just call him “Goggles”)
Following the verdict on the Roger Clemens trial, it made me think about how easy it is for players to get away with taking steroids in baseball. I know Clemens was not on trial for taking steroids, but instead for lying to a federal court about taking them. Clemens was proved “not guilty” on this matter. For me, this is more symbolic than anything.
Similarity To McGwire
In 2005, current Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire testified about his use of performance enhancing supplements. He gave very vague answers to questions, repeatedly saying, “I am not here to talk about the past.” McGwire was let off the hook, but only after he made a fool of himself and ruined his reputation.
However, in the 2009 offseason, McGwire was approached about a coaching job on his former teams’ staff. There was still a dark, ominous cloud hanging over his head about the past. Nobody was certain that he took steroids, but following his testimony, they were pretty sure. There was only one thing left to do. He had to come clean. In an interview, he let the whole world know the real truth. McGwire acknowledged using them during the 1989-1990 offseason and during his historic run in 1998.
Moving Out of the Steroid Era?
“Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era,” McGwire said. Most professional baseball players today could probably say the same thing. Although most players probably do not take steroids, they are still participating in games where they could have an unfair disadvantage to another player. Performance enhancing drugs are so easily accessible today, and with the competition players have to face, it is hard to refuse life on Easy Street. There have been numerous cases in recent years that show how players, although punished, still are able to gain recognition by taking steroids.
In 2001, Barry Bonds broke McGwire’s single-season home run record with 73 big flies. Six years later in 2007, he also broke the Major League Baseball home run record with 762 homers. After that season, he retired with nothing more to prove… but the truth.
Bonds was put on trial on March 21, 2011 for lying to a congressional court about “knowingly” taking steroids. On April 13, 2011, he was convicted on an obstruction of justice charge.
Bonds will still be recognized for all of his superhuman feats, even though there is evidence that he cheated and lied. Major League Baseball should put an asterisk by every homer he hit that year and by his name in the record books to signify his cheating. If someone can cheat and be honored, something is horribly wrong.
Players like Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and David Ortiz are all superstars, or were at one point and have admitted using contraband substances. However, they were not placed in court and on trial. They got off with suspensions and then came back succeeded with their careers (minus Ramirez). Ryan Braun is a case of another guy who only got off with a 50 game suspension following his 2011 MVP run which was eventually overturned. Players such as these should have to sit in court for the same reasons McGwire and Bonds had to. They are all guilty of the same offense…. cheating.
I believe baseball is slowly moving out the steroid era. However, it seems like every time there is progress, another player comes out or is caught using them. Hopefully, players will one day realize that if they put in the same effort they have all of their lives, they wouldn’t need to get an “extra edge”. Maybe one day baseball can become as clean as it once was, and the game will once again be even and level, where the hardest worker wins and not the sneakiest cheater.