An Appreciation of Television in 2014

A few months back, I had read a great post on the state of TV, as it was at the end of the 2013 calendar year. That post, by Grantland writer Andy Greenwald, touched on many important topics of where we are in this era of television. Has there been a significant drop off or is television as good as ever?

This Golden Era of Television includes heavyweights such as Entourage, The Sopranos and The Wire. It “ended” with that era of television a few years back, and we have been stuck in what seems to be a rut creativity wise.  Shows seem to be recycling the same old nonsense, becoming as predictable as ever.

But as the calendar year turned over to 2014, things seemed to change. The premiere of True Detective on HBO brought a gritty, dark show into the fold as well as the premiere of Season 2 of House of Cards on Netflix. Are we moving towards a new era of television? With platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon putting out its own original content, we could very well see more iterations like House of Cards, but at the same time, we can be subject to a few sleepers such as Derek featuring comedian Ricky Gervais.

We live in a world now, littered with many different devices in which we can watch any show, at any time, in any location. But the problem with that, is we have so much access to a variety of shows that it seems like things are diluted. Sometimes, getting rid of exclusivity can be a bad thing. Netflix has seemed to get right so far with their original programming. Shows such as Hemlock Grove, Orange is the New Black and picking up Arrested Development for its 4th season are a few examples moving forward. But can they keep up this steam? It seems as if Hulu and Amazon Prime have their own original content, but do they have that mainstream appeal that some of the Netflix shows have? Is it a publicity issue? Is it because the shows just aren’t that good? Only time will tell.

As far as networks like HBO and Showtime, it seems like they may have just been stuck in a rut. True Detective premiered this past January and seems to be the most hyped show on their network anyone has talked about since Game of Thrones premiered 3 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good shows on HBO, but nothing that has really left you hanging week by week. Boardwalk Empire and True Blood are good, but something about them is lacking. Maybe it has to do with the old notion of week by week releases of episodes, something that Netflix has definitely cut out. But I really think it just has to do with the fact that these shows are what baseball players call “innings-eaters.” Plus, when was the last time a television had a scene like the one below.

Don’t get me wrong, I am appreciating the direction that the so called Television Entertainment part of our lives is going, but there is still work to do. I watched 2 long standing shows end last year in Dexter and Breaking Bad respectively, but only Breaking Bad seemed to have the balls to get it right (there were reports that Showtime would not let the writers kill off Dexter). There are some other heavyweights out there, Mad Men and The Walking Dead come to mind, but these are at the end of their proverbial runs at the top. After these end, what will the state of television be in? It’s already tough for network television programs to compete with the likes of Netflix, who release the whole season at once, but the classic television format isn’t going anywhere. If they can continue to churn out juggernauts such as True Detective, than we know that network television, whether premium or basic, is not going anywhere for the time being.

42 in 2013

robinson-day

Yesterday, all of Major League Baseball played with a heavy heart, celebrating the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Unfortunately, on the 66th anniversary of this historic day, an unfortunate tragedy struck in Boston during the Boston Marathon. The events that transpired in Boston, coupled with what the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, had the sports world coming together as a whole.

Jackie Robinson Day was established by Major League Baseball to commemorate the day Jackie Robinson made his Major League Debut back in 1947. It ended 80 years of baseball segregation, and he became the first black player to break the color barrier. Before #42 was worn widespread by all of Major League Baseball (more of that later) many African-American players in the past chose to wear it on Jackie Robinson Day, to pay their respects to a player they viewed as their inspiration for playing baseball. Ken Griffey Jr was one of the first players to wear 42 to honor the late Jackie Robinson back in 1997.

An early glimpse of Griffey Jr. wearing 42 to honor Jackie Robinson

An early glimpse of Griffey Jr. wearing 42 to honor Jackie Robinson back on April 15, 1997.

Last friday, the movie titled “42” came out, the first major studio picture on the Jackie Robinson story. While I have not seen the movie just yet, it is amazing that they finally came out with a movie about this his inspirational struggle. The story should have been put on the big screen a while ago but nonetheless, I am excited to see it. Trailer below.

The number 42 was retired by all of Major League Baseball back in 1997, the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Commissioner Bud Selig had ordered that no future players would be able to wear the number 42., although players who were already wearing #42 could continue to wear the number. The last player who wears #42, Mariano Rivera, will be retiring at the end of this season and the number will only be worn on this holiday in MLB.

Mariano Rivera is the last Major Leaguer to wear #42

Mariano Rivera is the last Major Leaguer to wear #42

Jackie Robinson’s impact on the sport is still being felt to this day. He inspired many through his courage and perseverance. Bud Selig said it best, “I have often stated that baseball’s proudest moment and its most powerful social statement came on April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson first set foot on a Major League Baseball field. On that day, Jackie brought down the color barrier and ushered in the era in which baseball became the true national pastime.”

Not only did he help with the integration of baseball, but it helped the country deal with race as a whole. While his impact was not truly felt for 50 years, the whole world has changed because of the courage that Jackie Robinson showed us. Without him, many of us, including myself would not have had the chance to play the sport of baseball. We salute you Jackie, and thank you for everything you sacrificed for us.

Jackie Robinson Day la-sp-0416-dodgers-notes-20130416-001 Rays Red Sox Baseball

Opening Week of baseball

Wow, what a first week it was in Major League Baseball.

The Oakland A’s dropped the first two games to the Seattle Mariners this past week, but then went on a tear. Of course facing Felix Hernandez on opening day one of the toughest tasks out there, but that tough task seemed to challenge and motivate the Athletics the rest of the week. They dropped the second game of the series, and haven’t lost since, scoring 6+ runs every game. But let’s not forget about the pitching. Dan Straily was impressive in his first start of 2013 before he was sent down to the minors. His replacement Bartolo Colon also pitched well in his first start of 2013. Will this rotation be better than last seasons? I sure hope so and with a start like this, I’m ready for what this season has in store!

 

Here are a few notes from around the league from the last week in case you missed it…

***

In his first start of 2013, Yu Darvish came within 1 out of the 24th perfect game in Major League history. 1 out! So unfortunate. Especially considering they were playing the lowly Astros, who he made look silly the whole game, until the very last batter. Ron Washington took Darvish out after he gave up the 1st hit of the game, but was it necessary. I know it seems like a little much let your starter throw 100+ pitches early in April, but the guy was working on a career game and they let him get that far. So why not just let him finish what he started?

***

I know many fans are just getting used to baseball season being back, but this is ridiculous..

When are people going to learn that when you sit near the field or fences, you should BE PREPARED for a ball hit your way. Guys all over the country are starting to make a habit out of bailing out of the way on balls hit towards them, so their girlfriends or lady friends get hit by the ball. Tsk Tsk Tsk.

***

In even more hilarious news, Bob Costas of all people, rapped on television last night. Don’t believe me, check out the video below.

This all was stemming from Robinson Cano signing with Jay-Z’s new sports management company. They had asked Bob Costas who his favorite rapper was, and he referenced Ludacris because he was name dropped on the MC’s 2003 track, “Hip-Hop Quotables.” The video is hilarious, not to mention Bob Costas spitting a few bars, but the best part by far is at the end, when Costas says “If I stepped off a curb and got hit by a bus, I’ve lived a full life.” Here’s the lyric below in case you missed it in the video. “Now I roll up torpedoes, get blunted with rastas/ For a hefty fee I’m on your record like Bob Costas.”

***

Manny Being Manny. So as you may have heard, Manny Ramirez is now playing in Taiwan, in the Chinese Professional Baseball league. Ramirez had yet to go deep after a week of playing in this league, until this moment…

As you can see, they love Ramirez over in Taiwan. The broadcasters absolutely lose their religion during the homerun. The best part, is when the broadcasters stop speaking in their native language and start speaking English, saying words like “Two-Run Homerun” and “See You Later!” We do miss Manny here in the states, but I can honestly say that if more of these videos surface, I will be a happy man this season. Baseball needs Manny Ramirez, in whatever capacity we can get him.

***

Saturday Night, the Upton’s welcomed themselves to Atlanta in grand fashion. Down 5-4 in the 9th, B.J Upton stepped up to the plate against Carlos Marmol, and tied the game with a bomb to deep center field. Then as not to be outdone by his younger brother, Justin came up to the plate with hopes to win the game…

What a moment for these two. First season playing in Atlanta, together and during their first homestand they make history. The Upton’s became the first brothers in baseball history to tie and then subsequently win the game in the 9th inning or later. Wow, this could be a scary good team with the addition of the Super Upton Brothers. Welcome to Atlanta!

***

Now that the season is in full swing, it is time to get excited. If this season is anything like this first week, it will be entertaining to watch all through 162 games, especially with interleague play everyday.

Jimmy V 20 Years Later

On the eve of the Final Four we look back 30 years, at the improbable cinderella run that the North Carolina State Wolfpack went on, en route to the national title. In case you have never seen it, or need a refresher, check the video after the jump.

This team, was one of the most inspirational teams of all time. Time after time, they were written off during the season. Many times they could have given up, but somehow, someway they persevered and fought through. They were down countless times during the tournament, only to comeback and prevail. During the National Championship, when they faced Houston’s “Phi Slamma Jama” team which included future Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, they were down 7 and eventually came back to win with a buzzer beater slam dunk. After the play, Valvano was in disbelief, running around the court just trying to find someone to hug.

While this team may be the inspiration for recent cinderella stories, this team found its inspiration from their coach Jim Valvano. He always told his team to fight, and never give up and 10 years later that message was evident.  During his bout with cancer, he inspired people all over the country, culminating with his speech at the 1993 ESPY’s. During this event, Valvano was being honored with the Arthur Ashe award for courage, as he was in the middle of a 10 month battle with cancer. Sadly Valvano passed away less than 8 weeks after his speech, but luckily there is video.

His words will live on, giving anyone who is down hope for and inspiration through the tough times.

National League Preview

images

Just like with the American League earlier this week, here is a team by team preview for the 15 National League teams. The NL has won the last 3 All-Star games and then World Series along with that. Dominance? Maybe a little bit. But a new year is upon us.

Divisional Previews below, along with team capsules and projected order of finish.

*- denotes projected divisional winner

#-denotes projected wild-card winners

NL West (projected order of finish)

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers*
  2. San Francisco Giants#
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers 2nd Place 86-76

'I See You' guys spent a lot on money on talent, will it pay off?

‘I See You’ guys spent a lot on money on talent, will it pay off?

I know what you’re thinking, why would I pick this potential train wreck to win the division? Hanley Ramirez is going to miss 8 weeks with a wrist injury, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford are coming off a injuries that made them miss significant time last season, and Adrian Gonzalez might not be the same player he was before going to Boston. On the upside, the Dodgers have the best young left-hander in the game with Clayton Kershaw and a deep rotation, highlighted by Zach Grienke and Korean import Ryu Hun-Jin. If the players in question can return to form, then they should be fine, but questions still arise on whether this team is good or just overpaid. But if they get it together, they are hands down the scariest team in the playoffs. Running out Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke in a short series can propel the Dodgers to the World Series.

San Francisco Giants 1st Place 94-68, Won World Series

Hate seeing the Giants win? Too bad, they are too talented to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Hate seeing the Giants win? Too bad, they are too talented to be going anywhere anytime soon.

So the Giants won the World Series again. Somebody please awaken me from this nightmare. Okay, enough bashing of the Giants, because this team is actually really good. Not because they won the World Series 2 of the last 3 years, which by the way is pretty impressive considering they didn’t win 1 in the 1st 50 years since moving from New York. But all things considered, the Giants have a solid squad and with a rotation that features Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, they will be fine. Their lineup may not have the punch that the Dodgers have, but this lineup possesses 2 things that the Dodgers do not have. They are the defending champs, and they also have the reigning National League MVP. If they don’t win the division, they will capture the Wild-Card and be a force in the playoffs. Watch out. On a surprise note, pitcher Tim Lincecum did the unspeakable this offseason, and cut his hair! Maybe in attempts to shed the demons that haunted his season last year, which happened to be his worst since being called up. Maybe it was the drastic change in diet before the season, ever thought of that?

Arizona Diamondbacks 3rd Place 81-81

Life after Justin Upton starts now

Life after Justin Upton starts now

The Diamondbacks regressed last season. After 2011’s division title, they struggled in close games last season, to the tune of a 15-27 record in one-run games. A .236 batting average after the 7th inning didn’t help things at all. So they traded Justin Upton, potentially a terrible move, and brought in some veteran talent to help. They revamped the bullpen, but in some potentially questional moves, added the ridiculous Heath Bell contract and picked up Matt Reynolds. But can this team compete in the near future? Probably not, considering they traded away Trevor Bauer as well but who knows. The NL West has been a very unpredictable division the last 8 years with every team making a run at the division. The odds say they have no chance, but didn’t we all say that 2 years ago?

San Diego Padres 4th Place 76-86

When will this beautiful stadium host another playoff game?

When will this beautiful stadium host another playoff game?

The Padres are in Limbo. Their best player suffered a thumb injury during spring training, and will be out the first month of the season. They possess a bonafide Rookie of the Year candidate in Jedd Gyorko, but the real question is if he can put up his Triple-A numbers over the course of a full season. They also have a stacked farm system due to the many trades they have made the last few years, but the majority of that talent is in the low levels of the minors.Their rotation is awful, all while still pitching in Petco park. Reports say they will be one of the worst, but pitching in Petco park might just save them. Unfortunately it won’t keep them out of the bottom of the division.

Colorado Rockies 5th Place 64-98

The key for the Rockies in 2013, will be keeping these two on the field and healthy

The key for the Rockies in 2013, will be keeping these two on the field and healthy

So unfortunate to be a Rockies fan. Just 6 years ago, they made their first trip to the World Series in franchise history with a young nucleus. But since, years of mediocrity and injuries has kept this team at the bottom of the NL West. This team can hit, when healthy, and not because they play in Coors Field. Anchored by Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, this lineup has some upside and could compete in a less competitive division, but unfortunately not the case. Dexter Fowler quietly is becoming one of the better, young center fielders in the game, but that’s where the positives stop. This team’s pitching is atrocious. After trading Ubaldo Jimenez, which was a smart move at the time, they have lacked a true ace and will continue to do so unless they can find a pitcher who can thrive in that ballpark. They may be celebrating the teams 20th anniversary in Denver, but it should be a long long season for the Rockies.

NL Central (projected order of finish)

  1. Cincinnati Reds*
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds 1st Place 97-65, Lost NLDS to San Francisco Giants

Look for the Reds to celebrate again in 2013

Look for the Reds to celebrate again in 2013

Joey Votto missed 1/3 of the season last year, and the Red still coasted to the NL Central crown. Weak division? Probably the case, especially considering the Reds blew a 2-0 lead in the NLDS to the eventual World Champion Giants. In the offseason, the Reds flipped Drew Stubbs for Shin-Soo Choo in hopes that Choo can be a spark plug at the top of the lineup. The huge downside, he is probably the worst defensive CF in baseball and down the line could cost them a few games, even with his offensive superiority over the players he replaces. But Billy Hamilton, fresh off his record setting 151 stolen bases in the minors last season, is right around the corner. If he can parlay himself into a midseason call-up, he could shore up the outfield defense and move Choo to one of the corner spots, especially since Ryan Ludwick will miss significant time. The Reds pitching staff isn’t bad, just not what you would expect from a team that won 97 games last season. I expect Mat Latos to continue to evolve into the stud he is on the mound, but will it be enough to overlook the struggles of the back end of the rotation? We will see. But don’t forget, this team has the Cuban Missile aka Aroldis Chapman still closing games. As long as he isn’t messing around this season, the Reds should coast to another division title.

St. Louis Cardinals 2nd Place 88-74, Lost NLCS to San Francisco Giants

The Cardiac Cards are ready to make another run, but do they have more postseason magic in them?

The Cardiac Cards are ready to make another run, but do they have more postseason magic in them?

Year one of life without Albert Pujols was not as bad as they might have envisioned. The Cardinals captured the 2nd Wild-Card, and then beat the Braves in the Wild-Card game, with some controversy. While the Cardinals were able to foil the Braves playoff aspirations once again, they had trouble with the Giants in the NLCS, blowing a 3-1 lead in the Series to lose in 7 games. The Cardinals have a potent lineup, but their are still questions that arise. Can Carlos Beltran play another full season at a high level? Can the middle infield produce just enough pop to keep the Cardinals in contention? How will Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia’s arm’s hold up? These questions need to be answered if the Cardinals want to return to the postseason. But this team is scrappy and can has the magic to put together late runs. Just ask the 2012 Texas Rangers and the 2013 Washington Nationals.

Pittsburgh Pirates 4th Place 79-83

Andrew McCutchen has made the leap to Superstar, will this be the year they make the playoffs?

Andrew McCutchen has made the leap to Superstar, will this be the year they make the playoffs?

Man the Pirates were some story last season, until they fell apart. But you think Manager Clint Hurdle is worried? Not at all. This team is going to learn from last season and move forward. The offense for this team broke out last year. McCutchen developed into a bonafide MVP candidate, Pedro Alvarez hit 30 bombs, and and 2nd Baseman Neil Walker had a solid season. But the offense ranked 26th last season, partly to blame for the collapse in the 2nd half. Adding Russell Martin to the fold should help with depth and give this team some much needed leadership. The pitching staff however is the WIld-Card. A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, both acquired in the last 12 months, both pitched well their first season with the Pirates, and if they can help keep the Pirates afloat until Gerrit Cole is called up, they might, just might challenge the Cardinals for 2nd place. But everything could easily fall apart again, and it could be a long season in Steel City.

Milwaukee Brewers 3rd Place 83-79

Brewers are talented offensively, but can the pitching keep up?

Brewers are talented offensively, but can the pitching keep up?

The Brewers are a hard team to diagnose. A few years ago they were a playoff team, a few wins away from the World Series, then last year without Prince Fielder, they posted an under the radar 83 win season. Ryan Braun has become the leader of this team, even if his name keeps swirling in and out of the headlines with rumors about Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). If he can avoid suspension, Carlos Gomez can build off his breakout season and the Brewers can stay afloat until Corey Hart returns then they can compete. But all are big IF’s and the pitching is this team’s achilles heel. But they do have a legitamite number 1 in Yiovanni Gallardo and the addition of Kyle Lohse will help, but can they keep up with the 6th best offense in the league? Time will tell.

Chicago Cubs 5th Place 61-101

Another year, more misery for the Cubbies.

Another year, more misery for the Cubbies.

Now that the Houston Astros moved to the American League, the Cubs are now the whipping boys of the NL Central. Wait, they lost 100 games last year, they already were the whipping boys of the division. But let’s get real, the Cubs are in the middle of a major rebuilding phase. They will be getting another year of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, young stars they hope can lead the Cubs to the playoffs in the near future. When you look at the pitching staff, they actually are not terrible. Led by Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson, these guys could both reach double digits in wins, and when Matt Garza comes back from injury they could have a nice threesome. But that’s a huge if that those guys can all get double digits, and from the looks of it, the friendly confines won’t be too friendly to the home team this season, even if Anthony Rizzo has a breakout season.

NL East  (projected order of finish)

  1. Washington Nationals*
  2. Atlanta Braves#
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. New York Mets
  5. Miami Marlins

Washington Nationals: 1st Place 98-64, Lost NLDS to St. Louis Cardinals (2013: 1st)

The Nationals are primed for a deep run in the playoffs

The Nationals are primed for a deep run in the playoffs

Last year, the Washington Nationals made huge strides forward and became a bonafide juggernaut. Unfortunately for them, they were beaten in the 1st round when they could not get the final 3 outs in the 9th inning at home. But adding Soriano to the fold separates them from the pack. The Nationals should repeat as division champs. But the real question is, can they get it done in the postseason? Last season’s collapse in game 5 at home was tough to watch. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are the future of this franchise, and look for those two to lead the Nats to the Fall Classic.

Atlanta Braves: 2nd Place 94-68, Lost Wild-Card to St. Louis Cardinals

The Braves are talented no doubt, but also possess the best meme of the year.

The Braves are talented no doubt, but also possess the best meme of the year.

Behind them, the Braves should challenge them for the division crown. Adding the Upton brothers, Bossman Junior and Justin, should add a significant punch to an already potent lineup. With hopes that their young guns can have breakout seasons, the Braves are all in. It may prove to be too tough for them to overcome the Nationals, but the Braves should compete for the Wild-Card. They have talent up and down the lineup, starting with youngster Andrelton Simmons. After his coming out party in the World Baseball Classic, he is ready to make a splash on the MLB scene.

Philadelphia Phillies: 3rd Place 81-81

Even the local paper can see the writing on the wall

Even the local paper can see the writing on the wall

Has the window of hope closed on this Phillies team? Their stars are all on the wrong side of 30, and dealing with injury concerns. The biggest concern of them all is Roy Halladay, whose velocity has now dipped below 90mph. The Phillies need him to get back to full strength and then some if they are going to compete for the Wild-Card this year. The division is definitely out of reach for this team, but if players such as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley can play more than half the season at a somewhat all-star level, the Phillies just might sneak into the second Wild-Card.

New York Mets: 4th Place 74-88

Can the Mets win this season? It will all depend on the offense now that Johan is out for the season

Can the Mets win this season? It will all depend on the offense now that Johan is out for the season

It must be rough to be a Mets fan, and in no way am I intentionally trying to bash them. Last season, R.A. Dickey went from journeyman to 20 game winner and eventually won the CY Young, and then was subsequently traded in the offseason. Johan Santana threw the 1st No-Hitter in New York Mets history back in June, and has had shoulder soreness since, resulting in being shut down during spring training and undergoing season ending shoulder surgery. Cursed? Sure hope not for their sake. In another bit of unfortunate news, during the World Baseball Classic David Wright was showing Mets fans signs that he was ready to have a breakout season by leading the USA through the first round of the tournament. That is until he suffered an abdominal strain and was shut down until this past weekend. Luckily, Wright was able to play Opening Day and hopefully he can have that monster season. The Mets will meddle somewhere around the 70-75 win plateau this season, maybe even worse, but the arrival of Zach Wheeler at some point this season should help. Along with the fact that Citi Field will be hosting the All-Star Game.

Miami Marlins: 5th Place 69-93

No Words. Other than this is HILARIOUS!

No Words. Other than this is HILARIOUS!

Yes, we have seen this before, and it is unfortunate. It’s crazy that 12 months ago, we were all talking about the possibility of the Marlins competing for a World Series berth, now I can barely name 3 guys on the roster. New manager, all new roster, but none of the flair and pizzazz of last seasons bunch. Giancarlo Stanton is still there (for now), but we have to wonder if the Marlins are going to flip him if the right deal comes around. Juan Pierre is dangerous as always. WAIT.  This isn’t 2003, its 2013. Juan Pierre is still in baseball? But all jokes aside, its going to be a long season for the Marlins. Jefferey Loria has gone from somewhat beloved, keyword being somewhat, to most hated man in Florida.

 

Playoffs

In case you forgot about my American League picks..

Wild-Card:

Toronto Blue Jays over Los Angeles Angels

Division Series:

Tampa Bay Rays over Toronto Blue Jays

Oakland Athletics over Detroit Tigers

League Championship Series:

Tampa Bay Rays over Oakland Athletics

National League

Wild-Card:

San Francisco Giants over Atlanta Braves

Division Series:

Washington Nationals over San Francisco Giants

Los Angeles Dodgers over Cincinnati Reds

League Championship Series:

Washington Nationals over Los Angeles Dodgers

 

World Series

Washington Nationals over Tampa Bay Rays

 

Finally the World Series we have wanted to see. The young talent in baseball takes over and has its coming out party. We see Evan Longoria face off against Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and the rest of the talented Nationals. Unfortunately for them, the Nationals have very few holes and should win the series in 6. Seems a little outlandish, but how many people seriously thought that the Giants would win the World Series last year?

 

American League Preview

American-League

Another exciting MLB season is upon us! First, I will preview the American League aka the Junior Circuit before finishing up with my National League preview tomorrow.

Divisional Previews below, along with team capsules and projected order of finish.

*- denotes projected divisional winner

#-denotes projected wild-card winners

AL West Projected Finish

  1. Oakland Athletics*
  2. Los Angeles Angels#
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros

Oakland Athletics: (2012 Record) 94-68, 1st Place, Lost ALDS to Detroit Tigers

OaklandAthletics-BradMangin-1

2012’s most exciting story looks to build on the success of last season

There is so much I can say about last season. The A’s overachieved plain and simple. It was the most perfect scenario that they could have envisioned. They led baseball with 14 walk-off wins (15 including the Postseason), brought excitement back to the East Bay, and showed everybody once again that Billy Beane is the best GM in baseball. Now the biggest question is can they repeat? They were expected to finish 3rd last season, and many will pick them to finish there again, but I think they can repeat because of their pitching. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and Brett Anderson will lead a young talented (and deep) rotation, which should build on its MLB record 54 wins by rookies from last season. The A’s also have a bullpen, which may lack the household names that some other franchises possess, but they still are solid and don’t blow many leads. While the offense may not be the scariest in the league, it is scrappy and has some power. Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick will all have another full season to build on and should anchor down this lineup which will score enough runs to win ball games.

I will say this, last season was one of the greatest I have ever seen as an A’s fan (not my video unfortunately), and THIS will never get old.

Los Angeles Angels: (2012 Record) 89-73, 3rd Place

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo Day

Murderer’s Row? No, but these guys are scary good!

Wait. I know what you are thinking already. How could I pick the Angels to finish in 2nd place in this division? Ladies and Gentleman, pitching wins championships, as we have seen with the Giants 2 out of the last 3 seasons. Good pitching trumps good hitting every time. Remember, the Angels were very talented last year offensively and have a bona-fide ace in Jered Weaver, but after that it is pretty suspect. CJ Wilson is paid to be a #2 starter, but pitches more like a #4 starter. He had his highest HR total last year since moving to the starting rotation, and will need a serious bounce back season or else the Angels could be in trouble. The back end of the rotation is this teams Achilles heel and will likely be their downfall in the end. The Angels will make the playoffs, but in a short series they can’t matchup with the likes of the Rays, Blue Jays, Tigers or even the A’s. Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Albert Pujols will supply a ton of offense, but this season will not end the way they hope.

Texas Rangers: (2012 Record) 93-69, 2nd Place, Lost Wild-Card to Baltimore Orioles

mlb_u_rangers11_600

The Rangers season fell apart late last year, can they bounce back this year?

The Rangers are in a free fall. Interesting I would say this about a team who has been to the playoffs the last 3 years, twice reaching the fall classic, but its happening. After getting swept by Oakland the last 3 games of the season, they lost the Wild-Card game to the Baltimore Orioles and were sent home early. To make matters worse, their superstar Josh Hamilton signs with the rival Angels in the offseason and the rest is history. While the lineup is still fairly potent, it will considerably fall off without Hamilton’s presence. Lance Berkman will attempt to replace Hamilton’s in the lineup, but can the Rangers expect him to play 150 games at his age, even if he is relegated to DH duties all season? But the biggest loss will be losing clubhouse leadership. With Hamilton gone, along with Michael Young and Mike Napoli, the Rangers will need to find a new vocal leader in the clubhouse. The pitching staff is pretty solid still, headed by Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison. But trio of pitchers need to pitch more like they did in the first half (where they occupied 1st place), than late in the 2nd half (when they squandered a 5 game division lead with 9 games remaining).

Seattle Mariners: (2012 Record) 75-87, 4th Place

felixs-no-no

King Felix is ready to be a superstar? Is MLB ready?

Yay for Seattle! No more days of being the division’s whipping boys. Encouraging that they added Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez to the lineup. Even more encouraging was the way Michael Saunders played in the WBC (8/11, 3 Doubles, Home Run, 7 RBI in pool play, earning MVP honors). Did I mention they are moving the fences in at Safeco Field as well? This team will once again be competitive, but because they play in the most competitive division in baseball, they will have to settle for the distinction of the best 4th place team in baseball. Felix Hernandez is back for the Mariners, and should be a bright spot on this roster once again, but you have to wonder what kind of stats he could put up on a contender.

Houston Astros: (2012 Record) 55-107, 6th Place (NL Central)

New Uniforms, New Division, Unfortunately same results

New Uniforms, New Division, Unfortunately same results

Still trying to process this move. I knew it was a long time coming, but it will be weird to see them play in the American League. Bottom line on this team, they will lose 100+ games. An alarming statistic I read the other day, the Astros collective payroll is less than Alex Rodriguez will make this whole year. Can’t decide if that is more on how bad the Astros are, the fact that A-Rod makes too much, or if both are equally bad. I’m sticking with the latter. Bold prediction, more losses by the All-Star break than the Nationals will have all season. Interesting read from the guys at Grantland last year about the Astros, before their last season in the National League in which they lost 107 games.

AL Central Projected Finish:

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

Detroit Tigers: (2012 Record) 88-74, 1st Place, Lost World Series to San Francisco Giants

Tigers should have more champagne parties this year

Tigers should have more champagne parties this year

What is there to say about the Tigers? Justin Verlander proved to us all he is single handedly the most dangerous pitcher in a short series, Miguel Cabrera ONLY won the Triple Crown last season (no big deal), and this team made it all the way to the World Series despite only winning 88 games. The Tigers are still loaded. They added Torii Hunter to the mix through free agency and Victor Martinez is coming back from an ACL tear that kept him out all last season. The biggest question mark with this team is definitely the back end of the rotation and the bullpen. Luckily the Tigers can outslug any other team in baseball and won’t have to address that issue until the playoffs. Look for them to run away with the division again.

Oh yeah, along with Justin Verlander being a one man wrecking crew, he also owns a pet TigerBOSS

Chicago White Sox: (2012 Record) 85-77, 2nd Place

This year the White Sox will commemorate their 1983 team which coined the term "Winning Ugly". Ironic?

This year the White Sox will commemorate their 1983 team which coined the term “Winning Ugly”. Ironic?

Every time I look at the White Sox lineup and write them off, somehow and someway they surprise me. This team is not scary by any means, but have just enough talent to finish 2nd in a very mediocre division. Best-case scenario, they stay afloat through the trading deadline and finish somewhere around .500 this season.  Worst case, the offense shows its true colors and they finish 4th in probably the worst division in baseball. They have a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with Jake Peavy and Chris Sale (of FGCU fame), along with a couple guys in their lineup who can bash 30+ homeruns, but this team will not even get close to a possible playoff berth this year. But who knows, the White Sox have been outperforming their expectations the last 8 years, why should this year be any different? The White Sox are probably going to be one of those teams this season who make some splashes midseason to add to the roster. New GM, plus staying in contention could spell a trigger happy club come this summer.

Cleveland Indians: (2012 Record) 68-94, 4th Place

Clevland may have done the Harlem Shake to switch things up, but still won’t equal wins this year!

First things first, hiring Terry Francona to coach this team is a smart move. Great leader, even better clubhouse guy, just was in a little over his head his last season in Boston. But how can you blame him? That team was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. But the Indians made a few other smart team moves, to set up the future. They were active in free agency, signing hometown guy Nick Swisher to a multi-year deal, along with Michael Bourn locked up for 4 years and even acquired Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer for Shin-Soo Choo. This team won’t compete for the division crown this year, but if all goes to plan they should be able to compete in the AL Central in the coming years, especially if the division continues to stay mediocre. One problem they will have to address is the pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson’s numbers will improve because of an improved defense, but don’t expect a drastic improvement.

As the GIF above shows, really Cleveland?

Kansas City Royals: (2012 Record) 72-90, 3rd Place

Optimism in Royals Nation!

Optimism in Royals Nation!

It’s tough to evaluate this team. This team has a slew of young talent, and this offseason they did the smartest thing possible by adding to the pitching staff. They acquired James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis to supplement Jeremy Guthrie and Luke Hochevar. This is a talented rotation nonetheless, but the newcomers need to remember they are pitching for the Royals in 2013, and not their former teams. The lineup has talent and may be something to be reckoned with down the line. But for now we should look at them for what they are, and that is for the potential that they have down the line and they might not be ready just yet. But we all saw how the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles shocked the baseball world last season, so why can’t the Royals? They have a good manager, talented rotation and a lot of young unproven guys in the lineup. They could very well be the 2013 version of Baltimore or Oakland. But don’t rush to Las Vegas just yet to make your bets. This team at best can finish in 2nd, only because this division is weak, but also at worst they could be in the cellar. But that’s why we play 162 games, so we can decide who wins and loses based on the results on the field.

Minnesota Twins: (2012 Record) 66-96, 5th Place

Last season of the M&M boys in Minnesota?

Last season of the M&M boys in Minnesota?

How can a team with 2 $100 million stars such as the M&M boys (Joe Mauer & Justin Morneau) be so bad? Health. Plain and simple. Injuries have drastically changed the course of their careers, with Justin Morneau feeling the effects much more. Should they consider dealing either one of them, shedding the contract and moving on? The fans would hate it, especially if they dealt Mauer who is from the area, but this could be a reality come the All-Star break if the Twins are on their way to another finish in the cellar.  Realistically, they will part ways with either Morneau or Willingham, because the 2 are a little more expendable than Mauer. The rotation is another story. Expect another season in the cellar from this team.

AL East Projected Finish

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

Tampa Bay Rays: (2012 Record) 90-72, 3rd Place

Fernando Rodney's hat might just turn all around this season

Fernando Rodney’s hat might just turn all the way around this season

Why does anybody EVER count out the Tampa Bay Rays lately. Last season they almost made the playoffs, even won 90 games, with their superstar Evan Longoria only playing 74 games. A healthy Longoria means the Rays will stay in contention longer. They also have some guy by the name of David Price, who won the CY Young last year. And, they have a phenomenal manager in Joe Maddon who has done all the right things with this club since taking over 8 years ago. Quick recap, healthy superstar who is X-factor, best pitcher in the league, and a manager who can get it done in the playoffs. Not to mention they had the best ERA among pitching staffs last season. Tough decision to put them ahead of the Blue Jays, but just like in the past when the Rays overtook more talented teams such as the 2008 Red Sox, and the 2010 Yankees, they have chemistry and always find a way to get it done. Look out for Will Myers, he was the main piece acquired in the James Shields deal and should be a big middle of the order bat come midseason. Watch out for Tampa, they are dangerous. Plus, how could you not root for a team that has worn these in the past and will adopt these as their new throwbacks?

Toronto Blue Jays: (2012 Record) 73-89, 4th Place

The Blue Jays are banking on their newest additions to lead them to the Playoffs and hopefully the World Series

The Blue Jays are banking on their newest additions to lead them to the Playoffs and hopefully the World Series

Yes, the Toronto Blue Jays won the offseason. They acquired a haul of talent from the Miami Marlins, who were in fire sale mode during the offseason, which included Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle,  Josh Johnson, and Emilio Bonifacio. Somehow, they were also able to pluck the reigning NL CY Young winner from the New York Mets. While he may have been forgotten after his PED suspension, the Jays also acquired Melky Cabrera, who the Giants basically threw away. Add in a healthy Jose Baustista, this Blue Jays team could be something special. But we all need to remember championships are not built on paper. This team is going to struggle with chemistry and getting acclimated to playing with each other, but once they figure it out, the American League should watch out! I have them winning the Wild-Card not the division, primarily because I think there are too many questions about the back end of the rotation/bullpen and they are relying on so many players coming back from injury. Upside, this team wins 95+ games. Downside, they could win less than 85, and the masses will riot! Only kidding about the riot, but it would be a huge disappointment. But look for the Jays to make their first trip to the postseason since 1993.

Baltimore Orioles: (2012 Record) 93-69, 2nd Place, Lost ALDS to New York Yankees

Orioles made it to the Postseason last year, expect for them to fight for it again this year!

Orioles made it to the Postseason last year, expect for them to fight for it again this year!

One of baseball’s best stories from last season looks to repeat its success and take the next step, but once again will have to do it in a division they have been written off in. Last season the Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games, and while that will be almost impossible to repeat this season, they should still compete in this tough division and even fight for that second wild-card position again. Why? They have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. This guy changed the whole culture of the Orioles within 1 season, and you are stupid to think he won’t have them prepared to succeed again this season. Add in a full season from Manny Machado, the improvements of key players such as Adam Jones, Matt Weiters and Nick Markakis, the Orioles aren’t going anywhere. Plus, since the Ravens won the Super Bowl last season, you know the Orioles want to join in on the fun.

New York Yankees: (2012 Record) 95-67, 1st Place, Lost ALCS to Detroit Tigers

2013 New York Yankees? Might as well be.

2013 New York Yankees? Might as well be.

The Yankees are in trouble. I had a hard time not putting them at the bottom of the cellar, but the fact remains, this team is too talented and too prideful to let something like that happen. Now on the other hand, they are counting on too many older players to return from injury this year. Derek Jeter broke his ankle last year in first game of the ALCS, and the Tigers in 4 games subsequently swept the Yankees. Mariano Rivera, who will be 43 this season, is coming off a torn ACL which he suffered shagging fly balls during batting practice last year. Mark Teixiera and Curtis Granderson suffered injuries during spring training and won’t be back for a couple months, leaving a huge power gap in the lineup. The team also failed to re-sign Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez, therefore losing more pop from the lineup. Some people are proclaiming this franchise dead, and I for one could not be happier! There is a serious possibility that the Yankees finish below .500 for the first time in 20 years. Their pitching isn’t awful, they still do have CC Sabathia at the top, but their offense will be putting replacement players in the lineup everyday for the first couple months of the season. If they can stay afloat until the big guns get back, the Yankees might make a late season run, but I wouldn’t count on it. This Yankee team is stuck in a interesting situation. If they can get their team salary under $189 million, which they seem pretty committed to doing, then their penalty will reset for the 2014 season when they can max out on Robinson Cano. This could be a long season in the Bronx for the Bombers, but hope is on the horizon.

Boston Red Sox: (2012 Record) 69-93, 5th Place

Big Papi is back, but the Red Sox will finish 5th in a tough division

Big Papi is back, but the Red Sox will finish 5th in a tough division

Gone is Bobby Valentine and replacing him is John Farrell. This is going to be a long season in Boston. After the free agency fiasco of a few years ago when they were handing out $100 million contracts to everyone, the Red Sox decided to take the safer route this offseason. They signed Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Joel Hanrahan, Johnny Gomes, and Stephen Drew to short, team friendly deals. They are looking to slowly change the culture in Boston and hurry and get back to their winning ways. This team has an upside to win around 83-88 games this season, but a lot of things need to go right, and in this division it is going to be tough. But hey, stranger things have happened in baseball.

Playoffs:

Quite possibly the hardest thing in baseball to predict. But here it goes anyways…

Wild-Card:

Toronto Blue Jays over Los Angeles Angels

Division Series:

Tampa Bay Rays over Toronto Blue Jays

Oakland Athletics over Detroit Tigers

League Championship Series:

Tampa Bay Rays over Oakland Athletics

World Series Preview will come with the National League Preview…

Week 2 of the Madness Upon Us!

Wow. What a first week it was for March Madness. The #1 team in the country Gonzaga almost loses their tourney opener to Southern, and then 2 days later actually falls. A 15 seed squad in Florida Gulf Coast, who I admittedly said to myself (where is this school?), gets into the sweet 16. Should we all be shocked? Of course not. It’s March Madness, a time when the tournament can be as unpredictable as it can be exciting. Now with the advances in technology, we are treated to some gems like the GIF’s below.

The Shockers didn’t shock us with their rendition of the “Dougie”

Sometime’s I wonder if these teams actually practice their group dances or if they are secretly back-up dancers from some hip-hop group. Who knows!

Anyways back to Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). Here are a few random facts about this school which is making an appearance in the Sweet 16 in only their 1st NCAA Tournament.

-They have only been an actual school since 1997

-Their most famous alum is Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale

chrissale032513

 

-They became a Division 1 program in 2011

-Not only has the city of Fort Myers, Florida renamed their city #DunkCity…

Screen Shot Fort Myers

-They also have a rap anthem with over 500k views on Youtube

Gotta love this school who has become the Cinderella story we all love to see in March Madness.

One click of the heels is all it took for this Cinderella story to make the Sweet 16.

***

It has been one exciting tournament thus far. I can say, along with the majority of America, that we didn’t see this one coming. Almost in the same sense we didn’t see this Julian Gamble photobomb.

Anyways, time for the Sweet 16. If your not watching this weekend…

..I don’t know what you are doing with your life.

Enjoy the Madness!