Posts Tagged ‘ American League ’

Farewell to the Captain

 

Let’s get this straight from the get go, Derek Jeter has been a pain in my side for the MAJORITY of my baseball memories. So part of me can finally get over the pain he has suffered me over the years. Watching this live…

 

Moments like this make me have a strong dislike for the Yankees. But looking back on this, its one of the most iconic plays in baseball history, and you can’t help but realize the greatness of Jeter.

13 years later, we look back on the storied career of Derek Jeter, and the baseball world sheds a tear. We are truly losing one of baseball’s greats. Someone who forever changed the way the game was played. A captain, a mentor, always humble, but worked hard. The inside out swing, the 14 All-Star game experiences, becoming Mr. Novemver, even these…

 

 

He may not have been the most athletically gifted player ever, or the best at something, but what he was good at was longevity. Playing the game right. Sabermetrics never considered him an above average defender, but he somehow always made the play. He trade mark fall away throw from short will always be HIS thing. He had style, flair and some flash. He thrived in the Steroid Era, yet was never linked to anything. His 3,000th hit? A homerun. And in what seems to be a staged storybook ending to his remarkable career. Jeter hit a walk-off single in his final at-bat, in what will most likely be known in the future as “The house that Jeter built”.

 

 

But in all honesty, I can’t help be sad that we are losing one of baseball’s greatest. He has been a role model of sorts to baseball players everywhere as well as human beings. His impact on the game of baseball as a whole will be missed. There truly will never be another Derek Jeter. And with that said. Derek Jeter, I thank you for your impact on baseball and for showing us how to play the game right. #FarewellCaptain

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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…

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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?

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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

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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…

Spring Training is Here!

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In case you were on another planet this weekend, or just mesmerized from the Oscars, baseball returned to our world this past weekend. It is just Spring Training, but soon enough the birds will be chirping, hot dogs will be on the grill, and yes baseball season will be here.

Enough about me, the new season is coming, prepare yourself! Sounds more like a tagline for Game of Thrones, which ironically starts the same night as the new MLB season. So maybe I’ll have to addd some random Game of Thrones references in here. Who knows. But Major League Baseball is coming. Prepare yourself.

While Hurricane Sandy took the focus of the World Series away, I still will not forget the way the season played out, mostly with Oakland’s incredible run to the AL West Championship. If you had asked me this time last year where I believed the A’s would finish last season, I probably would have said something along the lines of 3rd place, but definitely under .500. They had just traded most of the major talent on the roster or allowed others to leave via free agency. In return, they brought back a haul of talented prospects to pair with some key veterans. The outlook coming into the season was grim along with the knowledge that it had been 5 years since the A’s made the playoffs. There was not much optimism going forward, but somehow, someway they were able to put it all together. Culminating with this..

Followed then by this 2 days later…

No words that can describe the thrill ride I went on the last season. 13 games back in June, 5 games back with 9 to play (first team to ever win a division by doing so) and somehow they overcame a early 5 run deficit in the deciding 162nd game to win the division. Seriously I wish I was making this up. All in all, last season was one of the most amazing I have seen as an A’s fan, EVER. I still get goosebumps and chills watching videos from last year and will probably continue to do so for some time. It was a little heartbreaking that the A’s  lost in 5 games to the Tigers (again), but they got there with an unproven team that many wrote off at the beginning of the season.

Anyways, sticking to the baseball side of things, because I can honestly blab on and on about the division championship run, this season should be good!  The A’s come into this season as the defending American League West Champs. Returning the majority of a young, talented roster which should only get better.

Gone is Cliff Pennington and prospect Yordy Cabrera and in return, the A’s created even more of a logjam in the outfield by acquiring Chris Young. To fill the void at shortstop, the A’s signed Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The A’s released George Kottaras, half of the catching platoon from the end of last season, and acquired John Jaso in a 3 team deal. In that deal, the A’s sent A.J. Cole back to Washington. Most recently, the A’s traded Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi to new division rival Houston for Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez. To free agency, they lost Brandon McCarthy, Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes, all who played an integral part to the team during the 2nd half of last season.

With the addition of Houston to the division, the AL west becomes a 5 team division, but that shouldn’t hurt the A’s chances at returning to the postseason. The young pitching staff pitched like veterans down the stretch, and they should only get better. Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker should have impressive sophomore seasons, falling in line behind staff ace Brett Anderson. A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and recently suspended Bartolo Colo will fight out for the remaining 2 spots in what I believe is the best rotation in the American League West. Couple that with a solid back end of the bullpen and the three headed tandem of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour, the A’s are set.

The biggest question mark, can the A’s score? They led all of baseball in the second half by pounding a bunch of homeruns, but also racked up an American League record in strikeouts. While a .238 batting average sounds terrible, this team managed to manufacture runs. Hitting 32 triples, stealing bases and in general playing a different brand of baseball than we are accustomed to seeing for the last 15 years or so. Gone are the days of just getting on base. This team is built to survive with speed, power and dominant pitching.

Team Preview:

Projected Lineup:

C: John Jaso/Derek Norris

1B: Brandon Moss

2B: Scott Sizemore

3B: Josh Donaldson

SS: Hiroyuki Nakajima

OF: Yoenis Cespedes/Coco Crisp/Josh Reddick/Chris Young

DH: Seth Smith

Util: Jed Lowrie/Jemile Weeks/Adam Rosales

The A’s purged a few pieces this offseason and strengthed others. They added depth to the middle of the infield, which they got no production out of last season. Also added Chris Young to the outfield mix, to help keep Cespedes and Crisp healthy throughout the season. The addition of John Jaso should be key with not just the pitching staff, but production from that position. Oakland’s offense should be better this season.

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Brett Anderson

2. Bartolo Colon

3. Jarrod Parker

4. Tommy Milone

5. A.J. Griffin

The A’s pitching staff is deep and talented. Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone both made huge strides forward in their rookie seasons, a relief for A’s fans considering those two were filling the shoes of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill. Brett Anderson returned late last season with impressive results and this year will becoming the ace this staff was missing all last season. Look to see the A’s dominate this season with all the rookies now becoming sophomores with playoff experience under their belts.

Bullpen:

Closer: Gran Balfour

Set-Up: Ryan Cook & Sean Doolittle

The Rest: Dan Straily, Jerry Blevins, Jordan Norberto, Pat Neshek, Travis Blackley, Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa, Evan Scribner

The Bullpen is solid. I can honestly put any adjective here and it will definitely fit. Dan Straily and Travis Blackley both will eat innings in long relief and spot starts. The middle of the bullpen has a nice mix of right handers and left handers, all with some sort of quirk. Followed by the intense duo of Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. Then we can all Balfour Rage in the 9th. It is a unique bunch, but all in common with the fact of being part of baseball’s elite as a whole. Part of what got the A’s as far as they did last year was their bullpen, this year expect them to continue that trend.

Overall:

The A’s made some key additions to the team this offseason. It’s going to be tough in the American League West with Josh Hamilton going to the Angels, but their pitching can’t matchup with Oakland’s. For that matter, nobody in this division can matchup with Oakland’s staff. Adding Houston to the mix may dilute the competition in the division a little bit, but shouldn’t hurt Oakland’s chances. I am predicting the A’s will return to the postseason, winning the division again but this time over the Angels. Hopefully equally their 94-68 record from a year ago. I think this team is better on paper than the 2012 A’s, but it will be hard to recapture the magic that team created. Can’t wait for the season to start.

Side note. We all know Yoenis Cespedes is a beast, as we all found out from his showcase video. But last week he told manager Bob Melvin he could hit a homerun off him with a batting weight still on his bat. While the video may not show the actual homerun, the way he is prancing around the batter’s box, I’m sure it was a bomb. Here is the link.

Christmas Come Early for Baseball!

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Wow, what a past week. It was already expected there would be some activity this past week, but some things you just can’t prepare yourself for. But here it is, a recap of the Winter Meetings and what is to come for the future. Brace Yourself:

First, let’s look at the World Champion San Francisco Giants, who re-signed Center Fielder Angel Pagan and infielder Marco Scutaro. Both players were instrumental in the Giants comebacks in the Division Series, Championship Series and eventual sweep in the World Series. Re-signing them was the smart move, giving them some stability in those positions which have been hit hard by injuries in the past.

While I think 4 years for $40 million maybe a little much for Pagan, he really earned it. He had a good season and an even better playoffs. He even played an amazing center field, covering a lot of ground and playing gold glove caliber defense. Scutaro on the other hand, killed it ever since he was traded over to San Francisco. He hit over .300 and drove countless run after run, especially during crunch time.

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In some dull news, Asdrubal Cabrera stayed put. After much speculation to whether or not he would be traded during the meetings, it all turned out to be just innocent flirting. While it is still early in the offseason, I was a little disappointed to see him stay put. He is a real impact bat, and could turn a few teams around and make them serious title contenders.

The New York Mets decided they would lock up David Wright until 2020. Smart move, considering they moved the fences in at Citi Field finally and when they did, Wright responded with a great season. But was this one season enough to warrant a huge extension? Not sure really, but who knows, he is a talented player coming into his prime. Same rational to why the Rays locked up Evan Longoria, just Longoria’s move makes the Rays a better team in the long run (more on that later).

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The Red Sox, who just 2 winters ago went crazy, spending over a quarter of a billion dollars on Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, are undoubtedly on their way to moving into a new era. They may have overpaid a little bit, but they signed Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino to multi-year deals. Ideally so they could have some flexibility with spending down the road, and they could fill some of the holes on their roster.

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The Philadelphia Phillies acquired Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins. While it seems to be a smart move for the franchise, they spent a large amount for a slap hitting outfielder. He will add gold glove defense to the position, but by giving up Vance Worley in the deal, the Phillies now need to shop for another starter to add to the rotation.

Michael Young, aka Mr. Versatile for the Texas Rangers was also dealt to the Phillies, which cut ties with the only franchise he has played for.  It’s a interesting move for the Rangers, who so far have missed out on Zach Grienke and haven’t re-signed Josh Hamilton. Many rumors have Hamilton headed back to Texas, but at what cost? He is asking for 6 to 7 years in the neighborhood of $25 million a year. My best bet is clubs wait on him, and stall until January or early February at worst.

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The Los Angeles Dodgers, backed by their new ownership group, broke out the checkbooks once again. They signed Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu to a six year deal with $36 million, just after announcing that they finalized a deal with Zach Grienke for six years pending a physical. They are hoping that adding Grienke and Ryu to the rotation of Beckett, Kershaw and Billingley can get them over the hump next year and overtake the World Champion San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers also re-signed closer Brandon League to a 3 year pact, shoring up their bullpen with a proven on.

After last seasons acquisitions of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez,  and Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers are trying to spend their way to the top. While they have really dipped into their pockets since being over taken by Magic Johnson and his team of partners, they haven’t made a splash yet in the division. The rival San Franciso Giants won the division this season, and then went on to win the World Series.

Will 2013 be the year the Dodgers make a move in the division?

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In some dull news, Asdrubal Cabrera stayed put. After much speculation to whether or not he would be traded during the meetings, it all turned out to be just innocent flirting. While it is still early in the offseason, I was a little disappointed to see him stay put. He is a real impact bat, and could turn a few teams around and make them serious title contenders.

The Red Sox, who just 2 winters ago went crazy, spending over a quarter of a billion dollars on Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, are undoubtedly on their way to moving into a new era. They may have overpaid a little bit, but they signed Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino to multi-year deals. Ideally so they could have some flexibility with spending down the road, and they could fill some of the holes on their roster.

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This morning, the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays swapped a total of six players, highlighted by Starting Pitcher James Shields and top prospect Wil Myers. The deal is a huge shocker to many, with the Royals becoming big spenders in Free Agency.

Already having acquired Ervin Santana in a trade with the Angels and re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a multi-year deal, the trade today to acquire James Shields and reliever Wade Davis is Kansas City’s most aggressive move yet. They are signaling they want to win now, even if it means parting with Prospect of the Year Wil Myers, who ironically never played a game for Kansas City at the Major League level. With a wide open AL Central next year, the Royals are looking to contend for the division title and these moves can help them on their way to that goal.

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The Tampa Bay Rays may have gotten the better deal in this swap. They parted James Shields, who arguably was the most expendable trade assest in the rotation, for a top prospect who can fill in the outfield void that B.J. Upton left when we signed with Atlanta. The Rays also acquired starting pitcher Jake Odirizzi,  minor leaguers Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard.

This offseason the Rays have also signed James Loney and acquired Yunel Escobar to fill some infield holes and add depth. While neither are prominent free agents, they both come in with little expectation and should not have too much pressure to succeed. Don’t forget, Tampa is the place where under-valued free agents go to flourish.

Coupled with the extension they gave Evan Longoria, the Rays are looking to stay in contention next season to compete with the Blue Jays.

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The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are looking to shore up their rotation this offseason after allowing Zach Grienke to walk in free agency. They signed Joe Blanton to a 2 year deal, and also flipped a trade with the Braves, acquiring starting pitcher Tommy Hansen for reliever Jordan Walden. Smart move? Maybe, but they added a young arm and didn’t give up too much. Smart move, but their rotation still needs work, not having an ace for a team that talented is a big problem. Espcially when they spent so much last offseason, only to finish in 3rd place.

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So where do we go from here? Many contenders still need to make some impact moves. With the Baltimore Orioles losing Mark Reynolds to the Indians, they need to add another impact bat if they want to defend their Wild Card title and return to the playoffs.

The Oakland Athletics left Nashville without a shortstop, a drastic change from last year where they traded away Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Andrew Bailey within a span of 3 weeks. But they still have hopes of re-signing Stephen Drew, who solidified the position once geting traded to Oakland late in the season.

But it’s still early. With a deal for Hamilton on the horizon, the spotlight will turn to see where he will sign. There are many rumors that say he will either stay in Texas or sign with the Seattle Mariners. Wherever he goes, it should have a huge impact on whatever division he ends up in, whether the its the AL West or somewhere else.

Stay Tuned, this is only the beginning.

Yankees are Done! Tigers vs. Cardinals rematch on the horizon?

Wow. The Detroit Tigers have swept the New York Yankees out of the playoffs. Somehow, I not surprised at all.

This playoffs seemed to be in jeopardy when Baltimore took them 5 games, threatening to knock the Yankees out of the first round in back to back seasons. But somehow someway the Yankees were able to get by Baltimore and move into the second round. Unfortunately for them, Detroit was not messing around.

Other than the comeback which we all saw in the 9th inning of game 1, the Yankees did not put up much of a fight this series. Other than Nick Swisher’s RBI double in the 6th inning of last night’s game, the Yankees scored all of their runs in the 9th inning. Not a good precedent for any team in the playoffs, let alone the Yankees. But hats off to the Tigers, they have proven to everyone that their average regular season means nothing, because in the playoffs, they have shown up. Whether it is the Cardinals or the Giants in the World Series, they are going to have a hard time.

Hey, I’m impressed myself. (via MLB.com)

Over in the NLCS, the Cardinals won game 4 to push their series lead to 3-1 and put the Giants on the brink. This is familiar territory for the Giants, as they were pushed to the brink by the Reds, only to win 3 straight on the road. Well they are in familiar territory this series, the only difference is they are facing a hot Cardinals team who is not ready to relinquish this lead.

In a game started by Tim Lincecum and Adam Wainwright, we expected it to be close, maybe a pitchers duel through the first few innings. But in the 5th inning, the Cardinals began to break through. Scoring 2 runs in the 5th, 6th and 7th innings, they were able to put the game out of reach and ensure the 3-1 lead in the series.

Can the Cardinals close out the Giants in 5? Or will the series go back to the Bay Area? We know not to count out this Giants team, but at the same time, the Cardinals are hot. Game 5 is tonight. If necessary we will have game 6 on sunday, assuming the Giants get it together.

3-1 Series lead for the Cardinals. Can the Cards close it out? (via MLB.com)

 

RAIN DELAY??

Seriously, can you ever predicted that a RAIN DELAY would postpone 2 games during primetime. WOW. No words, just no words.

I mean, the St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants game 3 was a victim to the rain delay first. They managed to play the majority of the game before Mother Nature took over.

The game was a pitchers duel. At first glance that is. But When you calculate in the rain delay, you get a misguided feel of how the game went down. The Giants opened the scoring in the 3rd, getting a run on Pablo Sandoval’s RIB groundout. The Giants could have scored more in the frame, but a double play ended up saving Kyle Lohse. In the bottom half of the inning, the Cardinals took that momentum from the double play and parlayed that into a 2 run lead with a home run from Matt Carpenter.

My bad, forgot to tell you that the hottest hitter in this playoffs, also setting career postseason records in the process, got hurt and left the game. So this was Matt Carpenter’s first at-bat since coming into the game. Down 1-0 to the Giants and ace Matt Cain, Carpenter took Cain deep to right to put the Cards up 2-1. Really. Is there some kind of magic the Cardinals have that they are taking. I don’t get it.

Back to the game. In the 7th inning, Mother Nature came, and right smack dab in the middle of a rally by the Cardinals. First came the bases loaded RBI groundout by reserve Shane Robinson, then Matt Cain was taken out of game for reliever Javier Lopez. Then came the downpour and game 3 was delayed. After a little wait, it was time for the Yankees and Tigers. Wait for it, wait for it. DELAYED. This is unfortunate. 2 game in primetime delayed for rain. The weather here in New York was nice! What gives?

End result, Yankees live for another day, not because they won, but because Mother Nature saved them.

The Giants and Cardinals played the end of the 7th inning, mid-rally from the Cardinals. Javier Lopez was finally able to throw his first pitch, and he got out of the jam quickly. After 2 innings of not mustering a hit against closer Jason Motte, the Giants fell 3-1 to the Cardinals. Game 4 today, right after the ALCS game 4. Let’s GOOOO!!!!