Baseball Playoffs Plus Michigan Continues to Struggle

Perez
Perez
Salvador Perez and the Royals are on to the AL Championship Series.

For the 40 plus years I’ve been alive the playoffs in Major League Baseball have changed significantly but the one thing that has never changed is what wins games in the postseason. If you can get great pitching and timely hitting then you are more than likely going to win yourself a championship or two.

It’s very clear that I underestimated both the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles who used this exact formula to advance to the American League Championship Series. Kansas City dispatched the American League’s best team in the Angels of Anaheim in a three-game sweep that was never close.

The Orioles rode very solid pitching and took advantage of a horrible Detroit bullpen to sweep the AL Central Champions in three games. Baltimore defeated Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price to accomplish the feat. No easy task but they got hits at just the right time and stayed patient as Tigers’ Manager Brad Ausmus was forced to go to his bullpen.

As for the Royals, they just might be that team of destiny we hear so much about. After squeezing into the wild-card, they then needed 12 innings to knock off Oakland in the play-in game. From there, the Royals used their pitching to almost completely shut down the powerful Angels’ offense.

I had both of these teams losing in the divisional rounds. I figured Detroit would ride its’ offense and starting pitching to a 3-1 victory and I believed the same of the Angels but the old truths about the playoffs haunted me as they did them. Of course I also had Washington beating the Giants (SF leads 2-0) and the Dodgers beating the Cardinals (series tied at 1) so I’m pretty sure I know absolutely nothing about baseball in 2014.

Nova
Michigan had no answer for Rutgers' Gary Nova in yet another loss.

More Mayhem at Michigan

Lost in much of the craziness that was college football weekend week six was the fact that Michigan dropped yet another game. This time it was a loss to new Big Ten member Rutgers in New Jersey. While I’ll say that I thought the Wolverines got jobbed a bit on their final drive in which a catch on the sidelines was ruled ‘not a catch,’ Michigan did itself no favors.

The defense has been thought of as the savior of this team but they were exposed all evening by the Scarlet Knights’ quarterback Gary Nova who threw for three touchdowns and over 400 yards. The offense at times looked better under Devin Gardner who took over at quarterback after giving way to Shane Morris last week.

The loss drops Michigan to 2-4 overall and to 0-2 in the Big Ten for the first time since dirt was discovered. It’s no longer a matter of ‘if’ Brady Hoke is fired as the head coach but rather a matter of ‘when.’ The man who hired him, athletic director Dave Brandon problem shouldn’t fare any better but he may survive if he handles the transition to a new coach properly.

Things are almost falling into line too perfectly for the marriage of former Wolverine QB Jim Harbaugh and the school. Several reports this weekend confirmed that this appears to be Harbaugh’s last year with the 49ers as players are apparently unhappy with him. It’s also no secret he doesn’t get along with the team’s general manager either.

While Harbaugh burned some bridges with many at Michigan in recent years, I believe he would be welcomed back. Usually when these stars align this well something comes along to ruin the pattern but time will tell for now.

 

My Thoughts on the Major League Baseball Playoffs

Harper

Harper
Bryce Harper is a key cog in the Nationals' machine.

I remember a time when the Fall Classic actually meant that it would be played in October. Actually, it’s now played in November because hey, the baseball season isn’t long enough already is it?

In fact I think a week after Thanksgiving don’t pitchers and catchers report?

OK, I won’t go there right now because this is a time to be celebrating baseball rather than ripping on it so let’s get to my thoughts on who will do what in the 2014 MLB Playoffs.

American League

Detroit vs. Baltimore.

The Tigers won five of six from the East Division champs but they haven’t seen each other since May. A lot has changed since then for both teams while some things have stayed the same. Postseason baseball is about pitching and timely hitting.

Detroit can handle both of those things with one exception; their bullpen. Brad Ausmus has his hands full in trying to juggle the bullpen because closer Joe Nathan has been a train wreck all season. The good news is that Justin Verlander is heating up and the rest of the playoff rotation is good.

Have to give the managerial advantage to Baltimore’s Buck Showalter who will not make knee-jerk decisions while Ausmus is a bit new at this playoff stuff.

Prediction: Tigers in 4

Royals vs. LA Angels

What a second half for the Halos who seemed destined for a wild-card spot. Their run coupled with Oakland’s misery have them back atop the West Division. The offense begins and ends with Trout, Hamilton and Puljos while the starting pitching will need to hold up despite injuries.

The Royals made a spectacular comeback last night to defeat the A’s in 12 innings despite the best efforts of Manager Ned Yost to screw things up in the 6th inning. KC will not be an easy out for the Angels especially because of the home crowd but I think talent will eventually be too much for the Royals.

Prediction: Angels in 7

Kershaw
Can Clayton Kershaw carry his outstanding season into the playoffs?

National League

St. Louis vs. LA Dodgers

The Dodgers won the season series 4-3 but they haven’t seen each other since the month of July. Both teams have some playoff experience but in terms of an edge that would have to go to the Cardinals.

If ever there was a series about starting pitching this would be it. There’s no reason to expect Clayton Kershaw to be anything other than brilliant in game one but the Cards will make him work I guarantee that.

If St. Louis can put together some hitting they have a shot.

Prediction: Dodgers in four

Giants/Pirates vs. Washington

A lot of people just want to hand the Nationals the World Series trophy and I can understand why but there’s a reason they actually play the games. Washington is third in hitting and first in pitching and they will also have a fan base as fired up as any in recent memory.

It’s been 90 years since a Washington baseball team has a won a title.

The Pirates will host the Giants tonight and while either team can give the Nats problems, I think the Buccos would offer more of a challenge but that’s not by a long shot by any stretch.

Either way, I like Washington to get by either team with great depth in both pitching and hitting.

Prediction: Nats in Four

If you’re dying to know my League Championship Series predictions I’ll abide by your wishes but just in case I’m not right about the divisional round I’ll “re-predict” later.

ALCS – Angels over Tigers in 5

NCLS – Nationals over Dodgers in 6.

Here’s the Latest on the Races in Major League Baseball

Showalter

 

Showalter
Buck Showalter has his Orioles just days away from an East Division title.

With about 14-15 games to go in the regular season of Major League Baseball, there are races that are just about to end and some that are about as close as they can get. Here’s a look at where we stand and who I like for the MVPs as well.

AL EAST

The surprising Baltimore Orioles have their magic number down to just three games as I write this and will clinch their first division championship since 1997 and have not won a pennant since 1983.

Toronto and New York are four and five games respectively out of a wild-card berth and unless something drastic happens neither will make the postseason. An unfortunate end to a great career for the Yankees’ Derek Jeter.

AL CENTRAL

The Tigers swept the Cleveland Indians over the weekend to essentially knock them out of it. Detroit now has a 1.5 games lead over Kansas City who currently has a wild-card struggle with the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.

The Royals and Tigers will meet for three more games later this week in Kansas City and each still have series’ left with Cleveland and the White Sox.

AL WEST

The LA Angels had their ten-game winning streak snapped Sunday but they lead the division by an amazing 10 games over Oakland. The A’s and Mariners are both still well alive for wild-card berths with only the Detroit/KC loser perhaps being a factor. Whether the Mariners make the postseason or not, Manager Lloyd McClendon should garner serious consideration for Manager of the Year honors. 

AL Picks: Orioles, Tigers, Angels. WCs Royals and A’s.

AL Pennant: Angels

 

Williams
I'm not at all surprised that Williams has the Nationals on the verge of a division title.

NL EAST

The Washington Nationals ran away and hid with this division in the second half of the season and currently lead the Atlanta Braves by 10.5 games. The Braves are currently four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for the final wild-card spot.

NL Central

Milwaukee has had a rough second half of the season and has dropped to third in the division. St. Louis currently leads the Pirates by 3.5 games for the division lead. Pittsburgh and St. Louis will not see each other anymore down the stretch.

The Brewers can control their own destiny with series against both St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the final 15 games.

NL WEST

The San Francisco Giants have hung tougher than I thought they would with their rivals to the south. The LA Dodgers have a three game lead over the Giants and will entertain them for three more games next week.

At this time, San Francisco would need a major collapse to miss out on the playoffs altogether.

NL Picks: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers. WCs Pirates and Giants.

NL Pennant: Nationals

THE MVP RACE

I’ll start in the National League where there shouldn’t even be a vote. Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw will run away with the Cy Young Award and should also take the MVP prize as well.

On Sunday, he picked up his 19th win and gave up just two runs. Amazingly, his ERA actually went up to 1.70 for the season. Others in the discussion would include Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami and Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers.

This is Kershaw’s year though.

In the junior circuit, the competition might be just as poor with Mike Trout on the cusp of finally getting the MVP Award after finishing twice behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera.

There are cases to be made for Oakland’s Josh Donaldson or Kansas City’s Alex Gordon but I don’t know how anyone catches Trout who deserves the award as much as anyone in recent memory.

Random Sports’ World Thoughts for the Final Sunday in July

Scott
Scott
Byron Scott returns to LA where he thrived as a player during the days of Magic Johnson.

The Los Angeles Lakers finally have their coach in Byron Scott. After three separate interviews and months of wavering, the Lakers finally decided on Scott. In the past couple of days, speculation had been growing that the Lakers were dragging their feet intentionally because there seemed to be a chance that Doc Rivers could be available.

While we might not ever know if there was that type of interest, it was thought that if Donald Sterling continued to drag out the Clippers’ saga then Rivers would quit. Whether the NBA would have allowed him to become immediately available is unknown but it would have been a very interesting situation.

As far as Scott is concerned, the former Laker is good coach but I can’t help but wonder if this has the touches of Kobe Bryant on it. Scott appears to be the perfect guy for Bryant to have influence over in his final few years. It’s a safe pick because Kobe can’t have much left so when he is gone Scott is a good enough coach to move forward.

Training Camp Injuries Already

Hunter
The 49ers lost running back Kendall Hunter for the season with an ACL injury.

Training Camps across the National Football League have only been in full swing a few days but already the injury bug has bitten several teams hard. Baltimore lost defensive back Aaron Ross to an Achilles’ injury while he was just running, noting else. He is gone for the season.

The 49ers lost back-up running back Kendall Hunter with an ACL tear on Friday and the Colts lost running back Vick Ballard to an Achilles’ tear as well. Also taking a hit in the backfield were the Carolina Panthers who have lost rookie running back Tyler Gaffney to a knee injury. He is expected to miss the season.

These injuries follow the season-ending ones to linebackers Kiko Alonso of Buffalo and Sean Weatherspoon of Atlanta. Sadly, I guarantee we’ll see more of these injuries as the preseason unfolds.

MLB Races Staying Tight

At the All-Star Break, five of the six divisions in Major League Baseball were extremely tight. As we get ready to head into the month of August even that one lone division has tightened a bit.  The American League Central has the Tigers leading by five games over Kansas City who has won six of ten. This division is the tightest in baseball.

The AL East has Baltimore leading both Toronto and the New York Yankees by three games and now Tampa has closed to within 6.5 following a nine-game winning streak. The Rays streak may cause them to re-think trading David Price.

Over in the AL West, the Oakland A’s lead the LA Angels by just two games. While Seattle is 10.5 behind the Athletics, they are in prime contention for the wild-card so keep an eye on them too.

In the National League, the East Division has seen the Washington Nationals re-take first as they lead Atlanta by 1.5 games. The NL Central is the most fascinating division in baseball because of the race going on there. Milwaukee has a three game lead over St. Louis, a four game lead over Pittsburgh and a six game lead over Cincinnati.

The Reds find themselves in a situation where they need to decide if they are going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline this week. The same could also be said for the Pirates who need to add a bat or arm desperately.

The NL West is the tightest race in baseball. The Dodgers are just a half game up on the Giants who seem to have survived their earlier swoon although they’ve lost three in a row.

Stay tuned because I don’t see these races changing much.

The World Cup is Almost Over; MLB Races are Fantastic

shootout
shootout
I really hope the World Cup Final doesn't come down to a shootout. That's no way to settle the 'World's Greatest Championship."

The day I’ve been waiting for over the last month is finally here. The World Cup Final is today! I’m not celebrating the game itself, I’m celebrating the fact that this nonsense will be over. I’ve violated my own mantra on a couple of occasions by even writing about it but now I get to bask in the glory of it being over for another four years.

If you wonder why I despise ‘futbol’ so much a lot of it has to do with the over-saturation of it. ABC/ESPN will have a two-hour pregame today which seems a bit much. Heck, I even hate the six-hour Super Bowl pregame so two hours of soccer is about the equivalent of that in my mind.

I really don’t have anything against soccer players. They are tremendously talented and extremely conditioned athletes but that leads me to part of the problem I have with soccer. If the World Cup Final ends in a shootout today then I believe it to be a travesty. If these guys are so well-conditioned  then why are they not playing until someone scores?

Can you imagine the Stanley Cup Final being decided by a shootout? Ugh…

Oh… Is it too much to ask soccer players that when they score a goal they actually run to their teammates and celebrate rather than do everything they can to celebrate individually? Athletes in other sports are guilty of this as well but it’s abundantly obvious what soccer players are doing when they score and that’s to celebrate “me” rather than with “we.”

Of course as little scoring as there is in soccer I guess I can’t beat them up too much.

Cutch
Andrew McCutchen hit homers in the ninth and eleventh innings to carry the surging Pirates to a win last night.

MLB Races Are Heating Up

While you’ve been inundated with World Cup and LeBron James coverage, Major League Baseball has been cruising along. When you open up the standings tomorrow morning you’ll notice that in five of the six divisions are about as hotly contested as you can get.

Take the National League Central for instance where four of the five teams are within 2.5 games of each other. St. Louis and Milwaukee are tied, the Reds are a game and a half back while the surging Pittsburgh Pirates have closed to within that 2.5 I mentioned.

In the National League West, the San Francisco Giants and LA Dodgers are separated by a single game and in the NL East, Atlanta and Washington are tied at the top.

In the Junior Circuit, we find the only divisional race that is not close and that’s the Central where the Detroit Tigers have stretched their lead over Kansas City to 7.5 games by winning five straight games and seven of their last ten.

The AL East has seen the surging Baltimore Orioles take a three-game lead over Toronto. The Yankees are four games out but received some bad news this week. Their ace Masahiro Tanaka is out for some time with an elbow injury. The team is hoping rehab will do the trick rather than surgery.

Two of baseball’s biggest disappointments also reside in the AL East where Tampa Bay and the defending champion Red Sox are both 9.5 games out of first.

The AL West has turned into a very nice race after it looked like Oakland might run away with it early. Even though the A’s have won seven of ten, the LA Angels have won nine of ten and trail Oakland by just a game and a half.

At this point, the races in MLB deserve your attention. Once your done doing your ‘Ole’ cheers that is.

Odds for National League Division Winners

Harper
Harper
Bryce Harper has returned just in time because the Braves have caught the Nationals in the East.

A few days back I gave you the latest odds on American League Division Winners from our friends at Bovada. Today I’m providing you the latest odds for the senior circuit, known to you youngsters as the National League.

NL East

Washington -180 – Despite a four-game winning streak, the Nationals have been caught by nemesis Atlanta who is streaking themselves right now. The Nationals have a little more staying power because of their overall balance between hitting and pitching. The return of Bryce Harper will help as well.

Atlanta +150 – At the start of the play today, the Braves are a half game up on the Nationals and that’s been due in large part to a six-game winning streak and 8-2 stretch over their last ten. The pitching is just fine as they rank third in the NL, but they need to get the batting going more consistently. I expect the Braves and Nationals to take this down to the wire.

Miami +2,000 – The Marlins continue to be a surprising story in 2014 because most thought they’d be bringing up the rear in the East. They’re just 5.5 games back right now even though they’ve gone just 3-7 in their last ten. The question will be whether they will make moves towards the end of July to better themselves for a wild-card run or will they dump players to get more talent for the future?

NY Mets +3,300 – The Mets have lost three-straight and are nine games back of the Braves. Not an impossible task, but a highly unlikely one to be sure.

Philadelphia +3,300 – The Phillies are only a half-game worse than the Mets but I don’t see any way you’d lay money on this team as they are currently constructed.

Braun
Can Ryan Braun and the Brewers hang on in the NL Central?

NL Central

Milwaukee -130 – The best record in the NL continues to reside in Milwaukee where the Brew Crew have a 6.5 game lead over St. Louis in the Central. The Brewers continue to ride great hitting which is over-coming fairly sub-par pitching. I think they’ll have enough to get into the playoffs but whether that’s as a division champ or not is uncertain.

St. Louis +160 – The Cardinals are almost dead-last in the NL in batting which just isn’t going to get things down if they plan to catch the Brewers. The pitching is fifth in the National League but cannot get worse if they plan to get into the playoffs.

Cincinnati +650 – The Reds have gone 7-3 in their last ten games but they remain seven games back in the Central. They are middle of the road in both batting and pitching and they just don’t seem to be able to gain ground on the Brewers.

Pittsburgh +1,200 – The Pirates have gone 8-2 in their last ten to tie the Reds for third-place in the Central. They recently sent closer Jason Grilli to the Angels in an effort to shake things up and it seems to be working. Will the frugal spending Pirates make a move though to improve?

Chicago Cubs +20,000 – Ummm, moving on.

NL West

LA Dodgers -180 – The Dodgers have closed to within a half-game of the division leading Giants and I think that is a trend that will continue for the rest of the season. LA is third in batting and second in pitching and I have a hard time seeing them finishing anywhere but first.

San Francisco +110 – The Giants have gone 4-6 in their last ten and will likely see their division lead gone as the Dodgers keep piling on wins.

Colorado +6,600 – No

Arizona +25,000 – No

San Diego +25,000 – And no.

If you want a sure winner, take the West and the Dodgers. If you are looking for a long-shot, take the Pirates or Marlins.

Three Night Games Highlight Tonight’s MLB Schedule

Porcello
Porcello
Rick Porcello's strong season has been needed with the struggles of ace Justin Verlander.

Three really good games scheduled for tonight are the ones I’m looking at for your wagering pleasure so let’s not waste any more time and get to the games.

Detroit (-140) at Texas (+120), O/U 10Rick Porcello 9-4 vs. Nick Martinez 1-4,

The Tigers have to be baseball’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde considering the way they have played over the last six weeks. They are currently on a six-game winning streak and look to sweep the Rangers tonight in Arlington. Taking the mound for Detroit is Rick Porcello who is quietly having a very nice season.

Porcello is 1-1 in his last three starts and has an ERA of 4.00. That isn’t spectacular by any measure but that’s kind of the way he does things in a nutshell. His opponent for the injury-riddled Rangers is Nick Martinez who faces an incredibly hot-hitting Tigers’ line-up which doesn’t bode well. Martinez is 0-2 with an ERA of 7.20 in his last three starts.

This one seems too easy and it probably is but I love the OVER and I like the Tigers to win.

Wainwright
Adam Wainwright is in the midst of another fine season for the Cards and takes the mound tonight in LA.

St. Louis (-125) at LA Dodgers (+105),  O/U 6.5Adam Wainwright 10-3 vs. Josh Beckett 5-4,

This game features two teams who are both in second place in their respective divisions. They are also fighting to close the gaps on the leaders that sit in front of them. The Cardinals are 4.5 games back of Milwaukee and have gone 6-4 in their last ten outings. The Dodgers are 3.5 games back of the San Francisco Giants and have gone 7-3 over their last ten games.

This one will be about the pitching. Wainwright is having another excellent season for the Cards. He has gone 2-0 in his last three starts and has a sterling ERA of 1.17. His last start was an eight inning win over Philadelphia where he gave up just six hits and one run. Josh Beckett takes the mound for LA and while he hasn’t been as impressive as Wainwright, he does have a no-hitter to his credit.

Beckett is 2-1 in his last three starts and he has an excellent ERA of 1.35 in that stretch. The Dodgers will pose a tough threat to Wainwright as they are third in the National League in batting. I love the UNDER tonight and I like the Dodgers in a close game.

Cincinnati (EVEN) at San Francisco (-120), O/U 7.5Mike Leake 5-6  vs. Ryan Vogelsong 5-3,

So you’re Ryan Vogelsong and you’re having a decent year and now you have to take the hill at home just a day after your teammate throws a no-hitter. Such is life for a big-leaguer… Vogelsong gets the nod today against the Cincinnati Reds following Tim Lincecum’s no-no against the San Diego Padres yesterday.

In the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t mean a lot but it’s hard to avoid knowing that history was made in the exact same spot that you’re getting ready to work on. That aside, Vogelsong is 1-1 in his last three starts but he also has an alarming ERA of 7.31. He could get healthy tonight against a Reds’ line-up that ranks 10th in the National League.

His counter-part Mike Leake is 2-1 in his last three starts and is coming off a gem against Toronto in which he went eight innings and gave up just one run. The Reds have won seven of their last ten yet remain 7.5 games out of first in the NL Central. The Giants have won just three of their last ten but could be motivated by the Lincecum no-hitter.

The stats are hard to ignore going into tonight. I like the Reds and the OVER.

Updating Baseball’s World Series Favorites

Hudson
Hudson
Tim Hudson leads the Giants in quality starts and has a 7-2 record this year.

We are a little less than a month away from Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game and already we have division leaders separating themselves from the pack. We also have races heating up that should last throughout the summer and right into September. The latest odds on who will take home the World Series Trophy are out from our friends at Bovada.

I’m telling who you should strongly consider and who you should say ‘no thanks’ to so let’s get to it.

San Francisco 11/2 – The Giants lead the National League West by five games over the LA Dodgers. Many are expecting LA to heat up again as they did last year this time but these Giants seem to have staying power. They aren’t in the top five in batting or pitching but they are doing all of the little things correctly. They are limiting opponents’ batting while taking advantage of opponents’ pitching later in games.

Oakland 6/1 – It’s not a secret as to why the Athletics are leading the American League West and are currently the AL’s top favorite to win the title. Oakland leads the Majors in both hitting and pitching. Pretty simple right? The A’s also have MLB’s best road record (tied with MIL at 23-14) which gives them the confidence they need to get things done in the playoffs.

Verlander
Justin Verlander was rocked again this week and that has become the norm rather than the exception this season.

Detroit 16/2 – Lets get to the heart of this team right now; they are not winning the World Series. The last six weeks has proven that General Manager Dave Dombrowski has once again failed to address the bullpen problems and that will cost this team. Throw in the fact that Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have been terribly inconsistent as starters and you’ve got a real problem. The Tigers fell out of first place last night for the first time all season and don’t be surprised if the slide continues.

Toronto 8/1 – The Blue Jays have recently cooled off after an extremely hot run but they still lead the AL East by three and half games over second place New York and by four games over the Orioles. Toronto currently ranks third in batting which has been their overwhelming strength so far this season because their pitching isn’t exactly on par with the team’s overall performance. The Jays currently rank 22nd in the Majors in team pitching and if this team is to be taken seriously then that will have to improve.

LA Dodgers 9/1 – The Dodgers rank ninth in batting and 13th in pitching and have that five game deficit in the NL West. Colorado is in third, nine games out of first so I this division as a two-horse race. A lot was made of the Dodgers’ epic run last year (41-8 at one point) and that’s pertinent here because the Giants have lost four straight games while the Dodgers are in the midst of a 7-3 stretch in their last ten games. I think this will be one of the top two races down the stretch in Major League Baseball and if the pitching comes around more than look out.

St. Louis 9/1 – The Cardinals have won five straight games and have a streak of eight wins over their last ten games. After seeing the Milwaukee Brewers come flying out of the gate in the National League Central, the Cards have slowly made up ground behind their league-leading pitching staff. Pitching, as most of you know, can typically carry you further than top hitting. St.Louis still needs to improve upon their 25th position in the Majors in hitting if they are going to make another run to the World Series.

My top pick: Oakland

Team to run and hide from: Detroit

MLB Predictions for 2014

Scherzer
Scherzer
Max Scherzer has put his contract talks on the back burner as he looks to defend is Cy Young title.

I guess the 2014 Major League Baseball season actually started last week wen the Dodgers took two from the Diamondbacks down in Australia but I certainly don’t recognize that and I’m guessing you don’t either. If Major League Baseball wants to really get the fans involved then they’d do more to make Opening Day a bigger deal.

Last night was technically opening day in the US and the game again featured the Dodgers. Today, is the real Opening Day as it always should have been. Here is my take on the upcoming season.

American League

The Boston Red Sox are your defending World Series Champions and their defense will be anything but easy. Within their own division, the rival Yankees have restocked by pilfering Jacoby Ellsbury from them. The Tampa Bay Rays will be just as much of a threat in the East and I believe this is your division winner with one exception.

If the injury bug hits Evan Longoria and others again then the Rays will suffer. Otherwise, I like them to win the division. Both Boston and New York will vie for the wild-card spots and very likely could grab both but New York has health issues too that could cost them.

In the Central, the Detroit Tigers should again win the division yet I expect it to be another struggle to put away both Cleveland and rising Kansas City. Although the Tigers said goodbye to Prince Fielder, the line-up should remain strong and so too should the pitching staff. Kansas City will again be better and I believe will be a threat to both the Tigers and the AL wild-card race.

Cleveland has been able to hang around a bit in recent years and should do so again but I still anticipate a two, if not one, team race in the American League Central Division.

The West should be better overall with the additions that have happened in Seattle, but I still expect the Oakland A’s to take the division behind really good hitting and perhaps even better pitching. Texas will be a threat as they welcome Fielder to the line-up but how far can the pitching take them?

The Angels will have to be better in the pitching department in order to be a factor in the West. The offense will ride with Mike Trout but will Albert Puljos and Josh Hamilton be able to stay healthy for a full season?

AL Predictions: East – Rays, Central – Tigers, West – A’s, Wild-Cards Red Sox, Royals, AL Champs – A’s

National League

The NL East still runs through Atlanta until the Washington Nationals can prove that they can knock the Braves from their perch. I expect that this division will be a dogfight all season long and I expect that it goes down to the wire between these two. Philadelphia is a potential threat but a lot as to go right.

The Central Division gave us a wonderful race last year with the Cardinals edging out the Pirates for the division title. The two teams then gave us a great five-game series before the Cards eventually advanced. I expect St. Louis to do well again and because the Prates did little in the offseason, I see a step back for them. Cincinnati could be a threat here too.

The West is going to be the Dodgers and everyone else. This doesn’t mean the Giants and D-Backs can’t be threats but I just don’t see how anyone will be able to hang with LA for 162 games with the pitching and hitting they currently have.

NL Predictions: East – Washington, Central – St. Louis, West – LA Dodgers, Wild-Cards – Atlanta, San Francsico

News Around MLB Carries the Day

Kershaw
Kershaw
My mouth would be wide open too after signing a $215 million contract as Clayton Kershaw did.

As the National Football League Playoffs are underway and the NBA and NHL are deep into their seasons, Major League Baseball is suddenly back in the news and for all kinds of reasons. From the Hall of Fame to A-Rod and massive salaries, I’m covering a bit of everything today.

Kershaw Cashes In

Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw signed a $215 million contract extension this week making him baseball’s highest paid pitcher easily passing Justin Verlander’s $180 million deal.

At 25, Kershaw has already won the Cy Young Award twice and he has the best ERA of any active pitcher at 2.61 with only Mariano Rivera being the exception but his retirement looks to be a real thing. The question of whether the Dodgers made the right choice in locking him up is a moot one.

Of course they should have. The bigger question for me is whether paying a guy who plays every five days this amount is a smart move. I’ve always said no but I know there are several stats that say otherwise.

Bottom line? The Dodgers will hold their breath with every Kershaw pitch from now until the end of his career.

A-Rod
I wonder if Alex Rodriguez really believes in everything that comes out of his mouth?

A-Rod Will Never Get It

Alex Rodriguez has, as expected, sued both the Major League Baseball Players’ Association as well as Major League Baseball. This was in retaliation for his 162 game ban for 2014. Rodriguez often reminds me of Barry Bonds other than he talks way more than Bonds ever did.

Rodriguez probably could have put up numbers more than suitable enough for Hall of Fame consideration had he stayed off the juice. The same was always said about Bonds but his late-career decisions screwed that.

Listening to Rodriguez speak about the situation almost makes you feel sorry for him. He mentioned just this week in an interview in Mexico that he ‘appreciates the support of his many fans.’ Does he not realize that he really doesn’t have any fans?

If he does, they are no better than him.

Rodriguez also mentioned that he ’looks forward to moving on to the next chapter of life.’ The only way to interpret that is that he believes he will play baseball again. I can’t see it happening. In fact there are already rumors that the New York Yankees would rather eat the millions they owe him than have him wear the pinstripes again.

Besides, who would ever take on his salary or want him in their clubhouse anyway? He is already 38 years old so whatever this ‘chapter’ he’s talking about is, I hope he doesn’t think it includes baseball.

I’m Torn on the Hall of Fame

Baseball has gone through several eras during its’ more than 100 years of existence and some of those have been good and some of those have been bad. I really don’t want to see guys like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame because that is all that they desire.

Putting them in even with an asterisk troubles me because they still would be “hall of famers” and I hate how they shamed the game.

At the same time, I recognize that there are players already in the Hall of Fame who weren’t exactly gentlemen or men free of issues both on and off the field. This makes me think that maybe it’s time to recognize the steroid guys somehow. Do they create a wing solely for those of the steroid era? Do they finally use the asterisk or do they acknowledge these players but not make them members?

I really don’t have the answer and I probably never will.