Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Preview/Prediction: N.L. Central

Looks like Manny is going back to the Dodgers, but I'm going to be safe and stick with the least likely of his landing spots.

The N.L. Central is a little easier to predict than the A.L. Central, where like the N.L. West, anything can happen.

Last year I got the bottom two right...the top four, not so much. I put too much faith in the Cardinals (4th place), picking them to finish first. I had the Cubs (1st) in second, the Brewers (2nd) in third, and the Astros (3rd) in fourth.

The Cubs retain the best all-around team, including the best starting rotation in the division, and probably the league. They didn't exactly get better, but as if they needed any extra help, the division got much, much worse.

For the Cubs not to win this division by 10 or more games, some young kids are going to need to step up somewhere and make a huge impact.

1) Chicago Cubs (99-63)

I won't give them triple-digits, but I'll give them a 14-game pad when things are said and done. The rest of the division has absolutely nothing. The biggest question for the Cubs is the bullpen, where Bob Howry and Kerry Wood both left town. Carlos Marmol is currently the closer, but with the acquisition of Kevin Gregg, things could change quick. Aaron Heilman would like to compete for a starting spot, but he's more likely to end up a closer, as is the case with fellow Notre Dame Alum Jeff Samardzija.

The Cubbies picked up Milton Bradley (eh.) and Aaron Miles (eh.), but more importantly, likely won't be starting Kosuke Fukudome. Now that I've trashed him, he'll have a great year. But now that I've said he'll have a great year, he'll suck. And now that...nevermind.

The rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster, and Ted Lilly will be fine, even if there are some minor injuries. They've got enough to put the division away early, and it won't even be competitive.

2) Houston Astros (85-77)

This is kind of a "by default" second place pick. Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee are each a year older, and Mark Loretta and Ty Wigginton each bounced in free agency. The best news for the Astros? They still have Roy Oswalt. The bad news? The offense can't produce enough to even guarantee him another 17-win season.

3) St. Louis Cardinals (83-79)

If Chris Carpenter were to ever become healthy, the Cardinals organization might feel a little more confident. Jason Isringhausen headed to the Rays, Aaron Miles to the Cubs, and Felipe Lopez to the D'Backs. Without any decent pitchers in the rotation or the bullpen, there will be a lot of pressure on the Pujols, Ludwick, Ankiel combination. The big three will get it done on offense, but it won't be enough due to lack of production from the surrounding cast.

4) Milwaukee Brewers (80-84)

Trevor Hoffman, Eric Gagne, Jorge Julio. What the hell are the Brewers doing? Braden Looper is apparently their big replacement for Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia. Yovani Gallardo is their ace. The youthful sluggers, Cory Hart, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder, will win them some games, but not enough to make any significant noise in the division.

5) Cincinnati Reds (72-94)

The Reds picked up a plethora of free agents, none of whom will really make a huge impact. Willy Taveras will be roaming center in Cinci, and David Weathers was retained to "help out" in the pen. Teams will be ready for Edinson Volquez this year, and without a left-handed starter, it's going to be a long season for Reds fans. They'll be lucky not to finish in last.

6) Pittsburgh Pirates (70-92)

The Pirates didn't get much better, but maybe a little bit. They picked up Eric Hinske in free agency to come off the bench. The rotation is iffy, but they'll have Jeff Karstens from the starting line. 70 wins isn't too much to ask, is it?

Coming soon: Most likely the A.L. West...but no promises.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Preview/Prediction: A.L. Central

I'm about fed up with Manny Ramirez not signing, I need to talk baseball.

The safest bet would be to begin with the A.L. Central. If Manny ends up there, shame on everyone. We should all just go home now.

I was just about completely ass-backwards last year with the Central. I picked the Tigers to win, the Royals to finish last, and the Indians, Twins, and ChiSox to finished 2-through-4, respectively.

I goose-egged all the way around. Eek.

1) Minnesota Twins (92-70)

The Twins picked up Luis Ayala in the bullpen and Joe Crede at third. They retained Nick Punto at shortstop, and lost Adam Everett and Eddie Guardado. A relatively quiet offseason for Minnesota's finest. This is a young team with a solid foundation in Mauer and Morneau, a great bullpen anchored by Joe Nathan, and a young and capable pitching staff. I like them to win a few extra games than last year and take the division title.

2) Cleveland Indians (88-74)

The Indians are taking the risks with Carl Pavano and Kerry Wood, with the upside much greater than the losses if things don't work out. Cliff Lee won't have anything close to the year he had in 2008. The big question mark for Cleveland is whether Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner finally stay healthy. I'll take a gamble and say yes. Expect great things from Grady Sizemore this season (duh?).

3) Detroit Tigers (87-75)

Detroit had a much more quiet offseason this time around, bringing in role players like Brandon Lyon, Juan Rincon, and Adam Everett. Todd Jones retired, which should be worth 8 or 10 wins right off the bat. A healthy Curtis Granderson will get the Tigers started off right. You won't be seeing an 0-16 mark from this Detroit team.

4) Chicago White Sox (80-82)

This team is getting older, though Alexei Ramirez is going to have a huge year. The starting pitching will be the downfall in ChiTown. Griffey, Crede, and Juan Uribe are all gone, and Orlando Cabrera is as good as gone, too.

5) Kansas City Royals (76-86)

The Royals' offense is making strides as the young guys (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon) grow up. The acquisition of Mike Jacobs will be nice, but they still don't have the pitching to make moves. Back to the basement for K.C. after a stunning fourth-place finish last season.

Coming soon: The second-least probable landing spot for Manny - the N.L. Central.
If he signs, I'll probably do up the A.L. West.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Featured On FoxSports

Watch me get killed with my half of the Duke/UNC preview featured on FoxSports. The comments are hopefully going to get juicy!

Monday, February 9, 2009

A-Rod Admits to Juicing

In an interview being conducted as we speak by Peter Gammons, Alex Rodriguez has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during the 2001-2003 seasons while with the Texas Rangers.

This is a huge step for baseball to have the best player in the game over the last dozen years to come out and admit to his mistakes. It took integrity, and though he had already lied in the past, it's not like he's the only player to deny taking steroids.

Andy Pettitte got a pass for admitting use. Jason Giambi apologized for...something...and was forgiven. A-Rod deserves the same. I'm electing to believe his admission to only using for three seasons, and I don't think it should permanently taint his career.

There was no punishment set in stone in the 2003 season when he tested positive, and the results were supposed to be anonymous. A lot of different people have answers to give, including the players' union.

Rodriguez will not be subject to punishment, but he'll receive plenty of it when he travels on road games, and who's to say Yankees fans won't give him hell either?

Again, steroids don't help you see the ball or even hit it. That takes skill. Alex Rodriguez is still the best player of this era, and he should not be excluded from the Hall of Fame for it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I'm ready for baseball season


I'd love to get my previews going, but there are still some impact players left on the market.

Adam Dunn or Orlando Hudson I couldn't care less about. Whoever they sign with won't necessarily put the team over the hump - they aren't those type of impact players.

Ken Griffey, Jr. and Bobby Abreu can make a team better. But they aren't the ones I'm talking about.

Ben Sheets is probably having surgery and will miss most, if not all of this season, so his availability is a non-factor for now.

But there is the one guy whose presence can impact a team.

You know who I mean.

Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter.

Since I've got that out of my system, let's be serious.

Manny Ramirez needs to sign somewhere. NOW. He's holding up my baseball season. Maybe he'll just defer until into the season when teams are underperforming and get so desperate, they really shell out the dough (Rawja Clemens?).

Of course I'd like him on the Mets now that we have our starting rotation figured out. His bat would really put a nice shine on the rings we win in October.

I don't think the Giants will shell out the money on him. I really don't think they're ready for another high-caliber slugger/media frenzy maker.

The Angels would be a nice fit for him, but they really need a left-handed bat, so Abreu or Griffey (and Ramirez?) could work for them.

The Rangers seem to have smartened up since the 10-year/$252 million deal they gave to A-Rod earlier this century, so don't expect them to swoop in with some ridiculous number in an attempt to get their team out of the gutter.

Let's not talk about if he puts on pinstripes. Bad things will happen.

Then we come to...the Dodgers.

Playing chicken with Scott Boras. Like he said, it's a dangerous game. Most likely, he'll win. Why? Because he has Manny Ramirez, and neither of them care who he ends up with, or when he ends up with them.

Los Angeles' front office needs to just realize this, give him his money and his years, and deal with whatever follows. The fans won't accept not signing him, he's right in front of their faces.

Three years, $54 mil might do the trick, but $60 mil isn't a bad deal either, considering they started by offering $22.5 mil per year then went up to $25 mil.

Step up, do the right thing.

As for the A-Rod testing positive for steroids thing - leave it alone. We taint every single sports star in the world. What? You're good at something? Let's ruin you!! We're even in the process of ruining America's darling, Michael Phelps, because he's a 23-year old taking a bong hit.

Nobody's perfect. Let it go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Maybe it was Super!

That was one hell of a fourth quarter, no?

The first three quarters sucked for the most part, except for James Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown as time expired in the first half.

My prediction (27-20) probably would have looked more credible had I NOT included a scoring-by-quarter breakdown in the comments section, because I had Pittsburgh up big, allowing Arizona to score a junk touchdown to put the total points over the 45.5 point line and break hearts of everyone who put money on it.

If I put slightly more thought into it, I would have given Arizona a few more points so they would cover the spread and make Vegas even more money (complying with my "everything is fixed" conspiracy theory). Alas, we get the 27-23 score and Vegas makes a TON of money because everyone had Pittsburgh to cover 6.5 and the under.

Commercials were decent, with Doritos and Bud Light as my winners, but Pepsi got screwed out of lots of positive attention. The MacGruber commercial was actually the second in a set of three which were debuted on NBC the night before. For more info on the snubbing and to see all three, check out this article.