You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
– Malcolm X
You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
– Malcolm X
Nope. No blurb today. Let’s just get this over with, I’ve got Gotham, Flash and Korra reviews to get through.
This is what I get for actually writing semi-consistently, I guess.
ALDS GAME 3: LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM @ KANSAS CITY ROYALS
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Royals Hitter: Nori Aoki (3 Hits in 3 At-bats, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, 1 Walk)
Royals Pitcher: James Shields (6 Innings Pitched, 6 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 2 Walks, 6 Strikeouts)
2nd Royals Hitter: Eric Hosmer (1 Hit in 3 At-bats, 1 Run, 2 RBI, 1 Walk)
Royals Clutch Relievers: N/A (Not close enough of a game)
Angels Hitter: Erick Aybar (4 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 2B)
Angels Pitcher: N/A
Angles Clutch Relievers: N/A
ALDS GAME 3: BALTIMORE ORIOLES @ DETROIT TIGERS
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Orioles Hitter: Nelson Cruz (2 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 Run, 2 RBI, 1 HR)
Orioles Pitcher: Bud Norris (6 1/3 Innings Pitched, 2 Hits, Shutout, 2 Walks, 6 Strikeouts)
2nd Orioles Pitcher: Andrew Miller (1 2/3 Innings Pitched, o Hits, 0 Earned Runs, 0 Walks, 0 Strikeouts)
Orioles Clutch Reliever: Andrew Miller
Tigers Hitter: N/A
Tigers Pitcher: David Price (8 Innings Pitched, 5 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 2 Walks, 6 Strikeouts)
Tigers Clutch Reliever: Joe Nathan
NLDS: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS VS WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Giants Hitters: Joe Panik (Game 1: 2 Hits in 5 At-bats, 1 Run, 1 RBI) Brandon Belt (Game 2: 1 Hit in 7 At-bats, 1 HR, 1 Run, 1 RBI) Game 3: N/A, Joe Panik (Game 4:2 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 Run, 1 RBI)
Giants Pitchers: Jake Peavy (Game 1: 5 2/3 Innings, 2 Hits, Shutout, 3 Walks, 3 Strikeouts) Yusmeiro Petit (Game 2: 6 Innings, 1 Hit, Shutout, 3 Walks, 7 Strikeouts) Madison Bumgarner (Game 3: 7 Innings, 6 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, 6 Strikeouts) Ryan Vogelsong (5 2/3 Innings Pitched, 2 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 2 Walks, 4 Strikeouts)
2nd Giants Pitchers: Tim Hudson (Game 2: 7 1/3 Innings, 7 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 0 Walks, 8 Strikeouts),
Giants Clutch Relievers: Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla (Game 1), Jean Machi, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Yusmeiro Petit, Hunter Strickland (Game 2) N/A (Game 3), Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla (Game 4)
Nationals Hitters: Bryce Harper (Game 1: 2 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 Home run, 1 Run, 1 RBI) Anthony Rendon (Game 2: 4 Hits in 7 At-bats, 1 RBI, 1 Walk) Bryce Harper (Game 3: 1 Hit in 3 At-bats, 1 Home run, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, 1 Walk) Bryce Harper (Game 4: 2 Hits in 3 At-bats, 1 Double, 1 Home run, 1 Run, 2 RBI, 1 Walk)
Nationals Pitchers: Stephen Strasburg (Game 1: 5 Innings Pitched, 8 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 1 Walk, 2 Strikeouts) Jordan Zimmermann (Game 2: 8 2/3 Innings, 3 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 1 Walk, 6 Strikeouts) Doug Fister (Game 3: 7 Innings Pitched, 4 Hits, Shutout, 3 Walks, 3 Strikeouts) N/A (Game 4)
Nationals Clutch Relievers: Jerry Blevins, Matt Thornton, Tyler Clippard (Game 1) Tyler Clippard, Matt Thornton, Jerry Blevins, Craig Stammen, Rafael Soriano, Tanner Roark (Game 2) Tyler Clippard (Game 3) Jerry Blevins, Rafael Soriano (Game 4)
NLDS: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Cardinals Hitters: Matt Carpenter (Game 1: 2 Hits in 5 At-bats, 1 Double, 1 Home run, 2 Runs, 4 RBI) Matt Carpenter (Game 2: 2 Hits in 3 At-bats, 1 Home run, 1 Run, 2 RBI) Matt Carpenter (Game 3: 2 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 Home Run, 1 Run, 1 RBI) Matt Adams (Game 4: 1 Hit in 3- At-bats, 1 Home run, 1 Run, 3 RBI)
Cardinals Pitchers: Marco Gonzales (Game 1: 1 Inning, 1 Hit, 0 Earned runs, 0 Walks, 0 Strikeouts), Lance Lynn (Game 2: 6 Innings, 7 Hits, 2 Earned runs, 2 Walks, 8 Strikeouts) John Lackey ( Game 3: 7 Innings, 5 hits, 1 Earned run, 1 Walk, 8 Strikeouts) Shelby Miller (Game 4: 5 2/3 Innings, 5 Hits, 2 Earned runs, 3 Walks, 4 Strikeouts)
2nd Cardinals Hitter: Matt Holliday (Game 1: 2 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 Home run, 2 Runs, 3 RBI)
Cardinals Clutch Relievers: Seth Maness, Marco Gonzales, Pat Neshek (Game 1)
Dodgers Hitters: A.J. Ellis (Game 1: 4 Hits in 5 At-bats, 1 Home run, 3 Runs, 2 RBI), Matt Kemp (Game 2: 2 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 Home run, 1 Run, 1 RBI)
Dodgers Pitchers: Zack Greinke (Game 2: 7 Inning, Shutout, 2 Hits, 2 Walks, 7 Strikeouts) Hyun-jin Ryu (Game 3: 6 Innings, 1 Earned run, 5 Hits, 1 Walk, 4 Strikeouts)
Dodgers Clutch Relievers: Scott Elbert, J.P. Howell, Brandon League (Game 1) Brandon League, Kenley Jansen (Game 2) Pedro Baez, Brandon League (Game 4)
Suddenly, the American League Division Series just got a whole lot more predictable, as both the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles are one win away from heading to the League Championship, thanks to late-inning heroics from Mike Moustakas of the Royals and, well, the entire Orioles offence save for Adam Jones and Nick Hundley in Game 1, and Eric Hosmer of the Royals and Delmon Young of the Orioles in Game 2.
The two series have been different in the respect that while the Orioles and Tigers games have been characterized by timely offensive outbursts (Mainly by the O’s, obviously) the Royals and Angels pitching staffs have mostly held the other team in check, thanks to great performances from Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker, and solid relief, which was seen as a weakness of the Angels prior to the playoffs. It still is, really, but hey, they’ve done well until extra innings. As long as someone in their offense not named Kole Calhoun can make literally anything happen, they stand at least a minor shot at maybe winning the next three games.
If you’re betting money on that happening though, you’re either very brave, or very, very, very stupid.
I’m little less hard on the Detroit Tigers, as their rotation is still really good (Even if Scherzer and Verlander underperformed) and their offense is hitting… Just not as much as the Orioles. Also, their bullpen (Aside from Anibal Sanchez) has been just the worst, with an ERA well over twenty. FUCKING TWENTY.
PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME(S):
Orioles Hitters: Nelson Cruz (Game 1: 2 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 Home Run, 2 Runs, 3 RBI) Delmon Young (Game 2: 1 Hit in 1 At-bat, 1 Double, 3 RBI)
Orioles Pitchers: Andrew Miller (Game 1: 1 2/3 Innings Pitched, 0 Hits, 0 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, 3 Strikeouts) Kevin Gausman (Game 2: 3 2/3 Innings Pitched, 3 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 1 Walk, 5 Strikeouts)
2nd Orioles Pitcher: Chris Tillman (Game 1: 5 Innings Pitched, 4 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, 6 Strikeouts)
Orioles Clutch Relievers: Andrew Miller (Game 1), Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach, Zach Britton (Game 2)
Tigers Hitters: N/A (Game 1) J.D. Martinez (Game 2: 1 Hit in 4 At-bats, 1 Home Run, 1 Run, 3 RBI)
Tigers Pitchers: N/A (Game 1) Anibal Sanchez (2 Innings Pitched, 0 Hits, 0 Earned Runs, 0 Walks, 2 Strikeouts)
Tigers Clutch Relievers: Anibal Sanchez (Game 2)
Royals Hitters: Mike Moustakas (Game 1: 1 Hit in 3 At-bats, 1 Home Run, 2 Runs, 1 RBI) Eric Hosmer (Game 2: 3 Hits in 4 At-bats, 1 Home Run, 2 Runs, 2 RBI)
Royals Pitchers: Jason Vargas (Game 1: 6 Innings Pitched, 3 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 1 Walk, 2 Strikeouts) Yordano Ventura (Game 2: 7 Innings Pitched, 5 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 1 Walk, 5 Strikeouts)
Royals Clutch Relievers: Brandon Finnegan, Wade Davis, Tim Collins, Jason Frasor, Danny Duffy, Greg Holland (Game 1) Wade Davis, Jason Frasor, Brandon Finnegan, Greg Holland (Game 2)
Angels Hitters: N/A
Angels Pitchers: Jered Weaver (Game 1: 7 Innings Pitched, 3 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 2 Walks, 6 Strikeouts) Matt Shoemaker (Game 2: 6 Innings Pitched, 5 Hits, 0 Earned Runs, 0 Walks, 6 Strikeouts)
Angels Clutch Relievers: Joe Smith, Huston Street, Kevin Jepsen (Game 1) Jason Grilli, Joe Smith, Huston Street (Game 2)
And just like that, both of my favourite teams are knocked out of the playoffs. Fuck me, right?!?!
Yeah, after the thrilling American League Wild Card, this game was definitely a comedown in terms of quality. The Giants beat five runs out of Edinson Volquez, thanks mainly to a grand slam by Brandon Crawford, of all people.
The famed Pirates relief staff also failed to come through, and the end result was a resounding 8-0 victory for San Francisco, who will travel to the American capital to play the Washington Nationals on Friday.
Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve decided to make these post-game posts shorter, as I need to devote more time to that fucking Gotham post. It really shouldn’t be taking me this much time, I admit, but what can I say? I’ve been busy.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Giants Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner (Complete Game Shutout, 4 Hits, 1 Walk, 10 Strikeouts)
Giants Hitter: Brandon Crawford (1 Hit in 5 At-bats, 1 Home Run, 1 Run, 4 RBI, 1 Error)
2nd Giants Hitter: Brandon Belt (2 Hits in 3 At-bats, 1 Run, 3 RBI, 2 Walks)
Giants Clutch Relievers: N/A
Pirates Pitcher: N/A
Pirates Hitter: N/A
Pirates Clutch Relievers: Bobby LaFromboise
I swear that I’m working on getting that Gotham review up. It should be posted later Wednesday night, though I would have had it up sometime tonight if not for this long-ass game. What was expected to be a pitchers’ duel between A’s ace Jon Lester and the Royals’ James Shields and, indeed, it looked like the A’s were going to cruise to the win after Brandon Moss hit two homers and Jon Lester turned in a decent (If not great) start, outlasting Shields, who got chased out in the sixth. However, the Royals struck back, clobbering Lester to make it 7-6 heading into he ninth and scoring the tying run off of a sacrifice fly from Norichika Aoki.
The Relentless Royals continued to put runners on base, and took advantage of the weak defense of Derek Norris (Substituting Geovany Soto, who was knocked out with a thumb injury in the fourth inning) by wreaking absolute havoc on the basepaths, with Aoki, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Terrence Gore, Jarrod Dyson and Christian Colon stealing a base apiece. It also didn’t help that outfielder Coco Crisp also left the game with a hamstring injury. A’s relievers Sean Doolittle and Danny Otero kept the game tied long enough for Josh Reddick to walk, Jed Lowrie to bunt him over, and Alberto Callaspo, of all people, to drive the lead runner in.
Leaving Otero in to pitch the bottom of the 12th inning, the A’s promptly got Cain to ground out, but fell victim to Eric Hosmer’s triple, which probably would have been a double had Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld not crashed into each other at the wall. Bad luck then befell the A’s, as Colon hit a bouncing ball that Josh Donaldson had absolutely no chance to convert for the out, which scored the tying run. After lefty specialist Fernando Abad came in and got Gordon to pop out, he was promptly replaced with Jason Hammel, even though Salvador Perez had only hit for a measly .632 OPS against lefties this year. After Colon immediately stole second after the ball bounced out of Derek Norris’s glove, Perez, mired in a terrible game, recent slump and an all-around disappointing year, struck a liner down the third-base glove, just past the glove of a diving Josh Donaldson and into left field. Scoring Colon, this base hit won the game for the Royals (Their first postseason win since Reagan’s first term), eliminated the A’s, and means that the Royals will face the Angels in the ALDS. It also means that I, not exactly being the biggest fan of the Angels, will have to cheer for the Royals against them, despite the fact that not only did they eliminate my second-favourite team, but their clinching of the playoff spot a few days back means that my beloved Toronto Blue Jays are now experiencing the longest playoff drought in baseball.
Fuck me, right?!?!
PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
Royals Pitcher: Brandon Finnegan (2 1/3 Innings Pitched, 1 Hit, 1 Earned Run, 1 Walk, 3 Strikeouts)
Royals Hitter: Eric Hosmer (3 Hits in 4 At-Bats, 1 Triple, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, 2 Walks, 0/1 Stolen Base Attempts)
2nd Royals Hitter: Salvador Perez (1 Hit in 6 At-Bats, 1 RBI)
Athletics Pitcher: N/A
Athletics Hitter: Brandon Moss (2 Hits in 5 At-bats, 2 Home runs, 2 Runs, 5 RBI, 1 Walk)
Royals Clutch Relievers: Wade Davis, Brandon Finnegan, Jason Frasor
Athletics Clutch Reliever: Fernando Abad
Dear Toronto Blue Jays front office, management and players:
You played a fantastic pair of games yesterday. You have nothing to be ashamed about. Honest! Most teams would tremble at the thought of facing the mighty Minnesota Twins. Never mind that Joe Mauer schmuck. Most anybody would be damn near terrified to face the wrath of such perennial all-stars such as Chris Herrmann and Kurt Suzuki. No wonder you all pitched around Josmil Pinto the way that you guy did. I would have too. Sure, he’s barely hitting .200, but it’s still early and a superstar like him is bound to break out at any time.
It’s a wonder that you made it to the seventh inning with a lead, frankly. Even with the marvelous four innings that Dustin McGowan threw, giving up only three runs, six hits and four walks, you still held on to a pitiful 5-3 lead. Don’t get me wrong though, you should all count yourselves very lucky to hold a lead against a team that smart money has picked to finish second-last only to the Astros in the American League.
John Gibbons doesn’t need to blame himself for this. It’s not his fault that his brilliant strategy of “taking good, solid pitchers like Neil Wagner and Brett Cecil out of the game way before they’re out of gas” didn’t work out. All revolutionary actions are bound to hit a rough spot at some point,mainly due to the fact that they’re highly illogical, but they’re also eventually recognized for the sheer brilliance that they are, no matter how much of a toll they take on your bullpen.
And could you really blame Sergio Santos for his implosion of Ricky Romero-like proportions? I’m not even gonna joke about this anymore, because there is no positive way to spin this. Three wild pitches in an inning? Are you fucking serious? I’ve seen Little Leaguers pitch better innings than that.
I’m sorry that this post is so irrelevant to my usual topics and filled with pretty mean-spirited sarcasm, but I really needed to vent about this and it was either using this creative outlet or screaming wordless cries of pain.
Well, with the season starting today in a couple hours, I guess the ship has sailed on my division-by-division predictions of the upcoming Major League Baseball season. I guess the honourable thing to do would be to bang out four more 1000+ word previews, but that would also be the insane thing to do, so here’s a quick PKTM preview of the 2014 season. The Al East will be thew only division with a summary, because, well, this was the only division I had stuff written out for. I need to work on this whole “meeting deadlines” thing.
Sure, the Rays may not score the most runs (Or draw the biggest crowds), but their pitching staff is deep enough to the point where it doesn’t matter if Matt Moore or Chris Archer regress, or if Jake Odorizzi doesn’t cut it in the major leagues, because they’re bound to have somebody just as good waiting in the wings. Also, you can’t go wrong with Evan Longoria. Fuck Josh Lueke though.
The Red Sox are a great team as well though, and could repeat as World Series champions, let alone division winners. However, while they may be the harder-hitting team, the Red Sox pitching staff is a lot thinner than Tampa’s, and, while he probably should have won AL Manager of the year in 2013, John Farrell is still an inferior manager to Joe Madden.
The Orioles are far from has-beens, but they’re a bit iffier, what with Nelson Cruz coming off of steroids and Ubaldo Jimenez being Ubaldo Jimenez. The rotation is solid and deep, though, and they still have stars like Adam Jones and Chris Davis, who should hold them off while Manny Machado recovers from his injury.
As for the Bronx Bombers, they will probably miss the playoffs. There are far too many question marks on this team for me to justify predicting even an 85-win season. Can they really count on not only Derek Jeter, but also Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Brian Roberts, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Michael Pineda to stay healthy? And on C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Alfonso Soriano to not regress with age? And who knows about Masahiro Tanaka.
And as for my Blue Jays, they may be filled to the brim with talent, but with that rotation? Come on. Maybe in a lesser division, but not in the same division as the Red Sox, Rays and O’s.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels
NL MVP: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
AL Rookie of the year: Taijuan Walker, Mariners
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, Reds
ALCS: Detroit Tigers over Tampa Bay Rays
NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cardinals
World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers over Detroit Tigers
Now, if ya’ll will excuse me, I’m gonna get back to binge-watching the 90’s X-Men cartoon series.
(Looking for my NL West preview? Here it is!)
5. Houston Astros
2013 Record: 51-111 (5th in division)
Manager: Bo Porter (2nd season as mansger, 51-111 career record)
General manager: Jeff Luhnow
Home field: Minute Maid Park
So what’s good?: Bupkiss.
Just kidding. There isn’t any reason for Astros fans to commit mass suicide yet. While this team has absolutely no hope of a winning record, much less making the playoffs, this season, there still are reasons to head to Minute Maid Park in 2014. For one, the big league team, despite barely being better than most AAA teams, has some solid talent in young players such as Jason Castro, Jose Altuve, Dexter Fowler, Chris Carter, Matt Dominguez, Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and L.J. Hoes. None of these guys are superstars, obviously, but as a young core group of players, you could do worse.
And lest we forget that the Astros have the best farm system in the game, the beneficiaries of a bunch of good drafts. George Springer, Domingo Santana and Jonathan Singleton are all knocking on the door of the big league club, and Carlos Correa, Mark Appel and Mike Foltynewicz should all be factors way down the line.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: What could I possibly say about the Astros’ chances this year that hasn’t already been said?
Team Grade: D
4. Seattle Mariners
2013 Record: 71-91 (4th in division)
Manager: Lloyd McClendon (6th season as manager (1st with Mariners) 336-446 career record)
General manager: Jack Zdurienczik
Home field: Safeco Field
So, what’s good?: If there’s one nice thing to say about the Seattle Mariners, it’s that their rotation is very impressive. Felix Hernandez, of course is a wonderful pitcher, and should contend for the Cy Young Award, but often overlooked is Japanese hurler Hisashi Iwakuma, who was arguably even better than Hernandez last year. When you factor in the arrivals of prospects Taijuan Walker and Canadian lefty James Paxton, you have what could potentially be a great rotation on your hands.
There are some bright spots in this lineup as well, such as the highly underrated third-baseman, Kyle Seager, highly-touted catching prospect Mike Zunino and, of course, the highest profile signing of the offseason, Yankee expat Robinson Cano, probably the best second baseman in the game and a probable MVP candidate.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: Remember how I said how great the M’s rotation was? Well, that was before Walker and Iwakuma got hurt and became doubtful to not miss the start of the season and the rotation was depleted to Hernandez, Paxton and such superstars as Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan. Add what looks to be, even with the addition of Fernando Rodney, a very thin bullpen (Although Rodney’s in decline, anyways) and you have a recipe for a ton of runs allowed, at least until the starting pitching gets healthy.
And the starting lineup doesn’t inspire much confidence either. Aside from Seager and Cano, most of the hitters are either mediocre (Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley) or unproven (Zunino, Brad Miller). And holy shit, why would you pay $6 million dollars to Corey Hart? I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I’m even more sure he hasn’t played in a major league baseball game since the end of the 2012 season. And while I may not be the best judge of managers, Lloyd McClendon’s poor record with the Pirates from 2001-05 isn’t that impressive.
Team Grade: C-
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2013 record: 78-84 (3rd in division)
Manager: Mike Scioscia (15th season as manager, 1233-1035 career record)
General manager:Jerry Dipoto
Home field: Angel Stadium of Anaheim
So what’s good?: Any discussion about the strong points of the Angels has to begin and end with Mike Trout, the best all-around player in MLB bar none. He probably should have won MVP awards the last two seasons (Although it’d be hard to make an argument against Miguel Cabrera) and has to be considered the favourite to win the big prize this year, even if his team doesn’t make the playoffs.
Another point in the Angels favour is the improved starting rotation, which was just plain rancid last year. Jered Weaver should be excellent, as long as he stays healthy, C.J. Wilson is a very good pitcher, although he is criminally overpaid, and Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago are some nice young talent. And let’s not forget about Tyler Skaggs, whom they acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: I have a feeling that Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are going to rebound a bit this year, but I’m also quite sure that a) neither are going to be elite players ever again and b) even that slight rebound will not be enough to justify the inhuman amount of money that they’re being awarded in 2014 or going to be awarded way down the line. These idiotic contracts may turn out to be the reason that the Angels may not be able to afford to lock up Mike Trout before he becomes a free agent in 2018.
Team Grade: B-
2. Oakland Athletics
2013 record: 96-66 (1st in division)
Manager: Bob Melvin (11th season as manager (4th with A’s) 730-694 career record (237-186 with A’s))
General manager: Billy Beane
Home field: O.co Coliseum
So what’s good?: The good news is, aside from the recent injuries to their starting rotation, the A’s don’t really have a discernible weakness. The bullpen looks great, as seems to be the norm in Oakland, even if I maintain that Jim Johnson is highly overrated, and there isn’t a single bad player on the starting lineup. Sure, one could complain that there’s no real superstar, but who could really complain about a 1-2-3-4-5 of Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss?
Sounds great, but what sucks?: The young A’s rotation has, unfortunately for my second-favourite team, fallen prey to injuries. Jarrod Parker is going to miss the season because of Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin is going to miss the first few weeks of the regular season with elbow tendinitis. I suppose you could ask for a worse rotation than Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone and Jesse Chavez, but it could still cost them some serious ground.
Team grade: B+
1. Texas Rangers
2013 record: 91-72 (2nd in division)
Manager: Ron Washington (8th season as manager, 611-524 career record)
General Manager: Jon Daniels
Home field: Globe Life Park in Arlington
So what’s good?: No intelligent pitching staff wouldn’t shudder in fear upon glancing at the Rangers’ lineup. It’s a nice mix of 20-20 candidates (Alex Rios, Shin-Soo Choo) elite hitters (Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder) speedsters (Elvis Andrus, Leonys Martin) and even a couple of strikeout-prone sluggers (J.P. Arencibia, Mitch Moreland), you know, to lull opponents into a false sense of security until they get hot. Or something.
To compliment this beast of a lineup, the Rangers have a good bullpen, led by Joakim Soria, Alexi Ogando, Neal Cotts and Jason Frasor among others, a good rotation, once healthy, and the great management skills of Ron Washington backing them up.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: What with all the injuries to the A’s pitching staff, I would have had Texas as the clear favourite to win the division… Until 60% of their rotation was struck down by the injury bug.
Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison are likely to miss a few starts at the beginning of the season, and Derek Holland will be out ’till mid-season. Until they return, their rotation will likely consist of Martin Perez (A very good young starter), Tanner Scheppers (Who has a previous career high of seven starts in the minors), Robbie Ross (Hasn’t started a game since since 2011, in the minors), Joe Saunders (5.26 ERA in 2013) and Nick Martinez (Who the hell is Nick Martinez). Also, second baseman Jurickson Profar will miss a whole bunch of time in the beginning of the year. Other than that though, I don’t see why the Rangers shouldn’t compete this year.
Team Grade: A-
To be continued…
Well, it’s that time of the year again.
Time again for the seemingly endless cycle of initial excitement, heartbreak, fleeting hope and bitterness that is yet another Major League Baseball season.
Since the season is starting in several hours (In the middle of March. In Australia.), I’ve decided to kick off my predictions for the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Since the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers are the first teams to play, I’ve decided to start with the West division of the National League, as they are the only teams who are going to play meaningful games. Have a problem with that? I don’t give a shit.
Teenage obnoxiousness aside, I’ll get to the other division later. Let’s get this party started, shall we?
(For anybody looking for movie reviews: Don’t worry. This isn’t becoming a baseball blog. I would sooner kill myself then write about the Jays every week. Stay tuned for more movie reviews.)
5. Colorado Rockies
2013 Record: 74-88 (5th in division)
Manager: Walt Weiss (2nd season as manager, 74-88 career record)
General manager: Dan O’Dowd
Home field: Coors Field
So, what’s good?: Well, the Rox might have some help on the way for their oft-battered rotation. Flame-throwing right-hander Jonathan Gray should come up sometime in 2015, while Eddie Butler should make his debut later this year. The Rockies also have a pretty decent looking middle of the order with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael “Hopefully not a fluke at age 34” Cuddyer, newly-acquired Justin Morneau and Wilin Rosario, the best catcher you’ve barely heard of. And, while he’s not exactly Larry Walker, Nolan Arenado is the best Mexican-sounding defensive third baseman this side of Manny Machado.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: Well, while their top three starters (Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood) all had good years, who knows if you can ever bet on pitching consistency at Coors field, especially when the bottom two rotation spots are likely to go to some combination of Juan Nicasio (5.14 ERA in 2013), Franklin Morales (4.62 ERA in 2014) and Brett Anderson (6.04 ERA and a crap-load of injuries in 2013).
And it isn’t even a given that their superstars (Namely, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez) deliver either. Tulo hasn’t managed to play over 150 games since 2009 while Gonzalez hasn’t even really come close to equaling his career high of 145 games in 2010.
Team Grade: C-
4. San Diego Padres
2013 Record: 76-86 (3rd in division)
Manager: Bud Black (8th season as manager, 540-595 career record)
General manager: Josh Byrnes
Home field: PETCO Park
So, what’s good?: Well, like the Rockies, the Padres have some good young talent coming up through the pipeline. Unlike the Rockies, however, the Padres have much more, and they actually have enough in the majors now that you can see a core of people like Chase Headley, Jedd Gyorko, Everth Cabrera, Yonder Alonso and Andrew Cashner establishing themselves. When you consider this and the fact that players like Max Fried, Austin Hedges and Reymond Fuentes are knocking on the door, and you could see a pretty good team emerge in a couple years or so.
In addition, I think San Diego has one of the better bullpens on the game and, going solely by their team page on mlbdepthcharts.com, I fail to see someone who could be considered a weak link, with the exception of Patrick Schuster, who hasn’t pitched above Class A. Huston Street, Joaquin Benoit, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer, Alex Torres and Tim Stauffer are all names that inspire confidence in me, though.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: There are way too much question marks surrounding this team, most of them injury-related. Headley is injury-prone, as are Carlos Quentin, Alonso, Cameron Maybin (Who is already on the DL), Yasmani Grandal (Ditto) and Josh Johnson. Also, my memory of Joaquin Benoit blowing leads in the 2013 ALCS is still pretty vivid, so maybe I spoke too soon about the bullpen.
Speaking of Josh Johnson, Lord knows I’m not his biggest fan after contributing a 6.20 ERA to my Toronto Blue Jays last year. However, let’s not forget that he has a very respectable 3.40 ERA for his career and had injury problems last year. This is pretty much the epitome of a low-risk, high reward signing. However, who knows if he’ll be enough to help a rotation that will already be missing Cory Luebke and Casey Kelly.
Team Grade: C+
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 record: 81-81 (2nd in division)
Manager: Kirk Gibson (5th season as manager, 290-279 career record)
General manager: Kevin Towers
Home field: Chase Field
So what’s good?: Aside from their defense and their bullpen, the D’backs don’t have too much to feel bad about. They would have liked to have Patrick Corbin stay off the DL, but even with their best pitcher missing the entire season, they still have a solid, if not particularly special rotation of Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, Bronson Arroyo and Randall Delgado. This talented rotation should benefit from the eventual addition of Archie Bradley, the best pitching prospect in baseball, who is expected to debut some time this year.
I like their lineup too. Paul Goldschmidt is a wonderful young player, and as good a guy as any to build a team around. I’m a big Aaron Hill fan as long as he stays healthy, and Mark Trumbo, Martin Prado and Miguel Montero aren’t anything to sniff at either.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: I hate the D’backs management. I hate, hate, hate it.
I hate that they try to give off the image of false toughness, which always ends up looking like they’re trying too hard. I can’t believe those idiots haven’t figured out that hitting batters is not usually conducive to winning ball games.
Also, they can’t make a deal to save their lives. In recent years, they have given up Justin Upton, Adam Eaton, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Davidson and Trevor Bauer, and are apparently still pondering how in the world they’ve finished at .500 the last two years. Trading away your future tends to lead to mediocrity, guys.
Also, the bullpen does not impress me much. Oliver Perez, J.J. Putz and Brad Ziegler inspire some confidence, but beyond them, nut David Hernandez, Addison Reed and Joe Thatcher cancel that out.
Team Grade: B-
2. San Francisco Giants
2013 record: 76-86 (3rd in division)
Manager: Bruce Bochy (20th season managing (8th with Giants), 1530-1530 career record (579-555 with Giants))
General Manager: Brian Sabean
Home field: AT&T Park
So what’s good?: I don’t really buy the Giants’ demise last year. It was pretty much the same team that won the World Series, but I guess the good luck went the other team’s way more often this year.
I can easily see the Giants being a playoff team this year. This is a damn solid team. I still have faith in Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong turning it around, and Madison Bumgarner is looking like a bona-fide ace, though I’m still iffy on Tim Hudson dominating again. Other than them (And maybe Michael Morse) there isn’t that much holes in this team. I’m a big Brandon Belt fan…
… and he, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro are great table-setters for Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval. Even Morse and Brandon Crawford can do some pretty serious damage to any team caught unawares.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: Like San Diego, there are a bit too much question marks surrounding this team then I’d be comfortable with if I were Bruce Bochy (Whom I believe is a hall of fame manager, by the way). For example, there are four, count ’em, FOUR starters in the rotation (Everybody besides Bumgarner) who are coming off bad or injury-filled seasons, and their lineup, while good, won’t be setting the world on fire anytime soon.
Team Grade: B+
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 record: 92-70 (1st in division)
Manager: Don Mattingly (4th season as manager, 260-225 career record)
General manager: Ned Colletti
Home field: Dodger Stadium
So what’s good?: A better question might be “What isn’t good?”. With the exception of second base, every position is plugged up by an above -average to excellent player, and the rotation has , quite possibly the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball, with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. Bringing in Paul Maholm and Dan Haren to round out the bottom of the rotation isn’t quite as big a splash as I thought they would make (I thought they were a shoo-in for Masahiro Tanaka, personally) but it could pay very big dividends.
Sounds great, but what sucks?: Nothing really. The only problems I foresee are at the second base position, where Cuban acquisition Alexander Guerrero (Who has previously only played shortstop) is struggling so badly defensively that he may be replaced in the early-going by a tandem of Dee Gordon and Justin Turner. Also, Josh Beckett may make the rotation and I think he’s washed up, but otherwise, I can’t really rag on the Dodgers.
Team grade: A
To be continued…
Closer: Koji Uehara
Japanese Team: Yomiuri Giants (1999-2008)
MLB Teams: Baltimore Orioles (2009-11) Texas Rangers (2011-12) Boston Red Sox (2013-Present)
Originally a starting pitcher, Uehara was a former Rookie of the Year, a two-time Japanese champion and a two-time Eiji Sawamura (Japanese Cy Young Award) winner with the mighty Yomiuri Giants. The Giants, a team with an aversion to letting their players go to the U.S., made Uehara wait until he was a free agent to sign a two-year deal with the Orioles. He started 2009 in the O’s rotation, starting 12 games and posting a respectable 4.05 ERA, before being shut down.
In 2010, he was used exclusively as a setup man or closer for some reason. I have the feeling that the Orioles weren’t regretting their decision too much, however, as he had a 2.86 ERA in 2010, and a 1.72 ERA in the half of 2011 that he spent with Baltimore (He was traded to Texas for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter). While he was excellent with Baltimore and Texas, he will likely be best remembered as the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox (I still seethe angrily whenever I read or hear that) closer, after Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey didn’t pan out. A beloved figure in Boston, he signed up for another year with the Red Sox and will be their closer next year.
Right-handed Setup man: Akinori Otsuka
Japanese Teams: Kintetsu Buffaloes (1997-2002) Chunichi Dragons (2003) Shinano Grandserows (Independent, 2013-Present)
American Teams: San Diego Padres (2004-05) Texas Rangers (2006-07)
A star closer in Japan, Otsuka was posted by the Chunichi Dragons prior to the 2004 season, and he was picked up by the San Diego Padres. As the Padres’ setup man, he posted a fantastic 1.75 ERA in ’04, and was pretty solid the next year, as well.
Before the 2006 season, Otsuka was traded to the Texas Rangers for Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young and Terrmel Sledge. He replaced Francisco Cordero as the Rangers closer, and had an excellent season, with a 220 ERA+ (See? I can do newfangled stats too!) and 32 saves. The next season, the Rangers, oddly enough, replaced Otsuka with Eric Gagne. This proved to be short-lived, as Gagne was traded to the Red Sox (Where he imploded) and Otsuka took the reins again, but, unfortunately, he got injured and never played another game in the big leagues.
Left-Handed Setup Man: Hideki Okajima
Japanese Teams: Yomiuri Giants (1994-2005) Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2006) Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (2012)
MLB Teams: Boston Red Sox (2007-11) Oakland Athletics (2013)
A four-time Japan Series winner, Okajima was signed by the Boston Red Sox for pretty much the sole purpose of being a friend to big-time signing Daisuke Matsuzaka. His career didn’t get off to that great of a start. He gave up a home run to John Buck on his very first pitch. However, he righted the ship and went on a scoreless streak that lasted almost two months, and got elected to the All=Star Game. He struggled later in the year and was shut down for a bit, but he returned at the end of the season and helped the Red Sox win the World Series. He had a couple more fine seasons with Boston before fading out in 2011. After returning to pitch in Japan for a year, he had a little-publicized five-game stint with the A’s and is currently a free agent.
Relief Pitcher: Takashi Saito
Japanese Teams: Yokohama BayStars (1992-2005) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2013-Present)
MLB Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers (2006-08) Boston Red Sox (2009) Atlanta Braves (2010) Milwaukee Brewers (2011) Arizona Diamondbacks (2012)
A decent, if unspectacular pitcher in Japan, Saito was a pleasant surprise for Dodger fans, claiming the closer role vacated by Eric Gagne and striking out 107 hitter, phenomenal for a relief pitcher. He returned the next year and only had 74 strikeouts, but he also recorded a 1.40 ERA, which should have gotten him at least mildly considered for a Cy Young Award. He had several more excellent years with different teams, before pitching atrociously for the D-Backs and returning to Japan.
Relief Pitcher: Kazuhiro Sasaki
Japanese Team: Yokohama BayStars (1990-99, 2004-05)
American Team: Seattle Mariners (2000-03)
He may not have left the Mariners on the best terms, but Sasaki nonetheless was probably one of the bigger Japanese stars in the game during his short tenure with the M’s. Winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2000, Sasaki took the closers’ job from Jose Mesa and ran with it, racking up 129 saves and two All-Star appearances over his four years with the club. after a poor 2003 season, he returned to Japan to return to his family…. And his mistress. (Fact: The only player on this team elected into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame…Although that’s very likely to change.)
Relief Pitcher: Junichi Tazawa
Japanese Team: Nippon Oil (Industrial, Service time unknown)
MLB Team: Boston Red Sox (2009, 2011-Present)
Interestingly enough, Junichi Tazawa is the only pitcher on this team that has never thrown a pitch in Nippon Professional Baseball. Undrafted by any Japanese team out of high school, he signed with petroleum company Nippon Oil’s amateur team (In Japan, if a player doesn’t sign with a Japanese team after high school ball (Which, incidentally, is a HUGE deal in Japan), he can either sign directly with a big league team (In which case, he would be ostracized by the traditionalist elements in the NPB, of which there are many), sign with an independent team, or sign with an industrial team, which are teams that are backed by some of Japan’s many big corporations (Yamaha, Toshiba and Central Japan Railway have teams, among others). After a certain amount of years pitching in the Industrial League, a player becomes, once again, eligible for the draft.). He was not drafted by a Japanese team, but he was signed by the Red Sox, and fought through some injury problems to secure a place as the Red Sox setup man. He was a minor, but nonetheless important part of the 2013 World Championship.
Relief Pitcher: Masanori Murakami
Japanese Teams: Nankai Hawks (1963, 1966-74) Hanshin Tigers (1975) Nippon-Ham Fighters (1976-82)
MLB Team: San Francisco Giants (1964-65)
It seems fitting to end this list with the guy who started it all. Masanori Murakami came to the San Francisco Giants with two other Japanese players from the Nankai Hawks as a sort of exchange program. Of the three, Murakami stood out, playing exceptionally well in the Minor Leagues. The Hawks never asked for him back, so the Giants said “screw it” and called him up, making him the first ever Japanese player to play for a Major League team. He played wonderfully in his cup of coffee, and the Hawks must have taken notice, so they demanded the Giants send him back. the two teams agreed to let Murakami play one more season in the Bay Area. He was perfectly non-spectacular in 1965, and returned to Japan, where he had a fine career.
The End (Finally!!!)