A Defense of Ruben Amaro, Jr.

albeit maybe a pretty back-handed one…

First of all, let us get two things straight before I embark on a potentially ill-fated defense of our embattled GM.  One, I think Ruben seems like a pretty good guy, and I have a lot of respect for him, personally.  Two, I think Ruben is – and always has been – a pretty terrible GM.  I think it is long past the time when we should be finding a replacement, and the fact that he is still guiding this ship is terrifying to me.  HOWEVER…

I think that the current accusations and frustrations with Ruben are totally off-base and inconsistent.  And, it is the second part that bothers me the most.  Because the same people that seem to question Sam Hinkie and Chip Kelly are ripping Ruben.  It seems to me that the most often-cited wishes of the Hinkie/Kelly regimes are exactly how Ruben has been operating for years.  Let me explain…

COMPLAINT:  Sam Hinkie and Chip Kelly Do Not Talk Enough to the Fans
Ruben is always available.  He has a weekly spot on Angelo’s morning show.  He is on with Gargano and even Missinelli (who has absolutely no qualms about ripping him up cross-examination style).  He gives written journalists pretty extensive access and candid remarks.  In fact, the most recent remarks about the “fans not getting it” is probably the exact reason why Hinkie and Kelly avoid the media.  Because sometimes you are forced to tell the truth (and, let’s be honest – anyone who thinks that Ruben is dumb for leaving Aaron Nola in the minors after 20 starts really doesn’t “get it,” so Ruben is right), and telling the truth sometimes is the worst thing you can do.

COMPLAINT:  Hinkie and Kelly Are Too Quick to Unload Home-Grown Stars
What do we keep hearing over and over about why people are sour on Hinkie and Kelly?  It always comes back to Michael Carter-Williams, DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy.  Hinkie thought MCW’s upside was limited, and Kelly thought that Jackson and McCoy were overpaid and not “on board.”  If you think they’re crazy, then obviously you love the fact that RAJ decided to keep Howard, Utley, and Rollins around for so long, right?  I mean we have to keep our stars, right?

So, if you don’t like what Hinkie and Kelly are doing, then you are intellectually dishonest with yourself if you don’t, at least, respect the job Ruben is doing.

And, then there are the unfair complaints about Ruben himself.

COMPLAINT:  Why Hasn’t Ruben Traded Cole Hamels Yet?
Ruben is out there, looking for offers.  Now, this isn’t a Marlon Byrd situation at last year’s trade deadline, which was a total debacle.  This is an ELITE pitcher in his prime with an expensive, but not outlandish and controllable contract.  I am happy that Ruben is waiting to get the best return.  What he is risking is a potential injury, but that risk, in my opinion, WELL worth taking if the alternative is getting 60 cents on the dollar.  Remember the Cliff Lee trade?  That was probably Ruben’s second-biggest blunder (slightly behind the Ryan Howard contract extension and well ahead of the Hunter Pence trade and Jonathan Papelbon signing).  Ruben traded away an elite left-handed pitcher in his prime for a pile of nothing.  If that happens with Hamels, then this rebuilding won’t be a phase, it could be an era.  This whole rebuild is counting on maximizing the value of a guy like Hamels.  He has to hold out.

COMPLAINT:  Why Isn’t Ruben Bringing Up Guys Like Nola?
This is the most recent one – and, frankly, I don’t get it.  What the hell is the point in bringing up a guy who was pitching for LSU this time LAST YEAR.  He has 20 – yes, TWENTY – professional starts.  Why in the world should he be up in the majors for a team that’s going to lose 90+ games.  If the argument is that the team is going nowhere this year, then they should ABSOLUTELY NOT bring him up.  If you told me that they were a mid-rotation starter away from contending, then maybe you take the chance.  But, why chance stunting the growth (and add service time) to your most promising pitching prospect just because “the fans want to see him pitch.”  Buy an f’ing Reading ticket, then, people – come on!  If you are one of the people that want Nola up here now, then Ruben was talking about you when he said “you don’t get it.”  And, he was right.

COMPLAINT:  How Did Ruben Lead a Fall This Far This Fast?
This one is fair and relevant.  Amaro took the reins of a franchise that was in the incredible position of having great home-grown talent, a rabid fanbase that was selling out every night, and owners who were making money hand-over-fist and willing to spend it to stay at the top.  He had a core of position players that had already won and built a pitching staff that could rival any in the history of the game.  How did he screw this up so bad?  Now, again, I think a lot of it was his fault (giving Howard the HUGE extension 2.5 years before he had to…trading Cliff Lee for next to nothing…COMPLETELY ignoring any analytics – this is my biggest gripe, actually), but a lot of it was not his fault.  First of all, they had the best team in baseball – and the best team in franchise history – in 2011.  They could have – and maybe should have – won the World Series in any of 2009, 2010, or 2011.  They built a team around relatively young and durable starting pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who got old very fast and missed a lot more time than their track records would have indicated.  In fact, look at the core of those teams and how unpredictable the falls were.  Who would have thought that Brad Lidge would go from perfect closer in 2008 to a 7.21 ERA in 2009 to out of baseball in 2012?  Who would have thought that Ryan Howard would go from 6 straight years of top-10 MVP finishes, averaging 44 HRs per season, including 58 in a single season.  To hitting a TOTAL of 48 HRs from 2012 through 2014?  Who would have known that, in order to keep former platoon OF, Jayson Werth, the Phillies would have had to top a $123 M contract offer from the Nationals?  Who have known that the #2 pitcher on the 2008 championship team (who was actually the ace before the Cole Hamels breakout postseason) would only win 4 more games for the Phils after that and be working on his budding country music career before his 33rd birthday?

Now, to be fair, Ruben did not exactly help the cause, but there were a lot of occurrences – out of his control – that led to this historic fall.  Again, I do not think that Ruben is a good GM – in fact, I think he is pretty bad and should not be the Phillies GM for one more day.  But, I also got bothered by what gets thrown at him.  If you hate Hinkie for never talking or Chip for jettisoning not only D-Jax and Shady, but the Trent Coles and Todd Herremans of the world, then you can’t also rip Ruben for keeping Chase Utley or Ryan Howard too long.  If you hate Ruben’s awful haul when he traded away Cliff Lee (which I do), then you can’t fault him for waiting out a better deal for Hamels.  And, if you are one of these people who think that the Phils should call up their AA starter after 20 professional starts just because you “want to see him pitch” then, as the eloquent Ruben Amaro, Jr., so aptly put it yesterday, “you just don’t get it.”

2014 MLB Awards

NOTE:  This was written and intended to be published at the end of the 2014 MLB regular season, but due to technical difficulties, we couldn’t get it up until now.  But, with the 2015 season upon us, it seems like a good time.

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To get us warmed up, the BBWA has just announced their 2014 MLB Postseason Awards.  And, that’s cute and all, but let us get to the real awards:  the 2014 BSB MLB Awards.  We had an esteemed panel of 7 voters this year, who are very astute and knowledgeable baseball men, vote on 18 different awards.  So, without further ado, let us reveal this year’s winners.

NL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:  Giancarlo Stanton

In one of the closest votes we have ever had here for the BSB Awards, Giancarlo Stanton edged out Pirates centerfielder, Andrew McCutcheon, by just 2 points.  Those two were the only two that were on all seven ballots, and both received three first-place votes.  In fact, these two were 1-2 on six of the seven ballots.  The only difference was the one ballot that didn’t have them 1-2 had Stanton #2 and McCutcheon #4.  Even though the voting occurred before the postseason started, Buster Posey came in at #3, with the BBWA choice, Clayton Kershaw, finishing 4th (though, he did garner the only 1st-place vote not for one of the top two).

Mike Stanton was pretty good, but Giancarlo is incredible

My ballot had McCutcheon #1 and Stanton #2.  I followed that with a pair of catchers at #3 and #4– Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey.  Nationals breakout star, Anthony Rendon, was my #5.  And, I had to add Andrelton Simmons at #6 because he might be the only shortstop that I have ever seen that I would even mention in the same breath as Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith, defensively.  I left off Clayton Kershaw because I feel strongly that you have to play more than one-fifth of your team’s games to be considered the “most valuable player in the league.”  Period.  I wasn’t alone on that, as two others also left Kershaw off completely.

  1. Giancarlo Stanton (3) – 66 (7)
  2. Andrew McCutcheon (3) – 64 (7)
  3. Buster Posey – 43 (6)
  4. Clayton Kershaw (1) – 34 (4)
  5. Anthony Rendon – 27 (4)
  6. Jonathan Lucroy – 21 (3)
  7. Yasiel Puig – 7 (1)
  8. Todd Frazier – 6 (1)
  9. Josh Harrison – 6 (1)
  10. Anthony Rizzo – 6 (1)
  11. Andrelton Simmons – 5 (1)

AL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:  Mike Trout

The best player on the planet fell one point short of a unanimous selection, garnering six 1st-place votes and one 2nd-place vote.  Victor Martinez was a distant 2nd in the voting.  Nelson Cruz finished 4th, but received the only non-Trout 1st-place vote, even though he only appeared on three of the seven ballots.  There were a whole lot of entries here, as 15 different players appeared on at least one ballot, only two of whom made it on more than four.  Yeonis Cespedes received a 5th-place vote for the sheer fact that the A’s were the best team in the league with him and the worst team in the league without him – maybe he is the “most valuable” player.

The pride of Millville, NJ

Trout was, obviously, my pick for this award.  I agree with the final results for 2nd and 3rd, as well, as I had Martinez at #2 and Brantley at #3.  I swayed from the voters after that, going with the always-overlooked, Jose Bautista, at #4, the rookie sensation, Jose Abreu, at #5, followed by the breakout star (offensively and defensively), Josh Donaldson, at #6, and Robinson Cano at #7.

  1. Mike Trout (6) – 69 (7)
  2. Victor Martinez – 52 (6)
  3. Michael Brantley – 31 (4)
  4. Nelson Cruz (1) – 24 (3)
  5. Jose Abreu – 24 (3)
  6. Robinson Cano – 23 (3)
  7. Josh Donaldson – 18 (3)
  8. Felix Hernandez – 11 (2)
  9. Alex Gordon – 8 (1)
  10. Jose Altuve – 7 (1)
  11. Jose Bautista – 7 (1)
  12. Adam Jones – 7 (1)
  13. Nelson Cruz’s Doctors – 7 (1)
  14. Miguel Cabrera – 6 (1)
  15. Yeonis Cespedes – 6 (1)

NL CY YOUNG:  Clayton Kershaw

In a completely unanimous vote, Clayton Kershaw walks away with another Cy Young.  Johnny Cueto, who was the only other pitcher to even appear on every ballot, finished 2nd.  Adam Wainwright was 3rd in a race that was clearly only down to three guys.  In fact, this was the most clear-cut race of all, as the top 5 guys were all on more than half the ballots, and only eight pitchers even received a vote.

The current totle holder of “Best Pitcher on the Planet”

I agree with the top 3, as I went Kershaw, Cueto, Wainwright as #1,2,3.  I considered bumping Wainwright ahead of Cueto, but in the end, Cueto just had a better season.  Madison Bumgarner (for his regular season performance) was 4th for me, as I value innings pitched immensely.  Jordan Zimmermann and Cole Hamels rounded out my ballot.

  1. Clayton Kershaw (7) – 70 (7)
  2. Johnny Cueto – 60 (7)
  3. Adam Wainwright – 51 (6)
  4. Jordan Zimmermann – 30 (5)
  5. Madison Bumgarner – 28 (4)
  6. Zach Greinke – 20 (3)
  7. Cole Hamels – 12 (2)
  8. Doug Fister – 7 (1)

AL CY YOUNG:  Felix Hernandez

BSB disagrees with the BBWA on this one, as King Felix takes home our Cy Young Award in a race that wasn’t really all that close.  The King got five of the seven 1st-place votes and the other two votes were 2nd-place votes.  In fact, BBWA choice, Cory Kluber, barely held off Chris Sale for 2nd place in our vote.  Not that we didn’t recognize the greatness of Kluber, as he, Felix and Sale were all on all seven ballots.  Those three constituted, in some order, the three top spots on all seven ballots.  Down the list, you can see the Bawlmer homerism, as Chris Tillman and Zack Britton both appear on Cy Young ballots.

This guy is either “muscle” for Gus Fring or a future Hall of Famer…hard to tell

Personally, I wanted to vote for Kluber because I really like him and love his stuff, but the season that King Felix put together was just way too good to vote for anyone else.  I tried to talk myself into Kluber, but couldn’t.  I did have Kluber 2nd, ahead of Sale, because of innings pitched.  The top three were obvious.  After that, I had Jon Lester at #4 and the 5’11” Sonny Gray at #5.  I also gave David Price (underrated season) a 6th-place vote and threw a bone to Phil Hughes at #7 for an incredibly under-the-radar season.

  1. Felix Hernandez (5) – 68 (7)
  2. Cory Kluber (1) – 61 (7)
  3. Chris Sale (1) – 60 (7)
  4. Jon Lester – 27 (4)
  5.  Garrett Richards – 20 (3)
  6. Sonny Gray – 13 (2)
  7. Max Scherzer – 12 (2)
  8. Chris Tillman – 6 (1)
  9. Zack Britton – 5 (1)
  10. David Price – 5 (1)
  11. Phil Hughes – 4 (1)

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:  Jacob de Grom

The Mets rookie sensation, Jacob de Grom, burst on the scene this year and takes with him the coveted BSB NL Rookie of the Year award.  de Grom received six of the seven first-place votes.  Billy Hamilton was the only one even close, but he did not get a single first-place vote, as the one ballot on which de Grom was 2nd, he lost out to a rookie broadcaster.  Nice to see Chris Zanzarella – a rookie BSB participant – get a vote, as well as Yours Truly.

This guy? Seriously?

I voted for de Grom at #1, but actually had future Phils closer, Ken Giles, at #2.  I then went with Kyle Hendricks, who may have only started 13 games for the Cubbies, but he was dominant in those 13.  Billy Hamilton and his sub-.300 OBP was 4th, followed by Kolten Wong and Ender Inciarte.

  1. Jacob de Grom (6) – 69 (7)
  2. Billy Hamilton – 60 (6)
  3. Ken Giles – 31 (4)
  4. Kolten Wong – 21 (3)
  5. Kyle Hendricks – 16 (2)
  6. Gregory Polanco – 16 (2)
  7. Ender Inciarte – 11 (2)
  8. Steve Berthiaume (1) – 10 (1)
  9. Chris Zanzarella – 7 (1)
  10. David Buchanan – 6 (1)
  11. Bryan Cimorelli – 6 (1)
  12. Jorge Soler – 6 (1)

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:  Jose Abreu

In the only unanimous vote other than Kershaw, Jose Abreu walks away with the AL Rookie of the Year award without contest.  In fact, his 19-point margin over 2nd-place Masahiro Tanaka was the 2nd-largest margin of victory in any award this year behind only AL Manager of the Year.  After Abreu, it was a slew of hurlers, as 2nd through 6th place were all pitchers.  Tanaka was the only other player to make it to all seven ballots.  Yordani Ventura fell one short, landing on six of the seven.  This was actually a pretty clean election, as there were only 8 players that received votes, seven of whom showing up on at least three ballots.

I’d say he had an “okay” rookie year…

Abreu led my 7-person ballot.  I actually considered going Matt Shoemaker ahead of Abreu, considering he was the ace of the best team in baseball, but Abreu’s numbers were insane.  Shoemaker was my #2 followed by future Astros ace, Colin McHugh, current Yankees ace, Masahiro Tanaka, future Royals ace, Yordani Ventura (who is definitely my favorite rookie to watch), and future Yanks closer, Dellin Betances.  The Twins’ .313-hitter, Danny Santana, rounded out my ballot.

  1. Jose Abreu (7) – 70 (7)
  2. Masahiro Tanaka – 52 (7)
  3. Yordani Ventura – 45 (6)
  4. Colin McHugh – 31 (4)
  5. Dellin Betances – 28 (4)
  6. Matt Shoemaker – 21 (3)
  7. Danny Santana – 17 (3)
  8. George Springer – 8 (1)

NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR:  Clint Hurdle

A pretty hotly contested Manager of the Year race here in the NL ends with Clint Hurdle of the Pirates winning the award thanks to being on five of the seven ballots with three first-place votes (both highs for anyone).  World Champion, Bruce Bochy, finishes second, though Boot made a good point in his ballot as to why he was voting for Bochy (and, this was before the postseason run):  “In 15 years, we will look back at the Giants’ rosters and say Posey is a HOF’er, and that may be it…”  Rookie manager, Matt Williams, finished 3rd followed by Cards 2nd-year man, Mike Matheny.  Interestingly, though there were only 15 NL managers from which to choose, the seven ballots still tabbed four different managers as their top choice.  We also had “negative” votes for Don Mattingly and Kirk Gibson – apparently, they should be 14th and 15th, respectively, in the NL manager pecking order.

I did vote for Hurdle as my #1, but I went Matheny #2.  I originally had Ron Roenicke at #3, but Boot’s comment above swayed me to throw my 3rd-place vote to Bochy.

  1. Clint Hurdle (3) – 23 (5)
  2. Bruce Bochy (2) – 19 (5)
  3. Matt Williams (1) – 16 (4)
  4. Mike Matheny (1) – 12 (3)
  5. Terry Collins – 4 (1)
  6. Don Mattingly – 3 (1)

AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR:  Buck Showalter

BSB agrees with the BBWA here, as Uncle Buck wins this award in a landslide.  Garnering six of the seven 1st-place votes, with the only non-1st as a 2nd-place vote, Buck had, by far, the largest margin of victory here, as his 21-point victory came in an award that only granted 5 points for 1st instead of the usual 10.  Terry Francona finished a distant 2nd with Ned Yost coming in 3rd with the only other 1st-place vote.

Uncle Buck

I went with Buck at #1 and Yost at #2 (even though I don’t really support Neddy’s managing style, you have to hand it to him in accomplishing that much with such sparse resources).  My 3rd choice was Lloyd McClendon, who did a great job out in Seattle this year.  I strongly considered Terry Francona, but I think McClendon had a harder time turning around that franchise, but it is close.

  1. Buck Showalter (6) – 34 (7)
  2. Terry Francona – 13 (4)
  3. Ned Yost (1) – 13 (3)
  4. Lloyd McClendon – 7 (2)
  5. Joe Girardi – 6 (2)
  6. Mike Scioscia – 4 (1)

NL BIGGEST SURPRISE:  Josh Harrison

A BSB category here, as we all voted on who we thought were the biggest surprises of the year in the Senior Circuit.  There are always some interesting answers to this one, and a lot of different choices.  There is no real stated criteria, which makes it fun and interesting.  The Pirates’ Josh Harrison and Nats’ Anthony Rendon both appeared on five of the seven ballots and finished 1-2 here in our voting.  Harrison was the only player to get multiple 1st-place votes, as he received three of them.  Rendon did not have any.  Four others received one 1st-place vote each, including Ryan Howard, who got one for not being “completely finished.”  Doogan pegged Justin Turner in the 5-spot, which forced me to look up his numbers only to learn the kid hit .340 this year with a .404 OBP.  Wow…who knew?!?

The Josh of All Trades

I was the one who voted Jonathan Lucroy at #1, as he became a total star, and I never saw that coming.  Rendon and Harrison followed at #2 and #3 for me.  Corey Dickerson, #4 for me, had a .931 OPS over nearly 500 PAs and seems to be completely anonymous (maybe it’s the Coors factor).  The Mets’ shortstop, Juan Lagares, who came out of nowhere to flash as one of the best defensive SSs in the game (and had a OBP 30 points higher than the esteemed Billy Hamilton), was #5 for me.  Anthony Rizzo, who finally showed his real potential was #6, while Phils surprise, Marlon Byrd, cracked my list at #7.

  1. Josh Harrison (3) – 47 (5)
  2. Anthony Rendon – 41 (5)
  3. Jonathan Lucroy (1) – 31 (4)
  4. Anthony Rizzo (1) – 22 (3)
  5. Devin Mesoraco – 14 (2)
  6. Juan Lagares – 12 (2)
  7. Johnny Cueto (1) – 10 (1)
  8. Ryan Howard (1) – 10 (1)
  9. Marlon Byrd – 9 (2)
  10. Charlie Blackmon – 9 (1)
  11. Lucas Duda – 9 (1)
  12. Matt Kemp – 8 (1)
  13. Ben Revere – 8 (1)
  14. Corey Dickerson – 7 (1)
  15. Tim Hudson – 7 (1)
  16. Tanner Roark – 7 (1)
  17. Denard Span – 7 (1)
  18. Justin Turner – 6 (1)

AL BIGGEST SURPRISE:  Phil Hughes

Do you know that, with 186 strikeouts and only 16 walks in 2014, Phil Hughes set the all-time Major League record for K:BB ratio in a single season?  Ya, me neither.  Well, that sure constitutes a “surprise,” and he won the AL’s Biggest Surprise award here in 2014, grabbing two 1st-place votes and appearing on five ballots.  Cory Kluber (one 1st-place vote) was also on five ballots, while Jose Altuve also garnered a pair of 1st-place votes.  Michael Brantley and Albert Pujols received the other 1st-place votes.

Weird there was a failed Yankees prospect that looked just like him…

Phil Hughes was my runaway pick for this, as I always thought he was terrible, so this year was quite the shock for me.  JD Martinez was my #2 for the importance he provided – out of nowhere – for the Tigers.  A couple of MVP candidates followed with Michael Brantley at #3, Jose Abreu at #4, and Jose Altuve at #5.  Brandon McCarthy was #6 because he looked finished before going to the Yanks.  And, finally, I had Cory Kluber at #7.  He was only so low because I am not that surprised he is this good, I am just surprised he is this good this soon.

  1. Phil Hughes (2) – 39 (5)
  2. Cory Kluber (1) – 36 (5)
  3. Jose Altuve (2) – 32 (4)
  4. Nelson Cruz – 27 (3)
  5. Michael Brantley (1) – 26 (3)
  6. JD Martinez – 22 (3)
  7. Steve Pearce – 17 (2)
  8. Jose Abreu – 15 (2)
  9. Albert Pujols (1) – 10 (1)
  10. Brock Holt – 9 (1)
  11. Matt Shoemaker – 9 (1)
  12. Miguel Cabrera – 8 (1)
  13. Chris Carter – 8 (1)
  14. Derek Jeter – 7 (1)
  15. Carlos Carrasco – 6 (1)
  16. Chris Young – 6 (1)
  17. Brandon McCarthy – 5 (1)

NL BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:  B.J. Upton

In the closest race of all, BJ Upton edges division rival, Dom Brown, for the NL’s biggest disappointment.  It is hard to argue with either, as they were both absolutely dreadful.  The top two were the only two to appear on more than half the ballots, with Upton pacing the field with three 1st-place votes.  Pedro Alvarez edged Jay Bruce for 3rd.  “Beards” got a write-in vote for this category, as Boot feels very disappointed with the abundance of facial hair in the National League these days.  Surprisingly, Ryan Howard was only on one ballot, in 3rd place.  I guess the expectations for him are pretty low these days.  After the top 4, Joey Votto was the only other player to receive a first-place vote.  Interestingly, one of my MVP votes, Andrelton Simmons, received a 3rd-place vote here.  Thoughtful minds really can disagree, though I totally understand the rationale.  Obviously, someone is either a huge Tony Cingrani fan or had him on their fantasy team and felt very let-down.

An all-too-common sight for Braves fans

With a 1-point difference, every ballot with Upton over Brown was the deciding factor, but I definitely played a part here, as I had Upton #1 and Brown #2.  I followed the voters and went Alvarez #3.  I had David Wright #4 because why isn’t this guy a star?  Jonathan Papelbon – for many, many, many reasons – got my 5th-place vote.

  1. BJ Upton (3) – 36 (4)
  2. Dom Brown (1) – 35 (4)
  3. Pedro Alvarez (1) – 27 (3)
  4. Jay Bruce (1) – 26 (3)
  5. Allen Craig – 16 (2)
  6. Curtis Granderson – 14 (2)
  7. David Wright – 14 (2)
  8. Joey Votto (1) – 10 (1)
  9. beards – 9 (1)
  10. Justin Masterson – 9 (1)
  11. Jean Segura – 9 (1)
  12. Ryan Howard – 8 (1)
  13. Andrelton Simmons – 8 (1)
  14. Tony Cingrani – 7 (1)
  15. AJ Burnett – 6 (1)
  16. Shelby Miller – 6 (1)
  17. Jonathan Papelbon – 6 (1)

AL BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:  Chris Davis

I guess a guy who hits 50 HRs one year and then has a sub-.200 average the next can be seen as a bit of a disappointment.  Davis and Myers were the the only two to appear on more than half the ballots, though he they received one first-place vote between them.  Clay Bucholz, who was only on two ballots, got two first-place votes.  Justin Verlander was 3rd on this list.  “Beards” were also a problem in the AL, but only for a 3rd-place vote from Boot.  Instead, the “media” received the 2nd-place vote for endlessly covering the swan song of Derek Jeter, but COMPLETELY ignoring the final year of Paul Konerko’s career (which, by the way, is a FANTASTIC point – Konerko might be the most underappreciated player of our generation).  Justin Masterson – impressively – showed up on the disappointment lists in both leagues.

Are we now expecting our stars to hit at least .200 EVERY year? Seems a bit unreasonable

I was the only one to vote for Evan Longoria, but I had him #1.  What a mediocre year for a guy who should be anything but mediocre.  Verlander was 2nd for me, followed by Xander Boegarts, Wil Myers, and Justin Masterson (who I thought was more disappointing for Cleveland than St. Louis) was 5th.

  1. Chris Davis (1) – 32 (4)
  2. Wil Myers – 30 (4)
  3. Justin Verlander (1) – 28 (3)
  4. Clay Bucholz (2) – 20 (2)
  5. Brian McCann (1) – 19 (2)
  6. Xander Boegarts – 17 (2)
  7. Prince Fielder (1) – 16 (2)
  8. Jim Johnson – 15 (2)
  9. CC Sabathia – 14 (2)
  10. Evan Longoria (1) – 10 (1)
  11. Josh Hamilton – 9 (1)
  12. the media – 9 (1)
  13. beards – 8 (1)
  14. Joe Nathan – 8 (1)
  15. Sin-Soo Choo – 7 (1)
  16. Jason Kipnis – 7 (1)
  17. Justin Masterson – 6 (1)
  18. Mark Teixeira – 6 (1)

NL BIGGEST SURPRISE (team):  Miami Marlins

The Marlins were supposed to be dreadful.  They weren’t.  That was surprising.  They have a stable of young fireballers, so they might be a real handful in the NL East for years to come.  Those pesky Pirates finished right behind the Marlins, followed by the Brewers – all of whom were on 4 ballots.  No other team even cracked more than one ballot.  Apparently, one of our voters is still stuck in 2012, as the Astros received a vote here in the NL. The Giants got a 15th-place “not surprised at all vote” because “they are always good every other year.”

Those 800 fans must be pretty excited

Personally, I thought the Brewers were the most surprising team.  They had a really bad last month and a half, but were the NL’s best team for a long stretch with basically no one.  Not sure if I believe in them going forward, but they had a solid 2014, in my opinion.  I put the Pirates 2nd, as I was impressed by their follow-up season after prosperity.  The Marlins were 3rd for me.  Maybe I just had heard of all these arms and wasn’t shocked by their slightly ahead-of-schedule arrival.  Still a scary team, though.

  1. Marlins (3) – 22 (4)
  2. Pirates (1) – 20 (4)
  3. Brewers (2) – 16 (4)
  4. Astros (1) – 5 (1)
  5. Padres (1) – 5 (1)
  6. Giants – 4 (1)
  7. Nationals – 4 (1)
  8. Rockies – 4 (1)
  9. Mets – 3 (1)
  10. Giants – negative 5 (1)

AL BIGGEST SURPRISE (team):  Kansas City Royals

Even before the thrilling playoff run (as these ballots were cast before the playoffs started), the Royals were the runaway choice for this award, appearing on all seven ballots with five first-place votes.  The Orioles were on six ballots and got the other two 1st-place votes as no other team was even close to these two.

Wait, the Royals did what?!?

I was a part of this belief, as I had the Royals at #1 and the O’s at #2.  My 3rd choice was the Mariners because I just found their contention in a really tough division a little more surprising than some of the other teams around the Junior Circuit.

  1. Royals (5) – 33 (7)
  2. Orioles (2) – 23 (6)
  3. Yankees – 8 (2)
  4. Indians – 7 (2)
  5. Angels – 4 (1)
  6. Mariners – 3 (1)
  7. Red Sox – 3 (1)

NL BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (team):  Atlanta Braves

Picked by many to win the East and most to make the playoffs, the Braves were barely even competitive.  They have a ton of talent, but couldn’t put it together.  It was a bad year in Hotlanta, and I loved it.  They appeared on six of the seven ballots and got two 1st-place votes here.  The Reds actually got three 1st-place votes, but were only on five ballots and finished 2nd.  The Phillies were a distant 3rd (surprisingly, without a single 1st-place vote – kind of shows the lack of expectations for this last-place bunch).  The two other 1st-place votes actually went to my “biggest surprise,” the Brewers, and my pick in this category, the D’backs.

Surprising that the Upton brothers couldn’t pull the team together…

As much as I hate the Braves and love that they won this, I think the absolutely terribleness of the D’backs (a team that some thought might compete) was my biggest disappointment.  I mean, the Braves were at least around .500.  The D’backs were AWFUL.  The Braves got my #2 vote and my Phillies were my #3.

  1. Braves (2) – 26 (6)
  2. Reds (3) – 22 (5)
  3. Phillies – 10 (3)
  4. Brewers (1) – 8 (2)
  5. D’backs (1) – 8 (2)

AL BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (team):  Boston Red Sox

I guess it’s pretty hard to argue when a team wins the World Series one year and is among the worst teams in all of baseball the next that they are the biggest disappointment.  So, it seems like the BSB voters got this one right.  The Sox were on six of the seven ballots with five 1st-place votes.  The Rangers and A’s got the other two 1st-place votes, while the Rays and Yankees were both on more than half of the ballots.  Interestingly, the Yankees were on four ballots for most disappointing and two ballots for biggest surprise.  There is nothing in between when it comes to people’s opinions of the Bombers.

One-Year Grace Period…right, Beantown?

I actually went Rangers here because they were so bad, so fast, that a very promising season was done by May.  The Red Sox were quite disappointing, for sure, and got my 2nd-place vote, though I strongly considered the Rays (my 3rd-place vote) as even more disappointing, for some reason.  It was a strong field for this award this year.

  1. Red Sox (5) – 29 (6)
  2. Rangers (1) – 19 (5)
  3. Rays – 13 (4)
  4. A’s (1) – 8 (2)
  5. Yankees – 4 (4)
  6. Blue Jays – 4 (1)

MLB BRIGHTEST FUTURE:  Los Angeles Dodgers

This category was defined as the team that will have the most WS titles between 2015 and 2035.  The Dodgers barely edged the terrible 2014 Red Sox.  The terrible 2014 Cubs finished 3rd..  The Cardinals were the only team to get more than one 1st-place vote, as they appeared on two ballots, but were #1 on both of them.  In general, the voting was all over the place here.  This was a very interesting category.  And, despite the polarized feeling about the Yankees, they were only on one ballot and were 4th place on that ballot.

Money can’t buy you…ah, never mind

I was one of the two people to vote for the Cardinals.  They are the best-run franchise in baseball (and maybe all of sports).  They build from within, know when to walk away, but aren’t afraid of paying what it takes to keep/acquire the right player.  They just do it right, and I don’t see why that would change, particularly as they play in a division without a lot of big-spenders or well-run organizations.  I had to go with the Dodgers 2nd just because of the enormous bankroll they seem to have.  The Angels were my 3rd pick because of the money they throw around.  The Giants – the 2nd-best run organization in the sport – got my 4th-place vote.  I did throw in the Red Sox and Cubs at the end of my ballot because they both have a ton of money and ELITE farm systems.

  1. Dodgers (1) – 32 (4)
  2. Red Sox (1) – 31 (4)
  3. Cubs – 27 (4)
  4. Nationals (1) – 25 (3)
  5. Cardinals (2) – 20 (2)
  6. Royals – 17 (2)
  7. Astros (1) – 16 (2)
  8. Angels – 16 (2)
  9. Giants – 14 (2)
  10. Orioles (1) – 10 (1)
  11. Indians – 8 (1)
  12. Twins – 8 (1)
  13. Mariners – 7 (1)
  14. Yankees – 7 (1)
  15. Mets – 6 (1)
  16. White Sox – 6 (1)

MLB BIGGEST REBUILD:  Arizona Diamondbacks

The final category was defined as “the team that will go the longest without its next World Series title.”  This was also a very interesting category.  It drew a lot fewer responses than the brightest future and the top was more closely packed together.  In fact, the D’backs edged the Phillies by a single point, even though the Phightins were the only team with more than one 1st-place vote.  The Twins, White Sox, and Yankees were the only three teams to appear on both lists.

It might be a long, hard climb, Boot

My ballot here started with the Rays.  I think they had their shot and now they will drift back into being the worst franchise in baseball.  They have no money, and they lost their front office braintrust.  It was fun, but it’s over.  The Rockies were my second choice because I do not think they are bright enough to overcome the challenge of building a winner in that cartoon ballpark.  The Padres won’t win because they’re cheap, so they got my 3rd-place vote.  The Brewers are also somewhat cheap and poorly run, so they were 4th for me.  And, the D’backs got my 5th-place vote because I just don’t see their plan.

  1. D’backs (1) – 30 (5)
  2. Phillies (2) – 29 (3)
  3. White Sox – 27 (4)
  4. Padres (1) – 27 (3)
  5. Twins – 23 (3)
  6. Blue Jays – 22 (3)
  7. Brewers – 22 (3)
  8. Yankees (1) – 19 (2)
  9. Rangers (1) – 16 (2)
  10. Rays (1) – 16 (2)
  11. Rockies – 9 (1)

Where Do We Go From Here

For many of my fellow Orioles fans last season was a dream, fifteen years of watching Rodrigo Lopez, Matt Riley, Eric DuBose, Jerry Hairston Jr, and Larry Bigbie (just to name a few of the classics) and the Orioles finally made it!  Not only did they make it but they won….a one game playoff against the Rangers but for most of us it felt like a World Series win.  Of course most of us know the end of that story…god damn Yankees.  Anyway, for the first time it brought hope and inspiration to Orioles fans that this season was going to be even better.  Unfortunately, for most of our newer fans and for the guys who knew that we had a lot of questions to answer from the previous season, like the strength of starting pitching and the magic of one run wins, this season just wasn’t quite enough.  Either way it was a great season but it leaves the question of, “where do we go from here?”

What will follow from here will probably have most Orioles fans shaking their head at their computer or saying things like, “who is this asshole?” but I would like to think some of these ideas are valid….maybe.

As I sit here and watch what looks like the Red Sox three game sweep of the Rays I sit and think about what the Orioles have to do this offseason to improve and make a run at a championship.  Obviously the first thing that comes to my mind, and probably most others, is starting pitching.  Look at the teams in the playoffs this year, the Rays (Price, Moore, Cobb), the Sox (Lester, Buchholz), the As (Parker, Gray, Colon) side note: if you didn’t watch Game 2 of the As/Tigers shame on you because Verlander and Gray both pitched a classic, do yourself a favor next time that kid Gray pitches tune in, he is filthy.  Anyways, you follow up these teams with the Tigers (Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, Sanchez) clearly starting pitching gets you to where you need to go.

Looking at the Orioles starting pitching what do they really have?  In my opinion, Tillman is a one.  As he grows, he is only going to get better.  He should have been a 20 game winner this season and he pitched fantastic.  He is a bulldog on the mound and he constantly fights.  When you look at an ace, to me two things come to mind; innings pitched and ERA.  Well the good news here is that Tillman went over 200 innings, 24th in the majors, and had an ERA of 3.71, 50th in the majors…not too bad for a 25 year old kid.  I don’t see any reason why this guy slows down from here on out, and if he is going to improve on those numbers, especially the ERA, he is going to be pretty damn good, so to me I think you have your ace.  Where we lack, a number two.  The Orioles don’t currently have a number two starter, now I think Gausman is going to get there eventually, but I think he needs a little more time.  Moving on I think you have Chen and Norris who will fight to be the #3 guy, the loser will be our #4 and for me I like Gausman to be the #5 and take a season to learn.  So to recap, next seasons rotation for manager Grossnickle (what an awful ring that has) goes:

1. Chris Tillman

2. TBD

3. Bud Norris

4. Wei-Yin Chen

5. Kevin Gausman

So who goes in the two hole?  Do we sign somebody?  Looking at some of the names out there I am not sure who we would even target.  The problem with most of the free agent starting pitching market is that there is a ton of old blood out there.  So to give sort of a quick rundown of all the guys you have heard of, let’s say 34 years is a pretty healthy aged starting pitcher?  Ok, take a look:

Johan Santana (34), Roy Halladay (37), Barry Zito (36), AJ Burnett (37), Bronson Arroyo (37), Hiroki Kuroda (39), Chris Carpenter (39), Tim Hudson (38), Ryan Vogelsong (36), Roy Oswalt (35)

Do any of these names entice anyone?  Not me, most of these guys have even had trouble staying healthy, that being said there is some serious talent left out there, but I am not sure we can afford them.

1. Tim Lincecum (30) 2013 salary: $22,250,000

Simply put, no thanks.  This guy made a name for himself in 2008 as the pipsqueak with the quirky delivery that his dad taught him that just baffled hitters and for four seasons it was awesome.  The problem is, the last two seasons have been ugly and riddled with injury.  The last two seasons 2012: 186.0 innings, 5.18 ERA.  2013: 197.2 innings, 4.37 ERA, the two highest ERAs of his career.  So to recap the reward for the Giants after giving the Freak a 2 year 45 million dollar contract was that, not the kind of guy I want the Orioles investing serious dough in, let him go disappoint the Yankees.

2. Jon Lester (30) 2013 salary: $11,625,000

We certainly have seen plenty of this guy, as most know an Orioles killer.  This powerful lefty has been a pain in our ass for years, and also a pain in the Red Sox.  Now I am not going to throw a bunch of the numbers out to you about how good or not so good he has been the past few years, but from what I have seen he hasn’t been the same.  In the past two or three seasons he has a guy who has been unreliable and from a consistency standpoint he has frustrated the hell out of the Sox.  Three seasons ago this guy looked like he was going to be the American League Clayton Kershaw, nobody could hit the kid and he was a damn bulldog on the mound just constantly attacking.  Over the past couple of seasons, and definitely this season he hasn’t even been the best in the Red Sox rotation.  For me personally, the juice of somewhere around $11 mil a year just isn’t worth it.  On a side note, Lester is currently under a team option so if the Sox do let him walk…shouldn’t that be a hint at something anyway.

3. Ricky Nolasco (31) 2013 salary: $11,500,000

This is a guy I really wanted the Orioles to make a move for during the trading deadline, instead we went after Feldman who ended up being decent but I personally thought Nolasco was a better move.  Well now he is a free agent and he has pitched great since being with the Dodgers…2.07 ERA good, which means old Ricky is going to get paid.  Unfortunately for the Orioles this season and in future seasons we didn’t trade for Ricky.  The Dodgers have the type of money to pony up to what Nolasco will be asking for, personally I don’t think he moves, but if he does I hope the Orioles are talking.

4. James Shields (32) 2013 salary: $11,000,000

This will be short and sweet.  I would love to see Shields in Orioles black and orange.  The problem is the Royals were actually in the mix this year and they don’t have to worry about re-signing a bunch of guys.  Currently, Shields holds a $12 mil club option and I can’t see any way that they don’t pick that up, but if they don’t he would be on the tops of my list as the semi-affordable type of pitcher the Orioles should target.

5.  Matt Garza (30) 2013 salary: $10,250,000

Initially this was a guy I didn’t have much interest in but after re-evaluating the numbers, this guy is not bad at all.  The biggest question mark with him, is the healthy can he get back to the guys the Rays had and the Cubs paid big bucks for, a guy who eclipsed 200 innings two of his three seasons with Tampa and never had an ERA over 4.00.  I am not sure at this point that this guy is worth $10 mil a season but if you could work him down to $7-$8 a season, I think he would be a great addition and a solid number two to compliment Chris Tillman.

These are the top guys other than that, there is really not much else out there unless we are considering bringing guys like Feldy back.  Can we afford any of these guys? Sure.  Do we think we are going to make a move at one of these guys?  In my heart of hearts I would say it is looking like Garza or bust.  So then what do you do if you don’t get Garza.  My opinion, time to trade Matt Wieters. (I can already hear most of the swearing as you all read that sentence)

Listen, I love Wieters.  I think what he does for that rotation, how he controls the game defensively is second to none.  However, we cannot just pay this guy whatever he is asking.  Now, if Wieters was hitting .285 and drawing a boatload of walks with the power numbers he currently holds I would say he is worth every bit of $150 million, but the bottom line is he’s not.  It’s great that he’s the best defensive catcher in the game but does that warrant a contract like Mauer, Posey or Molina?  No, it doesn’t.  Those guys are monsters in both aspects of the game and if Wieters is the number one defensive catcher in the game, Molina is 1a, he’s damn good watch him in the playoffs.  Molina got a 5 yr $75 million dollar deal last season, $15 a year, is Wieters worth that much?  Molina has hit over .300 his past three seasons, been 32nd, 18th and 56th in the majors in OBP the past three seasons and has been right there defensively with Wieters.  On the other hand Wieters hasn’t hit over .265, never hit 25 HRs in a season and his OBP numbers in the past three years…133rd, 84th and 94th.  I get Wieters is our golden boy, I totally understand he is the guy that we want in black and orange until he hangs up the mask but that does not mean you pay what he doesn’t deserve.  If Molina is getting $15 mil a year, from those numbers alone I can’t see how you pay Wieters more than $11 mil a year.  If you offered him a 7 year, $77 mil type of deal I think that was fair, hell even go 7 years $80 mil and I am on board, but this talk of $120 million is crazy.  Not to mention, why wait until we have to make a move and then not get anything for him.  If we wait until Wieters is a free agent, here is the problem, if we want to keep him that badly at that point we will have to pay him whatever he wants, and didn’t we just see that sort of situation with another guy in town who ended up with $120 mil. (I am a Flacco guy by the way).

By the way for those of you saying just give Wieters whatever you want, go ahead, because then you will watch Chris Davis walk out the door.  Both of these guys are Scott Boras guys and if Davis has any type of season he had this year, he will be another guy getting paid, either way we aren’t keeping both of them.

Now that we have traded Wieters what are we going to get in return.  To me, that is the $120 mil dollar question.  I think Wieters stock is at an all-time high now that the Orioles are relevant and he is one of the faces of that team.  Who do we want?  I would think if we are shipping Wieters somewhere we would want some sort of big time arm.  If I am Dan Duquette and I really want to spend the money and I am looking to pay a guy 12-15 million a year, I am calling a team that can afford Wieters that would want to add another bat to a lineup that could take control of a somewhat shaky rotation and a bit of a suspect bullpen.  That’s right I am calling the LA Angels and seeing how interested they are in shipping off the 31 year old Jered Weaver.  This guy has a career 3.24 ERA he just got a contract and now that he has hit 31 and Wieters is still only 27 years old, I think it may be a spot that the Angels would be willing to talk a little.  Now obviously to land a guy like Weaver I think we would have to attach a piece (maybe Matusz?) but I think they might talk.  Now obviously, I am as big a homer as anyone so maybe I am valuing Wieters and Matusz too high, but maybe I am not due to Weaver being 31.  I still think that gives Weaver a good six or seven years and let’s face it if he was the ace and won us two World Series in seven seasons it be well worth shipping off Wieters.

There it is, the ramblings of a mad man.  I am sure I will put this article out there and the Orioles will go in a completely different direction, but hey, it is fun to put on my GM hat every once in a while…regardless of how ugly and stupid looking it is.  Coming soon my opinions on what kind of additions we need to make lineup wise, expect most suggestions as shitty as this one.

Gross

2013 MLB Preview: BSB-Style

It is upon us.  The dawn of the baseball season is here.  And, after an interminable Spring Training, we are more than ready.  And, here at BSB, as has been the norm, we will kick off our baseball coverage with our unique style of preview.  We will go back and forth trying to pick teams that will be better or worse than they were in 2012.

This will be the sixth season that we do this.  Bry won the first three of them, but Doogan has responded with two convincing wins in a row, including a 17-13 win in 2012.

The interesting part of the 2012 preview is that both of us missed our first picks.  Doogan took the Over 72 on the Marlins at #1, and Bry took the Over 56 on the Astros at #2.  Since Doogan went #1 last year, Bry will get the first pick in 2013.

FINAL SCORES posted below in RED.

1. BRY- Toronto Blue Jays – OVER 73 wins: Stop me when this sounds familiar.  The team I’m taking a team at #1 that has been an afterthought in a good division for at least a decade now.  But, they have blown away the rest of the league with their offseason acquisitions, including SS Jose Reyes and SP Mark Buehrle.  They also enter the year with a brand-new manager.  No, I didn’t learn from Doogan’s Marlins mistake last year, and I suckered into the Blue Jays.  That being said, while I think they’re a safe bet to go over 73 wins, I do not think that this is some juggernaut all of a sudden.  Think about it – they added the core of a 69-win team last year plus the NL Cy Young Award winner, who just so happens to be 38 years old and not exactly “well-established.”  I’d like to pump the brakes on the Blue Jays as World Series favorites, but I will take my chances on them being better than they were a year ago.

2013 Record:  74-88
POINT:  Bry, 1-0
Bry bought into all the hype, and it almost bit him, but he barely avoids having the #1 pick lose for the second straight year.

2. DOOGAN – Baltimore Orioles – UNDER 93 wins: No major roster changes here, just a team that greatly overachieved a year ago and should’ve won at least 10 games less than they did, based on run differential.  With a rotation fronted by the likes of Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, and in the AL East, I have to think you’re winning much less than 93 games.

2013 Record:  85-77
POINT:  Doogan, 1-1
Doogan, cruises with his first pick, as this one never really looked in trouble. 

3. DOOGAN – New York Yankees – UNDER 95 wins: So our first three picks are all from the AL East.  The hits this team has taken to its lineup are well-documented: ARod could miss the year, Granderson broke his arm, Teixeira is out for a while, Jeter’s coming back from injury.  But I also don’t have confidence in this pitching staff.  I’m not convinced that Kuroda can match what he did last year, Andy Pettitte is overdue to run out of gas, I’m not ready to say that Phil Hughes will be good.  And I hate to doubt Mariano, but he is coming back from a major injury in his 40’s.

2013 Record:  85-77
POINT:  Doogan, 2-1
Doogan hits the Under on back-to-back 85-win AL East teams with another somewhat comfortable point here.

4. BRY – Boston Red Sox – OVER 69 wins: If nothing else, I’m a man who loves a good theme, so let’s make it four in a row from the AL East.  A Red Sox team that didn’t win 70 games?  Almost impossible to believe for this generation.  I can’t imagine that will happen again.  They are probably not serious contenders for any banners in 2013, but if the reports are right on John Lackey’s fitness are anywhere near accurate, and they can get anything remotely close to the “old” John Lester or Clay Bucholz then this pitching staff should be much improved.  And, they do still have Pedroia, as well as adding a now healthy Jacoby Ellsbury, our old friend Shane Victorino, and some guy named Jackie Bradley, who has been tearing up the Grapefruit League.  Alright, Doogan, be a man and make a pick on Tampa…

2013 Record:  97-65
POINT:  Bry, 2-2
The four straight AL East teams to start the draft all hit, as Bry grabs the easiest point in the whole draft here at #4.

5. DOOGAN – Oakland A’s – UNDER 94 wins: Sorry, can’t go Tampa here.  I’ll take a team that is in sort of in the Baltimore mold, even though I think they’re pretty clearly better than Baltimore.  Still, a young team that overachieved last year and is in a tough division.  Pitchers like Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone kind of came out nowhere last year and should regress.  I don’t see Brandon Moss being .950 OPS guy again.  The bullpen is good, but probably not as good as they were last year, either.  Easily could be a third place team in this division.

2013 Record:  96-66
POINT:  Bry, 3-2
Our first missed pick comes in at #5, as the A’s continue to shock even the most ardent baseball fans with their winning ways.

6. BRY – Chicago Cubs – OVER 61 wins: Just playing the numbers here.  The Cubbies aren’t good, but they’re also not 100-loss bad.  Starlin Castro is  going to be the most unimpressive 3,000-hit guy in baseball history, when it’s all said and done, but he’s still a SS who gets 200 hits every year, which kind of kills any argument against him being a franchise player (though, I continue to make them).  Their rotation isn’t terrible now that they added Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman to Matt Garza and Jeff Samardz…however it’s spelled…and Travis Wood.  So, if they even get 100 starts from those five (very consevative), I think they could win 40-45 of those, leaving only about 20 more wins to find somewhere. Again, they’re not good, but should give me 65-70 wins, at minimum.

2013 Record:  66-96
POINT:  Bry, 4-2
It wasn’t easy the whole way, but Bry called for 65-70 wins, got 66, and takes the point and the lead.

7. DOOGAN – Cleveland Indians – OVER 68 wins: It was an active offseason for the Tribe.  They didn’t upgrade the pitching staff much, which is a pretty huge concern.  Still, this is a strong lineup with the likes of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher joining Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, and Jason Kipnis.  Bourn and Drew Stubbs give them a pretty fantastic defensive outfield and a nice dose of speed.  Only the Mariners scored less runs in the AL last year.  That will change, and this team will win 75 games.

2013 Record:  92-70
POINT:  Doogan, 3-4
The second-best pick of the draft (behind BOS) was the Indians, as Doogan takes an easy one here to climb back within 1.

8. BRY – Kansas City Royals – OVER 72 wins: Since I make this pick every year, I might as well get it over with early enough, so I don’t have to stare at it every time I want to make another pick.  This year, I mean it, though, this team could be good.  The offense is actually somewhat solid, particularly the underrated Billy Butler, the uber-talented Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, and the somehow always forgotten, Alex Gordon, who only led the majors in doubles last year.  And, as we all know, they acquired a total horse at the front of the rotation in James Shields.  But, as people may not know, they also brought in new #2, #3, and #4 starters in Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis.  It remains to be seen if they actually pitch like #2-4 starters, but at least they don’t have to throw Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar out there are their top 2 starters any more.

2013 Record:  86-76
POINT:  Bry, 5-3
Bry FINALLY get the Royals Over correct, as KC was actually in contention for much of the season.

9. DOOGAN – Cincinnati Reds – UNDER 97 wins: Really a strong team with a ton of talent, but this pick is more than just “picking under on a big number.”  Even though they have enough in place to contend for a championship, the bottom line is that this is no juggernaut than can be expected to get back to upper-90’s in wins.  The starting rotation is very solid, but there isn’t any ace.  I know Johnny Cueto was one last year, but let’s see him do it again before we call him an ace.  Ryan Ludwick is a rock solid hitter, but if he’s your cleanup hitter, I have my doubts about how good your line-up really is.  Again, it’s a good team, but not a great team, so I feel pretty good about Under on this big a number.

2013 Record:  90-72
POINT:  Doogan, 4-5
A 90-win season in Cincinnati was still a 7-game deprovement for the Redlegs, and Doogan wins on a solid pick here. 

10. BRY – Texas Rangers – UNDER 93 wins: It is amazing how quickly your “window” can close in this game.  I’m not saying that the Rangers can’t get that elusive championship, but it looks like they are on the downside of the best opportunity this franchise has ever had.  Maybe Nelson Cruz should have, ya know, caught that fly ball that would have ended Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.  Anyway, by downgrading Josh Hamilton to Lance Berkman and Mike Napoli to A.J. Pierzynski, the juggernaut offense that this team has leaned on for this long run of dominance is not the same.  They also lost the heart and soul of their clubhouse in Michael Young.  And, without C.J. Wilson, whom they lost last offseason to free agency, and Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis, whom they lost this offseason to various injuries, their rotation looks – all of a sudden – rather pedestrian.  Unless Yu Darvish is a Cy Young-caliber pitcher and Matt Harrison and Derek Holland are borderline All-Stars, the front-end of this rotation may not make up for the gigantic question marks at the back-end.  They should be in the mix, but 93 is a big number for a team that is likely on the decline.

2013 Record:  91-71 (the one-game playoff loss to Tampa doesn’t count for our contest – though makes no difference in terms of scoring here)
POINT:  Bry, 6-4
Bry sweats out another right pick, as the guys hit 9 of their first 10 picks in 2013.

11. DOOGAN – Philadelphia Phillies – OVER 81 wins: It’s Opening Day, and as they say, hope springs eternal.  You can punch holes in this team and find plenty of weaknesses, but I definitely think they are being underrated by the national media coming into the season.  Hamels and Lee should be one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball.  I’m buying into the concern about Halladay, but the guy’s still two seasons removed from being Cy Young-caliber, so he still could turn in a really strong season.  I like (not love, but like) the bullpen, with the plan of Bastardo, Adams, Papelbon in the 7th, 8th, and 9th.  I think the lineup will be at least average, and when paired with pretty clearly above-average pitching, that makes for more than 81 wins, and I don’t think 90+ is at all out of the question.

2013 Record:  73-89
POINT:  Bry, 7-4
The optimism burns Doogan here, as the Phils limp to an 89-loss season just two years after winning 102…ugh.

12. BRY – Houston Astros – OVER 55 wins: This is a terrible team – one of the worst of our lifetimes (which may be why we passed on a 55-win line for 11 picks).  But, every night, the team will consist of 25 people who make their livelihoods playing baseball.  And, baseball – more than any other sport – rarely gives any team more than a 2-to-1 advantage on a given night.  Therefore, it is really, really hard to lose 107 games.  Granted, if any team I’ve ever seen can do it, it would be this one, but they’re 1-0 right now, so I just need 55 more wins to hit this over.  They might be a 104-loss team, but I don’t see another 107.

2013 Record:  51-111
POINT:  Doogan, 5-7
Bry misses his first pick of the year, as the Astros are historically bad…losing 111 games after a .500 month of April is VERY impressive.

13. DOOGAN – Colorado Rockies – OVER 64 wins: This pitching staff, in Coors Field or anywhere else, is a disaster.  But, this lineup, in any ballpark, is pretty awesome.  After finding success focusing more on pitching, the Rockies are back to their Blake Street Bomber roots (in some ways), and while that means a lot of losses, it also means they could be tough to beat at home, and 64 is a low hurdle.  Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, even the catcher, Wilin Rosario, has a power bat.

2013 Record:  74-88
POINT:  Doogan, 6-7
A 10-win cushion for these middle picks is pretty solid, as Doogan takes an easy one at #13.

14. BRY – Washington Nationals – UNDER 98 wins: I may have had more discussions about the expectations for the 2013 Nationals than anything else in my life over the past month, and I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.  Is this the best team in baseball?  Possibly.  Is it the best team in the NL?  Maybe.  Is it the best team in the NL East?  Probably.  On paper, are they better than they were last year?  Definitely.  Are baseball games – let alone seasons – ever played on paper?  Absolutely not.  If so, they wouldn’t have won 98 games last year.  They were more like an 88-90-win team last year.  I think they might be 3-5 wins better this year, but that still only puts them in the mid-90s, at best.  98 wins is a HUGE number.  I still have question marks about the durability of their rotation – Strasburg and Detwiler have combined for ZERO seasons with 165+ innings.  (EDIT) Danny Haren is coming off of a season where he broke down and looked like he felt every bit of his 1,800 innings, and Gio Gonzalez isn’t a safe bet, himself.  And, they have NO pitching depth.  So, even if they lose a starter or two for short DL stints, that could preclude them from the seemingly guaranteed 100-win season.  Throw in health question marks about two of their most important position players – Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth – and a possible set back for the overachieving middle infield last year, and you have a FAR CRY from a sure thing.  Yes, the bullpen is loaded.  Yes, 20-year old Bryce Harper might be in for MVP numbers already.  And, yes, I would call them pretty clear favorites to win the East, but 98 games?  That is a LOT of games.

2013 Record:  86-76
POINT:  Bry, 8-6
By the end of the season, the Nats looked like a 98-win team, but they stumbled through the first half of the year and could never make up enough ground.

15. DOOGAN – Miami Marlins – UNDER 69 wins: I was going Under on that Nats next also, but I’ll keep it in the division here.  We know all they’ve lost with Reyes, Buerhle, Josh Johnson, and others gone.  They’re in total rebuilding mode, with possibly Placido Polanco batting cleanup, I’ve heard?  With three very good teams at the top of the division, and this team bereft of talent outside of Giancarlo Stanton, they’ll be lucky to avoid 100 losses.

2013 Record:  62-100
POINT:  Doogan, 7-8
Doogan continues to roll with another relatively comfortable pick of the Marlins, who turned in an embarrassing 100-loss season.

16. BRY – Chicago White Sox – UNDER 85 wins: This team is aging, and I think that they overperformed most of the season last year anyway.  John Danks is hurt, and Chris Sale may take a step backwards (health or performance) after a much heavier workload last year than he had ever had before.  Another year of age for Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Paul Konerko (borderline, Hall of Famer, by the way), and Adam Dunn is not exactly a good thing.  These picks are getting tougher, and I’m not in love with this one, but I’ll take my chances that things go wrong on the South Side and they’re a .500 team, at best.

2013 Record:  63-99
POINT:  Bry, 9-7
These guys are good.  Another comfortable point won here for Bry with the ChiSox barely avoiding triple-digit losses.

17. DOOGAN – Detroit Tigers – OVER 88 wins: Building off that last pick by Bry, this is a very good team in a division that could be very bad.  They have the best pitcher in the game and three high-quality guys behind him.  They have the absolute best 3-4 combo in the middle of their order, with a few other quality bats supporting them.  The bullpen is a bit of a question mark, but could be solid, and I worry that their infield is basically a bunch of fat guys, including the shortstop (Peralta), but the talent is here, in a poor division, to win 93-95 games.

2013 Record:  93-69
POINT:  Doogan, 8-9
Doogan said 93-95 wins, and NAILED it, as the Tigers hit 93 exactly.  Wow.

18. BRY – Los Angeles Dodgers – OVER 86 wins: Well, you took my next pick, Doogan, so I have to take the bait on the Dodgers.  Other than the Blue Jays, this team was the talk of the offseason, so it’s a bit of a surprise (and possibly telling) that it took us this long to jump on them.  And, honestly, I’m not even that comfortable making this pick, but it’s getting tougher to justify any of the teams left.  And, I am – and always have been – completely enamored by talent.  Obviously, I admire the gritty, determined overachievers and the teams that win on “clubhouse chemistry,” but part of the reason we love sports is because we get to see people play games that we have played on levels that are so far beyond imagination that it almost defies comprehension.  I love elite talent.  And, the Dodgers have a whole lot of that.  Whether or not it materializes into elite team performance remains to be seen, but up and down this lineup  – and now the starting rotation – they have some of the best players in the world.  And, chemistry or no chemistry, they open their rotation with Clayton Kershaw (one of the 5 best pitchers on the planet), Zack Greinke (one of the 15 best pitchers on the planet), and Josh Beckett (who is rumored to be looking more like the old Beckett than the more recent Beckett, which could put him in the top 30 on the planet).  Then, they will post a lineup with a first five of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez, which is as talented a first 5 as I can remember, honestly.  All that said, we still both passed on a somewhat low line 17 times – so, obviously, as awesome as I find pure talent, we are both wary of its ability to carry the day and actually win games.

2013 Record:  92-70
POINT:  Bry, 10-8
Bry hits another one here.  In retrospect, looking at it now, it’s a wonder that it took 18 picks for the Dodgers and the Over, but there were real question marks.

19. DOOGAN – Atlanta Braves – UNDER 94 wins: Sitting here watching the Braves-Phillies Opening Day game while I make this pick.  I’m not factoring in this game at all, and this is a good team, but the fact that they just said that Johnny Venters is visiting Dr. James Andrews today makes this pick just a TINY bit easier.  Their bullpen is devastating, but not nearly as much if Venters is hurt.  Mainly, I think this starting rotation has more questions than people are talking about.  There’s certainly no ace.  Tim Hudson is 37.  Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran are all basically potential guys that haven’t really done for long or at all in the big leagues.  McCann and Uggla are on the decline, which is ok because they have Heyward, Justin Upton, and Freeman to make up for that, but I’m just not sure the lineup is quite as good as it looks at first glance.  94 is a big number, especially at this point of the competition, so I like the Under.

2013 Record:  96-66
POINT:  Bry, 11-8
Doogan breaks the streak of 7 straight correct picks by betting on the Braves to get worse, then they actually got a bit better.

20. BRY – Los Angeles Angels – OVER 89 wins: If I were an Angels fan, I would be very concerned about the pitching staff, particularly come October.  But, what I would not be concerned with is this offense.  Adding Josh Hamilton to an already LOADED offense with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, this team could simply mash its way to 90 wins.  Plus, adding the Astros to this division should help.  Remember, they should have a little more health than they did last year, and they should get about 6 more weeks of Mike Trout – the game’s best player.

2013 Record:  78-84
POINT:  Doogan, 9-11
Bry loses only his second pick of the round, but this one was REALLY bad, as the Angels were 15 games worse after Bry thought they’d be better.  The guys go 6-4 with picks 11-20 and are 15-5 through 20 picks.

21. DOOGAN – San Francisco Giants – UNDER 94 wins: Some nitpicking here on the defending World Champs and you can talk yourself into the Under.  First off, it wasn’t noticed much because they won it all, but this was not a 94-win team, based on run differential, last year.  They still don’t score a ton of runs, though they’re far from bad offensively.  Lincecum still looks lost, but they still have one of the top couple of rotations in the game.  They have a number of quality relievers, but they don’t have that shutdown closer they once did with Brian Wilson.  Last year’s 94 was the most they’ve won in the regular season with this current core, and that includes their other title winning team in 2010, and they only won 86 in the year between those two runs.  I think they’re a team that’s more built for October than the regular season, so after a long-winded talking-myself-into-this-pick, I go under.

2013 Record:  76-86
POINT:  Doogan, 10-11
Doogan is putting the pressure on with another correct pick, as the Giants got 18 games worse in 2013.  It is hard to believe that all this talent could lose 86 games.

22. BRY – Seattle Mariners – OVER 75 wins: Not really sure why I like this one, but the pickins are getting pretty slim, and I think that the M’s are moving in the right direction.  Any time you add 3- and 4-hitters, a #3 starter, and a veteran bench player you have to be improved, right?  I’m not saying that Michael Morse, Kendry Morales, Joe Saunders, and Raul Ibanez will be wearing World Series rings after this year, but the team should be improved – at least, on paper.  Plus, they do have one of the very best pitchers on the planet, so I see this team pushing 65 wins non-Astros wins and another 12-15 against the ‘Stros.

2013 Record:  71-91
POINT:  Doogan, 11-11
Bry’s second straight botched pick has pushed us back into a tie through 22 picks, as the Mariners continue to baffle with poor season after poor season.

23. DOOGAN – Milwaukee Brewers – UNDER 83 wins: A franchise that is sort of grasping at straws trying to stay competitive when the best (and inevitable) move may be a rebuild.  The pitching staff, both the starters and bullpen, is just not very good, with very little starter depth.  The offensive is still above average, but Corey Hart is on the DL and may not be fully healthy all season after offseason knee surgery.  While he’s out, Alex Gonzalez is their starting first baseman.  That’s not good.

2013 Record:  74-88
POINT:  Doogan, 12-11
Doogan picks up his 4th straight point to take his first lead since the first pick of the draft.

24. BRY – Minnesota Twins – OVER 66 wins: This team is not good, and with Vance Worley pitching on Opening Day, it’s clear that they have the pitching staff to loss 100 games.  Fellow newcomers, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia will likely be the next two in the rotation – ouch.  But, they do have a promising pitcher in Scott Diamond that should be healthy come May or so, and they have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Josh Willingham…at least until the trade deadline.  I’m not confident with this pick, but everything left is tough.

2013 Record:  66-96
POINT:  Doogan, 13-11
Chalk up another one for Doogan, as Bry misses his 3rd straight – albeit, this one was right on the nose.

25. DOOGAN – Pittsburgh Pirates – UNDER 79 wins: Well, we know that the Buccos are going to lose more games than they win, because they’ve done that 20-som straight years and it’s not like anything major has changed.  So that doesn’t leave them much room to hit 79 wins.  Yes, Andrew McCutchen is an elite player.  Other than that, this team is not very good.  The rotation is three middle-of-the-rotation types and then nobodies.  Adding Russell Martin doesn’t excite me.  The losing continues in the Steel City.

2013 Record:  94-68
POINT:  Bry, 12-13
Well, the streak of five straight points for Doogan ends in ugly fashion, as the Pirates actually got 15 games better.  Man, we all knew they were good, but 94 wins good?  Wow!

26. BRY – Arizona Diamondbacks – OVER 81 wins: I’ve never believed in the whole “addition by subtraction” theory in baseball.  Football, maybe.  Basketball, definitely.  But, in baseball?  I don’t understand why you would ever ship off talent for less talent, but better “chemistry?”  So, the D’backs trade of Justin Upton was probably a bad move, but I actually think it was more of a calculated risk that he just doesn’t have the makeup to be a star, so they could sell high, get an underrated Martin Prado in return, and not be stuck with a bad contract in a year or two.  The problem is that they still need someone to drive in runs.  Can a team with a 3-4-5-6 of Aaron Hill, Jason Kubel, Cody Ross, and Paul Goldschmidt win 90 games?  No.  But, a team with Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and Wade Miley shouldn’t need all that much to get to 83 or so.

2013 Record:  81-81
POINT:  Doogan, 14-12
Ouch!  Bry gets hit with his second-straight ON THE NUMBER loss, as the D’backs are 162-162 over the past two seasons. 

27. DOOGAN – St. Louis Cardinals – OVER 88 wins: I’ve pondered the Under on this one a few times now, but everytime end up saying, “I don’t want to go Under on the Cardinals.  I don’t like betting against that franchise.”  So, I won’t bet against them.  When I look at this roster, am I confident they have 90 wins in them, especially when they’re pretty clearly not the best team in their division?  No.  They also don’t get the Astros wins this year.  But, they do still have three average-to-poor teams in that division, and they have a solid amount of talent in all phases of the game.  Let’s mark ’em down for 90-72.

2013 Record:  97-65
POINT:  Doogan, 15-12
Doogan’s crazy comeback has now clinched at least a tie for 2013, as he crushes pick #27 with the Cards going way Over.

28. BRY – San Diego Padres – UNDER 76 wins: This is going against what a lot of the so-called “experts” are saying.  I have heard several times how the Padres might be darkhorse contenders in the NL West, based on a blistering hot September last year and a decent spring training.  But, there is an old adage in baseball circles that says “never believe anything that happens in March or September.”  Now, I am not claiming that the Bryan “eye test” should be trusted over people who do this stuff for a living, but this “eye test” sees a talent level closer to 90 losses than anything resembling a .500 team.  Like Doogan went with his gut on the Cards, I am doing so here.  Let’s mark ’em down for 72-90.

2013 Record:  76-86
POINT:  Doogan, 16-12
You can’t make this stuff up!!!  Doogan clinches the 2013 MLB Preview (his 3rd in a row) with Bry’s THIRD STRAIGHT pick that landed ON THE NUMBER.

29. DOOGAN – New York Mets – UNDER 74 wins: You know, why not?  I actually would’ve gone Over on them at least 5-8 picks ago if it hadn’t been for the Johan Santana injury.  Sad for Santana that his career was really cut short by elbow/shoulder problems.  I know the Mets are off to a 3-2 start, but unfortunately for them they don’t play home games against the Padres and Marlins all season.

2013 Record:  74-88
POINT:  Bry, 13-16
It is small consolation that the “on the number” loss strikes Doogan with his final pick.  That’s crazy that FOUR teams had the EXACT same record in 2013 as they did in 2012.

30. BRY – Tampa Bay Rays – UNDER 90 wins: Not surprising that this is the last team on the board, as this is a really tough call.  Vegas has them at 87.5 as an O/U.  At that number, I would definitely take the Over, but 90 is such a tossup that I guess I’ll trust my boys in Sin City.  That said, I think 94+ wins is much more likely than 84-.

2013 Record:  91-71 (one-game playoff win over Texas doesn’t count, though it would not have changed the scoring here)
POINT:  Doogan, 17-13
Doogan wins 17-13, as Bry misses his SIXTH straight pick (granted, three of them were on the number and this one was by a single game).

Live Blog: Elite 8 and Opening Day

Four Elite 8 games over the next two days and baseball’s Opening Day the day after that.  I’m relaxing on Spring Break and ready to watch it all, so I’ll be dropping in periodically over the next 55 hours or so (up through the Phils-Braves game) with some thoughts.

SATURDAY

4:32: Syracuse and Marquette to kick things off from our nation’s capital.  This tournament started off in embarrassing fashion for the soon-to-be-dead Big East.  Georgetown beat by FGCU, Notre Dame blown out by Iowa St., Pitt blown out by Wichita St.  But here we are with three Big East teams in the final eight.

Funny though, because all three of the teams will be in separate conferences next season (Louisville will remain in the “old” Big East for one year before joining Cuse in the ACC).

4:40: Interesting (to me, at least) that Syracuse was a five-point favorite coming into this game.  Marquette finished three games ahead of them in the Big East, beat them (in a close game at Marquette) in late February, and is obviously playing well at the moment.  I know Syracuse has been more impressive in the tournament so far, and advanced to the Big East tourney title game, but I don’t see why they should be more than a two-point favorite.  Smart money is grabbing those five points, I’d say.

5:02: Brandon Triche is similar to Khalif Wyatt.  For a high-level, DI guard, he has almost no quickness or burst, but he knows how to use his body, how to find seems, and can make an open three.  We’ve seen a bunch of games in this tournament where one team just can’t score in the 1st half and posts 15 or 17 points.  Marquette looks headed for that.  They obviously have seen this zone before, but the Orange are playing it perfectly so far.

5:13: When facing Cuse’s 2-3 zone, it’s so important to have a big guy that can camp out at the free throw line, catch it in the middle of the zone, and then make an entry pass or knock down a jump shot.  It looks like Davante Gardner might be able to fill that role.  If nothing else, his two jump shots and an assist will force Cuse to collapse in on that gap and leave them exposed in other places.  Great development for the Eagles.

5:14: And just as I post that, he makes another and Mr. Verne Lundquist points out that he was 7-7 when they beat Cuse in February.  The Orange better find an answer. 21-18 Syracuse.

5:54: Some coaching questions for both of these programs going forward.  How much longer will Boeheim coach?  His longtime top assistant, Mike Hopkins, is said to be a top candidate for USC.  Will he stick around to be Boeheim’s successor?  For Marquette, Buzz Williams is becoming one of the most respected young coaches in the game.  He’s only 40.  It seems like he’s there for now, but the Texas native could maybe be tempted if Rick Barnes ever exits from UT.  Other jobs in that area, like Baylor, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma St., could also appeal to him down the road.

6:16: 8 minutes left, Marquette down 11.  If they don’t make a little run very soon, they’ll be entering “need a miracle” territory.  Cuse has really been in control this whole game, but so was Kansas last night, and they went home.  Let’s see if Carter-Williams can keep everything under control and take his team to the Final 4.

6:39: Can’t say I root for Syracuse, but regardless, they’re back in the Final Four for the 9th time, and final time as a Big East member.  If they win it all, does Boeheim hang it up?  Probably not.  Another strong year from Marquette.

7:10: Wichita St. and Ohio St. up next, playing in LA.  I may have missed a lot of predictions for Conference Players of the Year at the beginning of this month, but I did say this when talking about the MVC and Wichita St.: “They have two forwards, Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, who’s names you just may hear in March.”  And here they are in the Elite 8.  It’s a cliche to say it at this point, but Wichita may be in  a “mid-major” but they have major conference talent, for sure.  Ohio St. is and should be the favorite, but this is either team’s game to win.

7:22: Deshaun Thomas has been the ONLY reliable scorer for Ohio St. this whole year.  If you’re going to have only one guy that can put it in the bucket, he’s definitely one of the best to have.  He can score in every way possible.  He’s off to an 0-5 start, but with two other threes hit, the Buckeyes are only down 1.  Also, LaQuinton Ross has emerged as that second scoring option in this tournament.  He comes off the bench, so we’ll see if he still has the hot hand.

7:39: Thinking back to that Syracuse game, you can see some parallels to their championship team of ten years ago.  They’ve had some years since then where they were ranked #1 in the country and a couple where they were a #1 seed, but didn’t make it past the Sweet 16.  In ’03 they were a 3-seed, this year a 4-seed.  They really outclassed a very good Marquette team today, and maybe they’ll pull it off again ten years later.  I can’t compare Carmelo to Carter-Williams, but he is the best player on the team, and a guy that was buried on their bench for most of last year, so it’s really his first year getting any minutes for them, just as it was Carmelo’s first year.  Ok, maybe reaching a bit there.  Give me a break, it’s a live blog.

7:43: Headline writers everywhere get excited as the Shockers go up by 10 after back-to-back threes.  This just looks like the team we’ve been watching all tournament.  Ohio St. has veteran leadership with Thomas and Aaron Craft.  This hole won’t faze them, but it’s obviously a great start for Wichita.

8:11: All credit to Wichita, but yet another game where we see a team that just can’t score.  Thomas is 4-13, Craft is 1-6, Ross is 1-5.  Ugly half for the Buckeyes.

8:52: Domination by the Shockers!  Not the best day of ball, it appears.

9:16: Deshaun Thomas: “It’s not over yet!”  WSU by 10 with 4 to play, but will the pressure of the big stage and the bright lights of Hollywood get to the Shockers here?  And, even if it does, can the Buckeyes just get the ball in the hoop enough times for it to matter?

9:29: What a great comeback by OSU.  Still down 4, but impressive even if they fall short.  What a clutch three hit by Cotton of WSU just now.

9:50: The Cinderella baton has been passed from FGCU to Wichita St.  Impressive run by them.  Let the speculation of Greg Marshall’s coaching future begin.  Deshaun Thomas is probably off to the League, and Craft will be back for one more go ’round in Columbus.  Back tomorrow for the next two games!

SUNDAY

2:05: Louisville-Duke is clearly THE game of the day, but this Florida-Michigan game is pretty awesome, as well.  Yes, L’ville-Duke is a 1 seed vs. 2 seed (vs. a 3-4 in the other game), it has the favorite and one of the teams in the small pack of accepted contenders (while very few have picked Florida or Michigan to win it all), and it has two sure-fire Hall of Fame coaches squaring off in the tourney for the first time since the Laettner Shot of ’92.

But Michigan was also ranked #1 at one point this year, and they have a leading candidate for National Player of the Year, in PG Trey Burke.  Meanwhile, many computer efficiency metrics have had Florida as the CLEAR top team in the country for virtually the entire season.  It should shock no one to see either of these teams cut down the nets in Atlanta next week.

The game is a classic contrast of styles, but not what you may think for a Big Ten vs. SEC matchup.  The Big Ten team is actually the one loaded with athletes that want to get up and down the court.  The SEC team wants to force the Wolverines to execute in the halfcourt and keep the tempo slow.  It’s a very young Michigan team vs. a veteran Florida team.  Should be a good one. Continue reading “Live Blog: Elite 8 and Opening Day”

2012 MLB Preview: BSB-Style

(UPDATE:  Below in red is a recap of the 2012 preview.  Keep a lookout for the 2013 preview, which will begin shortly…)

The beginning of April gives us one of best sports “transitions” of the calendar year. With the promise of spring comes a sharp switch in our overall mentalities from the squeeking of sneakers on the hardwood to the cracking of bats on the diamond. BSB feels this transition as much as anything, as we have always focused most of our attention on 3 sports – college hoops, baseball, and football. So, with the college hoops championship game occuring usually within days of MLB’s opening day, we usually take an about-face on the site and switch over to the sights and sounds of our national pastime. And, no better way to make that transition than to kick off our 2012 MLB Preview.

As followers of the site know, we do season previews in a much different way than anyone else out there. We like to do team-by-team previews, but spice them up by adding in a touch of strategic competition. What we do is to take each team’s win totals from a year ago and set them as the “over-unders” for their win totals this year. Then, we make these over-under picks in draft order, depending on how confident we are in the team either going over or under their total from last year. Then, at the end of the year, we add them up and see how we did. Bry won the first three times we ran this preview (by narrow margins in the first two, 2008 and 2009, and then a wider margin in 2010), and then Doogan got on the board last year, winning the 2011 Preview in a tiebreaker, so he has the momentum.

We will add our picks to this post periodically throughout the week leading up to opening day.

Having picked first last year, Bry defers to Doogan to take the #1 choice this year…

1. DOOGAN – Miami Marlins – OVER 72 wins: Teams always like to make a splash (no pun intended here?) with their first year in a new ballpark, but the Marlins seem to have taken that to a new level going into 2012. Not only have they totally changed their uniforms, changed the name of the team, and brought in a new manager, but they’ve also remade the roster with three high-priced free agents. Jose Reyes takes over at short, Mark Buehrle joins the rotation, and Heath Bell takes over as the closer. Those three veterans join an already talented group of youngsters led by Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton (now, amazingly, known as Giancarlo Stanton), Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Josh Johnson, and Anibal Sanchez. If they stay healthy, they should definitely push for a playoff spot.

FINAL RECORD:  69-93.  Point Bry, 1-0
MADNESS!  History is made here, as never before has anyone missed their #1 pick.  But, it’s much more of a testament to just how disappointingly horrible the Marlins were in 2012 than anything else.

2. BRY – Houston Astros – OVER 56 wins: Is it me or do the “gimmes” get fewer and fewer every year we do this? You would think that with 29 teams to choose from, I would feel more confident than this pick. But, there is an old adage in baseball – you’re going to win 60 games and lose 60 games, and everything is decided in the other 40. Well, I guess I’ll stick with that adage and assume that even if this terrible team loses all 40 of them, they will still hit the Over here for me. Then again – I bet on them to win their division last year and they lost 106.

FINAL RECORD:  55-107.  Point Doogan, 1-1
MORE MADNESS!!!  Wow!  What an unbelievable season if the top two picks are both wrong.  Bry mentioned that the “gimmes” are few and far between, but really?  56 wins looked easy.  Not for the ‘Stros.  What a pathetic franchise.  Have fun in the AL West, boys.

3. BRY – Milwaukee Brewers – UNDER 96 wins: With Prince Fielder gone, Ryan Braun‘s appeal of his 50-game suspension may end up being the biggest victory of the Brewers 2012 season. It’s hard to imagine them competing without 210 games of Fielder and Braun. As it is, they still lost 162 games of Fielder, so this team should take a step backwards. Now, honestly, I don’t think they are that much worse, though, I just don’t think anyone in this division will win 96 games. They Brewers still have a pretty solid rotation and their defense should be a lot better – particularly on the left side – as they went from Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGahee to Alex Gonzalez and Aramis Ramirez. That is about as big of a defensive upgrade as I can remember one team making on the left side of an infield. Also, if Ramirez can regain some of his offensive prowess, his bat could help defray some of the loss felt in the middle of the order by Fielder’s departure. In short, I may be in the minority, but I still feel like this is the team to beat in the NL Central, so it’s strange to pick the Under with the #3 pick – I just think 96 wins is way too many.

FINAL RECORD:  83-79.  Point Bry, 2-1
The Brewers weren’t terrible in 2012, but they weren’t that good either, giving Bry the first correct pick of the contest.

4. DOOGAN – Minnesota Twins – OVER 63 wins: A couple of standard BSB MLB preview strategies go into this pick. Mainly, 63 is a low number. This pick shouldn’t be taken as a vote of confidence in this Twins team. But also, there are some teams that you just tend to go over on, based on the history of the franchise, and the Twins are one of those teams. One horrible season won’t change that. Here’s hoping that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can stay healthy to power the middle of the line-up. The rotation has no ace, but it is fairly deep, with a good number of solid guys like Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Scott Baker. In a pretty middling division, they should be able to hit 70 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  66-96.  Point Doogan, 2-2
It wasn’t easy, but Doogan eked out his first correct pick here.  It’s hard to believe that such a well-run franchise with a couple of bonafied stars has lost 195 games in the past two years.

5. BRY – New York Mess – UNDER 77 wins: This team is not very good at all. And, since they can’t spend any money, they have to fill holes as cheaply as possible. And, they created two pretty big holes up the middle when they traded away Carlos Beltran and let Jose Reyes walk in free agency (two moves that I actually agree with in the long-term, but we’re not “previewing” the long-term). The hole at short is going to be filled with fringe prospect Ruben Tejada, while the hole in center is filled with a guy that didn’t hit enough to stay in the anemic Giants offense – Andres Torres (who will bring his .221 batting average to the Mets leadoff spot this year). Oh, and not that they will have all that many “save opportunities,” but it looks like their cheap replacement closer, Frankie Francisco, might be having shoulder issues. The one thing that gives me a little pause is that Johan Santana looks like he might actually be healthy, so they could have a horse at the top of the rotation. But, with this offense, how many wins does Johan – even at his peak give you – 15? How will this offense win 65 games with Dillon Gee, R.A. Dickey, and Mike Pelfrey on the mound? In the NL East? They won’t.

FINAL RECORD:  74-88.  Point Bry, 3-2
Far be it for me to give any compliments to the awful team to our north, but there is some promise in this organization.  Their offense needs a total makeover, but there are some good young arms in this organization.  But, they are still several years away from relevance…which is fine with me.

6. DOOGAN – Philadelphia Phillies – UNDER 102 wins: Let’s take the suspense out of this one early. I’ve been a believer in the Phils and the Over every year we’ve done this, but 102?? Amidst all that has gone wrong for the team this spring, it’s important to remember that they still run out the best 1-3 pitchers in the game, by a LONG shot. Still, a team that struggled to score runs at a lot of times over the last couple of years will continue to struggle a lot of the time. Jimmy Rollins looks like the Opening Day 3-hitter, with Ty Wigginton at first base and batting 5th or 6th. I have so much faith in Halladay, Lee, and Hamels though, that this still looks like the cream of the crop in the NL, if not the whole game.

FINAL RECORD:  81-81.  Point Doogan, 3-3
Doogan sold his soul for this point, but I’m sure he was hoping for a little more of a sweat with this pick.  Let’s just chalk up the 2012 Phillies season as getting all the health issues and general bad karma out of the way in one season.  Back to winning division titles, guys.

7. BRY – New York Yankees – UNDER 97 wins: Can’t really blame you for taking the Under on the Phils – hell, I did it last year at 98. And, right after you take the Under on the best team in the NL, I’ll take the Under on, quite possibly, the best team in the AL. I like what the Yankees have done with their rotation, but the offense continues to age, and the “ageless one” at the end of the bullpen just has to show signs of mortality at some point, right? Even so, I still think this is probably as good a team as there is in the Junior Circuit, but 97 is a big number, and this division is loaded. I think the 1927 Yankees might have trouble hitting this number, and the 2012 Yankees are not exactly their counterparts from 85 years ago.

FINAL RECORD:  95-67.  Point Bry, 4-3
Just how these Yankees keep churning out 95-win seasons is amazing, but they didn’t win enough to cost Bry the point here.  It will be interesting to see when (and if) this team stops dominating the best division in baseball.

8. DOOGAN – Los Angeles Angels – OVER 86 wins: Just looks like a really good team, on paper. Obviously, Albert Pujols thrown into the middle of the order doesn’t hurt, though the offense still looks suspect with the over-the-hill Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells penciled in as starters and Kendrys Morales trying to comeback after missing most of the past two years with injuries. What makes this team a definite contender is the rotation, where C.J. Wilson joins Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana. With Mike Scioscia pulling the strings and most likely some money to burn if they need to make additions in July, they should get 90-92 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  89-73.  Point Doogan, 4-4
Many people see the 2012 Angels as a disappoinment, and for the most part, I guess that’s true.  But, they did win 89 games – which is more than NLCS participant, St. Louis, and World Series participant, Detroit.  Then again, adding Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to an already good team, and then getting MVP stuff from Mike Trout should have equated to more than 89 wins.

9. BRY – Arizona Diamondbacks – UNDER 94 wins: When looking for a team that you think will take a step backwards, you would think that one would probably look for either (a) an aging team likely in decline or (b) a team that has lost a couple key pieces either through free agency/trade or injury. The Diamondbacks don’t even come close to fitting into either category, as they are a young team that is pretty much completely in tact from the team that won 94 games a year ago. So, this might be a dangerous pick, but I just do not see this team in the mid-90s. I think last year everything kind of fell right into place – they won a lot of close games, got seemingly career years from several pitchers (most notably Yankee castoff, Ian Kennedy; fringe bullpen prospect turned starter, Josh Collmenter; and resurrected closer, J.J. Putz), and benefitted from a surprisingly down year throughout the division. So, even though this team comes back as a whole and a year older (which is a good thing), I still don’t see them matching last year’s success.

FINAL RECORD:  81-81.  Point Bry, 5-4
Bry cruises to a point here, as the guys have hit 7 in a row after their embarrassing starts.

10. DOOGAN – Texas Rangers – UNDER 96 wins: A big win number and a lot of question marks makes for a fairly easy Under pick. Sure, there’s a TON of talent on this roster, but they’re really counting on Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz to be high-quality starters, and both of those are definite question marks, mainly because neither has ever actually started a Major League game yet. They’ll score runs, but Josh Hamilton gets hurt a lot and is already slowed by injuries this spring. When does Michael Young start to show his age with the bat? Just too many questions to expect so many wins.

FINAL RECORD:  93-69.  Point Doogan, 5-5
This pick was in jeopardy until the final week, when the Rangers swoon gave Doogan the point here.  What a disappointing end to the Rangers careers of Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.

11. BRY – Kansas City Royals – OVER 71 wins: Since I always end up making this pick, at some point, might as well get it over with early, then I can stop “almost” picking it. I should just copy and paste what I’ve written for each of the past 4 years. This team has an amazing farm system…blah, blah, blah. They will be up in the bigs at some point…blah, blah, blah. The division isn’t very good…blah, blah, blah. 71 isn’t a huge number…blah, blah, blah. Ready for something new: Eric Hosmer is a total stud and will be an MVP candidate within the next three years – maybe as early as this year. I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid that this team is going to compete for a playoff spot, but I do think they can flirt with .500 and probably finish somewhere in the mid-70s.

FINAL RECORD:  72-90.  Point Bry, 6-5
A 4-2 win over the Tigers on the second-to-last day of the regular season gave the Royals the 72 wins needed to reward Bry’s loyalty.  Will this team ever be good?

12. DOOGAN – Cincinnati Reds – OVER 79 wins: No National League team has scored more runs over the last two years than the Reds, so you know they can swing the bats. Joey Votto has established himself as one of the game’s premier hitters, and Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips produce as well. They added Mat Latos from the Padres in the offseason, and he has a lot of ability despite not having a great 2011. The loss of Ryan Madson gives me a little pause here, but this team was better than their 79 wins suggest last year, and with the Cardinals and Brewers most likely taking steps backward, they should be ready to step it up themselves into, let’s say an 86-win season.

FINAL RECORD:  97-65.  Point Doogan, 6-6
An easy point here for Doogan, as he makes a really nice pick at #12.  It’s probably time for this collection of solid players to win a playoff series, huh? 

13. BRY – Oakland A’s – UNDER 74 wins: Last year’s A’s were not that competitive, but they at least had a somewhat decent pitching staff. This year’s A’s? Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon are their #1 and #2. Trevor Cahill is gone. Gio Gonzalez is gone. Even Dallas Braden might miss the whole season with shoulder issues. And, this is a team with Kurt Suzuki hitting in the middle of the lineup. There is a chance that this is the worst team in baseball, so I’ll take them for 70 wins at the most.

FINAL RECORD:  94-68.  Point Doogan, 7-6
As bad as the first two picks were, this one is shameful.  To miss a pick by 21 games is unacceptable…then again, did ANYONE see this coming?

14. DOOGAN – St. Louis Cardinals – UNDER 90 wins: This feels like a pick I often make and lose on, so like Bry and the Royals, I’ll keep the momentum going. Pujols is obviously a huge loss, but this team led the NL in runs scored by a healthy margin last year, so they’ll still score runs, especially with Carlos Beltran joining Matt Holliday (though Lance Berkman could be headed for a downturn). The main reason I’m somewhat comfortable going Under is that Chris Carpenter is down for the first couple of months of the season and Kyle Lohse is making their Opening Night start tomorrow.

FINAL RECORD:  88-74.  Point Doogan, 8-6
Doogan “consolidates his break” by eking out a Cardinals point here.  The Redbirds took two of three from Cincy in the final series to give Doogan the lead.
 

15. BRY – San Francisco Giants – OVER 86 wins: Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, and Zito. Oh, and arguably the best bullpen in the game. And, while Brandon Crawford may not be ready for the bigs with the stick, he sure can field the shortstop position. And, coming off of a year of Miguel Tejada there, they upgraded the most important defensive position about as much as is actually possible. They’re not going to score many runs, but their pitching and defense is as good as anyone. In a potentially weak NL West, this team seems poised for 90 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  94-68.  Point Bry, 7-8
Your 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants…weird.  Wait…they won two years ago too?  Very weird.

16. DOOGAN – Colorado Rockies – OVER 73 wins: I don’t like taking Overs on teams with pitching staffs as suspect as this team’s, but the offense could be scary good with Tulowitzki and CarGo, Helton still swinging it, and two proven veterans joining them in Michael Cuddyer and Marco Scutaro. I’d worry about Cuddyer playing the outfield in Coors, but other than that they have + defenders all over the diamond, which will be needed with the pitchers allowing the ball to be hit all over the place most of the time. I don’t see them winning half their games, but 78 wins seems reachable.

FINAL RECORD:  64-98.  Point Bry, 8-8
The Rockies are in a rough place right now, as a franchise.  They have a franchise player at an elite position and they have NOTHING else – and nothing coming

17. BRY – Toronto Blue Jays – OVER 81 wins: It embarrasses me sometimes how easily I buy into the hype machine. With the state of the AL East, there is no reason to believe that the Jays can be over .500 this year, but I can’t ignore the hype. And, no, I don’t put any stock whatsoever in spring training records, so I am not even going to mention the fact that they are 19-4 this spring. I won’t even mention it. But, there is just too much talent across the border to ignore. Ricky Romero is poised to be a certifiable ace. Jose Bautista has been the best player in baseball (by a pretty wide margin) over the past two seasons. And, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencebia, and especially Brett Lawrie are all poised for breakout seasons. If Kyle Drabek can find the strike zone, he could join Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, and Dustin McGowan in a solid, if not stellar, starting rotation. Oh, and I love the fact that they brought back their old unis and logo. This is dangerous territory, I know, but gimme the Jays for 83-86 wins.

FINAL RECORD: 73-89.  Point Doogan, 9-8
Doogan takes the lead back after Bry’s bad pick of the Jays.  This team wasn’t good and we will see if their “new look” is that much better.

18. DOOGAN – San Diego Padres – OVER 71 wins: This is one of those picks where it’s getting late in the game here but I’ve suddenly talked myself into this one as very safe pick. It’s a low number for a team with a capable manager and a fair amount of young talent, if no stars. They won’t score many runs, but Yonder Alonso could be a breakout hitter, and they have Carlos Quentin when he returns from injury. They’re a good defensive team up the middle, with Jason Bartlett at short, Orlando Hudson at second, and Cameron Maybin in center. They have some pretty solid young arms in the rotation as well, with Edinson Volquez, Cory Luebke, and Clayton Richard.

FINAL RECORD:  76-86.  Point Doogan, 10-8
Doogan stays ahead with a nice pick of the Padres.  It didn’t look good for a while, but the Pads always seem to surprise late in the season.  What a frustrating organization to be a fan of, though, right?

19. BRY – Detroit Tigers – UNDER 95 wins: This feels like a strange pick to make, considering they are one of the handful of legit contenders for a World Series title. They won 95 games last year AND added one of the game’s premier power hitters in Prince Fielder. Add in the fact that yhey are HEAD AND SHOULDERS better than the rest of this division and this pick starts to get suspect. However…95 is a really big number, and last year’s 95 was a bit hollow. They got a perfect season from their closer and a dream season from Justin Verlander. Not saying that Verlander isn’t great (in fact, blasphemous or not, I would consider him on par with Mr. Halladay as the best pitcher on the planet) – I am saying, though, that that was a dream season for anyone and may not be duplicated. But, even if it is, the addition of Prince Fielder is mitigated by the fact that he’s really just a moderate offensive upgrade to Victor Martinez, who was lost for the year. And, one has to question their decision to make Miguel Cabrera (a below average FIRSTbaseman) into the everyday thirdbaseman. Last year, they had Brandon Inge – one of the game’s best at the hot corner. Add in the fact that they got the best of guys like Tim Fister, Alex Avila, and Ryan Raburn (not likely to repeat their ’11 numbers this year). I am, in no way, saying that the Tigers are not going to contend – in fact, they might be the best bet in baseball to win the World Series because they are the biggest favorite (by a huge margin) to win their division and avoid the 1-game playoff. But, I just see them being in the same position with 88-90 wins as they would be with 96-100. And, I think 95 is just too tough for a team that does still have some flaws.

FINAL RECORD:  88-74.  Point Bry, 9-10
Bry gets the point by picking the Under on the AL Champs with the best pitcher and hitter on the planet.  But, the dirty little secret is that the Tigers – in the regular season – weren’t all that good.

20. DOOGAN – Washington Nationals – OVER 80 wins: This is a classic “taking the bait” pick on a team that’s made a bunch of veteran additions to a young core, but still may be another year or two away from being legit. The rotation has a chance to be really good, but its far from guaranteed, with Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, and Jordan Zimmermann. The line-up looks like it could be average, with Jayson Werth probably having an improved season and Bryce Harper waiting in the wings. And they’ve also added arms to the pen. In a lesser division, I’d feel confident with this Over, but they very well could be a 4th place team. Still, the talent is on board for 84 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  98-64.  Point Doogan, 11-9
Doogan “took the bait,” and it paid off big-time.  He won this one by September, as the “best team in baseball” cruised to an NL East title…and a division series flameout.  Oops…

21. BRY – Atlanta Braves – UNDER 89 wins: As Doogan explained in the last pick, the Nats are probably going to be better than they were a year ago. And, with the Marlins Over going off the board at #1, it’s safe to say that this division is much improved. And, while there is still a lot of talent on this Braves roster, the health and mental makeup of that talent is seemingly revealing a lot more questions than answers. The two most accomplished players on the roster – Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson – are out to start the season – possibly a bad omen for players on the downside of their career arcs. And, the rest of the pitching staff has been actually rather awful this spring. Jair Jurrjens doesn’t look healthy, and all those “young arms” look either overrated or not ready. And, then there are the questions surrounding this offense. It wasn’t very good last year and, possibly, the two most important bats in the lineup – Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman – don’t exactly look like a pillar of mental fortitude. They do still have absolute horses in the ‘pen, but Fredi Gonzalez has proven rather inept at utilizing a bullpen. The reason I didn’t make this pick earlier is because I wouldn’t be shocked for any result from 80 all the way to 100 wins. But, all in all, I disagree with your statement above, Doogan, and I think that this might be the 4th-place team you speak of, and, if so, they won’t even come close to 89 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  94-68.  Point Doogan, 12-9
Doogan is taking control of this, as Bry misses another pick.  That Bravo bullpen was incredible and, while Bry was right on Jair Jurrjens, he clearly didn’t consider the all-powerful Kris Medlen.

22. DOOGAN – Chicago White Sox – UNDER 79 wins: I’ll declare this the point of the draft where I won’t feel remotely sure about any picks from here on. The White Sox do have a potentially above-average rotation with John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, and Philip Humber, who had a quiet nice season last year. Though Peavy is not close to what he once was and neither Danks nor Floyd resemble an ace. The offense struggled to score runs a year ago and can expect more of the same. Even if Adam Dunn rebounds (which he almost has to do), Carlos Quentin and his 24 homers are gone. Kenny Williams looks like he wants to rebuild, and as arguably the most aggressive GM in the biz, he could get very aggressive with unloading veterans in a couple months.

FINAL RECORD:  85-77.  Point Bry, 10-12
A very important point here for Bry, as Doogan underrated the ChiSox.  It’s hard to blame him, though, 85 wins for this team seems like overachieving.

23. BRY – Boston Red Sox – UNDER 90 wins: I have almost pulled the trigger on this one for about 10 rounds now, but I kept thinking about how much talent they have on this team. They have 5 elite offensive players and two elite starting pitchers. But, in a division this tough and a town this brutal, seasons can unravel quickly. Add to the fire a spitfire manager and a bullpen that is in complete disarray, I could see this team slipping towards .500. This isn’t an easy pick, but you can’t expect them to be easy around this time in the game.

FINAL RECORD:  69-93.  Point Bry, 11-12
For the 23rd pick, this one was rather stress-free.  The worst Red Sox team in a decade or so (and, not coincidentally, the first without Terry Francona), limped to the finish line with 69 wins.  69 wins?!?  With that talent and payroll?  Ouch…fire the manager!  Oh wait…

24. DOOGAN – Baltimore Orioles – UNDER 69 wins: A bad team, a bad organization, that’s just spinning its wheels in a beastly division. They haven’t topped 69 wins since 2006, when they won, you guessed it, 70. With the improved Blue Jays really only making this an even tougher division and no noteworthy additions to the roster, I don’t see why anyone should expect this year to be one where they win more than 67 games.

FINAL RECORD:  93-69.  Point Bry, 12-12
Three in a row for Bry, as Doogan misses BADLY on this pick.  Again, it’s hard to blame him because who saw this coming, but wow.  Think about it.  Everything Doogan said in the above paragraph seemed right on – at the time.  As crazy as the A’s season was, that Orioles season is mind-boggling.

25. BRY – Seattle Mariners – OVER 67 wins: A bad team, a bad organization, that’s just spinning its wheels…in a division that isn’t as beastly as the AL East. Yes, the pickins are getting slim here, but 67 is a pretty low number, especially when you get to play the A’s 19 times. Is it that big of a stretch to think that the Mariners might not hit 95 losses? Well…like I said, the pickens are getting slim.

FINAL RECORD:  75-87.  Point Bry, 13-12
Four straight for Bry to take the lead down the stretch.  Even now, though, looking back, I’m still surprised that that god-awful Mariners team managed 75 wins.  The only thing more surprising is that people are kind of calling them contenders in 2013.

26. DOOGAN – Tampa Bay Rays – UNDER 91 wins: You have to love the pitching staff, especially since their sixth-best starter would probably #3 in a lot of rotations. Looking for chinks in the armor, I’d say that Evan Longoria is the only sure-thing hitter in the lineup, with some other guys that go up-and-down or haven’t lived up to expectations yet. The bullpen has guys that were great last year but not guys that have long track records, so that could be a place where they take a step back, as well.

FINAL RECORD:  90-72.  Point Doogan, 13-13
Doogan stops the winning streak with a “skin-of-the-teeth” win on the Rays.  One of the biggest surprises of the Orioles season is that they kept a phenomenal Rays team out of the playoffs.  Just a crazy year in an AL East where Baltimore was 24 games better than Boston.

27. BRY – Cleveland Indians – OVER 80 wins: Okay, we’ve officially reached the “I have no idea range,” so this is more of a shot in the dark than anything. It’s probably a bad pick, considering the Tribe didn’t exactly add anyone from a team that probably overachieved last year, but this division stinks and there is some room for improvement from a year ago. You have to expect Shin-Soo Choo to rebound from a terrible year to be more like his career before the DUI. And, they did play most of the season without their best player – Carlos Santana – who is now healthy and could be a superstar. Plus, Justin Masterson has a chance to be a true ace – and by “true ace,” I really mean “reliable starting pitcher.” So, I guess I’ll take them to finish .500 or better, why not?

FINAL RECORD:  68-94.  Point Doogan, 14-13
A big miss here by Bry puts Doogan a game away from clinching at least a tie.  This pick looked good for a while, but an absolutely DREADFUL July for the Tribe ended any hope for this pick.

28. DOOGAN – Los Angeles Dodgers – OVER 82 wins: They have at least an average rotation, with reigning Cy Young winner Kershaw backed up by solid arms like Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley. The line-up is a bit of a mess, but Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are a 3-4 combo that a lot of teams out there would take in heartbeat. The bullpen doesn’t look too formidable, but I’ll take the positive vibes they’re feeling from the end of the McCourt fiasco and say they can ride their two young super-stars to 83-85 wins.

FINAL RECORD:  86-76.  Point Doogan, 15-13
Doogan clinches at least a tie, as he takes a Dodgers team that looked a lot different at the end of the season than the beginning.  That being said, they didn’t play that much better after all those crazy trades.  This was a really nice pick this late, particularly upon citing the “end of the McCourt fiasco” as a step in the right direction.

29. BRY – Chicago Cubs – OVER 71 wins: So, left with two teams from the NL Central with O/Us of 72 and 71. Hmm… I’ll go with the Cubbies and the Over because 71 is a pretty low number for a team with such a high payroll and a really good General Manager. Granted, they do have an extreme dearth of talent, so Theo’s got his work cut out for him. Not surprisingly, considering it’s the 29th pick, but this seems like a total toss-up to me. So, I guess I’ll take the Cubs to avoid 91+ losses…I guess. Have fun with the last one, Doogan…

FINAL RECORD: 61-101.  Point Doogan, 16-13
Doogan clinches his second straight baseball preview title, as Bry misses by TEN games.  The Cubbies lost 101 in 2012…WOW!

30. DOOGAN – Pittsburgh Pirates – OVER 72 wins: Well, they just wrapped up a series win over the Phils, so if I went Under it would probably just look spiteful. I don’t want to be spiteful. Good job this weekend, Buccos. You can surely win 71 more games in 2012.

FINAL RECORD:  79-83.  Point Doogan, 17-13
Doogan ends it in style, picking up the last 5 points to defend his championship.  The Buckos are still looking for a winning record, though, so we’ll see who takes that in 2013…

Immediate Reaction: Phillies trade Worley for CF Ben Revere

The Phillies have dealt Vance Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May for Twins CF Ben Revere.  This is my VERY initial take:

The first thing you see when you look at Revere’s stats is 0 home runs and a .319 OBP in over 1,000 ABs.  We’re giving up a solid young pitcher and a somewhat decent prospect for THAT?

BUT, looking past that, it starts to make sense.  Maybe.  My first thought is that the Phillies look at Revere as Michael Bourn-light.  Bourn is in the market for a contract that will pay him more than the 5 years/$75 million that B.J. Upton got from Atlanta.  It’s easy to forget that he hit just two home runs in a full season two years ago.

Revere appears to have NO power.  That’s not debatable.  But it’s worth noting that Minnesota is an extreme pitcher’s park, and Revere’s OBP in road games the last two years is .340, which is one point higher than Bourn’s career number.  Revere is a base-stealer, with 40 steals last year.  He’s considered a very good defensive center fielder, if maybe not quite on the level of Bourn.  He’s also five years younger than Bourn.

So let’s say Revere gives you 90% of what Bourn does.  Here’s the clear clincher from the perspective of Ruben Amaro and the Phillies:  he’ll give you 90% of Bourn for about 3% of the price.

If the Phillies only had one hole to fill this offseason to complete the championship package, I could really question this decision.  But, as we all know, they have a laundry list of needs besides CF, that includes 3B, a corner OF, and bullpen help.  So, by filling their CF need as cheaply as possible, they’re leaving themselves with a lot of financial flexibility to fill those other needs.

Now, you say, haven’t they CREATED a new hole by dealing Worley?  Yeah, probably.  And that’s where you can criticize this deal, if want.  It seems that they are going to have to go out and add a proven arm to the rotation now, because there’s none that I know of waiting in the wings to fill Worley’s spot.  But, I think there’s a lot of back-of-the-rotation arms out there that can be had for a reasonable price, while the CF options were much less.

As for Trevor May, he was considered a rising star a couple years ago, but he a pretty bad 2012 season and was no longer considered a top prospect.

Most likely more to come, especially as the team continues to assemble pieces in the coming weeks.

Chooch, Babin, and D-Jax…

Just a mundane check on the front page of ESPN.com today offers three more pieces of off-the-field news to the laundry list of sports storylines meant strictly to depress fans of Philadelphia sports.

  • Ruiz was suspended for the first 25 games of the 2013 season for testing positive for amphetimines.
  • The already lost Eagles season will finish without their best wide receiver, as DeSean Jackson (who was actually having a sneakily decent season this year) was placed on season-ending IR today.
  • And, in maybe the most surprising (and head-scratching) news of the day – Jason Babin, fresh off an 18-sack season a year ago, was flat-out released by the Birds today.

Now, we can just sit in wait for the inevitable “Andrew Bynum to Miss Entire Season” headline which is right around the corner.

BSB’s MLB Awards – Upcoming

For those awaiting the BSB award votes – we are tabulating the results and should have it all posted by early next week, at the latest.  It should be interesting to see how they compare to the actual voting.

Quick Hits: MLB Playoffs

I know that we are now 4 games into the LCS’s, and the DS’s are ancient history, but I wanted to throw out some random thoughts about the first week in the always fascinating MLB playoffs.

This Hard-Core Traditionalist LOVES The Extra Wild Card
I hate the DH with as much as I hate anything else in this world.  I can’t stand Astroturf (though, it’s AMAZING to play on).  I don’t necessarily hate the “This Game Counts” rule for the All-Star Game, but I completely DESPISE the fact that we have to make it count.  And, I can’t stand any best-of-5 format.  BUT…I LOVE this extra wild card.  Why?  First of all, it’s exciting, but that’s cheap and easy.  Most of all, because I really look at it as not necessarily adding a wild card, but actually taking one away – or, at least, taking away any advantage for the division winner.  Yes, might Baltimore and St. Louis meet in the World Series?  Yes, but Texas and Atlanta didn’t even get to the Division Series.  And, the Orioles and Cards will have done so against longer odds than any of the division winners – and rightfully so.  And, honestly, it’s exciting!  That wild card day was fantastic.  And anyone who argues that it’s “fabricated excitement” is a hypocrite if they argue for any playoff system whatsoever.  If you denounce this “fabricated excitement” created by the one-game playoff, your argument would have to finish with just crowning the Washington Nationals as 2012 MLB champs because they were the best team over 162 games.  Hell, I’d be all for letting all 30 teams in a big playoff, where #30 plays #29 with the winner playing #28 for the right to play #27, and so on…

While a Really Bad Call, the Bogus Infield Fly Call Actually HELPED The Braves
First of all, the infield fly call in the Braves-Cardinals Wild Card Game was a bad call.  The point of the rule is so the infielder can’t intentionally drop a pop-up and turn a double-play.  Well, you saw what happened when that popup was dropped – they didn’t get anyone out!  So, there is no debate that the call was wrong.  However, I couldn’t disagree more with those of you that said it cost the Braves the game.  In fact, not only did it not cost them the game, but it didn’t cost them anything.  The Braves actually benefitted from that call, at least from what I could tell.  When a popup is hit into shallow leftfield, there is a tacit understanding between the leftfielder and the shortstop that if no one says anything, it’s the shortstop’s ball, but it is the leftfielder’s clear responsibility to call off the shortstop if he can make the play because it’s an easier catch coming in.  So, as a shortstop, you are finely trained to go after the ball hard, all the while listening to be called off, in which case you better get out of the way.  As Kozma went back on the ball, he was ready to make the catch, but was also dutifully waiting to be called off by Holliday.  There is no doubt in my mind that when the umpire – who was standing 10 feet from Kozma – yelled “INFIELD FLY, BATTER’S OUT,” Kozma mistook it for his leftfielder calling him off, peeled off and the ball dropped.  Yes, it is his fault that he misheard it, but if the umpire did his job and said nothing, then he would have caught the ball and the runners would have remained at 1st and 2nd.  Instead, the ball fell, and the runners advanced.  Obviously, the Braves didn’t capitalize, but they were clearly (by my judgment) actually put in a better situation because of the umpire’s mistake.

This Bad Call Actually HELPED the Braves...

Hey, at Least They Sold Out the Playoff Game for a Change.
Then, in the wake of that call, how embarrassing was it when Braves fans threw so much trash on to the field that it delayed the game for more than 15 minutes?  Absolutely classless.  Where was that on the front page of every national sports site?  If that was Philly, it would have been on Good Morning, America

Managers Stepping Up
For a sport with “experts” that like to do nothing more than criticize managers for their moves, October seems to be bringing out the best in this much-maligned species of baseball man.  Joe Girardi, obviously, made the splashiest move by pinch-hitting for the best right-handed hitter of all-time with a 40-year old who hit the game-tying and game-winning home runs in ALDS Game 4.  But, I am much more concerned with the more subtle decisions that are a lot harder to analyze.  Buck Showalter‘s decision to start Joe Saunders in the winner-take-all wild card game (as prescribed by BSB’s own, Gross, the day of that game) exemplified the steady hand he has had on that wheel all year.  And, then there was that Reds-Giants series, that had two managers oft-criticized for their approach to their pitching staffs put on an absolute clinic on how to use a bullpen in a short series.  I did not exactly like Bob Melvin‘s treatment of the 9th inning in the elimination Game 4, but it seemed to work out okay for them on that day.

Is Robinson Cano Lost at Sea?
Doogan asked me the other day “Do you think Robinson Cano has ever gone 2-for-32 before in his entire life???  Not the best timing.”  Not only would this Cano slump (which is grossly overshadowed by One Life to Live, starring Alex Rodriguez) be incredible at any point, it is even more incredible if you consider that he finished the regular season in absolute blistering fashion.  In fact, Cano entered the playoffs with a ridiculous streak of NINE straight multi-hit games – the first time anyone has even had a streak of 8 or more since, well, Robinson Cano, in 2010.  In those 9 games, Cano his .615…yes, .615…with 24 hits in 39 at-bats.  And, he’s not the only one who ended the regular season red-hot only to go ice cold in the postseason.  Here is an article from the day after the regular season ended that mentioned, among others, some of the postseason’s worst hitters as players to watch this postseason simply because of how hot they were down the stretch:  Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Chris Davis, Brandon Moss, and Bryce Harper.

My Pick to Win the World Series
I said before the playoffs started that the winner of the Giants-Reds series would win the whole thing.  While I hate the whole “I can’t change my original pick” theory that has plagued sportswriters, I still hold on to the Giants as my pick to win this thing, despite how good the Tigers and Cardinals both look right now.  Pitching wins, and the Giants have it – in the rotation and in the ‘pen.  If, in 2010 when the Phillies acquired Roy Halladay, I told you that, by the end of 2012, Barry Zito would have two more World Series rings Mr. Halladay, you would have had me committed.