Two Years Later, The Strasburg Decision Holds Stronger Than Ever

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One thing that the Major League Baseball advertising department would like you to believe would be that you can’t predict baseball. And while that’s been a slogan for many a campaign, it’s a mainly false statement. Baseball, for the most part, is a very predictable game. The best hitters only make something happen one third of the time. And there are only so many possible outcomes for every situation. Groundout, flyout, strikeout or hit. But the times where you see something amazing, crazy or just odd, are the times where the phrase comes to your mind. Maybe it’s an unassisted triple play. Maybe it’s when the pitcher hits a home run, or when catcher legs out a bases-clearing triple. However, the one thing you can never consistently predict is how successful a player will be next year, next month, week or even game. So when Stephen Strasburg was controversially shut down as an effect of his previous Tommy John Surgery in 2012, right before the Nationals were poised to make a deep run into October, and right after he had a career year, the baseball world was unhappy. People questioned if he’d ever have a year this good again. People wondered if it was the right decision for him mentally and physically. Everybody from government officials to columnists to football players weighed in. The verdict typically seemed to be to let him pitch. Mike Rizzo stuck to his plan. Two years later, on the brink of another postseason, how does that decision look now? Continue reading

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A Silent Killer on the D.L.

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No Nationals fan even blinks an eye when it’s mentioned a player has gone to the D.L. this year. After seeing names like Harper, Zimmerman, Gonzalez and Span fall out for fifteen days or more, it’s just not a surprise. However, this latest trip to the D.L. by a player, despite his lack of star-power, may be more important than Harper or Zimmerman. Continue reading

2014 MLB Preview: AL

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A field worker prepares for day one of many. (GETTY)

A field worker prepares for day one of many to follow. (GETTY)

The time of year is once again upon us. The trees are budding, the weather is getting nicer, and ballparks are once again being filled with tens of thousands of fans, eager to see their home team for the first time since the fall, all believing that their chances are promising, no matter how abysmal the team was the last year or how terrible it looks on paper. Spring is a time of hope, but also a time to look forward – to the countless home runs, the stars, the fights, the miracles, the comebacks and the surprise teams.

And at the beginning of every year, I attempt to guess what team will do what, who will win where, and how it will happen. I never get it right. In fact, the team predicted to finish last in their division by many actually took home a World Series trophy. So don’t blame me for getting it wrong. But there’s no point in not trying. So today, I will give you your

2014 AL PREVIEW:

AL WEST

Can the Angels finally make the playoffs?

Can the Angels finally make the playoffs?

For the first time in a very long time, the

 Rangers are not a threat. Not like they were in 2010, 2011 and 2012, when they were dominant throughout the season, with the exception of the September of 2012. So for the first time in a while, it’s really an open slot. The A’s seem very promising, with young Sonny Gray and Yoenis Cespedes, so they should get their three-peat. The Astros, while they have a promising future, do not have a promising today. The first real young talent shouldn’t start to flourish until 2015, although some predict we’ll see Correa and Appel by August or September, depending on injuries and how they do in the Minors. The Mariners made the biggest splash of the offseason, signing Cano to a megadeal. However, their lack of bullpen, rotation and really everywhere-else depth should come back to bite them. Which leaves one sleeper team. The Angels had gone through two years of making big free agent purchases and then not even coming close to winning their division, let alone even a playoff spot. For the first time since those years though, everybody is healthy. Mike Trout is now in season three of an already legendary career. But the question is: Can the Angels can pull it out this year? I’m pretty torn on this. The chances of them getting a wild card spot are about fifty-fifty. But even though I can’t see the Rangers finishing second, the AL East and Central are just too strong for the Angels.

PROJECTED RECORDS: (x indicates division champions, y indicates playoff berth)

W  L

xOakland:  94-68

L.A.           87-75

Texas       84-78

Seattle     79-83

Houston   72-90

AL CENTRAL:

Verlander is looking for another dominant year.

Verlander is looking for another dominant year.

Without a doubt, this is a three team division. Cleveland is one of those three. Cleveland finished hot last year, and even though they did lose the one-game wild card, they showed a lot of promise. With Kipnis finally breaking out, and the squad really meshing together, it looks to be another promising year for Cleveland, unless the Royals can pull something off. However, the one team that will beat them in their own division this year is Detroit. Detroit, while losing 1B Prince Fielder, Starting Pitcher Doug Fister and SS Jose Iglesias until July, has proven they can win. With the one-two punch of Verlander-Scherzer, then more depth in the rotation, the pitching isn’t a worry, except for the bullpen. The lineup includes back-to-back MVP Miguel Cabrera, who has gone back to his native first base after a hysterical stint at third, 2B Ian Kinsler, a nice speedy guy with some pop and V-Mart at catcher, arguably still the best switch hitter in the game. Expect to see another division championship from them. The Royals are a legit threat now, but the question remains if they can jump past the Indians, and any other team in Wild-Card contention. While they are projected to have a great season with Hosmer and Infante dominating, they are just too far down the totem pole to really have a chance, unless the Indians or a couple other wild-card possibilities fall out of it, but expect them to fight until the end. However, the future is very bright, with one of baseball’s best farm systems – next year could be very big, or if anyone speeds through, there may be some new hope. The White Sox, while signing Abreu, didn’t do much of anything else this offseason, which will bite them. A weak farm system doesn’t give them much hope for the future – don’t expect much of anything from these guys this year. The Twins, while boasting the best farm system in the game, can’t boast about anything else. But with Brian Buxton and Miguel Sano both rising very quickly through the minors, happy times may come soon for fans of the Twinkies.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

xDetroit  91-71

yCleveland  88-74

Kansas City  86-76

Minnesota  73-89

Chicago  71-91

AL EAST 

If all goes to plan, the Rays should be doing this in September.

If all goes to plan, the Rays should be doing this in September.

If there was ever a doubt in your mind, I’d like to place this in there. This is the toughest division in all of baseball. Not the NL Central, not the AL West – this is it, right here. The reigning champions are a good place to start. The Red Sox only lost one major piece of the 2013 World Series puzzle, Jacoby Elisbury, who will be easily replaced by Jackie Bradley Jr. The rest of the team is still there, so the only remaining question is if they can keep the momentum from 2013 going, and keep the clubhouse meshed like it was. Watch out for Xander Bogarts to have a breakout season. The Rays are always a threat. They have great talent all around the diamond, and should be expected to fight it out, and probably win the division. I can’t say much more, because I honestly don’t know all that much about the Rays. The Orioles are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013. While they did lose Reynolds and McClouth, and Machado may be out for a while, expect them to contend. The pitching is the only thing I can see falling apart, but with some great prospects, that’s going to be pretty hard to mess up. The Yankees brought in three big names, McCann, Tanaka and Beltran. Two of the three are very proven. However, the pitching staff and lack of offense elsewhere, unless Jeter figures things out, could be pretty hard to fix. But expect them to contend. The only non-contending team is the Blue Jays, who took everything from the Marlins, and somehow made it even worse. The combination obviously doesn’t work with Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson and the others. It’s time for the Jays to get some prospects and admit it’s time for a fresh start.

PROJECTED STANDINGS

xTampa Bay  93-69

yBoston  91-71

Baltimore  88-74

New York   85-71

Toronto  69-93

PLAYOFFS:

Wild Card Game: CLEVELAND over Boston

ALDS: OAKLAND over Cleveland, TAMPA over Detroit

ALCS: OAKLAND over Tampa

Stay tuned for the NL later in the week!

Nats fans are obviously passionate about Bryce Harper being the Face of MLB

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As a relatively new team, the Nats are one of the most adept to social media. Their fans are also some of the most loyal on twitter, with Anthony Rendon’s Mullet, Jayson Werth’s beard and countless archives and blogs posting, plus players. Today, MLB opened the voting for the Face of the MLB between Ryan Braun and Bryce Harper. This is where it gets interesting.

One thing to consider on that last one is that Braun has done ‘roids, but even so…

While it’s unlikely he’ll beat Kershaw or Trout, everyone obviously needs something to do until spring training.

A-Rod’s ban needs to be the final warning

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If you can find a baseball fan who actually likes A-Rod, revoke their fan membership card for me. Otherwise, you should be celebrating like me.

Today, MLB announced that A-Rod will be suspended for 1 whole season, and if by a long shot, the Yankees make the playoffs, the playoffs too.

Now, it’s time for the rest of the league to understand. While, for the most part, steroids are not as big of a problem as they used to be, there still have been some violators, and these are big names, like Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and of course, A-Rod.

MLB has been amping up the punishments, and even though they’ve been giving them out, they need to amp it up more. No more appealing. A-Rod knows he cheated. The world knows he cheated. He needs to take the punishment. But this needs to serve as a message to the players of the MLB – fans have stopped forgiving players for the use of P.E.D.S. And now, the odds of being caught are a lot higher than they were before.

Steroids nearly ruined this league. And if the players truly love the game like they always say, they’ll get that it’s no longer acceptable.

 

The offseason report – The teams doing the right thing – and the teams that aren’t.

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I am self-admittedly a mess without baseball. So as the winter meetings end, we begin to reach the mid point of the offseason, with only 2 months until pitchers and catchers report, or roughly, at least. That’s kind of a long time. However, it doesn’t mean we can look at some teams this offseason that have stood out, in a good or bad way.

The Good

Oakland Athletics

Top prospect from a great team? Check. Stealing a closer for not that much? Check. Great people and bench players? Check. Oakland has had a well rounded and not-too big offseason, which is exactly what a team in their position needs.

Boston Red Sox

Jacoby who? That’s what Ben Cherington is hoping he got right this offseason. Instead of re-signing the official spark plug and All-Star Jacoby Ellsbury, he went with the in house option – Jackie Bradley Jr. He (Jackie) has shown spots of talent, but not held a consistent spot on a Major League Roster. However, they made a few key additions themselves, signing A.J. Pierzynski and Edward Mujica while letting Jarrod Saltalamacchia go, who was good but never what the Red Sox expected him to be. They also re-signed official beard-man Mike Napoli.

Washington Nationals

What do you do when you don’t have that much to do? Fill in the blanks. While last year, Denard Span and Dan Haren were supposed to fix all the problems, they clubhouse guys like Mark DeRosa walk, and when he left, the Nats clubhouse kind of fell apart. Clubhouse man Nate McLouth will hopefully fix the problem Mark Derosa left, Doug Fister, a just overall great pitcher came for very little and one of the left handed relievers that were missing from last year’s flop season has come on, Jerry Blevins. The only two things they need to do now? Extend Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, and get Eric O’Flaherty.

San Fransisco Giants

It’s an even numbered year, and you know what that means… the Giants are going to be a contender. Okay, maybe not. But they have gotten another great starter in Tim Hudson, and another great clubhouse man the Nats let walk, Michael Morse, plus re-signing key players like Vogelsong and LIncecum.

The Bad

New York Mets

Unfortunately, a 40 year old veteran does not replace the next big thing in pitching. With Matt Harvey out for next season, Bartolo Colon was brought in to be the front(?!) of the staff. While they stole a great center fielder from their cross-town rivals, this just wasn’t the year to do it. Another two years until the Mets contend for the NL East, minimum.

Seattle Mariners

I know what you’re thinking. Cano. Hart. Yeah, that’s not really enough. Let’s look back at history. 2012 Miami Marlins: Fail. 2012 Los Angeles Angels: Flop. 2013 Toronto Blue Jays: No chance. 2013 Los Angeles Angels: Still a flop. You can’t buy a championship with big name free agents. You just can’t.

Completely Boneheaded GMs

Chicago White Sox

This just did not make sense. After signing Abreu, he trades for Adam Eaton and signs Felipe Paulino – after he unloaded Rios, Peavey and Matt Thornton. So in other words, you are admitting the strategy stunk, and now you’re trying it again. Rebuild. Take a year.

Houston Astros

This is not a team that will contend. They just aren’t good enough. Yet they went out and got Dexter Fowdler and Scott Feldman. I can’t emphasize this enough – until you are a legit contender to finish above .500, you just don’t go for outside talent and use your homegrown talent.

Miami Marlins

Pretty much exactly what I wrote for the Astros, except replace Fowdler and Feldman for Saltalamacchia, Furcal and Garrett Jones.

The hardest (and easiest) sports to watch

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Okay, raise your hand if you watched The Masters. The whole thing.

Okay, now raise your hand if you just watched the final day.

Raise your hand if you only watched the last hour. (Me).

I was thinking about this as I extended all my CBS primetime shows by an hour… who can really sit down and watch 4 days of golf? I mean, really? Who can even watch one day? So I thought that, hey – people might say that about baseball, which led me here. So, without any further ado, my sports that are the easiest and hardest to watch.

FOOTBALL: Okay, the game is fine – it’s timed, it can be exciting, it’s unpredictable, and they play through any weather. Here’s the real problem I have with it. It’s three hours. No, not the game. It’s a mere 60 minutes. Which means there are 120 minutes of assorted timeouts, breaks and stoppages. Which stinks. If you watch a game of football, only 33% is actually them playing the game. Which makes it different from any other sport – in quite a bad way. And also, who can really watch they 1 and a half yard gains being cross-analyzed without going insane?

BASKETBALL: It’s all great.  It’s an hour less than football. It’s excitement, dunks, fun, a person who is new can pick it up fairly easily, and there is never a true stop in the action. Unless the game is close. And you know what comes after that – intentional fouls. Which lead to foul shots.  And after that, there are timeouts. Which mean 2 minutes turn into 4. And 4 minutes turn into 8. So when the game ends, the clock has been below a minute for 6 minutes. Which makes me repeatedly bang my head against whatever hard surface I can get to.

HOCKEY: There aren’t really stops. There’s only one timeout. It’s high scoring. There’s no problem!! Except for this. Ice hockey is very tiring. So the games take 2 and a half hours. The other problem I have with it is that I can’t really see the puck. It moves very fast, and unless you have been trained to watch hockey all of your life, it’s really hard to follow. Like, really hard.

SOCCER: No stops except for one. Constant action. Timed games. Brilliant plays. Easy to pick up.  Fun to watch if you understand it. And if the games matter. So have we found our golden game? The only visible problem I can find with it is faking injuries. Aside from that, I think this could be it…

BASEBALL: Baseball, is actually rather hard to watch. It is very hard to interpret if you don’t know the game, and has no time frame, but still many commercial breaks. Plus the bullpen calls. And it can get tedious. So unless you know the game and like it, you can really love to hate it.

GOLF: Okay, with no offense to golf, with tournaments, unless you are a golf fanatic, really, are you going to watch every second of the Masters? Now how about the Shell Houston Open? Hmm….

And now, the official Sports According to Will list of HARDEST SPORTS TO WATCH (6 is hardest to watch, 1 is easiest)

6. Golf

5. Baseball

4. Hockey

3. Football

2. Basketball

1. Soccer

So could the theory be that the simpler the game, the easier it is to watch? Maybe…

This is just me, so tell me about you if you want to!

Sincerely,

The Sports According to Will Information Bureau. (A.K.A. me)