Is Denard Span the Leadoff Hitter?

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To win the game, you must score the most runs. To score runs, you have to drive in runners on base. That entire process begins with one player, the leadoff batter. In this case for the Nationals, Denard Span is that player. However, ever since trading for him in 2012,  Continue reading

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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!

JOE COOL

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Ray Lewis has gone out a champion. But that’s not the image we’ll be seeing on sportscenter. Joe Flacco has lead his team to a super bowl win. He’s graduated from the quarterback who just couldn’t take his team all the way. The game was an incredible one with the power outage bringing the 49ers back to life, but somehow the Ravens held on.

The Ravens have had a long and winding road to this one. It’s been tough with lots of criticism, injuries and wondering. But now that it’s over, you now have to start asking questions – how did Joe Flacco manage to do this? Just a little while ago, he was that quarterback who simply couldn’t finish. Now he ended up with an MVP trophy. He has become more and more confident, helping his game improve.

I’ll admit, I got the pick wrong. But that is the beauty of sports. It’s unpredictable and you can’t call anything until it happens. There are miracles. The 49ers were a better team all season, and the Ravens simply got hot.

They plowed through the 49ers during the first half, leaving them at 28-6 before the power outage before the 49ers rallied to bring it within 2 points. But Joe Flacco crossed the line from good to great to elite. He stayed cool and collected and took them down the field to put them 5 points up. The end came soon for the Niners.

Congratulations, Joe.

Welcome to the club.

The pregame hype was all about Lewis. But the game was all Flacco.

The pregame hype was all about Lewis. But the game was all Flacco.

Super Selection, Quarter by Quarter

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I promised I would do it! And with a mere five hours left in my time span, I have done it. So without any further ado, my Super Bowl pick.

QUARTER 1:
After a 3 and 1/2 hour long pre game dance and 4 and 1/2 hours crying on the field after the star spangled banner, Ray Lewis finally agrees to walk off the field to start the game with a kickoff to the 49ers. They get off to a fast start, hitting two or three long passes, but failure in the red zone leaves them with a field goal – 3-0 49ers. The Ravens get the ball for the first time, and it’s clear what their game plan is – Ray Rice. Rice continues to smash through the hole and Flacco hits Boldin for less than five yards for the touchdown, putting the Ravens up at 7-3. Colin Kapernick adds a whole other dimension to this game, and starts proving it in a no-huddle, run, pass or QB draw drive only taking two minutes to reach the end zone with a 15 yard Kapernick throw to Vernon Davis, in which he does the famous bible kiss. The Ravens will get it back but end up punting, giving the 49ers the first possession of…

QUARTER 2:
The 49ers, however fall to a three and out with a Lewis sack of Kapernick, which will be his only sack of the night. The Ravens will get 2 first downs, but not enough to extend the drive. The 49ers will take a long, methodical drive down the field, mostly with Frank Gore runs, ending in a field goal, putting the game score at 13-7. Flacco takes the Ravens to the 50 or so, but throws a pick and the 49ers take possesion at the Ravens’ 40. Akers takes a 55 yard try, but misses. The Ravens, however, do not squander their chance and put the game within 3 points, at 13-10 right before halftime.

During halftime, Beyonce will freeze up and break down – never to sing again, and the medics will prove she was a robot all along. A last gasp attempt of replacing her with Justin Bieber also doesn’t work, because he breaks down too.

QUARTER 3:

The Ravens receive the ball with a touchback. Flacco decides he needs to pick up the pace, and after three fifteen yard games, he bombs the ball to Smith for a 45 yard touchdown reception. 17-13 becomes the score. The 49ers pick up the ball at their own 30, but do literally nothing. The same happens for the rest of the quarter. Let’s hope there are some good ads that quarter.

QUARTER 4: The Ravens can’t squeeze out a touchdown or a field goal after going wide left from a 49 yard try. The 49ers end up punting. The Ravens punt, which looks hopeful for San Fran. But, coming up a yard short forces them to do the exact same thing. All the Ravens have to do is get one score, but they can’t. The 49ers get the ball with 2:30 to go. Kapernick fires one pass, then another, then Kapernick runs it through for the touchdown with 15 seconds to go. For the first time in Super Bowl history, there is

OVERTIME: The Ravens get the ball first and manage to put in a field goal. It’s just one defensive stop. Don’t let them score and they win. The Ravens force the 49ers to 4th and 6 at their own 30 yard line. Nobody is open. So after a miracle block from Frank Gore, Kapernick runs 35 yards for a first down and possession in Ravens territory. After Frank Gore runs for 2 first downs, it’s 1st and 10 at the Ravens 22. A 22 yard pass to Vernon Davis seals the deal.

Colin Kapernick and the 49ers walk off gloriously. The final score: 49ers, 27. Ravens, 23. Your super bowl MVP is Colin Kapernick.

And so begins the baseball waiting.

The AP must be having a field day

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For the first time in a while, there is no dark horse, no obvious choice – there is no frontrunner.  In either competition. the comeback player of the year might also be MVP. Now, of course, it would be a lot easier if we were able to know who it was, because both players, Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning could make quite the case for both awards.

It’s nearly impossible to pick between “The Sheriff” and “All Day”. Let me give you a back story in case you like football but have been living under a rock for a year and a half. Peyton Manning, due to some googleyblech in his neck, didn’t take one snap for the Colts all season in 2011-12. Adrian Peterson was tearing everything up until, on Christmas eve, he tore his ACL and MCL. Both looked like they would never return to their true form of what they were.

And you know what? They didn’t. They aren’t as good as they were – somehow, they’re better. And better for these two would mean a sure-fire MVP, if it weren’t for the other player. So how do you pick?

I feel really bad for the AP – they have to make this incredibly tough choice. So, I’m going to take it to one thing – stats. Manning has thrown for 37 Touchdowns, and 4659 yards. Adrian Peterson has run for 2097, and 12 touchdowns. But here’s where things get complicated – the Broncos running game has run for 1832 more, and the defense has only given up 4,652. The Vikings passing game has only 100 yards more than Adrian Peterson.

Which makes it clear for me – with a running back that wasn’t like Peterson or elite, the Vikings would be dead. With a par quarterback, the Broncos might be able to make the playoffs. (Tim Tebow).

So, I pick Adrian Peterson to win the MVP award. But, we aren’t done yet!

Comeback player of the year is a tough one. But considering the fact he had not been on the field for one play in an entire year, you have to say Peyton Manning is the comeback player of the year.

But, I don’t get to chose this – the AP does. The thing about stuff like this is that only a few people come out happy, with the right decisions for them – and there definitely isn’t a “Right” decision for this. Even so, it’s a nice problem to have.