The Panic Button

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This was the team that made D.C. dream. We cheered with them, cried with them, and sung “Take on Me” with them. 2012 was an incredible year for the Nationals.
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The baseball offseason in review

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There are quite a few holidays in the good ol’ U.S.A. Christmas, July 4th, Labor Day, Presidents Day, Easter, Hanukkah, and my personal favorite after Hanukkah: Opening Day. However, there is one more I didn’t list there. The day that pitchers and catchers report.

The month is February, and the days are short, gray and cold. But you know, that somewhere in Southern Florida or Arizona, the boys of summer are getting ready. Maybe they’re just catching up on what happened in those long months or sharing glory from the World Series, or doing basic drills. But they’re back in uniform, in the heat, and everyone is optimistic. That will change for most teams, but this is the most hopeful day. So, as baseball starts up again, we have to look back at the offseason.

The first thing was managerial positions, the most important thing in my opinion. Former players like Matt Williams & Brad Ausmus both got the most appealing jobs, for the Nationals and Tigers. Lloyd McClendon, Bryan Price and Rick Rentaria all joined the Mariners, Reds and Cubs, respectively.

Back in November, which feels like forever ago at this point, the first truly major name switched teams. Tim Hudson left the Atlanta Braves for the Giants on a two year deal.

However, the real stuff didn’t start for another few days. This was one of the most unexpected deals, with Prince Fielder being traded to the Rangers for cash and Ian Kinsler.

This shocked the baseball world in ways more than one. However, I feel like I said something about this a while back…

After this, the bigger deals started. Jhonny Peralta went to the Cardinals, and before you could say that “The Cardinals are the Yankees of the NL!” The Yankees made a splash and a half by signing Jacoby Elisbury and Carlos Beltran, creating a starting outfield with a combined age of 96 and 3 other outfielders including Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano. Sheesh.

This is where it gets interesting for Nats fans. For barely anything unless you are a citizen of Natstown, The Nats acquired Doug Fister for prospect Robbie Ray and second baseman/utility man Steve Lombardozzi. Even more interestingly, the deal was reported by a high schooler.

Next, a confusing three-team deal sent Mark Trumbo to the D-Backs. The next day, the Nats traded for Jerry Blevins, a lefty reliever. The day right after that, Nate McClouth made the cross-beltway journey to join the Nats as a utility man. Right after, Mike Napoli resigned with the Red Sox, and beards everywhere rejoiced. However, the biggest deal of the offseason was yet to come. The Seattle Mariners somehow got their hands on Robinson Cano, for ten years and $240 million.

Trying to replace the big bat that Helton provided, Morneau decided that he would spend the next two years in Colorado. The Giants then added Michael Morse. The final big deal before the new year was Sin Soo Choo signing with the Rangers for seven years. Jamey Carroll came back to Natstown, again, except he’ll start (in all likelihood) in Syracuse. Right before MLB approved instant replay, A-Rod was suspended, and it was announced he would miss all of the 2014 season.

Coincidentally, the final “really big deal” happened when the Yankees spent the A-Rod money on Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Yankees.

The final relatively important deals were made on January 26th, when Matt Garza signed with the Brewers.

The only big names that remain are Nelson Cruz, A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez.

So, if there’s anything I missed, I apologize. It’s pretty hard to put an entire offseason into 700 words.

But everything is in place for an awesome season. What will be a bust? What will work? What was stupid? What was smart? Let me know in the comments. In the meantime, see you on Opening Day!

September is going to be wild

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Playoff berths. Division titles. Tension. Wild Card races. Batting title races.

All those only can all happen in one month. September.

We’re fast approaching the best month of the regular season, and this one is looking stacked with story lines. Wild Card races are much tighter than usual, some divisions will go to the final day, and a race for stats are just some of the big things that will happen. Here are my top ten stories going into the month.

10. The Braves’ fairytale season – will it continue into the postseason?

The Braves have had a season to remember, and are pretty much a lock to win the NL East. However, there are some lingering questions entering the final month of the regular season and looking to October. Injuries have started to show up, with players like Tim Hudson and Jason Heyward both hurt, as well as many more. It won’t be enough to get the Nats past them, but it raises worries for the Atlanta faithful, especially after a dominant series win by St. Louis a few days ago.

9. The AL West

This, once again, is a two team race. Once again, the Rangers have the better record, and have 2.5 games on the A’s. The season doesn’t end with them playing each other, but unless one team goes crazy, it might as well be that. I honestly don’t know who will take this, and is one of the most underrated stories this year.

8. Biogenesis and A-Rod

It’s the problem that was revealed in January, then confirmed in July. Many players have already admitted to it, like Ryan Braun, or haven’t protested it. (Props to the Brewers for giving his salary back to the fans). However, A-Rod, being A-Rod, protested his ruling. Nobody believes him anymore. So when he finally gets his ruling, it’s going to be a victory for every baseball fan.

7. Chris Davis and the search for 60

Chris Davis can still get 60 home runs. That is still completely possible. However, there are a couple questions with that. After slugging 37 in the first half of the season, while still producing hits and runs, is (in comparison) in a home run slump. However, the magic number, 60, is still possible. It would be extremely hard, hitting 13 home runs in a month or so. It has been done before, but the home run category, the only one Miguel Cabrera doesn’t have, would hold him from the triple crown. (More on that later).

6. The (possibly) late surging Nats

At the beginning of August, everyone who picked the Nats for the world series was pretty down. It didn’t look like they would even make the playoffs this year. However, after salvaging one from the Braves, the Nationals have won 7 of their last 9, and are starting to gain ground on the wild card. They have a cushy schedule until the end, with two must win series against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks. It would require one NL Central team to lose their spot (in all likelihood, the Reds). They are running out of time, but the Nats are starting to look like the team they were predicted to be.

5. The Red Sox – what changed?

This year, I don’t expect a meltdown from the Red Sox. And I’ll tell you why. They haven’t been amazing, like the Dodgers. They’ve been consistently good, sometimes great, but usually, just good. Which means they haven’t truly peaked yet. But the question I’ve had this whole season, is what changed? And here’s what I basically got it down to. They brought in clubhouse guys, and really only retained the players who were good guys. The new atmosphere created chemistry that simply wasn’t there in 2011. Now, I’m not saying they didn’t overpay for some of these guys, but it worked. This team is as much of a group of idiots as there was in 2004. Plus, the fans are back in it. Chants and general happiness are propelling the fans, and the Red Sox are playing better than ever. And really, that’s what matters.

4. The AL/NL Wild Card Race

This is possibly the best wild card race I have seen ever. In the AL, everything is insanely close, and no team is ever out. 4 teams are less than 7 back, and you never know what could happen. It’s just so much fun to watch, and not to mention some teams might move into the division lead…. it gets better every day. In the NL, it’s pretty much down to 4 teams.  A NL Central team, the Reds, the D-Backs, and the Nats. Some teams look like they might blow it, others are just starting to power full steam ahead – wild card doesn’t get better then this year.

3. The Dodgers’ magical run

It’s kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? They were in a slump. Money wouldn’t win. Then Puig came up, and everything changed. All the sudden, they are the hottest team in all of baseball. Kershaw and the staff have been dominant, the hitters figured things out, and the NL West looks like a guarantee. The run has been just win after win after win. While a couple questions linger about Puig and his attitude or if they might collapse, since they might have already hit their peak do linger, but they will most likely make the playoffs, and if they win the whole thing – whoa.

2. The NL Central

When was the last time you saw three teams insanely competitive for one division? Not for a long time, that’s for sure. The Pirates, making their first bid at a division with a winning season since who-knows-when, are the team I want to win it. However, the Cardinals, who somehow are just always in the race are making their case to take the division title. The Reds, the least likely candidate of the three to win the division, still look like they have a chance to take it if they can get a few things going for them. If you don’t have a game to watch one night, than either watch this, or…

1. Miguel Cabrera looking for his second straight Triple Crown

Miguel Cabrera. The first triple crown winner since Carl Yastremski last year, might make history by being the first player to ever win the Triple Crown – in back to back years. He has everything but home runs, where he is 4 back of Orioles slugger Chris Davis. However, if he beats him out, he could also win the even more rare Sextuple crown, which includes HR, Hits, OBP, RBI, Slugging, and Batting Average. The last person to win this was Carl Yastremski – Cabrera would be only the 6th ever. This is history in the making, so if you get a chance to watch, I highly urge you to. Because really, what baseball fan would miss this?

 

 

 

9 things to expect next year from the MLB

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It’s a new year, and I decided I wanted to think about something that’s been in the back of our mind, the MLB – or for me, a bit further up, due to my Nats’ heartbreaking loss in the NLDS . So without any further ado, 9 things to expect next year.

1. ROY =  MVP: Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were both pretty stellar, but they can only get better, and will thrive after experience given from the first season, and will be ready to dazzle you at the plate and in the field – expect them to be frontrunners or a big threat in the MVP conversation.

2. The Yankees will not make the playoffs, and the O’s will be a wild card: The Yankees are getting older, and a lot of them past their prime. They are still going to be pretty good, but will not be a big threat, or as big as they were. The O’s have kept the big core of last year’s team that came very close to an ALCS.

3. The Blue Jays win the AL East: I’m sort of shocking myself here – I usually never say that teams who put together tons of talent from different teams win, except for the Yankees. But if Dickey, Johnson and Buehrle can have bounce back or equivalent seasons from last, the Blue Jays should be able to do it.

4. Stephen Strasburg will win the NL Cy Young award: He’s gone through his rookie phenom stage, his rehab, return and shutdown.His confidence has been boosted by quite a bit, and is ready to shine – now that he has the experience, the confidence and the team behind him, he’s a shoo-in for Cy Young.

5. Justin Verlander will win the AL Cy Young award: I’m sure he’s pretty annoyed – swept in the world series, so this is going to be another big year for him – he’ll be determined and ready, plus with an upgraded offense, and some world series experience – it’s all a formula for his second Cy Young.

6. The Dodgers and Angels will NOT make the playoffs this year: Why, you say? Because usually, the best formula is chemistry between players – and I have the feeling these teams will just be a mix of random chemicals, leading up to a great big ol’ explosion.

7. A-Rod will be benched by midseason: His poor postseason effort, his injury prone-ness, and his general decline in play will mean the Yankees will have a different 3rd baseman by July.

8. The division champs will be the: Nats, Reds, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers and Rangers.

9. The Washington Nationals will be world series champions. The Nats have kept the core, with only one player from last year’s starting lineup not being there, Mike Morse or Adam LaRoche. Plus, with a true leadoff hitter, Strasburg for the entire season, Harper with experience as well as the rest of the team, the Rotation mostly staying the same, plus adding playoff experience and bench players who could start on almost any team will be a recipe for a World Series trophy.

The Signs of Opening Day……. Sign or Slump?

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WOO-HOO! It’s finally here! (No, not the Mayan apocalypse – think about the context).

Yes, after 5 whole months of waiting, we have been reunited with our national pastime. Now, technically, it opened on March 29th in Japan, but it’s not opening day for me until you can smell the hot dogs from a mile away.

I was fortunate enough to see the Red Sox play the Nats, and let me tell you it was loads of fun, even though I was so confused since I was cheering and booing on every play. Thank goodness I’m going to NORMAL opening day for the Nats (well, the home opener) so I’m not so confused. That game really showed how these teams could both go far this year for me.

So, anyways, today was, in america, opening day. Where to start, where to start? (This is the first regular season post for Sports According to Will ever!!!!)

First of all, the mighty, marvelous, Marlins. Didn’t exactly seem like it last night or today so far – in fact, they seem like the opposite. After a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals, and losing 2-0 to the Reds through the sixth inning today, they aren’t giving their beautiful ballpark a beautiful start. Though it’s only opening day, I just want to say I’m not surprised. (Read all my articles about Miami to find out why I say this, because I don’t feel like repeating myself today.) Are the Marlins just choking a bit, or is this a sign? I have to say this is a slump. The Marlins may be choking under the pressure of their new ballpark.

Next, the Nats beating the Cubbies. Wo. Stephen Strasburg pitched very well, and only gave up one run and five hits through 7. But the other hero of this game, an unsung one, was Ian Desmond. Now for all of you who aren’t Nats fans, which is a lot of my readers, Ian Desmond wasn’t very good last year. He, in terms had a stinky year. (But let’s not forget – can YOU hit a 95 MPH fastball?). But this could be a turning point for him. 3 hits, and an RBI on opening day may be a signal for him. Plus, pitchers Tyler Clippard and Brad Lidge both did their parts. (I have more articles about the Nats in the archives), but the Nats should be a wild card this year if all goes well and if Atlanta is as old as they look. (More on that later). This is obviously a sign, that the Nats could be in the playoffs if they play their cards right.

Third, the Red Sox seemed to have recapped last season in a game. Coming so close – and then being beat out. What happened was Jose Valverde BLEW A SAVE for his beloved Tigers, and the Red Sox tied it up. But, like last year, the pitching choked at the last minute and they lost. Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen again this year, but I think it’s a good wake up call for the Red Sox that things aren’t going to be easy. I think this is just a slump. I believe that if discipline and ego stay at a good level, the Red Sox could take a wild card or maybe even snag a division title.

Lastly, the Mets beat the Braves. Whoop-dee-doo. I know. Such a big deal, right? Yeah, that’s actually a pretty big deal for the NL. If the Braves are getting older and losing to the Mets, it could open up a wild card spot and make things even more competitive in the NL – not as if they aren’t. Plus, it’s a sign – the Braves are getting kind of old. The Braves could be in the mix, but they lack the young talent that many other NL teams have to make the playoffs, so I do think this is a sign, because Atlanta is seeming old, and acting like it.

This is just my opinion, but there is one sign that I’m pretty sure about – this season’s gonna be awesome!