Don’t Press The Panic Button on Doug Fister

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From the get-go, it didn’t look all too great last night. Even with a half full O.Co colliseum, a low stakes game and a huge ballpark, Doug Fister just did not have it last night. He gave up three home runs and took the loss for the Nats. But don’t, repeat, don’t, press the panic button just yet.

Even though the Nationals’ 4th starter has been traditionally bad these past two years, Fister should be different. One bad game happened for a couple of reasons.

The biggest reason is that it was basically his Opening Day, he was amped, and didn’t have his A stuff, since he was focused on things too mentally. Basic plays like the throw to first in the first inning would get done during the rest of the year – it’s quite literally jitters.

This is also an Oakland team that has studied Detroit and their pitchers for the past two years, as they’ve played each other in two ALDS series since 2012. Doug, being traded from the Tigers, had seen them many times. This team was not unfamiliar with him from those experiences, or just seeing him as a Mariner or Tiger.

Another large reason here is the injury. The arm and all looked fine last night – but he hasn’t faced real batters all year. He missed the end of Spring Training, which is actually crucial for pitchers to see batters that are going to be in the big leagues and actually trying. The last team he faced was a AA team.

So, please. History repeats itself, but it’s highly unlikely it will in this case of Doug Fister.

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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!

DC Sports roundup: Jan 24

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Hey everybody.

I’ve decided to add a new feature to the blog called DC Sports Roundup. If it’s successful, I’ll make it a weekly thing.

This was a shockingly slow week in sports for DC. You know that because the main news I’m about to report is about the Wizards.

Lately, being a hipster is “in.” Their style, facial hair and Instagram filters all feel like they’re from an earlier time. However, the Wizards are not so happy to returning to an earlier time. The Wizards are currently .500 for the 5th time. Not once have they gone above.  Each time they make it back, they fall once again. They’ve already done that this week with a loss to the Celtics at home – and they bounced back in Phoenix. They have a chance tonight for Wall, Gortat and Beal to lead them past the weak defensive and offensive Utah Jazz. If that doesn’t work – then we can call it a curse. In other John Wall related news, a source familiar with the subject says that “The NBA is really pushing for John Wall to be in the Dunk Competition this year.”

In a nice break from the usual, there is some rare Nationals news. All but two of their arbitration eligible players have been locked up, and they have announced their Spring training non-roster invitees with big names like A.J. Cole and Brian Goodwin, both considered a big part of the future of the team. Also happening this weekend was Natsfest, the yearly convention where fans warm their heart by seeing the boys of summer. I cannot speak for everyone, but I enjoyed it much more than last year’s, and got autographs and pictures galore.

(From top to bottom: Me with Drew Storen, Reliever, Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo, Commentators and my autographs for the day)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embedded image permalinkSo all in all, a very slow news week in DC. The Super Bowl can’t come soon enough for some of us. 

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?

 

 

 

You probably won’t agree with this opinion on Kevin Ware and his injury….

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The bone is connected now. And the leg is back together. And that’s all that really matters, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. Let me explain. The injury was gruesome, possibly the worst I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to go into detail. It made grown men cry, fans lose their lunch and a twitter trend #prayforware. But truly, is it that important.

While it has sparked a possible championship run and a ton of fans and prayers, is it deserving of this much coverage? First of all, seeing that injury on National TV was gruesome. It was scary. Even so, many women and men suffer the exact same injury every day. And while I’m sure not many will tell their friends or teammates don’t worry, just win (even though I’m sure there are a few) this is not a life threatening injury. While it might derail his career, and make him a worse player, he is not paralyzed. He is not on life support. It is not that bad.

Second, if we are going to be using social media to be praying, at least let’s pray for somebody who deserves it more. While it’s a broken leg, many members of our army die each year. Pray for them. Pray for their families. Pray for Nelson Mandela, who is in the hospital. And while the injury is gruesome, think, who deserves it more – a basketball player, or the men or women protecting our country, and their families.

Finally, I feel like the country is embracing it too much. I know we are passionate about sports (I know I am) but we have managed to scrap together for things like Newtown, VA Tech, Hurricane Sandy, Irene, the Japan Earthquake and many other things. Yet, we seem to give the same attention to this. I don’t get it, nor do I think it’s right.

You may agree with this. You may not. But think about it for a second. And maybe, next time you are on instagram or twitter, you can use the hashtag #prayforourtroops instead.

MLB predictions: NL and world series

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Okay, and round two begins – right now.

The NL west hosts the reigning champion of the MLB – the San Francisco Giants. They have a great squad, an ace – and a big three. Which could be problematic for them. Why, you ask? Think about it. Last year, when Posey was out and Sandoval wasn’t putting up numbers, they were out. Who can stop them though? Well, could it be the D-Backs? I don’t know. This team is very streaky and on and off. Could the money-all Dodgers dethrone them? I don’t think so. Putting talent together and putting talent together with chemistry are two completely different things. The Padres and Rockies both have one bright spot, but other than that – not so much.

In the central, things are all but a one-horse race. While I do expect the chemistry filled and talented Reds to take this division, I think the Cardinals, with their young-old talent combo can be a threat. I think the Brewers, with their speed and overall playing could be a threat. The Cubs – well, the worst case for them is losing too many, finishing in fourth, and not getting a good draft pick. The Pirates, however, could be able to finally not only scratch .500 baseball, but maybe even a playoff spot.

And in the NL East… expect that phrase to be introduced this season. The dark horse Nationals with sophomore sensation Bryce Harper, and all aces together with no innings limit look to dominate. But, the Braves could make it hard. With the Upton brothers, this team is a catcher’s nightmare. The Phillies, while making a signing here and there, are simply too old. The Mets and Marlins… well – rebuild. That’s all they really can do, except for David Wright and Giancarlo Stanton.

AWARDS:

NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander

NL MVP: Bryce Harper

AL MVP: Mike Trout

PLAYOFFS

WILD CARD: Pirates (91-71) over Braves (93-68)

NLDS: Nationals (103-60) over Pirates (in 4). Reds (97-66) over Giants (96-67) (in 5).

NLCS: Nationals over Reds (in 6)

WORLD SERIES:

Okay, so we made it. The Tigers VS the Nationals.

Let’s review the case for each side.

Tigers: Have a triple crown winner, tons of speed and batting, and an ace with a good supporting cast with playoff experience.

Nationals: Have a sophomore prodigy, a fireballer, and a great supporting cast with a bit of playoff experience.

So, I have the Nats in game one, with DC nearly exploding. But in game two, the Tigers will take it, quieting them down. The nats will take three and four, not even giving Detroit a chance to be loud. In five, the tigers will take it in their final home game of the season, extending the series to game 6 in DC – where there will be a parade the next day.

Nats in 6.

Note: I don’t know if these are accurate. If they are, then holy cow, I’m a genius! If not, don’t blame me for all the broken windows. 

Can the WBC ever become elite?

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It’s that time of year again…

St. Patricks Day! No? Okay. Uh – spring break! No? Hmmm. Spring training? What do you mean, close? Alright, uhh….

Yes, it’s the world baseball classic. But c’mon, are you really paying attention? The world cup has a special sort of atmosphere to it. The olympics have it right. But as far as international sporting events go, this is probably the worst.

Why? First, there’s only one US team, and the best player in the game isn’t even on it. In the world cup, that’s completely the opposite.

Second, it’s not as celebrated as the world cup or olympics, so really any game without the US in it doesn’t get watched around here (I mean, MLB Network is broadcasting it).

But I think there is hope. I do believe this sporting event can become elite. But what needs to happen?

One, get the stars on the team. Do you think Ben Zobrist is the equivalent of a world cup player? We need Mike Trout and Bryce Harper on this team. Second, the games need get better coverage and commentary. Third and finally, it needs more adverstising.

I think if those four things can happen, this event can become an elite one.