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How the Dodgers Defied Logic (and ESPN) to Come Back in the NL West

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Dodgers

The San Francisco Giants had one of the hotter starts in recent memory to this season, going 41-21 and outright dominating their National League West division. At that point, several ESPN writers (including one on ESPN Insider entitled “Calling NL West for S.F.) wrote off the Dodgers, who were in a distant 2nd place and were 9.5 games behind the Giants on June 7, 2014:

NL West June 7 2014

The network’s LA Dodgers writer, Mark Saxon, wrote an article with the title, “Dodgers missing too many pieces to roll” on June 12. One of the most interesting quotes was from starting pitcher Zach Greinke, who said:

“We’ll go on a streak, but we’ll probably go on another bad streak, too, before the season’s over.”

Did Greinke envision this run? Probably not.

Another piece on ESPN.com, a special by Anthony Witrado, said consistency is lacking for a Dodgers team that was gearing up to make a run at the Giants and first place in the division.

Now? The Giants have “stumbled” to a 47-38 record with a 2-8 record the last ten games, while the Dodgers are in 1st place by only a half game with a 49-39 record and have gone 7-3 in the past ten games. Here are the standings as of July 4, 2014:

NL West July 4 2014

What happened?

The LA Dodgers have caught fire and got healthy as of late, while the Giants have seen players go to the disabled list (DL). Pitchers Ryu and Kershaw have come off the DL for the Dodgers, which was a big boost for the team in their comeback bid to try to win the NL West pennant.

And, the Dodgers pitching staff is lights-out. Their starting pitchers are Zach Greinke (11-4, 2.66 ERA), Clayton Kershaw (9-2, 2.04 ERA), Korean phenom Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-4, 3.08 ERA), Josh Beckett (5-5, 2.37 ERA) and the serviceable Dan Haren (8-4, 3.57 ERA). That is a really good line-up, even with Beckett and Haren anchoring the back end of the rotation.

The Dodgers have the 7th-best on-base percentage in the NL, 10th-best team batting average at 0.257 and have 81 stolen bases as a team (with Dee Gordon stealing 40 of those).  It also helps to have explosive players like Yasiel Puig, who can throw out anyone from anywhere on the field, like this one from last season:

The Giants have only 33 stolen bases to go, where Angel Pagan has the most with 11, along with their 24th-place on-base percentage and 19th-place batting average at 0.246. The Dodgers have hit less home runs with 72 while the Giants have hit 78. The Giants have struck out 678 times and the Dodgers only 663, and the Giants have driven in 331 runs and the Dodgers 350 runs. An astounding difference is how the Dodgers have drawn 298 walks while the Giants have 235.

And the Giants pitching staff is good, but not like the Dodgers. The oldest pitcher on the Giants, Tim Hudson, is the only pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA at 2.59, while Tim Lincecum sports the largest ERA on the starting staff with a 4.06 ERA.

But, in the end, the Giants have blown one of the larger pennant leads in recent memory.

As a USA Today article noted, “Once the majors’ leading team at 42-21, the Giants (46-35) have lost 15 of their last 19 to fall into a virtual tie for first place with the Dodgers (47-37).” The Giants have lost too many games and their bullpen has been atrocious, primarily recently-benched closer Sergio Romo. As the same USA Today article said:

Bochy deposed Sergio Romo as closer after blowing his fifth save – and third in his last five chances – Saturday night. With Romo’s once-trusted slider faltering, opposing teams have been battering him and his ERA has shot up to 5.17. It was 2.54 and 1.79, respectively, in the last two seasons, when Romo collected a combined 52 saves.

It’s not just Romo, though. In three of the four games against Cincinnati, a bullpen that had been sturdy all season failed to keep tied or one-run games within reach. And with the offense missing sparkplug Angel Pagan (back) and power-hitting first baseman Brandon Belt (thumb), San Francisco has been unable to play catch up.

It is inexcusable when your closer sees his ERA balloon from 1.79 last season to an astronomical 5.17. It reminds me of the retired closer Brad Lidge, who just started to blow saves left and right after having a couple great seasons as a member of the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies. Lidge was lights-out during those teams’ World Series runs, with seasons of 29 and 42 saves and 1.90 and 2.29 ERA with the Astros in 2004-2005 and 1.95 ERA and 41 saves with the Phillies in 2008. He had a couple good seasons after that, but in his last few years, Lidge only had 3 saves in 26 games with the Phillies and Nationals. Will Romo follow the same path?

But, their hitting has always been subpar or average, even when they won their recent World Series titles.

2010 World Series team: Hit 0.265, 55 stolen bases

2012 World Series team: Hit 0.278, 118 stolen bases

This year, the Giants can hit here and there, but are lacking in drawing walks and getting on base. In the end, it killed their chances to run away with the pennant. But the season is close to its halfway mark, so there’s a lot of baseball to go.

The Too-Late-Early-Season #MLB Picks!

With several games in the books for all major league teams, here is a ‘better-late-than-never’ prediction for the already-underway 2014 MLB regular season, followed by my postseason picks!

Each will have a reason why they will finish where I picked them, so enjoy!

AL East:

1. Tampa Bay Rays

evan longoriaWhy? The Rays, like the Cardinals, are a symbol of consistency in the major leagues. They always have good pitchers coming up through the farm system and have both a strong lineup with the likes of Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings. Plus, they’ll get some value for the soon-to-be-free-agent David Price, who signed a one-year, $14 million contract to stay in Tampa.

2. Boston Red Sox

Red Sox postseason repeat? They’ll make it because they have David Ortiz and brought back last year’s great team with a couple additions (here’s their roster). Starting pitching is solid and had the fourth-lowest ERA in the AL last season, but will they survive a tough AL East? I think it comes down to whether Clay Buchholz is healthy. I don’t trust the likes of Grady Sizemore and A.J. Pierzynski, but it’s not like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury were irreplaceable either.

3. Baltimore Orioles

Let’s Go O’s! My hometown team (before management unceremoniously treated O’s fans with disrespect for a decade and led to my defection to the Nationals) made some late splashes in free agency. They signed Ubaldo Jimenez, who is a solid but not spectacular starter, will help a struggling starting rotation. But for four years for $50 million? I’ll pass on Ubaldo. Nelson Cruz brings a big bat to their lineup as many expect Chris “Crush” Davis to not repeat his jaw-dropping 2013 numbers.

4. New York Yankees

tanaka yankeesThe Yankees did spent A TON of money ($155 million over seven years) on Japanese pitching phenom Tanaka and brought in former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but they are too old and have no replacement for the now-retired Mariano “Mo” Rivera (arguably the BEST closer in the history of the game). I can’t see them build a lead, even in the small Yankee Stadium (compare the new to the old stadium here), and keep those leads with their bullpen without Mo.

5. Toronto Blue Jays

Jose Bautista should get out of town. Yeah, he’s getting paid (got a $65 million, five-year deal in 2011), but his team is going nowhere with a lot of power hitters and the early injury to Jose Reyes. R.A. Dickey will be a good pitcher, even with his struggles last year, but the power-reliant lineup doesn’t strike fear in the powerful AL East.

AL Central:

1. Detroit Tigers

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera will make good on his $292 million, 10-year contract. Starting pitcher and ace Justin Verlander has seen some velocity go down on his fastball with the wear-and-tear on his arm over the years, but they have one of the best rosters with pitchers like Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Rick Porcello and some great hitters like Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez. Their only drawback? They lost Jose Iglesias, the dynamic shortstop, for at least half of the season even before it officially started.

2. Cleveland Indians

They will be in contention this year, but will fall short. They lost Ubaldo Jimenez, but he is an aging veteran pitcher. They have the fun veteran and locker room guy in Nick Swisher and some great, young talent with Asdrubal Cabrera. They’ll make the Central sweat with this gritty platoon-type roster, with the great manager Terry Francona managing things. I don’t see anyone on this roster that can help put the team past the first round of playoff baseball.

3. Kansas City Royals

They were the laughingstock of the league for years, which was too bad after their glorious run back in the day. But, the Houston Astros have set a new low bar for awful baseball. The Royals look great on paper, just not good enough in this division. They traded for James Shields, the best pitcher they’ve had in years, and have great talent in Mike Moustakas. This should be a fun year to watch the Royals, for once.

4. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox may not have lit up the headlines, but they’re trying to build a team. Robin Ventura, their manager, has his hands full. Their roster consists of an aging Paul Konerko, the star Cuban defector Jose Abreu, but now have starters Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn on the DL. This is not their year.

5. Minnesota Twins

joe mauerJoe Mauer is transitioning to first base to save his knees and preserve his career, but that’s about the only noteworthy thing about the Twins. Who is on their roster? Starting pitchers are the likes of Ricky Nolasco, washed-up Yankee Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey (just unimpressive). Josh Willingham, the 35-year-old outfielder, is earning $7 million this year. Aging but veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki will be behind the plate for some games, and Trevor Plouffe will be manning the hot corner at third base. Sorry Minnesota, you better turn your attention to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings.

 

AL West:

1. Oakland Athletics

Somehow Moneyball still works. The Dodgers may have Yasiel Puig, but Yoenis Cespedes is the real deal and is a solid hitter. They did lose two starting pitchers before the season began, but they always find the right combination of young pitching and great situational hitting to score runs. I can’t count them out even if they don’t look great on paper.

2. Seattle Mariners

king felixThe Rangers and Angels just don’t look good enough to fight for a wild-card spot or even second place in this division. The Mariners have King Felix and Iwakuma as their top two pitchers, plus they have some hitters that can blossom this season as many have been waiting for. And Fernando Rodney should anchor their back end of the bullpen. I like their cheap, but potential-filled roster. ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield, has a great take on why they could be the surprise team this year.

Oh yeah, they did pay a big contract to some Dominican guy who played for the Yankees named Robinson Cano. He can hit too.

3. Texas Rangers

They don’t have Derek Holland, a starting pitcher to a freak accident while running with his dog (had microfracture surgery as a result) and ace Yu Darvish is also hurt. They traded away Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder during the offseason and let Nelson Cruz walk. Kinsler wasn’t happy about it, calling chief executive Jon Daniels a “sleazeball” and wishing the Rangers go 0-162. They lost their star phenom in the infield, Jurickson Profar, to a shoulder injury in spring training for 10-12 weeks of the season. Too many injuries and subtractions, and even with their farm system I can’t see them making the playoffs this year with this roster.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

First of all, the Angels are not “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” to me. Weird scrolling to find Anaheim and they’re listed under Los Angeles.

Unlike the Dodgers, the Angels don’t have any starting pitching but yet spend almost as much as the Dodgers. Jered Weaver hasn’t been electric the past year and I honestly don’t know anyone else in their starting rotation other than him and the forgotten C.J. Wilson (and I consider myself an avid baseball guy). For the record, and thanks to Baseball Reference, Weaver record his third-worst strikeout count last year, the worst since his first two years in the majors. And, his ERA went up to 3.27, a far cry from his high standard of sub-3.00 the past two seasons. Mike Trout will do damage, but I don’t know if Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will ever be the same. Just a bad roster.

5. Houston Astros

This is automatic. No hope with this roster, no great prospects coming up and an awful TV contract controversy (with Comcast Houston going bankrupt) getting Houston fans upset (as if losing so many games is not upsetting enough). They lost 107 out of 162 games in 2012 and lost 111 games last year.

 

NL East:

1. Washington Nationals

San Francisco Giants v Washington NationalsAlthough they lost their starting catcher Wilson Ramos to an injury on Opening Day, their overall roster is in great shape. Their pitching rotation is rock-solid. Strasburg, Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister (being spelled while on the DL by Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark). Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span and Ian Desmond are a good lineup trying to make up for an awful 2013 season. Their bench is much improved and hopefully their bullpen holds up with Rafael Soriano closing and Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen being the late relievers. Yet they’re awful against the Braves, with a 6-15 record against them since 2013.

Disclaimer: I’m a Nationals fan, so I’m being optimistic that the Nationals will edge the Braves this year for the pennant.

2. Atlanta Braves

Losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen are a huge blow as they were two great starting pitchers last year. But, they’ll cause problems with Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman’s hitting. Dan Uggla will Dan Uggla (and not get on base), but I don’t think any team can realistically recover, even with their roster, from losing two starting pitchers before the season began.

3. Miami Marlins

Big stadium, they kept Giancarlo Stanton and had a fire sale last year. That’s about it. Even as a NL East fan, I only recognized a couple of names on their roster this year. They just have slightly better pitching than the Mets and Phillies to be this high.

4. Philadelphia Phillies

They haven’t been the same since their great runs in the late 2000s and after Roy Halliday never recovered from his injuries. Their roster looks and feels old, or overpaid. Longtime Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins doesn’t like how the new Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg is running things, and the Phillies are going through a transition where they have the fat contract of Ryan Howard ($125 million for five years, signed in 2010) hanging over their heads. They’ll go and play every day and night, but won’t be a contender for another year or so, if that.

5. New York Mets

The Mets are a mess with their roster. They have an aging Curtis Granderson, struggling Ike Davis and a hopeful star in Travis D’Arnaud. Pitching is solid, but not great. Do the names Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, John Lannan or Dillon Gee strike fear into hitters’ hearts? Nope. Hitting will be just as bad as last year, where they ranked 14th out of 15 National League teams. Plus there was the whole paternity leave controversy to start the season. Waste of energy and sports radio talk. Another sad Mets season coming up.

 

NL Central:

1. St. Louis Cardinals

wacha cardinalsMurderer’s Row of starting pitchers and bullpen, and you add good hitters like Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Allen Craig or Pete Kozma, good night Cards’ opponents. They hit 0.269 in 2013, or second-best in the National League. I mean, look at their lineup and roster. You will have to beat pitchers Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, and Shelby Miller? Their ERA last year was fifth-best in the NL last year. I hope my Nationals don’t have to face them in the playoffs this year, or ever.

2. Cincinnati Reds

With Dusty Baker gone, now the Reds pitchers can last longer than Kerry Wood and Mark Prior did when Baker wore them out as the Cubs manager. Here’s an even-handed piece on the perception of him killing pitcher’s careers for good measure, but the perception seems to ring true. Joey Votto is back, but they do lose their aged-but-great-on-base center fielder Chin Soo Choo. Can’t count them out with Brandon Phillips manning the middle infield or their hitting. It’s a good roster and will be fun to watch.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates

They finally made postseason, but without a true number one pitcher (AJ Burnett left this past offseason) they don’t have a chance this year. Look at their roster. Andrew McCutchen can make up for a lot of things, but he can’t make up for pitching or for hitting. Other stalwart hitters, but by no means scary hitters, are Starling Marte, Gaby Sanchez and Neil Walker. Also, Wandy Rodriguez, Gerrit Cole and Edinson Volquez are good pitchers, but are they playoff-caliber pitchers? I don’t think so.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

Ryan Braun is back and should give them a much-needed boost in the lineup. But, I don’t see them making it out of this division without stronger starting pitching other than Kyle Lohse or Matt Garza. You could say Yovanni Gallardo is good, but I don’t see him as a top pitcher in the division. And, their roster isn’t impressive, with a 35-year-old Aramis Ramirez (earning $10 million this year), 37-year-old Lyle Overbay, but they do have Braun and Carlos Gomez.

5. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs will be the Cubs. The only bright spots could be Starlin Castro, a budding star, and Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver who is a good starting pitcher. Their starting rotation consists of Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Justin Grimm, and Samardzija and that doesn’t scare me. A couple journeymen pitchers never scares hitters. And Mike Olt, a former Rangers prospect, and Anthony Rizzo will be the other sole bright spots on this roster.

 

NL West:

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles DodgersToo much money, too much talent on paper. Should wax everyone in the West. My top concern is Yasiel Puig’s stamina as the season progresses, and his problems with manager Don Mattingly are well-documented. Oh, and the whole “Clayton Kershaw, our seven-year, $215 million pitcher, has a mysterious back injury” is also a major concern.

2. San Francisco Giants

Can’t count the Giants out. Somehow they pitch well enough and hit well enough to make the playoffs. I like their roster, but it would’ve been nice if they made some power upgrades other than a streaky Michael Morse. Even with Tim Lincecum’s decreasing velocity, he is an okay pitcher and isn’t a lost cause. Buster Posey, now having a full year back from a terrible knee injury, should rebound well.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

Too much Dodgers and Giants for them. They’ll be chillin’ in the Arizona desert this fall with this roster, even if Paul Goldschmidt partially repeats his 2013 numbers of .302 batting average, 125 RBI’s and 36 home runs.

4. Colorado Rockies

The World Series run back in 2007 seems so far away right now and it won’t get any better, based on their current roster. They have some older guys in Drew Stubbs and Justin Morneau, with their only stars being Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.

5. San Diego Padres

They’re used to being in last place, or close to it. Cheap payroll, small-market team. The life of a league without a salary cap. But Chase Headley, their best hitter and player, will be fun to watch and will be the only good player on this team.

 

POSTSEASON:

AL East: Tampa Rays

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

AL West: Oakland A’s

  • Wild Cards: Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles

NL East: Washington Nationals

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Wild Cards: Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants

 

NL Champion: St. Louis Cardinals

  • Too much great starting pitching and bullpen to go around.

AL Champion: Tampa Rays

  • They find a way to win and you can’t count them out. After surviving a brutal AL East schedule, they should be more than ready to beat any other AL team. Also, I don’t trust Tigers hitting in the postseason other than Miggy Cabrera.

st louis cardinals stadium

World Series Champion: St. Louis Cardinals

  • St. Louis’ pitching and lineup are solid. I just don’t see the Rays beating the Cardinals toe-to-toe in the World Series.

Social Media and its Impact on Sports

johnny manziel vs lsu

Social media has completely changed the recruiting landscape for college sports, athletes, coaches and recruiters, while also playing an important part in professional sports. Twitter wars and spats are commonplace between players or players and fans, which has created some interesting mini-controversies.

It has proven a boon for athletes to market themselves in addition to earning endorsements, as tweets add fuel to the fire if an athlete is in the limelight. And, it’s great for fans if athletes host Q&A’s and other similar open forums on Twitter.

Adrian Peterson’s post-game tweet, after getting pelted by ice balls from Ravens fans, says it all when athletes are frustrated:

adrian peterson baltimore tweet

My personal favorite is former Orioles pitcher and current Kansas City Royal Jeremy Guthrie. He once tweeted if anyone had some free time to play catch with him on an off-day when he was with the Colorado Rockies. A teenager ended up playing catch with a starting MLB pitcher! Here’s the video (via CNN.com):

Johnny Manziel is a great example of that. He got in a lot of controversy over his fun-filled offseason, where we was kicked out of a University of Texas-Austin frat party, left the Manning Passing Academy for being too tired (some alleged he was drunk and hung over), and was seen attending NBA games in expensive, courtside seats. Here was the tweet about him getting a parking ticket that got him a lot of criticism:

manziel ticket tweet

He took a break from Twitter and ended up having a better season than his Heisman campaign. He’s projected to be a mid-to-late first round NFL draft pick at best.

Social media has been a good and bad thing, depending on how fans and athletes treat it. If athletes have thick skin and can take the beating on Twitter, then go for it and use it for good! If they can’t, then don’t bother.

One time me and someone I follow talked bad about a former BYU basketball player Jonathan Tavernari and joked about his propensity to shoot ill-advised 3’s. Then he saw that, searched for his name on Twitter search and tweeted at us for criticizing him (and promptly deleted those tweets as far as I can tell). Thick skin, guys.

Global Sports: What Made the Cut, What Didn’t

cristiano messiAmerica is the focal point, we like to think, of the best professional sports in the world. We have the land, money and culture to back major professional franchises, for the most part (just don’t ask Atlanta losing the NHL Thrashers or Los Angeles with the Raiders AND Rams).

This got us thinking, what sports are making waves off of American shores? Well, what do we know?

  • American football is American football, and won’t be an international sport. Why? It’s a cultural thing, but you need the facilities and money to get equipment and time on the field. But, English people were intrigued when the NFL held games in London at Old Trafford (the home of the English soccer club Manchester United).
  • The NBA is making a concerted effort to expand its brand abroad and is banking on the success of national teams and especially the Euroleague. NBA has the most potential among the major American sports, especially with an Indian owner in Sacramento.
  • Baseball is mostly a Western Hemisphere phenomena, with an influx of Caribbean, Venezuelan or Latin American players populating the American-based Major League Baseball. Oh, Japan and South Korea have some good players in the majors, too.
  • Hockey is a big deal in Russia and Canada, with some die-hard fan bases in the U.S. in cities like Pittsburgh, Boston, Buffalo and Detroit.

But, soccer is the international sport because it is easy to get a field, dirt or not, and a ball with some goal markers. Most sports are tougher to get equipment and playing time on specific fields. Soccer is growing in popularity in the U.S. with the growth of the American Major League Soccer (MLS), with expansion teams Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and now Orlando City FC. Attendance has increased 15% in the US from 2011-2012 but dipped slightly this past season.

Other sports are making inroads, but overall, soccer is the international sport. The attention put toward the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the European leagues like La Liga in Spain, Barclays Premier League in the United Kingdom, Italy’s Serie A and Bundesliga in Germany shows that soccer is here to stay.

And we have Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for that.

Why Trade Matt Kemp? East Coast Yankees Bias

Some people wonder if the Los Angeles Dodgers should trade Matt Kemp to the Yankees or the Red Sox, but most of this is pushed by the East Coast media bias. The media is driving the “trade rumors” because they think the Red Sox and Yankees can get whomever they want, at any time. This is the frustration of Dodgers fans, make it every non-Yankee or Red Sox fan, throughout the country.

matt kemp

Although the Dodgers outfielder’s agent said he is not being shopped at this year’s winter meetings, the rumors were at a fever pitch leading up to it. Why? Because the Yankees and Red Sox are known to be big spenders to get top talent, even if that talent is aging rapidly.

We can see why rumors were flying around Kemp. Click this link for his stats HERE

A quick summary? He’s averaged a career batting average of 0.293, 0.493 slugging percentage along with 2 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers and 2 All-Star Game appearances. He had his best home run hitting year in 2011 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases. Oh, he also scored 115 runs while playing 161 games.

But, his last year was riddled with injuries and only played in 73 games out of 162 and hit a career-worst 0.270. He stole his second-lowest total of bases at 9 and had his lowest slugging percentage at 0.395.

Although last year was a bad year by his standards, I think many teams would trade for his talent and decent production. If not, you have to be an Astros front office official.

As an East Coaster, I enjoy the focus on East Coast sports, with the exception of the New York Jets and the Tim Tebow saga pushed by ESPN and the Redskins drama between Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III. But, Dodgers fans and non-East Coasters have a point: the media has a East Coast and Yankees bias.

So why the Yankee bias?

jeter

The Yankees last won a World Series title in 2009 under Joe Girardi’s management, and nearly made the playoffs with a depleted and rapidly-aging roster. Ichiro Suzuki, a favorite of mine, is no longer the spry, precise outfielder and hitter he once was. Hideki Matsui, or “Godzilla”, has been retired for a few years since his World Series heroics. Jorge Posada no longer plays catcher and only Derek Jeter remains as a Yankee icon. The club has won a record 27 World Series titles and whose stadium, albeit a new one, is affectionately known as Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees are not going to look as bad as last year, maybe. They kept speedy outfielder Brett Gardner, Mark Texeira (whose body is breaking down at a fast pace), troubled 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez, but let go of the overpriced Robinson Cano, once-promising pitcher Phil Hughes and their terrible catching core. Their price tag coming into this year? An astonishing $203.4 million payroll (via ESPN.com).

They were able to barely miss the playoffs because of the miraculous managerial job of Girardi. That should be the story that the New York media should be talking about, but they’re too busy with the A-Rod controversy and helping drive possible trade scenarios it seems. But, I could be mistaken and this is no condemnation of the New York media because they do their job according to their consumer’s tastes. It just gets old, that’s all.

But, because the Yankees are the big fish in the Big Apple, have lots of cash to throw around and the prestige and history to back it up, the media will always clamor for stars and big-time players to make their way and play in New York City (but not for the Mets).

Top Alternate or Retro Uniforms in the Pros (#NFL, #NBA, #MLB, #NHL)

I’ve always loved wearing jerseys, especially when it was acceptable and a craze when I was in high school during the mid-2000s. Here’s some of my favorite alternate jerseys in the major leagues, NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

NFL:

I think most of the alternate uniforms are terrible, like the Steelers’ bumble bee uniforms or the Packers’ nondescript blue and brown look. But, I have to say this is my list (h/t SI.com):

st louis rams retro

  • LA/St. Louis Rams’ yellow and blue combo

Philip Rivers, Jeromey Clary, Louis Vasquez

  • San Diego Chargers’ baby blue and white

patriots alternate

  • New England Patriots red, white and blue

tampa bay orange

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers Orange Julius uniforms

atlanta falcons alternate helmet

  • Atlanta Falcons’ red helmet look, which they wore when they last made the Super Bowl before losing to the Denver Broncos and John Elway.

NBA:

It used to be an alternate, but I love the old-school tribute to the new-school Washington Bullets. The name change from the Bullets to the Wizards for politically correct reasons hasn’t help the franchise make it to the Finals since their last shot in the late 70s.

washington bullets

  • Washington Bullets

charles barkley suns

  • Phoenix Suns purple and scorching sun look

golden state tshirt

  • Golden State Warriors t-shirt jersey, just like how it’s simple. Not a big fan of t-shirt jerseys but I like this one for some reason.

MILLER

 

chicago bulls pinstripe

  • Indiana Pacers/Chicago Bulls pinstripes. Great days of gritty basketball.

shaq orlando pinstripes

  • Orlando Magic pinstripes…remind me of the Shaq/Penny Hardaway days

MLB:

I’m a big Washington Nationals fan and I love the patriotic feel to their blue home uniforms, usually worn for the Fourth of July.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals

  • Washington Nationals’ patriotic blues

tampa bay rays powder blues

  • Tampa Rays powder blue look

san diego padres camo

  • I’m a sucker for the San Diego Padres camo uniforms

orioles orange

  • Baltimore Orioles’ orange

New York Yankees v Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Arizona Diamondbacks’ purple and white combo from the early 2000s because it reminds me when the Yankee dynasty ended. No other reason.

NHL:

NHL Winter Classic Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Washington Capitals’ home red, white and blue

oilers oil drop

  • Edmonton Oilers’ black-and-silver Oil Drop, don’t ask me why because I can’t tell you why.

US PRESSWIRE Sports-Historical

  • Buffalo Sabres’ blue-and-yellow buffalo and sabre look

boston bruins alternate

  • Boston Bruins’ bear face

canucks blue green alternate

Stars v Avalanche X Modano

 

new york rangers lady liberty

  • Vancouver Canucks blue-and-green/2000s Dallas Stars/New York Rangers Lady Liberty

What do you think about my list? What were some of your favorites?

#MLB Trade sends Cards’ David Freese for Angels’ Peter Bourjos in 4-Player Deal

First there was the surprising blockbuster trade of Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder and Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

MLB: NLCS-St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles DodgersThe St. Louis Cardinals sent their World Series hero, third baseman David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for outfielder Peter Bourjos. Two other players, reliever Fernando Salas and minor league prospect Randal Grichuk were also exchanged.

Cardinals: A- grade

I give the Cardinals a A- just for upgrading with 26-year-old Bourjos’ speed on the bases and in the outfield, getting minor league prospect Randal Grichuk, as well as ignoring sentiment by unloading Freese, who turned 30 years old this year.

Angels: B+ grade

I grade this trade as a B+ for the Angels in upgrading their hot corner position, but it is that low because of the Freese’s age and injury concerns and whether he can grind a full season after recovery. They shored up their pitching with right-hander Fernando Salas.

But why?

Freese has declined this past season and at age 30, it was a shrewd move to move Freese. He almost single-handedly won the 2011 World Series when he hit 0.397, 5 home runs and 21 RBI’s to be the World Series MVP. What a great home run to send the 2011 World Series to a Game 7.

He got injured this season and only hit 0.262 after playing 138 out of 162 games, when he played 144 games the season before and hit 0.293. Until this season, he never hit under 0.293 (per ESPN.com).

As reported by ESPN.com, Freese’s numbers far outdid those of any Angels third baseman as of late. So, for the Angels, this is a necessary risk and a good upgrade in the short-term. But, they have to be wary of his injury this season that cost him a good portion of the regular season.

peter bourjosPeter Bourjos, who I have seen play live, is a great talent. He bounced up and down in the minors and majors due to platoon and rotations by Angels manager Mike Scosia, but I really like him.

When he was at the Angels’ AAA affiliate Salt Lake Bees facing the Oakland AAA affiliate, he chased down a couple deep fly balls and his quickness was astonishing. The pitchers for the Oakland affiliate never let him feel comfortable leading off and could get nothing more than a secondary lead. Here’s one great catch he had in the majors against the Baltimore Orioles:

In the majors last season, he hit 0.274, stole 43 bases, 3 home runs and 12 RBI’s in 55 games played. He did spend some time on the disabled list with a broken right wrist and sat out 39 games as a result. For the Cardinals, his speed will be an upgrade and will shore up a shaky outfielder lineup that struggled to hit in the postseason. It also helps bolster their fielding, considering the crucial mistakes by outfielder Jon Jay in the postseason against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He will fit into their fast outfield and sound base running. Mike Matheny, the Cardinals manager, will no doubt use him well.

Salas and Grichuk were more like spare pieces in my opinion, but I am no expert on developing prospects in the majors. Salas’ numbers, via ESPN, were in the 27 games played last year, he pitched 28 innings, gave up 27 hits and 15 runs, walked 6, gave up 3 home runs and struck out 22 batters with a 4.50 ERA. I’m not impressed by Salas.

randal grichukPer St. Louis Today, Grichuk was the Angels’ 24th overall pick, right before Mike Trout and this year, earned a share of the minor leagues’ version of the Rawlings Gold Glove in AA ball. As a prospect, he hit 0.256, 22 home runs, 64 RBI’s, 28 walks and 92 strikeouts (per Baseball-Reference.com). Grichuk will be a game-changer when he makes the big leagues.

The Angels get a plug in their hole at third base, but the Cardinals won this trade fair and square.