Posts Tagged ‘National League’

How to Survive Rival Fandom in a Relationship – Pro Tips from the First MLB Fan Cave Couple

February 11, 2013

Kels + Jer pic 2

For baseball fans, dating is tough. You have to find someone who loves the game as much as you and maybe even roots for the same team. My girlfriend and I found the former, but the latter? That’s where it gets tricky.

While both Kelsey and I never thought we would find ourselves snuggling up to a die-hard fan of another MLB team, the world works in mysterious ways. The MLB Fan Cave and our love of the game brought us together, and now we have to live with the fact that we will never see eye to eye when it comes to the number one team in the National League.

Cardinals or Dodgers? It’s a huge debate between us. So how do we survive the rival fandom in our relationship? Here are some of our tips for those of you also dating rival fans, straight from the mouths of the first ever Fan Cave couple:

1. Know that your fan allegiances will never change.

Kelsey: You know when people say, “Don’t try to change your partner?” That goes for their MLB team, as well. Think about your own childhood and what made you a fan of your team…There’s no way you could adopt another and neither can your boyfriend or girlfriend. Accept their fandom as just one of those flaws you grow to know and love.

Jeremy: If I can’t be changed by almost a quarter-century of San Francisco living, no lady friend of mine will be able to turn me. Asking your other to switch their fandom is grounds for immediate DFA in the baseball world. As Kelsey said, accept that “flaw,” learn to love it, and move on. Otherwise, you’ll become a free agent sooner than you think.

2. Support each other when only one team is involved.

Kelsey: If your team isn’t playing and theirs is, throw them some love! Jeremy and I have a count of how many times I’ve made him wear a Cardinals shirt and how many times he’s made me wear a Dodgers shirt. We don’t always like it, but there’s no real harm done. Now, if the Cardinals were playing, that’s a different story. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Dodgers shirt, and he knows that!

Jeremy: This point should come with a disclaimer. If I were, God forbid, a Cubs fan, everything changes. If Kelsey was, God forbid, a Giants fan, toss this rule out. If you are in a relationship like that, I would recommend counseling. Otherwise, Kelsey is right – value your relationship enough to pat the other on the back, and even root for their team to do well if it doesn’t directly affect your team’s standing.

3. Appreciate the fact that your significant other loves something as much as you do.

Kelsey: What really matters in all of this is the fact that you both love your sport. It’s important in every relationship to have something in common and to have passion. If you’re dating a die-hard fan of any team, you know you’re getting both of those things.

Jeremy: And look on the bright side: Your boyfriend or girlfriend knows what it’s like to watch their team fail, too. Even if they are a Yankees fan. So they will be right there to catch you when you fall.

4. Keep it fun and playful.

Kelsey: There should always be teasing! Of course, you can’t just let them get away with a free pass for loving another team. Give each other crap and know that it’s all in good fun, but don’t ever take it too far.

Jeremy: Tease all you want, but be cautious. I learned the hard way not to jokingly break “news” to Kelsey that Yadier Molina had been traded. That death glare is seared in my mind forever. So have at it! Just be civil, and don’t pick on the other team’s best players.

5. We’ve said it before – If it comes down to it, watch in separate rooms.

Kelsey: There are some times when it just gets too intense. When you love someone, and you love a team, and they clash…it’s just better to not go there. The 2012 NL Wild Card race saw the Cardinals and Dodgers in a tight race, and Jeremy and I agreed to: A) Watch the games in separate rooms, B) Not talk about it. This way we couldn’t upset one another no matter the outcome.

Jeremy: If you’ve already moved into a cubicle-sized studio…We can’t help you. That was a mistake from the get-go. But yes, if possible, watch the intense games in separate rooms. I promise you, the tension will mount to levels you’ve never experienced at a sporting event before. With all those emotions flying around, I prefer to crack a cold beer and lock myself in my room to watch the Dodgers whoop the Cardinals. It saves a lot of awkward glances.

For more fun couples tips, blog posts, and videos, make sure Kelsey and I get into the MLB Fan Cave! We have tons of ideas and we can’t wait to share them with you on a national stage.

Watch our video explaining how we got together.

VOTE for us both at as many times as you want!

Follow us on Twitter @kelseyshea11 and @jamblinman.

And like our Facebook pages: Kelsey, Jeremy.

There’s So Much Wrong with the MLB All-Star Game

July 1, 2012

20120702-121714.jpgI hate the All-Star Game. I really do. It’s stupid and contradictory and responsible for one of the worst moments in recent baseball history. The new format demands that the best respective rosters from each league be assembled, so as to assure a fair fight in the battle for home field advantage in the World Series.

Yet, as if these grown men need coddling that a Little League parent would be proud of, each team better have one representative, or the Padres might cry! Puh-lease.

Further, let’s make this game about the fans and allow them to vote in the starters even though a large majority of fans doesn’t actually know anything about the sport and spend hours voting for each player at each position on their favorite team (I’m looking at you, Giants fans…this is how Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford end up in the top five at their positions).

I have no beef with putting home field advantage on the line. It gives exponentially more meaning and intensity to the contest. And it keeps the baseball version of All-Star festivities much more entertaining than the NFL’s Pro Bowl, albeit more boring than the NBA’s.

But you damn well better let the players and coaches, who actually know what they are doing, determine the All-Star rosters in this case. And require that players who were voted in by trigger happy, stat-ignorant fans who probably won’t even WATCH the game, yet enjoy being part of the process…actually play. No “fatigue,” Derek Jeter. Come on.

Now I make very public my devotion to the Dodgers. So 99 percent of people who read this will probably brush off the rest of this blog as a biased, spiteful rant. But just because the Giants will be the subject of my fury for the next few paragraphs, I promise it has nothing to do with rivalry.

How can I prove it? Simple. When it comes to the All-Star Game, now that home field advantage IS on the line, the National League needs to act as one cohesive unit. Trust me, I love nothing more than to hate the Giants. But I will root for any players in a Giants hat in Kansas City, as long as he helps get my LEAGUE a win.

And it baffles me that Giants fans don’t feel the same way – well, no it doesn’t. I know a lot of awesome, smart Giants fans. But the ridiculous voting campaign I saw put on at AT&T Park last week was overstepping the boundaries. And now that the results are in, I’m convinced that if the PR Department for the Giants told its fans to swim to Alcatraz and back naked, they would oblige.

There is no other reasonable explanation for Freddy Sanchez (he of ZERO games played this season) earning 2.2 million votes. No other fan bases voted for him. That shows me that Giants fans were instructed to find anyone with “San Francisco Giants” under their names on the ballot at each position, and vote for them no matter what.

People. We were 300,000 votes away from Brandon Crawford starting for the National League at shortstop. And if you don’t understand why that’s a big deal, my point has been proven. Because nobody cares to know who Crawford, the .220-hitting, probably-worst-player-on-the-team even is.

It’s all fine and good to vote for your players. Do it 25 times. That’s the maximum. But when I go to a game in the city, and I see a reporter on the Jumbotron in front of a room in some top-secret part of the ball park where fans are being given free food to sit in there and vote for Giants players all day…I’m going to be upset about it.

This has nothing to do with fairness and equality. There were three Dodgers worthy of All-Star consideration. Two of them made it, one won’t play because he’s injured. That’s great. I don’t mind. There were six Giants who deserved to make it. Four did, including Pablo Sandoval.

Kung-Fu Panda earned a spot, despite being injured for part of the season. But getting over 1 million votes the day before the results are announced to unseat David Wright, far and away the best third baseman in baseball, as the starter? That’s not even annoying, it’s just irresponsible.

And Giants fans, you have to not be sheep just following what the voice on the screen says. If you truly love baseball – hell, if you truly love your TEAM, you’d vote for the guys that deserve it. We know you love your team. Passion is excellent. But you’ll be kicking yourselves if Sandoval goes 0-2 in the All-Star Game and fails to get runners in a scoring situation. That could have been David Wright, a much better hitter, up in that spot.

And what if the National League goes on to lose? What if that happens and then the Giants make a run to the World Series? Are you going to enjoy playing IN Arlington? IN Los Angeles? IN New York? When all that needed to happen is filling in a little circle next to your guys the allotted 25 times: Sandoval, 3B. Posey, C. Cabrera, OF.

Obviously that’s an extreme situation, but part of me wishes Crawford had been voted in. Because I really think that would have made for an all-out remodeling of the process.

Anyway, let me re-state again. I’m not picking on Giants fans because I hate their team. I’m picking on Giants fans because they were the worst (by a mile) offenders of borderline illegal ballot stuffing for this thing. You can argue with me and say the Rangers have too many players in, and I’d probably agree. But Rangers fans didn’t get anyone who didn’t deserve consideration within striking distance of a starting spot. Just remember that.

Brandon Belt may some day be an All-Star. Freddy Sanchez will return to stardom if he gets healthy. And even Crawford may visit the Midsummer Classic some year. You never know.

But no matter how much you love them and the jerseys on their back, there is much more at stake than bragging rights for which team sends the most All-Stars to K.C.

There is the matter of the National League having to join forces, fans and all, to put the best possible team out on the field. Then once home field advantage has been earned, you can go back to quarreling intra-division and fighting for the right to actually use that home field advantage in October.

Obviously, many changes need to be made to the All-Star Game. Fans can’t be voting with so much at stake, and the stakes shouldn’t even be so high. I can understand where MLB is coming from, but when your slogan is “This One Counts,” fans have to be encouraged to remember that.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game…but if Buster Posey or Pablo Sandoval are responsible for a National League loss in the All-Star Game, feel free to tell your nearest Giants fan to change his or her evil ways.

Whew. Okay. I feel better. Now don’t even get me started on snubs like Josh Reddick…


How the All-Star Teams SHOULD Look

May 23, 2012

I believe the title is self-explanatory, so here goes:

National League

C – Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

1B – Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

2B – Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

SS – Rafael Furcal, St. Louis Cardinals

3B – David Wright, New York Mets

LF – Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants

CF – Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

RF – Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers

DH – Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals

SP – Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves

Bench – Bryan LaHair, Chicago Cubs

Bench – Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

Bench – Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

Bench – Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

Bench – A.J. Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers

Bench – Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies

Bullpen – Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks

Bullpen – Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals

Bullpen – Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Bullpen – Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Bullpen – Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

Bullpen – Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates

Bullpen – Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Bullpen – Anthony Bass, San Diego Padres

American League

C – A.J. Pierszynski, Chicago White Sox (ew.)

1B – Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox

2B – Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers

SS – Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

3B – Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels

LF – Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

CF – Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

RF – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

DH – David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

SP – Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

Bench – Josh Reddick, Oakland A’s

Bench – Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals

Bench – Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

Bench – Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins

Bench – Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians

Bench – Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Bullpen – Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Bullpen – Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

Bullpen – CJ Wilson, Los Angeles Angels (ew.)

Bullpen – Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians

Bullpen – Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals

Bullpen – David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

Bullpen – Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles

Bullpen – Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays

Bullpen – Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox

The All-Star Game forces me to choose one representative from each team, unfortunately. So there are literally dozens of snubs. Sorry I’m not sorry. Comment below and tell me who should be replaced and who got snubbed! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman.

The Quarter Season Report

May 21, 2012

We are essentially 1/4 of the way through the 2012 MLB season. As close to 1/4 of the way that you can be when the divisidator (yeah, I made that word up because math is hard) is 162. Needless to say there’s been some surprises (hello Dodgers and Orioles) and some massive disappointments (Yankees and Red Sox tied for last? Maybe the world really is ending in 2012!).

Here’s my quarter season report (records and stats as of 5/22/12):

Texas Rangers (27-18)

Biggest Surprise – Joe Nathan’s 11 saves in 12 opportunities and 2.41 ERA

Biggest Disappointment – Mike Napoli’s .233 average (but does it really matter in this lineup?)

Season Outlook – Running away with the West. Josh Hamilton is on pace for about 70 homers and 200 RBI. I’ll spot him 44 and 130.

Oakland A’s (22-23)

Biggest Surprise – Their record. I predicted this team to lose 100 games in 2012. Hey, there’s still team.

Biggest Disappointment – Kurt Suzuki’s offensive numbers. Hitting .221 with 13 RBI at this point is, ironically, offensive.

Season Outlook – Josh Reddick has surprised people with his production, and the young staff looks real good. I’m thinking 75 wins would be an incredible success for the A’s.

Seattle Mariners (21-25)

Biggest Surprise – Kyle Seager’s .270/5/26 line thus far. Who? Good question.

Biggest Disappointment – Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero. Neither are doing awful. But M’s fans are expecting bigger things.

Season Outlook – I know the standings say differently, but I have a feeling the Mariners will be the surprise AL West team we’re all talking about in September. Not the A’s.

Los Angeles Angels (20-25)

Biggest Surprise – How about a tie between the young guns, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. The M.T.’s are the future in Anaheim.

Biggest Disappointment – The grounds crew. The rally monkey. None of the above. Albert Pujols, obviously. But he’s coming around, finally.

Season Outlook – Believe it or not, this team is only 7 games out of first. With that pitching and the inevitable Pujols rebound, they may sneak up on you by the all-star break.

Cleveland Indians (25-18)

Biggest Surprise – Derek Lowe’s 6-2 record and 2.15 ERA. I know it won’t last, but that doesn’t mean it’s not surprising…

Biggest Disappointment – I personally am disappointed by Casey Kotchman’s dismal numbers (.220/3/15). I expected that to be a bigger signing.

Season Outlook – The Bullpen Mafia is all too real, and an offense led by Asdrubal Cabrera will be right in the thick of things for a Wild Card spot. I still think Detroit takes the Central.

Chicago White Sox (22-22)

Biggest Surprise – Adam Dunn is back! The whole package! So far, 14 homers, 33 RBI and a terrible batting average.

Biggest Disappointment – The Phil Humber hangover. A perfect game…well played, sir. And then straight awfulness.

Season Outlook – It’s a fluke people. Sorry. The Sox story is real cute, but if they finish better than 4th (and that’s generous), I’ll eat a tomato. What? I hate tomatoes.

Detroit Tigers (20-23)

Biggest Surprise – Drew Smyly’s 2.89 ERA. If this guy is real, that trio of Verlander, Smyly and Fister is pretty terrifying.

Biggest Disappointment – With apologies to Brennan Boesch’s weak numbers, it’s got to be releasing Brandon Inge, only to see him go to Oakland and hit two grand slams in his first few games as an Athletic.

Season Outlook – Still the favorites. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are just getting started. They are both going to hit their strides, and send the rest of the division running for their lives.

Kansas City Royals (17-26)

Biggest Surprise – Jonathan Broxton’s 8 saves and 2.16 ERA. I figured the former Dodger would melt down again, but he’s holding his own. Mad props, big boy!

Biggest Disappointment – Eric Hosmer. Helloooooo sophomore slump. Hitting .191 is not quite what the Royals expected from their stellar young first baseman at this point.

Season Outlook – When Jonathan Sanchez returns from injury and Hosmer figures his crap out, this team is going to contend. Mark my words!

Minnesota Twins (15-28)

Biggest Surprise – Josh Willingham. Well not to me. I knew that would be a money signing. But you’ve gotta love Willy’s .283/8/27 line to this point.

Biggest Disappointment – Francisco Liriano. He is 0-5 with an 8.04 ERA. We knew he was inconsistent, but…wow.

Season Outlook – Bleak. Sorry, Twins fans. The magic has run out. They’ve got some pieces to build on, plus super stars in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (low batting average be damned). Just get some pitching, please!

Baltimore Orioles (28-17)

Biggest Surprise – The Baltimore Orioles are 28-17 and in 1st place in the A.L. East. That’s what.

Biggest Disappointment – Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz are severely underachieving. Luckily, Wei Chen and Jason Hammel are picking up the slack. So far.

Season Outlook – See above. If Arrieta and Matusz pick it up, this team actually has a shot with that loaded offense. But the pitching still might not be strong enough to contend in this division.

Tampa Bay Rays (27-18)

Biggest Surprise – Fernando Rodney is 14 for 14 in saves and has a sub-0.50 ERA. Holy guacamole.

Biggest Disappointment – Matt Moore, what in the world is your deal, buddy? A 1-4 record with a 5.07 ERA is not what people envisioned. So much for dark horse for AL Cy Young!

Season Outlook – This team is real! Watch out. Like the Dodgers in the National League, the Rays continue to win without their superstar. The reign of the Yankees and Red Sox might actually be over.

Toronto Blue Jays (24-21)

Biggest Surprise – It’s a straight-up tie. Edwin Encarnacion and his 14 home runs, tied with Kyle Drabek’s impressive start to the season.

Biggest Disappointment – The closer carousel. Sergio Santos went down with an injury, Francisco Cordero won and lost the job in about ten minutes flat, and now Casey Janssen is trying his hand in the 9th.

Season Outlook – There’s something about this team. They are still one piece away from legitimacy for me. If the O’s keep their pace up, Toronto is in danger of being the best last-place team in MLB history.

New York Yankees (23-21)

Biggest Surprise – Andy Pettitte is back in the pinstripes and he looks damn good doing it! Can he keep this up all season?

Biggest Disappointment – Poor Mo Rivera, tearing his ACL shagging fly balls in batting practice, ending his season. We can only hope the legend returns for 2013.

Season Outlook – They are still the Yankees. This is still one of the most ferocious offenses in all of baseball, and I fully expect Hiroki Kuroda to recover and help take this team to the playoffs.

Boston Red Sox (22-22)

Biggest Surprise – Will Middlebrooks is a fresh face in the bigs, but nobody expected such an immediate impact from the youngster. He’s here to stay!

Biggest Disappointment – Without a doubt, Clay Buchholz, who I expected to have a fantastic season in leading the BoSox back to glory.

Season Outlook – Much worse than I expected. If this team is going to make a playoff run, something MUST be done about the pitching staff.

Los Angeles Dodgers (30-13)

Biggest Surprise – A.J. Ellis’ ridiculous breakout season. He is hitting .327 with a .449 on-base percentage, and flawlessly handling the second best pitching staff in all of baseball.

Biggest Disappointment – Javy Guerra, a.k.a. the Guerracuda. That nickname backfired, as the day after I bestowed it upon him on Twitter, he took a line drive off the face, lost the closer’s role, and his ERA ballooned.

Season Outlook – I am one very happy fan. My boys in blue are the best team in baseball, and continue to be so with Matt Kemp on the DL for the past week and a half. They are the favorites in the West, and all of the National League. AND I LOVE IT.

San Francisco Giants (23-21)

Biggest Surprise – Until recently., Barry Zito. But I’m going to have to go with Melky Cabrera overall. He’s been above and beyond what the Giants ever expected when they signed him this winter, hitting .356.

Biggest Disappointment – Well obviously, that would be Tim Lincecum. His 2-4 record and 6.04 ERA should absolutely terrify the Giants. Maybe it’s a good thing he didn’t sign long-term yet.

Season Outlook – I just can’t imagine Melky staying this hot, nor Timmy this bad. But, I think 87 wins or so is the ceiling for the 2012 Giants, unless they make a deadline move.

Arizona Diamondbacks (19-25)

Biggest Surprise – Wade Miley’s 5-1 record with 2.14 ERA thrust him into the early lead for the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Biggest Disappointment – Justin Upton has yet to show up yet. His power numbers are decent but underwhelming, and a .253 average ain’t gonna cut it, kid. They really need him to step up.

Season Outlook – The D’Backs are in big trouble. The offense can still score at will, but the pitching staff has been proved to be a 2011 fluke. Hate to say I told you so! Wait. No I don’t.

Colorado Rockies (16-27)

Biggest Surprise – Jamie Moyer, the 49-year-old wonder, who became the oldest winning pitcher in the history of baseball. Congrats, Jamie!

Biggest Disappointment – It’s no surprise, but the starting rotation is disgustingly bad. My goodness. Moyer gets a Senior Citizen’s free pass, but the rest of the guys are struggling.

Season Outlook – It’s hard for me to count the Rockies out at any point, considering their penchant for historic comebacks. But this rotation is really, really bad. Donezo. Toast. Peace.

San Diego Padres (16-29)

Biggest Surprise – Anthony Bass! Three Up, Three Down’s first professional player to appear as a guest has come storming out of the Padres’ bullpen to the tune of a 2.89 ERA and 51 K’s in 10 games.

Biggest Disappointment – Clayton Richard’s 2-5 record and 4.63 ERA. This guy was supposed to be an anchor in the up-and-coming rotation. Not so much.

Season Outlook – Just awful. The only thing they might be able to accomplish is beating the Rockies.

St. Louis Cardinals (25-19)

Biggest Surprise – Carlos Beltran, a.k.a. Albert Pujols’ replacement. While Beltran is looking like…well, Pujols…over in St. Louis, Pujols is flirting with the Mendoza line in Anaheim.

Biggest Disappointment – Adam Wainwright’s rough start. He pitched a gem in his last start against the Padres, but for the most part he’s looked like a shell of his former self.

Season Outlook – Definitely a serious playoff contender, though I believe the Reds will win the Central. If Waino keeps getting his swag back and Chris Carpenter comes back strong, it’ll be a tight race.

Cincinnati Reds (24-19)

Biggest Surprise – Okay, we knew Aroldis Chapman was talented, but what the hell has gotten into that left arm of his? He’s now the closer in Cincy and throwing triple digits while posting a 0.00 ERA.

Biggest Disappointment – Drew Stubbs’ slow start. The Reds have tons of offense, but you’ve gotta expect better than .244/5/13 through his first 42 games.

Season Outlook – With Mat Latos getting his groove on, the Reds are my favorites to win the NL Central. Time will tell!

Houston Astros (21-23)

Biggest Surprise – The fact that they are this good so early! You’ve got to love the young offense with Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, Jed Lowrie and others.

Biggest Disappointment – J.A. Happ. Again. He’s got a constantly-ballooning ERA, and just hasn’t been the guy they expected since picking him up.

Season Outlook – They are still a 5th-place team, but I think the ‘Stros are better than I originally gave them credit for. Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and the young offense could be better than most expect.

Pittsburgh Pirates (20-24)

Biggest Surprise – Erik Bedard, without a doubt. His 2-5 record does not reflect the way he’s been pitching in 2012. These adjectives do: shocking, impressive and filthy.

Biggest Disappointment – Pedro Alvarez. AGAIN. This kid has all the talent in the world, but just can’t put it together. His power numbers are up this season, but he can’t hit in the clutch and he’s hitting a paltry .203.

Season Outlook – I still think the Pirates are a .500 team for the first time in decades (literally), but they are going to have to get a fresh bat and arm at the trading deadline.

Milwaukee Brewers (18-26)

Biggest Surprise – Jonathan Lucroy’s all-star worthy season. The Brewers look like geniuses for signing him long-term. So far, he’s hitting .349 and driven in 29 RBI.

Biggest Disappointment – Yovani Gallardo’s 2-4 record and ERA well over 4.00. He’s always had a rep for being inconsistent, but this is something even worse than usual.

Season Outlook – I don’t think the Brewers are THIS bad, but clearly missing Prince Fielder hurts. Aramis Ramirez just isn’t filling the gap, and the aforementioned “ace” needs to step it up.

Chicago Cubs (15-29)

Biggest Surprise – Bryan LaHair’s out-of-nowhere offensive surge. Unfortunately for LaHair and his ridiculous numbers, he’ll either be moved or changing positions as soon as the Cubbies call up Anthony Rizzo.

Biggest Disappointment – Is there such thing as disappointment for Cubs fans anymore? Or are they just numb to it now?

Season Outlook – The same as usual. Battling to stay out of the cellar. I like some of the young talent on this team, but it’s going to take a few years to become totally relevant again.

Washington Nationals (26-18)

Biggest Surprise – Bryce Harper’s immediate impact upon being called up. This guy is clearly here to stay. His sweet swing is going to trump his attitude problems eventually.

Biggest Disappointment – Injuries. Mike Morse, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman have all already missed time. Imagine how scary this team is when they all return to full strength.

Season Outlook – I remember just a couple short months ago when I picked this team to win the division and people thought I was nuts. Well, look at me now, Mom! They are a sure-fire favorite to make the playoffs this season.

Atlanta Braves (26-19)

Biggest Surprise – Brandon Beachy’s National League-leading ERA. We knew he had skillz, but damn. The kid is a legitimate top of the rotation guy! As if the Braves needed any more of those.

Biggest Disappointment – Jair Jurrjens. One of my favorite fantasy sleepers over recent years has been J.J., but he really struggled this year, so the Braves sent him down.

Season Outlook – I picked them to finish 4th, and they still might. But similar to the Blue Jays, they would be one of the best 4th-place teams ever. They are certainly favorites to at least take a Wild Card spot in Chipper’s farewell season.

Miami Marlins (24-20)

Biggest Surprise – Omar Infante’s all-star numbers. They knew they’d have offense with Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton, but they couldn’t have expected such an impressive start from Infante.

Biggest Disappointment – I would have said Josh Johnson a few weeks ago, but he’s stepped it up big time. I’ll go with Gaby Sanchez’s recent demotion to AAA after a horrid start.

Season Outlook – Deceptively good. Carlos Zambrano and Mark Buehrle are both pitching well, and the offense is just downright scary. They could sneak in and steal the division.

New York Mets (24-20)

Biggest Surprise – Frank Francisco’s 12 out of 14 saves. His ERA is awful, but we all thought signing him for a closer’s role was a joke. Look who’s laughing now!

Biggest Disappointment – Andres Torres hitting .187 as Angel Pagan’s replacement, while Pagan flourishes in San Francisco. These kinds of moves are why the Mets can’t be good.

Season Outlook – They are certainly a better team than I thought, but how long can guys with unpronounceable names like Kirk Nieuwenhuis (good luck) carry them as David Wright’s sidekick? Not much longer.

Philadelphia Phillies (22-23)

Biggest Surprise – Carlos Ruiz, absolutely. He’s been pacing all National League catchers with offensive numbers and should definitely earn a berth to the All-Star game.

Biggest Disappointment – That the high-payroll Philadelphia Phillies are in last place. The pitching has been fine, but the offense needs a spark, and quick.

Season Outlook – If Ryan Howard and Chase Utley can provide the aforementioned spark, they could make a late run. If not, they are destined to flounder in the bottom of the standings.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

Case for A.J. Ellis

May 20, 2012

I’ll admit it (raises hand shamefully). I was NOT on the A.J. Ellis bandwagon when the season started. I figured he was the ultimate, lifetime backup catcher and that his pleas for playing time was a bunch of malarkey (I actually used to know someone with the last name Mularkey, so that word always weirds me out).

Watching Spring Training, I’d rue the day we ever set Russell Martin free to the Yankees. And then the 2012 regular season rolled around.

Did anyone in their right minds have A.J. Ellis as one of the best all-around catchers in baseball? If you said “Yes” just now, you are an evil and a heathen and you shall burn in Hellllllllsinki.

Yikes, that was harsh. I hear it’s cold there.

Anyway, as of the day this post is published (I say it that way, because technically I’m FINISHING it on Tuesday, May 22nd. Shhhhhh. But it’s posted as May 20th. Shut up.), Ellis is hitting .321 with a .446 on-base percentage.

Those numbers are good for third and first, respectively, among a loaded class of National League catchers. And the OBP isn’t even remotely close. We Dodger fans have gotten used to Ellis getting on base, one way or another. And he’s a major reason why we are holding the best record in baseball.

Having your number seven hitter getting on base nearly half the time he comes to the plate is an invaluable tool to a successful lineup. It’s a luxury most teams can’t claim, and never will. And despite the gaudy offensive numbers, and the fact that he has almost flawlessly handled the second-best pitching staff in the Majors…nobody knows who the hell A.J. is.

And we’ve all seen it a million times; that’s going to extend to the All-Star voting. With names like Yadier Molina, Brian McCann and Buster Posey, along with breakout seasons from Carlos Ruiz and Jonathan Lucroy, finding a spot on the National League team would be tough for Ellis.

But he absolutely deserves to go. And not in the “please let him in, he’s such a nice guy and he really wants it” type of way. He has played his way into a backup role on that team, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better role player to have on a squad that determines home-field advantage for the World Series.

I’ll tell you what – as a Dodger fan, with my team now a legitimate postseason threat, I feel a hell of a lot more comfortable with Ellis pinch-hitting in the eighth inning of a tie game in the All-Star Game with that home-field advantage on the line than McCann of the Braves and his .254 average.

But history and popularity says, McCann will be in Kansas City in July. Ellis will be at home, enjoying his days off.

Here’s my take on it:

Based on all-around game, Molina is the hands-down starter for the National League. He’s a four-time Gold Glover and now the best hitting catcher in the league (apologies to Ruiz, who is having a great season, but everyone outside of Philly knows this won’t last). McCann and Posey are the big names who should be left out because, though they are having solid seasons, have not been as good all-around as the other four. If three catchers go to the All-Star Game on the N.L. roster, I’m left with Molina, backed up by Ruiz, then Ellis.

If it’s two, I’m torn. Props to Lucroy for stepping up this season, but your 7-RBI game skews the power stats a bit. And you can’t handle the glove as well as my man A.J. While I’d love to see Ruiz earn that All-Star bid, how are you going to ignore a guy who has such a high OBP?

While it’s an unloved stat still, getting on base is the most important part of an offense. Here’s a simple formula for all you math duds out there like me: get on base, move to the next base, score more runs than the other team. That’s the basic idea behind baseball, and nobody is doing it better this year than Ellis.

I know this is a big ol’ waste of time, considering it’s going to be Molina, McCann and Posey in the All-Star Game. But these things must be blogged about, even if just so my poor little head doesn’t explode all over my laptop’s screen.

Just keep the numbers in mind when voting, and cast your vote for the Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis for the 2012 All-Star Game! Our team’s World Series home field depends on it!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman

Wednesday Top Ten!

March 7, 2012

Like how I throw that title up there as if this is a regular thing? I’m not going to lie…it’s because I’m wholly unmotivated to be creative today. Instead, I’ll just blow you away with insight and analysis. So ladies and gentlemen, put on your best snuggies and let’s get rollin’.

Today’s top ten will be all about baseball. Because it’s the best sport. Feel free to argue with me on that point, just don’t complain when this happens. You’ve been warned.

I want to discuss the ten best pitchers in baseball. There’s a helluva lot of them. The San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies could probably make a top ten list by themselves. But we’re going to do it anyway. I’m feelin’ crazy. By the way, I’m a Dodgers fan. So you can guess who number one will be. Muahaha!

10. Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels – Oh boy that rotation in Anaheim is going to be scary in 2012, ain’t it? Haren is the best of the bunch, and the first pitcher on the list who doesn’t have a Cy Young to his name. He should, he could and he might before his time is done, but time will tell. Six seasons of 14 + wins ain’t too shabby though.

9. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals – Okay, really? If Carp is ninth on this list, you know it’s gonna rock your socks off. This big righty has dominated for the Cards and has two rings and a shiny Cy Young (2005) to show for it. He’s got one of the best curveballs in the game and is possibly the most dominant postseason pitcher on this entire list.

8. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners – It’s tough to NOT feel bad for King Felix. Stuck on the Mariners his whole career, he hasn’t racked up huge numbers. Just imagine what the 2010 Cy Young winner’s numbers would look like on a team that could actually score runs.

7. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants – How can a two-time Cy Young winner (2008-2009) only be eighth on this list? Easy – he’s on the Giants and he went to University of Washington and I’m a spiteful, Dodger and Washington State-lovin’ bastard. So that says something that I felt compelled to still include The Freak on this list at all.

6. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies – Hamels is the first of a trio of Phillies to appear on my list (how is that even fair?) and the second who doesn’t have a Cy to his name. Yet. He’s still got plenty of time. What Hamels does have is a mean fastball, some filthy control and a World Series MVP. Not too shabby.

5. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies – Hamels’ southpawtner in crime DOES have that Cy Young award (2008) but less postseason success. Lee dominated last year, going a cool 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA for Philly. And his awesome birth name (Clifton Phifer Lee) boosted him at least three spots alone.

4. C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees – The lefties just keep on comin’. I have a special appreciation for Sabathia, because he hails from the Bay Area like me. That’s not the end of our similarities though. I’m ALSO a 6’7″, 290-pound black man with a Cy Young (2007) and World Series ring…By the way, C.C. has 176 wins at age 31. Don’t tell me 300 isn’t viable for him.

3. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies – Finally, the Philadelphia onslaught comes to a merciful end. But there is no doubt in my mind that Doc Halladay is the best of the bunch. The 8-time all-star and 2-time Cy Young winner (2003 and 2010) has been so dominant for so long that it’s just a foregone conclusion he’ll put up 15+ wins every season. Oh, did I mention that no-hitter in the playoffs? That’s impressive I guess.

2. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers – Last year’s Cy Young and MVP winner in the American League has finally reached the height of his potential. And I don’t think he’s planning on regressing anytime soon. Verlander’s 24-5, 2.40, 250 strikeout 2011 was far and away one of the best individual pitching seasons I’ve ever seen. And the scary thing is he’s only 28.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – You want to talk about incredible seasons at a young age? How about the next coming of Sandy Koufax (I think I just heard you gasp from here…)? Kershaw cruised to the pitching Triple Crown in the National League last year, and won the Cy Young as a result. Here’s the thing though. Kershaw is 23 years old. Like, my age. What the HELL!

That’s my list. Thanks for helping me kill time. Comment below and tell me why I’m absolutely right-on with all my picks. Or if you must, disagree and make suggestions. I’ll probably ignore you, but hey, it’s worth a shot!

And I ammmmmmm outta here!

National Treasure

March 1, 2012

I hate myself for that title. Cool movie, but anything with Nicolas Cage in it is going to piss me off. Anyway, it has nothing to do with the actual film. This is more a matter of sports, as a post of mine should be. If you missed it, I’ve already locked in my predictions for the 2012 Major League Baseball season. This isn’t what I think will happen, this IS what will happen. Wait and see.

My boldest prediction is that the annual N.L. East doormats in D.C. are going to win the division this year, after getting healthy and stacking their rotation with the likes of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson this winter. Call me crazy, but they are the overall most talented team in the division. Yes, better than the new-look Miami Marlins, the powerhouse Phillies and the consistent Atlanta Braves.

You’ve got to love this offense – young guys at shortstop, second base and catcher that can absolutely rake. They’ve got Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman to beef up the middle of the order, and potential game-changing guys in AAA in Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. And if Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche or Rick Ankiel put it together for a full season…watch out.

So the news today is this: Nationals manager Davey Johnson says ‘Fire me’ if Washington misses the playoffs. And I love it.

Swag is a good thing. You want your players to have confidence on the diamond, why not the guy directing them? And why not say it? First of all, Davey Johnson isn’t getting fired no matter what happens. So it’s an empty offer. But secondly, this team has a legitimate chance to contend.

The fact that these young Nationals are so set on making the playoffs and their manager is so confident in their abilities is setting the table for a special season in the nation’s capital, methinks. Looking at the National League, I see nine serious contenders: Arizona, San Francisco, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philly, Miami, Atlanta and Washington.

By a mile, the Nats would be the biggest surprise team out of those nine to make the playoffs. But beating four of them should be very do-able for such a talented roster. Their pitching is as good or better than the D’Backs, Reds and Marlins. And their offense definitely matches up or dominates teams like the Giants, Phillies and Brewers.

All I’m saying is this team has the makings of something special in 2012. I think people underestimate how good their rotation will be with Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jackson, Jordan Zimmerman and John Lannan. It’s going to be young and they will have their struggles, but if the Nats aren’t at LEAST in Wild Card contention in the last week of the season, I will be shocked.

And apparently, so will Davey Johnson. Long live the dark horse!

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