Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

LeBron James: A Complex, Paradoxical Sports Oxymoron

June 9, 2012

Don’t let the title fool you. It’s all going to be okay. Yes, I do have a weird thirst for using the letter “x” in my descriptive verbage.

And yes, I’m about to reach farther for this comparison than Skip Bayless does for his own high school accolades: It’s only because LeBron is the X-Factor in tonight’s game! Hah!

Hey…laugh! I’m funny, okay?

Now that I’ve lost you, let me explain. There is a method to the madness of essentially titling my piece “LeBron James: Confusing.”

And it has nothing to do with his notorious disappearing acts at his teams’ most critical junctures in previous playoff appearances.

Instead, I’m going to talk a traditional mechanism employed by millions of housewives, girlfriends, fair weather and apathetic sports fans everywhere.

I’m talking about rooting for the “underdog,” also known as the team that isn’t favored by Vegas odds makers or “just seem like good guys” or are playing the Yankees.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a sucker for a good underdog story. I have a hard time rooting against the small market Rays in baseball, and George Mason’s 2009 Final Four run nearly brought me to my knees.

And there  is a certain allure to being labeled an “underdog,” that may actually spark a swell of confidence and self-belief and ultimately lead to a better game performance, possibly even an upset victory. But fact is, most teams who are favored to lose, well…lose.

My question is for all you LeBron haters out there. He is the epitome of a Goliath in this little David versus Goliath dream world you conjure up in every way imaginable.

But when so many root against him, doesn’t that completely, paradoxically, oxymoronically (I like this word so much that I made it up, raised it as my own, and will use it freely. Thank you.) turn the tables?

Doesn’t this make LeBron the underdog?

If it’s cliché to root for Goliath, but fully acceptable to root for the opponent who has been beaten, battered and bruised by hardship, can’t it go both ways?

That is, if LeBron is Goliath but falls into the beaten (has yet to win a title), battered (has shouldered the largest responsibility for both teams he’s been on) and bruised (absolutely destroyed by fans for The Decision to move to Miami) categories, isn’t he essentially David?

Told ya it would be complex.

Normally the story would end with David slaying Goliath. Yay! Everyone lives happily ever after, the last page of the story book depicts a sunny, rainbow and dolphin-filled picture almost as vomit-worthy as this, and little Jimmy goes to bed with a smile on his face (Apologies to any readers named Jimmy. It was the first name that came to mind.).

But when Goliath has been slain every time, and fans of David turn nasty (somebody get this kid spell check!) and grow in number at every one of the top dog’s failings – when do we start to feel bad for the big guy? 

And when it seems like nobody outside of Miami and a random spattering of a few fans are actually pulling for the Heat to win and King James to finally earn his crown, that puts all odds against him to succeed.

Maybe not statistically. But I’ll bet you a majority of people in America who know what a basketball is and have heard of this LeBron fella are rooting for him to crumble again.

And while you’re sitting smugly thinking about the prospects of telling everyone how you’re pulling for the underdog again, the joke is actually on you.

You’ve been so busy gloating and reveling in LeBron’s failures, that your own pungent hatred of the guy has blinded you. It’s not cool to root against LeBron anymore. He is the underdog.

Nobody believes in LeBron. Nobody roots for LeBron. Nobody likes LeBron. Except for the few of us who are hoping the real underdog pulls this one off.

The underdog who happens to be the best, richest most talented player in the pack. What an exceptionally complex, paradoxical sports oxymoron that turns out to be.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman. Comment below if you beg to differ!

Football in Arlington

May 31, 2012

Well, this is my last daily Jam Shots. After this, I’ll be moving to a weekly format. I know what you’re thinking (I will give you 50 bucks if you watch this whole thing).

And I apologize. But because I’ll have six extra days to think about each entry, you will get a super big, nutritious helping of Jam Shots each week.

There’s not a lot of baseball going on today – just three games. CarGo hit a homer in his fourth straight at-bat earlier today against the Astros, but that’s cliche at this point.

So let’s talk baseball from yesterday. My buddy Paddy suggested I write something honoring the 21-8 blowout in Arlington, TX yesterday. So here goes!

I, for one, had no idea that the Cowboys and Seahawks were playing a very, pre, pre-season game. Shut up, that joke is always funny.

But seriously, the Mariners absolutely obliterated the Rangers in Texas by the count of three touchdowns to one. And the Cowboys tried to make a furious come back, tacking on a two-point conversion, but it was far too late.

What does this mean? I’ll tell ya:

1) Texas pitching is (still) overrated. Mark my words – the Rangers will make the playoffs again, and the pitching will ruin them again. They need to upgrade the rotation before they can win it all.

2) The Seattle Mariners of Pullman (Go Cougs!) are actually going to be pretty solid soon. The offense is young and raw, but chocked full of talent. If the M’s go out and get a big bat this off season (don’t count them out of the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes) and one more solid arm (how does Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels sound?), they are legit contenders in the American League.

Ironically enough, Tony Romo threw out the first pitch at the Rangers game yesterday. Surprisingly, he didn’t fumble the snap like last time he was in a pressure situation against a Seattle team.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Thanks for reading the daily version of Jam Shots. It’s been a great run. Starting this coming Sunday, I’ll be putting out one per week. Keep an eye out, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

More Baseball Fundamentals

May 30, 2012

Did you watch the Orioles versus Blue Jays game tonight? Of course you didn’t. Why would you? That’s not even 100 percent American, and the Orioles always suck…right?

Wait, they are in first place?! Holy Cal Ripken!

Now that I’ve successfully caught you up to speed on the 2012 baseball season, let me teach you a little somethin’ somethin’.

When you throw a pitch, you gotta finish. And I don’t mean like throw the ball when you’re holding you’re still holding your leg kick. I mean you release the ball and finish in a defensive position.

Because baseballs come back when you throw them, and sometimes they come back HARD. Just ask Javy Guerra. Or ask today’s victim, Brandon Morrow.

If you’re not ready to at least defend yourself against a small, hard object traveling over 100 MPH, you’re toast.

Morrow released a pitch today and was hit in the side of the leg by a line drive. He limped away before being helped off the field. He was very lucky with where the ball hit him, and escaped with just a bruise. But it could have been a lot worse.

And while I would never place complete blame on a pitcher for a thing like this, it’s not ALL Lady Luck’s fault either. Throw the ball, your throwing-side leg comes over with the finish, and you should be standing mostly square to the plate, knees bent, hands up, mind aware.

I kid you not – I tried to do this every single time I threw a pitch in high school. There were some close calls, but I was never hit by a come backer. I was also able to field my position very well.

Greg Maddux, 18-time Gold Glove winner as a pitcher, would tell you the same thing: be prepared for the ball to come back at you.

One of these days a pitcher is going to be severely injured or worse. And if guys like Guerra or Morrow would just be ready for the ball, like they should be, it could be avoided. And those young, up-and-coming little hurlers in middle and high schools might see how well they defend themselves on the mound, and maybe avoid future injuries of their own.

Oh, who am I kidding? Those kids weren’t watching the Orioles and Blue Jays play either.

Until next time, don’t hang that curve ball. Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman.

Breaking Down a Badass Play

May 29, 2012

Holy macaroni. What an awesome play. That’s the coolest baseball-related video I’ve seen since being taken to school by Harvard baseball’s Call Me Maybe cover.

Let’s drop the beat and break this thang on down:

So the first thing I think of when watching this video is “no fair!” Why? Because I never got to play on such a sweet ass field when I was in high school! That thing is absolutely gorgeous.

Anyway, what exactly is that swing in the video? I’ve seen a ball get popped up like that, but not on a full swing. Either the batter has zero power, or that ball is of the wiffle variety. 

I’m still undecided whether or not the catcher purposely popped the ball back up in the air. If so, he’s a freakin’ genius. Sort of. Because if that was intentional, I immediately wonder two things:

1) Why did he pop it back up so far out of his pitcher’s way?

2) Why the hell didn’t he just catch the damn ball?

Verdict: He just kind of sucks. The ball should have been caught the first time.

Fantastically athletic play by the pitcher though to make a curling, diving, barehanded grab of the ball. Andddd then it all goes to crap because on a simple dive onto grass and dirt, he got the wind knocked out of him.

Just because you’re an athlete, doesn’t make you a manly man. Exhibit A: this video.

Thanks for reading my totally obvious filler/can’t think of a real topic blog for today. Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

Football, Jamilton and Announcements

May 25, 2012

I swear, I’m not just talking football today out of a semi-depression that my Dodgers lost to the ASTROS yesterday. Again. With Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Sigh.

I’ll forget the fact that we have been outscored 15-1 by Houston in our last two meetings combined. And just talk about something exceptionally exciting: the San Francisco 49ers, my hometown football team. My Dodgers of the NFL.

And that they are coming off a 13-3 season that was two muffed punts away from turning into a march to the Super Bowl. And that they are better this year. And the whole top-ranked defense is back. And our rookies are going to be game-changers. And we have brand new wide receivers. And we have no Chilo Rachal. And we have a healthy (finally) Michael Crabtree, who oh by the way, put up ELITE numbers in the second half of 2011. And we have a full off-season under Jim Harbaugh (also known as God, in my circles) for the players to learn his playbook and gel even more as a team.

All I have to say about that, is watch out everyone. If there is still any doubt in a fan’s mind that the 49ers are to be taken seriously as one of two or three legitimate Super Bowl contenders at this point in the summer, said fan is insane. Or a Raiders fan. Okay, so definitely insane.

Can you tell I’m excited?

As for dominant teams and players, I’ll stray away from the Dodgers for once. Remember, they lost to the Astros last night? Yeesh.

How about the Texas Rangers? Again. They dropped 14 runs today and Nelson Cruz had 8 RBI. That’s all the attention Nelly will get from me though. I’m here to talk about their best player, and possibly the best player in baseball: Josh Hamilton.

I’m not going to heap praise on the guy, I just want to ask one simple question: Can Jamilton hit 62? After hitting one today, he’s got 19 on the season in less than 50 games. I’m no math whiz, but considering there are 162 games in a season, I’d have to say he’s on pace for approximately 60.

Who’s to say he can’t go on another ridiculous streak and bomb 8 in one week? He’s certainly got the eye, the strength and the swing to do more damage. My only problem is he hasn’t played a full season…ever? Chances are, Hamilton will miss a chunk of about 15-20 games, which could greatly hinder his home run chase.

My verdict: Hamilton goes nuts this year. But not nuts enough. I’ll give him an average well over .300, 52 homers and 145 RBI. Those numbers will earn him the MVP and two of the three Triple Crown categories. But the home run record will remain Roger Maris’.

Suck on that, Barry, Mark and Sammy.

Last on the agenda today, a sad announcement. Jam Shots will be moving to a weekly format, instead of daily. I’ve been writing this (almost) daily since January 23rd, a span of 130 days by the end of this month. This is my 113th post, out of 125 days.

I’m impressed with myself. That’s like…like…a .900 batting average! Unheard of! Incredible! Hall of Fame worthy!

Alas, I can’t keep up. I’m hanging up my keyboard and going into more of a player/manager role. I do anticipate a couple of things: my weekly blogs will be even MORE epic. And, I get to also post weekly on my old blog, Jamblin’ Man! That one won’t be about sports, so 90 percent of my audience will actually read them. If you like my sports, stick with Jam Shots. Otherwise, be ready for the revival of an old friend.

And there will just be so much more room for activities.

Jam Shots will be strictly for sports, posted once a week. Jamblin’ Man will show off my freelance writing SKILLZ, with just thoughts, ramblings, poetry, travel writing, creative writing and everything in between. And of course…that will be posted once a week as well.

Thanks to everyone who has clicked my silly links every day in 2012, and hopefully, when June rolls around and this baby goes weekly, you’ll stick with me and continue to read.

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

Top Ten Thursday

May 24, 2012

The top reason I ignore you for three hours a day is that the Dodgers are playing. And by “you” I mean anyone that I’ve ever met. That includes you, dogs, cats and other furry creatures. Here are the ten main things I tend to ignore when watching my Dodgers:

1. Basic hygiene – Thank god for showers and cranberry Dove soap. For…men. I swear.

2. Eating – Thank god for pretzel sticks and lemonade.

3. Family and friends – I will literally forget who you are after the lineups are announced. Sorry.

4. Work – Thank god for unemployment pay.

5. Thinking – Derppppppppppppppppppppp.

6. Breathing –  Driving through all those tunnels as a kid really paid off.

7. Using the restroom – There is absolutely no way I don’t have a bladder infection at this point.

8. Blinking – This is me during Dodger games. Just not so frightened.

9. Sleeping – Have you ever tried a triple size, triple strength Rockstar? They are delicious.

10. Moving – No need to move. I pretty much eliminated any chance of those things happening with numbers 1-9.

Now you know. Don’t bug me from first pitch until final out. Why do you think I’ve had so much time today to write this blog? It’s an off-day! Duh.

Follow Jam Shots on Twitter with its author’s tag, @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

Where Have All the Sluggers Gone?

May 16, 2012

Long lines suck. Coke lines are bad for you. And conga lines are cliché. But the worst possible type of line in the whole wide world is the Mendoza Line.

For those of you that don’t know, that’s a .200 batting average. If you are “below the Mendoza Line,” you are a really terrible baseball player.

Some players manage to play an entire 162-game season and hit below the line, yet still sign lucrative contracts (that’s you Carlos Pena and Mark Reynolds). I won’t ever understand THAT, but it’s not the topic of conversation tonight.

What I want to know is how in the world three incredibly talented hitters are flirting with Mendoza so hard that their wives think they are being cheated on!

Namely, Albert Pujols (.212), Jose Bautista (.195) and Eric Hosmer (.182). These are some of the better hitters in all of baseball, and they are all struggling mightily.

If it were still early in the season, it can be excused as a slow start, but we are almost 1/4 of the way through. Now it becomes worrisome. All three teams have serious playoff aspirations in 2012, but I can guarantee none will get there without these players stepping up.

Here’s my outlook for the power-hitting American League trio:

Pujols – He is Albert Pujols. He will be fine. He hit his second homer tonight and will probably go .300/30/100 by the end of the season. Sure, he took more time to adjust to the AL than many expected, but there is a reason the guy is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame at age 32.

Bautista – The Jays’ main man has bloomed late in his career and hit nearly 100 homers combined in the last two seasons. In 2011 he really put his game together, raising his average and improving his plate discipline. So is 2012 a fluke or was 2011? I think he’ll have a rough average (maybe .265 at best) but should post another 30 homer, 100 RBI season. Don’t worry, Canada!

Hosmer – This kid is the one I’m most worried about. He’s making my trendy Wild Card pick of the Royals look ridiculous with his play right now. The Sophomore Slump is in full effect for Hosmer, who looked like the next great star in baseball. With a swing like his, I think he’ll have a fine career. This season? If he hits 25 homer I’ll be shocked at this point.

There you have it. What do YOU think about Pujols, Bautista and Hosmer? Comment below or tweet me @Jamblinman!

Thanks for reading. Until tomorrow, please don’t snort any Mendoza lines.

Defending Dodger Fans’ Honor

May 8, 2012

You know…there are some days when I log on to this blog and go, “What the HELL am I going to write about today?” When that happens, sometimes I post a bunch of crap. Other times, like today, something magically appears that I feel strongly about and feel inclined to write about.

When I was perusing the blogosphere this morning (yes, I do that), I came across THIS madness

Henry Schulman, I’m not one to call names. But you are a raging douche canoe. And you should be fired as a Giants beat writer, because you clearly don’t understand their most important rivalry.

Schulman was literally the only person in Los Angeles last night who thought Dodger fans were booing Matt Kemp. We are talking about a legitimate MVP candidate every season, who is hitting over .400 by the way.

Dodger fans may show up late, they may leave early. But they don’t boo their own players undeservedly. I want to punch Schulman’s puppy. Right in the face. Twice.

Also, I’m not one to engage in petty bloguments (yes I am), but if you want to attack Dodger fans, two can play at this game.

Let me just point out that Dodgers fans boo whenever the Giants score a run. And I don’t mean just against us. I mean when we see on TV that they score a run, we boo. In our living rooms. That’s what a rivalry IS. We wish ill will on the Giants in the form of going 0-162 every…single…season.

And we expect the same to happen the other way around. That being said, I’ve BEEN to AT&T for games multiple times. I live there, I can’t stay away from baseball. And I’ve sat in the bleachers, and never been more disappointed by a general group of sober fans’ lack of knowledge about their team.

I’m not saying those fans aren’t legit, and I definitely don’t think that faction represents the general knowledge level of Giants fans (trust me…tons of my friends are SF fans and they know their shit). But if this Schulman guy thinks he knows the rivalry, he needs to take a step back and make sure he’s not part of that bleacher crew himself.

Because even true Giants fans know that Dodgers fans wouldn’t boo our franchise player. We’ve been tortured since 1988, and the only thing we’ve done wrong since then is not sat in three hours of traffic to see them play in person.

Forget Tim Lincecum…Henry Schulman is now public enemy number one.

Follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman!

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