Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

What to do with no sports on tonight

- July 17th, 2013

So sports fans, you have two whole nights off from the four biggest North American sports league  – two of the three days in your average calendar year. It used to only be two, but baseball decided to extend their break by a day.

Quick Tangent: That was always one of my favourite trivia questions. ‘What are the only two days of the year when there are no major sports played?’

Of course, this doesn’t account for the other “fringe” sports that are going on. The Tour de France is about halfway done. There’s a tennis tournament in Sweden, but none of the big names are there. MLS is has a couple of tonight, but I doubt that you want to stay up to watch TFC play at 10:30 p.m. against a team – Chivas USA – that is equally bad as they are. The British Open starts Thursday, but that again is accompanied by a rather painful start time – the first tee-off is 1:32 a.m. EDT.

There’s also some CFL, I’m told, but who cares about that?

So what’re you going to do with all your free time? Here are some suggestions.

-You could go outside. You know, the place that they play sports. Maybe you can even organize a game of your own. Just remember to stay hydrated. It’s damn hot out there.

-Speaking of staying hydrated, you could go out and hit a patio for some adult bevies with your pals. This of course applies to either after you play some sports or even without partaking. There’s nothing better than sharing a pitcher to beat the heat with some buddies.

-Or, and this is probably the best idea for some, you could go on a date with your usually emotionally neglected significant other. They have to spend a lot of nights putting up with you sitting around watching one of our local teams likely lose, why not treat them for their patience?

But, whatever you do, don’t sit around and watch reality television. It’s bad enough that there are as many “Real Housewives” shows as there are.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Getting reacquainted with baseball

- July 3rd, 2013

In case you haven’t noticed, nights have been getting a lot less hectic in the sports world. Well, that’s understandable considering both the NHL and NBA have completed their seasons and have moved into their free agency periods – times where there are more rumours and reports than actual substance.

Want to know what you’ve been missing? Well there’s no shortage of good storylines.

-Care to hazard a guess as to who is leading the majors in home runs right now? You’re probably going to be wrong. It’s Baltimore’s Chris Davis. After hitting a career high last year with 33, he now has an unbelievable 31 and it’s barely July. I’m not one to question someone’s power numbers sky rocketing, but this one seems a bit fishy.

-The only player really standing in the way of Miguel Cabrera nabbing a second straight Triple Crown? That would be Davis. How crazy is it that an insane outlier season is the one thing standing in the way of true history? I’m no Tigers fan or even one of Cabrera, but that deserves a lot of respect.

-For a little while there, the three best teams in baseball were all in the same division – and it wasn’t the AL East. Nope, the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates were held the three best records in baseball. And they didn’t even have the Houston Astros to beat up on any more. Looks like there has been a changing of the guard as for the best division out there.

-The real question is if the Pittsburgh Pirates can hold it together. They were in a similar situation last season and collapsed to finish their 19th straight season under .500. This year, they have the young aces and strong lineup to do it, I think. But you can never be surprised with what happens in a culture of losing.

-The AL East is no slouch either. The last-place Jays are just one game under .500, by far the best last-place team in the league. That was thanks in large part to an 11-game winning streak. It was about time. Fans have been dying for this talented yet unlucky team to turn it around.

-It’s very hard to believe, but Justin Verlander isn’t the best pitcher in the majors, the American League, his division or even on his own team. Nope, that would be Max Scherzer, who leads the majors with a 12-0 record. Who would have thought a Tiger not named Verlander could start the all-star game?

-Another amazing stat? Bartolo Colon has 11 wins. He hasn’t reached that total since 2005. Not too bad for a guy who just turned 40.

-Oh yeah, and the Mets have actually found a young ace. Matt Harvey even leads the NL in strikeouts and is a sure bet for an all-star spot. It’s a good thing I didn’t drop him before the season started.

-There are two amazing reasons to watch the L.A. Dodgers: Yasiel Puig and the fact they love to brawl. Twice the Dodgers have thrown down with opposition this season and they’ve been on the brink a couple more. And with Mark McGwire on the bench, this isn’t a squad you really want to mess with.

-And finally, we saw our first no-hitter of the season on Tuesday night. While there were many close cllls earlier this season – especially with stronger AL team facing the lowly Astros – nobody could actually pull through. Well, Homer Bailey did, the same guy who picked up the last no-no of 2012. He’s the first player to record the two most recent no-hitters since Nolan Ryan did it in the 70s. Also, do you think he likes facing the Giants? The last time he faced them he tossed a one-hitter in the playoffs.

So, now that we’re all caught up, you can now get fully into baseball season. That is, until the NFL opens up shop – and that’s a lot closer than you think.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Don’t get down on the Jays – yet

- April 9th, 2013

This may sound a bit weird coming from a guy that wrote how we shouldn’t be so quick to expect a title, or even the playoffs, from the Jays, but let’s not be so quick to condemn this team. Let’s just say that this is the optimist’s side of things, something a commenter suggested I should take.

Let’s start with the best thing that the Jays have going for them: The long ball. As of Sunday, the Jays were top of the American League in homers. The bad part is that with the dingers usually comes strikeouts at the plate – a category that the Jays aren’t faring so well at.

But as the excitement of the early season hype dies down, we’ll see some more control at the plate and less whiffs. But we won’t see the long balls slow down as much. As the weather warms up and the dome is opened, the ‘condo jetstream’ will still help push those fly balls carry.

The Jays vaunted revamped rotation has also taken a bit of beating, especially ace R.A. Dickey. The thing with knuckleballers is that they will inevitably go through rough patches. It looks like Dickey is in one of those now, in a very unfortunate point at the start of the campaign. Well, considering his Cy Young reputation, it seems like a good bet that the former Met will turn things around in a couple of starts and perhaps even go on one of those outstanding runs that knucklers can. We used to see Tim Wakefield get shelled for a week or two then bounce back with three incredible starts in a row. It’s just how these things work.

Opening the season at home with the amount of pressure that comes with being a World Series favourite was bound to impact this newly put together squad. Perhaps getting out on the road will put some of that at ease.

This is also a team of guys that are relatively new to each other. With some players also away at the World Baseball Classic this spring, many guys are still learning about each other’s games. The more they play now, the better they’ll play with each other.

Let’s also remember that Brett Lawrie is out of the lineup. Once he returns, the Jays will be solidified at third base both offensively and defensively. That will allow the Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis to return to the platoon they were supposed to play in.

Can we really expect the playoffs from the Jays?

- April 2nd, 2013

There has been much ink spilled over the Toronto Blue Jays splashing a lot of money and overhauling their roster in the offseason. Now, with tonight’s opener, it’s finally time to put those players to the test and embark on a 162-game journey which will hopefully arrive at the playoffs come October.

But is it right to expect such a feat from the 2013 Blue Jays, a team that hasn’t been in the post-season since winning the World Series 20 years ago?

First of all, let’s just go over the team that most of the incoming players arrived from: The Miami Marlins. This is a team that basically brought in these very same players last year for a so-called instant rebuild, why should we think that it’ll be different in Toronto? Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and Josh Johnson were all part of one of the worst squads in baseball. It’s not unrealistic to think that they won’t work out perfectly here, in their new team.

Next up is 38-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. He’s coming off two amazing seasons – including a Cy Young last year – being the ace of the New York Mets, another one of the worst squads in MLB. The knuckleball is a pitch that can be terribly inconsistent, so can you trust that Dickey will be able to deliver another top-notch season, especially playing with a new tandem of catchers?

Melky Cabrera joined the Jays hot off a 50-game suspension for PED use. If you can’t see an issue with that, then I don’t know what to tell you. It remains to be seen if he is capable of duplicating his big numbers with San Francisco last year without that extra help.

It should also be mentioned that all of these players are coming over from the National League, which is a step below the American League talent-wise. There can be a definite drop-off after coming over to the AL, especially with pitchers who now have to face the DH every game.

You also have to remember that Edwin Encarnacion is coming off a career year that I’d guess he won’t be able to live up to and that Brett Lawrie is already injured. More concerning about Lawrie is that he suffered a similar rib injury to the one he had last season. If this is a reoccurring thing, it could seriously hamper his season, if not his career.

And don’t even get me started on the trainwreck that is Ricky Romero.

But hey, at least Jose Bautista has been mashing home runs and should return to his superstar slugger form.

All said, with a roster this talented, there’s no way that the Jays shouldn’t wrap up one of the wild card spots and will challenge the Rays for the AL East. But, then again, many – including me – thought the Marlins would do the same last year.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

 

A changing of the guard in 2013 for MLB

- March 29th, 2013

This season it seems that major league baseball is marking a serious changing of the guard. Never have we seen so many legends just barely hanging on at the ends of their careers and such tantalizing prospects ready to take the reigns as tomorrow’s heroes.

For an example of superstars near the end of their ropes, look no further than the New York Yankees. Derek Jeter is still recovering from his broken ankle and he’s 38-years-old. The greatest relief pitcher ever, Mariano Rivera, is coming back from a torn ACL and has announced that this will be his final season. As for Alex Rodriguez – the man who will make more money than the entire Houston Astros team combined – he’s not in good shape. A-Rod is not only recovering from hip surgery, but is also embroiled in another PED scandal.

Even the Yanks comparatively younger stars, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, are hurt and will miss at least two months each.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have some of the brightest young talents that baseball has ever seen. The Angels’ Mike Trout and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper are 20 and 21 years old, respectively and are already playing all-star calibre ball. If they can simply keep playing at the level they did last season, they will be sure-fire hall of famers.

Both are the types of special players that can define a generation. Five-tool guys that can honestly do it all on the field. Heck, Trout would have won MVP last season if Miguel Cabrera hadn’t bagged the first triple crown since 1967.

We also can’t forget one of the most electric pitchers that baseball has seen in recent memory, Stephen Strasburg. The kid is only 24 and has already come back from Tommy John surgery better than ever. He has one of the most devastating curveballs in the game and is a thrill to watch. Even better, he’s Harper’s teammate in Washington.

Getting two epic prospects two drafts in a row like that is just like landing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin back-to-back like the Pittsburgh Penguins did. That’s how good the Nationals duo can be.

But now, onto the picks for this transformative season.

AL East: Tampa Bay Rays.
AL Central: Detroit Tigers.
AL West: Texas Rangers.
AL wildcards: L.A. Angels, Toronto Blue Jays.
NL East: Washington Nationals.
NL Central: Cincinnati Reds.
NL West: San Francisco Giants.
NL wildcards: Atlanta Braves, L.A. Dodgers.
Overachievers: The Upton brothers, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals.
Underachievers: Baltimore Orioles, Chris Sale, Oakland Athletics.
Storylines: The Pirates finally finish over .500, the Jays return to the playoffs, Houston is in the chase for the worst record ever, Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper: Round 2, the Yankees hold it together through their many injuries, players can actually hit home runs at Safeco Field and Petco Park now – and the home pitchers hate it.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, LAA
NL MVP: Justin Upton, ATL
AL Cy Young: David Price, TB
NL Cy Young: Matt Cain, SF
AL champion: Tampa Bay Rays
NL champion: Washington Nationals.
World Series champion: Washington over Tampa Bay in six.