Baseball really has its finger on the pulse of what people like and want. To have the guts to have FOUR Opening Days is really quite special. First, we had Mariners versus the A’s over in Japan. Then last night you had Miami versus St. Louis. Today has a half-docket of games, with the rest of the league beginning play tomorrow. As usual, Bud Selig is doing a great job as Emperor of Baseball.
Anyway, as usual, please forgive any typos and errors. I’m drinking and no one is editing this shit. Let’s get to it.
* I watched the first four innings of the Tigers-Red Sox game. Justin Verlander has historically been a terrible Opening Day starter. He’s never won on on the first day of the season in (I think) seven starts and he has an ERA over 8. But today he’s in prime form as he’s got a one-hitter through four.
I don’t think that a starting pitcher should ever win the MVP, but damn is that kid good. And I have to admit: His MLB 2K12 commercial is great. It also never hurts having Kate Upton in there, too. On a side note, if you haven’t seen Kate Upton’s Hardee’s commercial, please do yourself a favor and click on this link. Hell, even if you’ve already seen it, it’s worth another watch. 14:27
* As great as Verlander is, I’m going to switch over to the Nats game to watch Stephen Strasburg. If you like baseball, then you have to be praying that this kid bounces back from Tommy John surgery. I’m not a fan of pitch counts and I hope that the Nats don’t baby Stras too much. I’m with Nolan Ryan: Make these guys throw a ton and build up their arm strength. 14:36
* Let’s do some predictions. If you haven’t already checked out Jake Quint’s preview, click here. He’s a far more humorous writer than I am, even if he wishes that he had my brilliant ability to bring the worlds of finance and technology to life on paper.
Well start with the AL East. Assuming that the Red Sox aren’t completely mind-fucked by their epic collapse last season, then I think that they have the best team all around, even if there are some question marks at the back end of the rotation and at closer, I think that those spots will actually work themselves out. I think the Yankees are going to find that their pitching acquisitions were not what the ywere hoping for. Obviously, that’s already the case with Michael Pineda. Hiroki Kuroda? I’m not buying it in that ballpark. Now you’re asking for Freddy Garcia to have another good year, and praying that Phil Hughes has a year of consistency and Ivan Nova pans out. That might be asking a lot.
I think the Yanks are going to be the odd team out, unless they grab that extra wild card slot. I like Tampa to finish right behind the BoSox. That pitching staff is nasty, and if Matt Moore is what I think he is, this staff can compete with Philadelphia’s as best in the league. Baltimore and Toronto will have to keep on hoping for realignment. 14:47
* BTW, Strasburg had a solid first inning. He jammed the first two hitters and then caused Sterling Castro to pop up to the mound…unfortunately, Stras vacated the mound and neither the first or third basemen could get to the ball. Then Alfonso Soriano hit an absolute bomb to straight away center, but the wind is blowing in hard and the ball didn’t even make it to the warning track. On most any other day at Wrigley that’s a homer. The same fate befell Ryan Zimmerman in the first, except his at least made the track.
All told for Stras in the first, seven pitches and five strikes. 14:50
* Brilliant second inning for Strasburg. He looks sharp. 14:56
* Fun inning for Miguel Cabrera in the sixth inning. He made an error and made an unnecessary acrobatic grab in foul territory. Watching Tigers games this year will be fun. Every ball hit toward Miguel at third will be an adventure. (Kind of like this.) With two runners on and two outs, Verlander got out of the jam by striking out David Ortiz. Still scoreless. 15:01
* Strasburg is breaking bats and just making people look silly. Fastball is in the mid-90s with good movement. Lot’s of tail to his two-seamer. 15:13
* On the the AL Central. Clearly the Tigers are the best team not just in their division, but possibly in all of baseball. The starting rotation looks a tad shaky, but I’m a fan of Max Scherzer. Doug Fister is a question mark, as is Rick Porcello. But they should be able to score lots of runs and they have a wicked good bullpen that will take some of the pressure off of the starters.
Cleveland has a ton of promise, especially with their bats, but I have my doubts that this team can both stay healthy and find stability in the rotation. Chicago has the pitching but their hitters are getting long in the tooth and the young guys haven’t caught my interest yet. A lot of people are fawning over Kansas City, as seems to happen every year, but that club is going to do anything. Minnesota has some positive spots, but I doubt that this is an 80-win team. This is kind of a shit division that Detroit should beat up on. 15:23
* Since I took today off, I decided to check out ESPN’s “First Take”. I figured that they couldn’t possibly be talking about Tim Tebow considering that the Masters is starting up today and it’s Opening Day. Well, they weren’t talking Tebow…but it was still infuriating anyway. Nope, on a major sports day they dedicated two 15-minute or so segments in the first hour to LeBron James and whether or not he is “clutch” based off one game last night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. I’m done with First Take and will never, ever watch it again. It’s worse than black tar heroin. 15:28
* Now the AL West. This is the future home of the Houston Astros, and I’m not too happy about it. I’ve already written about this, but let me just reiterate that this is a complete screw job being done to the Astros by Emperor Selig. That means games will start later; this team is not built for the DH; more travel; a tougher division. But, as Lance Berkman said, Selig extorted new owner Jim Crane by holding up the sale of the team and giving him a discount if he agreed to move. Mind you, that’s a future Hall of Famer saying that; shouldn’t that have made more headlines?
Anyway, on to the West. This is clearly a two-team race between Anaheim and Texas. Anaheim has a scary team if Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter are still effective ballplayers. Adding Albert Pujols to that lineup, and with a rotation of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, CJ Wilson and Ervin Santana, I think that the Angels might end up with the best overall record in baseball.
The Rangers still have a monster offense, but that pitching staff worries me…but, then again, I’ve never really given Texas pitchers the credit they deserve. I like Texas for one of the wild card slots.
As for Seattle, Ichiro is still my favorite ballplayer to watch and I love Dustin Ackley. Jesus Montero is interesting and Felix Hernandez is a beast. Still, not enough there to compete with the Rangers and Angels. The only thing that interests me about Oakland is Cuban-born Yoenis Cespedes. After that, nada. 15:42
* Switched back to the Tigers game and Verlander is throwing a gem. Eight innings, no runs, two hits, one walk, seven K’s. Strasburg got hit just a bit in the fourth but is now through five and has only allowed one run. Johan Santana, who is also returning from injury, pitched five scoreless innings on 84 pitches. A positive sign for what will likely be a long season for the Mets faithful. 15:50
* NL East. The Phillies are getting old, but the Big 3 of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels should be enough to make the playoffs, especially with Jonathan Papelbon closing the show in the ninth. Miami is going to be right there with Philly. That is a team that is going to drive teams nuts with all their speed and that big outfield. A lot of ifs here, but IF Josh Johnson comes back to form after missing almost all of last season, if Jose Reyes stays healthy, if Mark Buehrle isn’t too old, if Carlos Zambrano isn’t a corpse, and if Gaby Sanchez progresses past a 19-homer first baseman, then this is the best team in the NL. I’m going to go with Miami in first, followed closely by Philadelphia, which will grab a wild card slot.
Atlanta has a really good, young team. You have to respect the hell out of the management of that organization. We’re talking about two decades of quality baseball and I think that the Braves have enough to grab the other wild card. But, it won’t be easy because this is a very tough division.
Washington is at least a year away and the Mets are four years away. 16:04
* Jose Valverde converted 49 of 49 save attempts last season. This season, he’s 0 for 1. Valverde ruined Verlander’s brilliance by allowing two runs in the top of the ninth. Tie game. 16:05
* The Mets finished off the Braves 1–0. Philadelphia beat the Pirates 1–0, with Roy Halladay throwing 8 scoreless innings of two-hit ball. Paps closed it out. 16:09
* NL Central. I hate to say it, but this has to be the worst division in baseball. The big question with St. Louis is can Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, and Carlos Beltran both stay healthy and be productive without Albert Pujols in the lineup. The pitching staff is nice, especially if Jason Motte is the real thing at closer. I have my doubts though that this team won’t look old by August/September. Milwaukee got VERY lucky that Ryan Braun was granted a pass on being a cheater. I think that Milwaukee will win this division with about 85 wins.
I like Cincinnati, but not to win it this year. But, this is the kind of team that if they can stay competitive into August and go out and pick up a big arm, they could sneak in the back door. Pittsburgh and the Cubs will struggle to reach 75 wins, while the Astros will struggle to reach 55 wins. Nice way to leave the National League. 16:22
* An Austin Jackson single in the bottom of the ninth salvages a win for Detroit after Valverde’s blown save. 16:23
* I just realized that Miami is playing the Cincinnati Reds. Can someone please explain why they had a one-game “series” against the Cardinals yesterday in Miami, and then got shipped up to Cincy? 16:25
* Finally, the NL West. A lot of people like Arizona, but I’m not one of them. I think that Ian Kennedy is going to come back down to Earth, and I am not impressed with that lineup, outside of Justin Upton, who might just make a run at MVP if Arizona does have a good season. I like San Francisco, but that offense is kind of bleak.
I’m actually going to go with the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have a stud in Clayton Kershaw and four other really good, capable starters in Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano. If Andre Ethier bounces back and the likes of James Loney, Juan Rivera and Dee Gordon play at top form, this is the best team in the NL West, especially when add Matt Kemp into the mix.
I just don’t think that the Rockies have enough pitching to compete this year. Let’s be honest, if you need Jamie Moyer to fill out your rotation, that is a bad sign. San Diego will pull up the rear. 16:39
* Strasburg went seven innings, gave up one run on five hits and a walk. He struck out five, threw 82 pitches, 70% of which were strikes. He’ll get a no decision. Good performance. 16:42
* OK ya’ll, the CMS is being a bit glitchy today so I’m going to call it a wrap. I’m predicting a Philadelphia-Anaheim World Series, with the Angels winning the whole thing. But for what it’s worth, I have no confidence in that prediction whatsoever. Feel free to tell us who you think is going to win in the Comments section. Cheers. 16:50—Anthony Malakian