A Quick Guide To: #SpringTraining

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Spring Questions For All 30 Teams:

Will the Cubs live up to the rampant World Series expectations? Are the D-backs for real? Can David Price make his contract worth it? Are the Royals a dynasty in the making? Do the Blue Jays, Astros and Mets have staying power?

Spring Training preview materials will be loaded with these questions and more, but the obvious truth is that Spring Training itself can’t answer those questions. So the goal in this particular preview, mere days away from pitchers and catchers report dates, is to pose an actual, spring-specific question each Major League club is facing on the cusp of camp.

I’m dedicating this column to the memory of my friend and teammate Tom Singer, who suddenly passed away earlier this week. Tom was one of the more inquisitive and creative minds in the business, and I know he was looking forward to showing up at Spring Training camps and asking unique questions of his own.

Here we go….

NL East

Mets: How carefully should the young starters be eased into the season?

For the Mets, it will be a delicate balance between overworking and underworking Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard after they all saw significant innings increases due to the postseason run. Syndergaard jumped 65 2/3 innings from his 2014 total in the Minors, while deGrom and Harvey jumped 37 2/3 apiece. Because of injury, Steven Matz (15 2/3) didn’t see quite as big an increase, though he, like Syndergaard, is entering his first full Major League season, an adjustment in and of itself. These guys need to be properly prepared for the every-five-day grind, but they should also probably see a less rigorous spring workload than the typical big league starter.

Nationals: Is Trea Turner ready for the big leagues?

The Grapefruit League will be a great test of the Nats’ new-look infield. Anthony Rendon is moving back to his natural position at third base — a fine move in isolation (he grades out better defensively there than at second base). But some scouts believe Daniel Murphy would be far better suited at third than at second base and that Rendon is the better defensive option at second. And then, of course, there’s the big question at short, where the Nats’ options come down to a utility guy (Danny Espinosa) who has spent far more of his career at second, a light-hitting free-agent signee (Stephen Drew) and the top prospect (Turner), who has only played 212 games in what has already been a whirlwind pro career (including 27 with the Nats down the stretch in 2015). Lots of questions in this infield.

Marlins: Can Barry Bonds help Marcell Ozuna’s swing?

New manager Don Mattingly and new hitting coach Bonds pleaded with the front office to keep Ozuna despite the rampant trade rumblings and the disconnect between player and organization last season. Ozuna was one of eight players identified as above-average in each of the five-tool categories by Statcast™, so the potential is off the charts. But his decline in production last season — leading to a controversial stay in Triple-A — was as swift as it was stunning, and spring is an important time for Ozuna and Bonds to develop a positive working relationship.

Braves: Will Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn open any eyes with their spring at-bats?

It’s no secret the Braves would love to move one or both of these guys. So they are destined to receive a steady dose of Grapefruit League at-bats as the Braves try to garner enough interest for a salary dump swap. With Freddie Freeman working his way back from a wrist injury, perhaps Swisher will see some time at first base.

Phillies: Is Tyler Goeddel the next Odubel Herrera?

Last year, Herrera arrived as a Rule 5 Draft pickup and wound up leading the Phillies in WAR (and yes, that says as much about the Phils as it does Herrera). Now, Goeddel is the marquee Rule 5 Draft addition (the first overall pick). That he’ll make the big league club is a foregone conclusion, because the Phillies have nothing to lose by keeping him. The question is how much the athletic but unpolished Goeddel will separate himself from Aaron Altherr, Peter Bourjos and Cody Asche in the battle for playing time in Pete Mackanin’s lineup.

AL East

Blue Jays: Will Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion agree to extensions?

In the lead-up to Opening Day, the new-look front office will have to weigh the attraction of satiating the fan base and ensuring stability in the long-term lineup against the obvious risks that come with power hitters in their mid-to-late-30s. These discussions will take place when all parties arrive in Dunedin, Fla., later this month.

Yankees: CC Sabathia or Ivan Nova?

The last rotation spot is the lone source of genuine positional intrigue in Yankees camp. (That said, Starlin Castro’s continued immersion at second base and first-ever trial at third base, where the Yanks might need him as a Chase Headley backup, is interesting). Sabathia is the former Cy Young Award winner coming off a homer-prone year that ended in alcohol rehab. Nova is the Tommy John alum the Yanks tried to trade. General manager Brian Cashman has said Sabathia’s $25 million salary wouldn’t preclude the Yanks from sticking CC in the bullpen if somebody else (Nova is the obvious candidate, though Bryan Mitchell is another) wins the job outright.

Orioles: What’s the outlook for the outfield?

They’re reportedly making progress with Yovani Gallardo to fill a big hole in the rotation, so let’s focus on the outfield here. Big-bodied Hyun-soo Kim, fresh off signing a two-year contract with the O’s, will arrive from South Korea and try to prove he has the range and athleticism to handle the everyday left-field assignment. Adam Jones was tasked with covering a ton of outfield ground last year, and his performance tailed off in the last two months of the season. At the moment, right field likely belongs to Nolan Reimold, though an O’s team familiar with in-spring splashes could still sign somebody to support or replace him.

Rays: Will James Loney, Desmond Jennings or Brandon Guyer be moved?

It’s a question that presumes a healthy camp, of course, but it would solve a logjam. Dealing Loney would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, Corey Dickerson to spend the bulk of his time at DH and Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. to provide dependable defense in the outfield, with Guyer as a bench option vs. lefties. Or the Rays could move Jennings or Guyer and open up more at-bats for Pearce and Morrison. Whatever the case, one presumes the Rays would be seeking relief help in any deal involving their position player depth.

Red Sox: Can Hanley Ramirez handle first base?

The Red Sox don’t have any position battles, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have position issues. Hanley’s position switch last year — from shortstop to left field — wasn’t subjected to any truly challenging plays during the spring schedule, but obviously the ball is going to find him at first. Because they’re paying Ramirez a ton of money, the Red Sox have no choice but to hope this works — and the same goes for Pablo Sandoval at third. The Panda’s physical condition will, naturally, be a spring storyline all its own.

NL Central

Cardinals: What is Yadier Molina’s timetable?

Molina will spend camp’s early days not swinging the bat or catching bullpen sessions, but building strength back up in his left thumb after having a second surgery this winter. Because there’s no telling how long that process will take and how much it will affect his season preparation, it’s hard to know if Molina will be ready by Opening Day. To say getting him back in a timely matter is important for the Cards is, of course, an understatement.

Pirates: How well is Jung Ho Kang progressing?

Because of the division’s demands, the decisions to deal Neil Walker and non-tender Pedro Alvarez, and the lack of additions of bankable depth options, the Pirates can ill-afford any medical setbacks for Kang, who suffered a fractured tibial plateau and torn lateral meniscus on an ugly takeout slide by Chris Coghlan last September. The move to third base (with Jordy Mercer at short and Josh Harrison replacing Walker at second) will limit Kang’s lateral movement when he returns. As of now, the Pirates are expecting him back in April, with Sean Rodriguez (last seen assaulting a water cooler) filling in and Minor League free agent Cole Figueroa competing for a bench job.

Cubs: Can Kyle Schwarber improve in left field?

As much as we love this Cubs lineup, there’s no denying there are defensive concerns in the outfield, where Jorge Soler had some surprising struggles in ’15, Jason Heyward is moving from right to center and, most importantly, Schwarber was a mess during the NLCS. Schwarber has been working on his first step and flexibility this winter, and that work will be put to the test in Arizona. But his efforts in left coincide with his work behind the plate, where he still hopes to remain an option long-term. Combine all of this with Schwarber’s bid for more at-bats against left-handed pitching, and the kid’s got a lot on his plate.

Brewers: How’s Ryan Braun feeling?

Not that the Brewers are making an earnest effort to contend in 2016, but Braun could stillpotentially play himself into a viable trade chip (provided the Brew Crew is willing to eat some cash, of course) if he’s healthy and producing the way he did for much of ’15. Braun had surgery for a herniated disc in the offseason, but he won’t have a clear idea of how well his back is responding until the regular swings that come in the Cactus League.

Reds: Will a market develop for Jay Bruce?

He only remains in Cincinnati as a function of the unusually deep and late-developing free-agent outfield market this winter, because the Reds, now in full-on rebuild mode, were motivated to move him. Most likely, Bruce will start the season with the Reds and try to piece together enough of a bounce-back campaign to become July trade bait. But all it takes is one spring injury elsewhere to suddenly make the idea of dealing for Bruce more palatable for a contending club. The Reds also have to hope Zack Cozart’s grisly knee injury last year hasn’t affected his defense at short, because he, too, could play himself into trade-chip status.

AL Central

Royals: Can Christian Colon steal playing time from Omar Infante?

In the third year of a four-year deal, Infante will make $7.75 million, and there was a time when that fact alone would settle him into a starting spot for this small-market club. But you might have noticed things are a little different in the realm of the Royals these days, and they’re calling this a legitimate position battle between Infante and Colon, who drove in the winning run in the World Series Game 5 clincher. (Top prospect Raul A. Mondesi will also get consideration but is far more likely to start the season in the Minors). Sure, the Royals are paying Infante a good amount of money, but, hey, they took Colon ahead of Matt Harvey in the 2010 Draft! One way or another, they’ll look for better returns on both of these investments.

Twins: Will Miguel Sano stick in right?

Byung Ho Park’s transition to the bigs is also a major matter in Minnesota, but Sano’s defensive work — directly related to Park’s arrival — will be a more pressing spring concern. Torii Hunter will be in camp as a special assistant to work with the 6-foot-4 Sano in the outfield, and the Twins’ lineup alignment demands that this experiment be successful. Sano was tasked with dropping 20 pounds this winter. Citing a desire to maintain his power, he dropped just five. He’s agile for his size, but this is undoubtedly a big test for him.

Indians: Will Michael Brantley continue his rapid recovery?

He’s the key to the whole darn thing for an Indians team projected by FanGraphs to have the best record in the division despite a less-than-dynamic winter. Brantley didn’t have surgery on his lead shoulder until early November, which means you can count him out for Opening Day and likely all or most of April. But because his recovery has progressed so well so far, Brantley must avoid the temptation to do too much too soon, lest he suffer a setback that crushes a Tribe club already prone toward slow starts.

White Sox: What’s up at short?

Tyler Saladino played terrific defense at third base for the Sox down the stretch last season, but his 68 OPS+ detracted from his value. So it’s an open question whether he’s ready for prime time at a prime spot, and he could be pushed in camp by top prospect Tim Anderson. The other, still-lingering question here is whether the Sox will wind up too tempted by Ian Desmond’s reduced price tag to pass him up. With a protected top-10 Draft pick, the White Sox are better positioned to sign Desmond than many others in the market.

Tigers: Can Bruce Rondon work his way into the bullpen plans?

Well, obviously we’ll be playing close attention to the statuses of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. But they’ve both had a healthy offseason, so, at this point, there’s little reason to doubt they’ll be in the Opening Day lineup and, hopefully, ready to produce. But Rondon’s dismissal from the club due to a lack of effort makes him an interesting figure in camp. The Tigers’ bullpen has a new closer in Francisco Rodriguez and better balance overall, but there’s always room for a motivated flamethrower. We’ll soon learn for sure if Rondon is committed to winning the respect of his teammates.

NL West

Dodgers: Will Hyun-Jin Ryu be ready by Opening Day?

And if so, what does that mean for fellow lefty Alex Wood? The Dodgers have assembled rotation depth to allow Ryu to ease into action, rather than rush back from labrum surgery. So the most likely outcome is that he starts the season in extended Spring Training or on a rehab assignment. But the Dodgers could also be tempted to take advantage of Wood’s ability to be optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Giants: How is Joe Panik’s back?

He’s 25 years old and coming off an All-Star season. But that season was cut short by back woes. Doctors have not discovered any structural damage, so Panik did not have surgery. But only time and performance will dictate whether this will be a persistent problem for a club all too familiar with back issues involving their second basemen (see: Sanchez, Freddy and Scutaro, Marco).

D-backs: Can Yasmany Tomas acquit himself in the outfield?

In their bold bid to take a major competitive step forward, there’s no denying the D-backs sacrificed defense by involving Ender Inciarte in the Shelby Miller swap. The question is how much. Tomas enters the year as an everyday corner outfielder (Arizona is still unsure whether he’ll remain in right or swap spots with left fielder David Peralta) after proving he can’t handle the hot corner. Tomas has indicated he’s more comfortable in right field, though the D-backs might prefer to have the better defender there and use this spring to get Tomas acclimated to left. And oh by the way, Tomas, who had a .707 OPS last season, needs to hit, too.

Padres: Can Andrew Cashner limit walks and neutralize lefties?

Yeah, yeah, the spring results don’t matter. But scouts are in the stands for a reason. Cashner is a guy with ace-quality potential when he’s right — and that’s a big deal for a Padres team either hoping to surprise some people in the NL West or use Cashner as a valuable trade piece midseason (or even sooner). Last year, Cashner’s effectiveness against left-handed hitters spiraled (.383 wOBA vs. a .294 mark a year earlier), and his overall walk rate jumped to 8.2 percent.

Rockies: What will Jose Reyes’ punishment be?

In invoking punishments under the sports’ domestic violence policy for the first time, Commissioner Rob Manfred has big decisions to make with Reyes, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman. But Reyes is the only member of that group who is facing a criminal procedure. He has pleaded not guilty to domestic abuse charges, and his trial is slated to begin April 4 (Opening Day, of course). Manfred can make his decision independent of those proceedings, and there’s no telling how stiff the penalty will be. Reyes is the Rockies’ highest-paid player and a guy they hoped would rebuild his offensive value (and, ergo, his trade value) at Coors Field. Right now, there’s no way of knowing when or if he’ll be on the field in 2016.

AL West

Rangers: Can Jurickson Profar get back in baseball shape?

We’ll venture away from the obvious intrigue surrounding Yu Darvish’s timetable, because, by all accounts, he’s still on track for a May return. Profar provides intrigue of his own. This is a guy who was once considered the top prospect in the game, but hasn’t played a single inning in the field the last two years because of shoulder issues that eventually required surgery. Profar’s bat action as a designated hitter in the Arizona Fall League caught the attention of scouts, and several teams contacted the Rangers in an attempt to buy low on the middle infielder. The Rangers wisely held onto him, and they’ll ease him back into action in the field this spring. His odds of making the big league club are slim to none, barring injury to somebody else. But the Rangers are about to see if Profar can emerge as an important depth piece in their bid to win the AL West again.

Astros: Will Evan Gattis be ready for Opening Day?

It was revealed this week that Gattis required surgery for a sports hernia, sidelining him for four to six weeks. That’s going to hurt his ability to get his timing back before the end of Grapefruit League play, so the Astros will dole out more playing time to Jon Singleton, Matt Duffy, A.J. Reed, Tyler White and Preston Tucker. While the Astros, in letting Chris Carter walk, might generally be trying to get away from the all-or-nothing approach that was one of their calling cards in ’15, Gattis is still clearly a key cog in this offense. He was also hopeful of increasing his value to the team beyond his DH duties, losing weight and doing catching drills in the offseason.

Angels: What’s Albert Pujols’ timetable?

The Angels are getting crushed in many corners for not doing more to improve their production potential around Mike Trout, opting instead for a more contact-heavy approach. Maybe the Halos have it right, but there’s little denying that their lineup look demands healthy and productivity from Pujols, who is working his way back from November surgery on the plantar plate of his right foot. Pujols is already hitting off a tee but is not expected to resume full baseball activities until March, putting Opening Day in jeopardy. Pujols rushed back to action too quickly in 2013, to the point that it affected his performance, and the Angels don’t want that to happen again.

Mariners: Can James Paxton win a rotation spot?

Technically, it’s Taijuan Walker, Nate Karns and Paxton for two spots, though you’d have to imagine the 29 starts and the progress Walker made as ’15 evolved give him the inside edge on one of those. Karns was Dipoto’s first addition in a busy offseason, but Paxton is the guy who was long lauded as one of the M’s prominent prospects. Injury issues have limited Paxton to 30 career starts over parts of three Major League seasons, but the left-hander has dropped some pounds and will come to camp intent on proving he’s ready to turn his potential into production. Other guys potentially in the mix for that last spot are Mike Montgomery, Joe Wieland and Vidal Nuno. Paxton seemingly has the most upside of those options, but he’s got to earn it.

Athletics: What is the rotation beyond Sonny Gray?

Oakland has probably one of the most — if not the most — unsettled rotation situations in the big leagues. The A’s signed Rich Hill with the intent of inserting him into the rotation, though he hasn’t been a regular starter at this level since 2009. After Gray and Hill, it’s a wide-open competition involving Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and possibly even Jarrod Parker (who is attempting to come back from two elbow surgeries) and Sean Manaea (a promising trade acquisition who hasn’t pitched above Double-A but who manager Bob Melvin has called a “wild card” in the rotation battle). Should be fun to watch this evolve.

Source: A Spring Training question for all 30 MLB teams.

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training:

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Rejoice! Spring training is almost upon us, bringing to an end what has been a hectic offseason, one that saw a slew of starting pitchers change uniforms, whether via free agency or trade. Keeping up with what your favorite team’s rotation looks like, much less the competition’s, has been challenging at times.

Read: Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training

What You Need To Know To #OwnOctober

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1. We’re Going to Kansas City…

The Blue Jays before Game 5 were 3-0 in elimination games – make that 4-0.  Now they have 2 more to go and you gotta wonder if they should bring some talisman from home with them.  Game 5 may have delayed the inevitable, but we’ve seen this before with this team.

With their backs against the wall, the Blue Jays came up big — again. This time it was Marco Estrada doing the pitching and a bevy of batters doing the hitting in Toronto’s 7-1 ALCS Game 5. The Jays live to see another day — Friday, Game 6 in Kansas City.

Source: Toronto won another elimination game Wednesday.


2. Too Cubs For Comfort

It was Back to the Future Night and the Cubs couldn’t overcome Mrs O’Leary’s cow, the billy goat or Murphy’s Law.  Cubs Nation has been a long-battered, long-picked on group of lovable-losers that it still surprises how quickly they reached future expectations.  The 3rd best record in the National League, they were 7-0 against the Mets and they never led once in this sweep.

Sure Daniel Murphy hit another HR in his 6th consecutive game and sure no one has done that before in the postseason, but he shares another impressive stat with Lou Gehrig – 7 straight games being on base, having a hit and scoring a run.  He’s your NLCS MVP.  Murphy is playing himself into a nice contract when this is all done.  But the real question to ask is: What is Kyle Schwarber doing in Left Field?

Source: What The Hell Was Kyle Schwarber Doing In Left Field?


3. Blue Bye-You

The Los Angeles Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly have mutually agreed to part ways, according to ESPN sources familiar with the situation and published reports.  Mattingly had one year remaining on his contract, and sources indicated to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that the Dodgers offered him an extension this past weekend. But after years of uncertainty about the Dodgers’ long-term commitment to him — Mattingly has worked under two different ownership groups and two different general managers — he informed the team earlier this week that he preferred to move on.

Source: Don Mattingly out as manager of Dodgers, sources say

Crackpot Inventor Changes Future and You Don’t Even Know It

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1. Has This Man Already Changed Our Future?

Oh Dodgers, you had one job.  Since you moved to the West-Side in 1958, you never lost at home with a chance to win a series – never – until last night.  You and your $289 million dollar payroll just goes to show you can’t buy championships in baseball anymore.  Now the Cubs have to face a tougher road to get to the World Series, instead of playing a bunch milque-toast chokers like you.  It was the perfect opportunity for Chicago to rid themselves from a curse of futility and shame.  Now it’s harder for Back to the Future to be right, they gotta work for everything to earn the right just MAKE the World Series.

So pack it up Mattingly, your gone, see ya Puig, Magic please turn out the lights.  This team has to start over, because next year the Giants are winning it all, as is their custom, and you can’t beat anyone when it counts the last 25 years.

Now we get endless shots of the biggest Mets and Cubs fans on every broadcast, living and dying with every foul-ball and pitch.  It’s better this way, than with you LA.  It’s a harvest of talent, Bill Murray, John Cusak, Eddie Vedder vs. Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, John Stewart – and if the Cubs do win, then we should just make Theo Epstein President, because what he’s done before 42 is more impressive than those other jokers – just think of the possibilities…

  • Daniel Murphy Doesn’t Want To Stop Being A Met Just Yet – Daniel Murphy’s Mets days are probably numbered, but he made sure last night that there will be at least a few more. Murphy pretty much was New York’s offense in their Game 5 win over the Dodgers, and backed by another excellent pitching performance from Jacob DeGrom, the Mets are through to the NLCS……(continue reading)

Would You Eat the Moon if it was made of Ribs?

Get Ready for the Dixie Championship: #TNF

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1. Canadian Club

Chaos and self-destruction, is what is commonly viewed from the perches of the Coliseum.  A half-inning of baseball, the bottom of the 7th, took 53 minutes and went from riotous to invictus, with tension and emotion swung wildly like the swing that won the game.

SCENE: Rougned Odor is on 3rd and Shin-Soo Choo is at the plate – in the batters box – when Russell Martin attempts to throw the ball back to the pitcher, but instead hits Choo’s bat.  The umpire waves dead ball, the Blue Jays stop play and Odor scores.  The Umpires deliberated and concluded the run scored because:  Rule 6.01 (d) (3.15)
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It was the right call, and after it was confirmed the fans went nuts.  One to many Mooseheads and Canadians can become some real Ugly Americans – who knew.  The Blue Jays said they’d play under protest and the Rangers forgot how to make 3 routine plays that would have ended the inning and instead let @joeybats19 park one into the same section Joe Carter did in ’93.  This is what #KarmicResponsibility is all about folks, and it’s all on the Texas Governor…(see #2)
  • The Bizarre (Legal) Play That Almost Started a Riot – When Russell Martin‘s throw back to the pitcher hit Shin-Soo Choo, and Rougned Odor raced home to score the go-ahead run, the pages of baseball’s rule book fluttered open across America and Canada. A stunned silence in the park hid the grinding of gears behind the masks, and in baseball’s offices — was that strange, strange play… legal?  Yes, it turns out. To the consternation of the fans, who began to litter the field with debris. Twitter, the announcers, the fans — it was bedlam……(continue reading)

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2. We’ll Wire The Governor

You see it is the Governor who is at fault for no teams from Texas advancing to the ALCS.  That pompous tweet was sent before the Royals scored six runs to win Game 4, leading to game 5 and also before the Rangers got their butts kicked at home, to then play a game 5 on the road in Toronto, (see #1).  The Royals beat the Astros last night and now will play the Blue Jays in the #ALCS; while the Rangers will have to sacrifice a live rooster to remove that jinx.  No Astros.  No Rangers.  Recall!

In this Era of the New Dumb, idiots can never be under-estimated.  Like cockroaches, they are hard to kill and will be around long after we’ve left this ethereal 3rd Stone from the Sun.  What we do know for certain is no matter how tonight’s Dodgers/Mets game turns out – the World Series will definitely be Blue.

  • Johnny Cueto dominates, Royals beat Astros to return to ALCS – Johnny Cueto woke up Wednesday morning, feeling completely different than any day these last three tortured months, suddenly overcome with a sense of confidence.  Cueto drove to Kauffman Stadium, walked towards his Kansas City Royals’ teammates, and told them that in the biggest game of their season, to go ahead and relax……(continue reading)


3. 2015 Dixie Championship pt.1

Tonight, it’s the Southern Showdown.  The NFL’s most bitter, hated, rivalry with nothing on the line but pride and prejudice.  The first two franchises in the traditional “Deep South” have shared players; Morten Anderson (leading scorer in both franchises), Bobby Hebert (QB for both teams in the ’90’s), Joe Horn, Curtis Lofton, etc…and we have also shared sons of coaches, like Jim L Mora and Wade Phillips – sons of Jim and Bum – soon we will share Stadium Names – and we both have been to Superbowls, but only one of us lost to the Broncos…sinner.

For more than 40yrs, fans of either team have considered the other their most hated opponent.  Even ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli said this rivalry is one of the best in sports:

Every year, bus caravans loaded with rowdy (and usually very inebriated) fans make the seven-hour trip between the two cities. Unless you’ve attended a Falcons-Saints debauchery-filled afternoon, you’ll just have to take my word for how much fun it really can be

Records do not matter.  For the Falcons, they will want to beat down the Saints and crush all the hope that is left in an already dismal season.  God’s Army will want to stop a 2-game losing streak to c’Antlanta and give the Dirty-Birds their 1st taste of humble pie for 2015.  The Falcons overall, lead the series all-time 49-43, but since Drew and Sean got together the Saints are 13-5 against the Dirty-Birds, and tonight its gonna be a Duck-Hunt!

 

What You Need To Know: Tuesday

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Click – to see for yourself

1. Did Phillip Rivers Just Punch a Bird?

In what may be the second greatest mystery of the internet, just behind that white dress, that wasn’t really white – we have this – Did Phillip Rivers punch a bird…in mid-air?  No, because that would have been amazing and near impossible.  I had to watch it 20 times myself to realize, it’s only a glove.  Another mystery solved, eh Scoob?

Aside from that, the Monday Night Football Game was a great one for 15min – the last 15min – the previous 45min was enough to make a man want to retire in mid-season, (more on that below).  But the action in the 4th quarter was outstanding and the finish…Woo Hoo.  How about those cajones for Mike Tomlin with five seconds left? #Brass.  Way to pull out your inner-Les Miles, Mike – for the Chargers, that’s a heart-breaker.

Considering, Philip Rivers threw for 365 yards against the Steelers in a losing effort, completing two touchdown passes, both to Antonio Gates, playing in his 1st game back from a suspension—(Rivers has now thrown 74 touchdown passes to Gates in their 12 years together as Chargers teammates. That’s the most TD passes from a QB to a teammate in Chargers history, as well as the highest career total for any quarterback to a tight end. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski rank second on that latter list, having hooked up for 57 TD passes in their six seasons together on the Patriots)—The Packers know how you feel Chargers, because the last time a Monday Football game ended on the last play in regulation was this:


2. This Post-Season has been En Fuego!

Awww New York.  The best revenge is to score a lot of runs and you did that, making quick work of an early 3-run deficit – scoring 10 runs over 3 innings – eventually winning 13-7 over the Dodgers.  Now about Utley and your chants to see him enter the game after the 5th inning – I get it your upset.  This slide…is against the rules, that are loosely interpreted based on the emotional intelligence of a guy in a little hat – he started his slide after 2nd base – that’s a no-no – but it is nothing any player hasn’t done to break up a double play – a double play Tejada knew he wasn’t going to get.  Tejada gets a broken leg and Utley gets a suspension.  The suspension seems to do more with the broken leg than the act, and an over-reaction.  The question for me is this:  How does Utley get suspended on a play that was “illegal”, but was not enough to be called interference and an automatic double play?   I’ll let this guy explain:

  • WAS UTLEY’S SUSPENSION WARRANTED? – All you can hope for out of any postseason series — other than your team winning, of course — is to have it not be sidetracked by anything other than the quality of the two teams playing each other and the result of their conflict. You don’t want to lose, but if you lose, you want to lose clean. You just want people to be talking about the game itself……(continue reading)

More Baseball Thoughts I can not put anywhere else:

  • The Cubs have NEVER won a post-season series when they lost the first game, 0-11 ALL-TIME.
  • Before Game 2, the CUBS NEVER won a game when the other team hit 3 HR’s – they finally won one.
  • The Cubs are 0-4 ALL-TIME when clinching a series at home.
  • The Cubs just set a new post-season record for most home runs in a game with 6.
  • Strange things are afoot at the Circle K – but surely the Cubs will find a way to snatch defeat – right?  Theo Epstein can’t erase two curses in our lifetime, right?

Huge day for Correa

Prior to the Royals’ comeback in the eighth inning, Minute Maid Park was home to the “Carlos Correa Show.” The Astros shortstop tallied hits in all four of his at-bats – a game-tying home run in the third inning, a go-ahead RBI double in the fifth, a two-run homer in the seventh, and a single to lead off the
ninth. Correa, who celebrated his 21st birthday last month, became the youngest player to record at least four hits and four RBIs in a postseason game.AltX.Logo.white

  • The only other player to achieve that feat before his 25th birthday was Goose Goslin, who was 23 at the time of his four-hit, four-RBI game in Game Four of the 1924 World Series for the Senators.
  • Correa is also the youngest to record three extra-base hits in a postseason game, and he’s the second-youngest player with a multi-homer game in the postseason – Andruw Jones was 19 at the time of his two-homer performance for the Braves in Game One of the 1996 World Series versus the Yankees.

Royals save season with late comeback against Astros

Facing a four-run deficit with six outs to play in their season, the Royals exploded for five runs in the top of the eighth inning to come away with a 9-6 victory over the Astros and send the series back to Kansas City for a deciding fifth game. If any team was capable of a comeback like this it was the Royals – Kansas City enjoyed a similar comeback in the Wild Card game against the A’s last year, erasing a four-run deficit in the eighth and ninth innings before emerging victorious in the 12th inning.

So to recap, the Royals have overcome a four-run deficit in the eighth inning or later to stave off elimination in the postseason in back-to-back years. No other major-league team has ever forged a comeback of that kind in the postseason when facing elimination. In fact, only eight other teams have overcome deficits of four-or-more runs at any point of a postseason victory that staved off elimination, and none of those eight teams have more than one such win.

  • By the way, the first team ever to win such a game was the 1919 Chicago White Sox (Black Sox), who overcame a 4-0 Cincinnati lead to win Game Six of the World Series, 5-4, in 10 innings, cutting the Reds’ Series lead to four games to two. (That Series was played in a best-of-nine format.) The Sox produced the winning run in the top of the tenth on hits by Buck Weaver, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Chick Gandil – each of whom was later barred from the game by Commissioner Landis.

3. Straight Ca$h Homie…

Using our info and Beckwith’s daily information – I won 75% of the tournaments I entered.  If you would have read the Projection 2 Spend Report – your lineup would have scored over 200pts, just by selecting the green guys.  As for DC*3PO‘s picks for the NFL, he took a slide backwards, thanks to Tennessee and Oakland, but was still a decent 58% ATS – and a phenomenal 70% ATS for the college games I picked for him.  I lost a 15-teamer on Saturday because of two overs not coming in – Cal/Utah and FU/Mizzou – Cripes, but i’ll take 86% everytime – just need that 100% once.  Become a member today and lt us Teach You How To #win – here are the Perfect Lineups for #NFL week 5:

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draftkings

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In Closing…

I’ll let Pat Forde describe the wierdness that was College Football yesterday…

  • Forde-Yard Dash: Taking stock of college football’s coaches after a bizarre Monday  We’re not yet to mid-October, and already four head coaches have been fired. A legendary fifth abruptly retired Monday night. A sixth just came back from a three-game suspension. In a sport with increasingly more money at stake, the pressure on the men leading the programs has escalated accordingly……(continue reading)

Is the Taylor Swift Curse Real?

name of site - hunter thompson style

1. At Any Price?

Home Teams in the playoffs are now 0-4, and apparently there is a Taylor Swift 1989 tour going around spoiling the fun – Read more about it here.  Take Note Ranger Fan, Swift-y plays in Arlington a week from tomorrow.  As for David Price, he let Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos go deep – they are the #8 and #9 hitters – Price is now 0-6 all-time in the #MLBPostseason.  Randy Johnson once lost 7 in-a-row, but I do not see Price changing his spots anytime soon.

The Baseball post-season is now in full-swing – today we have 4 games, and with that, the last time we will have this many games in one day, for the rest of 2015, I suspect.  The BlueJays try to get back on track and maintain their title of most explosive team.  The Cards are ready to spill blood, while the Cubbies are continuing to sacrifice more goats at the alter to the Baseball Gods.  ‘Stros and Royals play again, and Kershaw tries to right his ship in the post-season and be the best Madison Bumgarner he can be.  Kershaw needs this post-season to be as good as the regular season has been – otherwise he becomes Peyton Manning.  Here’s the schedule of todays games, (all times EASTERN), along with NLDS previews, and a final “Here’s To You”, to Vin Scully who won’t even be listed as “the player to be named later” portion of the broadcasts – he’s out – But if Kirk Gibson can hit a homerun on one-leg, surely Vin can come back for a Game 7 in the World Series – right?!

Rangers-Blue Jays, Game 2

MLB 12:45 p.m.

Astros-Royals, Game 2

FS1 3:45 p.m.

Cubs-Cardinals, Game 1

TBS 6:45 p.m.

Mets-Dodgers, Game 1

TBS 9:45 p.m.

KershawCespedesNLDS PREVIEW: METS VS. DODGERS

No playoff series feels as immense as the Dodgers-Mets National League Division Series. It’s gonna be a bad scenario for whichever team loses.  If the Mets lose, this dream season that has reinvigorated a discouraged fan base ends with a whimper. It also ends on the eve of an uncertain tomorrow. The Mets have had this lovely couple of months, but it doesn’t change their financial situation; ownership has……(continue reading)

Schedule

• Game 1: Friday, Oct. 9, 9:30 p.m. ET, Dodger Stadium, TBS (Clayton Kershaw vs. Jacob deGrom)
• Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 10, 9 p.m. ET, Dodger Stadium, TBS (Zack Greinke vs. Noah Syndergaard)
• Game 3: Monday, Oct. 12, TBD, Citi Field, TBS (Brett Anderson vs. Matt Harvey)
• Game 4 (If necessary): Tuesday, Oct. 13, 8 p.m. ET, Citi Field, TBS (TBD vs. TBD)
• Game 5 (If necessary): Thursday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m. ET, Dodger Stadium, TBS (TBD vs. TBD)

LackeyLester

NLDS PREVIEW: CUBS VS. CARDINALS

So, the apocalypse series is here. The Cubs, the hottest, most beloved, most exciting team in baseball, are at last culminating their long, long rivalry with the Cardinals with a postseason series. I’ve written so much about these two teams — I wrote a freaking book about them, for crying out loud — that to see them actually face off in an elimination series is almost too terrifying to wrap my mind around. Just know that……(continue reading)

Schedule

• Game 1: Friday, Oct. 9, 6:30 p.m. ET, Busch Stadium, TBS (John Lackey vs. Jon Lester)
• Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 10, 5:30 p.m. ET, Busch Stadium, TBS (Jaime Garcia vs. Kyle Hendricks)
• Game 3: Monday, Oct. 12, TBD, Wrigley Field, TBS (Michael Wacha vs. Jake Arrieta)
• Game 4 (If necessary): Tuesday, Oct. 13, 4:30 p.m. ET, Wrigley Field, TBS (Lance Lynn vs. Jason Hammel)
• Game 5 (If necessary): Thursday, Oct. 15, 4:30 p.m. ET, Busch Stadium, TBS (TBD vs. BD)

In October, Anything is Possible

Baseball

Ken Rosenthal, in Just a Bit Outside, wrote: “OK, so we didn’t get chaos, entropy or any other form of Monday madness. There will be no game No. 163, no three-team tie, no pushing back of the postseason schedule. The outcomes of Sunday’s games neatly restored order, with the most deserving teams, the Rangers and Astros, claiming the final two playoff berths.”  But, what does it all mean this post-season?  Are the Royals back? Should everyone watch out for the Rangers?  Will the young Astros be intimated in Yankee Stadium?  Should we worry about the Mets?  Are the Cubs the most dangerous team?

Ken Rosenthal breaks all of those things down in his piece: Anything is Possible this Post-Season

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Rosenthal writes:

Will I pick them to upset the Blue Jays? Probably not. But I would not be surprised if the series goes five games.

What I like about the Rangers right now is that their stars are performing at elite levels. Start with left-hander Cole Hamels, who threw a three-hitter Sunday to help clinch the AL West title. Hamels, thanks to the Rangers’ collapse on Saturday, will be available for Games 2 and 5 rather than 1 and 4 (the latter on short rest).

The Rangers have won the last 10 games that Hamels has started, not that it will necessarily matter against the Jays, whose .815 OPS against lefties led the majors. Both of the Rangers’ top starters, Hamels and Derek Holland, are left-handed, and uh, the Jays treat right-handers no better. Their .791 OPS against righties also led the majors, though Rangers righty Yovani Gallardo has pitched 13 2/3 scoreless innings against them this season.

The only way for the Rangers to stay with the Jays might be to slug with them, and suddenly that appears possible — Texas led the majors in runs per game after Sept. 1. Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is dealing with a jammed index finger and sprained thumb on his left hand, has 38 RBI since that date. Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and even Josh Hamilton all look like forces again.

October is going to be a great month, after-all ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!  Just ask Ben Larson (h/t Dennis Wierzbicki):

A Cubs fan named Ben Larson, who is a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, emailed one of his professors to see if the teacher could do him a big favor by moving a midterm exam scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 8. As Larson explained over email, he and his family scored tickets to the one-game playoff against the Pittsburgh Pirates and planned to drive to the game. With the game on Wednesday, he wouldn’t be able to take a test Thursday.

Luckily the professor offered to come through for him:

Shoot, if we all had known our teachers would be this accommodating, how many of us would have tried to pull this maneuver?

We knew Cubs fans were loyal and sometimes a disgusting bunch, but one thing you cannot deny is their passion. This is awesome.