Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

My National League picks for the 2014 baseball season

These picks and $3 will get you a coffee and donut at Dunkin’ Donuts:

East

1. Atlanta – Top of a weak heap

2. Washington – They’ll make it interesting

3. New York – Struggle, they will

4. Philadelphia – It’ll be a long summer

5. Marlins – It’s always a long summer

Central

1. St. Louis – The team to beat in the NL

2. Piitsburgh – Another fine year

3. Cincinnati – Missing it by “this much”

4. Chicago – Friendly confines but little more

5. Milwaukee – It pains me to place them here

West

1. Los Angeles – It pains me to place them here

2. Diamondbacks – On the upswing

3. San Francisco – Rotation is beginning to fade

4. San Diego – This will be a tight race; they could go higher

5. Colorado – Another year or two of scraping bottom

At the risk of having all my fellow Giants fans bail forever, I’m picking the Dodgers to take the NL pennant and (brighten up, Bay Area!) lose to the Rangers in the World Series.

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My Amerian League picks for the 2014 baseball season

These picks and $4.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks:

East

1. Boston — Sizemore, win more

2. New York — A close second

3. Tampa Bay — Another “so close” season

4. Baltimore — One of these years, but not 2014

5. Toronto — Still the best team in Canada

Central

1. Detroit — Too much talent

2. Cleveland — Playoffs again, if briefly

3. Kansas City — Better, but not best

4. Chicago — Poor

5. Minnesota — Poorer

West

1. Rangers — Too many bats not to prevail

2. Oakland — All-around strength

3. Los Angeles — Persistent under-achievers

4. Houston — Wild hunch; I may be the only one on the planet not to pick them last

5. Mariners — Sorry and soggy year ahead

I predict the Rangers will make it to the World Series and win the whole shootin’ match, to use Texas phraseology.

This year’s spring training caps are hideous

Let me repeat that headline: This year’s spring training baseball caps are hideous.

As my long blogging layoff will attest, I’ve paid little heed to the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues these past few weeks. So what I saw on a television set in a neighborhood shop a short while ago hit me harder than it might have otherwise. On the tube was a Tigers-Mets game. When I saw the Mets’ caps, I blanched.

From a distance, they look like something for a beer league softball team. On closer inspection, there’s Mr. Met running the bases — in the wrong direction. (Yeah, it’s the Mets, so why should I be surprised?)

I was vaguely aware of the unveiling of these new cap models when they were announced a couple of months back but I didn’t pay attention. After doing a Google search for images of the new caps, I wish I’d skipped the spring altogether.

The white-billed Yankees’ caps may be the worst of the lot. Or maybe it’s the egg-splatter Tampa Bay Rays model. All in all, these caps look like they belong on sale by street vendors in the seedier sections of any number of Rust Belt cities.

I started this blog based on my love of baseball caps, but I have standards. Most of these spring training caps are devoid of artistic merit and devalue the brands of the teams they represent. The teams see this merchandising as a profit center, which is why there’s a continuous stream of new models.

Sorry, MLB. I ain’t buying.

 

 

Hits and misses: The new MLB batting practice caps

The fabulous Uni Watch blog has a great rundown on the new batting practice caps that major league teams will be wearing this year. The design comments by Paul Lukas are excellent, and I give him a tip of the cap for noting the unbalanced use of serifs in the “P” on the Pirates’ cap.

You’d think a guy running the Ball Caps Blog would be an enthusiast for these alternate caps, but I’m not. I see most of the designs as second-rate and cheap, designed primarily to extract even more dollars out of the fans’ pockets.

O Holy Cow: The Baseball Solstice coincides with Christmas

The high priests have looked to the sky and determined that the Baseball Solstice will coincide with Christmas this winter, to be celebrated from sundown on Christmas Eve to sundown Christmas Day.

The Baseball Solstice, noted in this blog a year ago, marks the midpoint of the long layoff in play between the final out of the World Series and the first exhibition game of Spring Training.

Sergio Romo struck out A.L. MVP Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 4 of the series on Oct. 28 to complete a San Francisco sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

The next games between major league opponents begin Feb. 22 in Arizona and Florida.

As fate would have it, that makes the midpoint Dec. 25, the second most holy day in Christendom. (The first is Easter, which coincidentally marks the point at which fans of the Chicago Cubs traditionally abandon hope for the new season.)

It is a bit awkward for baseball’s midwinter ritual to come at Christmas, and we baseball fans mean no disrespect on such a sacred day that many of us will be observing. (We’re also a bit leery that fans in Philadelphia will boo Santa Claus.)

But there’s apt symbolism for the pairing: We baseball fans cherish the sport as one of the greatest gifts we have.

You can mark the days to the start of Cactus and Grapefruit league play on the terrific Countdown to Spring Training site on Facebook.

As for marking the solstice, we encourage all baseball fans to do so in a meaningful, fun way: break out the baseball cards and find your favorite players, get in touch with fellow baseball fans by phone or email or social networking or (and this may sound crazy in this era) around the dining room table. We encourage you to visit the nearest ballpark and look eagerly forward to warm, sunny days on the field or in the stands come spring (or July, if you’re a Brewers fan).

As a Giants fan, I’ll be savoring the memories of the 2012 season. As an Indians fan, I’ll be lighting a few candles. And as a baseball fan overall, I’ll be glad to know that the first cry of “Play Ball” is drawing nigh.

Who’s the more aggrieved Bay Area athlete – Alex Smith or Brian Wilson?

There’s nothing “tender” in the dispensing of major league contracts to baseball players. San Francisco last week declined to offer a contract to Brian Wilson, the fierce and funky closer who in 2010 helped the Giants win their first World Series since the franchise bolted New York for the West Coast.

Wilson has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.  He was grounded for the season after two early appearances in 2012, a year in which the Giants would again be champions. Although he wasn’t on the mound after April, he remained a spirited force in the dugout and clubhouse the entire season. His full bearded, goofy antics — playing organ on a teammate’s cap — were an integral part of the Giants’ personality for several seasons.

In the end, that meant bupkis.

Wilson reportedly is angry and ready to sign with another team, and who can blame him?

But is Wilson the most aggrieved athlete in the Bay Area? Consider Alex Smith, the 49ers quarterback who’s been benched after sustaining a concussion and having to watch Colin Kaepernick step in and lead the team to consecutive victories.

Wilson’s arm injury was serious and a second go-round, keeping him out of play essentially for a full season while Sergio Romo eventually took over as closer, was tested for weeks during the season and playoffs and was nearly flawless as the Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Not to diminish the impact of his injury, but Smith suffered a concussion and wasn’t able to play for just two games.

Kaepernick, in his second season, stepped in. He took the snaps in a game when the Rams and 49ers tied, then performed phenomenally as the 49ers stomped the Bears on Monday Night Football. He did well again last weekend against the Saints.

It’s Coach Jim Harbaugh’s call to make, but I think he owes Smith better treatment.

Under Harbaugh’s direction, Smith emerged as an excellent quarterback in the 2011 season, taking the team to the NFC championship game. The game was lost in overtime when an inexperienced 49ers player botched a punt return in overtime; the Giants got the ball and kicked the winning field goal.

The 49ers have treated Smith shabbily over the years, and demoting him is just another kick in the pants. I actually think he’s getting a rawer deal than Wilson is. Wilson’s situation evolved; Smith’s changed suddenly.

Either way, I wish both players nothing but success in 2013, when they’ll both be wearing new uniforms.

Did R.A. Dickey get hosed by not being named National League starter for the All-Star Game?

I was a bit late in catching up to the news today that Matt Cain was named National League starter for the All-Star Game tomorrow in Kansas City. That surprised me, because I figured R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets would likely be chosen by virtue of his higher victory total.

What didn’t surprise me was that there was controversy over Tony LaRussa’s choice. San Francisco fans would have been irritated if Dickey got the start, just as Mets fans are aggrieved that Dickey didn’t (as per a sampling of reaction on Twitter).

As a Giants fan, I’m happy Cain is getting the recognition and I’m delighted that the starting battery will be orange and black as Buster Posey will catch. I can also understand why Mets fans are upset.

If a year has passed in which there wasn’t some faction of fans ticked off over an All-Star selection, it must have been before I was born. As quantifiable as baseball is by statistics, judgment calls still rule.

Many fans think the All-Star game should be based strictly on the season being played, but that’s not how it works. Just as when some actors get Oscars for lesser movies late in their careers, Major League Baseball adds a dash of career achievement into All-Star selections.

This time around, the baseball academy gave the nod to Matt Cain, who’s been one of the game’s best hurlers over the past several years. If Dickey’s knuckler keeps floating and he keeps winning, he might get the start in some future year — maybe at the expense of somebody who’s having a similar breakout year.