Archive for February, 2013

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The Angels have gone through more facelifts than Joan Rivers over the years. From California, to Anaheim, to Los Angeles of Anaheim, the name has changed dramatically. But, the rich history remains in place. This offseason was one of reloading after a disappointing 2012. A year ago, all the pundits and prognosticators pegged the Angels for a postseason run. Fresh off their lucrative signings of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, Anaheim looked like titletown once again. Even a midseason trade for 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zach Greinke could not prevent the Angels from slumping to third place in a rejuvenated American League West.

Enter 2013, and welcome Josh Hamilton to California. The 2010 AL MVP signed a 5 year, $133 million deal to man the outfield in Anaheim. The acquisition gives the Angels a frighteningly talented offense, as Hamilton joins Pujols, Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, and 2012 breakout player Mark Trumbo in the heart of the order. Supplement them with veterans like SS Erick Aybar, 2B Howie Kendrick, and 3B Alberto Callaspo, and the Angels should have one of the most productive offenses in the American League.

Now, the question rests on their pitching. Greinke is gone, taking his talents down the expressway to Dodgers Stadium. Longtime Angel Ervin Santana, traded to Kansas City, is also out. As is Dan Haren, who signed a one-year contract in the nation’s capital with Washington. That is five All-Star appearances between three pitchers and 27-wins from last year’s team. To replace them, Anaheim signed former Phillies RHP Joe Blanton to a two-year contract and traded for veterans LHP Jason Vargas (from Seattle for Kendry Morales) and RHP Tommy Hanson (from Atlanta for RHP Jordan Walden). Vargas has had a couple of strong campaigns in Seattle, and should be the least of the Angels’ worries. Blanton and Hanson, however, have had to deal with injury problems over the past few seasons. If they struggle to remain durable, the Angels have RHP’s Jerome Williams and Barry Enright waiting in the wings.

Five Year Review:
2012: 89-73
2011: 86-76
2010: 80-82
2009: 97-65
Lost ALCS to Yankees, 4-2
2008: 100-62
Lost ALDS to Red Sox, 3-1

2012 Team MVP: CF Mike Trout: The runner-up for AL MVP was also the winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. A first round pick in 2009, the local Philadelphia product has emerged as the premier young star in the game. Not called up until the end of April, Trout immediately paid dividends for his team, with circus catches and clutch hits that would signify the poise of a wily veteran, not a 20-year old kid. Trout finished the season at .326-30-83 with 49 SB to just 5 CS in 139 G. Only Albert Pujols had more XBH than Trout on the Angels. Without their 20-year old leadoff hitter, Anaheim likely would have won a lot less than 89 games and Mike Scioscia’s job might have been in jeopardy.

2012 Team LVP: LF Vernon Wells: The worst contract in baseball had yet another miserable season in Anaheim. The Angels, foolishly believing that his solid 2010 season was a harbinger of things to come, traded slugging C Mike Napoli to Toronto for the overpriced left-fielder. Two years later, the Angels are licking their wounds wishing that MLB contained an amnesty clause in their CBA. Wells is scheduled to make $21 million each of the next two years. When his deal expires after 2014, Wells recently announced that he will retire from baseball. The Angels probably wish he would just quit now. His .230-11-29 mark in 77 games was a slight improvement from an even more pathetic .218-25-66 line in 131 games in 2011. 

Key Acquisitions:

CF Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers)
RHP Tommy Hanson (Atlanta Braves)
RHP Joe Blanton (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RHP Ryan Madson (Cincinnati Reds)
LHP Jason Vargas (Seattle Mariners)
LHP Sean Burnett (Washington Nationals)

Key Departures:

IF Maicer Izturis (Toronto Blue Jays)
RF Torii Hunter (Detroit Tigers)
RHP Dan Haren (Washington Nationals)
RHP Zack Greinke (Los Angeles Dodgers)
RHP LaTroy Hawkins (New York Mets)
RHP Jason Isringhausen (Retirement)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

1. LF Mike Trout (.293-27-81-46 SB)
2. SS Erick Aybar (.277-8-54-20 SB)
3. 1B Albert Pujols (.293-33-107)
4. RF Josh Hamilton (.279-28-94)
5. DH Mark Trumbo (.260-27-84)
6. 2B Howie Kendrick (.276-11-67-12 SB)
7. 3B Alberto Callaspo (.268-8-48)
8. C Chris Iannetta (.230-13-45)
9. CF Peter Bourjos (.252-11-52-16 SB)

1. RHP Jered Weaver (15-9, 3.32)
2. LHP CJ Wilson (13-9, 3.66)
3. RHP Tommy Hanson (11-9, 3.97)
4. RHP Joe Blanton (10-9, 4.32)
5. LHP Jason Vargas (11-11, 4.27)
CP. RHP Ryan Madson (3-2, 3.12, 19 SV)
SU. RHP Ernesto Frieri (3-2, 3.25, 7 SV)

2013 Outlook:

The Angels have not made the playoffs since 2009. Yet, Mike Scioscia has managed to keep his job in spite of the fact that they have not even won a pennant since 2002. What direction will ownership go in if the team once again underachieves in spite of another offseason spending spree? Luckily for Scioscia, I do not think he has much to worry about. The Angels will win the American League West in 2013. The struggles that they went through last year were compounded by the fact that leadership was missing in the clubhouse. Now, with Pujols and Trout firmly entrenched as the faces of the franchise, business can resume as usual.

The bullpen is improved, with Ryan Madson at the back end of a talented corps of arms. The rotation will suffice if they can stay healthy. There is no better than Jered Weaver at the top of the rotation and Jason Vargas at the back. It is the names in between that I would be most concerned with. Still, Anaheim won 89 games despite missing Trout for a month and dealing with various distractions and disappointments. I believe the Angels will win between 93-98 games, capturing the AL West for the first time since 2009.

Steph Curry in Beast Mode

Posted: February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Remember when this kid was thrashing Georgetown and Wisconsin back in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Steph Curry deserves a medal for this performance. The guy scored over half of his team’s points and they still lost to a largely mediocre Knicks team.

Watching a game like this just further reminds me that Memphis took Hasheem Thabeet (#2) and Minnesota took Johnny Flynn (#6) over Curry (#7). Humorously, the Knicks took Jordan “Over The” Hill with the pick right after Curry went to Golden State.

This is all further evidence that the Sixers should begin losing on purpose to secure a higher pick. There is a big difference between picking #10 and picking #5 in the NBA. Get it done, Doug! Just lose, baby!

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This is 2013 in America. We have openly gay congressmen and mayors and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been eliminated. Much of the country has come to grips with the fact that there are gay men and women in our towns, in our cities, and more specifically, in our workforce. If anyone has a problem with that, I suggest a country like Iran would be better suited for you. Discrimination, once a blood-red stain on our society, has diminished as the decades have advanced. But, the NFL apparently does not follow this same path. Instead, the league that let murderers like Mike Vick, Leonard Little, and Donte Stallworth continue to play after serving prison sentences is reportedly discriminating against potential draft prospects on the basis of sexual orientation.

Shame on you, NFL.

Not only is questioning someone about their sexual orientation at a job interview illegal, it violates everything that this country stands for: The freedom of speech, the freedom of privacy, and the right to love whomever you want regardless of nationality, race, creed, or, yes, gender.

NFL teams have reportedly asked multiple prospects questions like, “do you like girls?” or, “Are you a homosexual?” The players, pressured by their desire to impress these franchises, answer in whichever way they believe will be better received instead of telling these front office personnel the truth. It is none of their business what their sexual orientation is and if they don’t like it, they can draft somebody else.

You see, the NFL is still stuck in the 20th century. For all the rhetoric about protecting players’ safety, the number one name of the game in football remains the all-mighty dollar. If Chik-Fil-A or other philosophically stone-aged companies find out that a team is supporting a homosexual player, there is always a chance that they pull their advertising and sponsorships. In the end, all that matters to the owners is money, not the betterment of their players, their city, or their country.

There has been a longstanding belief that professional athletes would not be able to assimilate with a homosexual player in the locker room. Talk radio is rife with imbeciles splattering the airwaves with their derisiveness, questioning how any man would feel comfortable with a homosexual man standing across the locker room from them during shower time. As if the core essence of homosexuality were orgies and erotic molestation. The fact of the matter is that there are homosexuals in professional sports right now. The statistics guarantee that fact. There are openly-gay women in professional sports. You do not see a problem in that instance. There have also been players that have come out after they have retired, such as former NBA star Jon Amaechi. Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas came out in 2009. Instead of receiving torment from his teammates, the 38-year old instead received support. His friends, family, and, yes, his teammates, stood beside him and deflected the hate that he received from the mindless masses. That is what a true team does. They accept you for who you are and view you as a brother…not as a social experiment.

But, not in America. In “the land of the free,” society is blinded by the uncultured and religious. In their eyes, gays are not humans; they are corrupted souls who gave in to temptation. As if humans are born wanting to be discriminated against. This misnomer, perpetrated by the conservative crooks in congress and the witless wackos of Dixie, has long polluted the American dream. The belief that states that all men, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, or orientation, can achieve their every hope. Now, with businesses like the NFL considering sexual orientation at job interviews, this dream for many continues to dwindle.

We do not have a gay America and a straight America. We have the United States of America. Just as we do not have gay athletes and straight athletes…we just have athletes. If Manti Te’o or anyone else is talented enough to play in the NFL, it should NEVER matter what type of person they fall in love with. Once our country figures that out, the world will be a much better place.

Atleast We Are Not the Rangers

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Flyers may be performing below expectations. But, at least they are not the Rangers, who came in to this season with championship hopes and look more like the cast of Mighty Ducks before Coach Bombay whooped them into shape.

Case in point, here is Rangers C Derek Stepan completely trashing a 3-on-1 opportunity by skating behind the net with the puck instead of shooting.

As Wayne Gretzky said, you always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Speaking of shots, did anyone see “The Great One” give an interview with Jim Jackson during Monday night’s Flyers’ game? Guy sounded like he didn’t miss any shots that night…of tequila, I mean.

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No team enters 2013 with lower expectations than the Houston Astros. Once a proud franchise and winners of the 2005 National League pennant, Houston has fallen on epically hard times in recent years. The team formerly known as the Colt 45s has not enjoyed a winning season since 2008, and has lost a league high 213 games the past two years. Will new ownership, young prospects, and a new league be a propeller to a new era of prosperity in the Lone Star State? Or will the daunting task of playing in the ultra-competitive American League West doom the Astros for decades to come?

Not much went right for former manager Brad Mills in his two and a half years with the team. After going 76-86 his first campaign, Mills saw the front office ship off talented veterans in return for high-ceiling prospects. Those ceilings have yet to be reached, and the Astros have paid the price with their first two 100+ loss seasons in franchise history. Gone are Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, and Wandy Rodriguez; players who were just good enough to keep the team competitive. But, not enough to propel them to October glory.

This three year firesale continued into the offseason, when veterans like Francisco Cordero, Jed Lowrie, and Wilton Lopez saw their stays with the team end. The Astros will have youngest team in baseball in 2013. After two years of futility in a weaker league and division, what should we really expect in 2013 from the Astros? Former Ray Carlos Pena was signed in the offseason to man the designated hitter spot. This would be a fine move, if it were 2008. Instead, the Astros just acquired a cleanup hitter with no OBP or contact ability. An athlete whose greatest challenge will be merely reaching the Mendoza-line in a division rife with stout pitching.

Bo Porter, the former bench coach for the Washington Nationals, takes over as manager. He will have his work cut out for him with this bunch. The Astros have promise for the future. Youngsters like Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock, Jonathan Singleton, and Carlos Correa offer a light beyond the horizon. But, that prosperous era, one that will hopefully bring the first world championship to Houston, does not appear anywhere close to the present.

Five Year Review:
2012: 55-107
2011: 56-106
2010: 76-86
2009: 74-88
2008: 86-75

2012 Team MVP: RHP Lucas Harrell: As evidenced by their 107 losses, Houston did not have many valuable players on their 2012 roster. A combination of midseason trades and the trials and tribulations of youth left the Astros without a .300 BA or .800 OPS. Their team leader in HR, the recently exiled Jed Lowrie, only played 97 games. Enter Lucas Harrell, a little-regarded throwaway claimed off waivers in July, 2011 from the Chicago White Sox. A fourth round pick in 2004, Harrell had just one career victory heading into 2012. With the lack of talent on Houston’s roster, if any team was going to take a chance on a player like Harrell, this was it. The 27-year old took his opportunity and ran with it to the tune of an 11-11, 3.76 record. Setting career highs in every major category, Harrell became the de facto ace of the staff heading into the new year. Houston must be impressed with Harrell’s ability to improve as the season went on. After the All-Star break, the right-hander was 4-5, 2.87 on a team that won just 22 games after the midseason mark and seven from July 8th to September 1st.

2012 Team LVP: CF Jordan Schafer: It is obvious that 98% of the players who put on a uniform in Houston last season deserved this recognition. But, Schafer gets the nod not merely for his on-field troubles. Rather, it was a combination of failure on the diamond and the impact that his failure on on the franchise. Now 26, Schafer was once a top-prospect in the Atlanta Braves’ organization. Handed the starting nod out of spring training in 2009, the then 22-year old struggled mightily at the dish, delivering just a .204-2-8 line in 50 games before losing his job. Houston’s backwards front office thought so highly of this audition that they made him the centerpiece of their 2011 trade of Michael Bourn to Atlanta. For a month, Schafer showed minor improvement, hitting .245-1-6 in 30 games in 2011 with the Astros. Handed the starting CF job in 2012, the Hammond, Indiana native once again went into a season-long slump, finishing .211-4-23 in 106 games. This putrid performance was further exacerbated by his struggles in the field, where Schafer finished in the negatives in Rtot (number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made) and Rdrs (a total defensive contribution statistic) for the third consecutive year. To make matters worse, Schafer was claimed off waivers this offseason by Atlanta. So, the Astros are left with very little in return for trading their former All-Star CF in 2011, and Schafer can take most of the blame for that.

Key Acquisitions:

1B/DH Carlos Pena (Tampa Bay Rays)
1B/LF Chris Carter (Oakland Athletics)
OF Rick Ankiel (Washington Nationals)
RHP Phil Humber (Chicago White Sox)
RHP Josh Fields (Boston Red Sox)
RHP Alex White (Colorado Rockies)
LHP Erik Bedard (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Key Departures:

C Chris Snyder (Washington Nationals)
SS Jed Lowrie (Oakland Athletics)
3B Matt Downs (Miami Marlins)
CF Jordan Schafer (Atlanta Braves)
OF Brian Bogusevic (Chicago Cubs)
RHP Wilton Lopez (Colorado Rockies)
RHP Francisco Cordero (unsigned)
LHP Fernando Abad (Washington Nationals)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

1. 2B Jose Altuve (.286-10-55-30 SB)
2. RF Fernando Martinez (.244-15-49)
3. DH Carlos Pena (.211-21-61)
4. LF Chris Carter (.239-26-75)
5. 1B Brett Wallace (.251-14-53)
6. CF Justin Maxwell (.224-18-53-15 SB)
7. C Jason Castro (.256-8-40)
8. SS Tyler Greene (.240-12-41)
9. 3B Matt Dominguez (.249-10-44)

1. RHP Bud Norris (9-12, 4.45)
2. RHP Lucas Harrell (8-12, 4.53)
3. RHP Jordan Lyles (7-12, 4.75)
4. RHP Philip Humber (7-11, 4.90)
5. LHP Erik Bedard (6-8, 4.50)
CP. RHP Jose Veras (3-2, 3.92, 15 SV)
SU. LHP Wesley Wright (3-2, 3.86)

2013 Outlook:

The Astros, as mentioned, were the worst team in baseball the past two years. Now, they move into a tougher league and division with a lineup that only offers token differences from last season. Their rotation, whilst young, does not inspire a whole lot of confidence or come with much of a track record of consistency. The bullpen is relying on young arms and a closer with zero closing experience. Outside of Carlos Pena, no one on the Houston roster has hit 20 HR or driven in 100 runs.

This looks like another difficult season for the Astros. Unless players like Singleton (suspended for 50 games due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy/aka: admitting to smoking weed over the winter), and Cosart are promoted and immediately start paying dividends, it is not out of the question that Houston could lose more games this season than they did the last two. Instead of Pittsburgh and Chicago 18 times a year, the Astros have to contend with the Angels and Rangers. In the end, it will be a rough ride for Bo Porter in his inaugural season as a manager. I have the Astros winning between 50-56 games, and reaching the century mark in losses for the third consecutive season.

Is there any doubt that Erin Andrews wanted nothing to do with this kiss from 50 Cent?

I mean, 50 seems like a nice enough guy. But, do you have any idea where those lips have been? Chelsea Handler, that’s where. No one wants those sloppy seconds.

And what the heck is 50 Cent doing at a NASCAR race? Isn’t that sort of like Artie Lange walking into a weight watchers or Joe Buck running into someone that likes him? Mind = blown.

Pacers-Warriors Brawl

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

And Indiana wonders why no one comes out to see their games? The Pacers are one of the best teams in the NBA, and yet their attendance is in the bottom half of the league.

ESPNRadio’s Colin Cowherd argued that it was racism. Others believe that it is Indiana’s lack of starpower that inspires fans to stay home. I disagree.

Ten years ago, the Brawl at Auburn Hills created a black eye on the NBA that has still yet to be fully healed. Incidents like this one do nothing to temper fan apathy towards your team.

Granted, I almost got into a fight like this in a church basketball game. So, I am no prince. I have that David Lee type of game and that David Lee type of ‘tude.