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As I write this, the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies are in the 7th inning of a Coors Field-esque showdown. Through six innings, the two teams have combined for 18 runs, 24 hits, 7 extra base hits, and a whopping 13.50 ERA…

The headline of the night, however, has nothing to do with the batter’s box. Instead, the most eye-popping statistics have come from the basepaths. The Rockies have eight steals as a team, including five from OF Dexter Fowler. Here is an example of the Rockies’ mindset on the basepath tonight:

– D. Fowler singled to shallow right
– D. Fowler stole second
– R. Spilborghs walked
– D. Fowler stole third, R. Spilborghs stole second

The gameplan seems simple, get on base and start running. I am most impressed because this is happening in an era of baseball where prominent base stealers have all but died off.

Rockies OF Dexter Fowler

Rockies OF Dexter Fowler

My dad used to tell me about how Rickey Henderson simply dominated games from the basepaths. Henderson would take a walk to lead off the game, steal second, then steal third, leaving the opposing team with no option but to concede the run. Fowler’s performance tonight hearkens back to the days when base runners regularly dominated baseball games. This isn’t to say that stolen bases aren’t significant anymore, but to say that there is no star-caliber player who is heralded for running wild nearly every time he is on base.

So far tonight Fowler has ran on nearly every opportunity he has had . He is five-for-five in steal attempts , and there is every chance he could end up with six or seven. In the fourth inning he singled and stole second, and had it not been for Ryan Spilborghs singling on an early pitch in his at-bat, Fowler would have probably made another run at third base.

Will Dexter Fowler end the drought of 100+ steal seasons in Major League Baseball? Probably not. But maybe Major League Baseball needs more base runners to run wild. It adds another dimension to the game that most fans aren’t used to seeing.

In a completely unrelated matter, there is still no news on the whereabouts of missing Padres Catcher Nick Hundley. He was last seen behind home plate in tonight’s game, but after the Rockies went eight-for-eight on the basepaths, Padres Manager Bud Black filed a missing person report in order to determine (as Black put it), “just where in the hell he was for the first six innings of the game.”

sk.

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I have officially butted my way into a blog v. blog debate currently between our friends at Snatch Sports and Two Big Boobs. Technically, I was invited by a writer at Snatch, but had I not been I might have just posted my own answer anyways. Why? Because I’m that much of an ass…

Here is this weeks question: What sports event has had the biggest social impact on humankind?

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To answer this question I think its important to fully understand what is being asked. There are a number of events that have heavily influenced modern sports, but in order to answer this question one must understand that it is asking for a sports event that had a social impact on humankind.

Those are three very difficult terms to link together, since most of the famous sports events had great influence over sports (not humankind as a whole).

My answer to this question is one of the most famous events in history. I know it seems cliche, but sometimes the most adequate answer is the most obvious choice.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Remember the Sonics has chosen Jackie Robinson breaking the MLB Color Barrier in 1947.

When reviewing Jackie Robinson’s Major League Baseball debut, one must remember that his actions did not affect only baseball. Instead, they made an astounding social impact on the entire country.

Since the late nineteenth century, Major League Baseball (and a host of other professional baseball organizations) held an unspoken agreement to exclude blacks from play. These type of agreements were born out of both racist beliefs from league officials and racial tensions throughout America.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Major League Baseball operated without any black players for over fifty years (1890-1946), prompting black baseball players to create their own professional baseball league; the Negro Leagues. This league featured some of the most famous baseball players of the era, including stars such as Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, and Josh Gibson.

In 1945 Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. His talent was noticed quickly, however, and towards the end of that season he was interviewed by Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. Rickey signed Robinson to play for a Dodgers’ minor league affiliate, but Robinson soon climbed the ranks to the Major Leagues.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, effectively breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier.

The rest of his career is irrelevant to this debate, although he did play All-Star caliber baseball, won an MVP Award, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. What mattered the most concerning Jackie Robinson was his first game played in April of 1947. This was a sports event that held a social impact on all of humankind.

The NBA soon followed suit, breaking its color barrier in 1950, while the National Football League, whose color barrier had been broken years before, also saw an increase in the number of black athletes in its organization.

Robinson’s career has been recounted in books, movies, and magazines. His actions provided commentary on the racial relations in mid-twentieth century America, and also provided a rallying cry for blacks as they sought equality in the impending Civil Rights Movement. Consider that his first game played was so significant that it is listed in the History Channel’s timeline of “Black History Milestones.”

His legacy is immortal, his story is timeless, and his No.42 has been universally retired in Major League Baseball (sorry Mo Vaughn).

In my opinion, Jackie Robinson breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier is easily the sports event that has had the greatest social impact on humankind.

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Click Here to View Snatch’s Response – Curt Flood and the Beginning of Free Agency

Click Here to View Two Big Boob’s Response – Jesse Owens’ Performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Please Help By Voting on Which Event You Think is Most Significant!

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The first week of Major League Baseball has shown a number of surprise stories. In the fantasy realms, men like Emilio Bonifacio and Nyjer Morgan have caught fire. In the real world, however, the most shocking facet of Major League Baseball thus far is its respective division leaders.

Here is a list of the current division leaders:

AL West – Seattle Mariners
AL Central – Kansas City Royals
AL East – Baltimore Orioles
NL West – San Diego Padres
NL Central – Chicago Cubs
NL East – Florida Marlins

Needless to say, the only current division leader that was expected to be where they are is the Chicago Cubs. The rest of these teams are simply over-achieving, right? Maybe not…

Here is a run-down of the current division leaders and whether each team is teasing their fans with a good first week or could actually compete in 2009.

AL WEST – SEATTLE MARINERS

The general response to Mariners hype is “No way! They lost 101 games last season!” While this is true, most people overlook the fact that two years ago this team won 88 games and led the AL wild card race for most of the summer.

This is not to say that the Mariners will certainly win, but as I said in My Opening Day Article, the Mariners are capable of winning.

The three necessary components I listed are Griffey’s production (already 1HR), Bedard’s health (a near-shutout gem in his last start) and the bullpen gaining some consistency (David Aardsma and Brandon Morrow already look like a devastating 8th/9th inning combination). If these pieces fall into place, the Mariners could contend this year.

More than any other factor, the Mariners may benefit from playing in a weak division. The Angels are aging, the Athletics are talent-starved, and the Rangers seem content to keep winning or losing 15-run ballgames. If the Mariners develop some consistency they could pull this one off.

Verdict: Contender

AL CENTRAL – KANSAS CITY ROYALS

"Poppin' Fresh" Billy Butler Leads a Mediocre Kansas City Offense

"Poppin' Fresh" Billy Butler Leads a Mediocre Kansas City Offense

One of the most encouraging things about the Royals hot start is that it has come mostly against other AL Central opponents (combined 4-1 v. Chicago and Cleveland), but that being said it will be difficult for Kansas City to maintain this pace.

The Royals offense has been horrid, and in their first five games it scored a combined eight runs (1.6 R/G). Despite this terrible offense, Kansas City has been able to win with consistent pitching. Eventually this will fall through. Zach Grienke has an ERA of 0.00, Kyle Davies has a 2.13, and Gil Meche has a 3.21. These are excellent numbers, but to expect this production all year is ludicrous.

Grienke and Meche will remain solid, but Davies (career ERA over 5) and the rest of the Sidney Ponson All-Star rotation will not keep up this pace. Eventually the offense will drag them down.

Verdict: Pretender

AL EAST – BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This one is a slam-dunk choice for me. I’m not going to say that the Orioles are a terrible team, but I am saying that their competition is just too good for them to maintain their current pace.

Yes, they rocked the Yankees. But they caught C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in their first pinstripe starts, and if you look at each pitcher’s next round you can see what they are capable of.

Yes, they took a series from the Rays. But they caught the Rays’ back end of the rotation. They did not have to face Scott Kazmir or Matt Garza, while taking wins from Andy Sonnanstine and some guy named Niemann. B.J. Upton is healthy and the Rays are just getting started.

Oh yeah, then there is that team from Boston…

Sorry to Orioles fans, but 2009 is not their year. Baltimore has a good corps of five players (Roberts, A.Jones, Markakis, Huff, Mora), but the other teams in your division are just too talented for Baltimore to actually compete this year.

Verdict: Pretender

NL WEST – SAN DIEGO PADRES

SP Jake Peavy

SP Jake Peavy

I’m starting to feel like a jerk while writing this, but some of the things I’m writing have to be said.

I will give the Padres a great asset that the Orioles badly need: a terrible division to play in. However, I can’t say that the San Diego Padres can contend this year.

San Diego has split a series with the Dodgers (2-2) and swept a three-game series from the knockaround Giants. Unfortunately for the Padres, none of this has been done in convincing fashion.

San Diego seems content to let their pitching win games for them. They play in PetCo Park, feature a good-but-not-great pitching staff and to date the Padres have not scored more than seven runs in a game.

Jake Peavy and Chris Young are good enough to carry a team in this fashion. Walter Silva, Kevin Correia, and Shawn Hill, however, are not. Eventually San Diego’s mediocre offense will drag them down.

Verdict: Pretender

NL CENTRAL – CHICAGO CUBS

Yes. Is that enough to say here?

As I mentioned in My MLB Predictions Article, I believe that the Cubs have what it takes to win the NL Central. They have a solid pitching staff (Rich Harden is their No.4 Pitcher… That’s nasty) and excellent offensive weapons.

I don’t need to type much to defend the Cubs, as they are a near-consensus choice to win the NL Central this year (some Cardinals/Brewers supporters do exist).

Verdict: Contender

NL EAST – FLORIDA MARLINS

SS Hanley Ramirez

SS Hanley Ramirez

In 1997 the Florida Marlins shocked the world by winning the World Series with a low-income crop of players.

Six years later, in 2003, the Marlins again won a World Series with a group of unproven players (who have now gone on to be stars).

Six years later, in 2009, the Marlins have come out of the gate 6-1 and feature some of the best young talent in baseball.

Many critics suggested that the Marlins lineup would struggle without Hanley Ramirez in the leadoff spot, but Emilio Bonifacio is the new leadoff man and the Marlins haven’t lost a step.

2009 NL MVP Hanley Ramirez (book it, it’s happening) might be the best player in all of baseball, and while the lineup of Bonifacio, John Baker, Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, and Jeremy Hermida isn’t exactly “Murderer’s Row,” it is a serviceable offense.

The offense is average, but the pitching is outstanding. Many experts labeled the Marlins’ rotation of Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez, and Andrew Miller as the best in the NL East. They have an unprecedented amount of young talent, and if the rotation can gain consistency then the Marlins could contend for the NL East crown this year.

Verdict: Contender

That’s my opinion on what division leaders are faking it and who might be around to play in October.

Comment with what you think is right, wrong, and anywhere in between.

sk.

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It’s that time of year again, and Major League Baseball is ripe for predictions! Opening Day is in the books, and Remember the Sonics! is ready to publish its playoff predictions for the 2009 season.

–PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS–

AL WEST – Los Angeles Angels – The Angels’ corps group of players is aging and/or departed, but despite a decline in production, no team in the AL West has improved enough to challenge the Angels current reign of terror.

  • 2B Howie Kendrick

    2B Howie Kendrick

    The Angels may struggle out of the gate, as pitchers John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar are all slated to miss at least the first month of the season, but once these pitchers return the Angels’ pitching staff should perform at playoff-caliber.

  • 2B Howie Kendrick is one of the true young talents in baseball and could be a future AL Batting Champion
  • 1B Kendry Morales is primed for a good 2009 campaign and could be the 2009 AL Breakout Player of the Year.
  • While the Angels corps is aging, their outfield is comprised of former All-Stars Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and Vladimir Guerrero. These hitters are easily enough to produce good offensive numbers.

Dark Horse – Texas Rangers

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AL CENTRAL – Minnesota Twins – The Twins feature the most under-rated pitching staff in all of baseball. Most people think of Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer when the Twins come to mind, but their 2008 staff had a post All-Star break ERA under 4.00 and gain the services of Francisco Liriano in 2009. If their offense can produce even marginal offensive numbers, the Twins could emerge as favorites in the AL Central.

  • OF Michael Cuddyer

    OF Michael Cuddyer

    OF Michael Cuddyer returns to the Twins in 2009 after missing signficant portions of 2008 to injury. In Cuddyer’s last two healthy seasons he averaged .280AVG, 95R, 20HR, and 95RBI.

  • Much of Minnesota’s success rides on young talent. Former No.1 overall pick OF Delmon Young (23 years old), OF Carlos Gomez (23 years old) and 2B Alexi Casilla (24 years old) could make the Twins contenders with consistent play.
  • Don’t use Joe Mauer‘s absence as an excuse for the Twins to lose. Backup catcher Mike Redmond, a veteran and career .292 hitter, will fill in just fine. Can the Twins make the playoffs without Mauer? No, but if he misses minimal time they can survive.

Dark Horse – Anyone (This Division Has No Standout Teams)

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AL EAST – Boston Red Sox – I actually threw up in my mouth a little when I wrote this, but even I can’t ignore the mass amount of talent being stockpiled in Boston. In 2003 I hated the Red Sox for winning the Yankee-Way (Buying Talent from Free Agency), but not much of their 2003 championship team remains. Instead, there is a great amount of Boston-bred talent — maybe enough to win a championship.

  • 2B Dustin Pedroia

    2B Dustin Pedroia

    Boston has strengthened its lineup via farm system in the last six years. 2B Dustin Pedroia, 1B Kevin Youkilis, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, SS Jed Lowrie, SP Justin Masterson, SP Jon Lester, and RP Jonathan Papelbon were all drafted post-2002.

  • Boston also features one of the deepest rotations in baseball, headlined by All-Stars Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Not to mention that John Smoltz joins the rotation in June…
  • The Red Sox welcome back 3B Mike Lowell in 2009. Lowell played only 34 games post All-Star break last year.

Next In Line – New York Yankees

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AL WILD CARD – New York Yankees – Money can’t buy you love, but history shows it can buy an awful lot of World Series Titles. The Yankees went on an anti-recession spending spree this offseason, signing pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, as well as switch-hitting 1B Mark Teixeira. Despite Alex Rodriguez missing the first few months of the season, the Yankees should (key word: should) win at least 90 games and compete for the AL East crown.

  • C.C. Sabathia (L) and A.J. Burnett

    C.C. Sabathia (L) and A.J. Burnett

    The Yankees are known for big-name hitters crushing the ball and big-name pitchers falling apart (think El Duque, Pavano, the Unit, etc.). This year could be different, however, as the Yankees could feature one of the best rotations on all of baseball: C.C. Sabathia, Chien-Mien Wang, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettite, and Joba Chamberlain.

  • The most important part of the Yankees’ season will be April-May. If the Yankees can survive without A-Rod in a brutal AL East, expect them to compete during the summer and stretch run.
  • Get to know Brett Gardner. He is one of the few home-grown Yankee talents, and has the speed/defensive skills to make a niche for himself in the bigs. He was good enough to beat out Xavier Nady for an outfield spot and bump Johnny Damon to left field.

Next In Line – Tampa Bay Rays (translation: the Wild Card will be 2nd place in the AL East)

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NL WEST – Los Angeles Dodgers – Yes, the fighting Manny’s will win the NL West. This division has been called both the deepest and shallowest in the Major Leagues (depending on how you gauge each team).  The Diamondbacks will make a push, but they are a few bats short of a complete team.

  • OF Manny Ramirez

    OF Manny Ramirez

    The Dodgers might be the deepest offensive team in baseball, considering that every game either Andre Ethier or Juan Pierre has to ride the pine. They would love to have a DH spot.

  • SS Rafael Furcal returns to 100% this season after missing significant time in 2008 to injury. Furcal is one of the best shortstops in baseball and should fuel the Dodgers’ offense.
  • As much as I hate Manny Ramirez, he is back in a Dodger uniform. It’s not a contract year, so he might quit playing, but you never know with Manny.
  • Much of the Dodgers’ pitching success rides on the young arms of Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. Billingsley has shown he has the stuff to be an All-Star, but Kershaw is greatly unproven and still only 21 years old.

Dark Horse – San Francisco Giants

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NL CENTRAL – Chicago Cubs – Ah, the Cubbies. Having two close family members as die-hard Cubs fans, I have truly experienced the Cubs postseason woes of the last two years. That being said, the Chicago Cubs are the only team I know who can justify 100 years of bad baseball as being a “curse.” At least the Red Sox had some unfortunate circumstances to blame… the Cubs just say they’re cursed because they can’t ever win. Can the Mariners say they are cursed because of constant losing?…

  • 1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir

    1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir

    The Cubs starting rotation features four excellent pitchers: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, and Rich Harden. Harden could be an X-Factor for Chicago, depending on if he can stay healthy. He didn’t miss significant time for Chicago last year and turned in filthy numbers (71.0 IP, 89 K, 1.77 ERA).

  • For some reason the Cubs signed OF Milton Bradley in the offseason. Bradley has never had star-caliber numbers, and their vacancy in right field could have easily been filled by newly-acquired OF Joey Gathright, 2008 reserve OF Reed Johnson, or super-prospect 1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir.
  • How this team does not find regular at-bats for Micah Hoffpauir baffles me.
  • The bullpen could be an issue with Chicago this year. Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol will provide stability at closer, but the question is who will get the ball to them?
  • The Cubs also have one more glaring problem to fix. I am starting a website next week to address the issue. You should check it out: http://www.cut-fukudome-he-is-terrible.com

Next In Line – Milwaukee Brewers

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NL EAST – Philadelphia Phillies – The Phils are coming off a World Series Championship and don’t seem to have lost a step.

  • OF Raul Ibanez

    OF Raul Ibanez

    Philadelphia lost OF Pat Burrell to the Tampa Bay Rays, but replaced him with former All-Star Raul Ibanez. Burrell was a mainstay in Philadelphia, but the Phillies had no problem letting a career .257 hitter hit the road in favor of a career .286 hitter.

  • Over the last three seasons, Raul Ibanez has had no worse than a .289 Batting Average with 20+ HR and 105+ RBI each season. In all three seasons he outproduced Burrell in Runs, Hits, RBI, and Batting Average.
  • SP Jamie Moyer seems content to pitch until he is 50, which is ok with me. His game does not rely on speed, but on movement and location. How a 46 year old can start 33 games and go 16-7 with a 3.71ERA is beyond me. He even struck out 9 guys in one game last year… frightening.

Dark Horse – Florida Marlins

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NL WILD CARD – New York Mets – I refuse to jump on board with experts who have the Mets winning the NL East in 2009. Their claim: the Mets lost so many games last year due to a weak bullpen, and since the bullpen is fixed the Mets have to win! My claim: the Mets bullpen is now good, but who exactly is going to pitch innings 1-7 other than Johan Santana?

  • SS Jose Reyes

    SS Jose Reyes

    Other than Santana, the Mets’ pitching staff is a mess. Pedro Martinez is gone, Mike Pelfrey looks terrible,  Oliver Perez is bi-polar, and former Astros/Yankees/Padres/Nationals great Tim Redding isn’t the answer. That leaves Johan and John Maine to take on the world… (good luck).

  • Statistically, the Mets’ offense looks great. In terms of “we won’t choke in clutch situations,” the Mets’ offense looks terrible. They can’t bank on another Carlos Delgado renaissance (a la 2008), and past the David Wright / Jose Reyes show, the Mets’ don’t have much to offer but aging stars (see Carlos Beltran for one example).
  • OF Daniel Murphy has the tools to be a star in this league. The Mets are planning on playing him, but are still spelling him with Fernando Tatis. This is a grave error, in my opinion. Murphy needs to get at-bats and get them soon, because he (along with Wright and Reyes) could be a building block for this franchise.

Next In Line – Arizona Diamondbacks

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American League Division Series

  • Boston Red Sox over Minnesota Twins – The Red Sox will not be able to play the Yankees, as rules prohibit teams from playing inter-division in the first round, so the Red Sox will play the Division Winner with the worst record— The Minnesota Twins. The Twins are a talented young team, but probably only made the playoffs because they play in the AL Central. Boston Wins Series 3-1 (Minnesota wins when Liriano takes the hill).
  • New York Yankees over Los Angeles Angels – Yeah, the AL East is this good. If I could, I would take away the AL Central spot and give it to the Rays, because let’s be honest; the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays are probably the three best teams in the American League. The Angels are declining and have health issues in their pitching staff. The Yankees hitting, led by A-Rod and Tex, will lead them past the Angels. New York Wins Series 3-1.

National League Division Series

  • Chicago Cubs over New York Mets – This is an interesting first-round matchup, but the Cubs (with the best record) will draw the wild-card winner New York Mets. The Cubs and Mets have similar hitting talent, as each have their fair share of stars, but the Cubs pitching will lead them over the Mets. The Mets’ bullpen can’t stop their starters from giving up 5+ runs a game… Chicago Wins Series 3-2
  • Los Angeles Dodgers over Philadelphia Phillies – Not a good opening round for the NL East, as their champion falls to the Dodgers. The Dodgers have inexperience at pitching, but I truly believe they have the best lineup in all of baseball top-to-bottom. Other teams have a better corps of three, four, or five players, but when all nine are taken into account, the Dodgers trump. L.A. will figure out how to get lefties to throw sliders to Ryan Howard, making him powerless, and will take this series rather easily. Los Angeles Wins Series 3-1.

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American League Championship Series

  • Boston Red Sox over New York Yankees – I cringe at the thought of this series, because ESPN will collectivly touch themselves at the thought of a prominent rivalry meeting up in the postseason. In this case, however, the AL East has the most talent in baseball and will show it in the postseason. Boston wins this series because they are younger, faster, and deeper than the Yankees. The Yankees have bought a lot of top-tier talent, but as the first month of the season will show, one injury can derail them. The Red Sox are deep and have a great rotation and bullpen to easily shut down the Yankees back of the lineup. Boston Wins Series 4-1.

National League Championship Series

  • Los Angeles Dodgers over Chicago Cubs – I love Lou Piniella, and I would love to say that 2009 is when the Cubs figure out how to win in the postseason, but I just can’t do that. The Dodgers are too deep, and Kosuke Fukudome (if not cut by now) will single-handedly drive the Cubs into the ground. I believe that the Dodgers pitching can be good enough to let their offense win the series for them. If the Cubs can best the Dodgers hitting (with Big Z on the mound) then they have a chance, but I don’t see that happening. Los Angeles Wins Series 4-3.

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2009 Major League Baseball World Series

  • Los Angeles Dodgers over Boston Red Sox – After picking Duke to win in my NCAA Bracket I should never be allowed to predict winners again. That being said, I’m taking a shot. The Dodgers will win for every reason I listed before; they are deep in hitting and have enough talent in pitching to carry them. Just like they did in the ALDS, they will throw sliders to David Ortiz and remove him from the stadium. Solving Boston’s pitching will be an issue, but as Manny has shown— he can hit anything. I also cringe at this series because of the over-blown Manny v. Red Sox debacle, but I’ll brush it off because this should be a good series. In all, Manny carries another team to a championship and the Red Sox kick back and wonder why it wasn’t them. Dodgers Win Series 4-3.

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That’s it for the divisional predictions. Check back in a few days for the 2009 MLB Awards Predictions!

Comment with what you like/don’t like! We look forward to the discussion.

sk.

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Major League Baseball’s 2009 Opening Day is in the books, and it’s time for Remember the Sonics to provide commentary on significant happenings from Monday night.

Here’s a look at some things of note from Opening Day 2009.

Most Overhyped Headlines

Johan Santana Can't Pitch Every Game

Johan Santana Can't Pitch Every Game

New-Look Mets’ Bullpen Throws 3 1/3 Shutout Innings – This headline should read Old-Look Mets’ Offense Scores Only 2 Runs! The media has gone into frenzy over the Mets’ bullpen performance on Monday. It’s true, this is why they brought in J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, but the media is leaving out one significant detail: who is going to get them the ball? If Oliver Perez was pitching Monday and their offense scored only two runs, do you think K-Rod would have had a save opportunity? Instead of marveling at how K-Rod did a four-minute dancing celebration for an everyday save conversion, think about how the Mets offense needs to pick it up to be successful. Yes, the Mets’ bullpen looks better, but unless their offense can produce more than two runs (against a miserable Reds pitching staff) the Mets aren’t going anywhere this year.

C.C. Sabathia Gets Rocked In Season-Opener –
Yes, C.C. was beat up on Monday, but Yankees fans need to put away the pitchforks and pull out the history books. In 2008, Sabathia had an ERA over 10 through his first five starts (10.12 to be exact), and rebounded to nearly win the Cy Young award (in the National League). I’m not saying that C.C. Sabathia is going to suffer through four more terrible starts before turning it around (I’m not even saying that Sabathia will turn it around at all), but I am saying that if C.C. played anywhere else and were paid any less this would be back page news. For now, Sabathia is going to get butchered by the New York media and heckled by Yankee fans until he turns it around. Could he be the Yankees’ next big free agent bust? Absolutely, but I’d like to see more than one start until Sportscenter runs this story every three minutes.

Most Interesting Headlines

Aces Getting Busted – Opening Day was full of big-name pitchers giving up big-time run totals. Colorado’s Aaron Cook (2.1 IP, 6 ER), Arizona’s Brandon Webb (4 IP, 6 ER),  Cleveland’s Cliff Lee (5 IP, 7 ER), Toronto’s Roy Halladay (7 IP, 5 ER), and the previously mentioned C.C. Sabathia (4.1 IP, 6 ER) were all kicked around the mound by anyone and everyone. Throw these in with a number of other mediocre performances (Jake Peavy, Francisco Liriano, Roy Oswalt, etc.) and Opening Day 2009 looks like a hitters’ day. Johan Santana was in the minority of pitchers who earned their paycheck, but the majority of club aces got lit up on Monday.

Cardinals RP Chris Perez

Cardinals RP Chris Perez

Bullpen Turmoil in St. Louis – At the end of spring training, Cardinals’ Manager Tony LaRussa gave RP Jason Motte the closer nod while the Cardinals sent RP Chris Perez down to AAA-Memphis. Motte fell apart on Monday (1 IP, 4 H, 4 ER), heating up a previously comfortable closer seat. It will be interesting to see how LaRussa handles this situation. He is typically slow to oust closers (look at how long Isringhausen mucked up the Cardinal bullpen before he was put out of his misery), but if Motte blows any more save opportunities, especially in this fashion, look for Chris Perez to be called up. Perez was shaky as the Cardinals’ closer last year (converted 7 of 9 save opportunities), but he is a 23 year-old former first round pick… Expect to see him around sooner rather than later.

Winning Teams Who Provided False Hope for Their Fans

Colorado Rockies (9-8 over Arizona) – Monday’s showdown with Arizona was a typical Coors Field box score: 17 combined runs scored, 8 combined home runs, and no pitching to be found. The only problem is this game wasn’t played in Colorado, it was played in Arizona! Colorado won in typical fashion, by putting up impressive offensive stats, but the fans hopefully know that this fashion won’t provide a winning team. The NL West is open for the taking this year, but Colorado is my call for last-place. Until the Rockies gather some sort of pitching talent they simply cannot keep winning games. Last I checked this isn’t a Big 12 football game, so scoring every time you touch it isn’t enough to win.

Seattle May Be Doomed if Griffey Doesn't Return to All-Star Form

Seattle Could Win if Griffey Returns to All-Star Form

Seattle Mariners (6-1 over Minnesota) – I am a Mariners fan, and no one loved seeing The Kid’s home run stroke on Monday night more than me. Despite a good win tonight, here is what Mariners fans need to understand about Monday night’s victory: Felix Hernandez only gets to pitch once every five games! King Felix has Cy Young talent, but he can’t pitch every game for the M’s. Instead, the Mariners have to hand the ball to guys like Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, and Ryan Rowland-Smith (Ouch). Also, don’t forget that the Mariners offense featured the Mike Sweeney batting in the three-hole… The Mariners could win this year. Why? Because the Angels are aging and if they stumble the AL West offers no clear contender. The AL West might be the most open division in baseball, but unless Griffey gets his stroke back, Bedard stays healthy, and the bullpen gains some stability the Mariners probably can’t win in 2009.

Winning Teams Who Could Be Surprise Contenders

Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez

Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez

Florida Marlins  (12-6 over Washington) – Don’t look now, but the Florida Marlins might have the best pitching rotation in the NL East. Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez, and Andrew Miller offer the most young talent of any major league rotation. The question is if they can pitch consistently. Nolasco’s line on Monday wasn’t too impressive, but it was enough to best a miserable Nationals team. The X-Factor will be Florida’s offense. Hanley Ramirez is an MVP-caliber shortstop, but his supporting cast is inexperienced (to put it lightly). Don’t expect Emilio Bonifacio to put up this kind of stat line all season (4-5, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI), but if the Han-Ram, Dan Uggla and crew can provide a marginal amount of offense, the Marlins pitching staff could pitch them into contention.

Texas Rangers (9-1 over Cleveland) – Coming into Monday’s game, all the stats/predictions favored the Cleveland Indians. Numerous experts and bloggers predict Cleveland to win a weak AL Central, Indians’ starter Cliff Lee is coming off a 2008 Cy Young campaign, and the Rangers’ made no significant offseason transactions to better a mediocre 2008 roster. The Rangers outperformed any expectations on Monday by lighting up Cleveland’s pitching staff for nine runs and limiting Cleveland’s offense to only one. As previously mentioned, the AL West could be the most open division in baseball this year.  If the Rangers’ young players who lack experience (super-prospect Elvis Andrus and former Brave Jarrod Saltalamacchia) can contribute on offense, the Rangers might be able to steal the 2009 AL West crown.

RTS didn’t get it out in time, but expect our 2009 MLB Prediction Special some time this week…

Comment with what you agree/disagree on, we look forward to hearing from you.

sk

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Newsflash: Canada has produced more athletic talent than just Wayne Gretzky.

Unfortunately for Team Canada, it landed in Pool C of the 2009 WBC. Also in Pool C are baseball powerhouses USA and Venezuela, along with that-one-country-shaped-like-a-boot-who-tried-playing-baseball-a-few-times-and-claimed-that-Mike-Piazza-guy (Italy). On a very serious side note: anyone who wants to support Piazza should check out this hair/mustache combo— you’ll change your mind.

1B Justin Morneau Playing for Team Canada

1B Justin Morneau

Canada has been universally projected to finish third in Pool C, behind Venezuela and the United States’ MLB All-Star Parade. USA’s starting lineup boasts former MVPs 3B Chipper Jones (1993), SS Jimmy Rollins (2007), and 2B Dustin Pedroia (2008) along with former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy (2007). Venezuela also boasts an All-Star caliber roster, featuring players like 3B Miguel Cabrera and OF Magglio Ordonez. While Canada features less big-name players than its competition, it produced an outstanding performance in Saturday’s near-upset of the United States.

Every 2009 WBC Preview/Prediction that I saw picked the United States and Venezuela to advance from Pool C. Upon further review, however, Team Canada features enough talent and experience to play this year’s Cinderella.

Check out Canada’s starting lineup from Saturday:

  • C – Russell Martin – 2x MLB All-Star
  • 1B – Justin Morneau – 2006 AL MVP
  • 2B – Pete Orr – Washington Nationals
  • 3B – Mark Teahen – Kansas City Royals
  • SS – Chris Barnwell – Houston Astros
  • LF – Nick Weglarz – Cleveland Indians
  • CF – Jason Bay – 2x MLB All-Star
  • RF – Matt Stairs – 17yr MLB Veteran
  • DH – Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds

There are obvious holes in the lineup. Pete Orr has only been a utility player in his Major League experience, while Chris Barnwell and Nick Weglarz are currently in the  Minor Leagues. Despite this inexperience, several bright spots are also prevalent in Canada’s lineup. Canada features a plethora of young Major League stars. Russell Martin (age 26) is considered one of the three best offensive catchers in the Major Leagues, Justin Morneau (age 27) is a former American League MVP, Jason Bay (age 30) is a former NL Rookie of the Year, and Joey Votto (age 25) is one of the brightest offensive prospects in baseball. This young corps of players also has a source of veteran leadership in OF Matt Stairs, who boasts 17 years of MLB experience, 252 career home runs, and a 2008 World Series Championship with the Philadephia Phillies.

Canada’s weaker side is clearly its pitching staff. Canada has only two pitchers on its roster who are over the age of 30, and only three of their pitchers are currently playing in the Major Leagues. Despite a lack of experience, Canada does feature a number of high-caliber prospects. SP Philippe Aumont is a 2007 1st-Round selection (Seattle Mariners – 11th overall) who pitched one scoreless inning and struck out two against the United States on Saturday. Aumont is barely 20 years old, and at 6’7″ he is an intimidating presence on the mound. SP Scott Richmond is another Canadian pitcher who will gain MLB experience in the near future, as a number of injuries have thrust him into Toronto’s starting rotation for 2009. While this experience is not impressive, it is better than nothing (see South Africa and/or Chinese Taipei).

Team Canada Celebrating

Team Canada Celebrating

This article is not to say that Canada will win the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In actuality, the winner should be Japan or the United States. Several prominent countries have fallen victim to early upsets (e.g. Dominican Republic’s loss to Netherlands and Mexico’s loss to South Africa), but both Japan and the United States have looked nothing short of stellar thus far. Japan mauled Korea, its best competition in Group A, by a final score of 14-2 on Sunday. Later that same day the United States destroyed Venezuela, the alleged next best team in Pool C, by a final score of 15-6. This article is only meant to highlight the vast amount of young talent that Canada has stockpiled on its 2009 WBC team.

The 2009 World Baseball Classic will be won through offensive production. To date, 13 games have been completed in the World Baseball Classic. In each game, the winning team has scored an average of 9.0 Runs Per Game. Canada has a strong enough offense, anchored by Morneau and Bay, to keep pace with other countries. If Canada’s pitching and defense can limit opposing offenses (as they did while yielding only 6 runs to the United States) then it stands a chance of playing deep into this years World Baseball Classic.

Team Canada has shown moments of brilliance. If these moments can find a way to tie themselves together, Canada could make a second round push in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

If Canada loses the elimination-game to Italy on Monday… Forget that I ever wrote this.

sk.

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While Alex Rodriguez has disappointed millions of sports fans in the previous two weeks, his greatest victim to-date could be the integrity the Florida High School Athletic Association. The FHSAA announced today that due to recent revelations in the Alex Rodriguez steroid controversy they will end a statewide drug-testing program for high school athletes.

Alex Rodriguez at Miami's Westminster Christian School

Rodriguez at Miami's Westminster Christian High School

“It’s a shame that [the drug testing program] had to end this way,” laments FHSAA spokeswoman Colleen Clemons. Clemons, like many other Florida high school officials, believes that the testing program was introduced to maximize benefits from the overwhelming negative attitude towards performance-enhancing drugs. Unfortunately for these officials, Alex Rodriguez’s recent admission of steroid use changed the image of performance-enhancing drugs forever in the state of Florida. “Alex is a popular sports figure in Florida, and his admission to steroid use could wreak havoc upon the integrity of Florida high school sports.”

Broward County Superintendent Dr. Matthew McGuire agrees with Clemons as to the reach of the A-Rod scandal. “[Alex Rodriguez] is a Florida native, born and raised in nearby Miami-Dade County. What the rest of the country fails to understand is that in Florida Alex is not just a baseball player— he is an icon.” McGuire believes that while the FHSAA testing program had been effective, A-Rod’s revealed steroid use will  encourage high school athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs more than ever, resulting in an “A-Rod Boom” of steroid use. “If I were a high school athlete I would want to be just like A-Rod,” Added McGuire, “I would work hard, train every day, and if I had to use under-the-counter Dominican drugs to be like him, I would inject those too.”

Matthew McGuire is not the only proponent of the “A-Rod Boom” theory. Several FHSAA officials have agreed that while drug-testing is important, the money would be wasted if the end-result was suspending sixty-percent of the athletes tested. FHSAA Regional Director Cameron Boone concurred this belief. “I want to preserve the integrity of sports as much as everyone else, but when something this influential hits center-stage in American sports, you cannot blame these kids for wanting to juice.” According to Boone, the A-Rod appeal overwhelms an athlete’s desire for integrity. “Every athlete wants to achieve greatness, and Alex has shown the world that the fast-track to greatness comes in a prescription bottle.”

Alex Rodriguez With The NY Yankees

Rodriguez Playing For The New York Yankees

While this is not the end of drug testing in Florida high school sports, it is certainly the beginning of a long vacation. Experts predict the “A-Rod Boom” to carry over until five years after his retirement from Major League Baseball. With Alex Rodriguez still only 33 years old, it seems likely that Florida is facing fifteen or more years of high school sports without steroid testing. When the dust settles after A-Rod hangs up his cleats, the FHSAA plans to revisit the idea of steroid testing, but the damages against athletic integrity over the next fifteen years, if left unaddressed, could prove irreparable.

Colleen Clemons refuses to give up on the FHSAA drug testing policy. While she admits the defeat of FHSAA steroid testing, she expects to be the first administrator advocating its return when Alex Rodriguez retires from baseball. “This program was new,” Clemons contends, “and before it had a chance to blossom, its stated goal was virtually made impossible by the ‘A-Rod Boom.'”

Alex Rodriguez was unavailable for comment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you hadn’t caught on, this is a piece of satire. All names are fictional (and eerily similar to steroid all-stars Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Bret Boone), and the quotes were fabricated by the author. In truth, the end of the FHSAA testing program had nothing to do with the A-Rod scandal. Instead, it was a legitimate financial decision based on a cost-benefit analysis of the program’s results.

sk.

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