Results tagged ‘ Braves ’
My predictions for 2013 didn’t go as well this year as they have in previous years. But when it was all said and done, we had a great season to look back at and say there were some really big surprises. And some not-so-big surprises.
I will start with who I picked to make the postseason:
AL East: Tampa Bay (Won Wild Card, lost in ALDS to Boston.)
AL Central: Detroit (Won division, lost in ALCS to Boston.)
AL West: Texas (Lost Wild Card Tiebreaker Game.)
AL Wild Card: Boston (Won division and World Series) and Kansas City (Finished 5.5 game back, on the right track and will be back fighting in the Central next year)
NL East: Washington (The biggest disappointment in baseball in my opinion. I had them not only winning the east but making it to World Series. I still believe they will be a postseason team next year.)
NL Central: Cincinnati (Lost Wild Card game to Pittsburgh.)
NL West: Giants (Didn’t play nearly like the team that won the World Series in 2012.)
NL Wild Card: St. Louis (Won division and lost World Series to Boston) and Arizona (Started off strong before fading badly.)
The only positive thing I can say about my predictions is at least five of the teams I picked to make the postseason did so.
Looking back at what teams did this year that shocked me, first and foremost the pirates making the postseason was the biggest surprise by far. What that team and Clint Hurdle did this year was amazing to me. Another surprise was how well the Braves played when they got no production out of two of the guys they were counting on most in Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton. In spite of that, they ran away with the NL East. Great job of managing by Fredi Gonzalez. Also in my opinion the NL MVP is Freddie Freeman.
The game is so much about starting pitching these days that I believe sometimes great bullpens and bad bullpens get overlooked. The Pirates had the season they had in large part because their bullpen was awesome. The same can be said for the champs in Boston. They had two closers go down with injuries, yet managed to find a guy in Koji Uehara who was almost unhittable. The Cards’ young pen got them to the World Series in the postseason. Edwin Mujica did a great job of closing games until September, then Trevor Rosenthal and his 100-MPH fastball took over.
For the teams that had great rotations and subpar bullpens, we only need look as far as Detroit. Joaquin Benoit took over as closer in the second half and did great. But in the ALCS, the guys who were charged with getting the ball to Benoit were not so good, and cost the Tigers a chance to play in the World Series. It would not surprise me at all to see the Tigers go out and sign a free agent closer Joe Nathan, then trade Rick Porcello to land a couple of good, young arms — both left-handed and right — to add to their pen. If they do that, I will be picking them again next year.
Three of the saddest moments of this year were Charlie Manuel getting fired in Philly, Jim Leyland stepping down as manager of the Tigers, and Mariano Rivera retiring. Why are these sad to me? Because each and every one of those guys are what are sport should be about: pride, integrity, and class. Baseball will miss all of them. Of the three, I think we might see Charlie Manuel again. I’m not sure he has the game out of his system yet. I hope not anyway.
All in all, 2013 was a great year for MLB. Congrats to the Red Sox for bringing celebration to Boston after the senseless and inhumane act of the Marathon bombing.
What happened in the Marlins-Braves game last night was one of the dumbest and most embarrassing things I have seen on a big league field.
For those who didn’t see what happened, Jose Fernandez of the Marlins is pitching against the Braves and Evan Gattis hits a bomb off him, then proceeds to style and profile and stare Fernandez down. Fernandez just turned around and walked toward second base saying, “Wow” — meaning he crushed that ball. Mistake Number One by the Braves.
Then Chris Johnson comes up later, takes a pitch and shakes his head as to say, “You got nothing,” to Fernandez. Then Johnson proceeds to fly out to left, at which point he yells at Fernandez the whole way to first base. Then Johnson says “weak [blank] fastball” to Fernandez. Mistake Number Two by the Braves.
Fernandez was upset by this — any pitcher would be. In his next at-bat, Fernandez hits a home run, stands there and styles and profiles. When he reaches home plate, Brian McCann tells him he can’t being doing that, someone’s going to get hurt. I agree totally with McCann, as long as he had the same conversation with his teammates, Gattis and Johnson. Fernandez could have done what I would have done and drilled someone on purpose, possibly injuring one of the Braves’ pieces vital to their World Series hopes. Instead Fernandez did what was done to him: stood and watched his home run.
Then we come to find out that some of the Braves players didn’t like the fact that Fernandez smiles and has fun playing the game. That’s why Johnson was yelling at him. To me, that is absurd. There is nothing more entertaining than watching players smile and have fun. They play a game for a living.
Gattis has a very inspiring story to his big league career. So does Fernandez. He had to defect from his native Cuba to come to the U.S. and play baseball and get paid for it. Why should he not smile? It is not disrespectful to your opponent to smile. If you are one of those players who thinks the game of baseball owes you something and you want to be miserable playing it, that is your choice. Torii Hunter has been smiling for over 15 years and no one has a problem with that.
Then to make things even worse, in his postgame press conference, Marlins manager Mike Redmond basically threw Fernandez under the bus for what he did, saying, “That is not how we do things around here.” He did not stand up for his player in any way. If I am a member of that team, at that very moment I would have lost all respect for him as my manager. He didn’t mention one word about what Johnson and Gattis did to provoke the actions of Fernandez.
Many people out there think I’m a Braves hater. Not true. I have a ton of respect for many players on that team. Brian McCann being one of them. They have the player who I believe is the NL MVP in Freddie Freeman. They have probably the most dominating closer the game has seen in years in Craig Kimbrel. What I don’t respect are guys who play this game and have a problem with a guy smiling and having fun. Anyone who has a big league uniform on should be smiling. You are playing a game and getting paid for it. They don’t know what Jose Fernandez went through to come to the United States and play baseball.
My advice to Jose would be to keep respecting the game the way you do, because this kid respects the game. I have spoken with him. Also keep smiling and being yourself. Smiling is not showing up your opponent. Finally, don’t let anyone show you up. You get respect by earning it. You are not the one who should have been embarrassed last night. The guy who went 0-for-3 with a punch-out and talked trash all the way to first base should be embarrassed.
With September nearly upon us , I thought I would look at who is going to be in the 2013 Postseason in the National League.
In the East, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the Braves have that locked up. They hold a lead that I don’t believe can possibly be overtaken.
In the west, I would say the same thing about the Dodgers . That is something I didn’t think would happen this year for them. Not because they didn’t have the talent, but because of chemistry. They seem to have that in abundance now.
Where the NL gets cloudy is in the Central. St. Louis is leading the division by a game and a half over the Pirates, with the Reds 3.5 back, as we sit here on the 28th of August. They are both Wild Card teams right now, but the NL it could get very interesting is the final month.
With so many games played against each other, the Pirates , Reds and Cards could be their own worst enemies. If they all beat up on each other in a fight for the Central, that could give Washington and maybe the D-Backs a chance to sneak into one of the Wild Card spots, as the NL East and West are much weaker divisions than the Central. It would only take a run by one of those teams to keep both Wild Card teams from coming from the Central.
Pittsburgh has been struggling lately and the Reds have yet to make a strong run. It is great to see that the Pirates will enjoy their first winning season in 21 years, but do they have the experience to withstand a playoff push? Time will tell.
Last month I said that I thought both Wild Card teams will come from the Central. I have since changed that opinion. I believe that either Washington or Arizona will sneak in and take one of the Wild Card spots based solely on the strengths of the divisions.
When it is all said and done, I believe LA will be representing the NL in the World Series.
Atlanta acquired Justin Upton to play along side his brother, B.J., in their outfield. I think this is a great deal for the Braves. I believe that the thing holding Justin back from being as good as he can be is the fact that all the pressure had been heaped on him in Arizona.
There are some players who can handle that pressure and perform up to expectations, but also there are guys who feel that pressure and expectation and it can make them try to do more than they are capable of doing. I truly believe that Justin falls into this category. His talent is off the charts. But you have to believe that your talent is enough and trust in what you can do. I know personally from the point of an observer, that just watching his reaction to a strikeout or a missed play in the outfield that he wasn’t feeling that he had a bad at-bat or took a bad route. He was feeling that he let his whole team down. That is a lot to shoulder as a kid under 25 years old.
Going to the Braves to play next to his older brother is going let this kid’s true ability shine through. First of all, he is not going to be “the guy” in that Braves lineup. He is going to be one of the guys. The Braves had to part with Martin Prado, who I feel is one of the best “baseball players” in the game today — meaning he can put on any glove and have success. But in the the Braves also got Chris Johnson, who I feel will be the everyday third baseman and hit for more power than Prado. Now that Chipper Jones has retired, this team is now Brian McCann‘s. He is the perfect guy to take over the leadership role for the Braves. He is a steady, level-headed guy who plays the toughest position on the field.
What this means for Justin Upton is that he can put on his uniform and go play the game. From everything I have heard, he and his brother have a great relationship. I can speak from experience when it comes to playing with your brother — not at the big league level, but in high school. My older brother signed with the Brewers the year before I signed with the Padres. My only goal was to outperform my older brother, his was to make sure his little brother didn’t show him up! This deal could mean that we will finally see what the Uptons are truly capable of doing. There is nothing stronger than sibling rivalry to bring out the best in someone. I still feel the Nats are the best team in the NL East, but this deal definitely puts pressure on them to play in 2013 as well or better than they did in 2012. I am not counting out the Phillies, but their big three starting pitchers are going to have to all win 15 or more games apiece if they hope to contend.
Last week I have my AL playoff team predictions, this week the NL.
In the East, it is simple: Washington is going win it. In the Central it is even more simple: the Reds have an 11-game lead over the second-place Cardinals. The West is equally unexciting. The huge trades the Dodgers pulled off have done nothing to help this team. If anything, they have made them more inconsistent. The Giants hold a 7.5-game lead.
But this is where the Wild Card has made the month of September so exciting — especially the last two seasons. As a baseball fan and as an analyst, I can’t stress enough how important the Wild Cards has become in keeping our game relevant to watch in the final month of the season. Not only for fans, but for players as well.
When I played, there were teams I was a part of that by the All-Star break had zero chance at making the Postseason. As for me, I never needed a reason to go out and play as hard as I could every time I walked on the field. But I would be lying if I said all players felt and acted the way I did. I played with many teammates over the years who, once the postseason wasn’t a possibility, didn’t have to take every pitch or every at-bat as seriously. What the Wild Card has done is force these types of players to do what they should do anyway. We were payed to play all 162 games to win.
I wasn’t the most talented pitcher to ever put on a uniform by a long shot. But the one thing I had a great deal of was pride — and an extreme hatred for losing! Now the Wild Card is forcing all the players to go out and play every game like its the last game they will get to play.
As for the Wild Card races in the NL, this is where the excitement comes in. There are 15 games left on the schedule, and there are five teams within 4.5 games of a Wild Card spot. The Dodgers are one game back of St. Louis, the brewers 2.5 games, Pittsburgh at 3 games, the Phillies at 4, and the D-backs at 4.5.
Had I written this blog four days ago, I would have said Philly would be the team to leapfrog the teams in front of them. They had won seven straight games and were heading to Houston (who at the time had won 45 games all year long) to play a four-game series. They promptly lost three out of four to Houston. So I believe Philly is done.
I think the great first-half story of the Pittsburgh Pirates is done as well. They are down to one game over .500 and are now looking at the possibility of their 20th straight losing season. Arizona I don’t think has the pitching to string together a streak of seven or eight wins in a row, and that is what it is going to take to win that final spot.
This brings us to St. Louis and Milwaukee. The Cards are not playing the kind of baseball this year that they did last year in September, thanks to very inconsistent pitching and offense. So I feel that the Brewers — who had every reason to fold up their tents and call it a year not too long ago — have done what every team and every player ought to do. They have played hard every night and are right now the team that I think has the momentem to over take the Cardinals. So I believe the five teams that will represent the NL in the Postseason will be the Nats, Reds, Giants, Braves, and the Brewers.
This would mean that the Braves would play the Brewers in a one-game playoff in the Wild Card game, which for me means the Brewers — if Fredi Gonzalez does what I think he should do, as he has the cushion to set it up this way — would have to beat Kris Medlen, who in my opinion is the best pitcher in the game at this moment! It may only be a great run he is on, but there is not another pitcher right now who can claim his team has won 21 straight games he has started!
Before the season started, I made predictions as to what teams I thought would be Postseason teams. We are in the first week of July, and there are some teams that I thought would win divisions that are either not playing good baseball and are still in the hunt and there is one team that sits dead last in its division — the Phillies being that team.
As I sit here today, the American League East is shaping up to much like I thought it would, with the Yankees leading the division. The big surprise is that the Orioles sit in second place. I still believe that the Yankees will win that division, and I am sticking by my pick of Boston being one of the Wild Card teams. They have endured more days of players being on the DL than any other team in baseball, with over 900 games missed. And they still are only 6.5 games out of first. That means when they do get healthy, the Red Sox will be very deep heading into the second half.
The AL Central has not played out in the first half like I thought it would. I had Detroit running away with the division, but they have not played well as a team yet. I still see them doing much like they did last year and winning the division by a wide margin. Their starting pitching hasn’t been as dominant yet this year. Namely Doug Fister. He came to Detroit last year at the Trade Deadline and went 8-1 for the Tigers. He is 1-6 at this point. That won’t last.
The AL West is right where I thought it would be, with the Rangers leading the division, and the Angels in second place, which will earn them the other Wild Card spot.
In the NL, it has been much harder to figure out what has happened. The Dodgers got off to a great start, but the loss of Matt Kemp due to a hamstring injury has left their offense unable to out-hit average starting pitching. The Giants lead the division, but the team I picked to win the division, Arizona, has started to gain a little ground and they are getting healthier. I still feel that they will win the West.
In the Central, I picked the Cardinals to win the division. They started off on fire this year, but have since come back down to earth. The team that has shocked me and every other so-called expert is the Pirates. They have pitched well and are starting to hit a little bit. This is one division I am changing my pick to win from St. Louis to the Reds. They are at the top of the division in spite of the fact that they have not hit well all year long. They will hit in the second half and win the Central.
The NL East is a division that looks upside-down. In the spring, I picked the Phillies to win the division, even though Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were starting the year on the DL. They are in last place and 11 games out of first. Roy Halladay hasn’t pitched in well over a month. Cliff Lee has not won a game. All of these things will change in the second half. Utley is back, Howard is rehabbing in the minors, and Lee will start winning games. Washington, who I picked to finish second and be a Wild Card team is leading the division and is a very deep team. Atlanta is getting healthy, despite losing Brandon Beachy for the year. They have gotten Jair Jurrjens back, and he has thrown very well in his first two starts. People are going to think I’m nuts, and that is ok. I’ve been nuts before. But I think Washington is going to win this division, and the two Wild Card teams are going to come out of the East, with Philly and Atlanta being the two Wild Card teams.
I think Philly is going to trade Cole Hamels at the deadline to get a big right handed bat to hit behind Howard and also get an arm or two in the deal. There is zero chance of Hamels resigning with the Phillies, in my opinion. He is a Southern Cal boy, and the Dodgers will overpay to get him in their rotation, to go along with Clayton Kershaw. Hamels is at his peak as far as trade value. If the Phillies get a big bat and a bullpen arm or two in the deal, they can win games with Halladay, Lee, and Worley in the top 3 spots in that rotation.
Like I said, people will think I’m nuts. Well, I have papers to prove it! So let’s see how it all shakes out.