We made it, gang. A weird offseason where it took what seemed like ages for many free agents to end up with a job - not to mention all the hand-wringing over pace-of-play rules - is finally over. Opening Day is today. Here are my picks. Grab a cold one and enjoy.
AL EAST- It’s a two dog fight here, but the Yankees, if their starting pitching holds up, is the clear choice. The Red Sox countered the Stanton acquisition with J.D. Martinez, whose .690 slugging percentage last season was the highest in the majors. If David Price is the old David Price, they will chase the Yankees all season.
AL CENTRAL- The Indians have had playoff heartbreak in the last few years, but they are still an extremely good team. Led by Corey Kluber, their rotation is strong and when healthy, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen turn games into seven innings. The Twins had a good off season and that will keep them in the Wild Card mix.
AL WEST- As scary as it sounds, the Astros seem like a better team than the one that won the World Series a year ago. The acquisition of Gerrit Cole in the offseason boosted an already talented rotation. The Mike Trout led Angels made splash after splash in the winter months with the signings of of Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, and Zack Cozart. They also traded for Ian Kinsler. Possibly a Wild Card contender.
NL EAST- The 97 win Nationals are the favorites again in Bryce Harpers final year before Free Agency. The Phillies fast-tracked their rebuild with signings of Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta. Top infield prospect Scott Kingery is the real deal.
NL CENTRAL- Who could stop the Cubs? I think the Brewers have a very good chance in the division. They got better in the offseason, notably adding Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. This will be a battle right into September.
NL WEST- The Dodgers are loaded with too much talent and experience to come up short, but the Diamondbacks on the strength of their rotation will stick around all season.
AMERICAN LEAGUE Red Sox over Twins
NATIONAL LEAGUE Diamondbacks over Brewers
Yankees over Red Sox
Astros over Indians
Dodgers over Diamondbacks
Nationals over Cubs
Yankees over Red Sox
Dodgers over Nationals
Yankees over Dodgers
There it is - my bold predictions.
The 2018 baseball season in upon us. Spring training is over, it’s time for the long awaited real deal. That means prediction time. Lets start with the locals and I’ll do the divisions tomorrow.
Yankees 96-97 wins
Yeah I know, everyone is predicting 98-100 wins. It's sometimes easy for forget the Yankees didn't win the AL East last season, as they actually finished two games behind the rival Red Sox who WILL challenge them this season.
After adding slugger Giancarlo Stanton to an already potent lineup and with a full season of Sonny Gray alongside Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka atop the rotation, this year's squad looks even better than the one that advanced to the American League Championship Series a year ago. But they are not invulnerable.
It’s hard to realistically think Stanton and Judge can both again hit over 50 round trippers again. We all saw what happened to Judge the 2nd half. Can Stanton repeat what he did in Marlins Park? Can the good, - but not perfect by any mean- starting starting staff stay healthy and get to the 5th or 6th consistently and hand it over to their rock-star bullpen?
No doubt the Yanks have an All-Star lineup with Didi, Sanchez, Stanton and Judge. .Drury and Walker are good pickups. Gardner and Hicks are above average and the bench is good. Now if only Gregg Bird could ever stay healthy. He is the Wild Card here and will be missed the first 6-8 weeks.
For me it’s an effect Severino, a healthy Gregg Bird –once he returns- and a better defensive Gary Sanchez that help them to 96 or 97 wins and the division championship.
Mets 85-86 wins
I don’t think the Mets will be as bad as everyone thinks they will be.
A new manager is in place in Mickey Callaway, and the Mets added veterans such as Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas in the offseason.
For all the great arms the Mets possess, none of their young hurlers have won 20 games. Jacob deGrom has won the most with 15 wins this past season, while Noah Syndergaard has maxed at 14 and Matt Harvey tallied 13 wins in 2013. Look out for Harvey to make a comeback, and Syndergaard getting 18-20 if the Mets get him some runs and a miracle occurs, they stay healthy.
Vargas and Frazier make them better. Michael Conforto once he returns could give them 20-25 homers. Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce can easily hit 30-plus homers. The Mets will score runs, again…if they stay healthy.
Adrian Gonzalez will man 1st base till Smith returns, but I don’t see much from that position along with catcher. Although his name has been mentioned plenty of times in trade rumors, the Mets seem to be intrigued by the idea of giving Lagares a starting role in centerfield because of his elite defensive skills, but can he hit?
Yoenis Cespedes is the key piece to the Mets' lineup. “If” he stays healthy their better, if not it’s no better than 3rd in the division.
Phillies 87-88 wins
In a National League East dominated by the Washington the improving Phillies might just challenge for a Wild Card spot.
Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta will lead the pitching staff. while Rhys Hoskins will prove last year was no fluke. Carlos Santana was a great addition. This team is going to be better.
Scott Kingery, Aaron Altherr, Jorge Alfaro and J.P. Crawford are other young, intriguing talents possibly ready to make big leaps. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez both have upside. The Phillies also have a fascinating new manager and an underrated bullpen, so with the second NL Wild Card seemingly up for grabs, and baseball being such a crapshoot once the postseason starts, the Phillies are my favorite long shot bet of the season.
Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to watch as many March Madness games as I usually do, but last night I saw a terrific back and forth game between Nevada and Loyola-Chicago. The result : Sister Jean is beaming and still on a mission and her Ramblers (31-5) are going to the Elite Eight.
They won 69-68 Thursday, an 11 seed over a 7 seed in a South Region gone haywire. And they did it by going peak Loyola when they needed to most, outscoring the Wolf Pack 20-4 to end the first half and then — incredibly — making their first 13 shots of the second half in building a double-digit lead that wasn’t enough. The maroon and gold eventually went cold for a brief spell and the Pack roared back, tying the game 59-59 on a Cody Martin laying with 4:06 to go. That’s what good teams do in March. That’s what Sweet 16 classics look like, and this one was a classic.
With Loyola clinging to a one-point lead and only 6.3 seconds remaining, Marques Townes sank clutch a 3-pointer from in front of the Ramblers' bench to continue their improbable NCAA Tournament run. The win leaves the Cinderella Ramblers one victory (69-68) from a Final Four appearance. Not bad for a program that hadn't been in the Sweet 16 in 33 years.
In my opinion, last night’s game was the best game of the tournament so far thanks to the cardiac Ramblers who did it again. Sister Jean is smiling and I’m rooting for the Maroon and Gold!
Borrowing from the Grateful Dead; “What a strange trip it’s been” (so far).
Where does one start? Well, let’s start at the top.
Virginia’s 74-54 defeat at the hands of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, wasn’t that close. The Cavaliers were unequivocally the best team in Division I this past season. It was the first time a No. 16 seed had beaten a No. 1 seed since the Division I men’s tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — that is 33 years and 136 matchups of 16 versus 1. It doesn’t end there.
Sunday was a feeding frenzy for the underdogs in this epic tournament as five top seeds went down one after the next. Xavier, in the West region, became the second No. 1 seed to lose before the Round of 16 this year — the first time that’s happened since 2004. You can thank Florida State for that.
No. 2 seeds Cincinnati and North Carolina were eliminated, as were Michigan State, the No. 3 in the Midwest Region, and Auburn, the No. 4 in the Midwest. Yikes!
No. 11 Syracuse, the last team chosen by the tournament selection committee to enter the field of 68 crushed the dreams of No. 3 Michigan with a stunning 55-53 upset over State, the Orange officially crashed the Big Dance, as did No. 7 Nevada who trailed at halftime only to see a shot by Caleb Martin tie the game with 57 seconds remaining, as part of a 10-2 run. They beat No. 2 Cincinnati by two . Then there was No. 2 North Carolina, who saw Texas A& M go on a 25-8 run to close the first half. The Tar Heels never recovered in the second half.
Oh and let’s not forget No. 5 Clemson, which closed the first half with a 25-4 run that helped it beat No. 4 Auburn by a score of 84-53 on Sunday. And then Loyola advanced to the dance of sixteen.
They weren’t kidding when the “experts” said there was parity in college hoops this year. I had no horse in this race but it was certainly an historical and entertaining weekend in NCAA land. Brackets busted, point spreads destroyed and some unfamiliar faces in the Sweet Sixteen. Yep, what a strange trip it’s been.
Here we go again. Just when you think Odell Beckham Jr. has had a quiet offseason … a video pops up on social media featuring one of the best receivers in the NFL. In the video, which was first tweeted by the Fameolous, Beckham is in bed with a woman, pizza, a credit card, and a white substance. Beckham is holding some type of brown cigarette. A Dobie perhaps? One word..STUPID.
As it turns out, the Yankees were not comfortable going into the 2018 season with two rookie infielders. Or even one rookie infielder, for that matter. So, Brian Cashmen made what appears to be another good move. He signed free agent infielder Neil Walker. Let me repeat-Good Move.
It is worth mentioning once again that not only have the Knicks only won one playoff series in the past 17 years, and lost more games than anybody else in the league in the past 17 years, but they are now about to lose 50 games three times in a row for the first time since the 1960s. Nice going Mr. Dolan
YES Network announcer Ken Singleton said he is stepping away from broadcasting after the season to spend more time with his family. He’s been calling Yankees games since 1997, back when they were on the MSG Network, and he joined YES full-time when the network launched in 2002. He will be missed, class guy.
NHL rinks right now are serving as proving grounds for four of the Rangers' young defensemen, all of whom have spent at least half the season in the AHL. Neal Pionk and John Gilmour have led the way. I’m impressed.
The Met’s injury-plagued right-hander Zack Wheeler is trying to make the starting staff. He looked good against the Yankees last week. Oh wait, isn’t the entire staff injury-plagued?
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