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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rip Van-Me Finally Woke Up!

So much has happened in baseball since I last posted on my blog!  The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw notched his Major League-leading nineteenth win on his way to yet another Cy Young award (remember my previous post about being "bad-ass?"  Kershaw is definitely one of those!); the Houston Astros fired second-year manager Bo Porter; team owners elected a new Commissioner who will take over after Bud Selig retires in January (and they didn't pick me!); the Kansas City Royals inched their way closer to a playoff spot; and did you hear that Derek Jeter is retiring?  I know; I had no idea either!

Let's take a peek at the division standings and how things look playoff-wise now that I'm back to the grind (by the way, my husband and I went to two games at Nationals Park during my hiatus, so I was definitely paying attention!).  In the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels (which in Spanish means "the angels angels") became the first team to clinch a playoff spot and have the best record in the Majors.  People will watch them because of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, but they should also pay attention to Matt Shoemaker, Howie Kendrick, and Erick Aybar.  They're surely going to have the AL West clinched by the end of the week, and people better start paying attention to these guys.

In the AL Central, things aren't so cut-and-dry.  The Detroit Tigers are only a game and-a-half above the Royals, who refuse to give up and are hungry for a playoff birth.  Some people are tired of the Cabrera-Verlander-Scherzer Tigers and want to see the Royals have a go at a pennant (they haven't amounted to much since the days of George Brett.  Pine tar, anyone?).  I would be happy with either team.  The Tigers are always fun to watch since they have such collective talent, but the underdog Royals would be a breath of fresh air.  And they have some cute guys on the team too!

As far as the AL East, it's Baltimore all the way.  They hope to clinch their playoff spot tonight (or may already have, depending on when you read this), and they've played some really good baseball despite injuries to key players.  Last year's home run leader, Chris Davis, has to serve a 25-game suspension for not submitting the appropriate paperwork to allow him to take his ADHD medication, but it's not like he was hitting anywhere close to last year, so the Orioles will be fine without him. 

On to the National League, where my mighty Nationals are also hoping to clinch a playoff spot tonight (if they can beat those annoying Braves).  Their lineup is solid, their starting rotation is strong (with Geo Gonzalez as the weakest link - who would've thought that would be the case this season?), and their bullpen is decent.  They fired Rafael Soriano as their closer and replaced him with Drew Storen, who was the closer when the Nationals lost to the Cardinals in the 2012 playoffs, but Storen has matured a lot and is better able to handle stressful situations.  Now if only I could afford to attend a playoff game...

In the NL Central, those darn Cardinals are in first place AGAIN.  Aren't we all sick of the Cards?  Really; give those Pirates a chance, will ya?  The Bucs are only 3 1/2 games out, and are technically still "in it."  Plus they have Andrew McCutchen, whom everyone loves, and a nicer ballpark and better fans.  Plus the "pirate" was my high school mascot, so there's that.  A lot depends on how the San Francisco Giants do (that whole Wild Card thing is a whole other story).

Lastly, the NL West belongs to the Dodgers, who have excellent pitching, a great manager in Don Mattingly, and an enigma named Yasiel Puig.  While an all-LA World Series would be boring to most casual fans, I would find it interesting and would actually root for one if the Nationals and Orioles are eliminated in the playoffs.  I could easily live vicariously through the LA fans but would have a hard time picking a favorite team (while I usually root for the National League team in the World Series, I like the Angels a little more than the Dodgers, so I would definitely be torn).  Yes, a "Beltway Series" would be super-exciting for those of us here in the mid-Atlantic, but a west-coast series would suffice.

So as you can see, there is still a LOT of baseball to be played and most playoff teams to be decided.  As for me, I promise to blog more, because I really missed writing while my life was busily filling up with family obligations, kids' activities, and the demands of my "real" (paying) job.  I'll be back soon with more predictions and more shallow commentary (sorry!), but in the meantime, keep rooting for those Nationals, Orioles, and Pirates! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Trade-Trade Here and a Trade-Trade There (with a peek at our next Commissioner?)

Every year, the end of July brings with it a lot of wheeling and dealing between Major League baseball teams.  With a deadline of July 31st, teams in contention do whatever they can to strengthen their rosters, and loser teams give up some good players with hopes of getting some prospects or cash in return.  Many of these players being traded are going to be free agents at the end of the season, so they're being traded solely for the purpose of helping a team get to the World Series and sometimes don't return with that team the following season.  It makes things exciting, because most teams wait until the last minute to make their trades, leaving us nerdy fans at the edge of our seats until 3:59 pm (after 4:00 on July 31st, no more trades can be made).

This year was no exception.  The day started with the Oakland A's surprisingly getting rid of slugger (and two-time Home Run Derby champ) Yoenis Céspedes in exchange for starting pitcher John Lester and older-than-dirt Jonny Gomes, who has played for more teams than I can count (he's actually only 33, but he has played for 7 different teams, so it seems like he's been around forever).  This trade left me going "Huh???" because it doesn't seem to make much sense.  While I normally don't question anything that A's General Manager Billy Beane does, I think renting Lester for 2 months (he will be a free agent at the end of the season) at the expense of losing Céspedes was very risky.  But Beane has made it very clear that he wants to make it to the World Series this year, so I guess he has the off-season to worry about restructuring his ball club.  In the meantime, the Red Sox are going to be hitting home runs left and right with Céspedes and David Ortiz, but will sadly remain in the basement of the AL East.

Another trade worth mentioning involved three teams.  Former Cy Young Award winner David Price went to Detroit (a team that now has three Cy Young winners in its rotation), the Tigers' Austin Jackson went to Seattle, and Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin went to Tampa Bay (Smyly was with the Tigers and Franklin was with the Mariners).  I know; very confusing!  What killed me was that Austin Jackson was removed in the middle of the Tigers' game against the White Sox - manager Brad Ausmus went out to the home plate umpire in the middle of the seventh inning to let him know that Jackson was being removed because he had just been traded.  Couldn't they wait for the inning to finish?  Poor Jackson looked a little confused, and when he reached the dugout, all his teammates were giving him good-bye hugs.  That's when I feel like these guys are treated like cattle, but then I remind myself how much money they're making, and I stop feeling badly.  Still - were they going to give Jackson a few minutes to go to his apartment and get his things? 

And of course my Washington Nationals couldn't sit there and watch everyone else get traded; they had to get in the game as well, acquiring infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Cleveland Indians for Zach Walters and some cash.  Cabrera will be a welcome addition to the Nats' infield, since third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has a Type 3 hamstring strain that has him on the Disabled List for a long time (in case you were wondering, "Type 3" means his hamstring is so messed up that it's practically hanging by a dental-floss-thin muscle fiber and can roll up like a cheap window shade at the slightest movement).  Ryan's absence has me so sad, because he's the quintessential clutch hitter who always came through in the bottom of the ninth inning.  The Nationals are trying to fill that void by moving Anthony Rendón from second base to third (his natural position) and putting newly-acquired Cabrera at second base.  Problem is, Cabrera is a natural shortstop and hasn't played second base since 2009.  Is that an issue?  I don't know; I haven't made the transition from shortstop to second base myself, so I can't speak from experience.  

Something else that is noteworthy from this past week's baseball action was the appearance of former President George W. Bush when the Texas Rangers hosted the New York Yankees.  Bush was there as part of a pre-game ceremony in honor of Derek Jeter (have you heard that he's retiring?  I KNOW - I had NO IDEA!)  And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Ivan Rodriguez was there too.  Anyway, I have always thought that "W" would make a good baseball Commissioner.  No, I'm not high; hear me out for a minute.  He's a former team owner like current Commissioner Bud Selig was (I'm OK with former owners being Commissioners as long as they know a baseball from a softball), he is a genuine fan, and regardless of my political views, I can admit that he has charisma.  He definitely seems more personable than Selig, and he would do a better job at throwing out a first pitch than most people who make that attempt.  So if they're not going to offer me the job, the next-best person may just be POTUS #43.  Again, my observation has NOTHING to do with my political views!

Alrighty, friends - two more months of regular-season baseball left and two more games for my husband and I to attend.  Keep cheering for the Nationals and Orioles (or at least cheer against the Phillies, Braves, and Yankees), and keep an eye on José Abreu of the White Sox, who currently has a 20-game hitting streak going.  Gosh, I hope I didn't jinx him by mentioning it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Halfway Over Already???

Happy All-Star break, my friends!  As we look back on the first half of the 2014 baseball season, we Washington Nationals fans should be pretty pleased with our team.  Not only are the Nationals in first place in the NL East (percentage points above the Atlanta Braves); the Nats have won 10 of their last 14 games, their bats have come alive, and their pitching continues to be solid.  And I have to mention the Baltimore Orioles too - just because Chris Davis isn't hitting doesn't mean the team doesn't deserve to be in first place in the AL East - go Os!

While some ESPN critics claim that the Nationals have “under-performed” during the first half of the season, I have to say that these people are idiots and are only looking at statistics on paper.   The Nationals are tenth in the National League in batting with a team average of .246, and their best average is held by cutie Anthony Rendón, who is batting .287 (number 22 on the NL list).  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The Nationals lead the NL in pitching, with a 3.08 team ERA, starter Stephen Strasburg leads the league with 149 strikeouts, and closer Rafael Soriano has 22 saves with a 0.97 ERA.

And how about all those guys on the Disabled List?  Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Wilson Ramos all spent most of the first half of the season on the DL, and as far as pitchers, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez also had short stints on the List.  So chill out, critics; the Nationals are right where they need to be at the halfway point of the season.

But what do the Nationals need to do to remain on top?  First, Bryce Harper needs to do some hitting.  Since his return from the DL, Harper has gone 6-40 with one home run.  Bryce is a talented kid – I know he can hit!  Hopefully he can analyze his swing during the break (isn't that what they all do - "review the tapes?"), take some pitches from his dad, and come back ready to do some damage.  Just think about your parents, Bryce; you're embarrassing them!

The Nationals also need to get rid of Danny Espinosa.  Don’t send him down to the Minors – trade him for some prospects or some cash or for a nice hand-made Amish quilt.  He calls himself a switch hitter but can’t hit from either side, and just being a good fielder is not enough if you can’t hit.  Danny has to go - he plain old sucks.

Finally, the Nationals HAVE to beat the Braves.  They have nine games left to play against the Braves this season, and they need to win at least 5 of them.  The Braves aren’t all that – their hitting has been up and down and their pitchers aren’t as dominant (except for that Craig Kimbrel guy with his weird pitching stance) – so there’s really no reason why the Nationals can’t win most of their remaining games against the Braves.  If anything, they need to win the games in Atlanta so I don’t have to hear that annoying “Tomahawk Chop” that their fans do when their team is winning. 
How about the rest of the teams in the Majors - any surprises during the first half?  Well I'm glad you asked!  I'm surprised to see the World Champion Red Sox on the bottom of the AL East; I'm a little surprised that the Oakland A's have the best record in baseball; and I'm saddened that the Cardinals' Yadier Molina is going to be out for a while with a torn thumb ligament.  Ouch!  I was even sad to see a Yankee go down (and that's rare for me!) when rookie pitcher Masahiro Tanaka suffered a partial tear of the ulnar ligament in his pitching arm.  He had my vote for Rookie of the Year, but now he has to undergo all sorts of aggressive rehab which will sideline him for a while.  Luckily, he may be able to avoid Tommy John surgery because he had platelet-rich plasma injected into his elbow, and that's supposed to make the tear heal itself.  Let's hope it works, but not if the Yankees make it to the post-season. :-)

So, my friends, the second half of the season should be a good one.  Enjoy tonight's Home Run Derby (I'm rooting for Giancarlo Stanton) and tomorrow's All-Star Game (National League fan, obviously!), and may the second half bring good health and many home runs to the Nationals and Orioles.  I, for one, would love to see a "Battle of the Beltways" World Series-style!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Phew! I'm Back!

Mercy me!  It's hard to believe that I hadn't blogged in over a month!  May was utterly crazy with 3 family birthdays, my daughter's 8th-grade graduation, my son's hectic and unpredictable baseball schedule, and house guests.  Now that life has settled down a little and my husband and I have returned from our vacation in Italy (sans kids - it was just terrible!), I can finally take a breath and focus on my blog.

A lot happened in Major League Baseball during my hiatus - the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw no-hit the Rockies, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn passed away, and my husband and I went to Nationals Park to watch the Nats gets their butts kicked by Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers.  But hey, my Nationals are in first place in the NL East, so there's that.

One thing I've neglected to do this season, which I usually do in May, is to submit my All-Star ballot.  Since it's better to do it late than not do it at all, I went ahead and voted earlier today (it's Primary Day here in Frederick, so why not vote?).  Some of my usual players are there (Miggy, Canó, Yadier) and some are new (Blackmon, Prado, Perez).  Here are the players who got my vote and the reasoning behind my selections:

First base:  Sorry, Orioles fans; the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera always gets my vote.  Until he decides to have a crappy year or switch to DH, he will always get my vote over Chris Davis.

Second base:  I could have voted for José Altuve, but just like with first base, Robinson Canó always gets my vote.  He is just bad-ass, especially since he's no longer a Yankee.

Shortstop:  Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox gets my vote this year.  Not voting for Derek Jeter should come as no surprise to you if you've read my blog in the past.

Third base:  I really wanted to vote for Manny Machado, but since he was out for the beginning of the season, I had to go with the Rangers' Adrian Beltre.  He's batting .309 so far this season, so there.

Designated Hitter:  As much as I hate the DH, I forced myself to vote so I would have a full ballot.  No, I did not vote for "Big Papi" or for the Tigers' Victor Martinez - the Orioles' Nelson Cruz got my vote, because he has proven that you can come back from a drug suspension and still kick butt.  Not that I think he should have taken PEDs in the first place, but if MLB is going to give him a second chance, he has certainly made good lemonade out of his lemons.  Plus I had to vote for an Oriole.

Outfield:  This is the hardest category by far.  I wanted to vote for six players, but I had to cut it down to Alex Gordon of the Royals and the Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera and José Bautista.  That left out Nick Markakis and Adam Jones of the O's and Mike Trout of the Angels.   Sorry guys; I can't vote for EVERYONE!

First base:  I voted for Adam LaRoche because he can play a mean first base and he's leading the Nationals in batting.  He'll probably be named as a reserve player, but at least I can say I voted for a Nationals player.

Second base:  I had to vote for the Pirates' Neil Walker even though I love Anthony Rendón of the Nationals, because Walker is just having a better year and Rendón has been playing at third base lately.  Chase Utley is having a good season too, but I don't vote for Phillies players, so he's out.

Shortstop:  Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies, hands down!

Third base:  I chose Martín Prado of the Arizona Diamondbacks because Chipper Jones and Mike Schmidt are retired.

Catcher:  Sigh!  Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers is having a great season, but I had to go with my Puerto Rican heart and vote for the Cardinals' Yadier Molina.  He's kind of trashy, but he's the best catcher in the game today.

Outfield:  I left out the three "P"s who are playing well - Angel Pagán, Yasiel Puig, and Hunter Pence - and voted for three players who are playing better:  Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies, and Carlos Gomez of the Brewers. 

So there you have it - now I have to wait and see how many of the players I voted for end up making the All-Star team.  So much of it is a popularity contest, but I like to think that I actually put some thought into my voting.  Enjoy the last 3 weeks of the first half of the season, and don't forget to watch some World Cup soccer too!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

From Mudville Mom to Proud Mom

(Warning:  "Mudville Mom" is taking a break from her snarky, tell-it-like-it-is, opinionated views to bring you a heartfelt account of her life as a baseball mom.)

Hello, baseball fans!  It's been a while since I've blogged, because honestly, there hasn't been much worth blogging about lately.  I was going to write about Nolan Arenado's hitting streak, but it stopped at 28 games.  Yu Darvish's no-hitter?  No, it was broken up in the bottom of the ninth inning.  José Fernandez being on the DL?  That's just so devastating for baseball that I don't even want to think about it.  So instead of blogging, I've been enjoying my son's Little League baseball games and beaming as a proud mom.

My son is 10, and by no means is he the next Babe Ruth.  He tried machine-pitch baseball in first grade, but thought that he was better-suited to play soccer, which he has played since Kindergarten.  I can honestly say that he's lightning-fast, but he's way too nice on the soccer field.  The competitive Puerto Rican in him has not come out yet, and he's more of a "No, it's OK; YOU go ahead and kick the ball!" type of kid.  But he's been with the same teammates since first grade, and he genuinely likes to play soccer every fall.

This spring, Son decided to give baseball another try.  He has always enjoyed watching baseball with me, and now that he has a good understanding of the game, he figured he could give it a shot.  So we took him to tryouts and were disappointed to find out that Son was placed on a machine-pitch team again, while his best buddy was moving up to the Minors.  Son was devastated, and I thought "Boy, this is going to be a LONG season!"  I thought he would whine about having to go to practices and we would have to drag him to all his games.  Well, putting my kid in machine-pitch turned out to not be such a travesty after all.

For those of you not familiar with Little League rules, machine-pitch is a level where they focus on instruction, skill development, and fundamentals.  They don't officially keep score at the games (though there is always someone keeping very detailed track of each at-bat, hit, out, and run), and each game lasts less than two hours.  You also aren't allowed to heckle (gone are the days of "go batterbatterbatter, SWINGbatter!" and "We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher!"), and all the parents had to take some sort of oath on Opening Day promising they weren't going to be obnoxious potty-mouths and were going to behave themselves appropriately while spectating (they clearly haven't seen me during a baseball game).  Now I must say, I've been pretty good so far, though I have questioned two plays with the coach and have asked if the infield-fly rule is used in Little League.  I'm sorry; I know the game, so I'm going to question!

So why has my son had such a good experience so far?  First of all, he's one of the biggest kids on the team (since he's on the older side for machine-pitch), so he's naturally beyond the "playing with the dirt in the infield and looking at the birds in the outfield" phase.  He always plays hard, and because he knows the game, he knows where to stand, who to throw the ball to, and how to get someone out (when playing first base one time, he decided against trying to make a leaping catch because he figured it would get him off the bag, and as the catcher at last night's game, he made the last out because he knew he had to cover the plate and tag the runner coming from third base when the ball was thrown to him).  He also has a very good coach, a parent-volunteer who stresses fairness and good sportsmanship and has even called out a few opposing coaches who have not played nice.  His kid is not the best on the team, which my son finds refreshing, and he genuinely likes to teach little kids how to play good baseball.

My son still has a long way to go - remembering not to slow down as he's reaching first base (he's afraid of running into the kid covering the base); working on catching fly balls; following his swing all the way through so his hits can someday leave the infield - but he's already come a long way, and whether he decides to play baseball in coming years or not, at least I know I'm raising a kid who plays hard, can think under pressure, and gets along with his peers.  I may consider myself a die-hard baseball fan, but I am a mom first and foremost, and my kids make me proud every day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Homers and Happy Birthday!

When the Anaheim Angels arrived in Washington, DC earlier this week to take on the Washington Nationals, all the talk was about phenoms Mike Trout and Bryce Harper playing against each other.  Both young outfielders won the Rookie of the Year award for their respective leagues in 2012, and both are hard-working, hustling guys who play the game hard (except Trout is having a better season than Harper so far, plus he does commercials for Subway and Bryce does not).  Another reason that this series was under the radar of baseball fans was that José Alberto Pujols (known to everyone in the world except his family as "Albert"), was coming to DC with 498 career home runs under his belt.  After having the worst season of his career in 2013, most people (including me) thought that he may hit number 499 during the series, but 500 didn't seem likely for a few more days.

Well, at Tuesday night's game with the Nationals' Taylor Jordan on the mound, Albert Pujols became the only player to hit home runs 499 and 500 in the same game.  He is one of only 26 players to reach the 500 home run milestone, and is only 5 homers away from passing Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.  Pujols is only the fourth player in the 500 Home Run Club to be born outside of the US, with Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Manny Ramirez being the other 3 (with Pujols being the only one who has never been implicated in any kind of steroid scandal).  He's one of those Derek Jeter-type of likable guys who gives money to charity and loves playing the game.  Pujols is a true family man, having created a foundation with his wife to increase awareness of Down's Syndrome (a condition that one of his children has).  Oh, and I can say I saw him play twice - as a St. Louis Cardinal against the Nationals in 2012 and as an Angel against the Orioles in 2013.

Instead of filling my post with all sorts of statistics and listing all the accolades that Pujols has earned during his Major League tenure both with the Angels and the Cardinals, I surfed the Internet looking for the most interesting fact that I could find on Albert and here's what I found in Wikipedia (you can choose to believe it or discard it):  Albert Pujols scored a perfect 100 on his citizenship exam when he became a U.S. citizen in 2007.  Have you SEEN some of the questions on that exam?  Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

Also worth noting is that Chicago's Wrigley Field, home of the sorry Cubs, is celebrating its 100th birthday.  "The Friendly Confines," with its ivy-covered outfield and manual scoreboard, is an icon of baseball history, having housed players like Ernie Banks (who I was surprised is still alive!), Ferguson Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, and Andre Dawson.  Like Busch Stadium in St. Louis, I've only been to the outside of this historic ballpark, but I'm hoping to visit in the next couple of years.  I'm sure the bathrooms smell like 100 years of pee and the concession stands and concourse area are cramped, but it's a piece of Americana that all baseball fans must visit.  Happy centennial, Wrigley Field, and "felicidades" to José Alberto Pujols!

Monday, March 31, 2014

"Gettin' Jiggy" with Miggy :-)

Opening Day is finally here, my friends!  Actually, the season began last night with the San Diego Padres hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers in a game that was blown by Brian Wilson (you know, the hairy guy who has been struggling for the past couple of years).  The Padres scored 3 runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat the Dodgers 3-1.

Before the season gets too far underway, I want to address two topics that I've been asked to write about and express my opinion (yes, someone out there is actually reading this blog regularly and wants my expert opinion on a few things!).  First is the $292 million contract that Miguel Cabrera signed with the Detroit Tigers through 2023, and second is my predictions for the 2014 season.

As many of you know, I am a big fan of Miguel Cabrera, and seeing him play in Cleveland last summer was a highlight for me.  The 2012 Triple Crown winner and 2013 MVP is one of those players that only come around once in a lifetime - that kind of player that you tell your grandkids about and whose baseball cards will be worth a lot of money someday.  But Miggy is also getting bigger (now reportedly up to 260 pounds), slower, and more prone to injury (last season he missed several games with back issues).  Ten years is a LONG time for anyone to commit to a player, especially one who is already over 30 years old.  It makes me think of the long-term contract that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees a while back - I forget how that one turned out!  Then there's Albert Pujols - how did he do last year again?  The amount of money the Tigers want to pay Miggy doesn't bother me since baseball players are overpaid anyway; it's the number of years in the contract that I think is excessive.  Yes, he can prolong his career as a designated hitter, but 10 more years?  Really?  A little much, if you ask me.

Now as far as my predictions for this season, this may come as a shock to you, but I don't think I'm going to make any.  I know, it's kind of a cop-out, but with 162 games in a season, anything can happen.  Yes, I would love to say that the Nationals will win the NL East and the Pirates will reach the playoffs again, but so much can happen between now and September.  Look at the Atlanta Braves, who played so well last year and are now starting their season with half of their players on the Disabled List.  And how about the Toronto Blue Jays, who were supposed to be the be-all end-all last season - will they fare any batter than last year?  And without Mariano Rivera, will the Yankees suck this season?  Well they got 4 key players during the offseason - Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltrán, Brian McCann, and Masahiro Tanaka; but they only look good on paper at this point.  I could pull out all sorts of rankings and statistics and SABR-metrics numbers to support my predictions, but all I can do is tell you which team I would LIKE to see in the playoffs - not necessarily the teams that the bettors in Vegas are picking.  And really, after seeing our NCAA basketball brackets ruined after the first round of March Madness, can statistics really tell us everything?  So here are the teams I like and my un-scientific reasons for liking them.

AL EAST:  I'm going to root for the Baltimore Orioles.  They were a mess in the off-season and didn't get their act together until early March, when they signed a bunch of last-minute players and made some impromptu trades.  Yes, Manny Machado is starting the season on the DL, but we all know that one guy does not a team make, so why not root for the team that played so well during Spring Training?

AL CENTRAL:  I want to see the Kansas City Royals play in the postseason.  Really, I do.  They went 86-76 last year, and if it hadn't been for the 12-game losing streak they had, they would have contended.  I'm picking the Royals and I'm not changing my mind.  Sorry, Tigers and Indians!

AL WEST:  This is one division about which I never really cared.  I guess I'll pick the low-budget Oakland A's even though the Mariners now have Robinson Canó and the Angels have hottie Mike Trout.  They have great pitchers and very good defensive players, so they should do well.

NL EAST:  I don't know if this is jinxing my team, but I'm going to go ahead and pick the Nationals.  The Braves annoy me, the Mets are a mess, the Marlins have no one except for José Fernandez, and the Phillies might as well turn their clubhouse into a nursing home.  The Nationals have a solid pitching rotation (even with Doug Fister starting the season on the DL), guys who can hit, and a feisty new manager.  And we're going to 5 games this season, so they better play well!

NL CENTRAL:  How can you not root for the Pittsburgh Pirates?  Those of us who are sick of the Cardinals have embraced the Pirates and their never-give-up attitude.  Plus they're opening the season against the Cubs at home, so what more of a confidence boost does a team need?

NL WEST:  I am determined to not pick the Dodgers (since everyone else is), so I'm going to go with the San Diego Padres.  I don't think they will win their division outright, but I believe they can get a wild-card spot and make the playoffs with their decent pitching.  Now if they could only get rid of those ugly camo uniforms that they wear on Sundays during home games!

As you can see, my picks are purely based on my shallow opinions and do not carry any statistical weight whatsoever.  It took me exactly 20 minutes to come up with my selections - this way if I totally blow it, I won't feel like a total failure who spent way too much time analyzing data.

All I know is that it's finally time to play ball.  Time for seventh-inning stretches, racing presidents (and sausages), and injury reports (short ones, hopefully).  Enjoy the season, and keep checking in for my thoughts, insights, and of course, my unfiltered opinions.  Let's go Nats! :-)