Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox the top World Series favorites. We’ve already looked at the NL Central, and this week we’re looking at the NL East. We’ve already covered the Phillies and the Braves, and today we’ll look at the Florida Marlins; Wednesday: New York Mets.
The Wild Card: Florida Marlins
Off-Season Moves: Florida traded away center fielder Cameron Maybin to the Padres for a couple of right-handed relievers in Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. They acquired utility man Omar Infante from the Braves in exchange for Dan Uggla. Through free agency, the Marlins picked up righty Javier Vazquez, catcher John Buck, and third baseman Greg Dobbs. Possibly their biggest off-season move was extending Ricky Nolasco through 2013.
Strengths: The 2011 Marlins’ biggest strength coming into this season is the stability of the starting rotation which is headlined by Josh Johnson (11-6, 2.30, pictured above), followed by Nolasco (14-9, 4.51) and then Vazquez (10-10, 5.32) or vice versa. The fourth and fifth spots should be occupied by righties Anibal Sanchez (13-12, 3.55) and Chris Volstad (12-9, 4.58) respectively. The only issue here is there isn’t a lefty in the bunch.
Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox the top World Series favorites. We’ve already looked at the NL Central, and this week we’ll take look at the NL East. Since the Phillies have already been named a World Series favorite, we’ll start with the Atlanta Braves; Tuesday: Florida Marlins.
The Top Threat: Atlanta Braves
Off-Season Moves: The Braves lost their top two first basemen, Troy Glaus and Derrek Lee, to free agency. They acquired second baseman Dan Uggla from the Marlins in a trade that sent young lefty Michael Dunn and super utility man Omar Infante to Florida. Atlanta also released last year’s primary left fielder Melky Cabrera.
Strengths: Offensively, the Braves are about average in most categories except for on-base percentage. Atlanta finished last season third in the majors with a .339 team OBP. This year’s team should be able to come close to replicating that, losing some good OBP guys in Lee (.347), Glaus (.344) and Infante (.359), but gaining Uggla’s .369. Last season’s team leader (min. 400 at bats), Jason Heyward (.393, pictured above), will have to avoid a sophomore slump to set the pace again. Rookie first baseman, Freddie Freeman, struggled in just 20 major league games last season, but had a .378 OBP in 124 AAA games last year.
If you’re a true baseball fan, you probably recognize Hank Aaron as the all-time home run king — not Barry Bonds, who “broke” Aaron’s record on Aug. 7, 2007. The next player most likely to challenge Aaron’s 755 career home runs is Alex Rodriguez, but Aaron told the New York Post on Sunday that he thinks A-Rod needs to focus on baseball if he is going to do that.
I think Rodriguez has got too many irons on the fire right now. I think his head’s not level enough to the point where he can have the kind of year that it takes in order to go past all of the records in the book.
Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox the top World Series favorites. Last week we looked at the how the NL Central might shape up with the Cardinals, Reds, Brewers and Cubs Yesterday we previewed the Pirates, and today we finish up the division with the Houston Astros.
The Tweeners: Houston Astros
Off-Season Moves: The Astros acquired utility man Clint Barmes from the Rockies in exchange for right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino. Essentially, they got a guy who can play almost anywhere on the field for a guy who seemingly has no business in any starting rotation. They also picked up another utility man in Bill Hall and took a flier on left-handed pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, a guy who showed some promise before a disappointing 2010, both via free agency.
Strengths: The Astros have several guys who can play all over the field. Barmes played second base, third base and shortstop last season and has played in the outfield in the past. Hall played every infield position except first base last season with the Red Sox and also played every outfield position. He even pitched an inning — without allowing a hit or walking a batter. Last year’s primary second baseman Jeff Keppinger also played at shortstop and has played at first and in the outfield in the past.
Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox the top World Series favorites. Last week we looked at the how the NL Central might shape up with the Cardinals, Reds, Brewers and Cubs. Thursday: Pittsburgh Pirates; Friday: Houston Astros.
The Bottom Feeders: Pittsburgh Pirates
Off-Season Moves: The biggest — though not big — move for the Pirates this off-season involved trading left-handed pitcher Zach Duke to the Diamondbacks for righty Cesar Valdez. Duke went 8-15 last season with a 5.72 ERA, while Valdez went 1-2 with a 7.65 ERA in nine games for Arizona last season. In two seasons in AAA, Valdez was 13-16 with a 5.90 ERA.
Strengths: If nothing else, the Pirates are young. The active roster boasts nine players born after 1985 and only six born before 1982. New addition Lyle Overbay is the oldest at 34, while the youngest, starting outfielder Jose Tabata, won’t turn 23 until August. The organization has at least some hope for the future if the young players at the top of the order — Andrew McCutchen (pictured above), Tabata, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez — progress as expected. Though not a top team in either category, the Pirates fall right around the middle-of-the-pack in both doubles and triples, which is higher than they they rank in just about anything else.
Not long ago, we interviewed legendary fighter Evander Holyfield who said he wouldn’t stop boxing until he became heavyweight champion of the world again. The man was completely serious and made many of us question his sanity. In response to Holyfield’s claim, our man Harvey Bars of Tirico Suave said “If you have a Sega Genesis game named after you, it’s probably time to retire.” Well that comment seemed so accurate it inspired us to examine every single Sega Genesis sports game to see where those athletes and coaches have gone. Get ready for a trip down memory lane.
SEGA GENESIS FOOTBALL GAMES
Joe Montana Football – Montana went on to set a career-high in passing yards with 3,944 the season after this game was released on New Year’s Day 1990. The following season, an elbow injury essentially ended his time in San Francisco, and he retired after two relatively successful seasons in Kansas City. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, Montana was named the fourth greatest player in NFL history by the NFL Network.
Troy Aikman NFL Football – Following a year in which he posted a career-high 99.0 passer rating and led his team to its second-straight Super Bowl victory, this game was released on June 1, 1994. Aikman would play seven more seasons and win one more Super Bowl before retiring in 2000 due in large part to several concussions. He’s been nominated for an Emmy for his work as a color commentator for Fox Network and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Prime Time NFL Football starring Deion Sanders – Sanders had just been named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year when this game was released on Jan. 1, 1995. The two-sport star played in 137 combined games between the Reds and the Giants and missed the first half of that NFL season after knee surgery. Sanders retired in 2001, only to return three years later to play parts of two seasons with the Ravens. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.
Kobe Bryant will consider leaving the NBA to play in Europe if there is a lockout or he doesn’t like the outcome of a new CBA, an unnamed teammate told the NY Daily News. The most likely landing spot for Bryant would be Italy, where he spent seven years of his life while his father, Joe, played there professionally.
Regardless of what he has told his teammates, Bryant isn’t going anywhere. He’s as competitive as they come, and leaving while he’s tied with or one shy of Michael Jordan’s six championships isn’t an option. It’s well-known that Bryant idolizes Jordan — just as every player of his generation does. To match and then surpass Jordan in titles would be the ultimate accomplishment, one too great for Bryant to give up on before his body gives up on him. Aside from the championships, I can’t see Bryant being satisfied with tearing up lesser competition in Europe.
Kobe seems to be too smart to go the route of Allen Iverson, and he works too hard for that ever to be an issue. Iverson is playing in Turkey because he refused to work hard enough to alter his game as he got older. Bryant has already made changes to his game and will continue to do so until he no longer can. Hopefully, he’ll walk away graciously when that time comes — something the man he idolizes chose not to do. Whatever the case, there’s no doubt it will be an NBA court he’s leaving behind.
With the additions of Colorado and Utah next year, the Pac-10 will officially become the Pac-12. The conference’s current domain name is pac-10.org, but according to TNSP Sports Net via the Examiner, the conference is attempting to acquire the rights to the domain name pac12.com. The only problem is that domain name is already taken. Reportedly, the owners of those rights, an unnamed Tupac fan, is refusing to give in to legal pressure being applied by the Pac-10.
The domain name pac-12.org is already taken as well, by Bet-R Sites, LLC. While we don’t know who the unnamed individual is, it seems safe to assume that the Pac-10 has a better chance of getting the domain name from them than it does of getting it from Bet-R Sites. I wouldn’t imagine this person is making a whole lot off of this website, so presumably they are thinking “I gotta get mine.” I’m sure they’re just holding out for as good a deal as they can get.
Whoever this person is, they need to realize that the conference is probably going to get what they want in the end, but I don’t begrudge them for trying to get paid against all odds. In the end though, they’ll let ’em have it and life will go on. That’s just the way it is, but I would offer some words of wisdom; it’s check out time. And I’m out of reasonably relevant Tupac references.