Peyton Manning To Denver And What Does This Mean For The Rest Of The NFL

As of today, former Colts QB, Peyton Manning will be a Denver Bronco, now for Denver this means the obvious, they’re getting a future hall of famer QB who will give them the best shot to go to a Super Bowl. Now obviously there is some doubt with his neck, but I think it’s fair to believe that all is right with Mr. Manning. Now seeing as Denver could make it to the second round of the NFL playoffs with the Messiah Tim Tebow, theres no doubt in anybody’s mind that they could make the playoffs with Manning. Denver’s defense on average gave up 19 points per game last year, there’s no doubt in my mind that Manning could put up more.

Now for the more interesting topic, what happens to the other teams that were in the mix?

The San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are in a strange predicament. They were the surprise of the NFL season, making it all the way to NFC championship game. This in turn, took away the “bust” label on Alex Smith, but now Alex Smith is a free agent and seems to think he deserves more, so although the 49ers have signed receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, they now have no QB to throw them the ball.

The Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals will leave this sweepstakes unscalled pretty much. Last season they traded for Eagles QB Kevin Kolb, granted he didn’t do “squat”, but maybe this season it will be different. They also still have all-pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald.

The Tennessee Titans

The Titans gave it a good go trying to sign Manning. They pulled the “you played here in college” card, but that didn’t work. So now for the Titans are stuckwith another aging QB (Matt Hasslebeck), although young QB, Jake Locker didn’t look half bad last year. 2010-2011 NFL Rushing leader, Chris Johnson had a lack lustre year in the 2011-12 season. If Johnson can improve they could give the now Mario Williams-less Texans a run for their money.

The Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are definitely in a panic mode. They finished with a record of 6-10 (not too bad considering they started off 0-7), unfortunately, since they were able to win those 6 games, they now sit in the 8th position when it comes to the draft. The Dolphins are QBless as Chad Henne singed with Jags and Matt Flynn signed with the seahawks, so all signs point to the fact that Miami will try to draft Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill.

However, there is a subplot to the Miami situation. Seeing as Denver now has Manning, they will try to trade Tebow, and with the Jags already getting Henne, some believe Miami will trade for Tebow, seeing as he’s Florida’s favourite son.

The Tebow Situation

As previously mentioned Tebow could go to Miami. Now another team I could see him going to is San Fran, With receivers like Manningham and Moss, Tebow could just launch the ball up to them. Not to mention, a Frank Gore and Tim Tebow backfield could be lethal. Also we can’t forget that former QB Jim Harbaugh is there coach, so he could show Tebow a thing or two.

The Jaguars have been rumoured to be in the mix still, but I don’t see why the Jaguars would sign Henne and then trade for Tebow. The Patriots have also been in the mix, which I surprisingly understand. Now, the Patriots aren’t going to be trading Tom Brady or anything, but Belichick is an innovator, so he would try to find a way to fit Tebow in.

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-McFultz

 

30 Teams in 30 Days – Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been one of the worst sports organizations of the last 20 years. Not only have they not made the postseason since 1992, that year also marks the last time they had a winning season (above .500). Not to mention the fact that they haven’t won a World Series in over 30 years. Let’s see how they did in 2011.
Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 72-90
Finish: 4th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jeff Karstens 9-9, 3.38 ERA, 96 SO                                                             Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .259 AVG, 23 HR, 89 RBI                                 Manager: Clint Hurdle                                                                                           Important Off-season Acquisitions: Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Jake Fox, Nick Evans, Jose Morales, Erik Bedard, Nate McLouth, Casey McGehee, Jo-Jo Reyes, Doug Staten, Brian Tallet, Juan Cruz, A.J Burnett                                            Important Off-season Losses: Ryan Doumit MIN, Chris Snyder HOU, Ronny Cedeno NYM, Paul Maholm CHC, Derrek Lee FA, Ryan Ludwick CIN, Xavier Paul WAS, Pedro Ciriaco BOS, Jason Jaramillo CHC, Ross Ohlendorf BOS, 

On July 19th, 2011, the Pirates were leading the NL Central with a record of 51-44, which made me (along with most of the MLB community) become a temporary Pirates fan. Unfortunately, the Pirates went on a 10-game skid from Jul 29-Aug 7, causing them to fall to 54-59, and put them 10 games back of the Brewers for the division, causing their temporarily large fan base to plummet. Neither their Offense nor their pitching was very good last year. They finished in the bottom 10 in the league in R, AVG, HR, Opponents Average and WHIP, along with a 17th place finish in ERA. Despite posting 72 Wins, these stats will come as no surprise if you watched them play last year, as during their hottest period (Jun 3-Jul 25), 17 of their 26 wins were by 2 runs or less (65.3%), meanwhile, during their coldest period (Jul 28-Sep 21), 24 of their 39 losses were by 3 runs or more (61.5%), meaning they were losing by a lot, and winning by a little. The team was expected to struggle, but hitting .244 as a team, along with having a team ERA of over 4.00 is completely unacceptable. The thing that bothers me the most is when people say it’s okay because the Pirates are young, their really not that young of a team, yes they have McCutchen, Walker and McDonald, but their the seventh oldest team in the Majors with an average age of 28.2 years old.

This season for the Pirates is unpredictable, and by that, I mean they’re either going to be a terrible team or just a really bad team. They made some interesting moves in the Offseason, ultimately, I think their Pitching will improve a bit and their hitting will get even worse. One of the moves I really enjoyed was the signing of Canadian pitcher, Erik Bedard, this guys always flown under the radar due to the fact that he played for small market teams (Baltimore, Seattle), not including the 8 games he played in Boston last year, Bedard hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 for an entire season since his rookie year in 2004. When I first heard that the Pirates traded for Burnett, I thought it was a terrible move, but when I found out the Yankees were practically paying them for a pitcher who put up some decent numbers in the past, I changed my mind. However, when he bunted that ball into his face at Training Camp, sidelining him for 2-3 months, my mind was instantly changed back. The reason I think their pitching should be improved, is because I think Bedard is an improvement on Maholm (whom they released), I see great potential in young pitcher James McDonald and I think he’s going to have a terrific year, and their bullpen has been improved. The reason I believe their Offense will be worse, is despite additions like Barmes, Mcgehee, McLouth and Barajas, I believe the losses of Doumit, Snyder, Lee, Cedeno, Ludwick and Paul, outweigh them. I believe Mcgehee will have a good year, but I don’t think Barmes, McLouth or Barajas will please the Pirate faithful. I predict that this year will mark the 20th straight season that the Pirates will have gone without a winning season. Hopefully the next 20 years will be better for them.

Prediction
Record: 65- 97
Finish: 5th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: James McDonald 12-10, 3.81 ERA, 158 SO
Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .269 AVG, 27 HR, 96 RBI
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-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)

30 Teams in 30 Days – Washington Nationals

There have been some great moments in sports over the last five years, there was the Cardinals World Series run, the Giants upsetting the Patriots in the Super Bowl… twice, VCU going first four to final four, but my favorite moment of the last five years still has to be on April 17th 2009, when Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman walked out on to the field with “NATINALS” written across the front of their jerseys, to this day, I still call them the Natinals. Anyways, let’s see how they did in 2011.
Washington Nationals
Record: 80-81 (rained out game not made up)
Finish: 3rd in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jordan Zimmerman 8-11, 3.18 ERA, 124 SO
Top Hitter: Michael Morse .303 AVG, 31 HR, 95 RBI
Manager: Davey Johnson
Important Off-season Acquisitions: Ryan Perry, Andres Blanco, Jason Michaels, Jeff Fulchino, Mike Cameron, Chad Tracy, Xavier Paul, Gio Gonzalez, Mark DeRosa, Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson
Important Off-season Losses: Todd Coffey LAD, Alex Cora STL, Jonny Gomes OAK, Livan Hernandez HOU, Laynce Nix PHI, Ivan Rodriguez FA, Collin Balester DET

The Natinals had a pretty good season last year, finishing at 80-81. That may not sound great, but it was an 11.5 game improvement from 2010, and a 21.5 game improvement from 2009. They did this without having 2009 1st overall pick, Stephen Strasburg pitch until September, due to Tommy John surgery. Despite this, pitching was still their strength, finishing seventh in the league in ERA. They got great help from their Starting pitching, 6 of their 7 pitchers with 10 starts or more had an ERA under 4.05, Livan Hernandez was the only one over that mark with an ERA of 4.47, and he’s gone this year. Their offense did struggle throughout the year, finishing 27th in the league in batting average, and 24th in the league in runs. They didn’t get the production they wanted from Jayson Werth, as his batting average dropped .064 points, he had seven less home runs, 27 less RBI and 37 less Runs than he did in 2010, giving him a total of a .232 AVG, 20 HR, 58 RBI and 69 R.  However, Michael Morse was able to pick up his slack, with a breakthrough season, recording a .303 AVG, to go along with 31 HR and 95 RBI. Ryan Zimmerman, battled some injury problems, meaning Morse was really the only difference maker in the lineup last year. However, this year, if Morse can keep it up, Zimmerman can stay healthy and Jayson Werth can bounce back, this offense can greatly improve, and If 2nd year catcher Wilson Ramos and 3rd year shortstop Ian Desmond can improve, then the Natinals could become a top 15 offense, accompanied with a top 7 or 8 pitching unit, they could become a tough team in the NL East. Earlier today, the Natinals sent 2010 1st overall pick, Bryce Harper to AAA, so one can only assume that they want to keep him in the minors for one more full season to keep up his development. The Natinals made some confusing moves with their Starting Pitching, they acquired Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez despite already having 6 potential starters in Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler and Tom Gorzelanny, so we’ll see what ends up happening there. They lost some pieces to their bench and added some pieces to their bench, but some of the bench players they added may be able to steal a spot in the lineup with a lackluster Washington offense. They lost Coffey and Balester from their bullpen, but with the acquisition of multiple relievers including Brad Lidge, who will most likely be the set-up man for Drew Storen, who put up amazing numbers in his first year as a closer, going 43/48 in save opportunities (89.6%). All in all, this team should be improved, and MAY potentially make a playoff run, with that 2nd wild card spot in play this year. However,  I ultimately see them falling a few games short, having one of, if not the toughest division in the league, with the improved Miami Marlins to go along with the Braves and the Phillies. However, in a few years, if they develop their players properly, they could become a force to be reckoned with.
Prediction
Record: 83-79
Finish: 4th in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jordan Zimmerman 12-11, 3.24 ERA, 143 SO
Top Hitter: Ryan Zimmerman .301, 25 HR, 93 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Oakland Athletics

The Oakland A’s, the Oakland A’s.. you know I’m really not sure where to start. Probably the most historically storied franchises (who has knotted 9 World Series titles and 15 AL pennants, which gets overlooked), the Oakland Athletics had a 2011 in which they surely will not forget too soon. Posting a deplorable record of 74-88, the A’s weren’t ever in the hunt for a playoff spot during the entire 2011 season, the highlight of which was the release of a popular feature film about their general manager (who is apparently doing quite a $h177ty job lately). Let’s see how ‘dem A’s stacked up during their 2011 campaign.
Oakland Athletics
Record: 74-88 (7 games worse than 2010)
Finished: 3rd in AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Gio Gonzalez 16-12, 3.12 ERA, 197 SO
Top Hitter: Josh Willingham .246 AVG, 29 HR, 98 RBI
Manager: Bob Melvin
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Bartolo Colon SP, Jonny Gomes OF, Manny Ramirez LF, Ryan Sweeney OF
Important Offseason Losses: Gio Gonzalez WAS, Hideki Matsui (probable retirement), Josh Willingham MIN, Mark Ellis LAD

Ahh remember the good ol’ days of the Oakland A’s, with the Big Three (Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder). Well for those of you who don’t remember, from 2000-04 the Oakland A’s arguably had the best pitching tandem in the league, before well, all three of those guys descended in diaspora. A lot has changed since those days, and the Athletic faithful should seriously be worrying. The 2011 Oakland Athletics were horrendous, in their pitching game (aside from their ace Gio Gonzalez.. oh wait he’s not even on the team anymore, he was traded to the Nationals this offseason for some prospects you haven’t heard of), and in their offensesive game. I mean seriously, the highest batting average on the team came from Cliff Pennington who hit .264 in barely 550 plate appearances. Josh Willingham, who was leaps and bounds above the majority of the A’s offense, posted a solid 2011… oh wait, he’s not on the A’s anymore either, awkward (Twins). I mean the A’s still have some good sounding names in their lineup including Hideki Matsui (who is still undecided about coming back), Mark Ellis (oh wait he went to the Dodgers!), and Kurt Suzuki. And the one who is actually coming back out of that group, Kurt Suzuki, batted a career low .237 to go along with 14 homeruns, and he really hasn’t improved as a player, as many people thought he would. But have no fear A’s fans! The A’s signed Jonny Gomes and Manny Ramirez (to a minor league contract! Oh wait he’s also suspended). These two guys will surely take them places, and definitely revitalize this dying A’s offense….. yeah right. I will not go as in-depth in their pitching but they acquired Bartolo Colon in the offseason, but as stated earlier, they lost their #1 pitcher Gio Gonzalez. Besides Colon their starting pitching has very little depth. It includes Brandon McCarthy, who had a decent season, but really hasn’t thrown enough innings to be considered a solid starter, Dallas Braden (perfect game guy), who had an injury riddled 2011, and a couple of other for lack of a better word “scrubs”. Well A’s fans you better look forward to seeing your Athletics in 2012! That is, if you would be excited to see your A’s scratch together 65 wins, because I don’t foresee the Green and the Gold winning more than 70 games in 2012.
Prediction:
Record: 69-93
Finish: 3rd in AL West
Playoffs: None
Best Pitcher: None
Best Hitter: Coco Crisp, 0.274, 14 HR, 75 RBI
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-Simple Jack

 

30 Teams in 30 Days – New York Yankees

The Dark Lord New York Yankees, they’re one of the most hated teams in all of baseball. Most of the reason for this is because, I hate to say it, but they’re good. People will argue that it’s because they have the highest payroll, but if they didn’t win, I doubt anyone would complain. Let’s see how they did in 2011.
New York Yankees
Record: 97-65
Finished: 1st in the AL East
Playoffs: Eliminated in ALDS by the Tigers
Top Pitcher: C.C. Sabbathia 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 230 SO
Top Hitter: Curtis Granderson .262 AVG, 41 HR, 119 RBI
Manager: Joe Girardi
Important Off-season acquisitions: Jayson Nix, Dewayne Wise, Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda, Russel Branyan, Bill Hall, Raul Ibanez, David Aardsma,
Important Off-season Losses: Jesus Montero SEA, Jorge Posada Retired, A.J Burnett PIT, Scott Proctor FA, Luis Ayala BAL, Bartoro Colon OAK, Damaso Marte FA, Sergio Mitre FA, Hector Noesi SEA

After being in a battle all year with the Red Sox for the AL East Title, the Yankees won the battle after a September collapse by the Red Sox. So, for a lot of teams in the MLB, it would be considered a successful season, but when it comes to the Yankees, success is measured by championships, and after being eliminated in the ALDS by the Tigers, that marked the 11th year that the Yankees have gone with just 1 championship (2009). Expectations are high for a reason, the Yankees have had the highest payroll in the league for a long time now. With the amount of money they spend on players, they should pretty much be given the World Series before the season even starts, but year after year they find a way not to win it. Their problem seems to be pretty consistent from year-to-year, starting pitching, it seems like every year people are talking about the Starters of the Yankees in a negative way. For good reason, however as of their 6 starters to start at least 14 games last season, 3 of them had an ERA of 4.00 or more, and 2 of those 3 had an ERA of 5.00 or more, for a team spending 200 MIL+/yr, it needs to be better. However, they’re rotation has promise this year, despite losing Burnett and Colon, they’ve added Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda, who posted a 3.07 ERA last year, got very little offensive support, playing on the Dodgers, however, this year, he should get nothing but offensive support  playing with the always talented offensive unit of the New York Yankees. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda showed great promise in his rookie campaign with the Mariners last year, posting a 3.74 ERA, to go along with a whopping 9.1 Strikeouts per nine innings, after showing off his great changeup in spring training, he’s already got Yankee nation in a buzz. Those two will be added in to the rotation along with consistent Cy Young candidate and one-time winner, C.C Sabathia and Ivan Nova, who’s coming off a stellar rookie campaign, finishing with a 16-4 record. The fifth spot seems to be between Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes, Garcia pitched pretty well for the Yanks last year, going 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA. While Hughes pitched terribly in an injury-filled season . That being said, Hughes is still young (25), with lots of potential, he also had a pretty good year for the pinstripes in 2010, going 18-8. So the job will ultimately be decided in Spring Training. The Yankees bullpen has lost a couple key pieces, which the signing of Hideki Okajima was supposed to resolve, but after a failed physical due to an undisclosed injury, the Yankees released him, 6 days later they signed David Aardsma, who isn’t a terrible consolation prize, yet their bullpen will still be worse than last year. The lineup, despite being a bit on the older side, will still be deadly, especially with the signing of probable DH, Raul Ibanez, and a few very good veteran acquisitions for their bench in Bill Hall, Russel Branyan, Dewayne Wise and Jayson Nix, with these signins, the Yankees can really cement themselves as the best offensive team in the league. With their big improvement to their Starting Pitching, their small improvement to their offense and a slight decline to their bullpen, I see the Yankees taking the AL East once again, but they’re going to have to do better than 6-12 against the Red Sox this time around.
Prediction
Record: 99-63
Finish: 1st in AL East
Playoffs: Eliminated in ALCS
Top Pitcher: C.C Sabathia 22-7, 2.91 ERA, 236 SO
Top Hitter: Robinson Cano .309 AVG, 31 HR, 129 RBI
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-Kipling Ronald & Vernon Smells

He’s Back……again

Sidney Crosby will be returning to the Penguins lineup on Thursday against the Rangers. What does this mean for the Penguins? What does this mean for Malkin? and most importantly, what does this mean for Crosby and his health? I’ll try to answer all of those questions for you, and more in this article.

First off, what does this mean for the Penguins? The Penguins are currently in 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 89 points, and are just 4 points back of the 1st place Rangers. Last time Crosby returned to the lineup, I was skeptical he would be able to produce right away, he proved me wrong by putting up 4 points in his return. With the team currently riding a 9 game winning streak it could mess up the chemistry the team has going, but even if it does, it will be worth it to have Crosby ready and in the lineup when it matters, playoff time.

Secondly, what does this mean for Malkin? It’s been no secret that Malkin is having an unbelievable year. Everyone always says Crosby is the best player in hockey right now, Malkin is either second or third on that list, as he leads the league with 84 points and is second in the league with 38 goals. It’s also been no secret that Malkin plays much better without Crosby in the lineup. To me, this is just due to less ice-time, of course having him be the #2 centre rather than the #1. If Malkin continues to play this way, I can’t see them reducing his ice time by very much, so that shouldn’t become a factor.

Lastly, how will this affect Crosby and his health? Last time, when Crosby was on his way to returning, he was cleared for contact on Oct. 13 and then didn’t play until Nov. 21. This time around, he will be making his return a bit more than a week after being cleared for contact. After waiting over a month last time, he still got hurt just 8 games in to his return. This time, however, they know what they’re dealing with, after the news that it may have just been a neck injury this whole time, if he’s been rehabbing his neck properly, and the Penguins and Crosby truly believe that he’s 100% healed, I don’t see a  problem with him returning to the lineup. However, they better be sure he’s 100%. It will be good for Crosby to make his return in a very important game, as the Penguins try to catch the Rangers for 1st in their division and in the East. It’s also good to get his legs moving before the playoffs, so that he’s ready.

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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Cleveland Indians

Oh, the Indians, they’ve made the playoffs just once since 2001, and with their last World Series title being way back in 1948, fans are getting impatient. However, they didn’t look half bad through the first third of the season in 2011. Let’s recap.
Cleveland Indians
Record: 80-82
Finish: 2nd in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Justin Masterson 12-10, 3.21 ERA, 158 SO
Top Hitter: Asdrubal Cabrera .272 AVG, 25 HR, 92 RBI
2012 Manager: Manny Acta
Important Off-Season Acquisitions: Felix Pie, Andy Laroche (no, not Adam), Robinson Tejada, Chris Ray, Jeremy Accardo, Fred Lewis, Kevin Slowey, Ryan Spilborghs, Dan Wheeler, Casey Kotchman, Cristian Guzman, Derek Lowe
Important Off-Season Losses: Chad Durbin WAS, Kosuke Fukudome CWS, Jim Thome PHI,

On June 1st, 2011, the Indians were 33-20 and held the best record in the majors. I was convinced the world was about to end. It didn’t, the Indians would soon come back down to Earth, going just 20-32 from then until July 31st . Despite the struggles, the Indians still found themselves just 2.5 games back of the division leading tigers, causing them to trade for star pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. He had no affect, Jimenez, like he’d been doing with the Rockies, struggled, notching just a 4-4 record to go along with a 5.10 ERA in the 11 games he started with the Indians.  Throughout it all, the Indians proved that they had a lot of depth at the plate, as they only had 2 players play in more than 114 games, and were still able to prove that they were almost an average ball club, finishing just below .500. Unfortunately, they’re pitching was sub-par, finishing with the 23rd ranked ERA, but they were able to find a solid closer in Chris Perez, who finished the season 36/40 in save opportunities. The Indians added some very good pieces in the off-season to improve their bullpen, including Dan Wheeler. They also added Kevin Slowey to replace Fausto Carmona, because who knows whats going to happen to him. Grady Sizemore will miss all of Spring and the beginning of the 2012 Regular Season after back surgery, is this guy ever healthy? As of right now, I could see the Indians being a potential threat this season, don’t call me crazy yet. They have a lot of depth, but the one thing they’re missing is a star, they’re hoping Jimenez can fill that role, but in my eyes, he’s only pitched like a star in the first half of the 2010 season, apart from that he’s just been okay. However, if he can pitch well, along with the rest of the rotation, the tribe COULD, I REPEAT, COULD be a threat for that second wild card spot. I know it sounds crazy but look at their rotation:
1. Ubaldo Jimenez Best Season, 2010: 19-8, 2.88 ERA, 214 SO
2. Justin Masterson Best Season, 2011: 12-10, 3.21 ERA, 158 SO
3. Josh Tomlin: Best Season, 2011: 12-7, 4.25 ERA, 49 SO
4. Derek Lowe: Best Season, 2002: 21-8, 2.58 ERA, 127 SO (2010: 16-12, 4.00 ERA)
5. (possibly) Kevin Slowey: Best Season, 2010: 13-6, 4.45 ERA, 116 SO

To me, that’s a pretty solid rotation, along with an improved bullpen and a solid lineup, the Indians could threaten for a playoff spot. The team will need to be well coached and managed, as again they don’t really have a star-status player, but if they are, they have the pieces to do well. I’m not exactly sure what the lineup will look like, but with talent like: Cabrera, Santana, Hafner, Choo, Sizemore (after he recovers), Brantley, LaPorta, Duncan, Kipiris, Hannahan and Donald, along with newly acquired pieces: Kotchman, Lewis, Spilborghs, Laroche, Pie and Guzman, I don’t think the Indians will be slacking in the offensive department. They are a very young team, so inconsistency may be a factor, but they’re a team with a ton of talent, I see them competing for a playoff spot, but ultimately missing out. The AL Central could be a very tough division this year, as the Tigers  are looking very good, the White Sox have a good team on paper, the Royals are improving, the Twins had been the division powerhouse consistently before last season, and if the Indians can be competitive, this division would become one of the toughest in baseball.
Prediction
Record: 83-79
Finish: 2nd in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Josh Tomlin 15-10, 3.31 ERA, 106 SO
Top Hitter: Shin-Soo Choo .306 AVG, 19 HR, 91 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Texas Rangers

The last 2 seasons for Rangers fans have to have been the most heart-breaking seasons to have ever existed. Losing in the World Series to the Giants in 2010, and to the Cardinals in 2011. I’ll let you know how I think they’ll do this year, but first, let’s recap 2011.
Texas Rangers
Record: 96-66
Finished: 1st in AL West
Playoffs: Lost in World Series……… again
Top Pitcher: C.J Wilson 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 206 SO
Top Hitter: Mike Napoli .320 AVG, 30 HR, 75 RBI, in just 113 games
Manager: Ron Washington
Important Acquisitions: Joe Nathan, Yu Darvish, Brad Hawpe
Important Losses: C.J Wilson LAA, Michael Gonzalez FA, Darren Oliver TOR, Matt Treanor LAD, Darren O’Day BAL

“In to right, well hit, back at the wall, it’s off the wall. 1 Run scores, Here comes Berkman. Freese has tied it. 7-7!!! Unbelievable” That moment still gives me chills, and it is probably one of the greatest sports moments in a long while, but Rangers fans don’t feel that way. It was their second straight trip to the World Series, and in 2011 it looked like they had it won…..twice. Right up until Freese hit a 2 out, 2 strike 2 run triple in the 9th to tie up the game. Then in the 10th the Rangers put up 2 more runs, but the Cards came back, including a 2 out, 2 strike, RBI single from Lance Berkman to tie up the game. In the next inning, the 11th, David Freese hit a walk-off home run to force a game 7, which the Cardinals promptly won. I cannot imagine the pain that Rangers fans must have felt. However, apart from those moments, last year was a great season for the Rangers. They won the AL West by 10 games, they made it to the World Series and they probably shoud have won it.  They had unbelievable production from the bats, they had a good bullpen and a lot of their young starters played surprisingly well. This season will be a much bigger question mark and will depend on a lot of things. They lost their star pitcher to the rival Angels, along with a few key pieces to their bullpen. The talent they gained has mystery written all over it. Starting with Yu Darvish, the Rangers paid a hefty sum for this Japanese pitcher, who has never played a game in the MLB, no one has any idea how effectively he’ll be able to pitch in the MLB. They also signed an aging Joe Nathan, after being one of the best closers in the league year after year, Nathan had Tommy John surgery, and missed the entire 2010 season, he then struggled in 2011, posting just 14 saves and a 4.84 ERA. I assume he was brought in to take over the closer role so that they can finally move Netali Feliz to the Starting rotation, something they’ve been talking about doing since he took over the closer role in 2010. That move right there adds 2 BIG questions: Will Nathan be able to regain his form? and how will Netali Feliz fare as a starter?  Their bullpen has lost some major pieces and I don’t expect it to be nearly as good then in years past, plus their rotation is still very young and missing it’s star (C.J Wilson), so we have no clue how good it will be. We also don’t know how they’ll be with the bats. We know they’ll be good, but how good? Can Hamilton rebound after an injury plagued season? Mike Napoli, who if he had of played the whole season was on pace for 43 Home Runs and 107 RBI, to go along with a .320 AVG. However, this came out of nowhere, so how do we know that he can repeat? Michael Young, who’s now 35 years old, hit a whopping .338 last season (the highest of his career), can he come even close to putting up the same numbers this year? Not to mention, the Angels now have a very good team and will be competing with the Rangers for the AL West. This is by far the hardest prediction I’ve had to make so far. I feel they could range anywhere from 80 Wins to 100, so I guess I’ll go smack dab in the middle and say they’ll be a 90 Win ball club, sacrificing the Division, but still taking one of the two Wild Card spots.

Prediction
Record: 90-72
Finish: 2nd in AL West, 1st in Wild Card Race
Playoffs: Eliminated in ALDS
Top Pitcher: Yu Darvish 16-8 3.14 ERA, 226 SO
Top Hitter: Josh Hamilton .318 AVG 31 HR 109 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Seattle Mariners

Welcome to the 6th edition of 30 Teams in 30 Days. Sorry we missed a day, we had a bit of an issue, but we’ll try to get two articles out tonight. The first team of the day is the one, the only…….. Seattle Mariners, oh sorry, we’re you expecting someone better?
Seattle Mariners
Record: 67-95
Finish: 4th AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Felix Hernandez 14-14, 3.47 ERA, 222 SO
Top Hitter: Ichiro .272 AVG, 5 HR, 47 RBI, 40 SB
Manager: Eric Wedge
Important Acquisitions: Geoge Sherril, Aaron Heilman,  Jesus Montero, Kevin Millwood, Brian Sweeney, Shawn Camp, Hong-Chih Kuo
Important Losses: Adam Kennedy LAD, Jamey Wright LAD, Josh Bard LAD, Greg Halman Death, Michael Pineda NYY

The nicest thing I can say about the Mariners is that they’re young. They are the second youngest team in the league with an average age of just 26.5, so you could say they have potential. Unfortunately, they’re last 2 seasons have been disappointing, being way under .500 in both seasons, and if you wanted to be picky you could call the last 10 seasons disappointing, as they haven’t made the playoffs since 2001 (Ichiro’s rookie season). Last season didn’t actually start out that bad, as they were 37-35 at the near halfway point of the season, but a 17 game losing streak in July ended any chance at a competitive season. After having an amazing, terrific, unbelievable, Cy Young winning season in 2010, King Felix struggled at times in 2011, but still had a pretty solid year. However the biggest shocker of the year had to be Chone Figgins, who had by far the worst season of his career, hitting just .188. ON the flip side, one of my favorite young pitchers to watch last year was Michael Pineda, he threw hard, he threw lots of K’s and he had a mean changeup. Disappointingly, the Mariners dealt him to the Dark Lord, New York Yankees in the off-season, it sucks, but they did get Jesus Montero out of the deal, a very good 22 year old catcher who hit .328 in 18 games with the aforementioned Yankees, Montero’s also currently hitting .417 in his first 4 spring training games with the Mariners, it’s not much of a sample, but it could be foreshadowing a strong 2012 campaign for the young catcher. The Mariners also added veteran righty Kevin Millwood to take Pineda’s place in the rotation, he should add some solid starts, but I think the 37 year old is more there to mentor the young arms and to add a veteran presence in the dugout. What do I expect from the Mariners this season? Not too much, an improvement from last season would be nice but not necessary. I predict King Felix will have a good year, but not 2010 good, and I think Ichiro will do better than last year, but will miss the .300 plateau for the second straight season and just the second time in his career. The best thing for the Mariners to do at this point is make sure they’re developing their young players properly, even if that means risking a few W’s by keeping them in the minors.

Prediction
Record: 69-93
Finish: 4th in AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Felix Hernandez 14-11, 3.22 ERA, 237 SO
Top Hitter: Ichiro .296 AVG, 4 HR, 51 RBI, 42 SB
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-Vernon Smells