There have always been similarities between the two major league franchises in the lovely state of Florida. The Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins have had their own bit of successes and failures, since they both joined the ranks of the Majors in the ’90s. The Marlins won the World Series in both 1997 and 2003. Which, coincidentally, were their only playoff appearances since their inception in 1993. Other than that, they have been a not so good team. On the contrary, the Rays have not won a World Series, although they have played in one in their young history, in ‘08 when they lost to the Phillies. Before the World Series appearance, they were the butt of the AL East. The past several years the only similarities between the two franchises has only been the lack of attendance. Other than that, these teams have gone in opposite directions.
The Marlins just completed the season with what most people feel as their third fire sale. They got rid of over $100 million after a surprise spending spree last off-season, after they got their stadium built. They currently are paying more money to people they got rid of, than people on their roster. They have given their fan base more distrust than any other major league team, and that includes the Pirates. They gave their big spending three months and then scrapped it and sent away everyone. The only player they have kept is Stanton, who has made clear how mad he is at this team. They probably will have to trade him in the next few years and this will be an equivalent to the Cabrera trade, which will just turn more fans against them. Their management and ownership has been a sad thing for the Marlin fans and just when it starts to turn around they go and trade everyone AGAIN. Even if this was the right baseball move, which is what they are saying, it doesn’t matter anymore. They haven’t earned anyone’s trust and will not until they show consistency.
The Tampa Bay Rays are a team, that for a decade, was the worst team in the MLB. They refused to spend money, and just kept drafting number one picks not doing anything with them. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, they became a contender. And they haven’t stopped since the 2008 season, in which they miraculously went to the World Series. They have not spent stupidly on big names like Rafael Soriano, who signed a huge contract with the Yanks and pitched well, but the Rays easily replaced him with cheaper talent. They do not sell off everyone, what they do is spend wisely and get younger each off season. The best example of this is they just extended Evan Longoria til 2023. This is a gamble, but what they did was extend his contract over a long period of time and pay him no more than $17 million a year. This is smart because the contract will never put the team in a bind but there is a chance that this guy could have been a $25 million guy in the coming years. Tampa is smart this way, whereas the Marlins have never done anything this smart. Over time you will keep seeing the difference of the two teams and we will see if the Marlins can do something to actually win their fan’s trust back.
The Chicago Bulls lost Derrick Rose to a torn ACL in game one. That, obviously happened a few days ago, but now in game 3 the heavily favored Bulls lose another key piece. Joakim Noah went down Saturday Night in game three against the underdog 76ers and might be out for the rest of the series, however long that may be. They are, officially down three games to one, against the eight seeded Philly team that ended the season four games above .500 and doesn’t have a true star on their team. It is very unfortunate that this series will end with the best player (Rose) out and one of the most energetic, entertaining players (Noah) out, most likely. A series that was supposed to be one sided, going into it, has been just that. But it’s been all Sixers, who can close it out Tuesday night in Chicago, and start preparing for the Heat.
It is a true shame that this series has completely shifted because of an injury to the best player in the series (and arguably the best in the league, although this year I’m not buying it). A lot of people are blaming the shortened season, or the fact that the Bulls coach, Thibs, overworked an already hurt Rose, but doctors have come out and said that neither of these factors resulted in the torn ACL. So, sadly we cannot blame the condensed schedule on this injury, no matter how much I wanted to. Editors Note: If you didn’t already know, the regular season was played this year after a strike ended a few months after the season was supposed to start, and then they ended up playing way too many games in way too short of time. Now, the East has opened it’s doors and, if everything goes the way it should, then the Heat should just be able to run right through it and find itself in the NBA Finals. (Ok, we all know sports doesn’t always work that way). And hey, as I type the Celtics are going up 3-1 on the Hawks so you never know. Sorry Chicago, this just isn’t going to be your year, unless there is a major miracle. And I just don’t see that happening.
In other NBA Playoff news it looks like the Celtics and Pacers will face off in round two. The Celtics just man handled the Hawks in Game 4 to go up 3-1, and the Pacers have a nice 3-1 lead on the Howard-less Magic. In the West the Lakers and Nuggets are playing Game 4 with the Lakers up 1 in the 2nd and up 2 games to 1. The Clippers and Grizzlies are also only separated by one game with the Clips up 2-1. The Spurs are going to advance up 3-0 on the Jazz and the OKC Thunder have already swept out the defending Champ Mavs. We will see if age before beauty wins out with the potential of the Spurs and Lakers (old) against the Thunder and a combo of either Memphis or Clippers (beauty, except for Blake Griffin, who is not the prettiest guy in the room).
Major League Baseball Update
There is only one team that was supposed to win their division (according to pre-season prognosticators) that is leading their division currently. Here is a list of your current division leaders
NL East- Washington Nationals
NL Central-St. Louis Cardinals
NL West-L.A. Dodgers
AL East-Baltimore Orioles
AL Central-Cleveland Indians
AL West-Texas Rangers
Ok, so lets start by saying there are three teams on this list that I believe will win their division. The Rangers, Cardinals, and Dodgers will win their division. In the AL West the Rangers will run away with it. The Angels have and will underachieve, just not this bad, and the A’s and Mariners are just not good. The NL Central will come down to the last month of the season with the Reds sticking in there for most of the season. But the Cardinals will over power with both their bats and arms and take the central with a month left in the season. There are too many holes in the Red’s lineup and Baker will over work that pitching staff exactly the way he did in San Fran and Chicago. The N.L. West will be won by the Dodgers off their talent alone. The Dodgers are a stars and scrubs team with great players and bad players intermixed throughout the lineup but the Giants’ pitching has digressed enough and their bats are still under powering (especially with the loss of Kung Fu Panda aka Pablo Sandoval.
The other three leaders will most definitely not stay atop their respective divisions. The best chance is the Indians, who were overlooked as a real contender of this craptastic division once the Tigers signed Fielder and officially became the beer league softball champs. But even the loss of Sizemore, again, hasn’t stopped them from turning in a respectable 15-11 record. But like I said, I still believe that the Tigers will squeak out the division at the end. The Nationals are in the same boat as the Indians. They do have a shot at winning their division, especially with their great young pitching, but ultimately their bats won’t be enough and the handling of Bryce Harper will set him back in his development. I do not know if the Braves or Phillies can play strong enough to be serious contenders but I imagine one of those teams will step up and overtake this young and up and coming Nationals team. The Orioles, on the other hand, have no shot in the crazy A.L. East. Tampa is on their heels and will most likely take this division, if not, be the first team to run away with this division in god knows how long. The Orioles have a lot of good pieces but, everyone is playing out of their minds and with such a young club and having to face this division they will not sustain. But I will say watch out for the Blue Jays. They will not be able to win this division either, but they will stay in the race til the end. Do not be surprised if they end up ahead of the Red Sox for the first time in a long time.
The NHL Playoffs Are Heating Up
The Kings are in the Western Conference Finals sweeping the St. Louis Blues in a very non competitive series that was still very exciting and fun to watch. The Coyotes have a 3-1 edge over the Predators, which means the Central, which had four representatives in the Playoffs, will be without a single team in the Western Conference finals. On the other side the Devils and machine himself Marty Brodeur, bringing his team to a 3-1 lead over the Flyers. For the most interesting series, the Rangers and Caps are locked in a two two tie. The lightning bolt himself Ovechkin, has put his stamp on the series and it will be fun to watch how all of this will play out.
It was very upsetting to find out that..
Junior Seau has passed away. He reportedly committed suicide this past week. Personally I remember watching him on a Chargers team that was brutally bad and being happy when he was finally able to get out of there. He always had a smile on his face and did very much in charitable work. It is a very sad story and I want to know if his career had anything to do with this. I understand the family’s hesitation about letting doctors inspect his brain but if that the answer any questions as to what was going on then I would not hesitate. R.I.P Junior Seau and for all of his family and friends I am so sorry for your loss.
It is no big secret that Albert formely “El Hombre” Pujols is in a bit of a rut. He is batting .232 and has ZERO home runs, with only four RBI’s. There is a blog on ESPN called the Sweet Spot and it goes very in depth with the numbers. I, on the other hand, am not the biggest stat head, “not that theres anything wrong with that”. I am just here to tell you that indeed, he is struggling. The real question is, why? What the hell is going on and will it ever get better? The simple and short answer is, yes. Sooner or later, Albert Pujols will get his homeruns and RBI’s. Albert Pujols is getting older, and changing leagues will sometimes make it difficult for a hitter to get comfortable. He had it easy in St. Louis. He had no pressure on him, he was revered. Well, there are now 240 million reasons why there is more pressure on Pujols than ever before. The Angel fans are expecting a big season, hell several big seasons and like I said before, he will end up with good to great numbers. But, the Angels are paying him to put up the best numbers and honestly, I am worried he will never be that man again. And I am shaking my head thinking about how L.A. just paid a man $240 million over ten years and they might never see as good as a player as St. Louis had in the eleven previous years. It is unbelievable. I never thought that in the first four years of this crazy contract, let alone the first month, we would be saying that this was a clear MISTAKE.
Yadier Molina signed a five year extension with the Cardinals earlier this week. Molina will be the longest tenured Cardinal player, with Chris Carpenter, now that Pujols signed with the AL West contender Angels. Molina is not only the coach on the field, being the manager of the pitching staff while they are on the mound, but he is the rock that needs to become the newest team leader. His bat has been a work in progress but improving the past few years. His glove has earned him four straight gold gloves and a Rawlings Platinum glove that is given to the best defensive player of the year regardless of position. Obviously, he is the most well regarded defender in the game, and now he will be paid like it. Unlike Pujols, the Cardinals were willing to show Molina how important he was to the team earning, the second highest contract for a catcher, only behind the extraordinary Joe Mauer. What that tells everyone is that Molina, as a player and leader, is worth spending despite his age. It also shows the fan base that despite letting “El Hombre” (Pujols) leave, the Cardinals are not going to stand pat.
Molina is 29 years old, which for a catcher is the make or break point. If they can make it at this age then there is a good chance that they will be productive at an older age but this is the time that other catchers start to break down. The Cards are putting a lot of faith paying Molina $60 million from 2013 to 2017. He is the number seven hitter in a lineup, that is very productive and still should be, even with a new number three hitter. This deal is not, I repeat not, about loyalty. There is no such thing as loyalty in sports. It’s about what you can do for me now and whether you are worth the money that we are paying you. And the Cardinals obviously think that he is worth the money, even after showing fans and the team that they are not going to sign a bad contract, even if it means losing a sure fire hall of famer who is (sorry, was) the face of the franchise and the longest tenured redbird. It will remain to be seen whether Molina can overcome the age factor, health factor and keep his defense while still improving his bat. We won’t really know if this deal was a good one until the end of the 2017 season but I believe this signing was the right thing to do and like I said before it’s not just about on the field.
A week after everyone in St. Louis had the pleasure of seeing Pujols in a uniform that didn’t have the birds on the bat, for the first time in over a decade, the Cards made sure that they will have the the rights to keep Molina in the Cardinals uniform for another six years. This was just as important of a message to the fans as it was to Molina and the team. Obviously, they did not do the deal for the fans, but one of the after effects of this deal is that the fans have a renewed sense of reassurance that the Cardinals are still going to spend money, even if its a little tighter than say the Yanks and Red Sox. I know that after Albert left the Cards signed Carlos Beltran and that was supposed to be the guy that will come in and help, with the loss, and it was a good deal. But it still made people question whether or not money was more important. It lessened the blow that the Cardinals “offered” over 200 million to an aging player in a bad economy, like a deal that size would make people less offended in a good economy. But some fans, even if it was in the back of their minds were still questioning what was going to happen now that they showed that they were not going to skyrocket over the $100 million dollar mark. Well, we should be confident that they are going to make some risky but overall smart moves. I’m excited to see Molina probably spend the rest of his years in a Cardinal’s uniform but next up is Wainright and we now have to worry about what is going to happen to him.
Prince Fielder has agreed to terms with the Detroit Tigers in the amount of $217 million dollars over nine years. It’s a homecoming for young Prince who, when his dad played for the Tigers, the younger Fielder would belt home runs during batting practice. Oh did I forget to mention he was only twelve years old. Cecil made sure that his son (Prince) was around all the time when he was a kid. Prince was loved by Cecil’s Detroit teammates and was in the locker room and taking batting practice all the time. But this story does not have a happy ending. Prince refuses to talk to his father, even after his father has tried numerous times to get in contact with his estranged son. Prince is not having that. He doesn’t want anything to do with his father. So now Prince has signed with the team that he grew up around and, for all intense and purposes, was a part of in the early nineties. It is interesting to think that for someone who has so much hatred towards their father that he would then go and sign with a team that his father has a prominent history with. But then again money and winning does trump emotion and loyalty (or in this case hatred).
For the Tigers this deal, for now, seems like the exact move that they needed to pull off to get back to the ALCS. They have the best pitcher in the world (Verlander) and one of the best young sluggers in the game already (Cabrera) so adding Prince will make this team that much more competitive for the next several years. They also just lost their DH for what looks like the whole 2012 season (Martinez), and now Prince can fill that void and become the best DH in the American league, without hurting that big lumbering vegetarian body. For Prince, the money and team are perfect, except for the ties to his father of course. He gets out of the small market Milwaukee, and goes to a team that can easily win the horrific AL Central, and make over the $200 million, which was the asking price that Scott Boras had put on as a price tag.
The question, for the future is, whether or not the big bodied (code word for fat) Prince Fielder can stay healthy for the nine years and make that contract worth it for the Tigers. That is a very legitimate question. We know that the very consistent Fielder will help out the Tigers for now and maybe the excitement of having a great Fielder for the next four years will add enough revenue to make the last five years of his contract obsolete. (Remember, most people think that Fielder will outplay Pujols over the length of their contract and Fielder signed for nine years not ten (Pujols) and is four years younger than Pujols). But how will his body hold up when he gets into his mid thirties and, for the Tigers, will that even matter. A lot can happen in four or five years for a baseball team. Fielder playing DH will certainly help, especially if he plays DH starting this year, whereas if he would have signed with the Nationals he would have to play first. I am very interested to watch such a good offense and a team that has the pitcher who won the Cy Young and MVP in a stacked AL, next year in a division that doesn’t look to be improving. They are easily the favorites to win the Central and maybe even more. But like I asked, how long will this last? Only time will tell. So you Detroit fans out there. I just would like to say, enjoy every moment because with a body like his, you soon can be watching an oft injured DH making upwards of 23 million dollars a year player kill your team.