Night at Nationals Park: Mets-Nats Tonight

After a few weeks of waiting through a busy April, I’m finally making my way to Nationals Park tonight.  I wasn’t anticipating wearing any Mets garb but in light of their recent six game win-streak, I find myself in a bit of a bind.  Wearing blue and orange tonight would go against this mini-boycott I have going.  On the other hand, I’ve got Nats tickets so the Wilpons won’t see a dime.  Essentially, when you see your boyhood team winning (even if they are still under .500), there are times when logic gives way to emotion.

I’m often cynical about the Amazins and their ability to make anything constructive of the problems they now face.  I am unapologetic, as most Mets fans are, regarding my disdain for the Wilpons.  I hope that they will make a wise decision and sell, ending months of embarrassing press that has stained the team’s reputation (what was left of it anyway).  But I can say that Sandy Alderson is not messing around.  He has a vision for this team that is completely his and makes no excuses for it.  Win or lose in 2011, Alderson is convinced he has the right strategy for success in the coming years, whether the money is available or not.  Happy for me, that’s what I’ve always said about the Mets.  They’re better off acting as a small-market juggernaut rather than a Bronx doppleganger.

So tonight, despite my deepest reservations, I will be wearing #7.  We all anticipate Reyes being shipped out by the trade deadline so I’m going to take this opportunity to wear his uniform perhaps one last time.  Perhaps we can win seven in a row.  Now that I’ve said it, all Mets fans can let me have it when the team falls flat later tonight.  I expect I will do a fair amount of tweeting, in between shoving Ben’s Chili Bowl in my mouth and taking pictures of soon-to-be former Mets.  However, if the Mets are on the verge of ending this streak and it is a save situation, Storen better be on the pitching slab at the beginning of the ninth.

Mets Boycott suspended until the final out.  I reserve the right to reinstate this thing at any point during the game and because I will actually be in attendance, I fully expect I will.  LETS GO METS!


Past Their Prime – Episode 5

We managed to make it through five episodes. Cause for celebration.

This week, Lee and Jesse talk about the most unrealistic finish to a Butler season since Benson became governor. Look it up.

Also, we give our MLB predictions, try to talk Red Sox fans off the ledge and debate which is easier – getting 76ers playoff tickets or hating Spike Lee.

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The Great Hambino, Hamilton Porter, starts the season…

2011 Pre-Season All I-95 Teams

The start of a new season brings excitement, unlimited possibilities, and the opportunity to make some wild predictions with minimal accountability. In the spirit of the new season, I present the Inaugural Pre-Season All I-95 Team:

Position American League National League
Catcher Matt Weiters – BAL Brian McCann – ATL
First Base Adrian Gonzalez – BOS Ryan Howard – PHI
Second Base Robinson Cano – NYY Dan Uggla – ATL
Third Base Evan Longoria – TAM David Wright – NYM
Shortstop Derek Jeter – NYY Hanley Ramirez -FLA
Left Field Carl Crawford – BOS Jason Bay – NYM
Center Field BJ Upton – TAM Shane Victorino – PHI
Right Field Jose Bautista – TOR Jason Werth – WAS
Designated Hitter David Ortiz – BOS n/a
Starting Pitcher Jon Lester – BOS Roy Halladay – PHI
Relief Pitcher Mariano Rivera – NYY Francisco Rodriguez – NYM

Red Sox Reign: 2011 MLB Predictions SUPERList

It’s been four years since the Red Sox added a world championship banner along Yawkey Way.  Well, they will not need to wait any longer.  I predict that the Boston Red Sox will win their eighth World Series title in 2011, honoring the 100th season of baseball at Fenway Park.

2011 MLB Regular Season Division Predictions

NL East: Atlanta and Philadelphia will battle it out for a majority of the season.  The crucial series between these two clubs will be the last series in Atlanta.  It may well decide the East.  I anticipate a decent showing from Florida Marlins.  I fully expect the Nationals to raise their stature but fall short of .500.  The Mets: don’t trust them.  The Braves take the Wild Card because Philly wins the season series.

NL Central: The Reds will be the class of this division.  St. Louis and Milwaukee will keep Cincinnati honest but won’t play a factor late in the season.  The Cubs and improved Astros will win around 75 games.  Meanwhile, the lowly Pirates will lose 100 games… again.

NL West: The World Champion Giants will fend off Colorado, who will fall a game short of the postseason.  The Giants and Rockies will pull away late, leaving the Dodgers behind.  San Diego and Arizona will bring up the rear.

AL East: The Red Sox will prevail over the Yankees, taking two of three at the Stadium in late September.  The Orioles will surprise everyone by posting a winning record – barely.  The Rays and Jays will take a huge steps backward as intradivision games against Baltimore, Boston and New York will not go there way.  The Bombers will get the wild card berth.

AL Central: Chicago will have one autumn success as the White Sox win the Central Division.  Minnesota and Detroit will both hold first place at points in the season while the Sox explode after the All-Star Break.  Everything settles down, the Tigers fade and the Twins can’t quite win enough.  Cleveland and Kansas City are the cellar-dwellers.  The Royals lose 100 games.

AL West: The team’s in this division will beat the hell out of one another.  Texas, Oakland and Los Angeles Anaheim will end up in a virtual tie toward the end of September.  The Rangers will eek out a division title with a mere 86 wins.  Seattle will enjoy the pain of 100 loses.

Interleague Play: AL 130NL 122

All-Star Game: AL 4NL 1


Award National League American League
MVP Albert Pujols, STL Josh Hamilton, TEX
Cy Young Tim Lincecum, SF C.C. Sabathia, NYY
Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel, ATL Jeremy Hellickson, TB
Manager of the Year Fredi Gonzalez, ATL Buck Showalter, BAL

2011 MLB Postseason Predictions

ALDS: Red Sox over Rangers; Yankees over White Sox

NLDS: Giants over Braves; Phillies over Reds

ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees

NLCS: Phillies over Giants

World Series: Red Sox over Phillies in 7 at Fenway Park. MVP – SP Jon Lester, BOS

2011 Major League Baseball Predicted Standings:

National League 122-130 IL
American League 130-122 IL
East W – L East W – L
Phillies 93 – 69 Red Sox 100 – 62
Braves* 93 – 69 Yankees* 97 – 65
Marlins 83 – 79 Orioles 82 – 80
Nationals 76 – 86 Rays 79 – 83
Mets 74 – 88 Blue Jays 72 – 90
Central W – L Central W – L
Reds 90 – 72 White Sox 91 – 71
Cardinals 83 – 79 Twins 89 – 73
Brewers 82 – 80 Tigers 84 – 78
Cubs 78 – 84 Indians 67 – 95
Astros 73 – 89 Royals 62 – 100
Pirates 59 – 103
West W – L West W – L
Giants 95 – 67 Rangers 86 – 76
Rockies 92 – 70 Athletics 85 – 77
Dodgers 83 – 79 Angels 83 – 79
Padres 72 – 90 Mariners 61 – 101
Diamondbacks 66 – 96

Past Their Prime – Episode 4

This week Jesse and Lee discuss the Final Four that only an Uncool Dad from New Jersey saw coming and college basketball coaching jobs for those of us under 35.

We also get an East Coast baseball preview, Lee tips his hand about parenting and Jesse comes clean about his addiction to the Grandaddy of Them All – Wrestlemania!

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National Joke: The Nats are Punking Me

Sandy Alderson is starting to endear himself to me.  Releasing Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez were two great steps toward me lifting my self-imposed Mets boycott.  He was willing, albeit with the Wilpons permission, to swallow $18 million of combined salary to get them out of New York.  Sandy, I’m intrigued by your first spring as Mets GM but must show signs of success to win over exhausted Amazin fans.  The Mets are improving – slowly.  Joy for me, right?

Enter Mike Rizzo, Nats general manager.  Rizzo snapped him up, signing him to a minor league deal.  Of course, I shouldn’t be concerned, it’s just a minor league contract.  His velocity has plummeted since his knee surgery.  Despite his former 95-mph heat, his control was always suspect.  Even if the Nats can revive his fastball, they will need to work on his mechanics.  Perez has always been a project and he will be again.  He’s still relatively young but has never established himself as a consistent presence on the mound.

I adopted the Nats as my adopted team when I returned to live in the DC area last year.  It coincided perfectly with my Mets boycott.  What will kill me is the usual when it comes to the Mets?  They cut a ball player who becomes a player.  In 1996, the Mets said farewell to Jeff Kent and look what he did in San Fran.  Occasionally, players like Perez leave New York and they thrive.  With all the drama that accompanied Ollie the past few seasons, it’ll be hard not to think the worst-case scenario when the bases are juiced and he needs an out.  I don’t foresee Perez’s resurrection in Washington, nothing of the sort.  But never be surprised: Kent’s emergence out of San Francisco’s fog was a shock unto itself.  I’ll just think of this as a joke.  Thanks Mike.

Past Their Prime – Episode 2

Amazingly, we managed to throw together a second podcast and some nifty post-production work.

This week, Lee and Jesse talk March Madness, Jesse loses faith in the strength of Bob Knight’s character, and Lee makes the case for the Wilpon family to buy an MLS franchise.

All that plus much more including the “Email of the Week” for your listening pleasure.

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Building Trends… Ten Year Baseball Outlooks Are Relevant

Matthew Cerrone linked my post, the True State of I-95 Baseball, on  There were a couple of comments on that site that got my attention.  They thought looking ten years ahead was, quite frankly, getting ahead of myself.  Perhaps forecasting to 2021 is a little pie-in-the-sky crazy.  But in the context of looking at success and failure, sports pundits and bloggers tend to judge by the decade.  Ten years may seem like an eternity but this isn’t football, baseball careers and each club’s rebuilding efforts are far longer in scale.  A decade in baseball is equivalent to five years in football.  The myth of competitive balance in baseball and the reality of parity in football illustrates that predicting the pigskin ten years from now is largely impossible while prognosticating the cowhide is easier.

Yankee Playoff Drought: Yes, It Is Possible.

I believe I may offended a Yankee fan or two when I suggested that there could be peril once Jeter retires or leaves.  The objective evidence says that could be the case.  George Steinbrenner was will to pay up the nose for talent in the 2000s.  That strategy kept the Yankees playoff-worthy but resulted in just one championship after the 2000 season.  The Boss’s sons are now in control, Cashman’s ability has been stymied and let’s face it, the every Yankee is a year older.  It’s not hard to see the writing on the wall: Changes are coming to the Bronx.

I know what this is though.  The high and mighty Yankees fans are getting restless.  They tried to hold on in the mid-60s too as they watched Mantle disintegrate.  Building a team takes more than talent.  Chemistry is important and with the Core Four Three aging rapidly, the days of 1996 look like a millenium ago, not 15 years.  Wait, but I thought looking ten years out was ludicrous but that is how Yankee fans judge their dynastic success.  Isn’t it?

Since the Mantle era ended, the Yankees have had two significant, decade-long playoff droughts, from 1965-1975 and from 1982-1993 (I’ll give you 1994 as a playoff year despite the strike).  When CBS ran the Yankees, they were terrible and it wasn’t until Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973 that their fortunes began to turn.  And Mattingly’s time was equally disappointing, where the Yankees could never reach baseball’s pinnacle, nor win the division.  This is a precarious time for the Bombers.  Cashman’s influence is obviously waning.  The Steinbrenner boys are asserting themselves differently as their father would.  Transitions are messy.  If it occurs while the team’s players are aging and their skills deteriorating, then that could be a disaster.

Phillies and Red Sox: Dynasties in Waiting?

If injury doesn’t strike at the heart of Philadelphia’s starting rotation, they will be good for quite a while.  Maddox, Glavine and Smoltz were together for quite a while, and although they won a single title, they prospered.  Fifteen years worth of October baseball says something about historic rotations.  The Phillies can make a similar statement with their current core.I cannot say for certain that Philly will continue seeing success a decade from now.  This rotation will not exist ten years from now.  In my estimation, the Phillies organization intends on contending for the foreseeable future.  I’m not necessarily saying the Phils will make the playoffs every season for a decade but I expect their core group to keep them relevant for some time.

The Phillies today, are similar to the Yankees of the late ’90s.  They are generally the consensus favorites to win the National League each season.  Who would displace them?  The NL East has huge question marks, even the resurgent Braves (who have a new manager this year – see how that pans out).  Pujols may hold the key to where the NL’s power base will be the next five years, if he stays in the Senior Circuit.  Without question, despite the Giants winning, Philadelphia, with that starting five, will dominate for a time and could retool with whatever pieces leave over the next ten years.

The Red Sox are naturally tied exclusively to the Yankees.  Any Bronx loss is New England’s gain and vice versa.  If there are revolutionary-type changes in New York, Boston will benefit.  But let’s not forget, management matters.  The Red Sox have been skillful at evolving since 2004.  After 86 years of championship futility, Boston has solidified its AL East position.  Their front office staff was able to reestablish its footing after many pieces of the 2004 team left.  Three years later, they won again with new players.  The Sox are at it again, buying new talent in their prime.  They are now the favorites in the American League again.

Establishing a dynasty may be an outlandish concept for a team that was once “cursed.”  It’s not out of the realm of possibility.  Tell me New Englanders, could you have ever imagined the Pats in that situation pre-Brady?  Of course not.  The Patriots were dreadful, with two notable exceptions.  If the Yankees falter, the Red Sox will fill that void entirely.  The Rays, now depleted of their past talent, are a joke without a new ballpark.  Toronto has made a continuous effort but has never had enough to break the 90-win mark since 1993 (the second of two consecutive title seasons).  And we’ll get to the Orioles later.

The Yankees and Red Sox are in a symbiotic relationship.  What happens to one affects the other.  Whichever team doesn’t embrace new ideas and evolve within their own division will not win.  There are numerous questions where Ruth once hit, but there are strong signs of success where he own pitched.

Mets: Distraction to Danger to Disaster

David Wright commented that the Madoff stuff will be a distraction.  How much of a distraction depends on how well the Mets play?  If they play badly, every other question from reporters will be whether the lawsuit and ownership problems are the causes.  Ownership issues can destroy franchises.  Financial meltdowns have caused long-term damage to teams.  The McCourt divorce in Los Angeles makes the Dodgers situation look like a short-term blip compared to the Mets mess.  There won’t be many prospective buyers, especially for a minority share, if it appears to those buyers that Mets ownership is financially crippled or completely incompetent.  This lawsuit could drag on for years if the Wilpons dig in.

December 2011: Say, taking an example from before, Albert Pujols doesn’t sign an extension and becomes a free agent.  Concurrently, the Madoff lawsuit is in a holding pattern but it looks like the Wilpons are predicting a marginal victory for them.  So they throw a ten-year, $300M contract at him.  He accepts and becomes the Mets starting 1B.  Meanwhile, his numbers, over the next few years, begin a steady decline.  Reyes has left, leaving a gaping hole at short.  Beltran’s quad (and his curveball looking) follows.  Johan, who sat out half of 2011, also suffers from Pedro-like injuries and doesn’t perform like he did in Minnesota.  David Wright, protecting Pujols, performs well but with no one around him, the Mets finish around .500, again and again.

Meanwhile, the Wilpons miscalculate their advantage and lose the suit completely.  They appeal but hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.  They dig in even more but drastically cut back.  In the meantime, they have a huge payroll and nothing good is happening.  After years of appeals, they finally lose the suit.  They are forced to sell the team at a reduced rate because of the constant negative press and awful ball play.  The year is 2017.  That’s how fast a bad situation goes from distraction to danger to disaster.

After watching the Mets my entire life, I can say for certain that this hypothetical scenario could occur.  It is a worst-case scenario but a realistic one.  Mets ownership and its front office have shown they are incredibly inept.  If circumstances in Flushing spiral out of control, the Amazins could be looking forward to a decade of despair.

Orioles: Stopping the St. Louis Browns Redux

I constantly say that Baltimore’s management cannot use the Yankees and Red Sox as scapegoats for its awful performance the past decade.  And blaming Jeffrey Maier isn’t going to fly either.  The Orioles front office has made horrible moves and gutted its farm system.  Two major prospects remain, and Zach Britton is the only one close to playing at Camden Yards.  But there are signs of life in Baltimore.

Last year, Showalter came to town.  They are signing free agents, putting together a “competitive” team.  Vlad Guerrero just signed a one-year, $8M contract.  Andy MacPhail is trying to change the culture.  Hiring a skipper that can mesh the vets and rooks definitely made waves.  Buck Showalter is a managerial genius and gets guys to play ball his way.  The Orioles will make tremendous strides in 2011 and into 2012.  The team, as currently constructed, should aim for 82 wins.  The Orioles were 34-23 after Showalter arrived.  If Baltimore can find its footing in the AL East, they could compete for a wild card a few years down the road.

Baltimore should look west, mirroring the acts of Midwest success stories like Minnesota.  A decade removed from contraction rumors, the Twins have since succeeded year in, year out.  Now, they have a new ball park.  So much for being wiped off the face of baseball.  MacPhail is trying to emulate the Twins in certain ways, even getting J.J. Hardy from there.

The Orioles had a winning tradition.  If MacPhail and Showalter can maintain what they have started, it could be a fun decade in Maryland.  They have a gorgeous park and a hungry fan base.  If the Ravens and the other 31 NFL teams are sitting at home this September, it would be worth it for the Orioles to profit from the Ravens absence and win some fans back.  From my angle, I have a hard time seeing them sustain this, even if the Yankees tank.  But I will reserve judgement on them another year.

Washington: First in War, First in Peace, Last in the American National League

Thank God for the Pirates.  Sorry, Pittsburgh.  Our nation’s capital’s baseball team, for some reason, has never flourished.  The first version of the Senators won just one World Series and three pennants in sixty seasons.  The second version, from 1961 to 1971, did absolutely nothing, having one winning season, finishing 23 games behind 109-win Baltimore in 1969.  This DC version has been equally dreadful (except its first year) as they finished with 90-plus losses four of the last five years.

Ownership and management are making strides to improve the club.  Unfortunately, those efforts have been thwarted by bad luck, or minor league pitching coaches not protecting a major asset.  Yes, I’m talking Strasburg.  What possible good comes of him sitting out 2011?  None.  He won’t be 100 percent in 2012 so the Nats won’t reap the rewards of the kid until 2013.  By then, Bryce Harper will be hitting monster round-trippers and all will be well at the old Navy Yard.

The Nationals and Orioles have the same problem.  They are bottom-dwelling teams looking to distinguish themselves as alternatives to powerful franchises.  Baltimore has Boston and New York.  Washington has Philadelphia.  Additionally, they need to pass other teams in the process of at least making the wild card.  The Nats need to compete with the Braves, Marlins and Mets.  The Braves were a 91-win ward card team, the Marlins will have a new park next year and well, the Mets are the Mets.  It seems to me, the Nats need to beat the bad karma of being Washington’s baseball club before they can be a factor in NL East.  Paradoxically, good karma comes with winning.

Caveat: Baseball Divisions Could Look Completely Different in a Decade

I believe Major League Baseball needs a major shakeup.  Although I will hate it, it will be a reality this decade, probably before its end.  Baseball is unsustainable with a few teams having a legitimate chance to win.  Certain divisions are not competitive, others are full of horrible teams.  Sports has become regionalized and will thrive that way.  If baseball’s owners decide to radically realign the league, the paths of all six of these teams will change considerably.  If the Red Sox, Mets, Phillies, Yankees end up in the same division, what a bloodbath it will be.

The True State of I-95 Baseball

The future of baseball is unclear.  There is a tremendous international base from which to draw players and fans.  Arguably, baseball is more popular elsewhere than in the United States, where it is played.  Along the I-95 corridor, baseball is still an integral part of the sports universe.  Baseball’s rules and roots are based in New York, Boston and Philly.  Given the economic realities, Boston and Philadelphia seem to be setting themselves up for dominance in the coming decade.  There are challenges for both but I expect them weather the fiercest storms and win consistently.  Look toward a decade of Red Sox and Phillies division titles and numerous World Series appearances.  The trendlines for these two teams are up.  Rich times are ahead for two cities that vie for attention in a world where New York’s gravitation pull attracts everything.  An easy or difficult path to the Commissioner’s Trophy lies mostly with the fortune of an I-95 rival, the Yankees.

The best dynastic analogy for these New York Yankees is to the Pinstripers of the early ’60s.  The Mantle era was coming to an abrupt end as those heroes aged considerably and began retiring.  1962 was the last championship they would see for 15 years.  Two consecutive AL pennants in 1963-4 were the final nails in the coffin.  A dynasty which stretched back 40 years, to the days of Babe Ruth, was over.  Today, the Yankees are on the brink of another dynastic collapse.  Though this dynasty has been less impressive than the Yankee successes that preceded it, in the modern age of free agency, 15 playoff appearances in 16 seasons is the measure of success.

What will define the Yankees in the coming decade is whether they can steer a way forward, without Jeter.  The Yankees were able to begin anew in the mid-90s.  I believe they can do so again.  It may take a few years after Jeter’s departure but I have no doubt that the Yankees, holders of more titles than any other franchise, have the capacity to see those changes through and then thrive.  A far cry from their National League neighbors in Queens.

I have documented my distain for the current situation in Flushing.  As a Mets fan, I am embarrassed by ownership, management and their on-field play.  It is fitting the Mets will celebrate their 50th season in turmoil.  If GM Sandy Alderson can keep order, in an otherwise chaotic circumstance, I will be impressed.  He has a near-impossible task if he stays for a long period.  The Madoff PR disaster will remain a stain that will be a deterrent to good play.  David Wright has said it will be a distraction.  It will scare off potential free agents and could effect the franchise’s financial viability.  There is nothing more than can be said.  The trajectory of the Mets is downward.  As long as the Wilpons are in control, don’t expect much.

Despite the powers to the North, the teams around the Chesapeake are doomed.  For the Orioles, failure is a foregone conclusion.  The previous decade saw the O’s worst performance since they were the St. Louis Browns.  By no means is it the complete fault of their competitors in the division, the Yankees and Red Sox, as others have been able to accomplish winning seasons while those two were consuming all the talent.  The Orioles management has been inept in many cases and conveniently use Boston and the Bronx as an excuse.  Camden Yards, at almost 20 years of age, is a beautiful park.  Baltimore’s baseball traditions are well known.  Baltimore must seek out better executive talent and stop using the their division counterparts to the North as a scapegoat for bad management.  Like the Mets, don’t expect much here either.

Lastly, poor Washington.  The Nats, unbelievably, will begin their seventh DC season in April.  The Nationals are, in many ways, an expansion franchise.  Establishing an identity has been difficult but the Strasburg effect has taken hold even though he will sit out 2011.  If the free agent changes the Nats made this off-season show tangible benefits, it may carry through until next season and the season after.  Washington has a youth plan.  If that strategy works is still a matter on how well these young players were scouted.

What happens to DC largely depends on the other teams in the NL East.  The southern members, the Braves and Marlins, will make their cases.  The Miami Marlins, as they will be know in 2012 when their new stadium is completed, will have a renewed spirit because of that ballpark.  The Braves have stated their case to win the NL East.  If the Phillies remain superior, the Nats will need to build a wild card winner.  A task that is not as onerous as building a world champion.  The Nationals could insert themselves into the wild card hunt eventually but it could be years before a playoff berth is had.

What Awaits Us in 2021

Baseball inevitably will rely on its regional rivalries to survive.  There has been talk of radical realignment for a decade or two.  I suspect that to save itself from the NFL, realignment along regional lines will happen.  It is only a question of when?  My guess is by 2021, a division will exist containing the Red Sox, Mets, Yankees and Phillies.  But before that time, this decade will consist of successes for Boston and Philadelphia, slowly consolidating their power in their respective divisions.  The Yankees will struggle reestablishing themselves after Jeter departs but will find new life by decade’s end.

Meanwhile, the I-95’s Second Division will struggle.  Baltimore and Washington will try to gain a foothold against their richer counterparts.  The Mets are the proverbial wild card.  Their fate rests solely with ownership.  Mark Cuban has recently stated he is interested in purchasing them.  The outlook is currently negative for the Mets.  If ownership changes or their fortunes on the field change, all bets are off in what is, and will continue to be, the center of baseball’s universe.  That center being the Northeast.

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