GRAND SLAMS: ENTER THE FISTER
Spring Training is wrapping up, and as the warmer weather approaches we get ready to kick off another exciting year of home-plate collisions and steroid abuse. Our glorious national pastime conjures images of neatly-cut grass, a good Yankees-Red Sox brawl and tobacco juice-spitting (like this).
So what’s new this year? Well, it just may be that several historically bad teams may start winning games while some recently dominating teams may start to show their age. Just like the Celtics and Lakers in the NBA, the Phillies and Yankees are heading downhill with an aging roster. And that makes me so happy. In the meantime, teams such as the Nationals, Royals, and Indians may start to have a long series of winning seasons as their decades of building start to pay off. If you are a lover of underdogs, this may be your year and, more importantly, this may be the early stages of your decade.
The season opens with the Seattle Mariners playing the Oakland Athletics in Japan. All I can think of is a picture of Ichiro looking like E.T. and holding up his glowing finger saying “Ichiro phone home.” I don’t know why but that makes my innards jiggle with laughter. Also, the Athletics are GM’d by Billy Beane, who had a movie made about him. Did anyone see that? It starred Brad Pitt and was pretty decent, especially when Jonah Hill was busy being super-fat on camera.
Aside from all that, fantasy baseball leagues will start drafting soon. If you’re an avid fantasy baseball guy or gal, you’ve probably either already drafted your league or are going to soon. I’m in four leagues this year and two have drafted already while two more remain. And of course, I believe I DESTROYED the other teams in my league and have drafted myself genius teams that will have no problem winning their respective leagues. Sheesh, I’m so cocky I sometimes amuse myself.
Actually, if you want fantasy baseball advice, please ask in the comments: I’m guaranteed to guide you to a bona-fide mediocre finish.
And to finish it off: I’ve included a comprehensive guide to what to expect from your favorite team. Read it and weep, sucka.
As stated in the first edition of Grand Slams, I believe the good ole D-bags will win the division again. Last year, they enjoyed their first good year since the Big Unit teamed with Curt Schilling to dominate the batters and their puny batting helmets (as if that was gonna protect them from Randy Johnson’s four billion MPH fastball). The Diamondbacks look set to be contenders for a few years. Enjoy it Arizona, I know nothing else in your desert is going your way.
This is the team I grew up loving. Watching them make the postseason every year of my entire school career was something I’ll never forget. Last year’s collapse is something I’m trying very hard to forget. The Braves look good this year, but so does the rest of the NL East. The Braves should be good for a couple years with their good mix of youth and Chipper Jones’s huge salary hopefully coming off the books after this season.
I don’t have much good to say about the Orioles or their future. The days of Cal Ripken are gone and in their place perpetual irrelevance has taken hold of the franchise. The Orioles haven’t been good in a long time, they won’t be good this year and they won’t be good in the near future. I’m sorry, Baltimore, but you’ll have to enjoy the Ravens instead.
Boston Red Sox
Just like the Braves, the Red Sox have given me much to remember. Watching the 2004 postseason will always stick in my memory as one of the best postseasons of all time, in any sport. And also like the Braves, the Sox’s historic collapse last year is something I hope to be recovered from soon (if I was rich enough, I’d have blown lots of money on the psychiatric office). This year should be a good year for Boston and with their payroll, they’ll be competitive for years to come. Plus, with Bobby V (Valentine, that is), Boston will be even more entertaining than usual. Before going to Japan to manage, our favorite Valentine used to wear silly masks to come back into the dugout after being kicked out of games. What a great guy.
Chicago White Sox
Chicago’s south side team and the president’s favorite boys of summer will have a tough go this year. Beating Detroit for the division title will be a difficult task. With the colorful Ozzie Guillen gone and Robin Ventura (remember him?) now managing, the other Sox will have to look forward to years when the division becomes easier. At least they aren’t as perpetually bad as the northern brothers…
Speaking of northern brothers, the Cubs may not be good this year, but with Theo Epstein at the helm, the Cubs should start competing in a few years. It takes a while to turn a big ship around but I think Theo will pull it off. Regardless, if you’re a Cubs fan, you’ll love your team no matter what. I admire that. I enjoy Wrigley and will be visiting the ballpark this year again to see them battle my Braves hopefully.
The Reds are good on paper this year. They won’t be making any calls to everyone’s favorite Dunder-Mifflin office (round of applause please for the worst joke yet). But seriously, they underperformed last year and they probably will this year. After finally getting rid of Marge Schott (she finally succumbed to good ole death), they’ve done much better, but something tells me you’ll have to wait at least another year before enjoying a deep postseason run.
I used to love the Indians back in the Manny Ramirez-Albert Belle-Kenny Lofton days. Those days are gone and while the Indians had a promising first half in 2011 they flunked after the All-Star break. Perhaps this year will be different, but they will probably fall into the same category as the White Sox: waiting for Detroit to not be so flipping awesome. Maybe 2015?
Since our A&R guy is a big Rockies fan and he’ll probably read this article, I won’t be so harsh. But the Rockies need to do something to get better. They’ve overperformed in the past, just like the Broncos did last year, so there must be something in the thin air that gives Denver athletes so much heart. But the Rockies need good pitching and it just seems like they can never get a truly solid rotation. Until that happens, I don’t see them seriously competing.
You’ve already heard about how awesome they are. A great lineup, a decent rotation and bullpen and a legendary, chain-smoking-Clint-Eastwood-type manager make them the coolest dudes in the AL. This year they should make a run at a World Series and should continue to do so for a few years.
Bad. That’s what the Astros have been for the last couple years. And sorry to say it, but the times, they ain’t a-changin. Maybe if they could get Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio back, then it’d be different. But look at it this way, at least Houston has hurricanes and an under-funded NASA to enjoy!
Kansas City Royals
Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Jeff Franceour. These are reasons to hope, Kansas City. I like KC in future years. Not this year, but soon…
Los Angeles Angels
Good but not great team and should be for at least a couple years. Enjoy baseball’s most famous straight edge pitcher (C.J. Wilson) and baseball’s best hitter. Also, enjoy being the setting of the horribly disappointing Ryan Gosling movie “Drive.” If LA is famous for something else, that’s stupid.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are primed for serious contention. They just need something to push them over the hump. Perhaps it’s this guy (the one in the hat)?
The newly awesome and newly-relocated Marlins are set to be great as long as they can remain injuy-free. Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson are all injuy-prone and also happen to be Miami’s best three players. Speaking of injuries, I wonder if the whole steroid-testing implementation has caused this recent rash of injuries to everyone. I guess without HGH and other now-illegal supplements, baseball players are having a harder time staying away from the newly-popular oblique strain. Which is for pansies.
Great last year, hopefully great this year, hopefully great for years to come. They should be liked by every metal-head 1) for their mascot as well as for their rad facial hair.
Twins used to be awesome. Morneau and Mauer are both suffering from mysterious injuries, so no one knows what to expect of them. Expect this club to go through a long rebuilding phase.
New York Mets
The Mets are still paying Bobby Bonilla’s salary and are now paying for their involvement with Bernie Madoff. Neither of those things indicate good circumstances or a good future for NY’s “other” team. Plus, you guys are rivals of the Braves, so screw off.
New York Yankees
Jay Z’s favorite team is still good but getting old, as stated earlier. I’m hoping they’ll be irrelevant again as soon as 2013, but with a payroll like that, we might have to deal with the Evil Empire for awhile.
Does anyone like the Athletics?
Philly is the Evil Empire of the NL and like their AL deathstar brethren, they too are getting old and moldy. Good riddance. Hopefully this’ll be the last year of winning records for Philly.
Like the Indians, the Pirates looked good early last year, only to fall apart at the end. They may be decent this year but look for them to contend in the coming years. As long as they don’t let Tim Tebow beat them with his superb passing skills, like the Steelers did, yuk yuk yuk.
San Diego Padres
Yet another team mired in perpetual blah-land. It’s a pitcher’s paradise, so draft Padre pitchers if you can and avoid Padre hitters like the plague. Otherwise, there’s not much to like here.
San Francisco Giants
Perhaps baseball’s best pitching and certainly baseball’s worst batting, the Giants are intriguing. I think if they could acquire a couple bats this year, they could turn in a Wild-Card effort this year. Remember that there are 2 Wild Cards for each league this postseason, so the Giants may be helped into the postseason.
Is anyone a Mariners fan? If so, please explain in 300 words or more. Bibliography needed (5 source minimum).
St. Louis Cardinals
The gateway to the west has been providing good baseball for decades. What remains to be seen is whether they can now do that without Pujols, LaRussa or pitching coach what’s-his-name. But St. Louis knows baseball and if they’re down this year, they won’t stay down for long.
Tampa Bay Rays
Need proof that there’s a God and He hates the Devil? Look no further than the renamed Rays. After dropping the “Devil” from their title, they’ve been amazeballs. As the Devil Rays, they couldn’t buy a win. As just the Rays, they can’t stop winning. End of argument.
They’ve been great, they’ll be great this year and they’ll be great for a long time. Can’t wait for the epic showdowns between them and the Angels this year.
Toronto Blue Jays
I like the Jays and I like the next team, the Nationals. The Jays are now the only Canadian team since the Expos left and were renamed the Nationals. They have a great offense and some young pitchers that will hopefully mature into mound-masters. Maybe they make a run at that new 2nd wild card spot this year?
I love em. Perpetual underdogs and finally awesome. They’re young, new to the area and hungry to win. They’ll be sneaky good this year and should be great for years to come.
PS – Did anyone hear about Lenny Dykstra (the dude in the above chew link) getting 3 years in prison for grand theft auto???