Dunkin’ Sends me to Cup Finals

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Back in April, I predicted the Bruins to go on a Stanley Cup run after gathering momentum in the final months of the regular season.  It’s amazing that now the Bruins are just 1 win away from winning the Cup.

I had really enjoyed watching the first first four games from home.  Playoff hockey, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals, is a different brand of hockey and watching your favorite team play is even more special.  Tickets to a game in the finals are so hard to get and I never expected the chance to watch a game at the TD Garden.  I had never even been to a playoff game for any professional sport.  I was in complete shock when I found out I would be going to Game 5 with my whole family thanks to Dunkin’ Boston.

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Even though the Bruins lost in a tight game with questionable calls, it was an amazing experience.  When I got home from school on game day, a package from Dunkin’ was waiting for me.  Inside?  Four tickets to the game along with a large assortment of Dunkin’ merchandise.

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Dunkin’ sent us in style in a Boston Chauffer SUV driven by Mark (pictured above).  Mark gave us a warm welcome, was very friendly, and even talked hockey with me and my family before the game.

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We arrived at TD Garden around 6:30, so we had time to grab a a quick burger and fries from Tasty Burger and then head to Fan Fest.  I had the perfect dessert treat, a bag full of free Dunkin’ Munchkins.  We also took pictures with some passionately dressed fans and in front of the NESN and NHL Network pregame shows as they were broadcasting.  I even had the chance to shoot a puck on a mini rink set up in the middle of Fan Fest.

Before the game began, I also took a picture in front of the famous Bobby Orr statue.  While I was there, I ran into Joe McDonald, who I met in the Bruins press box back in 2015.  I also caught up with Blades on the way to our seats.

Blades

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After Fan Fest and getting our rally towels, we found our seats and the game began.  I’m especially thankful for the great seats from Dunkin’ in the Loge section behind the net in the Bruins offensive zone for the first and third periods.  Our view from the seats were perfect to see the action up close.

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The Bruins had control of the game in Period 1, but Blues goalie Jordan Binnington didn’t let up a single goal despite a Bruins power play.  This kept the game scoreless by the end of the period.

Despite going scoreless, I saw many great Bruins scoring opportunities and was thrilled to be at the Garden to cheer the B’s on along with the rest of the very loud and energetic crowd.  It felt surreal being at a Bruins game in June.  The exciting night continued when I visited the 98.5 the Sports Hub suite during intermission.  Adam Moscatel, a 98.5 employee, escorted us up to the 9th floor where the suite was, and I had the chance to catch up with Dan Alperin and Rob “Hardy” Poole of 98.5.

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But when I returned to my seat about a minute after intermission had ended, the score was 1-0 Blues.  St. Louis had gotten off to a quick start in the 2nd period, and I had just missed the Ryan O’Reilly goal that put St. Louis on the board first.

The rest of the period was dominated by St. Louis.  Even on a Boston power play, the Bruins failed to score, or even keep it in their offensive zone for more than a few seconds.  The Blues did not score any more goals thanks to strong goaltending by Tuukka Rask, but the Bruins no longer had momentum in their favor after this period.

During the 2nd intermission, my dad and I left our seats to buy some food, but on our way there, we ran into well-known sports reporter Sean McDonough and took pictures with him:

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Sean McDonough is the son of former Boston Globe writer Will McDonough, who the Sports Museum has named their Sports Writing Contest after.  I have received an honorable mention in that contest for two years in a row.  This year, I wrote about how I got into sports in the first place.  Last year, I won an honorable mention for my essay on the true meaning of Boston Strong based on my experience at the first Red Sox home game after the Boston Marathon bombings.  It was really cool to meet Will’s son Sean, who has also worked as a Boston sports reporter for many years.

We didn’t want to miss the 3rd period so we hurried back to our seats after grabbing a drink.  Early in the period, the Bruins were on a power play.  This time, they did keep control of the puck for the majority of the 2 minutes, but they once again failed to score their first goal.

With about 13 minutes left, Bruins right wing David Pastrnak shot in what looked to be a goal.  The play was reviewed, but in the end, it was not ruled a goal.  The call on the ice was no goal and even though the big screen replays looked to show the puck across the goal line, it was ruled no goal after the officials reviewed it.

The call that really angered the fans came when St. Louis scored their 2nd goal.  Before the Blues scored, their center, Tyler Bozak, blatantly tripped Noel Acciari just a few feet away from a referee on the ice.  However, with Acciari lying on the ice seemingly in pain from being upended from a leg whip from behind, no penalty was called.  Play continued and about 10 seconds later David Perron scored, as a quick pass intended for a wide open Bozak (with the B’s essentially down a man), bounced off the inside of Rask’s pads and in for a goal.  Fans all around the stadium began throwing their towels and water bottles in disgust over the non-call.  Game play was delayed several minutes as they swept up the ice to pick up all the thrown items as items were being thrown faster than the ice could be cleared.  The game eventually resumed, but with the Blues up 2-0 and with less than 10 minutes to go, a Bruins comeback seemed unlikely.  One could make an argument it should’ve still been 1-0 with the Bruins on a power play with hopes of tying the game.  Unbiased hockey fans would agree that the Blues 2nd goal should have never counted as the play should have been whistled dead for a tripping call.  Instead, they were down 2-0.

The Bruins did score one goal before the game ended, scored by Jake DeBrusk.  But the team ran out of time to tie the game and force overtime as Binnington shut them down with his best game of the series.  The Bruins ultimately came up short losing game 5 by a score of 2-1.

Even though they lost, the experience is one I will never forget as I had such an incredible time!

I’d like to thank Amy Righter & Dunkin’ Boston, Mark of Boston Chauffer, and the entire staff at 98.5 the Sports Hub for making my Stanley Cup experience very unique and incredibly memorable.

Fortunately the Bruins won Game 6, taking down the Blues 5-1 to force a Game 7.  The one remaining game to decide the Cup winner will be played in Boston with a crowd likely even more pumped up than the crowd from game 5.

The Blues are far from an easy opponent which is probably why this series has gone 7 games.  In fact, they might be the toughest opponent Boston has faced in for the entire 2019 playoffs.  Anything can happen and I think this game will be a close one.  But as they did against Toronto during this playoff run, the B’s can come back to win a series they trailed 3-2 after 5 games.

What do you think?  Will the Blues get revenge for the 1970 loss to the Bruins led by Bobby Orr to win their first ever Stanley Cup or will the Bruins hoist the Cup once again and parade around Boston this week for the 3rd Boston pro sports Championship in 12 months?

I can’t wait to watch and find out.  Go Bruins!

 

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I understand, this a little late, as Opening Day was Thursday, and the Red Sox didn’t look so great Thursday even though they are a part of this Top 6.  But I figured I’d finish this series since there’s only one article left.

Welcome to the final article of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  This season, you could argue the Super Seven that was discussed a few years back still exists, except with different teams.  The Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees have remained elite, and despite declines by the Nationals, Indians, and Dodgers (probably) , new powerhouses in this league have arised.  The Braves should be regular contenders now, the Cardinals could make a run with 1B Paul Goldschmidt here for the long run, and the Phillies should be competitive with Bryce Harper.  But Philadelphia isn’t quite on the level of these other teams.  So unless the Dodgers do stay elite after all, I think the Super Seven will become a Super Six.  I will be discussing those six today and pointing out the Achilles Heel of each team. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

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2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

 

6. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, sure. But the veterans they kept around from their last playoff run, like Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina, are still reliable contributors. They have also boosted the team with younger talent, including SP Jack Flaherty, OFs Harrison Bader and UT Jose Martinez, and SS Paul DeJong. After adding star in Goldy, the Cardinals have the tools they need for contention. But how far can they go in such a tough division? They will have to get past their division rivals that are also contending, the Cubs and Brewers.

The Achilles Heel

The Cards’ rotation looks alright and its young core will keep the rotation elite for a long time.  But right now they lack an ace.  I don’t believe they can be a World Series contender without one.  Whether they need a trade to find an ace or someone steps up as time passes, this could hold them back from serious contention and should be priority #1 for GM Steve Keim.  Maybe Martinez could be a good trade piece now that 1B Paul Goldschmidt is on board.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

The Case for the Red Sox

The defending World Series champions had a relatively quiet off-season. They did retain most of the team from 2018 that won 108 games. But the bullpen has been their biggest issue, even with Craig Kimbrel. Without Craig Kimbrel, there is even more pressure on the rotation to succeed. This is especially true regarding Chris Sale and David Price. After Sale’s extension, both will be expected to to shine every start in order to be worth the money. Each start costs about $1 million dollars. Regardless of this pressure, the Red Sox should at least secure a Wild Card spot if they can’t beat out the Yankees in the AL East. They are still one of several powerhouses in the league.

The Achilles Heel

With Craig Kimbrel on the way out, the closer role is up for grabs.  But if you look at the active pitchers on the roster, it’s hard to imagine any of them as a consistent closer.  If the Red Sox wanted to repeat, they would’ve invested more in this bullpen rather than focusing so much on the rotation.  They need to add a closer unless Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, or someone else steps up soon.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in AL East

 

4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

The Case for the Braves

The Braves’ rebuild began to pay off last season as their younger players broke through. This off-season seemed quiet, but they filled a gaping hole at third by adding Josh Donaldson. They also brought back OF Nick Markakis, and they have reportedly been targeting a reunion with CL Craig Kimbrel. This small series of moves could make a big difference in Atlanta. These moves, alongside development of OF Ronald Acuna Jr. and 2B Ozzie Albies among other should transform the Braves from solely a division contender into a World Series contender. The Braves are my World Series winner this year. I expect 1B Freddie Freeman, Albies, Donaldson, and others to combine to make for one of the best lineups in the league.

The Achilles Heel

Health is definitely a concern, especially considering the fact that Atlanta will start the 2019 season with two starting pitchers on the IL.  Donaldson is also injury prone, and if he goes down, Johan Camargo is the next best option at third base.  I don’t trust Camargo as a starter.  If the team stays healthy in the long run, they could be serious contenders.  Otherwise, they could be in a bit of trouble.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

3. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

The Case for the Cubs

The Cubs may have been quiet this off-season, but a healthy Yu Darvish will boost the rotation, the bullpen has plenty of depth despite questions at closer, and the lineup is looking pretty solid. Their decision to move Javier Baez to shortstop full time and put Ben Zobrist at second is very smart, as SS Addison Russell was inconsistent and had some character issues. The Cubs have dominated in the National League ever since their World Series winning year in 2016, but with a health a concern and the division getting tougher, will the Cubs be able to keep up the good work?

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs were unable to do much this off-season, and they could have used another outfielder.  LF Kyle Schwarber and RF Jason Heyward are viable starters, but they are very streaky and inconsistent.  Albert Almora Jr. is the best option in center field.  Chicago should have added another center fielder to start over Almora some days and fill in for Heyward and Schwarber during slumps.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in NL Central

 

2. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Case for the Yankees

After pairing new slugger Aaron Judge with Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees underperformed in 2018. Yes, they made the playoffs and won 100 games. But they were overshadowed and eliminated by their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. This year, the Red Sox will be without their star closer, while the Yankees fixed up a problematic rotation and built one of the most stacked bullpens in history. This will allow the Yankees to propel past the Red Sox and win the AL East. But in Boston and New York, it’s all about championships, and the Yankees aren’t will have to work for a World Series victory, even with the stacked roster.

The Achilles Heel

The Yanks have some nice pieces in their infield.  But if Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird fail to stay healthy, they are left with D.J. LeMahieu as their best infielder.  Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have not reached their prime yet, and Luke Voit must still prove that 2018 was not a fluke.  So I’m a bit concerned in terms of infield depth for the Yankees.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL East

 

1. houston-astros Houston Astros

The Case for the Astros

The Astros are two years removed from their World Series victory, a result of a 5-year rebuild that made the Astros one of the MLB’s worst for a good 2-3 year span. Now, the Astros are still one of the league’s elite teams, but they lost some of their starting rotation depth this off-season, forcing two starter-turned-relievers back into the rotation. They did bring in OF Michael Brantley and UT Aledmys Diaz, filling the hole UT Marwin Gonzalez left. Though Houston took a slight step back this off-season, I still have them as my AL West winners and the team with the best regular season record. Considering the young core they have put together in the last several years, they should be elite for a long, long, time now.

The Achilles Heel

Evan Gattis is no longer on the team, which means Tyler White must be trusted as Houston’s regular DH.  This could be a prove-it situation for White, but if White struggles, what then?  They could bring Gattis back, or they could just put Diaz back there.  They could even call up Kyle Tucker to play DH.  This one’s an easy fix, just something to keep an eye on.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL West

That’s all for this year’s preseason MLB power rankings.  Come back at the end of April  for my first 2019 set of monthly power rankings.

Baseball Bits #12: Can Sox Repeat like Few Teams have?

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Welcome to my annual preseason Baseball Bits article!

If you were unaware, today marks 5 years since I started my Boston Sports Mania blog!  The Red Sox were just about to begin their regular season when I started, and just like this year, they were coming off a World Series victory.  On my first day, I posted an article titled “MLB 2014 Preview”, which included my predictions for the 2014 MLB season. I still write these prediction articles every year, including this year

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I call March 25th my “blog-a-versary”, and this year is a big milestone.  All of my opportunities are a result of this blog.  Most recently, I delivered a motivational keynote speech about my story so far at the Visions of Community Conference hosted by the Federation for Children with Special Needs at the Boston Seaport World Trade Center (see below):

I started this blog to write about my favorite sports like baseball, which is what today’s post is about.

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Top: After the Red Sox’s 100th win                     Bottom: After the Red Sox’s World Series win

In 2018 the Red Sox became the 16th team in the 162-game era to win over 100 regular season games and then go on to win the World Series.  They were led by new manager Alex Cora and a new star in J.D. Martinez.  But what most Boston sports fans are wondering about now is how the Red Sox will do in 2019 and whether they will repeat.  I did some research on 100+ win World Series winners in the 162-game era and how they did in their next season below.  

The Research

Baseball Bits #12_ 100-Win World Series Winners – Sheet1

The “Baseball Bits”

Note: In the context of this article, a team who repeats for 2 years in a row is counted for 1 repeat, 3 years in a row is counted for 2 repeats, 4 years in a row is counted for 3 repeats, etc

  • Only 23 of 115 (20%) World Series winners have repeated
  • In the 162-game era, only 16 of 57 (28%) 100-win teams have won the World Series, including the 2018 Red Sox
  • In the 162-game era, only 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox have repeated, with 4 of the teams repeating after 100-win seasons
  • Of the 15 100 win World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox:9 teams (60%) made the playoffs4 teams (26.67% of the 15) repeated2 of those teams reached 100 wins when they repeated:1976 Cincinnati Reds
    • 1978 New York Yankees
  • 2 of those teams failed to reach 100 wins again when they repeated:1962 New York Yankees
    • 1999 New York Yankees (repeated again in 2000
  • The Red Sox did not win the World Series in an 100 win season in the 162-game era until 2018
  • Another 2 of the 15 (13.33%) lost the World Series:1968 St. Louis Cardinals
    • 1978 Baltimore Orioles
  • 3 of the 15 (20%) lost in the LCS2010 New York Yankees
    • 2017 Chicago Cubs
    • 2018 Houston Astros
  • 6 of the 15 (40%) missed the playoffs entirely1969 Detroit Tigers
    • 1970 New York Mets
    • 1977 Cincinnati Reds
    • 1979 New York Yankees
    • 1985 Detroit Tigers
    • 1987 New York Mets
  • Each of the last 3 100-win World Series winners lost in the LCS the next year

The Verdict

Based on the research, I believe the Red Sox have a 20 to 25% chance to repeat.  I believe that there is still a select group of elite teams that could win the World Series this year.  World Series repeats are less common during the 162-game era as just 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners repeated.  However, 4 of those teams were 100-win teams. World Series winners who did not reach 100 wins in this time frame only repeated 12.1% of the time since 1961.  That’s more like a 1 in 8 chance.  100-win World Series winners have repeated 26.67% of the time during the same time frame.  I think the significance of being a 100-win team helps improve the Sox chances to repeat. 

However, as much as I hate to admit it as a huge Boston fan, I am sticking with my prediction that the Sox will fail to reverse the trend of World Series winners.  I think they will lose in the ALCS to either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros.  The odds are stacked against the Sox reaching 100 wins as well since only 4 of the 15 100-win World Series winners even reached 100 wins again the next year.  I don’t think the Red Sox will reach the century mark but will come close at somewhere between 92 and 96 games. A bullpen with no proven closer to start the season helps support my prediction  A World Series repeat is unlikely to happen, though you shouldn’t rule it out yet.

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Alex Cora did wonders for this team last year, so maybe he’ll be able to recreate the magic of 2018.  If he can, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be 2019 AL Manager of the Year.

That’s all for today’s Baseball Bits.  After all I have accomplished in the last 5 years, I look forward to creating even better content over the next 5 years.  Stay tuned for more soon, including the next portion of my MLB Preseason Power Rankings.

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

The bracket is out.  At 6PM today, the Selection Show aired on CBS, revealing this year’s March Madness bracket.  Right after, I put together my primary bracket.  Throughout the week, I’ll be breaking it down region by region, starting with the East Region today.  Below is my official 2019 March Madness bracket:

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My final four is made up of:

  • Duke
  • Syracuse
  • Wisconsin
  • Kentucky

I have Kentucky winning it all this year.  But how will these four get there?  In these previews, I will look at each of these team’s paths to the Final Four.  Now, let’s get started with the East Region.  I have also included links to all articles in the series below (I will add links as articles come out):

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

I will be previewing the Sweet 16 next week as well!

Round of 64 Preview

Columbia, SC: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019, at 7:10 PM EST on CBS

#1 Duke Image result for duke blue devils vs. Image result for ncaa #16 North Dakota State/NC Central

The Blue Devils put up a dominant season led by Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and R.J. Barrett.  Williamson was hurt for a little while, and Duke wasn’t quite as dominant during that time, but Williamson returned just in time for the ACC semifinals.  In this game, Duke took down UNC and they went on to win the ACC.  It is no longer unprecedented to predict 16-1 upsets after last year’s shocker, but it won’t happen here.  Duke is one of the strongest college teams in a long time.  They should easily grab a win here, even if they face NC Central, who earned their way into the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.

The Pick: Duke

#8 VCU Image result for vcu rams logo vs. Related image #9 UCF

UCF’s season was above average, but they did not have the consistent track record in the AAC that VCU had going in the A10.  VCU struggled mildly early in the season, but their season came together when A10 conference play began.  VCU may have struggled in the A10 tournament, but you should expect them to back up their strong regular season with a victory here.

The Pick: VCU

San Jose, CA: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019, at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#5 Mississippi State Image result for mississippi state logo vs. Related image #12 Liberty

Mississippi State was competitive in the SEC, backing up a strong start to the season with a respectable finish.  They may have tumbled slightly towards the very end of the regular season, but they should be able to recover here and defeat Liberty.  Liberty will not be an easy opponent though.  They come in with momentum after a 28-6 season and an Atlantic Sun tourney victory.

The Pick: Mississippi State

#4 Virginia Tech Related image vs. Related image #13 Saint Louis

The Hokies also tumbled slightly late in the regular season, but they kept up with Virginia, Duke, and UNC in the ACC for most of the season.  However, Saint Louis comes in with momentum after early A10 dominance and a surprise A10 tournament victory.  Virginia Tech lost their momentum after their late season slip, so the Billikens could capitalize on this momentum and pull the upset.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Saint Louis

Jacksonville, FL: Games start Thursday, March 21, at 12:40 PM EST on truTV

#3 LSU Image result for lsu logo purple background  vs. Image result for yale logo  #14 Yale

Yale also comes in with momentum after a late season surge to the top of the Ivy League standings.  But LSU also finished on a good note as they began to catch up with Kentucky and Tennessee after finishing the SEC regular season with 5 straight wins, including one win over the Volunteers.  Expect them to outplay Yale in this game despite a close one led by the trio of Naz Reid, Tremont Waters, and Skylar Mays.

The Pick: LSU

#6 Maryland Image result for maryland logo  vs.Image result for ncaa #11 Belmont/Temple

I’ll tell you one thing for sure: the Belmont-Temple First Four game will come down to the wire.  Belmont may have lost the OVC championship, but their 5-loss season was enough to qualify them for an at-large bid.  They will take advantage of the opportunity.  But Temple will provide a challenge after an underrated regular season performance.  They are not as far behind their AAC rivals as it seems, and they may surprise people here as well.  Either of these teams is capable of defeating Maryland.  Maryland may have improved from last year, but could be upset prone after an inconsistent B1G performance and an early B1G tournament exit.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Belmont/Temple

Des Moines, IA: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Louisville Image result for louisville cardinals logo vs. Image result for minnesota golden gophers logo #10 Minnesota

The Cardinals were somewhat inconsistent for the second year in a row.  But they have proven that they can beat top teams, so I have a certain level of confidence in them.  Despite losing to them later in the ACC tournament, they did defeat UNC in January.  They also defeated Virginia Tech.  They may have gotten off to an underwhelming start and regressed a bit heading into the ACC tournament, but they should be able to take down Minnesota, who probably wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t made it to the B1G semifinals.

The Pick: Louisville

#2 Michigan State Image result for michigan state spartans logo vs. Image result for bradley braves logo  #15 Bradley

Bradley surprised many when they won the MVC.  Their momentum could have helped them make a run.  However, with the #15 seed and a Round of 64 date with Sparty, I can’t see it happening.  The Spartans made a miraculous comeback today in the final two minutes when they played rival school Michigan in the B1G championship.  They were led by guards Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid.  They come into this with more experience, far more quality wins, and just as much, if not more momentum.  It should be easy pickings for MSU.

The Pick: Michigan State

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 Duke Image result for duke blue devils vs. Image result for vcu rams logo #8 VCU

#5 Mississippi State Image result for mississippi state logo vs.Related image #13 Saint Louis

#3 LSU Image result for lsu logo purple background  vs. Image result for ncaa #11 Belmont/Temple

#2 Michigan State Image result for michigan state spartans logo  vs. Image result for louisville cardinals logo #7 Louisville

Duke has a much better track record than VCU and their freshman trio should easily outplay the Rams.  The Rams just found their footing in January and February and could lose steam easily as the later rounds occur.  Mississippi State may have been able to take down Liberty, but Saint Louis is out here to prove something after nearly missing out on the tourney thanks to a late regular season stumble.  They will be highly motivated to win and should be able to take down an inconsistent Mississippi State squad.  Maryland was easy to get past, but LSU will provide a challenging match-up to whoever they face here.  I can’t see an 11 seed taking them down.  Sparty will put an end to Louisville’s run after a huge win over Bradley.

And the Projected East Champion is…

 Image result for duke blue devils #1 Duke

Michigan State and LSU will be fun to watch at the Eastern Regionals.  Whoever of the two faces Duke in the East championship will make sure Duke has to earn their Final 4 bid.  But Duke should easily defeat Saint Louis, and building on their momentum, I have this team winning in the Elite 8 to go to the Final Four.  At full health, this team has the potential to be legendary.  I cannot see them being dethroned for a while. We will at least have to wait until the Final 4 to see it happen if it happens at all.  But this tournament is called March Madness for a reason: anything can happen.

Next up, I’ll be previewing the West Region, where we may see madness in its most chaotic form.

Ranking The Teams 12-7: My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018

Welcome to Part 4 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are in the middle of the pack, and haven’t really decided what direction they want to head in.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and where they are headed.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the contending teams, but rather than talking about where they are headed (which is somewhat obvious to me), today I will be discussing what is holding them back from dominance.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and what to expect for them this year.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, April 2: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Wednesday, April 4: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

12. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-Season Review

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The Twins quietly put together a strong off-season after acquiring Jake Odorizzi and signing Logan Morrison at the last minute.  They also signed Lance Lynn to add to a rotation that will be without Ervin Santana and new signing Michael Pineda to start the season.  With Odorizzi and Lynn on board, it will be a respectable rotation throughout the season and could take the League by storm when Pineda and Santana return.  Morrison is here to upgrade at the DH position over Kennys Vargas, who only got his job back because Byung-Ho Park was a bust in 2016. They also added Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed in the bullpen to replace Glen Perkins, who retired.

The Case for the Twins

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The Twins will be able to contend.  Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are primed for breakouts, Brian Dozier has emerged as a veteran leader, and Logan Morrison, Jake Odorizzi, and Lance Lynn are nice additions that put this roster in position to continue to contend after surprisingly cracking the playoff field in 2017.  But the competition for the AL Wild Card will be tougher this year after the moves that have been made by the Angels and Red Sox to make their own Wild Card cases.  The Red Sox could even challenge the Yankees in the AL East, but the Yankees are likely to make the playoffs either way.

What’s Holding Them Back

A month ago I would have said rotation depth problems, but now I think they have a bigger problem at shortstop.  With Jorge Polanco suspended for 80 games, they will have to start Eduardo Escobar, who has struggled in recent years and is not 100% proven as a starter.  I honestly don’t think they were ever doing great at shortstop.  I thought the combination of Polanco and Escobar was okay, but I’m not even so high on Polanco anyways.  They also have problems in the bullpen.  Signing Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed help, but they lack depth, and will Rodney and Reed succeed with their new team?
Best Case Scenario: Buxton and Sano breakthrough, Minnesota’s late off-season moves pay off, and the Twins quietly sneak to the top of the AL Central.
Worst Case Scenario: The injury-riddled rotation lacks depth and gets tired, the new bullpen additions do not help all that much, and the lineup fails to have much more than another decent year as the Twins finish in a distant second to the Indians, just above .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 2nd in AL Central

11. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers

Off-Season Review

Image result for lorenzo cain brewers

After coming inches away from a playoff berth in 2017, the Brewers made some upgrades in hopes of a playoff run.  They did not add the ace they desperately needed, but they did sign Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley, and Jhoulys Chacin (Gallardo has since been released).  Chase Anderson and Zach Davies could also step it up in the rotation until the injured Jimmy Nelson returns.  They could re-assess at the trade deadline if needed.  They did add to the bullpen by signing Boone Logan and Matt Albers though.  They could still use a closer.  They also added to their outfield by signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich.  As a result, Ryan Braun will be able to help out at first in addition to playing outfield.  Eric Thames is no longer an everyday starter, but Braun is, and he will see a lot of starts at first and in the outfield.  They could’ve also added Neil Walker back, but should be fine at second between Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard as Walker joins the Yankees.

The Case for the Brewers

Milwaukee could make a serious run in 2018, or they could bust.  It’s hard to predict, but I have them somewhere in the middle.  Cain and Yelich will prove to be nice additions among others.  But if the Brewers were really hoping to contend, they would’ve considered adding an ace, a closer, and a second baseman.  They have various holes in the roster that will hold them back.  This is a good team with a nice roster that includes a lot of great pieces.  But they could still use some fine-tuning before they make a run.

What’s Holding Them Back

Milwaukee has a nice rotation, but the rotation lacks a #1 starter.  Signing someone like Alex Cobb would have worked out, but instead, they stayed put.  The Brewers would be in a much better position right now if they were able to sign an ace.  The Cubs added Yu Darvish.  How did the Brewers respond?  By sitting tight and calling Chase Anderson their #1 starter.  Anderson may be a good #2, but that will not work out well.  Even Jimmy Nelson is not quite a viable #1 starter, and he’s out until at least May.
Best Case Scenario: The rotation is able to survive on its own, the lineup dominates, and the bullpen surprises the league after using their new additions to their advantage.  The Brewers make a nice playoff run after clinching a Wild Card spot.
Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is nothing more than mediocre without a known ace, the lineup thrives, but struggle to figure out what to do as Eric Thames struggles and Ryan Braun cannot adjust to the infield, and the Brewers disappoint, winning less than 85 games.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 3rd in NL Central

10. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Off-Season Review

The Rockies seemed pretty confident with what they have this off-season, as they did not add a first baseman or a starting pitcher.  They could have used a veteran mentor at either position.  They did bring back Carlos Gonzalez for depth though.  This off-season, CarGo’s market has been limited due to regressive struggles in 2017, but the Rockies brought him back anyway, hoping he would rebound.  In the meantime, Ian Desmond and prospect Ryan McMahon will both get time at first and the young rotation will have to survive without a veteran influence.

The Case for the Rockies

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The Rockies are coming off a strong 2017 season, where they finally cracked the playoff field.  But they haven’t secured themselves as regular contenders yet.  To contend again in 2018, the young rotation will have to at least have a decent year, and they need Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado to pick up from where they left off last season.  DJ LeMahieu, CarGo, and Trevor Story have also helped provide their lineup with the power they need to contend. Will the Rockies make the playoffs?  Tell me what you think in the comments.

What’s Holding Them Back

The Rockies play in a severely hitter-friendly ballpark, so it’s understandable if the Rockies lineup is significantly better than the rotation.  But the Rockies will have to perform well on the road to become a true playoff contender, and in most ballparks, that requires a better rotation than what Colorado has.  I think this team can make the playoffs, but they could be eliminated early once again if the pitching struggles, especially in the 1 game wild-card round.
Best Case Scenario: The young Rockies rotation exceeds their expectations, the powerful lineup dominates, and the Rockies win the NL West and get ready to make a run in the playoffs.
Worst Case Scenario: Charlie Blackmon cannot repeat his success, CarGo, and other hitters begin to decline, and the Rockies struggle, finishing 4th in the NL West just below .500.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in NL West

9. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-Season Review

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Much like the Blue Jays are doing now, the Cardinals have quietly rebuilt without regressing majorly.  They are already hoping to contend after beginning to rebuild in the 2015-16 off-season.  This off-season, they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, and were hoping to land Mike Moustakas, but lost out on him. Ozuna is an upgrade over Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, both of whom the Cardinals traded away this off-season.  However, they have been fine in their first few games as Jose Martinez continues to dominate.  Matt Carpenter can now help at third base with Martinez playing first on some days.  They also upgraded their pitching staff, signing Miles Mikolas in his return to the MLB.  They also added Luke Gregerson and Greg Holland in a remodeling of the bullpen.

The Case for the Cardinals

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The Cardinals are ready to work towards a return to the playoffs.  With a roster that is flooded with young talent as well as veterans, who they will need to win now.  They were lucky with how fast their rebuild went.  Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez, and other top prospects broke through quickly.  The Cardinals went into rebuild mode because they had such a strong farm system, and those players will help lead this team along with veterans like Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, and Michael Wacha who St. Louis either held on to from 2015 or has acquired since then.

What’s Holding Them Back

I like the Cardinals young rotation, but I feel that Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver could have used more time to develop, and Alex Reyes will need it after his elbow injury.  Reyes has even considered switching to become a late-inning reliever.  If they had signed a veteran mentor like John Lackey, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Scott Kazmir, who are all still available, to a 1-year deal, then they might be in better shape.  Signing Moose also would have helped.

Best Case Scenario: The young Cardinals leaders dominate, including the rotation, and help lead the Cardinals to an NL Central win and a playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: The young rotation cannot handle the pressure, Tommy Pham cannot repeat his 2017 success as well as some of their other recent breakout players, and the Cardinals finish around .500, third or fourth in the division.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 2nd in NL Central

8. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels

Off-Season Review

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The Angels were one of the most active teams in the league this off-season, especially early on, when very few moves were made across the league.  They brought back Justin Upton and acquired another player from the Tigers in 2B Ian Kinsler (Upton was acquired from Detroit in a trade last season).  They added Zack Cozart too.  The combination of those three will really boost their lineup.  They had enough depth and power in the lineup for 2018 that they were able to trade away mediocre 1B C.J. Cron.  Their biggest move came early on when they signed Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who has already done great at the big league level as a hitter and a pitcher.

The Case for the Angels

The Angels are ready to return to contention after struggling over the last two years.  Their struggles were caused by the injury-riddled rotation and the lack of a strong lineup.  But now, all has changed after the Halos added some rotation depth and boosted their lineup.  The Angels will fight for a Wild Card spot, but they may be a division contender if they did not play in the same division as the defending World Series champions, the Houston Astros.

What’s Holding Them Back

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The Angels do not have much on their own roster that can hold them back.  But there are two problems: a) they do not have the same kind of talent that the dominant teams of the league have and b) they compete in a tough division that is led by the defending World Series champion, who has only gotten better this off-season.  They have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, but what other All Star players do they have?  They will face a tough schedule and that will hold them back as they struggle to compete with the best.

Best Case Scenario: Shohei Ohtani and the Angels rotation avoid injuries and dominate, the lineup returns to dominance after adding Upton, Kinsler, and Cozart, and the Angels compete for the AL West title and make a playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation’s injury problems continue, Ohtani cannot handle the pressure of MLB level pitching, and the lineup ends up underperforming, leading the Angels to another mediocre season.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL West

7. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-Season Review

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The Indians were able to replace 1B Carlos Santana (lost in free agency) by upgrading with a signing of Yonder Alonso, who had a very strong season with the A’s and Mariners in 2017.  They also brought back familiar faces in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.  The Indians have been able to maintain a strong roster without spending too much money, as they did not lose too many people to free agency.  All they needed was one more outfielder, a little bullpen help, and a replacement for Santana.

The Case for the Indians

Cleveland is one of what is known as the MLB’s Super Seven, a group of teams that are bound for long term success after dominance in 2017.  However, I see Cleveland as the bottom team of these seven, as although they have maintained a strong roster, they have not made many upgrades after losing to the Yankees in the 2017 ALDS and losing to the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.  They will still be significant contenders and clear division favorites (despite a weak division), but do not expect a run beyond the ALDS this year.  I see an AL pennant as their ceiling.

What’s Holding Them Back

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Like I said, they could use a couple more upgrades over what they have.  Michael Brantley is getting older and is very injury prone, Jason Kipnis is declining, and the bullpen could use a little more depth to aid a strong rotation.  There are other teams that I see as much more likely World Series winners than them.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup keeps up the good work, the rotation looks dominant as it is led by two star pitchers in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, and the Indians make a deep playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries and old age hold back the Indians as they lose the division to the Minnesota Twins and just barely snag a Wild Card.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox and other baseball articles coming soon.

Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: The Dominant

Welcome to the 5th and final day of my MLB preseason power rankings.  We have finally made it to the top of the list.  The most dominant teams are here.  However, each of them had one Achilles Heel.  That will be revealed today.  Last time, we looked at some other contenders that had problems that were really holding them back.  This time, the problems aren’t as big, and because of that, these 6 teams will dominate.  Let’s get started with #6.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: The Contending

 

Now that the series is over, you will be able to view all the articles under the “Ranking The Teams” tag.

6. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-season Review

Image result for edwin encarnacion indians

The Indians had a very brief off-season, but the moves they did make made a big impact.  They signed Austin Jackson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Boone Logan.  Each of these players will help the team in a different way.  Jackson is a veteran mentor in the outfield that will rotate with the younger players.  His bat will be helpful for the Indians.  Edwin Encarnacion will play DH or first base, and his big bat will lead the Indians lineup.  Logan will be a late inning reliever and helps this bullpen’s depth.  These moves make the Indians look better than before and give them that last little push that makes them AL Central favorites.

The Case for the Indians

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The Indians are in store for another strong season.  Despite small holes, the Indians’ lineup is looking better than before.  With Michael Brantley healthy, they could kick but.  The rotation’s top three will still kick butt, but there are problems in the 4 and 5 spots.  Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin aren’t the greatest options out there.  The Indians have always had bullpen depth issues as well, but helped resolve them by signing Boone Logan and claiming Tim Cooney off waivers.  The Indians made some big moves this off-season and will hope that leads to a bigger season.

The Achilles Heel

It’s hard to point out one singular Achilles Heel for the Indians.  The problems they have are all pretty small, but all together, they cause bigger problems.  If there was one clear weakness on this team to point out, it would probably be the outfield.  The rotation and bullpen aren’t that bad and have gotten better in recent years.  Most of the lineup is good, but the outfield could be a problem.  Michael Brantley should be good to go, but there aren’t many significant players around him.  This wouldn’t be a problem if Brantley was 100%.  But the Indians don’t have a good outfielder fully healthy.  Austin Jackson is getting older, and the Indians don’t have another significant outfielder to fill the last slot. The last slot will have to be filled by players who aren’t quite ready yet.  The choices are limited.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation thrives and a strong lineup leads the Indians back to the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation struggles and the lineup can’t really do that much better as the Indians fail to win the AL Central.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

 

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-season Review

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Much like the Indians, the Red Sox had a very brief off-season but made the most of the moves they made.  With Big Papi retired, the Red Sox added Mitch Moreland to preserve the dominant status of their lineup.  They also traded away Yoan Moncada and three other prospects to the White Sox but got ace Chris Sale in return. Lastly, they traded Travis Shaw away for Tyler Thornburg.  Hopefully, a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval will fill Shaw’s role.  Now, the lineup, rotation, and bullpen are better.

The Case for the Red Sox

The Red Sox are my team, so it’s hard not to be biased, but this is a very talented team.  The rotation is one of the best in the league now, led by three ace level pitchers who are all Cy Young candidates.  The lineup is still overpowered even without Big Papi, and if the back of the rotation struggles, the bullpen is improved as well.  This is a strong all-around team but could they have a weak spot?

The Achilles Heel

Image result for pablo sandoval red sox

Yes, even teams like this have an Achilles Heel.  Without David Ortiz, there is a strain put on the lineup.  Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill are also gone.  Hanley Ramirez will move to DH. Mitch Moreland will fill in at first.  But who plays third?  Pablo Sandoval has not proved himself worthy since he joined the Red Sox.  Maybe now that he lost some weight, he will have a bounce back year.  But it is pretty risky putting him in the full-time starting job at third.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup continues to do well, the rotation kicks butt, and the Red Sox win their fourth World Series since breaking the curse.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles without Big Papi, the rotation can’t find a rhythm, and the Red Sox struggle to make the playoffs.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL East

 

4. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-season Review

Image result for dexter fowler cardinals

Like many good teams, the Cardinals didn’t go all out this off-season but made a couple bold moves to improve.  They got the Cubs back and picked up Dexter Fowler, who will be a leader in a young outfield.  Now there’s competition in a tight NL Central.  They also signed Brett Cecil to add to a strong bullpen.  The Cardinals are in good shape.

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals couldn’t compete with the Cubs in 2016, but they have gained on the Cubs.  The addition of Dexter Fowler has helped.  The bullpen is also better.  The rotation should improve most of all.  Lance Lynn is coming back, and I could see Mike Leake bouncing back.  That fills a strong rotation that will help lead the Cardinals.  The lineup is also better and after this off-season’s changes, the Cardinals will compete with the Cubs.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is that there’s too much pressure on the young guys to do well.  Consistency is tough for young players, and parts of their lineup include younger players like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk. and Aldemys Diaz.  You never know with these younger players.  Until players reach their prime, it’s hard to foresee how they will do.  That’s where the Cardinals are at, and they’ve been facing that problem since they decided to let their younger players take over.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, the lineup looks better and the Cardinals win the NL Central with ease.

Worst Case Scenario: The young team is inconsistent and struggles, leading them to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

 

3. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-season Review

Image result for adam eaton nationals

Unlike most good teams, the Nationals were super busy this off-season.  They got two new catchers, Derek Norris and Matt Wieters.  They also signed Adam Lind and traded Lucas Giolito to Chicago for Adam Eaton.  They also upgraded their bullpen, signing several guys including Joe Nathan.  Will these moves be enough to finally win the Nats a World Series?

The Case for the Nationals

The Nationals are in good shape for 2017.  The rotation still looks pretty good and is led by the best duo of starters in the league.  The bullpen did have depth issues, but after this off-season, that shouldn’t be a problem.  The lineup is also looking a little bit better after an active off-season.  There could be a hole at shortstop if Trea Turner can’t play there, but Turner is the likely starter.  The Nats are looking better in 2017 and could run for a championship.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is the infield.  When Danny Espinosa left for LA, he left a hole.  Now, there are questions remaining.  Can Trea Turner adjust smoothly?  How will the lineup and infield fare without Espinosa?  Those questions must be answered, and if the Nats can say “yes” and “good” to those questions, they will do very well.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup looks better, the pitching dominates the league, and the Nationals go on to win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The off-season’s lineup changes don’t work out, the rotation fails to stay healthy and the Nats fail to win the NL East.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

2. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

Off-season Review

The Rangers are looking good after their off-season moves.  I know a lot of people think they’ll flop, but this team can be dominant, I can’t see them missing the playoffs.  They improved their rotation.  They signed former Padres pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross to add to a strong top of the rotation.  The bullpen isn’t as good after losing Shawn Tolleson.  The Rangers also signed James Loney and Mike Napoli to fill the gaps that Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland left.  They also resigned most of their key free agents, which preserved most of what they had last year.

The Case for the Rangers

This team is better than it looks.  You may think this lineup is getting older, but young stars are actually taking up a good part of it.  The lineup will dominate.  Meanwhile, the rotation has continued to improve.  After boosting the top of the rotation the last two years, they signed two more starters to fill out the rest of the rotation with Derek Holland gone.  The bullpen is looking better, but does it still need work.

The Achilles Heel

If you think that the lineup is the problem, you’re wrong.  The rotation isn’t perfect.  It can’t do everything.  The weak bullpen will be a problem.  It’s lacking depth, which can’t happen when the rotation is not completely solid.  This isn’t the best rotation in the MLB.  They can’t do the whole pitching job, and until they find some bullpen help in Texas, the pitching staff’s depth problems will be the Rangers Achilles Heel.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation is solid, the lineup is dominant, and the Rangers find themselves in the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The pitching staff holds the Rangers back, the lineup declines, and the Rangers are led to finish 3rd in the AL West.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL West

 

1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-season Review

The Cubs did lose Jason Hammel, but they improved their depth in the rotation and bullpen.  They signed Brett Anderson and claimed Eddie Butler of waivers to help their rotation.  In order to upgrade the bullpen, they also signed Koji Uehara and traded away Jorge Soler for closer Wade Davis.  In addition, with Dexter Fowler leaving they signed Jon Jay. The Cubs are looking like World Series contenders for the third year in a row, can they make what they have into a dynasty for years to come?

The Case for the Cubs

The lineup here is looking as good as last year.  The fifth spot in the rotation could be a problem, but this team has so many bullpen options, and a few of them could compete for that 5th starting job.  This team looks ready to dominate again in 2017.  Their depth everywhere else isn’t as good as last year, but the lineup is solid, the rotation could be great, and the bullpen will help fill in the pitching’s holes.

The Achilles Heel

For such a perfect team, it’s hard to find an Achilles Heel without nitpicking.  There is one problem, though.  The lineup should be fine, but despite good options in the bullpen, if the Cubs don’t have a solid 5th starter, then the bullpen will start to get overtired, and this will cause widespread pitching staff issues.  These problems will only occur if the rest of the rotation can’t pitch a lot of innings and the 5th spot isn’t filled well., which may or may not happen.  This team is spotless for the most part.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is at its best, the rotation dominates, and the Cubs are a lasting championship winning dynasty in years to come.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is problematic, depth of the lineup becomes a problem, and the Cubs lose in the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in NL Central

 

That’s it for my preseason power rankings.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Comment with your feedback and predictions.  Now, the first Baseball Bits of 2017 is coming soon, and be on the lookout for a Red Sox spring training article.

 

NFL Week 14 Picks

My picks took way too long the past two times I tried to post them and didn’t come in on time but I have an easier way to do them that you will see below is quicker. Enjoy.

LOCK OF THE WEEK
San Francisco 34 7 Oakland Sun. 4:25 PM FOX
This is an obvious lock.  San Francisco hasn’t been great but Oakland had one upset win by a very small amount.  Oakland is so bad, they could have gone winless this year.  Now they’ll most likely be 1-15.  Why won’t Kaepernick go to Frank Gore for an 100 yard game?  Justin Tuck can’t put a stop to that.  The 49ers also have a monster defense.  James Jones, Mychal Rivera and Andre Holmes.  Can they pass by NaVarro Bowman?    
NO WAY!  So,  San Francisco will really crush Oakland.

UPSET PICK OF THE WEEK
St. Louis 17 20 Washington Sun. 1:00 PM FOX
How is this an upset?  I’d say it’s more of a tough matchup the Redskins will win, but it’s the most of an upset that I predicted that I could find.  This battle of two not so good teams, with Washington at home it gives them a much better matchup then they’ve had the past two weeks, although they remain the record wise underdog.  DeSean Jackson should be good if he’s healthy and they should even add a little Alfred Morris into the mix.  Aaron Donald isn’t good enough for Jackson.  St. Louis should be able to do a little, but DeAngelo Hall should most likely get at least one interception with the kind of QB the Rams have right now.  They’ll run to Tre Mason but once Washington charges on offense, DeAngelo Hall won’t let Shaun Hill pass to Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin and especially Stedman Bailey, the current starter, so that slightly opens the door for Britt and Austin.  This should be high scoring unlike my prediction says, but Washington should get the slight upset.

The Rest
L Dallas 17 34 Chicago W Thurs. 8:30 PM CBS
L NY Jets 14 17 Minnesota W Sun. 1:00 PM CBS
L Baltimore 21 24 Miami W CBS
L Pittsburgh 27 30 Cincinnati W CBS
W Indianapolis 34 20 Cleveland L CBS
W Houston 20 10 Jacksonville L CBS
L NY Giants 17 20 Tennessee W FOX
L Tampa Bay 10 20 Detroit W FOX
L Carolina 24 34 New Orleans W FOX
L Kansas City 30 31 Arizona W Sun. 4:05 CBS
L Seattle 34 38 Philadelphia W FOX
L Buffalo 13 41 Denver W CBS
T New England 34 34 San Diego T Sun. 8:30 PM ET
L Atlanta 20 41 Green Bay W Mon. 8:15 PM ET

Side Locks Of The Week:Houston over Jacksonville, Detroit over Tampa Bay, Denver over Buffalo, Green Bay over Atlanta
Side Upsets Of The Week:Chicago over Dallas, Miami over Baltimore, Tennessee over NY Giants