Category: 2013 season

World Series Thoughts Destined to be Wrong

This is the World Series we wanted.  For the first time in over a decade, the teams with the two best records in baseball will fight it out in the Fall Classic.  The St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox are so evenly matched that it can’t be a repeat of 2004, can it?  That’s when the Sox swept the Cards to become champions for the first time in 86 years.  This has the makings of a long series……or does it?  By writing my thoughts about this World Series, will my thoughts turn an epic matchup into a stink bomb?

Adam Wainwright gets the ball in Game 1 against Jon Lester.  Credit:  si.com

Adam Wainwright gets the ball in Game 1 against Jon Lester. Credit: si.com

Why I like the Red Sox:  Let’s face it, no matter what fan you are, this is a fun team to watch, beards and all.  They look as though they are having a blast but they also know how to play, play the game correctly and most of all, know how to win.  Minor issues like David Ortiz having to play first base in St. Louis doesn’t bother them.  Perhaps not having Mike Napoli‘s bat when the series shifts to St. Louis could be a problem.  Then again, Napoli didn’t hit much early in the ALCS and the Sox did ended up winning in six games.  The lineup will beat you at any game you want to play.  The signings of Napoli, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew while not adding a tremendous amount of power, made it a much more difficult group to navigate for opposing pitchers.  The starting pitching with previous champions Jon Lester and John Lackey is battle-tested and will fight with every pitch.  Nearly unhittable, ALCS MVP Koji Uehara leads a bullpen that will register outs in the blink of an eye.  When I think of the 2013 Red Sox, the first word that comes to mind is juggernaut.

Why I like the Cardinals:  They are the best organization in baseball, one of the tops in all of sports.  Albert Pujols leaves?  Plug in Allen CraigTony LaRussa retires?  Mike Matheny is ready to lead.   There are pitchers with more glamorous names but if I want someone to win me a big game, my choice is Adam Wainwright.  NLCS MVP Michael Wacha did not allow a single run against the Dodgers.  After three previous attempts, Carlos Beltran gets to take his playoff magic act to the grandest stage of them all.  Craig, who has not played since September 4th, led the team with 97 RBI’s and is set to be the designated hitter in Boston.  Catcher Yadier Molina and second baseman Matt Carpenter are legitimate MVP candidates.  Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist remind me of another dominant bullpen trio:  “The Nasty Boys” from the 1990 World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds.  With such young talent and a deep farm system, win or lose, the Cardinals have the makings of a dynasty.

The Prediction:  There has been a multitude of analysis leading up to Game 1.  You can make an argument for both teams, look at both rosters and still not make a decision until the next government shutdown.  These guys are that close.  I prefer to keep it simple.  I go with the team that has the best starting pitcher.  That would be Wainwright.  Cards in 7.

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Francisco Liriano is Dealing

He burst onto the scene in 2006 as a member of the Minnesota Twins.  In 121 innings, he struck out 144 batters and sported a 12-3 record with a fantastic 2.16 ERA.  And then, just like that, Francisco Liriano‘s career seemed to take a long drive off a short cliff.   He missed the last seven weeks of the regular season, the divisional playoffs  and all of 2007 because of Tommy John surgery.  He did win 14 games in 2010, earning Comeback Player of the Year honors but at the end of each of the following two seasons, his ERA was over 5.00.   The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to give him a one year guaranteed contract worth $1 million dollars with a club option for 2014 at $8 million dollars.

Francisco Liriano's 14 wins is tied for first in the National League.  Image:  si.com

Francisco Liriano’s 14 wins is tied for first in the National League. Image: si.com

Right now, he is the bargain of the year.

The 29-year old lefty is the rotation’s ace, with a National-League leading 14 wins and an ERA of 2.53, good enough for fifth in the Senior Circuit.   These are outstanding numbers for a guy who started the season on the disabled list and did not make his first appearance until May 11th.  He already has two complete games in 2013, doubling his career total; his only one prior to this season was his no-hitter that he threw on May 3rd, 2011 against the Chicago White Sox.  The Bucs were just coming off a seven loss in nine game stretch when Liriano took the mound last night in San Diego.  Once again, he was brilliant, throwing seven innings of shutout ball allowing only four hits and striking out 13 as the Pirates defeated the Padres 3-1.  The victory enabled Pittsburgh to keep their slim one game lead in the National League Central.  The Pirates are now 3-7 over the last ten games; two of the victories were in large part to Liriano, who could very well be the team’s Most Valuable Player.

At 73-51, the Pirates have the second best record in the National League with 19% of them coming from a player who had his original contract voided by the team in December because of an injury.  It’s hard to imagine a guy in the NL who deserves Comeback Player of the Year more than Nelson Liriano.

Matt Carpenter’s Great Season

The St. Louis Cardinals keep churning out talent.  The latest revelation is Matt Carpenter, a 28-year old second baseman who is playing in his second full Big League season.  Most of America, when hearing about St. Louis in the post-Tony LaRussa era, think about Yadier Molina or Adam Wainwright.  Yet the player who has been just as valuable as Yadi in 2013, is the lefty swinging Carpenter, a 13th round draft pick of the Cards in 2009.   Wainwright, Molina,  Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran grab the headlines but it is Carpenter who has played in 117 of the team’s 122 games who has been the steadying force for the Wild Card-leading Redbirds.

Matt Carpenter leads the NL in three offensive categories.  Image:  rotoanalysis.com

Matt Carpenter leads the NL in three offensive categories. Image: rotoanalysis.com

So how great has Carpenter been this season?  He ranks in the top ten in six National League offensive categories including first in the Senior Circuit in three of them:  91 runs scored, 149 hits and 41 doubles.  Carpenter is also sixth in batting average at .312, eighth in on-base percentage at .387 and ninth in triples with five.  He was selected to his first All Star Game after finishing sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2012.  Matty leads the Cards in at-bats with 477 as St. Louis is only a game off the lead in the National League Central and are in prime position to secure their third consecutive playoff berth.

Matt Carpenter is just the latest in a long line of St. Louis Cardinal players who come through their system and continue the team’s winning tradition.  They are the best organization in the sport, consistently in postseason contention year after year.  Helped by their newest star in Carpenter, would you bet against the Cardinals winning their second World Series title in three seasons?

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

So Much Good is Going on In Major League Baseball

The big story surrounding Major League Baseball is the impending suspensions of several players regarding their involvement with Biogenesis, the infamous lab located in South Florida.   The biggest name involved, of course is Alex Rodriguez and anytime A-Rod’s name is brought up, particularly “juicy” story such as this, everything else around the game takes a back seat, even the just-concluded trading deadline.   Well, as you know, I have had it with all of the negative press about baseball lately.  So I figured now is about the time to look at all of the GOOD things that are happening ON THE FIELD, you know where the actual games are being played.  All of you need to stop listening to the drama and the angst and all that is wrong with the game and focus on some wonderful things that are taking place as the calendar shifts to August.  There are a ton of great things and frankly I could probably write about something positive about all 30 teams.   Here are some items that will make you feel good as a fan even  if it doesn’t involve your team.

Wise up, forget A-Rod and pay attention to guys like Jason  Donaldson.  Image:  sfgate.com

Wise up, forget A-Rod and pay attention to guys like Jason Donaldson. Image: sfgate.com

The Oakland A’s are proving last season was no fluke.   Oakland has the second-largest lead of any division leader as they are up 4 1/2 games over the Texas Rangers.  On the mound, Bartolo Colon will garner serious Cy Young Award consideration with a 14-3 record and a 2.50 ERA.  Grant Balfour has 28 saves and has blown only one opportunity since last August.  Third baseman Jason Donaldson is showing All Star voters the folly of their ways by leading the club in hitting at .297 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI’s.  First baseman Brandon Moss has picked up for other struggling hitters leading the A’s with 17 homers and has driven in 49 runs.  July and August is usually the time Oakland’s teams under GM Billy Beane are at their best so I see no reason why the A’s won’t repeat as American League West Champions.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will REALLY finish over .500 this season…….and make the playoffs.  The last two seasons have been unkind to the Bucs down the stretch.  It will be much different finish for Pittsburgh this season.  This week saw the Pirates face the St. Louis Cardinals in a crucial showdown to determine who enters the next month leading the National League Central.  The Pirates won the first four games, sweeping a doubleheader on Tuesday, and are now up 2 1/2 games on the Cards.  Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is one of the game’s true power hitters as his 27 dingers proves.  Center fielder Andrew McCutchen has thrust himself into the MVP race as perhaps the game’s premier up-the-middle outfielder.  The bullpen has been simply dominant and Francisco Liriano has been the free agent signing of the year with an 11-4 record  and a 2.16 ERA.   All of those losing seasons resulting in high draft picks combined with  shrewd free agent signings and trades have made the Bucs the feel-god story of the season.

The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians are legitimate division threats.  Most people, including me, figured the American League Central would be won easily by the Detroit TigersAfter a rough month of May by both KC and the Tribe, that seemed to be the case.  However, Cleveland at 3 games out and the Royals at 7 1/2 games behind, are not going away.  Cleveland obviously stands the better chance at the moment.  When you have the ageless Jason Giambi ending a game with a home run for you,  anything is possible.  Second Baseman Jason Kipnis is having the best season no one has heard from with 15 homers, 68  RBI’s , a .295 average and 21 steals.  Justin Masterson is pitching like a true ace with 12 wins and a 3,42 ERA.   The Royals are still probably a year away but they are providing their fans with some hope that the corner has been turned.  Ervin Santana and James Shields have provided everything management was looking for when they were both acquired this past Winter.  They both have ERA’s less than 3.10 and are on track to throw close to 200 innings.  If they somehow get one more bat before August 31st, they could throw a real scare into the Tigers.

Yadier Molina is having a wonderful season.  It seems as though Yadi has been around forever, gunning out baserunner after baserunner and getting clutch hits for the Cardinals.  For a while, Molina was leading the National League in hitting; right now he is third at .330.  He has eight home runs and his 54 RBI’s is on pace to surpass last season’s career high of 76.  As usual, his work behind the plate has been stellar, working with a cast of veterans and newcomers, all of whom swear by Yadi’s game-calling abilities.  Molina just landed on the 15-day disabled list with a knee injury, a rotten time for St. Louis as they fight to keep pace with the Pirates and ahead of the  Cincinnati Reds in the standings.  Molina will be a leading MVP candidate by season’s end but the Cards woudl just settle for him to be back healthy for September.

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Former First Baseman/Designated Hitter George Scott passed away on July 28th at the age of 69.  Big George had some serious power in the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s, slugging a total of 271 home runs.  He played on the pennant winning Boston Red Sox in 1967 and is a member of the Sox Hall of Fame.  While with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975, Scott led the American League in home runs with 36 and RBI’s with 109. 

I always knew Scott was a big power hitter but I did not realize what a great fielder he was.  He won eight Gold Gloves at first and Nick Carfado of the Boston Globe wrote that he had never seen  a better fielding first baseman.  From what I have been reading about his life, he was a big, gentle man with a tremendous heart.  It is another sad passing of someone being taken before his time.

Rest in Peace, Boomer.

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Brian Wilson is backIt was a long, hard road for the fireballing reliever, one of the true characters of the game.  He underwent arm surgery and has not pitched in a Major League game in almost 18 months. Even though it was the Los Angeles Dodgers  who signed him, I am very glad that we will get a chance to see him pitch again.

Wilson has some tremendous seasons with the San Francisco Giants, topped off by a spectacular 2010 that saw the Giants capture their first World Series Championship in the Bay Area.  Wilson was tremendous, recording an NL-leading 48 saves and a sparkling 1,81 ERA.   For his career, Wilson owns 171 saves and a 3,21 ERA.  He will appear in a few Minor League rehab games until being called up to LA probably sometime before September 1st.

I wish nothing but the best for Brian Wilson, a good player, a great personality and a seemingly tremendous person.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

The Gutsy Boston Red Sox

Originally, the headline on this was going to be “A-Rod and the Yankees Deserve Each Other”.  I decided to go in another direction because I am really tired of all the negative stories associated with the two of them.  I will let that one line speak for itself.  Feel free to comment on it any way you see fit.  So I move on to one of the best stories of the 2013 Major League season and I can’t believe I am about to write these words:

The Boston Red Sox are really impressive.

Dustin Pedroia has a new $100 million dollar contract and his team is in first place.  What could be better?  Image:  masslive.com

Dustin Pedroia has a new $100 million dollar contract and his team is in first place. What could be better? Image: masslive.com

Let’s face it, one of baseball’s most storied franchises was absolutely terrible from September 2011 through all of last season.  I figured the epic collapse and the Bobby Valentine experiment would keep the Sox out of contention in 2013.  However, I suppose you can say the one positive about the Bobby V season was the unloading of the bloated contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.  We didn’t know it then but it set in motion the chain of events that have landed the Sox in first place today.  Former pitching coach John Farrell, who was forever the manager-in-waiting finally got his shot at managing the team and it is obvious he has done a tremendous job leading the club in the most competitive division in the game.  Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli have proven to be nice additions.  Napoli is second on the club in home runs and RBI’s and Victorino is hitting .287 with 14 stolen bases.  David Ortiz continues to put up excellent numbers with 19 home runs, 65 RBI’s with a .323 batting average.  Dustin Pedroia is back among the best second basemen in baseball and has a nice new contract to go along with it.

It has not all been smooth sailing for Boston.  Clay Buchholz, he of the 9-0, 1.71 ERA mark has been out with a neck injury since June 8th.  Jon Lester has 9 wins but a high 4.50 ERA.  Closer Joel Hanrahan, acquired this offseason is out for the year with an arm injury.  Jon Lackey has provided a much-needed boost to the rotation with a 2.95 ERA but only a 7-7 record to show for it.  While the starters have been shaky, it is the bullpen, despite the loss of Hanrahan that has flourished.  Koji Uehara and Andrew Bailey have combined for 25 saves with Uehara posted a sparkling a 1.59 ERA.

Even with all of the injuries, the Red Sox have been in first place for 86 days.  It is a testament to their resiliency that they have met and conquered every challenge so far this year.  They are by far my biggest surprise team of the year and are in excellent shape to make the playoffs. ***************************************************************************************************************************************************** If you haven’t played mlb.com’s “Beat the Streak“, I suggest you do so today.  You have a chance to win $5.6 million dollars.  All you have to do is pick one player per day to get one hit….and you only have to do it for 57 consecutive games, a nod to beating the 56 game hitting streak by Joe DiMaggio.  You can use the same player more than once.  I have been playing it for about four weeks now and so far, none of my streaks have gone on past two games.  You may not win as much as the top prize in the lottery but you may have a better chance winning big money and more fun playing this game. **************************************************************************************************************************************************** Everyone knows that yesterday, July 24th, was the 30th anniversary of the infamous George Brett Pine Tar Game.  Since that got a lot of attention, I decided to see what significant events happened today, July 25th.  I found three items courtesy of baseballdeworld.com.  Here they are:

1930-The Philadelphia A’s pulled off a triple steal twice in one game as they defeated the Cleveland Indians 14-1.  It was the only time in baseball history this feat occurred.

1941-Lefty Grove won the 300th and final game of his Hall of Fame career as his Red Sox beat the Indians 4-1.

1977-While playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Pete Rose sets the all-time record for hits by a switch hitter with number 2,881 during a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.  Rose broke the record that was held by Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

The All Star Game Still is Great

The Major League All Star Game is this Tuesday night and I, for one am looking forward to it.  I won’t get a chance to watch much of it (I’ll explain later)  but it nevertheless is one of my favorite sports days of the year.    I still remember hoping to leave the beach early so we could catch the Classic (I believe it was 1981;  Gary Carter winning the MVP with two home runs).   I feel now about it now like I did 30 plus years ago.  It is such a great thing to see all of the best players all on one field, in their own uniforms, even if the game is nothing more than a glorified exhibition game.   I know a lot has changed in the years since I started watching the Mid-Summer Classic, particularly the fact that we have the opportunity to see all of these players every single night as opposed to once or twice per season.  Still, there is nothing that is more Summer than a warm, humid night watching the All Star Game.

Gary  Carter was the MVP of the 1981 All Star Game.   Image:  yahoo.com

Gary Carter was the MVP of the 1981 All Star Game. Image: yahoo.com

Despite what I have heard about the game the last ten days or so, it is still a great game.  It is light years better than the All Star contests of the other sports because it is more of a true indicator of how baseball is actually played as opposed to the other ones where there isn’t a tremendous amount of sweat broken when it comes to defense.  There is much derision about how the contest is tied to the winning League getting home field advantage for the World Series.  I wish they would take that provision away; despite what others say, it was fine before this rule was introduced. 

People also seem to complain about the selection process about who was left off,namely Yasiel Puig.  I heard people say that he is the most electric player and that baseball should have found a way to get him in the game.   Well, the fans decided he shouldn’t get the final vote, that Freddie Freeman who played the entire first half (with a stint on the 15 day disabled list) deserved it more than a guy who played 40 games.   Commentators said that it was just another example of baseball getting things wrong.  This leads me to fume even more about what I have heard recently……

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The ratings decline of the All Star Game, the declining attendance in general and the steroids controversy were all topics of conversation recently.  All of them purport to show Major League Baseball in a bad light.   It got to the point where it seemed MLB was (a) on the verge of losing 60% of their fan base,(b) can do nothing right and (c) need “more spicing up” to revitalize the product.

I have had it.

I already stated I love the All Star Game no matter what stipulations are in place and no matter who bad the selection process is, both by the fans and by the managers.  The attendance problem is not immune to baseball.  Have any of these geniuses noticed the economy still stinks?  That maybe the reason why more empty seats are seen in ALL sports is because the tickets are just too damm expensive?  These people barely say boo when the almighty NFL has large swaths of empty seats in almost every single stadium every single Sunday.  In all the years before the new Meadowlands opened, I never once heard the Jets advertise for fans to buy tickets.  Why?  Because all of the games were sold out.   Now, they have so many commercials looking for season ticket holders that it would make the people who run infomercials for the Juicer blush.  Outside of a select few markets, there are 5,000 empty seats or more at most NBA and NHL arenas.  Yet it is MLB that is the punching bag for media members looking to make a point.

Steroids once again reared their ugly head and once again baseball was put under the microscope.  Look, it stinks there are still players that are trying to gain an unfair advantage by juicing.  However, no other sport gets the scrutiny MLB does when this issue is raised.  No one dares to speculate how many NFL players juice.  Are they afraid of getting their access cut by the league, therefore they can’t speak ill of them?  Yet it is baseball who is made out to be the fool, trying to nab some of the biggest stars of the game.  Even though they are guilty of burying their heads in the sand for far too long, I applaud the effort Bud Selig and Company have made to rid the sport of PED’s.  They should be commended for their efforts not castigated for ridding the game of “what the fans want”, namely home runs.          

Speaking of what fans want,  supposedly baseball’s low ratings can partly be attributed to the fact that a major portion of older fans don’t like the “styling” of certain players.  There needs to be some other forms of entertainment.  My question is, aren’t the players and the games themselves the entertainment?    I consider myself an “older” fan I suppose, but there have been a number of things that have developed recently that I think are pretty cool.  For instance, I think the celebrations after say a game ending hit are pretty fun.  Heroes of the game getting doused by drinks or pies are amusing.   The hand gestures while on base after a big hit are OK.  About the only thing I do not like are bat flips after hitting a home run.  As a I mentioned in a previous blog, fraternization among players isn’t such a bad thing.  So what do people want?  Cartwheels around the bases?  Throwing the ball underhand? 

I wish people would just appreciate the game of baseball instead of consistently complaining about its warts.  If you don’t like it, don’t watch it, don’t cover it.  The game is fine without any meddling from people who claim to know better.

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I mentioned earlier I wouldn’t be watching much of the All Star Game.  That is because I am in Orlando on a business trip.  That stinks for sure and there is one other byproduct of me being away.

I won’t be able to watch the game with my 8-year-old son, Ryan.

Ryan didn’t really start watching and paying attention to baseball until the World Baseball Classic.  He has always been fascinated with countries and could probably indentify the flags of 30-40 different countries.   He has slowly gotten more into Major League Baseball to the point that we will often watch MLB Network’s “Quick Pitch” together.  He loves the bow-and-arrow routine of Fernando Rodney after he records a save.  We look at the All Star Game Rosters together.  I haven’t pushed him into it; Ryan has just started following on his own.  MLB.com is now one of his favorite sites.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that I won’t be there to watch the game with him.  I will be with him in spirit and will be thinking of him as I check on the score.  Sorry, buddy.  Go American League!

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

Jean Segura is the Best Shortstop Playing Right Now

Have you ever heard of Jean Segura?  If you haven’t, you are not alone.  The 22-year old shortstop of the Milwaukee Brewers  is fighting to keep his team out of last place in the National League Central.  The Brewers have been beset by both injury (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart who is now done for the season) and ineffectiveness (ace Yovani Gallardo has an ERA hovering near 4.50).   Because of his market, nary a soul outside Milwaukee has been paying attention to this phenom as evidenced by his third place showing in the voting for the All Star Game at his position.  There is one other thing you should realize.

Learn the name Jean Segura.  He is just getting warmed up.  Image:  jsonline.com

Learn the name Jean Segura. He is just getting warmed up. Image: jsonline.com

Jean Segura is the best shortstop in the game right now.

Sure, you may clamor for the now oft-injured Troy Tulowitzki.  You may think it is the wonderous Hanley Ramirez, wonderful for his offense but wonder-awful for his many mental lapses on the field.   Give me Segura who is having an MVP-type season despite all of the issues surrounding his club.  He ranks in the top five in many National League offensive categories including hits (first with 113), batting average (fourth at .323) and triples (second with eight).  He also 12th in runs scored with 50.  When you combine his age and huge upside, there is no other shortstop I would want right now.  Think about the Los Angeles Angels who traded him last season to the Brew Crew for Zack Greinke and have nothing to show for it.  Erick Aybar is a nice player for the Angels but clearly it is Milwaukee who is benefitting tremendously from LA’s generosity.

The Brewers may want to think about locking up Segura long-term.  There is a certain team in New York that will be needing a shortstop in a couple of years.

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The Miami Marlins, the scorn of the offseason and a laughingstock as recently as two months ago, are playing some good baseball.  Since June 1st, the team is 18-15 and have taken a series from the St. Louis Cardinals, arguably the best team in the game as well as a series from the NL East leading Atlanta Braves.  The improvement of the team has coincided with the return of outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who I am sure will be the subject of trade talk from now until the year 2015.  But there is also another explanation in the rise of the Fish.

Miami can boast some of the best young starting pitching in the game.  Start with Jose Fernandez, the 20-year old ace who is heading to the All Star Game and is one of MLB’s top rookies.  His record only stands at 5-5 but his ERA is an excellent 2.83 and has 99 strikeouts in 98/3 innings.  He has impressed so many people around the game, even Hall of Famer Don Sutton who recently spent some time with the Rookie.  Fellow rotation mates Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi have combined for 11 games started and an 2.42 ERA.  those three along with highly touted Henderson Alvarez have progressed so nicely that the team cut some more salary by trading long time Marlin Ricky Nolasco.

Once unthinkable, the Marlins have become respectable in such a short period of time.  There will be more growing pains for sure but I wouldn’t want to be a contender and have to face that staff late.  Stanton needs help on offense and is getting some from outfielder Marcell Ozuna and will be joined soon by super prospect Christian Yelich.  Miami could break .500 as soon as next year and become a Wild Card threat.  Now, all Jeffrey Loria has to do is finally keep a quality team together instead of taking it apart.

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Speaking of under the radar, the Tampa Bay Rays are just humming right along.  Every team in the American League East has gotten significantly more press than Tampa but yet here are the Rays once again having another fine season.  Right now, the team is 51-40, 3 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox and in position to capture the second Wild Card.

It seems as though we go through this every season.  We see the organization in some kind of cost cutting mode and then are forgotten about until you get to say, this point in the year and they are in the thick of the playoff hunt.  The trading of James Shields to the Kansas City Royals for gifted young outfielder Wil Myers has been a boon to the Rays’ offense.  Ace David Price just returned from the disabled list and hurled a complete game gem on Sunday.   After starting slowly, closer Fernando Rodney is back to his bow-and-arrow shooting ways.  Tampa is riding a six game winning streak, winning none of ten overall.

For the record I picked the Rays to win the AL East and go to the World Series this year.  Not too long ago, that seemed like another failed prediction.  Now, I don’t look so bad.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com