Lost in the madness of the Boston bombing manhunt these last couple days was a shining ray of happiness, brought to you by none other than America’s pastime. The ability of baseball (and all sports) to bring this country together in the face of a tragedy can not be understated.
And this home run from Frazier–one of two pre-game requests from the Reds’ guest bat boy (the other being pizza)–is the latest example. In a landscape clouded by crime and hate, one beautiful sight grew out of the cracks of the barren abyss on Thursday.
Frazier smacked the two-run shot for honorary bat boy Ted Kremer, a lifelong Reds fan who has Down syndrome, and making his second appearance in two seasons in that role. Check out their awesome celebration here (via MLB.com):
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Ah, baseball season. We move along to the N.L Central to try and organize what most people call “the worst division in baseball.” As of the last four or five years, the N.L. Central breaks down to a three horse race, with two of the horses being a bit stronger. I’m of course referring to the Reds, Cardinals, and Brewers. The Pirates and Cubs would like to join the party, but it’s going to take quite the miracle for that to happen. Let’s get to looking at the teams.
Projected Order of Finish: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs
Why the Reds could win the N.L. Central: The Cincinnati Reds have quietly turned into a National League powerhouse. Behind their two All Stars Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, it’s hard to count them out at any point in the season. If they can stay healthy and get a boost from 2012 rookie standout Todd Frazier and their off-season acquisitions of Shin-Soo Choo and Jonathan Broxton, it could be a long season for the rest of the N.L. Central. They also manage to shorten every game to 8 innings as Aroldis Chapman throws fire and leaves batters shaking in their shoes as triple digits consistently hit the radar gun.
Why the Reds wouldn’t win the N.L. Central: If Frazier collapses, Choo doesn’t pan out and Chapman isn’t as effective this year, things could derail quickly in Cincinnati. Not to mention the fact that Bruce and Votto are only getting older. It’s hard to see all of that happening, but hey, you never know. Their starters are also not all perfect. Mike Leake and Homer Bailey are spotty at best. Really though, worst case scenario for the Reds is probably taking 3rd in the Central.
Why the Cardinals could win the N.L. Central: I’ll be honest, every time I look up and down the Cardinals lineup it scares the bejeezus out of me. Each and every one of them can change a game with a single swing of a bat. That alone makes them scary. Not to mention they’re only two years removed from a World Series Championship. Pitching staff? Solid. Relievers? Battle tested, but can be shaky at times. It’s as simple as that.
Why the Cardinals wouldn’t win the N.L. Central: If they get off to a slow start while missing Furcal, Freese, Motte, and Carpenter, the Reds may be too far ahead to catch them. They’re defensively worse off without Furcal and Freese. No doubt. Things can get shaky down in St. Louis, but I don’t think that Matheny or the Cardinals’ front office would let that happen for too long before making changes.
Why the Brewers could win the N.L. Central: As a Brewers fan, I always think they could win the N.L. Central. Is 2013 their year? They’d most likely need a lot of things to go their way, but certainly aren’t far off from making a good run. In fact, they’re about a good bullpen and decent pitching staff away. Blowing an incredible amount of leads in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings, the Brewers could have easily made the playoffs last year if that didn’t happen. Braun, Weeks, Hart, and Ramirez will be the main driving forces for the offense while Gallardo and recent acquisition Kyle Lohse will have to maintain their composure on the hill. Anything can happen, they could play like they did in September last season, or they could play like they did in April last year. Time will tell.
Why the Brewers wouldn’t win the N.L. Central: The other side of things is clearly the Brewers first half of the season for them last year. The bullpen and pitching staff hardly got much of an overhaul by only adding Lohse and Gorzelanny. It’s their biggest weak spot and the biggest difference between the Brewers finishing above .500 or falling into the depths of the Central. Another huge factor will be if MLB finds Braun guilty of something that earns him a 50 game suspension. But he hasn’t done anything wrong, so that’s probably a long shot.
Why the Pirates could win the N.L. Central: The Pirates won’t win the Central. Plain and simple. Then again, McCutchen is certainly going to try and carry this team to victory. A.J. Burnett got comfortable last season, and N.L Central veteran Wandy Rodriguez will bolster their rotation a bit, but that’s about where it stops. Gaby Sanchez will provide some pop, Garrett Jones will try to play like he’s still young, and Russell Martin will load the back end of the lineup. It could happen.
Why the Pirates wouldn’t win the N.L. Central: The Pirates won’t win the Central. Plain and simple. A team that hasn’t finished over .500 since 1992 and things probably won’t be changing this season. They lack a lot of fire power on both sides of the ball. Their bullpen is weak, they don’t have another big bat to help McCutchen, and just don’t have the overall makings of a winning team. I’d love to see 81 wins happen for them…it’s just not going to be 2013.
Why the Cubs could win the N.L. Central: Whaddya know. Another team that won’t win the Central. The Pirates have been bad, but the Cubs have been worse the last few years. They’ll try to hone their young talent this year led by 2012 standout Anthony Rizzo. Starlin Castro also provides some excitement at shortstop and certainly helps make watching a Cubs’ game bearable. I don’t want to say it can’t happen, but Theo Epstein will have to keep on chugging to turn this team into the next Red Sox.
Why the Cubs wouldn’t win the N.L. Central: Because they’re the Cubs. History gives you every reason why they wouldn’t win the Central. They have an unproven lineup, an unproven and extremely shaky rotation, not to mention Carlos Marmol is known for putting runners on base late in games. Hopefully they can get some AAA guys up and let them get a taste of the big leagues and maybe see what their future will hold. Until then, the rest of the Central thanks them for the wins.
Jay Bruce, Joey Votto – Reds
Matt Holliday – Cardinals
Ryan Braun – Brewers
Andrew McCutchen – Pirates
Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro – Cubs
Johnny Cueto – Reds
Adam Wainwright – Cardinals
Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse – Brewers
A.J. Burnett – Pirates
Rookie of the Year
Wily Peralta – Brewers
Shelby Miller – Cardinals
Gerrit Cole – Pirates
Who do you think wins the N.L. Central? Can the Cubs or Pirates salvage a winning season? Let us know in the comments!
-Kurt Peter (@FalconKP)
In about six weeks, the World Baseball Classic will be upon us again and Team USA will look to win its first title in the competition’s history. They’ve got a good shot — manager Joe Torre released his roster on Thursday, and they are absolutely loaded.
Unfortunately for fans of Team USA, one glance at a few competing rosters will stop the celebration in its tracks. Can someone unseat two-time defending champions, Team Japan? Will Team USA improve upon their 4th-place finish in 2009?
We can’t predict the results down to the wire, but we’re here to do what we do best at Three Up, Three Down. We rank the rosters! So strap in, baseball fans, and see if your favorite team stands a chance:
**The “Stick to Soccer” Group**
Notable player(s): Barry Larkin, Manager (and Hall of Fame Reds SS)
International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Ranking: 20
Breakdown: Good thing for their dominance on the international soccer scene, because Brazil isn’t going anywhere in the Classic. Yan Gomes was the first Brazilian player to ever reach the big leagues, and the country itself only has 14 players signed to Major League contracts. How they will win: They won’t. Why they won’t: See “How they will win.”
Notable player(s): Bruce Chen, SP, Royals
IBAF Ranking: 18
Breakdown: The Chinese baseball team is a decade away from being a serious contender, but they are headed in the right direction. They’ve made steady improvements over international tournaments since a decent showing at the 2009 WBC, in which they eliminated Chinese Taipei. How they will win: Hustle, starting pitching. Why they won’t: Not enough of either.
Notable player(s): Paco Rodriguez, RP, Dodgers/Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers
IBAF Ranking: 16
Breakdown: I’m not sure what to think about Spain. They lack star power, but did knock off Israel and South Africa in qualifiers. The roster is dotted with promising Major League prospects, but I don’t foresee Spain winning more than a game, maybe two in the WBC. How they will win: Breakout tourney from Beltre. Why they won’t: Their Pool C competition is stacked (Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic).
Notable player(s): Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates/Francisco Cervelli, C, Yankees/Nick Punto, IF, Dodgers/Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs/Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres
IBAF Ranking: 9
Breakdown: Not only did we miss out on a Hall of Fame induction for Mike Piazza, but he won’t be participating on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic either. Props to the Italians for back-to-back Euro Championships, but the competition is pretty weak over there right now. I think they will be humbled in the WBC. How they will win: Play with a chip on their shoulder. Why they won’t: Even the MLB-level hitters are thin.
#12: KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
Notable Player(s): Jair Jurrjens, SP, MLB Free Agent/Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox/Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers/Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Orioles/Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves/Roger Bernadina, OF, Nationals/Andruw Jones, OF, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 7
Breakdown: The Dutch soccer team is one of my favorites to watch. And for the first time in recent memory, so will their baseball team. They just missed my “dark horse” cut, due to sheer overall talent of the rest of the field. But the Major League potential of some youngsters on this roster is extremely intriguing. They’ve won 20 of 32 Euro Championships ever played. How they will win: Infield of dreams breaks out. Why they won’t: Not all the youngsters will perform.
**The Dark Horses**
#11: SOUTH KOREA
Notable player(s): Jae Seo, SP, former Met, Dodger, Ray in MLB
IBAF Ranking: 4
Breakdown: I feel ridiculous ranking Korea this low, considering their past successes in the WBC. But, it’s the third time this tournament has been played and each team has scouting on the opposition now. I don’t think South Korea will sneak up on anyone this time around. How they will win: High on-base percentage, good defense. Why they won’t: Too much good competition.
Notable player(s): Peter Moylan, RP, Dodgers
IBAF Ranking: 10
Breakdown: There’s a handful of good Major League players (like A’s closer Grant Balfour) who hail from the land down under, but there isn’t a whole lot of MLB experience on this roster. Team Australia still has a shot at advancing, but they may have more trouble than in years past. How they will win: Pure grit. Why they won’t: Not enough runs, upstart opposition in Pool B.
Notable player(s): Jesse Crain, RP, White Sox/John Axford, RP, Brewers/Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates/Russell Martin, C, Pirates/Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays/Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
IBAF Ranking: 6
Breakdown: We all know that Canada produces some bona fide stars in MLB (Joey Votto, anyone?), but not all are present and accounted for on this roster, similar to Team Australia. They still have the talent to make a run with Lawrie, Morneau and Martin in the middle of the lineup though. How they will win: Dominant bullpen, good middle of the lineup. Why they won’t: Too much youth in the rotation.
#8: CHINESE TAIPEI
Notable player(s): Chien-Ming Wang, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 5
Breakdown: There’s a reason that Team Chinese Taipei is a top-five ranked country right now. But their proudest current professional representative (Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen) is not on the team yet. This team is still legit, and has a very winnable pool group. How they will win: Small ball. Why they won’t: Overall talent is lacking.
**The “Justtttt A Bit Outside” Group**
#7: PUERTO RICO
Notable player(s): Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals/Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals/Angel Pagan, OF, Giants/Mike Aviles, IF, Indians/Javier Vasquez, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 12
Breakdown: There may be no more high-ceiling-yet-average team in the WBC this year. Team Puerto Rico has finished fifth at both tournaments preceding this, and killed Team USA in 2009 before being ousted by them two games later on a walk-off hit. Even with players such as Molina, Beltran and Pagan, they won’t even be favorites in their own pool. How they will win: The Major League talent they have is relentlessly good. Why they won’t: Lack of depth in the rotation.
Notable player(s): Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers/Luis Cruz, 3B, Dodgers/Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers/Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals/Sergio Romo, RP, Giants
IBAF Ranking: 11
Breakdown: In their pool, Team Mexico will have to deal with Team USA, but other than that they should be favored to top Team Canada and Team Italy to move on. They have a decent infield, top-of-the-line ace, and one of the best closers in baseball. How they will win: Adrian Gonzalez goes off, Gallardo is dominant. Why they won’t: Romo is neutralized unless they have a lead late.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 1
Breakdown: Don’t let the lack of notable players deceive you — this team is good. Really good. They have played in the IBAF World Cup 29 times and won 25 gold medals, finishing second the other four times. In the WBC, Team Cuba has finished second and fourth (which, at the time, was their lowest finish ever in international competition). They just can’t legally have players like Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes on their squad, otherwise they might be even better. How they will win: Hard-throwing starters, handful of five-tool prospects. Why they won’t: The top four teams are just too stacked.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 3
Breakdown: Again, don’t let the lack of Major League firepower fool you. Much like Cuba, Team Japan has been a hotbed for MLB stars over the years (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish). Even though none of them joined the fray in 2013, this team is stacked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of future MLB players come off this roster after good WBC performances. After all, they are two-for-two in WBC titles up to this point. How they will win: Ichiro-style on-base scavengers, deceptive pitching. Why they won’t: Not having Ichiro and Darvish, among others, will end up costing Team Japan.
#3: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Notable player(s): Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants/Octavio Dotel, RP, Tigers/Alexi Ogando, RP, Rangers/Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays/Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates/Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds/Carlos Santana, C, Indians/Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers/Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees/Edwin Encarnacion, DH/OF, Blue Jays/Hanley Ramirez, IF, Dodgers/Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays/Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers/Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays
IBAF Ranking: 13
Breakdown: The only reason Team Dominica is ranked so low by the IBAF is because all those notable players are stars in the big leagues, and don’t regularly compete internationally for their country. But now that the WBC has rolled around again, this is one unbelievably good team. My only concern is their starting pitching depth. How they will win: Scoring 15 runs per game (no…really). Why they won’t: Like I said, starting pitching depth. Will Volquez and Rodriguez be enough?
#2: UNITED STATES
Notable player(s): Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants/R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays/Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves/Kris Medlen, SP, Braves/Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants/Chris Perez, RP, Indians/Joe Mauer, C, Twins/Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds/Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies/David Wright, 3B, Mets/Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees/Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers/Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins/Adam Jones, OF, Orioles/Joe Torre, Manager
IBAF Ranking: 2
Breakdown: I didn’t even pick all the “notable players” I could have for this team. It’s Team USA’s equivalent of the MLB Dream Team, and Justin Verlander still is undecided as to whether he’ll join the rotation. This team is already a favorite with a balanced lineup and very strong pitching staff, but adding JV would be a coup. Check out fellow Three Up, Three Down host Bryan Mapes’ grades-by-position for Team USA. How they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.
Notable player(s): Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers/Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners/Francisco Rodriguez, RP, MLB Free Agent/Ronald Belisario, RP, Dodgers/Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks/Salvador Perez, C, Royals/Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers/Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians/Miguel Cabrera, 3B/1B, Tigers/Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants/Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants/Carols Gonzalez, OF, Rockies/Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks
IBAF Ranking: 8
Breakdown: The quantity of star power on Team Venezuela might not match up to Team USA or Team Dominica, but the quality is far and beyond. When you start your rotation with Hernandez and stack the middle of your lineup with the reigning Triple Crown winner between Gonzalez and Sandoval, you are a very, very scary team. Even though their WBC pool is very tough, it would be a momentous upset to not see Team Venezuela make moves in the 2013 tournament. How they will win: A large margin of victory. Against anyone. Why they won’t: Slumping hitters or being outplayed by one of the other favorites.
And that’s a wrap. This writer believes Team Venezuela is the team to beat, with Team USA, Team Dominica and Team Japan not far behind. But in all honesty, there are about 10-11 teams who could potentially take home the title in 2013. Root for your team and country to take home top honors, and stay tuned to Three Up, Three Down because we’ll have all your World Baseball Classic coverage.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
When we told you that Three Up, Three Down really loves baseball, we weren’t kidding. On Saturday, I watched the Oregon vs. USC football game until 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, at which point I switched away from one of the best games of the year to focus on MLB Network.
No, I’m not crazy – I just love baseball, and the Arizona Fall League’s (AFL) annual Rising Stars Game was on. For those of you that don’t know, the AFL is basically grad school for each team’s top prospects. All 30 MLB teams assign seven players to the AFL, comprised of six teams.
It’s basically a little extra work for the superstars of tomorrow. Last year, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper played in the Rising Stars Game. Mike Piazza, Roy Halladay and Stephen Strasburg are just a few of the alumni of the AFL. And the game in 2012 was no different, showcasing a plethora of talent we will be sure to see on Major League teams in the very near future, such as Detroit’s Nick Castellanos, who won the Futures Game MVP in July.
I’ve picked five winners and losers from the game yesterday – read on to see if one of your team’s top prospects made an impact!
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Hamilton was this game’s biggest draw, and he delivered big time. One of the few players to start and finish the game, Hamilton got to show off the speed that has made him Cincinnati’s top-rated prospect (Minor League record 155 steals in 2012 – that is NOT a typo) right from the get-go. After drawing a walk to lead off the game, Hamilton promptly stole second, stole third, and scored on a double two batters later. Hamilton also laid down a beautiful bunt that forced an errant throw, resulting in him coasting to third base on the play. Though he recently transitioned from shortstop to center field in order to take advantage of those wheels, Hamilton looked right at home, making a diving play later on in the game. This kid is undoubtedly a future star.
Michael Tonkin, Minnesota Twins
Jason Kubel’s brother-in-law had a very rough time against the elite hitters of the AFL. Tonkin pitched to five batters and didn’t get a single one out – instead, he allowed three hits, five base runners and four earned runs (five runs total) on 17 pitches. The 6-foot-7 22-year-old righty has really strong stuff, but melted in a big spot yesterday. To add to the disappointment for Tonkin, he was charged with a blown save, took the loss, and saw a 4-3 lead turn into an 8-3 deficit under his watch. Tonkin has a good, low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a pretty good slider – his 2.08 ERA and 97 K’s in 69 1/3 innings in Minor League ball this past season don’t lie – but he really fell apart in the Rising Stars Game.
Rymer Liriano, San Diego Padres
Holy smokes, can the Padres’ number one prospect swing a bat! There’s a visibly arrogant swagger to Liriano’s game, but he walks the walk on the field, and proved it again last night. In five plate appearances, Liriano went 3-for-4 with two doubles, walked, drove in a run, and scored a run. He had great plate discipline and was being lauded by premiere minor league analyst Jonathan Mayo for his speed as well. The Padres may have a legitimate offensive threat in Liriano, as long as they can keep him grounded when he hits a slump in the big leagues.
Michael Almanzar, Boston Red Sox
It’s been a strange journey for Almanzar, a 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic. When he was originally drafted, the Red Sox thought they were getting a future power hitter. And while he’s shown potential to pop a few out of the yard, he needs to put on some muscle. At 6-foot-3 and only 190 pounds, he has the frame of a guy who should be shooting the gap, yet the eye and the swing of a homer-happy free swinger. The Rising Stars Game proved to be a disaster for Almanzar, as he came up to bat twice, including in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded, and struck out both times. To his credit, Almanzar did have a good at-bat in the 9th, before caving to strike three.
Austin Romine, New York Yankees
Going 1-for-2 with a strikeout doesn’t sound like such a fantastic game, does it? But the Yankees’ farm hand narrowly missed a monster home run in his first at-bat, instead settling for a triple. Romine also was hit by a pitch in the left elbow and came around to score his second run of the game. The reason Romine is a winner here, is because the kid has suffered through injury after injury during his young career, and proved his toughness in front of a TV audience last night. The half inning before getting plunked, Romine took two hard foul tips off the body and walked both of them off. He’s a gamer, and proved it in Arizona – the Yankees will definitely be keeping a close eye on him in Spring Training.
Nick Ahmed, Atlanta Braves
Ahmed actually has a good-looking future, as he swatted 36 doubles and swiped 40 bags in 130 games in the Minors this season. I don’t know if his future with the Braves will be at shortstop, but he didn’t give them any reason to think so in this one-game sample size last night. Ahmed made a couple nice plays and redeemed himself later with a walk and a run, but he started the game with a strikeout at the plate and an ugly error in the field. I’m talking, line drive right to him, off the glove, into left field type of error. With guys like Andrelton Simmons and Tyler Pastornicky already ahead of him, Ahmed might be looking to learn a new position if he wants to break in with the big club.
Brian Goodwin, Washington Nationals
After the West team went up 2-0 in the top of the first, Goodwin sparked the East by hitting a leadoff homer, the only one of the game. The analysis on Goodwin is that he has legitimate five-tool potential. I can see why people might think so; Goodwin’s left-handed swing is extremely quick and he has the abilities to hit for average and power. He has decent speed and plays solid outfield defense, too. The Nationals may need to make room for this guy in their outfield very soon. My guess is he would supplant Harper in center field at some point in the next two seasons. Goodwin, who just turned 22 on Friday, had an OPS of .852 between two Minor League stops in 2012, and showed off his skills in Arizona going 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros
I was really excited to watch Cosart start this game, because I knew his reputation (a 2.60 ERA in the Pacific Coast League this year; electric fastball, good change-up, above average breaking ball and great command). He was a key piece, along with Rising Stars teammate Jonathan Singleton, in the Hunter Pence deal to Philadelphia in 2011. Cosart has been a top prospect in both organizations he’s played for since day one, but I was truly disappointed with his outing last night. Though the numbers weren’t bad (2 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout), he was missing his spots all day, going 3-0 on multiple batters across those frames. I had no doubt after watching that Cosart has the tools to be a good starter or a great reliever, but he really laid an egg in his start on Saturday.
Mark Montgomery, New York Yankees
Yeah, yeah. I hate putting two Yankees in the winner’s column as much as the next guy. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t very impressed with both prospects I have listed here. Though I probably could have chosen any reliever after the sixth inning on either squad (The 12 total pitchers entering in the 6th inning or later, combined: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K), I went with Montgomery for his dominant performance. The 21-year-old righty blew away the West team in his frame, striking out all three batters on 16 total pitches. His 1.65 minor league ERA and 16.1 K/9 are ridiculous, and I wonder if he has the make-up or velocity (tops out at 95 MPH) to some day fill Mariano Rivera’s shoes as the closer in the Bronx. Either way, I expect to see him getting big league action by 2014 at the very latest.
Anyone who didn’t watch the game!
Seriously. It’s not a cop-out. I’m not saying you should also sacrifice your college football or NFL, or even NBA watching during the MLB off-season, but don’t pass up an opportunity to watch some of the next great generation of baseball stars in action. Follow along with the AFL this winter and see how your team’s top prospects are handling some of the best minor league competition in all of baseball. Better yet, just follow the 3u3d blog and we’ll give you everything you need to know until Opening Day is back upon us. If you want to follow us on Twitter, you can find us @3u3d, and you can like us on Facebook at Three Up, Three Down. All the glorious baseball news you can stomach, right here, all winter long.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Three Up Three Down is back to break down all the postseason action! We discuss our favorite Division Series and who we think will take the Championship Series all the way to the World Series. Not only that, Mapes turns the tables in our “Defend Yo Self” segment where the guys back up their Rookie of the Year and Cy Young picks. Let us know what you think!
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Something new is happening in MLB this year. Instead of your typical four-team format in each league, we’ve added an extra Wild Card team to make five in each league and ten total. Something else new to life in general is the popularity of social media, specifically Twitter.
Twitter and baseball go together like pancakes and syrup. Or Brad Pitt and goatees. Bobby V and the Red S– oh…wait. Too soon?
And now each team has their own designated hash tag on Twitter to make sure their October quests get trending among the fan base. Some teams are handed easy ones (i.e. the Colorado Rockies’ “Rocktober”). Some have to stretch for it (i.e. the Milwaukee Brewers’ potential “OctoBrewfest”).
So without further adieu, here is the Three Up, Three Down power ranking of every MLB team’s playoff hash tag:
10. San Francisco Giants – #OrangeOctober
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) October 5, 2012
I don’t care if anyone calls me biased for this one. My goodness, this is a bland, boring, unoriginal hash tag. The Giants have the benefit of winning the World Series two years ago, so they don’t have to try to impress the Twittersphere anymore. But making your pump-up hash tag for the playoffs simply #OrangeOctober is a pretty big cop out. First of all, yes, they wear orange. Yes, the O’s roll off the tongue together nicely. But of course October is orange. Come on, are we all too old to have forgotten about Halloween? That is a straight up robbery of America’s sugariest holiday.
9. Texas Rangers – #TexasLegends
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) October 3, 2012
What? Are the Rangers implying that they, themselves, are legendary? Because unless choking away two straight World Series titles and then collapsing under the pressure of a pennant race in 2012 is considered “legendary,” I’m missing something. I know that everything, including egos, can be bigger in Texas but this is just ridiculous. Besides, it’s not a cool hash tag. I thought it was a minor league affiliate of the Rangers. Geez, that was harsh. Sorry, Brian!
8. Detroit Tigers – #EveryGameCounts
Yes, yes it does. And the Tigers really should have had a couple week’s worth of games that actually didn’t matter. But they brought it down to the bitter end anyway. Detroit loses points for dominating their Twitter timeline with #TripleCrown. I understand why, as the achievement should be celebrated heavily. But the ultimate goal is to win the World Series and I’m sure Miguel Cabrera would gladly trade his Triple Crown for a ring.
7. New York Yankees – #27AndCounting
Is it Sunday yet? #27andCounting
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 4, 2012
You can’t really argue this hash tag. The Yankees can pretty much hash tag whatever they want and get a free pass because they are the Yankees. It doesn’t make sense and it is incredibly frustrating, but it’s true. That being said, in terms of pure originality, the guy or gal in charge of the team’s account is clearly one of those people who enjoys time spent over a term paper in the library on a Friday night.
6. Washington Nationals – #Natitude
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 3, 2012
Normally, I’d rank this a bit higher. Unfortunately, the Nationals have been freakin’ bombarding us Twits with that hash tag since Opening Day and frankly…we’re tired of it. And usually it was in all caps. Why are they yelling? It’s clever and it accurately portrays the way the team plays, but after a while you just want to yell “SHUT UP!” I think the Nats could have geared their very important hash tag playoff campaign towards something with the color red or involving America, since they are in the nation’s capitol. #Natitude just leaves a lot to be desired.
5. Cincinnati Reds – #RedsOctober
Remember Opening Day? 162 games later. 97 wins. NL Central Champions. What a team!! #RedsOctober
— Reds (@Reds) October 4, 2012
Boring? Sure. Bland? Definitely. Unoriginal? Cha. But there are a couple of reasons that the #RedsOctober hash tag cracks the top five for me. First of all, the Reds are a funky, old-school, boring team. They always have been. The franchise has been around since the world started spinning (sorry – in my mind, that’s the day that baseball officially was born…yeah, we’re nerds) and they’ve been very successful over that time span. The Reds seem like the most focused, confident team in the playoffs right now, just like their hash tag. And second, I like the vague reference to The Hunt for Red October.
4. St. Louis Cardinals – #12In12
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 4, 2012
It’s like when you see the clock on 11:11 and yell “MAKE A WISH!” Well, the Cardinals’ wish came true in 2011, and they are trying to repeat in 2012. I’m convinced that they purposely waited until 2011 to win their 11th world title, just so they could troll the crap out of Twitterville for years to come with an annoyingly clever hash tag like #12In12, #13In13, and so on. Of course to continue the trend of this type of hash tag, the Cardinals will have to make another crazy run. Don’t put it past them.
3. Baltimore Orioles – #BUCKleUp
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) October 4, 2012
Hah! HAHA! GET IT?! Because their manager’s name is BUCK Showalter?!?! I promise I’m not even mocking them – I actually laughed out loud when I first saw that hash tag. It’s caught fire among Baltimore fans, as it should. Not only does it emphasize one of the most important individuals to the team, but it acknowledges that it’s going to be a bumpy ride. If the O’s are going to do the improbable and win the World Series in 2012, it’s going to be a panic-filled roller coaster ride just like their regular season was.
2. Atlanta Braves – #OctoberIsWhyWeChop (#Choptober for short)
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) October 3, 2012
The Braves probably would have slid down the list a little bit for sheer character volume if they didn’t have that cute little #Choptober nickname to fall back on. Regardless of how possibly offensive the whole chopping deal is, it has become a symbol of unity and hope for a dedicated Braves fan base. They chop for everything and everyone, and what better reason than for a World Series ring in Chipper Jones’ final season? Oh, and “Choptober” sounds like “October” if you say it really fast. Clever points!
1. Oakland A’s – #OctoBERNIE
— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) October 4, 2012
This is not only the best hash tag on the list, but might be the greatest hash tag ever created in the history of the Twitter world…ever…of all time. If you don’t know yet what the “Bernie” is, then grab your nearest YouTube and type it in. You’ll find Weekend at Bernie clips, some pretty bad, hilarious hip-hop videos and a lot of green and gold crazies in the right field bleachers. The A’s have reinvigorated the Bernie movement and reinvented the October hash tag, all by simply adding an “N-I-E” to the end. There is no denying the magic that the world’s easiest, laziest dance move has brought to MLB’s best story in 2012.
Comment below if you think this order is just whack! And don’t forget to vote for your favorite postseason team hash tag in the poll below. If you like what you read, follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
The gang is back in playoff form as a few teams clinched last night. We also play ‘Dead or Alive’ with the teams who are still in the chase. For you fortunate enough to be in your fantasy baseball finals, we give you some last week smart starts to push you to victory!
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This is the time of year when contenders start to pull away from the pretenders. The trade deadline is TOMORROW, and there should be a lot of frantic activity in the next 24 hours that will change the standings. In turn, our rankings will look completely different in a week.
That being said, teams like the New York Mets are falling fast after the All-Star Break, while their polar opposites rise to the Wild Card lead in Oakland. Speaking of the A’s, they are one of our “Stock Up” teams. Look for the up or down arrow next to six teams – teams you should buy into and take seriously versus three teams you need to start worrying about.
You know what they say – better late than never. So here is the official Three Up, Three Down MLB Power Rankings:
30. Houston Astros (35-68, 1-9 in last 10)
Astros’ GM Jeff Lunhow’s wish list: Trade Carlos Lee. Check! Trade J.A. Happ. Check! Trade Brandon Lyon. Check! Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, and Chris Johnson. Check! Check! And Check! You get the point. This is why the Astros can’t have nice things.
29. Colorado Rockies (37-63, 2-8)
The Rockies are good for one insane, late-season run every year. Unfortunately for 2012, they could win out and still miss the Wild Card by double digits. How long will Michael Cuddyer be wearing purple and black?
K.C. played me like a fool this winter – I refused to take heed in an inexperienced, well below average rotation and fell in love with the big bats in the lineup. “No Jeremy,” they said. “We won’t take the second A.L. Wild Card. You idiot.”
27. Chicago Cubs (42-58, 5-5)
Raise your hand if you are surprised! Even the most loyal Cub fan knew this would be a long season. They seem headed in the right direction, it will just take a few years. As if 104 of them isn’t enough.
26. Milwaukee Brewers (45-56, 1-9)
Proof positive that Prince Fielder would be, will be and IS missed in Milwaukee. With a paper-thin bullpen and nobody not named Braun that scares an opposing pitcher, the Brew Crew are bad and getting worse.
25. Minnesota Twins (43-58, 5-5)
I think the front office of the Twins is still laughing at 29 other GMs for missing out on Josh Willingham. That being said, this club is a lot of pitching away from returning to the top of their division.
24. San Diego Padres (43-60, 5-5)
Huston Street locked up for two years. Carlos Quentin extended for three. Tons of young, talented players under team control. Johnny Cueto turning things around. Well done, Padres. Well done. Just not enough. Not yet, at least.
23. Philadelphia Phillies (45-57, 4-6)
Injuries aside, how does a club with the best rotation in baseball fall from grace so quickly? Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have not been themselves this year, but I have to admit it’s nice seeing a different name atop this division for once.
I have one piece of advice for Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik: DON’T TRADE KING FELIX. I know his stock is high and the M’s could use some more offense. But relying on three top prospects to hold down the future rotation? Not smart.
21. Miami Marlins (47-54, 3-7)
Established closer: $27 million. Left-handed starter: $56 million. New shortstop: $106 million. Idiot manager leading an exceptionally talented team into the abyss? Priceless. Wait…it doesn’t work that way. Fire sale time again in Miami!
20. New York Mets (49-53, 2-8)
The Metropolitans just can’t win post -All-Star Break. This is the curse that has plagued them since 2010. Add another quality arm, re-work the bullpen and get one more good bat. That’s all. Okay, that’s a lot. But something must change.
19. Boston Red Sox (51-51, 4-6)
The Sox are still hanging around somehow, despite any semblance of a starting rotation and a very slow start from Adrian Gonzalez. With Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury back in the fold, they have a chance to make a late run.
18. Toronto Blue Jays (51-50, 6-4)
Toronto, a.k.a. TommyJohn-to, is where starting pitchers’ arms go to die. It seems like the entire rotation has hit the shelf this year, leaving Edwin Encarnacion and Joey Bats to shoulder the load. They are headed in the right direction; just need to stay healthy.
The Tribe had such a promising start to the season (again), but much like the Mets, just crashed and burned around the All-Star Break. They aren’t completely out of it, but with Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe as two of your star pitchers…well…
Shhh…don’t tell anyone. But the D’Backs are only 4.5 games back in the West. That is absolutely terrifying, knowing the defending division champs are lurking that close and they haven’t even hit full stride yet. Can L.A. and S.F. fend them off?
15. Baltimore Orioles (53-49, 5-5)
Oh, the O’s. The little engine that could, still can, and just might make the playoffs. Buck Showalter has done an incredible job getting the most out of this lineup, which really doesn’t have any stars besides Adam Jones.
14. Tampa Bay Rays (53-49, 6-4)
The original little engine is the Rays, who are at it again. They aren’t holding down a playoff spot right now, but aren’t far out. And they are still in the market for a bat to help that offense. I, for one, have learned to never count them out.
13. St. Louis Cardinals (54-48, 7-3)
I thought I’d never feel bad for the defending champs after all the glory last October. But no matter how well they play, the Reds and Pirates just…won’t…lose. Like the Rays though, this team is too good to quit on.
12. Detroit Tigers (54-48, 6-4)
Wait, did you see that flash of light? It was the Tigers finally holding first place! And just like that, the White Sox pulled the rug right out from under them. Still, Detroit is a stronger team than last year and should make the playoffs.
11. Chicago White Sox (55-46, 5-5)
Speak of the devil – the Sox have really performed well under first-year manager Robin Ventura (isn’t it nice that we don’t have to associate White Sox post games with Ozzie anymore?). I picked them to finish last in the Central back in March. OOPS.
10. Los Angeles Angels (55-47, 5-5)
Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson came in to solidify a slowly declining team with huge off-season contracts. They have performed well, but Mark Trumbo and Rookie of the Year/MVP double threat Mike Trout have stolen the show.
9. San Francisco Giants (55-46, 4-6)
I’ll try to remain impartial here. The Giants continue to get ridiculous production from Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey and good starting pitching from guys not named Tim. But with Sandoval injured and Pagan struggling, they need to add another bat because…
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (56-47, 7-3)
…the rival Dodgers just came into town and did WORK in three games. A road sweep to move back into a virtual first-place division tie capped off a 7-3 road trip. And yes…Hanley Ramirez is good. And yes, the trade was smart. Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise.
Raise your hand if you thought the A’s would be leading the Wild Card on July 30th of the 2012 season! DON’T LIE AND PUT YOUR HAND DOWN RIGHT NOW. Billy Beane’s team has become the best story in baseball, and show no signs of slowing down.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (58-43, 7-3)
If the season ended right now, Andrew McCutchen is likely your National League MVP. The guy has been playing out of his mind in Pittsburgh (and everywhere else for that matter) and with 23 more wins, the Bucs will finally reach a .500 season!
5. Atlanta Braves (57-44, 7-3)
The Atlanta scouting department and front office look like absolute geniuses after signing Ben Sheets mid-season. He’s been much better than the other mid-season pick up (Roy Oswalt) and might be just what they needed to solidify the rotation.
When Pitchers Injure Everything. How to Trade for Any Player Anywhere. Where Lightning Strikes Thrice. Just some titles I’m brainstorming to describe the recent woes of the Rangers. When Ham-ilton Goes Bad. Okay, that one sucked. Sorry.
3. New York Yankees (60-41, 3-7)
The Yankees have absolutely nothing to worry about in the AL East. The division is won. But with A-Rod injured, C.C. Sabathia struggling and being swept in a four-game set by the mighty A’s? The Bronx should be a little worried in October.
2. Washington Nationals (61-40, 8-2)
I picked them to win the division, and they are coming through for me right now. This team is way too much fun to watch – from Bryce Harper and other young sluggers on offense, to Stephen Strasburg and the electric pitching staff. Can’t…help…rooting…for…the Nats!
1. Cincinnati Reds (61-40, 10-0)
Remember how the Cardinals couldn’t catch up in the Central? That’s because the Reds said, “No Votto? No problem!” over the past couple weeks. They have literally been unbeatable. They are a scary, scary postseason team.
*Records current as play began on Monday, July 30th, 2012*
Do you agree with the rankings? Disagree? Want to punch us in the balls? Comment below to let us know how you really feel! And while you’re at it, follow us on Twitter @3u3d and LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)