In the wake of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon on Monday, MLB teams showed their support for the city of Boston by playing “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. The song is a staple at Fenway Park and is sung by Red Sox fans before the bottom of the 8th inning. The song was played at home games by the Braves, Marlins, Reds, Cubs, Twins, Dodgers, Indians (who were playing the Red Sox), and even their biggest rival, the Yankees. Here is the video of “Sweet Caroline” being played at the end of the 3rd inning at Yankee Stadium.
Here’s the Target Field version:
Down in Miami at Marlins Park:
All the way on the other coast at Dodger Stadium:
And at O.co Coliseum in Oakland:
Turner Field in Atlanta where the Braves went on to hit three homers in the bottom of the 8th:
The Brewers showed their support by playing another famous Boston song, the theme from “Cheers”. That can be heard at the 1:40 mark of this video.
You have to love the support that Boston is getting from across the country. It’s the little things like this that add up to big things. It really is “so good, so good, so good.”
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Has the National League evolved into a two-team arms race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves? It seemed all offseason one would make a move and the other would counter it. B.J. Upton, Dan Haren, Denard Span, Rafael Soriano, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, and Jordan Walden all enter the fray and make these two teams on paper the teams to beat. The Phillies aren’t ready to go down with a fight adding Ben Revere and Michael Young in the offseason. The Mets and Marlins? Well they might go down without a fight, let’s break down the National League East.
Projected Order of Finish: Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Miami Marlins
Why the Braves could win the N.L. East: It’s pretty hard to believe that Atlanta lost three of the four best hitters from last season in Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Michael Bourn and the lineup is better. The Upton brothers move into the outfield along with Jason Heyward, giving the Braves two MVP-potential candidates in the corners. Andrelton Simmons showed in the WBC that he is ready, especially defensively. Freddie Freeman’s growth continues in an all-star caliber 1st baseman. The rotation might not be on the Nationals level overall, but Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran is solid. Teheran could be ready to shine as he was spectacular in spring training. Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the game, while Eric O’ Flaherty is among the best setup men. All the pieces are there for a return to the playoffs.
Why the Braves wouldn’t win the N.L. East: First, the leadership from Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Michael Bourn’s departure throws off the clubhouse and no one behind Tim Hudson steps up. The lineup is filled with just too many strikeouts that kills putting together rallies. Brian McCann’s shoulder is completely shot and he’s not the player he once was or even comes back at all leaving the catching duties to Gerald Laird and Evan Gattis. Jonny Venters injury is more serious than planned (i.e. Tommy John surgery) and Jordan Walden isn’t ready to go and the bullpen suffers and becomes overworked. Brandon Beachy returning from Tommy John surgery mid-season isn’t able to come close to the form he displayed at the start of 2012.
Why the Nationals could win the N.L. East: The rotation is the best in MLB with Stephen Strasburg’s innings cap behind him, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, and Ross Detwiler. The bullpen is no slouch either with Rafael Soriano (42 saves in 2012) joining Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Ryan Mattheus is a great bullpen. The lineup is good to great and can be better than great if “The Phenom” Bryce Harper continues to progress into an MVP candidate.
Why the Nationals wouldn’t win the N.L. East: The Braves end up just slightly better top to bottom. Newly-signed Denard Span reverts back to an injury-plagued season like in 2011. Ryan Zimmerman’s right shoulder, that caused him to receive cortisone shots throughout last season, acts up and his bat his lost from the middle of the lineup. It’s really hard not to see the Nationals as a probable playoff team.
Why the Phillies could win the N.L. East: Roy Halladay might not be what he used to be, but Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are both still good enough to carry a rotation. I highly doubt Lee will only win six games again. The lineup is improved with a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, plus Ben Revere providing speed at lead-off. Michael Young joins Philadelphia to provide leadership and hitting prowess. He would need get back to hitting .300 for the Phillies to have a real chance. Domonic Brown’s spring breakout continues into the season and he finally pays dividends for all of those trades Ruben Amaro Jr. refused to do when Brown was a prospect. Plus, Jonathan Papelbon is one of the best closers in the games.
Why the Phillies wouldn’t win the N.L. East: It’s entirely possible that Roy Halladay never gets back to what he was before 2012. His velocity has been down after an injury-plagued season. The lineup is on the wrong side of their prime with Howard, Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Young all over 33 years-old. Carlos Ruiz’s 25-game suspension messes with the pitching staff and they get off on the wrong foot after Ruiz broke out offensively. Brown does what he’s done his whole career and tease greatness, but not come through.
Why the Mets could win the N.L. East: David Wright’s injury is nothing and the new Mets captain goes on to be his usual self in the middle of the lineup. Ike Davis evolves into a 35-40 home run hitting first baseman. The Mets call up Zack Wheeler and pair him with Matt Harvey and create the best young pitching duo in the division. Travis d’Arnuad can’t be held back anymore in the minors and starts developing into the next Mike Piazza.
Why the Mets wouldn’t win the N.L. East: Johan Santana is probably out for the season taking leadership out of the clubhouse on a daily basis. The bullpen in atrocious. The outfield is near-atrocious, unless Jordany Valdespin steps up big. The Mets are a rebuilding project, but there are some nice pieces coming to Flushing.
Why the Marlins could win the N.L. East: They can’t, but what kind of season would Giancarlo Stanton have to have to put Miami in contention? 60 home runs? I do like Steve Cishek a lot as a potential closer, but he may end up trade bait at the deadline. I might just like him because he’s a submariner.
Why the Marlins wouldn’t win the N.L. East: The rotation is the worst in the division, where their “ace” Ricky Nolasco can’t be trusted to not blow up on any given start. The lineup has some veterans who can hit for average in Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Justin Ruggiano, and Casey Kotchman, but aside from Stanton there isn’t a 2nd run producer. This might take years for Miami to get into contention.
Jason Heyward and Justin Upton-Braves
Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasberg-Nationals
Craig Kimbrel and Kris Medlen-Braves
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez-Nationals
Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee-Phillies
Rookie of the Year
Rob Brantly and Adeiny Hechavarria-Marlins
Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler-Mets
Who do you think wins the N.L. East? The Nationals? The Braves? Can one of the other three teams steal the division away? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
3U3D alluded to the Marlins fire sale possibilities on July 23rd, then again on July 25th, but it wasn’t really there yet. They had kept everyone they signed in the offseason on the team…so far. Then a little fuel was added to the fire sale with Heath Bell being sent to the Diamondbacks on October 20th. Tonight, the hot stove and fire sale was set ablaze with a blockbuster deal that ends an era in Miami before it even begins and put the Blue Jays in the thick of the AL East, making it officially the toughest division in baseball. Let’s take a look at the trade that’s going down.
The Blue Jays receive: SS Jose Reyes, LHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, do-it-all player Emilio Bonifacio, and C John Buck
The Marlins receive: SS Yunel Escobar, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, and prospects Adeiny Hechevarria, Jake Marisnick, Anthony Desclafani, and Justin Nicolino
The first thought that comes to mind is wow. Look at all of that talent that is heading north of the border. The Blue Jays have decided to take on a ton of money (up to $165 million) in order to try and compete in the A.L. East. The speed throughout the order with Reyes, Bonifacio, and Rajai Davis will be the best in the American League. Buehrle and Johnson instantly become the best pitchers in Toronto and can provided veteran leadership for Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. Romero will need it after the 2nd half he had in 2012. The Blue Jays also shed Escobar who needed a fresh start after the unfortunate, gay slur incident. I do find it interesting that the Jays brought in John Buck in the deal. The Jays have J.P. Arencibia behind the plate starting and top prospect Travis d’Arnaud looking for his opportunity in AAA. It almost makes me believe that one of those three could get moved in another move to get more pitching help. Pure speculation though.
What do the Marlins get out of this? Well obviously more PR woes and grief that they may have fleeced the city into a new stadium, while not providing a competitive team. Not to mention the continued outcry for owner Jeffrey Loria to sell the team. Miami basically stole the Red Sox reset button and brought it to little Havana. They’ve undone everything that they did in the offseason and then some. Escobar is a good, but not great player. Alvarez showed some promise in 2011, but took a step back last season. He’s still young (turns 23 early in the 2013 season) and more importantly to the Marlins, affordable. We’ve seen pitchers turn it around in the N.L. maybe Henderson Alvarez is next. Of the prospects, Marisnick is the most intriguing. He’s ranked as the #32 best prospect in MLB by ESPN’s Keith Law. Nicolino was the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Jays system. Hechevarria could replace Escobar at shortstop in the near future and was ranked by MLB.com as the 7th best prospect for Toronto.
What does Miami do next? There are rumors that Giancarlo Stanton could be next on the block, with Stanton even saying on Twitter that he was pissed off at the situation. Fans for every team are already comtemplating trades to get the slugger on their team. Time will tell if the fire sale rages on in Miami.
-Bryan Mapes ( @IAmMapes)
Down to the wire time! You’re looking for anything that can help you win on Sunday in the playoffs. Here’s what could help out your pitching staff on Sunday, September 15th.
Here’s a pitcher that is available in 94% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues. A’s rookie Dan Straily has been very good in three of his four starts since getting called up. He also has great strikeout potential if you’re facing an uphill climb in that category. I also like that this was Jason Hammel’s rotation spot for Baltimore and Hammel unfortunately got hurt. This means the Orioles will have to go with a spot starter or someone on short rest on the road. Advantage: Athletics.
If You’re Desperate: Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (31% owned) has given up just one earned run over his last three starts with two shutouts against the 1st place Nationals. He gets another 1st place team in the Reds at home. If you’re truly desperate you can do worse than Nolasco’s upside. Twins rookie Scott Diamond (38% owned) has been pretty great at home this season with a 3.13 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, but he has limited strikeout potential. Diamond faces the White Sox, who tagged him for four earned runs in 5 innings, just ten days ago in Chicago. I like him to be better in the confines of Target Field. Braves Mike Minor (44% owned) has bounced back after a disastrous start to the season. Minor hasn’t given up a earned run in his last two starts, with 15 strikeouts in 12.2 IP. He gets the Nationals and 19-game winner Gio Gonzalez, so if you’re looking for a W, it might be better to look elsewhere. Padres rookie Andrew Werner (7% owned) has been amazing for San Diego giving up two earned runs or less and six innings or more in all four of his career starts. You have to like the combo of Petco and the Rockies. He also has provided strikeouts with 23 in 24.1 innings this season for San Diego.
Good luck in your fantasy leagues!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
“El Caballo” Carlos Lee certainly didn’t want to go to Los Angeles, invoking his no-trade clause to block a deal to the Dodgers. Instead, Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow didn’t panic, and pulled off some fireworks on the 4th of July sending Lee to Miami.
Houston picked up two prospects in the deal in third baseman Matt Dominguez and left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen. Dominguez was immediately added to the Astros 25-man roster and was ranked as the 4th best prospect by Baseball America coming into the season. Rasmussen was 4-7 this season for AA Corpus Christi with a 3.90 ERA.
This trade also allowed for the Marlins to demote Gaby Sanchez for the second time this season. Lee will take over 1st base duties for Miami, but can also play some left field if needed. Marlins needed to acquire a bigger bat for a power position as Sanchez was hitting just .202 with three home runs in 182 AB’s for the Marlins. The 36 year-old Lee has been better for a below average Astros lineup, hitting .287 with five homers. Moving to the seemingly pitcher park in Miami, might turn Lee even more into a batting average play and suck more power out of him. Houston is great for power with their short left field porch for righties.
Lee is reunited with Ozzie Guillen, who managed him back in Chicago in 2004.
Houston doesn’t get off cheap however, as they have to pay almost all of the remaining 9 million dollars on his contract to get Lee off their roster. When you’re getting prospects in a return and a good one in Dominguez, it’s worth the risk for the Astros. Miami gets a cheap replacement to see what Lee has left in the tank to make a run in the N.L. East. If Sanchez can sort himself out in the minors, he could get another chance at the gig in 2013.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
It’s time for another round of interleague play! These match-ups aren’t as exotic as the last “Weekend Watch” with interleague play involved, but it doesn’t mean that cross-divisional series aren’t as fun. Here’s what I’m looking forward to watching this weekend as I sneak the MLB At-Bat app on while tailgating at the Belmont Stakes.
6) Indians at Cardinals
Battle of the two 2nd place teams in the Central where both are trying to get back to the 1st place perch they had just recently. The injury bug continues to hit St. Louis as Jaime Garcia finds himself joining teammates Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker, and Lance Berkman on the disabled list. The Indians, on the other hand, seem to be the least talked about “good” team in the Majors. They keep plugging away without doing anything too special, they sit 8th in the AL in batting average and a dismal 2nd to last in ERA, but there they are at 30-26, just a game out of 1st place. Jason Kipnis has been great for Cleveland in his sophomore season leading the team in home runs (9) and stolen bases (14).
2D) Blue Jays and Braves
This is a series as a Braves fan that I wish I could go down to Turner Field and attend in person. Friday night, the Braves are retiring the great John Smoltz’s number (more on that in a blog tomorrow) and on Saturday is the greatest promotion the team has ever done, Sid Bream Slide Bobblehead Day! Seriously, this thing is awesome and are already being offered on eBay from $55-75. Both the Jays and Braves are playing in tightly contested races in their East divisions. As I type this the AL East is separated by just four games. The NL East is only a game and a half difference between 1st place and 4th place. Every team in those two divsions is .500 or better except for the Phillies, who saw that coming? No wonder why FOUR East interleague series make the “Weekend Watch” this week.
2C) Nationals at Red Sox
1st place vs. last place gets 3rd place here, that’s the average. Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have been wunderkinds in the National League, but how will they do on the road against a quality offense in Boston. Gonzalez’s track record against the Sox while he was in Oakland was not very good as he has a 5.79 ERA over 28 innings in his career. Red Sox Kevin Youkilis also feasts on Gonzalez pitching going 6 for 11 in his career. I’m also intrigued to see Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return on Saturday to the Red Sox after recovering from Tommy John surgery. If he can give Boston anything after they had to send down Daniel Bard to AAA it’d be a great plus.
2B) Mets at Yankees
The Subway Series means something! The Yankees have been on fire winning 10 of their last 13 games going into Thursday night’s game with the Rays. The Mets are still reveling in the teams first no-hitter by Johan Santana last Friday night and he’ll start the opener against Huroki Kuroda. The no-hitter has been an extra spring in the step of Mets fans. I live in Connecticut, where you get a mixture of Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox fans. I’ve seen more Mets hats and jerseys in the past week than I had the entire season before Santana’s no-no. Wonder if some will actually try to infiltrate the Bronx this weekend. Derek Jeter thrives against his cross-town rivals hitting .385, the best batting average he has against any team he has 40 at-bats against.
2A) Rays at Marlins
The Battle for Florida means something! I don’t expect a lot of runs this weekend between these two as the pitching matchups are pretty solid and Marlins Park has played towards the pitcher so far. I really want to see if Matt Moore can continue his recent success as he has a 2.55 ERA over his last three starts compared to a 7.20 ERA his three starts before that. Maybe he can still salvage my AL Rookie of the Year pick. Mike Trout you say? Yeah, I’m doomed. James Shields vs. Anibal Sanchez on Sunday is an underrated pitchers special.
1) Rangers at Giants
Can’t be yelled at for East Coast bias if I put the Rangers and Giants in the top spot! Despite Tim Lincecum’s worst efforts the Giants are the hottest team in the National League winning 8 of their last 10 games. The Rangers have only won one game in each series against the Mariners, Angels, and Athletics coming into this series. Roy Oswalt can’t get up to the Majors fast enough it seems as Derek Holland now joins Neftali Feliz on the DL from the rotation. Alexi Ogando will come out of the bullpen to make the start in place of Holland. Even better is that this could be a potential World Series match-up down the road.
Mapes Fantasy Special
Another great week for the Mapes Fantasy Special. I’m now 10-2 since moving the Mapes Fantasy Special over to the Weekend Watch. I’ll slow clap for myself. Here are this weeks picks, remember these pitchers must be available in 50% or more of Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues.
6/8 Gavin Floyd (32% owned) vs. Astros, Floyd has been absolutely terrible lately, but if he can’t do it at home against the Astros I have no hope for him. I wish I could just quit you Gavin.
6/9 Scott Diamond (22% owned) vs. Cubs, Diamond has been a find in the rough for the Twins, sorry I couldn’t resist, he’s been stellar going 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Even better are his 4 walks in 38.2 innings this season. Diamond faces the Cubs who have drawn the 4th least walks in the Majors this season, bodes well for him if they put in in play at Target Field.
6/10 Andy Pettitte (49% owned) vs. Mets, I have no explanation for what Pettitte is doing right now, so I’m just gonna enjoy the ride before he gets over 50% owned.
What are you looking forward to this weekend? Who do you like in fantasy? Tweet me using #MapesFantasySpecial
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Earlier edition of Weekend Watch this week. Only three games on a Thursday night? Something seems off with that, I’m currently filling my time with the Women’s College World Series and Scripps National Spelling Bee. Would it kill them to make sure there is a day game every day? Here’s what I’m excited for this weekend.
5) Braves at Nationals
I’ve decided to stop putting the Braves near the top spot in these rankings every week, but this match-up is still too juicy to not include at all. Nationals befuddled the Braves at Turner Field this weekend while Atlanta was in the midst of a 8-game losing streak. Taking two of three from the Cardinals put some spring in their step heading on the road. Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman’s returns were sorely needed for the Braves offense. Almost the same pitching duels as last weekend as we’ll see Mike Minor/Stephen Strasburg and Brandon Beachy/Gio Gonzalez part deux, along with Tommy Hanson/Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday. Gonzalez was the most impressive last Sunday shutting down the Braves to one hit over seven innings with 10 strikeouts. He now leads the NL in strikeouts and K/9. Was that start enough to take my NL Cy Young in the “Too Early MLB Awards”? Answer coming this weekend. Weird but true stat: Michael Bourn already has five home runs this season, he had four in 2010 and 2011 combined.
4) Yankees at Tigers
The Tigers have been the biggest team disappointment in the Majors this season sitting at just 23-27 so far in a weak AL Central. Doug Fister is heading back to the DL to join teammate Austin Jackson. Tigers might be in some trouble with the Yankees coming to town. CC Sabathia is heading to the hill for the opener against Casey Crosby, who has a 4.26 ERA in AAA this season. What does bode well for Tigers fans is the Yankee lineup typically has trouble with pitchers they have never seen before. I’m excited to watch Justin Verlander on Sunday take on the Yankee lineup in a rematch from the 2011 ALDS. Not weird but true stat: CC Sabathia has more losses against the Tigers (12) than any other team.
3) Marlins at Phillies
There is no team hotter in the Majors than the Miami Marlins. Their 21 wins in May set the franchise record for wins in a month. The Phillies were dealt a tough blow with the loss of ace Roy Halladay for 6-8 weeks, but still have enough rotation goodness to survive. Kyle Kendrick has filled in admirably thus far and Vance Worley should be due back shortly. Cole Hamels with his 8-1 record and 2.43 ERA is also in the running for the “Too Early MLB Awards” NL Cy Young. Two plugs for a future blog in this blog? Oops. Weird but true stat: Giancarlo Stanton is 3 for 4 this season with two outs and the bases loaded with two grand slams. He loves the pressure. Please vote for him to go to Kansas City for the All-Star Game.
2) Orioles at Rays
Typically, I would put the battle of teams tied for the division lead in the AL East in the top spot, but A) I don’t want to hear about any East Coast bias and B) there’s a match-up that intrigues me slightly more. Orioles are hitting a rough patch right now, just 2-8 in their last 10 games, but did take two of three from the Rays, three weeks ago. Wei-Yin Chen has been a find for Baltimore and will take on David Price in the Friday opener. I’m also intrigued to see if shutting down a then-hot White Sox offense on Memorial Day is enough for Matt Moore to turn the corner. Would make me feel a lot better about picking him to win AL Rookie of the Year and AL Cy Young in the preseason. Signing a new extension hasn’t slowed down Adam Jones as he’s hitting .385 with two home runs since the press conference before last Sunday’s game. Not weird but true stat: Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson has beaten the Orioles more times (4) than any other team in his young career.
1) Rangers at Angels
So why this series over Orioles/Rays? I want to watch how the Rangers respond to getting 20+ runs put up on them by the Mariners. I want to see if Albert Pujols hot streak continues. I want to watch Mark Trumbo demolish pitches. I want to see Mike Trout do everything. (Told you I’d rather have him than Bryce Harper this season.) I want to see Yu Darvish pitch against C.J. Wilson. I want to see if Mike Trout can chase down Yu Darvish for AL Rookie of the Year. I want to see if Dan Haren has really turned things around. I want to see if the Angels can get over the .500 hump and make the AL West interesting. Last but definitely not least, I want to watch Josh Hamilton. Weird but true stat: Yu Darvish has given up 9 ER in 9.2 IP against the Mariners and 13 ER in 50.1 IP against every other team he’s faced. I asked for votes for Giancarlo Stanton before for the All-Star game, now it’s Mark Trumbo’s turn. He’s hitting .348 this season with 10 home runs this season while bouncing around from 3B to 1B to RF, to LF, to DH. If that doesn’t convince you, let my friends at the MLB Fan Cave try and do it.
Mapes Fantasy Special
A great 3-0 week last week as Ivan Nova, Mark Buehrle, and especially R.A. Dickey came through with starts that helped your fantasy team. These are now 15-5 on positive starts on the season. Sadly, Dickey and Buehrle have moved over the 50% owned threshold for Mapes Fantasy Special, so let’s see what I can find for this weekend.
6/1 Wade Miley at Padres (45% owned), Might as well go with our Three Up player on the podcast this week. Miley has been great and you have to like facing the Padres at Petco even with the return of Carlos Quentin.
6/2 Brandon McCarthy at Royals (45% owned), I’m not feeling too strong about this one with McCarthy just coming off the DL. It is a nice spot though against a KC team that is just 5-17 at home this year. McCarthy gave up 2 ER in 6 IP earlier this year against the Royals.
6/3 Barry Zito vs. Cubs (22% owned) I really like Zito here at home coming off a good start against the Diamondbacks. Cubs are 27th in the league in runs scored and are pitching Travis Wood, who hasn’t been great.
Coming soon is my “Too Early MLB Awards” now that June is upon us. Who do you think should be taking the hardware at this point in the season?
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Hope everyone enjoyed their first taste of interleague play last weekend. I know I did with the Braves taking two out of three from the AL East leading Rays. Now that we’re back in traditional league play let’s see what this week has in store. I’ll try to not put the Braves match-up with the Nationals in the top spot, but before I look at everything else, it’s a fair warning it’s going to end up there.
5) Padres at Mets
This match-up would never crack the top five usually, but it makes it for one reason, Banner Day. What is Banner Day, you ask? It used to be a Mets tradition that fans would make giant banners and after the game would walk in a parade around the stadium. Living in Connecticut, I get SNY which airs Mets games. They’ll occasionally show “Mets Yearbook” chronicling a past season and my favorite part to randomly watch is Banner Day footage. The puns are always hilarious. I’m setting the over/under at “We Like Ike” or “He’s got the Wright stuff” at 24.5. Might go under with the way Ike Davis and played this year. Watch this and enjoy!
4) Giants at Marlins
Might have to make the four spot the “Marlins” spot as they’ve now been here each of the last two weeks. The series started Thursday night with a Giants 14-7 victory. Two struggling starters take the hill on Friday in Tim Lincecum and Josh Johnson. The other two pitching battles are solid though as well with Madison Bumgarner and Mark Buehrle on Saturday and Matt Cain taking on Ricky Nolasco on Sunday. I really would like to take this time to make sure you endorse Giancarlo Stanton for the 2012 Home Run Derby. First, he breaks the scoreboard on a grand slam off of Jamie Moyer.
Then follows it up Thursday night with a bomb over the Clevelander nightclub into the Budweiser Balcony in left field.
I’ve said it from the start of the new Marlins Park. Stanton will put one off the glass in left field at some point.
3) Phillies at Cardinals
Another series that started Thursday with a high-scoring affair 10-9 in favor of the Phillies. This series also features two solid pitching duels with Cliff Lee and Kyle Lohse on Friday and Roy Halladay/Adam Wainwright on Sunday. As we discussed on Kelsey’s Kardinals Injury Korner the Cardinals offense is in shambles and add Matt Carpenter to the disabled list. Halladay and Lee should be able to pick apart the depleted Redbirds lineup. This series also features two of the best catchers in the National League in Carlos Ruiz and Yadier Molina. National League catcher might not the deepest, but also the most difficult position to choose for the 2012 All-Star Game. Who do you send home from Molina, Ruiz, Brian McCann, Buster Posey, and I’m being serious with these last two, Jonathan Lucroy and A.J. Ellis. There are going to be a lot of disappointed backstops.
2) Blue Jays at Rangers
Here’s a chance for the Jays to make a statement and show the rest of the American League that they are for real and can contend for the playoffs. Brandon Morrow goes in game one for Toronto after becoming the 1st pitcher in MLB to have two shutouts this season. Yu Darvish should be in line for a good start on Sunday for Texas, seeing as he’s dominated every team not named the Mariners in his short career. No home runs in the past 11 games for Josh Hamilton, ugh what’s wrong with that guy. Please note sarcasm.
1) Nationals at Braves
The battle for NL East lead. I tried to promise not making it number one, but it’s the only series that will decide who is leading a division come Monday. I’ll keep it short, but the Sunday match-up of Gio Gonzalez and Brandon Beachy may decide the winner of the NL Cy Young in my “Too Early MLB Awards” coming at the start of June. This is my favorite game of the weekend, no bias I promise.
Mapes Fantasy Special
I hit a rough patch going 1-2 last week with Henderson Alvarez and Jarrod Parker getting crushed at home, while John Danks through 6 shutout, go figure. Naturally, Parker’s next start was fantastic. Here’s what I have for this weekend, remember they must be 50% owned or less. 12-5 record on the season.
5/25 Ivan Nova (48% owned) at Athletics, 2-0 in his career against Oakland, the ERA isn’t great, but Nova is coming off the best strikeout performance of his career. He should be solid in that ballpark.
5/26 Mark Buehrle (47% owned) vs. Giants, Going back to the well with Buehrle who performed admirably for me at home in a Mapes Fantasy Special two weeks ago. Hard to expect a win against Madison Bumgarner or a ton of K’s, but good peripherals will carry the day.
5/27 R.A. Dickey (49% owned) vs. Padres, I might be copping out a little bit taking three guys really close to the 50% threshold, but I didn’t think Dickey would be available. He never gets enough credit and is a quality start machine. Plus, it’s Banner Day! Kudos to any Mets fans to can sneak in a Dickey pun on the field.
What would your Mets banner say? Let me know in the comments. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend and take some time to thank a soldier for their service to our country.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
The NL East has a lot of tight battles for best player at each position. Here is what I’m going on my All-NL East team.
The Starting Lineup:
1) Jose Reyes, Shortstop, Marlins
It was tough to decide who should bat leadoff, but Reyes OBP edge over Michael Bourn was a deciding factor. Reyes can be the most exciting player in the game when healthy, especially when going for a triple, a category he’s led four times in his career. He’s also the obvious pick at shortstop in this division.
Honorable Mention: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
2) Michael Bourn, Center Field, Braves
If Reyes doesn’t get on base, then Bourn hopefully will. This takes a page out of the Marlins book that speed kills, but instead of Emilio Bonifacio, we have the player that led the National League in stolen bases the last three seasons in Michael Bourn.
Honorable Mention: Shane Victorino, Phillies
3) David Wright, Third Base, Mets
This was the hardest position to fill in the entire division. You can make a case for Wright, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, or even Chipper Jones’ leadership skills. I already have enough speed at the top with Reyes and Bourn. Wright is a career .300 hitter and is the prototypical #3 hitter.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, and Chipper Jones, Braves
4) Dan Uggla, Second Base, Braves
The defense isn’t there, but no one can clean up like Dan Uggla. Uggla is the only second baseman in history with five consecutive seasons of 30 home runs or more. With Chase Utley’s injury problems this pick is easy.
Honorable Mention: Chase Utley, Phillies
5) Hunter Pence, Right Field, Phillies
This was another difficult choice for this position with Giancarlo Stanton and Jayson Werth sitting there. I’ll show restraint on my love of Stanton and go with the more proven player in Pence. Pence has flourished into a .300 hitter and a sleeper MVP candidate for the Phillies.
Honorable Mention: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Jayson Werth, Nationals
6) Brian McCann, Catcher, Braves
This might be the only division where the catcher hits ahead of the 1st baseman. McCann has been the most consistent offensive catcher in MLB. McCann has won four straight Silver Sluggers and made six straight All-star appearances.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies and Wilson Ramos, Nationals
7) Ike Davis, First Base, Mets
First base has a lot of young talent in this division, but no clear-cut choice. I’m going to go with Davis who I feel has the most upside of the NL East first baseman. Davis is unfortunately off to a terrible start to the 2012 campaign.
Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Braves and Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
8) Juan Pierre, Left Field, Phillies
Left field is the weakest of the positions in this division. I would love to just move Giancarlo Stanton over to left field, but I digress. I’m going to put Pierre in the lineup over Jason Bay and Logan Morrison just for the speed factor in the bottom of the lineup.
Honorable Mention: Logan Morrison, Marlins and Jason Bay, Mets
Roy Halladay, Phillies
Cliff Lee, Phillies
Cole Hamels, Phillies
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
Josh Johnson, Marlins
I’m not even going to mess around with the best 1-2-3 rotation in baseball and let them do their thing. Strasburg has been fantastic so far this season and seems to be completely recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2010. Josh Johnson when healthy is one of the best starters in the game.
Honorable Mention: Tommy Hanson, Braves, Mark Buerhle, Marlins, and Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
Jonny Venters, Braves
Tyler Clippard, Nationals
Venters is arguably the best relief pitcher in the game and made his 1st All-star appearance in 2011. Clippard joined Venters at the 2011 All-Star Game in Arizona, making the NL East the only division to have two setup men play in the midseason classic last year.
Honorable Mention: Eric O’ Flaherty, Braves and Antonio Bastardo, Phillies
Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies
Hard to go against reigning Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel, but I love the consistency that Papelbon has shown during his career. It was a sneaking signing by Philadelphia to lure him away from the Red Sox.
Honorable Mention: Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Drew Storen, Nationals, and Heath Bell, Marlins
Who would you put on your All-NL East team? Let us know in the comments!
We’re two weeks into the MLB season. Raise your hand if you had the Dodgers at 9-1 and the Angels at 3-6 in Los Angeles. If you put your hand up, put it down. I can’t believe you would lie to me like that. Here’s what I think on this beautiful Patriots Day.
1) I’ll believe in the Dodgers record when they play better teams. The San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t exactly the strongest teams in Major League Baseball. Matt Kemp is making his case for the best player in the league. Kemp currently leads the National League in slugging (1.026), OPS (1.548), home runs (6), total bases (40), runs batted in (16), runs (13) and hits (19). Hitting .487 apparently isn’t good enough for the league-lead, thanks a lot David Wright. The Dodgers have the Brewers and Astros on the road, then come home for the Braves and Nationals. We’ll know a lot more about them after those two weeks, than these first two.
2) Santiago Casilla should get a shot at the Giants closer role once again. We talked about it on the podcast and I have to re-emphasize it. Casilla was able to convert 6 of 7 save chances last leason and has been dazzling with a sub 2.00 ERA in each of the past two years. Casilla would be more suited for the clean slate 9th inning role trying to pick up saves. He would be better suited to be able to work himself out of trouble as he’s more prone to walking batters than Sergio Romo. Romo should be saved for the high-pressure situations. Romo’s 13.1 K/9 in 2011 is better served in jams when the Giants need a strikeout to prevent runs from scoring.
3) Don’t get off the Matt Moore bandwagon just yet. My controversial pick for AL Cy Young is off to a shaky start with a 5.54 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. Facing the Tigers and the Red Sox on the road can do that to you. The Red Sox used their usual game plan of taking a lot of pitches and Moore obliged with four walks in 6.1 innings. Look for Moore to get on track at home this week against the Twins.
4) No Pujols, no LaRussa, no Duncan, no problem for the St. Louis Cardinals. David Freese looks like the real deal so far after those expecting a drop off after his postseason heroics. Carlos Beltran’s under-the-radar signing has paid early dividends. Lance Lynn has stepped right into the rotation spot left empty by Chris Carpenter’s injury with a 2-0 record and a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings. The only setback has Adam Wainwright who still doesn’t seem right coming back from Tommy John surgery.
5) All the teams in the NL East will finish over .500. The Phillies and Braves were the obvious teams on this list at the start of the season and are off to so-so starts. The surprises have been the Nationals and Mets who are 7-3 and 6-3 respectively. The Nationals pitching that I said was the most underrated staff coming into the 2012 season has been spectaular with an ERA under 2.00 through the first 10 games. The Marlins once they get through their off-the-field problems and can focus on baseball will be there in the end. How spectacular was the home run structure going off in Marlins Park? We all owe Omar Infante a debt of gratitude for setting it off. Here’s the link to it.
What do you think so far about the season? Let us know in the comments!