There’s been a long debate over the wave at baseball games since it’s inception in the 1980’s. Many seem it was fun when it first started and is still awesome to do when there’s a full crowd that makes it look good. It seems that the tide has turned on the wave and true baseball fans want to just enjoy the game without fans standing up in front of them repeatedly. After this column from Dan Steinberg from the DC Sports Bog, Nationals superstar is the next to weigh in and wants the wave to stay, especially at Nationals Park.
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) April 30, 2013
And followed it up with the backing of teammate Jayson Werth.
All-star shortstop is also in on Nationals fans continuing to do the wave during games.
Wave on DC, wave on.
— Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) April 30, 2013
Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus also weighed in on the controversy.
As a player I could care less if people do the wave. And I think it is ridiculous if fans are being ejected for doing the wave.
— Ryan Mattheus (@RyanMattheus) April 30, 2013
What are your thoughts on the wave? Should it stay or should fans be paying more attention to what’s on the field than in the stands? Let us know in the comments!
-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)
Wow, what a crazy, improbable, unbelievable Division Series week we just witnessed. This is why baseball is pure magic. Whether or not you are a fan of the four teams left, you can’t deny that they all earned their way in. After four Game 5’s in four series, we finally got the NLCS and ALCS matchups finalized with a ridiculous game in Washington.
In the type of game that has become routine for the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, they laughed at a 6-0 deficit in the third inning and slowly chipped away to cut the lead to 7-5 by the top of the ninth inning.
Luckily for Cardinals fans, this team is at it’s best when down to their last strike of the season. With the bases loaded, Daniel Descalso hit a game-tying single, then came around to score on a single by rookie shortstop Pete Kozma. The Cards held on to win 9-7 and advance to the NLCS, shocking the nation’s capitol and pastime’s fan base in the process…again.
My girlfriend is the biggest Cardinals fan in the world, and this is her reaction video to watching that top of the 9th inning. She had to record, turn off her phone, and watch later – I already knew what had happened but kept my best poker face on for the next few hours as we watched it back. She had no idea I was taping her reaction. But check out what pure, unadulterated love for a baseball team looks like:
That’s a good fan if I’ve ever seen one. Good luck to the Cardinals, Giants, Tigers and Yankees in the Championship Series, starting tonight in New York!
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Wei-Yin Chen gave us his 2nd consecutive successful #MapesFantasySpecial last night, despite not getting a win. Mets Matt Harvey had his start pushed back due to rain, so we’ll see how that plays out tonight. I’m not sure he can get a win against Cole Hamels, but hopefully the peripherals and strikeouts will be there. Here’s what I like for Thursday, September 20th that’s available in more than half of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was featured on this week’s podcast as a 3UP player and I really like him at home against the White Sox. Guthrie shut down the White Sox just a week and a half ago, tossing eight shutout innings. Even more impressive, Guthrie has had three starts against the White Sox since coming to Kansas City, would you like to guess how many runs he’s given up in 23.2 innings? That’s right, zero! I’ll trust him one more time to get solid numbers, he’s owned in just 15% of fantasy leagues.
If You’re Desperate: Cardinals Jaime Garcia (49% owned) takes on the Astros in a solid matchup, but has been so terribly up and down since returning from injury he might no be worth the chance. Brewers rookie Michael Fiers (45% owned) had 10 strikeouts, last time he faced the Pirates, but has a 5.40 ERA in two starts against Pittsburgh this year. A’s Tommy Milone (44% owned) hasn’t been good on the road this season and takes on Detroit at Comerica. No thanks. Nationals Ross Detwiler (35% owned) has been good this season and could help your WHIP, but don’t expect a ton of strikeouts. If you need strikeouts and can afford the ERA/WHIP hit, Francisco Liriano (35% owned) could get you some strikeouts, but got lit up last time out against KC. Lastly, Giants Barry Zito (21% owned) got beat up by Colorado last time at home, 4ER over 5.1 IP, but is 6-2 in his career with a 2.59 ERA and 1.09 WHIP against the Rockies. The Rockies do have trouble scoring runs on the road, except against Andrew Cashner of course.
If You’re Desperate Rankings: Fiers, Zito, Detwiler, Garcia, Liriano, Milone
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
The choices for the #MapesFantasySpecial are pretty slim on Wednesday, but I think there are a couple options that could help your fantasy team.
We featured his Brewers teammate Wily Peralta on this week’s podcast, but Marco Estrada has been just as great as Milwaukee has made a push for the playoffs. Estrada has given up just 1ER or less in four of his last five starts, with three of them giving up no earned runs at all. Estrada takes on a Pirates squad that he gave up just one earned run in seven innings with 10 strikeouts just three starts ago. If he puts up even slightly worse numbers, it’s a worthy pick-up that’s available in 73% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
If You’re Desperate: Rays rookie Chris Archer has great strikeout potential (28K in 22.1IP) if you need a boost there. If you’re worried about the match-up against Boston, in Archer’s last start he shut down Texas over 7 innings with 11 strikeouts. Archer is owned in just 5% of leagues. Reds Mike Leake (10% owned) has good numbers in his career against the Cubs, but gave up 3ER in six innings last time he pitched at Wrigley. Orioles Joe Saunders (12% owned) has a juicy match-up at the Mariners and has settled down since getting roughed up in his first start with Baltimore. Unfortunately, he’s going up against King Felix, so don’t go in expecting a win. John Lannan (4% owned) was great in his 1st start back in place of Stephen Strasburg tossing 5.2 shutout innings. The Dodgers lineup still hasn’t been great and Lannan is 4-1 in his career against Los Angeles. Don’t expect to get many strikeouts though.
If You’re Desperate Rankings: Archer, Saunders, Leake, Lannan
Good luck in your fantasy leagues!
9/18 4 PM Update: Mets pitcher Matt Harvey was scratched from his start Tuesday night and will start Wednesday 9/19 instead. I like him more than any of these.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
I didn’t plan on the Andy Murray/Novak Djokovic going an epic five sets, but still making it to Mets/Nationals after for a few innings is pretty awesome. For those wondering, Murray beat Djokovic 7-6 (12-10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 to become the first British man in 76 years to win a tennis major. Over at Citi Field, Gio Gonzalez became the first 19-game winner in the Majors this season as the Nationals beat the Mets 5-1.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
It’s September which means call-up have joined MLB rosters and there’s nothing that helps some camaraderie in the clubhouse quite like the veterans getting in some rookie hazing. We all should be against hazing that causes bodily harm, but I see nothing wrong with making rookies dress up in goofy outfits. No team does this quite like the Washington Nationals. We were greeted last year by the Nats rookies dressed up as the Smurfs, naturally with Stephen Strasburg as Papa Smurf.
Look at the commitment to the hazing with full-blown, blue body paint. They even complete the awesomeness with Wilson Ramos taking the role of Smurfette and Danny Espinosa (far left) as Hefty Smurf. How can you top this?
The Nationals give us another year of solid hazing tactics by having the rookies get in the Olympic spirit and have a tribute to the “Fantastic Five” that took home team gymastics gold in London. We’ve seen rookies dress up as cheerleaders plenty of times, but I’ve never seen gymnasts. Bryce Harper is looking fierce up front, I think he’s the Jordyn Wieber of the group. No confirmation if McKayla Maroney is not impressed with the Nationals antics.
Let’s see what Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and company have in store for 2013. They’ve set the bar high.
-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)
Three Up, Three Down comes back this week to recap the big news in baseball. We hit the DL and also attack ‘Mapes Too Early Awards’. It also wouldn’t be a “Three Up, Three Down” without our 3U3D Fantasy segment, which continues to provide you with some very good picks. Sit down, grab your favorite beer, and take a listen to this week’s episode. Thanks for listening!!
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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)