Time to finish up the American League with the American League East where the Red Sox finally bring back bobblehead giveaways in 2014. While you’re here check out the AL Central and AL West bobblehead battles. As a reminder, each bobblehead will be rated 1-5 stars based on quality of subject, originality, number available, and overall awesomeness. Teams will be ranked by total stars, so the more giveaways (especially quality ones) the better.
Boston Red Sox (all fans in attendance)
Monday, April 7th, David Ortiz: You couldn’t ask for a better Red Sox player to start the bobblehead giveaways with. This would’ve been a perfect ***** if it had been of Ortiz raising his fist telling Boston to stay strong. Red Sox are going to rate highly giving these away to every fan. ****
Wednesday, April 30th, Dustin Pedroia: And if you were going to pick a 2nd player on the current Red Sox to immortalize on a bobblehead, it would be former AL MVP Dustin Pedroia. Better have real dirt stains! ***1/2
Tuesday, September 9th, Pedro Martinez: Come on Red Sox! No bobbling goodness in May, June, July, or August? For shame! You get some redemption with the best pitcher in Red Sox history and the man who asks “Who is Karim Garcia?” ***1/2
Total: 11 stars
New York Yankees (18,000 fans)
Thursday, June 19th, Mark Teixeira: Yankees bobbleheads in 2013 were a murderer’s row (unfortunately not the actual Murderer’s Row) with Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Yogi Berra, and Mariano Rivera. This years crop? Not so much, starting off with the oft-injured Yankees first baseman. **
Wednesday, July 2nd, Lou Gehrig: I love this bobblehead and is by far the best one in the Yankees crop. It celebrates the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech, it’s a must have, especially if you can get the Twins one to pair with it. ****1/2
Sunday, July 27th, Paul O’Neill: A solid Yankees player that has found a home in the YES broadcasts with the team, so he’ll be in attendance for this one. Don’t think there will be as much excitement for this one than Matsui last year. ** 1/2
Wednesday, August 20th, Joe Girardi: Has Yankees World Series rings as a player and as a manager and is worthy of a bobblehead, but I can’t get too excited for it. **
Total: 11 stars
Tampa Bay Rays (20,000 fans)
Saturday, April 5th, Wil Myers Rookie of the Year: I just like the way that this bobblehead looks. Props to the AL East for having larger giveaway numbers. ***
Friday, May 23rd, Alex Cobb Military Themed: I’m interested to see how this one ends up looking, but it sounds pretty solid. For now, though. ** 1/2
Saturday, September 6th, Evan Longoria 80’s Hair Band: Another Rays bobblehead that I need to see to believe. I want to have faith that this is going to be spectacular though. *** 1/2
Total: 9 stars
Toronto Blue Jays (20,000 fans)
Sunday, April 27th, R.A. Dickey: This Dickey bobblehead would’ve meant more if he had repeated his 2012 performance north of the border, but it’s a good effort and he deserves it. ** 1/2
Sunday, June 8th, Jose Reyes: I can basically say the same thing for Reyes that I said for Dickey, right? ** 1/2
Sunday, August 24th, Mark Buerhle: Let the 2013 Blue Jays disappointment bobblehead train continue! **
Total: 8 stars
Baltimore Orioles (Promotion schedule not posted as of 3/7)
What do you think is the best bobblehead collection in the AL East? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Really? This is either a journalist’s worst nightmare or an editor’s best prank, depending on how you look at it:
After R.A. Dickey exited his start against the Chicago White Sox in Toronto with back and neck stiffness, the Jays were able to hold on to a victory. But still, there’s no way this headline wasn’t intentional. Or so I thought.
Upon digging for the original article, I found multiple links that informed me: “Oops. There’s something wrong with that link.”
Yeah, what was wrong is you failed to notice that R.A.’s last name sounds like the phallic slang for “Richard” and that the common understanding of “happy ending” is…well, I won’t go there. When you put the two together…I don’t need to help you with that. Just know that it’s commonplace in the sketchiest of massage parlors.
I don’t know what else to say, besides oh, Canada. We love you.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
A ton happened in the American League East this offseason, the Blue Jays traded for and signed everybody under the sun, the Yankees can’t stay healthy, the Red Sox have a new manager, the Rays said goodbye to James Shields and hello to Wil Myers, and well the Orioles, they didn’t do much. Who will win possibly the most unpredictable division in the Majors? Let’s take a look!
Projected Order of Finish: Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles
Why the Rays could win the A.L. East: Let’s start off with defending Cy Young winner David Price anchoring a young and talented starting rotation. James Shields may be gone, but there is still plenty of firepower with maturing Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann. Not to mention Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings. The bullpen is the best in the division with Fernando Rodney coming off the lowest ERA in the history of the league, plus excellent setup men in Joel Peralta and Jake McGee. We’re still waiting on the superstar break out season from Evan Longoria. If it happens in 2013, the Rays are in great shape. I’ve also now gone this entire paragraph without mentioning Joe Maddon, who is the best manager in the game today.
Why the Rays wouldn’t win the the A.L. East: The young rotation guys aren’t quite ready. Evan Longoria spends more than half the season on the disabled list like in 2012. Fernando Rodney reverts back to the Fernando Rodney before 2012 and doesn’t carry over the “magic plantain” powers from the World Baseball Classic. Desmond Jennings still isn’t ready to take the next step. Yunel Escobar gets himself in trouble. The Blue Jays really are that good.
Why the Blue Jays could win the A.L. East: The talent the Jays assembled is the best that they’ve had since their 1993 World Series championship team. The starting rotation is talented and experienced with Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the spectacular, but oft-injured Josh Johnson, the bulldog Mark Buerhle, and “awesome when his stuff is on” Brandon Morrow. It’s not just the rotation that’s revamped though. Jose Reyes now sits atop an explosive lineup with two-time home run champion Jose Bautista and WBC teammate Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs last season. The Jays also added Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average, before he was suspended for fifty games.
Why the Blue Jays wouldn’t win the A.L. East: It’s not very often the team built to succeed immediately actually succeeds. Just ask the Angels and the Marlins last year. The bullpen still has a ton of question marks. Is Casey Janssen ready to be a big-time closer on a winning team? Is Sergio Santos completely healthy? Can Darren Oliver keep it up at 42 years-old? The Blue Jays better hope the answer is yes to two of three of those. Edwin Encarnacion could have had a fluke season instead of a breakout one. Plus, can Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind keep their heads on straight and hit the way they were supposed to as highly touted prospects?
Why the Red Sox could win the A.L. East: First off, maybe they really just disliked Bobby Valentine so much that they went into tanking mode to ensure he was gone. John Farrell will provide an upgrade in the dugout and in the clubhouse. Jon Lester looks ready to return to form after a terrible 2012. The lineup is solid enough, especially when David Ortiz is healthy. Shane Victorino provides enough of a clubhouse presence and more importantly, enough of a bat, to keep Boston in contention. Jackie Bradley is everything Red Sox fans think he really is.
Why the Red Sox wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The heels of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury get the Sox off on the “wrong foot”. Jonny Gomes is primarily involved defensively. The starters after Jon Lester (and even Jon Lester if he’s in 2012 form) aren’t top-notch. Ryan Dempster needs to be the first half of 2012, not the second half. Clay Buchholz has fallen apart after showing so much promise in 2010. John Lackey is John Lackey. The bullpen is revamped with closer-quality pitchers in Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Koji Uehara, but they all need to stay healthy.
Why the Yankees could win the A.L. East: They’re the Yankees and you can never count them out. They rally around Mariano Rivera, who’s retiring at the end of the season, to get him one more chance in the playoffs. The injuries that they’ve experienced in Spring Training aren’t as bad as originally thought for Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Alex Rodriguez and they can provide enough, especially in the 2nd half. The pitching keeps it together (minus Hughes) with experience at the top (CC Sabathia, Huroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte) and youth at the bottom (Ivan Nova and David Phelps). The bullpen with a returning Rivera, David Robertson, and a fully-healthy Joba Chamberlain could be the best in the division. Robinson Cano plays completely out of his mind for a contract and is the clear-cut AL MVP.
Why the Yankees wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The injury bug is just too much. The names “Vernon Wells”, “Juan Rivera”, “Lyle Overbay” and “Travis Hafner” are predominantly involved in the lineup after the All-Star break. They stick to their payroll to stay under the luxury tax and it prevents them from going after what they need at the trade deadline.
Why the Orioles could win the A.L. East: Winning one-run games (MLB best 29-9 in 2012) was actually skill and not luck. The bullpen of Darren O’ Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson doesn’t wear down in a bullpen than threw the 4th most innings in MLB last season. Buck Showalter continues to work his magic in Charm City and wins A.L. Manager of the Year. Baltimore calls up Dylan Bundy and he immediately becomes a lights-out staff ace. Manny Machado excels in his first full year in the Majors, while Adam Jones continues his path to super-stardom evolving into a near 30-30 player.
Why the Orioles wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The statistics guys are right and the Orioles regress to the mean in one-run games. The starting pitching doesn’t hold up like it did last year. Seriously though, this is the worst rotation on paper in the division. With the lineups in the A.L. East it might be tough for them to keep afloat.
Evan Longoria and David Price-Rays
Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista-Blue Jays
Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox
David Price and Fernando Rodney-Rays
CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera-Yankees
Jon Lester-Red Sox
R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow-Blue Jays
Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers and Chris Archer-Rays
Jackie Bradley and Jose Iglesias-Red Sox
Who do you think takes the crown in the A.L. East? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
After a big scare, USA advanced to the 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic! Joining the Americans will be the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy. Yes, Italy. Forza Italia! Jeremy and Mapes are back with their picks for “Round Two Pool Two” for World Baseball Classic Fantasy. Mapes took the Pool C/D 1st round draft 124-121 over Jeremy (despite Brett Lawrie’s injury), but Jeremy has a sizable lead in “Round Two Pool One”, with just Netherlands vs. Japan left. Remember, for this draft we must have at least two players from each team and no more than four from any country. Mapes picked first last time, so Jeremy will have the 1st pick in this round of drafting!
Countries to pick from: USA, Italy, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico
Positions: C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, OF, OF, Util, SP, SP, RP, RP
Hitter scoring: Single: 1, Double: 2, Triple: 3, Home run: 4, Run scored: 1, RBI: 1, Stolen base: 1
Pitcher scoring: Out recorded: 1, Hit or walk allowed: -1, Run allowed: -2, Strikeout: 1, Win: 10, Loss: -5, Save: 5
Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Robinson Cano, 2B (Dominican Republic)
I learned my lesson in round one. NEVER BET AGAINST ROBBIE CANO! That being said, I knew I had to take the Dominican slugger (and arguably the MVP of the entire tournament so far) first overall. Sorry, Mapes!
Pick #2- Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, OF (USA)
NOOOOOOO!!!! Cano was going to be my top pick. I’m going to go back to the well with Ryan Braun and hope that he can snap out of his little funk he had in round one. He typically doesn’t hit well at Chase Field, so I hope that’s all it was.
My starting pitcher plan was to grab who is facing Italy, but I don’t know who actually is. I’m going to go with Gio, who is rested and ready to go. He’s pitching in his hometown of Miami and has more pitches to work with. I think he can get a win against Puerto Rico.
Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Yadier Molina, C (Puerto Rico)
Redemption! It’s so, so sweet. After suffering through round one with Carlos Santana (just kidding, he wasn’t that bad), I knew I had to take my boy Yadi with this pick. His bat’s starting to heat up, and that’s bad news for opposing pitchers.
Pick #5- Team Mapes: Jose Reyes, SS (Dominican Republic)
You took one half of the Dominican dominance up the middle, so I can’t let you have the other. Reyes was great in game one, but fell off a little in the other two games. However, he’s the clear top shortstop in this pool and I’m happy to have him.
Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: David Wright, 3B (USA)
I should have known to take Wright last time, given his history in the WBC. There has been no player more clutch than Wright in the Classic over the years, and I’m betting on him coming up big again in round two.
Pick #7- Team Mapes: Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Italy)
Keeping with my theme from the last draft involving Italy, I want to make sure I get the best player on that team. That is clearly Anthony Rizzo hitting in the middle of the lineup and the crop of 1st baseman isn’t very strong in this pool.
Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Samuel Deduno, SP (Dominican Republic)
I’m taking a big risk this high, but Deduno was masterful in his first start. I’d prefer that he end up pitching against Team Italy, but I’m pretty comfortable with this guy’s electric stuff on the mound at any point in round two.
Pick #9- Team Mapes: Angel Pagan, OF (Puerto Rico)
I needed to grab someone from Puerto Rico and I have a hard time rooting for Carlos Beltran for some strange reason. *cough Mets* *cough Cardinals* I’ll take Pagan who hit a team-best .455 in round one from the lead-off spot.
Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Craig Kimbrel, RP (USA)
I’m just glad Kimbrel’s around this late. You love your Braves, but I have to nab the guy right here and make sure I have the most dominant closer in the world right now on my squad. If the USA plays a close game (it will), guess who’s getting me at least five points?
Pick #11- Team Mapes: Fernando Rodney, RP (Dominican Republic)
You had to go and take my Braves guy, I see how it is. I can’t let the other closers fall now, so I’m going to get Fernando Rodney who pitched in all three games for the Dominicans. I think they’re going to win a couple games, so there will be save chances for the man with the crooked hat.
Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Xavier Cedeno, RP (Puerto Rico)
Good move grabbing Rodney. He’ll score you some points. I can only hope that Cedeno does the same for me with Team Puerto Rico. He was the best reliever on the team in round one, but it’s still unclear to me if he’s the actual “closer.”
Pick #13- Team Mapes: R.A. Dickey, SP (USA)
I really thought about taking Cedeno because I needed another player from Puerto Rico, good pick Jeremy. I have no clue who Dickey will face, but I hope with some more time under his belt the knuckler will be dancing against whomever he pitches against in round two.
Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, OF (Puerto Rico)
You passed on Beltran, but I refuse to make the same mistake. Not only is Beltran dominant in the MLB postseason, but he has solid numbers across his WBC career. Puerto Rico’s captain clutch should rack up some points for me this round.
Pick #15- Team Mapes: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/Util (Dominican Republic)
Good! You can have Beltran! I wanted to grab the best player on the board for my utility spot and I believe that is the man they call “E5” he hits in the middle of a strong Dominican lineup and I think he’ll put one out of the park this round.
Pick #16 – Team Jeremy: Chris Denorfia, OF (Italy)
One of the reasons I wasn’t worried about you snagging Rizzo early was that I knew you wouldn’t go after Denorfia. Even though his hot start fizzled a little at the end, he’s hitting in front of Rizzo and has good contact and base running abilities. Give me some sneaky points, Chris!
Pick #17- Team Mapes: Alex Liddi, 3B (Italy)
Time to grab another Italian! You wouldn’t let me pick him off the waiver wire when Brett Lawrie went down with a rib injury, so I’m making sure I get him now!
Pick #18 – Team Jeremy: Alejandro De Aza, OF (Dominican Republic)
One of the players I was most impressed with in round one was De Aza, who looks more and more like a sleeper pick in normal fantasy leagues this year. He’s getting on base, scoring runs and swiping bags. Expect more of the same this round.
Pick #19- Team Mapes: Nick Punto, 2B (Italy)
Well, since you took my planned second baseman in Cano, I’ll settle for Nick Punto who was a spark on the top of the Italian lineup. Then hope that it’s Rizzo and Liddi who are knocking him in!
Pick #20 – Team Jeremy: Eric Hosmer, 1B (USA)
Yes, please! Not only do I think Hosmer is a bounce-back candidate in the regular season, but his first two at-bats proved that he’s swinging it on the money right now. The bases-clearing double in the ninth to seal the game was all I needed to confirm this choice.
Pick #21- Team Mapes: Joe Mauer, C (USA)
I need a catcher. Joe Mauer is a catcher. He hits in the middle of the USA lineup. Perfect.
Pick #22 – Team Jeremy: Ryan Vogelsong, SP (USA)
I hate having a Giant on my team, but it paid off last round with Pablo Sandoval and Pagan. I think Vogelsong will get the start against Italy (though if it’s Dominica I may be screwed), and I think he will dominate them.
I probably should’ve taken my boy Giancarlo Stanton returning to Marlins Park, but man his zero points in round one scared me off. I’m going with Alex Rios who has some speed, some power, and I’ll hopefully get three games out of him.
Pick #24 – Team Jeremy: Anthony Granato, SS (Italy)
I just realized that neither of us has Stanton. In his home ballpark. Due for a couple dingers. DANG IT! I’ll move on and collect Granato, the Italian shortstop who put up very good numbers in round one.
Well I’m in a little bit of a pickle for my second reliever. I don’t think Italy wins a game, so that rules out Grilli getting a save. I’m going to the surprise from Team USA in round one in Ross Detwiler. If he comes out as the long reliever, I just hope he’ll rack up some outs and points that way.
Pick #26 – Team Jeremy: Hanley Ramirez, 3B/Util (Dominican Republic)
Smart man, Mapes. Detwiler seems like more of a point-getter to me than Grilli will be. Nice rhyme, huh? Even though Ramirez had one hit in the first round (a monster HR), he’s swinging a hot bat and I think he drops at least one more bomb in round two.
Pool two, round two WBC fantasy draft is in the books! Did we make a mistake not taking Giancarlo Stanton in his home park? Should we have really picked all three American starters? Who would you want on your WBC fantasy squad this round? Let us know in the comments or send us a tweet using #WBCFantasy with the links below!
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)
It’s that time of year again. That time when you realize your resolution to lose 30 pounds failed – in fact, we gained 30, didn’t we? When your declaration that your vampire novel would finally be finished and sent to the publisher, never got off the shelf.
Or that your dream of visiting Tahiti ended up being a shady motel for a weekend in Oakland on business.
Now that we’ve set a bleak mood, here’s the point: It’s New Years resolution time. We will all be making them, whether it’s private or public. And likewise, our favorite MLB teams must have one resolution they are aiming to accomplish in 2013.
Since we survived the apocalypse for now, here are Three Up, Three Down’s resolutions for every MLB team:
Texas Rangers – Make a new friend – The Rangers either shopped in the wrong place or got screwed over for every player on their Christmas wish list. It’s not too late to snag Justin Upton from the D’Backs, though it gets less likely with each passing day. Texas should be going after the powerful right fielder hard in January.
Los Angeles Angels – Make a little money – Hear me out. Everyone knows that Arte Moreno and his Angels are filthy rich, but do they really have enough left over to re-work the decimated starting rotation? Trading for Jason Vargas was a nice touch, but will Vargas, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson really replace Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana?
Oakland A’s – Move to a better ‘hood – Lew Wolff is fooling nobody. Because everyone and their mother knows that o.Co Coliseum is not a viable venue for a professional baseball team. Wolff claims he wants at least another half-decade in Oakland, but I’m calling his bluff. Their resolution should be to get OUT, and fast.
Seattle Mariners – Bulk up – No, not on the Bartolo Colon diet. The M’s took a good first step toward that workout regimen by trading for Kendrys Morales. But just because that punch-less offense now benches the bar doesn’t mean opponents will quiver with fear. The M’s need to go out and get some more power to legitimize those playoff hopes.
Houston Astros – Graduate – It’s no secret that the ‘Stros are a big work in progress. Moving to what was last year’s best division in baseball isn’t going to help things. While the other four teams in the division are – at the very least – grown men, Houston is struggling to graduate from a student to a serious businessman. Can they take that step in 2013?
Detroit Tigers – Learn to close – Take this as you may. There are thousands of frat boys in America resolving to improve in the same fashion next year. But I meant it as a nod to the Tigers getting handled in a sweep in the World Series in 2012. Adding Torii Hunter and bringing back Anibal Sanchez were big steps, but 2013 will be a failure without redemption.
Kansas City Royals – Become a “cool kid” – Oh, don’t pretend like you weren’t aspiring to be one your whole academic life. The Royals got some nice clothes and a haircut over the winter vacation, and are looking to butt their way into the “in” crowd. In baseball speak, that means they are aiming to be the new playoff darlings after adding much-needed pitching.
Cleveland Indians – Get along with Dad – The relationship wasn’t that bad before, but the Indians sure would like to impress new skipper Terry Francona in 2013. Cleveland is loaded with untapped potential, and they are hoping to play well for a full season to show their manager and fans that they are serious about this job.
Chicago White Sox – Prove everyone wrong – Wait, didn’t they do that last year? Sure, but people like me are still unconvinced. Their numbers were unexpectedly good, but that just makes the boss curious. Can they repeat? Do they actually deserve the promotion? The Chisox sure would like to move on up, but they will have a tough road.
Minnesota Twins – Get back on their feet – Plenty of people have to resolve to do this every year. Whether it be an economic downturn, family problem, or injury, some years are just destined to be awful. The Twins know they won’t contend in 2013, but they can start the grueling process of getting back to a stable place.
New York Yankees – Forgiveness – They better learn how, because former public enemy number one, Kevin Youkilis, will be manning third base for the Yanks in 2013. What this really means, is that if Youk bounces back and has a good year, the Yanks will forget all about their problems, and likely return to the postseason.
Boston Red Sox – Get cleaned up – This kind of resolution is usually reserved for a junkie of some kind, but it’ll fit nicely with the BoSox here. Boston got so far off track last season that they traded away millions of dollars in bad contracts for below-average prospects. Once they finish cutting out the rot, the Sox might contend again, even in this division.
Toronto Blue Jays – Build an empire – Such a wish is much more foreboding when applied to business in the real world, but opponents of the Jays should really be terrified of the changes this team has made. Their one and only goal with so many major acquisitions must be to not only make the playoffs, but to dominate everyone on the way.
Tampa Bay Rays – Try something crazy – I want to go skydiving, or hike a volcano, or start a band. The Rays, however, should do a whole different kind of crazy. Start Wil Myers in the big leagues, and see if it takes off. The kid is ready, and the lineup needs a boost. Anything remotely good from Myers may mean a playoff berth for Tampa.
Baltimore Orioles – Update the security system – In this day and age, you can’t be too careful with home security. I’m not talking a drawbridge and moat, but we’ve learned that the best teams are thriving because of good pitching staffs, to protect any other weaknesses they may have. Baltimore NEEDS a couple starting pitchers.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Give to charity – I swear, this isn’t even a “rich ownership” joke. Okay, it kind of is. But with all the money this team has shelled out over the past ten or so months, why isn’t their most deserving commodity seeing any of it? They keep talking about an extension for Clayton Kershaw, but show the fans you mean business!
San Francisco Giants – Share with friends – Not the World Series title itself, although this Dodgers fan would appreciate them passing that honor along next season. I’m talking about the Giants sharing with their San Francisco cohort, the 49ers. As the new year starts, the 49ers will be in contention for a title of their own, and any advice would be great.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Cut ties with a family member – Sometimes it’s just necessary. You hate to see anyone secede from the clan, but signing free agent outfielder Cody Ross makes it inevitable. Will it be Upton? Adam Eaton, Jason Kubel or Gerardo Parra? One will need to go, and it’s only a matter of time before they get dumped.
Colorado Rockies – Get health insurance – I know, I know. It’s not affordable in this country anymore. That’s one thing I won’t argue! But you have to think, given the regularity of major injuries to Colorado’s best players (Michael Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki, etc.) they would find any way to keep everyone off the DL.
San Diego Padres – Earn a promotion – Any opponents who take the Padres lightly in 2013 are foolish. With Chase Headley, Alexi Amarista and Yonder Alonso backing an underrated pitching staff, San Diego could be the A’s of 2013. They will have to fight and scrap their way to get there, though.
Cincinnati Reds – Follow through – This is a tough one for any given person to accomplish. We make all sorts of promises to ourselves that oftentimes go unfinished. The Reds have made a silent pact to be even better than they were last year, and finally achieve what they’ve been on the brink of for years now. They might be the team to beat in the NL next year.
St. Louis Cardinals – Rekindle the flame – In a non-romantic way, of course. One of the reasons the Cardinals were able to shock fans everywhere and make that insane title run in 2011 was the clutch gene. They weren’t missing it last year, but everything was just too inconsistent in St. Louis. If they rediscover their balance and passion, watch out everyone else.
Milwaukee Brewers – Be a good parent – Confused? Good. The Brewers almost clawed their way all the way back into a Wild Card slot in 2012 after a dismal, bullpen-failure-laden start to the year. With a loaded lineup and above average pitching staff, this should not happen again. So their resolution is to help tutor young shortstop Jean Segura into a star.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Improve their grades – The Pirates were so close to being eligible last year. Not for the playoffs, or any nonsense like that. But to finally getting over the hump. Pittsburgh needs a 2.0 to be eligible – in this case, they need 81 wins – to be taken seriously. Will they reach the .500 mark? A slight improvement in 2013 will do it!
Chicago Cubs – Change their image – There really is no changing an entire image built around loss and devastation, as Cubs fans have known all too well for over a century. But even a slight uptick in wins and a breakout season from one of their young stars (Brett Jackson, maybe?) will at least give people hope that they can change.
Washington Nationals – Make up – Adam LaRoche needs to be back in D.C. for 2013. All he wants is one extra year on a contract he has more than earned. Without a doubt, he was the most consistent hitter on the best team in the league in 2012, and should get paid as such. My New Years advice to the Nats is to make up with him. Sign the guy for three years.
Atlanta Braves – Learn acceptance – I remember being taught in psychology that the standard grieving process goes Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Braves fans and any good fan anywhere are surely coming out of the Depression stage right now (I know I am) and trying to transition into Acceptance at the fact that Chipper Jones has retired.
Philadelphia Phillies – Become more patient – This is easier said than done for anyone, but it’s especially pertinent in Philadelphia. From an outsider’s perspective, I thought Philadelphia was caving into a sinkhole given the fans general reaction to last season’s debacle. Patience, Phillie fanatics. Your team is still very, very good. They are close, too.
New York Mets – Have more fun – I presume life as a Mets fan hasn’t been very enjoyable for the past three seasons – well, at least after the All-Star break. But they re-signed poster boy David Wright and gained some really solid prospects in the R.A. Dickey trade. Everything is headed in the right direction, Mets fans. Just calm down and have a little fun with it.
Miami Marlins – Make amends with people – Strange, you say? Au contraire! The smaller fan base that follows the Marlins are no doubt let down by the shocking fire sale that took place this winter. No more executive-speak, front office. Give it to the fans, and your best remaining player Giancarlo Stanton, straight. What is the plan? Honesty will take you far.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Next up in our awards series is the Cy Young. We’ve been saying all season that NL Cy Young was the most wide open awards race in the league, with 7-10 players having a legitimate case at the award. Only eight though, received votes from 3U3D, our apologies to Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Madison Bumgarner. Let’s take a look at the Cy Young race!
Our AL Cy Young Thoughts:
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): How do you choose between those top four, honestly? King Felix doesn’t have quite the numbers of the others, but he did pitch an absolutely brilliant perfect game. Then again, Weaver has the numbers and a no-no to go with it. Price has been the quiet stud keeping Tampa Bay in the playoff race, and Verlander is being Verlander in Detroit, dominating all power categories on the stat sheet. I’m going with my gut here and giving Price his first career Cy Young award by a smidgen over the reigning winner in Detroit.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Justin Verlander repeats as AL CY Young because he remains the most dominant pitcher in the game. JV is 2nd in ERA (2.64) to Price (2.56), 2nd in WHIP (1.06) to Weaver’s (1.02). First in IP (238.1) by 6.1 innings and 1st in complete games with 6; the next closest pitcher had 4. Verlander also finished 1st in SO with 239. He was 3 wins off the AL lead with 17 but also didn’t have a favorable amount of run support. Not to mention he was within 1 out of his 3rd No Hitter.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball last season and once again he proved to be the best this season. He led the AL in strikeouts and although Price’s ERA may have been slightly less Verlander had two more starts and pitched in 27.1 more innings. If Hernandez pitched for a better team he would have a better chance of winning this award this season. How can he not be considered though having more complete game shutouts than any other pitcher had complete games.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): You’ll see a theme in my Cy Young picks as I went with the two pitchers that won more games in each league, because winning games is what it’s all about. For Weaver to lead the league in wins, winning percentage, WHIP, and hits/9. This to me proves that he was the best pitcher in the American League in 2012. Verlander we know is great and is a strong #2. In the battle of great Rays pitchers this season, I’m giving the slight edge to Fernando Rodney, who really solidified Tampa’s bullpen when Kyle Farnsworth went down, while I think the Rays rotation would have been strong even without David Price.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): David Price did everything in his power to knock off the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP, but in the end it just wasn’t enough for me to put him at the top. Would you rather have a 2.64 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 238.1 innings or a 2.56 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 211 innings? I think it’s the first option clearly and that’s why Verlander is my Cy Young winner. He led the American League in pitcher WAR, strikeouts, complete games, and adjusted pitcher wins, while being 2nd in ERA and WHIP. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the best pitcher in the game. Rodney had one of the best reliever seasons and deserves serious consideration after posting the lowest ERA by a pitcher with 50 innings pitched in league history. At first glance, Sale over Weaver may look wrong, but to me it’s right. Sale was better than Weaver in WAR, adjusted ERA+, runs and wins.
Our NL Cy Young Thoughts:
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): When we look back at the 2012 season, I believe there are going to be four things we truly remember, the World Series champion, Mike Trout’s historical rookie year, Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, and R.A. Dickey. The 37-year old knuckleballer became the first Mets pitcher since 1990 to win 20 games, which is even more amazing when you factor in that the Mets only won 74 games total. Dickey’s 1.05 WHIP is incredible when you factor in he’s throwing a knuckler (Tim Wakefield’s career WHIP is 1.35). Plus, he led the league in strikeouts. He’s the best story and the best pitcher in the NL in 2012. Johnny Cueto gets my silver spot, as he was incredible when you factor in that he was pitching half the time in one of the biggest hitters havens in the Majors in Cincinnati. Cueto led the NL in adjusted ERA+ and was second in pitcher WAR. Kershaw’s numbers were great as he fell one strikeout short of winning the pitching Triple Crown. Kimbrel was the league’s best closer, striking out more than half the batter he faced and had one of the best slugging percentages against in league history. He’s near unhittable, but gets penalized for not throwing enough innings. Gonzalez and Medlen I couldn’t decide so I put them both. Medlen’s conversion to the Braves rotation may have saved them in the 2nd half. Gonzalez led the league in wins, but you could almost make a case Jordan Zimmermann was the most valuable pitcher on the Nationals this season.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): I gave the edge to Gonzalez again because he led the NL in wins and K/9. His dominance is what let him stay in games longer and pick up more wins. Gonzalez was the best pitcher on the best team in the National League and deserves the Cy Young. Medlen over Dickey is a controversial pick I’m sure, but Medlen put the Braves on his back in the 2nd half and got them to the playoffs. Dickey got to pitch in a relaxed environment in a pitchers park for a near-last place team. The knuckleball just seems like a fluky gimmick to me. I’m surprised that Matt Cain was only on my ballot, not sure why he remains so underrated. He only threw the 3rd most innings, while posting the 4th best ERA and 2nd best WHIP. He even threw one of the most dominant games in the history of baseball, what else does he need to do?
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): R.A. Dickey won 20 games for the Mets. Let that sink in for a minute, 20 games for the Mets. I know Kershaw’s numbers were better but come on the kuckleballer had it working this season and anybody willing to throw something going that slow at a professional athlete deserves to be rewarded in some way. Kershaw had the best season statistically but he won the award last season and who knows if Dickey will ever get a chance to win it again. Johnny Cueto had a fantastic season for the NL Central Champions. Leading that rotation posting a career high in innings pitched and winning 19 games.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Kimbrel has had a season for the ages as a closer. He became the first pitcher ever to K HALF of the hitters he faced. He only allowed 26
hits all year, making his opponent’s BA a measly .123. Oh not to mention his stellar WHIP of 0.65. Kershaw showed dominance and so did Gio, winning 21 games.
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): This is another close race, pitting a lot of very quality starting pitchers against each other for the league’s greatest honor at the position. This award has so much talent in the running that guys like Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse are left off my ballot completely. I’ve got to go with the fantastic story that is Dickey for 2012, as his numbers barely edge the others and he’s a KNUCKLEBALLER for heaven’s sake! How can you not love this guy? When I ran the numbers, I see that Kershaw led the Majors in ERA and WHIP this season, and fell one strikeout shy of the K title in the National League (behind Dickey). But the fact that Dickey has similar numbers, but a better record, on a much worse team and he primarily throws a knuckleball is enough for me to crown him. It’s not an award based on a cute story, it’s based on him being the best pitcher in the league for 2012.
Congrats to R.A. Dickey and Justin Verlander on winning the 3U3D Cy Young Awards!
Who makes your Cy Young ballot? Let us know in the comments! Love our personal ballots? Hate our personal ballots? Hit us up on Twitter, we want to hear from you! And tell us here who you think should be the Cy Young winner for each league: