2014 MLB Predictions

2014 MLB Predictions

Even though I will surely regret trying to pick the standings for the upcoming season, I might as well give it a shot. Last year, I was way off in my bold prediction of a Washington Nationals vs. Kansas City Royals World Series. I guess there is no harm in trying again! Except for my inevitable hurt pride in being so wrong about things.

AL East

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. New York Yankees
  • raysAlways the most difficult division to pick, because there are three very good teams in here, and two others that have great teams on paper but have yet to deliver it on the field. It’s hard to argue with the Rays’ success over the past years.
  • So much went right for the Red Sox last year, it will be difficult to duplicate that. But, they made some smart, low-cost moves over the summer, and should very much be in contention again. I like these guys, because they are tough and scrappy.
  • Yes, I’m picking the Yankees for last place. That rotation is just a huge question mark for me, and that starting infield is brutal. One injury to their old men roaming the shale, and they’re done. Their outfield is definitely improved, but that is only three of nine positions. Brian McCann is an upgrade at catcher, however.
  • I thought about going with the Orioles to win this division, but they are always such a tease. Third is where they belong.
  • Those poor Jays. Even if they put together a year that is injury-free, they will have too tough a time getting past the other monsters in the division. Too many questions in the rotation, as well.

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Cleveland Indians
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Minnesota Twins
  • tigersHard to pick against the pitching of the Tigers. They can basically roll out three aces in a row, and the rest of the rotation is pretty solid, as well. I think their bullpen is improved.
  • This year, the Royals start to put it together. After a few seasons of expectations, they started to get it together in the second half of last year. They keep it going. Definitely a team trending upwards.
  • The Indians put together something special last year, making it to the one-game playoff. I don’t think they can do it again, but they are another fun, scrappy team. Love what Francona has done there.

 

AL West

  1. Oakland A’s
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. LA Angels
  5. Houston Astros
  • a'sNot much changing at the top. The Rangers have still more firepower, but there is something about this team that is lacking over the past couple of years, and doesn’t seem to be fixed. It’s finish. They lack finish. Prince Fielder could have a huge year there, if he doesn’t wilt in the Texas sun.
  • The A’s are just consistent. They are a good team, even if they seem to lack good players.
  • Finally, an off-season where the Angles don’t overpay someone. Trout is incredible, but the aging lineup around him won’t do much to help him out.

 

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. NY Mets
  4. Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Miami Marlins
  • natsThe Mets will actually probably be the bottom of this division, because there is a lot to like about the young Marlins.
  • I feel that last year was a season-long mistake by the Nats. They are better than what they showed last year, after their success the year before. They pull it back together this year.
  • Is it just me, or does the Phillies just seem like a collection of dinosaurs at this point?

 

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs
  • cardsShould be the most interesting division race again this year.
  • Impossible to bet against the always-consistent Cardinals. That rotation is excellent, arguably the best in the NL.
  • I think the Pirates contend again. They had players last year, on their miracle run, that had off-years. If they get it going as well, they can be good. Exciting team to watch, as well.
  • The Reds just kind of stay the same. Pretty good. Not excellent.

 

NL West

  1. LA Dodgers
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. San Francisco Giants
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies
  • dodgersThat LA payroll is crazy. As is their roster. Even with the inevitable injuries, they have bought the depth to stay competitive. Another very good stable of pitchers. Seems like they have a dozen starters to choose from.
  • Arizona is building, and this division always seems to have tons of movement in it.
  • The Giants are usually good every second year, and this would be their year again. Don’t count them out, but I feel there are a few too many gaps to oust the Dodgers here.

 

AL Wild Cards: Red Sox, Royals

NL Wild Cards: Braves, Pirates

AL Champion: A’s

NL Champion: Nationals

World Series Champion: Nationals

 

At the Ballpark: Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)

At the Ballpark: Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)

The friendly confines.

Wrigley Field is, without a doubt, one of the most legendary stadiums in baseball, and in all of sports. It was with this ballpark in mind that I drove thousands of kilometers to see a game.

Wrigley_field_720And it did not disappoint.

Wrigley Field is nestled in the beautiful and charming Wrigleyville area of Chicago, where shops and restaurants line the street, and hey, look, there is a baseball stadium on the street corner there. Walking into the park, and through the tunnel, you can’t help but feel awe when you first see the green grass of the diamond.

During my trip there, (it was in May), the famous outfield ivy was not fully grown, and clung to the outfield walls like brown death, but it was still cool to see in person. The stadium has earned its nickname, as the place really does feel cozy and friendly. The views from the seats are incredible, and even though I was in Row 30 or so, it felt like we were still on field level, getting a fantastic view of the game. It was incredible. The ┬áslope of the seats is quite gradual, so even if you are sitting further back on the first level, you don’t feel like you are a mile over the players. It all feels pretty equal, and this helps with that “friendly confine” feeling.

wrigley2And the day I was there, it was a perfect day for baseball. The Cubs eventually lost the game to the Florida Marlins, thanks to a blown save by Carlos Marmol and an implosion in extra innings, but it was truly a magnificent experience.

The people there, while not the most outgoing of fans that I have ever come across, love their Cubs, and die a little with each of the many, many losses they have garnered over the past one-hundred-and-some-odd years. Who knows what would happen should the Cubs actually win a World Series one of these days. Chicago wouldn’t stop partying until the next season began, I’m sure.

The park is easy to find, and the public transportation to get there is great. You can essentially get dropped off right across the street from the stadium. It is far more convenient than the more distant US Cellular Field, where the cross-town White Sox play. There are tons of great places for a snack, meal, or beer before or after the game, and the whole area around the park is bustling before game times.

Since Wrigley is so old, having opened around the beginning of the First World War in 1914, there are many ancient things in there that come across as charming, since this field has been through so much history, to the point where it has become history. The washrooms are small and cramped, with long lines, and nothing more than a long trough to pee in (nothing like really getting to know your neighbors and the person across from you, I guess!). There is no electronic scoreboard, which is fantastic, since I have found these multi-million dollar HD scoreboards to often be a distraction from the game. Wrigley doesn’t need the flashiness. You are there to see baseball, and you can really maintain your focus during the game. The whole idea of the rooftop seats is one of the coolest things you might see in any major league stadium. Across the street, you can buy a ticket, sit on a roof and watch the game take place. Sure, they wouldn’t be the greatest view in the world, but it has that hip factor to it in the same way that the Monster Seats in Fenway do. For those in the stadium, seeing the buildings across the street peering over the outfield grandstands is one of the great, and classic, views in all of baseball. So many stadiums have now developed these outstanding scenic cityscapes in the outfield, but one cannot argue with the fact that Wrigley was one of the first to have it done. It is great to look at, and to see the sun set over the legendary park.

wrigleyFor me, Wrigley was all about the personality. This stadium has it. It is not a common, modern stadium where everything is amazing and shiny and new. There are not high end restaurants and massive team shops all over the place. Wrigley is a baseball stadium, in the truest sense of the word. There are hot dogs and beers, and small places to buy Cubs gear, but in the end, you come to Wrigley to cheer for the Cubs, and little more. It is a park that has that magical quality to it that you see in movies about baseball. It is a place where legends have played for 100 years.

And it was well worth the drive to get there.

At the Ballpark: US Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox)

At the Ballpark: US Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox)

Chicago is a great American city, one that is deserving of all the kudos and reviews that it receives. It is a start where there is tons of art, great food, incredible music.

And, Chicago is one hell of a sports town.

The NBA Bulls had their magical run of championships with Michael Jordan at the helm, creating a modern dynasty with two 3-peats in the 90’s. The Cubs, despite their century of futility, are still one of the most popular ball teams in the States, and have provided some memorable moments over the past years, finding new and impressive ways to lose. The Blackhawks of the NHL have come back from the depths of brutality to become a true force in the league, winning Stanley Cups in two of the last three years. The Bears may not be winners, but they are a consistently strong and beloved team in the city.

white soxOh yeah, there are also the White Sox. The forgotten team in the great city. Sure, they are more successful than the Cubs, even winning an improbable World Series in 2005. But they continue to be the second team in a two-team baseball town.

While the Cubs are nestled in the comforts of Wrigleyville, the White Sox are stuck out seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The stadium is near a subway station (or semi-near, anyways), and a massive parking lot, which takes away from any surrounding splendor that so many other modern ballparks are becoming known for. Even though it isn’t, The Cell seems like an old concrete beast reminiscent of the stadiums built in the 70’s and 80’s. It is really far nicer than they were, but being in such an open space gives off such an appearance.

Walking into the stadium, there is a lack of the same sense of awe that other ballparks have created. It is a nice place, and doesn’t at all seem dated even though it was built in 1991 (which is now considered to be an older stadium, with so many teams getting brand-spanking new parks in the last decade).

One major flaw with the stadium, is the brutally chilly winds that soar in from the outfield. Granted, the day I watched a game there, it was already a cold May day, but the wind made it frigid. Instead of consuming my usual amount of beers (a lot), we were forced to drink coffee and hot chocolate to warm ourselves and our freezing cold hands. In fact, it was so cold that day, that even though there was a double-header, we could only muster the first game against the Seattle Mariners. This was coming from a couple of Canadians who were definitely used to the cold.

The amenities at The Cell are fine. The food is solid, and it was a pretty sparse crowd there, so the lines were always quick and reasonable. The team shops inside were pretty good, although much smaller than I had seen at other parks. If there were a sellout during the playoffs, or another highly intense and important game, I could see it getting a little ridiculous in there.

As far as pricing went, it was a far cheaper place to see a ballgame than at Wrigley Field. The tickets are definitely reasonable, as we had decided on seats along the right outfield side, not the usual up-close and personal seats we had become accustomed to. The sightlines were solid, and the seats themselves were as comfortable as anywhere else.

US. Cellular FieldOverall, there is nothing to complain about at the New Comiskey. Wandering through the outfield, there are some cool statues and things to look at, but it really did lack the panache of other parks.

While the White Sox have been better than the Cubs over the past decades, based on their home, it is understandable why they are the more ignored of the two teams. A good stadium, a solid team, but it truly seems to lack soul.

Review: MLB.tv Premium

Review: MLB.tv Premium

I love baseball. During the season, it seems I can’t get enough of it. I’ll have days where I want to watch an inning or two, days when I want to see a whole game, and days where I will watch three straight games. I crave it. This time of year, I will watch a bunch of rookies and far-less talented guys play spring training games. I need to see baseball.

mlb-choosing-a-gameThis was one of my biggest things when I decided to no longer pay for cable. I would be losing baseball. Rogers Sportsnet broadcasts every Blue Jays game (our de facto home team, since they are in Canada, even if Toronto is thousands of kilometers from Edmonton), WGN Chicago gave me some Cubs games, there was the occasional national broadcast on Fox, and of course, Sunday night baseball, which was shown on TSN in Canada. All of this would be gone.

For the past three seasons, I have subscribed to MLB.tv, and last year was the first one I made a massive use out of it.

And I absolutely loved it.

Some of the benefits I found from the subscription, which cost $129.99 per year:

  • You get every game. Like, every single one. You want to watch all the Marlins games? You can.
  • For each game, you have the choice between the home or away feed. This was more important than I thought, because there are some truly awesome broadcast teams out there, and some that are far less engaging. You can be truly into an Orioles game, and snooze through the same game watching the Twins broadcast.
  • Highlights. I didn’t use this as much, since I was watching so many games, but you can get condensed games and highlights of every one.
  • The playoffs. I actually didn’t know that I would get to see the playoffs on MLB.tv. But I didn’t miss a single pitch of the Red Sox run to the World Series last year (they are my team).
  • Seeing teams you won’t usually see. I became a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates over the past few years, and even more so since I had the chance to visit their stadium and see a game at the incredible PNC Park. It’s not like many others were paying attention to the Pirates to start the year, so it was nice to watch about 30 of their games, and really get to know the team.
  • Increase in knowledge. If there is a team you cheer for, this is the way to know them inside and out. Seeing all of their games, you can see that new rookie, that old veteran, or the highly-touted injury replacement. You become far more knowledgeable about the team that you love.
  • HD. All of the games are shown in HD, which is great. There is the occasional lapse into standard definition, but I noticed last year that the whole thing lagged a lot less than in previous years.
  • Viewing on devices. I think a lot of people don’t get MLB.tv because they think they will be stuck watching games on their phone. But by buying the package, I have watched games on my phone, iPad, laptop, and most frequently, on my TV, by running it through my PlayStation 3. This was my favorite option, because I am not tethered to a device. It is on TV, the way it should be. On the PS3, it is easy to use, as the menus and schedules are very user-friendly.
  • Even though the cost seems high, I watched about 100 ball games last season. For me, that was well worth it. I would watch tons of Red Sox and Pirates, but now and then, I would scroll around and take a look at some teams that I wasn’t too familiar with, or other teams that I have a soft spot for.
  • Radio broadcasts. This was something I would use more on my phone. Sometimes on a hot summer day, there is not much better than listening to a ball game on the radio.
  • Viewing modes. You can watch a single game, or multiple games at the same time. You can call up in-game stats if you like, or have a scoreboard from around the league. There are tons and tons of options.

There is little to complain about this service. I would call it a must-have for any big baseball fan. Get it, it will be worth it in the end. Once you figure out how much baseball you can devour, you will understand how useful this can be.