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: PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates)

At the Ballpark: PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates)

I want to visit every ballpark in the major leagues. And having been to a small handful already, I think I have found the one that will stand as the one to beat: PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

An incredible view.
An incredible view.

For 20 years, the Pirates have been an awful team, but they began to enjoy a rebirth over the past couple of seasons. They threatened a couple of times with solid first halves, before falling off the map in the home stretch.

Then, last year, finally, the Pirates returned to the playoffs. They won the 1-game playoff and eventually lost to the eventual National League champion St. Louis Cardinals, but the city was swept up in Pirates fever for the first time since the early 1990’s. That is a long time for a town to go between playoff appearances. Even longer to go without having a decent team.

Years of penny pinching and trading away their best players seemed to work out for the team, as a stellar bullpen and young players playing their best and coming together at the right time brought the fans back to the park.

And PNC is one hell of a place to watch baseball.

I was lucky enough to get to do a park tour the day before the game, and it is a wonderful place. The details that went into building it, down to the original rivulets, is truly impressive. Wandering through the suites, and the pressbox was really cool, a way to see how the other half lives. Then we got to go down in to the depths of the stadium, where the dressing rooms are, the batting cage, and eventually, wandering into the dugout and onto the majestic field itself. Standing on a major league ball diamond is something truly amazing, to see the field in the same way that the players see it, and to feel the shale crunch beneath your feet. This was something unforgettable for me.

As far as the game itself went, it was extremely exciting. The fans were great, all clad in black and yellow, and they were there, fired up for their team. This was during the 2012 season, and the Pirates were still very much in the hunt when I saw them. The people of Pittsburgh were fired up. The park is beautiful, and after so many losing years, the prices was right. A $40 ticket got me fifth row seats behind the visitors dugout (they were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks), on the first base side. Couldn’t ask for better seats, and as I arrived, I was even surprised by how good they were. I wasn’t expecting them to be that close.

Standing room only for the young, exciting team.
Standing room only for the young, exciting team.

On my trip, I had lived off junk for too long, so I didn’t have a hot dog at the park, but I did indulge in a few beers with the friendly people in my section. They were nice people, and they made the game that much more entertaining, as we cheered for the Bucs together, dove for foul balls at the same time (made it on the big screen and on the local broadcast!), and roared as the Jolly Roger was raised at the end of the game, to signify a Pirates victory.

I loved everything about my experience at PNC. Great employees, very friendly ushers, a mascot that was fun and not obnoxious, and a young, exciting product on the field all made for a great night. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the view…

Looking in from the river.
Looking in from the river.

Looking into the outfield of PNC Park is one of the best sights in the majors. Downtown Pittsburgh sits across the Allegheny River, and a couple of the yellow bridges that cross the river sit in the beautiful view. It is something beautiful to behold, yet another city that has done it right with the location of their ball park.

The whole area around PNC is also perfectly done, as there is a long cluster of nearby bars and restaurants ready to handle the pre- and post-game crowds. A short walking distance away is Heinz Field, home of the legendary Steelers. The setup is similar to that of Seattle, with the Mariners and Seahawks stadiums being right next door to one another.

Pittsburgh is a surprisingly awesome town, and I was glad that I had the chance to visit there. It was even better having a hotel across the street from the ballpark, but that was an indulgence I would not be able to afford every time.

PNC Park, in my opinion, is my favorite ball park I have visited so far, and it is one that I would truly love to go back to in the future.

Dream Come True: Opening Day at Fenway

Dream Come True: Opening Day at Fenway

I love the Boston Red Sox.

Ever since I became a fan of baseball, they arbitrarily became my favorite team. I love the idea of the long-suffering fan base, I loved that they were rivals of the New York Yankees, and I loved the idea of the Curse of the Bambino, which had been going on for about 80 years when I started following them.

The reason they became my team was simple, as my sister was on a trip to Boston, and I asked her to buy me a Sox hat. It started there, and has lasted ever since.

This will be my view from the bleacher seats.
This will be my view from the bleacher seats.

After being lucky enough to watch them win three World Series titles during the tenure of my fandom, I feel grateful that I chose them as my team, even if it was a random selection.

After completely falling in love with the game, I will finally be able to fulfill one of my bucket list wishes: I will get to go to a game at Fenway Park. And not just any game, but I will be able to go to Opening Day, to start a season after they won the championship. I have long dreamed of going to Fenway, and have been to Boston before during the season, but that was during the 2005 playoffs, when they were facing the White Sox, the year after they won their first, curse-breaking Series in 2004. There was no way I would have been able to afford tickets to that game. So I watched, along with the rest of the city, in bars. The Red Sox lost that series, but the city was still abuzz with the team, still basking in the afterglow of their series win the year before. I had decided that when I returned to Boston, I would see a game, if not several games.

I may not have the chance to see more than one, but I will be there for the most important, and celebrated, games of the year, outside of the playoffs.

A friend won tickets to opening day, and when she was not able to go due to her small children, I bought them from her. Quickly, I booked a flight to Boston, as they were more reasonably prices than I would have expected, and so it goes. I will get to sit in Fenway, watch the team I love, and party with the other faithful of one of the most popular teams in baseball.

To say the least, I am truly excited. April 4th can’t come quickly enough!

At the Ballpark: Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

At the Ballpark: Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

The Milwaukee Brewers are one of those major league teams that people tend to forget exists. They are rarely brutally bad, but not often really good, and they are just kind of…forgettable. Their most frequent headlines tend to be about trading away a really good, too-expensive player, or lately, too many things about the cheater MVP Ryan Braun and his failed drug tests.

But the Brewers have a great home park, and one that is so close to Chicago that it should not be overlooked if you are traveling in the area.

Milwaukee itself is a pretty quiet, but nice place to visit. It doesn’t have the bells, whistles, and culture of a place like Chicago, but has a lot more of that down home feel, a place where you can be really comfortable for a couple of days while exploring what the city has to offer.

Miller Park is another of the new-ish stadiums across the league, this one opening its doors in 2001. And it is a very fun place to see a ballgame.

miller park2First off, Miller Park looks really cool from the outside. It has a spaceship appearance to it, mainly due to the interesting look of the retractable roof. The rest of the facade is brick arches, and it is a very attractive stadium from the outside.

On the inside, nothing changes. They did it up right when they built this place for the Brewers. Throughout the ballpark, everything is nice, clean, and modern. They didn’t seem to spare any money or cut any corners when they put the park together. The field is beautiful, the cool slide in the outfield adds an interesting feature, once where the mascot slides down after a home run.

For a park named for a beer company (and a beer-named team, as well), I thought Miller Park was going to be a glorious haven of millions of beers, flowing freely and cheaply. Not entirely the case. There are some decent drink options, but the prices remain the same as any other park in the league. There is some good, greasy food there as well, and our focus was on the cheesy fries that came in a miniature Brewers helmet. Good. Waffle fries are pretty much the best thing ever.

The prices were reasonable, as we sat directly behind home plate in Row 3, for about $100 per ticket. Definitely pricey for a ball game, but those seats in any other stadium would cost double that price. Plus, we had the bonus of being on ESPN for the majority of the highlights that evening.

During the May game, the weather was not being terribly polite, and it ended up being a pretty spectacular thunderstorm during the game. Thankfully, they thought of that retractable roof. Having it closed took away a little bit from the outdoor ball experience (where, as I stated in a previous post, doesn’t really happen as much in Seattle’s home park), but it didn’t dampen the atmosphere inside enough to be truly problematic (I can picture a place like the Rogers Center, home of the Blue Jays, where having the roof closed would completely change the feeling of the game).

miller parkThe best part about seeing the Brewers was for their fans. Fun, friendly, outgoing people. The group of people in our section were all great, loved baseball, loved the Brewers, and loved chirping the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates (who ended up losing, as they always did in those days). It was easy to strike up conversations with the people around us, to discuss matters of the game, and the season to that point. It was fun and laid back. People were all drinking beers and enjoying the food, but it was a well-controlled crowd, and nothing out of control happened, as it sometimes does at games. For the fans only, I would go to Miller Park again. It speaks to the blue collar people of Milwaukee, and how great they are.

One of the most memorable moments of the game was seeing then-Brewer Prince Fielder chugging around the bases and getting a triple, one of the more rare events of his strong hitting career. A man of that size does not usually travel so well, but he got it done, and the crowd went wild. They absolutely loved his hustle. It was a fun moment to experience. That, along with the traditional sausage race that takes place between innings during the game. I got pretty fired up over that.

I have never had an affinity for the Brewers one way or the other, and even though I won’t outwardly cheer for them now, they definitely have a soft spot because of my chance to see them live. Miller Park is a great place, one that is probably underrated in the league. Definitely worth the visit, in a cool little town.

At the Ballpark: Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners)

At the Ballpark: Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners)

Seattle is one of my favorite US cities, and Safeco Field has become one of my favorite big league ballparks. Part of this may because of the proximity of the stadium to me (or relative proximity, I suppose). The Mariners are my defacto home team, since it is only about a 14-hour drive to get from my house to their stadium. Like I said, the proximity is relative. Since Seattle is closer than other major league cities, I have been to more Mariner games than any others across baseball. This is not to say I am a season ticket holder, by any stretch of the imagination, but I have been to four games there, which defeats any other stadium in my travel history.

Safeco_Field_nightSafeco is a great place, a great stadium. Nestled in downtown, you can look out into the outfield, and see the incredibly impressive Seahawks Stadium, just across the way. Two have two amazing, modern, and quality stadiums right next to each other, right on the waterfront, and close to everything in town, is truly a great demonstration of city planning. Around Safeco, you are around the center of the action, and most of the highlights of the city are within walking distance of here.

The stadium itself is proof that all of these modern stadiums will offer the best of the best, in order to draw in the best crowds they can 81 times per year. Granted, the Mariners haven’t exactly provided the most stellar on-field lineups in recent years, but now with stars like Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, the team should improve, as should the average crowd.

Ticket prices in Seattle are great, where $40 can get you incredible first or third base seats, only a few rows up from the dugouts. And, since the team has struggled in recent years, it is always easy to get tickets. Of course, you should plan ahead, but walking up to the gates before a game and getting seats is never a major issue. Great seats seem to always be there for any game.

The amenities in the stadium are solid as well. There are tons of food options, perhaps the best variety I have seen in a ballpark. You can get everything from your unhealthy doses of hot dogs and beers, to pretty damn good sushi, or seafood. Who knew a lobster sandwich from a baseball stadium would actually be really good? And affordable, as far as stadium costs go.

safecoCertain sections in Safeco are where you can be catered, and feel extra lazy. For one of my games there, we were in these seats, below the overhand of the upper deck, where there are waitresses that will bring you all your food and drink needs. The menu items cost a little more than walking up to the lines yourself, but sometimes you want a beer and don’t want to miss any of the game. In these instances, I will pay the extra buck or two to have somebody get it for me and bring it to my seat. Another bonus of this service is that you are able to pay for your items with a credit card, and save your cash for something else. A small bonus, but something that I liked about it.

Seattle, being a city known for rain, of course has a stadium with a retractable roof. I find that many stadiums that are indoors lose all of their appeal and baseball traditionalism, but at Safeco, when the roof is closed, it still feels like you are at an outdoor ballgame. The stadium is still open and airy, and you never get that feeling that you are closed in to watch the event. For baseball, I want to be outside, to feel the slight chill of the summer night air. It didn’t feel to me as though this was an issue with a closed roof in Seattle, something I give the stadium creators a lot of credit for.

The fans in Seattle are some of the best in baseball, that I have experienced. The general person is knowledgeable about the game, and very friendly. People respect that you have traveled a long way to see their team, and even in the down times, they still love their Mariners.

I had the chance to witness a couple of cool games there, including one of the legendary Ichiro’s final games as a Mariner, before moving on to the evil Yankees, and a 2-hit shutout gem of a game thrown by Hernandez, one of the best pitchers in the game.

The last time I was at Safeco, at the conclusion of the 6th inning, a man left his prime seats in the first row behind the Texas Rangers dugout, and gave us his tickets. He said that he had to leave, and he wanted us to have them. Gladly accepting, we were able to watch the rest of the game with our beers sitting on the Rangers dugout, a mere couple of feet away from their players. We got to watch the game as the Rangers were throwing sunflower seeds at Yu Darvish, their (at the time) rookie pitcher acquisition from Japan. It was a truly awesome ballpark experience, and one that speaks to the generosity of Mariner fans. It was a perfect conclusion to our couple of days at the park there.

Safeco Field is a secret gem in baseball. The Mariners may not get the media attention of the mega-market teams, but quietly they have created one of the most positive baseball viewing experiences in the league.

I know that I will be back to Safeco in the future. Because it is closer, and because it is great.

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.

Red Sox Back to Road Red

Red Sox Back to Road Red

I don’t really post enough about uniforms on my blog. I love uniforms, and I follow several websites that keep me up to date on all the tweaks and changes that go on through a season. For true uni-nerds, you really need to check out uni-watch.com for literally everything from the four major North American sports to Japanese soccer league changes. It covers everything.

While the uni sites out there do amazing jobs of reporting changes, I want to comment on one change, that albeit slight, is significant in my mind.

red sox redThe Boston Red Sox have gone back to a red script on their road uniforms. They won the World Series in 2004 and 2007 with these roadies, then they changed to the blue font that has been seen for the past couple of seasons. While I didn’t mind the change, it made the road greys seem more bland, and for a team with Red in their nickname, it was lacking something for sure.

It is a welcome change back to the way it was before. The red offers more pop to the name of the city, and it just makes for a better colour palette, in my opinion. The Red Sox should have Red.

red sox blueWhile the blue tended to have a pretty classic, old-school look, in a sport where all road teams are wearing grey as their primary colour, I feel like it is important to have certain aspects stand out on the field. Even the Yankees, with their timeless uniforms, have a dull look on the road, with their combo of grey and blue. The red adds some much needed spark, and will appear more vividly on TV, and in person.

I love the change. Plus, I already own a red font road uniform, so now I can take it back out of retirement!

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.

The Boys of Spring

The Boys of Spring

Ah, spring training. Thank you for being back. The return of baseball in Arizona and Florida means more than simply the return of my favorite game. It means that spring is near, that the seemingly endless winter will finally be wrapping itself up, with possibly a few more deep freezes and dumps of snow. But, since baseball is back, we know that it will be one of the last deep freezes, one of the last dumps of snow.

Phillies Braves Spring BaseballThere are many things to love about spring training. The countdown to the appearances of pitchers and catchers, and the discussion among fans about how a certain pitcher seems to be getting healthier, as he was throwing from 200 feet today. Mundane facts, but a great time to see baseball played by people who love to play baseball, and are fighting for their lives to make their teams. Even to make it to the high minors, this is their chance to shine.

No, you aren’t going to see tons of the superstars. They will play sparingly for the majority of training. Their roster spots are assured, and they are only here to shake off the rust, get the timing back down, and get ready for the marathon season that they are about ready to embark on.

It was not so long ago that the Boston Red Sox were hoisting another World Series trophy. At the same time, it has been far too long since the thrilling nights in October.

New teammates will bond. Men will watch a child’s game from the dugout, chewing on their spits and tobacco, enjoying the sun shining down on them, as they can look forward to another summer spent in the most glorious of summer locations: the ballpark.

Spring training brings about everything that is new in the year. New players, new teams, new stories. There will be controversy, and there will be a rookie who turns a ton of heads. There will probably be a significant free agent signing, as there are still a couple of strong players out there. A veteran who is about to embark on one final season, another who has held on too long, but is playing for love of the game.

At this point in the year, and in a major league landscape where parity is more common, every team has a chance. Well, okay, the Astros do not have a chance, but there is always that optimism that each and every team can overachieve, that they can be like the miracle Rays team that goes all the way to the World Series. That they can be like the Cleveland Indians last year, making a huge turnaround, truly gel as a team and make it to the playoffs. Can there be another story this season like the Pittsburgh Pirates rising from the ashed of 20 years of futility? Can they even repeat their own story?

With the coming of the spring, there is hope. There is hope that this summer will be better than the last, that you accomplish everything that you want to. You will go camping, and you will go on a road trip, and you will have beers on the patio into the night because the weather is beautiful. And you will again get to the ballpark. To sit, and enjoy, and eat a hotdog, drink a beer. To feel the waning heat of a summer’s day warming your flesh, giving way to the warm evening of summer. Hearing the crack of the bat as the sun sets over right field, watching the smoke of the shale as someone slides into home.

Baseball is summer. And summer is on its way back.