Category Archives: Baseball

Sleep-Deprived Thoughts

I have some good news, and some bad news.

Before I give you the option to choose which one you would like first, I have an announcement to make: I am officially a Michigan State Spartan. After attending orientation, enrolling in classes and receiving my student ID card, I am officially taking my talents to East Lansing.

Say what you want about Sparty, but one thing is for sure: He is a heck of a lot cooler than a wolverine. (Image via spartan-football.com)

Speaking of orientation — among the things I learned about Michigan State University — I was reminded about three hours into the program that the body needs sleep. Looking back, running on two hours of sleep was probably a bad idea. Slap-happy Justin was in full effect.

For example, after orientation, I headed to Starbucks with my girlfriend to have a little something to eat before a late lunch. Before walking into Starbucks I initially wanted to ask my girlfriend if she wanted to share a muffin with me. Then, I thought “split a muffin” sounded better. What came out of my mouth was profane word — a combination of the two — yeah, you get the picture.

Now back to the good and bad news. And no, you still don’t get to choose which one you would like first.

The good news is, I slept the rest of the day and have fully recovered.

The bad news is, because I had to go to orientation (apparently it’s important) and was exhausted, I have multiple things to discuss in this post. It may be a bumpy ride, but bare with me.

No NFL, No NBA = No Problem

Before Sunday, detractors of the Women’s World Cup were saying “With no NFL and no NBA, sports fans are reduced to watching women’s soccer.” If you were lucky enough to tune into the USA vs Brazil quarter-final match-up you witnessed an instant classic.

After falling behind 1-0 on an own goal in the second minute, Brazil tied the game up in the 68th minute on a penalty kick clouded by controversy.

The foul called leading to the penalty kick and red card to Rachel Buehler was a questionable call at best. Maybe I’m biased because I’m an American and played center back but that was a close one. The first penalty attempt was saved by Hope Solo only to have the kick be re-taken because a U.S. player entered the box early. Marta — widely regarded as the best women’s soccer player in the world — scored to tie it up on the second attempt.

The game headed to extra time where Brazil took the lead in the 92nd minute of a fantastic finish by Marta. Replay showed the goal was offside but what was done was done. The U.S. faced the daunting task of coming back from a goal down while playing with 10 players.

Abby Wambach heads home the game-tying goal in the 122nd minute against Brazil. The United States would advance to the semi-finals with a 5-3 victory in penalty kicks. (Image via nydailynews.com/AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Abby Wambach did the unbelievable in the 122nd minute by heading home a perfect cross from Megan Rapinoe to send the game into a penalty shootout. The U.S. advanced to a semi-final meeting with France on Wednesday with a 5-3 victory in PKs.

As the number one ranked team in the world, the victory –especially the way they won — over Brazil is something to celebrate but not the ultimate goal. Hopefully the U.S. team is able to re-focus quickly as France won’t be an easy out.

Seconds after Wambach’s goal the comparisons to Landon Donovan’s goal erupted. Personally, I don’t think you can compare the two. Both were equally as impressive, memorable, and important.

The Wambach goal gave the U.S. Women’s National Team two epic moments — the other being Brandi Chastain in the 1999 Women’s World Cup — in my lifetime that will never be forgotten.

The U.S. Men’s National Team has only provided one. Yes, I am looking at you Landon Donovan, don’t let me down in 2014 or I may just have to write something about your squeaky high voice or your noticeable receding hair line. Just kidding…but really.

A Mid-Summer Joke

For a game that counts, I couldn’t think of more of a joke. In fact, I think the whole MLB All Star break is a joke. Maybe it has to do with Chris Berman and Joe Buck boring me to insanity with their announcing but I think it goes beyond that.

The Home Run Derby has to be one of the most over-glorified events in the world of sports. It’s a televised batting practice, that’s it!

I understand the kids love it, as they should. Watching their favorite major leaguers hit towering home run after home run must be exciting. I’m sure many of them dream of being in that situation when they grow up.

For the rest of us, those of us who know better, the Home Run Derby is stupid. How so many people “oooohhhh” and “aaahhhh” over the Home Run Derby is beyond me. Heck, I’d much rather watch the celebrity soft ball game or the futures game.

Also, the amount of players that have participated in the Home Run Derby and then struggled with their swing in the second half is concerning. If my team is in contention for a playoff spot, there’s no way I want my star player participating.

On the other hand, the All Star Game frustrates me. I understand the whole concept of trying to decide home-field advantage and trying to make the All Star Game mean something, but it’s time to stop trying.

The players don’t take the game seriously and quite frankly, they shouldn’t have to. The MLB season is one of the longest, most grueling seasons in sports. If I’m an MLB player, and in the All Star game, the last thing I want to be doing is busting my butt and risking injury for home-field advantage in the World Series.

If you don’t believe the players take the game as a joke then you didn’t watch Heath Bell’s entrance into the game in the 8th inning. Bell, the closer for the San Diego Padres sprinted from the bullpen and then slid feet first on the grass right before the pitcher’s mound.

Even worse, a record 84 players were announced as All Stars this year.

So you’re telling me it makes sense to make the All Star Game worth home-field advantage in the World Series even though some of the best players don’t participate in the All Star Game and those that do participate take it as a joke? Pardon me, but that just sounds idiotic.

If you don’t believe home-field advantage is worth something then keep this in mind: The team with home-field advantage has won 20 of the last 25 World Series and the last 8 World Series game sevens.

Tell me you wouldn’t tune in to see Heath Bell-like stunts, field players pitching to pitchers or field players batting on the opposite side of the plate. Those scenarios could be possible if the MLB wised up and made the All Star Game what it should be, a fun, meaningless game of baseball.

A Vacation Well Earned

Unlike Major League Baseball, when I take a vacation, I don’t have to participate in the a ridiculous All Star Game.

Before opening day, I picked my division and wild card winners. At the All Star break, I correctly picked the entire American League. In the National League, I picked three out of the four playoff teams correctly and just switched the NL East winner(Braves) and the Wild Card winner(Phillies).

With MLB being on break, the NFL and NBA still in a lockout, I couldn’t have picked a better time to take a vacation. I will be gone from Wednesday until the following Monday. If you miss me, you can follow me on twitter @JustinDacey14  where I will be tweeting sporadically about what is going in the world of sports.

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Justin Verlander Joins an Elite Class and Gives the Tigers Exactly What the Doctor Ordered

What would it feel like to have only nine outs standing in the way between you and a no-hitter? You can feel the adrenaline rush becoming more evident with every out. You’re down to six outs, then three outs and finally, only one out remains between you and an exclusive class of pitchers to throw no-hitters.

Justin Verlander knows what this feels like, and he seems to thrive under the pressure. He experienced it back on June 12, 2007 when Verlander dominated the Milwaukee Brewers with 12 strikeouts on his way to throwing his first career no-hitter.

Today, Verlander was on the mound in a familiar situation. Looking to join an elite group and become only the 30th pitcher in Major League Baseball to throw multiple no-hitters in their career, Verlander was as strong as ever. With three outs remaining in the 9-0 game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Verlander still had enough strength to haul back and toss 100 mph fastballs.

Justin Verlander is doused with a Gatorade bath as the Tigers celebrate Verlander's second career no-hitter. (Image via Darren Calabrese, AP and the Detroit Free Press)

Verlander became the seventh pitcher in MLB history since 1954 to face the minimum amount of batters in a no-hitter. Verlander’s only slip up was a walk to J.P. Arencibia in the eighth which he quickly corrected by getting Edwin Encarnacion to ground into a double play.

Verlander’s second career no-hitter was exactly what Detroit fans needed for a few reasons.

First, Verlander’s no-hitter provided a nice break from talk about the Detroit Red Wings facing elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the San Jose Sharks for the second straight year.

Also, the no-hitter shows signs that maybe Verlander has matured. Verlander has always been considered as one of the best pitchers in MLB “stuff” wise but he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Verlander only needed four strikeouts in his no-hitter against the Blue Jays and he actually threw a higher percentage of strikes. This could be one of the first steps in Verlander’s journey to becoming an annual Cy Young contender.

Finally, this is something the Tigers can rally behind. Currently, the Tigers sit two games below .500 and are six and a half games behind the division leading Cleveland Indians. This could provide a spark in the Tigers’ dugout that surges them to the top of the division.

The pieces are in place for the Tigers to return to the postseason for the first time since the magical World Series trip in 2006, and the fans are dying to taste postseason baseball again.

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MLB Opening Day

MLB Opening Day is like no other day of the year.

Today is the one day out of the season where every team can claim to be in first place. Whether you finished in last or first the previous season, you can throw it out the window.

It’s a fresh start and a day of optimism for everyone throughout Major League Baseball.

Pirates fans are optimistic of a winning season. Cubs fans are optimistic of finally winning the World Series. Yankees fans are optimistic that their owner will be able to bail them out since they screwed up the Cliff Lee signing. Maybe this year they won’t spit on opposing players’ wives. I doubt it though.

Between seeing your team’s new offseason acquisitions or awaiting your team’s young prospects to take the next step, MLB Opening Day provides a certain excitement rivaled by few other events.

This past offseason was like all others, except in one aspect. The rumors were there and the big name free agents were there. The only thing missing? The Yankees outbidding everyone. That’s not to say they didn’t try, but for once, they were unsuccessful.

Along with the start of any sports season comes the predictions from all of the experts and crazy fans. I’m not an expert, but I’m definitely a crazy fan, so I won’t deprive you of my predictions.

Unless I somehow ingested the drug from “Limitless,” don’t expect too much from me. After all, this is sports, and anything can happen.

One quick side note: How many of you picked the Giants to top the Rangers in the World Series? I’m guessing it was probably the same amount of you who picked all four Final Four teams correctly.

Nevertheless, here are my picks:

American League

East

Winner: Red Sox

Second: Yankees

Why: The Red Sox have just too much talent. An injury plagued team last year is an offensive juggernaut this year. Beckett and Lackey improve, while Lester stays ace material. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford make the difference. Even if this team battles injuries, I still feel they are talented enough to win the division.

Central

Winner: Tigers

Second: Twins or White Sox

Why: The AL Central was the hardest division for me to pick. All three teams have the pieces in place to win their division. The Tigers and White Sox improved through offseason acquisitions and the Twins get back Justin Morneau. The reason I picked the Tigers is because their pitching staff has a chance to be deadly. They picked up Victor Martinez and also get back a healthy Magglio Ordonez. Will Rhymes and Ryan Raburn make the most of their opportunities and the Tigers head to the playoffs.

West

Winner: Rangers

Second: Athletics

Why: Many people point to the losses of Cliff Lee and Vladimir Guerrero as a chance for another AL West team to step forward. One problem, none of them have done anything significant enough to put them on the level of the Rangers. The Rangers only had Cliff Lee for a portion of the season and even when he was in Texas, he wasn’t lights out. The Rangers picked up Adrian Beltre to fill Guerrero’s empty spot and have a ton of talent on offense. The Rangers win the AL West, basically, by default.

Wildcard

Winner: Yankees

Second: White Sox, Twins

Why: Just because the Yankees didn’t do anything in the offseason that improved their club, it doesn’t mean they are suddenly terrible. Yes, they also lost Andy Pettitte and have a questionable starting rotation, but they are still extremely talented. This team still has Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera just to name a few. If this team gets any help from the back-end of their rotation then they could even push for the AL East crown. For now, they will have to settle for the Wildcard spot.

Awards

Cy Young: Jon Lester
MVP: Miguel Cabrera
R.O.Y: Jeremy Hellickson

National League

East

Winner: Braves

Second: Phillies

Why: While the talk of the NL East this offseason has been the Phillies, everyone has forgotten about the Braves. This team made the playoffs last year, only to be hampered by late season injuries. They get a healthy Chipper Jones and Martin Prado back. They received Dan Uggla via trade and have a healthy Jason Heyward with a year in the big leagues under his belt. The Phillies have injury issues and I think it takes them a while before they hit their stride.

Central

Winner: Reds

Second: Brewers

Why: My initial pick was the St. Louis Cardinals. That is, until, Adam Wainwright suffered a significant elbow injury. The Reds won the division last year and not much has changed. The Brewers upgraded their pitching staff during the offseason but lack the depth to take over the Reds. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce lead the offensive attack while Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez and Bronson Arroyo lead the rotation. Add in a full season with the hard-throwing lefty, Aroldis Chapman, and the Reds should repeat as Central champs.

West

Winner: Giants

Second: Rockies

Why: Aside from the Phillies, the Giants have the best starting rotation in baseball. Coming off a World Series victory, the trio of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner won’t sneak up on anyone. The Giants lost Juan Uribe to the Dodgers but Miguel Tejada should be able to fill his void. Buster Posey should continue to build on his incredible 2010-11 season and Bradon Belt should provide an impact right away. The Giants should be able to hold off the duo of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

Wildcard

Winner: Phillies

Second: Brewers, Reds

Why: Even if the Phillies get off to a rough start, they have the rotation to carry them along until their offense catches up. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels lead one of the most anticipated rotations in history. If the Phillies offense is clicking, they are among the best. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins need to get healthy and stay healthy. The loss of Jayson Werth hurts, but Cliff Lee should do plenty to make up for it. If the Phillies make the playoffs, everyone should look out.

Awards

Cy Young: Roy Halladay
MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
R.O.Y: Brandon Belt

World Series

Red Sox vs. Phillies

A potent offense versus a lights out pitching staff. Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis and Crawford against Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels. Normally, I would side with the team with the best pitching staff but the Red Sox seem too talented. Jon Lester is a Cy Young candidate and the rest of their rotation has potential. Last year, Beckett was bothered by injuries and Lackey was adjusting to battling the Yankees and Rays instead of the Athletics and Mariners. For example, in ESPN Experts’ Predictions, 45 out of 45 experts have the Red Sox winning the AL East. Out of the 45 experts, 42 of them have the Red Sox in the World Series. Out of the 42 experts with the Red Sox in the World Series, 33 of them have the Red winning the World Series. Sometimes, you just got to tell yourself, keep it simple stupid. This year, belongs to the Red Sox.

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