Pre-season predictions 2

Pat

I started with the NL Central, so in order of strength of division, I will go to the NLWest. It’s obvious that the Los Angeles Dodgers have the most money to spend in the NL West and are not afraid to spend it. I hate to pick the Dodgers to win the division, but I just have to. Take a look at the 5 starting pitchers, they are scary. I think they are a little weak at second and third base, but the outfield, shortstop and first base should be able to provide enough offense  for that pitching staff. It will be interesting to see what Puig’s second major season looks like and it sounds like Kemp is unhappy to be the fourth outfielder. How much trouble will he make in the locker room? But I do believe they have enough strong veterans in that locker room to take the NL West.

At number two in NL West, I have the Arizona Diamondbacks. It will be interesting how well their pitching holds up this year. I think shortstop is suspect, but they have improved their offense with Mark Trumbo in left field. Will Mr. Goldschmidt have another year like last year? Some questions and some answers, but this team is tough at home and I think they will compete for one of the wild card spots. Third in this division, believe it or not, is the Colorado Rockies. They have added Justin Morneau and Drew Stubbs for more offense and more depth and this offense should be amazing. The starting pitching actually looks pretty strong with De La Rosa, Chacin and Anderson as the first three in their rotation. The bull pen is a question mark, but I still think this team has improved and will finish third in the tough NL West.

I’ve got the San Francisco Giants in fourth, playing about the same as last year but with tougher competition. Bringing up the rear is the San Diego Padres who have done little to improve their team when the rest of the division have.

MLB preseason predictions 1

Pat

How cool is it to go to MLB.com and find scores? The preseason is upon us! I love it. This is the time of the year that I like to look at the depth charts for each team and predict how they will place in their division. I have found that even though there are so many factors in a 162-game season, including injuries, over-achieving rookies, under-achieving veterans and so on, this is still a great time of the season to predict how they will fair in the coming season.

Since I am a national league guy, I will start with the National League and because I am a Cardinal fan, I will start with the NL Central.  This may be the best division in baseball. I still think the NL Central is going to be a very strong division this year. I think the Cardinals have actually improved a bit. So I pick them yet again to win the division. The Pirates will have increased confidence and have a strong veteran club. I pick them second in the division and grabbing one of the wild card spots. With a new manager and lack of depth, the Reds are a big question mark. Their starting pitching is very strong and Chapman is a crazy good closer, but the offense looks weak to me and I will put them in third just missing out on the wild card.

The bottom – it’s a toss up between the Brewers and the Cubs. Neither team has improved significantly, so I am going to take the Cubs fourth just under five hundred with the Brewers a game or two behind them. Not a lot of change from last year. I just can’t see that anybody has done enough to knock the Cardinals out of first.

Masha

Let’s start by my saying that you can tell my husband loves me – he didn’t put the Cubs in last place. I’m a Cub fan, despite winters of trying to wean myself away from the frustration and self-hatred. It’s a nightmare living with a Cardinals fan and was a discussion when we first met… I know, right? How could any self-respecting Cub fan marry a Cardinals fan?

But I do agree that the Brewers will find themselves in last place. It’s hard to believe that a team can outdo the Cubs in dysfunction, but I believe the Brewers may be able to do that this year. The Return of Ryan Braun will contribute to this dysfunction in a meaningful way. First, it will be interesting to see the reception he receives from the crowd on the home opener. I’ve heard a wide range of responses from people in Milwaukee, ranging from ‘happy to have him back’ to ‘he’s a slimeball.’ Second, I think he’s going to work so hard to prove that he deserves their love, he’s going to struggle. Baseball is a game where you can’t force performance – it’s almost magical. The harder you push, the more likely you are to fail. Braun will have to work against my third point, the drug hangover. The question in the back of his mind, the question in everyone’s mind – was my great performance only due to the drugs? It’s a slippery slope when you use something to improve performance. You forget that you are a talented player and see any improvements as a function of the drugs. So once you don’t have the drugs, there’s a hangover of sorts, that doubt in your own mind, true or not, that you can’t do the job. I think this is going to create an environment for the Brewers that will keep them from being successful this year.

Go Cubbies.

Win one for the Gipper – Happy Birthday Knute Rockne

Knute Rockne, photo courtesy of the University of Notre Dame.

Knute Rockne, photo courtesy of the University of Notre Dame.

Happy Birthday Knute Rockne. Born in 1888, Rockne played and coached for the University of Notre Dame, popularizing the forward pass and creating a football powerhouse in the process.

He was known for his inspirational locker room speeches, including a speech in 1928 quoting the 1920 death-bed words of one of his players, George “Gipper” Gipp:  “I’ve got to go, Rock. It’s all right. I’m not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are going wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.” The “Fighting Irish” team was losing to Army, 6-0, at the end of the half, Rockne gave this speech at half time. It inspired the team, who then outscored Army in the second half and won the game, 12-6.

The fragile golf swing

Pat

I’ve always said that the golf swing does not come natural to me. I played baseball as a kid and into high school and college. I blamed the baseball swing on my lack of skills with my golf swing. The other day I mentioned to my club pro how fragile my golf swing was. He said everybody’s gold swing is fragile, just watch the PGA Tour. I figured he was just humoring me to make me feel better. But I do watch the PGA and after watching Rory Mcilroy melt down on Sunday at the Honda Classic, I have finally come to the conclusion that golf is the most difficult game we humans play. Masha and I watch a lot of golf together and when a pro doesn’t get out of a sand trap or hits one into the water or misses a fairway by 50 yards, we say that makes us feel a lot better about our game. As mean as that sounds, it’s really true.

If a professional golfer making a good living playing golf, practicing most every day and repeating his golf swing hundreds of times a day can hit a terrible shot at anytime, we hackers playing once a week haven’t got a chance. So when I go out a hit some really good shots along with my really bad shots, I am going feel better about my game and enjoy being out on a beautiful golf course instead of complaining about a very fragile golf swing.

Masha

I laughed when I saw the title of today’s blog. Pat is a natural athlete and was used to many sports coming to him easily, so when golf didn’t fall in line with baseball, archery, basketball, softball, tennis, swimming, and football, it was a shock. We play a lot of golf (I’ll play more after knee replacement surgery but that’s another blog for another day…), and are always amazed at how quickly the golf swing can break down. I curse the Scots each and every round for coming up with a swing that is uncomfortable, unnatural, and ungainly, and that’s when you’re doing it  correctly – imagine what it’s like when it’s off just a bit, also known as my swing.

So we laugh in the “misery loves company” chortle that all golfers share when the guys who make money doing this sport miss a shot. Or two. Or even three. And we nod our heads sagely when the 24-year-old breaks under the stress of Sunday’s final round. Even when Rory McIlroy is 86 years old, he’ll play a better, more consistent ball than I do. But as supple as his 24-year-old body is, his swing is still fragile, the balls still go in the water and skate by the holes. Golf is just a difficult sport. As Pat says frequently – “And that’s why they call it golf, f@#$ was already taken.”

Congratulations to Russell Henley for hanging in there on a Sunday when everyone’s swing was fragile.