The 2014 MLB postseason got kicked off with a bang in two very different Wild Card games.
On Tuesday night in the American League Wild Card game, it took 12 innings and a late rally in the eighth for the Kansas City Royals to win their first playoff game since 1985. A Salvador Perez walk-off carried them to an intense, hard-fought 9-8 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Wednesday’s National League Wild Card game was less action-packed, but impressive nonetheless. San Francisco’s ace Madison Bumgarner threw a dominant, complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts and allowed just four hits. Brandon Crawford made history with his fourth inning grand slam- the first ever hit by a shortstop in the postseason. For the Texas baseball loyal out there, former Longhorn Brandon Belt went 2-for-3 with two walks, a run and three RBIs to help the Giants send the Pittsburgh Pirates home.
Though I had the A’s advancing to their division series, I find it difficult to be too upset with the Royals because they played with so much heart. It helps my ego a bit knowing that the experts weren’t expecting that high-scoring of a game, either. At least the Giants made me look good.
Next up, we have four, best-of-five division series match-ups. Here’s my breakdown of each and my predictions on who will get one round closer to the World Series.
Detroit Tigers (90-72) vs. Baltimore Orioles (96-66)
The Tigers will send RHP Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA) to the mound and the O’s Chris Tillman (RHP, 13-6, 3.34 ERA) for game one of this division series.
The O’s haven’t announced their other starters, but expect to see Wei-Yin Chen (LHP, 16-6, 3.54 ERA) and Bud Norris (RHP, 15-8, 3.65 ERA) get a start at some point. The Tigers have penciled in Justin Verlander (RHP, 15-12, 4.54 ERA), David Price (LHP, 15-12, 3.26 ERA) and Rick Porcello (RHP, 15-13, 3.43 ERA) in that order for games two, three and four.
When it comes to pitching staffs, I have to think Detroit has a slight advantage. The numbers may not be terribly different, but the Tigers have a lot of veterans that know how to step up in big game situations. Detroit’s pitchers don’t give up the long ball too often either, which will be crucial to continue since homeruns are a big part of Baltimore’s game.
Offensively, I feel the Tigers have the advantage due to consistency throughout the line up. The Orioles hit an MLB-best 211 homeruns this season, led by Nelson Cruz’s MLB-high 40. Adam Jones (.281 batting average, 29 HR, 96 RBI) and Nick Markakis (.276, 14 HR, 50 RBI) provide some explosive offense, too. But the solid bats of Detroit’s Victor Martinez (.335, 32 HR, 103 RBI), Miguel Cabrera (.313, 25 HR, 109 RBI) and J.D. Martinez (.315, 23 HR, 76 RBI) are more consistent, I feel. The Tigers also have lots of guys who get on base and aren’t afraid to run.
Not to mention, the Tigers have the best team batting average (.277) in the majors and a better on-base percentage than the Orioles. Add to that the fact that the O’s stole just 44 bases all season while the Tigers stole 106, and it seems that Detroit’s offense is better-rounded and will find a way to get to Baltimore’s pitchers.
Since the Orioles have home field advantage through the ALDS, it’s possible they could jump out to an early series lead. But I think the Tigers are just a better, more experienced team and will advance to the championship series.
Kansas City Royals (89-73) vs. Los Angeles Angels (98-64)
The Royals will be using the momentum they created Tuesday night when they face the MLB-best Angels. The set pitching duels for the first three games of the series are as follows:
Game 1- KC Jason Vargas (LHP, 11-10, 3.71 ERA) v. LAA Jered Weaver (RHP, 18-9, 3.59 ERA)
Game 2- KC Yordano Ventura (RHP, 14-10, 3.20 ERA) v. LAA Matt Shoemaker (RHP, 16-4, 3.04 ERA)
Game 3- LAA C.J. Wilson (LHP, 13-10, 4.51 ERA) v. KC James Shields (RHP, 14-8, 3.21 ERA)
I have to give the pitching advantage to the Angels. Their staff has really come along throughout the season and seems to be heating up at just the right time. Kansas City also has a good staff, and their bullpen is as good as anyone’s. I’m especially looking forward to game two of this series because Ventura and Shoemaker have been lights-out in their last 10 starts.
Small ball plays a big part in Kansas City’s offense and I expect it to be a factor throughout this series. They have some power as well when you look at guys like Alex Gordon (.266 average, 19 HR) and Salvador Perez (.260, 17 HR). But the aggressive base running backed by speedy guys like Jarrod Dyson (.269, 36 SB) and Alcides Escobar (.285, 31 SB) sparks them most.
The Angels rely on power and consistency. Mike Trout (.287, 36 HR, 111 RBI), Albert Pujols (.272, 28 HR, 105 RBI) and Howie Kendrick (.293, 14 SB) are just a few of the big offensive names this team has to offer. The Angels score often and early, and I don’t foresee them having too much trouble doing so against the Royals.
Though I’m taking the Angels by a pretty large margin in this series, I’m not anticipating a sweep. I expect Kansas City to take game three at home with Big Game James on the mound, but I’m not sure if they’ll get any others.
San Francisco Giants (88-74) vs. Washington Nationals (96-66)
After cruising to a victory over the Pirates, the Giants will have more of a challenge when they face the Nationals in this division series. The starting pitchers for the first three games are as follows:
Game 1- SF Jake Peavy (RHP, 7-13, 3.73 ERA) v. WSH Stephen Strasburg (RHP, 14-11, 3.14 ERA)
Game 2- SF Tim Hudson (RHP, 9-13, 3.57 ERA) v. WSH Jordan Zimmermann (RHP, 14-5, 2.66 ERA)
Game 3- WSH Doug Fister (RHP, 16-6, 2.41 ERA)
The Nationals pitching staff has been one of the best this season, boasting the lowest ERA (.303) in the MLB. They’ve also given up the least homeruns, which is an important aspect of San Francisco’s offense. They’ve watched their ace Strasburg’s pitch count and innings pitched carefully over the past couple of seasons for the moment they have now- a postseason berth and a team that could be playing for a while. All of Washington’s starters are heating up at the right time, collectively having the second-lowest ERA in the majors through the month of September.
Aside from Bumgarner, the Giants’ pitchers have been a little shaky lately. They’ve done a lot of moving the bullpen around and it has cost them. And with Washington’s offense heating up as well, I’m giving the pitching advantage to the Nationals.
Offensively, I have to go with the Nationals again. Their line up is stacked with guys that get on base, drive in runs and have a good amount of power- examples being Anthony Rendon (.287, 21 HR, 83 RBI), Jason Werth (.292, 16 HR, 82 RBI), Adam LaRoche (.259, 26 HR, 92 RBI) and Bryce Harper (.273, .344 OBP).
The Giants have a solid offense as well, with veterans Buster Posey (.311, 22 HR, 89 RBI), Hunter Pence (.277, 20 HR, 74 RBI) and Pablo Sandoval (.279, 16 HR, 73 RBI) leading the way. They showed they can score quickly on Wednesday, with Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt performing well. I just feel like Washington’s pitching and defense will be too much for San Francisco’s offense to overcome.
If you haven’t guessed so already, I’m expecting the Nationals to move on to the NL championship series.
St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)
The only set pitching duel we have for this match-up is possibly the best of all four series. The Cardinals will send RHP Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) to face the winningest pitcher in the majors this season, Clayton Kershaw (LHP, 21-3, 1.77 ERA).
The Dodgers haven’t announced the rest of the rotation, but expect to see Zack Greinke (RHP, 17-8, 2.71 ERA) and Dan Haren (RHP, 13-11, 4.02 ERA) start at some point. St. Louis has penciled in Lance Lynn (RHP, 15-10, 2.74 ERA) for game two, John Lackey (RHP, 14-10, 3.82 ERA) for game three and Shelby Miller (RHP, 10-9, 3.74 ERA) for game four. It’s a close call, but I have to give the pitching advantage to the Dodgers.
Los Angeles has the upper hand in all major offensive categories, but both teams have deep line ups. The Dodgers are led by Adrian Gonzalez (.276, 27 HR, 89 RBI), Yasiel Puig (.296, 16 HR, 69 RBI) and Matt Kemp (.287, 25 HR, 89 RBI) and have a great supporting staff. The Cardinals’ offense is led by Matt Adams (.288, 15 HR, 68 RBI), Matt Holliday (.272, 20 HR, 90 RBI) and Jhonny Peralta (.263, 21 HR, 75 RBI) and is sparked by a number of guys that get on base consistently and know how to extend at-bats.
This series was the hardest for me to pick. When I sit back and look at the stats objectively, I have to pick the Dodgers. But there’s just something about the way the Cardinals play ball in October. They’re seasoned, deep, well-rounded and just find ways to win. These teams faced each other in last year’s championship series which the Cardinals won 4-2.
I wouldn’t mind being wrong in this series, but I have to go with the Dodgers pulling it off and advancing to the NLCS. I’m expecting this one to be really fun to watch.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons have agreed in principle to a three team trade that will send forward Kevin Love to Cleveland, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and the Cavaliers protected 2015 first-round draft pick to Minnesota and Anthony Bennett to Detroit, according to reports.
For the past month, trade talks have been ongoing between the Cavs and the Timberwolves. Although at first Cleveland was reluctant to trade Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the Timberwolves were adamant in acquiring the potential star in a trade for Love. Bennett, despite a pedestrian rookie season in which he averaged just 12.8 minutes per game, is potentially a valuable commodity for the Pistons as the No. 1 pick of the 2013 draft has shown signs of progress recently.
On Sunday, Wiggins, very aware of trade talks involving him, indicated he was comfortable playing for any team.
“I just want to play for a team that wants me,” Wiggins told ESPN. “Whichever team wants me, I’ll play for.”
The trade, due to a minimum 30 day wait after Wiggins’ contract signing, cannot officially occur until August 23. All three teams have agreed to the trade, but no team faces any punishment should they choose to change their mind before the deal is official. The trade also comes with an agreement that Love will opt out of his current contract in 2015 and re-sign with the Cavaliers for a reported five-years, $120 million. Although the exact terms have been agreed upon, the three organizations plan to stay silent until the trade is announced, according to reports.
The 25-year-old Love is coming off one of his best seasons, netting an average of 26 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. The three-time All-Star received his first All-Start start this season as well, beating out Dwight Howard.
For the Timberwolves, this trade works. Love informed Minnesota that he would not be returning and would be opting out of his contract next summer. Trading the All-Star with a foot already out the door in exchange for the very talented Wiggins is about as good as a consolation prize as a team can get.
For Cleveland, acquiring Kevin Love is the icing on the cake after an amazing offseason that included the signing of four time MVP, LeBron James. Love joins James and guard Kyrie Irving to form a ‘Big 3’ in Cleveland that will be considered a favorite to win the Eastern Conference and contend for an NBA championship immediately.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Lansing, Mich, where he annoucned a plan to commit $350 million in state funds to help shore up Detroit's pension funds and prevent valuable city-owned art from being sold during the debt-ridden city's bankruptcy. Photo credit: Ryan Garza
There are few stereotypes more publicly villainized than the lazy, unambitious government employee. That’s why a decision by a judge in Detroit to allow the city’s creditors to seize pension funds in their ongoing Chapter 9 bankruptcy could, for some, be a cause for celebration.
But this decision has troubling implications for the employees of any government entity, including those at UT and the many students who will go on to work for federal, state, municipal and county entities. According to the Texas Tribune, UT employs at least 12,941 people, many of whom at least partially rely on the Teacher’s Retirement System of Texas, a public pension system, for their retirement funds. And the DiNitto Center for Career Services in the School of Social Work explained to The Daily Texan that 24 percent of 2011’s graduating class found work with some sort of government entity, indicating that there are more than a few UT seniors who might soon join a workplace where they’re dependent on a public pension plan.
For anyone who intends to join civil service (or is currently a part of it), Detroit should serve as a cautionary tale of how financial dysfunction can devastate a city in a way that makes pension payments unsustainable. A financially prosperous city of almost 2 million at its peak in the 1950s, the city’s decline has been long and slow. People who took a job with the city long ago for the promise of a pension may not have been able to foresee Detroit’s financial struggles. As years passed, an exodus of jobs, people and businesses took its toll on a once bustling metropolis until 2013, when federal judge Steven Rhodes determined that the city was eligible for bankruptcy. The finances of major Texas municipalities are much better off than those of Detroit, but serious mismanagement can put what seems to be the most stable government on shaky financial footing.
Clearly Detroit is suffering from deep financial woes, and a Chapter 9 Bankruptcy, which allows municipalities to restructure their debts, could very well be the best way to deal with those problems. And although Rhodes’ ruling means that cuts in pension plans for city workers won’t violate Michigan law, they have troubling implications for pension funds and public employees everywhere. Before this decision, federal law had been in conflict with Michigan law as to whether or not pensions can be a part of a debt restructuring. The precedent Rhodes decision sets, that the funds of public pensions can be partially used to pay off creditors, puts the livelihood of all government retirees at risk. Detroit’s precipitous decline should be a reminder that hard times can befall even the most prosperous of cities. Even the mammoth Employee Retirement System of Texas warned as recently as December that the Legislature must make tough decisions on how to fund the pensions soon or the system could face insolvency.
A career in civil service is a decision by an individual to devote themselves to serving the government, often at the expense of a higher-paying private sector job. The promise that a government can offer an individual that a corporation or sole proprietorship can’t is a pension in exchange for their working lives. To allow a court to amend that promise in a bankruptcy is to take away a benefit that could help draw talented individuals to public work. Shiftless bureaucrats are a difficult group to sympathize with, but consider the public school teachers, University faculty and social workers who could lose one of the few incentives to pursue civil service.
The bankruptcy and subsequent court decision should also be a wake-up call to pension managers that they need to take maintaining solvency seriously. Irresponsibly-run pension funds that are beholden to popular demands for more money will inevitably run out and bust, just like Detroit’s did. Employees who hope to one day be the beneficiaries of a pension system need to make their voices heard to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Pension fund management is not a thrilling field, but unless politicians and public employees are willing to take it seriously it will be our generation that loses out.
Austin will host the Summer X-Games next May at the newly built Circuit of the Americas site that opened last year. ESPN announced Wednesday morning that Austin had been chosen over three other finalists: Detroit, Charlotte and Chicago.
The X-Games will take place May 15-18, 2014 and is one of six stops on the Global X-Games circuit. Austin, which recieved the bid for the next four years, is replacing Los Angeles as the host city. Los Angeles will host X-Games for the final time this August.
"First of all, Austin as a city has done a terrific job over the last several years embracing big events," Scott Guglielmino, ESPN's senior vice president for programing and Global X, said in a statement following the announcement. "When we got on the ground in Austin...and saw the facility, it felt very right very quickly."
The COTA complex that lies southeast of downtown Austin, will host a majority of the events at the sprawling 1,600 acres. Some events will take place in downtown Austin.
Austin hosted a rally at the state capitol this past June to support its bid as the new host.
While ESPN executives consider their options for the future home of the X Games, cities have turned to social media efforts as one way to grab executives' attention.
Austin is currently one of four cities bidding to be the new home of the ESPN X Games. Its competitors are Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte. All four cities have hosted events to impress the ESPN executives and convince them to host the games in their city, similar to the rally Circuit of the Americas hosted at the Capitol last week. Kelly Erickson, a representative of Circuit of the Americas, said the organization used various social media accounts to promote the rally, and that they will continue to use social media to impress ESPN.
“I think ESPN is watching everything," Erickson said. "For people to have a voice through social media is something they are definitely paying attention to. So we're doing everything we can to spread the word that way."
Detroit is leading in a recent poll on the X Games’ official Facebook page that poses the question of which city should be the future home of the X Games. As of Monday afternoon, Detroit has more than 18,000 votes. Austin is in second with more than 11,000 votes. Erickson said Circuit of the Americas has been pushing fans to vote for Austin in the poll.
"We're hoping people keep voting for Austin, because that's something [ESPN] will look at," Erickson said.
ESPN executives have said they will consider many factors when choosing a city.
Elsewhere in social media, the four different cities are using various accounts to promote their bid. Austin, Detroit and Charlotte all have official Facebook and Twitter pages designed to bring the X Games to their respective cities. Chicago does not have official pages, or at least one that can be immediately found, but the city does have Facebook and Twitter fan accounts.
With more than 21,000 “likes” on Facebook, Austin has the most “likes” of the four cities. On Twitter though, both Detroit and Charlotte have more followers than Austin does.
ESPN is expected to announce their decision in July.
Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.
The division looks to be Detroit’s for the taking in 2013, much like 2012. The Twins are in complete rebuilding mode. The Royals are at least a couple years out from making a playoff push, but could put together a solid, winning season. The White Sox are getting old like the Yankees, but unlike the Bronx Bombers, Chicago does not have the proven talent the Yankees do.
Adam Dunn and Alex Rios are the top White Sox bats. But the pitching rotation, outside of Chris Sale, is questionable. Cleveland will be an interesting team to watch this season. It made some solid moves during the offseason, with the additions of infielder Mark Reynolds and outfielders Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Drew Stubbs.
Those additions to a lineup that already included Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana should make the Indians' offense exciting to watch. Unfortunately, the pitching staff is not of the same caliber as the offense. Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson headline the rotation, but both are huge question marks after their performances in 2012.
Expect this year’s Detroit Tiger team to eclipse its 2012 win total of 88 and push for the best record in baseball. With Cabrera, Fielder, Jackson, Martinez and Hunter pacing the offense and Verlander, Fister, Scherzer and Sanchez forming one of the best rotations in baseball, it’s pretty apparent Detroit is the class of the Central.
DETROIT — A lesbian couple’s desire to adopt each other’s children has grown into a potentially groundbreaking challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Two Detroit-area nurses filed a lawsuit to try to overturn restrictions on adoption by same-sex partners. But at the judge’s invitation, the case took an extraordinary turn and now will test the legality of a 2004 constitutional amendment that stipulates Michigan only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman will hear arguments in the case Thursday.
Former Texas running back Ricky Williams and pitcher Cat Osterman were among the people inducted in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on Monday.
WACO, Texas — Shaquille O'Neal was a star in an overlooked Texas sport. Drew Brees was an overlooked player in the star of Texas high school athletics: football.
They were supposed to share a stage Monday night for induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame before O'Neal canceled hours after the NBA All-Star game in Houston, citing a family matter.
O'Neal was a four-time NBA champion who won the Class 3A title at San Antonio Cole in 1989. Brees, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for New Orleans, won a state title at Austin Westlake in 1996.
The agent for the star known simply as Shaq told Texas sports hall officials late Sunday that O'Neal had to fly to California for personal reasons. It wasn't clear whether O'Neal's change of plans was connected to the death Monday of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss. O'Neal won three straight titles with the Lakers starting in 2000 and played eight of his 19 seasons in Los Angeles.
The Texas sports hall requires living honorees to attend the ceremony, but Director Steve Fallon said O'Neal's induction would stand. Representatives from his high school were still planning to attend, Fallon said.
"I have been looking forward to this ceremony for months," O'Neal said in a statement released by the hall. "I have a great love for the state of Texas and the city of San Antonio and would have loved to attend in person, if at all possible."
The other inductees Monday were Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams and softball star Cat Osterman of the Texas Longhorns, the late baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, Walt Garrison of the Dallas Cowboys and former Lubbock Monterey baseball coach Bobby Moegle.
O'Neal's fame came after he left Texas, where basketball has always been overshadowed by football. He played at LSU before Orlando made him the top pick in the 1992 draft. He went to the finals with the Magic in 1995, losing to Houston, before joining the Lakers in 1996. He lost in the finals to Detroit with the Lakers in 2004 and won his fourth title in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Miami when the Heat beat Dallas.
The 40-year-old O'Neal went to LSU before becoming the top pick in the 1992 draft by Orlando. He went to the finals in 1995 with the Magic, who got swept by Houston. He lost to Detroit in the 2004 finals with the Lakers and won his fourth title in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Miami when the Heat beat Dallas.
Brees went to Purdue after he said he was the "backup plan" for Texas A&M, where he really wanted to go, and Texas. Both those schools signed their first choices at quarterback, so Brees instead remains the Purdue and Big Ten career leader in every major passing category and took the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl in 34 years as a senior during the 2000 season. He started his NFL career in San Diego, but left two years after the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers.
The Saints won the Super Bowl in Brees' fourth season with them, and he's now eighth in NFL career passing yards at 45,919 and holds the single-season record of 5,476 set in 2011.
"It all worked out the way it's supposed to," Brees said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world. I've been lucky enough to be able to do some pretty cool things and play football a long time. One of my greatest moments will always be 1996, winning the 5A state championship in the state of Texas."
Williams, a San Diego native, joined Earl Campbell as the only Texas Longhorns to win the Heisman when he won college football's top prize in 1998. He set the NCAA's single-season rushing mark and won back-to-back rushing titles. He finished an 11-season NFL career with 10,009 yards.
"I've been the kind of person that whatever I do I make sure I enjoy it," Williams said. "I squeezed every drop of joy out of my time at Texas."
Osterman, a Houston native, led the Longhorns to three appearances in the Women's College World Series and won 136 games in her college softball career.
Mathews, a native of Texarkana, Texas, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after a 17-year career with the Braves in Boston, Atlanta and Milwaukee and brief stints with Houston and Detroit. He hit 512 home runs and played in three World Series, with Milwaukee in 1957-58 and Detroit in 1968. He died at age 69 in 2001.
Walt Garrison, who went to high school in the Dallas area at Lewisville and was a fullback for the Cowboys, retired as the third-leading rusher and fourth-leading receiver for Dallas in 1974. He won a Super Bowl with the 1971 team and was a professional rodeo cowboy and TV pitchman for a smokeless tobacco company.
The 79-year-old Moegle is the winningest high school baseball coach in Texas history and currently ranks fifth nationally with 1,115 victories. He was 1,115-266-1 in 40 seasons at Lubbock Monterey, from 1960 to 1999.
And just like that, Scott Boras strikes again. Revered by some to be the most successful player agent in all of sports, representing players such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Beltre, Mark Teixera, and Alex Rodriguez, he is known for getting top dollar for his players services. And as of today, he gets to keep that reputation.
The Detroit Tigers announced this afternoon they had signed the hefty, lefty first basemen to a nine year deal, paying him $214 million over that span. Not surprisingly, this deal comes right on the heels of the announcement that first basemen/catcher/DH Victor Martinez will be held out all season due to a torn ACL.
The deal for Prince Fielder comes late in the winter due to an interesting market for his services. The Texas Rangers were rumored to be interested in Fielder, but sources say they had a tough time agreeing on a length for the contract, and after the Yu Darvish signing last week, money was a tad tight. The Nationals were also reported to be in on negotiations, but Prince’s desire to play for a contender all but ruled them out once the Tigers through their hat into the ring.
The interesting part of this deal is the log jam of all star first basemen Detroit suddenly finds itself with. 28 year old Miguel Cabrera has held the fort down for the last 4 years, even winning the AL batting title in the 2011 season. The always potent Victor Martinez played 32 games at first last season, and he too had an eye popping season at the plate hitting .330. Unless the American League adds a second DH in the very near future, something is going to have to give, as all three of the players are under contract until at least 2015.
Fielder heads to Detroit to follow his father Cecil Fielder’s legacy, and immediately boosts the Tiger lineup to another level. He provides an immediate replacement for Victor Martinez, and unquestionably puts the Tigers back as the front runners to win the AL central for consecutive years.
However the Tigers manage the traffic jam at first base, there is no arguing that GM Dave Dombrowski pulled a quick one on the rest of the MLB, and isn’t settling for second place in the American League again in 2012.