Archive for the ‘Major League Baseball’

2012 MLB Postseason predictions – Inside the Wheelhouse

March 28, 2012 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Joey VottoThe last couple of days I have previewed & predicted the American League and National League for the 2012 MLB Regular Season. I have given you my predictions for each division and the wild card teams for the 2012 season. So now it’s time to take those predictions and bring it into October Baseball where one World Champion will be crowned!

MLB Postseason:

American League Division Winners: New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels

When I look at the top 3 teams in the American League I’d have to say its New York, Detroit and Los Angeles. They are all very evenly balanced and make up some of the elite in the American League. Anyone of these teams could easily be predicted as a World Series Champion coming out of the American League.

American League Wild Card Teams: Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers

The American league is stacked with potential Wild Card teams this season and this selection was pretty hard to do but I believe both of these teams will be narrowly close to their division winner at the end of the Regular season. But when it comes to the first-ever American League Wild Card one game playoff matchup I have the Tampa Bay Rays finally defeating the Texas Rangers after being eliminated by the team from “the lone star state” the last two postseasons. It’ll be a big “monkey off the back” moment for the boys from “the trop.”

ALDS: Los Angeles Angels defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1
New York Yankees defeat the Detroit Tigers 3-1

The Angels are a clear #1 seed in the AL playoffs in my opinion and should easily beat this Rays team in ALDS play. It always seems like that the Rays are good enough to make that last ditch effort to make the playoffs but are too spent from the path they took when it comes time for October Baseball. Things will eventually change for this Rays team but this season is not it as they continue to grow from challenges such as these.

New York avenges their loss in the ALDS to the Tigers from last season and finally defeat Jim Leyland in ALDS play. New York’s rotation is arguably deeper then that of the Tigers rotation and have a more even lineup that Detroit does. The woes of Miguel Cabrera playing third base and Prince Fielder becoming accustomed to a new team could hurt them in their first season playing together.

ALCS: Los Angeles Angels defeat the New York Yankees 4-2

It’s like “old times” yet again as the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Yankees are my picks to meet in the ALCS. The Angels are the much better all-around team and can out match the Yankees on nearly every part of their game. “Pitching wins championships” is a moniker I really base my opinions all about and the 1-2-3 punch of the Angels will be very deadly this postseason.

Like I said in my American League preview blog, I really believe the Angels are and will be the best team in Baseball for 2012. Albert Pujols is going to want to make a statement that the Angels made the right move by signing him to that contract and he will be able to cement that by taking this team to a World Series. This is a very well balanced ballclub with a ton of promise as I have them advancing to the World Series.

National League Division winners: Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants

The National League is much deeper and competitive then it has been in recent years in my opinion so picking these three division winners was really tough. I believe Philadelphia is the easiest of the three teams to select but that may all change in the NL East next season unless the Phils’ make some big moves during or after this season. I really like what Cincinnati did with their pitching this season as their lineup is already very balanced and they didn’t have any real big off-season distractions like the Brewers & Cardinals did. As for San Francisco they would’ve been NL West champs last season in my opinion if Buster Posey never went down for the year, this team is just as good as they were when they won the World Series in 2010.

National League Wild Card Teams: Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers

In the first-ever National League Wild Card one game playoff matchup I have the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Milwaukee Brewers to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009 when the team was coached by the legendary Joe Torre. Los Angeles is going to be a very surprising team this season in my opinion as guys like Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw become bigger names then they already are. I’m looking for these two to be the catalysts for the Dodgers resurge in Major League Baseball.

NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1
Cincinnati Reds defeat the San Francisco Giants 3-2

The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to be that team who makes a late season push, wins the Wild Card and does really well when it comes to playoff time. I think that 2012 will be a statement year for Matt Kemp as he pushes his status in Major League Baseball from Dodgers star to the best player in the National League. Like I said before the Phillies are on the downside of this dynasty while the Dodgers are on the rise. This game could eventually mean the end of the tenure of Charlie Manuel in Philadelphia as well.

Cincinnati and San Francisco are two of my favorite teams to watch out for in the National League this season. They have great pitching, great hitting and two great managers. They are very similar teams when you take a look at them but I believe the Reds are slightly more balanced and that Joey Votto will be on a mission this season to take the Reds to the World Series. Votto is new Albert Pujols in the National League in that he can put a team on his back and carry them as far as he wants & I believe this will be his season to do such.

NLCS: Cincinnati Reds defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3

I am a big fan of these two teams in 2012. I feel like the Reds will become a top elite NL Central team in the wake of the Brewers and Cardinals off-season problems while the Dodgers will be the surprise team who makes the late season push into the playoffs. Both of team’s future is bright but I like the Cincinnati Reds to advance to the 2012 World Series to take on the Los Angeles Angels. Cincy has better top to bottom pitching and a better top to bottom lineup as well, these two historic National League teams should put on a great show in the NLCS.

2012 World Series: Los Angeles Angels defeat the Cincinnati Reds 4-2 to win their first World Series Championship since 2002.

I have said it before and I will say it again, the Los Angeles Angels are the best team in Baseball entering the 2012 regular season in my opinion. They have basically a similar style of team that helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series last season but have a better rotation which helps support my constant theory that “pitching wins championships.” Albert Pujols will make this lineup better around him and help elevate young players like Kendrys Morales & Mark Trumbo to become better players.

As for the Cincinnati Reds I believe they don’t matchup as well to the Los Angeles Angels. For years they have been the “red headed stepchild” to Albert Pujols and it looks like that history will continue to repeat itself in my World Series prediction. Joey Votto will continue to have a monster performance in carrying this team on his back but they will fall short to being crowned World Champions against this very good Angels team.

The Angels rotation has a great 1-2-3 punch that can matchup with any of the top rotations in Baseball and the best part is that all three pitchers (Haren, Weaver and Wilson) are in their primes. This is a perfect time for the Angels to get back atop the Baseball world and look for them to have a similar bounce back season like the Yankees did in 2009 when they won the World Series. The Angels made key off-season additions that made this already good team better and they will be crowned World Champions at the end of 2012.

For more Baseball talk join us every Sunday on “The Wheelhouse” and download the show at!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at

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2012 National League preview & predictions – Inside the Wheelhouse

March 27, 2012 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Ryan HowardIt’s that time of the year again where I preview the 2012 Major League Baseball Season, from who will win the Division’s to who will hoist the World Series Championship when it’s all said and done! The Major League Baseball season officially starts this week over in Japan but will start next week for everyone else when it hits the States starting in the new home of the Miami Marlins. Out of thirty teams one will be left standing with the right to be called the “2012 World Series Champion!” With that being said lets talk next about the National League!

National League:

NL East:

1. Philadelphia Phillies

They were a World Series favorite last season and why wouldn’t they be? They had one of the best rotations in Baseball and lineup that would deliver balance on a game-to-game basis. It was all but a foregone conclusion that the Championship parade would be going through Philly.

But after winning 102 games last season and having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs they would end up losing to the eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Disappointment wasn’t the only word to describe the early exit for the Philadelphia Phillies as shock took over the Phillies fans as they watched star First Baseman Ryan Howard laying on the ground with a torn ACL as the Cardinals celebrated their victory. This was not the storybook ending many people thought would be happening for the Phillies.

Philadelphia still enters the 2012 season as a World Series contender and a NL East favorite but that window of opportunity is slowing closing itself as players are getting older & not so durable anymore either. The Phillies of a slew of injuries (Ryan Howard & Chase Utley) entering this regular season and don’t have one of their “four aces” (Roy Oswalt) anymore. With teams like the Marlins, Nationals and Braves creeping up in the NL East this may be the last year for them to contend for a World Series with this team on the field.

2. Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins had a busy off-season and rightfully so. They needed to put “butts in seats” for their new stadium and have done so by adding new manager Ozzie Guillen, shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Heath Bell and starting pitchers Mark Buerhle & Carlos Zambrano. The talent from this off-season has greatly improved a team that has struggled in recent years and has help poise them for a pretty competitive 2012 campaign.

There is a lot of excitement in South Beach right now and it has a lot to do with the off-season I just discussed. They are going to give a lot of teams problems this season if everything goes as planned as I believe it will and should make the NL East a very close division throughout the regular season. The young players will feed off the veteran players that were just added and names like Hanley Ramirez & Josh Johnson need to continue to be the franchise players they have been for the Marlins in the past by continuing to lead this team into a very exciting future.

3. Washington Nationals

Just like the Miami Marlins the Washington Nationals had quite the off-season this year. But unlike the Marlins who were starting from scratch, this was an off-season for the Nationals where they were continuing to build for a promising future. This team has a lot of good qualities that other franchises (i.e. Toronto Blue Jays) have picked up in recent years by building their homegrown talents and adding the right parts to make this team a contender.

Washington may have one of the most underappreciated starting rotations in the big leagues this year. Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and new additions Gio Gonzalez & Edwin Jackson make a pretty good 1-4 young solid rotation. In my opinion they can matchup with all the other great NL pitching rotations (Phillies, Marlins & Braves) and give this team a great opportunity to contend for possibly a Wild Card spot this season. This team, like the Marlins, is on the rise right now.

4. Atlanta Braves

Now this pick probably comes as shock to most people because of how close the Braves were to being a playoff team last season. They are well balanced and are a great team but the one flaw they made this off-season was not bringing anyone in to help them work off of last season’s late collapse. I can understand the Braves front office logic, this is a team that is the same as last season’s “collapse team” and they have a chip (no pun to Chipper Jones) on their shoulder.

While that logic is good, I don’t believe it works for this team. Miami and Washington got better in the off-season while the Braves stayed pretty even. I think if there is something that we can all learn from the NL East is that you can never be content with your roster, you need to always improve and Atlanta should’ve done that. It’s not going to be a horrible year for the Braves but it’ll probably be a very frustrating one, Fredi Gonzalez is one of those names I would put on the “managerial hot seat” this season.

5. New York Mets

There is not a whole lot to cheer about in Queens lately and that will continue this season as well. They shredded their payroll, got rid of star players and are in a “rebuilding year” in the NL East. The four other NL East teams are well beyond this Mets ballclub and it’s going to be a very frustrating year for the New York Metropolitans.

NL Central:

1. Cincinnati Reds

I know a good amount of Baseball people didn’t like what the Reds did long-term for their ballclub with some of the deals they made this off-season but I love what they have done for the short-term. They added Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres, Sean Marshall and signed closer Ryan Madson to a deal. The rotation is the best in the NL Central with Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo. While they may not all be household names, they are a very solid rotation that will help carry the lead when they hand it over to their very good bullpen.

Joey Votto is going to have a monster year once again. I believe he was very much under the radar all of last season because the Reds weren’t playing well and I think that will change this year in a big way. Votto will carry this lineup and continue help make players like Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs even better.

Dusty Baker knows that his tenure in Cincinnati can be on the rocks right now and he needs another playoff season to save his job. The players seem to really adapt well to Dusty Baker as a manager and I will step up in saving his job for a couple more seasons. Also, the Reds were one of the top NL Central teams that didn’t have some sort of off-field distraction and that should prove to play well for them as they come into the regular season.

2. Milwaukee Brewers

They are the defending NL Central Division Champions. They dealt with the Ryan Braun failed drug test rumors all throughout the offseason. They then lost Prince Fielder to free agency. To say the Brewers didn’t have a busy off-season is an understatement.

Similar to the Philadelphia Phillies I believe the Brewers had a small window of opportunity to succeed and potentially be World Champions. That window got even tighter when Prince Fielder left and Ryan Braun dealt with controversy all throughout the off-season. This Brewers team comes in battered and bruised & I believe this has put them a step back in the process of being part of the NL elite. Milwaukee is still a good team but they are going to need to give Ryan Braun some much needed help if they want to be where they were last season and I’m not sure if the Brewers can provide that depth. This could be the beginning of a small step back in the Brewers organization for a couple of seasons.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

They are the defending World Champions that you’ve never heard of. The successes they had throughout September and most notably October are almost an after thought now. They lost their franchise hero and their World Series Champion manager retired. The phrase “chip on the shoulder” is an understatement for this Cardinals team.

St. Louis will enter the season hungry and pissed off no doubt about it. But that will be short-lived as I expect them to struggle just a bit under new manager Mike Matheny. The Cardinals can no longer depend on Albert Pujols lineup as their offensive juggernaut and cannot depend on veterans like Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran to carry that weight either. Times have changed in St. Louis and it’s going to be a tough hole to get out for a couple seasons in St. Louis. In a way it reminds me a lot of what the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone through in the post-Lebron world.

4. Chicago Cubs

Chicago made the right move in hiring Theo Epstein as their head of Baseball Operations and Jed Hoyer as their General Manager. But it will still be a couple of seasons before you notice the moves Epstein & Hoyer were responsible for doing. The foundation is being built as we speak and this Cubs franchise should return to prominence in a couple of years.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

I loved what this Pirates team did last year by making people believers in Baseball from Pittsburgh. Sure it was short lived and they slipped after the All-Star break but it was fun & exciting to watch as the Pirates were contending. Pittsburgh will have their bright moments this season but will still be a “bottom feeder” in the NL Central. In my opinion they made the best deal of the off-season by extending Andrew McCutchen to a contract that will make him a Pirate for sometime and at a very reasonable price, he has “superstar” written all over him.

6. Houston Astros

They were the worst team in Baseball in 2011 after winning just 56 games and I believe they will be the worst team in Baseball yet again. This is the final season for the Astros in the National League before they jump over to the AL West and it will be anti-climatic at best. Houston still has a ton of work to do in making them a competitive franchise and if you thought their was “doom & gloom” in Queens, New York just look down south in Houston.

NL West:

1. San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants should’ve been a playoff team last season but were not after losing star catcher Buster Posey early on in the regular season. They looked like for a while at least, to be the 2nd best team in the National League behind the Philadelphia Phillies and made moves during the season (trading for Carlos Beltran) to prove that they were right there will the Phils’ as a top National League team. San Francisco couldn’t keep up with the exciting Arizona Diamondbacks team last season as the year closed out and ended up missing the playoffs the year they were the defending World Champions.

San Francisco returns this season at full strength and looking like a team that could be better then the World Series club in my opinion. This is a pretty big year for the Giants as they look to keep Matt Cain and I expect a pretty decent year out of him as they prepare to try & keep this current pitching rotation together for some time. The motivation to keep this current unit of the Giants together I believe will be pretty huge in their successes throughout the year.

Are they a World Title contender? They certainly can have that late season push like they did in 2010 and get hot at the right time. I believe this team is very much under the radar and can be a low 90 win team & win the NL West division this season.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

I really like how the future is looking for the Dodgers right now. This is a franchise that has dealt with a lot of off-season grief the last two years and is starting to look like they are coming out of the hole that their soon to be former owner left them in. This is one of Baseball’s most historic franchises and they finally look like they can be that top team in the National League once again, this will be a major bounce back season for the Dodgers.

Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are two players that any franchise in Baseball would love to build their team around & the Dodgers have them in Los Angeles. If you thought their production last season was good wait till this season as these two players will put this franchise on their backs and make a great push towards the playoffs. Don Mattingly is a manager of the year candidate in my opinion. I think like the Reds, the Dodgers will be a surprise team in the National League this season.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

This pick, like the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, may come as a surprise by many since they were in the playoffs last season. Now don’t get me wrong, I really like this team, I think they are good and will continue to be good for a couple of seasons. But they have “step back year” written all over them.

They are a young team who has already been successful by making the playoffs and winning 94 games last season. But they remind me a lot of the 2009 Tampa Bay Rays who came off of a very successful season only to miss the playoffs completely and finish third in their division. I believe that right now the Giants and Dodgers are better then the D’Backs but that doesn’t mean they won’t be successful. The NL West will be a tight division all season long and I look for the D’Backs to be in the mix but fall short of the Giants & Dodgers.

4. Colorado Rockies

I have picked this team two years in a row now to be a National League Champion contender. I am a huge fan of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez but you can’t win games just off of those two players. I hate to put them in this fourth spot in the NL West but the other three teams I mentioned are better ball clubs then the Rockies. This team needs to make some more moves soon to keep Tulo and C-Gon content with wanting to place in Colorado.

5. San Diego Padres

If you thought San Diego had a tough season last year wait until this season. The Padres will contend with Astros as the worst team in Major League Baseball and will struggle all season long. The Padres made some good decisions during their off-season but those deals won’t pan out until a couple more season. If the Padres win more then 65 games I will be impressed and shocked.

National League Division winners: Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants

National League Wild Card Teams: Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers

For more Baseball talk join us every Sunday on “The Wheelhouse” and download the show at!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at

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2012 American League preview & predictions – Inside the Wheelhouse

March 26, 2012 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Prince FielderIt’s that time of the year again where I preview the 2012 Major League Baseball Season, from who will win the Division’s to who will hoist the World Series Championship when it’s all said and done! The Major League Baseball season officially starts this week over in Japan but will start next week for everyone else when it hits the States starting in the new home of the Miami Marlins. Out of thirty teams one will be left standing with the right to be called the “2012 World Series Champion!” With that being said lets start off with the American League!

American League:

The American League has not hosted a World Series Champion since 2009 when the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies and each of the last two years the defending American League Champion has been the Texas Rangers, will that all change this season? The American League also welcomes Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder from the National League over to the American League creating quite possibly the most competitive league of the two in major league baseball. Only one team will have the right to represent the American League in the 2012 World Series and look to end the National League’s dominance the last two seasons. Lets take a look at each of the three American League divisions starting off with the AL East:

AL East:

1. New York Yankees
The defending American League East Champions are poised to repeat this season after improving a pitching rotation that was criticized all last season. The Yankees got through 162 games on the arms of ace CC Sabathia, rookie Ivan Nova, inconsistent A.J. Burnett and two pitchers past their prime Freddy Garcia & Bartolo Colon. With that rotation New York was able to win 97 games and make it into the postseason where their rotation could not matchup with the Detroit Tigers.

So what did General Manager Brian Cashman do in the off-season? He added more pitching depth and may have given New York their best rotation since the dynasty days in the late-90s and early 2000s. Joining CC Sabathia & Ivan Nova this season will be Hiroki Kuroda, young phenom Michael Pineda, the returning Andy Pettitte and bullpen/spot-star relief from either Freddy Garcia or Phil Hughes.

For quite a while (even dating back to 2009 when they won the World Series) the Yankees have been criticized for their lack of bullpen depth and now they have it with at least 6-7 starting pitchers on their roster. New York’s biggest flaw was matching their pitching with the pitching of an elite Baseball team and that’s what kept them from winning their 28th World Championship. New York has that and will be a top favorite to be crowned American League Champions.

2. Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays for all intensive purposes were not supposed to be competitive last season. For all intensive purposes they were not supposed to make the playoffs either. But in reality the Tampa Bay Rays were competitive last season (despite losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and basically all of their bullpen) and did make the playoffs in miracle fashion in Game #162. Many people thought that this team would be good again but it wouldn’t be till 2012 or 2013 when more of their “homegrown” talent continued to develop and live up to their potential.

Well one year removed off of their projected “down year” the Rays are back and looking a team that may be better then their American League Championship team back in 2008. The starting rotation, if it lives up to it’s potential, may be the best in all of Baseball and their bullpen, despite all the losses they faced heading in 2011, may be the best bullpen in Baseball. This team is very dynamic, very young and very fun to watch.

With all those positives comes the hunger this team will desire for all season long. They will keep the American League East extremely close all season long and challenge for the division crown. I believe the “projected success” for this team is the only thing holding them back from being an American League East division winner prediction.

3. Boston Red Sox
Boston has dealt with their fair share of ups and downs & heartbreaks. But Game #161 for them snapped one of the most popular Red Sox dynasties into pieces leaving “scorched earth” for new manager Bobby Valentine and new manager Ben Cherington to deal with. Times they are “a-changing” in “beantown” and I believe that while they will be competitively dominant they will face a lot of struggles as they try to gel this team back together after the horrible collapse from last season.

The Red Sox locker room is tumultuous and I believe still has remnants of it from last season. Carl Crawford will deal with the pressures of his huge contract from last season and Adrian Gonzalez will continue to prove he is the team leader now. But the biggest issue I believe the Red Sox will face is Bobby Valentine as their new manager. Valentine wasn’t their first choice to be manager and isn’t necessarily the “Red Sox material” of most managers they hire. His first season should be a bumpy one as the Red Sox continue to their pursuit to return to October Baseball.

4. Toronto Blue Jays
This Blue Jays team reminds me of the Tampa Bay Rays from a couple years ago. You think they are going to explode as a team and contend but wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t. I still think that is the case here.

Toronto has made phenomenal strides in recent years to improve this team and they continue to do so on a regular basis. Being the AL East hurts them and the competitive level is just so high amongst all five teams. Toronto is almost there but it’s just not this season.

5. Baltimore Orioles:
This Orioles team frustrates me a lot. I predicted they would be competitive last season and they weren’t. I predicted them to be competitive two years ago and they weren’t then either. So I’m just going to predict them for last place in the AL East this season as that potential “window of success” is starting to close on them and I predict that Buck Showalter won’t be the manager in Baltimore come the end of the season.

AL Central:

1. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers did what they could to improve their rotation last season and they did with the addition of Doug Fister who played a key role in their late October run to the ALCS. But when it came to meet up with the Texas Rangers last season’s ALCS there was one thing miss, offensive depth. Well they answered that question doing the off-season by adding Prince Fielder.

A line-up with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in it is almost every manager’s dream, especially in that ballpark. Both of these players will compliment each other so well and make each other better on a game-to-game basis. Compare that to their already good rotation and bullpen & you have a very good well-rounded team.

It also helps that the Tigers sit in the AL Central, quite possibly the worst division in all of Baseball. I really see Detroit winning close to 100 games this season and possibly pulling away in the AL Central come late-August/early September. This team has a chip on their shoulder and they want to win a World Series for the motor city.

2. Kansas City Royals

For years most scouts kept telling baseball fans that come 2012 this Royals team is going to be just as good as the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays team were. You remember that 2008 Rays team right? Well they went straight to the World Series in a season that shocked the Baseball world.

Well while the Royals will be good this season they won’t be that good. They still have a season or two to fine tool this team and help bring Baseball back to Kansas City but will prove to be a top competitive team in the AL Central this season. Kansas City still has a couple of holes to fill on this team and need to continue to develop the future stars they have before they come knocking on the door of the Detroit Tigers.

3. Cleveland Indians
This franchise shocked Baseball last season as for the good part of the year they were leading the AL Central until after the All-Star break where they started to fall apart. Cleveland has made some competitive moves the last year or so by getting guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe but they won’t repeat what they did last season. For me, until this team makes some more key additions they may have reached their plateau; it actually wouldn’t surprise me if they fall below the Twins in the AL Central standings this season.

4. Minnesota Twins
It seemed like I couldn’t bet against the Minnesota Twins at all. Every season they looked like they would finally collapse and they would then make the playoffs by winning the division. Well if you guessed that I had the Twins being competitive in the AL Central last season you were right.

It’s starting to surprisingly look like the Twins may have gotten all they can out of the Morneau & Mauer in Minnesota and may be focusing more on developing younger talent for the future of this franchise. I don’t see Minnesota really being that competitive this season and may be at best a 75 win team. They just need to reboot their logic and starting planning for the future to bring this franchise back to its dominance.

5. Chicago White Sox
Don’t expect much from the White Sox this season. This is admittedly a “rebuilding season” for the 2005 World Series Champions. The “Ozzie Guillen era” is over in Chicago and now they look towards the future in former player now manager Robin Ventura. It’ll be a hard year for this White Sox team and its fans as they rebuild.

AL West:

1. Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels had the biggest off-season of any team in all of Major League Baseball. For the last couple of seasons the Angels have been playing “second fiddle” to the Texas Rangers in the AL Western Division, a division that the Angels dominated for most of the 2000’s. Being the “red-headed stepchild” to the Rangers dominance the last couple of seasons led them to landing two of the biggest stars from the 2011 World Series as they shockingly signed Albert Pujols away from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and ironically enough, C.J. Wilson from the rival Texas Rangers.

I truly believe the Los Angeles Angels will be the best team in Baseball this season. The signings remind me a lot of what the Yankees did in the 2009 off-season when they signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeria and AJ Burnett. The Yankees retaliated missing the playoffs in 2008 with these signings and ended up winning the World Championship in 2009. Los Angeles have missed the playoffs since being eliminated by the Yankees in 2009 and retaliated by making the biggest off-season splashes in all of Baseball.

The addition of Albert Pujols does a lot for a team whose offense has gotten older in recent years and now changes the complexity of this team as an offensive unit. As for the pitching CJ Wilson is merely an addition to an already great pitching rotation that turns this former Rangers to a potential #3 starter behind Dan Haren and Jered Weaver. The Angels have a lot of good things going so far and look to be the team to beat in the West.

2. Texas Rangers
They have won the American League Champions two years in a row. That statistic alone is one to be proud of but it also shows that the last two seasons they have been the losers in the World Series. In 2011 they were literally one out away from becoming World Champions and blew it all in Game 6 of the World Series & eventually losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. Texas looks to once again capture the American League Champion and this time win the World Championship.

In those two straight years of dominance the Rangers have really pulled away from the rest of the pack in the West cruising to playoff action and wining the American League Championship. I believe that will be a different story this year for the Rangers. For the 2nd year in a row they have lost their pitching ace (2010 – Cliff Lee, 2011 – CJ Wilson) and really don’t have anyone leading the rotation heading into this season.

Derek Holland has proven to be a potential ace in the future but not right now. Neftali Feliz is trying to become a starter this season but most of the time those experiments never pan out well. Not to mention the Rangers enter this season with some off-season controversy after Josh Hamilton relapsed again. Texas is going to have a good season but the little dynasty of American League dominance is going to end this season.

3. Oakland Athletics
Oakland had a really crazy off-season this year as they traded away Trevor Cahill & Gio Gonzalez, arguably the aces of this young A’s staff and also sent young closer Andrew Bailey to Boston. The Athletics then responded to those trades by signing Manny Ramirez and Cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes & adding some much needed offensive depth to their team. The moves left many people scratching their heads as it looked like your normal “rebuilding year” and instead the A’s showed that they wanted to be at least a contender in the West. Obviously the A’s have a while to get back to their early 2000 AL West dominance but at least they have given fans a reason to go visit the ballpark with Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup.

4. Seattle Mariners
Things have been rough in Seattle the last couple of seasons. The big Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee trades never really worked out & the glory days of Lou Pinella coaching have been long gone. That trend will probably continue this season as well but at least there is hope after they traded away pitcher Michael Pineda for the Yankees prized prospect Jesus Montero. It’s all part of a rebuilding process in Seattle and one that will continue for some time as I predict them to be the “bottom feeders” of the AL West this season.

American League Division Winners: New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels

American League Wild Card Teams: Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers

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Jorge Posada Belongs In The Baseball Hal Of Fame

January 26, 2012 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Jorge Posada Hall of FameI’ll preface this post with a full disclosure that I am about as diehard a Yankee fan as there is. I live and die by this team, so yes, I may be a bit biased over the course of this entry. Sue me. I’ll show up to court with my Yankee tie on.

On January 24th, a storied career finally came to a close. Jorge Posada is finally stepping away from the game he loves after 17 seasons at the ripe old age of 39. For Yankee fans, he joins a list of catchers rich in history. Names such as Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Thurman Munson, and Elston Howard come to the forefront of any baseball historian’s mind when it comes to great Yankee catchers. You can easily rank Jorge Posada among them.

While Jorge may not sport the number of All Star Appearances that Yogi Berra or Bill Dickey did, and he certainly didn’t win Yogi’s 3 MVP awards, and definitely didn’t have Dickeys lifetime .313 BA, Jorge brought one of those famed “intangibles” that Yankee fans love to use when defending a player. It’s hard to argue for an intangible, as there is no real clear cut way to explain what your eyes see and your brain appreciates. You just watch him take a field and you knew there was no one on that field more proud to wear the pinstripes with the interlocking NY. Now, I know that’s certainly good enough to get a bronze statue in monument park, and your number retired by your team, but it just isn’t good enough to get you into the Hall of Fame.

So let’s talk numbers. Jorge had a lifetime batting average of .273, with an OBP 100 points higher at .374. In comparison, Yogi Berra batted .285 lifetime, with an OBP of .348. Jorge was also a much more patient hitter, which sometimes came to haunt him, as he had a significant number of strikeouts, but he notched 230 more walks than Yogi did. And 260 more than Bill Dickey. He also had 73 more homeruns than Bill Dickey. In fact, short of the difference in batting average, Jorge has very similar numbers to Bill Dickey in 8 offensive categories. He also walked away as a slightly better fielder than Yogi, with a higher fielding percentage, less errors, and more putouts.

Sabermatricians rejoice, as I know you’re pulling out your hair at the mention of these categories. I’ll throw a bone your way too. Jorge’s Range Factor per 9 is much higher than Yogi’s (compare Jorge’s 7.49 to Yogi’s 5.56). While the numbers are much higher overall at the catcher’s position in the present day, it’s hard to argue that a stat is meaningless while at the same time comparing a player to Hall of Famers who played in different eras. You can’t have it both way, gents.

Getting away from actual stats, as those can get boring very quickly, I present another argument. Jorge Posada should have been an MVP winner in 2003, if not for Alex Rodriguez and his season of steroids. Okay, maybe Carlos Delgado would have won, but Jorge was not far behind Delgado in the voting, and both men shared the same number of first place votes. I contend that if A-Rod wasn’t cheating to be the MVP, Posada would have won that MVP in 2003, and we would have a significantly different argument about the guy. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and this is the closest Jorge ever came to the MVP trophy. However, this is as close as Bill Dickey ever came, as he never won the trophy either. Yogi won three, but it’s hard not to win the MVP at least once when your team is winning 10 World Series rings, and you go to the All Star Game every year you played as a starter.

Jorge has an award that neither Bill Dickey nor Yogi Berra ever won, and that is the Silver Slugger. Granted, the Silver Slugger only started to be awarded in 1980, you can’t fault someone for being a victim of when they were born. An award is an award, and Jorge won five of them. The only two players to win more in the American League were Ivan Rodriguez and Lance Parish. Also, Jorge has something that of the Yankee catcher Hall of Famers, only Yogi has under his belt: A victory in a perfect game. Not many other players have the honor to call a perfect game, and even fewer have actually been elected to the Hall of Fame after catching one. Currently, only 2 catchers have been elected. A few others are still active. Of them, only Ivan Rodriguez is the only surefire Hall of Famer.

An interesting stat I heard from the MLB network relates to that power of Jorge’s. During his time as an active catcher, from 1998 to 2010, no player hit more than 240 homeruns. This is 11 more than Mike Piazza’s 229 and 24 more than Ivan Rodriguez’s 216. I think this stat alone supports my theory that Jorge deserves his mantle on the wall in Cooperstown, as those are two of the best power hitting catchers of all time.

Sadly, this is where I digress, as I know what will happen with Jorge’s ballot. It will become a replica of Elston Howard, who happens to have many similar numbers to Jorge Posada in both offense and defensive categories. Howard, the first African-American to play for the Yankees is a two time Gold Glove winner, and a recipient of the MVP award. He took over for Yogi after his retirement, and won himself four World Series rings. He never made it to the Hall of Fame. He was an above average fielder, just like Jorge, but his numbers weren’t quite there. It looks a lot like Jorge’s line, to be honest, with the exception of a few stats. Jorge had over 110 more homeruns, 200 more hits, 100 more doubles, 300 more RBIs, and his OBP was 50 points higher than Elston’s. One could use these stats as an argument had Elston been elected, but he never was.

Had it been a list of the best Yankee catchers of all time, of course Jorge would be ranked above Elston Howard. As much as it pains me to do it, I’d probably rank him above Thurman Munson too, but that is only because Jorge played longer, and had a couple of more World Series rings than Thurman did. However, Jorge played the same game, with the same intensity. Jorge lived and died by the pinstripes the same way I, as a fan, do so from April-late October every year. It’s hard as a fan to not like that. It’s almost the same reason why Yankee fans don’t like A-Rod. He just doesn’t bring that intensity that a guy like Jorge does. I want my players to be angry after a game. I want them to feel like they let down the entire city of New York, because the next time they take the field, they’re going to tear the cover off of the ball. Jorge, for 17 seasons, was that guy.

I’ll never forget when the Yankees were suffering a tremendous loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in early 2009, and Girardi didn’t want to waste a pitcher, so he put Nick Swisher on the mound. Swisher recorded a strike out, laughed on the mound, and rolled the ball to the dugout for his trophy case. The team found humor in the embarrassing situation, as Swisher could then retire with a 0.00 ERA. Everyone except Jorge Posada. When asked after the game about it, Posada wasn’t so amused. “Nobody was laughing,” Posada said. “I think today was embarrassing, and it’s just one of those days that everything went for them and nothing went for us. We didn’t pitch, we didn’t do the things we were supposed to do.”

In a nut shell, that was Jorge Posada, in the middle of a World Series winning season. There was no humor about the game. He brought 100% of himself to every game he played. While some people may harp on when he “quit the team,” against the Red Sox in the middle of the 2011 season, I took a step back after my initial angry outburst. I thought about it, and remembered that this is the same player for the 16 previous seasons who brought a fire to the field every time he crouched behind the plate. I can’t honestly sit back and get angry at him for being insulted the way he was for being put in the 9th spot. Maybe it was what Jorge needed, as seemingly, it turned his final season around.

Oddly enough, it was Jorge who clinched the Yankees AL East title in 2011. It was a season of accomplishments, from Jeter’s 3000th hit, to Mariano Rivera’s 602nd save. It was very appropriate that Jorge Posada got an achievement of his own. One that stood for everything he stood for. He launched the team into the playoffs. Pinch hitting for a hot-hitting Jesus Montero, Jorge drove a single into right field, scoring two runs, and sending the Yankees to the playoffs.

I realize that this is supposed to be about the career of the man, and why he should be in the Hall of Fame, but I firmly believe that clinching game is a microcosm of Jorge the player. He didn’t have to hit a home run with the bases loaded and two outs in the 8th. He just had to make contact, and score a run to take the lead. He gave the Yankees two. He was always giving a bit more than they asked, but never hogged the spotlight or the glory. If the team was winning, he was winning. The epitome of a team player is Jorge Posada.

While I personally gave Posada a lot of grief for not being a clutch player, he was also the man who caught Jeter’s famous “Flip Play” in Oakland in the 2001 ALDS. He sent Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS into extra innings with his double in the bottom of the 9th. While the Yankees have found a suitable replacement behind the plate in the form of Russel Martin, I just feel as though the Yankees are missing that extra bit of intensity that Jorge brought to the table. Not to knock Martin, as he had a fantastic first year for the Yankees, but there is no player quite like Posada.

We watched him grow up and mature as a player, and become a leader of the Yankees. He became a general on the field and did everything a fan could ever wish for in their player. Posada deserves to have his name added to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York when his balloting begins in five years. While I am fairly sure the Baseball Writers do not agree with me, and won’t vote Jorge in, I hold out hope that they will let go of this gate keeper mentality, where some vote “No” on the first ballot, just because. Jorge’s numbers are right there with other Hall of Fame catchers.

It’s time for him to get his fair shake, and his own individual accomplishment that every player dreams about. In five years, I hope to be in Cooperstown with other Yankee fans on the grass chanting “Hip-Hip-Jorge” one final time. I just wish the Writers would see it my way for once. But this would mean Mattingly and Munson would be in too. But that’s an argument for another day.

Erik Espenberg is a native New Yorker who is an avid fan of the Yankees, Rangers, and Jets. When not writing for Camel Clutch, he can be found killing his brain cells playing assorted video games. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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Things To Be Thankful For In Sports

November 23, 2011 By: Category: Major League Baseball, NFL | NCAA Football, Sports, WWE | Pro Wrestling

A Rod YankeesWell, we are upon the Thanksgiving holiday when we get together with family, and friends to celebrate being together, and commemorating the Pilgrims and the Indians sharing traditions after the harvest. Many people thank their God for blessing them with what they have while remembering those who do not have as much. Those who are fortunate will go serve in homeless shelters, and such places, and deliver turkeys, and meals to the poor, so those less fortunate can also have Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful holiday, and a great American tradition.

As for me personally, and I am not going to go totally Tim Tebow on my readers, but I am thankful to God that I have family, friends, and my Episcopal Church family who love and care about me. I am thankful for my 14 year old beagle, Ace Frehley. I am thankful for my overall good health, and a roof over my head, and I am very thankful that I get to write these blogs for this great site, and share my views with the readers.

This blog is about one other thing I am very thankful for: SPORTS, and SPORTS RELATED items (pro wrestling). Sports have been a big part of my life. Music, and movies have also, but sports are a lot more fun in the sense that you can really have a great debate over them. I love how they are a distraction from every day life also.

Anyway, I am going to be discussing the sports related items that I have been thankful for this year, and I hope you enjoy them, and even debate them.

The NFL 2011 Season happening: For much of the year, all we heard was “Lockout,” “deal is close,” “deadline league,” “canceling games,” etc. There were optimists about the CBA (John Clayton, Adam Schefter), but there were WAY more pessimists (Collinsworth, King). However, I never thought they would miss any games, at least any GAMES THAT COUNTED. Ok, they missed the Hall of Fame Game. Wow. One preseason game. I am just thankful that Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots jumped in there despite his wife’s dying of cancer along with other cooler heads (Jeff Saturday, and John Mara of the Giants) and got the CBA done. I’m thankful to see my favorite NFL teams in action once again.

The New York Yankees not only winning the AL East, but making the playoffs: It is amazing how powerful the alphabet network from Bristol, CT is. Just about all their “experts” said the NY Yankees wouldn’t win the East, and they wouldn’t make the playoffs based on the mighty Boston Red Sox getting all these players in the off season. Wow. I guess the boys in Bristol didn’t count on the Red Sox (who did have a game and a half lead going into September) chowing down on Pizza, chicken, and beer in their locker rooms, and tuning out Francona, and just choking that entire month. Yeah, yeah, the Yankees got eliminated in the first round. They made the playoffs when the “experts” said they wouldn’t. It’s ok. They got 27 rings to look at.

Harve De Grace is a leading candidate for Horse of the Year: This year, there is no clear favorite for the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. However, with the Breeder’s Cup Classic as her only clunker (4th place finish), it is looking like filly Harve De Grace (see my previous blog about meeting her) is a leading candidate. Winner of the Woodward against males, winner of the Beldame, against her own sex, and winner in a couple of other stakes, she definitely should be able to take the award. Friday, is the Clark Handicap where BC Classic runner up, Game On Dude, and 5th place finisher Flat Out are running. If either win, then it will be interesting to see if she still will be the leading candidate. Anyway, I think she should win. Would be great if a third female in a row won HOY (Rachel Alexandra in ’09, Zenyatta in ’10)

WWE possibly catching on that they need to build new stars: With the rise of super star, CM Punk, and seeing Randy Orton lately putting over Wade Barrett, and Cody Rhodes, and Dolph Ziggler, and Zach Ryder getting elevated, it appears that WWE has realized that they need to put over new people if they want to continue into the future. I don’t need to tell long time fans that for YEARS, Vince and the gang have overworked the same warhorses (Taker, HHH, Cena, Orton, Batista, Edge, HBK, Jericho, Kane, etc) in top matches. The top titles would go back and forth between these guys for years, and none of the younger guys would get elevated. NOW, the large majority of them are gone from the company, and NOW the youngsters are being pushed. The company should have had the older top guys put over these youngsters while they were still around. Oh well, at least it appears that WWE is getting the message now. Thankful for Orton to put over young guys. Just waiting on Cena to do so.

Edge leaving the wrestling ring with his health intact (pretty much), and on top: April 11, 2011 is a date that will be in my mind forever. I went through that day as normal. I surfed the net, and nothing of note fancied my interest. I was on twitter reading what people were saying about this and that. I was watching “Tough Enough.” The show took a commercial break right before the part when Stone Cold does the elimination, about 8:50pm EST. Raw did their little preview that they do or whatever, and they flashed a rather sad looking photo of Edge and on the bottom , it said “Edge Retiring?” Cole and Lawler’s voices could be heard speculating. My heart sank. I was stunned. I was like, “Is this an angle?” “This better be an angle.”

I knew Edge back in June of 2010 spoke of retiring in about two years, but then around WM27, he did a couple of interviews, and he said things indicating that he had apparently changed his mind, and would go a couple of more depending on his body. I had noticed in the months going into WM27 that he looked to be in quite a bit of pain. I noticed it in his left arm in particular. He’d either come down shaking it, or if he was hit in the left arm, he’d flex his left hand. I remember from his book, he said when he was having problems with his neck, he had issues with his left arm.

Anyway, when Raw came on, pretty much during the show , Cole and Lawler speculated about this “retirement” thing. People on twitter went nuts. I then remembered on the previous week’s Smackdown, he speared Brodus Clay, and grabbed his neck. Anyway, at about 1015pm, you could see him talking to Cena, and when you saw him walk to the arena, you could tell it was not an angle by looking at his sad face.

Of course, as we all know, he made the tearful announcement, and gave up the title the next night at the Smackdown taping. Edge’s retirement hurt me so much. I was affected by this so much. I cried for a week. For a few months, I hurt so badly over it. I couldn’t understand why God allowed this to happen. It really wasn’t fair. I was upset about how WWE handled him after he returned from the Achilles tendon (he returns from a career threatening injury and they deny him the belt at Mania? the heel/face turning of his character, switching him from SD/Raw/SD, feud with Kane. but that’s a blog for another time).

I was kind of upset that he was made to look like Del Rio’s bitch up to Mania, and was very annoyed that they put an 11 time World Champion the freaking CURTAIN JERKER at WRESTLEMANIA, and had to put up with people saying Del Rio should win. Hello. Del Rio beats Edge’s arm to a pulp and takes his belt too?? Edge lost 3 previous World Title matches, and now some dude who’s been on tv six months who made Edge his bitch on TV should get Edge’s belt too? NO WAY (again another blog). NOW, I had to deal with the horrible news that Edge was forced to retire due to injury to his neck.

However, seven months later, even though I still miss him terribly and always will, I am thankful to God, the spinal stenosis was caught, and Edge got to go out on top, as the World Champion. I am very thankful that Edge, and WWE decided to have the MRI done to make sure he could proceed as a wrestlers. I am sure it was very hard for him to cope with when he heard the news, but I am thankful that his friends and family were there for him to give him support. I constantly pray for him, as I always have. I am also thankful that he got to do Haven.

He said in an interview with Eurosport Superstar Caz that he was glad that he did Haven as he said that at first he wanted to hide in the mountains and grow a huge beard, but after doing Haven, he said that hiding would have been the wrong thing. I am glad that he did Haven, and the show will be renewed so I will get to see him that way. I am thankful that he will spend the rest of his life walking, and such. As he was scheduled to do a ladder match, I would have just (figuratively speaking) died on the spot if I saw another Droz or dare I say it, another Owen Hart incident.

Also, as much as Del Rio’s getting the belt at Mania may have been the “right” business decision, Vince McMahon’s decision to keep the belt on Edge wound up being the right decision. I am very grateful that Edge went out as champion. Not everyone gets to go out on top as champion. Very few do, being it wrestling (Trish Stratus I believe did), or in sports (Jerome Bettis, Michael Strahan), so as sad as his retirement was for me as his fan, I thought it was an honor well deserved.

Well, I hope readers enjoyed this. Happy Thanksgiving

Terri Bey currently blogs for about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for Terri can be found here at Facebook- and at Twitter-

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2011 World Series Prediction & Preview – Inside The Wheelhouse

October 19, 2011 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

St. Louis CardinalsThe title of World Champion is now within the reach of two teams that will be playing for it all starting this Wednesday. All it takes to accomplish that goal is to win four of the potentially remaining seven games in the 2011 Major League Baseball season, an easy feat when you say it but one that will test the heart of a true champion.

This is what Baseball fans wait for all season long, the final series of the season, the 2011 World Series. Who will be crowned Champion when it’s all said and done? Will it be the American League Champion Texas Rangers or the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals?

Texas Rangers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

The 2011 World Series will be a tale of two team’s incredible paths to reach this very point. On one side you have the Texas Rangers, the American League Champions who for a second year are back in the Fall Classic. They are team who was favored by many to get back into the World Series once again and make a run at the World Championship they missed out on last season. Their offense is a spectacle to watch and may have one of the most dangerous lineups in postseason history.

You then have the St. Louis Cardinals who on August 26th, 2011 were 10 1/2 games out of the National League Wild Card. By all accounts there season was done & the discussions of whether or not Albert Pujols would re-sign in the off-season had began. There run to the World Series has been nothing but historical thus far as they cut the Atlanta Braves lead and won the National League Wild Card on the final day of the season. They enter the World Series defeating the two best teams in the National League as they knocked off both the Philadelphia Phillies & Milwaukee Brewers to get to this point.

This is what October Baseball is all about. The paths in which teams take to reach the Fall Classic is what makes us want to tune in and watch the World Series. The paths these two teams have taken up to this point has made them Champions at heart, but the title of Champion is one they must earn in the next week and a half.

These two teams match-up better then you may think. Sure the Texas Rangers have a lineup that has carried them to back-to-back World Series trips but what about the St. Louis Cardinals. The veteran leadership of Pujols, Berkman and Holliday is one that shouldn’t be forgotten about. At one time you could have made a National League version of Mount Rushmore with the best players in the league and these three would be on that very monument.

But they have become older and have slowed down from the years they were in their primes. This is a 2nd World Series trip for the three of them each as Berkman was with Houston in 2005, Pujols won it in 2006 and Holliday was with Colorado in 2007. The experience of playing in the Fall Classic is definitely in that St. Louis clubhouse despite not winning it all. You also can’t forget they are being managed by a World Series Champion manager in Tony LaRussa.

The Texas Rangers are by far the favorite in the 2011 World Series and by all accounts, were the favorite to win the World Championship against San Francisco as well. They are back in the Fall Classic in back-to-back years and are hoping of achieving the goal they were set out for last season. This is there chance to get revenge on what they failed to do last season.

I really don’t think I need to break down the Texas Rangers batting order. It is the best in Baseball and historical up to this point. To reach the categories of fellow “murder’s row” like lineups they need to capture a World Championship. They have given their opponents some distinct trouble and more importantly given their pitchers some much needed run support along the process.

The Texas Rangers pitchers have an ERA over six so far in the postseason, in most cases that would lead to immediate elimination from the postseason but when you have a lineup like that you can give up six runs a game. The pitching for Texas is definitely a weakness but one that hasn’t been taken advantage of this October, for St. Louis to do some damage they need to do what the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers couldn’t do & that’s expose this weakness.

I tend to do a lot of Ron Washington bashing in these blogs and have done so the past two years because I truly don’t believe he is a World Series Champion caliber manager. Some of the decision he makes aren’t typically the best and he is a figurehead on a ballclub that is good because of the moves they have made and not the managing from the dugout. I believe that a 10 year old at times could coach the Rangers to victory the way they play but I miss give credit where credit is due and Ron Washington has taken the Rangers to their 2nd straight World Series which is very impressive.

As for the World Series itself I am actually going to go out on a limb here and pick the St. Louis Cardinals to be crowned the 2011 World Champions. The reason I say this is because the Cardinals have had nothing but adversity since August 26th, defeated two better Baseball teams then any of the teams the Rangers beat to get to the World Series and have a ton of momentum doing such. They have fought this long and have the confidence to complete the ultimate goal, so why not win the next four & become World Champions?

Texas is good and confident, but may be too confident in their path to the World Series. They really didn’t have that much competition in the AL West all season long and never really fought to get where they are right now. The Cardinals did and they can carry on until the final pitch of the season. I surprisingly like St. Louis in this one to become the 2011 World Champions.

Prediction: Cardinals win series 4-2

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Could Red Sox players be following Theo Epstein to Chicago? – Inside the Wheelhouse

October 12, 2011 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Theo Epstein Chicago CubsThe most recent era of Baseball being played in Boston since 2004 is now officially over as both Terry Francona & Theo Epstein have left the Red Sox Nation, departing from the organization since their collapse in September.

The devastation the September collapse of an 8-21 record & missing the playoffs after a 9 ½ game lead on September 1st in the Wild Card has prompted new changes for one of the best franchises in all of sports. While an era that brought two World Champions in eight years to a Championship stricken franchise since 1918 is now over, the slate is wiped clean in Boston and a new era must be built.

The rebuilding process for the Boston Red Sox will be done in the coming months as a new manager will be named and a new GM will be put in place. Free agents will be signed and players will be traded. Come time for Spring Training the Boston Red Sox should be poised once again for a run in the AL East. But the move that their now former general manager Theo Epstein isn’t as concrete at the moment as he heads to Chicago to end another famous sports curse.

Epstein has a very similar task to what he took on with Boston in 2004. That is, to end a curse placed upon a Baseball franchise and bring a World Championship to a team that hasn’t seen one since 1908, a 103 year span that has seen two World Wars, television & technology to evolve and eighteen U.S. Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama.

They are Baseball’s, Chicago’s and quite possibly America’s loveable losers. As they are “cursed” by Billy Goats, Black Cats and a Bartman. This is an uphill climb for the two-time World Champion General Manager, one that probably Epstein salivates at the mouth for if past history deems to ring true. If for Theo Epstein to become successful he will become a legendary Baseball General Manager, a future Hall-Of-Famer and quite possibly the best front office executive of all time.

Movies would be made, books would be written, fathers would be telling their children about the “great” Theo Epstein for centuries. You really can’t blame him for leaving Boston after all, while there is a horrible taste in the mouths of the fans he left behind, the times are “a-changin” in beantown and it was time for him to leave the great Baseball city for another great Baseball city. Now that the bags are packed and the deal is signed, what other Red Sox could be joining Epstein in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field?

I’ve put together a list of both Red Sox & Cubs free agents as we near closer to the MLB off-season as well as notable free agents that may end up as “Cubbies” as well:

Red Sox Free Agents:
– David Ortiz (1B)
– Marco Scutaro (2B/SS) (2012 option)
– Jason Varitek (C)
– J.D. Drew (OF)
– Tim Wakefield (SP)
– Jonathan Papelbon

Cubs Free Agents:
– Carlos Pena (1B)
– Aramis Ramirez (3B)
– Ryan Dempster (SP) (option)
– John Grabow (RP)
– Rodrigo Lopez (SP)
– Kerry Wood (RP)

Free Agents of Interest:
– Prince Fielder (1B)
– Albert Pujols (1B)
– Johnny Damon
– Roy Oswalt (SP)
– Heath Bell (RP)
– Jonathan Broxton (RP)
– Matt Capps (RP)

Let’s start by looking at the Red Sox that could be leaving Boston and join forces once again with Theo Epstein in Chicago. Of the six names, four of them could very well end up as Cubs with one player possibly being a back-up option if certain other free agents aren’t signed while one free-agent Red Sox player most certainly won’t end up in Chicago.

The four players that I could see leaving Boston to re-join Theo in Chicago are as followed: Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek, Marco Scutaro & J.D. Drew.

Papelbon is the favorite out of the four to be leaving Boston for Chicago because he will be highly demanded on the current reliever market and the Cubs need a shut down closer for their team. Carlos Marmol led the league in blown saves and W.H.I.P. for closers in 2011, who knows how many wins the Cubs could have had if Marmol actually shut down the 9th inning for a victory. Signing Papelbon moves Marmol to a setup role where there isn’t as much pressure to win the game and the Cubs can let free-agent Kerry Wood go out on the market.

Up until September, it was almost a foregone conclusion for most of 2011 that Papelbon’s time in Boston was probably up. It appeared Daniel Bard was going to become “the man” for Boston in the 9th until his ERA fluctuated in the 6’s during the month of September. While Papelbon wasn’t as amazing, he still in considered to be one of the best closers in the game. Certainly Papelbon will be one of the highest priorities for Theo in the off-season to bring to Chicago.

The days of Jason Varitek being a starting catcher are over with and he has now assumed more of a role as a back-up catching mentor for younger catchers. While the American League may suit him the most since he can bat as a DH or catch on off days, he will be a primed target for a guy like Epstein who knows what Varitek can bring as a leader in the clubhouse and a mentor for a young catcher like Geovany Soto. Varitek provides depth at the catcher’s position, gives the Cubs a good person for the locker room and some who will serve as a mentor. He is a veteran leader that can help stabilize this young Cubs team.

As for Marco Scutaro I don’t see the Red Sox picking up his option for 2012 as Jed Lowrie appears to be the shortstop of the future for the Red Sox. Scutaro is a great defender in the field and someone who could serve as a good second baseman for Sterlin Castro at short. Scutaro also has a decent bat in his hands as well and can serve as some good depth towards the bottom of the order for the Cubs should Epstein reach out to his former signing.

Finally you have J.D. Drew; his time in Boston is most certainly over as it appears to be JJ Reddick’s time in Boston. Drew isn’t the player he once was or primed to become, but he is a veteran who will command a small amount of money after getting paid so highly over the last couple of years. I would not be surprised if J.D. Drew shows up as a right fielder for the Cubs on opening day.

Then you have the one Red Sox player who could be signed if other options for the Cubs don’t fall into place in the off-season. That player is free agent 1B/DH David Ortiz. Ortiz is a long shot to land in Chicago especially if Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder or Carlos Pena (in that order) doesn’t sign with the Cubs in the off-season to play first base. I fully expect one of those three to be in a Cubs uniform next season, Fielder more than Pujols.

Ortiz is your typical American League hitter as he would be better served as a player in a designated hitter role, hence why I believe he is a long shot. But should any of the first baseman I named pass the Cubs by and Ortiz is still on the market, I wouldn’t be surprised if he should sign. I don’t think Ortiz is heading back to Boston as a new era is coming through so you never know.

One Red Sox player that won’t be a Cubbie in the off-season is 45 year old starting pitcher Tim Wakefield. If Wakefield plays it will be for the Red Sox and no one else & for the Cubs to sign him would make no sense. I expect Wakefield to re-sign or retire during the off-season, playing for the Cubs are not an option.

All of this can become true if one thing were to happen, a move at the manager position which is currently held by Mike Quade.

Let’s get this straight; Terry Francona will eventually become the manager of the Chicago Cubs, just not this season. Francona will sit out the 2012 season, lick his wounds, take care of any personal problems he may have, become an analyst for some network but he will be back come 2013 and it will be with the Chicago Cubs.

Theo Epstein does not want to wipe everything clean with his new broom in 2012. The Cubs won’t win a World Championship in 2012, Epstein wasn’t able to pull that off in 2003 in his first year with the Red Sox either. But come 2013, like 2004 for the Red Sox (his 2nd season with them), I expect the Cubs to compete for a World Champion and to do so with a new manager.

Epstein & the Cubs front office will let Quade play out his contract with the hope of their sights set on Francona come 2013. Unless Quade takes the Cubs to the World Series in 2012 will he stay in Chicago, he is a sitting duck and knows it, simply warming a position that will be eventually held by Francona. Knowing that Francona could end up as the manager for the Cubs could very well sell most of Epstein’s former players in Boston go to Chicago.

Other potential moves I see Epstein possibly doing is re-signing Aramis Ramirez to stay in Chicago, who was trade bait at the deadline but wanted to play in Chicago, hence why he used his no trade clause to block any potential deals (that’s always a good sign). Picking up the option on Ryan Dempster for 2012 since the starting pitching is in flux and possibly re-signing Kerry Wood to fulfill a 7th or 8th inning role should they sign Papelbon & move Marmol to 8th or 7th.

Pena, Grabow and Lopez will be let go to free agency & I believe Epstein will look to trade former All-Stars Marlon Byrd and/or Alfonso Soriano to another team to get rid of those contracts. The 2013 Free Agent list would have some stellar outfielders like Josh Hamilton & Matt Kemp available should they not be extended & let out into the market. I would not be shocked if Epstein makes a deal during this offseason for B.J. Upton either.

While one era closes in Boston another one opens in Chicago with the hopes of similar results. Epstein certainly has the ability to put together Championship teams and looks to do so in windy city for the next five years. Look for the puzzle pieces to be formed with former Red Sox players from teams he built in the past and the former head of the “idiots” to be at the helm in the dugout.

Reverse the curse part deux has begun in Chicago…

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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St. Louis Cardinals Swag on

2011 NLCS Prediction & Preview – Inside The Wheelhouse

October 08, 2011 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Albert Pujols and Allen CraigThe 2011 Major League Baseball season is now down to the final four teams to crown its World Champion for the 2011 campaign. The right to represent their respective league in the World Series is the final step before playing for it all. Which of these two teams, the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals will earn the right to represent the National League in the 2011 World Series and be crowned National League Champions?

Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

The National League Central Division will hold the host of the 2011 National League Champion no matter what happens now in the National League Championship Series as it is down to the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s no real surprise that the Milwaukee Brewers have made it to this point in the Postseason; they were the 2nd best team (record wise) in the National League for 2011. While it may not be surprising that the Brewers are this far it is very surprising the Cardinals are here, a team who was 10 ½ games back in the Wild Card on August 26th, a team who made it into the playoffs on the last day of the season and a team who beat the odds on favorite Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS to advance to the NLCS.

Besides the fact that the winner of this series moves onto the World Series, there may be more underlying pressure in this series that proves these two teams as winners in the off-season. This series very well could play into the hands of who retains their star first baseman in the off-season. I believe whoever wins this series will have a much easier task of re-signing either Prince Fielder of the Brewers or Albert Pujols of the Cardinals in the 2011 off-season.

This is the time of the year where soon-to-be free agents playing in postseason baseball have to be sold on staying on their respect ball clubs. In 2005, despite making it to the World Series, the Astros were unable to re-sign Carlos Beltran, in 2010, despite making it to the World Series; the Texas Rangers were unable to re-sign Cliff Lee. The track record history may not prove into the winner of the National League Championship’s favor, but it certainly can lend a hand in the process.

The best thing about the 2011 National League Championship Series is that these two teams are division rivals and have played each other eighteen times in the 2011 campaign already. These types of matchups usually lead to even better Championship Series matchups. There is real hatred between these two teams & their fans; it should prove to be a very fun and energetic seven game series to crown the NL Champ.

As for the 2011 season series itself, the Brewers and Cardinals each won 9 of the 18 games they played against one another this season, splitting the season series. What may play into the Cardinals favor is that despite splitting the season series the Cards won six of the last seven against the Brewers including a three game sweep at Miller Park in late-August. Miller Park is not an easy ballpark to play in and therefore the Cardinals have a slight edge when you look at it from that advantage point.

It’s not like either one of these teams lacks momentum or one team has more momentum then the other either. The Brewers & the Cardinals both played in tight Game 5’s to get to the NLCS. The momentum swings they are both on right now parallel one another that you can’t pick a favorite on momentum alone.

When it comes to other comparisons these teams are still even the more similar. The starting rotations are both similar in the fact that from their ace to their 4th starter they are a good rotation. Besides the Phillies, these two teams might have the 2nd & 3rd best rotations in the National League, flip-flop whoever you want in the one & two spots.

Then there is their lineups, both coveted by a “big 3” charge. In St. Louis you have Pujols, Berkman & Holliday. In Milwaukee you have Fielder, Braun & Weeks. The role players on both sides are both shockingly similar with guys like Morgan & Hart in Milwaukee and Furcal & Freese in St. Louis. Everything we have discussed in this blog thus far makes these two teams so similar in successes it’s amazing.

The one thing that may not give one team over another is the Managers on both teams. You have a Hall-of-Fame manager in Tony LaRussa for the Cardinals and the first year manager Ron Roenicke managing the Brew crew. The edge clearly goes to LaRussa as he has been here before, played in a Championship Series and has one multiple World Series Champions. But it’s not like Roenicke has never been a coach in a high pressure situation as he was with the Angels organization as a base coach & bench coach up until taking the Brewers job, so don’t take anything away from Roenicke either but LaRussa has the edge.

This series is going to go seven games. It’s going to be intense, it’s going to be fun to watch and it’s going to be a series that Baseball fans will enjoy watching & talking about for a long time. There is no real distinct advantages between these two teams right now, this is a series with no favorite, the one with the most competitive drive & heart will represent the NL in the World Series. I expect this one to be a classic and one I look very forward to watching.

Prediction: Brewers win series 4-3

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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St. Louis Cardinals Swag on

2011 ALCS Prediction & Preview – Inside The Wheelhouse

October 07, 2011 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Justin VerlanderThe 2011 Major League Baseball season is now down to the final four teams to crown its World Champion for the 2011 campaign. The right to represent their respective league in the World Series is the final step before playing for it all. Which of these two teams, the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers will earn the right to represent the American League in the 2011 World Series and be crowned American League Champions?

Texas Rangers vs. Detroit Tigers

The Texas Rangers make their 2nd straight trip to the American League Championship Series, ironically beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS of last year & this year, while the Detroit Tigers return to the ALCS for the first time since 2006, ironically enough, beating the New York Yankees in the ALDS that year as well. This matchup is intriguing as both represent a strong offense (the Texas Rangers) and a solid pitching staff (the Detroit Tigers). A matchup of these strengths will be tested with an opportunity to play in the Fall Classic, the 2011 World Series.

Texas is the odds on favorite to win this series and they should be. They are the defending American League Champions and despite losing Cliff Lee to free agency & Vladimir Guerrero as well, they are possibly a better team than last year’s American League Championship team. Entering this season I did not think I’d be saying those words but it is true, this team is really good, again, and may be better then the team from last season. They are a year older, a year wiser and ready to get that World Series ring on their finger.

Then you have the Detroit Tigers, a team that were favored in the American League Central Division but not by all like their Texas counterpart. The Tigers weren’t even considered to be American League representatives in the World Series nor reach this point. But they are here and ready to play for it all, they have a slight advantage playing for something in a Game 5 situation against the New York Yankees & also playing a much better team then the Rangers did in Tampa.

I truly believe that Games 1 & 2 in Texas will be the foundation for the way this series will be played. In Game 1 you will have the aces going at it as Justin Verlander of the Tigers goes up against CJ Wilson of the Rangers. Verlander is the outright AL Cy Young award winner and possibly AL MVP candidate while CJ Wilson had a breakout year as the Rangers ace after Cliff Lee departed. The tone for this series will be dependent on the performance from these two starters, both whom didn’t pitch all that masterfully in the Postseason in their only starts.

Looking at Game 2 I’d have to believe that the Tigers will turn to either Max Scherzer on 3 days rest from his relief outing against the Yankees in Game 5 or ALDS Game 4 starter Rick Porcello. If it is Schrezer who gets the nod over Porcello it would give Detroit a fair chance to possibly leave Texas with a 2-0 lead heading back to the Motor City. As for Texas I’d have to figure that it would either be Colby Lewis or Derek Holland who gets the start with Holland probably being the favorite to start in Texas while great Postseason starter Colby Lewis gets the nod on the road.

Games 1 & 2 are so important that I believe that either Detroit or Texas leaves the Lone Star state with a 2-0 lead. I don’t think either team walks out of Texas with a victory and that the Game 1 matchup will heavily influence what takes place in Game 2. Whoever leaves Texas with a 2-0 lead will not have to return to the Lone Star state as I don’t see the series going for much longer.

The 2-0 lead will lead me to predict a 5 game series for the ALCS while a potential 1-1 tie makes me lean towards this going the complete 7 game distance. There really is no between here but I believe that one of these two teams enters Detroit with a sure fire 2-0 lead and the World Series in front of them. While I am predicting a 2-0 lead heading into Detroit I expect these games to be intense and extremely fun to watch.

When you look at the offense for these two ball clubs it’s a no doubter that the Texas Rangers have the edge. A lineup with Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre is deadly & may be the best lineup in all of Baseball. Detroit has their hitters in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez & Delmon Young but they are more or less filled with role play hitters like Jhonny Peralta, Don Kelly and Austin Jackson.

While the lineup is deadly they can easily be overmatched by the Detroit pitching. Case in point, look at what the Tigers did to the Yankee hitters. In the three losses the Yankees had in the series they scored less then 5 runs, in the victories they scored over 9 runs. While inconsistent from a pitching standpoint of Detroit, it is a Yankees lineup filled with Cano, Teixeria, Jeter, Granderson & A-Rod, the Tigers had their work cut out for them & playing the Yankees in the ALDS helps them in the ALCS in my opinion.

Finally we wrap up the comparisons by looking at the Managers. Jim Leyland is a Hall-of-Fame manager while Ron Washington is just happy to be there in Texas. I can’t take away that Texas has made the ALCS for a 2nd straight year but let’s be honest with ourselves, that’s more of the team’s successes then their managers. Detroit is where they are because they are coached well by Jim Leyland. Ron Washington is the proverbial crutch that holds back this Rangers team from being a dynasty, look how he coached them in the 2010 World Series.

As for my prediction I am a big proponent in momentum. No matter how you look at it the human factor of momentum is there in every sense of every sport. Detroit has that momentum right now. They just played in a series where they had their backs up against the wall while Texas (for the most part) could cruise to victory towards the ALCS.

Look at last season for instance, in the 2010 ALCS between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. The Yankees won the ALDS in 3 games while Texas went the distance against Tampa in 5 games. Texas ended up winning the series 4-2 and I believe the momentum from the ALDS helped carry them to the ALCS, I believe the same will hold true for the Detroit Tigers as they head to the 2011 World Series.

Prediction: Tigers win series 4-1

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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Philadelphia Phillies 2011 NL Eastern Division Champs “5-In-a-Row” Adjustable Cap

2011 NLDS Predictions & Preview – Inside the Wheelhouse

September 30, 2011 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Roy HalladayOctober Baseball is here and after 162 games we have narrowed it down to just eight teams who will be vying for the World Series Championship. In this blog we will be looking at the National League and the four teams who will be looking to advance to the National League Championship Series next week! Let’s take a look at the upcoming National League Divisional Series!

Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals

What a strange twist of fate for the Philadelphia Phillies as if they did not defeat the Braves in Game #162 then they wouldn’t be playing the Cardinals in the NLDS. So before Game 1 of the NLDS this Saturday I hope every member of the Cardinals roster thanks the Phillies for doing such. The last time a Philadelphia sports figure helped put another team into the playoffs? DeSean Jackson’s return against the Giants kept the Green Bay Packers alive and well, you know how that ended…

Back to Baseball here and we actually have a really good matchup here & not one that immediately screams “the Phillies are going to the NLCS.” I think Phillies fans believe that there is no sure win in Baseball postseason battles, just look to last season when it was all but signed, sealed & delivered when the Giants advanced to the 2010 NLCS. The Phils were caught off guard and the Giants advanced en-route to a World Series Championship, I don’t see lighting striking twice for the Phillies though this postseason.

Philadelphia obviously surpasses the St. Louis Cardinals when it comes to a starting rotation, especially in a 5 game format. The Phils will be sending up Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in Games 1 & 2 while Cole Hamels will pick up the scrapes (and a potential sweep) in Game 3. The Cards have their work cut out for them in the NLDS most certainly.

Now if the Cards had Adam Wainwright in the rotation at all this season I might say that Games 1 & 2 is pretty well matched with Chris Carpenter in the mix. That isn’t the case this season for the Cardinals and it showed in the standings as it took 162 games to get to this point to reach the postseason. Had they had Wainwright I fully expect this team to be the 2nd best team in the NL.

The Cards can’t match pitch for pitch with the Phillies because it would be just too hard for their rotation to go up against the superb Phils rotation. What the Cardinals have to do is prove why they have one of the better offenses in Baseball. Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and (if healthy) Matt Holliday need to out “big 3” the Phillies “big 3” (some may say 4) of Rollins, Utley & Howard (and Pence for the “Big 4” lovers of the world).

St. Louis only chances of winning this series lies within that theory. I still believe one of the Phillies biggest weaknesses is their lineup, Utley & Rollins health is questionable, you never know what Howard you will get and this is Pence’s first trip to the Postseason. If St. Louis can keep it close for 6 to 7 innings and put it to the rotation then there is a good chance to win ballgames given the track record of the Phillies bullpen in the postseason.

But like I said, stars need to align for something like that to occur. The Phillies are the best team in Baseball and like I said in an earlier blog for the CCB, I believe that all roads this postseason go straight towards Philly. There is no denying the talent on that diamond from the lineup to the rotation and quite frankly to the improved bullpen with Blanton & Worley thrown in there now. The Phillies have the formula to win a World Series and just need the equation to fulfill what they believe is their destiny for the 2011 season.

The Phillies will not roll all over the Cardinals; this is still a team with Albert Pujols on it and managed by a World Series manager in Tony LaRussa. This will be a much tougher first round matchup for the Phillies then they have seen in years past and it will be a good series for Baseball fans to watch. But the fans that will be celebrating when this is over will be those that reside in Philadelphia, you just can’t stop this machine, not at this stage of the postseason at least.

Prediction: Phillies win series 3-1

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Baseball fan in me really loves this matchup for the postseason. Out of any of the four matchups this may be the most exciting because of the implications of this series. Both these teams are poised from my viewpoint as teams that could fill the mold of what the San Francisco Giants did last season.

They are playing with house money in a sense, most people didn’t think they would be here and people believe that come 2012 they won’t be in October Baseball either. These two ballclubs are the definition of a “team,” they don’t lay their laurels on the free agent market, they don’t make big trades, they develop or piece together the puzzle with trades they think will fit to make a good team. They very well could be teams that get “streaky” just at the right time ala the 2010 San Francisco Gaints.

Even before the start of the season I felt like the Milwaukee Brewers had a starting rotation that could easily matchup well with the Philadelphia Phillies. They made the deals for Shawn Marcum & Zack Greinke and still had Yovano Gallardo & Randy Wolf. Milwaukee had a 4 man tandem to at least compete with the bar that was set in Philadelphia and they proved that by winning the NL Central this season.

The Brewers want to keep Prince Fielder badly, replays of 2008 when they did the best they could to win a World Series and keep CC Sabathia in town is still replaying in their fans & their front offices mind. They realize that the best way they can sell Prince Fielder on staying in Milwaukee is by winning and bringing a World Series to Milwaukee. Ryan Braun is a lot older from the 2008 run, Rickie Weeks is getting healther and Cory Hart & Nyjer Morgan have helped put together a really good lineup for the Brew crew, this team could help keep Prince as a Brewer.

But don’t sleep on the NL West Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. This team is mirroring teams “that weren’t supposed to be here” like the ’97 Florida Marlins. They are young, they are hungry and they know the experts don’t believe in them. Why not turn Baseball on its head and give em something to go crazy about & run the table in the Postseason?

This rotation reminds me a lot of the Oakland Athletics of the early 2000s with the young pitchers they showcase on a night to night basis. You have Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson & Josh Collmenter for the youngsters and veteran Joe Saunders rounding out the rest of the rotation. It’s similar in theory to the Milwaukee Brewers rotation and should make for a really fun pitching battle in the NLDS.

As for the lineup…name one other player on their team not named Justin Upton. Ready, set, go. Having trouble? I thought you would.

But all because you can’t name them doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. Justin Upton is the centerpiece of this team and then you have Ryan Roberts, Chris Young, Miguel Montero & the recently acquired Aaron Hill as the supporting cast. They know that outside of Arizona no one believes in them and that’s fine because they hope for their bats to do much of the talking.

When it comes to the series itself I have to lean towards the Milwaukee Brewers in this one. While the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks remind of the 1997 Florida Marlins when it comes to no one believing in them, the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers remind me of the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies. This is a team that had a bad taste in their mouth in the last playoff run (ironically 2008) and hope to avenge that lackluster playoff run for their franchise.

This team, this franchise, this city and their fan base want Prince Fielder to stay. The nucleus in Milwaukee shouldn’t have to be broken up for the big dollars of another ballclub. The Brewers can help aide Prince Fielder’s decision by playing good baseball and by doing such when it counts. I believe they will do that and give the Phillies a pretty good test come NLCS time next week.

The series will be a Baseball series for the Baseball fan. I expect a lot of great pitching, a lot of great hitting and just all around good Baseball. I am very excited to sit down and watch the Brewers & D-Backs play in the NLDS as it should be a very fun series to watch.

Prediction: Brewers win series 3-1

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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Philadelphia Phillies 2011 NL Eastern Division Champs “5-In-a-Row” Adjustable Cap

2011 ALDS Predictions & Preview – Inside the Wheelhouse

September 30, 2011 By: Category: Major League Baseball, Sports

Evan LongoriaOctober Baseball is here and after 162 games we have narrowed it down to just eight teams who will be vying for the World Series Championship. In this blog we will be looking at the American League and the four teams who will be looking to advance to the American League Championship Series next week! Let’s take a look at the upcoming American League Divisional Series!

New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

The New York Yankees & Detroit Tigers meet for the first time in the Postseason since 2006, a postseason that saw the Tigers defeat the Yankees that year in the ALDS and it was also the last time the Tigers were in Postseason play. The Yankees look to avenge that series lost from 5 years ago while the Detroit Tigers look to prove that they may be the best “sleeper” team in the American League. This series has the making of a classic series already as two of Baseball’s historic franchises battle it out for an American League Championship Series berth.

The AL East Division Champion New York Yankees enter the 2011 Postseason the same way they entered the 2009 Postseason, a Postseason that saw them capture their 27th World Series Championship mind you. They won the AL East Division and have home-field advantage for however long their playoff run allows them, two things the Yankees did not have in their 2010 run that ended in the American League Championship Series. Those two variables of winning their division and having home-field advantage maybe the most important things for whatever success the Yankees look to have this Postseason.

But that certainly doesn’t bother the Detroit Tigers because they have done this before to the Yankees. They came into Yankee Stadium, that year as AL Wild Card winners and ended up winning the series despite the Yanks having home-field advantage. While the variable of home-field advantage is important to the Bombers it doesn’t scare Detroit as they have done this before.

Out of all the series in the entire 2011 Postseason Division Series rounds this one will be the most impacted by Game 1 of the series. It’s clearly the best pitching matchup for the Divisional round as two of the best American League pitchers in the game today will do battle with October implications looming in the background. The Yankees will send CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00 ERA) to the mound to do battle with Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA) who is without a doubt the AL Cy Young and maybe the AL MVP for the 2011 season.

Game 1 will set the tone for the rest of this series for both teams and will prove to show who will be the lead horse between these two great Baseball teams. If Detroit wins they head to Game 2 putting Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83 ERA) on the mound against the Yankees Game 2 starter, rookie Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.70 ERA). To me that is a lot of pressure for a rookie to be handling in his first playoff start as if Detroit goes up 1-0 heading into Game 1, the Yankees season will be in the hands of the said rookie.

No other series in the Division round of the playoffs will be more dependent on their starting rotation like this one will. Both teams have overcome pitching adversity throughout the season (the question marks for the Yankees rotation and the Tigers not having five solid starters until acquiring Doug Fister) and have to do so once again on Baseball grandest stage. It will be very interesting to see which arms help propel their teams to the next round.

If New York is able to out pitch the Tigers for 6 innings the game may be considered over at that point as the Yankees are looking to showcase one area that was focused on in the offseason, their bullpen. Rafael Soriano in the 7th, David Robertson in the 8th and Mariano Rivera in the 9th maybe the best 7th-8th-9th inning combination in the Postseason, if New York wants to win this series they need to be on their “A” game. The bullpen is an area where the Yankees are more superior then that of the Detroit Tigers.

When it comes to comparing the two lineups it’s the New York Yankees who have the edge over a powerful and productive Detroit Tigers team. Curtis Granderson has been healthy throughout the year and is another AL MVP candidate & you can’t forget about Mark Teixeira, the awkwardly quieted Alex Rodriguez & of course Derek Jeter batting in the lineup. The “silent assassin” for the Yankees lineup could very well end up being September call-up Jesus Montero who since coming to the big leagues has batted .328 with 4 HRs & 12 RBI’s in 18 games. He was the highly touted Yankees prospect who almost brought Cliff Lee to New York in 2010 and is looking like the player the Yankees always hoped he’d be, don’t be surprised if he is the game changing element for the Yankees success.

But don’t discredit the Detroit Tigers lineup at all. A lineup with Miguel Cabrera & Victor Martinez is a very powerful & potent team that will produce runs and give the Yankees pitchers some major trouble. Detroit has danced with New York in the playoffs before; most of the players on this team were their in ’06 and hope to do it yet again. This series is going to come down to the wire.

As for predictions in this series I have to go with the New York Yankees in 5 games. I believe their will be a lot of back-and-forth momentum swings for both teams throughout this series and that the pitching will live up to the hype I have given it in the blog. The starting pitchers will decide this series and outside of Verlander for the Tigers & Sabathia for the Yankees, there are just two many question marks for both sides. I really believe that variable that no one is talking about will be Jesus Montero, if he is hitting well then the Yankees will be successful, if he is not, the Yankees won’t be. That is a lot of unknowing pressure for a rookie who only has 18 games under his Major League belt.

Prediction: Yankees win series 3-2

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays

The defending American League Champions probably didn’t think they would be playing their current opponents in the American League Division Series. They, like everyone else, probably figured they would be playing the Boston Red Sox in this round. The only people who knew they would be here was the Tampa Bay Rays and once again these two teams meet in the ALDS for the 2nd straight year.

As we all know the Texas Rangers won that series in 5 games, a series where they had a 2-0 lead leaving Tampa Bay and heading back to their home crowd in Texas. Tampa ended up making the series interesting as they would win 2 in Texas heading back to the Trop in Tampa to try & advance to the ALCS. Texas ended up winning that series en-route to becoming eventual American League Champions; Tampa hopes to prevent history from repeating itself this year.

The Texas Rangers are another year older in their current run of great talent and have a Postseason under their belts which greatly helps how well they will do this Postseason. They’ve battled adversity in losing Cliff Lee to the Free Agent market, a rash of injuries to their big bats (Josh Hamilton & Nelson Cruz) and yet again are one of the best teams in the American League. This very well could be a dynasty in the making.

Variables that hurt the Rangers are two things, the Division in which they play in and their manager, Ron Washington.

I believe the AL West does not showcase the best talent of the American League when it comes to the East or even the Central divisions. It appeared that Texas could pull away from this Division in July, yet again and advance to the Postseason; I believe the lack of competition they see within in their Division can hurt them, especially when compared to a Rays team that has fought for their lives the last two weeks. While it could affect them, I don’t think it will in the end because they proved to not be effected by it last year.

Then you have Ron Washington, who by all accounts, is the luckiest man on earth. He has inherited a Rangers team that is an offensive juggernaut, a starting rotation that does not get enough credit and a bullpen that could be the best in Baseball. Despite all that, it appears year-after-year Ron Washington will make decisions from the Rangers dugout that leaving you head scratching and wondering if he knows what he is doing.

I believe if the Rangers had a more experienced manager at the helm, a Tony LaRussa, a Jim Leyland, etc. they could be the best team in Baseball. Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers, maybe the worst variable for the defending American League Champions. While not playing on the field, the decisions he will make will prove to be crucial for the Rangers successes.

Tampa Bay isn’t supposed to be here right? The tied the Wild Card with the Red Sox on Monday, held onto the tie on Tuesday and won it on Wednesday thanks to an Evan Longoria walk-off homerun. Not bad for a team that lost their entire bullpen, Matt Garza and Carl Crawford all last season. No matter who you root for, you have to love what the Tampa Bay Rays have done, yet again.

This team is fun to watch, they have a great amount of heart and a talent that matches that. If you don’t have teams to root for this Postseason then root for the Rays because this team is a miracle team on a run to history. But a run that could very well hit a huge brick wall in Postseason play.

To once again overcome adversity this season the Rays will need to beat the Rangers when it counts, something as discussed before, they failed to do last year in the Postseason. This was a 2010 Postseason where the Rays had home-field advantage and were the best team in the American League, they now do it as the 4th seed with no home-field advantage at all this year. That’s never stopped prior Champions before them though.

As much as like the Rays from a fan’s standpoint I realize that the dream rollercoaster ride they have been on the last month is exactly that, a dream. The Rangers are their

nightmare and a team that just can’t be stopped from trying to make another World Series title run. Tampa goes into this series with a rotation filled with question marks outside of James Shields, you don’t know what you will get from rookie sensation Mark Hellickson and David Price hasn’t pitched like David Price at all this season. These are questions you don’t want when facing a lineup like the Texas Rangers.

The Texas bats will take it to the Rays and I can see this going as far as just three games. The Rangers have a lot going for them right now while the Rays 2011 heartbeat has been extended for a couple more games. It’ll be a good series if you’re a Rangers fan as I expect it to be over quick but I won’t be shocked if the Rays run the table on em. With that being said I’m still going to go with the Rangers getting the 3 game sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Prediction: Rangers win series 3-0

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ESPN: Catching Hell DVD

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Philadelphia Phillies 2011 NL Eastern Division Champs “5-In-a-Row” Adjustable Cap

ESPN Catching Hell Review & My Thoughts On The “Bartman Play”

September 29, 2011 By: Category: Entertainment, Major League Baseball, Sports

Steve BartmanOn Tuesday, September 27th, ESPN Films debuted director Alex Gibney’s documentary, “Catching Hell” as part of their excellent “30 for 30″ film series. Before I continue with this blog, I want to say that I have lots of beefs with ESPN in general, but this “30 for 30″ series of documentaries is one thing they do very well, producing great films about such subjects as The University of Miami and their controversial reputation, Southern Methodist University getting the Death Penalty from the NCAA and the aftermath, and about Ricky Williams, and many others. “30 for 30″ is a great film series I do admit.

That being said, “Catching Hell” is about one of the most infamous scapegoats of all of sports, a young Cubs fan named Steve Bartman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was Game Six in the 2003 NLCS at Wrigley Field between the visiting Florida Marlins and the Chicago Cubs. Now, before I go further, the Chicago Cubs had not won the World Series since 1908, and were considered “cursed,” when in 1945, Chicago tavern owner Billy Sianiswas was asked to leave a World Series game at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and the Tigers because he had his Billy goat with him, and Sianiswas said because of that, he cursed the Cubs and the Cubs would never win the World Series ever, which they haven’t.

The 2003 season for the Cubs, was a magical season, and fans were very excited to see their “lovable losers” on the precipice of a World Series appearance. Pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were having great seasons. Sammy Sosa hit for 40 homers that regular season. The Cubs had a great post season, and here they were, on the brink of an appearance in the World Series, and the following occurs: As I said previously, it was Game Six in the 2003 NLCS at Wrigley Field, the Florida Marlins are down 3-0 to the Cubs, and down 3 games to 2 in the Series, and were five outs away from going back to Florida for their off season. Marlins’ second baseman Luis Castillo comes to the plate, and eventually hits one of the most notorious foul balls in MLB history.

As most people know, several fans reached out for the ball as Moises Alou coming in from right field tried to make the catch, but could not because the ball was deflected by a fan. Alou then had a Fred Sanford like hissy fit, and was very irate. Pitcher Mark Prior was upset, and the Cubs wanted “Fan interference” called. The umpires refused because they ruled that the ball crossed the plane and was not in the field of play. Thanks to the TV producers replaying the incident over and over, it was eventually revealed that the fan who deflected the ball was a Cubs fan named Steve Bartman.

I think everyone knows by now what happened next. I have seen collapses in sports (Dolphins/Jets on Monday Night Football in 2000 comes to mind), but this one was crazy. Mark Pryor walks Castillo on a wild pitch. Ivan Rodriquez hits an RBI single, and the score is now 3-1. What happens next is very baffling. Cubs SS Alex Gonzalez misfields a ball , which would have been a sure fire double play which would have gotten the Cubs out of the inning. Derek Lee doubled, and Pryor was done for the night. I won’t go through everything, but a total of 8 runs scored, and even Sammy Sosa screwed up on a defensive play as well during this fiasco. Cubs eventually lost Game 7 even though they lead 5-3 at one point. Marlins went on to beat the Yankees 4 games to 2.

As for Steve Bartman, a lifelong Cubs fan, his life was destroyed. Fans outside the stadium eventually found out who he was thanks to a guy with a TV on his head , and the TV producers repeatedly showing the incident over and over. They started chanted ***hole, and then the chant permeated through the stadium. He had to be removed from his seat, and put in a room to be shown what he did, as he was sitting there all game with earphones listening to the broadcast. The media put out his home and work address, and he is now pretty much a recluse, all because he did what MOST FANS would do.

The movie itself was pretty well done. The director Alex Gibney, who is from Boston, tries to use two incidents of scapegoating, and try to show some correlation. At least, that is how I saw it. The large majority of the piece did discuss the Bart incident, but he tried to also tie in the infamous Bill Buckner incident also. As most sports fans know, in the 1986 World Series, Bill Buckner was the scapegoat for Boston fans when he mishandled a ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson of the Mets. I think he did get his point across somewhat. The Unitarian Minister’s explanation was very good when she talked about how back in Biblical times, the Priest would have a goat, and the people would put their sins on the goat, and then the goat would be taken away, or in some cases, the goat would be thrown off the cliff.

As fans, and by the way, fan is short for fanatic, we sometimes get so into our love for our team, athlete, wrestler, etc, that sometimes we get blinded, and rational thinking goes out the window. I think Gibney’s bringing up Buckner is that Boston fans wanted that Curse of the Bambino off their backs so badly , and that they were so mad that the Sox lost (especially to a New York team at that), that they could not think straight, and that someone had to take the blame, and that someone was Buckner. They didn’t care that before the play , the pitcher had given up some singles, and I think a run came in. They didn’t care that Buckner had bad knees and the manager should have known better than to keep him in there. They didn’t care there was a game 7 and the Red Sox should have tried to win that. All they could think of is that their Sox lost and it was Buckner’s fault.

Gibney tries to tie Buckner’s story and Bartman’s story together. Both have a lot in common, I admit. Both incidents involved “cursed” franchises. Both incidents happened late in game sixes of series. Both guys were blamed so badly that they had to put themselves in exile. Bill Buckner and his family moved out of Massachusetts.Steve Bartman continues to live in seclusion in the Chicago area. Buckner played for both franchises. The ACLS, and the NCLS of 2003 featured both “cursed” franchises, Boston Red Sox and Cubs. In both of those series, the Red Sox would lose to the dreaded New York Yankees on a home run in an infamous game where star pitcher Pedro Martinez may have been left in too long, and reliever Tim Wakefield gave up the winning home run to Aaron Boone of the Yankees, and once again be haunted by the Yankees, and the Cubs would also be haunted by the Marlins in the aforementioned Bartman incident game.

I thought though that it seemed like it was a bit too much like a documentary. The director was in it too much. I thought someone else should have narrated it. I understood why he brought up Buckner , and the Red Sox, and I know the guy was from Boston, but if Mr. Gibney was going to make a documentary about Bartman, he should keep it about Bartman. He could mention Buckner in passing as another example, but I really didn’t need about 30 minutes of the film dedicated to Buckner. The lack of an interview with Steve Bartman, although considering the circumstances it is understandable, hurt the product. I certainly understand though.

What I DID like was that the director talked to people who were sitting in the surrounding seats, and get the Bartman story from their perspective. I liked hearing their side of the story how they were also going for the ball. The director also showed different footage from other video cameras of the incident from different angles. You also saw his seat. They show from a different angle how the ***hole chant got into the stadium, and the whole scene became a lynch mob. The TV producers did confess that they may have shown it too much.

They felt that it was such an important play. The director also pointed out that they didn’t repeatedly show Alex Gonzalez’ screw up over and over. The movie also went into how Cubs fans are so used to the team losing that they were waiting for something to go wrong, as that night they were very tense. When Bernie Mac sang “Take me out to the ball game, ” he sang “Root root root for the Champions” or something like that…..that is when , according to the documentary, that fans started thinking that they were doomed. I enjoyed how they got different perspectives on what Bartman did. I loved how they showed his little league team who stood up for him. Overall though, I think it was a good study on human behavior, and well worth watching the repeats on ESPN or any of the ESPN affiliates

I am going to end this by giving my opinion on the Steve Bartman incident. I remember when it happened, and watching the documentary just reinforced my beliefs, so here it goes:

I thought the whole Steve Bartman incident, and especially the overreaction to it was ridiculous, and “Catching Hell” did nothing to change my mind. In fact, all the film did was reinforce my beliefs. I mean this guy’s life was destroyed. The Chicago papers put his name and his home and work addresses out in public. The guy got death threats. When he was being escorted down the hallways, some idiot bully took his sweatjacket off his head, and said that he wanted everyone to know who the person was who cost the Cubs a trip to the World Series. My beliefs then as they are now is that I was embarrassed as an MLB fan and as an American.

How can people treat a human being like this? I mean, over a baseball game? Good Lord. People better get their priorities straight. There was no excuse to ruin the guy’s life. Bob Costas really irked me on the film saying Bartman made “a mistake.” What mistake? Going for a ball like some of the OTHER FANS were doing? The TV producers should be ashamed. That “play” wasn’t so important as they thought. The Alex Gonzalez play was much more important. It was a shame that Bartman had to apologize when it should be that then idiot Governor Blogavich who said “If Steve Bartman commits a crime , he won’t get a pardon from this governor.” and those idiot Chicago Cubs fans who should apologize to Bartman. Funny that Blogavich is learning about what a bitch Karma can be. I just thought Bartman didn’t deserve that horrible treatment he got, and still don’t.

As ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd says, “Let’s take the emotion out of it, and calm down.” Let’s examine what actually happened in the game after the incident, and even during the incident, and maybe get this guy off the hook, shall we?

1. The wind, other fans going after the ball, and Moises Alou.

One thing the movie brought up was that as Castillo’s foul ball was going towards the stands and headed down into the stands was that the wind was blowing the ball back towards the infield. The movie also brought up that Alou was not the greatest fielder on the planet. If you watch the Incident, you can see quite a few other fans going for the ball. People who blame the loss solely on Bartman evidently ignore the other fans going for the ball. There was a part in the movie were several circles were drawn around people going for that ball. Moises Alou wasn’t all that as a fielder that I remember. The wind could have blown the ball past Alou’s glove, even IF Bartman had pulled back. Let’s supposed that Bartman pulled back, and Alou does NOT catch the ball. I just what happened next was going to happen. No one told Alou to lose his temper. Can’t blame Bartman. I wonder why the other fans weren’t blamed in this as well. Can’t blame one and not the others. I mean, Bartman can’t be blamed for the wind. He can’t be blamed for the others going after the ball. It is easy to act like God Almighty and tell a fan what they are supposed to do. Until you are in that situation, you do not know what you would do.

2. Mark Prior’s meltdown.

After the incident, Mark Prior started a meltdown which led to him walking Castillo with a wild pitch, and a couple of batters later, giving up a double to Derek Lee which got him out of the game. Well, I would like to know how could Bartman be blamed for that? Prior got THAT distracted by Alou’s hissy fit, or whatever that he could not control his pitches? I don’t see how Bartman can be blamed for that.

3. Alex Gonzalez’ misfielding the ball.

If ANYONE should the so called “Goat” in this game, it should be Gonzalez. Let’s see, he gets a routine grounder that he messes up, that would have been a sure fire double play that would have gotten the Cubs out of the inning? Wow. Instead of THIS error being replayed ad nauseum, it is this poor Bartman guy’s going for a ball. Steve Bartman is the cause of this, how?

4. The 8 run explosion in totality.

The Florida Marlins eventually scored 8 runs after the Bartman incident. The Marlins were there to win the game (and the Series). They kept on hitting, and kept on trying, and took advantage of mistakes made by the Cubs. I just think that the Cubs can’t be that mentally weak that they let some fan in the stands distract them that much. If they are that weak, then they deserve to lose. In other words, the CUBS made the mental mistakes, and such, not Steve Bartman.

Therefore, to paraphrase Vincent Kennedy McMahon, circa 1997, “Steve Bartman didn’t screw the Cubs. The Cubs screwed the Cubs.”

Terri Bey currently blogs for about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for Terri can be found here at Facebook- and at Twitter-

ESPN: Catching Hell DVD

Philadelphia Phillies 2011 NL Eastern Division Champs “5-In-a-Row” Adjustable Cap