Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Man, bad beats suck. Unless you’re the one handing them out…

I played a no-limit hold-‘em tourney online last night, a freeroll (free entry) for 2000 participants. The top 100 would receive entry into a tournament Sunday afternoon, from which the one winner would receive entry into a live WPT event in Los Angeles, plus hotel, spending money, etc.

During the course of the tournament, I tried a new style of playing. Usually I’ll play just about anything, as long as I’ve got some paint (face cards) in my hand. K4? Sure, why the hell not? Well, last night I decided to play only legit hands – pocket pairs, high suited connectors, and nice overcards with at least an ace involved. And you know what? It worked.

There was no money involved in this tournament, or else I probably would have cared to finish it out and actually win it. I was in the top 10 for most of the night, and never below the top 250 after the first 30 minutes. But freerolls have a funny way of enticing players to do stupid things. Like go in with nothing because “hell, it’s free. What do I care if I lose?” Well that’s what happened last night, and I benefited from others taking that attitude.

I went all-in 5 times before guaranteeing myself top 100. In those 5 times, I made 3 full houses, one straight, and one two-pair hand. And none of them cheaply. I love winning hands cheap when I play live, because you get this mystique of “wow, he’s lucky. He’s really pulling cards tonight”. Online, it doesn’t matter. People usually shrug off a bad beat on the river like nothing, so it’s not as damning.

I’ll admit, although I handed out my fair share of bad beats last night, I also suffered three of my own that made me question my strategy. And all within 5 hands of each other. Late into the tournament, I had 67k in chips, or roughly 3.5 times what everyone else at my table had. I was also #2 overall out of about 300 remaining. And I got dealt pocket 7’s on the button. Wow.

I pushed the 1200 big blind to 5k, trying to force out the marginal hands and draw in people who thought they could beat me. I got one person to call, and we got a flop of Q55 rainbow. Figuring the caller, who was also the big blind, probably had a couple of overcards, or maybe a suited connector, I pushed the bet to 10k. He immediately raised all-in, and since it was only another 3k, I was getting nice pot odds and called. Then he flipped up his pocket 5’s, and I just laughed. I had a mediocre two pair up against four of a kind ON THE FLOP. Oops.

After that debacle, I still had about 52k in chips, still well above double the rest of the table, and I got AK suited spades. Couldn’t lay it down, even after such a horrific hand just once deal before. I pushed the bet to 5k again, learning nothing from the mistakes of the previous hand. If there’s one thing I know now, it’s that it is better to win a small pot than lose a big one.

I got called by two players, and the flop came 6QK, two hearts and a club. I had top pair and top kicker, but I checked it. The first caller made the minimum bet, which told me that he probably had the king, or maybe a queen. The other player folded, and I just called. 4 on the river did nothing, but this time I bet. There were now 3 hearts on the board, and while I held 2 spades, I wanted to make him sweat. He called. Last card was the 8 of spades, giving me just kings with an ace. He bet all-in, a little over 5k, making me thing he was trying to steal the pot because I had made him think I was on a flush draw. I called and showed my AK, only to have him show his K8, UNSUITED no less! Bah!

Don’t worry, I got my revenge, though not on him directly. The funny thing about these freerolls that have no monetary prizes is that there’s a sense of camaraderie at the tables late in the game. After spending 4 hours with a bunch of people you have never met, you hate to be the one to bust them out. So once the tournament gets down to about 110-120 players left, people start tossing away all their hand so that the low players at the table can get the blinds and survive to see the top 100. Well, at our table, there was a guy with about 1400+ chips left, and he got blinded into the pot (blinds were 1500/3k). I was the small blind, meaning that I didn’t have the option to fold my hand to him; since he put less into the pot than I had, in actuality, I'd already called.

I had 10-J of hearts; he had 9-J of clubs. Flop was Q-5-K, three hearts. I’d already won the pot; all that was left was to play out the hand. Next was a 7 of diamonds, then the 9 of hearts. Not only had I busted a guy out when I had planned to fold to him, but I’d done it with a straight flush on the river. Not that it mattered.

Finally, my last hand. Once the top 100 are settled, things get crazy. EVERYONE goes all-in on anything, hoping either to win or get busted out and go to bed. I refused to take this approach, and only went in on actual hands. I got AK suited and made it with 70k in chips. That was nice, as I almost TRIPLED up and got vaulted into 1st place. Eventually, I fell back to 5th or so, with about 175k in chips. Then I got dealt KK. No doubt about the move this time, especially with the chip leader at my table (400k in chips… wow.) I went all-in - he didn’t hesitate to call. So of course, when I flipped my KK, he flipped his AA. Oh well. I’d already got my seat, and couldn’t improve my standing, so I took my 35th place finish and my seat Sunday, and went to bed.


Contrary to popular opinion, I do not focus only on the Red Sox and that team to the south that shall remain nameless. I am a fan, first and foremost, of baseball. Then the Red Sox. Then the Braves, then just about everyone else NOT from New York and NOT playing against either the Red Sox or Braves on any given day. But here in New England, it becomes very hard to follow other teams, since all of the news is focused on the Red Sox in order to feed the ravenous Boston fans. Sports-talk radio, local news, newspapers, they all focus on the Sox, then the Yankees, then everyone else. And I mean that literally; the rest of baseball is kind of seen as the rabble on the side of the road that just lets the Sox and Yanks play through. It was almost as though MLB stopped last Saturday, as every highlight, every baseball show, every sports show in general focused on the A-Rod/Varitek fracas.

Listen, I love the Sox-Yanks rivalry, but is it really in the best interest of Major League Baseball to promote these two teams so heavily? There are kids in the Midwest who can probably name the Yankees starting nine easier than those of the Cardinals, Reds, or Cubs. And routinely, the Red Sox go on road trips only to find that they have as many, or often times more fans in the stands than the home team.

Baseball needs to find a way to promote teams individually to their respective audiences. When Boston visits Montreal, Tampa, Atlanta, Baltimore, etc., these teams all draw their largest home crowds of the season, usually FAR surpassing their yearly averages. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that teams have a widespread fan-base, but if people are fans of, say, the New York Yankees, yet they live in Indiana, well there’s a couple of other teams that are quite good, and that are a lot closer.

Maybe MLB should just make the Sox and Yankees a traveling road show – have them travel to other Major League cities and play the home team for one series, then play each other for one series in the home team’s park. Now THAT would boost attendance…


So, I feel as though I’m recovered from the weekend series enough to discuss it with some legitimacy. But it took awhile to come down from those last two games. And yes, I realize I’m doing exactly what I just lobbied against, but I’m from Boston; I have the right to talk ad-nauseum about the Sox.

Does anyone else feel like we’re going to see that clip of A-Rod clearly mouthing “F*ck you – Bring it on M*ther-F*cker” to Jason Varitek like 1000 times between now and when the two teams inevitably meet in the ALCS? And did that fight just ensure that Fox’s ratings for the ALCS will double what they were last year? Christ, even I had to stand up and laugh. That was a fun fight to watch, but there wasn’t even one punch thrown! Where was the intensity from last year? Where was Don Zimmer flailing around like a beetle that just fell from a branch and landed on its back?

I’m looking forward to the last series’ between these teams in September. Something tells me that there will be a lot more on the line than most people think. If Mike Mussina ends up shutting it down, and Kevin Brown’s back does what Kevin Brown’s back ALWAYS does, and Jason Giambi’s “intestinal parasites” don’t go away (c’mon everybody, don’t be naïve. He needs a reason to cover for his decline from coming off the steroids. It’s pretty obvious. The trip to Japan let him claim foreign illness, and he’s off scot-free), then the Yankees are not going to be in the best shape come September.


The trade deadline is Saturday. I’m expecting to see Randy Johnson, Steve Finley, Kris Benson, Orlando Cabrera, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, and maybe even Larry Walker, Preston Wilson, Jeff Kent and Roger Clemens move before the deadline. How many of them do you think the Yankees would purchase if they needed them? Hmm… how about an actual center-fielder in Beltran, a first-baseban who can hit and play the field in Delgado (or maybe bring back Tino martinez), a true second-baseman in Kent, a right-fielder to compensate for Sheffield’s shoulder bursitis in Walker, and three starters to compensate for the loss of Moose, Brown, and the useless Jon Lieber by getting Benson, RJ, and bringing back Clemens for one more go-round.

It’s not totally out of the question. The Yankees don’t have much to offer in the way of prospects, but with this team, they could probably ship a couple of starters (Contreras, Lofton, etc.) and just offer to pay their remaining salaries, meaning that the D-Backs, Rockies, Astros, etc. would get a free player for the rest of the season. That’s tempting to a smaller market team.

No, I’m not serious about all of those players ending up in New York, at least not all on the Yankees. I don’t think the other owners would stand for it. But the Yanks might get two, or even three from that list, and unless all of them are pitchers, the team just doesn’t stack up well come October. Looks like it might be another long, cold winter in Yankee-land.

Thank God

Saturday, July 24, 2004

I decided to keep a running journal during today's Game 2 of this weekend's Sox/Yanks series. Man, did I pick a good day or what?

Fox is showing me the Cubs and Phillies while I wait for the Sox/Yanks series. Oh the anticipation...

Carlos Zambrano has to be the best #3 in the game right now. Or is he a #4? Or #5? The Cubs staff is sick, literally and figuratively.

Seems the Sox told the umpires that the field was unplayable. The umps then told the Yankees, who showered and got ready to leave the field for the day. Then Boston decided the field was playable. Ahh, I love these psychological games...

Bronson Arroyo looks a little shaky, but I don't trust Tanyon Sturtze. I still remember him in a Devil Rays uniform.

Fox is shameless in how it rips off other popular reality shows or reality show ideas. So far I've seen commercials for something about a Malibu condo - rip-off of ABC's Extreme Home Makeover, The Benefactor - rip-off of NBC's The Apprentice, and now Trading Spouses - rip-off of ABC's Wife Swap. And yes, I realize I watch waaaaaaaaaaay too much TV.

HOLY HELL! That was the best fight since ALCS game 3! Oh, this is about to get good! Anytime your starting pitcher has a gash the size of his little finger on his head, that's a bad sign. Luckily, it was the Yankees' starter.

HOW DOES TANYON STURTZE NOT GET EJECTED?!? He practically tore Gabe Kapler's head off! On that same note, David Ortiz should have stayed away from this one. He's looking at 5 games already, and getting into a fight (and throwing TWO guys to the ground) isn't going to help his appeal.

Could someone tell me how the HELL Tim McCarver is a professional announcer, or anything higher up on the job scale than a professional dumbass?

Maybe Juan Padilla wasn't the Yankees' best option in this situation. At least we got to hear Joe Buck tell us that Tanyon Sturtze has left because of a "bruised baby finger". C'mon, I thought the Yankees were the team that played through the pain? Wuss.

Only the Red Sox could consistently find a way to load the bases with no outs, and not score - WITHOUT striking out...

Curtis Leskanic is pitching, poorly, against New York in a big game. What - were Bob Stanley and Calvin Schraldi unavailable?

My ears are bleeding. I guess that means Tim McCarver is still attempting to announce.

New York – 9, Boston – 8, Top 7. No home runs combined. Only these two teams could pull that off.

I literally hit enter on that last line one second before Sierra hit a homerun. Way to blow my theory.

Tim, NOBODY cares about freaking Cole Porter in this game!

Honestly, who didn't see that Malaska error coming from a mile away?

Go back up 7 entries... Now this... Only the Red Sox could allow the bases loaded with no hits, and no walks...

And a balk... Now we've had everything.

Who is the HELL is Scott Proctor? And why haven't we heard of him before if he can throw gasssss like this? Seriously, I haven't seen a fastball below 93 yet...

Apparently Dave Wallace and Alan Embree have a little something going on the side...

4 errors through 7 innings. Yeah, that's about right for today.

Oh good. Mendoza is pitching. Maybe he'll tip his pitches to his old buddies...

Tim McCarver actually just cracked himself up joking about the guy who produces the mud to scuff up new baseballs. I think the announcers are officially running out of material...

Of course, this is coming from the same announcer who, in the 2001 World

Series made the greatest "Oops" sportscaster comment ever. After Tony Womack squared to bunt and got hit in the balls by the pitch, McCarver came out with this gem: "I thought that was a foul, I'm pretty sure I heard it hit wood..."

Man, why can't the Red Sox get defensive guys at first like Tony Clark?

Oh, wait...

Scott Proctor is the new MVP of the Yankees. Hands down.

Rivera's coming in to face Manny in the 9th. Game Over.

I like to pretend that I'm in the park for a game like this. As such, it's time to stand up. I'll be back in a sec...

PULL THE BALL MANNY! Son of a bitch! Even I thought that was gone.

So maybe I was wrong about Mendoza. Nice job. Really earning that $5.5 million...

Is "The Casino" a real thing? It seems a little too staged to be a reality show. Maybe that's just me, I don't know.

Nomar, Trot, Millar in the bottom of the 9th. Real "Murderer's Row" there...

Go Nomie Go! Man, think there's anyone else in baseball playing on such sheer anger?

Rivera has 35 saves with a 0.85 ERA so far this year. You want to know why the Yankees have been so dominant for the last 8 or so years? Start you search with #42.

Stand up again...

DAMNIT! I'm not standing up anymore. Every time I do, a ball gets hit just far enough to piss me off when it lands in the outfielder's glove.

1-RUN GAME! I can’t get excited. Not yet. I won’t allow myself to get pumped until it’s 11-10 Sox. Maybe 10-10…

Did The Sox just pinch-run 38-year old David McCarty for Kevin Millar? What’s the logic there?

NOW I CAN STAND UP! Hallelujah HOLY SHIT! I just scared the bejesus out of my dogs screaming so loudly. I don’t think I’ll see them for about a week. What a freakin’ game! And the best part of it? Watching Jason Varitek sprint out of the dugout to jump on the pile at home plate.

27 hits, 21 runs, 4 errors (all by Boston, stunningly), and this is certainly Boston’s answer to the July 1st debacle in New York.

Check that. The best part? My mom watching the replay and getting pissed off because she though it was an out when a guy in the Sox’ bullpen caught the ball on the fly. Perfect ending to the day. I’m going to go eat dinner… at 8:15PM.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Well, it finally happened.

I finally entered a live poker tournament at Foxwoods.

And man, did I have fun.

So I went down to Connecticut last night to enter a free tournament I was in for the night, and I found out that there was a $150 No-Limit Hold-‘em tournament at 8PM. I talked to a few people and found out that there were usually about 200-250 people in each tournament, meaning that there was a nice prize pool every week (last night, first place was almost $20k), with top 30 getting paid. So I figured “What the hell, I can probably finish in the top thirty if I play safe, and besides, no one know me or my style of play, so I might even be able to bluff away a couple of times.”

I plopped down my cash, got my table, and waited.

When I got to the table, I realized I was at two distinct disadvantages. First, I was the youngest, meaning I was going to be harassed all night. Second, I was sitting directly across from the dealer at an 11-seat table, so I had little to no room to hide my hole cards and still be able to see them. Also, the lights above our table were in bad shape, so I couldn’t see anything with my shades on. Fun, fun, fun.

Anyway, I had a few nice wins before the first break, knocking out 4 people at the table, 2 on draws that I made, one on a monster hand (Aces full of tens), and one on his semi-bluff that I called with over cards and won. I even got a couple of "MoneyMaker" comparisons, after I outdrew people continually. That was fun. Unfortunately, I found out during the tourney that it was a Rebuy/Add-on, meaning that although I knocked out 4 players (including the same guy twice with straights on the river… he was PISSED), they could pay another $60 and get a new stack of chips. At least until the end of the first hour.

After the first break, I was second at the table after laying down a hand that would have eventually given me the nut straight, and almost double the chips of anyone else at the table. That hurt. Tossed AJ with 10-Q-2 on the board. Someone went all-in, and I didn’t want to risk my chips on ANOTHER draw. Another guy called, and they flipped up their hands. Pocket 9’s versus Q-10 suited. Turn was a K (my straight) and the river was a third 9. Big pot that I got no piece of.

I went all-in 5 times, got called twice and won both. The other two, people just backed the hell off.

Oh, and the fifth time, when I bluffed and got caught. Oops.

Total frustration hand. The previous hand I had tossed A-8 two seats behind the big blind because there was a $500 bet on the table and I only had about $1300 left in chips. Flop was Q-A-A. I was sick, because the winning hand was just a pair of queens, but the pot was almost $4000. Woulda been nice.

So anyway, the next hand I got A-7. I figured that I had to play it, kicker or not, one seat behind the big blind. Called the 300, so did another guy. Everyone folded to the big blind, who raised 500. I only had 1000 left, so I went all-in. The other call folded, the blind called… and showed his AJ suited. I had Ace of diamonds and 7 of spades versus AJ of hearts. Flop was shit, with two clubs and a spade. Then another club. Then the Ace of clubs, and I was done.

So in my first live tournament, I knocked out 4 people (one twice), I outlasted two professionals at my table, and I stayed alive almost to the second break (10 minutes short). I saw Page 2’s Jackpot Jay (and actually, lasted longer than him in the tourney...shhhh), and I still finished well short of the money. Oh well. Who’s up for a poker night?

Now on to what I really wanted to talk about today, my All-Star Break first half recap. Be forewarned; this is long (a little under 4000 words)


Well, I vaguely remember making some predictions back on April 8th about the final standings, awards, and playoffs. Oops…

AL East

My Year-End Prediction

Actual Current Standings

Red Sox (101-61) - .623

Yankees (55-31) - .639

Yankees (98-64) - .605

Red Sox (48-38) - .558

Blue Jays (85-77) – .525

Devil Rays (42-45) - .483

Orioles (80-82) - .494

Blue Jays (39-49) - .443

Devil Rays (72-90) - .444

Orioles (37-48) - .435

Well, I was close. Actually, not at all. God, this division is just plain ugly. The Yankees are a behemoth at this point, with a 7 game lead at the turn. No, it’s not insurmountable. But if New York keeps playing .640 ball, it will be. Boston has been, by far, the most inconsistent team in baseball. But if they make the deals that are rumored all over the place up here, look for then to make a surge right near the top of this division. Probably not to the 101 wins that I predicted, but 95-98 would not be out of the question.

Tampa Bay has been a breath of fresh air in a division that needed a shake-up. I was tired of seeing the AL East finish in exactly the same order for five years in a row. Congratulations to Lou Pinella who predicted this team would finish over .500. Although they’re 3 games under right now, it’s not unthinkable that they could reach and pass .500 soon. Back in April, I wrote “Most improved team will be the D-Rays, with an offense that is actually capable of putting up runs, although don't be surprised if a couple of them are moved around the trading deadline.” Well, no one is going anywhere, except maybe Fred McGriff or Tino Martinez, neither of who would be major losses.

Toronto and Baltimore suck. No questions asked, they suck. Baltimore tried to buy a 15 run per game team, but unfortunately they still have a 15 run per game pitching staff. Toronto got hit by the injury bug early and often, but even when healthy this team looked bad. Carlos Delgado will probably get moved soon. Same goes for Frank Catalanatto. Vernon Wells is a young star who is on the DL for awhile (believe me, I know. He’s my star fantasy outfielder), so look for the Jays to hold onto him and try to build around him next year.

AL Central

My Year-End Prediction

Actual Current Standings

White Sox (88-74) - .543

White Sox (46-38) - .548

Twins (85-77) - .525

Twins (47-40) - .540

Indians (80-82) - .494

Tigers (42-45) - .483

Royals (80-82) - .494

Indians (42-45) - .483

Tigers (70-92) - .432

Royals (31-54) - .365

Wow, go Tigers go!

Looks like I nailed the White Sox here, and Freddy Garcia will help this team get through the rest of the season. They have a major pending free-agent in Magglio Ordonez, but much like the Red Sox with Pedro, Varitek, etc., don’t look for them to deal him mid-season. Mags is the key to this team’s offense, especially now with Frank Thomas down for an extended period of time.

The Twins need one more starter, but I don’t think they can afford to add another potential free-agent. They stand to lose like five of their core guys (I know Radke and Koskie are in walk years, and I think that either Jacque Jones or Torii Hunter, or maybe both are too). Minnesota may have to, once again, make due with what they’ve got.

Detroit is a great surprise, though not on par with Tampa Bay. Detroit actually made some signings this off-season that people expected would make them better. Plus, it’s not hard to improve on a 119-loss season. If Pudge wins the batting title this year, it cements his place as the greatest overall catcher in history, and it will punch his first ticket into the Hall-Of-Fame.

The Indians are looking like a solid team, and I don’t think ANYONE predicted them or Detroit to be 5.5 games out of first at the break. But they will fall back to Earth soon enough, with the trade deadline looming, they have some good young guys that may become available.

Finally, The Royals. Ugh. They dealt away their best player, and it doesn’t look like they’re done restocking. They got some very good prospects in return, so maybe they’ll be back in contention in three or four years. But it’s going to be a long time before we see another 80 win season in Kansas City. Think Mike Sweeney is contemplating invoking his out clause if “the team fails to make moves to remain competitive”?

AL West

My Year-End Prediction

Actual Current Standings

A’s (99-63) - .611

Rangers (49-37) - .570

Mariners (98-64) - .605

A’s – (47-39) - .547

Angels (98-64) - .605

Angels (47-40) - .540

Rangers (72-90) - .444

Mariners (32-54) - .372

Did I say The Rangers had no shot? Um, oops, my bad. Seriously, I don’t think anyone believes that they can keep this up, especially not when they’re relying on a pitcher who is better known for his name than his game. Kenny Rogers is a decent pitcher; he’s not a #1, he’s not even a #2. But with this pitching staff, he’s suddenly become an ace. Boston lit him up on Sunday (and boy am I glad I chose to sit him in a league) for 8 earned in 1.2 innings. Their offense, led by the best offensive infield in baseball (yes, better than the Yankees), has been solid top to bottom all year long. Blalock, Young, Soriano, and Texeira have all been outstanding, and will only get better with time.

I still believe that the A’s will take this division, but if they don’t get their pitchers healthy in a hurry, then the Rangers might hold on. Oakland’s offense needs some tinkering, but I think they’ll be able to pull together in time to take the division. Otherwise, they’ll need to look out for both Texas and…

The Angels. Bartolo Colon has been a moderate bust, but Vlad Guerrero, excuse me, AL MVP Vlad Guerrero has been worth every penny. This team has lost so many games to injury this season that the mere fact that they’re above .500 (and only 2.5 games back) is astounding. Hell, I think the Rally Monkey even went on the DL for a couple of weeks. Now if they’d only put the ThunderStix on a 60-day rehab stint in the minors, I’d be happy.

Finally, Seattle. Has a team not named The Lakers ever gotten older faster? They are slow, weak, and playing in a home park that doesn’t exactly help either of those qualities. Even Ichiro is playing like he suddenly added a couple of decades to his birth certificate. I mean, c’mon! How do you go from 118 wins three years ago to 32 at the break this year, only percentage points above the worst record in baseball?! This is a debacle, and it’s not going to get much better this year.

NL East

My Year-End Prediction

Actual Current Standings

Phillies (100-62) - .617

Phillies (46-41) - .529

Marlins (92-70) - .568

Braves (45-42) - .517

Braves (88-74) - .543

Marlins (45-43) - .511

Mets (87-75) - .537

Mets (44-43) - .506

Expos (76-86) - .469

Expos (31-56) - .356

Well, again, back in April, I wrote that the Marlins and Braves could easily flip in the standings, and it looks like I was right. This is the tightest division in baseball, with 4 teams separated by 2 games. We’re probably going to see four buyers and one team that has talent, but won’t sell it off with a new home looming in ’05.

The Phillies should still hold onto the East, but I don’t really know what they really need. The pitching has been pretty solid, especially the bullpen. The hitting has been there, though they do strikeout far too often. Maybe they could get a couple of Moneyball guys to lead off and hit second. And I’m not totally sold on Marlon Byrd as a starter in Philly anymore. He’s had plenty of time to prove himself; it’s time to go get someone new.

The Braves are, well, The Braves. Bobby Cox deserves some SERIOUS consideration for Manager of the Year, and as I wrote before, “never, EVER, count out a team run by John Scheurholz and Bobby Cox.” No Glavine, no Maddux, no Millwood, no Javy, no Sheffield, no problem. How Bobby pulls this off year after year I’ll never know.

The Marlins, like I said, are having some troubles from the catcher position. So much so, that there was a report that they asked Boston about Jason Varitek. The Red Sox politely declined (Although Nomar could probably be had for a bag of balls and an autographed photo of Billy the Marlin). Hee Sop Choi at first is producing, although he’s cooled off a bit since his fast start. Armando Benitez been wonderful closing, but it’s not October yet. Miguel Cabrera, who I mistakenly thought qualified for the ROY this year, has been unbelievable, especially when you consider he’s 20. 20!! But they’re not winning this division. And I don’t think they can get the wild-card either. Time to blow it up, again, Mr. Loria.

The Mets have been a lot better than I expected (There Vinny, you happy now?). They’re only 2 games back, and they have more resources available, both in cash and prospects, to add a player or two at the deadline than anyone else in the division. Kaz Matsui has exploded since being called out by, of all people, Donald Trump. Mike Cameron has really shored up the outfield, and if Jose Reyes ever learns to take care of his legs, they’ll have a legit leadoff threat. Tom Glavine rediscovered all of his pitches this year, thanks to great defense behind him. Remember the Rey Ordonez / Edgardo Alfonso / Roberto Alomar infield of some 6000 errors? Ah, those were the days...

And the Expos. What more needs to be said here? How about “Adieu”.

NL Central

My Year-End Prediction

Actual Current Standings

Cubs (99-63) - .611

Cardinals (54-33) - .621

Astros (97-65) - .599

Cubs (47-40) - .540

Cardinals (95-67) - .586

Reds (47-41) - .534

Reds (80-82) - .494

Brewers (45-41) - .523

Brewers (78-84) - .481

Astros (44-44) - .500

Pirates (68-94) - .420

Pirates (39-47) - .453

Damn, even the PIRATES are almost at .500! The Cardinals have really surprised me this year. We all knew they had a lineup capable of putting up 1000 runs this year, but the fact that their pitching has stayed healthy and has been so solid, top to bottom, has really made them the current team to beat in the NL. I still think the Cubs, when totally healthy, will make this division their own. But for now, there’s a train rollin’ through downtown St. Louis, so you better get out of the way.

As for those Cubs, they lost both Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, two of the best in the game, for separate 2-month stints to the DL. Greg Maddux looked AWFUL for the first month or so of the season, and Sammy Sosa has not been the Sammy Sosa we have embraced for the last six years. Yet they’re still 7 games over .500, 7 games back of first, and only 1 game behind the Giants for the Wild Card. Now everyone is healthy, Maddux is pitching like Maddux does, and they’re ready to take over the NL. Get ready…

The Reds will not stay here, period. The pitching is not impressive, aside from Paul Wilson and Danny Graves. And the offense just lost its leader to injury when (shock) Ken Griffey Jr. went down with an injury to his (shock) hamstring. Again. Get ready for the freefall.

The Brewers just look like they’re having fun, and their GM looks like a genius for parlaying Richie Sexson, who dislocated his shoulder on a check-swing, into Junior Spivey and Lyle Overbay, two players who have led the Brewers to an above .500 record at the break for the first time in a long time. Throw in dominating free-agent to be Ben Sheets (They’d better extend his contract before the Yankees, Mets or Red Sox get a chance to throw gobs and gobs of money at him) and the best leadoff guy in the game, Scott Podsednik, and the Brewers look to be a fun team to watch come September, when I believe they’ll be competing for a wild card berth (currently 2.5 games back).

The Astros are the disappointment of the year to date. Jimy Wiliams will get fired, probably today or tomorrow. The All-Star Game saved him for a couple of days, but not a couple of games. No one mismanages a pitching staff more, and he’s made a living off of building a team with smoke and mirrors for too long. He’s done. The Astros are 10.5 back in the division, but only 4.5 back in the wild card, so don’t look for the sell-off yet.

And then there’s Pittsburgh. Save for a 10-game winning streak, this season has been much like the last few – Lose, Lose, Lose, Win, Lose… They’re going to get better eventually, I promise. But they don’t have the revenue to sign the marquee free agents (Hello Raul Mondesi… how’d that work out for ya?), so they get stuck in “Wait ‘Til Next Year” mode, building their prospects and farm system, and biding their time. They just have to wait for the year when all of the prospects come together at once and none of them are in walk years.

NL West

My Year-End Prediction

Actual Current Standings

Padres (90-72) - .555

Dodgers (48-38) - .558

Giants (88-74) - .543

Giants (49-40) - .551

Rockies (87-75) - .537

Padres (47-41) - .534

Diamondbacks (86-76) - .531

Rockies (36-51) - .414

Dodgers (83-79) - .512

Diamondbacks (31-58) - .348

Well, I was a bit off on this one. I had this projected as the tightest and best division in baseball, with all 5 teams finishing over .500. Oops.

I still say the Padres will win this. They’re only 2 games back and they’ve got all the tools. Plus the Dodgers are starting to fade, and Barry can get walked every time. The Pads will pull this out with good young pitching and great defense, even if the offense leaves a little to be desired. OK, a lot…

The Dodgers need offense. Gee, why does this sound familiar? Seriously though, their pitching has been suspect so far this year, with Hideo Nomo (3-10, 8.06 ERA) looking absolutely moribund on the mound. Someone, somewhere, is sounding the death knell on his major league career. Odalis Perez has been great, but with no run support, his 2.36 ERA doesn’t mean much if his team only scores a run or so every time he goes to the mound. It’s never a good sign when your team’s best pitcher only throws one inning a night.

Barry and the Bayside Boys, I’m sorry, I mean The Giants, have very little to offer in the way of a division race. Eventually, Barry will just walk to first base rather than the plate when his turn in the order comes up; it’d save everyone a couple of minutes. He just broke his own single-season record for intentional walks (68) with his 71st IBB earlier this week. 71 intentional walks IN THE FIRST HALF is just wrong. He’s got 131 walks overall, meaning he’s about to demolish the record for walks in a season as well. Let the man hit; maybe he’s not as good as everyone thinks, maybe he’ll get exposed, maybe his head will get so big he’ll float into space… Ha, I can’t even keep a straight face while typing that. Anyway, they can’t compete if Barry can’t hit. Very simple. Either get him some protection, or else pack it in for this season.

As for the D-Backs and Rocks, two words: July 31st. Randy Johnson has to move for Arizona to be competitive in the future. He saps too much of their money, and for a team looking to upgrade a few positions, he’s gotta accept the trade and get going. Go get another ring or two, then retire happy. The Rockies have nothing to play for anymore, so why not ship out a bunch of players? Preston Wilson would look great in center for a contender, and if Todd Helton’s contract weren’t so obscene ($16.5M a year average through 2011 with a $23M option for '12!) he’d be gone already.


My Original Prediction

New Predictions


A-Rod or Manny

Vlad or Manny


Bonds or Rolen

Same. Nailed that one.

AL Cy Young

Pedro or Schilling

Same. But that Mulder kid is pretty good too.

NL Cy Young

Randy or Clemens

Same unless Randy moves, then Schmidt


Bobby Crosby or Joe Mauer

Same – Crosby has the edge, for now…


Miguel Cabrera or Aaron Miles

Johnny Estrada or Khalil Greene

AL Manager

Terry Francona or Alan Trammel

Lou Pinella or Buck Showalter

NL Manager

Bobby Cox or Dusty Baker

Bobby Cox or Bruce Bochy


American League

East: Yankees

Central: White Sox

West: A’s

Wild Card: Boston

National League

East: Phillies

Central: Cardinals

West: Padres

Wild Card: Cubs


ALDS – New York over Chicago (4 games) / Boston over Oakland (4 games)

Oakland gets the west, Boston the Wild Card. Stop me if this sounds familiar…

NLDS – St. Louis over Philly (3 games) / Chicago over San Diego (3 games)

St. Louis gets the Central, Cubbies are the Wild Card.

ALCS – Boston over New York (6 games)

Like I said in April, it’s pretty damned cold in Boston in October…

NLCS – Chicago over St. Louis (7 games)

Great pitching beats great hitting every time.

World Series - … Boston over Chicago (7 games)

I’ve talked myself into and out of this at least five times, but now, I’m

convinced. There will be at least three great pitchers duels here…

So that’s it. And while I realize I’m approaching the 4000 word mark, let me just add this tidbit. I wanted to put a rumor department up here for all of the trades being talked, but the only one that matters to me is this: The big talk today is Nomar to the Cubs for prospects, then those prospects along with a couple already in Boston’s farm system (Youkilis, Shoppach, or both) to Arizona for Randy Johnson. Imagine seeing the Cubs and Sox in the series then….

So I’m looking forward to the second half with great anticipation. I hope you are too. Let’s see how close I get.

Oh, BTW, I chose to actually listen to music again this week. Couple of great albums – Dropkick Murphys’ “Blackout” and Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction”. Wide range of emotions there…