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Sunday, March 30, 2008


Everyone gave their Phillies predictions. Some gave playoff predictions. Now it's time to predict one of my favorite categories: darkhorses. And for that, I look no further than the fat cats in the AL East: Boston and New York. They've been skating by in a weak division for too long and it will finally catch them. Toronto looks very good to me, and Tampa could be a dangerous club. I think the Jays take this division by a nose.

Skating by? They both won over 93 games last year. You really like Marcum and McGowan that much?

Nothing would please me more than to see Toronto or Tampa finish above the Sox and Yanks.

Ha! No, the Blue Jays could pass one of them, but not both.

Have you seen that Yankees lineup? Matsui's hitting 8th!

And baseball '08 officially begins.

I'm drinking wine* to celebrate!

*cheap boxed wine... but wine nonetheless...

Jason: The Blue Jays would win the NL East...but they still won't sniff the playoffs this year in the AL East. In fact, they might finish 4th in the division.

My darkhorse pick: the Cincinnati Reds surprise everybody and win the NL Central. The Cubbies are still the Cubbies and their starting pitching is not nearly as good as everyone seems to think it is. Plus, I don't see Kerry Wood ending the season as the closer (although Marmol is a nice backup plan and Howry is a nice backup to the backup).

Jeltz: I like the Reds, but I have to wait a year as I see them in 2009 being 2007's Phillies, only better. They've got a good young first baseman in Votto, one of the best second basemen in baseball in Brandon Phillips, and the makings of a strong offense with pieces such as Encarnacion and Bruce. It's their pitching that has me excited: Harang, Arroyo, Cueto, and Volquez.

Skating by, as in, they've been unchallenged in the division, like the Eagles for all those years.

I like McGowan. I read where his second half was something like 3.50 ERA. What do the Sox and Yanks have in the middle? Hughes and Wakefield? Lester and Mussina? The Jays can match their pitching, I think. The young guys in NY and Boston still need to prove it to me.

I'm not a huge Bush fan, and I am not looking to start a political debate, but the booing of the president for the opening pitch was dissappointing.

I think all Philly fans booed santa claus stories by announcers should now be replaced by some version of nationals fans booing the first pitch.

I'm not as wild about the Reds, but I think it's because I like the Cubs a whole lot.

I should add "if they can somehow get Roberts."

They've been challenging each other... that's challenge enough. I really don't get what you're saying. If the two fastest men in the world run a race with each other and three other track stars, and the other guys in the race aren't so fast, are the two guys out in front "unchallenged"? I should think not. And maybe the Jays can match those teams' pitching, but their offense is leagues behind either team's.

Tray: The Os, Rays and Jays have not challenged the Yanks and Sox. That's all I'm saying. Now please, I've got Phillies trivia to prepare.

Most interesting team in the entire NL for me is the Brewers. Don't think any team in the NL has as much possible variation in their win total this season as them. It wouldn't surprise me if they finish under .500 or clinch the NL Central with 90 wins either.

Offensively, they should be good to very good and have a legit chance to lead the league in runs if a couple of their younger players can put together more complete seasons (Weeks & Hardy).

I don't like their pitching though. They need big years from their younger guys (Gallardo and Parra) and Sheets to be healthy in order to contend. Suppan and Bush don't do much for me either.

Plus, I think there remade bullpen is going to be largely be a disaster. Torres and Mota are washed up, Turnbow is vastly overrated, and I don't like the Gagne signing either.

Plus, Yost is a horrendous manager when it comes to handling their bullpen. Makes Cholly look like a bullpen master.

I'm rooting for the gNats tonight, but screw them come tomorrow.

The Phillies could have signed Odalis Perez...

Actually, the Jays flirt with contention every year, but as is to be expected when you're trying to challenge the two highest payrolls in baseball with a cheap roster, they fall off late. Trading Glaus for a declining Rolen shouldn't change that, though they do have a nice pitching staff for once. I'd argue that little in the world of sport has ever been more certain than Toronto's third place finish this season.

Bush (paraphrasing) -- "I can see my house from up here!"

That was a nice pickoff. The Braves can't get anything started. (Nor do I want them to.)

I think Tampa is going to be fun to watch. I love Lomgoria (who will be called back in 3-4 weeks) and their young staff. With Reyes, Percival and Wheeler in the Pen, I think they'll win 80 games which would be their best ever. Also think that Kansas will be good at times. Good manager and I love Butler. But my dark horse is the Mariners. I think with the Angels Lackey and Escobar hurt that th Mariners will get out of the gate fast.

How awful was that National Anthem for the WAS-ATL game today. Anyone else hear that and cringe? Man, shades of Carl Lewis.

I (like a lot of other people probably) would call the Reds my NL darkhorse.

In the AL, I think the Twins may be better than most people think after losing Santana and Hunter. I mean the Tigers will win that division and they won't get in the playoffs, but if things fall right (and Liriano is healthy enough) they could end up around .500.

I think the Rays will be much improved but their problem of course is the division they play in.

For what it's worth, I think the Braves may be the most overrated. Their rotation is old and one or two injuries for them could snowball. And they're losing to the Gnats right now, so there's that.

Nothing to tarnish the first game in your brand-new ballpark like having to trot out Odalis Perez as the first starting pitcher. That's just ugly.

Matt Chico, on the other hand, was the guy who shut down the Phillies in game #161 of last season - also a sold-out afternoon game at CBP. But at least Edgar Renteria will be nowhere in sight.

I don't get the love the Royals are getting this spring. Pretty awful lineup with absolutely no power (compounded by the stupid Guillen signing) and pretty spotty pitching too (basically only 3-4 really decent arms here).

Guess the KC fans though are so starved for decent baseball that they would even be thrilled with a 74 or 75 win team.

RSB - Perhaps you mean "ugly" by Odalis breaking all of these bats around the infield. Actually, that pitch to Larry Jones "middle in" was ugly.

The Mariners aren't that dark of a horse... maybe a light chocolate, if you will. It's a two team race in the AL West and the Angels are due for a stumble. The Twins are my darkhorse. I like Ron Gardenhire and they will have them playing the right way. The Reds are a year and one move away, but are knocking at the door.

The Royals are getting love? What does RSB have against Edgar Renteria (my favorite non-Phillie player)?

Slocs nailed it with my darkhouse - Seattle. That's not a bad lineup (seriously, not advocating it, but no lineup would benefit more from Barry Bonds) with some pop and speed up top. I love the bullpen and the top of the rotation can be scary. Silva was too costly, but should be okay as a #4 starter. I think they do get a decent jump out of the gate with Lackey and Escobar out from LA.

Jeltz - Agreed on the Braves. I don't understand the love they are getting either. Good team but they are going to win 90+ games either.

Very good lineup but Chipper is still the straw that stirs that drink. Need him to play 150 games and that isn't going to happen. Plus, Franceour is overrated offensively too. Maybe I am wrong but he will still continue to chance his share of ridiculous pitches. Intelligent pitchers with decent command will continue to handle him this year.

Plus, I am not crazy on their pitching either. They almost have has many questions in their starting rotation as the Phils. Yeah they don't have an Adam Eaton in their rotation but their 5th starter is not a sure thing either and their depth guys (Caryle etc) are nothing to write home about.

I am more willing to bet that Glavine's stats more closely resemble Moyer this year (some good but overall very mixed with an ERA around 5). Plus, if the Hampton gives the Braves 25+ starts this year, he should be "Comeback Player of the Decade."

Basically an interesting team but one that will only contend for the playoffs if 87 or 88 wins if enough for either the NL East crown or the WC. I don't think either will be.

Nothing makes me happier on this opening night than hearing Bush was soundly booed by the Washington fans. Go Nats!

MG - Not that I disagree with you, but what do you think of Jones providing protection for Texieira? Also, Andruw Jones was such a black hole in their lineup, I swore I saw Mike Lieberthal. Is that expected extra production good for a win or two? And yes, they have their old standards in their rotation, but if Jair Jurrjens turns potential into something, then they are dangerous. I put the odds of that 50/50.

Does anyone have that website that some of you use to view the games online?

Mike - Maybe. The Braves and Phils are in the same boat in my mind. They both are right in that 84-88 win band. If JW is right, then this will be enough to contend for the NL East. I don't think so and my bet is the wild card comes out of the NL West. Phils are going to have to win the NL East outright or they will be at home this year in Oct.

I agree with you about Seattle, but I don't know how much of a dark horse they can be - not only did they finish just short of a playoff spot last season, but I feel that most of the "experts" on ESPN, SI, etc. are picking the M's to unseat the Angels in the AL West.
When I think "Dark Horse", I think about a team like Colorado last year (who virtually EVERYONE picked to finish 4th or 5th in their division heading into 2007) that ended up in the playoffs.
Based on their recent success in reaching the playoffs, my choice may not seem like a quintessential dark horse either: The Dodgers. Arizona, San Diego, and Colorado are picked by most prognosticators to finish 1-2-3 in the West (in any such order), with the Dodgers and Giants bringing up the rear.
I love the rotation (Penny, Lowe, Billingsley - a STUD, Kuroda, and Loaiza). Also, if when Jason Schmidt returns sometime in the next couple months, he even comes close to approaching his success of the last few years, they will have one of the best staffs in baseball. Saito and Broxton anchor a stingy bullpen, and they have speed (Pierre and Furcal), power (Loney and Andruw), and great upside (Russell Martin, Ethier, Matt Kemp) in their batting order.

Sure the NL West is deep this year, but I would be shocked if the Dodgers finish in 4th place again in '08.

And dave, lest we forget... they have the greatest, classiest, and most wonderful third base coach of all time. That right there is good for 13-14 wins... LOL... Seriously, how about Ethier taking the left field job away from Juan Pierre? Interesting stuff. They are primed for a run.

One more point on the Phils:

- The Phils seemingly either struggle with the Marlins or the Nats each year. Only in 2005 did the Phils post winning records against each team (barely). If the Phils are going to win 90 games, they are going to have clean up against both of these .sub 500 teams.

Think they play 36 games against these two teams. Anything less than 22-14 isn't going to cut it.

Just a reminder I will be on 830-AM tomorrow giving away copies of MLB '08: The Show, courtesy of PlayStation. Each retails for $60, so it's a good prize to trade at a game store for cash if you don't own a PlayStation.

To win a copy, call up the 1-800 number tomorrow and answer Phillies trivia. I came up with the questions tonight, ranging in difficulty from medium to hard, all pertaining to the current team. No old-time questions. All new stuff. Several questions have a real Beerleaguer flavor, focusing on issues we dwell on a lot. Should be a lot of fun, so call up tomorrow and talk Phils with us.

Like the Dodgers too. Been criticism of Torre's fit with the Dodgers this spring and their younger players. People seem to forget that Grady Little is a terrible manager and completely lost that team last year. One of the few cases where I think a new manager will make a difference this year.

If they stay healthy (they were nearly as snakebit as the Phils last year), I like them to win the West this year.

What's the 800 number, and when will you be on the air tomorrow??

Also, to continue my rant on the Dodgers, going from Grady Little to Joe Torre at the helm is a HUGE difference and may be the difference between a post-season berth or golfing in september

Tomorrow at 9 a.m. It's 1-800-323-8800.

That, and the one-run games, MG, were the things that got to me the most. I can stand getting blown out by the Padres 10-3, but Game #161 as RSB mentioned recently was totally unacceptable, among others too numerous to count last year.

@ diggitydave - yeah, maybe Seattle isn't a big darkhorse, but I'm having trouble finding one! My list of possible contending teams in baseball is - Phils, Mets, Braves, Cubs, Brewers, D'backs, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Indians, Angels, Mariners. I guess the biggest darkhorse on that list is Toronto, but while I like a lot about them, I don't see them higher than 3rd. If the darkhorse is outside that contender pool, then I guess I'd also have to agree on the Reds. But I don't see anyone not on that list really contending for anything.

I also agree with you on the Dodgers and think Torre will help them a lot. I think LA wins the wild card, just edging out the Rockies and Mets. Padres don't have enough offense, Phils don't have enough pitching and Milwaukee is too Jekyll and Hyde for me to to put in serious contention.

Mike H.: his actual performance aside, it's the *idea* of having to start someone like Odalis Perez on such a gala occasion which I was referring to.

Tray: what, you don't remember what happened last Opening Day? Brett Myers and Ryan Madson probably do.

F*ckin Lo Duca, killin the Phillies indirectly even after he leaves the mets!

I hate LoDuca. Block the plate, juiceboy.

Passed ball Paul LoDuca and the Bravos tie it up in the top o' the ninth.

Lo Duca still winning Gold Gloves, I see...

I sense that Zimmerman is going to win it here.

Hey, I got nothing wrong with an extra inning game before the Nats travel to Philly for a day game tomorrow. Come on, let's go 15!

Nice one Spitz

How in the hell did you just do that, NC?

What did I say?!

Sorry, that was NCPhilly with the spot-on prediction.

And Zimmerman ends one of the most boring games in recent memory.

Oh well. However, Cordero got shut down tonight. Would be good not to see him this series.

And the vaunted Braves loose the opener to the lowly Nationals. Very satisfying.

You must not have been in San Diego for Hamels vs. Chris Young last year, Joe. 1-0, 7 hits total.

apparently joe l doesn't appreciate baseball. A boring game would have been either team murdering the other. This was a close game, well pitched, and decided in the last at-bat. Woo!

For me, no game is boring if it signals the end of Spring Training! And I will add my woo to The Theory's for the two-out bottom of the ninth winner.

Lo Duca would have still let the passed ball go by if Cordero was pitching.

Disagree joe. 3-2 games are much more interesting to me than a 10-8 slugfest filled with spotty pitching and defense usually.

I never said it was boring because it was low scoring.

no, you didn't. But there is no other reason you could have found such game boring. We just did a good job of reading between the lines.

Hudson pitched great, the 9th was pretty good, but Nats - Braves on ESPN with Joe Morgan and friend just didn't do it for me. I'm glad baseball is here, but bring on the Phils.

It could be worse.... it could have been Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

anyone else feel like they lost a few IQ points listening to morgan and bush at the same time?

Joe - Agreed on Morgan and but it was still Opening Day (not the BS games in Japan). Plus, I wanted to see the Nats' new stadium.

Just got done talking to a friend who is a Nats' season ticket and only had really good things to say about the stadium. Hopefully I can get down there in the next year or two for a Phils-Nats game.

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