Monday, September 29, 2014

Now What?

And just like that, the 2014 Regular Season has come to a close. My, that was a quick one, wasn't it?

I bring up Dustin Ackley on a day like this because Ackley's Mariners came ever-so-close to clinching a wild card spot, which is more than anyone could have predicted, before falling back and giving it to the Athletics. I think the Mariners had a really nice season, and for a while I was actually hoping they would make it to the playoffs.

But now we have a playoffs full of a bunch of fun teams, which is great, because the two teams who ended up making it all the way last year were a bit more infuriating than fun. Now we have a good Royals team, a fun Pirates team, that A's team, and a surging Orioles team, and I could root for any of these guys. That's not even mentioning the fact that I appreciate the Nationals, Dodgers and Angels as well.

These playoffs look like they're going to be a lot of fun if they're handled the right way. If it ends up being Cardinals-Tigers, than it will have missed the point. The whole point is that a bunch of elsewhere-unlikely teams have made it to the playoffs. The Tigers, Cardinals and Giants have made it to a lot of World Series' in the past few years. If they get there, the whole season might be seen as anticlimactic.

I dunno, maybe I'm overthinking it. But it looks like it's going to be a fun playoffs.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Football Predictions: Week Four

Four weeks in, we've already got some upsets, some undefeated teams, and some huge victories over strong teams. But still, this is week four, and it's a completely different ballgame this week.

Last week, for the most part, I did pretty well in my predictions, but I could still mess up big time this week. Let's see how I do:


Packers vs. Da Bears:
Who Should Win: Packers. I know they haven't had the greatest last few weeks, but they're still a decent team, and Rodgers is still having a pretty nice season. Besides, this week they're against a not-as-confident-as-Detroit-is Bears team, so they could have an easier time. Only problem is that both of these teams are in the middle of the NFC North, and neither one is particularly impressive this year. I'm saying the Packers are the potential favorite because of their past wins.
Who Will Win: Packers. I think this game will be very close, and I think Chicago will start the game with a huge lead, and the Packers will pull something together in the fourth. This rivalry provides for a lot of close games like that. Hopefully, this one is a Packer victory, though it could go either way.
Overall: Packers over Bears.

Bills vs. Texans:
Who Should Win: Bills. These are two perplexing, middle of the pack teams, that are playing each other this week. Both have won and lost games, and can be perceived as loose cannons in surefire spots. I'm going to say that EJ Manuel is currently playing slightly better than Ryan Fitzpatrick, which isn't to say that Fitz is a bad QB. Also, I feel like this is a Bills squad that could go somewhere big in the division this year. I don't know if it will, but it could.
Who Will Win: Bills. Texans will fight hard, but they're missing a lot of their key players, and it's going to show. Bills have a lot of youth that will likely do some damage this year.
Overall: Bills over Texans.

Titans vs. Colts:
Who Should Win: Colts. I have a feeling that this Colts squad is going to do a lot of really good things this year, and by that I mean they're going to get further than the first round of the playoffs. They have that kind of potential, to not just be a modest team, but a great team. Plus, I like Andrew Luck. He's good for the team. The Titans are starting Charlie Whitehurst instead of Jake Locker, which is an "ABOUT DAMN TIME" moment for the team, as Locker's been disappointing since his call up. While the Titans have a few stragglers, and a few players that are alright, they don't have the foundation that Indianapolis has.
Who Will Win: Colts. It might not be too close, and it might not be that much of a high-scoring game, but either way, this should be an easy victory for the Colts.
Overall: Colts over Titans

Panthers vs. Ravens:
Who Should Win: Ravens. Both teams are strong, but the Panthers have been losing a lot of strong pieces, as Cam Newton has been on-and-off, and they've lost a lot of momentum that they had last year. Meanwhile, the Ravens have gained so much more momentum after their comparatively down year last year, gaining a lot of players who still know what they're doing. Flacco has been consistent this year, too. Besides, the Ravens lost one of their best players to scandal, and unlike the Dolphins, they're still battling on through it all, and winning a lot of crucial matches.
Who Will Win: Ravens. Here, it looks like the Ravens are the better team, though the Panthers have a chance of defying my expectations and squeezing in. The game will likely be close for a while, and the Ravens will likely pull out halfway through.
Overall: Ravens over Panthers.

Lions vs. Jets:
Okay, funny story, first. I'm going to college in Westchester, NY, which is basically Giants-Jets territory, and they're all diehard about it. My history professor came in Monday with a Jets tie, and ended class five minute early because he needed to get home, as "the Jets are playing Monday Night tonight".
Who Should Win: Lions. Unless the Packers divvie up some kind of late rally, like last year, the Lions will be dominating the North this year, and they have the exact right squad for it, even without Ndamukong Suh, who is likely leaving after this week. They have a monster squad, and Matt Stafford is FINALLY playing like an Elite QB, which is fantastic. This week they're facing a subpar Jets roster. No contest.
Who Will Win: Jets. I wonder if the Jets will get so desperate that they'll have to bring in Michael Vick. And then they'll probably get so desperate that they'll wish they still had Tim Tebow.
Overall: Lions over Jets.

Buccaneers vs. Steelers:
If you guys want proof that the NFL just gave the Steelers the easiest schedule in the world, look no further than this matchup, as well as the last couple. Man, oh man.
Who Should Win: Steelers.
Who Will Win: Steelers. Josh McCown is gonna face palm so hard.
Overall: Steelers over Bucs. It's gonna be so embarrassing.

Dolphins vs. Raiders:
Who Should Win: Raiders. I really don't know how else to say this, but POOR OAKLAND. So many years of having a good roster, and then everything just crashing and burning immediately out of the gate. This gosh. It just keeps getting worse. Not even Khalil Mack and Derek Carr could help. However, unlike last week, this is not an unbeatable team. The Dolphins have some flaws, and Tannehill is not looking too great. So, this looks like it could happen.
Who Will Win: Dolphins. Which is why it probably won't.
Overall: Dolphins over Raiders.


Jaguars vs. Chargers:
I mean...did they even mean to make this remotely close??
Who Should Win: Chargers
Who Will Win: Chargers. When the Chargers end up getting the Wild Card again, look to easy games like these.
Overall: Chargers over Jags.

Falcons vs. Vikings:
Who Should Win: Falcons. All they needed was a splash of youth, and the Falcons are back at it. Matt Ryan is playing well again, the rookies are working, and the acquisitions are definitely helping. It may have just been the Hard Knocks stint that revitalized these guys. Either way, they're back, and they're killing it.
Who Will Win: Falcons. This shouldn't be too difficult. Vikings have already had to resort to Teddy Bridgewater, after discovering the shocking fact that Matt Cassel isn't a very reliable QB. The Vikes are falling apart, especially with the whole AP thing. The Falcons will definitely take advantage of this.
Overall: Falcons over Vikings.

Eagles vs. 49ers:
....oh, crap.
Who Should Win: Niners. Yeah, this game is going to be painful. The Niners are still a strong team, and Kaepernick is still throwing bombs out there. The Eagles, by comparison, aren't very well developed, and are a bit weak. I have a feeling the first quarter is going to be vicious, and the Niners will put up a good 21 points right off the bat. And it's going to suck for all of the Eagles fans.
Who Will Win: Eagles. may take a while, but the Eagles might be able to break through. The Niners have lost some games this year. They're not as strong as they were in 2012. The Eagles, on the other hand, are stronger than ever. I'm not just saying this because I'm an Eagles fan. I'm saying this because I mean it. This game is going to be close, but the Eagles are going to win, somehow.
Overall: Eagles over Niners.

Saints vs. Cowboys:
...oh, come on now.
Who Should Win: Saints
Who Will Win: Saints
Overall: Saints over Cowboys.
(UPDATE: Well, that's what I get for giving a four-word kiss-off to a matchup that I thought was self-explanatory. Sorry if I pissed off any Cowboys fans.)

I'll fill in the Monday night matchup later.

Those are some bold predictions, and let's see them hit the wall.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Custom Card of the Day: Price Edition

...hang on. This Price doesn't look right.

(entire audience face palms)

No, not just because of the team change. I feel like David Price hasn't been pitching like David Price ever since he left Tampa. Like, he joined the team to make a super-rotation with Scherzer, Verlander and Porcello. Now...he's not as good as he was.

Still, even if he's not doing great by Price standards, he's still pitching some nice games. But then every once and a while, he'll do something inhuman and give up some runs. And then people will notice and ask what's wrong. I'm personally hoping that this season's just a fluke, and he goes back to dominating next season, but you can never tell. Maybe the move to Detroit wasn't such a great idea. I don't know.

Bottom line is he'll be pitching in the postseason, alongside those other three guys, and hopefully he'll be red-hot.

Coming Tomorrow- The Mariners were so close to the playoffs, but just missed. Here's one of their comeback heroes.

Saying Goodbye is Hard

It's hard for me to believe that after this month, somebody else will have to play shortstop for my team.

For as long as I can remember, it's been Derek Jeter. For as long as I can remember he's been a consistently solid, all-American hero of a ballplayer. Which is why it's crushing me that he's down to his last few games.

I still have my Jeter jersey from five years ago, when they won the whole thing. The sleeve still has the 'Champs '09' emblem on it. I wear it proudly now that I'm in Yankee territory. And, of course, I'll be wearing it Sunday, when he plays his final game ever, which is also gonna be really sad.

I'm glad Jeter had a great night last night, knocking in a game-winning run against the Orioles, and being the hero in the Bronx one last time. He deserved it. People can talk all they want about how they think David Robertson fudged it for him. I don't care. I'm just glad he had the hit anyway. That's the way you want to end your career at home.

I'm kind of pissed they didn't make the playoffs, but it's fine. Jeter's been in enough playoff races that he earned another year off. It would have been heartbreaking if they made it to the Wild Card round and lost. That wouldn't have been the greatest sendoff for Jeter.

I guess I'll end the post the only way I can. I saw Cal Ripken play at Camden Yards in his last season. I saw Jim Thome play for the Phillies in his prime. I saw Mariano Rivera save a game. But all of those guys mean nothing to the fact that every time I went to Yankee stadium, I saw Derek Jeter play, and he was fantastic.

Well done, Derek. New York will never forget you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Panini for a Wednesday: 2014 Panini Rookies and Stars

After my Donruss disaster, I needed something that I hadn't opened, but still made me feel better than the Donruss did. So luckily, there was a fat pack of Rookies and Stars lying around, and it was worth a look.

The design might be a little too simple for my tastes, but it's a generally cool set. Subtle enough use of foil. Backs aren't too cluttered. It's a simple enough set that is probably going to be labeled too plain by other bloggers. It's not as good as Prestige in my book, but it's good.

64- Eli Manning. His Giants aren't off to the greatest start.
55- Kendall Wright, who's doing pretty damn well in Tennessee
98- Percy Harvin. Where would the Seahawks be without him?
96- Zac Stacy
93- Andre Ellington
89- Jimmy Graham, one of the best defensive players in the NFL right now.
84- Steven Jackson
78- Eddie Lacy, for my Packers.
71- Pierre Garcon, the only person on the Redskins who seems to be doing anything right.
63- Henry Melton
54- Jake Locker...who's still pretty bad.
45- Ben Roethlisberger, who's having something resembling a comeback season here.
95- Tavon Austin, one of the top picks of 2013.
92- Larry Fitzgerald
88- Drew Brees, a fantastic QB
83- Julio Jones, whose Falcons are doing pretty well.
77- Jordy Nelson, sporting a Packers throwback
70- Robert Griffin III, in his second-straight injury-plagued season
62- DeMarco Murray
53- Justin Blackmon
44- Dennis Pitta
36- Tom Brady, whose Pats are seeming human this year
91- Carson Palmer, who is already injured, and has been replaced with Drew Stanton
87- Luke Kuechly
82- Matt Ryan, the comeback kid in Atlanta
76- Aaron Rodgers, one of the best QBs in the league
193- Tom Savage RC
Pro Bowl insert of Patrick Peterson
126- Davante Adams
120- Chris Borland
115- Bruce Ellington
173- Yep, that's my third Michael Sam rookie of the year. It sucks that he's not on the Rams anymore, but it's great that I keep pulling cards of him.
166- Louis Nix III
158- Khalil Mack
151- Jerick McKinnon
142- Nice, another Jadeveon Clowney rookie
134- Dri Archer
127- David Fales
121- Cody Latimer
200- Zack Martin

Nice enough product, but not nearly as memorable as I'd like.

Panini for a Wednesday: 2014 Donruss Series 2

That is a very good question. Why exactly DO I torture myself like this?

You may call me crazy for buying a fat pack of Series 2 of the most disappointing product of 2014 (unless you count anything Topps has put out this year that isn't Heritage).

And yes, Donruss is a flawed product this year. Though really, it has no real choice but to be flawed. The one problem that people have with this set, the lack of logos or team names, is something that Panini is TRYING to work with, but ultimately can't help. If MLB ever gives Panini a full-fledged MLB license (something I really want to happen, even if it's not exactly plausible), then maybe we'll FINALLY get over this problem.

But still, aside from the license, there still are some major flaws with the product, and the fact that an unnecessary Series 2 has been prodded out this late is just the proof we need.

However, is there any saving grace with this product? Let's find out:

297- Greg Holland, one of the best closers in the AL.
289- Nolan Arenado
282- Joey Votto, who is injured right now.
276- Alejandro De Aza
271- David Ortiz, who also has a card in Series One...which kind of defeats the purpose of having a Series 2.
267- Chris Tillman, who has become the unofficial ace for Baltimore.
320- Sonny Gray, who came onto the Oakland scene at the exact right time.
311- Ryan Braun. BOOOOOOOO!
302- Tyler Skaggs, who wasn't really effortly PSd into an Angels uniform.
294- Miguel Cabrera
349- Leonys Martin
345- Evan Longoria.
315- Oswaldo Arcia SILVER PARALLEL NUMBERED TO 400! That's actually pretty nice.
31- The Rookies Insert of Christian Bethancourt
214- Diamond Kings insert of Mark Trumbo
272- Grady Sizemore...who isn't even on the Red Sox anymore.
268- Jonathan Schoop rookie...which is actually pretty nice.
323- Ryan Howard
315- Oswaldo Arcia
306- Adeiny Hechavarria
303- Dee Gordon, who's having a great 2014.
353- Jose Bautista, who's doing the same things he does every year.
350- Shin-Soo Choo
356- Yunel Escobar
341- Yadier Molina
328- Jedd Gyorko
Studio insert of Felix Hernandez, which actually looks pretty cool.
Annnnd...I pulled a Jersey Card. A Jersey Kings one of Russell Martin, which, given the circumstances, is a pretty decent pull, especially out of a Target pack.
Elite insert of Jason Kipnis. These look really good.
250- Jake Marsinick, one team ago, rookie

The set, yeah, is pretty flawed, but there are great things in the inserts, and the authenticity to Donruss. It's just...not great.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Custom Card of the Day: Martin Edition

Wow. Did you think this would be the face of one of the best catchers in the NL.

I mean, not while he was with the Dodgers. While he was with the Yankees. Did you think he'd get back to the top? I certainly didn't. And now here he is, one of the surprisingly consistent anchors of a vengeful Pirates team, fighting to get back to the top.

I've always had a soft spot for these Pirates teams, the McCutchen led ones, because I think he's a great player, and because the teams are always a lot of fun. Martin is just adding the fun in. I didn't really like him as a Yankee (neither did anyone else), but I think I like him again.

I want the Pirates to get far in the playoffs. I'm not exactly sure that they will, but I want them to. I want somebody to root for this year.

Coming Tonight- One of the best pitchers in the AL, on the exact team that nobody wants him to be on.