The Las Vegas Golden Knights Are Headed To The Stanley Cup. Here’s A Look At How Other Expansion Franchises Did

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Before I get into this blog, I just want to apologize for how infrequent my posting has been. I haven’t been able to post much given my work schedule and it’s probably not going to get any easier. So for those of you who are bearing with me, thank you. I’m also coming off an illness. Saturday morning was AWFUL. I woke up at my buddy’s place in Lowell, Massachusetts about 45 minutes from my house. I’m puking my brains out and eventually dry-heaving. I then remembered my brother needed the car to go to work in a few hours so I couldn’t hang out on the toilet for much longer. Finally, when I decided I was done puking, I got in my car and just drove off. I’m about halfway home when I feel something coming up. I pull into a Starbucks parking lot in Littleton, open my car door, and puke in the space. I think someone who was sitting in their car saw me. I went into the Starbucks and put my head in their toilet for a few minutes before someone knocked on the door needing to go so I sucked it up and got back in the car, but not before texting my boss telling him I couldn’t make it to work that night. There weren’t any more problems until I just got back into my home town. I was too close to home to pull over and in a bad spot to do so, so I made the decision to puke on my shirt while I was driving. I don’t know how, but I made it home without causing an accident. It was one of the most miserable mornings of my life.

So with that, I don’t normally talk about hockey because I understand hockey about as well as I understand women (which is to say I know the basics but if you try and go into any depth, I’m lost). But I just can’t ignore the fact that the Las Vegas Golden Knights won the Western Conference and will be playing for the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season. That’s just insane. It’s a patchwork team full of castoffs and young guys and they won the Western Conference. They still have to face either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals, but the fact they got this far is absolute insanity. They really are the new gold standard for expansion franchises in professional sports now. So let’s put the Golden Knights’ season into perspective by looking at how other expansion franchises in sports did. I’m only doing the leagues I know, though (MLB, NFL, NBA) because otherwise this blog would take FOREVER. I probably should include the NHL seeing as how I’m comparing expansion franchises to an NHL team, buuuuut…

MLB

1961 Los Angeles Angels-The Angels were the first expansion franchise and went 70-91 in their inaugural season, finishing 8th out of 10 teams in the American League. They did not appear in a championship game until 2002, when they beat the Giants in the World Series.

1961 Washington Senators (later became the Texas Rangers)-The Washington Senators were revived after the previous rendition of the franchise became the Minnesota Twins. They eventually became the Rangers and finished tied for last place in the AL with a 61-100 record in their inaugural season. They first appeared in a championship game in 2010 where they lost to the Giants and have yet to win their first title.

1962 New York Mets-The expansion New York Mets had the worst season in Major League history, going 42-120. However, they appeared in and won their first title just 7 years later in 1969, in a team that is now referred to as the “Miracle Mets.”

1962 Houston Colt .45’s (later became the Houston Astros)-The Colt. 45’s had to change their name shortly after their inaugural season due to people being concerned over rooting for a team named after a gun. They finished 64-96 in their first season, 8th in the National League. They didn’t appear in a World Series until 2005 and won their first title in 2017.

1969 Kansas City Royals-The Royals went 69-93 in their inaugural season, finishing in 4th place out of 6 teams in the AL West. They did not appear in a World Series until 1980 and won their first title in 1985.

1969 Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals)-The Montreal Expos went 52-110 in their inaugural season and things haven’t gotten much better. They became the Washington Nationals in 2005 and neither rendition of the franchise has reached a World Series yet, one of two MLB franchises that have yet to do so (the Mariners being the other).

1969 San Diego Padres-The 1969 San Diego Padres also went 52-110 in their first season, matching the expansion Expos, who debuted in the same season. The Padres have yet to win their first World Series, but they appeared in their first in 1984.

1969 Seattle Pilots (now Milwaukee Brewers)-The Seattle Pilots went 64-98 in their first season, finishing in the basement of the AL West and were quickly moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers. The Brewers reached their first World Series in 1982, but they have yet to win the Fall Classic.

1977 Toronto Blue Jays-The Blue Jays went 54-107 in their first season, finishing in last place in the AL East. They reached and won their first World Series in 1992 and repeated in 1993 on Joe Carter’s walk-off home run (only the second time the World Series ended on a home run, the first being Bill Mazeroski for the Pirates in 1960).

1977 Seattle Mariners-The Seattle Mariners went 64-98 in their first season, finishing in second-to-last place in the AL West. They have yet to reach a World Series, though the 2001 Mariners have the winningest regular season ever at 116-46.

1993 Colorado Rockies-The Colorado Rockies went 67-95 in their inaugural season, finishing second-to-last in the NL West. They reached their first World Series in 2007 but have yet to win one.

1993 Florida Marlins-The Florida Marlins went 64-98 in their first season, finishing second-to-last in the NL East. They won their first World Series just 4 years later in 1997 and again in 2003. They have never lost a playoff series. They changed their name to the Miami Marlins in 2012.

1998 Arizona Diamondbacks-The 1998 Arizona Diamondbacks had a very similar path to the Marlins, going 65-97 in their first season but winning their first World Series 3 years later in 2001.

1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays-The 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays went 63-99 in their first season, finishing in last place in the AL East. They appeared in their first World Series in 2008, which is also the same year they dropped the “Devil” from their name. They have yet to win their first title.

NFL (post-merger with AFL)

1976 Seattle Seahawks-The 1976 Seattle Seahawks went 2-12 in their first season. They did not appear in a Super Bowl until the 2005 season and won their first Super Bowl in 2013.

1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers-The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14 in their inaugural season and proceeded to lose the first 12 games of the 1977 season before finally beating the Saints for the franchise’s first win. The 26 consecutive losses remain an NFL record to this day. The Buccaneers reached and won their first Super Bowl in 2002.

1995 Carolina Panthers-The Carolina Panthers went 7-9 in their first season, tying for last place with the Saints in the NFC West. They appeared in their first Super Bowl in 2003 but have yet to win one.

1995 Jacksonville Jaguars-The Jacksonville Jaguars went 4-12 in their first season but were in the AFC title game the following year with a 9-7 record. They have yet to appear in a Super Bowl.

1996 Baltimore Ravens (kind of)-The Ravens are technically an expansion franchise even though they were formed after the old Browns franchise moved to Baltimore. However when the Browns were reformed in 1999, they re-assumed their franchise’s history, retroactively making the Ravens an expansion franchise. The Ravens went 4-12 in their first season. They appeared in and won their first Super Bowl in 2000.

1999 Cleveland Browns (again, kind of)-As previously mentioned, the Browns were reformed three years after the original version moved to Baltimore but re-assumed their history. The new Browns went 2-14 in their first season. Neither rendition of the Browns has ever reached a Super Bowl.

2002 Houston Texans-The 2002 Houston Texans went 4-12 in their inaugural season, but set an NFL record for rookie quarterback David Carr getting sacked 76 times. They have yet to reach a Super Bowl.

NBA (post-merger with ABA)

1980-81 Dallas Mavericks-The Mavericks went 15-67 in their inaugural season. They appeared in the Finals for the first time in 2005-06 and won their first title in 2010-11.

1988-89 Miami Heat-The Miami Heat also went 15-67 in their first season. They appeared in the Finals for the first time in 2006, which they won.

1988-89 Charlotte Hornets (now New Orleans Pelicans)-The Charlotte Hornets went 20-62 in their first season. They have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1989-90 Minnesota Timberwolves-The Minnesota Timberwolves went 22-60 in their first season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1989-90 Orlando Magic-The Orlando Magic went 18-64 in their inaugural season and reached their first NBA Finals in 2009. They have yet to win a title.

1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies-The Grizzlies went 15-67 in their first season and later moved to Memphis. They have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1995-96 Toronto Raptors-The Toronto Raptors went 21-61 in their inaugural season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

2004-05 Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets)-The whole situation between which Hornets were the Bobcats at one point is similar to the Browns/Ravens situation but a lot more confusing so just go with it. But the Bobcats went 18-64 in their inaugural season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

So as we can see, expansion franchises are NOT supposed to be good out of the gates. The best winning percentage by an expansion franchise prior to the Golden Knights was the 1995 Carolina Panthers with a .438 winning percentage. Now they’ll be playing for the Stanley Cup in just their first year in existence after going 51-24-7 (.622) and obtaining the #3 seed in the Western Conference.

Let me know what you thought of today’s blog in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

 

General Sports: April 12

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-The rivalry is back. Red Sox and Yankees finally means something again. For awhile, the rivalry felt pretty dead as it’s hard to top one team coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant like the Red Sox did in 2004. For a while, things were pretty tame between these two teams. That was until last night. It started with a National Anthem staredown where Andrew Benintendi outlasted Sonny Gray, which was nice and harmless. Then Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin took a hard slide into Red Sox shortstop Brock Holt trying to break up a double play. Things got a little chippy at that point, when the two butted heads, resulting in the benches clearing. Things settled down, though. That is until Austin came up to bat against Joe Kelly and we got this.

I always love me a good baseball fight and this is no exception. Love the bat slam by Austin, no particular reason behind it other than it looked kinda cool. Kelly and Austin exchange words and it’s on. Kelly put a swift move on Austin and was able to get the takedown before throwing a punch at the Yankees first baseman’s head. Kelly was, of course, ejected and will likely get a suspension. Austin was tossed as well and will probably face some sort of discipline and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin was also sent to the showers. Can’t remember the last time I heard about a third base coach getting ejected. But when the Red Sox and Yankees hate each other and both teams are stacked with great talent, that’s when baseball’s at its best. This brought back memories of Jason Varitek punching Alex Rodriguez in the face back in 2004.

-Believe it or not, that wasn’t the first baseball fight of the day. There was one out in Colorado, too, as Luis Perdomo of the Padres and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies got into it. Here’s the play in question.

Perdomo’s glove throw isn’t nearly as bad as Bryce Harper’s monumentally poor helmet throw from last season, but it’s still pretty bad. I’m not sure what the precedent was for Perdomo bringing the heat at Arenado’s back because it kind of came out of nowhere. With Kelly throwing at Austin, it was retaliation for Austin’s hard slide into Holt. There wasn’t really an inciting incident for this one. But I always enjoy a good baseball fight. The second game I ever attended had a baseball fight and I almost missed it. It was at Tropicana Field as I was visiting my grandparents in Florida back in 2005 (I was 9 years old). My grandma was taking me and my brother to the gift shop to get something when I heard a commotion in the stadium. I ran to the nearest entryway and sure enough, the Red Sox and Devil Rays (this was back when they still carried that name) were swarmed together around the mound. What happened was Tampa Bay pitcher Dewon Brazelton had plunked Manny Ramirez then threw at David Ortiz as the very next batter. He missed Ortiz, but Big Papi took exception and he charged the mound. The Red Sox won the game 11-3 on the strength of a grand slam by Jay Payton of all people.

-I got a chance to watch Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines over the course of this past week. It’s 8 episodes long and chronicles Michigan’s season from their spring trip to Italy to their Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina. Amazon Prime has been doing All or Nothing in the NFL for the last couple years and it’s been fantastic every time. This year’s NFL team is the Cowboys and it will be released on April 27. But this was the first time they focused on a college football team and I’m not sure they could’ve picked a much better subject to focus on.

at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jim Harbaugh basically expressed every emotion imaginable during these 8 episodes. When Michigan won handily, I don’t think there’s a human being alive who is a happier dude. When Michigan lost, particularly the Michigan State loss, Harbaugh seemed terrifying to be around. It was almost like he was going to snap at the first person who talked to him. His wife seemed like she was doing everything she could to tread lightly. We also got a look at his coaching style and I’ll tell you what, he’s a pretty unique dude. His speeches can get a little bizarre but strangely motivating. We find out in the final episode where he gets it from, his father Jack. In the final episode, before the South Carolina game, Jack Harbaugh speaks to the team and gives them a rousing speech about a boxing match he saw once and basically every mannerism and word choice was pretty similar to Jim’s.

Some other things of note: Rashan Gary’s intelligence isn’t highlighted enough by the media. Everyone talks about how he was the nation’s #1 recruit a couple of years ago and that he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the country. But the guy carries a GPA of around 4.0 at one of the toughest universities in the country and he’s really well-spoken. The dinner scene he has with his mom about not wanting his dad to be a part of his life is pretty moving and I thought was the best scene in the whole series and that includes the NFL seasons. His passion is also very apparent in games as he was often mic’d up for the games. You could really feel his intensity.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown didn’t get enough screen time. The guy was electric every time he was on camera and he kind of reminded me of Mike Ditka at times. There was surprisingly very little cussing from anyone on the staff, players or coaches (Hell, Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton yelled “FUDGE” after an Ohio State touchdown). I don’t know if that was planned ahead of time or if that’s just how they run things in Ann Arbor. But I’m pretty sure every single ‘f’ bomb uttered came out of Brown’s mouth while he was coaching or hyping players up. He pretty much stole every scene he was in.

Another scene-stealer was defensive end Chase Winovich. Off the field he was kind of bland but when he was on the field he was an absolute riot with his trash talking. My favorite was in the Wisconsin game after he got a sack. He walked up to a Wisconsin offensive lineman and yelled “protect your quarterback!” at him. It was pretty much like this all the time for every game that was shown.

That’s going to do it for this one. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

General Sports: March 31

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-The Red Sox were able to bounce back in a big way against the Rays, as Alex Cora gets his first managerial win 1-0. The one run came across on a Rafael Devers single in the 7th inning to score Xander Bogaerts. One thing I did notice, though, is when the Red Sox won, the outfield did not do their win-dance-repeat routine, instead they just fist bumped. I’m a little disappointed that the dancing appears to be over but a celebratory fist bump is fine, I guess. Also, Red Sox starting pitching was outstanding once again as they have yet to allow a single run. David Price went 7 innings and only let up 4 hits in getting the win. Craig Kimbrel continued to do Kimbrel things and struck out the side in order en route to locking down his first save of the new season.

-Villanova guard Jalen Brunson won National Player of the Year in the NCAA, which feels like an unimportant award, to be truly honest. For whatever reason, basketball’s top individual prize just doesn’t feel like it’s worth anything, unlike the Heisman. Why that is is beyond me, but nonetheless, it is interesting that Brunson won it over Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who put up a ridiculous statline all season. However, as I’ve noticed, this award typically goes to the best player on the best team and by that logic, Brunson is the rightful winner.

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-Speaking of college hoops, the Final Four starts Saturday night as Loyola-Chicago takes on Michigan and Villanova takes on Kansas. As bad as my bracket was for much of the tournament, I actually managed to get 3 out of 4 Final Four teams, with Loyola being the lone exception, of course. I had Arizona coming out of the South but they thought it’d be funny to get blown out by 13th seeded Buffalo in the first round. I had them in the National Championship, losing to Villanova. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how this Cinderella run for Loyola ends because it just feels like they can do no wrong. Michigan is a really good opponent and they’ve been on fire, too, but the lowest seed they’ve faced so far is the 6th-seeded Houston. Should they win and make it to the National Championship, they will have done so by beating a 14, a 6, a 7, a 9, and an 11 in Loyola. I’m predicting the championship game will be Michigan vs Villanova, which will be very conflicting for my uncle, who attended ‘Nova but is also a big Michigan fan.

-After Aaron Hicks injured his ribs, centerfield may have a vacancy for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury is currently on the DL and Yankees leftfielder Brett Gardner moved into center while rookie Billy McKinney manned left. However, Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated that Aaron Judge may get a look in center when Gardner needs a breather, which could get interesting. Judge has only played right field since his Major League debut in 2016 and he has played it very competently. However if he does end up playing some centerfield, he could wind up being the biggest centerfielder of all time at 6’8 280 pounds. I tried doing a google search for the tallest centerfielders but it didn’t help very much so I may need some help from the readers. But I can’t imagine there’s ever been a heavier one at the very least.

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-The Oakland Raiders cut punter Marquette King. Normally a punter getting cut wouldn’t make news, however King is a special case. He gained notoriety in the NFL for his entertaining social media presence and his on-field antics, which included some fun celebrations when he would pin a punt inside the 20 yard line. And the elephant in the room, he’s the only black punter in the league, there I said it. The guy can kick, though, and I can’t imagine he’ll be out of a job for very long. He did have a pretty lucrative contract for a punter, as he was in the second year of a 5-year $16.5M deal. Jon Gruden also cut talented young tight end Clive Walford, who showed promise in his first two years, then basically did nothing in 2017 as he only caught 9 passes in 13 games.

-Amazon’s All or Nothing series that kind of works like Hard Knocks but follows a team during the regular season is going to follow two football teams this year, one college and one pro. The college team is going to be Michigan while the NFL team is the Cowboys. They were following these teams throughout the season and will compile their footage into a documentary on a team’s season. They started doing this in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals and it was a blast following a team as it made a run at the Super Bowl, falling just short in their NFC Championship loss. Then in 2016 they followed the Rams and we got to see the inverse, as they fired coach Jeff Fisher midseason and we got to see what it was like for an organization to deal with this kind of upheaval, which was super interesting. For the 2017 season, Michigan went 8-5 including a bowl loss to South Carolina after starting off pretty well while the Cowboys went 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs so these ones seem like they’re going to be more up-and-down rather than all ups with the Cardinals or all downs with the Rams. I’ll definitely be looking forward to this series. The Cowboys one will be released on April 27, also Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft while the Michigan one will be released on April 6 (this coming Friday).

-76ers “rookie” Ben Simmons recorded his 11th triple double on the season against the Hawks, which is more than 27 other teams. Simmons is most certainly going to win Rookie of the Year, but I’m still going to bitch and moan since in my brain this technically isn’t his rookie year, as he was drafted in 2016. But whatever, nobody ever really remembers who won Rookie of the Year anyway. You know who won last year? Malcolm Brogdon. Did you know that? Because I sure as Hell forgot, I had to google it.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Opening Day Recap

 

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It was a glorious Opening Day and baseball could not have returned with a bigger bang than it did on Thursday. While we were robbed of the “everybody opens at the same time” thing by rain in both Cincinnati and Detroit (and Bloomington, Indiana. Rained all day and when you have to walk as far as I do to and from class, you tend to loathe the rain), we still got some great baseball. So let’s get to some thoughts I had about what I saw (and didn’t see because of the goddamn technology ban in both my classes).

-Can’t start a season much better than the Cubs did. Their game against the Miami Marlins was the first game on tap so the first pitch of the season would be to a Cubs hitter. Leading off the season was Ian Happ. So how did the season’s first pitch go?

This was the first time since 1986 that the first pitch of the baseball season went yard. Dwight Evans did so for the Red Sox. Boston went on to lose the World Series in heartbreaking fashion (“BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER! HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT!”) so we’ll have to see if the Cubs can avoid that same fate.

-Speaking of the Red Sox, what a freaking choke job. They led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th after an absolutely dominating performance by Chris Sale (6 innings, 9 K’s, 1 hit) and I’ll put how that 8th inning went with this: Joe Kelly’s ERA is 108.00. Just an absolute waste. However it is Game 1 out of 162 and the Red Sox lost Opening Day in both the 2004 and 2007 seasons, both of which ended with World Series victories. There were some positives from this game, though. Xander Bogaerts looked really good, getting 3 hits including 2 doubles. Eduardo Nunez hit the first Opening Day inside-the-park home run by a Red Sox player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1968. In fact, counting the postseason, the Red Sox have back-to-back games with an inside-the-park home run, as Rafael Devers hit one in the 9th inning of the Sox’ Game 4 ALDS defeat at the hands of the Astros. Here’s the play in question.

-The Chicago White Sox scored 14 runs on the Royals. Wait, that’s a typo, right? The same White Sox team that many people are picking to be the worst in baseball? Again, it’s Game 1, but you have to be excited about the future if you’re a White Sox fan. DH Matt Davidson was the star as he hit 3 home runs, the 4th time someone has ever done so on Opening Day. Also something to note with this game, the Royals got out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning and the White Sox didn’t score a single run until the 4th, where they scored 5, then added on 3 more in the 5th, nothing in the 6th, then 3 in both the 7th and 8th inning. So when the White Sox scored, they scored in bunches.

-The Baltimore Orioles won via walkoff on Opening Day for the second consecutive season. A number like that is just unprecedented to me. Here’s the play.

It was a pitcher’s duel throughout between Dylan Bundy and Jake Odorizzi, which is surprising considering the fact that starting pitching appears to be the weakest part of both teams. I only caught the first couple innings of this one but I did notice that Manny Machado looks good to start the season. His first at bat he hit a laser over the right fielder’s head and coasted into second with an easy double.

-Offensively the Mets looked really good. I sporadically changed my feed between this game and the O’s-Twins for a little while and basically every time I watched, the Mets were compiling hits and scoring runs, which was great for them because Noah Syndergaard fell into some tough luck. He struck out 10 batters but gave up 4 runs, including a 2-run homer against Yadier Molina on a really nice pitch that you really can’t do anything about. I said before in their 30 Clubs in 30 Days, but I think the Mets are going to be a lot better than they were last year.

-If you weren’t terrified of the Yankees before, you should be now. Giancarlo Stanton homered twice in his Yankees debut, the second to ever do so (the first was Roger Maris). Here’s his first at bat as a Yankee.

His other homer also went to the opposite field. So you’ve got both Judge and Stanton who have stupid power to all fields. The Yankees cruised to a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays, who were honoring the late Roy Halladay before the game.

-Nick Markakis got his first career walkoff home run out of the way on Opening Day.

Gotta feel great for the 34 year-old. However Phillies fans were pretty bent out of shape by Gabe Kapler’s managerial decisions in his debut. He pulled Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches, 5.1 innings, and only a run allowed. The bullpen promptly imploded, allowing 6 runs after the 7th inning. So a rough debut for Kapler.

-I mentioned how Ian Happ homered on the season’s first pitch. Well George Springer was jealous that Happ’s game started first.

It is the second consecutive season that Springer led off his teams’s season with a home run, the only man ever to be able to say that. And last time the Astros had a guy homer to start Opening Day, they won the World Series. Just sayin’.

-Shohei Ohtani singled on his first at bat in the States, which has to be encouraging because he had a MISERABLE spring training. He went 4-for-32 at the plate and on the mound he gave up 9 runs in 2.2 innings. He DH’d and hit 8th for the Angels and will be the starting pitcher on Sunday against the A’s. Speaking of the A’s, they won on a walkoff as well on a Marcus Semien single in the 11th inning. The A’s were also able to absolutely shut down Mike Trout, who went 0-6 in a game for the first time in his career.

-Clayton Kershaw got outdueled by Ty Blach of all people. Kershaw traditionally is INSANE on Opening Day, as he entered the game with a career 0.99 Opening Day ERA. He was great again, as he only let up 1 run on a solo shot by Joe Panik that barely stayed fair and collected 2 hits of his own at the plate, but Blach didn’t let up a thing, going 5 innings and letting up just 3 hits.

It was a Hell of an Opening Day and I think we’re in for a great season. Let me know what you think Opening Day 2018 in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: March 29

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-Opening Day is today. The most wonderful time of the year. First game is Marlins-Cubs at 12:40 so of course I won’t get to watch any of it because I have class at 1:00 and since I’m in Indiana, I can’t stream it on the MLB At Bat app because I’m in the Chicago market so I’ll get blacked out. Bullshit. I’ll also only able to get to watch the first few innings of the Red Sox-Rays game at 4 because I have a class at 5:30 and my professor banned technology. It’s a 2.5 hour class. Granted, it’s a movie class and we’ll be talking about Donnie Darko, which I saw for the first time on Tuesday (really good, kind of messes with your head a little bit), so it won’t be the worst thing in the world. My mind is just going to be elsewhere because I could be watching baseball instead.

-Former NFL linebacker Dave Wyman (no relation) called the NFL’s new tackling rule change “a fucking mess” and that the NFL “wants to self-destruct.” Oh those Wymans, always causing trouble. In truth I never knew there was ever a Wyman in the NFL. I knew there was a pitcher named Frank Wyman who pitched in the 1800’s and had an ERA over 6, and a hockey player named James Wyman (not to be confused with a far more handsome blogger), but otherwise we Wymans aren’t particularly talented athletes.

-I guess you want my opinion on the new rule change. It’s basically the targeting rule in college football, which I think is an unmitigated disaster even though I get what they’re going for. It’s so poorly called anyway because you can still get called for targeting even if the player you’re tackling lowers himself into you through the force of gravity. Players could be ejected depending on the severity of the hit, which is another “case-by-case” situation and there’s no way to determine what’s a vicious hit and what isn’t. I guess malicious intent? Either way, I get not wanting players to use their helmets as weapons, but you’re making it harder to play defense. Stop it.

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-The Giants reportedly are looking for at least 2 first rounders for ODell Beckham Jr, which sounds reasonable enough. With a guy whose talent is as insane as Beckham’s, he should command a king’s ransom. Honestly, he’s so good that I don’t mind the diva personality. From what I understand, he’s not disruptive with teammates, it’s just the media that really has a problem with his antics (the alleged cocaine notwithstanding). If I’m a team like the Browns, with a plethora of draft capital, I’d at least make a call and get a feel for what kind of deal they’d be willing to make.

-Ndamukong Suh signed with the Rams and holy shit is that defense terrifying. Not only do they have the cornerback duo of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, but now the interior of their defensive line is reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and Suh with a defensive genius in Wade Phillips running things. On paper, the NFC West looks to be the Rams’ to lose, especially now that the Seahawks have blown up their defense, the 49ers are still a few pieces away, and the Cardinals are trending towards an overhaul. Now they just need some receivers for Jared Goff (though they did just fine with the okay group they had last year).

-The baseball season hasn’t even begun yet and we already have a postponement, ruining the “every team opens on the same day” thing. It’s expected to rain heavily in Cincinnati, postponing Reds-Nationals. The game will be postponed to 4:10 on Friday, which would have been an off day for both teams and they will conduct the usual Opening Day festivities. Shame. Was really looking forward to every team starting at the same time even though there was no chance I was going to watch every game, as much as I would’ve liked to.

-Vladimir Guerrero Jr hit a walkoff home run in his dad’s old stomping grounds at Olympic Stadium in Montreal while wearing his dad’s number 27. I’m going to let the video do the rest of the talking.

-Johnny Manziel is meeting with several NFL teams because apparently he looks really good right now. I haven’t seen any of the footage of him throwing at pro days, but reports are that he looks even better now than he did coming out of college. Hell, the Patriots of all teams met with him. Tom Brady’s heir apparent, perhaps? I am rooting for Manziel on his attempted comeback because I do feel like he’s turned a new leaf and has learned from the mistakes he made at Texas A&M and with the Browns.

-Poor Salvador Perez. Gets off the flight to Kansas City and tears his MCL while carrying luggage. He’s estimated to be out 4-6 weeks, which isn’t as bad as you might think considering he tore a ligament, but the impact is greater for him since he’s a catcher and the MCL is located in the knee. He’ll be in a crouch at all times so that won’t be doing the MCL any favors. Theoretically this will impact him more than, say, a left fielder. Just a tough break for the guy right before Opening Day.

-And lastly, the rules committee has stated that kickoffs will be at risk of being removed if not made safer. STOP FUCKING WITH FOOTBALL!!!!!

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of any of the topics I discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Tampa Bay Rays

Some positives from Justin Turner’s broken wrist, he won’t need surgery. It’s unknown when he will return but the term “weeks,” not “months” was used when talking about his return, which is a good sign. On a lesser front, Nationals star second baseman Daniel Murphy is expected to miss Opening Day as he’s still recovering from October knee surgery. Since joining the Nationals in 2016, Murphy has been on the best run of his career, including hitting .322 last season. Also, the Orioles signed Alex Cobb to their rotation, basically just leaving Greg Holland as the last remaining free agent of note. With that, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the Tampa Bay Rays.

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2017 Results:

Record: 80-82, 13 games behind Boston Red Sox, 5 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Carlos Gomez, 1B CJ Cron, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Dan Runzler, SS Christian Arroyo, CF Denard Span,

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Steven Souza Jr, LF Corey Dickerson, SP Alex Cobb, 1B Lucas Duda, 1B Logan Morrison, SP Jake Odorizzi,

Best Offensive Player: CF Kevin Kiermaier

Best Pitcher: Chris Archer

Depth Chart:

C-Wilson Ramos, Jesus Sucre

1B-CJ Cron

2B-Brad Miller, Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle

3B-Matt Duffy

SS-Adeiny Hechavarria, Christian Arroyo

LF-Mallex Smith

CF-Kevin Kiermaier, Denard Span (DH)

RF-Carlos Gomez

SP-Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, Nate Eovaldi

Bullpen-Alex Colome (CP), Dan Jennings, Matt Andriese, Sergio Romo, Daniel Hudson, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Dan Runzler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Kevin Cash (4th season with Rays)

Hitting Coach-Chad Mottola

Pitching Coach-Kyle Snyder

1st Base Coach-Ozzie Timmons

3rd Base Coach-Matt Quatraro

Bench Coach-Charlie Montoyo

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The Rays blew the everloving shit out of their lineup from last season. In 2017, the Rays as a team hit 228 home runs, 6th best in baseball. In the offseason, they lost each of their top 4 home runs hitters in Morrison, Souza, Dickerson, and the former face of their franchise Longoria. It’s going to be weird seeing a Rays team without Longoria manning the hot corner. It’ll be the first time since they dropped the “devil” out of their name before the 2008 season that he wasn’t the everyday third baseman. With all that subtraction, here’s how the Rays are slated to line up in 2018.

1. Carlos Gomez-RF

2. Kevin Kiermaier-CF

3. Brad Miller-2B

4. CJ Cron-1B

5. Wilson Ramos-C

6. Matt Duffy-3B

7. Mallex Smith-LF

8. Adeiny Hechavarria-SS

9. Denard Span-DH

Not great. There’s not a single bat in that lineup that puts fear in the heart of pitchers. Sure there’s some quality defense in that lineup, particularly in centerfield with Kevin Kiermaier, but at the plate there’s a lot to be desired. Kiermaier spent a lot of time on the DL last season but was still able to provide a lot of value to the Rays. He hit .276 last season with 15 home runs, 39 RBI, 16 stolen bags, and was worth 3.0 WAR. He’s better known for being arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the game and that’s where a lot of his value comes from but he’s also a pretty good hitter in his own right. I can’t toot his horn too much because he went to Purdue so I’m going to stop right there. Brad Miller has had a weird tenure in his two seasons with the Rays. His first season with the team saw him hitting 30 bombs after a previous career-high of 11. In 2017, he hit 9. Injuries played a big part in that but the dropoff is pretty enormous, especially when you consider how big a dip his rate stats took as well. In 2016, Miller hit .243 but also slugged a pretty good .482, resulting in a league average 2.0 WAR. That dropped significantly to a .201 average and .337 SLG, resulting in a -0.1 WAR, all of which are abysmal numbers. It’ll be interesting to see which Brad Miller we get this season, the one that was one of the biggest power-hitting middle infielders in the game? Or the one who can’t hit the broad side of what Jabba the Hut calls an ass?

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The pitching situation is going to be interesting in Tampa. I always find that they seem to develop good pitching every year and this season is no different, as there are a lot of talented young arms in the rotation. But that’s where the intrigue lies. The Rays are going to experiment with a 4-man rotation as opposed to the traditional 5, which you may have noticed when I listed the Rays’ depth chart. You gotta wonder how that’s going to affect their preparation. However the oldest guy between Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Nate Eovaldi is Archer at 29 (wait, shit, seriously? Guy looks like he’s 19) so it’s not like they’re dealing with some old dogs who refuse to change their routine. But it’ll be interesting to see how this works out because like I said, this is a talented bunch. Archer is one of those guys who is a much better pitcher than his stats might indicate. Last season Archer had a 4.07 ERA but a 4.6 WAR (All Star-level) and a 3.40 FIP with the 5th best K/9 rate at 11.15. Apparently he’s just been the victim of bad luck. Blake Snell has shown some flashes of being an ace-level pitcher but so far he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Faria had a 3.43 ERA last season and may quietly be one of the better pitchers in the American League. I remember hearing one anecdote that said if you were to start a pitching staff with no names, based on just the eye test alone, Nate Eovaldi would probably be the #1 choice. I can’t really argue with that, since the guy’s fastball consistently touches 98 and he’s got a pretty good curveball to boot but for whatever reason, he just seems to get hit. He hasn’t pitched since 2016 thanks to Tommy John surgery but he appears to be ready to go in 2018.

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The Rays bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. Alex Colome is the only real pitcher of note, being their closer, and he saved 47 games last season, the most in baseball by about 6 saves over Kenley Jansen, however his rate stats aren’t nearly as impressive as the Dodgers’ stopper. Colome had a 3.24 ERA and only struck out about 7 batters per 9. That’s by far the lowest number out of any closer in the top 10 in saves last season (next lowest is Fernando Rodney at 10.57). If he can’t bring that K/9 rate up, the Rays could be in trouble in the 9th inning. After him, Sergio Romo was quietly really good for Tampa last season, posting a 1.47 ERA in 25 appearances, which is really encouraging because he’s had a rough tenure since losing his closer’s job with the Giants so many years ago. Other than those guys, though, nobody in the Rays’ ‘pen is really worth talking about here.

Overall, I don’t think the Rays are going to be any good. They blew up their team in the offseason and I sincerely doubt they’re going to be any threat for a Wild Card spot, let alone the AL East. Yet they always find some way to play the role of pesky spoiler and I wouldn’t put it past them to be that team that costs another team a playoff berth. That just seems to be what the Rays do. But in all, I wouldn’t argue you too hard if you were to tell me the Rays are going to be the worst team in the American League in 2018.

Projected Record: 68-94, last in AL East

That’s going to do it for today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Texas Rangers, who may need to take a long look at whether or not to blow up the team and start a rebuild after toying with being a World Series threat the last couple years. Let me know what you think of the Rays’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Arizona Diamondbacks

I’m not going to delve in too deep to the sanctions that came out for Louisville basketball. If you want to learn what exactly was going on, here’s a blog I wrote a while back about the scandal in question and here’s what I think about the subject of vacating wins. So let’s get into the next edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and take a look at the Arizona Diamondbacks. One thing I wanted to mention, too. After I had this blog initially finished, the Diamondbacks struck a 3-team trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. The Diamondbacks will be sending second baseman Brandon Drury to the Yankees, the Rays will be sending outfielder Steven Souza Jr to the Diamondbacks, and prospects will be sent to the Rays from the Yankees and DBacks and one to the Diamondbacks from the Yankees. So I had to do some last minute edits to this so forgive me if it might read a little choppy.

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2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, 2nd in NL West, 11 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, Owner of Top Wild Card Spot, defeated the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game, Lost to the Dodgers in the NLDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Jarrod Dyson, C Alex Avila, RP Fernando Salas, RP Brad Boxberger

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF JD Martinez, CP Fernando Rodney, C Chris Iannetta, RP JJ Hoover

Best Position Player: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

Best Pitcher: Zack Greinke

Depth Chart

C-Alex Avila, Jeff Mathis, Chris Herrmann

1B-Paul Goldschmidt

2B-Daniel Descalso

3B-Jake Lamb

SS-Ketel Marte, Chris Owings

LF-David Peralta

CF-AJ Pollock, Jarrod Dyson

RF-Steven Souza Jr, Yasmany Tomas

SP-Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, Zach Godley, Shelby Miller

Bullpen-Archie Bradley (CP?), Brad Boxberger (CP?), Randall Delgado, TJ McFarland, Yoshihisa Hirano, Andrew Chafin, Braden Shipley

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Torey Lovullo (2nd Season with Diamondbacks, 2017 NL Manager of the Year)

Hitting Coach-Dave Magadan

Pitching Coach-Mike Butcher

1st Base Coach-Dave McKay

3rd Base Coach-Tony Perezchica

Bench Coach-Jerry Naron

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The Arizona Diamondbacks had a breakthrough season under first-year manager Torey Lovullo. They completely flipped their record from 2016-17, as they went 69-93 in ’16 and 93-69 in ’17 en route to their first playoff appearance since 2011. One thing that is expected of you in Arizona is that you’re going to hit, as Chase Field kind of flies under the radar a bit as far as hitter-friendly ballparks go mainly because they share a division with the Coors Field-inhabiting Colorado Rockies. But I think Chase Field is the second-most hitter-friendly park in the Majors. Let’s take a look at the lineup that will benefit from this stadium.

1. AJ Pollock-CF

2. Ketel Marte-SS

3. Paul Goldschmidt-1B

4. Jake Lamb-3B

5. David Peralta-LF

6. Steven Souza Jr-RF

7. Daniel Descalso-2B

8. Alex Avila-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

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That’s a pretty well-rounded lineup as it is and when you combine the added boost Chase Field brings, expect the Diamondbacks to finish near the top of the leaderboard in runs scored in 2018. Last year the Diamondbacks finished 8th in the Majors in runs scored and actually scored 42 more total runs than the team that won the vision by 11 games over them in the Los Angeles Dodgers so a repeat performance or even an improvement isn’t out of the question. However they did suffer a big loss a couple of days ago, as JD Martinez signed a 5-year deal with the Boston Red Sox. Martinez hadn’t been in Arizona very long, as they acquired him at the Trade Deadline from the Detroit Tigers, but his tenure in Phoenix was nothing short of incredible. After his trade from Detroit, Martinez hit .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBI in just 62 games, becoming the perfect complement to arguably the best first baseman in baseball in Paul Goldschmidt. However with Martinez’s departure, there is a bit of a dip in production at the cleanup spot. I’m expecting Jake Lamb to be the one to fill that void and while he’s a good power hitter (he hit 30 home runs and drove in 105 RBI last season) he’s not Martinez. In fact, Lamb only hit .248 last season. But there is one thing to get excited about with him: he appears to have gotten better each season. Not only has Lamb’s home run totals gone up in each of his 4 Major League seasons, but so has his walk rate, suggesting that he’s seeing the plate a lot better and maturing as a hitter. Plus he’s only 27 years old, which should have the Diamondbacks excited for his future prospects. AJ Pollock is another guy the Diamondbacks hope can get back on track as well at the top of their lineup. He was downright amazing in 2015 but a Spring Training shoulder injury in 2016 robbed him of that season and he looked like he was still recovering in 2017. If Pollock can return to his 2015 form where he hit .315 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, 39 stolen bases, and a 6.5 WAR, then the Diamondbacks’ run totals should go through the roof. Also, as I mentioned at the opening, the Diamondbacks struck a trade to acquire Steven Souza Jr from the Rays while sending Brandon Drury to the Yankees. This leaves an interesting situation for the Diamondbacks with how they’re going to set their lineup because as it stands right now, Daniel Descalso is their starting second baseman and that’s not a good thing. Not a knock against Descalso, he’s a good utility player, but that’s where his true value lies, in being able to give rest to any player in the lineup due to his competence at a wide variety of positions. But it does fill the hole a bit more nicely in right field left by Martinez. Souza was hitting near the top of the Rays’ lineup for the last few years as he hit 30 home runs last season. Yasmany Tomas might be considered at second base but he’s never played there in the Major Leagues. Plus he’s 6’2 250 pounds and not exactly nimble, which makes him very out of place at second base. Granted, he can’t do much worse at second than he does at any of his other positions, such as third base and the corner outfield spots, as he is an atrocious defender. So I’m curious to see if the Diamondbacks decide to pull any more moves to try and find themselves a more established second baseman.

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Perhaps the most critical factor to the Diamondbacks’ 2017 success, though, was their pitching. The team got a return to form from ace Zack Greinke as well as breakout seasons out of Robbie Ray and Zack Godley. After a disastrous first season in the desert in 2016, Greinke returned to his ace form in 2017, going 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts. Ray was also excellent as he was able to drop his ERA from 2016-17 by 2 whole runs, going from 4.90 in ’16 to 2.89 in ’17. That’s basically going from not really deserving of a roster spot to ace level in one season, but it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. Had I had a blog last season, I would’ve listed Ray as a potential breakout candidate for 2017 mainly because his 4.90 ERA may have been misleading. Ray’s FIP, which takes into account the defense behind the pitcher and gives what the pitcher’s ERA would’ve been with a neutral defense, was 3.76 in 2016, over a run lower than what his actual ERA was, meaning that a lot of the problems he had that year weren’t really his own but were a result of poor defense behind him. And just for the record, this doesn’t have anything to do with the Diamondbacks, but the pitcher who had the worst ERA despite a good FIP in 2017 was Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija, so keep an eye on him this season for the Robbie Ray effect. Godley was also a nice surprise for the Diamondbacks as he went 8-9 with a 3.37 ERA despite having an ERA of well over 6 the year prior. So if those three guys can keep up the improvements they made in 2017, the Diamondbacks will be in great shape.

The Diamondbacks bullpen also had one major breakout star in particular in Archie Bradley. Bradley had been one of their top starting pitching prospects but just didn’t seem to pan out in that role. After moving to the bullpen, however, Bradley seemed to find his groove like a lot of other failed starters tend to do of late (including Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, and Zach Britton to name a few). His fastball was touching triple digits and he was setting things up perfectly for closer Fernando Rodney, as he had an ERA of just 1.73 in 66 appearances last season. Rodney signed with the Twins in the offseason so that leaves the closer’s role wide open. The competition for the job is likely going to be Bradley against former Rays closer Brad Boxberger, who was newly signed in the offseason. Boxberger has an All Star appearance as a closer and is a legitimately good 9th inning option for the Diamondbacks but I think Bradley’s going to win out here, though even if he doesn’t I’m sure the DBacks will be perfectly happy with knowing the 8th inning is on lockdown for them.

Overall, I think the Diamondbacks should be really excited about their prospects for the 2018 season despite losing out on the JD Martinez sweepstakes. There’s a lot of talented hitters in their lineup and they boast a pitching staff that made huge strides last season. Whether they’re able to keep that up is another story, but it’s hard not to be excited if you’re NL Manager of the Year Torey Lovullo. Quite frankly I think the Diamondbacks would win any other division in the National League, however they’re stuck behind a Dodgers team that lost virtually nothing from the team that won 104 games last year and was one win away from a World Series title. They’re likely going to have to play for the Wild Card once again this season but I am confident in their ability to repeat as Wild Card winners.

Projected Finish: 91-71, First NL Wild Card Team

That’s going to do it for Day 2 of the 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Join me tomorrow where I will be previewing the Atlanta Braves, who may not have much of a chance for competing in 2018 but have a lot to look forward within the next few years due to the plethora of young talent they boast. Let me know what you think of the Diamondbacks’ chances in 2018 in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 18

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-Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell won the Slam Dunk contest in what was a decent event compared to years’ past. Far from being the worst but not nearly as good as the one in Toronto two years ago. There were two dunks where my eyes popped out of my head, that being from Dennis Smith Jr and Larry Nance Jr. Here’s Smith’s.

That one was my personal favorite, followed closely by this one from Larry Nance Jr, which gets bonus points for creativity for me.

Nance’s father, Larry Sr, was the first ever winner of the Slam Dunk contest and paid homage to his old man with his first dunk. Fun fact, the people who helped dress him were some clothes magicians I actually saw perform during the halftime show of Indiana vs Michigan State a couple weeks ago. They’re extremely talented. Another fun fact, Donovan Mitchell went to my high school’s arch rival, Brewster Academy. I actually got to watch him play in high school but I was somehow more focused on one of his teammates than I was him and I’m kicking myself for it. I was focusing more on Isaac Copeland, who ended up committing to Georgetown without realizing the future Slam Dunk Contest winner was playing on the same team. Copeland is currently at Nebraska after transferring from the Hoyas. Here’s my favorite dunk from Mitchell on the night:

And here was my favorite dunk from the guy I thought would win but ended up finishing last, Victor Oladipo.

What ended up hurting him in the competition was the fact that he couldn’t land his first dunk and once that happened you knew he was done. But it was nice seeing him pay homage to the Black Panther movie that came out on Friday. Plus he received the mask from the Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, who also played Jackie Robinson in the movie “42.” From what I’ve been able to gather, not only is Black Panther allegedly really freaking good, but it’s supposedly supposed to be really important to the black community. Plus that’s a fucking awesome mask. Probably the best superhero mask there is in my humblest of opinions.

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-I royally messed up in my All Star Weekend picks blog. For the Skills Challenge, I forgot to list two participants: Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen and Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Well I got my comeuppance because guess who were the final two. If you guessed Joel Embiid and Lou Williams like I did, you’d be wrong. It was Markannen and Dinwiddie. Though Embiid didn’t make the finals not from a lack of trying.

CHEATER! Oh well, it didn’t end up mattering, Markkanen ended up burying the final 3-pointer ahead of Embiid to advance to the finals. He eventually lost to Dinwiddie, who basically just won the “who the Hell are you?” award. I mean I feel like I’ve heard his name in passing, but nothing really of substance. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what team he played for had he not been in the competition in a Nets jersey. But nonetheless, congrats to Dinwiddie.

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-I damn near freaking nailed my 3-point contest prediction. Devin Booker not only won it, but in the final round he broke the record for points in a single round with 28, defeating Klay Thompson (who I accurately predicted would be a finalist) and Tobias Harris (who I did not expect to make it this far). I had Paul George ahead of Harris, but George went and had arguably the worst 3-point contest round I’ve ever seen, scoring just 9 points. And people say that the Lakers are going to go after him hard, he can’t even shoot in their building! That probably will make very little difference, but it’s still fun to bitch about. But congratulations to Booker, who continues to be one of the more underrated players in the league.

-Poor Bob Huggins. Note to anybody who puts on dress clothes: your belt is extremely important, no matter if it’s going to be covered or not.

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-One of the most confusing moves I’ve ever seen occurred while the 3-point shootout was happening. The Tampa Bay Rays acquired first baseman CJ Cron from the Angels (which I expected to happen, not necessarily Cron winding up on the Rays, but Cron being on the move after the arrival of Shoehei Ohtani) for a player to be named later. The confusing part is that the Rays then promptly DFA’d Corey Dickerson, who was their DH and leadoff hitter last season. Uhhh, wtf Rays? Dickerson was arguably your best hitter last season. Dickerson was the starting DH for the AL in last year’s All Star game. He was hitting over .320 at the time, however he hit .240 after the break to bring his line to a more than respectable .282 with 27 home runs and 62 RBI. Plus he’s 28 years old, in the athletic prime of his career, and he’s only owed about $5M. I guarantee you he won’t be in limbo for long as teams will be rushing to claim him off waivers. But a really bizarre situation. CJ Cron is talented, believe me, I know. I was there when the Angels beat the Red Sox 21-2 and Cron went 6-6 with 2 home runs and was a triple away from the cycle. But you’re trying to tell me he’s a better option at DH than Dickerson? Sure Cron is only going to cost about $2.3M after his arbitration hearing with the Angels in January, but his numbers last year were not nearly good enough to warrant DFA’ing Dickerson over. He hit .248 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI. The DFA’ing of Dickerson in response to adding Cron continues to make less and less sense to me the more I think about it. Not only is Cron the same age as Dickerson with significantly less overall production and at half the cost, but there was definitely room on the roster for both guys. Right now the Rays first baseman is slated to be Brad Miller, who can play pretty much any position so you have some flexibility with him. You could very easily have plugged in Cron at first then put Miller at second and had Daniel Robertson come off the bench like where I think his talent merits while still having Dickerson as your DH. There has to be something going on with Dickerson that we don’t know about to warrant this move.

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-Shortly after acquiring CJ Cron, the Rays continued to make moves, this time trading pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a package that includes shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios. Originally it was believed that Dickerson would be a part of this deal, but it doesn’t appear that he is. But Odorizzi is a good acquisition for the Twins, who badly need starting pitchers. He’s been battling injuries over the last few seasons, but when healthy I think he’s a quality #3 option, maybe even a #2. Last season, in 28 starts, Odorizzi went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA but he’s capable of better, as he went 9-9 with a 3.35 ERA in 2015. Right now the only quality starter on the Twins is Ervin Santana, who is 35 years old right now. Jose Berrios is extremely talented, but he hasn’t been able to put it altogether yet. Odorizzi’s a solid guy to have around as you try and build your pitching staff.

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-And finally we have the biggest bit of baseball news of all. I had already scheduled this article when he was signed so I had to hop right back in and make some edits. But Eric Hosmer has finally signed with the San Diego Padres on an 8-year deal worth $144M. He signed the deal at around midnight, or 9:00 west coast time. The deal is pretty front-heavy, as Hosmer will average $20M a season for the first five years of the deal, after which he’ll be able to opt out. After those 5 years, he’ll be making $13M a year plus a $5M signing bonus. I actually like this layout because it better protects the team from those nasty back-loaded contracts that end up biting them in the ass down the line. Plus for Hosmer he’ll be making his money the first five years of the deal, then if he decides to remain in San Diego, he’d be taking a paycut at a time when his skills will likely have deteriorated, as he will be 33 when the opt-out option kicks in and likely headed towards a decline. Hosmer had an excellent season in 2017, hitting .318 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI for the Royals, though I did mention buyer beware, as I rated him as the luckiest hitter in the majors last season. Hosmer and the Padres have been linked for a while now and I think Hosmer was just trying to wait out the Padres for a larger deal for as long as he could before deciding to sign with Spring Training starting up. Here’s what the Padres lineup looks like with their new first baseman, though it is worth noting that their best hitter Wil Myers currently occupies that spot. I’m willing to bet that Myers returns to the outfield, though, where he began his career.

1. Manuel Margot-CF

2. Freddy Galvis-SS

3. Eric Hosmer-1B

4. Wil Myers-LF

5. Chase Headley-3B

6. Cory Spangenberg-2B

7. Austin Hedges-C

8. Hunter Renfroe-RF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s probably not going to be enough to keep the Padres out of the cellar in the NL West this season, but if the younger guys, particularly Margot and Hedges, develop the way the organization hopes, this could be an exciting team in the near future. As for the Royals, the team Hosmer’s leaving, they had to have expected this to happen, though they reportedly did try and bring him back while the market wasn’t biting. Hosmer was a big part of their championship run in 2015 including his famous mad dash that tied up Game 5 and sent it to extra innings, a game that the Royals ultimately won, leading to their first World Series title since 1985. Here’s the play in question.

That play will forever live on in Royals lore. But with Hosmer signing with the Padres, that pretty much just leaves JD Martinez, Jake Arrieta, and Mike Moustakas as the biggest free agents still without a team. Spring Training games start on Thursday, fellas, let’s get a move on.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you thought of NBA All Star Weekend and the Rays’ roster moves in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Evan Longoria Traded to the Giants

One of the most shocking moves of the offseason for me occurred while I was getting a haircut. I was sitting in a chair watching MLB Network while my mom took a razor to my luscious locks when I saw on the breaking news bottomline something different than the Zach Britton injury that had been steadily moving across all morning:

Rays Trade Evan Longoria to the Giants

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This was one of, if not the, last moves I expected to see when I was getting my haircut. Longoria is the face of the Tampa Bay Rays, and while it’s a very short existence for the franchise, he’s still the first guy you think of when you think about the Rays. Like what Ted Williams was to the Red Sox, or what Mike Schmidt was to the Phillies, Evan Longoria was to the Rays. Plus, there weren’t any rumors that this was a possibility. Longoria was under contract for another 5 years, so trying to get the most out of him before he hit free agency wasn’t really an excuse. But upon learning why he was being traded, things made a lot more sense.

Evan Longoria somehow was really enjoying his time in Tampa, which is something that is rare to come by. Not a knock against the city, I’ve been a few times and never had a bad experience. It’s just the conditions surrounding the organization that make things surprising that he was so content there. First of all, that stadium sucks. Tropicana Field is perhaps the biggest dump of a stadium I’ve ever seen, certainly the worst I’ve caught a game in. Plus, the Rays just don’t draw a crowd. Whether that’s because of the bad stadium or whatever other reason, people just don’t show up for Rays games. It’s pretty apparent when you see boatloads of empty seats in the crowd or when the opposing team’s chants drown out anything Rays fans do. It’s a team that’s going to struggle to compete on a year-to-year basis just because of the fact they can’t even draw fans when they’re competing for a World Series, so their payroll is always going to be at or near the bottom of the league so they’re rarely players in free agency. Yet for whatever reason, Longoria was content there. His being content was actually a driving force behind why this trade occurred.

Evan Longoria was set to gain 10-5 rights in April 2018. What are 10-5 rights, you ask? They only apply to players who have been in the Major Leagues for 10 years and have been with their current team for at least the last 5, hence the 10-5 name. Once you reach that mark, you can veto any trade you like. It’s a built-in trade clause from the most recent CBA, which rewards veterans for their loyalty to a team. Longoria was set to hit his 10th year in the Majors when opening day 2018 came around. If that were to happen, given his contentment with his situation, the Rays would never be able to trade him if they ever wanted to rebuild. He would have been in a similar situation to Giancarlo Stanton, who could essentially pick his destination, regardless of what the returning package might have been. So essentially, it was now or never for Tampa. Simply put, Longoria’s loyalty to the Rays was what got him traded.

Coming to Tampa Bay in the trade from the Giants is top prospect Christian Arroyo, who will likely replace Longoria at third base, veteran outfielder Denard Span, and pitching prospects Matt Krook and Stephen Woods. I know nothing about Krook or Woods except their barely within the Giants’ top 30 prospects. This was more about acquiring Arroyo than anything. Plus the Rays also sent some cash to San Francisco so that this trade doesn’t put them over the luxury tax. Arroyo was rushed to the Majors in 2017, failing to reach the Mendoza Line in limited action before returning to the Minors. Span had an ugly season, particularly in the field, as his -27 DRS was worst in the Majors at any position, next worst being Dexter Fowler at -18, a 33% dropoff between worst and second worst. I don’t know the specific details of Span’s contract, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up being one of those players that gets waived by the team that just acquired him to gain some sort of compensation, much like the Braves did by releasing Adrian Gonzalez immediately after acquiring him in the Matt Kemp trade with the Dodgers. Span is set to make $11 million in 2018 and $12 million in 2019 before becoming a free agent in 2020, so I’ve got to imagine the Rays would rather not pay that kind of money to a guy who hasn’t had a league-average WAR since 2014 (2.0), especially when they’re an organization that’s strapped for cash as it is. Quite frankly I’d be surprised if Span suited up in a Rays uniform in 2018.

As for the Giants, I had figured they’d be the favorites for Mike Moustakas’ services, as I noted in my free agent rankings, however the acquisition of Longoria effectively takes them out of the running. They’re trying to improve on what was potentially a fluky 2017 season where they tied with the Tigers for the worst record in the Majors and, thanks to a poorly-timed Pablo Sandoval walkoff home run in game 162, won’t even have the #1 pick in the draft to show for it, as that home run gave the Tigers the tie-breaker. So here is what a potential Giants lineup looks like with Longoria.

1. Gorkys Hernandez-CF

2. Joe Panik-2B

3. Buster Posey-C

4. Evan Longoria-3B

5. Brandon Belt-1B

6. Brandon Crawford-SS

7. Hunter Pence-RF

8. Mac Williamson-LF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

I can’t imagine the Giants are done making moves because that outfield is AWFUL. Two guys who would likely be in the minor leagues in any other organization and a past-his-prime Hunter Pence. They’ll need to make other moves if they hope to have a successful 2018 season and I think one guy they’ll set their sights on is Lorenzo Cain, formerly of the Kansas City Royals. Experts are projecting that Cain is going to command somewhere in the $80 million range for the life of his contract, which I would guess would be for five years, giving an average annual salary of $16 million, which should be within San Francisco’s budget. They may need to also look for a veteran that could come on the cheap, maybe somebody like Chris Young. But if the Giants go into 2018 with this lineup, I can’t envision them escaping the basement of the NL West.

As for the Rays, it looks like they’re all in on another rebuild because after the trade, their lineup looks like this:

1. Corey Dickerson-DH

2. Kevin Kiermaier-CF

3. Steven Souza-RF

4. Brad Miller-1B

5. Wilson Ramos-C

6. Mallex Smith-LF

7. Ryan Schimpf/Christian Arroyo-3B

8. Adeiny Hechavarria-SS

9. Daniel Robertson-2B

This has the look of a team that doesn’t anticipate to compete in 2018 and it wouldn’t shock me at all to find them in last place in the very competitive AL East.

That’s it for today’s blog. Let me know what you thought of the Longoria trade in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.