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: April 10

Sorry for there not being a blog yesterday, I spent basically the whole day watching Wrestlemania (because it was 7 hours long) and I was several beers deep so I wouldn’t be able to go in depth with sports topics. It was a good show, though. More highs than lows. Luckily for me, Monday didn’t really have a ton of sports going on so I can talk about stuff that happened Sunday in addition to Monday. So I think this works out. Anyway, on to the topics.

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-Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-7 in an extra innings game against the Orioles and struck out 5 times. This is the second time this season he’s struck out 5 times in a game without any hits. This is the first time in the Live Ball Era that any player has had such a game twice in 1 season. It was done by April 8 by Stanton. To be fair, Stanton had never struck out 5 times in a game prior to this season, but his strikeout rate is cause for early-season concern. He’s striking out 41.7% of the time, which somehow isn’t the highest rate a week and a half into the season. That belongs to Ian Happ, who is striking out 56.7%(!) of the time. Now, obviously, those numbers are going to go down. You just don’t strike out that frequently and continue having a job in the Majors. But still, those numbers for Stanton and Happ are cause for concern.

-The Red Sox once again stole a win from the Rays, this time coming back from down 7-2 in the 8th inning to win. It was basically just double-after-double. This was the first weak performance by a starting pitcher this season, as Eduardo Rodriguez made his 2018 debut after recovering from injury. He went 3.2 innings, allowing 3 runs and his stuff just looked a little off. But the offense exploded in the 8th inning to save the game and push the Red Sox to an 8-1 start, their best start in franchise history (since 1901). This makes them the hottest team in baseball headed to their first matchup with the Yankees on Tuesday.

-Aldon Smith got arrested AGAIN, third time in 2 months, this time for violation of a protective order after he was arrested for alleged domestic violence. He’s being held on bond for half a million dollars. Smith was one of the brightest young stars in the NFL with the 49ers, recording 44 sacks in his first 3 seasons, but he has been arrested an uncountable number of times, including things like the domestic violence incident to yelling “bomb” in an airport. I really hope for his sake that he gets the help he clearly needs because when someone gets in trouble as frequently as Smith does, there’s something not quite right with them.

-Shohei Ohtani’s second start as a pitcher was spectacular, as he carried a perfect game into the 7th inning. His final line was 7 shutout innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, and a dozen strikeouts. Like I mentioned on multiple occasions, Ohtani had a miserable Spring Training but his regular season has been nothing short of amazing. As a hitter, he’s batting .389 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI while on the mound he’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 13 innings pitched. Through 11 games, Ohtani has been well worth the hype.

-Indiana baseball hit a walkoff home run in extra innings against Purdue a day after beating the Boilermakers 14-1. Nothing really else to go off of there, just wanted to leave that there for all the world to see and appreciate(ignoring the fact Purdue won the series opener).

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-The Alliance of American Football, which is a football league that will start in 2019 that is being headed by Charlie Ebersol and former Colts GM Bill Polian, made news over the weekend, particularly as it pertains to their Orlando-based franchise, which I don’t think has an official name yet. The Orlando team landed Steve Spurrier as its first head coach. Spurrier was a Heisman trophy winner in the 1960’s and was a very successful coach with his alma mater Florida and with South Carolina and he earned the nickname the “Ol’ Ball Coach.” Just ignore his tenures in the NFL as a player and a coach. The man has accomplished pretty much everything there is to accomplish at the collegiate level and I guess trying his hand at an upstart football league is another thing he wants to try his hand at. He’s 73 years old, a time when many are staying retired, but it’s been hard living in a world where Spurrier isn’t patrolling a sideline, so this is welcome news.

 

-Watching Wrestlemania, I thought Ronda Rousey looked REALLY good in her debut. The former UFC superstar looked right at home alongside former Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle (that’s not just a part of his gimmick, he actually does have an Olympic Gold Medal for wrestling) in her match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. The story is basically Rousey embarrassed the Power Couple with the help of the Rock at Wrestlemania a few years ago and they signed her so that they could get revenge on her, but Angle, who is an authority figure as RAW General Manager, was having none of it and revealed their intentions to Rousey, setting up a Mixed Tag Team match at Wrestlemania. Rousey looked like she belonged and won the match by getting McMahon to tap out in an armbar. It was awesome.

Sorry about the wrestling update, but there really isn’t any more else to talk about in sports, as there was a lot less going on than I thought there would be. There are other stuff outside of sports, like the Simpsons basically saying “fuck you” to the people who get offended by Apu’s stereotype, to which I say, calm down, people. The Simpsons stereotype EVERYBODY, Apu’s only getting hate from the Indian community because he’s so popular and recognizable that he’s become the poster boy for Indian stereotypes. In fact, let’s go down the list of other characters that the Simpsons stereotype.

Homer: stereotypical middle-aged American man

Lisa: stereotypical leftist

Groundskeeper Willie: stereotypical Scot

Chief Wiggum: stereotypical cop

Ned: stereotypical Christian

Fat Tony: stereotypical Italian (also Luigi, that cook with the broken English)

Bumblebee Man: stereotypical hispanic

Barney: stereotypical alcoholic

Otto: stereotypical junky

That Old Jewish Man that Grandpa Abe Simpson is friends with: kinda speaks for itself

I could probably go on but I think you get the point. Though now that I think about it, I don’t think there’s a stereotypical black character. Now that I think about it, black characters are pretty well off in that show. Dr. Hibbert is a medical doctor, there’s that judge who was white for the first few seasons, Lou’s a cop who seems to be more competent than his superior, Chief Wiggum but just goes with his shenanigans, Drederick Tatum the boxer who is clearly based on Mike Tyson, etc. But anyways, that’s a ramble if I’ve ever written one so I’m going to shut this one down. Thanks for reading, let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

General Sports: April 5

-Patriots receiver Julian Edelman helped thwart a potential school shooting. A user commented on one of Edelman’s Instagram photos saying he was going to shoot up his school and to “check the news tomorrow.” Another user went to Edelman’s DM’s and notified him of this comment. Edelman found it and, thinking of what happened in Parkland, Florida, had his assistant notify police. They were able to identify the subject as a 14 year-old in Michigan who admitted to being the user that made the threat and he was apprehended. There is a crowd that wonders why Edelman didn’t just call the cops himself, but I’m not one of them simply because I don’t care who calls the cops in this situation, as long as they get called. You can’t take these threats lightly, whether the kid meant it or not.

-Von Miller may be in trouble for catching a hammerhead shark on a fishing trip. For evidence, look no further than his Instagram.

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PETA wants to make sure that Miller didn’t catch this shark illegally, which apparently he may have done so since it’s a hammerhead (Group 3, whatever that means) and catching one is punishable by $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Miller did say that he threw it back, though. I really don’t think anything is going to come of this but I just have to say holy shit, Von. That’s a 9 and a half foot hammerhead fucking shark! The tail fin is almost as big as he is! As if Miller weren’t badass enough being one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, now he’s out here in Miami catching hammerhead sharks. This was off the coast in Miami, which has me a little retroactively nervous because I was just there a few weeks ago for spring break and I went swimming in the ocean a couple times. Sharks are up there on my “most-feared animals” list with bears and alligators/crocodiles, though I did work on my fear of the latter, as you can see below.

Gator? I hardly knew her

A post shared by Jim Wyman (@jimwyman10) on

Who cares if it was just a baby or if it’s mouth was tied up? Just let me take it one step at a time, dammit!

-The Ravens signed Robert Griffin III to a 1 year deal to back up Joe Flacco. I’m happy to see RG3 signing with a new team. The former Heisman Trophy winner is one of the biggest what-if’s in recent memory and I’m a firm believer in the sentiment that Mike Shanahan ruined RG3’s career by rushing him back from that ACL tear he suffered in the playoffs against Seattle far too soon. There was no reason he should’ve torn that thing in the playoffs then returned for Week 1. But I digress, Griffin seems like a good dude and I hope he succeeds in whatever he does. It’s also curious that the Ravens seem to be taking an interest in running quarterbacks of late. They drafted Tyrod Taylor a few years ago, were going to sign Colin Kaepernick if their owner didn’t veto it, and now they sign Griffin. I’m not sure what exactly this points to, if anything, but it’s good to see RG3 with a job again after not being on a roster in 2017.

-The Rockies gave Charlie Blackmon a 6-year extension worth up to $116M which will take him through his age-38 season, all but assuring he spends his entire career in Colorado. Blackmon is one of the most underrated athletes in all of sports, let alone baseball, as last season he set a Major League record with 104 RBI’s out of the leadoff spot to go along with a .331 batting average, 37 home runs, and a 6.5 WAR. He would’ve had my vote for NL MVP if I had one. This season he’s continuing his excellent play as he was hitting .316 with 4 homers, 6 RBI, and a 1.462 OPS in 5 games entering Wednesday night’s tilt with the Padres. Blackmon’s been in the Majors since 2011 but he didn’t really break out until 2016 and since then he’s been the best leadoff hitter in the game so this extension is well-warranted for the late bloomer.

-Shohei Ohtani is quickly making everyone forget how bad his Spring Training went. After going 4-32 at the plate and allowing 9 runs in 2.2 innings, Ohtani has been excelling now that the games count. In his first start on the mound, he went 6 innings giving up 3 runs, however all came on a 3-run homer and he was lights out otherwise. He went 1-5 in his first game as DH on Opening Day, then in his first game in Anaheim he homers in his first at bat then got a couple more hits. He homered again in Wednesday’s tilt with the Indians off reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and as of this writing, he’s hitting .444. It’s still early, but Ohtani is looking like he’s worth the hype a few games into his career.

-Giancarlo Stanton struck out 5 times in his Yankee Stadium debut and received a chorus of boos for the showing. For a lot of guys, this would be crushing. But the thing about baseball is you play everyday so there’s always the chance to redeem yourself. Well…

I love how Michael Kay knew the ball was gone seemingly before it even touched his bat, that’s how hard Stanton crushed it. He’s going to strike out his fare share, but he’s also going to do that. You take the good with the bad with him.

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.

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.

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: New York Yankees

Lots of football news to talk about. The Seahawks released Richard Sherman as they continue to blow up the Legion of Boom, the Eagles traded Torrey Smith to the Panthers for Daryl Worley, and the Browns got BUSY, acquiring Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, and Damarious Randall while also sending Deshone Kizer to Green Bay. And not one of them cost a first or second round draft pick. What kind of world is this where the Browns look like the most competent organization in football? Absolutely stunning haul. Now the Browns have Tyrod Taylor throwing to Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry with potentially Saquon Barkley in the backfield. The Browns may actually win a game this season. But enough football, let’s get to 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the New York Yankees.

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2017 Results:

Record: 91-71, 2 games behind Boston Red Sox, hosted AL Wild Card Game, defeated Minnesota Twins, defeated Cleveland Indians in ALDS, lost to Houston Astros in ALCS

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Giancarlo Stanton, 3B Brandon Drury, 1B Adam Lind, OF Shane Robinson

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Todd Frazier, 3B Chase Headley, SP Jaime Garcia, SP Michael Pineda, 2B Starlin Castro, DH Matt Holliday

Best Offensive Player: RF Aaron Judge

Best Pitcher: Luis Severino

Depth Chart:

C-Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine

1B-Greg Bird

2B-Ronald Torreyes, Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade

3B-Brandon Drury

SS-Didi Gregorius

LF-Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier

CF-Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury

RF-Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (DH)

SP-Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery

Bullpen-Aroldis Chapman (CP), Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, Daniel Robertson, Adam Warren, Chad Green, Chasen Shreve

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Aaron Boone (1st season with Yankees)

Hitting Coach-Marcus Thames

Pitching Coach-Larry Rothschild

1st Base Coach-Reggie Willits

3rd Base Coach-Phil Nevin

Bench Coach-Josh Bard

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I can’t remember ever seeing a coaching staff where  every member (except Larry Rothschild, whom I feel like has been Yankees pitching coach forever) played in the Major Leagues during my childhood. But that’s beside the point because holy shit do the Yankees look dangerous this season. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll be successful, we still have to actually play the games, but just look at this lineup.

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Aaron Judge-RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

4. Gary Sanchez-C

5. Greg Bird-1B

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Brandon Drury-3B

8. Ronald Torreyes/Gleyber Torres-2B

9. Aaron Hicks/Jacoby Ellsbury-CF

The Major League record for team home runs is 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. Last season Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined for 112 between the two of them. If the Yankees don’t set the new single season team home run record, it’ll be considered a down year. After acquiring Stanton from the Marlins in the offseason for a bag of peanuts, the Yankees now boast both home run champs from the AL and NL from last season. Aaron Judge set a rookie record with 52 home runs last season en route to winning AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up for AL MVP while Stanton belted 59 bombs and won NL MVP. Now he moves to an even more hitter friendly ballpark in Yankee Stadium where the fences are about 30 feet closer than at Marlins Park. Give me a break. Even if you decided to intentionally walk both Judge and Stanton for some reason, you’ve got Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings, who led all Major League catchers with 33 home runs in 2017. Didi Gregorius has also become a power threat at shortstop, as he hit a career high 25 home runs last season. There isn’t an easy out in this lineup and opposing pitchers are going to have nightmares trying to prepare for them.

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Don’t sleep on the Yankees pitchers. Luis Severino was a breakout star in the Bronx last season, going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings while being worth 5.7 WAR. Masahiro Tanaka had a down year in 2017, as his ERA of 4.74 was far and away the worst of his career. However Tanaka’s previous worst ERA in his 4 seasons in the Majors was 3.51, which is a quality number. Despite posting the worst ERA of his career in 2017, Tanaka actually posted his career-best strikeout rate of 9.79. He did get tagged by the long ball quite a bit, as his 1.77 HR/9 was third worst in the Majors and worst amongst pitchers who spent the entire season in the American League (Jeremy Hellickson’s 1.92 was worst but he went from the NL Phillies to the AL Orioles). Tanaka had previously been very good at keeping the ball in the yard, as he had a sub-1 HR/9 in 2 of his previous 3 seasons. Then there’s 2017 trade deadline acquisition Sonny Gray, who was inconsistent upon joining the Yankees but overall had a very solid season, which was very encouraging given his poor 2016 in Oakland. Gray went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA in pinstripes while striking out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. And let’s not forget CC Sabathia, who had his best season since 2012 by going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA while also pitching some inspired ball in the postseason. This unit is going to get overshadowed by the powerful lineup, but they are more than capable of shutting teams down for 9 innings.

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The bullpen for the Yankees last season was fantastic overall but there were some inconsistencies, particularly with their two best relievers, closer Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances. Chapman had a 3.22 ERA and only 22 saves last season but still struck out over 12 batters per 9, but that’s to be expected when you’re the author of the fastest pitch ever thrown in the history of the game at 105.4 mph. However Chapman was disastrous in May and August, as he had an ERA over 10 in May and 9 in August. Betances had his inconsistencies as well. While his overall numbers were pretty good (he had an ERA of 2.87 and struck out over 15 batters per 9), he struggled mightily with his control, walking over 6 batters per 9 innings. Betances has some of the most electric stuff in the game, as his fastball consistently hits 98 mph while his slider is like something out of the Matrix. He just needs to maintain better control. After those guys, though, there’s a lot of underrated talent in the Yankees bullpen. David Robertson returned to the Yankees after 2 and a half years with the White Sox and was fantastic in 2017, posting a 1.84 ERA and struck out nearly 13 batters per 9 innings. Tommy Kahnle was also tremendous with a 2.59 ERA and struck out nearly 14 batters per 9 as he too was an addition from the White Sox. This is an extremely talented bullpen but command is an issue. If they can limit the walks, this team will be even more dangerous.

Overall, the Yankees have one of the deadliest rosters on paper in all of baseball. The one knock against them that I could find is that they’re probably going to strike out a lot, as Judge and Stanton in particular whiff more than pretty much anybody in the league. But when this team does make contact, crooked numbers will follow. This Yankees team is a very legitimate threat to win their first World Series since 2009 and they’re going to be in a fight to the death with the Red Sox for the AL East title. Hopefully the acquisitions of Stanton to the Yankees and JD Martinez to the Red Sox are exactly what this rivalry needs to rejuvenate itself. It hasn’t felt the same since the 2004 ALCS because I mean, come on, how can you top that?

Projected Record: 98-64, win AL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Oakland Athletics, who always seem to teeter between “darkhorse” and “dumpster fire.” Let me know what you think of the Yankees’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also, I will once again be on the call for college baseball on the Big Ten Network, so check out Indiana vs Pacific at 2.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

The Seahawks traded stud defensive end Michael Bennett and a 7th rounder to the Eagles for a 5th rounder and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Bennett’s 33 years old but he recorded 8.5 sacks last season which is typically around where he’s at year in and year out. The Eagles currently have an absolutely LOADED defensive front, as if they didn’t already, but that probably means somebody’s getting traded elsewhere, all signs are pointing to Vinny Curry. But I do think the Seahawks seem to have settled here. Bennett’s still a big name and I think he could’ve gotten them more than a 5th rounder and a receiver I’ve never heard of (though Adam Schefter reports that he runs a 4.3). However the Seahawks LOVE their late-round draft picks, hard to blame them since they’ve hit on them so often, but I still think they could’ve gotten as high as a third rounder for Bennett. Also, Richard Sherman is reportedly wishing teammates farewell. So are the Seahawks blowing it up?Anyways, let’s get to the Twins.

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2017 Results:

Record: 85-77, 17 games behind Cleveland Indians, won 2nd Wild Card spot, lost Wild Card game to New York Yankees

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Logan Morrison, SS Erick Aybar, SP Anibal Sanchez, SP Jake Odorizzi, RP Addison Reed, RP Zach Duke, CP Fernando Rodney, SP Michael Pineda

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CP Glen Perkins, RP Matt Belisle, SP Bartolo Colon, RP Dillon Gee, RP Buddy Boshers, C Chris Gimenez, RP Adam Wilk,

Best Offensive Player: 2B Brian Dozier

Best Pitcher: Ervin Santana

Depth Chart:

C-Jason Castro, Mitch Garver

1B-Joe Mauer, Logan Morrison (DH), Kennys Vargas

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Miguel Sano

SS-Jorge Polanco, Eduardo Escobar

LF-Eddie Rosario, Robbie Grossman

CF-Byron Buxton

RF-Max Kepler

SP-Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes

Bullpen-Fernando Rodney (CP), Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Ryan Pressly

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Paul Molitor (4th season with Twins, 2017 AL Manager of the Year)

Hitting Coach-James Rowson

Pitching Coach-Garvin Alston

1st Base Coach-Jeff Smith

3rd Base Coach-Gene Glynn

Bench Coach-Derek Shelton

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So I mentioned a couple of times that I wrote a paper for a column writing class where I previewed each team’s World Series chances. You may remember that as that time where I accurately predicted the Rockies would have a breakout season. Well in this paper, for the Twins, I wrote “LOL” and left it at that. I mean you can’t really blame me, they were coming off a season where they went 59-103 and they had done absolutely nothing in the offseason to make me think they wouldn’t repeat this futility. Well they made me look pretty stupid, didn’t they? The Twins went 85-77 last season and made the postseason as the second Wild Card team. It was really quite the turnaround. They had been fielding a team mainly of young upstarts and they all seemed to hit their stride at the same time in 2017. Hats off to AL Manager of the Year and MLB Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Here’s how they’re projected to line up.

1. Byron Buxton-CF

2. Joe Mauer-1B

3. Brian Dozier-2B

4. Miguel Sano-3B

5. Eddie Rosario-LF

6. Logan Morrison-DH

7. Max Kepler-RF

8. Jason Castro-C

9. Jorge Polanco-SS

That’s a pretty talented lineup but pretty much everybody in that lineup is going to have to prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke if they’re going to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Byron Buxton really caught on late in the season, which was huge for this Twins team. The former #1 overall prospect was dangerously close to being labeled a catastrophic bust before his bat finally started catching up to his defense and baserunning skills. Buxton hit .259 with 16 home runs, 29 stolen bases, and had a 3.5 WAR while winning a gold glove in centerfield. Miguel Sano was also a breakout star for the Twins as he was one of their most dangerous hitters, batting .264 with 28 home runs, though that number was limited due to injury. The biggest threat in this Twins lineup is Brian Dozier, though, who might be the strongest second baseman in the game even though he may not look the part at 5’11 200 pounds. He’s had 4 consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs, 2 consecutive of at least 30, and he hit 42 in 2016. Second basemen aren’t supposed to hit 42 home runs in a season. And it’s not like he’s some Dan Uggla-type player where he’s a big brute that somehow is playing second base. He’s a decent defender at the position. Despite his recent run of success, Dozier still doesn’t get the credit he deserves all the time and that may be due to the fact that pretty much all the best second basemen are in the American League right now, including reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve, Robinson Cano, and Dustin Pedroia.

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The pitching for the Twins is the part that might have me nervous. There’s some solid names in this rotation, but they’re also guys that haven’t been great of late. Ervin Santana is their ace, but he just turned 35 years old and he’s currently on the shelf with a finger injury and likely won’t be ready for Opening Day. They did acquire Jake Odorizzi and Anibal Sanchez in the offseason, however Odorizzi battled injuries last season while Sanchez hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014. Jose Berrios is a guy to watch, though. He’s one of the most talented young pitchers in the game and it appears that the Twins are ready to put their trust in him to be the ace of the future for them. He finished 2017 with a 3.89 ERA but had a 2.41 ERA at home and over 5 on the road. If he can level that out a little bit, I think the Twins will have that ace that they’ve been missing since Johan Santana.

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The Twins completely overhauled their bullpen in the offseason. They signed Fernando Rodney to take over their closers role. It seems like an offseason isn’t complete unless Rodney is signing with a new team to take over their closer position for one year. He’s usually either amazing or downright awful in that role. There’s never any in-between. Rodney turns 41 next week and he’s coming off a season where he was the Diamondbacks’ closer and carried a 4.23 ERA but a 3.03 FIP and had 39 saves while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings. He won’t ever top his dominant 2012 season with the Rays when he had an ERA of 0.60 and 48 saves, but he can clearly still sling it. If he falters, though, they have Addison Reed as an option, who does have closing experience with the White Sox and Diamondbacks, though he’s done his best work as the 8th inning guy for the Mets and briefly with the Red Sox last season. After those two guys there really isn’t a whole lot to speak of with the Twins’ bullpen.

Overall I think the Twins overachieved last season but they’re very fortunate given the situation with the AL Central right now. They get to play the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals more than any other team, which will pad their win total, but they also get the Indians, who are going to run away with the division. Realistically the Twins will have to vie for the second Wild Card spot again but I don’t think they’ll get it. The first Wild Card spot will likely go to either the Yankees or Red Sox, whomever doesn’t win the AL East, while the Angels have done a lot to improve their postseason chances in the offseason to the point where I think they’re a much more probable candidate than the Twins. I don’t think it’ll be a bad season in Minnesota, but they won’t return to the postseason.

Projected Record: 84-78, 2nd in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the New York Mets, who look to finally stay healthy and return to the playoffs after a miserable 2017 season. Let me know what you think of the Twins’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

The NFL Combine began yesterday and there are a couple of things I want to bring to light. Penn State runningback Saquon Barkley was a freaking monster, as he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among runningbacks at an unofficial 4.41 and tied for the most bench press reps at 29. You can’t really say Barkley helped himself at the Combine because his draft stock couldn’t have been much higher already. On the other end, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was abysmal. He ran a 5.86 40-yard dash (nobody who has ever run worse than 5.7 has ever made the NFL) then only did 14 bench press reps. Brown is 6’8 340 pounds and he did 14 reps at 225 pounds. I’ve got a buddy I work out with who I’m confident can do that and he’s a college freshman. Brown also got chewed out by a coach for dogging his drills. Bad day for Brown. I had him as my #3 tackle and a late first round prospect at that but those numbers are alarming. I’ll do a Combine recap after the event is done so we can get my full thoughts on who helped their stock and who hurt it. But for now, it’s day 12 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and today we have the defending champion Houston Astros.

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2017 Results:

Record: 101-61, won AL West by 21 games over Anaheim Angels. Defeated Boston Red Sox in ALDS. Defeated New York Yankees in ALCS. Defeated Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series.

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon

Notable Offseason Subtractions: DH Carlos Beltran (retired), SP Francisco Liriano, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RP Luke Gregerson, OF Cameron Maybin

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

C-Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH), Juan Centeno, Max Stassi

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

SP-Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock

Bullpen-Ken Giles (CP), Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Hector Rondon, Buddy Boshers

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

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The Houston Astros won their first World Series in franchise history just months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. This victory meant a lot for the city of Houston as it was a moment of happiness for everyone in a time of grief. This is VERY similar to the 2013 Red Sox, who won the World Series just months after the Boston Marathon bombings. But the Astros are also about as loaded a team as you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

There are superstars all over this lineup, most notably of course being reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve. Last season Altuve won MVP over the likes of Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez by hitting .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 32 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and was worth 7.5 WAR. Not bad for a guy who’s the same height as my mom. Protecting him in the lineup is Carlos Correa, arguably the best shortstop in the game and a guy that has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, slugged .550, and was worth 5.2 WAR in an injury-plagued season. And we cannot forget World Series MVP George Springer at the top of the lineup. Last season Springer hit .283 with 34 home runs, 85 RBI, 112 runs scored, and was worth 4.5 WAR. In the World Series, Springer was a monster after a poor Game 1 where he struck out in all 4 at bats (he was the first World Series MVP ever to have such a game in the same Series). He hit .379 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in the Fall Classic, and this is including that Game 1 performance. If you don’t include that, Springer hit .440. There are so many other guys in this lineup that can kill you too. Alex Bregman was clutch in the postseason. Josh Reddick hit .314 and was worth 3.5 WAR. Marwin Gonzalez, their usual super utility guy, hit .303 and was worth 4.1 WAR. This lineup is absolutely loaded with young talent and the Astros expect to be bullies in the American League for quite some time.

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The Astros’ starting rotation is arguably just as loaded as their lineup. They have two Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation with another Cy Young candidate in Gerrit Cole, whom they acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, right behind them. After being acquired by the Astros from the Tigers at the last minute, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 43 batters in the process. Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young-winning form after a down 2016 season by going 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. Gerrit Cole comes from the Pirates after a down season, however he is capable of fantastic numbers, such as his 2015 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. The big question mark is going to be who the #5 starter is. The candidates for that job are Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock. The losers will likely wind up in the bullpen because they’re all too talented to keep in AAA, which is a good problem for the Astros to have. Plus if anybody in the rotation gets injured, they’ll have each of these guys on retainer. My pick to win the 5 spot is Charlie Morton, who is suddenly getting his fastball up in the high-90’s and earned manager AJ Hinch’s trust to close out Game 7 of the World Series.

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The Astros’ bullpen struggled in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Closer Ken Giles pitched to a 2.30 ERA and struck out almost 12 batters per 9 innings while saving 34 games. It looks pretty apparent that the Astros won that trade with the Phillies after they traded former #1 overall pick Mark Appel to get Giles as Appel is stepping away from the game without having reached the Major Leagues. Will Harris was an All Star in 2016 and in 2017 he had an ERA of 2.98 and struck out 10 batters per 9. Chris Devenski pitched to a 2.68 ERA and struck out 11.16 batters per 9. They also added submarine pitcher Joe Smith to the bullpen as well as former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. I expect this group to return to their regular season form and make people forget about how brutal they were in the World Series.

Overall, I expect the Astros to be favorites to repeat as World Series champions. AJ Hinch’s club didn’t lose anybody of major significance and only got better, as they added the likes of Gerrit Cole to an already deep pitching rotation. Their core is also very young, as each of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman are all under the age of 28. Not only is this team going to score a ton of runs, but they’re going to prevent a ton of runs as well with their stacked pitching staff. Unlike last season, they will face a bit stiffer competition in their division as the Angels have added a lot of pieces to their roster that could make them challengers to the Astros’ throne while the Mariners could be a sneaky team in that division.

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Kansas City Royals, who will be in the first stages of life after their core that led them to their 2015 World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Astros’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Some NFL news to talk about before I get into the Tribe. The Lions are going to place the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah, which is a smart move as there aren’t a ton of pass rushers for Detroit to pursue and they’re already thin at the position as it is. It was also announced that the Vikings would not tag Case Keenum, which would suggest that they may be holding out hope that they can land Kirk Cousins. Jarvis Landry and DeMarcus Lawrence will be getting tagged if they aren’t signed by the Dolphins and Cowboys, respectively, so that’s two more names off the market. At some point after the deadline to franchise tag, I’ll post a Top 10 NFL free agents blog in addition to that day’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Also, in baseball news, Tim Lincecum will be signing with the Texas Rangers. It’ll be interesting to see if he even has anything left in the tank at this stage in his career. Let’s get into the Cleveland Indians.

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2017 Results:

Record: 102-60, Won AL Central by 17 games over Minnesota Twins, lost to New York Yankees in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Rajai Davis, 1B Mike Napoli, RP Matt Belisle, RP Adam Wilk, RP Evan Marshall

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RP Bryan Shaw, RP Joe Smith, RP Craig Breslow, OF Austin Jackson, RP Boone Logan

Best Offensive Player: SS Francisco Lindor

Best Pitcher: Corey Kluber

Depth Chart:

C-Roberto Perez, Yan Gomes

1B-Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion (DH), Mike Napoli

2B-Jason Kipnis, Michael Martinez

3B-Jose Ramirez, Giovanny Urshela

SS-Francisco Lindor

LF-Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis

CF-Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte

RF-Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer

SP-Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger

Bullpen-Cody Allen (CP), Andrew Miller, Matt Belisle, Adam Wilk, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Evan Marshall

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Terry Francona (6th season with Indians)

Hitting Coach-Ty Van Burkleo

Pitching Coach-Carl Willis

1st Base Coach-Sandy Alomar Jr

3rd Base Coach-Mike Sarbaugh

Bench Coach-Brad Mills

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I really thought for sure that last season was the Indians’ year. They won 102 games, including an American League (and debatably Major League) record 22 in a row. I say debatably for Major League record because the actual record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants included a tie due to darkness, since this was before any stadiums had any lights installed. But the Indians entered the postseason as arguably the hottest team in baseball and they even got out to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-5 ALDS against the Yankees. However, they blew that lead much like they blew their 3-1 World Series lead against the Cubs in 2016 and had to watch the Astros win their first ever World Series from their couches. But the Indians are in prime position to make another run this year as a loaded roster combined with a weak division (I believe the 3 worst teams in the American League all hail from the AL Central) should point to an easy path to another division crown. Let’s take a look at how the Indians could stack up.

1. Jason Kipnis-2B

2. Jose Ramirez-3B

3. Francisco Lindor-SS

4. Edwin Encarnacion-DH

5. Michael Brantley-LF

6. Yonder Alonso-1B

7. Lonnie Chisenhall-RF

8. Roberto Perez/Yan Gomes-C

9. Bradley Zimmer-CF

That’s a pretty dangerous lineup. While Kipnis had a down year in 2017, I fully expect him to return to form because when he’s on, he’s one of the best second basemen in the game. And I expect he’s going to get more opportunities to do so because following him in the lineup is some pretty dangerous company. Jose Ramirez was a beast last season as he hit .318 with 29 home runs, 83 RBI, slugged .583, and was worth 6.6 WAR en route to finishing third in AL MVP voting. After him is Francisco Lindor, whom many would argue is the best shortstop in all of baseball. Last season Lindor hit .273, clubbed 33 home runs, drove in 89 RBI and was worth 5.9 WAR while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Then there’s Edwin Encarnacion, who may be the biggest right-handed power threat in the game outside of New York. Encarnacion has slugged at least .500 in every season since his breakout 2012 campaign and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep up that trend. And if Michael Brantley can finally get healthy and return to form, look out. The only position that’s not really set here is centerfield but they’ve been testing out their young talent. Bradley Zimmer has the most potential between him and Tyler Naquin and it helps that he has blazing speed to go along with some pretty good pop. If he ends up breaking out this year, the Indians could be challenging the 2001 Mariners’ 116 wins.

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One could argue that the Indians’ pitching is just as good, if not better, than their hitting. They ranked #1 in all of Major League Baseball in team ERA and were the only pitching staff to collectively strike out 10 batters per 9 innings all season. They’re spearheaded by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who was once again dominant in 2017 as he pitched to a record of 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and struck out 11.71 batters per 9 innings. His sinker and breaking ball are two of the filthiest pitches in the Majors and will likely make him one of the favorites to win the Cy Young once again. Behind him is Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and while Salazar is injured and likely to miss the start of the season, there’s still Carrasco, a guy who would likely be the ace of most staffs. Last season, Carrasco went 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are two other guys who could be big contributors to this rotation. Bauer went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and struck out 10 batters per 9 innings but his skill is so much greater than that when he’s not slicing his finger open on drones. If he can realize his potential, there’s a 4-headed monster in Cleveland’s rotation.

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The Indians also have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Cody Allen has been one of the better closers in in the game for the last three years, as he has had at least 30 saves, struck out 11 batters per 9 innings, and a sub-3 ERA in all three seasons. However despite being the closer, he’s not even the best reliever in their ‘pen. That distinction belongs to the left-handed Andrew Miller. Manager Terry Francona and his staff have carved out a unique role for Miller in today’s game. Miller will often set up Allen for at least 2 innings at a time and is probably the only reliever in the game who typically pitches more than one inning in any given outing. It hasn’t hurt his numbers either. Last season he had a 1.44 ERA while striking out over 13 batters per 9 innings. Absolute dominance. They did lose a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw to the Colorado Rockies in the offseason, but there is still plenty of depth in the Indians bullpen that ought to make Francona comfortable with a lead late in games.

Overall I would say that the Indians are the favorites to win the American League, maybe even the World Series. It will likely be a dogfight in the American League this season as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros all look like dangerous threats to the Tribe’s title hopes. The Yankees added the biggest slugger in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, the Red Sox added a guy who rivals Stanton’s power in JD Martinez, and the Astros lost nothing from a team that won the 2017 World Series. In fact, they added another ace to their already stellar rotation in Gerrit Cole. It’s going to be a tough road to the top for the Indians but they are more than well-equipped to try and win their first World Series since 1948.

Projected Record: 99-63, Win AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Colorado Rockies, who look to build on their breakthrough 2017 season, which was a surprise to everyone except me (as you may have known, I had the Rockies as my darkhorse team last season in a paper I wrote for a column-writing class). Let me know what you think of the Indians’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.