Your Opening Day 2011 Post

This has become one of my favorite posts to write every year. It’s a time honored tradition. It’s like laying out the cookies and milk the night before Santa comes to visit you. And before you laugh–I think it should be recognized as some type of national holiday.

Who is going to have the Jason Heyward moment that is destined to be remembered forever to kick us off tomorrow? Or does Jason decide to do something like that once again on the first pitch he sees? Who’s going to throw the first no-hitter? Does anyone have Rickey Henderson’s 105 stolen bases in them?

Is this the year that Adam Dunn finally tops 50 home runs? Does Jay Bruce knock his 35 out of the park? Do the Phillies or Red Sox ride off into the sunset as the Miami Heat-like bad guys of baseball? Or does Cinderella come knocking with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez as her date?

Can Aroldis hit 105 on the gun some warm summer night? Why do I have the feeling someone hits in 40 or 45 straight this year?

Get ready to say your first hello’s to Mike Moustakas, Brandon Belt, Dave Sappelt, and Freddie Freeman. And prepare your possible final goodbyes to old friends like Chipper Jones and Hideki Matsui.

Is this Albert Pujols’ final season in Cardinal Red? Does Bryce Harper find a way to log some big league at-bats before the 162 is through?

The answers all lie ahead of us still; and the fate of everyone in the baseball fraternity begins to unfold starting tomorrow afternoon. The great American sport begins again to write us another beautiful, season-long chapter in our lives.

And Opening Day falls on a weekend this year. It’s like baseball’s beautiful half wrapped gift to us all. While every other sport has some sort of turmoil surrounding it, baseball marches on. Through it all, we’ll always have our wonderful game to make us proud. While it’s not without it’s challenges, it’s as pure as it’s been in a long time.

If you truly love the game of baseball–and it’s likely if you find yourself here that you do–take a few moments to enjoy tomorrow. And Friday. And Saturday and Sunday are part of the celebration as well. You’re not guaranteed to take in 85 or 90 Opening Day experiences. But we’ve got tomorrow. And we’ve all got hope don’t we? Because sometime the Pirates and Royals are going to climb out of the cellar and start something special.

It’s Opening Day, and we’ve made it to another year of the greatest sport on earth.

Diamond Hoggers salutes you, the baseball fan on Opening Day 2011. Follow Diamond Hoggers on Twitter live from Opening Day in Cincinnati for the 7th straight year, joined by our sidekick from The Golden Sombrero.

Diamond Hoggers 2011 Season Predictions Post

As part of our full-service primer for the 2011 season, we make our picks on everything so we can look back and see how everyone did at season’s end. Here’s our 2010 predictions. Last year was hit and miss, but we feel much more educated for this year. We’ve really studied up and feel confident as ever about how things will shake out. Here’s how I see things in baseball shaking down for the following season:

American League

AL East:

Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees*
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

AL Central:
Chicago White Sox
Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins
Kansas City Royals
Cleveland Indians

AL West:
Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels
Seattle Mariners
Oakland A’s

National League

NL East:
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
Washington Nationals
New York Mets

NL Central:
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds*
Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates
Houston Astros

NL West:
Colorado Rockies
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Arizona DiamondBacks
San Diego Padres

* Denotes wildcard teams

Chicago White Sox over New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox over Texas Rangers
Cincinnati Reds over Philadelphia Phillies
Colorado Rockies over Milwaukee Brewers

Colorado Rockies over Cincinnati Reds
Chicago White Sox over Boston Red Sox

World Series:
Colorado Rockies over Chicago White Sox in 4 games

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
NL MVP: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
AL CY YOUNG: Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves
AL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox
NL Manager of the Year: Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies
AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays
NL Rookie of the Year: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
Team that will most resemble Cinderella: Kansas City Royals (above .500 finish)
AL Manager first fired/hot-seat: Bob Geren, Oakland A’s
NL Manager first fired/hot-seat: Terry Collins, New York Mets
AL Team Worst Record: Cleveland Indians
NL Team Worst Record: New York Mets

Other Predictions from Notable Sources:

Sports Illustrated: Tom Verducci

SI’s Expert Picks (Heyman goes into detail)

ESPN Experts Picks/Awards (They never disappoint. Just so mainstream with everything.)

ESPN SweetSpot’s NL Central All-Stars

CBS Sportsline: Scott Miller/Other Experts

Hardball Talk

Jayson Stark – ESPN

New York Times: AL/NL

Jeff Pearlman: Picks the REDS to go to the World Series

Ken Rosenthal: Reds win the NL Central, Braves win the NL Pennant

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Reds heavy favorites

Yahoo (Brown, Henson, Passan): Jay Bruce picked to lead the NL in Home Runs by Passan. Very cool predictions.

Washington Post: Reds are picked to win the Central

Miwaukee JS: 6 of 8 writers pick the Reds to win the NL Central

Other stops in blogdome:

Bullpen Talk

Through the Fence Baseball

MLB Dirt

Southside Sox

Disciples of Uecker

Hardball Times

Double G Sports

Long Live Shea Stadium

Sully Baseball

The Golden Sombrero

Someday we’ll look back and remember that 2011 was what it was all about

Tomorrow the Cincinnati Reds begin another season. It’s difficult to say what will be the exact outcome when the dust settles.

I’ve ranged from excitement to paranoia and everything in between in the last few days when thinking about where to predict the Reds in the standings for 2011. There aren’t too many seasons in my lifetime in which the Reds were being picked by unbiased writers around the nation to represent the NL in the World Series.

There’s something a little uncomfortable about that. I remember 2000 all too well–the year that the Reds snagged Griffey Jr. in the offseason and were picked by Sports Illustrated to take the baseball world and make it theirs. Things just never seemed to gel that season and the Reds lack of tangible pitching doomed their fate.

This year, the Reds pitching got slammed all spring long. Many will say that it doesn’t matter what you do in Arizona’s altitude-happy air and that the standings only count in April. But it’s a fragile thing when you’re trying to be a contender. The Reds are like every other team out there who will be playing a lot of meaningful ballgames in 2011. They’re not without their chinks in the armor and they’re far from perfect.

All that said, someday you and I will look back (if you’re a Reds fan) on the times of the present when they’re the times of the past and say ‘boy we had it good then’. This is what it’s all about if you’re a baseball fan. It’s all about the ride up through the ranks, the climb, the ascent. It’s about the window just opening and acquiring the final pieces to get to the top. No matter what becomes of the Reds this year, the window will remain open and unless there are extreme acts of misfortune, they should be good for the next few seasons.

The core is great, as strong as it’s been in my lifetime. There’s no guarantee that the Reds will win this year but there will be a lot of excitement and big time drama. Isn’t that what sports are all about? The entertainment, the anticipation, and the excitement.

And at the end of the day–you could be a Nancy and pick these guys to miss out on the playoffs like I was going to do. But as I laid in bed last night I talked myself out of it and decided that for once, it’s time to believe in my team. For once, it’s okay to be a ‘homer’. The 2011 season could be the best of my lifetime–and that’s counting 1990. Why not the Reds? It’s not like people in San Francisco had it all together last season or the Tampa Bay Rays had it all back in 2008. Staying in the mix and getting hot at the right time; along with the ever important ‘chemistry’ factor, can take a young group a long way.

And for 2011, the window is just now being opened. It’s going to be a wild ride filled with wild times and we’re just lucky enough to be along for the ride. Soak it in and try to enjoy it. These days won’t last forever.

The Ron Karkovice interview takes on a life of it’s own

A while back, former big league catcher Ron Karkovice was cordial enough to exchange pleasantries in an e-mail ‘interview’ with us. The answers were short and sweet; so short and sweet that we weren’t sure whether or not to run the interview, or to just throw it out.

We decided to run it–but to be fair we didn’t change the punctuation or responses one iota from what Ron sent us. Today, thanks to the fine folks at The Wicked Good Sports Blog, we can finally have some closure on the Ron Karkovice interview.

This is more than worth 2 minutes of your internet reading life.

[If Ron Karkovice wasn’t a jerk – The Wicked Good Sports Blog]

Keep the love coming

Just so you guys know, this isn’t just some guy who is being a homer and picking the Reds. This is a nationally esteemed writer from the USA Today.

All the love the Reds are getting in predictions is making me think twice about some things in our official preseason predictions. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how we see them all finishing.

American League East 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Boston Red Sox. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season. We’re running out of time, so here is a preview of the American League East. Continue reading American League East 2011 Season Preview

Buddy, I hope you’re right

Here’s Mick, who says that “1975–greatest World Series Ever”, has devised a theorem that says the Cincinnati Reds are going to win the World Series in 2011. He’s also teaching some type of class in a Reds alternate Joey Votto jersey.

Does it all add up? We tend to disagree, but for every dream there’s a flock of dreamers. If Mick’s prediction comes true–we owe him a scotch and a couple cigars at the very least. Shine on you crazy diamond.

There’s no way Jay Bruce has reached his peak

Good article over at ESPN’s SweetSpot today about Jay Bruce. Senior writer David Schoenfield (a Mariners fanboy) writes that he expects big things for Jay Bruce:

Because of this, Jay Bruce is a popular breakout candidate for 2011. He was 23 years old last season, has three major league seasons under his belt, has the prospect pedigree, and just feels like a guy ready to take one final leap to stardom. I’m on that bandwagon: I do a feel a monster season coming on for Cincinnati’s 24-year-old right fielder.

He continues, that Bruce might have topped out:

That’s my belief; I think he’s a good bet for fantasy players and a good bet to make Reds fans happier than a basset hound running on a beach. But — yes, there is a “but” here — there’s something else in play. Even though the axiom is that young players improve and that hitters generally peak at around 26 to 28, it’s possible that Bruce has already reached his peak ability. Just because he’s 23 and has areas that he could improve doesn’t mean he will improve.

We simply refuse to believe it for a few reasons. The kid has got 30 or 35 home run seasons in him at the very least. But like we tweeted earlier today–Bruce is most likely the kind of guy that doesn’t have the HUGE breakout season all at once–but rather just a steady incline until he’s at the .275/40/110 for a season or two. That still makes him a heckuva ballplayer.

American League Central 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Chicago White Sox. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season. We’re running out of time, so here is a preview of the American League Central. You’ll get the American League East tomorrow, so be ready on the fly. Continue reading American League Central 2011 Season Preview

Oakland A’s 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Oakland Athletics. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season. Continue reading Oakland A’s 2011 Season Preview

Los Angeles Angels 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Los Angeles Angels and is written by a friend of Diamond Hoggers; MTD of Off Base Percentage. MTD has been on The Baseball Show and if you haven’t checked out Off Base Percentage you’re missing out on a really great writer and a die hard baseball fan like you and I.

Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season. Continue reading Los Angeles Angels 2011 Season Preview

T.J. Simers is fit for MLB Credentials, and I’m not

Have you read the recent column in which LA Times writer T.J. Simers undressed poor Dodgers Outfielder Marcus Thames?

Simers was, in a word; brutal to Thames. I was pointed in the direction of the story by The Tigers Den, who tells a nice anecdote that this is a pretty decent human being who happens to be good at baseball that Simers is ripping to shreds here.

Read the article by the legend Simers. From headline to final period, it just reads like dog crap. It’s just one of those stories that the journalism teacher would have had red ink all over. And I’m no grammar buff. I’ll always make mistakes, that’s the way I am wired. But when I write something I try to make sure it reads smooth–and I’m writing for free. And I don’t have a ghostwriter and editor.

The ever critical Simers might need to start looking into good retirement spots if he’s going to continue to put stuff out of this quality.

You want to know what really grinds my gears? There’s ‘bloggers’ out there who aren’t official members of the media that would make Simers look like a small-timer. That’s how good of writers they are. And they don’t have MLB credentials. That’s how elitist baseball is towards bloggers.

This guy has no business going towards a Major League clubhouse. I don’t care how long he’s been doing it. In my world, if you aren’t doing it well then they find someone else who will. I’m not moving to LA anytime soon, but I have a lot of peers that could do Simers’ job a lot better than he can right now who the Times should take a good hard look at. And guess what? They’re bloggers. And they don’t have credentials. But they won’t look like a jackass to Marcus Thames–who is sure to steer clear of the LA media from this point forward. And you know what the end result of all this is? The LA Times might sell a few more papers.

T.J. Simers’ behavior and lack of professionalism is a shining example of why so many out there prefer blogs to newspaper.

Aroldis Chapman graces cover of ESPN the Magazine Baseball Preview Issue

The highlight of the day was seeing this.

The low-light? How about rear-ending another car and totaling my fiance’s car on the way to work. Honestly, is there any worse feeling? I mean the immediate ‘oh shit, now I’ve done it’ when you are climbing out of the wrecked heap is absolutely the worst feeling in the world. Then the aftermath of your girl being mad at you of course.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. So your regularly scheduled Anaheim Angels and Oakland A’s previews might have to wait until tomorrow. Or since we’ll be stuck at home without a car of any type for several days, maybe we’ll write the previews then.

Either way, being a shitshow, FTW.

My apologies to her dear 2002 Toyota Camry. I didn’t picture your life ending this way–just a mile from my work on a chilly Thursday morning. You were good to us. I’m so sorry I did this to you.