Minnesota Twins 2015 Team Preview

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We continue the 2015 Team Previews today with the lovable basement-dwelling Minnesota Twins. Since he lives right down the street from them and was nice enough to write about the Twins for us (we wanted no part of the Twins), Corey is back at it again with another season preview. If you enjoy his preview and you’re a baseball fan, give him a follow on twitter.

Living in Minneapolis, I was lucky enough to enjoy some of the All Star festivities and I snapped this shot at the HR Derby. Unfortunately for Twins fans, there wasn’t much excitement at Target field outside of the All Star break. The Twins finished in the cellar of the AL Central with a 70-92 record and they appear to be in a waiting mode for some of the young players that make up one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Will 2015 bring more hope to the Twin Cities or will it be another rebuild season with a dash of top prospects getting their cup of coffee late in the season?

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Chicago Cubs 2015 Team Preview

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We continue the 2015 Team Previews today with one of our favorite teams in baseball for the coming year, the Chicago Cubs. They haven’t won a world title since 1908  – we just feel like this veil will be lifted at some point in the near future with this current core. And that would be good for the game of baseball and this poor tortured die-hards who follow this team as their first love.

On October 12, 2011, the face of the Cubs franchise became forever changed. That was the day that Theo Epstein was named the President of the Chicago Cubs. You ask the common fan what Theo Epstein is up to, and they’re going to probably say ‘he’s the General Manager of the Cubs’. He’s not. He’s actually the GM’s boss, the GM is Jed Hoyer. Theo is making the overriding calls of this roster, and since he’s taken over they have an absolute haul of good young players and have made steady improvement.

The questions remains: are the Cubs ready to take the next step from respectable and lovable team to contenders in the National League Central? We believe they are, and if you click ahead we’re going to tell you why.

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Detroit Tigers 2015 Team Preview

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The 2015 Team Previews roll onward today with the Detroit Tigers. This preview is written by our good buddy Corey – lifelong Tigers fan and die-hard baseball fan. If you’re like us, follow him on twitter.

The 2014 Tigers won their fourth straight AL Central division title by winning 90 games in the regular season but unfortunately they didn’t notch any wins in the postseason.  After being swept by the Orioles in the ALDS Detroit fans hung their heads as another World Series title evaded their hopes.  A deadline deal brought in another Cy Young winning pitcher in David Price but it proved to be a non-factor as Tigers’ pitchers gave up 21 runs in 3 playoff games.  A 20 year championship drought has Dave Dombrowski and crew heading back to the drawing board as they try to put together the pieces to get that trophy back in Motown.

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Cincinnati Reds 2015 Team Preview

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We lead off our 2015 team previews with our poor, beleaguered Redlegs.

The Reds had a weird off-season. They mulled the possibilities of trading the likes of Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, and really any other veteran that teams would listen on. They ended up settling on sending Mat Latos to Miami for a prospect arm Anthony DeSclafani. Their marquee move of the off-season was trading minor-league pitcher Ben Lively for Marlon Byrd. Byrd will make $8 million this season and has a $8 million team option for 2016.

Basically, the Reds didn’t really want to do much to go out and get any true help but were very careful about how they tried to sell. They’re in a weird purgatory stage where they’re not really building to go for it, but they don’t want to raise the surrender flag too early in a season when they’re hosting the 2015 MLB All Star Game. That might be the only saving grace for the Reds current core that this roster was supposed to be built around for a long time.

If the Reds do fail to be competitive in the first half of 2015, we look for them to become major sellers in the market from the time the All Star Game ends and the July 31st trading deadline.

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Matt Harvey returns, and looks phenomenal

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Now in the spirit of following up some tough news about a great arm gone bad, there’s Matt Harvey who returned to his first in-game action since the 2013 regular season yesterday. The reviews were rave about his performance:

Harvey struck out three of the six Tigers he faced and he cracked the bats of two others. He was dominant. He comfortably threw his fastball 96 to 99 mph. His slider dived into the dirt, same as ever. Even his curveball, a reclamation project, was a knee-buckling filthy pitch. Nick Castellanos was the only Tigers hitter who saved even a little face against him. Castellanos should have received some kind of trophy for at least getting the ball out of the infield — though even that was just a lazy fly ball he lifted to right.

Harvey was so good when he blew away Tigers No. 4 hitter Jordan Lennerton on three straight pitches, it provoked an on-air laugh from former Mets pitcher Ron Darling, who was calling the game for SNY. Darling said poor Lennerton, who spent last year in Triple-A, was likely to get some good-natured kidding when he got back to the Detroit bench about forgetting to take the weighted doughnut off his bat before leaving the on-deck circle.

This is great to hear. It’s unfortunate that baseball had to exist at all without the rare talent of Matt Harvey. The early reports would seem to support that this guy is going to get back on track as a generational talent who defines his legacy with sparkling numbers on the back of his card.

And every fifth day, when you turn this guy on the television set; he’s going to be the same guy we came to remember. That’s good news for everyone except opposing hitters.

Yu Darvish may need Tommy John

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The biggest news of the morning involves the Texas Rangers. This has been building for a long time coming, and it appears that one-time ace Yu Darvish may need Tommy John surgery that would cause him to miss the entire season.

This really contributes to what figures to be an absolute dumpster-fire season for the Texas Rangers. Without their number one starter, they’ll be in full rebuild mode and probably lose between 90 and 100 games we would expect.

And there’s nothing about this that is good for baseball. No power arm in the game is safe from this injury, no one is immune to it. It appears that yet another great talent in the game will miss significant time with arm troubles.

The Washington Nationals are as ‘All-in’ as they’ll ever be

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The man we like to call ‘Low-Rider’.

There’s an increasing sense around baseball that the Washington Nationals have to win this year – and by ‘win’ which would include some gray area – people expect them to advance by winning multiple postseason series and getting to the World Series.

Anything less than that will be viewed as an immense disappointment.

Jordan Zimmerman reiterated that in an interview with MLB.com:

“If it’s going to be any year, it’s going to be this year and we all know that,” Zimmermann said after tossing two shutout innings against the Braves on Friday. “We’re all getting ready for a big year.”

Las Vegas oddsmakers love the Nationals, they’re 3 to 1 favorites to win the National League pennant. The Dodgers are second at 9 to 2 odds and the Cardinals and Cubs check in at 6 to 1 and 7 to 1 behind them respectively (listed on Bovada as of this morning).

The Nationals are officially no longer the hunters, they’re going to be the hunted in 2015. They’ll get every team’s best shot and if there’s an evil empire in baseball this season in terms of money spent and allocated for a 25-man roster, it’s no longer the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. When Max Scherzer signed, Washington became that team. Zach Wheeler of the Mets has made it his personal vendetta to make sure the Nationals miss out on a ring.

It’s tough to deliver in a season when everyone knows you’re the league badasses. All of the talk in Spring Training is about rings, several of the Nationals players have mentioned it themselves in quotes.

I think the Nationals are going to be the best team in the regular season, but they’ve been that before. It’s going to come down to how many times they’re the team that retires the opposition’s final three hitters in an October game. That’s what will define this team. And honestly, while the rotation is all-world and the starting lineup is at worst above average; the Nats may find between now and then that their bullpen needs shoring-up.

We’re personally really rooting on the Nationals. We’ve taken to them since they planted all these seeds as youngsters and would like to see some World Series games played in the Nation’s capital. It would just be good for baseball to have someone other than the Cardinals or Giants playing in the Fall Classic. But the Nationals have not done themselves any favors in making all these brash statements early on. A slow start in April would be a disaster from a PR standpoint, with Matt Williams scrambling for damage control far too early.

Your Saturday Baseball Post

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Exactly four weeks from tomorrow, Opening Night will happen and baseball season will be here once again. In the last week, spring training games got underway and we have real baseball action again in play to talk about. You have to love the spring training games in the ritualistic sense that they’re relaxed scrimmages where guys are getting their work in and preparing for the long ride ahead.

I also love the way spring training box scores show up on some sites. It’s almost as if they want you to know the stats are so damn unofficial or something:

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Look at that rudimentary box score!

To kill the time, we’ll preview some teams, make some predictions, keep doing fantasy baseball research and talk about some emerging story lines until the season officially begins on Easter night at Wrigley Field.

Enjoy your Saturday – the best day of the week that soon will have a full slate of baseball games taking place while your grill is lit.

Real Live Baseball was played today

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Even though the games don’t count for anything except for conversation pieces at the water cooler at work, baseball is officially unofficially back and part of our lives again.

The Reds won. Yoenis Cespedes hit a grand slam. Marcus Semien hit two bombs, including one off of Madison Bumgarner. The Pirates import went yard. Baseball things were happening.

And this is only the beginning. The weather is still awful here in Ohio but soon the snow will melt and spring will bring renewed hope and baseball games that count. And sunshine in the morning. But it would still be nice to take about three weeks off work, drive down to Florida and go to a few Spring Training camps. I’m going to do that someday if I’m ever successful enough to make it happen. That’s a big ‘if’.

Bryce Harper still hopes to be a Washington National for life

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Per Mark Zuckerman over at Nats Insider, Bryce Harper would like to play his entire career in Washington. In other words, he’s standing by his words for now.

“If the Nationals let it happen, I’m all for it,” Harper said in a 1-on-1 interview with CSN. “I’ve always said that. I’ve said it since Day 1. Right when I was drafted I said, ‘If you look at the guys like Cal Ripken, [Derek] Jeter, Chipper Jones … you look at these guys who stayed with their franchise forever, they’ve been so good with their fans, they’ve been so good with their organization. I would love to do that. That’s something I would love to pride myself on and know that this team wants me here, I’ve been here since the beginning. I want to be here for 20 years.”

We would love to see this happen down the line. In regards to the Nationals ‘letting it happen’, there is no reason to believe that they won’t. They’re the new Yankees. I think Harper and Scott Boras are starting to realize that the Nationals can throw dollars around with the best of them. He’s just got to be worth that type of coin at some point.

Here’s the entire interview so you know the context:

A poorly-lit Bryce Harper jersey makes an appearance on House of Cards

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Hat tip to my buddy @Mike_hllywa on this one.

So apparently I need to get into this show. The last time I had multiple friends telling me to get into a show, it was Breaking Bad; and it was life-changing television.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about House of Cards on Netflix. Adding Bryce Harper to the equation (and Kevin Spacey doesn’t hurt things) can only help. I’ve got to give this show a chance before baseball season starts.

Can we just sit this guy until the season begins, please?

I say this only half in jest, but seriously. For those that have serious fantasy ownership stock in Stanton (like we do), the absolute WORST thing that could happen is any injury that would cause him to miss the opener in April.

He’s fine by the way, but I hate hearing stuff like this. Makes me cringe just a little.

Your Saturday Baseball Post

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Happy Saturday to all in the baseball world. Today is not just extra special because Spring Training is in full swing, but it’s the last day of February. We’ve survived it. The most dreadful, empty, bad weather, grey month on the calendar and after today it’s over.

In a few weeks it will be March Madness, and not long after that Wrestlemania, and then the main event; Major League Opening Day.

In between to keep our appetites wet will be some fantasy baseball draft and spring training games, names in box scores we don’t recognize, and a few key storylines that let us know what early direction the 2015 will be headed.

For now, enjoy your Saturday. We’ve almost made it! Thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers.

Here’s another classic song from the 80’s, I’ve actually heard these guys perform after a Reds game. The don’t make them like they used to folks.

Bryce Harper says he’s going to bring a title to D.C.

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You can never roll your eyes at the brash optimism of a young player in the spring. In one breath, the WaPo is calling Bryce Harper the next Dwight Evans. In another story, they’re interviewing him and he’s talking championships right now. Washington doesn’t know how the hell to handle a superstar in their town.

Bryce Harper, on Max Scherzer coming to Washington:

“Well the thing is, he’s a Boras client. So sitting there and I’m talking to Scott and I’m thinking, I’m asking him, ‘Hey, are we going to get Scherzer or what?’ Because I mean we had a great staff. … So to be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in? I just started laughing. I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ You know what I mean? It’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid how good our staff is. I mean, to add a Cy Young, to add a guy that’s unbelievable in the postseason — if you have to go into a five-game set in the postseason, looking ahead like I told you I wouldn’t, but if you have to go into a five-game set against a team, you’re going to have to face Zimmermann, Fister, Scherzer and Stras. I mean, good luck. Because that’s insane. Going into that, it’s just, I’m crying because it’s hilarious having to go in there and face them. It’s absolutely stupid. We have the best staff in all of baseball, I don’t care what nobody says, and the thing about our guys, they work. It’s not like it’s just ‘hey okay let’s just go out and play.’ They work, and they work hard. And to add a guy like Scherzer who’s a bulldog out there, who’s unbelievable in the postseason, who shows that fire and that emotion, it’s something that I’m going to enjoy watching this year. And I think our team in the outfield is going to do a lot of watch, because they’re going to be carving it up.”

Wow, where’s his ring? The Giants are wearing both of them. The one from 2012, and 2014.

But no seriously, we love Bryce Harper. Good to see him back in camp and bashing baseballs and saying the hopeful things that young players say.

On another note – we don’t really know what happened with his darling fiance. But Bryce man, this girl was a keeper. Whatever happened, we don’t care; but you better get her back and you better marry her. This sweet girl who happens to be an Ohio State University Alum like my wife favorited the sweetest tweet in the history of tweets coming from a baseball account tonight.

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The tweet was really designed to get my wife going. She says our daughter is NOT named after who we think will be the best young player of her generation. She says she thought of the name driving one night. This is not a true reflection of events. I thought of the name, for the obvious reasons; because of the outfielder for the Nationals who I have followed since he was about 14. My wife can re-write history however she wants. Our daughter has her name because of a baseball player.

And in closing, Kayla Varner is a sweetheart. No matter what Bryce hits this season he would be a tad better with her by his side off the field. Seems like a sweet girl and is every bit as pretty. Do the right thing Bryce! As Matt Damon says in Good Will Hunting, go see about a girl. Whatever is going on, fix it like a hitch in your swing, kid.

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