As John Walton, the Washington Capitals’ radio play-by-play announcer put it after the Capitals defeated their bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, “the demons have been exorcised.”
After more than 26 years of waiting since the Redskins won the Lombardi Trophy in 1992 (9,629 days, if you want to be precise), a Washington team has won one of the “big four” national sports championships! Our beloved Washington Capitals have won a Stanley Cup!
The news that the Caps finally got to hoist Lord Stanley is, by now, two days old. That feeling of newness, however, feels just as fresh as it did when the celebration began at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. For the people living in D.C. and our expats all around the world, this Cup is a moment far too overdue. For me, this is a first-in-a-lifetime event. Consider that the city of Washington, D.C., has won a world title six times: a World Series in 1924, three Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s, an NBA Finals in 1978, and, now, a Stanley Cup. Boston, in comparison, has won six championships, as well…since 2004. Finally, finally, Washington has done it!
I have only been on this planet for the last fourteen years, and have up to now only experienced sports heartbreak. I have watched my first love, the Washington Nationals, get their championship dreams crushed in 2012 with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9th inning. The Nats then went on to lose in playoff series in 2014, 2016 and 2017, and missed the playoffs altogether in the 2013 and 2015 seasons.
I have watched the Washington Wizards lose to the Eastern Conference powerhouses of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks of years past. I have watched the Washington Redskins get thrown around in the Wild Card games to the likes of bitter rivals Dallas, Green Bay, and Philadelphia. I have watched the Washington Capitals have their dreams crushed by the Rangers, by the Canadiens, by the Lightning, and by the Penguins when they’ve been able to field President’s Trophy winning teams.
So, this Caps win means something to everyone. Not just the long-suffering fans who have followed this team from 1974, or the fortunate season ticket holders who take in 41 games at Capital One Arena, or the basement dwellers who watch each and every game. It’s the also my generation of D.C. sports fans who has grown up with the likes of Bryce Harper, Alex Ovechkin, John Wall, and RGIII. We are as ecstatic at the Caps win as the fans that grew up with Dale Hunter, Wes Unseld, John Riggins, and without an MLB team for all of those years. Everyone in the city seems energized. Look around you and notice how many people are wearing red and beaming with city pride. That’s why Capital One Arena and the streets surrounding Gallery Place were jammed with literally thousands of fans to watch games that were occurring thousands of miles away.
What made this year different for the Capitals? Going into the 2018 season, fan favorites Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, and others were no longer rocking the red. Experts picked teams like the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes to finish ahead of these Capitals, and some people even predicted that the Caps would miss the playoffs altogether. General manager Brian MacLellan made great free agent signings this offseason of Alex Chiasson and Devante Smith-Pelly. He traded midseason for promising defenseman Michal Kempny, who proved his value by having a breakout playoffs. Even the acquisitions by the Caps’ former general manager George McPhee paid off these playoffs, though McPhee was on the other side of the ice as the GM of the Vegas Golden Knights in their debut season. The role players like Smith-Pelly, Jay Beagle, Chandler Stephenson, Lars Eller, and others meshed with the franchise players of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, and Braden Holtby to create an unstoppable force that rammed their way through these playoffs. The new fans created during this playoff run have learned to not just get behind Ovi and Backy, but to love Smith-Pelly and Eller.
After being down 2-0 versus Columbus in the first round, on the brink of elimination against the Lightning, and then as the obvious foils in the fairytale about the Golden Knights winning the Cup in their debut season, the Caps prevailed. Now
Nicklas Backstrom is a Stanley Cup champion. Lars Eller is a Stanley Cup champion. T.J. Oshie is a Stanley Cup champion. Evgeny Kuznetsov is a Stanley Cup champion. Devante Smith-Pelly is a Stanley Cup champion. John Carlson is a Stanley Cup champion. Brooks Orpik is a *two-time* Stanley Cup champion. Braden Holtby is a Stanley Cup champion. Barry Trotz is a Stanley Cup champion.
And last, but definitely not least, Alexander Ovechkin is a Stanley Cup champion.
This is NOT a dream. Embrace it. Believe it. They’ve done it.
We will savor his championship through October, when the Capitals and their loyal fans will re-enter the arena as defending Stanley Cup Champions. See you then at Capitals Won Arena!
It has surely been an up-and-down week for the Nationals. In Cincinnati and the first game in Atlanta, the Nationals were on top of their game, hitting very well and seeing lights-out pitching from Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark. And then, every possible thing that could go wrong went wrong. In this post, I’ll dissect what happened last week and give a preview of the upcoming opponents that the Nationals will face this week.
The Nats started the season hot, sweeping the Cincinnati Reds with ease. On Opening Day, Max Scherzer went six strong innings guiding the Nats to the 2-0 victory. Then, on Saturday, the lethal offense started to unleash its’ wrath. They cruised to a 13-7 victory, and then Sunday consisted of a close 6-5 game. The quality of baseball played in Cincinnati was what we expected from the Nationals, and the Nats went into Atlanta with a lot of confidence. They had another big win on Monday, taking down the Braves 8-1. As I noted above, this was the last good game of the week. A mediocre Braves team then went on to absolutely demolish the Nats, 13-6, on Tuesday, and then did it again on Wednesday with a 7-1 finish in favor of the Braves. This came as a shock to Nats fans, as we usually underestimate the Braves. This came as a wake-up call to the team, as well, and needed to improve for the home opening series against the rival Mets. To say it frankly, they didn’t improve from those two embarrassments in Atlanta. In the limelight of the home opener, Stephen Strasburg wasn’t the same guy we saw in Cincinnati, and the Nats lost their third straight, 8-2 the final. The Nats came within one run on both Saturday and Sunday, but got unlucky both times. And, on Saturday, we learned that not saying a single word to an umpire can get you ejected from the game. The series of events got both Anthony Rendon (wrongfully) thrown out, as well as his manager for defending his star third baseman. Steven Matz pitched well, Travis D’Arnaud blocked the plate on that, and the Mets took the second game. And then Sunday, the Nats had a chance to win, but Tanner Roark gave up a grand slam to Asdrubal Cabrera, and his first-star effort led the Mets to the series sweep. Dave Martinez has a lot to ponder over this week.
Needless to say, the Nationals will have no easy task breaking their five game skid this week. They will face two young teams with a lot of power. From Monday to Wednesday, they will have a rematch with the Atlanta Braves, this time in Washington. They’ll stay here from Thursday to Sunday to face the Colorado Rockies.
We’ve already talked about Atlanta in last week’s video. But if you didn’t watch the video and are reading this instead, the Braves are irritating as they are a mediocre team that seems to have the Nats’ number each time they play us. They’re led by Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson on offense, and should have Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, and Brandon McCarthy facing Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and A.J. Cole. The Cole-McCarthy game will be interesting, as I’m curious to see how A.J. Cole will rebound from his subpar game last week against the same Braves team. The Rockies, on the other hand, are a very dangerous team. Jeff Bridich, the Rockies’ GM, has done a great job of comprising a team that can hit for power in the thin Denver air. While this four game set will be played in D.C., Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Ian Desmond are still dangerous hitters at the plate. The Rox run on a relief-heavy pitching staff, headlined by Wade Davis and Jake McGee. It’s unclear this far in advance, but the Nationals will most likely face Antonio Senzatela, Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, and Kyle Freeland. Aside from the Nationals, the Rockies are one of my favorite teams. They have a lot of young players in the lineup, and also have a lot of up-and-coming pitchers like Jon Gray, who the Nats will likely face. That being said, I think that the Nats and the Rockies will split this series.
This week is about redemption. Davey Martinez needs to be able to come back from a tough week and fight hard against good Braves and Rockies teams. I’m interested, also, to see how A.J. Cole does in his return. Will he be sent back to Syracuse in favor of Jeremy Hellickson or Erick Fedde? Or will he bounce back? That’s just one of the many questions that will be answered this week. For now, I’m Matt, and Let’s Go Nats! (And, Let’s Go Caps in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!!)
In this episode of the Matt’s Bats report, I’ll go over the next few series, against the Reds, Braves, and Mets. Watch the video at this link. — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIeBDcl5WHM Let’s go Nats!
My first “vlog” and “weekendly” report is live! I am so excited to share with you my thoughts about the 2018 Nationals’ roster in this first video. Watch it below!
One day after Japanese slugger Shohei Ohtani chose to play for the Angels and in turn kicked off the 2017 MLB offseason, we have our second piece of big news. Giancarlo Stanton, who was linked to both the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Francisco Giants for the last few weeks, reportedly has been dealt to the New York Yankees. The clubs have not yet confirmed. Stanton, who has a no-trade clause, limited his trade options earlier this week to the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, or Houston Astros. Rather unsurprisingly, the Derek Jeter-led Marlins agreed to trade Stanton to the Bronx for Starlin Castro and prospects. Here’s my take.
Giancarlo Stanton, who plays right field, has gained a notorious reputation in the MLB for hitting an absurd amount of home runs. Just last year, Stanton blasted 59 (!) home runs for the Marlins. He has hit 267 dingers in his seven seasons in Miami, and has hit for a .268 average throughout those seven years. Stanton is entering his age 29 season, and carries a massive contract, where he will make north of $25 million dollars (!!) for the next 10 (!!!!) years. This is a huge burden added to an already humongous Yankees payroll. Starlin Castro, who the Yankees reportedly gave up for Stanton, is a contact hitter. Castro, in eight seasons with both the Cubs and Yankees, has hit 99 home runs and has hit for a very solid .282 average. He mimicked those stats in the 2017 season, hitting 16 homers and sporting an even .300 average. Both of these players add something to their respective teams.
I have a different take on this trade. As Nats fans, the single most important event of 2018 will be the free agency of Bryce Harper. Harper is a generational talent, and like most generational talents, he has been linked to the New York Yankees. In 2009, when he was featured in Sports Illustrated, he said, “I want to be in the Hall of Fame, play at Yankee Stadium, play in the pinstripes, and be the best player ever.” Now while this was 2009, almost ten years ago, Harper seems as if he would love to play for the New York Yankees. After the trade for Stanton, the Yankees would likely be unable to offer a mega-deal to Harper too. With a stacked outfield including Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Jacoby Ellsbury, there might not be space on the field or in the wallet for the Yanks.
However, this is a great deal for the Yankees. After shocking the league by making it to game 7 of the ALCS, the new-look Yankees will be poised to return to the bright lights of the World Series. And they will have two of the strongest players in the league, with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton batting in the same lineup. I’m just glad that they don’t have to sport such a dangerous lineup in the NL! As a fan of the game, I’m really looking forward to May 15, when the Yankees come to D.C., but fear the results on the scoreboard. After these two big trades, the upcoming Winter Meetings are sure to be full of interesting deals and blockbuster free agent signings. We’ll see what the future holds for baseball.
The big fish has been caught.
In a move that sent shockwaves across Major League Baseball, Shohei Ohtani made his decision to “take his talents” to the Los Angeles Angels. The Japanese 2-way player chose to play in Anaheim with Mike Trout and the Angels on Friday, with his agent citing that he “felt a strong connection with the team, and are the most capable to achieve his goals in Major League Baseball.” Here are my thoughts about the signing.
Here’s some background information about Ohtani, if you need a refresher. He is a 23-year old, can play both outfield and pitcher, and is the most highly touted Japanese prospect since Ichiro Suzuki. Ohtani has played for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for the last five Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) seasons. At the plate, Ohtani has hit .286 and hit 48 home runs in his five seasons at the top level of Japanese baseball. He might even be more impressive on the mound. In the same five seasons, he went 42-15 and posted a a 2.52 ERA. To put his stats into comparison, Trea Turner hit for a .284 average during the 2017 MLB season.
The real question most people have about Ohtani’s big switch from the NPB to the MLB is how he will perform on the field, and how the Angels will be affected by the signing. The Angels have some amazing talent on their team, including Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, and Kole Calhoun. While they have Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, the pitching staff of the Angels was really lacking in the past season, causing the Halos to finish the season two games under .500. Giving the Angels an ace to strengthen the pitching staff is huge. On days where Ohtani isn’t on the mound, he can take advantage of the designated hitter rule and solely bat. He also can fill in for the Angels’ already impressive outfield and play there. Secondly, I believe that Ohtani will have some struggle at first, because the MLB can be much more competitive than the NPB. When Ichiro first entered the Majors, he had a major drop in his batting average. Masahiro Tanaka, another international free agent, had his ERA shift from 1.27 to 2.77 after he made the jump. Even so, he will add something to the Angels that they don’t currently have.
I support the signing of Ohtani by the Angels. In a highly competitive AL West division including the reigning World Series champions and the new-look Mariners, the Angels needed to make a splash like this one to virtually stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. I believe that the Angels will be competitive in the race this year, and possibly obtain one of the two wild card spots. With the Winter Meetings still yet to occur, the stove has just started to heat up. The crazy 2017 offseason has begun.
First of all, let me tell you a little bit about the Nationals Dream Foundation. Established in 2005, the mission of the foundation is to “improve the lives of children and teens by supporting initiatives focused on academics, the arts, nutrition, and sports.” The Chairmen of the Foundation include members of the Lerner family, Debra Cohen, Mark Lerner, Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, and Ted Lerner. The Foundation supports many charitable initiatives, including the Nationals Legacy Fields, the Nationals Miracle Field in Germantown, Delta Dream Grants, the Washington Nationals Diabetes Care Complex at Children’s National Medical Center (Nats players visit every year), and the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Southeast. The Dream Gala is held to raise money for the Dream Foundation.
I was invited to the Dream Gala by my amazing doctor at the Diabetes Care Complex at Children’s National Medical Center, Dr. Fran Cogen. Dr. Cogen is so helpful to my family, guiding us through the tough, unpredictable waters of Type 1 Diabetes. Dr. Cogen is not only the head of the Diabetes Care Complex, but she’s also a huge Nats fan. How lucky am I that my doctor and I share a love for the Nats!
The Dream Gala consists of two parts — the cocktail hour/silent auction, and the dinner/live auction. What I liked the most about the cocktail hour was that the players also walk around, mingling with the fans who are bidding on the silent auction items. The silent auction items were pretty cool, also. My favorite item had to have been a picture of Max Scherzer at his 20 strikeout game autographed by the man himself. A close second was a zamboni ride at a Caps game. I was able to meet many of the players, some that I hadn’t met yet. I took pictures and chatted with Adam Lind, Anthony Rendon, Tanner Roark, and Dusty Baker. Dusty told me that he intends to win the World Series this year — and I gave him a high five for that! I also caught up with some players, like Ryan Zimmerman, that I had met before. Ryan told me that he would keep up his hot streak so that I would have things to write about. Sounds good to me! I also got Trea Turner to autograph a ball! After about an hour, it was time to go into another room where dinner was served.
The unique and cool experience that I had at the Dream Gala is something that is going to be very hard to replicate in the future. The Gala was a success to the Dream Foundation, as well — they were able to raise north of $400,000 for the Dream Foundation. I think that the Nationals did a great job with this event, and I think that it is a great way to raise money for the Dream Foundation.
To support the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, click here.
I think we can agree that winter is over and spring is finally here. Not because the weather is finally constantly warm, but because baseball season begins today. On Opening Day, we look forward to162 games packed into six or seven months, and then, come October, only 10 teams will get a chance to claim victory. Today I continue the annual tradition of giving you my thoughts about the 2017 MLB season and the postseason, and making my prediction about who will be the first MLB team to visit the White House under the new administration.
American League West
#5- Oakland Athletics
After a few years of dominance in the western part of the AL, the A’s have really dropped off. They do have some up-and-coming bright spots, however. They signed former Giant Santiago Castilla for their bullpen, to go along with Sean Doolittle, another dominant piece. Stephen Vogt’s name has been swirled in trade rumors for awhile now, but he remains in Oakland for now and is a very good player to have backstopping the A’s. Khris Davis is also a dangerous hitter, who should put up strong numbers this year. The Oakland faithful have a couple of names to cheer for, but with not so much starpower and an aging stadium, I don’t believe the Athletics will be around much longer, no way making the playoffs.
#4- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels were serious contenders in the AL for many years, but last year, the team was one of the biggest disappointments in the league. Obviously, the Angels have Mike Trout, arguably the greatest player in the league right now. He will make noise offensively and defensively like he does every year. Other than Trout, however, the team is lacking. When they take on the Washington Nationals for interleague play, it will be like a family reunion with 3 former players (4 if you count farm systems). Danny Espinosa, traded to the Halos this offseason, will play second base next to Andrelton Simmons, former Brave, who always puts up stellar defensive numbers. Ben Revere will likely back up Trout when he needs a day off. Yunel Escobar will be playing at third base to cap off an infield that is 75% former NL East, with Albert Pujols being the odd man out. Pujols will put up good numbers as usual, but it’s very clear that he no longer is the player earlier in his career with the Cardinals. (He’s still a future Hall of Famer). Garrett Richards will be back for the season after being out for much of last campaign. He will rejoin a pitching staff with Matt Shoemaker, Ricky Nolasco, and Tyler Skaggs. But this team is on the decline. LA fans luckily have 7 other sports teams to root for this coming season.
#3- Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are a really good team, and I expect them to contend for a Wild Card this season. However, this team can’t mess with Texas, as I predict they will finish third. There are some major bright spots to this team. Kyle Seager is an amazing third baseman, and Robinson Cano will also add offense. Nelson Cruz can also hit very well with his boomstick. They’ve got Carlos Ruiz behind the plate, who is a very solid hitter. Felix Hernandez will continue to be one of the best American League pitchers, followed in the rotation by Hisashi Iwakuma, Yovani Gallardo, and James Paxton. In the bullpen stands Marc Rzepczynski and Edwin Diaz. Diaz finished last year very, very strong, almost leading the Mariners to a wild card position. So while this team will be very good soon, I don’t believe they will ascend to first in the AL West next year.
#2- Texas Rangers
WHAT!! The Rangers in second? I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t think the Rangers will have as good of a year as they did last year. Still, a playoff spot is almost guaranteed for our friends in Arlington. Assuming he can keep his hands to himself, Rougned Odor will have a good year. Joey Gallo, a highly touted prospect for a few years now, hopefully will eclipse into a serviceable third baseman to replace the aging Adrian Beltre. But for the time being, Beltre is still a great player to have. Carlos Gomez, Nomar Mazara, and Shin-Soo Choo will be great outfielders next season. And of course, they have Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate, who they acquired from the MIlwaukee Brewers last season. Cole Hamels will take the nod on Opening Day, followed by Yu Darvish, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross. And in the bullpen of the Rangers, Keone Kela, Sam Dyson, and Jake Diekman will likely shut down hitters. Don’t get me wrong, the Rangers are really good. I just think it’s now the Astros turn for a division.
#1- Houston Astros
The Astros will finally eclipse (see what I did there) the A’s and Rangers in the West and finish first in the American League West. After an off year, Dallas Keuchel will return better than ever. The rest of their rotation, led by names such as Collin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock, is solid. They have a very nice infield, with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa leading them. They have some very promising prospects like Yulieski Gurriel, A.J. Reed, and Alex Bregman. Brian McCann will give some extra offense as well. George Springer and Jake Marisnick will welcome signee Josh Reddick to Houston in the outfield. The young roster will finally get the Astros, after a very long rebuild, into the playoffs and a win of the AL West.
National League West
#5 San Diego Padres
Hoo boy, you really have to feel terrible for San Diego. They just recently lost their Chargers to Los Angeles, and their Padres, now the city’s lone sports team, isn’t a very exciting team to watch. (Good news, though, for Padres fans, they have my favorite ballpark in MLB!) The pitching staff is unexciting, with some minor signings of players like Tyrell Jenkins barely making their situation better. The bullpen is so-so, with Kevin Quackenbush and Carter Capps being the heads of the ‘pen. The loss of Trea Turner really hurt their offense, but they still have Wil Myers, Yangervis Solarte and up-and-coming outfielder Hunter Renfroe. Ryan Schimpf had a few good weeks last year, so he should be good for this year as well. Other than that, the Padres are pretty unexciting.
#4- Arizona Diamondbacks
On paper, the Diamondbacks team is actually not so bad. They are led by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, have a solid outfield led by A.J. Pollock making a return for this year, Yasmany Tomas, and David Peralta. They have Zack Greinke on the hill. But that is it. The rest of the rotation consists of Shelby Miller, who was acquired in one of the most one-sided trades in history (Miller to AZ for Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair), Taijuan Walker, Randall Delgado, and Robbie Ray. The bullpen is unimpressive, with no true closer and Andrew Chafin leading the way for the Snakes. The catcher position consists of Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis, two veterans added to the squad. After Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb is a fine infielder but the infield isn’t so great after that. The outfield of the Diamondbacks is fine. However, I don’t think that this team is going to perform, whereas on paper this team would do great.
#3- Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are a very offense-driven team and could possibly contend for the 2nd spot in the west. But first, they need to upgrade their pitching staff. Jon Gray and Jordan Lyles are the leaders of the sub-par rotation in Denver. And you can’t really have a rotation that isn’t great when you are playing 82 games a year in a ballpark in which the ball carries due to the thin air in the city. The bullpen is very nice, with new acquirees Mike Dunn and Greg Holland joining Jake McGee in Colorado. They don’t have a solid catcher, another weakness for their team. But it’s offense where the Rockies thrive. It’s a vital piece to their performance, especially because they play in a ballpark where the ball carries so much. Nolan Arenado, Ian Desmond, Trevor Story, and DJ LeMahieu are all very good hitters. They also have franchise player Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon in the outfield. This team could possibly have a breakout year and make the playoffs.
#2- San Francisco Giants
A very deep team, the Giants will make the playoffs, I predict, as a Wild Card team for the second straight year. Madison Bumgarner will lead the rotation for the Giants, while Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Moore follow him in the rotation, making it very solid. The bullpen could be better, but the Giants scored Mark Melancon to close down games at McCovey Cove. Fastballer Hunter Strickland will now move into a 7th-8th inning role for the Giants. Buster Posey will, obviously, be a very solid offensive piece for the Giants. Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Joe Panik will provide solid defense and offense for the Giants this year, and the outfield consisting of names like Denard Span and Hunter Pence still shines. The Giants are a good team, but I do believe that they are not the elite team they seem to have every “even” year in San Fran.
#1- Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are almost a lock for the first spot in the west. They have an amazing rotation, led by Clayton Kershaw but featuring other names like Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Julio Urias. The Dodgers signed Kenley Jansen back to keep their bullpen stacked, with Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia getting bullpen innings this season. On offense, the Dodgers have reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager, now in his sophomore campaign. Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner, like always, will be threats at the plate. Chase Utley is back for another year, closing out a very impressive infield. In the outfield, the Dodgers lost A.J. Reddick, but still have Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier, and Trayce Thompson (the brother of Klay Thompson of the NBA’s Warriors). It’s pretty much certain that the Dodgers will win the division with the lineup they have, even possibly a World Series.
#5- Chicago White Sox
In two of the blockbuster trades we saw this offseason, the White Sox traded stars Chris Sale and Adam Eaton away from the South Side. Who did they get back? Prospects, prospects, and more prospects. Did I mention prospects? I really would be surprised if the Charlotte Knights (AAA) don’t win the Governor’s Cup this year. James Shields will lead the dismantled Sox in the rotation, then Jose Quintana, likely followed by Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who were acquired from the Nats in the Eaton deal. Derek Holland might also score a rotation spot. Jake Petricka and David Robertson are the leaders of the White Sox’ bullpen this year. Omar Narvaez will be the White Sox starting catcher. The infield will be fine, as the South Siders did keep a few key pieces like Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier. Yoan Moncada, acquired for Sale, will make a huge impact in his first full season after riding the bench in Boston when he wasn’t in Pawtucket. Melky Cabrera is the only household name in the White Sox’ outfield, not a good sign. They will not do very good on the field, thus they should start scouting for next year’s draft.
#4- Minnesota Twins
Oh God, the Twins were awful last year. But with the departures of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton from the rival White Sox, the Twins won’t be as terrible as they were last year, and, I predict, will slide into the #4 spot in the AL Central. Hector Santiago, Ervin Santana, and Phil Hughes headline a sub-par rotation, but they have up-and-coming stars like Alex Meyer, Kyle Gibson, and Trevor May. The Twins actually have the second most underrated reliever in the Bigs (behind Jake McGee of COL) in Glen Perkins, who is a perennial All-Star in the Twin Cities. Other than Perkins, the Twins don’t have such an exciting bullpen. Matt Belisle will be an important piece to the Twins’ bullpen this year. Jason Castro, acquired in free agency after a long tenure with the Astros, will join the Twins at catcher, being backed up by former Yankee John Ryan Murphy. The infield for Minnesota isn’t that bad, with former star Joe Mauer leading the way at first base, Brian Dozier at second, and up-and-coming power hitter Miguel Sano at third. Kennys Vargas will take the shortstop position come Opening Day. Byron Buxton, once dubbed the best prospect in all of baseball, will likely split his time between Minneapolis and Rochester of AAA. Max Kepler is a very good outfield piece for the Twins to have, and should light up pitchers like last year.
#3- Kansas City Royals
Were the Royals pretenders during their two consecutive World Series runs in 2014 and 2015? It sure looked like that last year. The Royals don’t have a true pitching star after losing Johnny Cueto to San Francisco in free agency last year. But Chris Young, Jason Hammel, and Danny Duffy create a passable rotation. The bullpen, like many ones in the AL Central, has an underrated reliever in Kelvin Herrera. The fireballer should have another great year for the Royals. Joakim Soria is another nice option for the Royals. Catching-wise, the Royals have Salvador Perez, who should create offense for KC this year. Eric Hosmer is always a threat offensively, and coming off a World Series and an All-Star Game MVP, he should be a huge force for the Royals this year. Alcides Escobar is always a speed demon. Speaking of speed, Terrence Gore and Lorenzo Cain create a filthy defense in the Royals’ outfield. I should also mention that they also have Billy Burns, who was drafted by the Nats and got an elusive “80” rating from Nats scouts for pure speed. They also have Alex Gordon, and his stellar defense will be great for Kansas City. But unluckily for them, the young Tigers and Indians are going to be better teams than the Royals this season.
#2- Detroit Tigers
It would be very, very hard for a team like Detroit to dethrone the reigning Indians as champs of the AL Central. However, Detroit, like many other AL Central teams, has a very underrated roster. Obviously, they signed Jordan Zimmermann before the 2016 season, who bolsters their rotation alongside Anibal Sanchez. Two young studs, Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, make the rotation above average. Oh, and you can’t forget former Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander, who made a great comeback last year after a below-average 2015. K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez) is the main piece in the bullpen, which is not very strong compared to rivals in Minnesota or Kansas City. Alex Avila will suit up for another year backstopping the Tigers, backed up by James McCann. Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and Jose Iglesias are the main pieces to a solid infield for the Tigers. Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez make up the main part of the team’s outfield. I really like the Tigers’ team, but with the Blue Jays, Rangers, and Orioles also competing for a Wild Card position, I believe that the Tigers will barely miss out on a playoff spot.
#1- Cleveland Indians
The Indians showed incredible resilience in Game 7 of the World Series (obviously which they ended up losing in 10 innings), and are poised to get the title to Believeland this year. Corey Kluber is probably the best pitcher in all of the AL Central, which gives the Indians a giant boost in divisional play. Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer will also put up quality starts this year, only if Bauer doesn’t fly his drone excessively. Andrew Miller will be a lockdown reliever for the Tribe this year, something that will be vital to their success. Roberto Perez, who made a name for himself last year in the playoff run, will start behind the plate. The infield is very good, with Jason Kipnis at second, Francisco Lindor at shortstop, and Jose Ramirez at third. Edwin Encarnacion will take over duties at first base after being signed by Cleveland, making their championship chances even higher. Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall bolster the outfield, with up-and-coming center fielder Tyler Naquin also a threat. They also have Carlos Santana at the DH position. They are a great team that has a chance to win this year.
National League Central
#5- Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers team that GM David Stearns has put together isn’t looking so spectacular this season. Jimmy Nelson and Junior Guerra lead the rotation, one that doesn’t look great. The bullpen will consist of Neftali Feliz, and well, nothing really else. Andrew Susac is the starting catcher for the Brew Crew, and he will provide some extra offense as well. Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Villar are the captains of the infield. Their offensive ability will help out the Brewers a lot. Ryan Braun and Keon Broxton are the main pieces in the outfield. I don’t see the Brewers making any noise in the NL Central.
#4- Cincinnati Reds
The Reds will join the Brewers in the cellar of the Central. Tony Cingrani, Scott Feldman, and Drew Storen make up a fine bullpen in the Queen City. Devin Mesoraco will start behind the plate this year for the Reds, after missing a year due to injury. Joey Votto, Zack Cozart, and Jose Peraza make up a solid infield, with Votto leading the way. The Reds’ strength is in the outfield, where Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall are the main pieces. Obviously, the Reds aren’t going to win the World Series, but I like the direction this team is going in for the future.
#3- Pittsburgh Pirates
As a die-hard Washington Capitals hockey fan, I just love talking about how I think a team from the city of Pittsburgh isn’t going to make the playoffs. To be honest, the Pirates actually aren’t terrible, but the Cardinals and Cubs are much, much better than the Bucs. Gerrit Cole is the captain of the rotation and consensus best player in Pittsburgh. He is followed by up-and-coming prospects like Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, and Felipe Rivero make the bullpen one that is above average. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart make for a great tandem behind the plate. The infield is pretty good as well, with Josh Harrison and young talent Josh Bell leading the way. The Pirates also have John Jaso to play 1st base and Jordy Mercer at shortstop. The outfield is obviously the team’s strength, with perennial all-star Andrew McCutchen and young guns Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco patrolling the outfield at PNC Park. The Pirates have a really good team, but they play in one of the best divisions in all of baseball, and I don’t think that they’ll make the playoffs this season.
#2- St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinal seem to always play good baseball. So it’s no surprise that the Redbirds will be vigorously competing for a playoff spot this season. Carlos Martinez is the ace in St. Louis, with Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright following him on the mound. Coming out of the bullpen is Kevin Siegrist, Trevor Rosenthal, and Seung Hwan Oh. The catcher position is filled up by one of the best backstops in baseball, Yadier Molina. The infield is also really good, with slugger Matt Adams, above-average hitter Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, and up-and-coming Aledmys Diaz. The outfield is just that much better this year, with the free agent acquisition of Dexter Fowler. Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty take up the other two outfield spots. But I think that the Cubs, coming off a World Series championship, are going to be so much better than the Cardinals this year. This is a great baseball rivalry to watch.
#1- Chicago Cubs
How do you not pick last year’s World Series Champions to win the Division this year? The Cubs, even after losing Dexter Fowler, are still going to be one of the league’s best teams. They have four elite starters in John Lester, John Lackey, Kyle Hendricks, and Jake Arrieta. They picked up Wade Davis in free agency, and he will be joined by Carl Edwards, Jr. and Mike Montgomery in the bullpen for Chicago. Willson Contreras, who made a name for himself last year, will most likely have the starting catching role come Opening Day, and he will be backed up by Miguel Montero. The Cubs have a scary infield. On the corners, they’ve got two MVP candidates in Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. The middle infield is made up of two all-stars, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist. The power-hitting (and might I add, young) infield is the reason the Cubbies will go far this year. And even though they lost Fowler to St. Louis, the Cubs still have Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, and Albert Almora in the outfield. They might be the best team in the league, so it’s a consensus choice to say they’ll win the Central.
American League East
#5- New York Yankees
You may want to forget what I said about the NL Central being the best division in the MLB, when it comes to the AL East. The Yankees are America’s spenders, one of the bandwagon teams in the league. You would think that would mean that they have a ton of really good players. But they really don’t. The Yankee team that GM Brian Cashman has put together doesn’t have enough experience to win the Divison. Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia make up a very solid rotation. In the bullpen, arguably one of the best in the league, the Yanks have Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman leading the way. After a campaign where he finished second in AL ROY voting, Gary Sanchez looks to come back better than ever. The infield is below average, with Chris Carter, Chase Headley, Tyler Austin, and Didi Gregorius most likely starting. The outfield is pretty nice, though, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Aaron Judge. After years of being the league’s oldest team, the Yanks are now one of the youngest. That doesn’t fare well, because they don’t have much experience. The Yankees will fall to the cellar of the AL East this year, I predict.
#4- Tampa Bay Rays
After a, well, disappointing, 2016 season, the Rays have put together a nice team. Chris Archer, the team’s ace, pitched poorly last year. I expect Archer to rebound very nicely this season for the Rays. Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell are two young starters who should make an impact in St. Pete. The bullpen isn’t great, with Shawn Tolleson likely closing down games for the Rays. They scored at catcher, by signing Wilson Ramos in free agency from the Nats. This will add some much needed offense to the Rays team. The infield isn’t terrible, either. They’ve got Evan Longoria, the franchise player, Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, and Matt Duffy. The outfield actually is pretty good, with Kevin Kiermaier, Corey Dickerson, Nick Franklin, Steven Souza, Mallex Smith, and Colby Rasmus all competing for a job on Opening Day. The Rays team played horribly last season, but they could end up as surprise contenders in 2017.
#3- Toronto Blue Jays
The loss of Edwin Encarnacion is going to hurt the Blue Jays so hard that they will fall down a division spot to third, even with the powerhouse roster they still do have. Marcus Stroman is the Jays’ ace, with Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada also giving Toronto some quality starts. The bullpen is average, with J.P. Howell and Joe Smith as the two main relievers, and Jason Grilli closing for the Jays. Russell Martin will again suit up in Toronto as the catcher, giving Toronto strength behind the plate. The infield is pretty darn awesome, with Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki on the left side, and Ryan Goins and Steve Pearce on the right side. Jose Bautista, Melvin Upton, Kevin Pillar, and Dalton Pompey all are competing for a roster spot, four really solid outfielders. The Jays are just so unlucky to lose a power hitter like Edwin Encarnacion.
#2- Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are one of baseball’s most underrated teams. They are very, very good all-around and should definitely make some noise in the AL East. The pitching staff is very good, led by Chris Tillman in the rotation. Wade Miley and Mike Wright follow him in Birdland. The bullpen is one of the best in all of baseball, headlined by Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, and Zach Britton. I am interested to see how Zach Britton performs this year as one of the best closers in all of the game. The O’s bullpen also has Mychal Givens, who I think is going to have a very nice season. Behind the plate, the O’s sport Chris Joseph, the homegrown talent. Expect him to light it up as longtime starter Matt Wieters is now gone. The infield, like last year, will produce a ton of home runs. Chris Davis and Manny Machado are the two main pieces of the Orioles’ infield. J.J. Hardy has been the shortstop for about forever, and the platoon of Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty will be successful again. Adam Jones leads the outfield that also includes last year’s home run leader, Mark Trumbo, and Korean slugger Hyun-Soo Kim. This is a very solid Orioles team, but the Red Sox are going to be scary good this year.
#1- Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are a consensus pick for first in the AL East. They are just so good all around, that I don’t think they can be upset by Baltimore or Toronto. It starts at the pitching staff. Yes, the same pitching staff that had David Price AND AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello has somehow gotten better this year. Joining Price and Porcello this year is Chris Sale, acquired from Chicago this offseason for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Steven Wright, a knuckleballer, has put up consistent numbers through his first few MLB seasons. The bullpen will likely be led by Drew Pomeranz, who is a good two-way pitcher and could possibly end up in the rotation. Craig Kimbrel will definitely be the closer, one of the best fireballers in the league. The Red Sox’ weakness is at catcher, where big time bust Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon will be platooning. Xander Bogaerts is one of the best shortstops in the entire league, which is a huge plus for the Red Sox. Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia will excite Red Sox fans again this year. The outfield is young and exciting, with Jackie Bradley, Andrew Benintendi, and one of the best in the league, Mookie Betts. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Sox have a deep run this year, possibly to the World Series.
National League East
#5- Philadelphia Phillies
Remember way back to 2012, when the Nats literally had to have a specially branded weekend to get fans to watch the Nats play the Phils at what was then nicknamed “Citizens Bank Park South”? Ha, they probably would have to do that at CBP nowadays. The Phillies are, well, no good at all. Jeremy Hellickson is the team’s ace. That shows how far the Phillies have fallen. Aaron Nola and Adam Morgan (not the neighborhood in DC) are the other starters who should be putting up semi-good numbers for the Phillies. The Phillies have some promising players, but it will be a while before they shine. The 2008 Phillies are now a long and distant memory.
#4- Atlanta Braves
The Braves had a rough time last year. But this year, even after improving the pitching staff, they will fall to fourth in the east. Joining Julio Teheran in the Braves’ rotation is R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon, giving the Braves veteran help. Matt Wisler and Jaime Garcia are also good starters for the Braves. The bullpen is extremely unexciting, with Ian Krol and Jim Johnson leading the way at the brand new SunTrust Park. Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers should make for a nice tandem behind the plate. The infield looks decent, with Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Jace Peterson, and new acquisition Brandon Phillips leading the way. They literally have only three outfielders on the depth chart (Inciarte, Kemp and Markakis), but lucky for them, they’re all pretty good. The Braves are going to be better, but they aren’t great at all.
#3- Miami Marlins
I honestly don’t want to put the Marlins here because they have the talent to be a first-place team. All they need is a star pitcher, and I feel terrible saying that. They lost Jose Fernandez in the worst way possible, as he passed away in a boating accident during last season. They do, however, have three solid starters, Wei-Yin Chen, Edinson Volquez, and Tom Koehler. The bullpen is anchored by one of the most underrated closers in all of baseball, A.J. Ramos. They also signed Brad Ziegler for the bullpen. J.T. Realmuto is the catcher, and he is pretty good defensively, protecting the fish behind the plate. The infield is full of talent. Dee Gordon is the best player, who I expect to have a crazy good season in the memory of Jose Fernandez. Justin Bour, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Martin Prado make up the rest of the very solid infield. The Marlins, like last year, have four outfielders competing for three spots. Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton are guaranteed spots. The Marlins, I believe, would be so much better with a less cavernous stadium and their ace back.
#2- Washington Nationals
You probably saw the “W” and immediately clicked out of this article. And I am super sorry. I just don’t think the Nats are going to be so spectacular this year, especially with the rotation the Mets sport. Max Scherzer is the ace of the Nationals rotation, and will contend for another Cy Young award. Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, and Joe Ross make up a very good rotation. The bullpen is the main reason why I believe that the Nats will fall to second in the NL East this year. In the past few years, the bullpen has come crashing down. Even with roles more clearly defined in the past few days, there’s still a lot to learn in the 2017 bullpen. The big question is can Blake Treinen close on a frequent basis? Another big question mark is how Matt Wieters will perform suiting up behind the plate for the first time inside the DC Beltway. I am excited to watch a full season of Trea Turner in a Nationals uniform and I expect big things from him. If the Nats don’t take home a consecutive NL East title, then lock them in for a Wild Card. I just don’t like the bullpen insecurity.
#1- New York Mets
This year, with a healthy rotation, it’s extremely hard to pick against the Mets this year. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Robert Gsellman make up a scary, scary rotation. Every night, no matter when you play the Mets, you will have to get past a very good starting pitcher. The bullpen doesn’t get any worse, unluckily for opponents. Jerry Blevins comes at you as the setup man, followed by none other than Jeurys Familia, the fireballing closer. Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki make up a really good catching tandem. With Duda, Reyes, and Wright in the infield, and Cespedes, Conforto, and Granderson in the outfield, this looks like a powerhouse team. As much as it pains me to say this, I think that the Mets will come out on top in the NL East this season.
REGULAR SEASON PLAYOFF PICTURE
AL East- Boston
AL Central- Cleveland
AL West- Houston
WC 1- Baltimore
WC 2- Texas
NL East- New York
NL Central- Chicago
NL West- Los Angeles
WC 1- Washington
WC 2- St. Louis
American League Wild Card Game
Baltimore Orioles vs. Texas Rangers
National League Wild Card Game
Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
American League Division Series
Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles AND Cleveland Indians vs. Houston Astros
WINNERS- BOSTON AND CLEVELAND
National League Division Series
Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals AND Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets
WINNERS- CHICAGO AND NEW YORK
American League Championship Series
Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians
National League Championship Series
Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets
CLEVELAND INDIANS VS. CHICAGO CUBS
WINNER- CLEVELAND IN 6
THE CLEVELAND INDIANS ARE YOUR 2017 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!!!!!
Say what you will about 2016. There were lots of historical events, some good and some bad. But as we end the year, it’s a time to exchange gifts and celebrate with family and friends.
If you happen to have friends or family members that enjoy the great sport of baseball (or really any sport!), than I just made your day. As an annual tradition, I am showcasing a few items that I think will make the best gifts for the baseball lovers you know. Check out my Gift Guides from 2015, 2014 and 2013 too because I still love the items I featured on them! (Note: MLB is migrating their website to Medium, so some of the pictures aren’t loading right now, but the links still work!)
So let’s take a look at these cool items for the 2016 holidays that will make perfect gifts.
Prinstant Replays are really cool posters and t-shirts of the “greatest plays in sports history.” They cover every major American sport, and would make a great piece of art to hang in a man cave or bedroom. They feature a diagram of the play, the score, and a quote from the announcer.
My favorite for Nationals fans is Jayson Werth’s 2012 NLDS Game 4 walk-off poster, it says on the top “It’s a game winning, season saving home run for Jayson Werth,” the famed words of Charlie Slowes.
Stay tuned to my Twitter for a chance to win a couple of these awesome prints. You can also buy them online at prinstantreplays.com, and at about $30, they are relatively inexpensive. And right now they have a buy one-get one free special. This would make a great gift for any sports fan you know.
Herndon, Virginia-based Mascot Books is a company that allows authors from around the world to submit ideas for books that range from cultural cookbooks to books about sports teams. The company publishes three really good books that feature baseball or the local team, the Washington Nationals.
The first one, Trolley Dodgers, Pinstriped Yankees, and Wearing Red Sox, is a very interesting pitcure book about how MLB teams got their names and some interesting facts about the city they play in. The best part about it is that it is for young kids.
Also for younger kids is a biography of 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper, called Glory Days Sports Biographies- Bryce Harper. It’s a picture history of Bryce, and his journey from the College of Southern Nevada to the Major League level. For Washington football fans, there’s also a Kirk Cousins book.
The third Nationals book I recommend is called Washington Nationals- A to Z and it is a history of the Nationals/Expos franchise featuring records, milestones, and important days. It’s for older readers.
Skinit makes cases and skins to customize your favorite electronic devices from your phone to your gaming system. They come in almost any design possible, from the MLB to the NCAA to Hello Kitty. Amazon.com lists over 200,000 different Skinits in every design for every device!
And even if your design is not on their website, you can customize one for yourself. I have a Nationals Skinit on my Playstation console and controller similar to this one (but mine is the Nationals’ alternate Stars and Stripes jersey in the picture to the left). You may be a little skeptical, but it’s actually very cool to see what your favorite devices look like after applying a Skinit to them. You can purchase these awesome cases and skins at skinit.com or on Amazon.com.
Ballpark Blueprints are basically exactly what the name says: a “blueprint” of every MLB, NFL, and most major NCAAF stadiums, and even some arenas, soccer stadiums, and classic stadiums, as well.
They make t-shirts and poster-size blueprints of the exterior and interior of the ballparks and stadiums. Click here to check out the whole selection and you will definitely find the one that’s right for you. (I happen to like these two   the best!).
For my Twitter followers, I have a giveaway! I have an adult size small t-shirt of Nationals Park that I am giving away to one lucky reader. But even if that lucky reader is not you, you can order one of these awesome shirts for any stadium at ballparkblueprints.com (where the selection is a little larger, including bags, calendars and coffee mugs) or order on Amazon.
Stance makes very cool socks and underwear that are officially licensed by the MLB and NBA. They have socks that represent every MLB team, and even some classic teams (like the Expos). You can even get some that pay tribute to MLB legends like Jackie Robinson or Nolan Ryan. If you can’t picture what I mean, take a look at a few examples by clicking on this link.
Take it from me- a kid around my age (12) would love a pair of Stance socks with their team colors. You can purchase Stance socks with team logos at stance.com or browse them in all different images and designs here.
Oyo’s minifigures and sets are back for 2016! The company, which makes little figures of sports players in the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NCAA along with vintage players, has updated their roster with Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner in the Nats’ festive third jerseys, and a limited edition Max Scherzer Cy Young minifigure.
They also make limited edition items for the World Champion Chicago Cubs and AL Champion Cleveland Indians, as well as limited editions for all of the MLB award winners, like Scherzer. Buy yours today for the stocking at store.oyosports.com, or get them here.
OK, this one is for all the real athletes! The Blast Motion Sensor is a sensor that you attach to the end of your baseball bat to track your swing and help you improve at hitting. This is a really neat tool. Using the Blast Motion sensor, you can see data about your swing speed, power, and swing direction so you can see the metrics of your swing. Think of it as Stat Cast in your bat!
All you have to do when you get the sensor is to charge it, pair it, attach it, and swing away. Whenever you hit the ball, it gives the statistics to an app that you can view after your hitting session is over. Learn more about the sensor at blastmotion.com or buy it now using this link (about $145 with free Prime shipping on Amazon). They also make a $120 sensor for golf (to track your swing) and also one for basketball to track your shots, layups and dunks.
In 2009, a guy chopping wood in upstate New York swung his axe. To him, it felt like swinging a baseball bat. He went to a sports manufacturer and they liked his idea. This gave birth to the Axe Bat, a baseball bat with a handle shaped like what you would find on, well, an axe. It’s become popular with many MLB players, such as Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia. They’re now made for hitters for all leagues, including youth and softball. Bats range from $300 for the 2017 HyperWhip Fusion model at the highest, to about $80 at the low end for youth size. A good middle of the road bat I like is the Element model. To view all of the bats, go to axebat.com.
SKLZ is renowned around the sports world as a maker of great training equipment. The company makes equipment for soccer, football, basketball, golf, softball, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, tennis, and volleyball as well as baseball. As they say, you need more than a bat to improve your game. That’s why I’m recommending their batting trainer, for about $150.
Online or in your favorite sports store, you will find all kinds of SKLZ baseball training equipment, including nets, contact baseballs, tees, and swing trainers.
Finally, in the Under-$50 category is the Super Stadium table-top baseball game. It’s kind of an old fashioned pinball type game, but that’s what makes it a fun alternative to electronic games played on tablets and video game systems.
This will keep smaller kids entertained, and even bigger kids too. The metal balls are surprisingly hard to hit with the lever. I had fun playing it with my brother. It was fun to actually interact with each other over the game.
I hope you have a phenomenal holiday season. For Nationals fans, let’s send our wishes to Mike Rizzo, as we would all love if he made a splash for a Christmas miracle like Daniel Murphy last year. And for all other baseball fans, I hope you have a good winter offseason and that Spring Training comes quickly! Happy holidays to all my readers!
I hope you like my 2016 Gift Guide. Remember to also check out my Gift Guides from 2015, 2014 and 2013 for other great recommendations. Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter which items you like best!
On Thursday, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Donald Trump weren’t the only guests at the White House. MattsBats.com was there, covering the ceremony by President Obama and Vice President Biden honoring the 2016 NBA Finals Champion Cavaliers. Although my knowledge of basketball is almost as little as Buck Showalter’s knowledge on how to use Zach Britton in a high stakes playoff game, it was still fun to watch the President honor a team for possibly the last time. But in the middle of this, something odd happened- I was sort of detained by the Secret Service.
Those five words put together might imply that I tried to hurt the President or Vice President. Nope. Here’s what happened.
It was a very busy day at the White House. President-Elect Donald Trump, Vice President-Election Mike Pence, and Future First Lady Melania Trump were visiting. There were A LOT of members of the press on site. It was pretty chaotic.
We had just finished setting up for the Cavaliers event. A White House staffer called for the media to leave the South Lawn and go back to the press briefing room and I followed the group back into the White House. As I walked back into the White House, a Secret Service officer with a rifle was watching the press walking by. He noticed that I didn’t have a press pass around my neck (when I checked in earlier I didn’t receive any credentials). The secret service officer yelled out to me “HEY WHERE’S YOUR PRESS PASS?” and he called me over. I (nervously) tried to explain how the security officer at the gate didn’t give me a pass and that my chaperone was still setting up equipment on the lawn. He didn’t buy my story and he escorted me to another area of the room.
I stood in the hallway of the White House, nervously trying to figure out how I was going to get out of this situation without getting in major trouble. I wanted to text my chaperone to get help but I was scared to make any sudden moves. It was the scariest moment of my entire life.
As I waited for more information, somebody famous walked out of another doorway and stood in the hallway next to us. I didn’t know who it was, but I could tell he was important because he was wearing a suit (with an American flag pin on his lapel) and he was followed by an entourage. I later figured out it was Ohio Governor and former Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich, who was also there for the Cleveland Cavs ceremony.
But there I was, in the hallway of the White House, trying to get back to the Cavs ceremony. After a few minutes another White House staffer saw me standing there, with a nervous expression on my face. Thankfully, this guy, a member of the White House Press Office, recognized me and vouched for me that I was supposed to be there. I was soon released and reunited with my friend.
The funny part is that this whole incident only lasted 5–10 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime.
So one day in the future when I’m talking to my grandchildren about what I did in my childhood, I can tell them that I was once detained by a Secret Service agent. Fun day!