Every year a few Major League Baseball teams never cease to amaze me.
I’m not talking about clubs that are filled with stars on their rosters or even automatic playoff contenders. The thing I love most about baseball is the small market teams that somehow make noise at the beginning of every year. Some fans will call them “Cinderella Stories.” Some analysts will break them down as contenders or pretenders — not understanding the real story behind their rises to the top.
A perfect example of this type of team with more believers on it than star athletes that a lot of people would know was the Oakland Athletics of the early 2000s. However, even those clubs, which had extremely low payrolls, still had big bats and names that made them competitive.
When I look at this year’s group of teams that might fit into that category, three stick out like sore thumbs and are right in the mix to win their respective divisions. We often write these sorts of teams off and don’t believe in them down the stretch, but hey, they sure make the game exciting. So here’s a look at three clubs that are in second place and leaving baseball fans scratching their heads:
For the second year in a row, the Tribe is earning pre All-Star Game hype and should perhaps challenge the Chicago Whitesox for an AL Central crown if all goes well. Last season Cleveland flopped after starting the 2011 campaign with a stellar 30-15 record in its first 45 games. Injuries ended up throwing the Indians out of contention, but now they have came roaring back. And when any fan examines the roster, the first question they would have to ask is, ‘how?’ (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
The Couch Side gang of Wade McMillin, Craig Paul and Andy Paul, bring you the second edition of Couch Side’s NFL Mock Draft. Our hosts break down the rest of the first round (picks 11 through 32) to conclude Couch Side’s official NFL Mock Draft. The trio also discusses Bubba Watson’s win at the Masters. Click below to begin streaming or downloading the Couch Side Podcast, which is also now on KNWT 89.1 FM across the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.
If you could like to listen to Couch Side’s top 10 picks, check out the following links for the 10th episode of Couch Side:
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
In this week’s episode, hosts Wade McMillin and Craig Paul welcome back NFL draft guru, Andy Paul, to break down the top 10 picks in Couch Side’s official mock draft. The gang also discusses Kentucky’s national championship victory; Ubaldo Jimenez getting revenge on his former team; the inductees to the basketball hall of fame; and Ryan Leaf getting busted in Montana for the second time in three days. Click below to download or stream another Couch Side podcast …
With the second basemen out of the way, its time to continue moving around the infield, this time stopping at the other middle infield position — shortstop. Here is writer Brett Murdock has to say about the position that is quickly turning into a hot commodity.
Hard to argue with this one, as the Colorado Rockies star is probably the most complete at his position in the big leagues. A powerful offensive weapon, ‘Tulo’ hit .302 last season with 30 long balls and 105 runs batted in, a new career high. For the past three years, he has finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting, finishing fifth twice (2009 and 2010) and has cut down on his strikeout totals tremendously. Injuries have hampered him as he has never played a full 162 games, but nobody really does anymore anyway. Additionally, Tulowitzki is a back-to-back Gold Glove winner and should be a strong MVP candidate again this year.
The Miami Marlins big free agent splash this winter came in the form of the Dominican speedster. Reyes won the National League batting crown last year, topping off at .337 for the season, a full 45 points better than his career average. Never known as a power hitter, Reyes relies on his other weapons, mainly his speed to get by. Injuries have stalled him in recent years but when healthy, he is one of the best base runners in the game. His fielding percentage is lower than what some might expect and his 18 errors last season tied a career high. But, he is a team’s offensive ignition and should be a good fit for the Marlins in a competitive NL East.
In part two of Couch Side’s 12 part series on the best position player going into 2012, I’ll examine the MLB’s top backstops. A couple of catchers on my top five missed a big chunk of the 2011 season because of injury, but they’re both still considered two of the best in the game.
Here’s a closer look at the best from behind the dish in 2012:
It’s weird to think a 30-year-old wouldn’t reach his prime until his career was almost halfway over, but it appears that’s the exact case for Mike Napoli. The six-year veteran set career highs in home runs, RBIs and batting average last season for the Texas Rangers and he played a key factor to their American League Championship run. The most impressive of Napoli’s personal highs last year had to have been how he hit for average. Don’t get me wrong, his power numbers were very impressive, but before last season, Napoli never hit higher that .273. In 2011, the Florida native hit an amazing .320. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Napoli yet and that’s saying a lot. It will be tough for him to make a repeat performance after an incredible 2011 season, but now that the Rangers are contenders, he’ll play with that bad taste of losing a World Series lingering in his mouth.