The 2015 MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Ohio will be coming up faster than we know it and the persuasion from all 30 ball clubs is in full swing to get their players into the honorable game. Not all of the votes submitted at the ballpark, as well as online, will get their favorite players in the game. Some players deserve the honor to start in the All-Star Game more than others and here is how I would vote for each league, as of right now.


 

American League

Catcher – Stephen Vogt – Oakland – The 30-year old catcher from Visalia, CA has been on a tear this season for the Athletics. Currently batting .313 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs, he is visibly the best catcher in the American League so far. Vogt is has a slugging percentage of .595, which also ranks him as first among catchers in the AL.

Other Catchers to look for: Salvador Perez (KC), James McCann (DET), Russell Martin (TOR)

1st Base – Miguel Cabrera – Detroit – Is it really a surprise he is the best first basemen in the American League and arguably the entire MLB?? Not at all. Cabrera currently has a batting average of .341 while hitting 11 home runs and 32 RBI. Having an on-base percentage of .442 and a slugging percentage of .605 earns Miggy my vote into the All-Star Game.

Other 1st Basemen to look for: Mark Teixeira (NYY), Prince Fielder (TEX), Jose Abreu (CWS)

2nd Base – Jose Altuve – Houston – The pesky 5’6″, 165 lb. second baseman has earned my vote for starting 2nd basemen in the All-Star Game for the American League due to his knack of stealing bases. After swiping 56 bases in 65 attempts last season, he already has 15 steals in 20 attempts in 46 games. Not to mention, he also has a batting average of .296 and an on-base percentage of .345. Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis does have better batting numbers, but the speed of Altuve gives him a very slight edge.

Other 2nd Basemen to look for: Jason Kipnis (CLE), Logan Forsythe (TB), Dustin Pedroia (BOS)

3rd Base – Josh Donaldson – Toronto – After the very surprising trade that sent Brett Lawrie to Oakland for Josh Donaldson, he has acclimated to the hitter friendly Rogers Centre, quite nicely. Hitting 13 home runs, while driving in 35 and having a .314 batting average is quite good. 26 of Donaldson’s 59 hits so far have either been doubles or triples, which gives his slugging percentage (.590) quite a boost over other players who man the hot corner.

Other 3rd Basemen to look for: Mike Moustakas (KC), Kyle Seager (SEA), Manny Machado (BAL)

Shortstop – Marcus Semien – Oakland – The 24-year old shortstop by way of San Francisco, CA and University of California has been a very nice addition to the Athletics offense after they traded Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox on December 9th. Having played 85 games prior to this season, he is already at 48. Semien is also hitting the ball exceptionally, with a .283 average while having 17 extra base hits. Not to mention, he is also 7-for-8 in stealing attempts. An on-base percentage of .330 and a slugging of .449 is another nice statistic to add to his resume.

Other Shortstops to look for: Jose Iglesias (DET), Erick Aybar (LAA), Xander Bogaerts (BOS)

1st Outfield – Nelson Cruz – Seattle – After earning the home run title last season with 40 while playing for Baltimore, nothing has changed for Nelson Cruz in Seattle. Unlike Robinson Cano, he has been hitting the ball exceptionally well at SAFECO Field. Batting .341 with 18 home runs and 38 RBI, he is a no-doubt vote for the All-Star Game. The strikeout numbers could be reduced a tad, but other than that negative, everything else about the play by Cruz have been beyond expected.

2nd Outfield – Mike Trout – Los Angeles – After making it the previous three All-Star Games, he should get a nod for his fourth consecutive. The reigning American League MVP from last season, his statistics show that he should yet again win a vote to go to represent the Angels in Cincinnati. Batting .292 with 11 home runs and driving in 25 runs, may seem low for Trout, but is actually high compared to some outfielders in the AL. 8 stolen bases bolster his reason for his vote.

3rd Outfield – Michael Brantley – Cleveland – Even though the Indians started the season off very slow, Michael Brantley was the opposite. He heated up very quickly and hasn’t stopped. Brantley has ripped 17 doubles and 4 home runs in his 39 appearances for the Tribe. With a slugging percentage of .507 and an on-base percentage of .394, he seems to be one of the best outfielders in the AL right now.

Other Outfielders to look for: Yoenis Cespedes (DET), Josh Reddick (OAK), Brett Gardner (NYY)

Designated Hitter – Alex Rodriguez – New York – As much as I am not a fan of steroid use in baseball, I do need to give A-Rod the props he deserves on the season he is currently having. The 39-year old, after being suspended all of last season due to his alleged steroid usage, hasn’t haunted him at all. Currently playing 44 games for the Bronx Bombers this season, he currently has 11 homers and 26 RBI (which both surpass as much as he had in 2013, when he played the same amount of games for the entire season). Having a slugging percentage of .566 and an on-base percentage of .374 is what you like to see out of a designated hitter.

Other Designated Hitters to look for: Jimmy Paredes (BAL), Kendrys Morales (KC)


National League

Catcher – Nick Hundley – Colorado – The hitters ballpark of Coors Field in Denver has become a dream for Hundley. After spending last season in both San Diego and Baltimore, the thin air in Colorado has been a friend. Currently hitting .317 with 6 doubles (one less than all of last year combined), a triple (first since 2012), and 5 home runs, he has been putting up almost career-high numbers at not even the half way marker. A slugging percentage of .504 is also another nice factor.

Other Catchers to look for: Buster Posey (SF), Miguel Montero (CHC), Francisco Cervelli (PIT)

1st Base – Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona – After the way Adrian Gonzalez started the season off for the Los Angeles Dodgers he appeared to be the front-runner for starting first basemen in the All-Star Game, but that ship as soon sailed. Goldschmidt currently holds a .331 batting average, compared to Gonzalez’s .344, but Goldschmidt gets on base a little more than Gonzalez. Even though Goldschmidt does strikeout far more than Gonzalez, he does have the ability to swipe bases, while the Dodgers’ first basemen doesn’t. It’s a tight race for the starting position for the National League, but the 27-year old from Wilmington, Delaware, has the slight advantage.

Other 1st Basemen to look for: Adrian Gonzalez (LAD), Anthony Rizzo (CHC), Lucas Duda (NYM)

2nd Base – Dee Gordon – Miami – The speedy son of former pitcher Tom Gordon, Dee Gordon, has been an arguable candidate for National League MVP already. Even though he has no power at the plate, his ability to hit the ball into gaps is impeccable. Gordon currently batting .376 (73-for-194) with 10 doubles and 2 triples is quite an eye-opener. Not to mention, Gordon already leads the MLB in stolen bases with 19 (in 26 attempts).  There really is no other competition with Gordon to this point for the starting spot for the home team in the All-Star Game.

Other 2nd Basemen to look for: Kolten Wong (STL), D.J. LeMahieu (COL), Howard Kendrick (LAD)

3rd Base – Todd Frazier – Cincinnati – For being 6’3″ and 220 lbs, he can field the ball exquisitely. Currently batting .260 and hitting 14 home runs and driving in 28 runs is impressive for the clean-up hitter for the Reds. His slugging percentage of .568 and his OPS of .922 are two other notable statistics for the 29-year old from Point Pleasant, NJ. Making diving snags and throwing players out with ease is also another positive trait for Frazier. The only player that may have given Frazier some argument if he was with his team for the entire season would have been Kris Bryant.

Other 3rd Basemen to look for: Nolan Arenado (CHC), Kris Bryant (CHC), Matt Carpenter (STL)

Shortstop – Jhonny Peralta – St. Louis – Peralta who has played in two All-Star Games already, both representing Detroit (2011 & 2013), may earn his third trip to the prestigious halfway marker to the MLB season. While batting .308 so far this season in 45 games, he has added 20 extra-base hits out of his 53 total hits. A slugging percentage of .506 and an on-base percentage of .370 add to his reasoning for voting. Not to mention, his fielding skills at shortstop are quite amazing, to say the least.

Other Shortstops to look for: Brandon Crawford (SF), Adeiny Hechavarria (MIA), Jean Segura (MIL)

1st Outfield – Bryce Harper – Washington – No player has been as noted for his play this season as much as Bryce Harper. The 22-year old left-handed hitting phenom from Las Vegas, Nevada, has been proving to entire baseball brotherhood that this is the player we were anticipating. Almost reaching his career high in home runs that he achieved in his rookie season, 22, he has been hitting the snot out of the ball. A batting average of .331, while having a slugging percentage of .734 is beyond amazing. Along with his bat, his arm, which has made 4 assists this season, needs to showed off in Cincinnati on July 14.

2nd Outfield – Joc Pederson – Los Angeles – The center fielder for the Dodgers has made a very good name for himself as he has hit .257 this season in 45 games. Despite striking out 54 times, he has drawn 35 walks (4 intentional walks). His fielding has also been a very good factor for the Dodger defense, as he has only 1 error in 84 chances (.988 fielding percentage). He has also added 3 assists from the outfield, including one assist leading toward a double-play.

3rd Outfield – Charlie Blackmon – Colorado – The long-bearded left-handed hitting 28-year old outfielder from Dallas, Texas, Charlie Blackmon has been a crucial piece to the puzzle for the Rockies this season. Blackmon currently hits .262 with 7 home runs, while adding 6 doubles, and two triples, the speedy Blackmon also adds great depth in the fielding aspect. Blackmon, who primarily plays center field, has had 107 fielding opportunities while only allowing 2 errors (.981 fielding percentage). Blackmon has also added 6 assists from the field, (5 from center field), and has been involved in two double-plays.

Other Outfielders to look for: There are too many to name from the National League, but if I could name three, they would be: Giancarlo Stanton (MIA), Nori Aoki (SF), A.J. Pollock (ARI)


Do you agree with these selections for both leagues? Have any comments or concerns? Tweet at me to let me know!

@mhaim1934

The Mid-Summer Classic is something fans across Major League Baseball eagerly await every season. It’s an incredibly fun exposition of the League’s most elite talent and even holds a stake in the Fall Classic as it decides which League will have home field advantage. This year’s addition will be the 86th in MLB history, and from those, here are the 5 moments that stand out the most (according to yours truly of course).

#5: 15 inning marathon in the Bronx (2008)

The 2008 MLB season saw Baseball wave goodbye to Old Yankee Stadium, and the final All-Star game in the House That Babe Built was truly memorable. A 4:50 duration made it the longest in MLB history in terms of time and its 15 innings tied it for longest in that regard. The AL triumphed over the NL in the bottom of the 15th 4-3 thanks to a Michael Young sacrifice fly. Boston’s JD Drew was named MVP for his 2-run shot in the 7th which tied it and helped set-up the iron-man match. The marathon contest and its memorable pre-game ceremony with the MLB’s All-Time greats helped make this Mid-Summer Classic one of the greatest ever.

#4: Stalemate at Miller Park (2002)

Yes, this moment is not memorable in the positive sense, but nonetheless it still makes the list because no one will ever forget the controversial end to the 2002 game in Milwaukee. Knotted at 7 in the bottom of the 11th inning, Commissioner Bud Selig and Managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly met and decided to call the game a draw if the NL couldn’t walk-off in the inning, seeing as both Leagues had only one pitcher remaining. The NL came close but could not get it done against Seattle’s Freddy Garcia and the game ended in a 7-7 tie. The reaction from the Milwaukee crowd was extremely negative as the fans rained down boos and chants of “let them play” throughout the final half-inning. No MVP was named and the field was littered with garbage thrown from the stands. Selig and the MLB garnered intense heat as a result and the game goes down as one of the worst ever played. But, everyone remembers it well.

#3: Pedro puts on a show (1999)

The last All-Star game of the 20th century was played at Fenway Park in Boston. The introduction of the All-Century team before the game and the emotional return of Ted Williams to Fenway gave the game a big time feel. AL starter and home town representative Pedro Martinez was in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in MLB history at the time, and he took the mound and dazzled the 34,187 in attendance. Ks of 5 of the first 6 batters (the one that reached was later caught stealing by Ivan Rodriguez) got Fenway buzzing in a way it hadn’t in a long time. The AL edged the NL 4-1 and Martinez was named MVP in the third of 13 straight victories for the AL. Fans around the MLB have praised the game and it stands out as one of the best ever in many aspects, partly in thanks to Pedro.

#2: Farewell, Captain (2014)

The 2014 Mid-Summer Classic in Minnesota was the 14th and final for Derek Jeter, one of the most beloved and respected players in MLB history. Jeter was elected to start his final All-Star game, in which he had 2 hits and scored a run. When Alexi Ramirez replaced him at SS in the top of the 4th, the Captain of all of Baseball walked off the field by himself to a standing ovation from the 41,048 at Target Field that lasted a few minutes. Jeter simply responded the way he did throughout his entire career, with respect and class, tipping his hat to the crowd and saying thank you. Every player on the field and in both dugouts clapped for the Captain as he said goodbye to the fans. It was a bittersweet moment in the sense that Jeter would never be seen in a ASG again, but it will be a lasting image in the history of the game.

#1: Williams’ Walk-Off

In the 1941 All-Star Game at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Ted Williams stood in in the bottom of the 9th with two men on and the AL trailing by one, 5-4. He worked Pitcher Claude Passeau of the Cubs to a 2-1 count. The next pitch was a waist-high fast ball, and Williams would not disappoint, cracking it into the upper Right Field grandstand to give the AL a dramatic 7-5 win. The Splinter danced around the bases and crossed home plate with a smile from ear to ear as he shook hands with his friend and rival Joe DiMaggio. 74 years ago this summer was that hit and it hasn’t lost any of its significance or legacy in all that time. Williams is undoubtedly one of the best of all time and he had a list of accomplishments a foot long. But, he will always stand out for that moment especially; the most famous home run in All-Star Game history and the most memorable moment of any as well.

Agree? Disagree? What moments make your list? Tweet at me and let me know.

@Flat_Manigen74

The NBA has arrived at its Final Four. There is no real surprises here, The Hawks and Cavaliers were the number 1 seed and 2 seeds in the East and the Warriors and Rockets were the number 1 and 2 seeds in the West. On a side note, My New York Knicks are horrible. But… look how many former Knicks are playing in the East and West Finals:

J.R. Smith

Iman Shumpert

Timofey Mozgov

David Lee

Trevor Ariza

Pablo Prigioni

#1 Golden State Warriors vs #2 Houston Rockets

The Warriors finished off a rugged Memphis Grizzlies team in six games and the Rockets came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Clippers. The casual basketball fan (those who only watch during holidays or playoffs) will dub this series as the MVP (Stephen Curry) vs the runner up in the MVP race (James Harden).  This couldn’t be further from the truth. Curry has averaged 28.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the playoffs. Curry made 18 three’s in his last three games against Memphis. Harden had his best effort in Game 7 against the Clippers (31-7-8) and a playoff-high 18 free throw attempts. In Game 6 with the Rockets trailing 3 games to 2, Harden sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. The Rockets outscored the Clippers 40-15 with their best player not contributing. ESPN’s Colin Cowherd stole my line when he said, “When are the Warriors better without Curry or the Cavaliers better without LeBron James… NEVER!!!”

Normally, I would throw the regular season match ups out the window. But the Warriors dominated

Nov. 11: Warriors 98, Rockets 87

Dec. 10: Warriors 105, Rockets 93

Jan. 17: Warriors 131, Rockets 106

Jan. 21: Warriors 126, Rockets 113

The Rockets play the same up tempo game as the Warriors, but they just don’t play it as well. The one thing Golden State does that everyone overlooks is their ability to defend. Going into the last 2 weeks of the regular season, the Warriors were 40-0 in games where they didn’t allow 100 points. This team is known for its “Splash Brothers” but they can play great defense. The Rockets have regressed on defense. They’re allowing 106.8 points per 100 possessions, up from 100.5 during the regular season.

I give the Rockets credit from coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Clippers. That has only been done 9 times in the history of the NBA. Ironically, Doc Rivers in the only NBA coach to lose two series after being up 3-1. Trevor Ariza has really stepped up, shooting 50 % from three over the last three games. Dwight Howard has been effective scoring 17.2 points, 13.8 rebounds, 2.50 blocks but he is only shooting 40% from the free throw line.

Prediction:

This is a nightmare match up for the Rockets. They can’t compete offensively and defensively with the Warriors. I don’t think this series is going to be competitive at all. If Memphis couldn’t slow down the Warriors, how can the Rockets?! Memphis plays a tough grind it out style but the Warriors adjusted. Golden State was the best team in the regular season for a reason. They control tempo, play their style, play great defense, and have the best shooting back court in the history of the NBA. Look for Curry to continue to dominate and score 30 points per game. The Rockets season comes crashing down. Warriors in 5 easy games.

 

Atlanta Hawks vs Cleveland Cavaliers:
The Hawks had a great regular season, compiling a 60-22 record. The Hawks are a well balanced team, sharing the ball and are reminiscent of the San Antonio Spurs. The Hawks have 6 players averaging double digits in scoring during the playoffs. DeMarre Carroll leads the Hawks averaging 17.1 point per game. Al Horford and Paul Millsap are great pick-and-roll players averaging 15.6 and 15.7 points per game. This Hawk team loves to spread the floor and take advantage of mismatches. They don’t care who gets shots or who gets points. They have totally bought into the NBA’s Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer’s system and philosophy.

LeBron James is playing in his 5th straight Conference Final (4 with the Heat, 1 with the Cavaliers).

This postseason, James leads the Cavs in points (26.5 PPG), assists (7.9 APG), rebounds (10.2 RPG), and steals (1.9 SPG). James has led his team in points, rebounds and assists, 33 times in his playoff career. That is the most in the history of the NBA. He’s done this 20 more times than any other NBA Player. He will keep building this record that will never be broken. He may end up doing this 50 times in his career. This is like Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game. We will never see a player do this again. Kyrie Irving has been hobbled with injuries but he has produced when needed. He is scoring 19.8 points per game and shooting 45% from beyond the three point line. The Cavs miss Kevin Love, he spreads the floor, can shoot the three and averaged 17 point and 9 rebounds during the regular season. But, like every team James plays on, the role players step up. This postseason, Cleveland surrenders just 44.9 points per game to opposing frontcourts, second fewest allowed among all playoff teams. Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, have played great defense and are combining for 17 points and 16 rebound per game. The backcourt of Smith, Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova continue to play quality minutes. Mike Miller and James Jones can come off the bench and drain three’s at any time.

Prediction:

I have compared the Atlanta Hawks to the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL all season long. The Cardinals had a great regular season, finishing with a record of 11-5. I never looked at them as a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl and I don’t look at the Hawks as a legitimate threat to go to the NBA Finals. Look for the Cavs to lock them down defensively in the 4th quarter. The Hawks do not have a go-to-guy to score late in games. Kyle Korver averaged just seven points per game on 31.3 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range against the Washington Wizards. As the teams get better in the post-season, shots become harder. Fortunately for the Cavs, they have the two best players on the court at all times with Irving and James.

I like the Cavs to win in 5 games and LeBron to go to his 5th straight NBA Finals. Something Michael Jordan has never done.

Follow the Sports Whisperer on Facebook and Twitter: Montetjwitter11


nhlW

Both of the 2015 Western Conference Semi-Finals ended relatively quickly. The Chicago Blackhawks made easy work of the Minnesota Wild by way of a 4-0 sweep. The Anaheim Ducks didn’t have a cake walk at all against the Calgary Flames, but, despite the Flames’ valiant effort, they truly weren’t a challenge for the potent Ducks and fell 4-1 after Game 5’s, 2OT victory. The 2015 Western Conference Finals are set, Chicago and Anaheim will do battle with the right to fight for the Stanley Cup on the line.

ducks2Anaheim’s last appearance in the Western Finals was in 2007, when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 in route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Title to date. The Blackhawk’s last appearance was in last year’s incarnation of the event. They were defeated in overtime in Game 7 by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.

Chicago is likely to be considered the favorite in this match-up based on their postseason success in recent years. After all, hawkstheir shortest playoff trip in the past 3 seasons was a Quarter-Final loss to Phoenix in 2012. Anaheim has had much less postseason success the past few seasons, but, the Ducks are a deep, talented, and determined team this time around and the Blackhawks will not have an easy time with them like they did with Nashville and Minnesota.

The Ducks are led by postseason scoring leader perryCorey Perry (15) and assists leader Ryan Getzlaf (10). Perry is also tied for second in goals (7) and +/- (+8) while Getzlaf is tied for third in points (12). Goaltender Frederik Andersen currently has 8 wins in these playoffs and a 1.96 GAA. The Blackhawks are led by Captain Jonathan Toews (11 points) and Patrick Kane (tied second, 7 goals). Goaltender Corey Crawford sits at 5 wins whilst his kane1tandem Scott Darling holds a 2.21 GAA.

If you ask me personally, the true advantage in this series goes to Anaheim. Chicago is a team that for years has relied heavily on its big guns to get the job done. Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Sharp have carried their squad for years and will need to continue to do so if Chicago wants another Cup. Anaheim too is led by its lethal duo of Perry and Getzlaf, but the rest of their team is much better-rounded and all-together more capable than the Blackhawks. The Ducks have had all-around production all postseason, if they continue that trend, they will more than likely be in the Stanley Cup Finals.

@Flat_Manigen_74

ecf final

 

It took seven games and a monumental comeback by the New York Rangers to return to the Eastern Conference Finals. But, for the second year in a row but they earned it and now face the Tampa Bay Lightning for the right to play for Lord Stanley.

Mark Stepan scored at 11:24 of OT last Tuesday to defeat the Washington Capitals 2-1 at Madison Square Garden.  Tampa needed six games to eliminate the Montreal Canadiens (the #1 seed) after jumping out to a 3-0 series lead.

The Rangers and Lightning have not played each other since early December, and like the Habs, New York lost all regular season games to Tampa (0-3), and were outscored 15-7. What has changed since then?

The Rangers brought in Keith Yandle to spice up the power play, give them more experience on the blue-line and play big minutes. They also acquired James Sheppard who has appeared in seven playoff games including the series clincher versus Washington. Yandle played a key role in setting up Stepan’s OT winner.

Tampa also brought in a nice piece in defenseman Braydon Coburn, a physical presence that leads the Lightning in blocked shots.

These two teams pulled off a blockbuster deal at the 2013 trade deadline, swapping forwards Martin St. Louis and Ryan Callahan (Rangers Captain at time of trade). The deal paid off well for New York as they went to the Stanley Cup finals, while Tampa was swept in the first round (Montreal). The Lightning (in separate deals) also acquired former Rangers Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman. New York landed former Tampa defenseman Dan Boyle. St. Louis is an aging veteran whose best hockey is behind him. Still a warrior who gives it his all each shift but his minutes have decreased significantly since he helped guide his former team to their only Stanley Cup championship.

Callahan was kept out of game 6 versus Montreal due to an emergency appendectomy. The veteran forward was back on the ice Thursday taking part in an optional morning skate. He is usually paired with Boyle and Stralman on the third line but has also played along-side Steven Stamkos.

Stamkos’s offensive production was slow to start this post season but he’s picked it up as of late, registering points in his last five games. Overshadowing the team captain has been the play of Tyler Johnson who has 8 goals in 13 playoff games. He and his line-mates Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat have been red hot. They have been Tampa’s best line, with Alex Killorn and Valterri Filppula flanking Stamkos. The Lightning possess two power units that will give the Rangers all kinds of trouble.

Couple that with the swift, puck moving defensemen in Stralman and fellow countrymen Victor Hedman and the steady, consistent play of goaltender Ben Bishop the Lightning are a real threat to unseat the Rangers as ECF Champions.

New York breezed through the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, winning in five games. The Capitals were a much tougher opponent in the second obviously and the physical series took its toll on New York. The Rangers at one point were down 3-1 but were able to sustain the Caps offense and overcome the heavy hits to clinch the series in seven games. They had real trouble finding ways to beat Braden Holtby who was phenomenal in net for Washington. Bishop plays a similar style and presents a huge challenge for the Rangers.

Adding to the Rangers offensive woes could be the loss of Dan Boyle who left game seven after a vicious hit delivered by Brooks Orpik. His status is unknown for game one and the series. This is a huge loss for the Rangers if Boyle misses any time. He’s one of the better offensive defenseman in the league and eats up plenty of minutes.

New York is already without forward Mats Zuccarello. They need Rick Nash to produce, he had one goal versus the Capitals. He’s on the top-line with Derick Brassard and center J.T. Miller. Stepan and Chris Kreider are on the second line and will be expected to contribute more.  Nash is on the decline and has been for several years. St. Louis was benched for parts of the 3rd period in the last game and if Brassard is a top-line forward for you that’s a problem. I love his hard-nosed style and he can chip in a goal here and there but at this stage of the playoff’s he’s better served on the 3rd or 4th line.

The Rangers play with a lot of pride and MSG is never easy to play as a visiting team. Henrik Lundqvist has been as good as any goaltender these playoffs but will he have enough support to hold off this Tampa offense?

There are too many question marks surrounding New York heading into the third round but they have been here before. Alain Vigneault is a great coach and could be the difference. He made terrific adjustments in the Caps series. At times during these playoffs, Tampa coach Jon Cooper looked like he was in over his head, especially in the opening round versus the Detroit Red Wings.

Stamkos, Johnson, Bishop is game, set, match. The Lightning can be just as physical as Washington and they are just as explosive offensively as any team except perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks. They are a young team with a young coach but they begin this series (like the last) on the road. Away from the brutal Lightning press (that’s being sarcastic). Still, game one as always is the key. They are well rested and ready to go, whereas the Rangers are still icing down every limb from the effects of the many licks they took against Washington.

Lundqvist is good if not the best goalie remaining of the 4 teams gutting it out for the Stanley Cup. Even still, he’s going to face many more shots, deal with more traffic in front of his grill, and have less experienced defenseman in front of him, and a lot less talent on offense.

I’ll take talent in a seven game series all day and the Lightning are a deeper team. They are not getting the respect they deserve for how quickly they move the puck through the neutral zone or for their many scoring opportunities, that power play is deadly. Out of respect……Tampa in 6 but this could be over in four.

@wolf3328

kreider

The New York Rangers will host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Washington Capitals to win Game 7 in overtime. The Lightning took a 3-0 lead against Montreal and finished the Canadiens in 6 Games. The Rangers went 0-3 against Tampa Bay this year, being outscored 15-7. Although the Lightning dominated these three games (5-1, 4-3, 6-1) I don’t put too much stock in those games because they were all played in December. The Rangers struggled early on in the season but were clearly the best team in the league after January. Putting stock into these three games is like saying the New England Patriots were the same team this year when they started the season 2-2, then they won the Super Bowl.  There are many former players who played for both teams over the years. Last year at the trading deadline, the Rangers traded their captain, Ryan Callahan to Tampa Bay for Martin St. Louis.

Tampa Bay:

The Lightening led the NHL in goals scored, averaging 3.16 goals per game during the regular season. Their line of Tyler callahanJohnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov have scored 17 of the lightings 34 goals in the playoffs. They are young, fast and can score in bunches. Callahan had an emergency appendectomy

Just last week. He was a critical part of the Lightning’s offense all season and finished with 24 goals and 30 assists for 54 points. He hasn’t scored a goal in the post-season but has 3 assists in 12 games. His status is still questionable for Game 1 but I look for him to play well against his former team. Ben Bishop looks like his coming into his own as the Lightning’s goaltender. He is only averaging 1.88 goals against in their 13 playoff games.

Rangers:

New York is the only team in the history of the NHL to come back from a 3-1 deficit, in the playoffs, in back to back years.henrik That is the good news… the bad news is, for two years in a row, the Rangers have been down 3 games to 1. After finishing 2nd in the NHL in scoring, the Rangers have struggled to score in the postseason, averaging 2 goals per game. Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan lead the Rangers in points with 8 each. Rick Nash continues to struggle to score goals. Chris Kreider keeps playing well for the Blueshirts and has 5 goals. He is the most physical forward the Rangers have and continues to be an integral part of this team’s success. Henrik Lundqvist is only giving up 1.60 goals per game and continues to be the best player on the ice. He has carried the Rangers time and time again.

Prediction:
Both of these teams have battled physical opponents in the first two rounds and have survived. The Rangers and Lightning are built on transition and speed. The Lightning appear to be a team on the rise while the Rangers are back in the conference finals for the 2nd year in a row. I expect a lot of open ice and both goaltenders to be severely tested. The Rangers have played 14 straight playoff games where there was a 1 goal differential. That is an almost impossible feet. By luck New York or their opponents should have won at least one of those games by two goals. Lundqvist continues to build his legacy. Even though “The King” hasn’t won a Stanley Cup, his Game 7 performances are stuff legends are made of. He has won an NHL record, six consecutive Game 7’s. The lighting are a very good offensive team but they are a year or two away. The magnitude of this series may overwhelm them. The Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last year and won the President’s Trophy this year. There is a reason for this… They are the best team in the East with the best goaltender. I look for Alain Vigneault to make some adjustments. St. Louis should be moved to the 2nd or 3rd line and I don’t expect Dan Boyle to play as much on the Power Play. I look for Kreider and Stepan to lead this team back to the Stanley Cup Finals. The only negative for the Rangers could be a Game 1 hangover. They played a tough, emotional, physical series against the Capitals. If they can avoid coming out sluggish in Game 1 Saturday afternoon, they should win. The Lightning aren’t as physical as Washington and the Rangers up tempo style should take advantage of that.

I like the Rangers to win this Series in 6 Games.

Follow the Sports Whisperer on Facebook and Twitter: Montetjwitter11

preak

On paper this should be the easiest Preakness Stakes to handicap in years.  Just take the top three finishers in the Kentucky Derby and box them for an easy trifecta wager.  That being said…there are five other horses in the race who also feel they belong.

American Pharoah is the 4/5 heavy favorite and deservedly so after winning the Derby.  Firing Line and Dortmund who finished 2nd and 3rd in the Derby should also make strong runs.  I can’t see any of these three horses finishing out of the money but “that’s why they run the races.”

I am going to stick with my Derby pick, Dortmund, to upset American Pharoah.  Two things I took away from the Derby regarding Dortmund.  One, during the walk to the starting gate Dortmund was “washed out”, meaning he was nervous before the Derby and he was sweating profusely before the race.  Two, I thought he went out too quickly and was “pressed”, meaning Dortmund had good speed but was forced to set the pace by Firing Line on his outside.  These two factors I think contributed to his 3rd place finish in the Derby.  On Saturday, I look for his jockey, Martin Garcia, to come from off the pace in the Preakness and win.

Let’s look at some of the other horses in the field.  Divining Rod, will be the freshest horse in the field having his last start back on April 11, 2015 with a G-3 win in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.  He will have a jockey change to Javier Castellano who replaces Julien Leparoux, who is scheduled to ride Danzig Moon in the Preakness.

Danzig Moon can be another surprise horse in the Preakness Stakes.  He finished a respectable 5th in the Derby after having been bumped around in the race.  Mr. Z, Tale of Verve, and Bodhisattva are also entered but I don’t see any of them finishing in the money unless the early fractions are at a record setting pace.

So here are my selections:  Dortmund, American Pharoah, Firing Line, and Divining Rod.  My bet would be $10 to win on Dortmund.  Next would be a $1.00 exacta, with Dortmund to win and use the “All” button for second for a $7.00 bet.  If you want to try a $0.50 trifecta box it will cost you $12.00 with Dortmund, American Pharoah, Firing Line, and Divining Rod.  Hope for American Pharoah to finish 4th for your biggest payout.  If he finishes 1st you may not get your $12 wager back.  You can also play a $0.10 superfecta box with the same four horses and add Danzig Moon for a $12 bet.  Again, the best payout would be if American Pharoah finished out of the money.  All told you will only be betting $41.00.  I know I should be telling you to wager on American Pharoah but my hard-headed Italian, Calabria, nationality won’t let me.

@Catager

ws202Combatants:  (NL) San Francisco Giants vs (AL) Anaheim Angels

Dates: October 19-27, 2002

Venues: SF: Pacific Bell Park (now AT&T Park), ANA: Edison International Field (now Angel Stadium)

Managers:  SF: Dusty Baker, ANA: Mike Scioscia

Game Log:

  1. Giants 4-Angels 3 @ Anaheim
  2. Angels 11- Giants 10 @ Anaheim
  3. Angels 10- Giants 4 @ San Francisco
  4. Giants 4- Angels 3 @ San Francisco
  5. Giants 16- Angels 4 @ San Francisco
  6. Angels 6- Giants 5 @ Anaheim
  7. Angels 4- Giants 1 @ Anaheim

The Victor: Anaheim 4 games to 3

MVP: Troy Glaus (ANA)

What’s interesting about this World Series is that both teams were underdogs that made good. For the first time ever, both combatants in the Fall Classic were their respective league’s Wild Card qualifier. The Giants took the NL Wild Card and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS 4-1. The AL Wild Card Angels, the better team in Regular Season record by 4 the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS, 4-1. The Series for both teams was a chance to at last erase rather futile pasts. This was Anaheim’s first appearance in the Fall Classic since the team’s inception in 1961 and was just San Francisco’s third since 1958 when they moved from New York. This California matchup had high stakes for both teams, and it immediately translated to the field.

Home Field Advantage belonged to Anaheim. In Game 1, taking place at Edison Field for the first time ever, the Giants’ Barry Bonds smoked a home run off Jarrod Washburn in his first World Series at bat. Reggie Sanders and JT Snow would later homers for the Giants. Anaheim’s Troy Glaus hit two of his own for the Halos, but the homerun barrage proved too much for the Angels to overcome and San Francisco took the contest 4-3. Game 2 wound up being a wild barn-burner that saw both teams’ offense come to life. San Francisco’s power hitting continued as Bonds and Sanders homered again and David Bell and Jeff Kent added their own. The final blow came when Anaheim’s Tim Salmon launched his second homer of the contest, a 2 run shot in the 8th. Closer Troy Percival worked around Bond’s homer in the 9th to give Anaheim an 11-10 win to knot it 1-1.

Game 3 was also a World Series Ballpark christening as the Classic came to the Giants’ Pacific Bell Park for the first time ever. However, the game was not pretty for the Giants as they were downed 10-4 despite another HR from Bonds and one from Rich Aurilia. The Angels jumped all over 1997 World Series MVP Livan Hernandez, chasing him after just 3.2 IP. Anaheim took the Series lead, 2-1. However, the Giants weren’t fazed by the Game 3 blowout and won a close Game 4, 4-3. JT Snow scored an unearned run in the bottom of the 8th off a David Bell base hit, and that proved to be the difference maker. Game 4 was the first of the Series in which San Francisco did not hit a homer, but they made up for it in Game 5. Slumping Giants’ second baseman Jeff Kent hit 2 homers and Rich Aurilia added another in a game that the Halos never led. A notable play occurred in the bottom of the 7th when JT Snow scored on a Kenny Lofton 2 RBI triple and swiped 3 year-old BB Darren Baker (the son of Giant’s manager Dusty) out of the way just in time to save him from getting run over by David Bell who also scored. Baker was attempting to get Lofton’s bat. Game 6 saw the Series return to Anaheim and it was time for the Giants’ struggles to come to a close. Or at least it seemed so.

The contest started slow, but the Giants’ came alive in the 5th to plate 3 runs and added 2 more by the 7th to hold a 5-0 lead. Anaheim was reeling in a big way and San Francisco was only 9 outs away from salvation for their city. Giants’ starter Russ Ortiz was in the midst of a phenomenal game, but ran into trouble in the bottom of the 7th and was pulled by Dusty Baker. Baker earned wide publicity for handing Ortiz the game ball after signaling for setup man Felix Rodriguez. During the pitching change, Anaheim’s de facto mascot, Katie the Rally Monkey, appeared on the park’s JumboTron. The 45,037 fans at Edison Field came suddenly came unglued, and the Angels took notice.

Scott Spiezio came up and fought Rodriguez valiantly before hitting a 3 run shot to right that barely cleared the wall. Anaheim was at last on the board and now down by only 2, 5-3. In the bottom of the 8th, Darin Erstad led off with a line-drive solo shot to make it 5-4. Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson followed with back-to-back base hits (the runners took 3rd and 2nd respectively when Barry Bonds made a costly E7 on Anderson’s hit). With 2 runners were now in scoring position, Baker had seen enough. Bringing in closer Robb Nen, Baker hoped for a K that would keep the Giants ahead. Unfortunately for ‘Frisco, Troy Glaus took on the spoiler’s role and smacked a double over Bonds’ head in left to plate the tying and go-ahead runs. The 6 unanswered put up by the Halos are the most ever by a team facing elimination in the Fall Classic. Troy Percival closed it out in the 9th to send it to Game 7, something neither side could believe.

In the winner-take-all contest, Anaheim turned to a 24 year-old rookie on short-rest. John Lackey ran into trouble in the 2nd when he allowed a sac-fly to open the game, 1-0. Anaheim backed up its starter when Bengie Molina tied it in the bottom of the frame. Garret Anderson added a 3 run double in the 3rd to give Anaheim a 4-1 edge. Lackey settled down and maintained the lead through 5 innings. It came down to the 9th. Troy Percival came on got into trouble by putting 2 Giants on base with only one out. But the Angel’s closer settled down and got a huge K of the pinch hitting Tsuhyoshi Shinjo, the first ever Japanese born player to take part in the Fall Classic. Kenny Lofton, representing the tying run, stepped up. On the first pitch, Lofton sent a fly ball to right-center. Darin Erstad made the catch to give the Angels their first ever World Series as Edison Field erupted. Barry Bonds and his Giants could only watch as the Commissioner’s Trophy they were so close to winning in Game 6 was handed to Mike Scioscia. Troy Glaus was named MVP of the Series thanks to his .385 AVG and 8 RBI. The MLB had made the decision that Barry Bonds was going to get the honor had the Giants clinched in Game 6, but Bobby Richardson remained the only losing team MVP when Glaus was honored.

Though they couldn’t get it done in ’02, 8 years later in 2010 the Giants finally ended their drought when they won their first of 3 World Series in 5 years (2012 & 2014 as well). Game 7 WP John Lackey returned to the World Series 11 years later in 2013 as a member of the Boston Red Sox and won the decisive Game 6 over St. Louis. He is the only pitcher to this day to start and win two World Series deciding contests with two separate teams. Despite their success in 2002, ‘Frisco chose not to renew Dusty Baker’s contract in the off-season. Baker, only the second black Manager to lead his team to a World Series, went to the Chicago Cubs. Mike Scioscia still manages the Angels to this day, making him the MLB’s longest tenured Manager.

This is definitely one of the more under-rated Fall Classics in MLB history. The Series featured 4 one-run games and a historic comeback in Game 6. Apart from the Game 3 and 5 blowouts, this was one of the closest and evenly matched World Series in MLB History.

In winning, the Halos became just the first AL team besides the Yankees to win the Fall Classic since Toronto’s repeat in 1993. In the end, Anaheim’s unshakable resolve proved that they deserved to be the victor.

Matt Morris follow me on Twitter: @Flat_Manigen74

 

tjohnson

Tyler Johnson slammed a beautiful pass from Victor Hedman into the Canadien’s net to beat both Carey Price and the clock to give the Lightning a 2-1 win and a 3-0 stranglehold on their Eastern Conference Semi-Final. The clock read 1.1 when the goal went in.

It was a true heart breaker for Montreal, who were desperately looking to get back into the series. After Alex Killorn gave the Lightning the lead at 12:00 of the 1st, the Canadiens played valiantly and eventually tied the game at 10:03 of the 3rd when Brendan Gallagher was able to squeeze one past a sprawling Ben Bishop. It seemed as if it was about to head to OT, but Johnson’s buzzer-beater gave Tampa Bay a commanding lead and put Montreal’s back against the proverbial wall.

Johnson has been Tampa Bay’s biggest contributor thus far in the postseason, without any doubt. He is only further proof that size matters not. The goal was his 8th of the playoffs and 11th point, only 3 behind current League Leader Corey Perry.

Ben Bishop made 30 saves for the Lightning whilst tough-luck loser Carey Price made 17. Tampa can finish off the sweep in Game 4; Thursday at 7:00.

@Flat_Manigen74

counsell

Craig Counsell, New Brewer’s Skip

Major League Baseball didn’t have high expectations for the Milwaukee Brewers entering the 2015 season. In fact the team has performed even below those expectations and decided that change was needed. After a 7-18 start to 2015, the Brewers announced Sunday that Manager Ron Roenicke has been relieved of his duties.

The Brewers problems this season have been plenty. Firing Roenicke is likely an attempt to shake things up and try to get the team going in some positive way. Not at all saying that Roenicke was the issue, his team just wasn’t playing well and it’s almost always the Manager who goes first if that is the case. Roenicke’s record over his 5 years with Milwaukee was 342-331 for a .511 Winning %. Roenicke replaced Ken Macha as the Brewers’ skipper in 2011 and found immediate success as the team won the NL Central and made it to the NLCS. Roenicke finished second in NL Manager of the Year voting that season.

It did not take GM Doug Melvin long at all to find Roenicke’s replacement. Former Brewer and 16 year MLB veteran Craig Counsell will be Milwaukee’s next manager, the Brewers announced Monday. Counsell played for the Brewers for 5 seasons (2004, 2007-2011) and was a 2 time World Series champion and was the 2001 NLCS MVP.

@Flat_Manigen74