Play Ball! │ My 2013 Baseball Predictions

It’s spring and while it does not feel like in it many parts of the country, this week a rite of spring will return….major league baseball.

MLB_LogoBaseball is one of 8 passions of my life, and I fancy myself as an “aficionado” of the sport.  As such I have established an annual ritual of predicting the winners of each of the divisions, the champions of the National and American leagues along with the winner of the World Series.

 

For the first time I have summoned the courage to share my “predictions” with my fellow baseball fans in the blog audience. Come October I will summon more courage as I publicly compare the results of my March musing with the action on the field revealing to all my skills in prognostication.

American League: National League
Division Winners:East: Toronto Blue   JaysCentral: Detroit   Tigers

West: Los Angeles Angles

 

Division Winners:East: Washington   NationalsCentral: Cincinnati   Reds

West: San Francisco   Giants

Wild Cards:Tampa Bay RaysOakland Athletics

With Tampa winning the one game playoff

 

Wild Cards:Atlanta BravesLos Angeles Dodgers

With LA winning the one game playoff

 

ALCS: Detroit vs. Los   Angeles Angles NLCS: Washington vs. Los   Angeles Dodgers
AL Champs: Los Angeles   Angles NL Champs: Washington   Nationals

World Champs: Washington Nationals

WSMVP:  Denard Span

And now my breakdown of each dvisiion an team

American League

 

East

Position Team My Take

1

Toronto Blue Jays With the likes of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ and Josh   Johnson the Blue Jays may have the best rotation in baseball. Add the OPS of   2011 NL batting champion Jose Reyes along with the power of Jose Bautista the   Jays will have the punch to support the pitching.

2

Tampa Bay Rays The big question for the Rays is will the reigning American   League Cy Young Award winner David Price will be on the team by the end of   the season. Price, who won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2015   season, says he feels at home in Tampa Bay and could spend his entire career   there, but he understands what he’s worth. The Rays say they want to keep him   as long as possible, that he’s a big part of their success, but if they were   to lock him up as they did teammate Evan Longoria, they’d have to consider   how little they’d have left to spend on the rest of their roster. While this   drama plays out the Rays will field a team that will be competitive while   playing another waiting game, but this time it will be for an incoming player   Wil Myers the super-prospect obtained from Kansas City in the James Shields   trade. Until Myers arrives in June the Rays will rely on another newcomer   James Looney the ex-Dodger who spent a cup of coffee with Boston.  Despite all the trade winds Price will be a   Ray all season and the team will contend for the division and beyond.

3

Baltimore Orioles The O’s earned a wild-card berth with the best record in one-run   games than any team in baseball.    Managers Buck Showalter squad will not have to repeat that feat to   contend again. Emerging start Manny Machado will be with the team for the   full season along with young veterans Adam Jones and Matt Wieters.  However, the real key to this team will be   pitching, Jason Hammel will be the opening day starter for a rotation that   will be in flux all season.

4

New York Yankees Yes they are old, and disabled, but they are the Yankees.  If they can tread water until the old and   disabled can get back they could be a factor.

5

Boston Red Sox Boston is still recovering from two self-inflected wounds, the   2010 “Chickengate” episode that got Terry Francona fired and the 2011“Bobby   Valentine” episode that got Bobby Valentine fired.  After selling off half the team to the   Dodgers the front office restocked the team with solid citizens led by a   proven no drama manager John Farrow.    However, solid citizens don’t genuine wins, good ballplayers do.  And this team does not have enough of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central

Position Team My Take
Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander just inked a deal   making him the highest paid huller in the   history of the game. Gold glover Torii Hunter has joined emerging star Austin   Jackson to adding teeth and punch to the Tiger outfield.  Prince Fielder and triple crown winner   Miguel Cabrera form the most potent corner infield tandem in baseball. However,   the biggest addition to the Tigers is the return of the bat of Victor   Martinez. Out all of 2012 with an injured knee Martinez makes an already deep   lineup deeper.   With Verlander at the   top the rotation the defending American League champs are virtually exempt   from long losing streaks.  However, on   the days that Verlander is not going 9 the team faces an uncertain final   frame because Manager Jim Leyland will until someone emerges will employ a   closer by committee.

2

Chicago White Sox In his first year as a manager Robin Ventura kept the White Sox   in contention until the final week of the season.  Chicago will be in the hunt all season for   one reason pitching. In less than three years, Chris Sale has established   himself as one of the game’s best left-handers.  With the rejuvenated Jake Peavey and a   solid bull pen the White Sox have the elements to be in hunt again this year.

3

Kansas City Royals For the first time in almost 2 decades the Royals are a bona fide   contender for a division title. With addition of James Shields from Tampa   Bay, the Royals reinvented their rotation in support of the burgeoning core   of young talent. While they won’t win it this year. 2013 wii be the season where the Royals will finally play significant games in September.

4

Cleveland Indians The Indians, surprisingly, landed arguably two of the top five   position players available in the free-agent market in Nick Swisher and   Michael Bourn, high-profile players to go with their new high-profile   skipper, Terry Francona.  It will be   interesting to see how these pieces coalesce. If the rotation, one of the   worst in baseball last year, comes together, they have the lineup and bullpen   to contend. 

5

Minnesota Twins Instead of a scorecard fans of the Twins have been looking at   the health cards of  two best players   on the team Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. As the pair have spent lengthy time   on the DL. the last two seasons.  If   Minnesota has any chance to contend Mauer and Morneau must appear together on  more scorecards. .

 

 

West

Position Team My Take

1

Los Angeles Angles The additional of Josh Hamilton to a lineup featuring Mike Trout   and Albert Pujols makes the Angles the most lethal offensive team in   baseball.  L.A. has two solid starters   in Jered Weaver and C.J Wilson but not much in the rotation in and the   bullpen after that.  So they will need all   the firepower the lineup can provide.

2

Oakland Athletics Don’t forget the low budget A’s won the division last year over   the high budget higher profile Angles and Rangers.  How did they do it? They out “baseballed” other   teams playing the game the “right way” With a balance of pitching, defense   and timely hitting. While they won’t repeat as division champs they will be   in the hunt all season.

3

Texas Rangers  After winning the AL crown in 2010 and 2011 the Rangers failed   to make the playoffs last year, and they will again this year.  Texas is stacked with a lineup featuring   all world third baseman Adrian Beltre however; the pitching is suspect with   Neftali Feliz starting the season on the DL. Plus as the season moves along   they will miss the bat of the departed Josh Hamilton and the leadership of   Michael Young.  Manager Ron Washington   is on the hot seat and if the team gets off to a slow start he could be the   first skipper to go.

4

Seattle Mariners The fences at Safeco Field have been brought in which should   help Seattle native, the formal and newest Mariner Jason Bay.  However, what is good for Jason Bay can be   better for the players on the other teams especially when Felix Hernandez is   not pitching which he does only 1 out of every 6 days.  Thus the problem with this team, on the   days that King Felix is on the mound the Mariners feeble lineup can’t score   enough runs.  When he is not on the   bump the Mariners meager pitching staff will allow too many runs.  Despite this paradox the Mariners will have   a better record in 2013.  Why?  19 games versus the Houston Astros.

5

Houston Astros The Astros have a good shot at breaking the record for losses in   a season.  The only drama for this   squad is will they break the record at 121 in September or October.

National League

East

Position Team My Take

1

Washington   Nationals The Nationals are perhaps the most complete team in baseball.   The Nationals can pitch Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals can hit Bryce Harper.   And now the Nationals have speed at the top of the order with the acquisition   of Denard Span from the Twins. However, the biggest thing is the Nationals   can now close out ballgames, with the acquisition of the elite closer   ex-Yankee Rafael Soriano.  Manager   Davey Johnson in his last season at the helm has said it all it is the World   Championship or bust for this team. They have the talent to make their manger   a profit.    

2

Atlanta Braves Braves added not one but two Uptons, B.J. from the Rays and   Justin from the Diamondbacks.  The   brothers Upton will team with Jason Heyward to form perhaps the most   dynamic outfields in the game.    Atlanta’s line-up will feature at least 5 players capable of hitting   20 or more homers. However, all of that power will come at a price   strikeouts.  The Braves will most   likely set a record for strikeouts.    With a solid rotation led by 16 game winner Tim Hudson and an elite   bullpen anchored by all world closer Craig Kimbrel  all of those strikeouts may not   matter.  At any rate it will be a very   interesting summer in Hot-Atlanta.

3

Philadelphia Phillies  Don’t count the Phillies out. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are   back from injury plagued seasons. With the big 3 of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee   and the rehabbing Roy Halladay.  They   have the pride and more importantly the talent to contend. 

4

New York Mets Met the Mets, met the Mets, and the fans may need to meet them   gone are stars like R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay.  Last year the Met a 500 team until shortly   before the all-star break. No such luck for this team for without the wins   provided by Dickey the nameless Mets will remain that way.  

5

Miami  Marlins We have seen this movie before bring in high price talent,   compete for a championship and then selloff all the talent.  Well that is what the Marlins have   done…again. The only difference is this time the Marlins will lose 100 games   in nicer ballpark.

Central

Position Team My Take

1

Cincinnati Reds As he enters his 5th season as Reds skipper Dusty   Baker knows that is his best team he has fielded.  The Reds have solid pitching lead by Johnny   Cueto, a deep lineup featuring a healthy Joey Votto and the always dangerous   Brandon Phillips.  Plus a bullpen with   the now fulltime reliever Aroldis Chapman.     

2

St. Louis   Cardinals The Cardinals have been a model of consistency making the   playoffs in 4 out of the last 5 seasons and winning an improbable world’s   championship in 2011. Second year manager Mike Matheny has a squad equipped   to be a major contender.  With   bellwether pitcher Chris Carpenter on the 60 day DL, the staff will be lead   by another bellwether pitcher Adam Wainwright who has just inked a new long   term deal.  The injury bug extends   beyond the rotation with closer Jason Motte and 3rd baseman David   Freese  starting  the season on the 15 day DL and veteran   shortstop Rafael Furcal out for the season.    However, these are the Cardinals and they always find a way to   win.      

3

Milwaukee Brewers Two seasons removed from a division crown and a loss in game 6   of the NLCS the Brewers hope to contend again. 2011 MVP Ryan Braun remains a   proven star but the club needs Rickie Weeks and at least one other player to   step up to replace the injured Corey Hart who will start the season on the   DL.  The rotation is capable and can   depend on a good bullpen with closer John Axford on the backend to preserve   leads.      

4

Pittsburgh Pirates The Pirates have a lot going for them they play in the best   ballpark in America, Andrew McCutchen is a stud, and A.J. Burnett has emerged   from New York as a leader and a winner. But the real question in the steel   city will be: “Is this the season that the Pirates finish over 500 for the   first time in two decades?”  The answer   is: No…Why?  Well it is for the same   reason the Seattle Mariners will finish over 500. The Mariners will play the Houston   Astros 19 times this year and the Pirates will play them 0 times this year.  So let’s face it if they did not finish over   500 after playing Houston 19 times last year – how could they pull off that   trick this year? But don’t worry Pittsburghers indications are that the   Penguins will be playing deep into June perhaps for a cup and by the time   they finish training camp for the Steelers will be just a few weeks   away.     

5

Chicago Cubs The Cubs will serve as the farm team for all the teams in   contention. They will listen to and will make offers for nearly everyone on   the roster including opening day starter Jeff Samardzija and outfielder Alfonso   Soriano who the Cubs are so desperate to part ways with that they are will to   pay a chunk of his salary to anyone who will take him.  Fans should enjoy all the fun in the stands   of “the friendly confines” of Wrigley Field, because fun and winning will not   take place on the field.

 

West

Position Team My Take

1

San Francisco Giants By winning 2 of the last 3 world championships the word dynasty   has stated to be mentioned around the Giants.     The dynasty starts with   pitching and a staff anchored by Matt Cain the Giants are posed again to lead   the league again in ERA.  The staff   will get a major boot with the return to form for 2 time CY Young award winner Tim Lincecum.  On the field newly extended NL MVP and   batting champ Buster Posey will lead an offense of high OPS hitters the   Giants will play the small ball that has been the hallmark of this budding   dynasty.CY YOUNG

2

Los Angeles Dodgers 200 million dollars will buy a lot of things this year let’s see   if can buy a pennant.  Since the sale   of the team to a group fronted by basketball legend Magic Johnson the Dodgers   have been doing a full court press in acquiring talent. First it was the last   years late season blockbuster with Boston bringing Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, Carl Crawford and the big bat of Adrian   Gonzalez west. Then the pickup of the biggest free agent huller in the market   Zack Greinke.   All of this spending to go with the nucleus   of talent including 2011 CY Young winner Clayton Kershaw and the    dangerous Matt Kemp.  With the talent on hand and an ownership   group willing to obtain more the Dodgers will be in the thick of things all   season.          

3

The Arizona Diamondbacks In 2010 the Diamondbacks road the grit and determination of   manager Kirk Gibson to a division title. In 2011 that same group of players   limped to an 81-81 third place record.    So during the offseason the D-Backs essentially purged the team to   suit manager Kirk Gibson’s tastes for what a major league player should be.  Gone from the lineup are Justin Upton, Chris   Young, and Stephen Drew; replacing them are Martin Prado, Cody Ross, and   Cliff Pennington. It’s a substantial   sacrifice of upside — Justin Upton stands a decent chance of being worth as   much at the plate this year as Prado, Ross, and Pennington put together. So   while Gibson may have the type of ballplayer that suits him they most likely   will not win as much to suit ownership. Expect a change at the helm by the   end of the year and perhaps at midseason.   

4

San Diego Padres The Padres are doing another rebuild, this version is scheduled   to be short term in nature.  It stated last   year with Mat Latos going to the Reds for prospects and will continue this   year with to  3B Chase Headley being   packaged assuming he comes back well from his hand injury. That said I don’t   actually think they’ll finish in last, as most rebuilding teams would, in   part because they’ve already gotten their hands on a lot of the talent they   need to claw their way back up to respectability — and the other team   they’ll be fighting for last the Rockies already has a pretty good head start   in that department.

5

Colorado Rockies When a friend who is a Rockies fan discovered that I was writing   this baseball post he wanted me to be completely honest about his club. Well   Lance to be completely honest the Rockies stink!  They have major problems in all 3 phases of   the game pitching, hitting, and defense.    With the Astros exit to the AL, Colorado is now the worst team in the   NL.  However since the Astros are still   a baseball club they get the title for being the worst in the game.  Well that is one piece of good news for a team   and a fan base that will not have much to cheer for this season.  

 

A Tribute to Robert W. Curtis: When Performance Trumps Color

I grew up in the segregated South, where “separate but not equal” was the accepted norm.  And even when the separate but equal mandate was ruled illegal and the schools integrated fragments of our former way of life remained.

Students were required to nominate and vote for one “black girl” and one “white girl” homecoming queens, and the attendances to their courts were selected based on race.  While the intention for this form of homecoming equality may have been noble ensuring that lovely young ladies of each race would represent the school as its queen, thus easing potential racial tensions.  The practical effect for me as a coming of age black child was our back girls were not good enough be elected homecoming queen if we had a single queen.  So we needed a bit of “separate but equal” magic to tip the scales.

Ironically, this formula was not in place for any of the other visible parts of my high school life, we had one basketball point guard, we had one football quarterback, we had one captain of the debate team, and we had one high school principal.  And so it was not surprising when our principal Ted Guthrie died suddenly of a heart attack that the vice-principal Robert Curtis was promoted to principal.   What was surprising is the fact that Robert Curtis was black and his race made no difference in his promotion.   While he was elevated to the top job in our school because of an untimely death he earned the job because his performance trumped color.

Robert CurtisMr. Curtis had proven himself as a successful coach, first at the all black Maggie Califf High School and then at the integrated Jones County high school. Notably lifting our high school basketball team to the state title game while earning the respect of the players he coached, their parents his fellow educators and the entire county.  His imposing size could be scary but for those who played for him from high school sensation, college All-American and NBA start Al Wood to a lowly bench sitter like me, Coach Curtis was a man of wit and wisdom while teaching the game of basketball and important life lessons.

Mr. Curtis earned his promotion from coach to vice-principal because he was an involved, caring man dealing with the life problems, hormones and misbehaving’s of teenagers in grades 9-12.

Mr. Curtis earned his promotion as principal leading the school through the difficult trauma and grief of losing its principal while ushering in a new era of academic and athletic achievement.

Mr. Curtis earned success in business serving customers and influencing lives as a State Farm insurance agent for 33 years.

On March 18 Mr. Curtis lost his battle with lung cancer leaving this earth with his wife Sarah by his side.  His legacy as a successful coach, principal and business man surpassed only by his dedication as a husband, father, grandfather and great-greatfather.

However, for me Mr. Curtis will always be a man of enormous size but even more enormous capabilities.  And in my high school world of voting for one black and one white homecoming queen he was a living demonstration of when performance trumps color.

Marben Bland writes and speaks about the passions of his life. Send comments about this post to marben@marbenbland.com

 

 

 

Becoming A LinkedIn Ninja│ Your Profile Picture

Internet Logo Let’s face it.  In this interconnected, online 24/7 world, the notion of personal anonymity is a thing of the past. Even if we are not on social media, we are still likely to show up in a web search because of some other person’s actions.

 

Girl with ToungRecently, I tested this theory when I did a web search on two noncombatants in the of the social media war–my granddaughters ages 3 and 8 months.  Despite not having any social media trappings, both were easily found in birth announcements, on family members Facebook pages, online photo albums, and other webpages.

Managed Anonymity

So, now that the notion of personal anonymity has been shattered, we can still have great control over our online presence by managing our anonymity. 

Simply put, managed anonymity allows us to put our best foot forward in the social media and online world by creating content that we control.  This includes the things we want others to know about us, while excluding those things we don’t want the world to know.

 Picture Perfect

Your LinkedIn profile picture is an integral part of managing your anonymity.  Donna Serdula, author of the book, LinkedIn Makeover says, “Your LinkedIn profile picture is how the world sees you.”  As the business profile of record, your LinkedIn profile and picture has the potential to be seen by over 200 million LinkedIn users and millions more non LinkedIn users.  Why?  The powerful search engine optimization (SEO) tools used by LinkedIn, typically makes your profile the first thing in the stack of information found about you in a web search.  Recruiters, customers, and other interested parties usually look at the items on the top of the stack first. Talk about opportunities to manage your anonymity!

Picture This

Marben ProfileResearch from the career and job advice website Careerealism reveals LinkedIn profiles with photos receive 50-70% more inquires than profiles without a photo.   Want to effectively manage your anonymity and the ability to use LinkedIn to accomplish your goals?  Then don’t make these profile picture mistakes:

  •  Don’t crop your picture from group photo
  • Don’t use a picture taken with a cell phone
  • Don’t post your picture without being professionally dressed.

Last year, LinkedIn began rolling out changes to the profile page; one immediately LinkedIn Logonoticeable change is that the profile photo is now larger and more prominent. Like it or not, LinkedIn is putting more emphasis on the way a person looks. Now it is time to take an objective look at your photo and ask yourself if it is conveying the right message for your career.  How effective is your current profile picture in managing your anonymity? 

Washington, DC based career coach, Norine Dagliano, has contributed these tips for creating an effective LinkedIn profile picture:

1. Don’t use an old photo. There are few things worse than meeting someone for the first time and not recognizing them because the profile photo is from 10 years ago (or longer)!

2. Smile! Your face should radiate warmth and approachability.

3. Photos should be professionally done.   If possible, please no glamour shots.

For these next tips, I talked to Mel Bland, an Austin, TX based professional photographer, and my brother, for his insights on an effective LinkedIn profile photo.

4. Men: Wear a dark blue or black dress shirt.  (Save those funky T-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, or busy/crazy patterns for Facebook.)

5. Women: Wear something you feel comfortable in–soft, dark V-necks look great. Black always works; however avoid white.

6. LinkedIn pictures upload and look best when they are 200 x 200 high resolution pixels.

The Bottom Line: Manage Your Anonymity–Get the picture right.

CouplesOn their first night together, the newlywed couple goes to change. The new bride comes out of the bathroom, all showered and wearing her beautiful robe. The proud husband says, “Dear, we are married now, you can open your robe.” The beautiful young woman opens her robe, and he is astonished. “Oh, oh, aaaahhh!” he exclaims, “My God, you are so beautiful.  Let me take your picture!”  Puzzled she asks, “My picture?” He answers, “Yes my dear, so I can carry your beauty next to my heart forever.”She smiles and he takes her picture, and then he heads into the bathroom to shower. He comes out wearing his robe and the new wife asks, “Why do you wear a robe? We are married now.” At that, the man opens his robe and she exclaims, “Oh, OH, OH MY, let me get a picture.” He beams and asks, “Why?” She answers, “So I can get it enlarged!”

NinjaLinkedIn Ninja’s are never questioned about the quality of the picture they are presenting to the world, because they know the importance of having a great profile picture as they master the art of managing their anonymity.

 

 

 

Reaching for The Top 2%

shoesThis year, I set a goal of running in at least 4 races.  In registering for these races, I was asked if my running time in previous races would qualify me to be in the top 2% of runners in my age group.  Needless to say, I did not qualify for the honor.

This year, I set a goal of running in at least 4 races.  In registering for these races, I was asked if my running time in previous races would qualify me to be in the top 2% of runners in my age group.  Needless to say, I did not qualify for the honor.

The Top 2%

Running BibsMy race registration experience got me thinking about the notion of the top 2%.  As our world has become more competitive, being in the top 10% or even the top 5% is no longer good enough.   The standard of excellence now is the top 2%.

 

The Power of the Top 2%

2percentaNightingale Learning Systems has done extensive research on the concept of the top 2%.  Their findings have been compiled in the book, The Top 2%.   This statement from the book is a great reflection of the power of the top 2% …..”The fact is, the top 2% set the trends in every industry. They set the trend by imagining and dreaming things that didn’t exist and then doing what it took to make it happen. Whether you’re in business, entertainment, sports, politics or some other industry, if you’re in the top 2%, you have the power and influence to make things happen.”

Reaching for the Top 2%

Reaching for the top 2% in a race, or in our profession, is something by its very nature that most of us will never attain.  Or is it?  I believe that God has given us the talent and the potential to make it to the top 2%.   However, the top 2% does not have to be an achievement of income accumulation, professional esteem or athletic prowess.   Instead, why can’t we obtain top 2% status as a parent, a sibling, or a friend?    Or, in any of the many parts of our lives that mean the most to us. Think of the difference we can make if we were in the top 2%. Remember ”if you’re in the top 2 %, you have the power and influence to make things happen” (The Top 2%.  Nightingale Learning Systems).

A Game Plan for Reaching the Top 2%

identify-ppt-18bc11. Identify Your Top 2% Achievement

The research from Nightingale reveals that having an overarching sense of purpose is a key to getting into the top 2 percent of your field.  Simply put, knowing what you want to be good at is the first step in getting into the top 2%.

 2.  Watch and Learn from The Top 2%ersBrady-and-Belichick-make-for-a-super-combo-90SO42V-x-large

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then flatter yourself by imitating the behaviors of the top 2%ers in your chosen field.

mother-teresa3. Help others get to the Top 2%

Making the top 2% is not good enough; the true hallmark of a top 2%er is the desire to lift others to into its ranks.

 

The Bottom Line: See You in the Top 2%

“You are the light of the world” is how Jesus describes you and me in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14).  God has built us to achieve the top 2%, perhaps not in everything, but clearly in the areas that we decide to dedicate our time, effort, and talent.  We can achieve prodigious things when we are operating in the top 2% zone for our families, our communities and ourselves.

O.K. enough of writing about the top 2%, time to go about achieving it.  Got my running shoes on now and I am about to hit the road for a run.  I am looking forward to seeing you whiz by me on the road to reaching for the top 2%.