Tag Archives: What We Learned

What We Learned From Week Two of the 2013 NFL Season

by J-Dub and Meehan

Yet another week has passed in the sportsgasm that is the NFL season, and that means it is time for us to tell you some things you need to know without the self-serving spin those assbags at ESPN will never give you. We know this because if you think you can get real football information from guys like Merrill Hoge and Trent Dilfer, you probably also think the earth is flat and that Kennedy was assassinated by Daffy Duck.

1) Either the Jets aren’t that bad, or the Patriots aren’t that good: Pick one. 

tom-brady-sideline-welp

 

Let’s just cut through the bullshit here; the Patriots aren’t that good.  When you see Tom Brady mugging, screaming, and eye-rolling at his receivers, you know that Patriots offense is more out-of-sync than a 1985 Yugo with bad spark plugs.  In contrast, when the Orlando Magic were in their heyday, Shaquille O’Neal once famously called coach Stan Van Gundy the “master of panic.”  Bill Belichick couldn’t be more opposite when it comes  to being so stoic people are worried pigeons might start shitting on him, but make no mistake. Brady’s antics show there is panic in Foxboro.

If you are the Patriots, this is exactly the time to start panicking. In all fairness, the Patriots could easily be 0-2.  There’s exactly four points separating them from being winless. They haven’t covered the spread yet. They were beat by Buffalo for 59 minutes, and they played down to the level of the sorry-ass Jets, so we can clearly understand why there’s a panic breaking out in New England.  For all of us who have had to suffer through the pretentious attitude Patriot fans are known for, we love hearing the panic in your voices, because it’s better than your tacky Boston accent that sounds like somebody left an audio interview of Godsmack on in the background.

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What We Learned From Week One of the 2013 NFL Season

By J-Dub and Ryan Meehan

Without any further fanfare, let’s just get to the stuff week one of the NFL season showed us.

1) Peyton Manning’s performance hid the fact the Broncos’ defense sucks.

If Thursday night taught us anything, it’s that the Broncos are indeed going to struggle on the defensive side of the ball.  By “struggle,” we’re talking something akin to a turtle on its back getting gang-raped by a group of Hell’s Angels all to an all Kenny G soundtrack. If you consider all of the mistakes that Baltimore made offensively, the fact that Denver gave up 27 points is pretty pathetic.  Ray Rice is a pretty solid “yards after contact” guy, but against the Ponies defense, he got more second chances than Robert Downey Jr.

Not to mention, we aren’t even counting the mistake made on the interception return that by all that is right in the football universe should have resulted in yet another Broncos’ touchdown. This is where Danny Trevathan had a “Honey Badger meets DeSean Jackson” level brain-fart. After making the pick, and cruising to what should have been the “pick-six” part of this, he inexplicably released the ball before he crossed the goal line in a momentary lapse of judgment reminiscent of a young DeSean Jackson.  As you would hope, Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio ripped Trevathan’s ass open like he was Edward Norton in the prison shower scene in American History X, because Denver can’t expect Grandpa Manning to chuck 7 touchdowns every week.

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What We Learned: The 2012 NFL Season Showed Us Two Things About Quarterbacks

1) The “Elite Quarterback” Discussion Got Blown Up

russell wilson nike ad

The Super Bowl essentially was the induction of Joe “Gummy Bear” Flacco into that silly media-created status of “elite quarterbacks.”  Joe Montana’s Right Arm has the best run-down as to why even the most ardent Flacco-haters now have to stifle themsleves, but this piece is more about how the whole discussion about “elite” is obsolete.

Not only is it a silly notion, but it got destroyed by the emergence of a crop of dynamic young signal-callers.  In his piece, JMRA makes reference to “Game Manager University,” and I’m going to extend the academic concept to rate NFL quarterback in 2012 on a simple grade scale.

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What We’ve Learned From This Football Season – The Aftermath Of “Black Monday” Edition of the 2012 Coaches Death Watch

sword of damocles

Let’s start with the college guys who still had jobs as of our last update:

Mike Price, UTEP

What We Said:

After going 8-4 in each of his first two years, Mike Price has clinched his seventh consecutive losing season at UTEP and has no contract for next year. Color him toast.

What Happened:

Price avoided the ax by retiring.

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

What We Said:

Johnson came into this job with some high hopes, and since winning the 2009 ACC title, he’s gone just 18-17 at Georgia Tech, including a 4-5 mark so far this season. Johnson biggest supporter, athletic director Dan Radakovich,  just left for Clemson.  The ground Johnson is standing on is shakier than Oprah Winfrey’s back fat.

What Happened:

Johnson seems to have survived for another season, but if what happened at this year’s Georgia-Georgia Tech game is any indication, things better turn around soon.

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What We Need To Learn From The Jovan Belcher Tragedy

jovan belcher

It is time to talk about some hard realities in America today.

Obviously, what happened yesterday in Kansas City is a tragedy by the classic definition of the word.  The not-so-obvious tragedy which is going to unfold in the near future is that the deaths of the individuals involved here will not be remembered properly, nor will the lessons we need to learn as a society be learned,  because this murder/suicide will be used by those with various agendas to promote whatever cause they have.

If you doubt that, watch while I do it myself. The irony in that isn’t lost on me, because for starters, it isn’t irony.  Its more like “fighting fire with fire.” At least I’m willing to admit it.

Go back to the Dave Duerson situation. The story of that suicide quickly became a rallying crying for so many people.  Some people used it as proof football is dangerous game with long-lasting physical effects (duh?) Even Duerson’s family tried to turn it into a payday.  Twitter exploded with all sorts of stuff; there were the sick jokes, followed by the subsequent phony sympathy/moral outrage, followed by the opportunists.

As I knew it would, the path of the Jovan Belcher story is following the same trend.  See, I’ve been waiting since the Duerson tragedy to run a little experiment with a similar situation.  Admission number one; I’m an opportunist.  That goes hand-in-hand with “blogger.”

To launch my experiment, I tossed out a “joke” that was most assuredly in poor taste.  It was designed to draw responses, which it did.  Admission number two; I’m an insensitive douchebag. That also goes hand-in-hand with “blogger.”

To be honest, I don’t really care about the so-called jokers and the opportunists; not because I just played that role, but because at least they are the ones who are easy to see what they are.  You can’t say the same for the “phony sympathy/moral outrage” crowd. They are so full of their own self-absorbed bullshit that you need to smoke them out in order to see what hypocrites they are.

As awful as it seems, tragedies which hit emotional hot-buttons are the best place to do just that.  I didn’t make that rule, but I’m going to use it. Again, that makes me an opportunist, but unlike the people I’m about to call out, at least I’m honest.

For starters, here’s the “joke” I tossed out as a pure troll-job.

“Things are so bad for the Kansas City Chiefs now the players are literally shooting themselves.”

As you would expect, in short order I was deluged in reponses from all three aforementioned classes. I got “jokes” far more offensive than anything I said.  I got at least 50 exhortations for suicide prevention awareness. Most most importantly, I got a boatload of “phony sympathy/moral outrage;” so much so that I had to break it into categories, each more full of shit than the last.

1) The “phony sympathizers”

The common trait in the messages from this group was along the lines of “we need to focus on the families of these victims.” While that’s a true statement, it happens to rest on a bullshit platform. Whether you want to admit it or not, America is a celebrity-driven culture which has such a need for celebrity-based entertainment that not only has it made celebrities out even the most underachieving athlete (Mark Sanchez, anyone?), we also manufacture celebrities for literally no other reason than to sate our need for celebrities (insert Kardashian here).

Go with the Sanchez thing for a minute.  Remember before the ding on him was that he sucks as a quarterback? Remember when Sanchez’ exposure was all about whom he might be huddling with (see examples here, here, and here).  Face it, as a society we don’t give a shit about the humanity of celebrities; their foibles exist for our entertainment.  In America today, part of the cost of fame is your humanity.

You don’t have to like that, but you need to accept it, because it is the main reason you will never get me to believe any of the people who blew me up yesterday ever gave a damn about some previously unknown player on arguably the worst team in the NFL.

Speaking of which, I’m waiting to find out what sort of warning got missed by the Chiefs on the road to this tragedy.  Guys don’t just wake up one morning and decide to kill the mother of their child and themselves…there’s ALWAYS warning signs. The question will be were they simply missed, or were they ignored because the NFL treats the non-star players like disposable parts?

2) The Misspelled Re-Tweeter

If I had a dollar for every one of these I got, I’d have a hell of a lot more dollars than I had yesterday.  I’m not kidding, had I printed out all the “R U Serious? RT” I got yesterday, I could wallpaper my house with them.

Now ask yourself a question.  If you read something on Twitter that pisses you off, what really are your options?

  • Ignore it and move on with your life; after all, it’s only Twitter.
  • Send the author a reply telling him what an insensitive asshole he is (by the way, those of you who did that should not consider yourself the subject of this rant, at least you are honest).
  • Re-tweet the offensive message so the whole world can see how offended you are.

If you picked the “re-tweet” option, then ask yourself this question: Why would you do that? After all, you are just spreading the same words that made you react, so in effect aren’t you simply contributing to the problem? Oh, wait, how could I forget…you get to staple your name to it.  In other words, the indignant re-tweeters are more interested in using that which they consider offensive to bolster their own visibility.  Don’t even try to tell me that isn’t some sort of fucked up nuclear-powered  narcissism.

3) The “C’mon Man” Guy

Yeah, I know… I was as shocked as you are that there were as many of these as there were. If you thought the misspelled re-tweeters were pathetic, how messed up is it that the only way you can express your bullshit moral outrage is using a catch-phrase from the flatheads currently employed by ESPN?

Time for the aforementioned hard reality. When you are blantantly hypocritical about that which you consider to be offensive, don’t be surprised when your phony outrage rings hollow.  Not only is what was likely a preventable murder/suicide a tragedy, it is also a tragedy that it takes a tragedy to point this out.

Go ahead and call me all sorts of names if you will for saying it.  At least you are acknowledging it.

What We’ve Learned From This Football Season So Far – The Inaugural Edition of the 2012 Coaches Death Watch

Now that the regular season has ended for the majority of college football, many coaches heads have already rolled, and most of those are really no surprise.

  • Joker Phillips, Kentucky
  • Gene Chizik, Auburn
  • John L. Smith, Arkansas
  • Frank Spaziani, Boston College
  • Tom O’Brien, North Carolina State
  • Jeff Tedford, California
  • Derek Dooley, Tennessee
  • Danny Hope, Purdue
  • Jon Embree, Colorado

John L. Smith was only in his first year, but his reign was such a train wreck that he managed to take a pre-season Top 10 team to a 4-8 finish. Chizik went 3-9 at Auburn only two years removed from winning a national championship. Guess the SEC is the ultimate “what have you done for me lately?” league.

But there’s a lot more guys in both the college and professional ranks who have the Sword of Damocles hanging over them. Here’s a list of the guys we will be watching.

Let’s start with the college guys:

Mike Price, UTEP

After going 8-4 in each of his first two years, Mike Price has clinched his seventh consecutive losing season at UTEP and has no contract for next year. Color him toast.

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Johnson came into this job with some high hopes, and since winning the 2009 ACC title, he’s gone just 18-17 at Georgia Tech, including a 4-5 mark so far this season. Johnson biggest supporter, athletic director Dan Radakovich,  just left for Clemson.  The ground Johnson is standing on is shakier than Oprah Winfrey’s back fat.

Paul Pasqualoni, UConn

It’s really must suck to be the football coach at UConn. First of all, you are completely overshadowed by even women’s basketball. Second, you just got cock-blocked out of joining the ACC. And if you are Paul Pasqualoni, you’ve gone 8-13 in the two years since Randy Edsall got the program into a BCS bowl.  Pasqualoni’s team is so fetid offensively that they couldn’t score in a women’s prison if you gave them a fistful of keys. Pasqualoni survives if nobody else wants the job, which is an even bet considering they have no momentum, recruiting is a fantasy, and they are mired in a dying conference.

Skip Holtz, South Florida

Let’s talk about a guy living off his dad’s reputation – no, not Lane Kiffin…we’ll get to him soon enough.  Holtz has somehow managed to keep getting his name mentioned for some other jobs despite the fact he has only racked up a mediocre mark of 13-12 in his first two seasons at USF. Now this year, the Bullks have only managed a 3-6 mark.  Indications are that Holtz is likely to remain on the USF sideline for at least one more season, but he does have a chance to fail upward.

Lane Kiffin, USC

Let’s be honest. Lane Kiffin is dogshit as a coach. Here’s a guy who took a pre-season Top 3 ranked team and finished out the the rankings entirely.  Kiffin got a free pass when the team was dealing with NCAA sanction, but it is no likely he can take a potential national championship team, finish with five losses, be a complete douche-nozzle, and survive. -It really wasn’t supposed to be like this. USC was supposed to come out of the gate and just dominate, but have instead faltered, flubbed and failed.

Mack Brown, Texas

I get that things really aren’t that bad in Austin.  I get they’ve only lost three games, but those were to new in-state rival TCU, new kid on the Big 12 block West Virginia, and hated old-school rival Oklahoma. I just don’t know how much longer the Texas powers-that-be are going to tolerate mediocrity.  I also think a loss to Kansas State this weekend puts Brown in a shakier position than he’s ever been in before.

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest

Welcome to “meh.”  Grobe isn’t great as a coach, and he isn’t terrible either. His big problem is that he once got the Nowhere-land that is Wake Forest football into a BCS bowl game, and now every once in a while he has to face people who still have expectations for the Demon Deacons. He likely survives this season, but he need to make one of those low-end, 6-win bowl games next year.

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta still loves Ferentz, and the Hawkeye faithful are still filling Kinnick Stadium, but there’s really no denying that Iowa football has taken a downturn.  The Hawkeyes suffered double-digit losses to teams they normally have owned under Ferentz (Penn State and Northwestern), they blew a lead in an ugly loss to lowly Indiana, and they finished this season 4-8…dead last in the B1G Legends Division and will miss out on a bowl game for only the second time in the last dozen years.  In fact, since they won the 2010 Orange Bowl, Iowa has been just barely better than a .500 team, going 19-16. The fans were turning on Ferentz even before the Indiana loss, and losing to Purdue at home for the first time at home since the first Bush administration didn’t help. If the fans quit showing up, look for a package deal where Barta and Ferentz both get the gate.

Now, for the NFL guys who should be updating their LinkedIn pages right about now…

Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers

How many years am I going to have Norv Turner at the top of the “has GOT to get fired” hit parade, only to watch him not get fired?  Let’s face it, this butt-loaf should have been shown the door three years ago, but he always seems to wiggle his way off the hook.  My guess is Norv has picture’s of Chargers’ owner Alex Spanos fucking a water buffalo.  Even that sort of job security has to run out eventually.

Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

Reid is the hard-luck king of the NFL over the past few years, and while I am life-long Eagles’ fan, it is time to part ways.  Frankly, the Eagles have done nothing to help Reid. He was the one smart enough to know the McNabb era was over.  The trouble was he never was given a quarterback to replace him with.  Reid knew Michael Vick was a veritable “bag of magic beans,” but what was his alternative after Kevin Kolb got hurt? Vince Fucking Young….let that sink in for a moment.

Vaya con dios, Andy. I wish you nothing but the best on the job you get 45 minutes after Philadelphia fires you.

Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs

There’s two reasons why Romeo Crennel keeps getting head coaching jobs.  One, because he had success as a coordinator under Bill Belichick in New England.  Two, because the “Rooney Rule” is just the NFL’s version of affirmative action.  Crennel is a well-liked guy, but he’s a shitty head coach. His stint in Cleveland is forgivable, because Vince Lombardi himself couldn’t win with that pile of dog barf the Browns were trotting on to the field.  But Kansas City is a different deal entirely.  The Chiefs have talent, they play in the weakest division in the NFL, and despite that, they define dismal.

Cue homage to Johnny Carson in 3..2..1…

The Kansas City Chiefs are sooooooo bad…

How bad are they????

The Kansas City Chiefs are so bad that when Dexter McCluster delivered a Meal-on-Wheels to an elderly shut-in, she told him “Ya’ll better start winning some games.” In other words, here’s a woman who would be eating her own foot had McCluster not shown up, and yet she still verbally ball-tags him.

Rex Ryan, New York Jets

Here’s another guy who got no help from his general manager. Mike Tannebaum should be the one getting his walking papers in New York, but Sexy Rexy gets to be the fall guy for a GM who did nothing while a team that made two straight AFC Championship games got old and disintegrated right before our very eyes.

Thanksgiving night’s debacle against the Patriots officially marked the point when the New York Jets became the laughing stock of the NFL.

Rex Ryan will take the fall, but the sad state of the Jets rests squarely on the shoulders of Tannebaum and owner Woody Johnson. They are the ones who brought in Tim Tebow when Ryan made it clear he needed a quarterback. The fact that Ryan got this team into two AFC Championship games with Mark Sanchez was a minor miracle, even with the dominant defense the Jets had.

Tannebaum and Johnson also did nothing when that defense turned into a collection of graybeards. They did nothing when they realized the offensive line had two Pro Bowlers and three lunch wagons. They did nothing when it became clear the receivers couldn’t catch herpes if you stapled them to a Kardashian.

What was their solution for those problems? Tim Tebow.

This is why Sexy Rexy will have another job before his footprints out of town have a chance to get cold.

Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns

New owner Jimmy Haslem isn’t letting any grass grow under his well-shod feet. In no time at all since assuming control of the Browns, Haslem got rid of Team President Mike Holmgren and replaced him with former Philadelphia Eagles President Joel Banner.  Pat Shurmur can’t help but to keep shooting his own foot.  He’s got to be gone at season’s end.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Garrett is the wild card.  Jerry Jones has been know to hang on to failed coaches far too long, and it is clear Garrett has failed.  But Jerry Jones has also been known to hit the “international Enough Line” with little warning, at which point he starts whacking everybody like Robert DeNiro in GoodFellas.  This time next year, is Jason Garrett on the Cowboys’ sideline, or is he on a hook in the back of a freezer truck? Your guess is as good as ours.

The Dubsism Baseball Power Rankings: The Homestretch Edition – The Contenders vs. The Pretenders

In my last baseball rankings,  I said the All-Star break to me has always represented the “far turn” in the horse race that is the Major League Baseball season. This means Labor Day marks the beginning of the home stretch; everybody has less than thirty games to play; everybody’s made their non-waiver and waiver trade deadlines, and everybody is bringing up the September “cups of coffee.”

But this is also the time of year where we discover who the “contenders” are; that select group at the front of the pack who may still be playing baseball a month from now. It’s that time we can start looking at how those teams will fare in that wonderful month of October. Not to mention, this another great opportunity to see how wrong we really were.

The Contenders:

1) Washington Nationals ↔

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Nationals have one of the best young rotations in baseball.  Strasburg appears ready to return to his pre- Tommy John surgery condition, and the acquisitions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson were huge.  If Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Chien-Ming Wang can stay away from the injury problems that have bugged them, the Nationals should be able to stay in most games based on their pitching alone.  But the Nats should be stronger in the middle of the order since Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, and Danny Espinosa all could be 25 HR, 90 RBI guys.

Downside: The Nats have three question marks. The first is at first base; Adam LaRoche played only 43 games last year before season-ending surgery and hit just .172. Can he return to the form of his previous years? However, Michael Morse blossomed at first base once LaRoche went down.  Secondly, the Nats have an issue in the lead-off spot. Ian  Desmond is going to start the season there, but he’ll have to learn to be more patient.  He’s drawn only 63 walks in 308 games during 2010 and 2011. Lastly there’s the matter of timing. This needs to be the year the Nats take a step toward the future because this is the last year before the expectations are going to go up. They can still be mediocre this year, but if they finish third or worse in 2013, they may just become a red version of the Cubs.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Best starters in league

Team pitching stats are crazy

Bats awakening

The Bottom Line:

You see that line about “a red version of the Cubs.” Yeah, you can forget about that. The Nationals are the best and most complete team in baseball. They are the photo-negative of the Cubs.  The Nationals and the Cubs represent the polar opposites of the baseball world.

The Nationals have a solid core of young emerging stars. The Nationals starting rotation is one of the best in the game, and the bullpen is even more complete.

The lineup lacks a .300 hitter, and may only feature one guy who will drive in 100 runs, but when you look at how the Nats hit with runners in scoring position, the difference becomes clear. If you were to take the performance of this team in RISP situations and balance it statistically to all potential scoring situations, the average National batter would be (in 500 at-bats) a guy who hit 21 home runs, drove in 132, scored 127 runs, and stole 22 bases. That, despite the pitching staff, is the reason why this team is 30 games above .500. They simply don’t waste opportunities.

Taking all of that into consideration, and adding this team has a future regardless of what happens today. This is why I so completely do not understand all the hand-wringing over Stephen Strasburg and the fact the Nationals intend to “shut him down.”

First of all, this is about making sure the guy can pitch in the future.  Don’t forget the guy is coming off “Tommy John” surgery, and I would bet there are plenty of doctors in this equation who know a hell of a lot more about Strasburg’s elbow that the dipshits at ESPN know.  Don’t forget this plan to limit Strasburg’s innings pitched was in place coming out of spring training.  Nobody cared then, because nobody saw this team being the best in baseball six months down the road.  Now, all of a sudden, the blow-dries at ESPN think this is a problem.

Secondly, the National team you see on the field today was actually built for 2013 or 2014, and just so happens to be achieving ahead of schedule.  In April, nobody saw the collapse of the Phillies, the injury-depletion of the Braves, and the train-wreck called the Marlins. Nobody saw the changing of the guard in the National League East happening in 2012, but it did.  Frankly, I think the Nationals should be commended for not changing their long-term plan based on what microcephalics like Buster Olney think. After all, this team has been built on a philosophy of not mortgaging tomorrow to pay for today. Why change that now?

If that isn’t enough for you, consider the following two facts. One, Strasburg isn’t even the Nationals best pitcher. Don’t look now, but Gio Gonzalez has more wins, more innings pitched, and nearly identical ERA and WHIP.  Second, history has shown us that to win in playoff baseball, you need two strong starters and a dominant bullpen. Look at the Nationals’ pitching staff top-to-bottom and tell me they don’t have that with or without Strasburg.

2) Texas Rangers ↔

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The only team in the A.L. West they have to worry about is the Angels. The Rangers have a line-up tailor-made to their hitter-friendly park, so there is no reason they can’t lead the league in team batting average again. Not to mention, they placed top five in runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Downside: The Rangers are gambling in the wake of losing C.J. Wilson to division-rival Los Angeles with their $103 million investment in Yu Darvish and moving  Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation for the first time in his major league career. Then there’s the Josh Hamilton situation…we all know about the off-the-field issues, but don’t forget the former AL MVP has been hampered by injuries lately as well.  Now contract talks are stalled, and who knows what impact that will have.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Texas bats don’t fail

Texas pitching often fails

This year is just same

The Bottom Line:

Three facts define the Rangers’ success this season:

1) The emergence of David Murphy. On Monday, Murphy finally got enough at-bats to qualify in the American League batting race.  Murphy is now hitting .324 in 416 plate appearances.  He is now third behind Mike Trout (.332) and Miguel Cabrera (.331).

2) Adrian Beltre is a serious MVP candidate, and he’s getting hot at the right time.  Since Aug. 16, Beltre is hitting .423 with nine homers and 20 RBI, and he has an  1.398 OPS in that time.

3) Yu Darvish became the fourth Japanese pitcher to have a 14-win season in the Major Leagues. The others are Hideo Nomo (four times), Daisuke Matsuzaka (twice) and Kazuhisa Ishii (once).  For another milestone, Darvish only need 12 more strikeouts to become the third Japanese pitcher to reach 200 in a Major League season.

As far #3 is concerned, here’s the dirty little secret.  While Darvish has fanned 10 in back-to-back starts, he walks waaaaaaay too many batters.  This is why his ERA in the second half of the season is a stratospheric 5.71. The Rangers have never seemed to learn that you can out-bomb opponents to 90+ wins in the regular seson, but when you get into a play-off series with a team that can pitch, you can’t give away a lot of free base runners.

3 – Tie)  Cincinnati Reds  ↑ 10

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  General Manager Walt Jocketty managed to improve the starting rotation by adding former Padres ace Mat Latos, the bullpen by bringing in Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, and added some needed depth by acquiring Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, and Ryan Ludwick. With these additions to the existing weapons like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and the fact the N.L. Central no longer has the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the Reds have the potential once again to seize the top spot in the division.

Downside: That pitching staff is managed by Dusty “The Ligament Shredder” Baker, the same Dusty Bake who think base-runners “just clog up the basepaths.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Great American

Ballpark holds team powered by

Mostly foriegners

The Bottom Line:

The Reds are summed nicely in this quote from Jay Bruce:

“If we continue to play baseball like we can play, it doesn’t matter what the Cardinals do. And I’m not saying that to be arrogant.  I’m just saying if we continue to play well like we have been, then they’re not going to be able to catch us.”

They are 7-3 in their last ten games, they are 40-29 on the road, and 37-24 against division opponents.

3 – Tie) Baltimore Orioles ↑ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside: As bad as there were in 2011, their offense wasn’t all that bad and they’ve kept the core of it.  If Mark Reynolds can produce another 30-plus home run season, and Adam Jones and Nick Markakis continue their consistent hitting, the Orioles could end up being a mediocre team.

Downside:  The Orioles had the worst off-season of any Major League team.  If you don’t agree, here are their off-season acquisitions: pitchers Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Jason Hammel, and Matt Lindstrom; and position players Wilson Betemit, Endy Chavez and Taylor Teagarden.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Baltimore baseball

Loves meaningless history

Two decades of proof

The Bottom Line:

To be honest, I have no idea how this team is contending: But they are, and I just have to accept that.

5)  San Francisco Giants ↑ 3

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner form one of the best 1-2-3 combinations in the game.

Downside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the worst offenses in baseball. With the losses of Cody Ross and Carlos Beltran, this team may find itself relying on a 3-4-5 heart of the order consisting of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching carries team

Even though Lincecum sucks

Melky keys offense

The Bottom Line:

When Melky Cabrera got suspended, the prevailing wisdom was the Giants’ offense would implode. Rather, the Giants hit a season-high on Monday being 19 games above .500, and offense is having no problems scoring despite the fact they are last in the National League in home runs.  Matt Cain said it best:

“All these guys are finding different ways to get on base, drawing out the at-bats or getting a hit or walk. They’re doing a good job getting timely hitting.”

6)  Los Angeles Angels ↓ 3

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: This team has ownership that isn’t afraid to make a move. Due to the free-agent signing of first baseman Albert Pujols and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson, the Angels committed $331.5 million, which left little room for the team to add anyone else significant during the offseason. New GM Jerry DiPoto did, however, get his hands on a decent bat bat behind the plate in Chris Iannetta, and reliable veteran relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins becomes the latest on the list of guys who have played for both of my two favorite teams (Angels and Twins).

Pujols adds to a lineup which featured six players with double-digit home runs, and six with over 59 RBI. Top prospects in catcher Hank Conger and outfielder Mike Trout will also be in the running for a full season with the club.

C.J. Wilson adds to a rotation which already featured 2011 A.L. All-Star Game starter Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana.

Downside: Which Vernon Wells do the Angels get in 2012?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Weaver and Haren

Awesome one-two starting punch

Pujols is Pujols

The Bottom Line:

There is no understating the importance of the current stretch for the Angels.  Starting Monday, the Angels entered a 10-day span that sees the Angels playing two of the teams they have been trying to catch in the race for one of the American League’s two wild-card playoff spots.  Right now, they have taken two of a three-game series in Oakland, which will be followed by a seven-game homestand during which the Angels will host the Detroit Tigers for three and then face the A’s for a four-game rematch.

7) Detroit Tigers ↑ 8

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last season, the Motor City Kitties finished in the top four in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. The numbers can only get better with the offseason acquisition of first baseman Prince Fielder, who just happens to be a career .282 hitter averaging over 32 home runs and 93 RBI per season over the last six years.

Downside: How does the move of Cabrera back to third base work out? What will be the impact of losing DH Victor Martinez? And I’m not sold on the rotation beyond Justin Verlander and Doug Fister.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Slugger’s paradox

Cabrera and Fielder

Yet team lacks power

The Bottom Line:

Rick Porcello needs to sue the Tigers offense for non-support.  Porcello hasn’t seen a Tiger touch the plate in 23 innings in which he’s pitched. The shutout run began with the sixth inning of Porcello’s start Aug. 12 at Texas, continued through the next 17 innings of three starts and through the first five innings Tuesday night at Comerica Park against Cleveland.

8 ) Oakland Athletics ↑ 13

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  America’s favorite breakfast cereal, Coco Crisp,  will still man the Oakland outfield after signing a $14 million, two-year contract with a club option for 2014 after hitting .264 with eight home runs, 54 RBI and 49 stolen bases last season. Then there the Cuban grab-bag known as Yoenis Cespedes. This kid could be the real deal.

Downside: The A’s are without many of their pitchers who brought success to the team in recent years. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Josh Outman are out of the starting rotation, while Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey are no longer in the bullpen. The one proven offensive power bat in the lineup has also departed; Josh Willingham hit 29 home runs and 98 RBI in 2011, but is now part of the Minnesota Twins.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

A’s have Cespedes

Ryan Cook and little else

At least no Manny

The Bottom Line:

The A’s continue to get production from a no-name roster. For example, pitcher Tommy Milone has tossed 13 consecutive starts in which he has walked no more than one batter, which so happens to be one start shy of the team record set by Gil Heredia in 1999.

9) New York Yankees ↓ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Yankees upgraded their pitching staff by adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, and by subtracting A.J. Burnett.  Prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos will soon find their way to the major league rotation as well. If the pitching staff gels and Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira perform as expected, this team will prove formidable.

Downside:  Don’t look now, but this team isn’t getting any younger.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching Staff Falling

Sabathia Pettitte hurt

Ivan Nova is best left

The Bottom Line:

The Yankees are old, hurt, can’t pitch and are fading fast.

10) Chicago White Sox ↓ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: General Manager Ken Williams also showed a desire to rebuild his club by getting rid of longtime White Sox starter Mark Buehrle and letting go of Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, Jason Frasor, Sergio Santos, and Omar Vizquel.

Downside: General Manager Ken Williams has no idea how to rebuild a club. He replaced staff ace Mark Buerhle by over-paying for the ever-fraudulent John Danks.  The rest of the starting rotation will depend on the fragile Jake Peavy and the unproven Chris Sale.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Smoke and mirrors

Houdini made this mirage

Contender won’t last

The Bottom Line:

The South Side fade is on, largely because the Mighty Whiteys can’t beat the Tigers. This is a big problem, since they have six games left with the Tigers this season, all coming over the next two weeks. After the most recent loss, the Sox are now 4-8 against the Tigers, including five straight.

11) Los Angeles Dodgers ↓ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young last year and is a contender for the award again. He is signed with the Dodgers through 2013.  Matt Kemp was the runner-up for the NL MVP Award, and was a single dinger away from joining the 40HR/40 stolen base club.  The Dodgers have him locked up through 2019.

Downside: They still have yet to rid themselves of Frank McCourt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Matt Kemp Clayton Kershaw

Ethier on the list too

Why Dodgers contend

The Bottom Line:

The Dodgers have undergone a nearly complete revamping, and yet they still can’t catch the Giants.

12) Tampa Bay Rays ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Their pitching staff will carry them in 2012.  David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Matt Moore form a six-man rotation that just might let the Rays continue their average 92 wins over the last four seasons. Only three teams in the majors had a higher average with one of the lowest four-year payroll totals in baseball at $222 million.

Downside: The Rays need a new fanbase and stadium.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Six-man rotation

Yet none of them really suck

Yet Rays kind of suck

The Bottom Line:

The Rays have gained 9 games on the Yankees and Orioles from (10.5 back to 1.5) since the All -Star break.  A big part of that gain is Jame Shields.  Shields has 13 wins, and has pitched into the seventh innings in 11 of his last 15 starts.  He only went that deep in four out of his first 13 starts.

13) Atlanta Braves  ↑ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last year, I said the Braves were a collection of “what-ifs” built around a solid core of just enough hitting and just enough pitching. Now, enough of those questions became facts so that barring injuries, the Braves can contend in the NL East.

Downside: The Braves finished 13 games back of the Phillies last season, and they way the season ended for them still has to sting. The question is did they improve enough to fix those issues?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Chipper’s last hurrah

While team disintegrates like

Chipper’s ligaments

The Bottom Line:

The story in Atlanta is the arrival of pitcher Kris Medlen, who was named National League Pitcher of the Month for August.  Medlen pitched both of the complete games of his young career last month; one against the Rockies and another against the Padres.  Medlen had a stretch from from August 11-28 during which he had a 28 1/3 scoreless-innings streak , and his  ERA in his five August starts was a scant 0.50.

14 ) St. Louis Cardinals ↑ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Despite losing Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals still have enough weapons to be a factor in the N.L. Central. Starter Adam Wainwright comes back from Tommy John surgery, and he leads a rotation featuring Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, and Kyle Lohse. Also, could this be the breakout year for World Series MVP David Freese? His 21 RBI over 18 postseason games last October could signal the start of something big.

Downside: Let’s face it…losing Albert Pujols would hurt any line-up. This means Lance Berkman has to at least come close to the .301/31 HR/94 RBI campaign he put up in 2011, and Matt Holliday has to be a .300/25 HR/RBI guy as well.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Lance Lynn lifted staff

Lance Berkman’s big lefty bat

Replaced by Beltran

The Bottom Line:

The Lance Lynn miracle is over.  Since his banishment back to the bullpen after posting five positively pathetic starts, manager Mike Matheny at least expected he’d be adding another arm to a staff desparate for depth in front of closer Jason Motte.  But Lynn, who was an All-Star this season, has stunk in relief as well; in his most recent appearance he allowed four hits and two runs in one inning.

The Pretenders:

15) Pittsburgh Pirates ↓ 10

What We Said Originally:

Upside:  The Bucs are quietly cobbling together a respectable offense.  Outfielders Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and All-Star Andrew McCutchen are likely to be the the 1-2-3  hitters; all of them hit over .275 last year, and all of them swiped over 20 sacks. Neil Walker looks like a #4 hitter after hitting 17 home runs and 62 RBI in only 460 at-bats.  Plus, the Pirates may have emerging power at the corner infield spots; Garrett Jones showed some pop with 17 homers last year, and Pedro Alvarez is due for his breakout year any time now.

Downside: Last year, the Pirates gave up the third-worst opponents batting average (.270) and received the fifth-fewest quality starts from their starting five.  A.J. Burnett is supposed to be the cure for that?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pirates no surprise

Tons of young talent living

In bad division

The Bottom Line:

The Pirates are dropping out of the race for one simple reason: they forgot how to win.  Pittsburgh’s record since August 9 is 8-18, in which time they have gone from 3 .5 games ahead in the National League Central to 11 games back now.

16) Arizona Diamondbacks ↑ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: In a division heavy in pitching, the D-backs chose bulk by getting potential question mark Trevor Cahill from Oakland and re-signing their own free agent, Joe Saunders, after non-tendering him at the December deadline for arbitration-eligibles. Kennedy, Hudson and Saunders logged career highs in innings last season, and it will be interesting to see if they can repeat that…see below…

Downside:  Even though the Arizona Diamondbacks finished first place in the NL West Division at 94-68, their starting rotation was filled with career-best seasons:

  • Ian Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 earned run average and 198 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Daniel Hudson went 16-12 with a 3.49 earned run average and 169 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Joe Saunders went 12-13 with 3.69 earned run average and 108 strikeouts in 212 innings pitched.
  • Josh Collmenter went 10-10 with a 3.38 earned run average and 100 strikeouts in 154.1 innings pitched.

The D-backs line-up can be inconsistent as well – they struggled to hit over .250 as team despite everyday players Gerardo Parra, Justin Upton and Miguel Montero hitting .292, .289 and .282 respectively.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Arizona snakes

Swallowing their own venom

No playoff repeat

The Bottom Line:

The Diamondbacks’ youth movement has begun, at least among the starting pitchers. On their most recent turn through the rotations, the D-backs had the youngest rotation in the Major Leagues, beginning with left-hander Tyler Skaggs who turned 21 on  Monday.

17) Milwaukee Brewers ↑ 5

What We  Originally Said:

Upside:  Even though Miller Park is known for being tough on right-handed sluggers, the Brewers brought in third baseman Aramis Ramirez. He will need to have a Beltre-like season (.300/25 HR/90 RBIs) to help off-set the loss of Prince Fielder.

Downside: The big questions: Can Mat Gamel prove he is ready to be a major league first-baseman, including posting some power numbers at the plate? Can Wily Peralta develop into a credible big-league starter? Then there’s the elephant in the room…the Ryan Braun situation and what impact it may have…

The Mid-Season Haiku:

No Prince Fielder

Leaves Ryan Braun alone with

His tainted sample

The Bottom Line:

Even after the loss of Prince Fielder, this team can hit.  They have a streak of 73 games in which they have at least one extra base hit. Ryan Braun (96) and Aramis Ramirez (89) have combined to drive in 185 runs, the most of any teammates in the National League.

Now for the scary number…Carlos Gomez (16 home runs, 30 stolen bases) and the Angels ‘ Mike Trout (25/43) are the only players in the major leagues who have at least 15 homers and 30 stolen bases. Gomez had never hit more than eight homers in a season until this year.

18)  Seattle Mariners ↑ 10

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Felix Hernandez.

Downside: This is the last year of Ichiro Suzuki’s contract with the club. The 38-year-old has seen his batting average drop 80 points over the last two seasons, so you can only expect that this will be his final season with the club unless he’s back to being the old Ichiro. In addition to Ichiro’s decline, the Mariners finished dead last in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage last year.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Felix Hernandez

Can only pitch, but team needs more

More of everything

The Bottom Line:

There’s no gold medal for a .500 finish in baseball, and in the red-hot American League West, a .500 record is still likely to leave a team in last place.  But considering where the Mariners have been, .500 would be an excellent finish to the season. For them, it would be like going to bed with Oprah and waking up with Halle Berry.  One game into the second half of the season back on July 13, the Mariners were 16 games under .500. They’ve trimmed that deficit by 75 percent, and if they can make up four games in the final four weeks, Seattle will have a huge reason to celebrate. They finally won’t suck anymore.

19) Philadelphia Phillies ↑ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The starting rotation is as good as it gets with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. New closer Jonathan Papelbon should help shore up the bullpen.

Downside:  If the Yankees and the Phillies make the World Series, they may want to get the games done before 4 p.m., so they can all hit the early-bird specials at Denny’s. This is another team that is aging before our eyes. Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are 33, Chase Utley is 32, and Placido Polanco tops the list at 36. Not to mention, the Phillies have lost have lost four of their last five postseason series.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Team can’t be a winner

When it can’t even get right

Roy Halladay doll

The Bottom Line:

Tyler Cloyd, Phillipe Aumont, and the hope of getting healthy give the Phillies a reason to look forward to next season. They won’t the the Phillies of the last decade, but they won’t be as dreadful as the 2012 version.

20) New York Mets ↓ 9

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Whether its up or down, the theme once again for the Mets is hope. Hopefully, all the distractions that surrounded last season are gone with the departure of Jose Reyes. Hopefully, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana are healthy, will stay that way, and will perform up to expectations. Hopefully, there will be a resurgence of third baseman David Wright and Jason Bay now that the outfield wall has been moved in.

Downside:  Hopefully, all those things I just mentioned will happen.  Right after they all do happen, we can all join hands and visit the fairy princess together. Not only that, but this team goes nowhere as long as Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz own the team.  Let’s face it, meltdown, dumpster fire, train wreck…they all are synonymous with “Mets.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

When R.A. Dickey

Is by far your best pitcher

Your life is mirage

The Bottom Line:

Note the above haiku-based snarkiness about knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey. Well, you can add catcher Kelly Shoppach to that list.  It seems “the Shopp” has whacked three homers since being acquired from the Red Sox a few weeks ago. Prior to that, all Mets catchers had hit only two this season.  That’s what the Mets are down to…non-important production from a career journeyman.

21)  San Diego Padres ↑ 5

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Again, you really can’t beat the weather in San Diego…and the Padres, despite the loss of Mat Latos, Aaron Harang, and Heath Bell still have a serviceable  (not great, serviceable) pitching staff currently slated to feature Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, and Cory Luebke.  Heath Bell’s closer role has been replaced by Huston Street.

Downside:  The Padres offense last year was in the bottom three in runs scored (593), batting average (.237), on-base percentage (.305) and slugging percentage (.349). The only improvements to that came in the form of Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, and current AARP member Mark Kotsay.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Diego baseball

Much in common with Bigfoot

Rumored to exist

The Bottom Line:

Signs of life in San Diego…Chase Headley has 16 homers and 50 RBI since the All-Star game.

22) Boston Red Sox ↓ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The Boston Red Sox are taking on an entirely new look in 2012.  For the first time in recent memory, Jonathan Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek will not be on the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox. And it’s about time, especially after what happened last September.  Despite this new look, New GM Ben Cherington will be faced with the challenge of keeping the Sox a contender.

Downside: I don’t give a damn what anybody says, I don’t buy this pitching staff.  Jon Lester has always been over-rated in my book. The loss of John Lackey is a case of “addition by subtraction.”  Clay Buchholz walks too many guys. Who knows what Daniel Bard and Vincente Padilla really are?

Then, there’s the whole issue of that idiot Bobby Valentine. I can’t wait for the Terry Francona “Miss Me Yet?” billboards to break out all over New England.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Worst .500 team

Valentine captains a ship

Which hit iceberg twice

The Bottom Line:

Last Friday night’s lopsided 20-2 loss to the Oakland A’s may have represented the bottoming out for the 2012 Red Sox. The 20 runs were the most scored against the team this season and the margin of defeat was the greatest since a loss in 2000.  It didn’t help that much of the damage — 13 of the 20 runs — were produced by former Red Sox players Brandon Moss (four RBI), Josh Reddick (four RBI), and George Kottaras (five RBI).

23) Cleveland Indians ↓ 9

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Shin-Soo Choo seems to be healthy. Vinne Pestano and Nick Hagadone could be the foundations of a solid, young bullpen.  Carlos Santana is a potential All-Star.

Downside: Fausto Carmona (or whoever he really is) may never get ba They also have the best home record in all of baseball.ck into the country and Grady Sizemore is probably finished as an effective major league player. The heyday for this team was fifteen years ago, and unless you can find a way to add Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Jake Taylor to the roster, there will be more than one long summer in Cleveland’s near future.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Somehow not shitty

Can pitch but have no offense

Shin-Soo Choo Korean sneeze

The Bottom Line:

Signs of life in Cleveland:   The Indians’ have a record of 17-8 in one-run games, the second-best mark in the majors.

24) Toronto Blue Jays ↓ 5

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: Jose Bautista.  In 2010, he hit .260 with 35 doubles, 54 home runs and 124 RBI. In 2011, he hit .302 with 24 doubles, 43 home runs, and 103 RBI. He has to figure in the MVP race.

Downside: The Blue Jays could have a bright future, but the future isn’t today.  Ricky Romero has also been nothing short of excellent for the club. Last season, the 27-year-old went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA and 178 strikeouts. It’s time to see if youngsters Brett Lawrie,  Anthony Gose, and catcher Travis D’Arnaud can live up to expectations.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Canada’s baseball pride

Needs pitchers who are not in

Intensive Care Unit

The Bottom Line:

When healthy, this team can be quite interesting. But that just doesn’t seem to happen

25) Miami Marlins ↓ 7

What We Originally Said:

Upside: I don’t think there could be a more interesting team to watch in 2012. Miami is one of three teams in the Dubsism Top Ten from the N.L. East Division and got there through having by far the most active off-season. Tey’ve got a new name, new uniforms, new logos, a new stadium, a new manager,  and of course, new players. The new Marlins Park will play host to the new-look squad under new manager and old loud mouth Ozzie Guillen, who will be leading new shortstop and reigning N.L. batting champ Jose Reyes, new closer Heath Bell, and new starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Added to existing Marlins Hanley Ramirezx and ace Josh Johnson, there’s no way this team won’t be entertaining at least.

Downside: This also just could be the loading of a gigantic powder-keg. Zambrano and Guillen in the same dug-out? The Marlins may want to keep the bomb squad handy at all times, not just for the volatility I just mentioned, but for the fact if this team doesn’t win right away, look for it to get blown up quick.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Guillen loves Castro

As he not as huge asshole

As Ken Williams

The Bottom Line:

Year One of the the Great Marlin Experiment was an abject failure. What will Year Two bring?

26) Kansas City Royals ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The club is loaded with young talent like Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar.  Alex Gordon turned a corner in 2011. Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur, and Jason Kendall provide veteran leadership, and there are more top prospects on the way like Wil Myers and Bubba Starling. The Royals also added pitching with starter Jonathan Sanchez and closer Jonathan Broxton.

Downside: General Manager Dayton Moore is a bit of an unproven commodity, so there’s no guarantee that he isn’t going to mortgage the future if the fans expectations suddenly outstrip the team’s talent.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

The ghost of George Brett

Cries when sees yet another

Great player leave town

The Bottom Line:

For the 27th consecutive year, Royals fans wait for next year.

27) Minnesota Twins  ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: It is possible they get production from the faces of the franchise, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Last year thanks to injuries, Mauer hit .287 with three home runs and 30 RBI, while Morneau hit a horrid .227 with four home runs and 30 RBI.

Downside: Only three players on the Twins saw more than 100 games of action last year. There’s Michael Cuddyer, who is now getting his mail in Colorado, outfielder Ben Revere, and third baseman Danny Valencia. These might be the only Twins who matter in 2012.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Willingham and Plouffe

Deserve shampoo ad more than

Overpaid slap hitter

The Bottom Line:

Jamey Carroll –  Your Winner of the Duane Kuiper Award, given to weak-hitting middle infielders.  Before hitting a solo shot on Monday, Carroll had gone 1,384 at-bats without leaving the yard, which was the longest active streak in all of baseball.

28)  Colorado Rockies ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Troy Tulowitzki hit .302 with 36 doubles, 30 home runs, and 105 RBI in 2011. Carlos Gonzalez hit .295 with 27 doubles, 26 home runs, and 92 RBI in only 127 games. Casey Blake, Marco Scutaro, Ramon Hernandez, and Michael Cuddyer will all be joining the Colorado this season, which can only provide more cushion in a lineup that already features some of baseball’s best hitters. The crisp air in Colorado with these players and Todd Helton at the forefront can only mean runs, runs, and more runs.

Downside: The starting rotation will consist of Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, and then any three out of about six possibles, including the 49-year old Jamie Moyer.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Even Yoda knows

Tulowitzki and Car-Go

The whole of team is

The Bottom Line:

The Rockies have won nine of their last 13 home games, improving their overall home record to 30-41. They must win eight of their remaining 10 home games to avoid finishing with their fewest number of home victories in any season not interrupted by a labor dispute. Other than the strike-shortened 1994 season when the Rockies went 25-32 at home, they have won no fewer than 38 home games. The remaining home schedule includes three games with the Giants, four with the Diamondbacks and three with the Cubs.

29) Houston Astros ↑ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  They have some nice young talent on the team like Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, and Fernando Martinez, and they still have Carlos Lee as the lone power source on the roster.

Downside: Last year, the pitching staff was bottom five in league rankings with a 4.51 cumulative ERA, 1.42 WHIP and a .266 opponents batting average en route to a league worst 56-106 record. That staff didn’t get any better.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Houston, we have a

Problem of epic status

Football months away

The Bottom Line:

Until further notice, Houston will be regarded as a AAA team.

30) Chicago Cubs  ↓ 1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Its spring, when Cubs fans everywhere have hope that at long last, this will finally be the year the winning drought in Wrigley Field ends. Plus, they off-loaded head-case first class Carlos Zambrano on the Marlins. Starlin Castro might be the bona fide star in Wrigley.

Downside: It’s not going to happen. Getting rid of Zambrano now means a pitching staff comprised of Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood; along with threat of Jeff Samardzija getting work as a starter in spring training. The Cubs have an average-at-best rotation and no replacement for Aramis Ramirez on offense. Snicker if you must, but A-Ram stacks up favorably against some historic third-basemen. He’s complied the second-most 25-home run seasons (9) for a third baseman, behind only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews who each had 12. Not to mention, only Chipper Jones has more seasons with at least a .300 batting average, 25 home runs and 90 RBI at the hot corner. Once again, spring becomes summer; the Cubs’drought continues.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Cubs under Ricketts

Like bad date when one wants sex

Gets only hand-job

The Bottom Line:

I get that the Cubs have won nearly ten more games than Houston, but like I said before, the Astros are really a AAA team.  The Cubs have far too much talent to be as lousy as they are.  For example, they have scored two or less runs in ten of the last eleven of Jeff Samardzija’s starts.  They still can’t get out from under Alfonso Soriano’s obscene contract, and they just made it worse by giving Starlin “Future Soriano” Castro big money as well.

What We’ve Learned: The 2012 London Olympics

Now that the 30th Olympiad is in the books, it is time for us here at Dubsism to bring you a rundown of all the things important to remember about the London games; more than just those American-centric things brought to you by the American media.

We really can’t bash on NBC too much since, to be honest, we are doing the exact same thing they are: trying to keep an Olympic-related ratings boost alive by stringing this out as long as possible. If you doubt that, just check the program schedule for the NBC Sports Network.

Things of Note From Selected Events:

Badminton:

So, we are all supposed to be shocked to find out there’s nefarious activity going on in an Olympic sport? Harumph.

Basketball:

Time to face facts, America…your days of crushing, “Dream Team” level dominance are over.  There are plenty of NBA players for many other teams; Lithuania outscored the U.S.  for the last three-quarters of their game, and the U.S.  could have easily lost to Spain in the final.  You can’t give up 100 points and say you had no chance to lose.

Beach Volleyball:

I can’t really improve on this description of the sport as offered by Slate:

Beach volleyball has only been an Olympic event since 1996, and one could argue that, as this article puts it, the sport “has slipped into the Olympics by a back door marked ‘Sex.’ ” According to a 2008 article in Australia’s Sunday Age, “Beach volleyball successfully pushed for the 1996 Atlanta Games in part by treating IOC members to first-class return flights to a tournament in Rio de Janeiro, putting them up in luxury seaside rooms, and building a walkway from their hotel to the beach to save them from crossing the road.”

The IOC members liked what they saw from their walkway, adding the sport in lieu of non-jiggly pastimes—squash, roller hockey, etc.—that have long sought entrance to the Olympics. Beach volleyball is a surefire ratings booster, a not-so-thinly veiled excuse for men to ogle tall, tanned women running around, diving, and bending over in tight swimsuits. As London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in a piece listing 20 reasons to be excited about the Olympics, “[T]here are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade. … They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers. The whole thing is magnificent and bonkers.”

Is there anything that piece missed short of just calling “hot asses on parade?”

Field Hockey:

They did this on an outdoor field in Britain. Did nobody tell them it rains every goddamn day there? Every time somebody hit the ball, it left a rooster-tail of water behind it.  They either needed a roof or a squeegee?

Team Handball:

This is a sport in which I clearly underestimated the level of violence. You can’t even get away with that sort of full-on choke in Judo.

Judo:

Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison has no worries about her future.  According to our good friend The SportsChump, she has a standing offer to do security at his bar anytime.

Modern Pentathlon:

You have to love when this sport suddenly turns into a rodeo.

Soccer:

You may be sensing a theme here.  Not only did Alex Morgan score the gold-medal winning goal, she also took out New Zealand’s goalie in a preliminary match.

Water Polo:

Here’s another sport that is just far more violent than I ever expected. That’s a full-on chop to the face.

Weightlifting:

This sport is eventually going to kill somebody. There’s no way that doesn’t happen.

Wrestling:

Here’s s sport where I actually expect some mayhem, and the wrestlers didn’t disappoint.

The Olympic Look-Alikes:

1) Bob Costas and Harry Potter

2) Rebecca Adlington and ODO from Deep Space 9

3) Meghan Markle and  Lolo Jones

4) LOL Face Meme and Kurtis Roberts

The Olympic Look-Alikes – The Michael Phelps Edition

In honor of arguably the greatest Olympian since Zeus, here’s a look-alike bit dedicated specifically to the 20-plus medaled bong hitter.

1) Michael Phelps and H.P. Lovecraft

2) Michael Phelps and Charles Lamb

3) Swimming Michael Phelps and a Skate

4) Stretching Michael Phelps and an uncooked turkey

The Olympic Athlete Who Looked The Most Like J-Dub

Reese Hoffa  – U.S. Track and Field

Jordan Jovtchev – The Jamie Moyer of the Olympics

Bulgaria's Jordan Jovtchev won a silver in the still rings at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He won bronze in the same event in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Jovtchev turned 39 in February and is the only gymnast to qualify to six Olympic Games.  He is a four-time Olympic medalist, with a silver on rings (Athens 2004) and three bronze medals (floor and rings in Sydney 2000 ; floor in Athens 2004).  His most recent medal is a bronze medal on rings at the Birmingham European Championships in 2010, the same medal he won at 2009 World Championships and European Championships.

The Serious Discussion:  The Bullshit About Being First

Be warned: The following segment is likely going to get me called a racist and a sexist….because I’m about to commit what has become a crime in America today: telling the truth no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel.

One of the stories the western media loved to fawn over was that of two Saudi Arabian female athletes were the first women to represent that country in the Olympic Games.  If you aren’t familiar, Saudi Arabia is essentially a theocratic state which is largely run by Muslim law. This means Saudi culture by nature is misogynistic and exists about 600 years behind the rest of the world.

From Yahoo Sports:

The two historic athletes who became the first women to ever represent Saudi Arabia in the Olympic Games have been snubbed by their nation’s media and subjected to a campaign of hate.  Sarah Attar ran the 800 meters on the Olympic Stadium track and Wojdan Shaherkani competed in judo earlier in the Games after the Saudi government eased its strict stance on women competing following international pressure.

This opening paragraph is a shining example of why the rest of the world hates the West.  The way women are treated in most Muslim countries is barbaric, anti-human, and none of our business.  Westerners love to run around wringing their hands about human rights and think they get to meddle in other cultures because of some sort of perceived moral high ground.

“Liberal” westerners are the biggest hypocrites when it comes to crap like this, and this is just another example.  The hypocrisy stems from the fact the westerners are all about symbolism which makes them feel better, even if it accomplishes nothing. Attar and Shaherkani are merely symbols for a bunch of westerners to get all self-congratulatory over.  If you doubt that, consider the following facts:

1) They weren’t legitimate contenders

“Attar finished last in her heat and Shaherkani lost her opening bout…”

It isn’t that they lost…they never had a chance to win in the first place, because they didn’t belong their – NOT because of their gender or situation, but because they simply weren’t amongst the best, which is what the Olympics is supposed to be all about.

2) They were only there because the western-dominated International Olympic Committee forced the Saudis into it

Attar and Shaherkani were late additions to the Saudi team and did not qualify but were admitted into their events in London under an International Olympic Committee regulation that seeks to encourage less established sporting nations…

…However, there is skepticism about the true motives of the decision to allow Attar, a Saudi-American who studies at Pepperdine University, and Shaherkani to compete.

“They allowed them to compete for only one reason,” [Khaled] Al-Maeena [editor of the English-language publication Saudi Gazette] said. “If you don’t send women, then in the future your country will not be allowed to participate [in the Olympics]. It was a wonderful thing to see the girls participate, and it made many people proud, but there was also a motive for it.

3) These women got subjected to a lot of crap, and the people who made it happen don’t care. 

A sinister Twitter campaign with the hashtag “prostitutes of the Olympics” originated in Saudi Arabia and was used to aim sexist vitriol at the competitors.
The father of judoka Shaherkani was so incensed that he contacted the country’s interior minister to demand action against those who had insulted his daughter. Under Saudi law, punishment for insulting a woman’s honor and integrity can be up to 100 lashes…

…Even though the women were forced to walk behind their male counterparts at the Opening Ceremony, their presence was seen as a step in the right direction for women’s rights in a country where females are still denied many of what would be considered basic human rights in other nations.

Westerners see this as a step in the right direction; back in Saudi Arabia, people get killed over shit like this.  This is the real problem with meddling in other cultures; it may make you feel better, that you are making a difference. Meanwhile, you are putting somebody else’s ass on the line.

Think about it.

Imagine how pissed off people in this country would get if all of a sudden a bunch of foreign self-appointed “our ways are best” started meddling with American culture. Can you imagine the back-lash if the tables were turned; if the Muslims ran the IOC and told America their women athletes had to stay home? We’d start a war over that.  But, westerners have no problem with such “butt-in-ski-ism” as long as it is their will being imposed.

4) Political Correctness Is Anathema to Merit.

This example is uniquely American, but it is the perfect one. For some reason, we have become enamored with being the “first.” It all started with Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play Major League Baseball in the modern era. Robinson’s ascent to the majors was exactly the reverse of these Saudi women. Robinson was a tremendously gifted athlete who was far beyond competitive with other Major Leaguers, and it was his ability which meant he belonged in baseball.

However, with these Saudi women, it was not their ability that got them to London. Rather, it was this messed-up western sense of “fairness,” which usually means some sort of quota enforced by some sort of reverse discrimination.  These women didn’t get to the Olympics based on WHO they were, but on WHAT they were. Martin Luther King’s “dream” was a day when people would be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.  Racism and sexism, despite the “best of intentions,” are still racism and sexism.

More Babes You Didn’t Hear About

Let’s face it…I’m a dirty old man, and the Olympics are chock full of women who make me seriously consider calling my doctor about that Viagra prescription.  In the original Dubsism post on the 30th Summer Games, we made mention of Vanessa Ferrari.  But there were so many more over the course of the past two weeks, and now it it is time they get their due.

Gemma Gibbons – Great Britain, Judo

This is the woman who got man-handled (pun really not intended) by U.S. gold medalist Kayla Harrison in the 78-kg final match. However, as I am an officianado of the “gentle way,” whenever Gemma wants a rematch against a Yank, I’d be more than happy to come down to her weight class.

Ivet Lalova – Bulgaria, Track and Field

I think a big part of the appeal here is in the name. Just say “Ivet Lalova” a few times to yourself, and you instantly hear the musical properties. think of the songs you could go all “Weird Al” on by using her name…Lola, My Sharona, Come on Come Over…feel free to add your own to the list.

Catalina Ponor – Romania, Gymnastics

The is the woman who took the screw-job handed out by the judges over some bullshit appeal.  More importantly, Ponor is not your average Olympic gymnast, meaning she isn’t 15 years old and 4 feet tall.

Julie Zetlin – U.S., Rhythmic Gymnastics

Zetlin only made the team based on a Olympic rule that each continent must have a representative. In other words, here’s another case where she didn’t make the team on her gymnastic merits, but it doesn’t take long to realize the two main reason she made this list.

Clearly The Coolest Thing We Saw: Remote-Control Mini-Coopers

In a word, these things were awesome. They were used to return the thrown objects (discus, shot, hammer, and javelin) back to throwing area in the track and field events.

What We’ve Learned: The Six Basic Throws of Olympic Judo

Here at Dubsism, we are all about education. That means as part of our Olympic coverage, we will strive to make sure you in the blog reading public get an opportunity to learn something while staying tuned to our coverage of the 30th Olympiad.  In a previous blog, we did make a reference to the fact J-dub is a practitioner of Judo.  Now, thanks to the  good people at Pleated Jeans, we’ve found an effective  way to teach the joys of Olympic Judo.

#1) The School Dance

2) The Warm Embrace

3) The Disgruntled Bookie

4) The Late Night Date

 

 

5) The Fashion Bug

 

 

6) The Tickle Monster

 

Now that you know the six basic Judo throws, share the Olympic experience with the next total stranger you pass on the street.

What We’ve Learned: The Baseball Power Rankings at the All-Star Break – The “Haiku” Edition

So, if you are one of the six regular readers of this blog, right now you are asking yourself just what in the hell is Haiku? In short, traditional Haiku is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterized by a very restrictive format consisting of 17  syllables in phrases of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively.

This restriction forces a juxtaposition of imagery or ideas and generally mixed with what the Japanese call kireji, or “cutting.” It isn’t “cutting” as you would normally think of it; it isn’t really something slicing through something else, but at the same time it is just that. To make a long story short, it’s a lot of that artsy-fartsy shit like “a crystal clear picture painted with a vague brush’ that’s only appreciated  those hipster-doofuses who smoke clove cigarettes and hang around the liberal arts building at (insert your local college here) when they are working part-time at Barnes & Noble.

In fact, I had just such a doofus explain this “cutting” thing to me as “the juxtaposition of two images or ideas with a kireji word between them acting as a verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.”

I tried figuring out just what the fuck that meant until some brown stuff started leaking out of my ears, then it dawned on me. It’s exactly the same undefinable reason why baseball is a great metaphor for life while at the same time being a shitty metaphor for life.  It’s why the colloquial American lexicon is full of baseball terms, and yet anybody who uses more than two of them in any one sentence is likely a sub-literate.

After that revelation, I thought why should I wrestle with this alone? Why not do one of my Power Rankings entirely in Haiku? Why not make some baseball fans’ brains bleed as well?

1) Washington Nationals ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Nationals have one of the best young rotations in baseball.  Strasburg appears ready to return to his pre- Tommy John surgery condition, and the acquisitions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson were huge.  If Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Chien-Ming Wang can stay away from the injury problems that have bugged them, the Nationals should be able to stay in most games based on their pitching alone.  But the Nats should be stronger in the middle of the order since Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, and Danny Espinosa all could be 25 HR, 90 RBI guys.

Downside: The Nats have three question marks. The first is at first base; Adam LaRoche played only 43 games last year before season-ending surgery and hit just .172. Can he return to the form of his previous years? However, Michael Morse blossomed at first base once LaRoche went down.  Secondly, the Nats have an issue in the lead-off spot. Ian  Desmond is going to start the season there, but he’ll have to learn to be more patient.  He’s drawn only 63 walks in 308 games during 2010 and 2011. Lastly there’s the matter of timing. This needs to be the year the Nats take a step toward the future because this is the last year before the expectations are going to go up. They can still be mediocre this year, but if they finish third or worse in 2013, they may just become a red version of the Cubs.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Best starters in league

Team pitching stats are crazy

Bats awakening

2) Texas Rangers ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The only team in the A.L. West they have to worry about is the Angels. The Rangers have a line-up tailor-made to their hitter-friendly park, so there is no reason they can’t lead the league in team batting average again. Not to mention, they placed top five in runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Downside: The Rangers are gambling in the wake of losing C.J. Wilson to division-rival Los Angeles with their $103 million investment in Yu Darvish and moving  Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation for the first time in his major league career. Then there’s the Josh Hamilton situation…we all know about the off-the-field issues, but don’t forget the former AL MVP has been hampered by injuries lately as well.  Now contract talks are stalled, and who knows what impact that will have.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Texas bats don’t fail

Texas pitching often fails

This year is just same

3)  Los Angeles Angels ↑ 6

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: This team has ownership that isn’t afraid to make a move. Due to the free-agent signing of first baseman Albert Pujols and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson, the Angels committed $331.5 million, which left little room for the team to add anyone else significant during the offseason. New GM Jerry DiPoto did, however, get his hands on a decent bat bat behind the plate in Chris Iannetta, and reliable veteran relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins becomes the latest on the list of guys who have played for both of my two favorite teams (Angels and Twins).

Pujols adds to a lineup which featured six players with double-digit home runs, and six with over 59 RBI. Top prospects in catcher Hank Conger and outfielder Mike Trout will also be in the running for a full season with the club.

C.J. Wilson adds to a rotation which already featured 2011 A.L. All-Star Game starter Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana.

Downside: Which Vernon Wells do the Angels get in 2012?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Weaver and Haren

Awesome one-two starting punch

Pujols is Pujols

4) New York Yankees ↑ 3

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Yankees upgraded their pitching staff by adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, and by subtracting A.J. Burnett.  Prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos will soon find their way to the major league rotation as well. If the pitching staff gels and Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira perform as expected, this team will prove formidable.

Downside:  Don’t look now, but this team isn’t getting any younger.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching Staff Falling

Sabathia Pettitte hurt

Ivan Nova is best left

5) Chicago White Sox ↑ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: General Manager Ken Williams also showed a desire to rebuild his club by getting rid of longtime White Sox starter Mark Buehrle and letting go of Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, Jason Frasor, Sergio Santos, and Omar Vizquel.

Downside: General Manager Ken Williams has no idea how to rebuild a club. He replaced staff ace Mark Buerhle by over-paying for the ever-fraudulent John Danks.  The rest of the starting rotation will depend on the fragile Jake Peavy and the unproven Chris Sale.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Smoke and mirrors

Houdini made this mirage

Contender won’t last

6) Pittsburgh Pirates ↑ 15

What We Said Originally:

Upside:  The Bucs are quietly cobbling together a respectable offense.  Outfielders Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and All-Star Andrew McCutchen are likely to be the the 1-2-3  hitters; all of them hit over .275 last year, and all of them swiped over 20 sacks. Neil Walker looks like a #4 hitter after hitting 17 home runs and 62 RBI in only 460 at-bats.  Plus, the Pirates may have emerging power at the corner infield spots; Garrett Jones showed some pop with 17 homers last year, and Pedro Alvarez is due for his breakout year any time now.

Downside: Last year, the Pirates gave up the third-worst opponents batting average (.270) and received the fifth-fewest quality starts from their starting five.  A.J. Burnett is supposed to be the cure for that?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pirates no surprise

Tons of young talent living

In bad division

7) Los Angeles Dodgers ↓ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young last year and is a contender for the award again. He is signed with the Dodgers through 2013.  Matt Kemp was the runner-up for the NL MVP Award, and was a single dinger away from joining the 40HR/40 stolen base club.  The Dodgers have him locked up through 2019.

Downside: They still have yet to rid themselves of Frank McCourt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Matt Kemp Clayton Kershaw

Ethier on the list too

Why Dodgers contend

8 )  San Francisco Giants ↑ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner form one of the best 1-2-3 combinations in the game.

Downside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the worst offenses in baseball. With the losses of Cody Ross and Carlos Beltran, this team may find itself relying on a 3-4-5 heart of the order consisting of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching carries team

Even though Lincecum sucks

Melky keys offense

9) Baltimore Orioles ↓ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: As bad as there were in 2011, their offense wasn’t all that bad and they’ve kept the core of it.  If Mark Reynolds can produce another 30-plus home run season, and Adam Jones and Nick Markakis continue their consistent hitting, the Orioles could end up being a mediocre team.

Downside:  The Orioles had the worst off-season of any Major League team.  If you don’t agree, here are their off-season acquisitions: pitchers Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Jason Hammel, and Matt Lindstrom; and position players Wilson Betemit, Endy Chavez and Taylor Teagarden.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Baltimore baseball

Loves meaningless history

Two decades of proof

10) Tampa Bay Rays ↓ 8

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Their pitching staff will carry them in 2012.  David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Matt Moore form a six-man rotation that just might let the Rays continue their average 92 wins over the last four seasons. Only three teams in the majors had a higher average with one of the lowest four-year payroll totals in baseball at $222 million.

Downside: The Rays need a new fanbase and stadium.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Six-man rotation

Yet none of them really suck

Yet Rays kind of suck

11) New York Mets ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Whether its up or down, the theme once again for the Mets is hope. Hopefully, all the distractions that surrounded last season are gone with the departure of Jose Reyes. Hopefully, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana are healthy, will stay that way, and will perform up to expectations. Hopefully, there will be a resurgence of third baseman David Wright and Jason Bay now that the outfield wall has been moved in.

Downside:  Hopefully, all those things I just mentioned will happen.  Right after they all do happen, we can all join hands and visit the fairy princess together. Not only that, but this team goes nowhere as long as Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz own the team.  Let’s face it, meltdown, dumpster fire, train wreck…they all are synonymous with “Mets.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

When R.A. Dickey

Is by far your best pitcher

Your life is mirage

12) Cleveland Indians ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Shin-Soo Choo seems to be healthy. Vinne Pestano and Nick Hagadone could be the foundations of a solid, young bullpen.  Carlos Santana is a potential All-Star.

Downside: Fausto Carmona (or whoever he really is) may never get ba They also have the best home record in all of baseball.ck into the country and Grady Sizemore is probably finished as an effective major league player. The heyday for this team was fifteen years ago, and unless you can find a way to add Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Jake Taylor to the roster, there will be more than one long summer in Cleveland’s near future.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Somehow not shitty

Can pitch but have no offense

Shin-Soo Choo Korean sneeze

13)  Cincinnati Reds ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  General Manager Walt Jocketty managed to improve the starting rotation by adding former Padres ace Mat Latos, the bullpen by bringing in Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, and added some needed depth by acquiring Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, and Ryan Ludwick. With these additions to the existing weapons like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and the fact the N.L. Central no longer has the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the Reds have the potential once again to seize the top spot in the division.

Downside: That pitching staff is managed by Dusty “The Ligament Shredder” Baker, the same Dusty Bake who think base-runners “just clog up the basepaths.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Great American

Ballpark holds team powered by

Mostly foriegners

14) Atlanta Braves ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last year, I said the Braves were a collection of “what-ifs” built around a solid core of just enough hitting and just enough pitching. Now, enough of those questions became facts so that barring injuries, the Braves can contend in the NL East.

Downside: The Braves finished 13 games back of the Phillies last season, and they way the season ended for them still has to sting. The question is did they improve enough to fix those issues?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Chipper’s last hurrah

While team disintegrates like

Chipper’s ligaments

15) Detroit Tigers ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last season, the Motor City Kitties finished in the top four in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. The numbers can only get better with the offseason acquisition of first baseman Prince Fielder, who just happens to be a career .282 hitter averaging over 32 home runs and 93 RBI per season over the last six years.

Downside: How does the move of Cabrera back to third base work out? What will be the impact of losing DH Victor Martinez? And I’m not sold on the rotation beyond Justin Verlander and Doug Fister.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Slugger’s paradox

Cabrera and Fielder

Yet team lacks power

16) Boston Red Sox ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The Boston Red Sox are taking on an entirely new look in 2012.  For the first time in recent memory, Jonathan Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek will not be on the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox. And it’s about time, especially after what happened last September.  Despite this new look, New GM Ben Cherington will be faced with the challenge of keeping the Sox a contender.

Downside: I don’t give a damn what anybody says, I don’t buy this pitching staff.  Jon Lester has always been over-rated in my book. The loss of John Lackey is a case of “addition by subtraction.”  Clay Buchholz walks too many guys. Who knows what Daniel Bard and Vincente Padilla really are?

Then, there’s the whole issue of that idiot Bobby Valentine. I can’t wait for the Terry Francona “Miss Me Yet?” billboards to break out all over New England.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Worst .500 team

Valentine captains a ship

Which hit iceberg twice

17) Miami Marlins ↓ 7

What We Originally Said:

Upside: I don’t think there could be a more interesting team to watch in 2012. Miami is one of three teams in the Dubsism Top Ten from the N.L. East Division and got there through having by far the most active off-season. Tey’ve got a new name, new uniforms, new logos, a new stadium, a new manager,  and of course, new players. The new Marlins Park will play host to the new-look squad under new manager and old loud mouth Ozzie Guillen, who will be leading new shortstop and reigning N.L. batting champ Jose Reyes, new closer Heath Bell, and new starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Added to existing Marlins Hanley Ramirezx and ace Josh Johnson, there’s no way this team won’t be entertaining at least.

Downside: This also just could be the loading of a gigantic powder-keg. Zambrano and Guillen in the same dug-out? The Marlins may want to keep the bomb squad handy at all times, not just for the volatility I just mentioned, but for the fact if this team doesn’t win right away, look for it to get blown up quick.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Guillen loves Castro

As he not as huge asshole

As Ken Williams

18 ) St. Louis Cardinals ↔

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Despite losing Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals still have enough weapons to be a factor in the N.L. Central. Starter Adam Wainwright comes back from Tommy John surgery, and he leads a rotation featuring Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, and Kyle Lohse. Also, could this be the breakout year for World Series MVP David Freese? His 21 RBI over 18 postseason games last October could signal the start of something big.

Downside: Let’s face it…losing Albert Pujols would hurt any line-up. This means Lance Berkman has to at least come close to the .301/31 HR/94 RBI campaign he put up in 2011, and Matt Holliday has to be a .300/25 HR/RBI guy as well.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Lance Lynn lifted staff

Lance Berkman’s big lefty bat

Replaced by Beltran

19) Toronto Blue Jays ↓ 3

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: Jose Bautista.  In 2010, he hit .260 with 35 doubles, 54 home runs and 124 RBI. In 2011, he hit .302 with 24 doubles, 43 home runs, and 103 RBI. He has to figure in the MVP race.

Downside: The Blue Jays could have a bright future, but the future isn’t today.  Ricky Romero has also been nothing short of excellent for the club. Last season, the 27-year-old went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA and 178 strikeouts. It’s time to see if youngsters Brett Lawrie,  Anthony Gose, and catcher Travis D’Arnaud can live up to expectations.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Canada’s baseball pride

Needs pitchers who are not in

Intensive Care Unit

20) Arizona Diamondbacks ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: In a division heavy in pitching, the D-backs chose bulk by getting potential question mark Trevor Cahill from Oakland and re-signing their own free agent, Joe Saunders, after non-tendering him at the December deadline for arbitration-eligibles. Kennedy, Hudson and Saunders logged career highs in innings last season, and it will be interesting to see if they can repeat that…see below…

Downside:  Even though the Arizona Diamondbacks finished first place in the NL West Division at 94-68, their starting rotation was filled with career-best seasons:

  • Ian Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 earned run average and 198 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Daniel Hudson went 16-12 with a 3.49 earned run average and 169 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Joe Saunders went 12-13 with 3.69 earned run average and 108 strikeouts in 212 innings pitched.
  • Josh Collmenter went 10-10 with a 3.38 earned run average and 100 strikeouts in 154.1 innings pitched.

The D-backs line-up can be inconsistent as well – they struggled to hit over .250 as team despite everyday players Gerardo Parra, Justin Upton and Miguel Montero hitting .292, .289 and .282 respectively.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Arizona snakes

Swallowing their own venom

No playoff repeat

21) Oakland Athletics ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  America’s favorite breakfast cereal, Coco Crisp,  will still man the Oakland outfield after signing a $14 million, two-year contract with a club option for 2014 after hitting .264 with eight home runs, 54 RBI and 49 stolen bases last season. Then there the Cuban grab-bag known as Yoenis Cespedes. This kid could be the real deal.

Downside: The A’s are without many of their pitchers who brought success to the team in recent years. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Josh Outman are out of the starting rotation, while Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey are no longer in the bullpen. The one proven offensive power bat in the lineup has also departed; Josh Willingham hit 29 home runs and 98 RBI in 2011, but is now part of the Minnesota Twins.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

A’s have Cespedes

Ryan Cook and little else

At least no Manny

22) Milwaukee Brewers ↑ 3

What We  Originally Said:

Upside:  Even though Miller Park is known for being tough on right-handed sluggers, the Brewers brought in third baseman Aramis Ramirez. He will need to have a Beltre-like season (.300/25 HR/90 RBIs) to help off-set the loss of Prince Fielder.

Downside: The big questions: Can Mat Gamel prove he is ready to be a major league first-baseman, including posting some power numbers at the plate? Can Wily Peralta develop into a credible big-league starter? Then there’s the elephant in the room…the Ryan Braun situation and what impact it may have…

The Mid-Season Haiku:

No Prince Fielder

Leaves Ryan Braun alone with

His tainted sample

23) Philadelphia Phillies ↓ 8

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The starting rotation is as good as it gets with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. New closer Jonathan Papelbon should help shore up the bullpen.

Downside:  If the Yankees and the Phillies make the World Series, they may want to get the games done before 4 p.m., so they can all hit the early-bird specials at Denny’s. This is another team that is aging before our eyes. Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are 33, Chase Utley is 32, and Placido Polanco tops the list at 36. Not to mention, the Phillies have lost have lost four of their last five postseason series.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Team can’t be a winner

When it can’t even get right

Roy Halladay doll

24) Kansas City Royals ↑ 3

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The club is loaded with young talent like Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar.  Alex Gordon turned a corner in 2011. Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur, and Jason Kendall provide veteran leadership, and there are more top prospects on the way like Wil Myers and Bubba Starling. The Royals also added pitching with starter Jonathan Sanchez and closer Jonathan Broxton.

Downside: General Manager Dayton Moore is a bit of an unproven commodity, so there’s no guarantee that he isn’t going to mortgage the future if the fans expectations suddenly outstrip the team’s talent.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

The ghost of George Brett

Cries when sees yet another

Great player leave town

25) Minnesota Twins ↑ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: It is possible they get production from the faces of the franchise, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Last year thanks to injuries, Mauer hit .287 with three home runs and 30 RBI, while Morneau hit a horrid .227 with four home runs and 30 RBI.

Downside: Only three players on the Twins saw more than 100 games of action last year. There’s Michael Cuddyer, who is now getting his mail in Colorado, outfielder Ben Revere, and third baseman Danny Valencia. These might be the only Twins who matter in 2012.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Willingham and Plouffe

Deserve shampoo ad more than

Overpaid slap hitter

26)  San Diego Padres ↑ 2

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Again, you really can’t beat the weather in San Diego…and the Padres, despite the loss of Mat Latos, Aaron Harang, and Heath Bell still have a serviceable  (not great, serviceable) pitching staff currently slated to feature Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, and Cory Luebke.  Heath Bell’s closer role has been replaced by Huston Street.

Downside:  The Padres offense last year was in the bottom three in runs scored (593), batting average (.237), on-base percentage (.305) and slugging percentage (.349). The only improvements to that came in the form of Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, and current AARP member Mark Kotsay.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Diego baseball

Much in common with Bigfoot

Rumored to exist

27)  Colorado Rockies ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Troy Tulowitzki hit .302 with 36 doubles, 30 home runs, and 105 RBI in 2011. Carlos Gonzalez hit .295 with 27 doubles, 26 home runs, and 92 RBI in only 127 games. Casey Blake, Marco Scutaro, Ramon Hernandez, and Michael Cuddyer will all be joining the Colorado this season, which can only provide more cushion in a lineup that already features some of baseball’s best hitters. The crisp air in Colorado with these players and Todd Helton at the forefront can only mean runs, runs, and more runs.

Downside: The starting rotation will consist of Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, and then any three out of about six possibles, including the 49-year old Jamie Moyer.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Even Yoda knows

Tulowitzki and Car-Go

The whole of team is

28)  Seattle Mariners ↓ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Felix Hernandez.

Downside: This is the last year of Ichiro Suzuki’s contract with the club. The 38-year-old has seen his batting average drop 80 points over the last two seasons, so you can only expect that this will be his final season with the club unless he’s back to being the old Ichiro. In addition to Ichiro’s decline, the Mariners finished dead last in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage last year.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Felix Hernandez

Can only pitch, but team needs more

More of everything

29) Chicago Cubs ↑ 1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Its spring, when Cubs fans everywhere have hope that at long last, this will finally be the year the winning drought in Wrigley Field ends. Plus, they off-loaded head-case first class Carlos Zambrano on the Marlins. Starlin Castro might be the bona fide star in Wrigley.

Downside: It’s not going to happen. Getting rid of Zambrano now means a pitching staff comprised of Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood; along with threat of Jeff Samardzija getting work as a starter in spring training. The Cubs have an average-at-best rotation and no replacement for Aramis Ramirez on offense. Snicker if you must, but A-Ram stacks up favorably against some historic third-basemen. He’s complied the second-most 25-home run seasons (9) for a third baseman, behind only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews who each had 12. Not to mention, only Chipper Jones has more seasons with at least a .300 batting average, 25 home runs and 90 RBI at the hot corner. Once again, spring becomes summer; the Cubs’drought continues.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Cubs under Ricketts

Like bad date when one wants sex

Gets only hand-job

30) Houston Astros ↓ 10

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  They have some nice young talent on the team like Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, and Fernando Martinez, and they still have Carlos Lee as the lone power source on the roster.

Downside: Last year, the pitching staff was bottom five in league rankings with a 4.51 cumulative ERA, 1.42 WHIP and a .266 opponents batting average en route to a league worst 56-106 record. That staff didn’t get any better.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Houston, we have a

Problem of epic status

Football months away

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