Hope Springs Eternal in Florida and Arizona

The 2013 Major League baseball season kicks off this month as players report to their respective camps in Florida and Arizona. Many teams were busy over the winter revamping their rosters.

In Los Angeles the new owners of the Dodgers didn’t sit in the cheap seats after purchasing the team for $2.15 billion. Led by former Lakers star Magic Johnson the Dodgers spent more than $200 million this offseason on just three players – Zack Grienke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon League. The Dodger lineup is loaded with big name players like Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Either. Only time will tell if the West Coast version of the Yankees can gel into a contender.

Another team making a big splash over the winter is the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto took advantage of the Miami Marlins fire sale and acquired Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle and Emilio Bonifacio. But the Blue Jays weren’t done. A trade with the New York Mets brought knuckleballer R.A. Dickey north of the border to bolster a formidable pitching staff. Suddenly (on paper), the AL East looks like the toughest division in baseball.

620653_24123006The defending World Series champs San Francisco Giants stood pat, not signing any big name players. The Giants will rely on pitching and defense again. Mait Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum will anchor a solid pitching rotation. Pitching health will be important as the Giants’ bats produced the fewest home runs in the National League last year. The Giants need another MVP-type season from Buster Posey to carry San Francisco to another postseason visit.

Change is afoot in Texas as the Houston Astros make the move to the American League. The rebuilding Astros don’t have any household names and look like they are headed for another 100 loss season. The good news is the minor league system continues to improve. Be patient, Astros fans. Houston will join the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Rangers’ fans did not enjoy the last three months of 2012. First the team blew a three game lead with three games left in the regular season to lose the division title to Oakland. Texas was then quickly dismissed from postseason play by Baltimore. Things got worse when Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young left via free agency/trade. Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski were brought in to help fill the void. Pitching now seems to be the strength of the team. Yu Darvish and Derek Holland anchor a strong rotation. Star prospect Jurickson Profar gave Rangers’ fans a glimpse of the future in a late-season call up. He needs to make an impact in 2013 to help fans forget about the offseason departure of key players.

Here are our players to watch in 2013:

  • Tim Lincecum (San Francisco Giants) – The Freak had a forgettable 2012 season. He will need to rebound if the Giants hope for a repeat World Series visit.
  • Adrian Gonzalez (LA Dodgers) – a mid season trade brought Gonzalez to LA. Unfortunately he left his power in Boston. A resurgent Gonzalez will offer protection for Kemp and gives the Dodgers legitimate power at first base.
  • Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals) – Strasburg was on a pitch count in 2012 following Tommy John surgery. The Nats sure could have used him in the postseason. The pitch count has been lifted and Strasburg will be counted on to lead Washington back to the playoffs.
  • Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles) – Jones had a breakout season in 2012. With the AL East wide open the Orioles will need Jones to duplicate last season if they hope to contend.
  • Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers) – The Rangers lost a ton of offense in the offseason. Beltre will be the focal point in the lineup. Will he be up to the task?

The great thing about Spring Training is everyone starts anew. Optimism is high, and the excitement of another baseball season can help fight the winter chill. Tell us how you think your team will do this season.

 Jeff is a former semi-professional baseball player and contributor to the TicketCity Blog.

Swing In the New Year at Opening Day

With the Harbaugh Super Bowl just around the corner sports fans will have to turn their attention to the next big day of the New Year — MLB’s Opening Day. Hot dogs, peanuts, beer, and seventh inning stretches are just around the corner. With Opening Day games scheduled at venues like Minute Maid Park, Yankee Stadium, Turner Field, and Dodger Stadium, it’s a perfect time to catch a game. The slate is clean and the hunt for October begins in March with some of the most impressive match-ups the MLB has to offer.

To kick of the new season we head to Minute Maid Park where the stage is set for a Texas showdown. There will only be one game in the spotlight on Opening Night as the Texas Rangers head into Houston to play the Astros in their first game as an American League member. The two teams are not unfamiliar with competing on an inter-league basis as a part of the Lone Star Series which has been played since 2001 but now that they will be playing for divisional rights things could get a little more intense. Spoken as a true Astros fan, it’s been a little hard to root for a team that has been at bottom since the departure of the three B’s. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With the new move to the American League the ‘Stros get the full-time DH, which will come in handy against an offensively stacked AL. To do the job the Astros brought in Carlos Pena who despite only hitting 19 HR’s last year carries a strong resume. Ironically the slugger’s MLB debut in 2001 was with the Rangers, a team that will be looking to bounce back from the mayhem of the 2012 Wildcard game.

After March 31st the flood gates open up to a two day opening day extravaganza. Besides some of the premiere games like Tigers – Twins, Giants – Dodgers, and Phillies – Braves one of the most intriguing game day openers is the classic Yankees – Red Sox rivalry. Despite having played each other for more than a century the two AL East foes have only met in the ALCS three times but every postseason since the inception of the wild card format has featured one of these teams. The Red Sox had to mosey their way through an 86-year curse but have managed to remain productive since breaking the Bambino’s curse with a World Series win in 2004. The Yankees have seen better times but they are always in contention, especially with names like Suzuki, Jeter, Pettitte, and Sabathia on the roster. In any light a rivalry that features two of the best teams, national attention, and the fiercest fans around is destined to be good, thus making the Yankees-Red Sox opener a must see in 2013.

No matter where opening day 2013 sends you TicketCity want to take you. So check out the full schedule of this year’s opening day games as well as your favorite team’s 2013 home opener schedule at TicketCity!

Great October

It’s true what they say about the MLB in October — it’s where legends are born. The 2012 divisional series’ were a testament to the saying. With every series going the distance the stage was set for some remarkable finishes.

Out in Oakland, the A’s welcomed the Detroit Tigers in to the O.co Coliseum with expectations to do great things, while Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander had other plans in mind. Verlander, who is known to pitch a complete game from time to time, took the mound last Thursday and manager Jim Leyland said he could see it in Verlander’s eyes. Even Prince Fielder said he could tell Verlander was not going to come out of the game. The Tigers ace did not disappoint as he went the full nine innings to shut out the A’s, giving up just four hits. The 122-pitch masterpiece retired 11 batters via strike out and sent the Tigers to the ALCS where they took a 2 game lead against the Yankees. The series is headed to Detroit for games 3-5 at Comerica Park.

On the other side of the American League the Yankees – Orioles series was just as intense. Games three and four both found their way into extra innings and were decided by one run. Game 5 left the Orioles hanging their hats for the season as the Yankees outscored them 3-1.

After Werth’s walk-off jack in Game 4 to extend the series, expectations for a dramatic Game 5 in Washington were surpassed by the unexpected. If you were a Nationals fan, the first three innings left you with a great feeling. If you’re a Cardinals fan and stopped watching the Washington Nationals demolish the St. Louis Cardinals after the 6th inning you probably found yourself at a loss for words upon seeing the final score. After blasting the ball out of the stadium three times to take a 6 to nothing lead the Nationals were sitting pretty going into the final innings of the game. What they did not count on is an extremely experienced Cardinals team to come back with four unanswered runs in the ninth. After Descalso’s 2-RBI single to tie the game all was in line for that moment every kid acts out in their backyard. It’s the ninth inning, there are two outs and the game is tied. The TicketCity Play of the Week comes from the batter that stepped into box for the most cliché scenario in baseball. With runners on second and third the Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma rips the 2-2 pitch down the right field line knocking in the game-winning runs.

The Cardinals advanced to the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants where they have a one game lead at ATT Park. Games 3-5 will take the series to Busch Stadium in St. Louis after tonight’s Game 2.

Enjoy an unbelievable Cardinals comeback with the TicketCity Play of the Week.

A New Generation of Legends

Last week in sports was definitely one for the ages. With nearly 100 years of combined records being broken, Miguel Cabrera and Drew Brees replaced some legendary names in the record books. Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown. In Major League Baseball the Triple Crown refers to when a player leads either league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs (runs batted in). In 143 years of MLB play this feat has only been accomplished 17 times. Before Cabrera the last person to win the Triple Crown was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Not only did Miguel Cabrera win the Triple Crown but he is leading his team through the MLB Playoffs as they are battling the Oakland Athletics in the American League Divisional Series. Though there is no video to show how Miguel Cabrera’s bat has been the most powerful in all the MLB he most certainly will share the TicketCity Play of the Week pedestal with Drew Brees.

In 1942, Green Bay Packers quarterback Cecil Isbell established a record of 23 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. 18 years later, when the Colts called Baltimore home, one of the most legendary QBs to play the game doubled this record and threw for a TD in 47 consecutive games. His name was Johnny Unitas. After Unitas set this astonishing record it remained in the books for decades going unchallenged for 52 years. Players like Dan Marino, Brett Favre and Tom Brady all danced around the record only to fall short by ten or more games. On October 18, 2009 New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees would begin his shot at breaking this streak.

Drew Brees began his football career as a Westlake Chaparral in Austin, Texas. From Austin the 6-foot 200-pound quarterback went on to make a name for himself as the starting quarterback for the Purdue Boilermakers. In the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft the San Diego Chargers took Drew Brees as the 32nd pick. Though his size was always questioned in the NFL, Brees came to be one of the great quarterbacks of the league. It was not until 2005 when the Chargers signed their current franchise QB Phillip Rivers that Brees found himself without a team. Sean Peyton and the New Orleans Saints saw more than just the shortest quarterback in the NFL — they saw an amazing leader and football player. In the same year Brees began his consecutive game touchdown passing record he also led the Saints to a victory in Super Bowl XLIV where he was named MVP.

Last night’s stage was set perfectly for Brees as he took the field for pregame warmups. Not only was his head coach Sean Peyton allowed to attend the game but he would be going up against Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. With three minutes left in the first quarter Brees drops back on third down and finds Henderson wide open down the sideline for a touchdown to surpass Unitas in one of the most untouched records in NFL history. Brees capped the night off with three more touchdowns and 370 passing yards to bring the Saints out of their winless start and leave the new record for consecutive games with a passing touchdown at 48.

 

Rarer than Rare

Saturday, July 21st, the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies took to the field for the second game in a three game series. Matt Cain was on the mound for the Giants and Cole Hamels for the Phillies. What started as just another baseball game took a turn for true rarity in the third inning. It started with Cain’s at bat in the top of the third, where he took Hamels’ 88mph off-speed pitch yard to left field. The pitcher’s homer alone is something that is rarely seen in the MLB. What makes this game rarer than rare occurs in the bottom of the third when Hamels does the same to Matt Cain. In true payback fashion, Cole Hamels unloads on Cain’s first fastball and sends it over the wall in right center. Not only do two pitchers have home runs in this game, but they did it off one another in the same inning. This is something that has not been done for over 20 years. The last time it happened was in 1990 when Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers and Kevin Gross of the Expos put on the show.

To keep the theme of rarity going, I decided to give the TicketCity Play of the Week a double dose of features. The second play this week comes from the NBA summer league. With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter of the Memphis Washington game, the Grizzlies point guard Jeremy Pargo displays some incredible ball handling and passing skills. After splitting the defense with a few crossover dribbles, Pargo makes a sly no look pass to Mitchell Watt for the two point bucket. In all, the point guard shakes off three defenders and leaves the other two staring in awe as they try to comprehend what they just witnessed. The Gonzaga point guard went undrafted in 2009, spending two years in various summer league programs and playing ball in the Israeli Basketball Super League. It wasn’t until December of last year that the Memphis Grizzlies extended a two year contract to Pargo.

To see the rare double pitcher home run video click here.

Here is the Jeremy Pargo show.