Dennis on Baseball

Baseball has been a part of my life since I've been old enough to remember. My first memories about the game are having a catch with my dad after he got home from work.  He was a big fan of baseball, and like Bill's dad, he was a big-time Yankee fan.  He would tell me and my brother about all the games he heard on the radio, of Yogi, Joe Dimaggio, Billy Martin, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, etc. etc.  I started playing organized ball very young, I think at the age of about 6 or 7 years old.  I played until I was in my early 30's, when my knees and shoulders gave out.  After that, I coached a bit when my son was very young, but that ended when he decided he was more interested in being a musician than a ball player.  (By the way, he does the music for our podcast).  

All through my playing years, I, like my brother kept a keen eye on the major leagues, because who didn't want to think about playing at the pro-level.  While I was never good enough to get there, it was always a nice fantasy to have.  During my teens, in the 1970's, we were blessed with some of the best baseball teams and games that I can remember.  

My favorite team outside of my home team, the Texas Rangers, was the Oakland A's.  I was enthralled by their rebelliousness, their swagger, their fighting, and their winning. In the early 1970's while fighting each other, their manger, and the opposing teams, they managed to win 3 World Series Championships.   While Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Bert Campanaris were the big names on the team, my favorite was always Joe Rudi.  Joe was the left fielder on those championship teams. He wasn't a big power hitter, and was a middle of the road hitter, but my goodness could he play the outfield.  It was not uncommon to see Joe diving for balls hit to him two or three times a game.  he had an arm like a cannon, and often picked off greedy hitters trying to stretch a single to a double, double to a triple and so on.  

Later in the 1970's, I became a fan of the Big Red Machine, led by Sparky Anderson, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, George Foster, and so on.  They seemed to be unstoppable, and played a game that was precise, sprinkled with power, and dominant pitching.   

There has always been a soft spot in my heart for the Texas Rangers.  While they have had since the 1990's a few division championships and two pennants, for most of their history they have been awful.  Still, it was my home team and I remember fondly watching well established stars like Ferguson Jenkins and Gaylord Perry in the early days.  We got to see perhaps one of the best catchers in the game, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez grow up right before our eyes and go from a highly talented 19 year old prospect, to a seasoned veteran who every baserunner in the American League was afraid of.   

Baseball is a truly American sport. It's something that stays consistent through all of the turmoil of our day to day lives. I like the symmetry of the diamond, the fact that no one person on the ball field is more important than the other. I like the fact it incorporates strategy as well as brute force.  The pitchers at the major leagues are artists in terms of their ability to "paint" the plate in exactly the right spot.  The athletic capability of the players is often breathtaking. It's a sport that, while often troubled (e.g. steroid era), evokes memories about the things that are good in this country.   I don't get those who aren't fans.   Who doesn't like a warm spring or summer day, popcorn and perhaps a hot dog, washed down by a cold beer or soft drink, watching grown-ups play a kids game in a place that is often as beautiful as any cathedral you'll ever visit?   


Bill on Baseball

I remember watching baseball when I was four or five years old. I watched those games on a 7" or 9" black and white TV that was as big as a small refrigerator. The games were on WPIX, channel 11, in the New York metropolitan area. I was a Giants fan, more specifically a Willie Mays fan, back then. They were occasionally on TV when WPIX couldn't do a Yankees game. Unfortunately for my baseball viewing, we moved to Florida when I was six. Way fewer televised games, but way more opportunity to play baseball. My organized baseball career started around eight or nine years old. There was no T-ball or coach pitch back then, so the kids needed to be a little older than today so they could actually play some semblance of real baseball. I played though all the Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion age groups. I even played some organized adult men's fast-pitch softball before I was an adult. I coached all levels of Little League baseball when my son was playing. T-ball is semi-organized chaos. Coach pitch is very stressful for the pitcher. The first years of kid pitch are often walkathons with numerous stolen bases. I wouldn't trade any of it. 

In my adult years, I became an Atlanta Braves fan when I moved to Atlanta and WTBS began televising the games all over the country.  I was living in Atlanta when Hank Aaron was still a Brave. Willie Mays came to town a  couple of times a season too. So did all the National League stars of the 70's. There was no interleague play back then so I didn't get to see many American League stars. I did get to go to Yankee Stadium with my uncle in 1960. Look up the 1960 Yankees roster.  That was a pretty good team.  They went to the World Series and lost in game seven to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yes, the Bill Mazeroski walkoff home run. Great memories. I still have some affinity for the Braves and a little for Tampa Bay too since I went to college in Tampa (USF).

I am now a die hard Texas Rangers fan and have been since I moved to Texas in the mid 80's. I've been through terrible and World Series years. I've been through a terrible and a gorgeous stadium and a new domed stadium to come in a couple of years. I watch well over a hundred games on TV and go to several at the stadium each year with one of my sons and/or friends. 

"Play Ball" - two of the sweetest words in the English language.


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The Texas Rangers


 

The Texas Rangers 

Dennis and I are both dedicated Texas Rangers fans. I have been one since I moved to Texas in the mid 1980's. Dennis since the team moved to DFW in 1972. We have enjoyed the thrill of victory and mostly the agony of defeat. We have suffered through bad teams and a bad stadium. We have celebrated winning seasons and a beautiful ballpark.  We watch the games on TV and at the ballpark, we check the box scores, we discuss and argue about the team with each other, our sons, and friends. We hope you enjoy the baseball and Rangers segments of our podcasts and the additional information on this website.  

Batter up!   

Texas Rangers History 

The Texas Rangers moved to Arlington, Texas for the 1972 season. Prior to that, they had been the Washington Senators. No, not the original Washington Senators established in 1901 as one of the original eight American League teams. These were the 1961 Senators, an expansion team that replace the original team that moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. Clear? 

These new Texas Rangers played in the renovated Turnpike Stadium, a minor league park, that was renamed Arlington Stadium. They turned the field 180°, built a new grandstand and made the old grandstand the outfield bleachers. It was not an elegant solution. Dennis and I have both had the pleasure of attending many games at the old stadium, sometimes together. It was a mess. The main concession area was basically a basement, a flooded basement. Besides being flooded, there were not enough concessions for even the sparse crowds that attended the games. The restrooms suffered the same plight, few and flooded. The good news was that seats were easy to come by even five minutes before game time. 

The team was well suited for the stadium. Very poor quality. The great Ted Williams was the manager that first year. Although a great hitter and ballplayer in his day, he was not a great, or even good, manager. To be honest, Teddy Ballgame did not have a stellar roster to work with. It was a perfect match, bad ball club, bad manager and bad stadium.  They lost over 100 games each of the first two seasons. Then Billy Martin became the manager. In 1974, the Rangers finished second in the AL West. But just shy of 100 games into the 1975 season, Martin was fired. It was partly due to a mediocre team record, but mostly because Billy had some behavioral problems. There were several strip clubs close to the stadium and Martin was a frequent and rowdy visitor.  

The Rangers were mostly a bad team with an occasional upward tick until the mid 80's. The Rangers added some good young talent. In 1989, the team signed then 41 year old Nolan Ryan. Originally thought of mostly as a PR attendance move, Ryan proved to still have plenty in the tank. He reached the 5,000 strikeout and 300 win milestones while with the Rangers. He also threw his sixth and seventh no-hitters with the club. The Ryan signing gave the franchise much needed legitimacy.  Around the same time, future Texas governor and US president George W. Bush led a group of investors that purchased the Rangers franchise.  

In 1991 a new publicly financed ballpark was approved. The Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994. It was the complete opposite of ugly, inadequate Arlington Stadium. It was absolutely gorgeous. I was fortunate to have attended the opening day and the following first night games at the new park. No more subterranium, flooded concessions and restrooms. This stadium will always hold a special place in my heart and memory since it is the first place my youngest son saw a major league game. He and I still go to games there together.  

Besides a much improved venue, the team also improved. The team won their first ever division championship in 1996. They won two more division titles in the next three years, but could never get past the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. 

The team went downhill after 1999. They were bought by idiot billionaire owner Tom Hicks in 1998. The same Tom Hicks who signed Alex Rodriguez to a $252 million 10 year contract, the biggest ever in MLB history. One big star with no money left to build a team around him. A-Rod's contract was worth $2 million more than Hicks paid for the franchise. Things didn't work out well for the Rangers or Hicks. He even managed to sign a 30 year stadium naming rights deal with a company that went bankrupt three years later.  

By 2009, Hicks himself was facing bankruptcy. At the time, his sports company owned outright or in part the Rangers, the Dallas Stars, the Frisco Roughriders (AA Rangers farm club), the Mesquite Rodeo, and ½ of the Liverpool FC. Because of Hicks' financial problems and him being a complete ass, the ultimate sale of the Rangers to the current owners was a protracted and messy transaction. Courts and many lawyers were involved. Ultimately a group that included Nolan Ryan prevailed.  

Since that sale in 2010, the Rangers have enjoyed considerable success. They won the AL pennant in 2010 and 2011 yet failed to win  the World Series. 2011 was especially painful when the Rangers were within one strike of the World Series Championship, twice, but lost that 6th game and then game seven to the Cardinals. After a couple of down years, the Rangers won the AL West in 2015 and 2016 but failed to get past the first round of the playoffs.  

What will the 2017 season bring? Stay tuned, we'll be discussing and cussing our beloved Rangers on our podcast.  

wjh

 

The Fearless Forecast - 2017

Right before the season and this podcast began, I made my predictions for the 2017 baseball season. I picked the finish in each division, the wildcard teams, the playoffs and the World Series. Despite some of the early season results, these predictions are still 100% accurate and correct. That's may story and I'm sticking to it. Listen to the podcast for updates on my predictions or check back here for less frequent updates.

If these predictions turn out to be accurate, they are the sole effort of Baseball Billy. If they are completely wrong, I had a lot of input from Dennis. 

Final 2017 Regular Season Results in BOLD ITALICS

NL East 

It looks almost like a repeat of 2016 except for the bottom two struggling teams.  

  1. Washington Nationals - Nationals
  2. New York Mets- Marlins
  3. Miami Marlins - Braves
  4. Atlanta Braves - Mets
  5. Philadelphia Phillies - Phillies 

NL Central 

Like the NL East, this division looks like a repeat of 2016.  

  1. Chicago Cubs - Cubs
  2. St. Louis Cardinals - Brewers
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates - Cardinals
  4. Cincinnati Reds - Pirates
  5. Milwaukee Brewers - Reds

NL West 

The Giants and Dodgers remain at the top and may exchange positions this year but both have a chance to make the post season. Both teams lost to the Cubs in the 2016 NL playoffs. 

  1. San Francisco Giants - Dodgers
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers - Diamondbacks
  3. Colorado Rockies - Rockies
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks - Padres
  5. San Diego Padres - Giants

AL East 

Often the strongest and deepest AL division, the West should take that title. This division placed three teams in the playoffs in 2016. That won't happen this season.  

  1. Boston Red Sox - Red Sox
  2. Toronto Blue Jays - Yankees
  3. Baltimore Orioles - Rays
  4. New York Yankees - Blue Jays
  5. Tampa Bay Rays - Orioles

AL Central 

Only the top two teams have a chance. This is the weakest AL division. 

  1. Cleveland Indians - Indians  
  2. Detroit Tigers - Twins
  3. Kansas City Royals - Royals
  4. Minnesota Twins - White Sox
  5. Chicago White Sox - Tigers

AL West 

This has the potential to be the deepest division in the majors. I wouldn't be shocked if three teams from the AL West made the playoffs. 

  1. Texas Rangers - Astros
  2. Houston Astros - Angels
  3. Seattle Mariners - Mariners
  4. Los Angeles Angels - Rangers
  5. Oakland Athletics - Athletics 

 

Playoffs 

NL Teams 

  • NL East – Washington Nationals - Nationals
  • NL Central – Chicago Cubs - Cubs
  • NL West – SF Giants - Dodgers
  • Wild Card – St. Louis Cardinals - Diamondbacks
  • Wild Card – LA Dodgers - Rockies
  • Cardinals win Wild Card Game - Diamondbacks

NL Championship Series 

  • Giants vs Cubs - Dodgers vs Cubs
  • Cubs win Pennant - Dodgers

AL Teams 

  • AL East – Boston Red Sox - Red Sox
  • AL Central – Cleveland Indians - Indians
  • AL West – Texas Rangers - Astros
  • Wild Card – Houston Astros - Yankees
  • Wild Card – Toronto Blue Jays - Twins
  • Astros win Wild Card Game -  Yankees

AL Championship Series 

  • Rangers vs Red Sox - Houston vs Yankees
  • Rangers win Pennant - Houston (4-3)

World Series 

  • Rangers defeat Cubs in six games - First WS championship in Rangers history.  Astros defeat Dodgers in seven games.

wjh

Revised 2017 Playoff Predictions

These predictions were made on 10/1/17, the last day of the regular season. Dennis and I mostly agreed on these picks, so we share the glory or the shame.

  • AL Wildcard - Yankees over Twins - Yankees
  • NL Wildcard - Diamondbacls over Rockies -           Diamondbacks
  • AL Division - Indians over Yankees - Yankees (3-2)
  • AL Division - Astros over Red Sox - Astros (3-1)
    • Dennis picks BoSox over Astros - Astros (3-1
  • NL Division - Dodgers over Diamondbacks - Dodgers (3-0)
  • NL Division - Cubs over Nationals - Cubs (3-2)
  • AL Championship- Indians over Astros - Astros (4-3)
  • NL Championship - Cubs over Dodgers - Dodgers (4-1)
    • Dennis Picks Dodgers over Cubs - Dodgers (4-1)
  • World Series - Indians over Cubs - Astros over Dodgers (4-3)

The Fearless Forecast for the 2018 season will be coming this way around March, 2018. Very early prediction, I would not be surprised to see a Los Angeles-Houston rematch.

wjh


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2018 MLB Predictions

My second season of Fearless Forecasts picks for the 2018 baseball. I got some right and many wrong in 2017. Some teams seem to be a lock for a division title and a place in the playoffs. Others seem destined to be eliminated early and finish in the cellar. It’s the teams in the middle that are intriguing. Will a rookie have a breakout year, will a free agent excel or fizzle, will a star suffer a season ending injury? So many things to go right or wrong. Cliché warning - That’s why they play the games. So, on with the picks.

National League

East Division

  1. Washington Nationals - Last chance, Harper and other stars free agents at end of season. Scherzer & Strasburg. Maybe 100 wins. Weak division

  2. Atlanta Braves - A little hopeful. Still young and rebuilding. A .500 season would be good

  3. New York Mets - Terrible injury ridded 2017. No major roster changes. Healthy pitchers and depth a problem

  4. Philadelphia Phillies - Rebuilding, still look a couple of years away. Could break through if a couple of youngsters excel.

  5. Miami Marlins - Complete player dump & rebuilding mode. Weak hitting and pitching. Probably 100 losses. Jeter in charge

Central Division

  1. Chicago Cubs - Solid lineup. Some new pitchers, starting and bullpen. Lost Arrieta but signed Darvish. Should be a net gain.

  2. St. Louis Cardinals - Could win division if Cubs falter, otherwise a wildcard team

  3. Milwaukee Brewers - Pitching a ?. If good, will be wildcard contender

  4. Pittsburgh Pirates - Sinking. McCutchen gone. Starting to rebuild.

  5. Cincinnati Reds - Young and rising. Could move to 4th.

West Division

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers - Still loaded and young, right around 100 wins again. A couple of middle bullpen questions. A toss-up between West & Central for strongest NL division.

  2. Colorado Rockies - Flip a coin between Rockies & D-backs for 2nd & 3rd. Both could again make the playoffs as wildcards. Maybe a tick better than 2017.

  3. Arizona Diamondbacks - Same as above. Strong pitching (Greinke

  4. San Francisco Giants - Added Evan Longoria (32) and Andrew McCutchen. Both good players, but past their prime. Bumgarner out 6-8 weeks with fractured hand.

  5. San Diego Padres - Still not ready for prime time although the farm system has gotten better.

American League

East Division

  1. New York Yankees - Loaded. Stanton & Judge, the new Bam Brothers. Sonny Gray for the whole season.

  2. Boston Red Sox - No big additions or improvements, only beat Yankees by 2 games last season. Chris Sale, can David Price come back.

  3. Baltimore Orioles - No starting pitching but never count out Buck.

  4. Toronto Blue Jays - No big changes. One last try for this roster.

  5. Tampa Bay Rays - Longoria gone, even lower payroll. Maybe finally a new stadium in Ybor City in the works.

Central Division

  1. Cleveland Indians - Another 100 win season. Loaded pitching staff (Kluber, Carrasco). Weak division.

  2. Minnesota Twins - Hoping for another wild card spot. Santana out for 12 weeks will hurt.

  3. Chicago White Sox - Young and improving, but not yet.

  4. Kansas City Royals - Early rebuilding period.

  5. Detroit Tigers - Early rebuilding. Verlander and Kinsler gone.

West Division

  1. Houston Astros - Young and talented. Maybe 100 wins in what could be the toughest division. MVP Altuve. Everyone back. Verlander for entire season. Strong starting pitching, maybe best in MLB (Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers, Cole, Morton)

  2. LA Angels of Anaheim - Othani? Added Kinsler

  3. Texas Rangers - No big changes. Gallo full time 1st base. DeShields CF & leadoff. Left field? Calhoun sent to minors. Pitching? 6 man rotation, 5+ rotation, closer, Lincicum. May be wishful thinking, Rangers could lose 90+ games.

  4. Seattle Mariners - No big changes. Pitching a question.

  5. Oakland A’s - Young but some talent. No money, no big names, crappy stadium.

Playoffs

National League

  • East - Nationals

  • Central - Cubs

  • West - Dodgers

  • Wild Cards - Rockies, Cardinals

  • NLDS - Nationals, Dodgers

  • NLCS - Dodgers

American League

  • East - Yankees

  • Central - Indians

  • West - Astros

  • Wild Cards - Red Sox, Angels

  • ALDS - Yankees, Astros

  • ALCS - Astros

World Series

  • Astros, Dodgers - Astros in 7

wjh