Things have pretty much wrapped up as far as my high school beats, so I'm going to have to start getting creative and look hard for stories. As always, I'd appreciate some help if you have heard of anything or are a part of anything that sounds interesting. Call me up and let me know. It might be a bigger deal than you think.
Anyway, what did happen with my teams? St. Joe's softball team lost a heartbreaker to Fort Bend Baptist Friday in the TAPPS 4A state semifinals. They lost 2-1 in nine innings, with Fort Bend scoring off a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth. Apparently, they dodged a couple of bullets, but the Lady Flyers coach, Craig Lauger, said so many things went their way that he felt like they were destined to win. Alas, they did not, and Fort Bend moved on to the finals behind their pitcher, Rachel Fox.
I talked about Fox last time, she has already committed to pitch at Texas, and she showed why against St. Joe's. She struck out 22 and limited them to five hits! That's pretty stellar. Lady Flyer's pitcher Marina Vazquez was nearly as good, with 13 strikeouts of her own. They just were a little overmatched at the plate and fell short of state.
I was just talking to Lauger a little while ago, and he said he was satisfied with how things ended. He said the girls didn't beat themselves and that they took the season as far as they could. Can't do much else about that.
Anyway, the Lady Flyers dominated the All-District team, getting six players on the first team and three more on the second team. The team awards for the Flyer's baseball team was also released at their banquet on Sunday. Andre DelBosque, Denver Diefenbach, Kevin Daniels, Ben Van Sickle and John Villafranca were all first-team district, and Jacob Morales and Hayden Vesely made second team.
What else happened this weekend? In baseball and softball, Shiner St. Paul and Hallettsville Sacred Heart split a pair of state championship games against each other. The Cardinals topped the Indians 10-4 in the TAPPS 1A/2A title game, while the Indianettes beat the Lady Cardinals 4-2 in the softball championship. It's pretty amazing that two local teams are able to dominate those two sports year after year. Both programs should be happy with the results.
Well since everything else is finito, let's talk about the pros. I think everyone should go to MLB.com and check out the NL central standings. I think you have one of the strongest divisions in baseball right there. I know everyone here probably likes the Stros, but to be honest they probably have the weakest team in the division (yes even though they're behind the Pirates). The Bucs have a VERY strong young pitching staff that will probably just get better. Also, take a look at the runs for and runs against. Pittsburgh is actually +4, whereas the Astros are -19. Meaning the Pirates should probably have a winning record.
Anyway, what I'm getting at, is that Astros fans shouldn't be too upset that they're trying to rebuild right now. There's a log-jam in that division with a lot of good teams, and it would be really hard to win that division with three championship contenders in the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers. It may be tough to be mired down there right now, but that division will be a meat-grind this year. Nothing to be ashamed of.
While I'm on MLB, I think I should make some predictions. I know the season is already well underway, but it's worth making some predictions, and A LOT of things can change (you never know who's going to get bust for steroids next!)
AL East- Toronto AL Central- Royals AL West- Angels AL WC- Rangers
NL East- Mets NL Central- Cardinals NL West- Dodgers NL WC- Brewers
ALCS- Jays and Angels NLCS- Dodgers and Cardinals WS- Jays and Dodgers, Dodgers in 6
"WHOA, WHOA, JACK," you say? The Royals in the playoffs?! Yes I'm going there. I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Why not? They're off to a good start, and we saw the Rays do it last year with a similar team. Did I also mention that the Rays did it in a division with the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays? Guess who's in the division with the Royals? The Tigers, White Sox, Twins and Indians. Not the strongest crew this year.
I think the Twins will give them the best run, especially with Mauer back and hitting everything in sight, but what I really like about the Royals is their bullpen. Closer Joakim Soria just went on the DL, but it's not expected to be serious, and as long as that pen stays healthy, they've got solid arms that can shut down those weak division opponents late in games. Royals make the 'offs for the first time in...well, a long time.
I don't think Toronto needs any explanation. After years of having a REALLY good team overshadowed by the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Jays finally have the best team. And that would be really clear if you've seen them play yet. They have (probably) the best pitcher and a great lineup. Tough to bet against them.
I know the rest of the picture looks weird to you too. I still feel like the Angels have the best team in the West. They often get off to a slow start, and their ace John Lackey just came back. I feel like they will win that division again, but it will be very close.
As for the Rangers, they will finally get back in the playoffs, edging out the Red Sox for the wildcard spot. As usual, the Rangers have a lethal lineup that will score many runs. But the pitching staff has finally put everything together and is playing very well. I think they have the staying power to finally make it to the postseason.
The National League looks a little more clear.
I think no one will argue that the Dodgers have the best team. They probably (emphasis on probably) have the best team even without Emmanuel Ramirez. There's been a lot of craziness going on there with that situation, but I think the presence of Joe Torre has really calmed down most of the chaos, and they're just ready to keep playing and moving towards a division title. Fifty games, then Manny is back. No big deal as far as I'm concerned. And they'll probably still have the best record because of their weak division. Remember, this team was a World Series contender before Ramirez came.
The NL East is once again a source of much pain for me. The Braves (my team) are once again just not good enough to overcome the Mets and Phillies. The Braves have two incredibly good pitchers that they're about to bring up from the minors that made a lot of waves in the preseason, and they'll be getting back Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson later in the season, but this team doesn't know how to score runs. It won't be enough to overcome New York and Philadelphia. Now, I pick the Mets with a LOT of reluctance. This is the team that has suddenly turned into the Cubs the last two years, with back-to-back historical collapses. But I just don't like what I've seen from the Phillies this year. They may turn it around, but I actually wouldn't be surprised to see the Braves finish ahead of them this year, but still behind the Mets.
The strong Central, which I mentioned above, will produce two playoff teams. The Cardinals are just solid as usual, and Albert Pujols is still the most frightening member of the human race. The Cubs have a great team, but let's face it...they're the Cubs. They'll find some way to screw that up, and the talented Brewers will finally bust through to make the playoffs.
I'll talk more about the playoffs next time.
Basketball. Well these are the matchups everyone wanted. The Rockets made the Lakers sweat it out, and the far more talented Magic fooled around WAY too much with the Celtics, but they both came up big when their backs were against the wall, giving us probably the best finals matchups.
As much as I love watching the Magic, they do WAY too many dumb things and have far too much drama night in and out to overcome the Cavaliers, who are steamrolling everyone with supreme confidence. I'd say best case scenario, this series goes six games. Much more likely the Cavs win in five or maybe even four.
You're done Kevin Garnett, Punk of the Universe. Looks like you'll have to find random people on the streets of Boston to talk smack to for no reason.
The West series gives me much more pause. This reminds me a little of a series that hit VERY close to home for me in 2004. The Indiana Pacers had the best team in the Eastern Conference from start to finish, winning 62 games and earning the top overall seed, and everyone expected them to romp their way through the very weak East. And they did...until they met the Detroit Pistons, who made a very crucial late-season acquisition of Rasheed Wallace. They ended up surprising the favored Pacers, then dominating the Lakers in the finals to win the title.
Now, as much as that story makes me cry, and as much as I maintain that the Pistons are a bunch of thugs from a squalid city that should be scoured from the planet, they pulled the trigger on a huge deal to put them over the top, and it made all the difference. The Nuggets did something similar, getting Chauncey Billups from the aforementioned Pistons. It instantly set them apart from a log-jam of teams behind the Lakers in the second tier in the West. And just like in 2004, it may have actually put them over the top of the unsuspecting Lakers. Not to mention they've been waiting for the Lakers for about a week.
Regardless, something still tells me that the Lakers are going to win. As much drama surrounds them, they always seem to be able to get it done in big games, plus they have one of the greatest players of all time. I think it will be a very intense and dicey series, but the Lakers win in seven, setting up the matchup that we've been waiting for all season.
To finish my blog on a funny note, check out this story about King of Idiots James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This Grade-A stooge made one of the most feeble attempts at logic that I have ever heard. Apparently, he expects to be invited to visit the most powerful man in the world just for being who he is. Talk about overestimating your place in the world! You just got invited to the White House to meet not just the President, but the first black president in our nation's history...kind of a big deal. But this guy says, "No, he doesn't appreciate us enough. I bet he would have invited the other team if they won. Why doesn't he invite us even when we're losing? Doesn't he KNOW who WE are!?"
DUH, JAMES HARRISON!!! Why does any sports team EVER get invited to the White House!? I guess Barack Obama should have invited the Kansas City Royals because of all of those great teams they had in the 70s and 80s, and not the Philadelphia Phillies. Who cares if they haven't been winning, right?
Please, next time, before you make a complete fool of yourself, just make up a simple excuse like, "I don't feel like going." That way we could just write you off as another over privileged, spoiled millionaire athlete, and not a complete dunce.
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