October 3rd: Best MLB Cap Logos, Ranked

Over the course of the baseball season, Todd Radom, a graphic artist and sports fan, ranked the top 30 MLB logos of all time on Buster Olney’s Baseball Tonight podcast. After every pick, there was, of course, plenty of discussion and debate about whether or not the logo selected was a good call or a bust.

In that spirit, I seek to rank the MLB logos used on-field right now. Before revealing my list, a few ground rules:

  • Each team is ranked based on their every-day primary cap logo, as found on MLB.com.
  • Every team is ranked, unlike Radom’s list where some teams received multiple best logos, while others were left off altogether.  
  • As a belligerent Cubs fan, the Cubs have been left off the list. Between the simplicity of the Cubs logo and the elegance of it, there is no way for me to find an unbiased place for it amongst its peers.
  • As the hat enthusiast that I am, I indicate parenthetically whether or not I own a hat with this logo.

With that, here are the 29 MLB logos ranked in order of greatness:

Tigers1. Tigers (Own)

The old English “D” is one of the best recognized symbols in the world, and it embodies a historic franchise during its entirety. Artistically done, yet cleanly updated over time, the Tigers have the most aesthetically pleasing logo that has been appropriately updated over time.

Yankees

2. Yankees (Own)

What was Radom’s best logo can’t slip out of the top two. The Yankees NY logo is the most iconic logo across the world, and speaks to a historically successful brand. While haters are aplenty, the Yankees logo is the envy of all fan bases across the sport.

Giants3. Giants (Own)

In a baseball world full of interlocking letters, the Giants “SF” takes the cake in simplicity and balance. It represents a team that has built a modern-day dynasty, and the sharp black and orange colors give this logo a dominant spot in my ranking.

Dbacks4. Diamondbacks (Own)

After the traditionalism of the first three logos, the Diamondbacks’ “A” is one of baseball’s modern masterpieces. The Sedona red and black go perfectly together, and the textured edge gives it depth in a way that distinguishes it amidst a field of two-dimensional logos.

Mariners5. Mariners (Own)

What could have been stuck as a boring “S” was injected with character with the addition of the compass to Seattle’s image. The best logos are the ones that acknowledge the heritage of the city, and the Mariners’ “S” is a beautiful homage to the town. The nautical color scheme only perfects the look.

Dodgers6. Dodgers (Own)

If the Yankees are the east coast’s most iconic image, than the interlocking LA is the best in the West. A Dodgers logo is immediately recognizable, and is connected to one of baseball’s most significant teams. The Dodgers logo is a masterpiece of space and design, and is one of the most popular in sports.

Rangers7. Rangers (Own)

A single letter isn’t a huge place for a statement about a team, but the Rangers use a lot of their image in their “T”. The stylized font matches the brand perfectly, and the shading offers the perfect texture. NOTE: The “T” on the blue hat far outperforms the red hat.

Angels8. Angels (Own)

Balanced and symmetrical, the Angels logo stands tall, embodying the team concept while also modernizing over the history of the franchise. This logo is crisp, clean, and contains a depth that distinguishes it from its competition.

Astros9. Astros (Own)

The Astros logo is a new iteration of a throwback for the franchise, and one that perfectly takes into account the single letter “H” in the context of the star in the background. The symmetry works perfectly to make a simple, but well-constructed look.

Reds10. Reds (Own)

It’s impossible to ignore the history of the Reds when evaluating the logo. The stylized “C” dates, in one form or another, for over a century and has embodied baseball’s oldest club. What it lacks in flash it makes up for in tradition, and is a solid representation of one of baseball’s best cities.

EVIL11. Cardinals (Of course not…)

It brings pain to my heart, but the Cardinals logo does a lot with a tall order. Working an “S, T, and L” into the logo could have been a disaster, but instead makes up one of the best uses of space in the business. While it represents the evil enemy, it also embodies one of the classiest designs on any ballfield.

Red Sox12. Red Sox (Own)

A logo is the singular reflection of a team’s entire font character, and the Boston “B” is one of the game’s most recognizable. While the pair of socks logo might be more exciting, the “B” is the most classic cap logo, and thus places the Red Sox in the middle of the pack.

Braves13. Braves (Own)

The script “A” is a representation of a team that won 14 straight division titles. While unfortunately very similar to the Alabama Crimson Tide’s logo, it is a classy and simple iteration of the team’s gritty play and the elegance of the game itself.

Brewers14. Brewers (Don’t own)

The Brewers have used more jerseys and styles in recent years than most can keep up with, but the Milwaukee “M” is the primary logo (for now). While the “MB” glove logo is one of the game’s best, the wheat-underscored “M” is a perfectly acceptable, if not slightly boring, iteration of the team’s identity.

Twins15. Twins (Own)

We are fast approaching the long run of interlocking letter logos, and the Twins are one of the best of its kind. The depth of the “C” crossing over and under the “T” is elegantly done, and the color scheme uses a classy rendition of reds, whites, and blues that match one another well.

Royals16. Royals (Own)

The Kansas City interlocking letters lacks flash, but it makes up for it in a recognizable and simple manner. It seems fair that this basic logo comes at the middle of the pack, as a rather benign logo corresponds with almost 50 years of history. (Plus, a white squatchee on the hat gives it the unique character to distinguish it from others)

White Sox17. White Sox (Don’t own)

The diagonal “SOX” script has been in existence since 1951, but the most recent rendition has been around since 1990. It borrows an old English feel from their Detroit rivals and, while the black and white contrast boldly. It also takes home the prize as the only team with a full name on the hat.

Jays18. Jays (Own)

The Blue Jays have had a hard time in the past with an ever-changing logo scheme while never venturing THAT far from home (with the early 2000s exception). The current hat logo is a trimmed down version of an earlier rendition, is a perfectly fine version, with an homage to the team’s Canadian heritage.

Marlins19. Marlins (Own)

The Marlins logo pays homage to the vibrant color and character of the the city of Miami, but does so in dizzying fashion. The marlin graphic seems to be one-step too much when mixed with the neon colors of the logo. The logo also appears extra large on the cap, making it a particularly unique and awkward look.

Phillies20. Phillies (Don’t own)

The Phillies are a team with a strong fan base and deep history. None of that is reflected in a “P” logo that lacks character and style. The Phillies are clearly suffering from what happens when simplicity becomes boring, rather than classy.

Mets21. Mets (Own)

The Mets are a team born out of an amalgamation of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, and their logo looks so much like the Yankees’ sad little brother. The logo is fine, really, but too closely resembles their far more iconic cross-town rival.

Rockies22. Rockies (Don’t own)

Most interlocking logos are the result of a two-word city name, while the Rockies use their city and team name as their pair of icons. The logo fails to distinguish itself from the long list of other, similar logos, with the exception of the color scheme, which matches the team quite nicely and uniquely.

Padres23. Padres (Own)

The Padres logo has gone through color changes and font adaptations, but constantly maintains the same boring rendition of the interlocking “S” and “D”. This is one of the game’s least exciting logos, and fails to distinguish itself from something you’d find at the airport in a generic souvenir shop.

Pirates24. Pirates (Don’t own)

The Steel City has always rocked the yellow and black, and the Pirates have a really excellent concept across the board. That being said, their cap logo is as basic as they come, with only a little bit of accented flair to make the script pop. It isn’t a bad logo, but it certainly doesn’t deserve any extra praise.

Rays25. Rays (Own)

Tampa Bay got to redesign their concept in 2008, and had the chance to really do something unique. Instead, they simply updated the past “TB” logo, leaving two letters that don’t even intersect, but rather simply hang out near one another. It is a logo that is about as bleh as the fans who don’t go to the stadium.

Orioles26. Orioles (Don’t own)

I will be in the minority here, but cartoon mascots have never really been my thing. That being said, the Orioles have a great logo using a terrible strategy, so they find themselves near the bottom of this list. The team’s cap logo is so bad, even the bird doesn’t want to wear a hat with it.

Nationals27. Nationals (Own)

The Nationals are a great team with a cool logo. But, when you can’t wear your ballcap around town without getting confused with a Walgreens employee, you lose massive points. This hat also replaces a very cool “DC” logo from the earlier days in Washington, and I’m still salty about that.

As28. Athletics (Don’t own)

The Athletics use their simplified name on their caps, and it doesn’t come out very well. The “A” by itself looks rather cool, but the “apostrophe s” really ruins the simplicity and the style, instead making it look like a tacky after-thought. Maybe dropping it would help their place in the standings?

Indians29. Indians (Own)

Last, and certainly least, the Indians had to do something after their racist caricature wore out its welcome. Instead of using that as inspiration, they simply use a block “C” that, while present in the team’s history, represents nothing about Cleveland. Although everyone prefers a boring, dumb logo to a racist, offensive one.

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July 1st: All Star Game Starting Predictions

After weeks of voting, the MLB All Star rosters will be announced tomorrow. While voting may generally result in a popularity contest rather than an actual assessment of talent, here is how I would construct the lineup for each position in baseball

American League:

Catcher: Salvador Perez: There is no catcher in baseball as exciting and fun to watch as Perez. Nobody stands out statistically either, so I have to go with the guy who is going to make for the best TV.

First Base: Eric Hosmer: Hosmer has led the fan vote, but been left off most insider predictions. He ranks in the top five or six of almost all offensive categories at his position, and has gold glove defense.

AP ASTROS YANKEES BASEBALL S BBA USA NYSecond Base: Jose Altuve: The face of the rebuilding Astros, Jose Altuve has finally gotten to enjoy the success of the power-house Astros. The spark-plug gets another All-Star selection (his fifth in six years)

Third Base: Miguel Sano: The Twins have been sticking around in the AL Central, and Miguel Sano’s maturation as a hitter is a big reason why. Sano will be fun to watch in the Home Run Derby, and deserves the start at third base for the AL.

Shortstop: Carlos Correa: Correa has made good on his talent potential since he first emerged in the league, and is now at the center of the best offense in the league. He gets the nod over his peers Lindor and Bogaerts.

Outfield: Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, George Springer: The reigning MVP, the likely soon-to-be MVP, and one of the most exciting, fun-to-watch young players in the game make up the AL starting outfield. Even with Trout’s injury, he was having debatably his best season. Judge has proven that he has lasting power in the league. And Springer is a five-tool player capable of changing any game on a dime. This is one of the most athletic groups of players the league has to offer, and will probably each be All-Stars many, many more times in the future.

DH: Corey Dickerson: Nelson Cruz is a more popular name in baseball, but I won’t vote for anyone who has a steroid conviction on their record. Besides, Dickerson has been out of his mind of late, and his bat is a huge reason why the Rays are contenders in the AL East.

ASG ballot

National League:

Catcher: Buster Posey: While the position isn’t very deep, Posey would run away with it even if it was. He is single-handedly carrying his team’s offense, and he is maintaining offensive and defensive statistics that make him baseball’s best catcher.

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt: Disclaimer: I’ve been voting for Anthony Rizzo, because I have a massive man-crush on the man, but Paul Goldschmidt has added yet another under-the-radar MVP caliber season. Goldy is putting the Diamondbacks in post-season position, and has a strong claim on the NL MVP award.

Second Base: Daniel Murphy: After the 2015 playoffs, Daniel Murphy has become a brand-new player. His bat has been the hottest of anyone over an 18 month stretch, and his place as the table-clearer for the Nationals compensates for his mediocre defense.

Third Base: Kris Bryant: Many will argue this is another homer pick, but Bryant has been a rare bright spot in a struggling Cubs lineup. His generally solid stats have been hurt by a few slow patches, but overall, Bryant is the star of the show and should get the chance to shine.

Shortstop: Zack Cozart: All donkeys aside, Cozart has taken his contract year and turned it into a gold mine. His offense has finally risen to match his defense, and he is a big reason that the Reds have been relevant beyond Opening Day this year.

Outfield: Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, Marcell Ozuna: Charlie Blackmon is the best player on the up-and-coming Rockies. Marcell Ozuna is both a hometown player for the All Star hosts, as well as a monster power for the Home Run Derby (possibly). And Bryce Harper is an absolute monster, the most entertaining player in baseball.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington NationalsDH: Ryan Zimmerman: After a hot start to his career, Zimmerman had faded into the background of the Bryce Harper-owned Nationals. This year, though, Zimmerman has put together not only his best season, but an all-around great season, and deserves the credit in a crowded first base conversation.

 

We will see on Sunday how close these predictions are to reality, but in any case, the All Star Game is the game’s best chance to show off the excitement and talent that true fans get to enjoy every day.

 

 

June 2nd: Waiting for the Cubs to Find Their Identity

Baseball, as Kyle Schwarber will tell you, is a fickle sport. One week ago, the Cubs were coming off a 7-2 homestand, including a sweep of the Reds and a strong three-game winning streak.

Cubs 3Well, it has been a week since the Cubs won a ballgame, and the past six games have been the worst we’ve seen in the Joe Maddon era. A sweep at the hands of the Dodgers would be hard to swallow, but being swept by the lowly Padres was beyond anything Cubs fans could have expected. No one thing is wrong with the Cubs, and it isn’t simply waiting for one or two players to perform at their expected level. There are 20 players on the Cubs who aren’t living up to expectations, and until they do, this is going to be a sub-.500 team.

Going into the 2017 season, Cubs fans were dreaming of what it would feel like to be a modern-day baseball dynasty, following in the footsteps of the late ‘90s Yankees. We had a young, controllable core, a manager who seems to know all the right buttons to push, and a fanbase that had tasted victory and wanted more.

2017 has proven to be less than kind, and Cubs fans are finally getting frustrated. For the first two months of the season, Cubs leadership has claimed that everyone is calm, that things will change, that we will snap out of it any day now. Some Cubs have made the ridiculous claim that it has never been this bad before, forgetting the 108 years of losing that had come before. As a 24 year old, I’ve seen a lot of bad baseball in Chicago, and this hasn’t even broken the surface of how bad it could be.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at San Diego PadresYet, the Cubs have to realize that the struggle here is in the dissonance between how good we SHOULD be and how bad we HAVE been. A team that was supposed to be the greatest offense in the league, maybe in history, is now struggling to hit minor-league caliber pitching. Starters haven’t been able to hold a lead, and the offense hasn’t been able to give them one. The bullpen went through two or three rough weeks to start the year, then got good just in time for there to be no need to be; games were lost far before we got to the 7th inning.

The Cubs roster is too good to stay this bad for long. There will be a moment for the team to click, and for everything to get back into the swing of things. Last year, the Cubs had a similarly awful streak in late June and early July. The All-Star break gave everyone the chance to relax a bit, and then they took off with the division and never looked back. There is a strong chance that is what will happen this year, although the Cubs can’t afford to wait until the mid-July to turn things around. The rest of the NL-Central has been waiting for the Cubs, with both the Brewers and Cardinals losing in bunches as well. The division is ripe for the taking, but the Cubs aren’t in any position to do that until they figure out how to hit again.

The season is young, and there is still plenty of baseball left to be played. But the Cubs have some soul searching to do to figure out what kind of baseball team they can be and how to make that happen. For now, as a Cubs fan, it isn’t fun to watch this team play, and every day comes with the desperate plea that maybe, just maybe, today will be the day that the Cubs remember who they are.

May 18th: A Tale of Two Playoffs

The NBA and NHL playoffs have kept pace with one another, both beginning in early April and continuing through the first few weeks of June. On the one hand, basketball has pitted two powerhouse teams on either side of the bracket, with a virtual destiny to meet for the third time in a row in the Finals. Meanwhile, the NHL has four teams remaining, two of which are competing for their first championships in team history, while a third looks to seal the deal on a dynasty. Two sports in very different places have, by fate of scheduling, put themselves in position for comparison, and the results are striking.

The NBA has always gotten the attention of the American public. ESPN covers basketball to an almost obnoxious degree, with every single game, character, and personality analyzed. Because of NBC’s stranglehold on the rights to the NHL, hockey is, at most, a few moments on any given night of Sportscenter, dramatically preventing the public from getting the chance to see the excitement that goes into a playoff hockey game. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are some of the most intense, dramatic, and exciting contests in professional sports, but most Americans would never know that.

Curry

While there have been a dramatic number of overtime games this year in the NHL, the NBA is dragging out a snooze fest. With some of the largest margin of victory in the history of the league, the Cavaliers and Warriors have made the playoffs “must-miss TV,” with a very low chance of getting to see anything surprising or exciting. There have been a few games of intrigue (Game 7 between the Celtics and Wizards being one of them), and the Finals are supposed to be an epic clash of the Titans, but, in general, NBA fans have had little drama to get them excited or to incentivize tuning in for a game.

One of the reasons that the NHL has been so successful at creating intrigue for the extended playoff season is that their playoff structure stacks exciting matchups early. Intra-division playoff series start each post-season, meaning that teams are facing bitter rivals right off the bat. As the playoffs grow deeper, the gravity of the situation spurs on the intensity, having gotten the boost from prior round’s enthusiasm. The hardwood could learn a thing or two about this by restructuring the divisions in the NBA (which are seemingly worthless now), to allow a playoff structure that would create more engaging and entertaining matchups than watching a top seed abuse a squad with a losing record.

The bottom line is that this spring, two sports have both had the chance to exhibit their greatest chases to the ultimate crown. One of those races has proven to be as exciting and engaging as ever, with matchups that keep the attention of just about all fans of the sport, while the other has put forward a generally unsuccessful attempt to stir up drama where it doesn’t exist. While there is still a ways to go, both sports are forcing fans to choose which they would prefer to watch, and the result may be that the more casuals fans are choosing to watch neither at all. If those fans can’t get the updates and highlights they want on a major network, and are getting highlights that aren’t worth watching, it takes the fun and excitement out of the playoff chase, the time when both sports should be able to shine the brightest.

April 2nd: 2017 MLB Preview

Opening Day will mark exactly 5 months since the Cubs hoisted the World Series trophy, ending the 2016 season. Coming out of Spring Training, every fan is excited to see what the year holds in store for their team. The ZP: Left Fielder predicts how things will go for all 30 MLB teams, and who will make an appearance in October baseball.

NL Central:

  1. Cubs: The most complete team in the bigs, the Cubs will have no problem getting back to the postseason. Many forget that the end of June and beginning of July were miserable months last year for the Cubs, so this Cubs team has a chance to be even better than last year’s champs.
  2. Pirates: A rumor-filled offseason is usually a bad sign, but the Pirates have a deep team and a strong foundation of success. The best outfield in baseball will propel them into meaningful September games, and a core of young talent will keep the Pirates right in the thick of things.
  3. Cardinals: The Cardinals had a middle-of-the-road 2016, and are placing a lot of their hopes on Dexter Fowler, who they poached from their rivals, the Cubs. Fowler, though, had a somewhat unusually successful 2016, and will not be able to solve all of St. Louis’ problems. Look for the Cardinals to show their youth and struggle in the middle part of the season.
  4. Brewers: The Brewers are a hot pick to win a lot of games…in 2018. But, in 2017, they will have to bide their time until their young stars can really emerge. A few strong performers will continue to drive ticket sales, but don’t expect much in the way of team success in Milwaukee this year.
  5. Reds: The Reds are a bit of a mess. With the exception of first base, there is relative youth and inexperience at every position on the diamond. There may be hope that the young talent will put a good team together for the future, but this team is going to lose a lot of games and give a lot of tryouts to rookies.

HarperNL East:

  1. Nationals: The reigning NL East Champs have a deep rotation, terrifying offense, and a manager who knows how to win. The most popular prediction this year is that Bryce Harper will return to form, and, if this spring is any indication, he will return to MVP caliber performance. The only question is whether or not this team can perform well in October.
  2. Mets (WC): The Mets have some of the greatest pitching names in baseball. Except, none of them seem to be able to stay healthy. Yoenis Cespedes is a beast, and will power a strong offense, but there’s no use betting on the Mets if you can’t guarantee they will be on the field. Everyone’s safest bet is a Wild Card spot.
  3. Marlins: The Marlins could challenge the Pirates for the best outfield in baseball, and Giancarlo Stanton is going to be fun to watch, assuming he can stay on the field. With a deep NL East (and a deep National League as a whole), though, this “good” team will not be able to make the turn into greatness.
  4. Braves: The Braves are an intriguing team. They’re young talent is going to shock the league eventually, and they have a lot of strong players to bridge the gap to that youth. I would predict a higher finish, but I think the length of the summer will eventually hurt the Braves’ final results.
  5. Phillies: Last year’s Philadelphia team surprised everyone with how well they did. This year, I expect them to shock everyone with the regression. The team did little to beef up their roster, and haven’t filled any of their needs. The Phillies will stumble in their rebuild, and leave Philadelphia fans begging for football season.

NL West:

  1. Dodgers: The Dodgers were a few games away from the World Series, and spent the offseason working to keep their core intact. I expect this team to regress a little bit, but generally maintain the success of the past few years. If Kershaw can stay healthy, he will single-handedly lead this team to the playoffs.
  2. PoseyGiants (WC): The Cubs ended the Giants’ even-year streak, but this team doesn’t look like they are going to fall back into the pack. With veterans like Posey and Pence, and young stars like Crawford and Panik, expect the Giants to look more like their first-half 2016 selves than their second-half.
  3. Diamondbacks: Arizona was the hot pick for a dark horse last year, and this year isn’t getting quite as much attention. They made very smart moves in the offseason, and have a good group of players to make this an intriguing year. I expect to see the D’backs playing for a wild card spot in the middle of September, and falling just short.
  4. Rockies: Oh, poor Rockies fans. This looked like the year that they were going to try to simply outslug their opponents, and they had a lineup that looked like they just might be able to. The problem is, the injury bug has hit them hard, and their top signing, Ian Desmond, leads an all-star caliber disabled list. The Rockies will be nothing more than “fine” as they try to get healthy during the season.
  5. Padres: The Padres, or, as baseball analysts like to call them, 4-A baseball. San Diego is in for a rough year, with a lineup that feels like everyone is a rookie. The rebuild will be slow, and an all-star selection will be a joke, but at least fans will get to watch a bad team in nice weather.

Russell

AL Central:

  1. Indians: After winning the American League and owning a commanding lead in the World Series, the Indians are everyone’s favorite pick to win the AL Central and the AL all over again. I’m not a full believer in their longevity, but a generally weaker division could spell success for the Land.
  2. Tigers (WC): While the Tigers have certainly gotten old, it is impossible to ignore how good they also are. Detroit has experience and depth, and a pitching staff that, if healthy, can be lights out. This team is my darkhorse pick to contend in 2017.
  3. Royals: The Royals core that took them to back-to-back World Series appearances is going to fall apart after 2017, and this is their last chance to get something done. They’ll be good, but not THAT good, and may sell off an asset or two come July.
  4. Twins: Two years ago, the Twins were a hot pick for a young team on the rise. Now, nobody seems to want to go anywhere near them, as there are huge questions about whether those stars will come to fruition. Expect another year of growing pains, but some big performances from the young studs.
  5. White Sox: Of course, I’m biased as a Cubs fan, but everyone has been trying to tell me for years why the White Sox will be good, and I have been proven correct that they are a disaster. Maybe a sell-off will finally turn their luck? Definitely not this year…

JudgeAL East:

  1. Red Sox: The Red Sox are all in on this year, and their lineup is good enough to get them places. What started as a terrifying rotation is now looking like a question mark, but most of those arms will be able to figure it out come October. The question is not if the Red Sox can win but how far into October they can play.
  2. Blue Jays (WC): Last year looked like it could have been Toronto’s year, until Cleveland spoiled the fun. This year, the Blue Jays bring in a formidable lineup (albeit less a slugger or two), and a rotation that is low-key fierce. This will be a good year up north, and the Blue Jays will be hoping to make the next step through the playoffs.
  3. Yankees: Of any team, the Yankees have the farm system that most intrigues me. They have a stable of bright young stars, and I think all of the pieces are going to come together perfectly. New York is going to be the team to beat for years to come. I’m just not sure if 2017 is the first of those years. This will be an exciting year, but not necessarily THE year.
  4. Orioles: Every year, I predict the Orioles won’t be very good. Every year, they make the playoffs. That being said, I’m going to do my duty of predicting that this team has individual stars and not team success. Now, the ball is in their court to win a Wild Card spot, and prove me wrong yet again.
  5. Rays: The Rays have a lot of talent, and did a good job of doing it on a budget. That being said, the Rays are playing in a very tough division, and don’t have the star power to compete with the Red Sox or Blue Jays. Tampa Bay will play spoilers for the dreams of a lot of other teams, but need to put together some consistent success to make a run of their own.

AL West:

  1. Astros: Well, if Sports Illustrated says it’s your year, then it must be true. The Astros had a great offseason, and look to be in an excellent position to make something happen. Look for Carlos Correa and George Springer to lead the offense at a prolific clip, and the Astros to head into the playoffs with legitimate championship hopes.
  2. Rangers: The Rangers have been there before, and have a solid core. The Rangers also did little to get any better from last year, when their stay in October was momentary. The Rangers are the biggest swing team, in that they could be great and they could be terrible. Expect them to split the difference and compete, without actually sealing the deal.
  3. 04192015-Mariners21Mariners: The Mariners have had two offseasons in a row where they have made a flurry of moves. Seattle is about to prove, though, that not all action is good action, as the team doesn’t look all that better than the one that finished in the middle of the pack last year. It’s fair to assume they will have a similarly “fine” year.
  4. Angels: The Angels are a team that I’m itching to predict as a surprise, but it just isn’t a smart bet. The Angels have a ton of talent at most positions, but don’t have the depth to endure a long season. There will be times this summer of huge excitement, and other long losing periods. We can root all we want, but I don’t think they have 162 games in them.
  5. Athletics: The A’s are a team that often makes a lot out of nothing. That’s good news for them, as they have a particularly large quantity of nothing. There are a lot of decent players, but the sum of the parts isn’t going to blow anyone away, and the As will spend the summer as the AL West punching bag.

March 18th: The Crean of the Crop

After an 18-16 season, Indiana had to make a change. On Thursday, Head Coach Tom Crean was fired after nine years with the program.

Crean’s time in Bloomington has been quite the mixed bag. There have been plenty of high moments, with two Sweet 16 appearances and the famous Kentucky game in 2011 that will live on in the hearts of all Hoosier fans. At the same time, Crean often seemed to struggle to keep his team from making routine mistakes, and keeping turnovers to a minimum.

CreanThis season may have been his most frustrating, with debatably one of his most talented teams incapable of getting out of their own way. Much like the rest of his time at IU, this season saw wins against Kansas and North Carolina, and losses against just about everyone else. It may come as a surprise to some that, in the last hundred years, Tom Crean has the second worst winning percentage amongst IU head coaches (.551).

Crean’s greatest success at IU was his ability to run a program that exuded integrity. He brought in recruits and made a home for them, taking boys and turning them into young men that the IU community could be proud of. Tom Crean served himself well, led a team that understood it’s importance to the school as a whole, and represented the heritage of what it means to be a Hoosier. As a man, he will be missed.

At the same time, as a Hoosier fan, I can’t help but respect the fact that the athletic department has a demand for excellence. After yet another season of immeasurable talent that never came to be, it’s about time to see a change. If Tom Crean wasn’t going to be the guy who produced wins in February and March, we need to go and get ourselves a coach who will.

Over the next several months and years, it is to be expected that Indiana will go through a major culture shock from the loss of our leader. Many players will declare for the NBA draft earlier than they should, and still more will transfer to other schools altogether. But, as a long history of proud Hoosiers will tell you, the championship pedigree and rabid fans will always show up in Assembly Hall.

Tom Crean deserves a massive thank you for all he has done for the Indiana basketball program. He led with integrity, helped to guide young men into the limelight, and demonstrated his values both on and off the court. He has brought the Hoosiers to the doorway of success on a number of occasions. And now is the time for someone to take us over the threshold.

March 4th: Spring Training Bold Predictions

As Spring Training gets underway, teams are taking stock of who is going to thrive, and who is going to struggle in the coming season. Before we get too deep into the thick of things, the ZP: Left Fielder submits 5 bold predictions for who is primed for a breakout season and who is destined for doom in 2017.

almora1. Albert Almora Jr. will slide right into Dexter Folwer’s shoes…and then some.

Dexter Fowler was a huge part of the 2016 team that ended the Cubs’ 108 year World Series drought. His combination of speed, on base skills, and charismatic leadership were a huge plus, and will be sorely missed, as he left for the rival Cardinals this offseason. That being said, there have been questions as to whether Albert Almora Jr. will be able to slide in and fill those big shoes. If he can get reliable at-bats and solid playing time, Almora should be able to get comfortable and solidify himself at the top of the lineup.

He is a defensive wizard who is only a few years removed from being the golden egg in a stacked Cubs farm system. If the Cubs can be patient through a few growing pains, Almora Jr. will be a huge contributor to the Cubs success.

2. Yoenis Cespedes is big, and his numbers will be too.

Every report coming out of Mets camp is telling us that Cespedes came into Spring Trianing bulked up and in good shape. After getting the big contract he’s been waiting for, Cespedes has been able to settle in and ignore the question marks in his future. While some players get lazy after earning their contract, Cespedes has proven that he is hungrier than ever, and that drive combined with a comfort level in New York will lead to massive numbers and huge success for the Cuban super star.

3. The Marlins outfield will continue its brilliance, while the team as a whole struggles.

The Marlins outfield is stacked with talent, from the power of Giancarlo Stanton to the all-around skills of Christian Yellich and the breakout last season of Marcell Ozuna. While the outfield will continue to grow into fantasy assets and ticket sellers, the Marlins’ hopes of team success seem distant. Between a strong division (the Nationals and Mets look to have a strangle-hold on things) and a lackluster offseason, expect these Marlins to serve as an 85 win team, pesky enough to steal wins away, but not good enough to make a playoff run of their own.

MLB: FEB 23 Colorado Rockies Photo Day4. Ian Desmond will prove to be the star that the Rockies paid for.

The Rockies have been blasted for their big offseason splash of acquiring Ian Desmond to play first base. Desmond is an athletic powerhouse, who’s skills will translate well to Denver. While first base is a new position for him, expect his athleticism and dedication to equate to defensive strength, while his bat falls into an already potent lineup. For a team with very little pitching depth, scoring a ton of runs is the only hope for the Rockies. Having Desmond on their squad will only serve them well in that goal.

5. The Mariners will show that sometimes action doesn’t mean success.

Not for the first time, the Mariners were the busiest team in the offseason, tweaking and maneuvering their roster. With the most moves of the winter, many believe the Mariners will be able to end their playoff drought (the longest in baseball). Unfortunately for Seattle fans, action doesn’t necessarily equate to success, and the Mariners will, for the 17th time in a row, find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in.