Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 8:37 AM
When this here-and-now 2013 Major-League Baseball season started, everyone was expecting big things from the new-look Toronto Blue Jays and maybe even bigger things from the Washington Nationals.
Neither team is in first place these days or even close to it as we began the weekend schedule with the Jays (41-44) sitting in last place in the American League East and some 4 ½ games back of fourth place Tampa Bay while there's the oft-examined Nationals (43-42) some six full games back of National League East-leading Atlanta and note the Nats are six games back in the all-important loss column behind the NL's second-best wild card team Cincinnati (49-36).
Hey, both the Blue Jays and Nationals are looking to make the second half of this '13 season somethin' special but we'll dedicate a chunk of today's Jim Sez weekend column on three "name" teams that always have a special place in baseball's conscience.
So, here goes...
NEW YORK YANKEES (46-39) -How strange a season has it been for the Bombers?
Well, the past few days when the Yanks were putting the brooms to the host Minnesota Twins -as in four games in a row in the Twin Cities -all the New York City tabloids were doing was splashing the latest Alex Rodriguez updates across the front pages.
P.S., note that A-Rod struck out and hit into a double play in his first rehab game with the "Riverdogs" and the Daily News had a fantastic headline that declared Rodriguez was in PLAYOFF FORM.
But what hasn't been a laughing matter is the injury bug that's pounded the Yankees and left 'em for all or most of this current season without the likes of A-Rod, SS Derek Jeter, OF Curtis Granderson, 1B Mark Teixeira and C Francisco Cervelli.
Still, the Yanks entered this weekend's "revenge" series with the Baltimore Orioles (the O's copped the three-game sweep against the Yankees last weekend in Baltimore) playing .541 ball and staying very much in the playoff hunt in the junior circuit despite all the injuries and all the ups-and-downs for this starting rotation that's older than dirt!
Best Story So Far -It's gotta be an oldie but goodie as closer Mariano Rivera who has collected 28 saves in 29 save opportunities and note the 43-year-old sports a tiny 1.44 ERA with 29 strikeouts and only 6 walks. Is it possible that Rivera has been better so far in his farewell season as he's ever been for the first half of a baseball season?
SAN FRANCISCO (39-45) -In the anything-can-happen NL West, the defending World Series champs are either playing possum while tied for fourth (and also last ) place or they're in serious, serious trouble,.
The fact of the matter is the Giants -among other shortcomings -have been absolutely awful on the road with a 15-30 mark and so it helps the cause that Bruce Bochy's club will play its next six games at home beginning with this weekend's all-important three-game set with the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers.
Still, it's hard to put that three-game sweep loss at the hands of the host Cincinnati Reds in the rear-view mirror especially because the Jints scored a grand total of three runs against Cincy -and that included the no-hitter thrown this past Tuesday night by RHP Homer Bailey.
Calling all bats!
If the Giants are gonna right a sinking ship than -believe it or not -the pitching is going to have to save a team that right now ranks 13th in the NL in home runs (58) and a shocking 11th in the league in team ERA (see 4.06). So much for this being the best pitching staff in the bigs 'cause that's a mere wives tale these days.
Best Story So Far -Recent back woes could be slowing down 2B Marco Scutaro but he's been a strength of this wobbly team with a .312 batting average with 35 runs scored.
CINCINNATI (49-36) -Way back when here in these Jim Sez pages, we predicted (for entertainment purposes only, of course!) that the Reds would win the World Series this year but here we sit just past the halfway point of this 2013 season and Dusty Baker's guys are sitting behind both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals in the top-heavy NL Central but still with a big lead on everyone else for that second league wild card berth.
The good news for the Reds is that they rank among the league leaders in some key stat categories: They're third in the NL in runs scored (369 runs), they're third in the league in total home runs (88) and fourth in team ERA (3.40) and now comes word that LF Ryan Ludwick -out since an Opening Day shoulder injury that required surgery -will return in a few weeks after a later-in-month rehab assignment.
The Reds could have as many as five or six All-Stars playing in the July 16th game at Citi Field in Flushing but count us among the folks who believe that leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo (55 runs scored) remains the under-the-radar key as all those run-producing dudes in the lineup (see Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto) makes this a potential murderer's row.
Best Story So Far -The Bailey no-no earlier in the week surely is the headline of this 2013 season for the Reds but how about this starting rotation of Bailey, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto and Tony Cingrani that's combined for a won/loss mark of 33-19 (a stirring .635 winning rate).
Enjoy the games, be safe, have fun and remember ...Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be banging out loads of Major-League Baseball Winners all summer long and so check with us right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Winners. Plus, the Football Season isn't that far off -- there's Preseason action with the annual Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys versus the Miami Dolphins set for Sunday, August 4th in Canton, Ohio and then the whole Preseason will present us all with winners every week!
NFL NEWS & NOTES -TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORTS
Today we continue with our annual summertime NFL Team-by-Team looks of all 32 clubs. We'll concentrate on two or three teams per Jim Sez column, so there's plenty of football straight ahead. Today we check out the Oakland Raiders and the Detroit Lions: Take note that we list the overall 2012 team records (including post-season play) next to the team names below:
OAKLAND (4-12) -Let's just say that the Raiders have experienced more than their fair share of quarterback woes in recent years and now here comes new slinger Matt Flynn and ESPN's Ron Jaworski called him "the worst starting quarterback in the NFL." Yikes!
Flynn -who came over in an off-season trade with Seattle and who may or may not hold off rookie Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) for the starting role with the silver-and-black -may have to settle down this offense that has a big role considering the Raiders figure to sport eight new defensive starters this season.
In fact, one Raiders web site report claims the only two defensive starters back from a year ago who are near-locks to start again are SS Tyvon Branch and DE Lamarr Houston -but that's about it.
P.S., the Raiders also will be tweaking their special teams as long-time special teams coach Bobby April has replaced one-time assistant Steve Hoffman.
Spread Notes -Last year's Raiders rang up a rotten 5-10-1 ATS (against the spread) mark that included a 1-4 spread mark when in the chalk role and a 2-5-1 spread mark at home and 3-5 ATS log away. Note that the 2012 Raiders also finished 2-7-1 ATS in non-AFC West games.
DETROIT (4-12) -One year after landing a long-lost playoff berth, the 2012 Lions flopped facemask-first and so it came as no big surprise that the Motowners revamped the roster big-time and while the free-agent signing of RB Reggie Bush stole most of the headlines there were a couple of other pickups that deserve our attention here:
The Lions inked DE Israel Idonije from Chicago may have been received with over-the-top coverage but the fact is Idonije did collect 7 ½ sacks with the Bears last year and could be an off-the-edge rusher that the Lions have needed for the past few years.
Safety Glover Quin is expected to immediately upgrade a secondary that seemingly is always hurt or seriously compromised by the injury bug. The former Houston Texans star was considered the best available safety on the free-agent market and you better believe he'll earn his 2013 salary when dealing with the likes of the wide outs on Chicago, Green Bay and Minnesota.
Spread Notes -The 6-10 pointspread mark pretty much told the story of a Lions team that began the year 0-for-4 against the almighty vig and keep in mind that Detroit registered a wobbly 2-6 spread mark whenever placed in the betting favorite's role. Note that the Lions registered a 2-4 ATS mark in divisional play and a 4-6 spread log when playing outside the NFC North (and that included a 28-point loss at Arizona in a Week 15 game).NOTE: Get more NFL Team-by-Team Reports in the next edition of Jim Sez as we'll check out the New York Jets, the Denver Broncos and the Tampa Bay Bucs plus there's more Major-League Baseball too.