Gronk Setback?

It was recently discovered that Rob Gronkowski has underwent surgery a few days back for an infection in his arm that he hurt multiple times last season. The good news is that he isn’t expected to miss any extra time and should be reporting to camp with the rest of the Patriots. Hopefully this is true, since we probably would have had a gronkowskishot at two Superbowls with him healthy. That’s speculating, but still. Gronk has been under the knife three times since getting hurt against the Colts midway through November.

This won’t stop Gronk from being Gronk though, as he was criticized for his craziness at a Las Vegas nightclub a few weeks back. Obviously, Gronk is still young and making the most of his youth, as he deserves to do. It’s gotta be tough for all of us Patriots fans to know that he has yet another injury, but at least it isn’t a major setback…hopefully!

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Brady Signs Extension

BREAKING NEWS:

Tom Brady has just signed a contract extension through 2017. The reason why this is getting so much publicity right away is because it is only worth $27 million. Yes, that’s a lot for you and I, but for Tom, its chump change. He wants to win another STomBrady-010708-775408uperbowl and cement his legacy even further after the team-who-shall-not-be-named beat him twice in the big show.

Since it is a new story, there are no facts about the contract such as incentives and bonuses or how exactly it will look on the books each season. However, it will definitely make it easier to bring in some top 5 position players that should most certainly help with the success of the Pats going forward. Brady has always said that he wants to keep his loyalty and retire with the team that he started with. This isnot the first time that he has restructured his contract or taken less money for the good of the organization. Hopefully we can get some defensive backs and some other role players and make another run or two (or three, or four).

To put this into perspective, Drew Brees signed a 5-year, $100 million contract last season ($20 million a year). Peyton is making twice as much as Tom at $18 million. Even Sam Bradford made $15.6 million last season!  Brady deserves another chance at a title after all he has done to make this team a powerhouse, and all of the salary sacrifices he has made over the years. I guess Giselle and hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t enough for him, he wants more rings.

2013 American League East Division Breakdown

Beasts From the East: With Spring Training underway and baseball back in full swing, I thought I’d do a top to bottom predictions and projections piece on the AL East Division. Here’s a look at what the 2013 season has in store:

American League East Division Standings (by seasons end):

    1.  Toronto Blue Jays        92-70

    2.  New York Yankees       89-73

    3.   Boston Red Sox          85-77

    4.  Tampa Bay Rays          83-79

    5.  Baltimore Orioles         80-82

Team by Team Rundown: Post-Season Chances, Award Winners, and Prospects to Watch:

Toronto Blue Jays

Post-Season Chances: I have the Blue Jays winning the American League East by a small margin over the New York Yankees to capture their first AL East crown since 1993. The Blue Jays were big spenders this off-season and inked the likes of SS Jose Reyes, SP R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle, plus 2B Emilio Bonafacio.

When you add those names just listed above to a team with guys like OF Jose Bautista, OF Melky Cabrera, OF Colby Rasmus, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, as well as SP Brandon Marrow and Ricky Romero, this team is scary good…on paper.

The Blue Jays have what appears to be a well balanced team with a solid rotation/bullpen. Also, the Blue Jays have roster depth with guys like INF Mark DeRosa and Maicer Izturis as well as DH/1B Adam Lind and OF Rajai Davis. I feel as though all of these factors will lead Toronto to an AL East title and a potential deep post-season run.

Award Winners: Despite the Blue Jays potentially having one of their most successful seasons since the early 90’s this year, I don’t foresee any MLB hardware being handed out at the end of the year in Toronto.

Prospects to Watch: According to CBSSports,com SP Sean Nolin and Aaron Sanchez will be a pair of arms to keep an eye on this season. Nolin could potentially help bolster the back end of the rotation to give guys like Morrow, Romero, and even Buehrle a break.

The 23-year-old Nolin posted a 2.04 ERA with 108 strikeouts surrendering only 27 walks in 101 innings pitched in the minors last year. Sanchez, 20-years-old, also shined last year in his professional ball debut posting a 2.47 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 90 innings of work, allowing 64 hits all season with 51 walks. Both are players to keep track of in Toronto.

New York Yankees

Post-Season Chances: While the New York Yankees were quiet spenders in this year’s offseason, they managed to make the right moves to address their team needs. The Bronx Bombers picked up former Red-Sox free agent OF Kevin Youkilis and DH Travis Hafner (former heavy hitter for the Cleveland Indians).

This year’s Yankees team will not have Alex Rodriguez (barring a medical miracle) but that doesn’t mean the Yankees won’t find their way to the playoffs. Minus A-Rod this is the same team that won 95 games and the AL East crown last season.

Plus Youkilis should fill in for A-Rod just fine at 3B. Not to mention Hafner could return to his heavy hitting ways at the shorter fenced Yankee Stadium and add even more pop to an already potent lineup. Moreover, the Yankees will find a way into the post-season once more. Most likely by way of securing a Wild Card spot.

Award Winners: The 2013 MVP award goes to… NYY 2B Robinson Cano. That’s correct, I have Cano as my pick for this year’s MVP. While the other logical picks of rookie sensation Mike Trout or Triple Crown King Miguel Cabrera might be more suitable choices, I think Cano can steal the show.

The reason being: Cano is in the last year of his contract and will have a big payday coming at seasons end. So, what better way to make that payday extra sweet than by not only being the best power hitting 2B in the free agency, but to also have a career year and win MVP?

Cano finished 4th in last year’s MVP voting with a 313. average, 33 HR and 94 RBI and should be primed to try and win this year’s coveted award.

Prospects to Watch: According to minorleagueball.com C Gary Sanchez and OF Mason Williams are two future pinstripe prospects worth your while.

The 20-year-old Sanchez split time last year between Low-A and High-A ball in Charleston and Tampa hitting for a combined .289 average 18 HR and 85 RBI in 116 games. Williams, 21-years-old, also split time in Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa with a combined .298 average, 11 HR and 35 RBI. If numbers like those continue to rise these two could see early call ups to the big show.

Boston Red Sox

Post-Season Chances: Everything in my “sports gut” tells me the Sox have a shot at sneaking into the post-season via the last Wild Card spot. However, fanship aside, with Boston realistically only winning roughly 85 games this season by my count, that leaves them on the outside looking in come October.

Award Winners: Unless the MLB creates a new award for “Comeback Team of the Year” I don’t see any award winners on this year’s roster.

Prospects to Watch: SS Xander Bogaerts and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. are without question the top two prospects to keep tabs on this year. Bogaerts and Bradley Jr are already impressing the Sox in Spring Training. Bogaerts went 1 for 4  and Bradley Jr. went 1 for 3 with an RBI.

Bogaerts hit for a .307 average with 37 doubles, 20 HR 80 RBI and 71 runs between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland, while Bradley Jr. batted .315 with 42 doubles, nine HR, 63 RBI, and 90 runs also playing with Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. Both are on a fast track to Fenway and should be exciting to follow throughout Spring Training.

Side note on Bogaerts: He played 3B for the Sox in their recent 11-1 drubbing of Boston College to prepare for his role on Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. The WBC is set to begin on March 2nd. While Bogaerts focus for the Red Sox will be to play SS, he will likely be moved over to 3B for the WBC, as Jurickson Profar (Texas Rangers and the MLB’ number one prospect) will hold down SS for Team Netherlands.

Tampa Bay Rays

Post-Season Chances: Granted, the Rays did manage to win 90 games last season, and were only edged out by the Baltimore Orioles by 3 games to miss the post-season. However, with a weaker bullpen this year, and a lack of roster depth, I don’t have the Rays making it to the post-season this year.

The Rays have key cogs like SP David Price (2012 AL Cy Young Award Winner) and 3B Evan Longoria, as well as role players like SS Yunel Escobar, OF/INF Ben Zobrist, and SP Matt Moore. All of whom will easily help this ball club win close to 85 games, but unless their bullpen improves and they add another solid bat to the lineup, this team will struggle in 2013.

Award Winners: With David Price winning last year’s AL Cy Young Award, he should be poised to attempt the first AL pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards since Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000.

Price, however, will not win the 2013 Cy Young Award, as I see his numbers dropping a tad this season. He will finish 3rd in the voting behind Justin Verlander and my 2013 Cy Young Award winner: Jered Weaver.

Prospects to Watch: According to baseballprospectus..com OF Wil Myers and P Chris Archer are at the top of the crop . Archer started in 4 major league games last year for the Rays, pitching in 6 total. Archer produced a 1-3 record with 36 stirkeouts and a 4.60 ERA. Archer faired better in 2012 in Triple-A where he had 139 strikeouts with a 3.66 ERA and finished with a 7-9 record.

As for Myers, he exploded last year in the minors putting up big numbers in both Double-A and Triple-A. Myers combined for a .314 batting average with 37 HR and 109 RBI. Myers performance last year landed him in this year’s top 10 MLB prospects list. Both could see playing time at Tropicana in the near future.

Baltimore Orioles

Post-Season Chances: The Baltimore Orioles surprised the MLB last year as they made the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They managed to win 93 games and beat the Texas Rangers in last year’s AL Wild Card Playoff Elimination game. So, logically Baltimore should have similar success in 2013 right? WRONG, the Baltimore Orioles will not only miss the playoffs this season, but will finish in dead last in the AL East and here’s why:

2012 Batting Totals for Baltimore:

Finished 20th in the majors for batting average with a .247

Finished 23rd in the majors for on base percentage with .311

Finished 15th in the majors for runs scored with 712

Finished 11th in the majors in slugging percentage with .417

2012 Pitching Totals for Baltimore:

Finished 14th in the majors for team ERA with a 3.90

Finished 21st in the majors for quality starts with 78

Finished 16th in the majors in WHIP with 1.29

Finished 16th in the majors in BAA with . 252

Those middle of the pack numbers simply won’t cut it in this year’s AL East if the Orioles want to make another run at the post-season.

History Often Repeats Itself:  Here’s a few more statistical nuggets to make my case a bit stronger:

Since that 1997 playoff season (in which the O’s won 98 games to clinch the division) Baltimore has only broken the .500 mark once (in 2012) and has finished dead last four times, fourth place nine times, third place once, with the highest finish since 97′ coming last year ending the 2012 season in 2nd place.

One more fun fact I should mention…Where did the Orioles finish the season after they clinched the AL East in 97′? The Answer: fourth place with a 79-83 record. The only reason they didn’t finish in dead last in 1998 is because the then “brand new to baseball” expansion team Tampa Bay Devil Rays who finished in last going 63-99 ( 98′ was Tampa Bay’s first season in franchise history).

Lastly, one of the keys to Baltimore’s success and overall record last year was closer Jim Johnson, who finished 2012 with 51 saves. Those 51 saves helped account for more than half of the Orioles wins in 2012 (93 wins divided by two equals 46.5, and since a save equals a win Johnson’s 51 saves translates into helping the O’s win more than half of their games in 12′). Unless Johnson can put up another 50 spot, Baltimore will have a setback season in 2013.

Award Winners: Given that I have the O’s finishing in last place this year, I also have them collecting no awards in 2013.

Prospects to Watch: According to baseballprospectnation.com  SP Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are a pair of arms you should watch closely as they are the top two prospects on Baltimore’s charts .

In fact, Bundy is ranked as the top pitching prospect in the majors. Bundy went 9-3 in the minors last year with an ERA of 2.08, 119 strikeouts, and a 0.92 WHIP. Bundy also pitched in two games for the O’s in 2012, for a total of 1.2 innings of work allowing 1 hit and 1 walk with a 1.20 WHIP. Gausman pitched in just 5 games last year in the minors but managed to total a 3.60 ERA allowing 11 hits, 1 walk, with 13 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.80.

While Gausman will certainly need more time in the minors, Bundy will most likely see action sooner than later with Baltimore, as he has proved last year he is ready to make strides in the majors. Bundy may be the young solution this year’s shaky Baltimore rotation will need, should things fall apart the way I’m predicting. Regardless, Bundy’s future in Baltimore, for now, is very bright.

Final Thoughts: The AL East Division will no doubt boast as one of the most competitive and toughest divisions in the MLB this season (as it has proven to be in seasons past). This division can legitimately have four of the five teams finish with above .500 records (the way it did in 2010 and 2011). So, let’s hear it…how do you see the AL East shaking down this year? Leave a comment below.

Bruins Top Panthers

The Bruins traveled to Sunrise, Florida yesterday, where hockey should be illegal just because of it’s name. They took on the Panthers and got out to yet another quick lead. Milan Lucic scored his 4th goal of the season 8 minutes in to put the B’s ahead. David Krejci recorded his team high 9th assist. Krejci has been playing spectacular and is the Boston Bruins v Florida Panthersteam leader with 12 points. A little while later, Chara made an unbelievable spin move and backhanded one into the back of the net. He looked like a figure skater on the play, which is hard to believe from someone who is 6”9 without skates. Marchand and Seguin got the assists on that one. The Panthers were able to put in one of their own before the end of the first period.

The Bruins finally scored on the Power Play a few minutes into the 2nd period when Daniel Paille assisted Chris Kelly for his first goal of the season.  Other than that, the game was pretty back and forth. There was no more scoring until Paille scored on an open net with 1 minute left, but it was definitely fun to watch. The Bruins were on a penalty in that last goal and the Panthers pulled their goalie so they scored even though they were playing 4 against 6. That marked the first time this season that Boston has had a 3 goal lead. Milan Lucic made things exciting when he went after a guy who clearly cross-checked him and didn’t get the call, so he was pinned with a 10 minute misconduct penalty for retaliating. Tuuka Rask played well for the Black & Gold with .34 saves. The Bruins improve to 11-2-2 and will take on the Islanders Tuesday night.

Miracle in Auction

The jersey that was worn by Mike Eruzione in the “Miracle Game” against the USSR was recently sold in an auction for $657,250. His Stick ($262,900), Jersey in the Gold Medal Game against Finland ($286,800) and Gloves ($53,775) also sold in the Auction.

gal-upsets-miracle-jpgMike Eruzione was the Captain of the 1980 Olympic USA team that completely upset powerhouse USSR in the Semi-final game. The Soviets had won the previous four Gold Medals all the way back to 1964 and were once again the heavy favorite. If you haven’t seen the movie “The Miracle”, do yourself a favor and buy it. This was a team that was made up of almost all amateurs and collegiate athletes. Most thought this idea would be dumb but Head Coach Herb Brooks knew the team that he wanted. The items that he sold are a big part of history for Olympic Hockey.

B’s top Lightning

The Bruins opened up strong with two quick goals in the first 4 minutes tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nathan Horton scored his 5th of the season just over a minute in on a dish from Dougie Hamilton. Less than 3 minutes later, Patrice Bergeron recorded his 3rd of the year with an assist from Brad Marchand. About halfway through the 1st, Steven Stamkos scored his 11th of the season on an absolute snipe over the top of Tuuka Rask.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston BruinsAfter the first two goals by the Bruins, the game really evened out. Actually, Tampa Bay probably took the upper hand and had many scoring opportunities late in the first and early in the second. The B’s still got their chances though, especially between Seguin and Lucic. Corey Conacher scored for the Bolt with 11 minutes left in the second period to tie the game at 2. Marchand didn’t take a long time after that to score his 9th goal of the season to re-gain the lead.

Nathan Horton scored 3 minutes into the 3rd period with his 6th of the season (2nd on the night). That’s how the game would end. The third period was slightly less exciting but still had it’s moments. The Black and Gold missed a few empty netters at the end. Tuuka Rask finished the game with 23 saves. The Bruins improve to 10-2-2 and will take on the Panthers on Sunday afternoon.

C’s make trade at deadline

The Celtics made a deal right before the deadline for Washington Wizards Guard Jordan Crawford. In return, the Wizards will get injured Guard Leandro Barbosa and Center Jason Collins. I like this trade. I feel bad that we traded another injured player who was actually playing well for us before the injury, like we did with Marquis DanNBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizardsiels a few years back, but Danny Ainge knows that this could be our last shot at a title. At least we didn’t end up trading Garnett or Pierce! They deserve to retire in Boston, especially Paul.

Crawford, a 6’4” 2nd year player out of Xavier (27th overall pick in 2010), was starting for Washington while John Wall was injured, but his minutes were minimized once their star returned. This season, Crawford is averaging 13.2 PPG, 3.7 APG, and 3.1 RPG. Those are great numbers, but he will be coming off the bench, so the numbers are sure to drop a little bit. Hopefully, he can provide the same kind of spark that Barbosa did off the bench. On a side note, now that we don’t have a Center behind Garnett, the Celtics could bring up Fab Melo and give him some light minutes against the other big Centers in the league. Do you like this trade?

Red Sox Add Mike Carp Via Trade

Shipping Up to Boston: The Boston Red Sox acquired OF/1B Mike Carp this week from the Seattle Mariners, after agreeing to trade a player to be named later or a cash consideration in exchange for Carp. Carp will join the Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL tomorrow (Friday February 22nd) to begin his Spring Training.

Carp’s Numbers: In 2012 Carp batted .213 last year with 5 HR and 20 RBI in just 59

games. That’s a steady decline from 2011 when he batted .275 for 12 HR and 46 RBI in 79 games. Carp missed the majority of the past two seasons with the Mariners due to shoulder injury issues. Carp is a .255 career hitter with 18 HR and 71 RBI.

Can Carp Contribute?: Yes, yes he can. While Carp’s numbers certainly don’t leap off the stat sheet, he was acquired by the Red Sox to primarily add depth to first base and the outfield. Something the Sox certainly need this season.

The addition of Carp allows for breathing room at these positions, should Napoli’s hip injury re-surface or one of the outfielders go down. At 26 years-old Carp is a young platoon-type player that the Red Sox can work with and get solid production from, for little cost.

Final Thoughts: I like the addition of Carp in that the Sox aren’t giving up much for him and he could have tremendous upside in Boston. I look at it this way: If Carp (who has yet to play a full MLB Season) can stay healthy and provide the depth the Sox need, the trade is a great payoff. I have a feeling Carp could be the surprise of the season for Boston.

One last note on Carp coming to the Red Sox, in order to make room for him on the 40-man roster Boston had to put OF Ryan Kalish on the 60-day disabled list. Kalish you may remember is still recovering from right shoulder surgery.

Can Carp help the Red Sox this season? Leave a comment below