To the Point UEFA Champions League Draw Thoughts and Predictions: Group A

It may seem an easy draw for Manchester United at first, but it is anything but that. United will likely go through to the next round, but not without some fierce competition.

Leverkusen could provide the Red Devils with the stiffest competition of the group. Despite losing top players Andre Schurrle and Daniel Carvajal to Chelsea and Real Madrid, the German club has replaced them with younger, exciting players for the future, including impressive German prospect Emre Can from Bayern Munich.

The group is home to two other teams who lost some of their stars to bigger clubs. Real Sociedad will be looking to replace Asier Illarramendi while Shakhtar Donetsk will look for a quartet of young Brazilians spearheaded by Bernard to fill the shoes of Fernandinho, Razvan Rat and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. This preview piece also wins the award for “Highest Number of Difficult Names to Spell Per Capita.”

Given time to progress, the current Shakhtar team could easily advance in second place. This time, however, their inexperience will be their down fall. Sociedad romped over perennial CL stalwarts Lyon in the qualifying round. Look for them to continue that form into the knockout stages.

Prediction- Man United, Sociedad, Shakhtar, Leverkusen.

Kingdome Crossover- The Mariners Recent Power Surge is a Sign of Good Things to Come

Here is a piece I wrote on my Seattle sports site, http://www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/. It’s about the Mariners recent spring-training-power-surge. Check it out-

Maybe you have been focused on basketball, whether it be Gonzaga’s run or the return of the Sonics. Maybe it’s the Huskies and Cougars collective mishaps.

But have you seen how scorching hot the Mariners offense has been? Holy vienerschnitzel. The M’s lead every spring training club in homeruns, slugging percentage, total bases and are second in runs scored.

The Mariners also boast two hitters who are tied for second overall in homeruns. Those two would be Carlos Peguero and Franklin Gutierrez. Which is particularly amazing because one of the two will likely hit cleanup for the Rainiers and the other isn’t going to hit in the middle of the order.

Now, spring training is fickle. The game isn’t the same as the regular season. Guys are getting back into their routines. Pitchers shrug off getting shelled for 7 runs in 2 1/3 innings because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.

The batting is also a little different. Every top minor league prospect and their brother are getting at-bats. The love is spread for sure.

Spring training in the end doesn’t have a massive bearing on the season. Joe Saunders has been horrendous the past three spring trainings with ERAs of 12, 8 and 6. His regular season ERAs have been in the 4 ½, 4 and 3 ½ range in the last three regular seasons.

It’s apples to oranges.

But sometimes when Uncle Mo is delivering the apples, it carries over. While spring training is one big warm-up session, momentum is still involved. There is no denying that a team will carry itself better heading into the regular season if they performed well in spring training as opposed to a spring training in which they struggled.

The most important thing of it all is that the M’s offense is flowing. It’s producing home runs; it’s scoring in bunches. They’re making everyone else look pedestrian. With pitching a likely strength it’s nice to see the offense producing. Which is a good thing with Uncle Mo riding shotgun for the M’s.

The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

MLB Trade Deadline Roundup

First off, Happy Birthday to my Aunt Joyce. Last year I promised that I would mention her birthday here, and because I’m a man of my word, I am. So, Happy Birthday Aunt Joyce!

Today is the baseball trade deadline. It’s one of the Holy Grails of sports. A day when the deals go by fast and furious and without a Vin Diesel reference. Oops.

Anyways, since the MLB Network has been so kind as to air a trade deadline special, I’ll just run through the trades in the order that they show them, use it as a framework almost. Continue reading