A new FlipCast! Rejoice!

Head on over to Anchor, Apple Podcasts and Spotify for the most recent episode of The FlipCast.

Also, we’re on Breaker, Google Podcasts and Radio Public for those who consume their podcasts on those services.

On this episode: The end breaks down into a semi-heated take-off about candy with Easter approaching, but before you get to that, Robbie and Shawn discuss things like the NFL’s Scouting Combine, free agency in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger throwing things again, the Astros scandal and a different kind of sign taken with the Astros’ involvement. Kobe Bryant’s memorial service and the Bucks’ dominance along with a crazy NHL trade deadline jump in before video game talk and the takes about a very important part of the Easter candy lineup (Spoiler: Shawn is on the right side of this one if you ask Shawn). 

Remember us? We’re still here and we’re still podcasting

Yup. We’re still at this whole podcasting thing.

So, we’re still podcasting; though maybe not every week like we once were. We should change that. Nevertheless, our podcasts are hosted in a different place than you might remember. We’re now on Anchor.

But … If you need to still locate us on Apple Podcasts, we’re still there. Subscribe to us. Write nice things in the reviews. Comment on our ability to successfully say 90 percent of the words we intend to use when speaking.

We’re also on Spotify in case Apple isn’t your thing. You should subscribe to us there. The takes are just as good on Spotify as they are on Apple or Anchor.

We’re also planning some big things to add to our podcasting brand, some stuff that may be familiar to longtime listeners of The FlipCast along with some stuff that is brand new to even us. It’ll be exciting stuff and with increased listenership comes more podcast content. Let your friends know what we’re doing.

The Drunkest Offense in America – Week 0

When Robbie and I first conceptualized the idea of “The Drunkest Offense in America” in the infancy of The FlipCast, we did so very late in the 2017 season without much in the way of supporting our claims aside from being prisoners of the moment. It’s still the right way to do such a thing.

As the 2019 season kind of started on Saturday, there were four possible contenders to claim the resetting title. (Going FBS only, because it would be nearly impossible to track all collegiate levels; that isn’t to say that we wouldn’t appreciate a Division III team that hangs 70-plus on its opponents … It just might be days before we know that it happened given that Amanda, Robbie and I are super busy as it is)

Anyhow, this post is already spending too much time not sharing the glory of Week 0’s Drunkest Offense in America, so without much more in the way of delay …: 

The runner-up: Arizona

The only way Saturday’s game could end, aside from a touchdown.

Should our Drunkest Offense in America not be able to fulfill its duties before Week 1 begins, Arizona would wear the crown. As it sits, the Wildcats were a yard away from forcing overtime when Khalil Tate was stopped at the 1 after scrambling for 30 yards on the game’s final play. While needing at least 540 yards on Saturday, Arizona’s 539 yards on the evening produced 361 passing yards and 178 yards on the ground, with Tate producing 108 of them on 13 carries. While not victorious, Arizona was a bit more efficient – and explosive – possessing the ball for just a little over 22 minutes while generating solid numbers and putting up 21 points in a wild second quarter. 

Next week: Arizona has a bye. Slackers. 

The Drunkest Offense in America: Hawai’i 

In a text to Robbie, I had prematurely – and jokingly – crowned Florida as the country’s drunkest offense thanks to the fact that it sloshed its way to a 24-20 win over Miami in a game that exposed the fallacies of Week 0 showcase games. This was before Cole McDonald sauntered in and teamed up with Cedric Byrd II early, often and with extreme success. Byrd hauled in 14 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns.

This happened four times. Here’s one of those times.

Normally, Byrd’s day is enough to garner a lot of attention, albeit the morning-after kind since Honolulu insists on being five time zones behind those of us in the Eastern Time Zone. Seriously, Hawai’i … We gotta talk about that.

But fawning over Byrd takes vital verbiage away from McDonald, who engineered the Rainbow Warriors’ Run and Shoot attack while passing for 378 yards and four scores. He also tossed four interceptions because he’s a damn artist and his movement is making sure that only eight of his 41 attempts found the ground before someone’s hands.

In. My. Veins!

Hawai’i ran the ball a bit, too, but running the ball ain’t as fun as flinging the ball down the field. Plus, who would stay up and watch Hawai’i if the Rainbow Warriors weren’t running an offense predicated on scoring all the points as quickly as possible? We aren’t seeing an on-probation Houston in the late-80s hanging like 50 points on nearly everyone here, but as long as the heart of the Run and Shoot beats in Hawai’i, we’re quite here for it. 

Next week: Hawai’i also has a bye, which feels wrong given that the season starts proper next weekend, plus it almost guarantees that the Rainbow Warriors will lose the title without a proper chance to defend it with powerhouses across the country lining up against all the cupcakes.  

A traditional start to ‘Madden Season’

“The First Game” is good for clutch moments like this Albert Wilson touchdown grab in the fourth quarter.

The game needs a name

OK, so it’s not capitalized or in quotes, meaning that it doesn’t hold the weight that some longtime college rivalry games known as “The Game” would. Heck, even rappers and pro wrestlers have more of a claim to the title of “The Game.” 

And this is only a pairing that means something to me – and whatever console and television that happens to require my attention. It’s hardly a rivalry, since it’s human vs. CPU if you ask that console in use. 

So, maybe not “the game” but “a game.” 

Maybe “the first game.” 

Let’s go with that. Maybe even capitalize it.

“The First Game.”

Yeah, I’m OK with this.  

See … Every time that I purchase a new-to-me NFL or pro football title on whatever video game system I own, there’s only one pairing that will get first-game privileges until one or both teams cease to be: Dolphins vs. Titans. 

OK, so it used to be Dolphins-Oilers (or Miami-Houston/Tennessee if the game lacked an NFL license), but there was that whole mess with the Oilers relocating to Tennessee and eventually switching monikers. That’s just the tradition. Two teams that I don’t have much of an attachment to or rooting interest in. Two fairly bland brands in today’s NFL landscape. 

Still, once I’m playing the first game – now whatever Madden NFL version is current – it will always be Titans at Dolphins. 

I’ll always use the Dolphins; and if I can throw back the uniforms, I’ll use the team’s 1984 threads while putting the Titans in Oilers garb. 

Blame the part of me that holds on to weird traditions, I suppose. 

Only 90s kids remember … 

When thinking back, the tradition took root when I got “Play Action Football” for my Game Boy in 1992. The game had eight teams. No NFL license, and unlike it’s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) counterpart, no NFLPA license. Everyone on the field was as generic as government cheese. I took Miami, because the wavy M looking logo was cool in my 12-year-old eyes and Dan Marino (Pitt guy!) was the quarterback for the NFL version of Miami. Good enough for my imagination, I suppose. 

I chose Houston because the Oilers – if you were imagining really hard – were a rival to the Pittsburgh Steelers. A fairly intense rival in the 1980s and early 90s. But they were incredibly exciting to watch if rooting interests weren’t in play. As a young’un, the venom was much more potent toward the Oilers than the Browns or Bengals. (So, yes. A part of me feels a loss when realizing that the Houston Oilers are no longer a division rival and that the milquetoast replacement of the Tennessee Titans retain that history while playing the part of one of the NFL’s most forgettable teams – outside of its market) 

Again, this game had no difference in the teams as much as games got more difficult as you progressed to the Power Bowl. 

Regardless, that first game was fairly rough for me. I don’t recall the exact score, but I’d be comfortable in saying that the final score was something like Houston 55, Miami 0, give or take a Houston field goal. 

It got better, not only in Play Action Football, but in general for subsequent editions of “The First Game.” 

The 16-bit era and the end of the millennium 

So, my first true licks at the Madden NFL series came when I had a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Before I started playing Madden, there were all sorts of NFL-licensed games on the SNES. Most were fairly bad, but they were still there. For whatever reason – maybe dumb pride showing itself after the two-tone beatdown that I received on my Game Boy in 1992 – I remembered enough to try to get that win back on a used copy of Capcom’s MVP Football. 

Having no idea what worked on said game when I had the ball for about the first two weeks that I owned it, the rematch was a twinge rough. I managed points. I managed stops. But the Oilers ran the record to 2-0 in The First Game. Tecmo Super Bowl was next. Another Oilers win. 

It wasn’t until I snagged NFL Quarterback Club that I slain the mighty Oilers beast. Then I started snagging copies of various Madden titles. The wins started to pile up. It helped that Electronic Arts (EA) held Marino in exceptionally high value. At the time that I had Madden NFL 96 in my SNES, Dolphins-Oilers was a full-fledged tradition. Even if it was only me observing it. Even when the Oilers relocated to Tennessee, the franchise remained the Oilers for two seasons before adopting the identity and uniforms that we’re bored by to this day. 

When the tradition was at a crossroads in 1999 (Madden NFL 2000), the most exciting entry to that date in “The First Game.” A three-touchdown rally by the Titans as I was helpless to stop Eddie George was for naught as the yet-to-retire Marino engineered a game-winning field goal drive. 

Yes, “The First Game” details are recalled from 1998-on because spreadsheets and notebooks are kept. The building blocks of my eventual foray into a career of journalism were established thanks to video games. 

Thankfully the Miami defense came to play at times during this year’s “The First Game.”

Something to look forward to … 

While the release dates aren’t static – sometimes Madden is a late-August release; other years, it comes before a down has been played in a preseason game – Madden has firmly entrenched itself as a beacon toward fall. 

Now, more than ever thanks to the lack of new NCAA Football titles, Madden is a gateway to autumn. Just firing up a game with a 4:15 kickoff with the setting sun midway through the game and the lights firing up in the second half makes a balmy July day feel like October. 

It can also provide a slight bit of relief/distraction when the impending dates on the calendar will provide monumental stress. I cannot speak for the experiences of others, but having that game to look forward to makes the impending doom and gloom of what August brings professionally a touch sweeter. Instead of waging wars in my head about how awful the upcoming workload is going to be, I can fire up Madden and let my brain try to figure out how I need to attack a defense that has stopped me on consecutive possessions or just trying to dial up anything that will get my defense a stop. 

Then comes the daydreams about what team to use in Franchise mode. If not the Steelers, who gets the nod? Oftentimes, a non-Steelers selection just springs up in my head without much warning. Just anyone but the Ravens is fair game.

2K and Madden dominance 

Even with the Titans coming out of the box as a higher-rated team on most 2000s NFL titles, the Dolphins only fell twice in “The First Game” … Madden NFL 2004 and ESPN NFL 2K5. 

While ESPN NFL 2K5 holds the honor of being maybe the best NFL football game in existence, that 27-12 Titans win also serves as the last Tennessee win in “The First Game.” 

It may also be the Titans’ last achievement of any sort. But I’m not here to judge. 

I mean, it’s not like the actual Dolphins have been a whole lot better in that time. 

Breaking it down, Miami has one division title (2008), two playoff appearances (2008, 2016) and zero playoff wins to go with a 103-137 record in that 2004-present span. 

Tennessee? Three playoff appearances and a win (over Kansas City in 2017, because the Chiefs can never truly have nice things, even with an appearance in the AFC championship game this past January) with a division title (2008) and a 108-132 record. 

OK, so the Titans have been slightly better in the real world, but the Dolphins are 6-4 in in real-life meetings since 2004. 

So, it’s kind of a wash. 

So, Dolphins fans … You need me – someone with zero emotional attachment to this team – to maintain franchise pride. This game in August, happening in a house that’s 1,176 miles north of Hard Rock Stadium is your Super Bowl. 

Titans fans. I guess this is where I apologize. My gaming systems have turned this rivalry that only exists in the universes that appear on my television(s) firmly in Miami control.  

But “The First Game” streak sat at 15 (Maddens 2005-19) before Madden NFL 20 found its way into my house on Tuesday (Superstar Edition, yo). 

2019’s “The First Game” 

Recent meetings have been fairly competitive. The widest margin in the PlayStation 4 era was the 37-27 Miami win on Madden NFL 18. Usually new Madden titles take me about 10-12 games to really find my groove, thus making “The First Game” all the more exciting, now that it’s a thing. There are a few friends who know of “The First Game” who get the updates as I play them out. Now this year, since most friends have day jobs and such, spamming them with updates about a silly little game of Madden on Tuesday afternoon seems cruel.

But I’ve never gone full public about it all. Consider yourself privileged. 

With the 1984 Dolphins-logo New Era Fitted that I’ve taken to sporting when playing “The First Game,” a couple turnovers and the glory of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami was able to build a 21-7 halftime lead. It was a good time. 

Then the EA Sports robo-QB made quite the impact in the second half. Tennessee bled out two long touchdown drives where I was powerless to do anything beyond choose a play and hope that I wasn’t going to get torched. 

Two touchdowns – one just as the fourth quarter started – tied it at 21. While my offensive efficiency sputtered, Tennessee’s was purring. 

It was time for “Fitz Magic.” 

Sending Kenyan Drake into the Titans’ line repeatedly since the passing game was a complete non-factor in the third quarter got me across midfield and put me in position to at least get three points, hopefully turning the fourth quarter into a rock fight. 

Then I got the aerial attack rolling, because Kenny Stills is good at being a Madden receiver, as I’ve learned in the PlayStation 4 era. 

Regardless, with the ball in the red zone, I opted for a play-action dive with crossing slants about 10 yards past the line. It should have been a disaster. Three white jerseys were not buying the fake and were chasing Fitzpatrick down. Thinking I was about to lose 10 yards and settle for three points, “Fitz Magic” happened. Somehow, the virtual Harvard grad escaped the pressure and throws a rainbow to the back corner of the end zone, with Albert Wilson getting above almost everyone on the Titans payroll before crashing down – with the ball – in the end zone. 

It’s rare to get actual emotion from me, but there it was. Me, wide-eyed and taking a deep breath. Even if Tennessee scored 20 points in the remaining time, I had that wonderful moment in my first Madden NFL 20 experience. (No, I will not count the Pro Bowl courtesy game during the data dump as my “The First Game.”)

Then Xavien Howard picks off Marcus Mariota on a home run try. A little bit of 4-minute offense and a Drake scoring run later, and I put up what became a 35-21 win. 

A turnover on downs with the Titans at their own 17 gave me a shot at more points, but “The First Game” isn’t about running up the score; no matter what the two fades to the end zone that were broken up would tell you. On third down, a QB kneel was called and that keeps the streak alive across two generations of PlayStation consoles, as well as the second half of the PlayStation 2’s lifespan. 

Sixteen is pretty sweet.  

Bryce Harper must be a reader of The Bat Flip

I mean. Just look at this beautiful bat flip from Bryce Harper.

Seriously, look at it.

This thing takes about 6.5 rotations according to my unofficial count. The home run that inspired this toss gave the Phillies an 8-2 lead in Harper’s first game in Washington since signing with the Phillies in March. He’s got three home runs this season. It led to a “WE GOT HARPER!” chant from Phillies fans who loudly overwhelmed Nationals fans once the rout was clearly on at Nationals Park.

Serves Nationals fans right for booing the man.

This one was a bomb.

This thing traveled 458 feet. Four. Fifty. Eight.

NL Central Preview

This division race should be as tight as 2018’s, with the same cast at or near the top. It still looks like Milwaukee has an edge over Chicago and St. Louis, but four teams finishing with 85ish wins is very possible.

Milwaukee Brewers

2018 record: 96-67, 1st NL Central

Postseason: Lost in NLCS

Hello to: Yasmani Grandal, C; Ben Gamel, OF; Cory Spangenberg, INF; Josh Tomlin, P; Alex Claudio, P; Deolis Guerra, P; Bobby Wahl, P.

So long to: Gio Gonzalez, P; Wade Miley, P; Keon Broxton, OF; Domingo Santana, OF; Jonathan Schoop, 2B; Joakim Soria, P; Dan Jennings, P; Curtis Granderson, OF; Xavier Cedeno, P.

2019 Forecast: Having the reigning National League MVP – Christian Yelich – is awfully neat, but the Brewers are far more than just his 36 home runs, 110 RBIs and 7.6 WAR. A team that was a game away from reaching the World Series brings a fair amount of its core back from that campaign. A lot of the faces that were brought in during the season have found themselves somewhere other than Milwaukee, while the Brewers have quietly filled holes without making moves that shook even the slowest of news cycles during the hot stove. Milwaukee’s rotation might be the worst in the division, but that’s because the NL Central is loaded with great starting pitching. In 2018, Milwaukee made bread with its bullpen – and maybe the division’s most dominant reliever in Josh Hader. Adding Yasmani Grandal gives the Brewers the best catcher in the Central – yes, Cardinals fans, I said “best.” While not flashy, Milwaukee has the build to stay in the postseason party for as long, if not longer, than 2018’s team. 

Look out for: If 2019 is the “Year of the Chonk” … I submit Jesus Aguilar as a Brewer to watch. Aguilar found his power stroke during 2018, sending 35 balls over the wall while driving in 108 runs and slugging .539. At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Aguilar makes for an intimidating presence at the dish, while not horrible with the glove. It’s still Yelich’s show, but Aguilar will do more than enough to garner attention for the Brewers. 

St. Louis Cardinals

2018 Record: 88-74, 3rd in Central  

Postseason:  Did not qualify

Hello to: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B; Andrew Miller, P; Matt Wieters, C; Drew Robinson, CF.

So long to: Luke Weaver, P; Bud Norris, P; Matt Adams, 1B; Tyson Ross, P; Carson Kelly, C.

2019 Forecast: It took Mike Matheny’s exit after scuffling to a 47-46 record for the Cardinals to play their best ball down the stretch as the Redbirds finished 41-28 in the 69 games that Mike Shildt held the clubhouse keys. Shildt now gets the luxury of a full season with St. Louis and a few new toys, most notably Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller. Goldschmidt will certainly aid the Cardinals’ lineup with another power bat, while also being one of St. Louis’ flashiest acquisitions in years. There’s also the possibility that the Cardinals boast the Central’s best rotation with Miles Mikolas fronting the charge. It’s been a while since the Cardinals have tasted the postseason, and while that’s fine for most, it appears that the braintrust in St. Louis has decided that 2019 needs to mark a return to the playoffs. It may take some wrangling beyond what the team did to pass the Cubs and Brewers, but a wild-card spot is certainly within reach. 

Look out for: Can a Cardinals preview go without mentioning Yadier Molina? While the attention and pressure will be on Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter to start strong, it’ll be up to Molina, who saw a bit of a power surge in 2018 – his Age 35 season – to keep the lineup consistent. His defense is near the top of the league, but his offensive production will be key of the Redbirds have designs on playing in October. 

Chicago Cubs

2018 record: 95-68, 2nd in Central

Postseason: Lost in NL Wild Card

Hello to: Daniel Descalso, INF; Brad Brach, P; Tony Barnette, P; George Kontos, P; Junichi Tazawa, P.

So long to: Daniel Murphy, 2B; Tommy La Stella, INF; Justin Wilson, P; Jesse Chavez, P; Jorge De La Rosa, P; Jaime Garcia, P.

2019 Forecast: The Cubs were a very streaky team in 2018, boasting four winning streaks of five or more games while also suffering two losing streaks of five games. A run between April 26 and May 12 saw Chicago win five, lose five and then win five. Aside from those runs, Chicago won more than it lost but never looked dominant in doing so. The Cubs’ injury list is pretty beefy as the season opens, but most seem to be of the nagging type and not the long-term kind. The lineup will be quite strong as names like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Scwarber, Anthony Rizzo and so on are hitting peak years – age wise – in 2019. The rotation is only topped by St. Louis with a bullpen that only Milwaukee is besting in the division. Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek offer a brutal 1-2 hammer on the back end of that pen. Simply put, the Cubs will be very in the hunt.  

Look out for: While he’s never going to be a high-average guy, Schwarber’s bat will be a big part of what the Cubs do in 2019. If the run production can trend upward, “War Bear” can nestle himself in a lineup that will be one of the scariest in the National League. Some of that can happen if Schwarber can collect more hits than strikeouts. So far, that’s been a negative as he’s whiffed more than he’s made contact during his career (369 strikeouts compared to 248 hits). It’s not quite Joey Gallo bad, but when he’s clustered strikeouts, he becomes more of a black hole in the lineup than anything. 

Pittsburgh Pirates

2018 Record: 82-79, 4th in Central

Postseason: Did not qualify 

Hello to: Lonnie Chisenhall, OF; Erik Gonzalez, SS; Jordan Lyles, P; Melky Cabrera, OF; Francisco Liriano, P.

So long to: Jordy Mercer, SS; Josh Harrison, 2B; Ivan Nova, P. 

2019 Forecast: Did you love the 2018 Pirates, but wished that only the middle infield was different? Then the 2019 Pirates are the team for you! Gregory Polanco will be nursing a shoulder injury, keeping him sidelined until about the end of April and Jung Ho Kang seems to have a lock on the third-base platoon with Colin Moran. There are new faces in the Pirates lineup, but the arms are what will carry the team to anything in 2019. The promise is certainly there with the Pirates’ rotation with Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams as good as any four-man group in the NL. Pittsburgh’s bullpen is another in a line of stacked relievers in the division, boasting a solid back end of Kyle Crick, Keone Kela and Felipe Vazquez. Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte are solid pieces of a lineup that needs a bit more power to strike fear in opposing staffs. If any team puzzles fans on their potential and payoff more than the Pirates, it’ll be a stunner. 

Look out for: Archer was welcomed to Pittsburgh as a conquering hero, but had his struggles over the 10 starts he made for the Corsairs after being acquired from Tampa Bay. It’s not out of the question to expect Archer to slice a bit off his ERA and WHIP when pitching full seasons in a park that favors his kind more than it does batters. While this is Taillon’s rotation, Archer is another name that will need to come up big if the Pirates are to stay above water in 2019.  

Cincinnati Reds

2018 Record: 67-95, 5th in Central  

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Yasiel Puig, OF; Matt Kemp, OF; Alex Wood, P; Sonny Gray, P; Tanner Roark, P; Kyle Farmer, C; Zach Duke, P; Jose Iglesias, SS; Derek Dietrich, INF. 

So long to: Jim Riggleman, MGR; Homer Bailey, P; Billy Hamilton, CF; Matt Harvey, P; Austin Brice, P; Brandon Dixon, 2B.

2019 Forecast: The Reds are certainly going for something, making some of the loudest trades in baseball during the offseason. Yasiel Puig’s presence will certainly help the Reds lead the majors in GIFs and bat flips, while Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Sonny Gray will be crucial to any hopes that Cincinnati has of climbing out of the basement. Not having Scooter Gennett for almost three months to start the season will be a blow to the Reds, given that Gennett and Eugenio Suarez were key cogs in a lineup bereft of consistency. Elder statesman Joey Votto returns after seeing a severe dip in his numbers a season ago. 

Look out for: Puig. Seriously, that’s where the eyes will be as the Reds have a recognizable name in their fold. Puig played in 125 games during the 2018 season, staying consistent with his career production numbers, while seeing a spike in defensive miscues – leaping to eight in 2018 from just one the year before. With Gennett out for the biggest part of the first half, the pressure is on Puig to generate not only numbers, but excitement for a Reds team itching to no longer be the laughingstock of the Central. 

AL Central Preview

It’s the Cleveland Indians’ division and we’re all just living in it. For the foreseeable future, the Indians will dominate this division by their mere existence, but hope might be on the way for others.

Cleveland Indians

2018 Record: 91-71, 1st Central

Postseason: Lost in ALDS

Hello to: Carlos Santana, 1B/DH; Carlos Gonzalez, OF; Hanley Ramirez, DH; Jake Bauers, OF/1B; Kevin Plawecki, C; Jordan Luplow, OF; Chih-Wei Hu, P; Nick Wittgren, P; Oliver Perez, P; Ryan Flaherty, INF; Dioner Navarro, C.

So long to: Michael Brantley, OF; Edwin Encarnacion, DH; Andrew Miller, P; Cody Allen, P; Yan Gomes, C; Yonder Alonso, 1B; Yandy Diaz, 3B; Erik Gonzalez, 2B.

2019 Forecast: Thanks to a perpetually weak division, the Indians have baseball’s Schrodinger’s Window – a championship window that is always closing, but remains open at all times. While Cleveland is a hard fourth in any power ranking of American League teams, this is a club with a lot of talent on the mound an in the field with enough offense to put away most opponents. Not having Francisco Lindor for at least the first two weeks of the season will hurt, but shouldn’t affect the Indians’ quest for another division crown in any way. A rotation fronted by Corey Kluber and the incredibly online Trevor Bauer can match any 1-2 punch in baseball, and likely top all but a few. The bullpen is solid, but may need work if the Indians seek pennants and trophies. 

Look out for: After a one-year vacation in Philadelphia, noted “Fortnite” enthusiast Carlos Santana makes his return to Cleveland, having hit 24 home runs and driving in 86 runs with the Phillies a season ago. With 2019 being his Age 33 season, there could be a chance that Santana won’t be as vital to the Tribe as he had been during his first stint spanning from 2010-17, but his bat in spring training was hard to stop with four dingers and a .397 average. If he comes anywhere close to being a .300 hitter with similar to-scale numbers, Santana might snag a few sentimental MVP votes. 

Kansas City Royals

2018 Record: 58-104, 5th in Central

Postseason: Did not qualify 

Hello to: Billy Hamilton, OF; Brad Boxberger, P; Chris Owings, INF/OF; Chris Ellis, P; Martin Maldonado, C. 

So long to: Brandon Maurer, P; Nate Karns, P; Jason Hammel, P.

2019 Forecast: So, Salvador Perez is expected to miss the entire season, giving the Royals less hope than previously imagined. At least there’s still some shine from that 2015 World Series win, right? The team’s inexperience in 2018 won’t be as much of a hinderance in 2019, but there’s a long road to hoe in Kansas City. Whit Merrifield might be the best player in the division that you hadn’t heard of until reading his name in this post. Chris Owings is a solid acquisition as Kansas City tries its hardest to avoid a repeat of 2018’s disaster. 

Look out for: Shhhhh … Shhhh. Billy Hamilton can’t hurt you any more, Pirates fans. Hamilton should fit in very well with a team that loves to run once it gets on base. He swiped 34 bags a season ago, while seeing dips in a few offensive stats. While the adage states that you can’t steal first, Hamilton will be the first to actually succeed if he ever finds a loophole. 

Detroit Tigers

2018 Record: 64-98, 3rd in Central

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Josh Harrison, 2B; Matt Moore, P; Tyson Ross, P; Jordy Mercer, SS; Brandon Dixon, 2B.

So long to: Victor Martinez, DH; Jose Iglesias, SS; Francisco Liriano, P; James McCann, C; Alex Wilson, P; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C; Artie Lewicki, P.

2019 Forecast: The lineup is mediocre. The pitching may cause PTSD in fans. The offseason was less than inspiring. What do we call this act? The Detroit Tigers! There’s good in the Tigers clubhouse, but getting good on the field might be a ways away. Thankfully, they’ll have the Royals to set the floor in the AL Central for another year, but pulling a playoff rabbit out of their hats might be a tough to-do without a lot of self-destruction from about 10 teams in the American League. At least the hats look as baller as ever. 

Look out for: Josh Harrison, who might be underrated if you believe other previews, comes to Detroit after a stint in Pittsburgh as the blue-collar everyday guy. Harrison was nicked by nagging injuries in 2018, having maybe his worst full season in the majors. Harrison, if healthy, will be better for the Tigers than he was for Pittsburgh in 2018. Plus, his double-play buddy Jordy Mercer made the trip to Detroit. No word on if that package deal unlocks some sort of Backyard Baseball bonus, like keeping the Webber twins together. 

Minnesota Twins

2018 Record: 78-84, 2nd in Central 

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Marwin Gonzalez, INF; Nelson Cruz, DH/OF; Jonathan Schoop, 2B; Blake Parker, P; C.J. Cron, 1B; Martin Perez, P.

So long to: Joe Mauer, 1B; Robbie Grossman, OF/DH; Logan Morrison, 1B/DH; Logan Forsythe, 2B; Ervin Santana, P; Matt Belisle, P; Alan Busenitz, P.

2019 Forecast: There may not be need for name tags in the Twins clubhouse, but a lot of new faces will play under the watchful gaze of Minny and Paul at Target Field. While it’ll be weird to not see Joe Mauer suiting up, Minnesota quietly did work to avoid a repeat of 2018’s disappointment. This team will be a load to handle offensively and could be a year away from making noise on the mound as well, the Jose Berrios should take a step forward this season as the Twins’ de facto ace. This won’t be a team that challenges the Indians in 2019, but it should frustrate them quite a bit. 

Look out for: There are a lot of great pieces for the Twins, but we’re here for Willians Astudillo and his prodigious baserunning. Just google it. It’s awesome. While Astudillo will be the guy behind Jason Castro on the catching depth chart, every time that he tries to leg out any kind of extra base, you’ll see the video soon enough. 

Chicago White Sox

2018 Record: 62-100, 4th in Central

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Ivan Nova, P; Yonder Alonso, 1B/DH; Kelvin Herrera, P; Alex Colome, P; Jon Jay, OF; James McCann, C; Brandon Guyer, OF; Ervin Santana, P.

So long to: Avisail Garcia, OF; Matt Davidson, DH/INF; James Shields, P.

2019 Forecast: What exactly are the White Sox? They’ll have a lineup that boasts some 20-home run guys from a season ago, which makes you think that the Southsiders are a keg-league softball team. If the cleat fits … Unfortunately, their 656 runs scored were almost lapped twice by the 848 that they allowed. Pitching is a glaring need for Chicago, and Ivan Nova – he of a 9-9 record and a 4.19 ERA with the Pirates in 2018 – is not the answer. They’ll be fun, but not successful. 

Look out for: Eloy Jimenez. Dude is going to bop. Maybe not on a 30-homer, 100-RBI pace, but he and Jose Abreu will do some damage in the middle of that Chicago lineup. The kid is electric and should inspire some buzz in Chicago if he produces. If anything, check the kid out when the White Sox are on.  

So long, Ichiro

Credit: Getty Images

It was just time.

A pro baseball career that started in 1992 ended on Thursday. In 2019.

Between those first cuts for the Orix BlueWave and his final at-bat as a Seattle Mariner in Tokyo, Ichiro Suzuki was as revolutionary as he was refreshing to the game of baseball.

For those who see baseball strictly as a quest for numbers, Ichiro’s most memorable number – 4,367 hits – denotes him as professional baseball’s “true hit king.”

Others might see 17 combined all-star appearances between his career in Japan and in the United States. The 2001 double-up of the American League rookie of the year and most valuable player awards. Twice he was the AL batting champion, a feat he’d accomplish seven times in the Pacific League. He racked up 262 hits in 2004, a number that still represents the high-water for hits mark in a single season.

While the numbers support the cause, Ichiro was just … Ichiro. A unique personality, who was larger than life in his home nation while quickly becoming a household name in the U.S., despite being isolated in Seattle.

Through a career that took him to New York, Miami and back to Seattle, Ichiro was a hero to some, a favorite to most and a quiet, hard-worker. Even to Age 45, Ichiro’s obsession with perfecting his craft was undeniable.

Thursday, again, seemingly marks the end. The 0-for-4 day is the least important part of Ichiro’s effort during Seattle’s 5-4 win in 12 innings over the Oakland Athletics. Ichiro was lifted in the eighth inning, taken out after taking his customary spot in right field.

Ichiro exited to the ovation of a reported 46,451 at the Tokyo Dome.

It was just time.

Song of the Day – March 19, 2019

“Money, it’s a gas; grab that cash with both hands and make a stash”

“Money” by Pink Floyd

So, ESPN’s Jeff Passan is reporting that Mike Trout is going to get paid. Like hella paid. The reported terms are 12 years and over $430 million. For perspective, Bryce Harper recently signed a 13-year deal worth over $100 million less than this deal.

Sometimes the news of the day influences the DJ residing in all of our heads. This tune immediately came to my mind when reports of the Trout deal were surfacing. Something more analytical on the Trout contract is sure to appear in this blog space quite soon. Allow this song to provide the soundtrack.

Happy Steve Austin Day

It’s March 16.

Or 3/16.

Or 3.16.

Or 3:16.

Thanks to an iconic quip from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, almost 23 years ago, the numbers 3 and 16 are very closely associated with him, at least in WWF/WWE canon and also in some wrinkles of pop culture. While Austin was working heel (bad guy) at that time, the seeds of his future anti-hero character were sown with this very promo.

Austin, having just beaten Jake “The Snake” Roberts, whose character was that of a born-again Christian – mirroring Roberts in real life at that time – Austin mocked Roberts’ recital of Bible passages in promos with the historic line.

If you know the background of this moment, it’s a trip down Memory Lane. if you don’t know anything about the sport, then it’s the explanation as to why you saw a lot of “Austin 3:16” shirts in the late 1990s … And probably yesterday.

The language is borderline NSFW, so if you bask in the nostalgia … Maybe don’t have the little ones around.

And when the 20th anniversary of the moment came in 2016, WWE was there with a tribute from some in the locker room at that time. Props to Kofi Kingston and Karl Anderson for practically nailing the voice.