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Playing Pepper 2013: The Wrapup

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 3:30 PM
I want to thank everyone that's read and encouraged me through the Playing Pepper series.  It's nice to know that people enjoy this as much as I enjoy putting it together.  Plus it keeps the blog active, which is always a plus!  If you missed any of the series or would like to read them again, below are links to all of the different entries.



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Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

Playing Pepper 2013: Washington Nationals

Posted on March 28, 2013 at 2:45 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.       

Washington Nationals 
98-84, first in the NL East, lost in the NLDS 

It's been a bittersweet offseason for Nationals fans. On the one hand, their team almost won 100 games last year and looks to be a power for years to come. On the other, they had to go through all offseason with this taste in their mouths.


There's no doubt that Washington is likely to have a chance to redeem themselves for that postseason meltdown, as they bring back the same cast of characters that was so strong last year and look to be even better this year.

To find out about what to expect for the Nationals, I've got a couple of great bloggers for you.  David Nichols recently moved out of the DC area but still is in charge of District Sports Page and can be found on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP.  Marty Niland can be found contributing to D.C. Baseball History, a great resource for those that are fans of Washington baseball past and present.

For the final time, stick through the jump as we talk about a couple of the young stars contributing to Washington's future.
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Playing Pepper 2013: Toronto Blue Jays

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.     

Toronto Blue Jays 
73-89, fourth in the AL East 

The Toronto GM is Alex Anthopoulos. After this postseason, you'd be forgiven if you thought it was Ty Pennington.

A team that was under .500 last season, struggling with injuries and a tough division, saw an opening during the winter.  They were able to gut the Miami Marlins, making a trade that took days for people to fully comprehend.  (Ironically, the club made this huge trade, then was overshadowed by the team being torn down.)  Then they went for broke, grabbing up a Cy Young winner and a guy in the running for MVP last year until a steroid suspension ended his season.

There are no excuses left for Toronto.  They have pushed all their chips in the middle and are just waiting for someone to call them.  Will this big bet pay off?

Toronto has a very active blogging community and so I've been able to get a lot of responses to that question.  First up is Gideon Turk, writer of Blue Jays Plus and Twitterer @BlueJaysPlus.  He's followed by Ian Hunter, who you should remember from Episode 29 of Conversations With C70 as the author of The Blue Jay Hunter (and is on Twitter @BlueJayHunter).  

Batting third is Jeremy Gibson, whom you'll find at 500 Level Fan and @500LevelFan. He also has his own theme song, which means there's two of us.  Last, but not least, we've got Chris Clements from Infield Fly (@infieldflyrule).

Lots of quality writers here, so stick around to hear them talk about this offseason and where they'll finish at the end of 2013!
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Playing Pepper 2013: Texas Rangers

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.   

Texas Rangers 
93-69, second in the AL West and lost in the inaugural AL Wild Card Game 

The end of 2013 was quite unexpected for Rangers fans.  A team that had gone to back-to-back World Series and then got out to a commanding early lead for the division in 2012 was stunned by an Oakland team that came from behind and wrested the divisional title away from them on the last day.  Forced into a game they never thought they'd play, they were beaten by the plucky Orioles and sent home for the winter, trying to figure out how those two teams had ruined another October run.

The losses continued in the offseason, as team fixture Josh Hamilton followed Albert Pujols out to sunny California to the home of the rival Angels.  While the team was reportedly in on some trade options during the winter, no big replacement was forthcoming.  On paper, it looked like the balance of power in the division had shifted west.

They don't play the games on paper, though we do write about them there (if you consider a blog posting on virtual paper).  Steve Helsing follows the Texas squad over at his blog One Strike Away...Twice!  You can follow him on Twitter @RangersBlogger as well.  You can find Jamey Newberg at The Newberg Report and on Twitter @newbergreport (and you can buy his preseason book as well.)  Steve and Jamey talk about the offseason and the running game of their shortstop after the break!
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Playing Pepper 2013: Tampa Bay Rays

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.   

Tampa Bay Rays 
90-72, third in the AL East 

You know it's a tough division when 90 wins keeps you out of the playoffs.  When Oakland made their final push, it knocked Texas into a wild-card slot and Tampa Bay home for the winter.  The favorite "little team that could" couldn't in 2012, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

The 2013 landscape looks a little different in the AL West.  Toronto has remade their team, while the traditional powers of New York and Boston seem vulnerable.  Where does this small-market team with big-market results fit into this maelstrom?  To find out, I asked the Playing Pepper questions to Yossi Feins.  Yossi writes the blog The Rays Rant and is on Twitter @TheRaysRanter.

Stay tuned to find out about trade possibilities and the next big thing coming out of Tampa!
  Continue Reading

Playing Pepper 2013: Seattle Mariners

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.   

Seattle Mariners 
75-87, fourth in the AL West 

You've got to feel for the Mariners somewhat. They sit in a division with the free-spending Angels, the Rangers who went to the Series in back-to-back years, and the A's who decided to become relevant again.  Thank goodness they get Houston in that division this year, hopefully cushioning themselves from the cellar somewhat.

Seattle never did really get on track last year and, save for Felix Hernandez's perfect game and the combined no-hitter by the pitching staff, there weren't just a ton of highlights for them.  They are changing the configuration of Safeco this year, much like they are down in San Diego, so we'll see how well that works for them.

To find out more about this team, I asked questions of Tim Chalberg of Seattle Mariners Musings (and on Twitter @msonmnd24, plus he's got his own podcast as well).  So stay tuned to find out about the Mariners' offseason and which Cardinal he compares their most impactful rookie with!
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Playing Pepper 2013: San Francisco Giants

Posted on March 21, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.  

San Francisco Giants 
94-68, first in the NL West, won World Series 

What a difference a catcher makes.

With Buster Posey behind the plate in 2010, the Giants went all the way and bumped off the Rangers for their first title since 1954.  Posey then was knocked out of action early in 2011, taking the hopes of Giants fans with him.  He returned in 2012 fully healthy and back to normal, cranking out the MVP while leading the Giants to yet another title.

A title that stings Cardinal fans a bit, of course, as the Redbirds were just one win away from back-to-back Series appearances before some strong pitching and a freakish broken-bat hit sent them home for the winter.  Do we REALLY have to talk about this team?

Of course we do, and to that end I've got a good number of bloggers to chat about the World Champions.  M.C. O'Connor is one of the rotation of writers and the founder of Raising Matt Cain.  You can also find him on Twitter @raisingmattcain.  Craig Vaughn can be found writing THE San Francisco Giants blog at a URL sure to infuriate Cardinal fans.  Besides being a friend of Paul Kocak, who you may remember from writing Baseball's Starry Night (with a cameo by yours truly), Craig also put up these questions on his site to get responses from his readers, so be sure to look that over as well.

That's not all, though.  We also have Richard Dyer from The Giants Cove (Twitter @GiantsCove) and Bryan Rosa from the FanSided blog Around The Foghorn (on Twitter @RoundTheFoghorn).

(EDIT: And a late entry!  Ronnie Redmond writes Garlic Fries and Baseball, published a book--with a blurb from me on the back--by the same name, and is on Twitter @Garlicfries_bb.)

With all of these, at least talking about the defending champs will be a quality discussion, even if we pick at old wounds a little!
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Playing Pepper 2013: San Diego Padres

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.

San Diego Padres 
76-86, fourth in the NL West 

Pitching may win championships, but San Diego seems to think pitching ballparks don't.

After struggling for the last couple of years to break even in the NL West, the Padres are taking the notable step of bringing in the fences at Petco Park, one of the most notorious pitching stadiums in the major leagues.  The thought process is, most likely, that they can score more runs than they will give up under the new configuration, though that remains to be seen.

What also remains to be seen is if this team has the talent to contend, being dealt a blow recently when Chase Headley hurt his thumb and will miss Opening Day.  If you saw the collection of bloggers on Fox Sports San Diego last week, you know just how much a hurting Headley hurts them as well.

Ah, yes, the bloggers.  San Diego has an exciting blogosphere and a large portion of that group came together recently under the Padres Public banner.  All of the blogs kept their identities, though, so we have a couple of their number here with us today.  Geoff Hancock writes the blog Left Coast Bias over there and can be found on Twitter @LeftCoastBias, while we all remember Mike Metzger, now of Padres Trail (and @Padres_Trail) from Episode 11 (has that really been 20 episodes ago?) of Conversations.  Our final PP contributor is Rick Romero from RJ's Fro.  You'll find him on Twitter @RJsFro.

So hang in there to find out their opinions of the walls closing in and how the offseason treated the club......
  Continue Reading

Playing Pepper 2013: Pittsburgh Pirates

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.  

Pittsburgh Pirates 
79-83, fourth in the NL Central 

For the longest time last year, I looked really smart.

On the annual pre-season NL Central show that I host on Blog Talk Radio (the 2013 version should be coming next weekend), I said that I thought the Pirates not only would snap their sub-.500 streak that was going on two decades long but also finish ahead of the Brewers for third in the Central.  The Pirates made me look good by not only being around third, but actually challenging yet again for the divisional title.  Sadly, their second straight post-All Star slump knocked them out of the upper division, continuing that sad streak.

Even so, there has to be more optimism in Pittsburgh now than since I graduated from high school.  (Class of '93, baby!  Reunion this fall!)  The Pirates seem closer and closer to being a contending team.  Will this be that fateful year that they finally get over the hump?

Pittsburgh may have a bit of a tortured history, but in spite of (or maybe because of) that, the fanbase can turn out some talented bloggers.  I've got two of them for today's entry.  Brian McElhinny writes Raise The Jolly Roger! and can be found on Twitter @rtjr.  Pat Lackey is the author of Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?, celebrating that fine Cardinal centerfielder (that, yeah, spent some time in the Steel City also).  You'll find him @whygavs.

So stick around to find out if they can buck the recent second-half trends and what rookies might help out if so.
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Playing Pepper 2013: Philadelphia Phillies

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 2:15 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.  

Philadelphia Phillies 
81-81, third in the NL East 

The fall is now complete.

In 2008, the Phillies won the World Series.  The next season, they returned to the Fall Classic, only to be knocked aside by the New York Yankees.  In 2010, the San Francisco Giants bumped them in the NLCS on their way to the title.  As we all know, the Cardinals did the same in the 2011 NLDS.  So it seemed inevitable that 2012 would finish completely out of the money, as they did.  Patterns won't be denied (until they are).

Now the challenge is for the Phillies to reverse the downward slide and get back into October play.  It's not the easiest of chores either, what with a resurgent Atlanta team and a young Washington team that looks here to stay.  To find out if they could do it, I talked to Justin Klugh of That Ball's Outta Here from the FanSided network (and on Twitter @TBOHblog) and Rich Baxter of Fightin Phillies (Twitter: @fightinphllies) to see just how this season is going to play out.

(Side note: Rich also runs the site BaseballPodcasts.net, where you can hear Conversations With C70 as well as a number of other great baseball shows.  Check it out when you've got the time!)

Stick with us to hear about Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, and more!
  Continue Reading






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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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