WWE Royal Rumble Preview and Predictions

rumble event

The WWE’s Road to WrestleMania begins tonight with the Royal Rumble live on the WWE Network and pay-per-view.

The Royal Rumble emanates from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and should be an exciting event.

The top two matches on the card are the annual Royal Rumble match and a triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship between the champion, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Mr. Money in the Bank, Seth Rollins.

The rest of the card is, um, happening to help kill time before the two marquee matches of the evening. To help you get up to speed on the event, Ryan Gehrke and I decided to tag-team our coverage of the Royal Rumble.

We’ve got some quick match previews and our picks for each match of the evening.

Enjoy.

Continue reading

Posted in Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan, John Cena, Kofi Kingston, Professional Wrestling, Roman Reigns, Royal Rumble, Seth Rollins, WWE | Leave a comment

Cubs Legend Ernie Banks Passes Away

Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks died Friday night at the age of 83.

Banks was a Hall of Fame shortstop and first baseman who spent his entire career with the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971.

Over those 19 years, Banks hit .274/.330/.500 and hit 512 home runs. He took home back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player awards in 1958 and 1959.

In 1958, Banks hit .313/.366/.614 and led the National League with 47 home runs and added 119 runs scored, 11 triples, and 129 RBI. All of that was good enough for 9.4 WAR.

In 1959, he hit .304/.374/.596 with 45 home runs and a league-leading 143 RBI. He also posted a 156 OPS+ and drew a league-best 20 intentional walks. All-in-all, he posted 10.2 WAR.

The slugging shortstop also played in fourteen All-Star games during his prestigious career, won two Gold Glove awards, and led the NL in both home runs and runs batted in on two different occasions each.

In 1999, Banks was named to Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team.

Banks was a legend in Chicago and to this day is often referred to as “Mr. Cub.” He was also the first player in Cubs history to have his uniform number – No. 14 – retired by the team.

He was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and is widely-regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time.

Beyond his on the field contributions, Banks was beloved throughout the sport and among the public for his bubbling personality.

He is credited with coining the phrase “Friendly Confines” in reference to Wrigley Field and could often be heard saying “Let’s play two!” upon arriving at the ballpark each day.

Between his on-field talent, positive attitude, and infectious spririt, Banks was truly a very special player and a wonderful man.

The baseball world lost one of the good ones today.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Chicago Cubs, Hall of Fame, MLB | Leave a comment

Oakland Closer Sean Doolittle Expected to Miss Opening Day with Shoulder Injury

Sean Doolittle

There is some unfortunate news coming out of Oakland this evening.

We’re learning that Athletics closer Sean Doolittle has a “slight” rotator cuff tear and significant inflammation in his pitcher shoulder.

The lefty received a platelet-rich plasma injection, but he is not currently expected to be ready for Opening Day.

This news is just breaking out of Oakland courtesy of MLB.com’s Jane Lee and Oakland Clubhouse’s Melissa Lockard:

Doolittle, 28, took over the closer’s role in 2014 and excelled, posting career bests across the board and making his first All-Star team.

On the whole he notched 22 saves with a 2.72 ERA, .734 WHIP, 137 ERA+, and an 89/8 K/BB ratio in 61 appearances.

Doolittle’s shoulder issues reportedly first flared-up when he began his off-season throwing program.

It’s not clear at this time if general manager Billy Beane was aware of the injury last week when he acquired reliever Tyler Clippard from the Washington Nationals in exchange for recently-acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar.

Whether it was shrewd planning or just good fortune, Beane has a fallback plan in place.

Clippard, 29, saved 32 games for the Nationals in 2012 and should get the first crack at the ninth inning in Doolittle’s absence.

Clippard has been an elite setup man in the Washington bullpen for years posting an aggregate 2.68 ERA, 1.047 WHIP, 148 ERA+, and averaging 10.3 K/9 during his seven-year stint with the Nationals.

Free-agent closers Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Casey Janssen are all still readily available on the market should Beane feel the need to further solidify the back-end of the Oakland bullpen.

Doolittle suffered through a series of injuries and setbacks early in his career, before breaking through with the A’s in 2012. Here’s hoping he can work through this, avoid surgery, and return to the hill this season.

Posted in AL West, American League, Baseball, Billy Beane, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Injuries, MLB, Oakland Athletics, Sean Doolittle, Tyler Clippard | Leave a comment

Trade Brewing: Milwaukee and Philadelphia Discussing Jonathan Papelbon Trade

Jonathan Papelbon

In a move that makes very little sense for Milwaukee, the Brewers are reportedly deep in talks to acquire closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Philadelphia has been trying to move Papelbon for quite some time as the club is finally undergoing a long-overdue rebuild and digging its way out from under a mountain of bloated contracts.

There haven’t been many trade partners willing to take on Papelbon’s salary – or perceived attitude and ego – and thus far the trade winds have remained calm.

That all changed last night when Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported that Milwaukee was suddenly in “serious discussions” to acquire Papelbon.

Papelbon, 34, is coming off his best season in five years with 39 saves, a 2.04 ERA, .905 WHIP, and a 183 ERA+

He has seen his strikeout numbers tumble and his velocity has diminished at an alarming rate in recent years, both factors have led many to wonder if his high-level of performance is sustainable.

Papelbon is owed $13 million in 2015 and has a $13 million option for 2016 that vests if he finishes 48 games, a feat he’s accomplished nine years in a row.

Papelbon can reportedly block a trade to the Brewers as part of his limited no-trade clause, but it’s believed that he would waive that if the vesting option for 2016 was guaranteed.

It’s possible that has already been worked out as ESPN’s Jayson Stark is reporting that the “last remaining obstacle” to this deal getting done is the vesting option. The clubs are reportedly trying to hammer out how much of the 2016 option Philadelphia would cover in the swap.

The move seems out of place for a Brewers club that just traded long-time ace Yovani Gallardo to Texas, a move that freed up $9 million.

It was widely-speculated that Milwaukee would use that money to add a frontline starting pitcher via free agency – James Shields’ name was bandied about quite often – or trade for a pitcher and use their new-found financial flexibility to offer an extension.

Papelbon would be an odd-use of resources as the club already has Jonathan Broxton on the roster as a potential in-house closing option and he’s already slated to make $9 million himself in 2015.

Francisco RodriguezIf the club wasn’t interested in Broxton taking the reins in the ninth inning, they could reunite with free-agent Francisco Rodriguez who has spent the better part of the last four years with the club.

Rodriguez, 33, was an All-Star for Milwaukee last season when he saved 44 games, with a 3.04 ERA, .985 WHIP, and a 125 ERA+. He’s also likely to cost about half of what Papelbon will, especially factoring in the 2016 option.

In addition to Rodriguez, former closers Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen are both also available as free-agents and looking to restore their value after faltering late last season.

The Brewers could realistically sign two members of this free-agent trio – if not all three – for less money than Papelbon is likely to cost over the next two seasons.

In doing so, they’d save cash and avoid losing any players via trade.

It’s a move that seems to make very little sense for Milwaukee, unless we learn that Philadelphia is eating 95% of the salary – for both years – and the return for Papelbon is some holdover Prince Fielder merchandise and a dozen batting practice balls.

At that point, it seems like an alright deal. Anything less than that and I’ll still be left scratching my head.

More on this deal as it develops.

Posted in Baseball, Casey Janssen, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, MLB Trades, Philadelphia Phillies, Rafael Soriano, Trade Rumors | Leave a comment

Marlins to Sign Veteran Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki

The Marlins are putting the finishing touches on a very busy offseason and are reportedly working to finalize a deal with outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

It was rumored that Miami had offered the 41-year-old a one year, $2 million deal and it looks like the final numbers will match-up with that rumor, although it sounds as though there will be a number of performance bonuses added to the pact as well.

Suzuki will serve as a fourth outfielder in Miami as the club already has perennial MVP-candidate Giancarlo Stanton and burgeoning superstars Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna in place as starters.

Suzuki has been a below-average hitter since 2011, posting a meager .275/.308/.353 batting line split between Seattle and New York.

It’s a far cry from Suzuki’s first ten years in the league when he hit .331/.376/.430, made ten All-Star teams, won the 2001 Rookie of the Year and American League Most Valuable Player awards, and earned ten-straight Gold Glove Awards.

It isn’t surprising, given Suzuki’s age and the mileage on his body, that his once-blazing speed has diminished and his top-notch defense has been slipping steadily in the outfield.

What is surprising is that his strikeout percentage has nearly doubled from where it was early in his career, while his walk percentage continues to slide in the other direction. With his other skills eroding, losing his batting eye and patience has not done Suzuki any favors.

For what it’s worth Suzuki still grades out as a decent right-fielder, so if he’s not expected to cover in center field for long periods of time, he should be serviceable.

He also continued his trend – despite losing speed – of being incredibly efficient on the bases swiping 15 bags in 18 attempts.

At this point in his career, he’s a good fit as a light-hitting fourth outfielder and veteran presence on a young ball club.

Suzuki seems fully-aware of his role at this stage in his career and it’s not hard to imagine that he’s hanging around less for a playing time or salary and more for a chance to make history.

He currently sits at 2,844 hits in his big league career; just 156 shy of the hallowed 3,000 mark.

Suzuki has fallen short of that number two seasons in a row now, so it would require a bounce-back year and an unexpected amount of playing time for him to reach the milestone this season.

If a member of the Marlins dynamic outfield trio should go down with an injury, Suzuki would have an outside chance at reaching the mark with a healthy and productive season.

He’s given no indication that he’s interested in retiring, so he’s likely to reach the mark – even if it’s not in 2015 – but it adds another level of intrigue to each of his at-bats in Miami this season.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, Ichiro Suzuki, Miami Marlins, MLB, National League, NL East | Leave a comment

Giants Bring Back Veteran Starter Ryan Vogelsong

Ryan Vogelsong

The San Francisco Giants have agreed to terms on a one-year, $4 million with Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong, 37, is coming off a 2014 season where he posted a 4.00 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, and a 151/58 K/BB ratio over 184.2 innings for the World Series champions.

It was a nice bounce back for the right-hander who was a train wreck in 2013 sporting a 5.73 ERA and 1.563 WHIP.

Vogelsong originally resurrected his career with San Francisco when he went 27-16 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and a 297/123 K/BB ratio over 369.1 innings from 2011-2012 after he’d been out of big league ball since washing out as a reliever with Pittsburgh in 2006 season.

The Giants rotation appears loaded – and potentially overloaded – already with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Tim Lincecum in the projected starting rotation. Swingman Yusmeiro Petit is coming off a solid season of his own and would seemingly be first in line should a spot in the rotation open up.

Vogelsong will likely start the season working out of the bullpen in a role similar to Petit that sees him shifting between long relief and the occasional spot start.

If the Giants were being honest, they’d label his role for 2015 as “in-house insurance plan.”

While the rotation may appear to be set on the surface, Bumgarner is the only lock coming into the season; and that’s assuming there are no ill-effects from his heavy workload in the postseason.

Petit is coming off a fantastic year, but could be do for regression. Prior to his solid campaign in 2014, the right-hander had a carer 5.20 ERA, 1.397 WHIP, and 84 ERA+.

Lincecum and Peavy have both been mixed bags in recent years and it’s tough to imagine them both remaining effective for the entire season or having the ability to save the bullpen by pitching late into games.

Additionally, the Giants are currently banking on 40% of their starting rotation coming back from significant injuries; Cain had season-ending elbow surgery in 2014 and Hudson is coming off a right ankle surgery of his own.

In short, you can never have enough pitching.

And that’s exactly why Ryan Vogelsong is returning to San Francisco.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Free Agency, Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, MLB, National League, NL West, Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, World Series, Yusmeiro Petit | Leave a comment

Braves and Jonny Gomes Agree on One-Year Deal

Jonny Gomes

The Atlanta Braves continued plugging holes for the 2015 season with the signing of outfielder Jonny Gomes to a one-year, $4 million deal with a vesting option.

Gomes, 34, had a rough 2014 hitting just .234/.327/.330 with eight doubles, six home runs, and 37 RBI over 112 games split between the Red Sox and Athletics.

Despite his struggles last season, Gomes can still crush left-handed pitching. He has a career .861 OPS versus southpaws and just a .721 OPS against right-handers. As such, it’s expected that Gomes will be part of a platoon in left field with Zoilo Almonte.

Gomes is regarded as a terrible defender by scouts, fans, the media, traditional stats, advanced defensive metrics, and blind people (probably) so he’ll likely give way to Almonte most days; despite being the better hitter of the pair.

Gomes is often referred to as a “good clubhouse guy” which – while nice – generally has a lot more to do with being in the right place at the right time. Mediocre-to-good players who are eccentric – or sometimes just loud – will earn the “good clubhouse guy” tag when they play on a winning team.

Gomes has certainly done that, having played for teams that made the postseason in five of the last seven seasons; including the last three seasons consecutively.

You’ll note that there are very few mentions of “good clubhouse guys” on losing teams. As such, don’t expect to hear too much about Gomes’ status in that regard this season.

The Braves are poised to be very bad in 2015 – and likely 2016 – after trading away Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis in preparation for a couple of lean years before the club moves into their shiny new ballpark – SunTrust Park – north of Atlanta in 2017.

How bad will the Braves be this year, you ask?

Well, as it currently stands, Gomes – along with Nick Markakis – is one of the club’s two most high-profile acquisitions of the offseason.

Unless you count the awe-inspiring minor league deals the club inked with Wandy Rodriguez and Kelly Johnson.

…or their trade for whatever is left of former top prospect Manny Baneulos.

So, uh, yeah…it should be a real fun couple of years for Braves fans.

Posted in Atlanta Braves, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Evan Gattis, Free Agency, Jason Heyward, Jonny Gomes, Justin Upton, Kelly Johnson, Manny Banuelos, MLB, National League, Nick Markakis, NL East, Wandy Rodriguez, Zoilo Almonte | Leave a comment