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The 2017 pennant races have begun… ’bout damn time…

This week’s questions… 

1) The Giants Madison Bumgarner opened the season again the D’backs by retiring the first 16 batters he faced and became the first pitcher to hit two home runs on opening day. Although the D’backs broke through against Mad Bum in the 6th for 3 runs he did go 7 innings with 11 Ks and no walks before the Giant’s bullpen blew the win in the 9th.

How good do you think Bumgarner is going to be this season? Dominant Cy Young level season or just this normal dependable self?

Dan: I think Madison Bumgarner can certainly be in the running for the NL Cy Young. He’s had an amazing start and he’s an excellent pitcher. If, he continues to pitch how he did Opening Day, then he certainly can be a top-3 candidate. His division also will help him with regards to his numbers since the Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks are all no better than mediocre in my opinion.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Earl: Madison has gotten off to a great start, but it’s a shame that the Giants problem of blown saves have struck already in 2017. However, he looks like he is in the position to have a dominant 2017 season both as a pitcher and a hitter. Two home runs on opening day, stands out to me, more than a dominant start throwing the ball.

Steve:  I think Mad-Bum is the second best pitcher in baseball right now behind Clayton Kershaw, and I think he is one of the odds on favorites to win the Cy Young this season, if not compete for the MVP if he keeps up his offensive terror. He will be right there in the end and will be neck and neck with Kershaw for the Cy Young award.

2) It’s been 29 years since the Tommy Lasorda managed the Dodgers in 1988 and rode Kirk Gibson’s HR bat and Orel Hershiser’s arm (2 complete games, 1 shutout, 0.722 WHIP and MVP) to a title over the Oakland As. Is this the year that the LA Dodgers finally break on through and win their first World Series in 29 years? Why or why not?

Last time the Dodgers were the last team standing was on Oct. 21, 1988 (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)

Dan: I don’t think so. They have a tough road in their own division of winning the West with the Giants (as long as they can take care of their bullpen issues) as well as a re-emerging St Louis Cardinals squad, the Cubs who are looking to repeat and, of course, the Nationals are also in the hunt. I think the Dodgers have a very good team, but the National League is very good this year and it will take a lot for them to overcome the other top clubs to even make it to the World Series.

Earl: The Dodgers are a team that many are predicting to win it all, and with Kershaw it is entirely possible. They’ve come close the past few seasons, and they are built to win it all, but I don’t think they will. I think the Cubs, Mets, and the Nationals are poised to win the World Series before the Dodgers.

Steve: I said it last year when asked this question about the Dodgers. Until they can prove me wrong, they will always be that team that makes the playoffs but cannot get over the hump, and while they have a great team, and a great rotation, I don’t see anyone unseating the Cubs right now, barring any major injury. They are going to have their hands full with the Giants in the West and will likely be in a dog fight.

They have the talent to get there, but that monkey is on their back until they can advance to the World Series.

3) The Toronto Blue Jays released Melvin Upton Jr. (164 HRs in 12 major league seasons with a career batting average of .243) on Sunday as they set their final roster for opening day. Is this the end of the road for Upton? Why or why not? 

Dan: No, I still think he’ll get another opportunity at a minor league level and work his way up especially if injuries pop up. He can still hit and while I would say this is a step in the wrong direction, he still can get an opportunity somewhere.

If, that opportunity doesn’t work out for him, you can kiss his career goodbye.

Earl: It looks like the end of Melvin (BJ) Upton as a player. He’s fallen off the radar the last few years, and I don’t see one team that will look at him as a consistent starting option. However, I can see a team taking a shot at him as a fourth outfielder. It all depends on Upton and his ego on how he wants to progress as a major leaguer.

Steve:  
I’m sure that he will find some team that will pick him up, he still possesses some talent, and some leadership in the clubhouse. He will never be the top guy in the game, but he still would be a decent utility player to come off the bench.

4) After they led the league with 30 blown saves in 2016, the Giants rebuilt their bullpen by saying goodbye to some veteran relief arms to go with younger ones and then signed veteran closer Mark Melancon to a 4-year contract.  Now, already on opening day, they have two blown saves… Derek Law lost the lead in the 8th by allowing 3 hits and a run without getting anyone out… Blown save #1. And, after they regained the lead in the top of the 9th, Melancon came in and after getting 2 men out, allowed 4 straight hits, to first lose the lead… Blown save #… and then gave up a game losing single to take the loss. 

And, yes, it is just 1 game but should the Giant start worrying early?

 

Melancon blows save in 9th; then takes the loss

Dan: I think so. They had a lot of issues last season with it leading the league and coming within the record (if they didn’t pass it, I can’t recall off-hand). Then, with the start on day one, it’s not looking good. At all. I’d definitely be worried, and if this continues for the first couple of months, I’d change bullpen coaches immediately and look towards a new pitching coach as well. I think they will be able to turn it around, but I definitely would be worried, if I was in the Giants’ organization or a fan.

Earl: The Giants should be worried. The Giants should absolutely be worried because it looks like their blown save issue has followed them into 2017. Yes, it was only one game, but blowing a huge performance for Bumgarner, definitely puts a spotlight on an issue that looms large over the organization.

Steve: Okay, so, yes it is just one game, and it is not time to push the panic button, but you have to wonder about the Giants and their bullpen. Are they cursed, and just cannot close out games?

Melancon kind of struggled in the pre-season too, but ultimately I think he will be fine and be a dominant closer. I would be a little worried as this is the same old thing that they experienced last year, but give it time.

5) What is your biggest take away from the opening day games on April 2nd and April 3rd?

Mgr. Joe Girardi wondering about Yanks’ starters in 2017?

Dan: One is that the Cardinals are for real again and this year they’ll actually compete for the NL Central like how they’re used to (instead of last season being 15 games out).

Another takeaway is that the Brewers are still a couple years away from making a playoff push but they’re definitely on the upswing with a Cy Young pitcher as their number one.

The Giants still should be worried about their bullpen; the Yankees have a lot of pitching problems especially with the starters.

It looks like it’ll be the National League’s year again for winning the title and the American League West will be a very fun competition, in my opinion, between the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners with the Oakland Athletics being in the mix for at least half the season. Sorry, Los Angeles, you guys still have a couple more years, regardless of how Trout is a MVP candidate once again this season.

Clayton Kershaw & Bryce Harper look good in 2017 openers

Earl: Just how woeful the Padres are.

I feel bad for San Diego. The Chargers up and leave for Los Angeles and their baseball team is just terrible. The San Diego Padres might have a bright future, but their present doesn’t look good at all. At all.

Steve: The biggest takeaway was that it is early, and I see a lot of people already panicking. Whether you are a Cubs fan, who lost a heart-breaker to the Cardinals, or  a Yankee fan who got beat up by the Rays. It is one game, and you cannot read anything into that. Sorry, if you bet $100 on the Cubs going wire to wire, and you lost that on day one, but that is your own fault (you know who you are.)

Also, Kershaw seems back to his old self, and it would appear that Bryce Harper could be on par to having another great season. Still way too early to call that, but things are looking up.

Extra Innings…

FINALLY!!!

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