Friday, March 14, 2014

2014 Major League Baseball predictions

The 2014 Major League Baseball season begins in a little more than week from now. The first game is on March 22nd in Australia between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. That's not a typo. The game will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground which is being converted into a baseball configuration just so they can host the opening series. The first game will be televised live at 1am PST. 
MLB has opened the season in Japan but this is a first for Australia. The idea behind this is to get more people in the world interested in baseball. I understand that but it makes for a wacky scheduled for both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. They will be playing two games that count as part of the regular season and then go back to playing exhibition games for about week until restarting the regular season again when all the other teams start their season.

Despite their wacky schedule, I am excited, as always, for the baseball season to begin. Here are my predictions for the 2014 season -

American League West 
Oakland Athletics  94-68
Texas Rangers 90-72*
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 85-77
Seattle Mariners  78-84
Houston Astros 70-92

The American League West is perhaps the toughest division in baseball. The Rangers traded for First Baseman Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers. With the Arlington ballpark now being his home, it wouldn't surprise me if Fielder hits 40+ home runs this season. The Mariners were aggressive over the offseason signing Second Baseman, Robinson Cano, to a lucrative deal and also added closer Fernando Rodney. The Angels will regret trading power hitting Mark Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Astros will not lose 100 games this season but will not be out of last place  yet.  The Athletics somehow made their bullpen even stronger by getting Luke Gregerson and trading for Jim Johnson, who will replace Grant Balfour as closer. With their starting staff and strong relief corps (and their depth in event someone was to go down) the A's should finish atop the West for the third season in a row.

American League Central
Detroit Tigers 92-70
Kansas City Royals  84-78
Cleveland Indians 82-80
Chicago White Sox 76-86
Minnesota Twins 68-94

The Detroit Tigers will win the AL Central fairly easy this season. The Cleveland Indians won't provide as much of a contest as they did in 2013 now that they let pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir move on to other teams.  The Kansas City Royals will be fun to watch  especially if Mike Moustakas carries his hot hitting in Spring Training into the regular season. The Royals still lack in the pitching department though. The Chicago White Sox will look to their Rookie of the Year candidate from Cuba, Jose Abreu, to supply them with some extra power.  Some have said he is the best power hitter to come from Cuba so far.  The Minnesota Twins added Phil Hughes and  Ricky Nolasco to their pitching rotation but it won't be enough to make the playoffs.

American League East
Tampa Bay Rays  95-67
Boston Red Sox   93-69*
New York Yankees 89-73
Baltimore Orioles 84-78
Toronto Blue Jays 78-84

The AL East division could end up in any order and it wouldn't surprise me. All the teams in the division are filled with talent. The Rays didn't trade David Price like many expected them to so there is no reason why they can't win the East with their pitching. The defending World Series Champion Red Sox won't make winning the East easy though. Grady Sizemore is hoping to have a comeback year with the Red Sox as there are talks he may win the center field job out of spring training. The Yankees, as they so often do, went out and signed a handful of players including catcher Brian McCann, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, outfielder Carlos Beltran, and Japanese pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka. While I am not picking the Yankees to make the playoffs, it wouldn't surprise me if they do. If they do, prepare to hear a lot more talk about Derek Jeter who is retiring after the 2014 season, his 20th with the Yankees. Baltimore will need their starting pitchers to step up to make a run at the playoffs and as of now, they still have questions regarding their closer. They initially signed Grant Balfour during the offseason but didn't like what they saw with his phsyical so they backed out the deal. As of now, it looks like Tommy Hunter will be the Orioles closer, but how effective can he be when pitching back to back games? The Toronto Blue Jays will put up runs without a doubt but can R.A. Dickey repeat his CY Young ways when he won the award with the New York Mets?

National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers 90-72
San Francisco Giants 85-77
Arizona Diamondbacks 80-82
San Diego Padres 72-90
Colorado Rockies  71-91

The Los Angeles Dodgers have become the big spenders in baseball. Last year it didn't seem they were even going to click together, but eventually they did and there was no stopping them from winning the division. They rewarded their CY Young award winning pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, with a seven year, 215 million dollar contract extension. They played most of the 2013 season without their star centerfielder, Matt Kemp. The Giants kept most of their 2013 team in tact for 2014. The most noticeable person missing from that team will be Barry Zito. Taking Zito's place on the roster is his former Oakland teammate, Tim Hudson. Hudson is coming back from an ankle injury but was a nice pickup by the Giants for their rotation. I expect starter Matt Cain to have a bounce back 2014 campaign as well. Do the Giants have someone they can turn to in the rotation if Tim Lincecum can't seem to find his way back on track? Can first baseman, Brandon Belt, produce numbers for a whole season like he did last September? It will be interesting to see. The Arizona Diamondbacks added Mark Trumbo who they got in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trumbo should end up with near 40 home runs playing in that hitter's ballpark in Arizona, Chase Field. The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies will battle for last place. The Rockies will wind up in the cellar, just one game back of the Padres.

National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals 96-66
Cincinatti Reds    89-73*
Pittsburgh Pirates 87-75*
Milwaukee Brewers 77-85
Chicago Cubs 65-97

The St. Louis Cardinals have no reason to not win the National League Central again. Adam Wainright leads a great starting rotation, the bullpen has flame throwers like Trevor Rosenthal, and their offense added shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, even though he doesn't know how to spell his first name. The Reds lost a couple key names from their 2013 team but rookie Billy Hamilton should steal near 90 bases this season and will be one of the most exciting players to watch in baseball. I've seen him play in person before and his speed is amazing. The Pittsburgh Pirates didn't make much noise during the offseason in terms of moves but the bats of Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Starling Marte, should still keep the Pirates in contention. Why the Milwaukee Brewers signed starting pitcher, Matt Garza, to a deal,  is a mystery to me. He should have a fun time fielding more bunts in the National League. The Chicago Cubs are still a year or two from putting it all together as they have some prospects that are not quite Major League ready. A Cubs player to keep an eye on in 2014 is Junior Lake.

National League East
Washington Nationals 93-69
Atlanta Braves 85-77
Philadelphia Phillies 81-81
New York Mets 78-84
Miami Marlins 71-91

What I expected to be a close race for first place in the NL East a week ago has suddenly changed. The Washington Nationals added starter Doug Fister to an already impressive starting rotation. The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, had two pitchers (Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy) go down with injuries in Spring Training recently and both look like they need Tommy John surgery which would likely keep them out all season. The Braves did recently sign starter, Ervin Santana, to help ease their pain, but unless Santana found out somewhere how to be consistent then the signing won't be much of a gain. The Phillies may be old but they do appear to be healthy for the first time in a while. The New York Mets also have a pitcher lost for most of the season in Matt Harvey. The Mets hope that signing Bartolo Colon, who has a great 2013 season with the Oakland A's, will help fill the void left by Harvey. Colon will likely hurt himself midseason running the bases, perhaps crushing an infielder in the process. That's just the Mets luck, right? Unfortunately for the Miami Marlins, 2013 Rookie of the Year winner, Jose Fernandez, can't start every day for the fish. Christian Yelich could become the Marlins next All-Star everyone talks about.

Wild Card Games:
Texas Rangers defeat Boston Red Sox
Pittsburgh Pirates defeat Cincinnati Reds

Division Series: Tampa Bay Rays defeat Texas Rangers (3-1)
Oakland A's defeat Detroit Tigers (3-2)
St. Louis Cardinals defeat Pittsburgh Pirates (3-0)
Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals (3-2)

Championship Series:Tampa Bay Rays defeat Oakland A's (4-2)
St. Louis Cardinals defeat Los Angeles Dodgers (4-3)

World Series
St. Louis Cardinals defeat Tampa Bay Rays (4-1)

AL MVP: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
NL MVP:  Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
AL CY YOUNG:  Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
AL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cory Hart, Seattle Mariners
NL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Matt Williams, Washington Nationals

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Comedy Olympics

Last week, the Winter Olympics were wrapping up in Sochi. I must admit I did not catch much of the Olympic games on TV but it didn't bother me too much. I have a hard time watching sporting events that have been tape delayed. I would likely find out the results on Twitter, Facebook, or on the radio before I even started to watch.

While the Olympians were working hard on their goals, I was hard at work on mine. I had been booked a few months ago for a gig in a small town of Selma, CA on February 22nd. The gig was a fundraiser for the Selma Public Education Foundation. I was asked to emcee the show and was offered pay and a hotel room for the night. I was excited for the gig but knew that I had to knock off some rust and get myself "game-ready" so to speak.

For almost the whole month of January I didn't do any shows because I had been sick so I made it an effort to get in as much stage time as I could before the February 22nd show so I would be ready.

There are some comedians without day jobs who are able to do numerous shows during a week and not get tired. I work a 7am-4pm job Monday thru Fridays though so I knew I would be pushing myself a bit.

On Monday the 17th, I went to Woodham's Lounge in Santa Clara, CA for an open mic which is ran by fellow comedian, Pete Munoz.

It turned out that 4 (3 ladies, 1 guy) of my co-workers decided to go to Woodham's that night and they ended up being the center of attention. That may not have been the best thing. The women had been drinking for a bit before I had even arrived. I then signed up on the open mic list and was slated to go up 7th. The other comedians there quickly found out that these people were my co-workers and said, "Thanks a lot!" Most of the other comedians decided to just talk to them since they couldn't get them to shut up. I thought the whole thing was funny. These are the kind of things that happen at an open mic.

It got even more interesting when one of my lady co-workers (April) ended up getting sick before I even took the stage. I think she now holds the record for consecutive time spent in the bathroom at Woodham's.

Fellow comedian, Hannibal Thompson, was on stage when Melissa (one of my co-workers) got locked outside. For some reason, Melissa thought Hannibal was the one that locked the door so she started approaching him on stage and getting in his face. Hannibal handled it well and got a kick out of it. 

When my turn came up, I did about 5 minutes of mostly older material as all I was trying to do was re-establish my timing. It didn't bother me that barely anyone was paying attention.

Another lady co-worker, Cami  thought comedy looked easy so decided to sign up for the open-mic herself. She got booed off stage. Haha. I went up to her and said, "pretty easy, huh?"  Hannibal  told her a few pointers then took a photo with her and Melissa.

Around 11:30pm or so, it was time to drag April out of the bathroom and head to our respective homes.

On Tuesday the 18th, I went to Agave Restaurant and Bar in San Jose, CA, which has a Tuesday night comedy show run by Melanie Bega. This show is an open mic which has to be signed up for in advance. I opened my set with a joke I had just came up with a few days earlier where I compare comedians to musicians. Unfortunately, I messed it up as I mixed two jokes into one. I told the audience I was going to try it again though because I needed to work out the kinks. When I wasn't on the stage at Agave, I was eating their food. I love their Carnitas Burrito!

On Wednesday the 19th, I was booked in a show at Station 55 in Gilroy, CA and run by comedian Sam Meeker. Sam is the same guy who now runs the Morgan Hill Playhouse show that I had produced until the end of last year. I had asked Sam a week before if I could get a spot so I could prepare for Saturday and he said it wouldn't be a problem.  My good college friend, Cecily, and her husband, Dan, ended up coming to the show with another couple. Also, some audience members who would frequent the 9 Lives Club shows when I did shows there, were also in attendance. This time I nailed the opening bit about comparing comedians to musicians. I was really happy with how the bit went over.  The rest of the lineup was great as well, which included Matt Curry, David Burger (first time meeting him), Daymon Ferguson, and headliner Rachel McDowell.

I visited with Cecily and Dan for a bit after the show then decided to go down the street to The Longhouse Restaurant and Bar for an open mic.  I hadn't been to The Longhouse before but the word I got from other comedians was to go up early as the crowds get really drunk and rowdy.  When I arrived, there weren't too many people there. I waited around for a while and the open mic eventually begins around 11:30pm... This isn't a comedy only open mic, but the guy who went on first was also a comedian. I then went on next. I was feeling really tired at this point but still went thru some bits as best as I could. I did my joke about Vegetarians and how I saw a billboard that said, "Becoming a Vegetarian solves 80% of Global Warming" and then a lady from the bar yells "That's true!" So of course I responded to her and proceeded to say that Vegetarians are stupid. 
(note: if you're a vegetarian, this is just a joke, relax, you're not all stupid)

I get off stage then head to the bar and talk to a couple sitting there. The guy tells me he went to San Jose State so we talk for a bit and then I called it a night.

On Thursday the 20th, I was on a pre-booked open mic at The Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, CA which is run by comedian DNA. I picked up my friend, Brian, from his work and he went along with me to the gig. As we usually do, we went to 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall before the show, which is right down the street from The Blue Lagoon. Brian's dad met up with us as well. I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger then asked myself why as I only finished half.

After a couple beers at 99 Bottles I then went to The Blue Lagoon and downed another beer. That was probably a bad idea and I ended up messing up the comedian/musician bit yet again. It started off really well  - I just didn't execute it properly.  The drive home seemed like forever and I couldn't wait to get to sleep.

I thought about getting another set somewhere else on Friday but decided to just take it easy and rest.

On Saturday the 22nd, I left San Jose around noon for Selma. It was about a 2 hour and 30 minute drive. I left early so I could get the full extent of my hotel stay - check in as early as possible and leave as late as possible. Perhaps it doesn't seem like a big deal, but this is the first gig I've been booked for where I have been paid and provided a room to stay. While I hope it happens again soon (and I do think I am at point in my career where I deserve it), I still wanted to enjoy it to the fullest.

I reported to the venue around 5:30pm. I had been told there would be a welcoming committee that was taking the comedians out to dinner but apparently that fell through. I was okay with that though as I don't like eating too much before performing.They still had some nice complimentary appetizers for the comedians also for the paying customers.

The outside of the Selma Arts Center is pretty neat and the inside of the theater is beautiful as well.

Look at Selma Arts Center from across street.

 View of stage from balcony.

I was told that the show had been sold out. It turns out that while it was "sold out" about 1/4 of the people who bought tickets did not show up. They likely just wanted to donate to the cause which is a bit of a bummer for those who were still wanting to see the show.

I was emcee and the other comedians on the bill were Karen Rontowski, Jason Love, and headliner Kabir Singh. I have worked with Jason once previously and Kabir many times before this show. I ended up meeting Karen just seconds before the show.

Since it was a fundraiser for public education, I started with the joke I thought best fit. My slow children joke. I phrased it a little different for them. "I'm glad that Selma is having this fundraiser for education. You would never see something like this in San Jose. I drove by an elementary school the other day and saw a sign across the street that said 'Slow Children.' I thought 'well, what the hell is the school there for anyway? It's supposed to fix that problem!' I was so pissed off I sped right through the zone." The joke got a great response.

There was one guy in the audience that definitely wanted attention... yelling from the moment I stepped on stage. It seemed like it was his first time in public. I also hear he tried to sneak beer into the theater and ended up spilling some. I ignored him though as I knew Kabir would take care of him when it was his turn to take the stage. Kabir would later say something to him along the lines of  "You're Indian? You look more like a Mexican."

Karen Rontowski, Jason Love, and Kabir Singh all had great sets. Afterwards, all of us but Karen, who had to leave early, stood outside to talk to people and sell some merch.

We were then invited to an after party at a place called Spike N Rail which shared the same parking lot with the hotel so that was very convenient. Kabir and I went to the after party and we were basically treated like rock stars. I never paid a dime for any of my drinks. The people of Selma were all really nice and appreciative. I wish I had asked for the girl's name who bought me my second drink... she was cute.  The Indian guy was pretty much on Kabir's nuts the whole time, haha. I was asked about my TV credits by some people at the after party. (Karen has done Letterman, Comedy Central - Jason has been on HBO and Last Comic Standing - and Kabir will make his Comedy Central debut in April.) I told them all I had were local TV credits at the moment and was still waiting to be "discovered" in that way. They seemed surprised. Kabir and I were the last ones standing at the bar before heading to our respective rooms. It was also good to just chat with him though I don't remember everything we discussed.

I was then really hungry. I wanted pizza. It was almost 2am. I went online to see if anyone was still delivering pizza because obviously I was too messed up to drive. No luck. I ended up going to the Taco Bell across the street and made it there just before they closed and brought the food back to my hotel.

I left my hotel at 11am and decided to stay in the area for a bit. I took about a 20 minute drive to Fresno to see the Fresno St. Grizzlies baseball team play Nevada. I had seats 3 rows behind home plate. It marks another stadium I have gone to that I can scratch off my list. Fresno St. ended up winning 11-9. 

I then headed home after my eventful weekend.

To top it all off, I'm being told the show in Selma is getting nothing but great reviews from those who went.