MLB Preseason Outlook: NL East

Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals look in good position to challenge for the division title this season.

The Eastern division of the National League will provide an entertaining race this season.  With the NL East featuring the wheeling-and-dealing Washington Nationals, the new look Miami Marlins, and the sideshow organization that is the New York Mets, you’d be hard pressed to find a dull moment in this division this season.  The Philadelphia Phillies ran away with the division last year with the best record in baseball, and the Atlanta Braves had their shot to get into the playoffs as a Wild Card, but let an 8.5 game lead slip as the St. Louis Cardinals stole the playoff berth.  All said, the Braves finished 13 games behind the Phillies, and the Nationals finished 8.5 games behind Atlanta.  This year could produce a different story as a result of the numerous offseason moves in the division.

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Baseball Season’s Underway

Baseball fans, get ready for a brand new day: spring training has begun in Arizona and Florida for all thirty MLB teams.  As a baseball fan, I’ve been counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report to their respective camps; it is here where questions and speculations get answered.  Who’s going to lead the rotation?  Who’s going to play first base on opening day, and who’s going to start the season in AAA?  Who’s going to bat leadoff?  Will Yoenis Cespedes measure up to the hype?  All of these questions will be answered by the end of March when the spring training games have been played, but for now, the players are gathered only for team workouts.

For these first few weeks, it’s just players taking their cuts in the cage for batting practice, and pitchers limbering up throwing off the mound, but for fans, this is enough.  The baseball season ended in October (September if you’re a Braves or Red Sox fan, May if you’re an Astros fan), and through the winter all that was available to talk about was what happened in the season, what your team needed to do over the offseason, and then count down the days until spring training started.  And now, the days made for nine inning escapes from the daily grind are back.

Baseball is a special sport because it never stops.  If games aren’t being played, then teams are trading players, and when teams are trading, fans have something to talk about. With the start of spring training, we now sit at the start of the cycle, which holds all of the hopes and none of the crushed dreams that the end of the regular season holds.  At this point, the division is still winnable, the League Championship Series can still be reached, and the World Series can still be captured- in theory, of course.

So sit back and enjoy the promise of the season ahead. Your team is still in first place, and your seat in the stadium is waiting to join with the masses in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Return Of The Kick Off

*No punches were pulled in the recording of this podcast*

This week, we covered Arsenal’s 7-1 victory of Blackburn, Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Manchester United, and we also discussed the various pitch invaders from over the past few weeks of matches around the world.  This week’s podcast is one that you won’t want to miss!  If you have questions that you’d like for us to answer on the podcast in the future, leave them in the comments below.  Enjoy!

 

The Kick Off #3 (Right click to download)

Super Rematch In The Circle City

On February 3rd, 2008, the New England Patriots met the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona.  The two teams played at University of Phoenix Stadium in what I’ve ranked as one of the top three best football games ever played in that dome, the other two being the Chicago Bears’ rally to beat the Arizona Cardinals in 2006, and the 2007 Fiesta Bowl between the Oklahoma University Sooners and Boise State Broncos.

In that season, the Patriots entered the Super Bowl as the first team to go 16-0 in the regular season, and were looking to become the first team to go 19-0 over the entire season with a win in the Superbowl.  The Giants were able to ruin New England’s plans with help from an exhilarating third and long play late in the fourth quarter that had Eli Manning spinning out of the grasp of multiple Patriot defenders and heaving a pass downfield that was caught by (now former Giant) David Tyree.  That play in turn set up the game winning touchdown pass from Manning to Plaxico Burress with 39 seconds left, leaving the Patriots’ hopes of a perfect season dashed.

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Four years later, the same teams will meet again in Indianapolis in America’s biggest game, and while a lot of changes have been made to the squads, the core players from 2008 remain, and most importantly, the quarterbacks are the same. Read more of this post

The Kick Off Strikes Back

Punxsutawney Phil called, he predicts more soccer in the next few weeks.  This week on The Kick Off, we review some of the deals made on Transfer Deadline Day, Robin Van Persie’s heroic two penalty effort against Aston Villa in the FA Cup, the US Women’s National Team’s dominance in Vancouver (in which Kiran professes his love for Alex Morgan), and we also preview upcoming matches including Chelsea v Manchester United on Sunday.  If you have questions you’d like for us to answer in future podcasts, leave them in the comments below!  Enjoy!

The Kick Off #2 (Right click to download)

The Kick Off of The Kick Off

The staff here at Down By 20 is extremely excited to bring to you a brand new soccer podcast titled The Kick Off.  The Kick Off will be a weekly podcast featuring our writers Kiran Balan, Joe Ballard, and myself, as well as another soccer fan, Wassim Elhouar.  This week’s podcast covers topics including Clint Dempsey’s current outstanding form with Fullham, Mario Balotelli’s four game ban, and also the status of soccer here in the United States.  Our podcast is recorded via Skype, so you might hear a few hiccups here and there, but nothing too major.  In the future, if you have some topics that you would like us to discuss, or a question you would like us to answer, just leave it in the comments below.  You can listen to the podcast below, and also download the podcast in the following link.  Enjoy!

The Kick Off #1

Texas Rangers Sign Yu

The MLB Winter Meetings last month brought much discussion about free agents and their possible destinations. All eyes were on first baseman Albert Pujols who ended up going to the Angles for a ten-year, 240-million-dollar contract.  The Angels weren’t quite done there; they also picked up All Star pitcher and Texas Rangers rotation front man C.J. Wilson for a five-year, 77.5-million-dollar contract.

Losing Wilson is a big blow for the Rangers. Even though they have a solid pitching rotation, Wilson was the best of the bunch.  Prior to losing Wilson, Texas signed closer Joe Nathan, which allowed them to move the hard throwing Neftali Feliz from his role as closer into the starting rotation for support.  After the Nathan signing, Wilson signed a new contract as a free agent with the Angels, which left the Rangers with a gap to fill.  The team responded by signing young Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who had recently submitted himself to the posting process for an MLB team to sign him. Read more of this post

The French And Spanish Presence In The NBA

If you’ve been watching the NBA over the past few years, you’ve noticed the high number of foreign players in the league, including 2006-07 league MVP and 2010-11 Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki from Germany, and two time Three Point Shootout champion Peja Stojakovic from Serbia.  Currently in the league, there are two countries that have the largest presence: France and Spain.  The French have 7 players playing for NBA teams this season, and Spain is right behind with 6 players representing their country, and these aren’t bench warmers, these are players that make a significant impact for their team when they’re on the floor.  At the moment, France and Spain don’t just lead in the number of players in the NBA, both national teams currently lead Europe; the two squads met in the 2011 EuroBasket Championship with Spain coming away with their second consecutive title. Read more of this post

Winning By Losing

They tell you that you can’t win for losing.  Last Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts proved exactly the opposite by losing their final game of the season to the Jacksonville Jaguars 19-13, thus ensuring them the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft this April.  Before this season started, the AFC South was the Colts’ division to lose; they had one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and they had proven themselves the rulers of the division.  And then Peyton Manning went down for the season with a neck injury and the Colts signed Kerry Collins and his beard out of retirement to take the reins of the team, and that’s when it started to become apparent that Indianapolis had a problem. Read more of this post

2011: A Year In Review

Hey everybody, welcome to the end of 2011, and the start of 2012.  This year in sports has been a pretty exciting one, and quite a few memorable things happened in the sports world in 2011.  One thing to point out from 2011, on July 11th, Down By 20 was created, looking to bring you sports from the view of the fans.  With just a few hours left in this year, let’s take a look back at the year that was. Read more of this post

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