Jon Jones: The Next Big Thing

If you haven’t already fallen in love with the fastest growing sport on the planet, nows the time. April 21st presents the newest big name and potential face of the sport in UFC 145. Jon “Bones” Jones will make the third defense of his light heavyweight belt against mixed martial arts veteran Rashad Evans, highlighting an already exciting fight card. Whether you follow the sport heavily or not, you’ve probably heard of Jones by now or even had a friend tell you to tune in. But who is the chicken legged, 24 year old champion already being declared the best? He’s one scary son of bitch, that’s who.

For those unfamiliar with the accomplishments of the champ, let’s bring you up to speed before this Saturday’s bout.

Like many big MMA names, Jones has deep wrestling roots as a champion at both high school and college levels. After dropping out, he enjoyed great success in fighting, going 6-0 (all stoppages) before entering UFC’s octagon for the first time. To put the experience into perspective, Rashad Evans had already made a name for himself and won the light heavyweight title the same year Jones started fighting professionally. From Bones’ first UFC gig on, it’s been an entertaining ride.

Jones has torn through the division in a span of 3 years, destroying huge light heavyweight names in nine straight fights. (Yes, he has one professional loss but as a result of disqualification for illegal elbows after he was dominating Matt Hamill in the first round). Boxers and even some UFC fighters can go months and even years between bouts training whereas Jones fought four times alone in 2011 and even won the title on one months notice! The division has always been known for its stars with even casual fighting fans knowing Ortiz, Couture and Liddell. Since them though, the light heavyweight champion has changed every year for the past 5 years and no champ since then has defended more than once. Jon Jones will go for his third this weekend to cement his place in the history of one of the most prolific weight classes.

Standing in his way is former champ and former training partner “Sugar” Rashad Evans. That’s right, once trained together and once very close friends. This isn’t the kind of made up hype you hear to sell Pay-Per-Views, these guys genuinely dislike each other now and it’ll be visible inside the cage.

Both can wrestle with the best of them and both know this about the other. Edge to Evans in wrestling by the slightest of margins but they’ll do some standing too. Differing styles shows more power from Evans but speed favors the champ. Rashad may have the heavier hands but Jones’ unorthodox style has proven to give headaches to opponents… Literally.

Bones’ best qualities are without question his freakish length (84 inch wingspan) and his unpredictability. When combined, he is nearly unstoppable. Flying knees, lightning fast head kicks and razor sharp elbows have all quickly secured him as one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport.  His massive wingspan has also benefited him on the ground with five submission victories of choke. At age 24, it seems Jon Jones has all the essentials to keep him at the top for quite some time, if he can get past Evans.

It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves in any sport and prematurely crown someone “king” at such a young age but at this pace, Jones is well on his way.  He has the confidence and swagger to be the face of the franchise but blends it well with pride and humility. His athleticism is nearly unmatched and it runs in the family (Older brother Arthur is in the NFL and younger brother Chandler will be drafted into the league later this month). Most important of all though, hes just a damn good fighter.

Jones VS Evans will be an excellent bout regardless of outcome and definitely worth tuning in for. For new and upcoming fans, now is the time to watch the one with potential to be the next great one. Just don’t blink, he’s that quick.

Prediction: Jon Jones via Submission (rear naked choke)

Flyers/Penguins: Game 3 gets personal, physical (VIDEO)

I believe it was Ron Burgundy who once said “If you want to throw down fisticuffs, fine. I’ve got Jack Johnson and Tom O’Leary waiting for ya, right here.”

Of course, the entire situation was a “Made in Hollywood” moment and no real fisticuffs were ever dropped.

Yet, if Ron Burgundy was donning pads, gloves and a hockey stick rather than his signature suit, he’d lay down some ground rules and those fisticuffs would’ve been aptly named the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. And did they ever duke it out.

For a large duration of the first period and a 10-minute portion of the third period, the Flyers and Pens game looked more like a UFC fight card. It featured Claude Giroux delivering some jabs to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang going absolutely ape shit on Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen and Craig Adams and Scott Hartnell delivering a series of haymakers.

It was, by all accounts, classic NHL playoff hockey – unabashedly raw and without any apologies.

Here’s some cliff notes if you don’t know what I’m talking about:

158 penalty minutes

– 89 Penguins, 69 Flyers

– 78 in the third period, 72 in the first period

8 players ejected total

– 5 Penguins, 3 Flyers

The Flyers currently lead this war 3-0 and will look to close out the series come Wednesday night.

There’s no doubt that the NHL’s disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan will be a busy man on Monday. Shanahan is vice president of Hockey and Business Development for the league.

He’s definitely not someone I’d want to be at the moment.


Is it too early to read into the Dodgers fast start?

By John Williams

In nine games, the Los Angeles Dodgers have shown that they were the better team eight of those nine times.

Powered by right handed phenom Matt Kemp and Mr. Consistency Andre Ethier, the Dodgers have sprinted out of the starting gate and sit atop the National League West. The two outfielders lead the league in RBIs with 15 and 14, respectively.

As a team, the Dodgers are posting a .242 batting average and Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw is poised to have his best season as a major leaguer. Six-year hurler Chad Billingsley has started hot, winning 2 games with an ERA of just .063.

What’s really helped the Dodgers attain one of the best records in baseball is their knack to score early and often. In the first 3 innings of the Dodgers’ games this year, they’re scoring 11 runs in the first inning alone followed closely by 10 runs in the third inning. That amounts to 2.56 runs per game in just the first three innings.

Let’s be honest though, this momentum will not last another 153 games, but it shows that the Dodgers can keep leads. They have a middle-of-the-pack batting rotation that relies on the middle of the order to produce runs. The real test will come when the Dodgers go to play younger and more versatile teams like the Atlanta Braves and division-rival, and probable frontrunner, Arizona.

Not surprisingly, the team is thriving on defense. The Dodgers lead the National League with a .992 fielding percentage. Good defense has undoubtedly saved runs from being scored thus far.

The truth is, Dodgers fans should enjoy the fast start, but don’t be surprised if they falter coming down the stretch due to an exhausted Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers are still a few years removed from making a legitimate playoff push, but with a few additions at the top of the order Manager Don Mattingly should enjoy some long-awaited success.

The Frank McCourt era has finally passed for baseball’s most storied franchise and with it comes new ownership that won’t be afraid to spend money in order to bring a World Series title to LA.

Lest we forget, Mark Walter, controlling owner of the team, along with a few investors – which included Magic Johnson – bought the team for $2 billion. Obviously, money isn’t an issue.

Follow John on twitter @jdoubleu088

Krejci taken out by plexiglass board after Bruins 1-0 win (VIDEO)


If you missed the Bruins thrilling 1-0 overtime win over the Capitals last night, you didn’t miss much. Well, except David Krejčí getting a skull full of plexi-glass.

Bruins forward Chris Kelly snuck a puck past rookie goaltender Brayden Holtby to seal a first round opening game win over the hapless Washington Capitals. Holtby, who was impenetrable during Thursday night’s borefest, stepped in for the injured Tomas Vokoun and saved 29 of 30 shots.

After the buzzer sounded, the jubilant Bruins bombarded Kelly. Bostonians, presumably bloated on Guinness, pounded on the plexi-glass boards until one segment cracked under pressure. Literally.

The glass felt smack dab on top of Krejčí’s head, plunging the 8-year veteran center from the Czech Republic onto the TD Garden ice. KO! Boards – 1, Krejčí – 0.

Aside from a few lacerations to his lower lip – which had nothing to do with the glass board falling on top of him – and a “sore neck,” Krejčí plans to be on ice for game 2 of the seven game series on Saturday.

What a trooper. Get that man a beer!

First Round NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

By Sam Hilburn

The opening round of the NHL Playoffs and the road to earning the hardest trophy to win in sports, the Stanley Cup, has begun.  This year’s playoffs are looking to be full of surprises and upsets, where a lot of lower seeds have a chance to do something special.    The last few games proved to be enough for the Washington Capitals as they beat out the Sabers and were the last team to clinch a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  The Coyotes, Sharks, and Kings all earned a playoff spot from the Pacific division, while the Stars just missed the cut.   This year also marked the first time in NHL history that four teams from one division had over 100 points, and it happened in two different divisions, the Central and the Atlantic.  The parity in the NHL is truly something else, and is the key ingredient to making the 2012 playoffs special.


(1) Rangers vs. (8) Senators

The Senators had a surprise season, thanks to break out star Erik Karlsson.  However, I do not think that the team led by Spezza, Karlsson, Michalek, and Alfredsson have enough talent surrounding them to beat King Henrik and the Rangers.  The Rangers are one of the best defensive teams in hockey and they are also tough.  The Rangers ability to win close games will  eventually upend the inconsistent and young Senators.

Rangers in 6

(2) Boston vs. (7) Capitals

Last years Stanley Cup champions have had a spectacular season filled with numerous ups and down.  The Capitals have been ousted from the playoffs the last couple of years, never getting out of the second round, despite being among the best in the regular season.  Alexander Ovechkin is coming off his worst season in the NHL, but that is not what the Capitals chances hinge upon.  If Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green can show up, then they have a chance.  However, I think the Bruins are too much.  The difference could very well be in the net, where Boston has last year’s Conn Smythe winner, and the Capitals have AHL net minder Braden Holtby

Bruins in 7

(3) Panthers vs. (6) Devils

    The Panthers won the weaker southeast division after numerous offseason acquisitions, including Brian Campbell and Tomas Fleischmann.  The Panthers have a great first line, solid defensemen, and a solid goalie in Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen.  However, the Devils have one of the deepest forward cores in the league, led by Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and Zach Parise.  They have spectacular shutdown defensemen in Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov.  That guy Martin Brodeur is not too bad either.  The Devils are also one of the hottest teams in the league (winning their last six) and broke the penalty kill percentage record this season.

Devils in 4 (have to pick one sweep)

(4) Penguins vs. (5) Flyers

  This will perhaps be the best series in the first round.  There was some bad blood when a week and a half ago, the two teams brawled at the end of a Flyers regulation win.   The Penguins have a dynamic offense led by former Conn Smythe winner and probable 2012 MVP Evgeni Malkin.  They also have a stud at the blue line in Kris Letang, and the flower in net, Marc-Andre Fleury.  The Flyers are led by breakout star Claude Giroux.  The highflying team from Philadelphia also has the “All-Universe” goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov, who they hope will finally put them over the hump.  This series will go back and forth and one goal or one save could decide who moves on to the next round.

Flyers in 7


(1) Canucks vs. (8) Kings

The Canucks have won the Presidents Trophy for the second year in a row, coming off a trip to the finals.  They will face off against Jonathan Quick and the Kings.  Quick has been nothing short of phenomenal and their defense has been spectacular.  They also boast forwards who can play both ends of the rink in Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards.  However, it will depend on how much the Kings can score, which they have had trouble with earlier in the season.  The Canucks have all the tools to be able to make another run at the cup.  They have two goalies that can play, with Cory Schneider, just incase Roberto Luongo gets shaky.  Daniel Sedin is questionable after suffering a recent concussion, but I think his twin Henrik will be able to handle the Kings.

Canucks in 6

(2) Blues vs. (7) Sharks

St. Louis has been a pleasant surprise this season, led by two fantastic goalies in Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak.  They have a solid group of forwards such as TJ Oshie, David Perron, and David Backes.  They were the best defensive team in the league, winning the Jennings Trophy (least goals against) and have a great young defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo.  However, the Sharks have an outrageous top six forwards in Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Logan Couture (just to name a few) and perhaps the best defensive core in the league with Dan Boyle and Brent Burns.  If Niemi can play strong in net, there is no reason why San Jose cannot get out of the first round.

Sharks in 6

(3) Coyotes vs. (6) Blackhawks

     The Coyotes are the higher seed despite having fewer points than the Blackhawks.  Chicago is the favorite, much like New Jersey, with their powerful forward group.  They have all the tools to win the cup like they did in 2010.  Last year they were an overtime goal away from taking out the number one seed Canucks in the first round.  Phoenix has some great veterans in the league, with Shane Doan and Ray Whitney, and a stellar goalie Mike Smith but that will not be enough to outmatch the Blackhawks and all their experience.  Did I mention that 2010 Conn Smythe winner and captain Jonathan Toews hopes to return from a concussion that held him to 59 games.

Blackhawks in 5

(4) Predators vs. (5) Redwings

   Two more teams from the central face off in the 4/5 matchup.  Detroit keeps getting older, but they never seem to drop off.  They have the most skilled player in the NHL and perennial Selke winner (best defensive forward) in Pavel Datsyuk.  They also have Nicklas Lidstrom, who has only won about 8 Norris Trophies.  With either of those guys in the lineup you have a shot to win, and its better with both.  However, Nashville is no slouch either.  They have probable Norris Trophy nominee in Shea Weber, and his American partner, Ryan Sutter.  Nashville has a valuable goalie in Pekka Rinne.  They recently acquired Alexander Radulov, who will provide the offense for a team that has always questioned their offense.  The difference maker in this series will be home games.  Detroit has a losing record this year on the road, and that is why Nashville wins this one.  Home advantage comes up huge and the home team wins every game.

Predators in 7

The Bruins must provide offense in front of Thomas to return to the Cup

By Josh Gibble

A year removed from lifting up their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, the Boston Bruins have battle tested their way into the 2012 playoffs with agolden opportunity to defend their championship; a feat rarely accomplished in the modern-day NHL structure.

In order to be the first team to hoist back-to-back Cups in years, the Bruins will have to rely on their Vezina goalie, four-line wave of production and hope that little bit of luck from the hockey Gods strike on their side once again.

If the 2012 incarnation of the B’s playoff roster sounds familiar, it’s because not much has changed. Avoiding the fate of post-cup team roster demolition most recent champions have faced, the Bruins entered the season primed for a repeat because the core of talent was returning to Causeway Street for another season. Only three players (Michael Ryder, Toman Kaberle and the now retired ageless wonder Mark Recchi) departed, leaving the gritty core of the team intact.

Marc Savard’s battle with concussion symptoms freed up a larger sum of money for Boston GM Pete Chiarelli to utilize in bolstering the roster’s depth and filling the void of players lost to free agency. Former Montreal Canadien and Bruins foe Benoit Pouliot slid into Michael Ryder’s forward role while offensive-defensman Joe Corvo was brought in to finally fix the puck-moving defenseman missing from Claude Julien’s system for years.

All the pieces were in place for the Bruins heading into the season, but sometimes the pieces don’t always fall into the mold of the high expectations. Boston started off with an abysmal record in their first ten games, actually spending time in the basement of the NHL standings for weeks. The scoring was gone, the usual dominance on D that brought them a championship was a distant memory and the once unstoppable goaltending duo of Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask were less than average.

Disarray was abound among the Black and Gold faithful and the media.

Then, with a turn of the calendar and the flick of a switch, November roared in like a lion. The Bruins didn’t lose a single regulation game, going 12-0-1 in the month of November with a single shootout loss to the powerful Detroit Red Wings. The streak, in which the B’ s averaged six goals a game, was the catalyst to position them right back to the top of the Northeast Division. The Bruins held the number one spot from there on out, except a late March scare where they dropped one point behind the then red-hot Ottawa Senators.

Despite a streaky season of big ups and low downs the question still remains the same: Can the Bruins be the first repeat champions since the Detroit Red Wings in ’97 and ’98? The Bruins hold the ante, the question is if they are ready to go all-in once again.

Boston has numbers on their side.

This year’s team enters the playoffs with the third highest scoring production in the league without a clear superstar scorer. The Bruins boast six 30-goal scorers this season, which plays nicely to their advantage. It’s obvious from the nature of the playoffs last season, that if the Bruins are to repeat, every line has to use their role effectively and fire on all cylinders like a constant wave of attack on the opposition.

One key piece missing is the twice Game Seven hero in winger Nathan Horton. Horton has missed a majority of the late season due to recurring concussion symptoms after an altercation with Philadelphia Flyer Tom Sestito back in January. Missing Horton is a blow to the scoring and forecheck portion of the offense, but with the emergence of young players like Tyler Seguin, Jordan Caron paired with the versatile Rich Peverley – all on the same line – chemistry has yet to be an issue with the tremendous depth of the roster.

The core of the Bruins team is the duo of Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Bergeron is the most dynamic Bruins’ forward and poster child for coach Julien’s system. The two-ward forward is nightmare for the opposing team’s forecheck and creative threat in front of any goaltender. Chara is more than a tower to be reckoned behind the blue line, the captain is a uses his size as a thorn in the side of the offensive attack of any top line in the league. Chara and Bergeron, despite the variances in size, are similar players and dictate the pace of their team’s success. If the duo is rolling, the Bruins will be a tough advisory for any team.

Undoubtedly the biggest question mark in the Bruins post-season longevity will rest on the shoulders of the play of goaltender Tim Thomas. Thomas’s 2012 Vezina season saw the Flint, Mich. native break the single season save-percentage record and earn the Conn Smythe for most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs and did it with a smile on his face all the way. This season Thomas was brought back down to earth, sporting an above average set of stats and while looking nothing short of human still was among the better goal tenders in the league. As history has shown the playoffs turn Tim Thomas into a whole new animal.

Maybe it’s the erratic, jump out of your comfort zone to win mentality that falls over teams that fits right into the anything-but-normal style of Tim Thomas that makes him electric in the unique situations or maybe it’s just his career-long trials and tribulations that have taught him to take nothing for granted in the sport that drives him to go beyond the normal to win. Either way, the weight of world and responsibility doesn’t weigh as heavily on him this season but undoubtedly still remains the x-factor to success.

If the Bruins are going to have a late run in the Eastern Conference, the competition will be no walk in the park.

Conference favorites Pittsburgh and New York are surely the ones waiting as the final daunting task to getting to the championships series. Those teams are built on skilled scoring forwards and high-pressured defenses leaving little room for error.

If Boston does return for another chance at the cup it will be fueled little by flashy highlight reel scoring, instead by a healthy dose of grinding along the boards, infiltration of the dirty areas and most importantly a reliance of the strongly-bonded team unity that forged their way through the 2011 season.

The Bruins match up with any team in the Eastern Conference – in most exponential factors – so if the Bruins storm forward through the playoffs perhaps they will need the ingredient of luck to push them past the stiff competition once again.

It may take luck to win a cup, but it takes talent to defend it. Never hurts to have both.

Follow Josh on twitter @JTGibble.

Look at the trajectory on Bubba Watson’s incredible shot from the rough

Look at this incredible aerial view of Bubba Watson’s second shot on the No. 10 Camellia playoff hole. He nearly hooks the ball 90 degrees.

This is the same guy who said he would rather stop at Waffle House to grab a bite to eat after winning the Masters and characterized his style of golf as “awesome” on the David Letterman show.

I mean his body still flails about after striking the ball, but damn can he hit the club face dead center and on the money.

Just because it deserves a second look, here’s Bubba’s self-described “pretty easy” shot from the rough.

Ilya Brzygalov wishes you a Happy Cosmonautics Day

With all of Flyers goalie Ilya Brzygalov’s talk about the universe and how “humungous big” it is, not to mention Philly’s impressive win last night over Pittsburgh, we felt it fitting to celebrate Cosmonautics Day with our readers.

Coincidentally, his fez wearing comrades in the Motherland were the first to blast their shuttles into the great beyond, thus we get this otherwise meaningless holiday.

Everyone at Sports Scripture will take a shot of Vlad vodka to that.

EDITORS NOTE: That shit is potent and really needs to be filtered. Thumbs down.

THE MASTERS: Augusta National golf course is something worth beholding

By John Williams

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Its canvas is delicately painted with broad strokes and vibrant colors.

Winding, green fairways give way to accents of pink dogwood, juniper and azalea.

Amen Corner, in all its exalted glory, and the majestic Rae’s Creek twisting and turning passed the No. 12 Golden Bell as it careens in-and-out of the Georgia Pine’s, round out this perfectly rendered canvas – Augusta National Golf Club.

This past week, I accompanied my best friend and my uncle and his buddies to the Masters – arguably one of the most coveted tournaments in the world. The trip was a special treat since tickets are not publicly sold and must be acquired through close acquaintances. Coincidentally, I hit the lotto and my uncle snagged an extra badge.

I flew to Atlanta, smothered myself in generous accommodations and took the 2-and-a-half hour luxury bus ride to Augusta.

Before even stepping off the bus and onto the hallowed grounds of the course, one of the guys on the trip made a remark I found interesting. He said to me “Augusta is its own country, it stands alone.” I thought, “A little exaggerated, but I can understand where he’s coming from.”

He couldn’t have been more right.

Sitting at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this former plantation’s slopping fairways and slick greens – which make the ball travel like it’s rolling on pavement – are a modern marvel worth revisiting year-after-year.

It’s engineering and landscape design at its best. It’s golf at its best.

Would the headlines sing the praises of one of the game’s untested youth, like Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan or 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley?

Would four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods regain his professional prose? Or would “The Tradition Like No Other” show some southern hospitality toward young Irishman Rory McIlroy as he avenges his 2011 meltdown.

Not quite.

Instead, a graduate of the University of Georiga stood in Butler Cabin with an unconcealed smile on his face, a tear running down his cheek and a 44-long green jacket on his back – Bubba Watson.

While on the second playoff hole at the No. 10 Camellia going club-to-club against South African Louis Oosthuizen – a good friend of 2011 champion and fellow South African Charl Schwartzel – Watson pushed the ball into the woods, just right of the hole. With a wedge in his hands and 155 yards to the pin, he hooked the ball 40 yards out of the pine straw and delicately parachuted 15-feet short of the hole.

Howls ensued. Chants rang “Bub-ba, Bub-ba.” Arms were thrust into the air with merriment.

He later called the shot “pretty easy.” If you call “pretty easy” hitting the ball out of heavy rough without direct visualization of the green, than yea…it’s “pretty easy.”

At Augusta, you come to expect the unexpected. To embrace the diamond-in-the-rough, the up-and-comer, and the improbable.

Yielding a pink driver, Watson, a son of a Green Beret, swatted his Titleist’s around Augusta National with a look of determination. He summed it up perfectly when he told a crowd huddled around the 18th green that he’d never imagined anything like winning the Master’s, not even in his dreams.

He’d never had a lesson, never analyzed his swing using video and never had a coach. Just raw ability coupled with raw emotion. More importantly, he would tell you, he is a father, a husband and a devout Christian.

On one Easter Sunday afternoon, on a course that discovers legends, Watson etched his name into golf history, capturing the 76th Masters Championship with his uncanny ability to swing the club.

In one swift hack at a ball buried in thick rough and two putts later, who didn’t get a little choked up? Who didn’t try to hold back a few tears watching Georgia’s favorite son break down after sinking his par put on the second playoff hole.

What a story.

Watson openly admits that he struggles to stay focused on the golf course because of a short attention span and once said that he doesn’t practice in the off-season because it is “boring.” Yet, he dons the green jacket.

Bubba brought golf’s youth movement to the forefront. He got the conversation started. He got people asking “Who is this ‘good ole boy?'”

I’m 24. One things for sure, he made me a fan.

Follow John on twitter @jdoubleu088

2012 MLB Preview

By Jimmy Bolton

Last fall we witnessed one of the most exciting nights of baseball in recent history with three teams fighting for their playoff lives in the final night of the season. This historic evening was headlined by the simultaneous collapse of the Braves and the Red Sox, two storied baseball franchises, the latter no stranger to epic collapses. The Red Sox floundered in September as they seemingly succumbed to the pervasiveness of fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse. The 2011 Sox were a broken team, finally surpassed by the surging Rays when Evan Longoria hit a game clinching moon shot against the Yankees in extra innings. In the National league the Braves awful September cost them a 2011 playoff berth, which led to the Cardinals second World Series of the new millennium.

Now that April has begun, America’s past time is about to commence and the offseason gave us plenty to talk about. The biggest stories were the blockbuster deals involving two of the most prolific hitters in the league. Former Brewers slugger Prince Fielder took his talents to Detroit and a St. Louis hero, Albert Pujols, landed in LAX. The new look Miami Marlins acquired a bonafide franchise player in Jose Reyes, although they might have overpaid for someone whose career has been plagued by injuries. But, the neon colored team from Miami also inked Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, which makes them instant contenders in the National League East. The most recent bombshell was Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto earning a $225 million contract for ten years of service. This should give the Reds a legitimate chance to consistently compete in the much-maligned NL Central.

AL East

The AL East is primed to be one of the best divisions in baseball as the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays vie for yet another division title. The Yankees have offensive firepower and new help in their rotation; the Red Sox, led by new skipper Bobby Valentine, are hungry for redemption from last year’s debacle; and Tampa Bay might possess the best pitching staff in baseball from top to bottom. However, Boston clearly did not address their needs in the starting rotation and recently received disheartening news of what could be a season ending injury to their biggest offseason acquisition, closer Andrew Bailey. The Yankees have firepower in their rotation, but they also have a number of guys who could implode at any moment (Brian Cashman nodding vigorously). Sabathia is coming off a disappointing second half; Kuroda is 37; Pettite is 40; Michael Pineda has tendinitis; Phil Hughes is fat (although it looks like he laid off the donuts in the offseason); Freddy Garcia is Freddy fucking Garcia; and Ivan Nova has had an awful spring. With that said, the Yankees are still the best team in the East and possess a legitimate chance of securing a 28th World Series ring.

The pick: Yankees

AL Central

Clearly the Tigers are going to be a formidable foe to anyone in the league this year with the one two punch of Cabrera and Fielder along with the pitching staff they have built around reigning AL Cy young winner Justin Verlander. The Tigers SHOULD win the Central but it seems like they underperform every year we’re looking for them to take that next step. Luckily they reside in one of the worst divisions in the league. The Royals are destined to miss the playoffs for at least another few years or maybe until the end of time if the Mayan prediction comes to fruition; the Indians have some young promising talent but aren’t ready yet; Chicago doesn’t measure up with Detorit; and Minnesota continues to rebuild. Minnesota’s continual rebuilding process leads me to my next point. Joe Mauer has quietly become one of the biggest travesties in baseball, maybe in sports. He’s the former MVP, featured in MLB The Show commercials and was seemingly on his way to super stardom. He was lauded as one of the few sensations who was perfectly content staying with his hometown team, but he has been a disaster since he signed that contract in 2009. Nagging injuries and consistently low power numbers have diminished our perception of a guy we once thought was the face of baseball. Imagine if he signed in New York or Boston. He’d be crucified, and Yankees or Red Sox fans would be ready to run him out of town. It’s really an amazing story that no one is talking about. He’s fortunate to be in Minnesota where they’re satisfied making a playoff appearance once or twice a decade.

The pick: Tigers

AL West

The Angels are another team on the rise courtesy of a man named Albert Pujols, not to mention the addition of the hard throwing lefty from the Rangers C.J. Wilson. We know what the Angels are getting in terms of offensive brilliance from Pujols but we’re not so sure about Wilson’s achievements. His lackluster performance in the postseason and the Yankees unwillingness to spend big bucks to fill a pitching void leaves us unconfident in Wilson’s abilities. The Rangers are also no slouch in the American League with a potent offense and a more than capable pitching staff bolstered by the addition of Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. They are an excellently configured team. All the parts seem to mesh, but things could derail quickly if Josh Hamilton returns to the booze.

The pick: Angels

NL East

The American League undoubtedly improved but this does not mean the National League is going to be a snooze. The Philadelphia Phillies are going to have a say in the pennant race after coming off of a dismal performance in the NLDS a season ago. They’re too good to not make noise in the National League with a rare combination of offensive firepower and a deadly pitching staff. However, their lineup is rapidly becoming one of the oldest in the big leagues. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are two of the frailest players in the league and will miss significant time to start the season. Also Jimmy Rollins is now old enough to be Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro’s grandfather. They will have some competition in the east with the rejuvenated Marlins and the Braves but look for the Phils to hang on late.

The pick: Phillies

NL Central

The NL Central is as wide open as a stripper’s legs. The Brew Crew are NLCS runner-ups, but have significantly lower expectations after losing one of the most heralded hitters in the league. However, they still have a more than capable crew of outfielders, namely Ryan Braun and a talented rotation sure to wreak havoc in the National League. But look for Cincinnati to regain their 2010 spark and win the division as Votto, Matt Latos and Jay Bruce lead their vaunted lineup. Their top flight pitching staff should help supplant the weaker teams in the division. We’re probably unsure about this pick more than any other though. Why? Because the division is so weak, no team can be crowned the “prohibitive favorite.”

The pick: Reds

NL West

The NL West will certainly be interesting with the Giants and Diamondbacks posing the most viable threats to become division winners. The Dodgers have been in disarray since last years McCourt debacle and the Rockies are up and down. But the Giants just resigned Matt Cain forming maybe the best 1-2 pitching duo in baseball with Cain and Lincecum. The question is always the same with the Giants. Can they piece together enough timely hitting to really be a legitimate threat in the National League. I think we’ll see Linc and Cain at their best and a bounce back year for Aubrey Huff. The return of Buster Posey should solidify their chances and launch them into the thick of the pennant race.

The pick: Giants

World Series

The Yankees are the pick to win the World Series after they solidified their pitching with the offseason acquisition of Michael Pineda and the signing of the wily veteran Andy Pettite. Their starting pitching has the potential to breakdown but also enough fire power to become the most effective staff in the league. I say most effective instead of best because their jobs will be to simply reach the 7th inning, outside of Sabathia, who will be relied on to eat a significant amount of innings (pun intended). This is because the Yanks unequivocally possess the best bullpen in baseball. The march of Soriano for the 7th; Robertson for the 8th; and Mariano in the 9th is usually flawless. Their lineup is now fueled by the youth and immense talent of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. By virtue of age, they are no longer a team whose predicated on the intangibles of Derek Jeter or the sheer power of A-Rod.

The Giants will reach the World Series again for the 2nd time in three years as Tim Lincecum will regain his mojo and Matt Cain will evolve into one of the best pitchers in baseball, coming off his new $120 million dollar contract extension. Take these predictions with a grain of salt though. After all the Giants haven’t always had successes with handing out $120 million dollar contracts to young pitchers (Barry Zito nodding grimly). We would love to hear some feedback from baseball enthusiasts so we can discuss your World Series and Playoff predictions.