Texas Rangers’ 2014 All-Prospect Team

It has been a difficult season for the Texas Rangers (54-89), who are now 35 games under .500 and without Ron Washington, their manager of eight years.

Injuries have ravaged the roster, forcing the club to make so many moves that they set a record for most players used in a season (60). That happened on Sept. 2 when Derek Holland made his first MLB start of the year.

However, many of the team’s best prospects provided bright spots elsewhere in the organization. Their High-A affiliate Myrtle Beach finishes the Carolina League Championship Series on Sept. 9. The Pelicans have had a relatively stacked roster for most of the season.

With so much success in the minors, we are going to put together the Rangers’ All-Prospect team. This team will be based mostly off of individual statistics. There will be one player for each position, including one starting pitcher and one reliever.

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Bryce Harper Poised to Silence Critics with Monster Stretch Run

The critics have always been there, picking, prodding, scoffing.

They started making their case when he was a teenager, not old enough to legally operate a motor vehicle but good enough to be dubbed baseball’s LeBron James. That sparked it all. The detractors pounced on everything from a junior college ejection to him playing too hard to him not playing hard enough.

Bryce Harper, in part because of his own doing and in part because he was a lightning rod, was lit up no matter what he did. And this season it hit another level when his midsummer struggles led to talks about him being demoted to the minors and even the idea that, at 21 years old, he could be traded for pitching.

Well, Harper is now shutting up everyone who questioned his on-field talent and off-the-field life with the most impressive and impactful offensive stretch of his young major league career. Since the early part of August, Harper has wrecked the ball and been a huge reason why the Washington Nationals have gone 20-10 in their last 30 games and surged to the best record in the National League.

Since Aug. 7 and through this past weekend, Harper hit .306/.356/.537 with an .893 OPS, eight home runs, 15 RBI and 33 total hits. At the start of that stretch, Harper hit a walk-off home run a day after the dust-up about the possibility of him being optioned to the minors because he was hitting .250 with three home runs through his first 53 games of the season.

“He needed that probably more than any hitter in the big leagues,” Washington reliever Craig Stammen told The Washington Post after that walk-off shot.

In that same Adam Kilgore story, Denard Span elaborated on how important Harper is to the team’s success.

“We need to get him going,” Span said. “When he’s hitting it makes us 10 times more dangerous. It makes the lineup obviously deeper. Hopefully he takes that and builds off of it and keeps it going.”

He has done exactly that. Harper, one of Major League Baseball’s most recognizable stars, is now in position to lead the Nationals into October, and if his hot run continues through autumn and the Nats are playing deep into next month, critics will be forced to zip their lips.

Harper’s teammates have plenty to do with how far this team goes, obviously. The club was built on starting pitching, and that group has been lights out since the All-Star break. The rotation had a 3.08 ERA with a 4.4 wins above replacement (WAR) mark in the second part of the season through Sunday. Both numbers were the best in the league in that time.

And their other superstar, Stephen Strasburg, is rebounding in the way Harper has. Strasburg has been flat-out ace-like in his last eight starts dating back to July 29. That is right around the time Harper got hot and the Nationals started to push their lead in the NL East to the current eight games. In those eight starts, Strasburg has a 2.79 ERA and opponents are hitting .208 against him.

As for as the others in the lineup with Harper, they have helped this surge by leading the league with 40 home runs in August while coming in second in slugging percentage and OPS. They’ve continued to hit in September, putting up 10 homers.

The Nationals are healthy now, something they waited to say for the first four months of the season when nicks and bruises and strains and tightness threatened their place in the playoff hunt. If they can stay mostly in one piece, they have the parts to be the best team in baseball. 

If Harper is on, he has the talent to be one of the best hitters.

Clearly Harper doesn’t have this all figured out yet. He still makes mistakes on the field, like colliding with a teammate at a critical juncture of a game, and the ones off the field, like snapping at a respected baseball writer for asking about a hitting slump two years ago. Those miscues are likely to continue as long as the spotlight is shining on him.

He is also still 21, and won’t be 22 until Oct. 16. So maturity will come with age.

But Harper's age does not mean he isn't a critical fixture in the Nationals lineup. They really do need him hitting. He has an offensive skill set that can change a lineup and how opponents approach it. He has speed, power and the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field, and that kind of combination, when utilized, can carry a team for a month.

The month we are talking about is October, and Harper has his swing back just in time to give it a run.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Bryce Harper Poised to Silence Critics with Monster Stretch Run

The critics have always been there, picking, prodding, scoffing.

They started making their case when he was a teenager, not old enough to legally operate a motor vehicle but good enough to be dubbed baseball’s LeBron James. That sparked it all. The detractors pounced on everything from a junior college ejection to him playing too hard to him not playing hard enough.

Bryce Harper, in part because of his own doing and in part because he was a lightning rod, was lit up no matter what he did. And this season it hit another level when his midsummer struggles led to talks about him being demoted to the minors and even the idea that, at 21 years old, he could be traded for pitching.

Well, Harper is now shutting up everyone who questioned his on-field talent and off-the-field life with the most impressive and impactful offensive stretch of his young major league career. Since the early part of August, Harper has wrecked the ball and been a huge reason why the Washington Nationals have gone 20-10 in their last 30 games and surged to the best record in the National League.

Since Aug. 7 and through this past weekend, Harper hit .306/.356/.537 with an .893 OPS, eight home runs, 15 RBIs and 33 total hits. At the start of that stretch, Harper hit a walk-off home run a day after the dust-up about the possibility of him being optioned to the minors because he was hitting .250 with three home runs through his first 53 games of the season.

“He needed that probably more than any hitter in the big leagues,” Washington reliever Craig Stammen told The Washington Post after that walk-off shot.

In that same Adam Kilgore story, Denard Span elaborated on how important Harper is to the team’s success.

“We need to get him going,” Span said. “When he’s hitting it makes us 10 times more dangerous. It makes the lineup obviously deeper. Hopefully he takes that and builds off of it and keeps it going.”

He has done exactly that. Harper, one of Major League Baseball’s most recognizable stars, is now in position to lead the Nationals into October, and if his hot run continues through autumn and the Nats are playing deep into next month, critics will be forced to zip their lips.

Harper’s teammates have plenty to do with how far this team goes, obviously. The club was built on starting pitching, and that group has been lights out since the All-Star break. The rotation had a 3.08 ERA with a 4.4 wins above replacement (WAR) mark in the second part of the season through Sunday. Both numbers were the best in the league in that time.

And their other superstar, Stephen Strasburg, is rebounding in the way Harper has. Strasburg has been flat-out ace-like in his last eight starts dating back to July 29. That is right around the time Harper got hot and the Nationals started to push their lead in the NL East to the current eight games. In those eight starts, Strasburg has a 2.79 ERA and opponents are hitting .208 against him.

As for as the others in the lineup with Harper, they have helped this surge by leading the league with 40 home runs in August while coming in second in slugging percentage and OPS. They’ve continued to hit in September, putting up 10 homers.

The Nationals are healthy now, something they waited to say for the first four months of the season when nicks and bruises and strains and tightness threatened their place in the playoff hunt. If they can stay mostly in one piece, they have the parts to be the best team in baseball. 

If Harper is on, he has the talent to be one of the best hitters.

Clearly Harper doesn’t have this all figured out yet. He still makes mistakes on the field, like colliding with a teammate at a critical juncture of a game, and the ones off the field, like snapping at a respected baseball writer for asking about a hitting slump two years ago. Those miscues are likely to continue as long as the spotlight is shining on him.

He is also still 21, and won’t be 22 until Oct. 16. So maturity will come with age.

But Harper's age does not mean he isn't a critical fixture in the Nationals lineup. They really do need him hitting. He has an offensive skill set that can change a lineup and how opponents approach it. He has speed, power and the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field, and that kind of combination, when utilized, can carry a team for a month.

The month we are talking about is October, and Harper has his swing back just in time to give it a run.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Predicting the Chicago Cubs Opening Day Roster in 2015

The Chicago Cubs took clear steps forward this season and have built up momentum moving into 2015. When they get some more prospects at the big league level and some top line pitching in free agency, this team could compete. 

Several things are still up in the air for next season, such as potential free-agent signings, but the future certainly looks bright. Based on indications the team has given and how their current roster has performed, here is the projected 25-man roster for the Cubs on Opening Day next season.

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Highlighting Matt Shoemaker, MLB’s Most Valuable Rookie of 2014’s Playoff Chase

They don't hand out Rookie of the Year awards in September.

If they did, the safe money would be on Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds taking home the honors in the American League and National League, respectively.

Those two players have one thing in common, though, besides being unarguably good: They both play for teams that'll almost certainly be sitting home come October.

Other awards, most notably the MVP, frequently consider whether a player led his club to the postseason. 

Rookie of the Year winners, on the other hand, aren't always held to that standard. In fact, of the last 10 winners in each league dating back to 2009, half have been from non-playoff teams. 

That's not to take anything away from Abreu, Hamilton or anyone else. It is worth asking, though: Who's the best rookie on a contending club, one with a realistic shot at the World Series? 

Paging Matt Shoemaker.

Shoemaker made the Los Angeles Angels' 25-man roster out of spring training as a bullpen arm, a fringe contributor. Less than six months later, he's helping baseball's top squad shore up a shaky rotation.

Entering play Tuesday, the Angels sport an MLB-best 88-55 record and an eight-game lead over the Oakland A's in the American League West.

Their rotation, meanwhile, is in shambles.  

Injuries to Tyler Skaggs and ace Garrett Richards have critically thinned the Halos' starting five, casting a serious pall over an otherwise stellar season.

Shoemaker has stepped up in a big way, lesseningif not eliminatingthe doubts.

"Once you get that opportunity you want to run with it and do as best as you can," Shoemaker told the Los Angeles Times' Helene Elliott. "It's one of those things where every time I get the ball I try and be as aggressive as I can and just keep going out there and try and get outs, put up zeroes for the team, and at the end of the day the team getting the win."

"You'd like to do that your whole career," Shoemaker continued. "I just want to keep it going."

So far, so good. Shoemaker went 6-1 in August with a 1.31 ERA and 0.77 WHIP, earning Player of the Month honors in the process. 

More importantly, the Angels went 19-10 and extended their advantage in the hyper-competitive AL West, which features the A's and Seattle Mariners, two potential playoff teams.

Overall, Shoemaker is 14-4 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. That might not be enough to overtake Abreu (.317 BA, 33 HR, 99 RBI entering play Tuesday). But it's more than enough to impress his manager.

"Shoe is just getting an opportunity and he's making the most of it," Los Angeles skipper Mike Scioscia said, per Elliott.

A hirsute, under-the-radar 28-year-old who entered the season with a grand total of five big league innings on his resume, Shoemaker was no one's idea of a sure bet.

As Robert Morales of the Long Beach Press-Telegram noted recently:

Shoemaker...pitched parts of seven years in the minor leagues, where he compiled a record of 50-40 with an ERA of 4.52. He was not even drafted out of Eastern Michigan University, the Angels signing him in August 2008 as an amateur free agent. But here in 2014, he has had such a solid season he has pitched himself into the conversation for Rookie of the Year. That doesn’t mean he’ll rest on his laurels. That is not in Shoemaker’s make-up.

The Angles certainly hope not. They need Shoemaker to keep flashing his surprising skills well into October. 

Ultimately, the Halos' hurler may not win Rookie of the Year honors regardless of what he does the rest of the way.

If he helps Los Angeles hoist the second Commissioner's Trophy in franchise history, though, it won't matter.

 

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Oakland A’s Fumbling Away Season After Historic First-Half Start

This is not on Billy Beane, and it is not a result of Yoenis Cespedes living in a different time zone.

This is just epic all on its own without placing blame or cause on either of those two men.

The 2014 Oakland A’s have set themselves on fire, and it is quite something at which to marvel. The best team in baseball five weeks ago is now playing like the worst, capped Monday night by maybe its worst loss of the season that now has it eight games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West while cutting its wild-card lead to 1.5 games.

After giving up the lead to the Chicago White Sox with one out to go, the A’s lost the game in the 12th inning when Tyler Flowers, who tied the game with a homer in the ninth, won it with a walk-off home run.

This latest loss, on the heels of blowing a ninth-inning lead by allowing two runs without giving up a hit in the inning against the Houston Astros on Sunday, was brutal. 

Those are the kind of reactions the A’s have been eliciting since last month. The team is 14-23 since July 30 and 2-9 since Aug. 28. Its lead in the AL West has gone from four games on the morning of Aug. 11 to a virtually un-erasable hole.

In their last 27 games, the A’s have lost 19 times and given up nine games in the wild-card race.

This downward spiral, a pool of quicksand the A's find themselves in, has all happened in a flash, coinciding with the trade that some believed would make the A’s favorites to reach the World Series in the AL.

When Beane traded for a true No. 1 starter in Jon Lester, it cost him Yoenis Cespedes, but it made complete sense. Cespedes was going to be in a walk year the following season and wasn’t exactly setting major league records for hitting proficiencyhe hit .256/.303/.464 with 17 home runs in 101 games. Lester gave the A’s, on paper, the best rotation in the league and made what many considered was the best team in the league even better.

And then, this epic collapse started. However, to properly understand just how bad it has gotten for Oakland, you need to know how good it was before.

“When you put it into perspective,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told John Hickey of the San Jose Mercury News heading into the All-Star break, “overall the numbers suggest we’ve had a pretty good first half.”

*The A’s won 59 games before the All-Star break, the most of any team in franchise history.

*Their run differential at the break was plus-145, which Hickey reported is the fourth-best mark at the break of any club since 1940.

*The A’s led the majors in walks, were second in runs scored and had the fourth-fewest strikeouts.

*Their pitching allowed one run or less in 27 of 95 games, and their overall 3.09 ERA was second-best in the majors.

*At one point in the first part of the season, the A’s were flirting with the 100 percent mark when it came to their chances to make the playoffs.

They've gone splat since then.

They are 21-27 since the All-Star break, but while the run differential has gone up to plus-152, the ERA has grown to 3.72. Stud starters Sonny Gray (2.79 ERA in first half, 4.06 in the second), Scott Kazmir (2.38, 5.96) and Jeff Samardzija (2.78, 3.99) have all pitched far worse than they had in the first three-and-a-half months.

The offense batted .222/.300/.344 in August, and it hasn’t gotten any better in September. While the A's missed Cespedes’ power, his replacements were getting on base more often than Cespedes in August.

Oakland also hasn’t been very good in one-run games this year.

Meanwhile, Lester has been just fine with a 2.59 ERA since arriving in Oakland, and the bullpen, with its 2.85 ERA, continues to be one of the best in the league despite Sunday and Monday meltdowns.

As you can see, the blame here can’t be placed on general manager Beane or the loss of Cespedes. This is quite simply a very good team collapsing on itself at all levels.

“You’ve got to get 27 outs, not 26,” A’s outfielder Sam Fuld told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle after Monday’s blowup. “Morale has been fine, it’s not a lack of effort on anybody’s part, we’re just not playing very good baseball, really, it doesn’t have anything to do with our character. Unfortunately we just don’t have a lot of guys swinging it as well as they’re capable of, and we had some miscues. But it’s not a lack of focus or lack of effort.”

It certainly is not, and it is also not because the A’s don’t have Cespedes in the lineup. It’s a combination of a lot of things, none of which is because Beane acquired Lester in a shrewd deadline move.

For the A’s to fall after the kind of first half they experienced, it was going to take something more historic than trading away a power source. And with a few weeks to go in this season, the A’s are making their best effort to accomplish exactly that.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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3 Los Angeles Dodgers Errors Result in 2 Runs for San Diego Padres

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw had a comfortable 8-1 lead heading into the sixth inning of Monday night's game against the San Diego Padres, but this sequence of plays made things a little closer than the NL Cy Young front-runner would have liked.

After a flyout to center field, the Dodgers committed three errors in one play to allow both Yangervis Solarte and Rymer Liriano to score, trimming the lead to just 8-3 for Los Angeles.

Kershaw finished the game with another strong outing, allowing just one earned run in eight innings of work.

[MLB.com]

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3 Los Angeles Dodgers Errors Result in 2 Runs for San Diego Padres

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw had a comfortable 8-1 lead heading into the sixth inning of Monday night's game against the San Diego Padres, but this sequence of plays made things a little closer than the NL Cy Young front-runner would have liked.

After a flyout to center field, the Dodgers committed three errors in one play to allow both Yangervis Solarte and Rymer Liriano to score, trimming the lead to just 8-3 for Los Angeles.

Kershaw finished the game with another strong outing, allowing just one earned run in eight innings of work.

[MLB.com]

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noPhone: A Non-Phone That Forces You to Socialize

NoPhone

A group of four, seated at a table, waiting for lunch to be served but they’re hardly talking, much less looking, at one another because each one is so busy swiping and tapping on their smartphones. It seems like everything’s wrong with this picture, but it’s a sight that’s getting more and more common to behold.

Cue the release of the noPhone– a revolutionary non-phone that brings back the social in social gatherings. It’s a “toilet-resistant” fake phone with no camera, no Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity, and no phone functions. In fact, it’s more like a paper weight than an actual phone except for its shape.

NoPhone1

 

The noPhone was designed with the goal of encouraging users to “always have a rectangle of smooth, cold plastic to clutch without forgoing any potential engagement with your direct environment.”

You might have figured out by now that the whole thing is a joke, but it’s premise does get you thinking about how people have evolved socially with the advent of 4G and with the rise in popularity of mobile devices.

VIA [ C|NET ]

The post noPhone: A Non-Phone That Forces You to Socialize appeared first on OhGizmo!.

Selecting the All-2014 MLB Free-Agent Team

The biggest deals don't always pay the biggest dividends. 

That conclusion is unavoidable after building the All-2014 MLB free-agent team. By far the best signing of the entire offseason was the Baltimore Orioles one-year, $8 million deal with Nelson Cruz. The Chicago White Sox have also already received all sorts of value from their six-year, $68 million agreement with Jose Abreu. 

While first base proved to be the most crowded spot on the team, the two weakest spots were center field and starting pitcher. 

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Jimmy Rollins Injury: Updates on Phillies Star’s Hamstring and Return

Jimmy Rollins left Monday night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates after suffering an injury on a triple in the bottom of the fourth inning. According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Philadelphia Phillies shortstop strained his left hamstring:

Although the curtain is closing on the 2014 regular season, Rollins believes that he'll be back before the year is over, targeting sometime a little over a week away for his return, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News:

Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer thought that, all things considered, Rollins has played above expectations in 2014:

Coming back before regular season is out carries major financial weight for both Rollins and the Phillies. Gelb wrote in December 2013 that an $11 million vesting option would be wiped out if the 35-year-old finished the season on the disabled list. The option could come back in play, however, if a doctor finds him ready to go for the 2015 season.

With Philly cemented in last place in the National League East and holding no hope of making the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how Rollins' recovery is handled. There's no reason to rush him back to the field, and the team would possibly save money if it kept him on the shelf.

It adds a little intrigue into what is an otherwise dull road to the finish in Philadelphia.

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Miami Marlins vs. Milwaukee Brewers Live Blog: Instant Analysis, Reaction

With the season rapidly coming to a close, the Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers came into Game 1 of their four-game series both needing a win. At the end of Monday night, it was the Marlins who would come up victorious 6-4. 

Brad Penny (2-1) pitched his best game of the season as he went six innings, allowing two runs and four hits. 

The Marlins' offense (70-72) helped Penny (2-1) by scoring six runs in the first three innings of the game. Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Garrett Jones all homered for the Marlins. 

Marlins closer Steve Cishek pitched a scoreless 9th inning to get his 33rd save of the season in the win. 

Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo (8-9) only lasted 3.2 innings as he gave up six runs on nine hits. While the Brewers were able score two runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, the deficit was just too much to overcome. 

Milwaukee continues to struggle as the team has lost 12 out of its last 13 games. Now the Brewers (74-70) are 1.5 games back of the final wild-card spot in the National League. With their recent struggles, it is hard to see the Brewers making the postseason unless their struggling offense turns it around. 

Game 2 of the four game series will be played on Tuesday night. Tom Koehler (9-9) will pitch for the Marlins and Matt Garza will take the mound for the Brewers. 

 

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Miami Marlins vs. Milwaukee Brewers Live Blog: Instant Analysis, Reaction

With the season rapidly coming to a close, both the Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers are in need of a win in Game 1 of their four-game series. At 69-72, the Marlins are 4.5 games back in the race for the final NL wild-card spot

The Brewers (74-69), who have lost 11 out of their last 12 games, now not only trail the St. Louis Cardinals by five games in the NL Central, but they also find themselves looking up at the Pittsburgh Pirates, who moved ahead of them by half a game after the Pirates swept the Chicago Cubs last weekend.  

With less than 25 games left in the season, we will see if the Marlins or Brewers come out on top in the first game of their four-game series. The first pitch is at 8:10 p.m. Post will begin at 8 p.m.

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Vladimir Guerrero’s 15-Year-Old Son Shows Off Great Power to MLB Scouts

Vladimir Guerrero had a very good MLB career, but he last stepped onto a major league field back in 2011. We may not have to wait too much longer to see his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., play in the majors.

The younger Guerrero put on a show during batting practice for MLB scouts in the Dominican Republic earlier this month. In the session, he used a wooden bat and no batting gloves—just like his dad. It looks like his father passed along some good genes.

The elder Guerrero had one of the best swings of his generation, and nobody had better plate coverage. He hit 449 home runs in his 16-year career. From the looks of it, Vladimir Jr.'s smooth swing could result in the same type of power his father had. 

According to the YouTube description, the 15-year-old is 6'2" and weighs 220 pounds.

You can see that swinging the bat comes natural to him. If his arm is anything like his father's, Vladimir Jr. has the potential to be a great all-around player. He is eligible to sign with an MLB team next summer.

[YouTube, h/t Twitter and CBS Sports]

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Key Takeaways, Changes from the 2015 MLB Schedule Release

As the 2014 MLB season hits its boiling point with under a month to go before the postseason kicks off, the league released its schedule for the 2015 regular season on Monday afternoon.

This may seem like an odd time for baseball fans to be turning their attention to next season, and for contenders that is admittedly true.

Tom Hart of ESPN was quick to point out the questionable timing of the schedule release.

It's a fair point, but the majority of teams fall under the category of non-contender at this point, and those fanbases were already looking ahead to 2015 season to begin with.

This puts a face to who they will be squaring off against when "next year" begins. So let's kick things off with a look at how all 30 MLB teams open the season next year:

Two matchups that immediately stand out are the Angels vs. Mariners in the American League and the Cubs vs. Cardinals in the National League.

As things stand right now, the Angels/Mariners series would be the only matchup between postseason teams, while the Cubs/Cardinals get underway with a rivalry series right out of the box.

It has yet to be determined who will play in the Sunday night opener this year, but all 30 teams will be in action the following day on Monday, April 6.

That may not seem like a significant date on the surface, but looking down the road that puts the final day of the regular season on Oct. 4.

That means the earliest the World Series could begin would be Oct. 21, according to MLB.com. Depending on how things play out, we could potentially see baseball in November for the first time since the 2010 season. 

The San Francisco Giants wrapped up their title run with a Game 5 victory over the Texas Rangers on Nov. 1, 2010.

So what type of bearing could the schedule play on who reaches that aforementioned postseason and potentially the World Series?

First off, there is no shortage of in-division drama that could unfold on the final day of the season, as MLB.com was quick to point out on Twitter that there are 12 divisional games slated for the final day of the season.

Here is a full look at how each team will wrap up the 2015 season:

The other big item of note surrounds interleague play, which has become a daily staple this season as opposed to the midseason event it was in years past.

The 2015 interleague schedule will line up across divisions, with the NL East facing the AL East, NL Central facing the AL Central and NL West facing the AL West.

The presence of the designated hitter continues to be perhaps the biggest dividing line between the two leagues, and there is a notable disadvantage to AL teams that are forced to go without the DH during a crucial series down the stretch.

The Toronto Blue Jays (at ATL), New York Yankees (at NYM), Baltimore Orioles (at WAS) and Houston Astros (at ARI) are the four American League teams with road series against a National League opponent after Sept. 1 of next season, so that's something to keep an eye on as well.

More storylines will obviously emerge following an offseason of free agency and trades, but already there are a few games each team's fanbase can circle on next year's schedule.

It may seem like a long way off, but for teams already looking ahead to the 2015 season, the schedule release gives a first look at what they'll have to look forward to.

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Chris Pratt Botches First Pitch and ‘Take Me out to the Ballgame’ at Cubs Game

Chris Pratt can do no wrong.

Much like Jennifer Lawrence or the Pope, Pratt is an infallible being incapable of ruining anything. He is quirky, yet relatable and charming. He gets a free pass all the time, every time.

It’s best to reiterate this part of Pratt’s persona before discussing his afternoon at Wrigley Field on Sunday, which included a botched first pitch and a tumble through the seventh inning stretch. It wasn’t the Parks and Recreation actor’s most dazzling outing, but it was certainly his most Pratt-ish to date.

It all started with the ceremonial first pitch. MLB Fan Cave crafted a GIF of the errant hurl, which Pratt sent wide and to the left. Naturally, he made up for it with a goofy smile that ostensibly sent a sick man into remission in the first row.

Next Pratt led the Cubs faithful through a halting but enthusiastic rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” pausing here and there to consult a laptop for help. It was all so endearing.

As earlier noted, you cannot fault the Guardians of the Galaxy actor for these discretions. He is Pratt—the Princess Diana of charming befuddlement—and his name will not be besmirched. 

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news. 

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MLB Schedule 2015: League Announces Full Regular-Season Slate

MLB fans might still be eagerly anticipating October to start, but the 2015 schedule has already been announced ahead of this year's postseason.

The MLB's official Twitter account passed along a link to next year's regular-season slate:

Several interesting matchups await from the start of the season, including myriad divisional games. The Los Angeles Angels will start the season against the Seattle Mariners, for example, to start what could be a long battle between the two clubs for the AL West crown.   

The Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics will also battle with both holding hopes of making a postseason run next year. But the games aren't just limited to the exciting West on Opening Day. Here's a look at the full schedule for the season openers:

Along with a full slate of crucial series to start the season, the end of the year will also be significant. With several compelling division battles down the stretch next season, fans can be sure that some of the hottest playoff races will come down to the last series.

MLB provides the numbers behind the final date on the 2015 regular season:

This could have an impact on the postseason slate as well.

According to MLB.com, this year's World Series can begin no earlier than Oct. 21. While the last three World Series matchups haven't bled over into November, there's a chance the final game could be pushed past October, per Jayson Stark of ESPN:

Tom Hart of ESPN wonders about the timing of the release for next year's schedule with the 2014 playoffs just around the corner:

As this year's MLB season winds down, several franchises are holding out hopes of a late postseason run, which no doubt has their fans excited about the present. But with the schedule released now, it gives fans other teams something to look forward to for the time being.

Teams like the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs are clearly out of the running this year, but have young talent to get excited about with an eye toward the future. Then there are traditional powers like the Boston Red Sox and Rangers hoping to bounce back from disappointing campaigns.

When the 2015 season finally does arrive, it will be a brand-new opportunity for every franchise to rise, regardless of past success.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Deal Of The Day: 92% Off On Complete iOS 8 + Swift Developers Course (Pre-Order)

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In just a few weeks, Apple will be releasing the 8th version of iOS, in a timing likely to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 6. With this launch will start the development of an endless stream of applications of varying usefulness, fuelled by a desire from developers to cash in on the potential bounty offered by a robust App Store and hungry customers. Will you be part of the gold rush? With the Complete iOS 8 + Swift Developers Course, you stand a chance of learning the skills needed to create an application for the new platform. With over 36 hours of lectures and through the creation of 14 apps, you’ll develop the ability to make your own, potentially lucrative application. And instead of paying $998 as you normally should, this learning is offered to you for $79, a 92% reduction.

But hurry! This sale ends in exactly 11 hours from the time of writing.

[ Get The Complete iOS 8 + Swift Developers Course ]

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TiVo Unveils Mega, The Largest DVR It’s Ever Sold

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Even with today’s cheap hard drives, most DVR boxes end up running out of space rather quickly. There’s just an abundance of (questionably intelligent) programming, and a seemingly very eager public. Deleting shows to make space for new ones is commonplace, but TiVo will have none of that. The company is now offering the TiVo Mega to customers: a giant 24TB box that can fit up to 26,000 hours of content (4,000 hours in HD)! With its 6 built-in tuners, you can record up to 5 shows while watching a sixth, all the while streaming to a host of devices, whether they’re mobiles or standalone TVs. By using a RAID 5 configuration with hot-swappable drives, you can be sure that your shows won’t disappear even if a drive does end up failing.

Owning the biggest, baddest DVR on the market won’t come cheap. The TiVo Mega is expected to be available in Q1 2015 for about $5,000.

[ Press Release ] VIA [ CNN ]

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World Series Odds Update: Angels Lead, Wild Cards Heat Up

With the MLB regular season winding down, the Los Angeles Angels have emerged as 5-1 World Series favorites.

The Angels have won 19 of their last 25 games to claim the best record in baseball, four games ahead of the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles.

The Angels sit firmly atop the division, seven games ahead of the Oakland A’s and nine ahead of the Seattle Mariners, who currently sit one-two, respectively, in the AL Wild Card standings.

The Angels open a series Monday in Cleveland.

The A’s occupied the top spot in AL West for much of the season until their current 8-18 slide in their last 26 games. Their World Series odds have tumbled in line with their recent collapse, falling to 17-2 after being pegged as favorites for several weeks earlier in the season.

Oakland visits Seattle for a three-game series with the Mariners on the weekend following a four-game meeting with the White Sox in Chicago. The A’s, winners in two of three over the Sox this season, enter Monday’s game as 4-7 moneyline favorites.

The Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers meet on Monday in the first of a three-game set with serious implications for the AL Central and AL Wild Card standings. With World Series odds of 14-1, the surprising Royals maintain a two-game lead over the Tigers in the division but still trail Detroit.

Despite entering the week outside the MLB playoff picture, a half game behind Seattle in the AL Wild Card race, the Tigers are hanging on to strong 9-1 World Series odds and are 10-13 favorites over the Mariners on Monday afternoon.

The Tigers welcome the Cleveland Indians on the weekend. The Tribe trail by just 3.5 games in the AL Wild Card standings but are 40-1 long shots on the World Series odds.

Meanwhile, the tightest race in the National League is in the wild-card standings, where the San Francisco Giants hold the top spot, two games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers just 0.5 games back of the Pirates.

This week, the Giants play three of their six September games against the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers, who trail only the Angels in World Series odds at 11-1.

Milwaukee, which has dropped out of first in the NL Central after losing 13 of its last 16, welcome the Miami Marlins and Cincinnati Reds this week, while the Pirates play 10 straight against teams with losing records before welcoming the Brewers to town next week.

 

Odds and stats courtesy of Odds Shark.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com