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3U3D Break It Down: A.L. Central

Last season, the AL Central was not only the weakest top to bottom in the American League, but you could also argue it was the weakest in all of baseball.  While no team last surpassed 88 wins, the AL representative in the World Series came from the Central.  Will Detroit win the division for a 3rd straight year? Or will the White Sox be able to fend off a Tigers push? Will Cleveland’s new manager Terry Francona bring back playoff baseball for the Indians? Are the Royals finally ‘there’?

whitesox

Chicago White Sox: Chicago looks to be primed to make a run at an AL Central title this year and it starts with their rotation. The 1-2 punch of Chris Sale and Jake Peavy will provide solid outings all year but the injury to John Danks might prove to be too costly.  It’ll be up to Dylan Axelrod to step up in Danks’ absence.  The two biggest question marks for the lineup are will Adam Dunn mash all season long again and can Paul Konerko stay healthy and lead the way in what may be his last season?

Indians

Cleveland Indians: The Indians have a lot to be excited about heading into this season and it starts with accomplished manager, Terry Francona. The sheer experience Francona brings to the clubhouse will propel Cleveland past last season’s 68 wins.  New additions Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Reynolds provide the ability to score runs with Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana. The real concern with the Indians will be the starting rotation.  Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers are going to have to carry the load if this team is going to be successful in 2013.

DetroitTigersLogo

Detroit Tigers: The defending AL Champs have everyone back from last year with a key addition in Torii Hunter and a healthy Victor Martinez.  This team is built to win now and should run away with the division.  But there is one giant hole; the role of closer.  The Tigers will start the season with a closer by committee strategy that will rotate Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, and Octavio Dotel.  The rotation is the best in the league with a perennial Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez., and Rick Porcello. Expect to see this team deep in October.

kansas_city_royals_logo-9425

Kansas City Royals: Every year for the past 5 years, the talk about the Royals has been “they are 1 or 2 years away”.  This organization has plenty of young talent but its put up or shut up time.  James Shields and Ervin Santana join 2012 mid-season acquisition Jeremy Guthrie to form the 2nd best pitching staff in the Central.  If Butler, Moustakas, and co. can stay healthy, the KC Royals will be playing meaningful games through September and might see some post-season action.

Twins

Minnesota Twins: When you’re Opening Day starter is Vance Worley, you have seen better days.  To make this season a success, the Twins need to break up the M&M boys.  It makes more sense for Morneau to be dealt purely based on contract size, unless the Twinkies want to absorb some of Joe Mauer’s $23M/year deal.  Josh Willingham provided much of the offense last year while having a career year.  The only way I can see this team avoiding a 100-loss season is if Willingham duplicates his 2012 stats AND they do not trade Mauer or Morneau.  It might be more beneficial to bite the bullet this year and start stocking up for 2014.

Awards Watch

A.L. MVP

Adam Dunn – Chicago White Sox

Michael Bourn – Cleveland Indians

Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers

Billy Butler – Kansas City Royals

Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham – Minnesota Twins

Cy Young

Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers

Max Scherzer - Detroit Tigers

James Shields - Kansas City Royals

Rookie of the Year

Aaron Hicks – Minnesota Twins

Will the Tigers run away with this division? Is this the last time you can see the M&M boys in Twins uniforms? Comment below!

- Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R)

Chowin’ Down: Meat Parfait and Shrimp Tacos

Imagine eating your favorite local food in a city where it’s not the norm.  Miller Park offers one of the most unique eating experiences that I have ever witnessed in a ballpark.  I was in Milwaukee to catch the Padres series when I was asked if I wanted to “eat something San Diego”.  I think that was because I had my Padres shirt and them not knowing I’m from Detroit.

But I said “sure,” and headed up a level to see what all the rave was about.  One stand on the 2nd level behind home plate serves a changing menu based on the visiting team.  The menu features a specialty that you would find in the visiting team’s city.  For San Diego, it is shrimp tacos.

Shrimp tacos were on the menu for the entire series and that was the only dish served with “San Diego flair,” but it was also the only one needed.  Each order came with three flour tortilla filled with grilled pineapple-cilantro slaw, avocado, blackened shrimp, and salsa verde sauce and chipotle ranch sauce.Image

Personally I love fish or shrimp tacos so this was a perfect fit for me.  The tortilla was warm and soft, the guacamole was tangy, the salsa verde gave it added flavor and the slaw gave the taco a very nice crunch.  Oh and the shrimp…ohhhh the shrimp.  If you are a seafood eater, you may be picky about your flavors and textures when it comes to good eats.  These fellas were abundant and bountiful. Each taco had four large shrimp on them to top it all off.

The best part of it all, these delicious shrimp tacos are so reasonably priced that your wallet doesn’t take the usual ballpark hit! Only $9.50!

-Angelo (@GODF_TH_R)

Then comes the perennial powerhouse that every visiting baseball fan should try. The epic Meat Parfait.
Three layers mashed potatoes, two layers meat, all covered in sweet barbeque sauce with some chives to top it off. Being from Milwaukee, I have been around since the consecration of this beautiful man snack and have had the pleasure of indulging in it’s classic meat and potatoes goodness multiple times.  It starts off with a typical scoop of mashed potatoes, which is then layered with your choice of either pulled pork or pulled beef.  I typically tend to go for the beef on the bottom layer and then pork on the top (Yes, you can mix and match). After another layer of potatoes and your pulled meat of choice, they cap it all off with the final potato scoop and drizzle it with as much barbeque as you can handle.Image

If your mouth isn’t watering at this point, you may not be human.  For eating tips, I generally recommend to try and get a nice mix of meat and potatoes in each bite, but be wary, because once you run out of meat at the bottom, it’s all mashed potatoes and remnants of BBQ from there.

You can find these in most corners of Miller Park on every level, and the same stand also offers delicious pulled BBQ sliders if the Meat Parfait is too much for you.  It all comes in at the nice price point of $7.00, which is completely affordable to every fan at the game. Hope to see you out at the stadium and enjoying one of the finer things in life: Pulled BBQ.

-Kurt (@FalconKP)

A Walk-off To Remember

Here in Detroit we have a saying for our ball club; “Who’s Your Tiger?”  For seven years, that was Magglio Ordonez  for me.  Let me tell you a little about the man that wore #30.

When Magglio came over from Chicago, fans were unsure about the recent foe now playing for the good guys.  Maggs quickly won over hearts in the Motor City with his hustle, offensive production, and loveable character.

He will always be remembered for launching a walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS , propelling the franchise to its first World Series appearance since 1984, and sending this city into a frenzy.  In 2007 Magglio also won the first batting title for a Tiger since Norm Cash in ’61.

His iconic look, long, flowing, curly locks of hair bouncing around as he shagged fly balls and trotted around the base paths were abruptly gone one day.  His offensive production was declining so fans assumed it was a change of pace to get back on track.  What we didn’t know was Maggs’ wife had cancer and he cut it off for her, so she wasn’t alone when the chemotherapy took effect.  That is the kind of man Magglio is.

Thank you for all you did for the City of Detroit Maggs!

- Angelo (GODF_TH_R)

Chowin’ Down: Wrigley Field style

Walking into historic Wrigley Field two hours before game time allowed me ample time to check out the Bartman seat (sorry Cubs fans), watch a little BP, and most importantly figure out what’s for lunch.

I asked a gentleman working the Cubs authentic shop what he suggests I try. “We have these new tots,” he said. “Loaded with Cholula hot sauce, mozzarella, and green onions, they’re awesome.” He continued by telling me about a hot dog stand where you can get unique styles of dogs. He said “go for the Heater”. He couldn’t have made two better suggestions.

Lucky for me and anyone else that wishes to indulge in the tots and a dog, they are sold at the same stand. As prescribed, I ordered the Cholula tots and a “Heater”. The heater is your standard hot dog topped with blue cheese coleslaw and buffalo wing sauce. The Cholula covered tots were hands down the best tots I’ve ever had. The surplus about of sauce wasn’t enough to make them overwhelming and the cheese gave them a creamy taste. Add in the chopped green onions for some flavor and crunch and you have a great ballpark snack.

The “Heater” hot dog was exactly what I expected, delicious. Personally I like hot dogs with slaw on them and the blue cheese taste made it a little more unique. Factor in the buffalo wing sauce and you have a tasty dog with some zing.  If you haven’t had a dog with slaw on it before and aren’t afraid to try it, I highly suggest it!

Thanks for reading and if you’ve tried either of these items, please comment below!

-Angelo (@GODF_TH_R)

The All-AL Central Team

The AL Central is composed of the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins.   If I was going to build a line-up consisting of AL Central players ONLY, here is my starting 9, DH, set-up man, and closer.  Consider this the AL Central fantasy draft.  I take in consideration the ability to play this year and only this year and I am not trying to build for the future.

Leading off and playing Center Field: Austin Jackson (Detroit)- He batted .294 with 34 doubles his rookie season and is off to a scorching start this year.

Batting 2nd and playing Right Field: Brennan Boesch (Detroit)- His power is up there with Miguel and Prince and batting in front of those two, he will see his fair share of fastballs.

Playing 3B and batting 3rd: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit)- This year shapes up for him to win the AL MVP giving the fact Prince is protecting him (in real life, not just this lineup).  Strong arguments support he IS the best hitter in baseball.

Batting clean-up and playing 1B: Prince Fielder (Detroit)- Couple options at 1B but Prince needs to be the everyday guy. Butler and Morneau are possibilities, but Prince will out-homer them. Grand Slams? Yes please.

The DH and batting 5th: Billy Butler (Kansas City)- Tough to choose between Billy and Morneau but taking in consideration age and current health (Justin’s injury last year), Billy is the guy I want hitting everyday.

Batting 6th and catching: Joe Mauer (Minnesota)- Joe’s track record is better than recent AL All-Star, Alex Avila.  I have to take the experience here and also not be such a homer.

Playing Shortstop and batting 7th: Asdrubal Cabrera (Cleveland)- He rakes and makes at least one ridiculous play a week.  I would take him purely because of his glove, he also happens to be a stellar hitter.

Batting 8th and playing Left Field: Alex Gordon (Kansas City)- Alex shows pop in the bat, speed on the bases, and a strong arm from the outfield.

Playing 2B and batting 9th: Gordon Beckham (Chicago)- Good young player that shows life on his bat from time to time and a consistent glove.  Also not much to choose from at this position so he wins by default.

Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander (Detroit)- AL MVP. CY Young. Need I say more?

RP: Vinnie Pestano (Cleveland)- Bullpen mafia O.G.. Lights out and is a trusty arm in the 8th inning.

Closer: Jose Valverde (Detroit)- Papa Grande didn’t blow a save all year in 2011, but blew his first chance in 2012. Due to injury to Soria, he is  the only real candidate.  At least he’s consistent.

Honorable mention: Ricky Vaughn (Cleveland) and Jack Parkman (Chicago)

How did I do? What are your thoughts? Who would you plug in where?

Don’t forget to follow me @GODF_TH_R and Three Up, Three Down @3U3D

-Angelo Fileccia

Finally! The day we have all waited for!

Happy Opening Day everyone! This is the day we have all waited for since the end of October.  As you all get decked out in your favorite teams apparel, crack open an icy cold beverage, and sit down to watch today’s festivities, here are things to follow today and the rest of the season.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

EAST

Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles

CENTRAL

Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins, White Sox

WEST

Angels, Rangers, Athletics, Mariners

NATIONAL LEAGUE

EAST

Phillies, Nationals, Marlins, Braves, Mets

CENTRAL

Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Pirates, Astros

WEST

Diamondbacks, Giants, Padres, Dodgers, Rockies

WILD CARD

Nationals over Marlins

Rangers over Rays

DIVISION SERIES

Phillies over Nationals

Diamondbacks over Reds

Angels over Yankees

Tigers over Rangers

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Diamondbacks over Phillies

Tigers over Angels

WORLD SERIES

Tigers over Diamondbacks

Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell try to win a world series against the team they won one with.  Cabrera and Fielder overpower D-Backs pitching en route to the franchise’s first World Championship since 1984.

AND THE WINNER IS…

NATIONAL LEAGUE

MVP

The wheels haven’t fallen off for one, stemming from the ’11 playoffs. The other just locked his career up with a huge deal and already has one NL MVP under his belt. David Freese and Joey Votto battle each other in the NL Central for ultimate individual supremacy.

Winner: David Freese

CY YOUNG

The man with the bionic arm stays healthy all year and dominates the NL East and the rest of his victims.  Clayton Kershaw has a stellar season in an attempt to repeat, but falls just short.

Winner: Stephen Strasburg

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

After an early season call-up, Bryce Harper brings his swagger and his bat to the show.  Complete with +450 ft. home runs, Bryce hits over .300 and becomes a huge part why the Nats make the playoffs.

Winner: Bryce Harper

AMERICAN LEAGUE

MVP

No repeat for Verlander, Fielder hits more HRs than Cabrera, but Miguel hits for a better average and follows JV’s lead and nabs the 2nd AL MVP for the Tigers in as many years.

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

Cy Young

Jered was overshadowed last season because of Verlander’s night in and night out lights out performances.  This year, Weaver stays just as consistent and JV doesn’t have the same year as last. Weaver shines brighter for the Halos.

Winner: Jered Weaver

Rookie of the Year

Two highly touted signings with Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes have solid rookie seasons, but lack in big league experience. One man has the experience and the stuff to look like a veteran this season

Winner: Matt Moore

-Angelo Fileccia

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