We're back for 2013, and my only hope is that this is the year we finally have a quadruple play. It's been so long. And with that wish in our hearts, here are the top 10 stories/players/matchups heading into the weekend.
10. The Weird Constant Interleague Series (LAD-BAL)
Now that the Astros have betrayed and abandoned the National League and joined the AL Central (that's how it went down, right?), there are 15 teams in each league instead of the previous 16-14 split. That means on any given Friday, there will be seven NL games, seven AL games, and one crazy, weird, fun interleague series. This weekend, it's Dodgers-Orioles in what I'm calling "The Battle Between Yankees Envy Past and Yankees Envy Present." Kind of a long name, but you get the point. Both teams are off to mediocre starts and looking to string a few wins together.
Given the chance, I will ramble on for hours at a time about Major League Baseball's asinine blackout policy, and how it unfairly deprives me of Nationals and Orioles games, 250 miles southwest, here in Chapel Hill. Prior to 2012, the big problem for me was that I couldn't watch the 18 Yankees-Orioles games each season. That ranks pretty low on the tragedy totem, particularly since the Orioles were mostly terrible. And the Nationals? They barely merited a footnote in the whole discussion. Then Stephen Strasburg came back full-time from his Tommy John surgery, Gio Gonzalez was traded from the As, and suddenly the Nationals had the most exciting one-two punch in baseball. With the emergence of Bryce Harper, and the terrific third-spot pitching of Jordan Zimmermann, the city that had last won a World Series in 1924 and last made the postseason in 1933 was now home to a first-place team.
And in North Carolina, they weren't on TV. So this weekend, with Strasburg set to pitch Friday and Gonzalez in line for Saturday, in a three-game series with the Rockies, I decided to beat the blackout by driving up to D.C. to see them in person. If you've missed out on these guys so far, here's a quick recap: At the All-Star Break, they're top seven in WAR in baseball. Both have ERAs under 3.00, and are top three in FIP, trailing only Zack Greinke. Both are All-Stars (unlike Greinke), and both strike out batters at extremely high rates (first and third, respectively). I could go on, but you get the gist: These guys are really, really good.
You're the worst team in the American League. You've gone from six division titles in nine years to a possible second straight season in the cellar. Your pitching and defense is so bad, you need a telescope to spot the next-worst run prevention team in your league. You have one or two impact prospects in your farm system, but they're years away from cracking the majors, let alone making a significant impact. You're Terry Ryan, general manager of the Minnesota Twins. What do you do? What do you do?
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Despite Rajon Rondo's stellar performance — 44 points, eight assists, and 10 rebounds — the Miami Heat rallied from 15 points down to beat the Celtics 115-111 in overtime to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. On a sad note, LeBron James missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation, and the part of his brain where he stores repressed memories of failing under pressure has reached what doctors call "the overflow point," meaning he will soon start to lose other crucial functions. When asked for his thoughts on the subject, James said, "SPAGHETTI! DOGS ARE LIBELOUS! FUN IS A SIMILAR IDEA TO CARDBOARD?"