Baseball Report + NBA Draft Notes

THE BASEBALL REPORT:
IS THE AL WEST THE HANDS-DOWN BEST DIVISION IN THE BIGS THIS YEAR?

PLUS THE NBA DRAFT HITS HOME ON THURSDAY NIGHT AND WE CHECK OUT THE ROUND I LIKELY MOVERS-AND-SHAKERS

By Jim Hurley

Go ahead and name us the three American League teams that—right now—have the fewest losses in the junior circuit.

Right…It’s Oakland (29), Detroit (32) and the Los Angeles Angels (33).

Now take a quickie review of this past weekend in Major-League Baseball and here’s what you see:

The aforementioned A’s, Angels and Seattle Mariners registered a combined 9-1 record in their respective weekend series—the A’s took three-of-four at home against Boston, the Angels swept archrival Texas three in a row and the M’s put the brooms to the host Kansas City Royals in a three-game set.

In other words, hip-hip-hooray for the AL West which may—every year—slip beneath baseball’s proverbial radar screen, but don’t you think it’s high time that the average Joe Fan (and the media, in general) took notice of what’s happening among the top three teams in that division?

Dig a little deeper and you see the A’s, Angels and Mariners are a combined plus 214 in the all-important runs differential category—okay, so Oakland’s plus 135 is the real eye-popper here—and consider that the big picture shows the A’s, Angels and Mariners are a combined 128-98 for a sizzling .566 winning percentage.

It’s not too early to ask if we could have three teams from the AL West make it to this year’s post-season and you just might have a year in which an all-AL West showdown took place in the ALCS and right now you wouldn’t get us to bet against that scenario happening, okay?

If you want to measure these teams in terms of league play than take note:

  • Oakland (47-29) heads into New York City for a brief two-game series against the New York Mets come Tuesday/Wednesday and then Bob Melvin’s squad—which leads the AL in runs scored with 383—treks down to Miami for a three-game weekend set against the Marlins and so we’ll see how the A’s fare in Interleague play after going a combined 44-29 against fellow AL foes.

  • The Los Angeles Angels (41-33) host blazing-hot Minnesota for a three-game set this week before packing their bags and heading for a three-game weekend set in Kansas City.

  • And oft-forgotten Seattle (40-36) have a fun and challenging week ahead with the scrappy Boston Red Sox comin’ to town for a three-game series beginning here on Monday night and then the M’s host the Cleveland Indians for a three-game weekend set. P.S., the Mariners are just 17-20 at home this season while they’re a stellar 23-16 away.

You could sit here all day/night long and sing the personal praises of A’s manager Bob Melvin, Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia and Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, but now hear this:

It sure appears all three of these teams are getting better and better with each passing day and so beware to the other wild-card chasing AL teams…they could get squeezed right out of playoff contention if the top three AL West team don’t slow down soon.

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In other Baseball News & Notes…

The New York Mets powered up in Sunday’s 11-5 win in Miami as LHP Jon Niese (4-4, 2.78 ERA) finally got some run support.

The Mets had scored a grand total of 13 runs in Niese’s last five starts and that included a 5-2 loss in St. Louis earlier in the week and a 5-1 loss in 13 innings to Milwaukee back on June 12th.

Better yet, Niese—batting eighth in the rejiggered Mets lineup—had an RBI bunt and a run scored as NYM took three-of-four in South Beach…

Great stat line in Minnesota’s 6-5 win on Sunday against the nose-diving Chicago White Sox:

The Twins bullpen threw four shutout innings and helped to hand RHP Phil Hughes (8-3) another big win as the Twins swept the four-game set.

The trio of Anthony Swarzak, Casey Fien and Jared Burton allowed no runs, no hits and no walks in four innings of work (Burton struck out two batters in the top of the ninth inning) and call it a team save for Ron Gardenhire’s club.

Now hear this…

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are banging outs lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do is check in either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners.

Plus, the Football Season isn’t that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear in early August—can’t wait!

NBA DRAFT NOTEBOOK

The 2014 NBA Draft arrives Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn—that’s kind of funny in itself because the Nets right now don’t own a single pick in the draft!

Still, there are a few teams that own plenty of draft picks and so let’s take a few moments to see what these clubs might well be cookin’ up come this week:

PHILADELPHIA—Right now the 76ers own picks #3 and #10 and most reports claim that Philly will tab now-injured C Joel Embiid (Kansas), although many folks claim that’s all smokescreen stuff. Still, we believe the Sixers will grab either G/F Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) or F Jabari Parker (Duke) should they still be sitting there at #3 and with the other choice look for Philly to zoom in on a shooter, whether it’s Nik Stauskas (Michigan) or perhaps T.J. Warren (N.C. State).

As far as trading either/both of these picks, don’t count on it!

ORLANDO—The Magic are slated to pick at #4 and #12 and there’s plenty of folks in central Florida fearing the worst and that’s the aforementioned Embiid could slide down and then Orlando would be forced to make a decision of him while the other side of the coin says trading both first-round choices probably doesn’t get more than a decent body and a #9 or #10 overall draft choice…would Charlotte (picking #9) be a willing trade partner with the Magic and move up to #4 if Embiid’s still there?

PHOENIX—The Suns own picks #14, #18 and #27 in Round One and don’t forget pick #50 overall in Round II. There’s plenty of whispers that Phoenix wants to move some picks and a player or two for Minnesota superstar Kevin Love, but not sure the T-Wolves ace scorer/rebounder wants Phoenix in his future.

It appears Suns general manager Ryan McDonough would like to keep one of those four draft picks (preferably one of the picks in the teens) and discard the others in a potential deal for Love, but ask us and we think Phoenix might package a couple of picks to the aforementioned Nets for a couple of veteran bodies.

The Nets would love to scoop up Syracuse PG Tyler Ennis with one of Phoenix’s choices and Brooklyn’s also hot for the aforementioned Warren who might slip down to that 14th overall choice.

One other team that is very much looking to improve its draft lot is the Chicago Bulls, who right now own picks #16 and #19 in Round One. No doubt that the fact New York Knicks mega-scorer Carmelo Anthony just opted out of his contract has Bulls’ folks salivating—the New York City tabloids have reported that Chicago’s do-it-all big man Joakim Noah has been speed-dialing Anthony for days now, and yet if Chicago could package these two mid-first round picks and maybe Taj Gibson and another body, they could be in the running for Love and might not have to hand over the king’s ransom to Anthony (whom oft-injured Bulls’ PG Derrick Rose isn’t all hot about, say the rumor mill).

Finally, let’s never sleep on the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs who always make a killing with those late first-round/second-round draft choices in this R.C. Buford/Gregg Popovich Era.

The Spurs are scheduled to pick at #30 (the last choice in Round I) and again with picks No. 58 and 60.

Let’s take a leap forward to Thursday night’s draft and forecast that San Antonio will get one (or two) of the following “name players”:

Guard Shabazz Napier (UConn), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State) and/or G Russ Smith (Louisville). What’s that about the rich getting richer?

NOTE: As stated, the NBA Draft is set for Thursday and we’ll have our NBA Mock Draft in the next edition of Jim Sez plus there always Baseball News/Notes too in the days/weeks ahead. Plus next week we’ll begin our team-by-team early-bird previews of all 32 NFL teams!

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