Peek at the Picks & DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've made it to the end of another week. And at the end of the week, not only do we have some serious match-ups in baseball, but college football is underway and we have our first full slate of games on Saturday. Think I'm excited? Just a little bit.

So today I'm making good on the Peek at the Picks segment I missed on Wednesday along with the regular Friday DFTU segment. So I'm not going to waste any time. Let's do this...

"Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs."
- Christopher Hampton (1946- ), Academy Award winning British playwright, screen writer and film director

Thankfully writing isn't what I do for a living, so this doesn't apply to me!

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First off, it's time for this week's Peek at the Picks segment where I compare my pre-season baseball picks to the current MLB standings. Do I have any shot finishing .500? Or am I condemned to more mockery? Let's find out!

NL East: NY Mets, 74-60 (Dan's Pick: Mets)
I'm really not sure how the Mets are still in first. Their bullpen is a mess and yet somehow the Phillies can't get it together enough to pass them. With a month to go Philadelphia will still have it's fair share of chances, but I might just sneak this one out yet! Either way, it's probably going to come down to the last week of the season, and that kind of excitement is what baseball fans really want anyway. Met's Magic Number: 28.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 84-50 (DP: Cubs)
Good gawd are the Cubs rolling. Six in a row. Eight of their last 10. Makes you wonder if anybody's going to be able to beat this team. Oh, and did I mention they have the best record in baseball? Sure, Milwaukee's not out of it at 6.5 back. But if I was a Brewer fan, I'd be focusing more on that lead in the Wild Card standings rather than where you're at in the Central. But that's just me. Chicago's Magic Number: 23.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 68-65 (DP: D'backs)
Dammit. I thought we were done with this "near-.500 team leading a division" nonsense. The bright spot for the D'backs is as bad as they've been, the Dodgers have been worse. Neither of these teams are making a solid claim at being a playoff team. But somebody has to win this division. This weekend will go a ways towards determining whom as the two squads face off at Chase Field in Phoenix. Arizona's Magic Number: 26.

NL Wild Card: Milwaukee Brewers, 77-56 (DP: L.A. Dodgers, 12.5 Games Back)
The Brewers have a 3.5 game lead over St. Louis, 4.5 over Philadelphia. And let's be honest Brewer fans, this is where your focus has to be. A playoff berth is a playoff berth and it's been proven plenty of times that a Wild Card team can win the World Series. So there's no reason to fret not winning the division. Besides, the upshot of being the Wild Card is that you won't have to see the Cubs til the NLCS! Milwaukee's Magic Number: 26.

AL East: Tampa Bay Rays, 81-51 (DP: Boston, whom I hate, 4.5 GB)
The Rays keep a'rolling. And I have no idea how. Young, inexperienced pitching. Key injuries to important position players. And yet they keep winning. I don't get it. But I dig it! And remember this, the Rays were the worst team in baseball last year. The last time a team went from the worst record to the best record (yes, they trail the Cubs, but not by much) was in the 1889-1890 seasons when the Louisville Colonels accomplished the feat. The Rays are a shining example of what's right in baseball. It's easy to root for this team. Easier when they're kicking dirt on the grave of the Red Sox (whom I hate). Tampa's Magic Number: 26.

Al Central: Chicago White Sox, 76-57 (DP: Detroit Tigers, 12 GB)
I said at the beginning of the Twins' 14 game odyssey that if you offered me 7-7 I'd take it on the spot. Eight games in, at 3-5, that offer looks even more attractive to me. I just don't get how this team can be so schizophrenic. They're a completely different club at home than they are on the road. Needless to say, it's frustrating to watch. The White Sox have not been able to put much distance between themselves and the Twins however, currently holding just a 1.5-game lead. And now the schedule tilts slightly in favor of the Twins at the Sox head to Boston (whom I hate) for a big weekend series. Remember, we're not rooting for the Red Sox (whom I hate) to win. We're rooting for the White Sox to lose! Chicago's Magic Number: 28.

AL West: L.A. Angels, 81-52 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 31 GB)
The Angels still hold a 16-game lead over the Texas Rangers, so they've still got little to worry about in terms of making the post-season. But going 5-5 in their last 10 has to give some folks pause. At one point they were absolutely the team to beat in baseball. Now the Cubs have wrested that designation away. Now the Angels are locked in a battle over home-field advantage in the AL. And the Rays are giving them all they can handle. It'll be interesting to see how manager Mike Scoiscia handles his roster down the stretch. Is home-field really that important? Or is he going to try to guard his team's health? And if so, will that put some rust on them before the playoffs start? Did I mention I love me some baseball?! L.A.'s Magic Number: 13.

AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 77-56 (DP: Cleveland Indians, 11.5 GB)
As we've previously discussed, this is down to a 3-team race. The Red Sox (whom I hate), the Twins and the White Sox are all vying for this spot. And obviously one of the two latter teams is guaranteed a spot with the AL Central title. The Red Sox (whom I hate) currently hold a 2.5-game lead over the Twins. The big Sox (times two) series this weekend could provide some separation. We shall see. Boston (whom I hate) has a Magic Number of: 27.

So there's still a lot of baseball to be played. But only one division (maybe two if you count the NL Central) has been locked up. So there's still a lot of exciting baseball to be played. My odds of getting to .500 on my picks? Not good. And since I'd have to pull for the Red Sox (whom I hate) to get that done, I'm going to go ahead and wave the white flag on that one. But I'm still enjoying giving you quality NL picks anyway!

Finally this week, it's time for everybody's favorite segment, Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 75-59, in second place in the AL Central, 1.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox, and 2.5 games behind the Red Sox (whom I hate) for the Wild Card.

As I hinted at earlier, the fear I had going into this 14-game road trip has been fairly justified. After starting out with two strong wins against the Angels, the Twins have gone 1-5 since. Not the kind of performance you'd want considering that 4 of those games came against the woeful Mariners and less-than-stellar A's.

Thankfully, the White Sox have been unable to take full advantage. And realistically, the goal of this road trip was just to stay in the race. And so far, the Twins have done just that. Still 6 games to go though, and they've never enjoyed a trip to Toronto that I can recall. So we shall see.

Searching for any positives I can find, at least the starting pitching has remained solid. The Twins have moments of offensive-juggernosity (I think I just melted down the spell-checker with that one), but so far that's been lacking on the road-trip. It'd be nice to see them 10-run somebody just once to help boost the confidence.

The Twins finish out their 4-gamer with Oakland before moving on to Toronto for 3 and then finally home-sweet-home!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 68-65, in first place in the AL West and 3.5 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

I'll say it flat-out. The Snakes have been awful. They've lost six of their last 10, including the last 4 in a row. And it's not like they've been playing powerhouse teams either. The starting pitching hasn't been it's dominant self. And "offensive-juggernosity" is not going to be applied to this team any time soon. Add in a still-shaky bullpen, and it's amazing to me that the D'backs have actually increased their lead over the last couple of weeks.

But that's because the Dodgers have been terrible. Suddenly Manny Ramirez has realized he's the only player who can hit regularly in that line-up. Missing Dustin Pedroia ahead of you and Big Papi behind are you Manny? Awww. My heart just breaks.

Wow. That's as scathingly sarcastic as I've been in a while!

Fortunately, Manny's a waste of a ton of talent, so I don't feel too bad about it!

The D'backs kick off a 3-game series with the Dodgers tonight. And Sunday night's game is on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, so check it out! After that the Snakes welcome St. Louis for 3 (we'll do what we can for you Milwaukee). And next weekend? 3 more with the Dodgers, this time in Chavez Ravine.

So it's a tough time for the ol' DFTU, but I take heart in the fact that my teams are still right in the thick of it. The glass is half-full, right? Right?!

That's all for this week. Enjoy some lovely weather. Enjoy some baseball. Enjoy some college football. Just enjoy! And I'll be back next week (maybe even on Monday since I'm one of the 12 people who actually has to work on Labor Day). Until then, thanks for reading!

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