The Urena Express: 7/1/22

Steven Urena
“Don’t you know we’re riding on the Urena Express…”

By Steven Urena

Goose: What are you doing?
Maverick: Just wondering who’s the best.
Viper: In case some of you are wondering who the best is, they’re up here on this plaque on the wall. The best driver and his RIO from each class has his name on it, and they have the option to come back here to be Top Gun instructors.
Viper: Do you think your name’s gonna be on that plaque, Lieutenant?
Maverick: Yes sir.
Viper: That’s pretty arrogant, considering the company you’re in.
Maverick: Yes sir.
Viper: I like that in a pilot. Gentlemen, this school is about combat. There are no points for second place.

MLB Roundup
Baseball is rolling!!! I can’t remember a time when so many games were so intense this early in the season. I’ve heard “playoff atmosphere” several times already in this young season. As Viper pointed out, “there are no points for second place.” Part of the reason baseball has been so good is because so many teams are in the hunt. They’re not only in the hunt but they are World Series or bust! 

It’s been tough to build a dynasty in baseball lately. In fact, no team has gone back to back since the Yankees won three in a row in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The last similar run was the darn Giants who won 3 titles in 5 years (2010, 2012, 2014). This is why teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Padres and Braves have gone all in lately. Free agency and the trade deadline have been making things very interesting and turn pretenders into contenders. Teams are spending the big bucks or trading away prospects for a chance to win the title now. None of this long term building business. Do what it takes to win now!

Although the Yankees are the team to beat right now, there’s still a lot of season left. The Dodgers, Astros and Mets are right behind the Yanks and are still not full strength. The Braves proved that you can be down but not out. You can’t rule out the Braves, Padres, Red Sox, Brewers or Cardinals. That’s 9 teams that are good enough or a few moves away from being world champs. 

Every team’s path to the championship will be different but they all have the same goal…hold that trophy high, sip champagne and get a giant ring. The All-Star game is right around the corner and before you know it, September baseball will be here. With expanded playoffs it’s going to be even better. Hold on to your hats and sunglasses, it’s going to be a wild ride!

New York, New York
The Yankees are the best team in baseball and it’s not close. If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Yanks would win the World Series. With their pitching and hitting, they are easily the best team in the MLB. The Yankees keep on piling the wins. They’re on pace to set the all-time win record for the regular season (119 wins). The 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners won 116. The end of the season can’t come soon enough for Yankee fans. They’re playing well and they’re healthy. 

The Mets will come roaring back with the addition of Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. The question is, how long will they roar? The Mets have ZERO chance in October without both of their horses. Years ago Reggie Jackson was the “straw that stirred the drink” for the Yankees. The Mets have a huge drink and they need both Scherzer and deGrom to stir it. No team wants to have to face Scherzer and deGrom 4 or 5 times in a series. That’s a tough matchup.

Banging Around
The Astros refuse to give in. The MLB and baseball fans want to see the end of them but they just keep on moving forward. I’ve been saying it the past few years, the Astros are flat out good. They have the second best record in baseball and they have the ingredients to make yet another October run. 

The biggest stories are Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez. They are in contention for the Cy Young and MVP awards. Their supporting cast is as good as anyones. They’ll win the west and get into the playoffs with a HUGE chip on their shoulder. Their window is closing and they want a “real” championship now more than ever.

Little Brother
I have two older brothers. I was target number one. First to get picked on and last one in any type of competition. It’s not easy. It makes you angry and bitter but it also makes you tough. The Padres are ready to show everyone that they will no longer be the Dodgers little brother. Last year they had an epic collapse and ate their words. This year, they’re letting their bats and arms do the talking. The Dodgers will remain consistent now it’s the Padres turn to prove they are capable of being a good team over 162 games. When Hurtnando Tatis Jr. returns, they will only get stronger.

The Braves had a rough start but they seem to be rolling now. After last year’s success and the experience they gained, they will be a tough matchup in the playoffs. I don’t see them winning the NL East (as long as Scherzer and deGrom are healthy) but I do see them making a strong case in the playoffs. They will be without clutch hitters Joc Pederson and Freddie Freeman but the Braves still have solid pitching and their lineup packs a lot of punch.

Red Hot Sox
The Red Sox were playing awful at the start of the season but are 20-6 in the month of June. Good organizations always find ways to win and the Sox are no different. They’re not going to catch the Yankees but all they’re looking for is a ticket to the dance. The pressure will not be on them. It will be on the powerhouses like the Yankees, Dodgers and Astros. That’s exactly what the Sox want. They’re used to being the underdog. 

Los Dodgers
I grew up a Dodgers fan in the 90’s. I know what it’s like to have hope and be disappointed every single season. If you’re a Dodgers fan, enjoy it. Life is not always like this. If the Dodgers can take care of business, we could be looking at our best run ever.

The Dodgers have not clicked on all cylinders the past two seasons but continue to be among the league leaders in wins both seasons. Some of our horses are hurt but others have stepped up and kept us in first place. We have high expectations so it hurts to lose series to teams like the Rockies and Pirates but that’s baseball. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. 

The Dodgers need to get healthy and they need Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner and Craig Kimbrel to start stepping up. At full force, the Dodgers are still the best team in baseball.

The Outsiders
The Braves were considered “outsiders” last season and they won the whole thing. There’s expanded playoffs. You can’t count teams out. The Brewers, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rays and Giants are a hot stretch away from being considered one of the top teams in the MLB. Especially when you factor in the trade deadline. Anything can happen at the deadline. Don’t be surprised if one of these teams is in the mix down the stretch. 

Just remember, there’s no points for second place. Even the outsiders know that.

Civil War
Those of you that know me know that I’m a huge Clayton Kershaw fan. However, I didn’t agree with his “second fiddle” comment. Freddie Freeman is a Dodger. He’s been nothing but classy and he’s having a good season. Freddie said he’s happy to be a Dodger. That’s good enough for me. I believe him. 

Freddie fired his agent this past weekend. It seems as though the Braves gave Freddie the deal he wanted but his agent did not inform him. Please don’t give me the hogwash about the Dodgers paying Casey Close (Freddie’s agent) to keep his mouth shut about the Braves final offer. That’s “fertilizer.” Close did not represent his client to the best of his ability and he paid the price. This is not the Dodgers fault. At the end of the day, the Braves let Freddie walk. There should never have been any type of negotiations. The second they let Freddie test the waters, they should have known he was not coming back. The Braves eventually made their offer but it should have never reached that point. 

I don’t doubt Freddie wanted to be a Brave for life but he’ll be happy with the money he’s getting from the Dodgers and with being close to home. A happy Freddie is a productive one. If the Braves were all-in like Freddie, they would have made the deal happen. Give the face of your franchise the extra year and $20 million. Are you kidding me? He just helped you win the World Series! 

“W” for the Dodgers. “L” for the Braves.

Mike Trout
(Photo by Joe T.)

Wounded Warriors
Losing Walker Buehler hurts. Especially because it’s Walker’s right elbow. That’s scary stuff. Best case scenario is Walker comes back and he’s ready to do what he does best. Dominate in the playoffs. Worst case is he comes back and he’s not himself. Worst, worst case is he comes back and gets hurt again. The Dodgers can still get in the dance without Walker. Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson have been picking up the slack (understatement of the year). If we want a shot at another ring, we’ll need Buetane back and healthy. 

Clayton Kershaw has not looked good since his return from the IL. His arm and back are 100 years old. Hopefully it’s just kinks and not any structural damage. Kersh and the Dodgers are hoping for one more go, maybe two. Kersh came back for one purpose and that was to win the World Series. If Kersh is healthy (if) he’s going to help get us there. If he’s hurt at the end of the season, we may have seen the end of a Los Angeles legend. 

Mookie Betts was looking like the man that won an MVP award in Boston. He was doing it all, despite a slow start. Mookie will come back healthy but hopefully he does not lose his momentum. The thing with momentum is the more you get the faster you go and the harder it is to slow down. Now that Mookie is stopped, I really hope he can get the ball rolling. Expect him back sooner than later.

“A quarterback at a new school struggles with his confidence, but help arrives in the form of forces unseen.” (Click Pic/available thru Amazon)

Contact Steve Urena at:
Twitter/IG: @theurenaexpress

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