It's going to be a looooong postseason on TBS

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I have preferred the TBS playoff coverage to the FOX coverage over the past couple of years for two reasons: (1) Unlike FOX, TBS’s producers don’t appear to have ADHD and can keep to a single camera shot for more than a half second, resisting the urge to cut from closeup to closeup to closeup between pitches; and (2) in the grand scheme of things, Chip Caray + Ron Darling > Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Based on last night’s game, however, these assumptions may no longer be operative.

The direction in the Twins-Tigers tilt was practically seizure-inducing. If there was a woman in the Metrodome stands holding her hands together in prayer that the cameras didn’t cut to in between pitches I’ll be utterly shocked.  Also, Tigers’ third base coach Gene Lamont needs to give his publicist a raise, because whatever it is he’s doing to get his client more camera time while he sits uncomfortably in his too-tight uniform in the dugout while the Tigers are in the field is obviously working.  Between the fan shots and Lamont-o-vision it was rare to actually see a catcher give the signs and the pitcher come set in the late innings.

Caray has reached a whole new level. The one everyone is talking about today is his call of Nick Punto’s “Line drive! Base hit!” to left in the 10th inning. It was the first line drive base hit I’ve ever seen result in the batter being out and the runner being killed at the plate following a tag-up. But that wasn’t Caray’s only delightful moment. Every foul ball was “fisted”. Every fair ball was a “hot shot!”  In a game where there was no shortage of organic drama, Caray tried to infuse every call with instant phony drama rather than let the game speak for itself. By the time we were in extra innings, Ron Darling was spending more time trying to cover for Caray’s screwups than he was offering analysis. Which, while entertaining in its own right, almost makes one pine for Buck and McCarver. At least we’ve had more practice tuning them out.

There are three games today, all on TBS.  The only saving grace is that Chip Caray can only call one of them.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.