Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 3/27/14

  • March 27, 2014

No excuses. Armed with the highest paid roster of talent in the game, it’s World Series or bust for the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers. But owning the wealthiest lineup in the game doesn’t guarantee success. The Dodgers might be the favorite to win it all, but being the chalk doesn’t translate into automatic success.

There are still plenty of things that could derail the Dodgers express. Injuries can ruin the hopes of any team, and LA fans are already crossing their fingers there’s nothing seriously wrong with Clayton Kershaw’s back. There’s also chemistry, as we’ve seen many loaded teams blow up because of distractions in the clubhouse. Along those lines, the Dodgers need to make sure they minimize any issues and keep their focus where it belongs.

But this team is really loaded, there’s no doubt about that. Assuming good health, the pitching staff is very strong. Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are a dynamite first three. The back end of the rotation  is less imposing, but all the Dodgers really need from their 4-5 starters are innings and a chance to win the game. The bullpen could be exceptional, particularly in end game scenarios with Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson.

There are bats galore, but there also a few iffy spots in the everyday lineup. Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez should be sure things. But Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford need to stay on the field, which isn’t a sure thing. Yasiel Puig has incredible talent but needs to grow up. LA needs another good year from Juan Uribe and I’ll call 2B a question mark. Considering that Andre Ethier is presently the fourth OF, it’s safe to say that the Dodgers have some legitimate depth.

I don’t necessarily agree with the consensus that the Dodgers are the best team money has bought. The Cardinals aren’t going anywhere and the Nationals are loaded as well. But there is zero question that this is a playoff team, and anything less than a convincing NL West title would be a huge disappointment. Barring disaster, the Dodgers should win at least 90 games and will be a very tough out come October.

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2-0 in baseball on Thursday and a push with Louisiana Tech on the hardwood. My April baseball special is underway now, as this last handful of days in March is included. The cost is $600 through April 30, and that covers all my plays. There’s also a guarantee of a net profit of at least five units, based on one unit per play, or the service is free until such time as that minimum goal is obtained. Subscribe now by utilizing the “buy now” feature on this page, and then click on “April Baseball Special” to get rolling. You can also feel free to email me at cokin@cox.net.

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The free play on Fresno State was technically a winner at the posted line of -6.5, but it was -7 almost everywhere by the morning, so I’m grading it as a push. Here’s one for this evening from the quartet of Sweet 16 Thursday games.

03/27 04:45 PM  CB   (813) BAYLOR (814) WISCONSIN

Take: (813) BAYLOR +3.5

Talk about coming back from the beyond to make a spectacular run! Baylor was basically dead in the water not so long ago. The Bears had lost eight of ten and appeared to be in complete disarray. That certainly is not the case anymore.

I really feel as though one result turned this season around for Baylor, and that was the comeback double OT win against Kansas State. The Bears then followed that up with an overtime win over Oklahoma, and the team has been on fire ever since.

The big difference for Baylor has been on defense. This team was always outstanding from an athletic standpoint. But they were also a soft basketball team with a penchant for coming up empty when it really mattered. The Bears have erased that tendency with their late season surge, and one could make a strong argument they’ve been the most impressive team in the entire tourney field through the first two rounds.

Baylor is obviously going to have to be at its best to advance tonight. Wisconsin is, as always, brilliantly coached by Bo Ryan. The Badgers showed what they were made of last weekend against Oregon. The Ducks were fast breaking their way to easy buckets throughout the first half, but Ryan made the right moves at halftime and took Oregon right out of its game. Wisconsin was lucky to cover the spread in that game, but good fortune had nothing to do with them winning the game.

One huge key tonight is the Baylor three-point defense. This has not been a strong point for the Bears overall, and if the Badgers get open looks from outside, they’re likely to win. But that Baylor vulnerability has clearly been addressed, and the Bears have been much more diligent in shutting down the opposition from long range. If they’re able to so again here, Baylor will have a great chance to move on to the Elite Eight.

I see this game as being almost too tough to call from a straight up standpoint. But when factoring in the spread in a game that could well be a one-possession battle, there’s an edge to be had. I’ll go with Baylor plus the points in what should be a tremendous game.