With the flurry of moves GM Billy Eppler made during the off-season, there was a sense of optimism among Angels fans. Maybe this year will be the year that Mike Trout and crew will get to the World Series and get Trout his long-awaited ring. From picking up prized international free agent Shohei Ohtani to adding the likes of Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart, the Angels were hoping to be Houston's competition in the AL West.
And it seemed like that would be the case at the beginning of the year, with the Angels off to a scorching 13-3 start. However, better competition and several injuries (including to Ohtani) have suddenly derailed the Angels' season. Currently in a six-game losing streak, the Los Angeles Angels have even been passed up in the standings by red-hot Oakland.
The Angels haven't been particularly good against the main competition, the Yankees and the Red Sox. In fact, the Angels are 1-11 against both AL East powers this season. Against Boston, the Angels were outscored, 49-12, in the season series as they got swept by Boston.
Another problem that the Angels have is the factor of age. Players like Albert Pujols (38), Ian Kinsler (36), Justin Upton (30), Kole Calhoun (30), and Luis Valbuena (32) constitute an aging lineup that are past or nearing the end of their primes. Mike Trout is having another historic season, but it doesn't help that players like Ian Kinsler contribute a paltry .278 OBP to the lineup or having Kole Calhoun contribute a .226 OBP.
The good news for the Angels is that Billy Eppler also did a little reloading on their farm system. Adding prospects like Kevin Maitan will help Mike Trout in the future if he sticks around. The Angels also have Top 100 prospects like Brandon Marsh and Griffin Canning to add in the future. All may be lost right now, but the Angels do have some backup in case things head south this season.
Two teams in last week's top five have taken a stumble. Can they recover? Who will step up to the plate and challenge their place in baseball hierarchy?
The Philadelphia Eagles finally did it! They toppled heavy favorite New England in Super Bowl 52 to win their first Super Bowl. Thanks to Nick Foles, the Eagles overcame numerous injuries to reach the top. What can they do for an encore?
In Russia is the biggest party the world is having right now. People from all around the world, from Germany to Brazil, are partying in celebration of the World Cup. Who's partying hard and who's feeling the blues?
Good: Russia: Starting off hot against Saudi Arabia and finishing off Egypt, the hosts are already advancing to the next round. They've scored eight goals in the process and have benefited from a paltry group. Maybe Putin has something to do with the team's luck, wink, wink...
Bad: Lionel Messi: The Argentinian superstar doesn't have a single goal in this World Cup. In fact, he missed a penalty kick against Iceland, resulting in a 1-1 draw. Now, Argentina's World Cup lives hang in the balance with the squad needing a win against Nigeria and an Iceland loss to help them advance.
Good: Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo has literally put the Portuguese squad on his back, scoring all of Portugal's goals in this World Cup. Granted, the one-man show can go so far. But it'll be an exciting spectacle to see how far Ronaldo can take Portugal.
Bad: Egypt: Mohamed Saleh, the superstar next in line to become Messi/Ronaldo-like, has the only goal for Egypt in the World Cup. The Egyptians had an easy draw for the World Cup, but have already been eliminated by the likes of surprising Russia and Uruguay.
Good: Mexico: Can Mexico make it to the last four this year? It seems likely as they stunned defending champion Germany, 1-0, in the opener. Goaltending and Javier Hernandez will be the keys for Mexico's run.
One team's hot and the others fall
When you play Major League Baseball!
It's all about who wins it all
When you play Major League Baseball!
The Minnesota Vikings saw a resurgence that even featured a miracle play in the playoffs. What do they need to do in order to get to the Super Bowl this season?
Last year, the New Orleans Saints were thisclose to advancing to the NFC Championship Game until Stefon Diggs happened. How can the Saints bring a second Super Bowl to the Big Easy?
The Arizona Cardinals had high hopes heading into last season, but were derailed by injuries and old age. What should they do for the future?
Can the Chicago Cubs usurp the Milwaukee Brewers from their NL Central perch? Is Seattle a legitimate threat to Houston in the AL West?
The World Cup is less than a week away, which means the world will be watching this spectacle. The common favorites (Germany, Spain, Argentina, and Brazil) will be there, but some notable absences (United States, Italy, and the Netherlands) will be felt. Who will make it to the finals and win it all.
Germany has a balanced attack. There isn't a single superstar on the team that stands out. Yet their all-around balance can prove to be a problem for teams considering there's no particular weakness(es) to exploit. If you're looking for a German player to watch, keep an eye on Manuel Neuer. The Golden Glove recipient will be tough for opponents to score on.
If Neymar and Brazil are to win the World Cup, it can't just be Neymar doing the work. Luckily, Brazil will have help in the form of Phillipe Coutinho and will hope Coutinho will be a success in the midfield. The Brazilians are hoping that a new manager (Tite) will bring a change of scenery for the team.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be someone to watch for Portugal. However, he'll be without much of assistance on the team as Portugal will have to rely on Ronaldo's brilliance to get him a World Cup.
Spain will look to rebound after a disappointing 2014 World Cup session. Controlling the pace of play will be key for the Spaniards along with the play of David Silva and recent call-up Alvaro Morata.
Like Germany, Switzerland has a fairly balanced team. Roy Hodgson has turned this team from an anonymous group into a force, propelling them all the way to the top ten in the world rankings. Can the Swiss live up to their ranking when the World Cup rolls around?
You know Argentina for Lionel Messi, but you should know that this may be his last chance at a World Cup. This may also be his best chance yet, for Argentina plays in a fairly favorable group. Argentina is strong at the forward position with the likes of Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Gonzalo Higuain carrying La Albiceleste.
France must not get overconfident in this World Cup. Otherwise, they may suffer a serious letdown this season. Olivier Giroud and the French have to play with a purpose in Russia.
Will this be the year Belgium breaks through? Romelo Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne will try and will the Belgian team to victory. Also watch for Thibaut Courtois in the World Cup; he is one of the more underrated goaltenders the World Cup has to offer.
Other squads to keep an eye on: England, Uruguay, South Korea, Egypt, Croatia, Poland, Mexico.
So who will win it all? I like the balance that Germany carries and Brazil always seems like a threat to go all the way. However, I'm inclined to go with Lionel Messi and Argentina. This has been the one trophy that has eluded Messi for his entire career. He and the Argentinian team will have enough hunger in them to win the World Cup.
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