WHO IS ELITE?

Barry Laminack: Breaking down the MLB teams -- who are the real contenders?

The Yankees will be among baseball's elite. Abbie Parr/Getty Images

It's Thursday, March 15 which means March Madness is officially underway and if you read my article from last week you know that I don't give a bleep, so let's talk some baseball!

I’ll do a division-by-division breakdown as we get close to opening day, and with a few key free agents still out on the open market, things could change a little between now and then.

For today's exercise, here are the categories we’ll be using to group teams:

Elite (90+ wins) - The best of the best. Any of these teams could end up in the World Series.

Good (80-89 wins) - These are the teams that should be in the wild card hunt all year.

Undecided (75-85 wins) - Teams that could end up being in the hunt for a wild card, but could also not reach 80 wins. These teams either have health or rotation questions (or both).

Close (65-75 wins) - Teams that are in the midst of a rebuild but could be good in the next couple of years.

Bad (<65 wins) - Teams that are starting a rebuild (or should be starting a rebuild) and are going to suck for the next 4-plus years.

Elite

Chicago Cubs

Cleveland Indians

Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers

New York Yankees

Washington Nationals

Good

Arizona Diamondbacks

Boston Red Sox

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Angels

Milwaukee Brewers

Minnesota Twins

St. Louis Cardinals

Undecided

New York Mets

Seattle Mariners

San Francisco Giants

Texas Rangers

Toronto Blue Jays

Close

Atlanta Braves

Chicago White Sox

Philadelphia Phillies

Bad

Baltimore Orioles

Cincinnati Reds

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

Miami Marlins

Oakland Athletics

Pittsburgh Pirates

Tampa Bay Rays

San Diego Padres

Last year I made a pretty bold prediction in saying that the Rockies would make the playoffs (I had one guy tell me I didn’t know sh-- about baseball and should be kicked off the radio because of this prediction), so what’s my bold prediction for this year?

You’ll have to wait a week or two.

 

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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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