From the Bleachers: MLB Teams Most Likely to Return to Playoffs, Detailing the Struggles of the Blues, and Who’s the Frontrunner for NBA MVP?

Credit to Alyssa Barber

Dominic Hoscher, editor, points to the field on the bleachers of FHN.

By Dominic Hoscher, Editor

The month of March is here, which means that the return of baseball is nearly upon us. Meaningful games still won’t be played until the end of the month, but MLB teams have already hit the fields for spring training as most have played around six exhibition games. For now, the goal of these teams is to figure out what their 25-man roster will look like at the beginning of the regular season. Once this is done, the goal shifts to something much bigger: to make a run at the playoffs.

Teams that made it to the postseason in 2017 like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros appear to be near-locks to play meaningful baseball in October yet again this season. Both teams boast two of the league’s strongest overall rosters and have the experience to make another deep run. But what about the teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season? Some of baseball’s top organizations missed the postseason last October, but after strong offseasons many of them look to be in prime position to either take their division or a wild card spot. Who are these teams, and which of them are most likely to complete these tasks?

The phrase “it’s a long season” can apply to any sport, but in this case it is most directly associated with the NHL. Through the months of October and December, the St. Louis Blues had the look of a team that could make a serious run at the Stanley Cup. A few months later, St. Louis is on the outside of the playoff hunt looking in. With just over a month left to play in the regular season, is there enough time left for the Blues to rediscover their early-season flare?

As the NHL season dwindles down, so does the NBA’s. The debate over who should win the MVP in the NBA only heats up, however, as the number of remaining games continues to shrink. While fans will make their cases for a number of players, there can only be one winner of the award. Who is most deserving of being the one winner? In the 12th edition of “From the Bleachers”, each of these questions will be answered.



It’s been a long winter for the MLB and its’ fans, but baseball is finally back. Or it is for the most part. Spring training is underway and the start of the regular season is just around the corner, with games beginning on March 29. Before then, each team will evaluate where their team stands after an offseason of transactions within each organization. The teams that have made a majority of these moves are those who missed out on making the playoffs last season and looked to improve prior to the start of the next season’s campaign. The following are the two teams that have made the most monumental moves during the offseason that will likely carry them back to playing October baseball.

The San Francisco Giants have been the most successful organization in all of baseball ever since 2010. They’ve made four trips to the playoffs during that span, while also winning the World Series a total of three times out of those four trips. This success has come to a halt in recent years, though, as the Giants are coming off a 2017 season that saw them finish dead-last in the NL West with a record of 64-98. The team needed a strong offseason, and the front office delivered exactly that.

The first hole that needed to be attended to was at third base, and the Giants were able to address this issue on December 20 when they traded for longtime Tampa Bay Ray Evan Longoria. Next on the bucket list was acquiring a spark in the outfield. After San Francisco’s initial attempts to find the right man for the job failed with their top targets in Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich going elsewhere, the team shifted their attention over to Pittsburgh where they moved for 5 time All Star Andrew McCutchen on January 15. With these two moves, and also shoring up the bullpen with the signing of reliever Tony Watson, the Giants had one of the strongest offseasons in the majors. The question is, can this translate to success on the field? 

Who has a greater chance of returning to the MLB playoffs in 2017?

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As of now, all signs point to the answer of this being yes. While they play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball as Los Angeles, Colorado, and Arizona all made it to the playoffs last season and San Diego is also coming off a solid winter, the Giants now boast a deep lineup with the acquisitions of Longoria and McCutchen there to even out an offense that already consists of Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. Then they go off an add one of the better relief pitchers in the game in Watson to a pitching staff that has Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto in the rotation. It will be a challenge in a division as tight as the NL West, but if each of the new arrivals can make an impact on their new team, then manager Bruce Bochy’s Giants should be in line to earn a spot in the playoffs.

Sticking on the west coast but crossing over to the American League, the Los Angeles Angels have been one of the more frustrating teams in baseball over the past couple of years. They’ve signed some of the biggest names in the game in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but neither truly lived up to their massive contracts. Los Angeles then went off and traded for Andrelton Simmons from the Braves in 2016, but they still had no postseason appearance to show for it afterwards. Offseason after offseason, the Angels made their moves but never ended up winning much of anything.

That was until the most recent offseason, where Los Angeles both stayed in the states and went all of the way to Japan to improve their team. Their first move was to sign the number one international player on the market in Shohei Otani, who not only provides the Angels with another option for the lineup but also the rotation. Just a few days later, they traded for star second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers and signed shortstop Zack Cozart who is coming off an All Star season with the Cincinnati Reds.

Los Angeles’ goal entering the offseason was to steady their rotation and strengthen the lineup so it’s not just the Mike Trout show in Anaheim. While Otani is a giant question mark in the rotation, he’s still ranked as the number one prospect on and has enough talent to lead Los Angeles’ rotation. In terms of the offense, Otani will be slotted right into the DH spot to hit around Trout, Simmons, Kinsler, and Cozart as well as corner outfielders Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton. In both the rotation and lineup, the Angels look to be not just a team that could grab a wild card berth, but also make a deep run come October.


A few months ago at the beginning of December, the St. Louis Blues looked like one of the strongest teams in the entire NHL. They were sitting comfortably in third in the league in points with 35, only trailing the Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning. The line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz were all scoring at will and performing at All Star levels. In goal, the duo of Jake Allen and Carter Hutton were lights-out allowing just 70 total goals through 26 games. The Blues had the makings of being one of the league’s top contenders, they just needed to carry the momentum through the rest of the season.

The problem is that St. Louis hasn’t been able to keep this up and continue playing at the high level that they were on in the early stages of the season. They’ve dropped out of the playoff picture as their 74 points are only good enough for ninth in the Western Conference. How could a team that was doing as well as the Blues were through December be doing so poorly now? 

What is the biggest reason as to why the Blues have struggled recently?

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First off, the offense has seen a steady decline ever since Schwartz went down with an injury that saw him miss time all of the way up until late January. A team that was once fifth in goals for (on Dec. 1) has now sank to the bottom in the West, tallying the fourth fewest goals in the conference. Schenn, who was top 10 in points for much of the early parts of the season, is now outside of the top 25 in the category with 57. St. Louis’ most dangerous player in Tarasenko has been rather quiet in front of goal for his standards, ranking 22nd in goals having 26 on the year. To go along with the team’s stars, veterans such as Alexander Steen, Patrik Berglund, Paul Stastny and Vladimir Sobotka have all had disappointing years, which has led to the Blues trading Stastny to Winnipeg and moving Berglund to the bench.

It hasn’t just been the offense that’s lost their way, but the defense and goaltenders have also had their fair share of struggles. During the team’s seven game losing streak in February, the Blues gave up over four goals in five of those games, including a performance that saw both Allen and Hutton allow eight to close out the streak. While most of the blame will be placed on the goalies, defenders like Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko have failed to make much of an impact against opposing attackers over the past few months. With just over a month left to play before the first puck drops for the playoffs, St. Louis fans have a right to be worried about their team’s chances.

While they can and probably should be slightly worried, there is still time left in the regular season for the Blues to rediscover their early season form. St. Louis has more than enough talent on both the offensive and defensive ends to go on a late-season winning streak, and Allen was at his best from March on last season and is fully capable of getting back on that level when his team needs him most. For each of these three factors to take stride, head coach Mike Yeo will have to cultivate his team to get the season back on track as he’s done many times in the past. Yeo did it with Minnesota, and did it last year with St. Louis in his first season with the team. Despite their recent struggles, there is still enough left on the table to remain optimistic in this Blues team.



The most popular debate each year in the NBA is who should win the MVP award. Last year, it was Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook who won the award for the first time in his career. There were many who argued against it, but if averaging a triple-double isn’t MVP-worthy than I’m not sure what is. Most of those who were on the opposing side of the argument would have casted their vote for the shooting guard that goes by “The Beard” down in Houston: James Harden. They may not have gotten what they wanted last season, but through February it’s looking likely that their man will win the award this time around.

Harden is the only player in the league that is currently averaging over 30 points per game (31.3 PPG). That total is just a bit lower than Westbrook’s MVP winning 31.6 PPG last season, but if Harden is able to top it in the closing months of the season it will be the most in a single year since Kevin Durant’s 32.0 PPG in 2013/14. The Rockets’ star guard’s points average may be the statistic that grabs the most attention, but it hasn’t just been his direct offensive output that has impressed the NBA world the most. It’s also been what he’s been able to do overall on the offensive side of the court. 

At the beginning of March, is James Harden the most deserving candidate for NBA MVP?

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Only two players are averaging more assists per game game than Harden and his 8.9 APG (Westbrook with 10.3 and LeBron’s 9.0). The average puts him just ahead of fellow Rocket Chris Paul, who has 8.2 APG. Heading over to the advance statistics, Harden ranks fourth in terms of individual player efficiency with a 30.8 rating on While we talk about being efficient, there’s no better way to describe Harden’s season from beyond the arc than through using this term as he’s averaging a healthy 38.3%. From points to even his defensive stats, the 6-time All Star is having one of, if not the best seasons from an individual standpoint.

That’s not where his argument ends, however. Voters will also be looking at the impact Harden’s made on his team throughout the season. Based on Houston’s record, it appears as if this impact is a significant one. Harden has led the Rockets to the best record not just in the Western Conference, but in the entire NBA at 48-13. Adding on to this, when all three of Harden, Paul, and center Clint Capela are in the lineup, Houston has a record of 30-1. That’s a remarkable .967 win percentage.

The value of James Harden is not just shown in the leaderboards, which he is usually on top of anyway, but also in his team’s record. Harden has put together a season that has seen him start in the All Star Game, that’s put him ahead of some of the biggest names in basketball in multiple statistical categories, and that’s made his Houston Rockets one of the top teams in the NBA. In an award that’s titled “Most Valuable Player”, there is no player that is more deserving than “The Beard.”