The Evster figures out who you should root for in the MLB playoffs

The Evster figures out who you should root for in the MLB playoffs

Even though most baseball fans could not tell you one player on the Oakland A's, people are going bonkers for this year's major league playoffs. Of the four teams left (the Cardinals, Dodgers, Red Sox and Tigers), all are legitimate clubs with rich histories, dope uniforms and no Chad Durbins. It's nice that we get to see October baseball without any of those newfangled weirdo teams like the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins and Mets.

Who should we root for? I have no idea. Absolutely no idea. Up until a week ago I would've said the Montreal Expos, but since then I've seen a couple walk-off homers, a near no-hitter and a guy that looks and plays exactly like Shane Victorino. After a 162-game regular season snooze-a-thon, postseason baseball has roped me back in. So let's break down each club: analyzing their fans, their cities, their history and the guys who actually play baseball -- and then finally let my wife decide who we should root for because let's face it, she makes all of my important life decisions anyway.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Fans: The self-proclaimed "Best Fans in Baseball" are always optimistic, eternally loyal and absolutely insufferable. Every person from the Midwest is so nice it's disgusting. This lady Beverly who I work with (originally from Iowa, or Indiana, or some place where people drink milk with dinner) constantly brings baked goods into the office and leaves these little notes that say stuff like, "From my kitchen to your belly! Have a Terrific Tuesday!" and "Got the working week blues? Here's to a Wonderful Wednesday!" WHATEVER BEV, YOU NYMPH. 

The City: I don't know one human being who has technically been to St. Louis -- except for the Griswolds ("Roll 'em up!") who passed through on the way to Wally World. The town is a total snooze. Besides the Gateway Arch, the Mighty Mississipp and Anheuser Busch's headquarters, what do they have? NOTHING. Actually, they have really good ribs there too. And Darius Miles. Wow, St. Louis might be amazing. No wonder Scott Rolen wanted to go back there. 

Celebrity Fan: Jon Hamm is originally from St. Louis, but he's currently recovering from throat surgery so I doubt he'll make it to any of the games. Behind him on the Cards' fans depth chart is Maya Angelou (borrrrinnngggg), Scott Bakula (amazzzzinnnggggg), Chuck Berry (still alive!), Nelly (corny), Andy Cohen (nope!) and Tina Turner (BING BONG).

Coolest Cardinal Ever: Obviously Ozzie Smith is the man, but Vince Coleman and Keith Hernandez did way more coke than The Wizard and we all know that doing tons of coke = being really cool. But the coolest Cardinal of all time, despite his lack of a coke habit, is Willie McGee. Two-time batting champ, 1985 NL MVP and the closest thing the game has ever seen to a half-man/half-anteater. Love you Willie! Love those ears! Love that you wore #51! What a stupid number.

People Who Actually Play Baseball: The Cards are loaded with players you've actually heard of: Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Oneofthe Molinas, as well as the person with the shortest name in the history of names, Jon Jay. Try saying his name out loud: "JonJay." It's even shorter than Mark May. "JonJay." "MarkMay." "JonJay!" "MarkMay." "JonJay!" "MarkM'okay that's enough." Also their first baseman Matt Adams easily weighs over 400 pounds. This team is super adorable.

Let's kick it over to my wife to see what she thinks of St. Louis.

My Wife's Take: "Never been there, it's probably a fine place. Whatever. But I never liked how people who went to Washington University thought they were so great. Maybe it was just one person. It’s been pointed out to me that Jon Hamm is a fan, and any reason to see more of him is okay with me, so I’m pulling for St. Louis to get to the World Series and lose."

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Fans: An entire population of good-looking idiots trying to break into reality television. (SHAMELESS PLUG WORTH CLICKING ON). I was in LA last March and while strolling on the boardwalk/promenade/whatever they call that thing along Venice Beach, I overheard this ridiculous conversation between a chick rollerblading and a dude doing pushups with no shirt on: 

CHICK: Oh, hey Brad.

DUDE: Oh, hey Jen. Whutt're you up to?

CHICK: Oh, y'know, just rollerblading.

DUDE: That's cool.

I honestly don't remember what happened next. My mind was so blown away by how stupid their conversation was (PLUS THE FACT THAT SHE WAS ACTUALLY ROLLERBLADING) that I just stood there for ten minutes with my mouth open, catching flies. And Venice Beach has a lot of flies (and a lot of homeless people). Californians are nimrods. Mexicans are cool, though. I'll give 'em that.

The City: If you can overlook the glitz and the glamour and the fact that Californians use the word "rad" unironically, LA is actually a pretty cool town. It's got loads of palm trees and a beautiful ocean and the tacos are absolutely insane. Still, all that sun can't be good for anything. Look what it did to Will Smith.

Celebrity Fan: Alyssa Milano has dated like 50 different baseball players. Frankly, I always thought she was a bit overrated (not during the Who's the Boss days, obviously she was dope during the Who's the Boss days). But recently she's been getting out-Alyssa Milano'ed by Brooke Burke, who is essentially the same person. I also have no idea how Magic Johnson is still alive.

People Who Actually Play Baseball: Do you have any idea how low Clayton Kershaw's ERA was this year? Do you have any clue? 1.83. ONE POINT EIGHT THREE. Is ERA still a thing? Because that's really low. Since 1964, only Greg Maddux, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Ron Guidry, Vida Blue and Pedro Martinez have posted lower ERAs. (SOMEONE SHOULD PROBABLY FACT CHECK THAT BUT I'M PRETTY PROUD OF MYSELF FOR DOING ACTUAL RESEARCH.) The Dodgers also have Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, that Cuban guy, Zack Greinke, Brian Wilson, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, GEEZ THEY SURE DO HAVE A LOT OF GOOD PLAYERS, and Nick Punto.

Coolest Dodger Ever: It's Kirk Gibson. No doubt. His spiky, balding hairdo? Unstoppable. Forget about his walk-off blast vs. Eck, only he and Bruce Willis could've pulled off that hair. Also that walk-off!

Back to my wife!

My Wife's Take: "Eh, it’s LA. A place I would never want to live, and philosophically can’t support. So I can’t really get behind the team. But more importantly, the combination of sounds in Yasiel Puig’s name really gets to me and I don’t want to listen to people making those sounds with their mouths."

BOSTON RED SOX

Fans: Amazing how in one short decade, Boston fans went from lovable losers to intolerable pricks. "Boston Strong?" Shut up. Between their stupid accents and this dude I know who posts pics on Facebook of his fat, dumb baby, Boston fans might be (and I said "MIGHT BE") worse than Cowboys fans. HOW ABOUT THAT, 700 LEVEL READERS?

The City: Beautiful city! Clean, colonial cobblestone streets, extremely walkable downtown, charming parks and gardens -- it's a shame it's filled with so many blowhards.

Celebrity Fan: You do realize that at some point in the next few days we're going to see Ben Affleck and his kids on TV, right? I don't know why Ben Affleck has such a bad rep, he seems to be a nice guy, makes semi-decent movies and genuinely likes baseball. But why doesn't he ever hang out with Matt Damon? Something's not right there. And what's the deal with Stephen King's ENORMOUS cranium? Something's not right there either.

Coolest Red Sox Player Ever: Shane Victorino.

People Who Actually Play Baseball: Big Papi, Victorino and those two Japanese relievers are the only cool guys on this team. Everyone else -- especially Dustin Pedroia -- can take a shit. Also, I don't care who pays his salary, Jonathan Papelbon will always be a Red Sock to me, and that guy sucksssssssss.

Let's hear from Mrs. Evster!

My Wife's Take: "Obvs, ugh. Full disclosure, I’m a Yankees fan. And not a bandwagon Yankees fan. My dad grew up next to the stadium, I’m from NY, and I own a Yankees (and Knicks) Barbie. So, no I don’t want to watch the Red Sox and they annoy me. But it really comes down to their sloppiness, sartorially speaking. They pride themselves on being the anti-Yankees when it comes to beards, hair length, uniform tightness, etc. But you know what? That doesn’t make you cool – it just makes you look dirty and gross. And I have nothing against beards, in fact I prefer them. But these beards, and greasy hair, and stupid rope necklaces need to go."

I agree, honey. Sartorially of course.

Anyone else have to look that word up? Who am I even talking to?

DETROIT TIGERS

Fans: AN ENTIRE CITY ON SUICIDE WATCH. 

The City: The Motor City has become the undeniable armpit of America. There's a chance Detroit has been on fire for the last six months and no one is doing anything to stop it.

Celebrity Fans: It's a shame the A's lost, because Oakland has a major hip-hop triumvirate: MC Hammer, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and wait for it ... Tony! Toni! Toné! Detroit of course has the most embarrassing musician of all time, Kid Rock, as well the best rapper alive, Jalen Rose.

Coolest Tiger Ever: No disrespect to the original Beastie Boy, Hank Greenberg, but Miguel Cabrera is the coolest Tiger ever. I know, I know, "BUT WHAT ABOUT LOU WHITAKER, EV?" Sure, Sweet Lou and his little dipsy-do double plays were unbelievable, but Miguel Cabrera WON THE TRIPLE CROWN last year! I do not understand why we're still not talking about that. Every single day the lead story on The 700 Level should be "Hey everybody, remember when Miggy Cabrera won the Triple Crown last year?" HE LED THE LEAGUE IN ALL THREE MAJOR STATISTICAL CATEGORIES. Not even Hank Greenberg or Ty Cobb or RECORD SKIP -- (fact check shows that Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown in 1909) -- WHATEVER, TY COBB! No one could stand you when you were alive! So stick it!

People Who Actually Play Baseball: Am I the only person who is fascinated by Max Scherzer's two different colored eyes? The other night they showed him in the dugout and I paused my DVR for like a half an hour to stare at him. I would also pay big bucks to watch Prince Fielder eat a meatball hoagie. And Justin Verlander has the tightest little apple butt I've ever seen.

Over to you, honeybutt!

My Wife's Take: "Now here's a team I can get behind. Great history, like a “real” baseball team from days of yore. Great hats. Sad city. That's who I'm goin' with. The Dee-troit Tigers."

ME TOO, LOVEBUG.

Let's go Tigers!

Hooray for baseball!

Hooray for marriage!

Sorry, Tony Toni Toné, Motown Philly back again!

Follow The Evster @TVMWW.

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The expansion draft, who to protect and best guesses at Vegas' selection.

Dougherty
We have and will continue to discuss in detail the entry draft, but we haven't talked much about the June 21 expansion draft. That's what we're doing today.

The expansion draft will affect the Flyers' plans this summer because they will be losing a player to Vegas, but the impact will be a minimum. They will not lose any core pieces.

How the expansion draft works: Teams have two options in protecting players. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. The expectation is the Flyers will protect seven forwards, three D-men and a goalie.

There are six forwards and two defensemen who are obvious protections: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have decisions to make on who the seventh forward and third defenseman he protects. Then there is the goalie protection.

That leaves forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise; and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Losing any of those six forwards would not be major blows to the Flyers. Now on the blue line, it gets interesting. My prediction is that the Flyers will choose to protect Manning with the hope Vegas takes MacDonald's contract.

Probably isn't going to happen.

Of the goalies, I don't think Vegas will have any interest in Anthony Stolarz, especially since he tore his right MCL in April. So that should cut the question here. That would mean the Flyers protect Michal Neuvirth, whom they signed to a two-year extension.

So what is my best guess at who Vegas plucks from the Flyers?

I think it will be a toss-up between Laughton and Raffl. I suspect the Flyers will re-sign Weal before the draft and then protect him, or have a verbal understanding they'll sign him after the expansion draft. Both parties appeared interested in him coming back.

My pick? Let's go with Laughton, a former first-round pick who turns 23 on Tuesday.

Laughton hasn't panned out as the Flyers hoped. He spent last season in Lehigh Valley and both Leier and Weal earned call-ups over him. I think that is a telling sign here.

So I'm predicting Laughton going to Vegas, where a change of scenery helps him out and the Golden Knights get a young forward that can slot into a third- or fourth-line role and still has upside.

Hall
There's a lot to the expansion draft — tons of possibilities and things can still change before June 21 that could impact the Flyers' decisions.

Albeit unlikely, Steve Mason could re-sign, which would obviously affect the Flyers' protection plan at goalie. Assuming that doesn't happen, I think the Flyers protect Neuvirth, especially considering Stolarz's health is in question this offseason and he may not be the true goalie of the future. Stolarz is also a pending restricted free agent, so he'll have to receive his qualifying offer from the Flyers before the expansion draft.

Now, let's say the Flyers go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen approach.

The blueliners are pretty clear: Gostisbehere and Gudas will be protected, as it comes down to MacDonald and Manning. I feel the organization thinks a bit more of MacDonald and his versatility compared to Manning, whose two-year deal last summer was likely strategic on the Flyers' part in planning for this expansion draft.

As for the forwards, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Filppula and Couturier are staying put. I believe Weal will be re-signed and protected.

Ultimately, I could see Raffl being Vegas' choice. At 28 years old, he's not super young or inexperienced, but also not old by any means, and the winger can play all four lines because of a well-rounded game that complements different styles.

Raffl's injuries last season (abdominal, knee) may cause red flags. At the same time, the Golden Knights should be intrigued by the two seasons prior in which Raffl played all 82 games of 2015-16 (and was a plus-9) after scoring a career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

A loss of Raffl wouldn't be ideal, but not as damaging given the Flyers appear to be gaining more depth and youth at forward.

Paone
June 21's expansion draft will be the biggest wild card of the NHL summer. And that's not just some corny pun because it involves an expansion team from Vegas.

It'll be the first piece of player movement during the offseason, coming before the entry draft and free agency. But since it will be the first piece of player movement of the offseason, it will help mold how the Flyers and the rest of the teams around the league approach their summers.

None of the Flyers' "big guns" will be on the move and my gut tells me the Flyers will be protecting Neuvirth as they want him to shoulder the starting load this coming season.

We don't know exactly what Vegas is looking for in the expansion draft because general manager George McPhee is keeping that close to the vest. But if I'm the Golden Knights' GM, youth is at the top of my wish list.

That leaves three Flyers to stick out in my mind — Weal (25), Cousins (turns 24 in June) and Laughton (turns 23 on Tuesday).

After the sparkplug Weal was down the stretch with eight goals and four assists in 23 games, the Flyers should reach a new deal with the UFA and keep him in Philadelphia.

That leaves Cousins and Laughton.

My instinct tells me Vegas will gamble (sorry, still getting used to this whole Vegas having a team thing) on Laughton, a former first-round pick.

There's a reason he was a first-rounder in 2012. The guy can play, even if he hasn't shown it consistently in Philadelphia. But remember he's been yanked back and forth between the AHL and NHL on numerous occasions and when he's been with the big club, he's either been in the press box as a scratch or been tossed back and forth between center and wing. That constant instability in both level and position can be detrimental to a young player. Vegas would give Laughton a fresh start, a fresh home and some fresh stability.

Plus, I know there are only so many protections to go around, but Cousins is a guy the Flyers should want to keep around. Just 16 points (six points, 10 assists) in 60 games isn't good enough offensively, but not many Flyers were great offensively last season. Everyone needs to be better there. But Cousins has that pest intangible that can be so effective, especially in the rugged Metropolitan Division, where basically every game is a rivalry game. It's a good quality to have.

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Skidding Phils take on veteran Bronson Arroyo

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Skidding Phils take on veteran Bronson Arroyo

Phillies (16-30) vs. Reds (23-24)
4:05 p.m. on TCN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Tim Adleman and the Reds shut down the Phillies in Friday night's series opener, dealing the Phillies a 5-2 defeat. It was the Phillies' 21st loss in 26 games (see full story).

Jerad Eickhoff takes the ball for the Phillies on Saturday, trying to get both the team and his own season back on track. Veteran Bronson Arroyo takes the start for the Reds.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Worst in baseball
The loss on Friday paired with the Marlins' win over the Angels gave the Phillies sole possession of the worst record in baseball. 

The loss to the Reds was enough to make manager Pete Mackanin call a team meeting with the Phillies hitting a definitive low at 16-30. The 2016 squad didn't fall 14 games under .500 for the first time until Sept. 2. The Phillies are 5-18 in May and have scored 86 runs compared to 131 by opponents. 

Many of the games recently haven't even been close. Six of the losses this month were by at least five runs. The team brought the tying run to the plate on Friday, but it was behind 5-0 and had just one hit going into the ninth. 

The offense has gone silent in the last six games, scoring no more than two runs each time out. In five of their last six, the Phillies have faced a starter with an ERA above 5.00 who proceeded to throw at least five innings and give up one run or fewer. Adleman was the latest to victimize the Phils (see story).

The bright side? The upcoming schedule is much more palatable for the squad. After the Reds, the Phillies face the Marlins, Giants and Braves for 10 games. Those three teams have a combined record of 57-85 this year and the Phillies went 5-0 against the Marlins and Braves in April.

2. 10th time's the charm?
Nine starts into his second full MLB season, Eickhoff hasn't found the right stuff ... or a win. In 51 2/3 innings, he's 0-5 with 4.70 ERA. 

Why the slow start? First off, Eickhoff had some control issues. He's gone from a more than palatable 1.9 to a less stellar 3.1 walks per nine innings. Beyond dishing out free passes, he has a 1.43 WHIP, up from 1.16 last season. Still, his 3.77 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) indicates he shouldn't have struggled quite this much. 

Looking further into the numbers, Eickhoff has allowed more infield and bunt hits this season than he did on a rate basis last year. He's induced less weak contact, which could be part of his issue. Still, he's thrown 300 MLB innings over 50 starts and has a 3.66 ERA. It's hard to believe his true talent level isn't closer to his 3.65 ERA over 197 1/3 innings last year than his out-of-character 4.70 mark this season.

He faced the Reds just once before, taking a loss in the Phillies' second game of the year. It seems a while ago now, but Eickhoff started the year with three quality starts, including a two-run, six-strikeout game over 6 2/3 in Cincinnati. The Reds' batters have four extra-base hits against him and he's allowed home runs to Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett. Gennett's HR came as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

3. Arroyo back in action
You're forgiven if you didn't think Arroyo was still in baseball. He was injured and didn't pitch in either the 2015 or 2016 season. Despite being a non-entity on the field, he was still traded twice, going from the Diamondbacks to the Braves to the Dodgers, who immediately released him. 

At 40 years old, Arroyo is easily hittable now. The right-hander never threw very hard but now tops out at 87 mph, averaging 83-84 with his fastball. Like many soft-tossers, he constantly uses his off-speed stuff. He's heavily reliant on his curveball and slider, both of which are in the 70s. 

Hitters against Arroyo have been home run happy with 15 dingers this year over just 46 2/3 innings. Those 2.9 HR per nine innings are near three times as many as Eickhoff, who has struggled with the long ball at times over the past few seasons. The 15 home runs play a large part in his 6.75 ERA as batters hit plenty of flyballs vs. Arroyo. It doesn't help that he has a 1.479 WHIP. 

Among current Phillies, only Freddy Galvis (1 for 7) and Andres Blanco (1 for 3) have faced him. His career against the Phillies dates all the way back to three starts in 2000. Over 14 games (13 starts), he's 4-7 with a 5.14 ERA in 77 innings against the Phils. He's just the second starter after Bartolo Colon to pitch at Citizens Bank Park this season that also faced the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.

Arroyo is fourth among active pitchers in starts and fifth in innings pitched. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Moved into the leadoff spot on Friday, Odubel Herrera put together a few strong at-bats, finally coming through with a hit in the ninth inning to snap an 0-for-13 stretch.

Reds: Scott Schebler hit his 14th home run of the season off Aaron Nola in the second inning Friday. In just his third season, Schebler had just 12 homers in his career before 2017.

5. This and that
• Howie Kendrick made his third rehab appearance in Triple A Lehigh Valley Friday, going 1 for 4. He played all nine innings in left field. The IronPigs won, 5-4, with Nick Williams hitting a home run. Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro each had two-hit nights.

• The Phillies haven't won a season series vs. the Reds since 2012 (10-18 since the start of 2013). However, the Reds are 16-30 at CBP and haven't won a series in Philadelphia since Aug. 2006.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, on April 18 this year, Arroyo became the first Reds pitcher older than 40 to win a start since Boom-Boom Beck beat the Phillies, 8-1, on May 31, 1945.

• The Reds are the only team in baseball with four hitters (Votto, Schebler, Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall) who have at least 10 home runs.