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Saturday, April 13, 2013

2013 MLB Staff Predictions

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MLB Staff Predictions
Compiled by Wild on Sport MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman
Its that time of year! Time to poll a selection of our so called 'expert' staff to see what they think will happen during the 2013 MLB season. We will revisit these picks at the end of the season and see who came the closest. Please take all predictions with a large grain of salt; particularly the gentlemen on the far right.

Name
Aaron Dorman
Dennis Estes
Talyon Perry
Matt
McLaughlin
Joshua
Tarr
Kyle Kargel
Chris
Wentworth
NL East
Nationals
Nationals
Nationals
Nationals
Nationals
Nationals
Nationals
NL Cent
Cardinals
Reds
Cardinals
Reds
Cardinals
Reds
Reds
NL West
Dodgers
Giants
Dodgers
Giants
Giants
Dodgers
Rockies
NL WC1
Reds
Braves
Giants
Dodgers
Braves
Phillies
Mets
NL WC2
Braves
Cardinals
Pirates
Braves
Dodgers
Giants
Cubs
AL East
Blue Jays
Red Sox
Blue Jays
Blue Jays
Blue Jays
Orioles
Orioles
AL Cent
Tigers
Tigers
Tigers
Tigers
Indians
Tigers
Twins
AL West
Rangers
Angels
Angels
Angels
Angels
Angels
Rangers
AL WC1
Angels
Blue Jays
Rays
Rays
Tigers
White Sox
Yankees
AL WC2
Rays
Rangers
Royals
Rangers
Red Sox
Rangers
Astros
NL Pennant
Dodgers
Braves
Dodgers
Nationals
Nationals
Dodgers
Reds
AL Pennant
Angels
Angels
Angels
Tigers
Blue Jays
Tigers
Rangers
WS Winner
Angels
Angels
Dodgers
Tigers
Blue Jays
Tigers
Reds
NL MVP
Justin Upton
Joey Votto
Joey Votto
Bryce Harper
Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp
Juan Pierre
AL MVP
Mike Trout
Albert Pujols
Mike Trout
Mike Trout
Miguel Cabrera
Mike Trout
Alex Rodriguez
NL CY
Stephen Strasburg
Matt Cain
Clayton Kershaw
Stephen Strasburg
Matt Cain
Stephen Strasburg
Jorge de la Rosa
AL CY
Yu Darvish
Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
David Price
Al Alburquerque
NL ROY
Julio Teheran
Shelby Miller
Jose Fernandez
Jason
Jennings
Jose Fernandez
Adam Eaton
Todd
Hollandsworth
AL ROY
Wil Myers
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Aaron Hicks
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Wil Myers
Pat Listach

Notes About the Predictions:
First of all, those who tried to abstain from the predictions were instead rewarded “bold” predictions placed for them. This also gave Wild On Sports an extra opportunity to represent some unsung underdogs such as the Mets and (!!!) Yankees, who otherwise would have been shut out of predictions.

Amazingly, the Nationals are the only unanimous prediction. Even so, the Braves are expected to win the wild card four out of the seven times, including one pennant. Among the seven writers, only two predict an NL championship. The Dodgers and Angels are the most common pennant teams, in their respective leagues. Curiously, nobody predicts a WS repeat for the Giants.

In the NL, Matt Kemp and Joey Votto are the reliably regular MVP candidates. Matt McLaughlin buys into Bryce Harper’s upside. I would not be surprised if Harper won an MVP, but I picked Justin Upton since he has already produced an MVP-caliber season, he’s in his prime, and he’s finally free from the team that didn’t seem to like him very much. Chris Wentworth believes Juan Pierre still has some legs.

In the AL, incumbent Miguel Cabrera is the only non-Angel MVP predicted. Dennis Estes believes that Albert Pujols will benefit from his place in the Angels’ batting order. Everyone else is assuming the indignity afforded Mike Trout last year will be undone. After all, who will hit the Triple Crown this year? Vernon Wells? Maybe not! Chris Wentworth courageously believes in a big second half from A-Rod.

Personally I am surprised that two people picked Matt Cain to win the Cy Young, although he is one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. In the AL, I am the only writer to predict a first-time winner; I believe Yu Davrish’s final hot two months last year indicate a pitcher who has adjusted to MLB.

Rookie of the Year predictions are always interesting. Several writers are buying into the spring hype of Jackie Bradley and Jose Fernandez. Adam Eaton was a bold prediction…until he got hurt. If he plays 100 games, he could still be a candidate if he gets on base and takes advantage of Arizona’s ballpark. Wil Myers is a guy to watch for in the upcoming weeks; he can help the Rays right now as a slugging right-fielder.

Waiting for the Call

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Waiting for the Call
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

Every year, due to MLB’s complicated rules regarding service time and free agency, teams elect to keep a promising young player in AAA for reasons that have little to do with baseball. The new CBA rules will exacerbate this tendency as there is very little available compensation for free agents, meaning teams will do whatever they can to hold onto their young stars for as long as they can. Even a rich team like the Angels makes foolish decisions about roster construction: last year they waited to call up Mike Trout, too long it turned out as their 6-14 start pre-Trout was the difference between a playoff berth and October golf. Here are some players who will be called up shortly, or perhaps by June when they lose “Super Two” status:

1. Nolan Arenado, Rockies 3B- Arenado, 22, put aside questions about his commitment and effort with a great spring training, but the Rockies went with incumbent Chris Nelson instead. Although Nelson had a fine year last year, he has nowhere near the upside of Arenado, who is off to a great start in AAA. He’s 10-for-21 (.476) with 2 HR in his first 8 games there, and the Rockies should harbor any delusions about competing this year. Nelson is hitting over .300 in the early going, but he profiles long term as a utility-man, and at the very least he is not the kind of player to keep a top prospect down for very long. Arenado could be the next Coors-boosted hitting star. Or he could be Ian Stewart. But the Rockies have to find out.

2. Trevor Bauer, Indians RHP- Bauer would have been the Indians’ best starter (apologies to Justin Masterson, off to a fine start) were it not for Scott Kazmir’s miraculous comeback, and Brett Myers less-than-miraculous hold on another rotation spot. Bauer did get one start in place of Kazmir, and he was spotty, walking 7 batters in 5 IP, but even a team like Cleveland that has the offense to compete needs to see if Bauer can help them now. How disappointing would it be if Cleveland wasted a season because they were too busy giving chances to also-rans like Myers or Ubaldo Jimenez? Bauer may have some shaky starts here and there but he’s likely to show flashes of dominance right now, the kind that everyone else on the Indians (Masterson possibly excepted) can only dream of.

3. Gerrit Cole, Pirates RHP- Cole was the top pick in the draft two years ago, and he’s done nothing to hurt his status as a potential ace. He was given serious consideration for a call-up but ultimately the Pirates made the right decision to send him down to AAA. Cole had only one start in AAA last year and threw 59 IP in AA, so it made sense to give him more seasoning in the high minors. Also, there are a handful of lesser-but-still-interesting guys the Pirates have on hand, and they owe it to themselves to see if these less-than-sure-things can become complements to Cole, who might be as much of a sure-thing as pitching prospects get. I’m talking about Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson, not Jonathan Sanchez, who once threw a one-hitter but no longer has the ability to pitch for a major league team.

4. Travis D’Arnaud, Mets C- The Mets were seriously considering having d’Arnaud start the season in New York, and he had a strong spring, receiving raves from the coaches and pitching staff. However, two factors beyond the service time kept him in AAA: one, he is coming off a serious injury and the Mets wanted to make sure he is healthy. Two, the Mets have a full-time catcher on hand in John Buck, one they are paying $6 million, and even if they want to trade him, it makes sense to let him play for the Mets for a while. D’Arnaud has played in AAA, but his major league debut could be stalled until June depending on the status of Buck, who has suddenly turned into Mike Piazza for the first ten days of the season. Buck, who is slugging .824, has become only the fourth player to ever start the season with 19 RBI in the first 10 games; the others are Lou Gehrig, Manny Ramirez…and current Oriole Chris Davis. No matter what D’Arnaud does in hitter’s haven Las Vegas, the Mets need to let Buck continue to slug it out for them. He’ll either help them win games, or give them a piece that they can trade for a real prospect. But don’t be fooled; D’Arnaud is a good hitter and he’s the Mets’ catcher of the future.

5. Wil Myers, Rays OF- The prize of the James Shields trade, this trade was made not just with an eye towards the future, but with the goal of boosting their offense in the outfield this year. Myers was “Baseball America’s” Minor League Player of the Year after slugging 37 home runs in the high minors. The 22-year-old could give the Rays a second major young offensive star behind Evan Longoria, but with their payroll restrictions, they could ill afford to lose a year of service time. He’s off to a 9-for-27 start (.333) in seven games in AAA, and he’ll be called as soon as Tampa Bay is tired of pretending Sam Fuld is an everyday player. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Myers get a quick long-term deal that buys out some free agency years, like what they did for Matt Moore and Longoria.

6. Mike Olt, Rangers 3B- Olt is already 24 but he’s nominally blocked at the corners by Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland. The latter is hardly a real road-block, but nevertheless Olt was the subject of trade rumors all winter and hardly got consideration for the majors this spring. Olt may still be best served by a trade; his best position is third (he’s a strong defender) and his low-average, Three-True-Outcomes Approach (strikeouts, walks, Home Runs) would be less valuable at first base. He’d be an upgrade over Moreland, but you’ll just have to trust me as his 3-for-31 start in AAA isn’t going to get him a call-up anytime soon. Despites his readiness, there’s a chance Giancarlo Stanton or Andre Ethier is a Ranger before Olt is.

7. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers OF- Puig, a high-profile Cuban defector signed to a seven-year-deal last year, was just crazy-good in the spring, and the Dodgers were seriously considering calling him up if Carl Crawford wasn’t healthy. But Crawford has since played and performed well every day for the Dodgers. Puig was instead sent to AA, probably a smart move considering he had less than 100 PA anywhere in pro ball before this year. He hasn’t stopped hitting however, going 9-for-20 (.450) with 1 HR for AA Chattanooga. Before he can be called up, one of either Andre Ethier or Crawford will need to be dealt or injured. It’s still a good “problem” to have for the contending Dodgers.

8. Jurickson Profar, Rangers SS- 20-year-old phenom Profar is another Rangers stud with no place to play. His situation is slightly more complicated than Olt’s, as Profar is better but he’s also blocked by better players. Andrus is a premium defender at shortstop, who just got an eight-year deal, and Ian Kinsler is a perennially underrated asset at second base. Profar has a .438 OBP so far in AAA, showing that the last piece of his game-plate discipline-is firmly in place, but something has to give first with the Rangers. The most probably outcome, or at least the one that doesn’t involve a trade, is to have Kinsler move to first base and to slot Profar at second. Other scenarios involve trading him for a young outfielder like Stanton or Oscar Taveras. Personally, I am skeptical a talent as premium as Profar will be traded; the Rangers are going to find a place for him on the major league roster.

9. Tyler Skaggs, Diamondbacks LHP- Skaggs had a mediocre spring, thus losing out to Pat Corbin, who has less upside, in the battle for a rotation spot. Still, he’s ready for the majors. Skaggs was great in the high minors last year and he threw six shutout innings (4 K) in his first start of the season for AAA Reno. Arizona has a strange rotation clog, with only Ian Kennedy standing out as more than a mid-rotation starter, but about six or seven guys on the depth chart who are very solid and don’t deserve to be demoted to the bullpen. Injuries can and do happen. Brandon McCarthy, for instance, has never lasted a full major league season. Skaggs is the kind of pitcher whose performance may force Arizona’s hand. Or, as they did with Bauer, they can trade him for a minor league shortstop.

10. Zack Wheeler, Mets RHP- Wheeler had a nagging issue with a blister on his thumb last week, but even before then, the Mets feel that although he could pitch in the majors right now, he has some command issues that he is better off working through in AAA. The Mets must feel like they have a comfortable precedent considering they did the same thing with Matt Harvey, who fine-tuned his game in the minors for much of last year, before coming up to dominate for the Mets then and now. The Mets are essentially hoping that Wheeler works out his kinks in the minors and is ready not just to hold his own, but to THRIVE, in the majors. All indications are he’ll be worth the wait.

11. HONORABLE MENTION- Jonathan Singleton, Astros 1B- Singleton was all set to start for the Astros as their Opening Day first basemen…except he got busted for marijuana and is suspended for the season’s first 50 games. Instead of Singleton, the Astros will see if Chris Carter can hit over .220 and show enough power to overcome his limitations. Singleton might get some games in AAA when he returns just to log some time and shed rust, but it would be a huge surprise if he did not end the year as the Astros’ first basemen.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hoopshysteria: The Final Push

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Hoopshysteria: The Final Push
By Wild on Sports Analyst Talyon Perry

With just under a week left in the regular season the Jazz and Lakers are still fighting for the 8th seed in the West. Currently the Lakers lead by one game with both teams having 3 remaining games (Lakers play the Spurs and Thunder in their last 2 games). I talked about this last week so I won't go into further details but I am confident that the Lakers will still pull it off.

In Chicago, the Bulls finally snapped the Knicks 13 game streak dispute Carmelo going for 36pts and 19. The Knicks lost the game because they only had 8 fast break points to Chicago's 16. With an offensive center team like the Knicks their fast break number must be much higher for them to win in the playoffs.
One interesting note -- this is the second major streak that the Bulls have stopped this season as they famously ended the Maimi Heat's run earlier in the year.

Players of the Week
3. John Wall
Wall is in the final year of his rookie contract, and is showing that he is worth a max deal by getting 30+ points in two of his last three games. Only thing he needs to do now is pass the ball.

2. Kobe Bryant
How can you not like when a guy plays 46+ minutes at the age of 34? This includes playing all 48 min and getting 47 points against the Trailblazers. I wouldn't want anyone else on my team down the stretch.

1. Carmelo Anthony
This guy can shoot the ball like no other. Over the last 4 games Melo has put up 36+ points (including 41 against the Bucks) and got a double-double in three of those games. He is now in front of Kevin Durant by .39 points in the race for the scoring title.

Key Match-ups of the Week
Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat
The last time these two met it was the Jeff Green coming out party as the young guard poured in 43 points, nearly leading the Celtics to what would have been a streak ending victory. Instead, Lebron showed why he is the best player in the world, taking over down the stretch and keeping the streak alive. Fast forward three weeks and the two teams meet again under much different circumstances. Both teams are just getting their top players back from injury and easing them into the mix in preparation for the playoffs. Not really a whole lot at stake here in terms of seeding as the Heat will be #1 and the Celtics likely #7 but there is no love loss between these two. Expect both to come out firing, trying to send a message one last time preempting a potential future playoff match-up.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Utah Jazz
The two teams meet up twice this week, beginning tonight in Utah. These are both must win games for the Jazz who now sit a game behind the Lakers for the final playoff spot. The two have met twice so far this season with the Jazz coming out on top in both contests. For the Timberwolves, while their playoff hopes are long since over, they have a great chance to play spoilers here. Taking just 1 of 2 would greatly cripple Utah's playoff chances with just three games remaining. From a match-up stand point, Utah on paper should win their last three games. You just never know this time of year.

The Weekly Walk-Off

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The Weekly Walk-Off
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Kyle Kargel

After two weeks of play the MLB season is already off to a fiery start after tempers flared last Thursday in San Diego. Dodgers’ pitcher Zach Grenkie broke his collar bone after sustaining a tackle attempt by Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin after he was hit by a pitch in the shoulder area. Bats are taking shape once again as three players already have six homeruns apiece. Yu Darvish was an out away from a perfect game against the Astros on Apr. 2. Also, who would have thought Mets catcher John Buck would be among the league leaders in homeruns and RBIs after the team’s first nine games. It’s just the start to a wild and wacky season in the MLB as every team is still in it to make the playoffs. Well, almost every team (sorry Miami).

Three Studs of the Week
1. Carl Crawford OF LAD- He’s on a mission to prove his critics wrong and that he still has a lot left in the tank after his failed attempt at playing in Boston. He’s among the league leaders in average and already has six multi-hit games. He should stay on track as the team faces Arizona, LA Dodgers and Baltimore in its next three series.

2. Chris Davis 1B/OF Bal- besides homering in the Orioles first four games he also set a team RBI record of 16 in the team’s first four games. In total he has 19 RBIs in the first nine games, but he should even out in time. Until then, Owners should play him at will. He should still be able to notch 25 homeruns and 90 RBIs this season though.

3. Yu Darvish SP Tex- It’s becoming a lot easier to forget Josh Hamilton with Darvish pitching the way he has in his first two starts. There was a lot of pressure on him in his first season last year with the team, signing a big MLB contract coming from the majors in Japan. Now that the pressure has been lifted a bit he has shined posting a 2-0 record and a 1.98 ERA. His K:BB ratio is one of the best in the majors thus far. Expect Darvish to put up around 15 wins and 170 strikeouts this season.

Three Duds of the Week
1. Giancarlo Stanton OF Mia- Many knew how bad the Marlins would be this season, but expected Stanton to put up the same numbers he did last year. He was supposed to be the teams main source of offense, but that has been far from the case. Unable to post a homerun or RBI in his first 30 at-bats, it’s tough seeing Stanton encounter an absolute turnaround. Judging by the start of the season Stanton should pick it up a bit, but not to the extent of last year.

2. R.A. Dickey SP Tor- Coming off a Cy Young performance last season, it’s hard to see why anyone would have gotten used to the knuckle ball, especially changing leagues from the National League to American League. Dickey has been roughed up so far though already allowing 10 runs in 10 2/3 innings, and posting a 0-2 record for the Blue Jays. He should have no problem posting a .500 record this season, but it might be a struggle to get there if things keep going the way they are for Dickey.

3. Josh Hamilton OF LAA- With an offense built for success it’s hard to see why Hamilton is struggling. Perhaps he has the same April virus that Pujols had a year ago. Pujols didn’t have a homerun the whole month of Apr. last season and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hamilton do the same although expect him to homer before that. He only has four RBIs and only a .200 average over his first 35 at-bats.

Fantasy Sleeper Watch:
1. Evan Gattis C Atl- Although the potential of Gattis is limited by the health of Brian McCann, Gattis looks to be in line for the starts at catcher for the next week at least for the Braves. He’s batting .391 in 23 at-bats this season with three homeruns. For the most part Gattis has been hitting cleanup which provides for extra RBI opportunities as well.

2. Brandon Moss 1B/OF Oak- Moss emerged last season hitting 21 homeruns in 84 games for Oakland, but he still hasn’t caught the eye of most fantasy baseball managers and MLB managers for that matter. Moss struggled out of the gate, but as of the past few games Moss is back in mid-season form batting over .500 in the past week.

3. Jhoulys Chacin SP Col- Though pronouncing his first name might be a tough task, pitching for Chacin has come easy in his first two starts. Although Chacin was likely drafted in your league, he’s still available in some leagues and is number one in the rotation in Colorado. He only has allowed two earned runs in his first 13 1/3 innings pitched. Chacin has the capability to win 15 games, and if Colorado can prove critics wrong by staying out of the bottom of the NL West, some credit will go Chacin’s way.

Match-ups of the Week:
Atlanta and Washington battle in what will likely be an exciting weekend series in Washington D.C. One of these teams will likely win the NL East with the Braves surging with their new and improved offense. Detroit heads back to Oakland in a rematch of last year’s ALDS which will test both teams. Oakland looks to prove that they’re for real after going 8-2 in their first 10 games while the Tigers want to make sure they don’t fall under the .500 mark. With interleague action going on year round, the most exciting interleague series in the next week is the Rangers and Cubs going at it in Wrigley. The Cubs want to stay above water as they have fallen under .500 in their first ten games while the Rangers look to stay hot with their pitching.

California Love

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California Love

Fireworks on the west coast! In what is quickly becoming a fierce rivalry the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers took their relationship to the next level Thursday night in a two act brawl that could prove costly for both teams.

After Dodger's centerfielder Matt Kemp saw a pitch whistle over his head a few innings prior, Dodgers pitcher Zach Greinke hit Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin in the shoulder. Quentin, who has been hit 116 times in him MLB career deemed the 3-2 pitch to be a little more than one that just got away from the righty and voiced his displeasure by charging the mound and delivering a shoulder check that players across the NHL would be proud of. Naturally, the benches cleared. Kemp, who had been targeted earlier in the game, took particular offense to the altercation and sought to take out his frustration on any and everyone in a San Diego uniform.

After the initial altercation things started to settle a bit but after Kemp got wind that Greinke may have been injured in the melee, he tried for a second time to go after Quentin causing the benches and bullpens to empty a second time. Kemp, Quentin, Greinke and Jerry Hairston, who got into with Kemp during the secondary altercation, were all ejected.

Besides the suspensions which are inevitable for Quentin, Kemp and possibly Greinke, the larger and much more costly implications of the first were announced after the game when it was learned that Greinke had suffered a broken collarbone. That is a huge blow to the Dodgers who just signed the former CY Young winner to a 6-year, $147million contract this past off-season.

"That's just stupid is what it is," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly after the game.  "He (Quentin) should not play a game until Greinke can pitch. If he plays before Greinke pitches, something's wrong. He caused the whole thing. Nothing happens if he goes to first base."

It will be interesting to see how the league handles this given that a serious injury was caused. As much as Mattingly wants it, and he has every right to think that way, it is doubtful the league keeps Quentin out for the weeks, even months that Greinke is likely to miss.

Mattingly did hit one thing dead on -- it was stupid. There is no crying in baseball
 and given the way these altercations play themselves out time and time again, there really shouldn't be fighting either. What does it prove? It is not a momentum setter in a physical sport like you see in hockey. Its baseball. Its a game of strategy and execution, not out muscling physicality.

All that aside; one thing is for sure, this rivalry is really starting to heat up. It will be fun to see how this plays out as the two teams play each other 13 more times this season.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Patriots Sign WR Emmanuel Sanders

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Patriots Sign WR Emmanuel Sanders

Love him or hate, there is one thing football fans cannot argue; Bill Belichick is an extremely crafty football mind. Belichick was at it again on Wednesday, signing Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent WR Emmanuel Sanders to a 1 year, $2.5million offer sheet.

The deal sticks out for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the Patriots need help at wide receiver. Wes Welker left for Denver, Brandon Llyod was cut after a disappointing 2012 and the players that remain - Aaron Hernandez, Ron Gronkowski and Julian Edleman are all question marks coming off injury. The did sign Danny Amendola, an injury question mark himself, but solid option when healthy. They also added a couple lesser known players in Donald Jones and Malcolm Jenkins, but at this point it is anyone's guess if they will even be on the game 1 roster.

The crafty side in all of this is the situation that Pittsburgh now finds themselves in. They have just $2million left under the salary cap and have a number of glaring holes left to fill. If they match, they will have to make another move to get back under the cap. If they let Sanders walk, they will be given the Patriots 3rd round pick in 2013. Letting Sanders walk however would create yet another glaring hole, this time WR. They already lost Mike Wallace via free agency to Miami. Losing Sanders would leave the Steelers with just the under achieving Antonio Brown at WR.

From the Patriots stand point, giving up a 3rd round pick for one year of service is a traditionally un-Patriots like move. What many suspect is the team has a long term deal ironed out with Sanders for him to sign at some point before the 2013 season begins. There are currently no rules against extending a signed RFA provided the first year of the contract is no less than the offer sheet signed. By offering just the 1 year offer sheet the Patriots limit the compensation they would have to give up for the player.

Now the ball is in the Steelers court. Do they let a good player walk to a conference rival or do they pony up and put themselves in an even tougher position financially?

Well played Bill. Crafty indeed.

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