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2014 World Series Odds

July 3, 2014

Baseball is approximately at its midway point, and while there's the entire second half of the season to be played, there's a fairly clear picture as to who the legitimately great teams are -- or, at the least, there's a picture of who has the potential to be great. It's safe to say that every team in baseball has shown its warts, and that there's not one single team that can be pointed to and consider them the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series.

It's July 3, and there's a lot that can change between now and October -- there's a lot that can and will change before even July 31, the non-waiver trade deadline. Superstar players like David Price could switch teams over the next four weeks, which could dramatically change the playoff landscape.

If you like your team's chances of winning the World Series this year, make sure you buy your tickets at Ticket Liquidator before July 31. If you do, and the home team on the ticket wins the World Series, you will get a refund. See full terms and conditions.

Still, enough time has elapsed to know who has a chance to win the World Series. Here's a look at the top World Series contenders -- and the odds I believe they have to win the World Series -- as of July 3.

Los Angeles Dodgers (5/1) -- I don't love the Dodgers. I don't really like the bottom half of the lineup, and Hanley Ramirez is fragile. There's no denying how great Los Angeles' rotation is, though. There's not many teams that can match Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Josh Beckett. The rotation is that good. Yasiel Puig is a legitimate superstar, but Los Angeles' lineup lacks the extra punch. It's feasible Matt Kemp will return to form, but injuries seem to have derailed his career.

Still, despite trailing the San Francisco Giants in the NL West, the Dodgers look like the team to beat in the NL West -- and the National League.

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Events On Sale This Week: 5/8/14

Here's a list of the hottest events with dates going on sale this week. For tickets to these and more events, head over to Ticket Liquidator.

Concerts

Event

Date

Cities

Alan Jackson Friday, 7/4/14 Lethbridge, AB
Demi Lovato Friday, 7/11/14 Los Angeles, CA
Dierks Bentley Saturday, 7/5/14 Farmingville, NY
Toby Keith Thursday, 7/3/14 Pharr, TX
Trace Adkins Friday, 7/11/14 Bethlehem, PA; Baltimore, MD
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*Some exclusions and limitations apply. See terms and conditions for full rules here.

What's better than watching your favorite team win the World Series?

If you're a baseball fan, the answer is "not much." But Ticket Liquidator is going to make it even sweeter for you this season if your team wins it all. If you purchase your MLB tickets at Ticket Liquidator in the month of July, and the home team on the ticket wins the World Series, we will refund your ticket purchase.

It's only July, so there's still plenty of time for teams to crawl back into the already-cloudy playoff race. Just weeks ago, the San Francisco Giants had a nine game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers -- and that lead has since evaporated. That's part of the beauty of baseball -- the season is long, and anything can happen in the second half of the season. I know I'll never forget the Cardinals being 10 games out of a playoff spot at the end of August in 2011, storming back, clinching the Wild Card on the last day of the season thanks to a gem by Chris Carpenter, watching the Cardinals defeat the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS -- once again thanks to Carpenter -- before dispatching the Milwaukee Brewers to win the pennant.

And then, of course, the Cardinals met the Rangers in the 2011 World Series, in what was the most entertaining World Series this century. I'll never forget where I was when Albert Pujols hit three home runs in Game 3, or where I was when David Freese belted a 1-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth inning from Neftali Feliz with the Cardinals trailing 7-5 off the right field wall, tying the game at 7. Or where I was when Lance Berkman tied the game off of Scott Feldman in the 10th inning -- or where I was when Freese hit a walk-off home run in Game 6, sending the series to Game 7.

I certainly won't forget where I was when the Cardinals won Game 7 that year, either, and the absolute sheer excitement that ensued. I didn't care the next day that I lost power for a week after a freak snow storm in Connecticut -- I was properly perched on Cloud Nine.

St. Louis was left for dead with less than 30 games to go in the season -- How could that have been any better? Well, if I had power the next week, sure, but if I had a rebate check coming in to refund tickets I purchased that year to watch my favorite team, and to be able to say I saw the '11 Cardinals? Yeah, that would be pretty awesome -- and I could easily have used that money on all sorts of World Series champions gear that I inevitably purchased.

What's the point? Well, the point is that you never know if your team is going to come back and do the improbable. The point is that it's awesome to be able to say you saw your team play the year they won the World Series. The point is that it's even better to get to watch your favorite team for free that year.

Having trouble deciding what game to go to? Don't think your team is going to win the World Series? That's alright -- here's a home series for each team that should showcase some excellent matchups. And hey, you never know if your team will come roaring back in the second half.

AL East

Blue Jays -- Blue Jays fans should head out to the Rogers Centre during the last week of the season. Toronto will be right in the playoff hunt, and take on the Mariners in a four-game set (9/22-9/25), before hosting the Orioles (9/26-9/28) in a series that could decide the AL East.

Orioles -- Baltimore will play host to the Yankees 9/12-9/14, in a weekend series at Camden Yard. This series will likely have major playoff implications, and Orioles fans will certainly want to do their best to outnumber the travelling Yankees faithful.

Yankees -- The Bronx Bombers host the Red Sox between 9/2-9/4 for the last time this season. Perhaps the Red Sox will have crawled back into the playoff picture by then, but even if they haven't, this is still the most intense rivalry in baseball.

Red Sox -- Not much has gone right for the Sox this season, but they still have the second half of the year to make up ground. And there aren't many better places to catch a game than Fenway. Boston will host Mike Trout and the Angels for a four-game set (8/18-8/21). It's worth going just to see Trout -- trust me, he's a player you're going to want to tell your children and grandchildren that you saw him play.

Rays -- Like the Sox, little has gone right for the Rays this season. Rays fans should head to Tropicana Field in August to see the Rays host the Tigers (8/19-8/21), as a Price-Verlander matchup could be on the docket.

AL Central

Tigers -- The Tigers have had one of the best teams in baseball for years, but haven't been able to win the World Series. Detroit hosts the Giants (9/5-9/7) -- the same Giants who lead the NL West, and the same Giants who swept the Tigers in the World Series just two years ago. Some revenge would be nice, right Tigers fans?

Royals -- Kansas City is back in contention for the second straight year, after years of futility. Royals fans should be sure to head to the excellent Kauffman Stadium to watch the Royals host the A's in a four-game series (8/11-8/14). Oakland is currently the best team in baseball, so this could be a good barometer for KC.

Indians -- The Indians are lurking in the playoff picture, and need to put together a bit of a winning streak if they're going to return to the playoffs. Indians fans will, at the least, want to head out to Progressive Field to watch the Indians take on their in-state rivals, the Cincinnati Reds, August 4 and 5.

Twins -- Nah, the Twins probably aren't going to the playoffs this year. I'm not going to try to tell you they are. But if you're going to head out to Target Field this summer, why not go watch the Twins play host to the Rays (7/18-7/20)? Target Field will still be buzzing from the All-Star Game that it hosted just days prior, and it's a good way to kick off the second half of the season -- at a game at the beautiful Target Field.

White Sox -- Chicago fans haven't had much to be excited about in recent years, but White Sox fans have to be downright giddy over Jose Abreu. The White Sox host the Royals for a four-game set to end the season (9/25-9/28), and it's worth being there to see how many home runs the rookie will hit. Can he break Mark McGwire's rookie record? It's possible.

AL West

A's -- Oakland is pushing to win its third straight division crown, but have the Angels to fend off this year. Oakland hosts the Angels in its second-to-last series of the year -- and it could decide the AL West. Be there at O.co Coliseum 9/22-9/24 to watch the A's take on Trout and the Halos.

Angels -- Halos fans have a reason to head out to Angel Stadium this year, as the Angels are finally performing to expectations. There's truly not a bad series left on the schedule, but Angels fans will want to back Angel Stadium in late August, when the Halos take on the A's for a four-game set (8/28-8/31).

Mariners -- Seattle is back in contention, as they should be after spending over $200 million on a free agent -- I'm looking at you, Robinson Cano. Seattle plays host to the Angels the last weekend of the season (9/26-9/28), and they series could decide Seattle's playoff fate.

Rangers -- It's one of those seasons for the Rangers. Anything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. That's ok though -- Rangers fans have experienced unprecedented success for the franchise in recent years, and fans should still head out to Globe Life Park to root the Rangers on. Texas hosts Atlanta for an interleague series (9/12-9/14) that should be entertaining, as the Braves make a rare trip to Arlington.

Astros -- Here's a wild card for you, Astros fans. No, Houston isn't going to make the playoffs this year, but there's an exciting nucleus in place. You know what would be fun? I would absolutely go watch the Astros take on the Marlins (7/25-7/27). Miami also has a solid young team, led by the powerful Giancarlo Stanton. Remember when Albert Pujols basically hit a ball back to Missouri in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS off of Brad Lidge? Stanton could probably park one even further. It's worth going just to see Stanton.

Fan of a National League team? Check back tomorrow for my National League picks.

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Where has St. Louis' offense gone?

July 1, 2014

It's July 1, and the 2014 season hasn't gone as planned for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Redbirds find themselves looking up in the standings at the surprising Milwaukee Brewers, thanks in large part to a struggling offense. Last season, the Cardinals hit .330 as a team with runners in scoring position, shattering the previous record of .311, en route to capturing the National League pennant.

The 2013 Cardinals ranked No. 27 in home runs in, hitting just 125 -- five fewer than the New York Mets. Only the Royals, Giants and Marlins hit fewer home runs than the Cardinals did in 2013, making their run to the World Series all the more remarkable. So far in 2014, the Cardinals rank No. 29 in home runs, with 48 as of July 1. Only the Royals have hit fewer home runs -- and they've hit 47. Yes, the San Diego Padres who have an historically bad offense have hit seven more home runs than the Cardinals to date.

Let's take a look at how the Cardinals are trending the last few years, shall we? We'll use 2011 as our starting point.

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Garth Brooks is making a comeback.

The country superstar is set to play five sold out shows at Croke Park in Ireland in July. The shows come eight months after Brooks made an announcement on Good Morning America that he was going to embark on a world tour in 2014.

Unless the world shrunk to the size of the Emerald Isle where Bono is king, Brooks' July comeback doesn't qualify as a world tour.

So, what gives? When and where will Brooks play later this year?

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Hank Williams Postage Stamp



Did Hank Williams really die at age 29?

I'm not suggesting an "Elvis lives"-type conspiracy theory, I'm just incredulous that someone with so few years on the planet could have had such an immense influence on country music. Oh, I'm familiar with the so-called "27 Club" -- musicians who, with two fewer years in which to amass a body of work, still managed to leave behind important musical legacies. But, with all due respect to Jimi, Janis, Jim, and Kurt, Williams had 11 number one hits in his foreshortened career, a remarkable feat. Even more remarkable is the number of other musicians, from all genres (and including several members of the "27 Club"), who have released recordings of these songs.

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The Non-Country Fan's Guide to Country Music

The past few years has seen an explosion in the popularity of country music. In the 90's it was "alternative" music, the aughts saw the rise of hip hop as the mainstream's biggest music genre, and if the first few years of the teens hold up, this could be the decade of country music. If you need further proof, Rolling Stone just launched RollingStoneCountry.com.

Sure, there were some big country music stars in the past, but with the rise of Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert, plus a cadre of young guns coming up behind them, there's no reason to think this country revival is going anywhere anytime soon.

I did my best to ignore the onslaught of country music but at a certain point, you need to get with the times (especially when your job depends on knowing what the hot artists are).

So I decided to get to know the big names in country music, and share my findings to help others like me who need to play a little catchup with their country music acts.

So here it is, The Non-country Fan's Guide To Country Music:

Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan tickets

Currently Touring with Lee Brice & Cole Swindell

At the moment, Luke Bryan is the top dog in country music. You'll hear country fans admire his playful and fun side, but also make it clear he's got a serious, sensitive side as well. He's dealt with some tragedy in his life, as both his older brother and sister died suddenly while in their 20s. This son of a peanut farmer started out as a country music ghost writer before releasing I'll Stay Me in 2007.

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Events On Sale This Week: 5/8/14

Here's a list of the hottest events with dates going on sale this week. For tickets to these and more events, head over to Ticket Liquidator.

Concerts

Event

Date

Cities

Celine Dion Saturday, 6/21/14 Las Vegas, NV
Chicago and REO Speedwagon Saturday, 6/21/14 Atlanta, GA
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Friday, 6/27/14 Memphis, TN
Drake vs Lil Wayne Friday, 6/20/14 Noblesville, IN; Saratoga Springs, NY; Burgettstown, PA; Camden, NJ; Mansfield, MA; Virginia Beach, VA; Bristow, VA; Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; Cincinnati, OH; Clarkston, MI; Hartford, CT; Dallas, TX; West Valley City, UT; Tinley Park, IL; Auburn, WA; Mountain View, CA; Wheatland, CA; Chula Vista, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Ridgefield, WA
Drake vs Lil Wayne Saturday, 6/21/14 Darien Center, NY; Holmdel, NJ; West Palm Beach, FL; Tampa, FL; Forest Hills, NY; Woodlands, TX; Austin, TX; Irvine, CA; Hollywood, CA
Jason Aldean Friday, 6/20/14 Sioux Falls, SD; Phoenix, AZ
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I'm the product of a mixed marriage. My father was pure Connecticut Yankee, from the roots of his gingery hair to the tips of his Sperry Topsiders®. Mom was born in Oklahoma.

Dad didn't approve of country music, which he referred to as "that gawdawful yodeling," and wouldn't have it on the radio. But when Dad was out of the house, Mom would tune in to the country station. She loved to sing along and I'd harmonize, singing soprano to her deep alto. Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Patti Page (Mom's cousin, who she'd sung with as a child), Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton were the female country singers whose songs I learned. Mom loved the songs, even if she sometimes shook her head at the lyrics.

The songs all seemed to be about broken-hearted women, each suffering because of some man's bad behavior. Jeanne Pruett slept on satin sheets, abandoned by the rich husband who paid for them. Tammy Wynette stood by her man, forgiving his good timing ways and Dolly Parton wasted her tears. Patsy Cline fell to pieces, went crazy and was left with only mementos of her lost love.

In the words of Tammy Wynette, sometimes it's hard to be a woman.

No More Victims - Revenge Rules the Country Airwaves

If, at least according to the songs, it's still hard to be a woman, today's women of country have risen to the occasion. Oh, the men continue to cheat and lie and abandon and abuse, but the female country stars burning up the charts (and the 2014 summer concert tour circuit) are mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.

Miranda Lambert has been on the country charts for ten years, and this year she's finally headlining shows on the Country Megaticket roster. Although she's recorded her share of country laments, she's a regular on the "revenge song" list. Her 2008 hit, "Gunpowder and Lead," portrays a woman waiting in the dark with a shotgun and a six-pack for her abuser to turn up. His fist is big but my gun's bigger. He'll find out when I pull the trigger...

Her 2014 CMA Awards® Single of the Year, "Mama's Broken Heart," admits that breakups hurt, but makes delightfully mean fun of the old-fashioned notion that a woman needs to be stoic about her pain.


Source: YouTube Miranda Lambert - Mama's Broken Heart 2014

Taking up a shotgun isn't the only way today's women of country mete out justice. Methods include a baseball bat (Carrie Underwood - "Before He Cheats"), black-eyed peas laced with poison (Dixie Chicks - "Earl Must Die"), arson (Martina McBride - "Independence Day" and Miranda Lambert - "Kerosene"), and a dose of turnabout as fair play (Miranda Lambert - "White Liar"). Gentlemen, I'd think twice before I pissed off any of these ladies.

We Write the Songs

One tradition that I'm glad is still around is the female country songwriter. Dolly Parton claims to have written over five thousand songs and has, in fact, published more than three thousand. It's nice to peruse the song lists from new artists' releases and see that they wrote most of the tunes they're recording. Kacey Musgraves is not only one of the co-writers of Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart," but is credited as a writer for every single song on her 2013 No. 1 album, Same Trailer, Different Park. The release is chock-full of traditional country tunes, with ample banjos and and steel guitars to please a country purist, but enough attitude to get the attention of pop diva Katy Perry, who invited Musgraves to join her for several stops on her Prismatic World Tour. The unlikely pair teamed up on CMT's Crossroads and critics can't decide whether it was more fun to hear Perry joining on Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow" or when the tables were turned for "Roar" and an oddly melancholy version of Perry's "Firework."


Source: YouTube Katy Perry & Kacey Musgraves - "Firework" at CMT Crossroads 2014

It's Not Always About the Pain...

Lady Antebellum is another act that's moved from second billing to first on the country tour, and Hilary Scott's lead vocals are a big reason why. But the songs I love best are when she harmonizes with co-frontman Charles Kelley. The feel-good anthem "Compass" is a song I can't imagine hearing on the country station Mom tuned in on the transistor radio that sat on our breakfast table in the 1970's. The video for Sugarland's "All I Want to Do" starts off looking more like a Beach Boys classic and is at least as happy. How can you not love a lyric like "Give me a kiss...from that Elvis lip..."? Sugarland's lead singer, Jennifer Nettles, is in the middle on her first solo tour, playing fairly small venues--for now.


Source: YouTube Sugarland - "All I Want to Do" 2013

And the Hits Keep Coming

Don't just watch for the mega-stars you know, like Faith Hill, Martina McBride, and record-breaking ticket seller Taylor Swift. Keep an eye on the singers who are showing up as "special guests" on the big tours this summer--they'll probably be headlining themselves in a year or two. Gloriana is touring with Rascal Flatts (and a newly countrified Sheryl Crow), The Voice winner Cassadee Pope is hanging out with Tim McGraw, newcomer Leah Turner appears with Brad Paisley, and Brandy Clark, another prodigious songwriter, is touring with Eric Church.

It's not your Mama's country music -- it's better!

Events On Sale This Week: 5/8/14

Here's a list of the hottest events with dates going on sale this week. For tickets to these and more events, head over to Ticket Liquidator.

Concerts

Event

Date

Cities

Alan Jackson Friday, 6/13/14 Atlantic City, NJ
Cher Saturday, 6/14/14 Fargo, ND; Green Bay, WI
Cher Monday, 6/16/14 Fort Wayne, IN; Richmond, VA; Grand Rapids, MI; Cincinnati, OH; Chicago, IL; Moline, IL; Wichita, KS; Sioux Falls, SD; Omaha, NE
Elton John Friday, 6/13/14 Sacramento, CA
Enrique & Pitbull Friday, 6/13/14 Miami, FL; Uniondale, NY; Auburn Hills, MI
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