Early in the season, when teams and players are very hot or very cold, I often say “Wait and see where they are come Memorial Day.” Now here we are, at the end of May, and we can finally take a look at who are real players this year, and who are pretenders. So here are some of my thoughts on the year so far:
–Goodbye, Toronto. Thanks for playing.
–You have to be happy with where the Sox are considering Papi’s woes and that their starting pitching has yet to click.
–I hate to say it, but Papi looks done. Consider that this slump extends well back into last season. This happens a lot in baseball. You just hoped it wouldn’t happen to such a pivotal great in Sox history.
–I don’t know what’s more surprising: That the Devil Rays are four games under .500, or that the Orioles are only four games under .500. Actually, yeah I do. The more surprising one is the Orioles.
–The Tigers are winning the Central. But what’s up with the Indians? They just can’t put it together. Eric Wedge, meet the unemployment line.
–The Rangers are good, but not that good. They benefit from a weak division. And, yeah, I am saying the Angels are weak.
–Stick a fork in Matt Holliday. He’s done.
–Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would own the title of Team Owner I’d Most Like To Hit With A Shovel . . . if Mark Cuban wasn’t so damn annoying.
–The Cardinals won’t be near the top of their division come September.
–Ha ha ha ha. The Cubs are .500 and more than 4 games out! Ha ha ha ha ha . . .
–The Dodgers own the game’s best record by nearly 6 games . . . and they are probably only about the sixth best team in the game. They should send thank-you notes to all those Four-A teams that make up the rest of their division.
Alright, with the season almost upon us, it’s time to wrap up this whole prediction business. I’ve already listed my AL East and AL Central picks. I’ve included them in the rest of the picks below, but if you want to find out my well-researched, brilliantly-reasoned reasons for them, you’ll have to go back to the old posts. So, without further ado, I present to you the rest of the case for my baseball genius:
(see old post for explanation)
(see old post for explanation)
This is another division where almost anything can happen. The Angels are not as good as they were last year – lost K-Rod and Teixeira, and the heart of their lineup is getting old. And the rest of the division has gotten better – the A’s added some offense, Rangers finally have some young pitching ready to take the stage, and you have to expect the Mariners’ Erik Bedard will be better this year. Still you have to like the Angels track record, especially in light of the questions surrounding the other teams. Oakland will find out Matt Holliday is overrated away from Coors, and you can’t depend on rookie pitchers for your starting rotation. Rangers pitchers could improve, or just not be there yet. And Seattle still lacks the offense. Overall, this will not be a strong division. In fact, the East appears heads and shoulders above the rest of the AL.
The Mets can hit, and with Mike Pelfrey ready to arrive as an elite talent behind Johan Santana, not to mention a reinvented bullpen with K-Rod and Putz, the Mets should win this division by five games. Expect the Phillies to be in the wildcard mix, though. The Marlins have a bunch of good young pitchers, and that should carry them past the Braves, who had an active, yet foolish, offseason.
The Cubs are way-above the rest of the NL Central. It would take a curse for them not to win this division. How the rest of this division shakes out is anybody’s guess (a common theme this year). I expect a comeback year from Aaron Harang, and the emergence of their young pitching staff to carry them to second place. The Brewers take a step back; they can’t thrust all their hopes on young Gallardo. I really, really, really wanted to pick the Pirates to surprise. And, until recently, I had them in second. Yes, it was based more on emotion, but they do have a cast of super-talented young pitchers . . . if they can ever put it together. But, ultimately, they don’t have the offensive depth to mimic Tampa’s success from last year.
The Dback already have two of the game’s best pitchers in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Throw in uber-talented strikeout artist Max Scherzer, and that’s one impressive staff. The Dodgers have a core of excellent young pitching and hitting talent, and Manny will produce — but he’ll be much closer to our Manny. The rest of the division is scuffling. (But keep an eye on Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez — breakout year.)
AL Wildcard: Yankees
NL Wildcard: Dodgers
AL Champion: Red Sox
NL Champion: Diamondbacks
Both these teams have great pitching staffs and, depending on how Scherzer pitches, the edge in starting pitching might go to the Dbacks. Of course, with trades, injuries, etc., nobody knows what these staffs will look like come October. Still, I like the depth of the Sox offense and bullpen. The Series will go 6 games,
World Champion: Your Boston Red Sox
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
NL MVP: Carlos Beltran
AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett (maybe Scott Kazmir)
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana
ON HAVING TIX FOR TONIGHT’S GAME: Having two tickets to “Game 4* – If Necessary“, I thought I might feel conflicted, maybe hoping the Sox would drop one so I could go to the game. But, no. I screamed and swore at the TV last night, wanting desperately for them to finish the series. I’ve been lucky enough to go to my share of playoff games. I wanted to skip tonight’s ridiculous 8:37 start and instead sleep. I never thought I’d be so upset about going to a playoff game.
HOW MANY TIMES are the Sox going to get the lead runner on-base, only to squander the inning?
IF THEY LOSE TONIGHT, I’m going to punch Wally in his Big Green Face.
IN CASE I HAVEN’T MENTIONED IT BEFORE, which I have, my brother and I were the ones who started the famed “LI-LLY” chant in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS, the one where if you watch the “Cowboy Up” video, players like Mirabelli and Merloni later taped “LI-LLY” to the backs of their jacket to encourage the fans to keep it up.
YOU HAVE TO FEEL SORRY for the Milwaukee Brewers. If Ben Sheets had been healthy down the stretch, they likely would have wrapped up the Wild Card a little earlier, and then been set-up for October success with two stud pitchers in Sabathia and Sheets, plus an amazing young arm in Gallardo. They could have gone a long, long way, even with how enemic their offense was in the Philly series. Now they’ll likely lose both Sheets and Sabathia in the off-season, and although they have talented young arms, they might take a step back. (They might be a prime candidate to sign a Pedro or Schilling to a one-year, incentive-laden contract.)
COREY HART LOOKED like the worst baseball player I’ve ever seen. Maybe he isn’t. But he looked like it.
THE PHILS-DODGERS SERIES looks like it’ll be an exciting one. Everyone, though, is hoping for a Sox-Dodgers series. Everyone, that is, except for my brother: Mr. Chase-Utley-ManLove.
ON THE CUBS COLLAPSE: Ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ah, ha ha ha ha. HAAA, ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha (snort). Ha ha. Ha ha. Oh, whoo whoo whoo, hee hee. Haaaa haa ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha.
- When the Sox got rid of Manny and brought in some guy named Jason Bay, I heard a lot of “Why did they do this? Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of him.” from several fans who are older (fifties, sixties), aren’t fantasy baseball playas (like me), and/or don’t pay attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates (my second-favorite team). I told them “Trust me. You’re going to love this guy.” Today, they are loving that guy.
- Considering how strong Lackey was last night, that was a game the Sox could have easily lost. It is obviously, then, a huge win. But today, as not only Sox fans but the national media have began reading the Angels their last rights and pronouncing this series over, I caution everyone to not get ahead of themselves. Game One is important, but it is only one game. I remember the Sox winning Game One against the Indians in the 1998 ALDS, leading everyone to say the Indians looked like a team ready to be swept; the Sox didn’t win another game. Also, an important stat I saw last night was that in the American League ALDS, teams that win the first game are 12-14. Yikes.
- My buddy came through with tickets to Game 4 at Fenway . . . if there is a Game 4. Which puts me in the awkward position of kind of hoping the Sox drop one of these next two games. Not real comfortable with that.
- Last night, while my wife was on the couch watching the Dodgers-Cubs game and I was in the kitchen (there is SO much wrong with that statement), she suddenly yelled “OH MY GOD!!!” I ran into the living room, expecting to see her TiVoing back to a collision or an incredible catch. Instead, she was watching Manny fly up the first base line to get an infield hit. “That’s NOT our Manny,” she said.
- It’s just one game, but it might be time to reconsider the Dodgers’ chances. I pride myself on being a BASEBALL fan; someone who not only follows his hometeam, but the whole sport. However, I have to admit I wrote off the terrible NL West Division this year. I mean, look at their records! But these Dodgers might be for real. For pitching, as inconsistent and downright goofy as he is, we all know Derek Lowe is a certified bad-*** in October. Then, they have some sick talent in young arms like Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. In the bullpen, they have not one but two stud closers in Saito and Broxton. And they have a 355-game winner (Greg Maddux) coming out to do middle relief. They have a deep lineup a good young bats around Manny. And, whereas having no strong bats to come off the bench or hit as DH has been an Achilles Heel for NL teams in the World Series for years, this team has studs like Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra ready to fill in. And did you see that Manny homer? This team is for real.
- It was pretty beautiful to see Wrigley Field get so glum.
- In Anaheim, it’s amazing to see so many of the opponent’s fans at a playoff game. And what is with Angels’ fans not being able to clap with their hands? It looks like the franchise that brought you thundersticks now has some kind of noisy strap for their “fans”. Let’s hope for baseball’s sake that tomorrow’s game is the last of the year in Anaheim of Los Angeles south of Portland on the same coast as Seattle.
- What a maddening loss for the Brewers. One inning, two terrible defensive plays, and – even with Cole Hamels looking Pedroesque – they lose a game they could have won. Now, do you think CC Sabathia can pitch on no-days rest?
After doing the AL the other day, now it’s time to look at the NL playoffs. (Quickly . . . as I’m currently wearing an apron. Don’t ask)
LA Dodgers The Dodger are the champions of the National League West . . . which is kind of like being the tallest guy at a midget convention. Sure, they had a fun run once good-Manny showed up in August. And, sure, it’d be fun to see the 2003 Red Sox (Manny, Nomar and Lowe) make a run deep into October. But they don’t have the pitching to do it.
Milwaukee Brewers Do you think Ben Sheets has a permanent handicap sticker on his license plate? With a healthy Sheets, this team has serious October potential. But without Carl Pavano . . oops, I mean Sheets, they won’t go far. Unfortunate, as the Brewers of the early-80s were my favorite team not from Boston, so I’ve always had a soft spot for them.
Philadelphia Phillies These Phils should do better than last year, but they won’t get past the . . .
Chicago Cubs I hate to say it, as I hate the Cubs, but they are the most well-rounded and talented team in the National League . . . which is a lot like being the tallest guy at a midget convention. It’ll be fun to watch them lose in the World Series (unless they play the Angels, White Sox or Rays, all teams I hate more than the Cubs).
- Thanks to a great comeback performance by Josh Beckett last night – and some help from the suddenly fearsome Toronto Blue Jays – the Red Sox have pulled to within three games in the loss column of division-leading Tampa Bay. Three games is an important mark, as it can be made up with one big series (next week?), and can certainly be made up over the course of the next three-plus weeks. Of course, right now it looks like both the Sox and the Devil Rays are headed to October, but – as I pointed out in my previous post – winning the division this year may be more important to the playoffs than most previous years.
- You have to be excited by the way things are shaping up for the Red Sox. Their lineup right now is stacked from top to bottom with players who can hit (except Coco Crisp). Varitek has been playing great, Kotsay is a great pickup, and we still have Youkilus and Drew out of the lineup, and Lowell is just coming back now. Meanwhile, the starting pitching is shaping up to be in top form come October. Expect the Sox to play it safe with Beckett for the rest of September, keeping his innings down, and maybe even skipping a start late in the month. If he is ready to go full-steam come the playoffs, it could be lights out for everyone else. Lester is pitching like a 1A. Then having guys like Daisuke and Wakefield filling out the rest of the playoff rotation makes the Sox very deep. (Remember all of Wake’s great playoff performances in years past.) The bullpen has questions, but so does every other team’s. And I’ll take my chances with guys like Masterson, Delcarmen, Timlin and Okajima leading up to Papelbon. The Sox are starting to click, and I’m having visions of back-to-back titles.
- You have to feel for the Blue Jays. They are playing about as well as anybody in baseball right now. In fact, there have been stretches over each of the past three seasons when they played like an elite team. Unfortunately for them, they’ve been rocked by injuries each season. I’m sure J.P. Riccardi loses a lot of sleep at night thinking about what might have been.
- Could it be both Carlos Zambrano AND Rich Harden are injured for the Chicago Cubbies?? I’m so happy I could cry. But what I find most laughable is how the national media is jumping on this saying this could dash the Cubs’ title hopes. National pundits have been making this season out to be the year of the Cubs all year long. I’ve never been sold on the Cubs. And all the hype about them is just setting Cubs fans up for a heartbreaking October . . . which, I guess, isn’t so bad.
- We have finally arrived at the uber-meaningful games of September. And here we are — diehard Red Sox fans — cheering for the boys in pinstripes to beat the once-lowly Devil Rays. Never thought I’d say this, but: Go Yankees!!! Wow, that feels weird. We have officially arrived at Bizarro World.
- Sox fans who have watched their team all season probably feel that overall this team just hasn’t performed up to what it could. Both hitters and pitchers have been knicked-up all year. Their pitching has been lukewarm at best, and their hitters just haven’t all clicked yet. But check this out: The Sox have a +149 runs-scored-versus-runs-against differential. That is far and away the best in the American League (and second in the majors only to the smoke-and-mirrors Cubbies). The Devil Rays are a distant second in the AL with a +93, and the Mighty Coastal California Angels of Los Angeles of Anaheim West of the Mississippi have a mere +60. If that isn’t good enough for you, imagine what could happen should the Sox actually click come October.