Tagged: Clayton Kershaw

The Best Team Money Can Buy

Teams with large payrolls are not guaranteed to win championships. In sports the more talented the player, the more expensive their services become once they reach free agency, thus teams with large payrolls are filled with players who are, or at one time were, extremely talented at their chosen profession. The road to a championship requires a commitment to excellence, and for the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers that journey was just beginning.

The Best Team Money Can Buy by Molly Knight explores the transition of the Dodgers from the disastrous ownership tenure of Frank McCourt to the new ownership of Mark Walter. Knight explores the team on the field, in the front office, and the world around them. Major League Baseball understood the value of ensuring the transition from McCourt to Walter went smoothly and acted in the best interest of baseball.

*Spoilers beyond this point.*

Knight does an excellent job of examining the players on and off the field. The Dodgers to securing their ace, Clayton Kershaw, for the long term was critical to the health of the team. If Kershaw was able to walk away from the Dodgers, like Zack Greinke eventually did, the immediate future for the team would have been about building towards division not World Series titles. Los Angeles’ front office knew their fans would turn on the team if Kershaw was allowed to walk. Resigning Kershaw was as much a baseball move as it was a public relations move. Contrasting the focus and dominance of Kershaw was the explosion of Yasiel Puig. The willingness to sign a relatively unknown talent was a risk, however the excitement Puig brought with him to the Dodgers out weighed the risk in the eyes of the fans. Puig’s experience with his teammates and the insight Knight provides shows the difficulty many Latin American players have in adjusting to life in the United States, especially Cuban players. Puig’s near instant success meant he found some of the pitfalls that caused other superstars stumble. While electrifying on the field, Puig’s antics off the field and in the clubhouse rubbed many of his teammates the wrong way. This left manager Don Mattingly with the delicate job of keeping Puig happy while not alienating the rest of the team. This challenge was made even more difficult as the Dodgers showed little faith in Mattingly, who never felt secure in his job while in Los Angeles. This constant balancing act in the clubhouse made performing on the field more difficult than normal. The internal drama was overshadowed as the ownership regime of Frank McCourt came crashing down all around Dodger Stadium.

Best Team
The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse (Simon & Schuster)

Prior to owning the Dodgers, Frank McCourt owned a parking lot in south Boston. He attempted to buy the Red Sox and move them to a new stadium that he would construct on his parking lot. When this plan failed he turned his attention to the Dodgers. McCourt had bigger dreams than bank accounts, but was able to purchase the Dodgers with loans he secured by putting the parking lot up as collateral. Eventually the loans went unpaid and the parking lot was seized. Ultimately the Dodgers were sold to McCourt for a parking lot in south Boston.

McCourt ran the Dodgers into the ground. He had little interest in the team beyond how they could make him richer. As his personal life went up in flames he attempted to hold onto the Dodgers through a television deal that would pay him enough to remain owner after his divorce was finalized. Major League Baseball was forced to step in to prevent the deal. His divorce turning nasty and dragging on, McCourt was ordered to sell the team. The Dodger fan base was skeptical of new owner Mark Walter. However, Walter was only interested in winning. Signing fan favorite Andre Ethier to an over priced contract was more of a public relations deal than a smart baseball deal. Walter understood he had to win back the fans after many had rightly walked away under McCourt. Winning was the most important thing, money would solve some problems but not everything.

The early building blocks of the perennial contender the Dodgers have become were laid in 2013. Molly Knight examines the circumstances surround the team during this critical time, yet she also helps the reader understand why the rebirth of the Dodgers is so important to baseball. She does an excellent job of exposing the personalities on the team that made the team successful and struggle. Sports teams are often not seen as being made up of people, but Knight makes you see the quirks and craziness that each player brings to the Dodger clubhouse. Molly Knight’s work in The Best Team Money Can Buy is as critical to the understanding of baseball’s current state as Michael Lewis’ Moneyball. Money does not guarantee championships, as baseball cannot be bought and sold, but it does not hurt.

DJ

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Blackout Rules Apply

The playoffs are when the best from every sport is on full display. The best teams play each other, which often leads to games full of drama that only further entices new fans to continue watching. Unfortunately Major League Baseball has hidden some of the best games of the year from many fans in how it broadcasts the playoffs. Avid fans miss out on great games, but baseball also misses the opportunity to draw in new fans as the majority of games before the World Series are broadcast on cable networks.

The airing of playoff baseball on TBS, Fox Sports 1, the MLB Network, and ESPN has shut out many people from watching great baseball. Yes, plenty of people have access to all or some of these channels to watch the games, but those who do not have to make a choice. They can find a radio station broadcasting the game (personally I love listening to baseball on the radio), go to a restaurant, bar, or friend’s house that is showing the game, or generally miss out except for updates. Going out several nights a week for a few weeks gets expensive quickly, thus pricing many more people out, thus radio or the updates are the most likely options for many people. I am fully aware, as I have stated many times, baseball is a business. Major League Baseball signed contracts with these broadcasters for enormous sums of money for the rights to these games. However, there needs to be a balance between television revenue and making the best weeks on the baseball calendar available to all fans. Broadcasters like ABC (which owns ESPN), NBC, and CBS might have passed on the rights to broadcast playoff baseball. Fox will once again broadcast the World Series, yet it is a shame that for some they will not see a single game of baseball on television from the last day of the regular season until Game 1 of the World Series.

tv-blackout

Major League Baseball continuously stresses the importance of growing the game, reaching a younger and more diverse audience. Reaching out through promotions like Players Weekend, programs like RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), and highlighting some of the best players like Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Altuve are great, but Major League Baseball hurts its own efforts to reach a larger audience by hiding the playoffs from those who choose to not have cable or satellite television and/or those who cannot afford it. If I can only watch sports on the basic channels and the majority of the games I see are football, why would I wait for weeks to see a few games at the end of October when the NFL season is in full swing? Even during the regular season the availability of baseball games is rather spartan.

Major League Baseball has signed contracts with broadcasters and for now can do little to change how the playoffs are broadcast. However, at the end of these contracts a hard look must be taken at whether only premium channels get the games before the World Series is the best for the future of the sport. Major League Baseball should be paid handsomely for the product it provides to broadcasters, but there could be a middle ground where baseball is paid well, yet does not shut out many fans and potential fans from the best games of the year. Baseball needs to be the sport of everyone, not just those that can afford television packages. No one likes blackout rules.

DJ

How Did We Get Here and What Is About To Happen?

Welcome to the Fall Classic.  The World Series has arrived after an exciting run through the playoffs.  The Kansas City Royals will face the New York Mets for the right to lift the Commissioner’s Trophy as the champion of Major League Baseball.  The Kansas City Royals last won the World Series in 1985.  The New York Mets last won the World Series in 1986.  The championship drought for one of these teams is about to end after many, often painful, years.

So what has led us to this World Series?  How have we navigated from the Wild Card games through the playoffs and finally to the World Series?  The field has gone from 10 teams down to just 2 teams.

The Commissioners' Trophy is awarded to the World Series winning team. (http://blog.gospikes.com/?p=162)

The Commissioners’ Trophy is awarded to the World Series winning team. (http://blog.gospikes.com/?p=162)

National League Wild Card

Chicago Cubs 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 0

The Pirates were once again a formidable team during the regular season, but they fell short in the Wild Card game.  Behind their young bats and Jake Arrieta’s complete game shutout, the Cubs showed they were the superior team, at least for one day when it mattered the most.

American League Wild Card

Houston Astros 3, New York Yankees 0

The New York Yankees coasted into the Wild Card game, and not in a good way.  They struggled down the stretch and benefitted from early season success to make it into the playoffs.  Unfortunately, they met the Houston Astros who were hungry and playing much better baseball.  Each passing inning, the energy inside Yankee Stadium seemed to wane just a little more until reality could no longer be denied.  Dallas Keuchel and the Astros bullpen shut down the Yankees line up and Houston rode the power of Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez into the ALDS.

The Houston Astros are back. The won the Wild Card game a year ahead of schedule. (www.wdsu.com)

The Houston Astros are back. The won the Wild Card game a year ahead of schedule. (www.wdsu.com)

National League Divisional Series

New York Mets 3 games, Los Angeles Dodgers 2 games

The Mets and Dodgers alternated wins throughout the series.  The turning point of the series was in Game 2 with the injury to Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.  The Mets ultimately lost Game 2, but Tejada’s injury rallied the team together.  Tejada’s injury from Chase Utley’s “slide” could have derailed the Mets.  Instead, behind their young pitching staff and Daniel Murphy the Mets would not quit.  The Mets faced Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in four of the five games and split those games.  The Dodgers were beaten with their best pitchers on the mound by a team who refused to quit.

Chicago Cubs 3 games, St. Louis Cardinals 1 game

Game 1 showed how dominant the St. Louis Cardinals could be, and it brought back the memories of the Curse of the Billy Goat for Cubs fans.  However, after Game 1, the Cubs took command of the series by winning the next three straight to eliminate the Cardinals.  The Cubs did not run away with the series, winning the final three games by seven runs total, but St. Louis was never able to answer the Cubs offense.  The Cardinals remained competitive but, after Game 1, it never felt like they had a chance.

The Chicago Cubs were overcoming the Curse of the Billy Goat. (www.deadspin.com)

The Chicago Cubs were overcoming the Curse of the Billy Goat. (www.deadspin.com)

American League Divisional Series

Toronto Blue Jays 3 games, Texas Rangers 2 games

The Texas Rangers jumped out to a two game lead, putting the Toronto Blue Jays on the brink of elimination.  The Blue Jays, the presumptive favorite heading into the series, would not go quietly.  Forcing a decisive Game 5 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the Blue Jays held a slim 3-2 lead heading into the 7th inning.  In a bizarre moment, Rougned Odor scampered home to score the tying run after Russell Martin’s return throw to Blue Jays’ pitcher Aaron Sanchez hit the bat of Rangers’ outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, while Choo was still in the box.  The Blue Jays responded in the bottom half of the 7th inning with a four run outburst, which included the now infamous Jose Bautista home run bat flip.  This completed the comeback and Toronto was on to the ALCS.

Kansas City Royals 3 games, Houston Astros 2 games

The Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros went back and forth in the first four games of their ALDS.  Neither team able to break the other team down and truly dominate a game.  All this changed in Game 5, when the Royals’ experience and the Astros inexperience showed through.  The Royals’ hitters finally broke down Houston’s pitching and were able to turn around a 2-0 deficit in the 2nd inning and turn it into a 7-2 victory.  Simply put, the Royals used some of the knowledge and nerves from their 2014 World Series run to finally put away those pesky, overachieving Astros.

Jose Bautista and the bat flip that put the Blue Jays in the ALCS. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Jose Bautista and the bat flip that put the Blue Jays in the ALCS. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

National League Championship Series

New York Mets 4 games, Chicago Cubs 0 games

The Chicago Cubs did not lose the NLCS as much as the New York Mets won it.  The Cubs never lead throughout the four game sweep.  Daniel Murphy and the trio of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom were magical, even when they did not have their best stuff.  Jeurys Familia and Bartolo Colon were there to pick up the slack when the young arms needed a little help reaching the finish line.  The Cubs simply lost to a better team, no Curse needed.

Daniel Murphy lead the Mets to a sweep of the Cubs one home run at a time. (www.fosports.com)

Daniel Murphy led the Mets to a sweep of the Cubs one home run at a time. (www.fosports.com)

American League Championship Series

Kansas City Royals 4 games, Toronto Blue Jays 2 games

Games 1 and 2 showed the Royals were the better team.  However, the Game 3 slugfest proved that the Blue Jays were not going to go down easy.  Kansas City had batting practice in Game 4, winning 14-2 in Toronto.  Toronto forced Game 6 with a 7-1 victory in Game 5.  Back in Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium, the Blue Jays and Royals proved they were an even match.  The margin of victory was Lorenzo Cain’s speed and Wade Davis’ tenacity.  Cain scored from first on a single by Eric Hosmer in the bottom of the 8th inning, in part due to Jose Bautista not throwing to his cutoff man.  The Royals took the lead and called on Wade Davis for a little more.  Davis got two outs on eight pitches to end the Blue Jays’ 8th inning, waited through a 45 minute rain delay, then pitched the inning of his life.  Davis got the final out with a fast runner on second and third by getting Josh Donaldson to ground out to third.

Lorenzo Cain's dash around the bases was critical in the Royals returning to the World Series. (www.cbssports.com)

Lorenzo Cain’s dash around the bases was critical in the Royals returning to the World Series. (www.cbssports.com)

World Series

New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals

The 2015 World Series has the New York Mets playing against the Kansas City Royals.  The National League champion New York Mets won the National League East division by 7 games, with a record of 90-72.  Once in the playoffs, the Mets beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS.  The American League champion Kansas City Royals won the American League Central division by 12 games, with a record of 95-67.  The Royals beat the Houston Astros in the ALDS and the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS.

World Series Predictions Sure to Go Wrong

Before the beginning of every season The Winning Run predicts how each team will finish, which teams will make the playoffs, and who will win the World Series.  Each year we are horribly wrong about almost everything.  It is with this understanding that we give our predictions about the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets.

*A note about our predictions for MVP, we did not allow Daniel Murphy to be selected because everyone would pick him.  Therefore, we each have our secondary MVP prediction listed and collectively we have predicted Daniel Murphy for MVP.

The Winning Run’s official 2015 World Series predictions:

John:

Champion: Mets in 6 games.

MVP: Jacob deGrom

Jesse:

Champion: Mets in 5 games.

MVP: Lucas Duda (actually Daniel Murphy in disguise)

The Mets have a proud history of disguising themselves as other people. Just as Bobby Valentine. (www.usatoday.com)

The Mets have a proud history of disguising themselves as other people. Just as Bobby Valentine. (www.usatoday.com)

Bernie:

Champion: Royals in 6 games

MVP: Alcides Escobar

Derek:

Champion: Royals in 7 games.

MVP: Eric Hosmer

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in Kansas City last year. Who will win this year? (www.popsugar.com)

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in Kansas City last year. Who will win this year? (www.popsugar.com)

Collectively, beyond Daniel Murphy for World Series MVP, we do not agree on much.  We are split on which team will win.  We believe the series will go six games.  We predict that a baseball player for either the Mets or the Royals will win the MVP (this is the only prediction we feel we definitely got right).  Our predictions are most likely wrong, as is our tradition, but we might get lucky this time.  The 2014 World Series was fantastic, and the Royals are back for another try with a fairly young but experienced team.  The Mets are playing beyond their years with a playoff pitching staff that has not been seen since the Atlanta Braves in the 1990’s.   Regardless, whether we are right or wrong, we hope the 2015 World Series will be just as exciting as the 2014 edition of the Fall Classic.

DJ

All Star Blues

The All Star game is full of the absolute best players in Major League Baseball.  However, most years the game itself is not compelling.  Rarely are there moments that will become infamous through the years, such as Pete Rose running into Ray Fosse.  While it would be great if the games were better, I tend to like the All Star game simply because it is an opportunity to compare the star players side by side.  The fantasy pitcher-batter matchups happen, at least for one at bat.  You get to examine how both Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw can make the best hitters in the game look absolutely clueless.  It is the game within the game where the true action takes place.  How does Mike Trout handle one elite National League pitcher after another?  He is the best player in the game.  How does Aroldis Chapman handle American League hitters? He scares them.

Mike Trout, 2 time All Star game MVP. (www.bleacherreport.com)

Mike Trout, 2 time All Star game MVP. (www.bleacherreport.com)

The All Star game is the ultimate individual test in a team game.  The lack of cohesiveness that develops over time is missing from the American and National League teams.  This puts more of the spotlight on the individual players and less on the teams.  Fans watch the All Star game to see the players not necessarily the teams, and that is exactly what they get.  It is the game within the game that makes the All Star game special.  It is critical for fans, both die-hard and casual, to understand the All Star game is different from the average Major League game because the cumulative individual talent on the field is higher and the team cohesiveness is lower.

Mr. Redlegs is proud of his hometown for a great All Star game. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Mr. Redlegs is proud of his hometown for a great All Star game. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Major League All Star game is as it should be, different.  The best in the game are honored and the fans get to see the best pitchers face off against the best hitters.  Good pitching and defense are tough to beat, thus the game itself is not always exciting game to watch.  Looking beyond the score and the surface of the game, looking at the foundation of the game that is baseball reveals that the All Star game is fantastic to watch.  This view is only available to those who know how and what to watch.  Cincinnati and the Reds did a great job hosting the All Star game and all that goes along with it.  San Diego and the Padres have some work to do if they want the 2016 MLB All Star game to be even better.  Bravo Cincinnati.

D

Opening Day

Opening Day is here.  A new season is upon us.  We will see fantastic catches, jaw dropping throws, and impossible double plays.  We will also see maddening errors and hilarious miscues.  Baseball is back, and the beauty of the game is that no game is the same as any other.  A team can collect ten hits, and still lose 1-0.  A team can collect two hits and win 4-3.  Baseball is a fickle game, but it is also a beautiful game.

Opening Day is a beautiful thing. (www.diamonddiaries.net)

Opening Day is a beautiful thing. (www.diamonddiaries.net)

The beauty of the game is the sweet swing of Joey Votto against the majesty of Clayton Kershaw’s curveball.  Baseball is the game of the old and the young, the rich and the poor.  The success of the team is dependent upon the success of the individual, but the success of the individual does not ensure the success of the team.  Baseball is an everyday affair, 162 games in 180 days.  A successful player will fail seven times out of ten.  Baseball has a mind of its own.  When you think you have seen everything imaginable in a game, something new happens and will take your breath away.  Opening Day is here.  Enjoy.

D

Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 2.0

Last season The Winning Run attempted to predict the outcome of the 2014 Major League Baseball season.  We were not highly successful in our first attempt.  Not to be deterred by our lack of success, we are back to try again.  Once again, let us apologize in advance for jinxing everyone’s favorite team, whether it is by dooming your team before it had a chance to do much better or by sending it spiraling down in flames as it does much worse than expected.  Either way in which we have ruined the chances of your team this season, we are sorry.

mlb_a_giantswinwar_668x376

The Giants are still recovering from winning the World Series last October. (www.espn.go.com)

Let us begin with the Senior Circuit.

National League

East  
1 Washington Nationals Division Winner/ 1st Seed
2 Miami Marlins
3 New York Mets
4 Atlanta Braves
5 Philadelphia Phillies

The National League East could be one of the weakest Divisions in all of baseball.  Beyond the Nationals, the rest of the division could struggle.  The Marlins and Mets could threaten for a Wild Card spot, but each have deficiencies that could prevent it from reaching the playoffs.  The Braves could surprise people if the bats and pitchers keep up with one another and hover around .500.  The Phillies will be the worst team in all of baseball.  A successful season would be to avoid 100 games, but even this could be out of reach in Philadelphia.

It will be a long season in Philadelphia, with or without Cole Hamels. (www.hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

It will be a long season in Philadelphia, with or without Cole Hamels. (www.hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)

Central
1 St. Louis Cardinals Division Winner/ 3rd Seed
2 Pittsburgh Pirates Wild Card
3 Chicago Cubs
4 Milwaukee Brewers
5 Cincinnati Reds

Every team in the National League Central could win the Division or finish last.  The Cardinals should continue to be the class of the Central, as they have the pitching and the bats to match up against any team in baseball.  The Pirates could pace with the Cardinals all season, but they may fall a few games short of the division based upon a few miscues throughout the season.  The Cubs are dramatically improved, but playing in the Central will keep them out of the playoffs in addition to their young stars not all fully rising to their potential this season.  The Brewers are dependent upon their lineup supplying the offense that the pitchers need, but there are too many chances for the bats to go quiet throughout the season.  The Reds are recovering from losing several keys pitchers from last season.  The Reds could rise out of the cellar, but only if Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips all have productive and healthy seasons.

West
1 Los Angeles Dodgers Division Winner/ 2nd Seed
2 San Francisco Giants Wild Card
3 San Diego Padres
4 Colorado Rockies
5 Arizona Diamondbacks
Wil Myers and the new look Padres are not going quietly. (www.sports.yahoo.com)

Wil Myers and the new look Padres are not going quietly. (www.sports.yahoo.com)

The Dodgers are the clear class of the National League West; they have the arms and bats to compete with any team in baseball.  Ultimately, the Dodgers will chase the Nationals for the best record in the National League.  The Giants will recover from their October success last season, breaking the cycle of boom and bust that they have experienced the last four seasons.  They will make the playoffs as a Wild Card, but they will not win another World Series this season.  The Padres like the Marlins and Cubs are greatly improved, but will not be able to put it together this season to reach the playoffs in the first season of their new reality.  The Rockies will continue to be successful offensively, but their pitching staff is not ready to take the team to the next level and compete for a playoff spot.  The Diamondbacks are in full rebuild, and will be searching for answers in every phase of the game.  The trade of Trevor Cahill was the clearest sign of Arizona looking to the future beyond the 2015 season.

Now let us examine the Junior Circuit.

American League

East
1 Toronto Blue Jays Division Winner/ 3rd Seed
2 Baltimore Orioles
3 Boston Red Sox
4 New York Yankees
5 Tampa Bay Rays
2015 could be painful in the Bronx. (www.nydailynews.com)

2015 could be painful in the Bronx. (www.nydailynews.com)

The Blue Jays finally have all the players they need to win the American League East.  Even with the loss of Marcus Stroman for the season, Toronto has the arms and bats to win the Division.  The Orioles will return with another strong team.  If Chris Davis or Manny Machado can return to half of their 2013 form Baltimore will stay in the hunt for the playoffs into the final days of the season, but could ultimately fall short.  The Red Sox are better than last season, but their pitching leaves too many questions for the bats to make up.  Boston should finish above .500, but they will not play in October.  The Yankees are a mixture of old talent and youthful ignorance.  New York may face more injury worries as the season progresses, which could derail any dreams of reaching the playoffs, or even .500.  The Rays are in full rebuild mode.  Tampa has to rediscover the magic of over performing if it hopes to avoid finishing last in the East.

Central
1 Detroit Tigers Division Winner/ 1st Seed
2 Cleveland Indians Wild Card
3 Kansas City Royals
4 Chicago White Sox
5 Minnesota Twins
Nick Swisher and the Indians will have a reason to smile this year. (www.en.wikipedia.org)

Nick Swisher and the Indians will have a reason to smile this year. (www.en.wikipedia.org)

The American League Central could be the best Division in all of baseball.  The Tigers should be the class of the Division so long as David Price, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez are able to stay healthy.  The Indians will finally get over the hump and make the playoffs as a Wild Card.  Corey Kluber needs another good season, not necessarily another Cy Young season, and young stars like Michael Brantley need to emerge to power Cleveland back to October.  The Royals are still recovering from their World Series hangover.  While they will be competitive until late in the season, they will not make a return trip to the playoffs, as the loss of James Shields and Billy Butler will be the difference this season.  The White Sox should be much improved but in the Central, it could be difficult to crack the top three in the division even with the addition of Jeff Samardzija to the rotation and David Robertson to the bullpen.  The Twins need their bats and arms to light up the box score this season.  The continued worry about the health of Joe Mauer and the suspension of Ervin Santana could prevent Minnesota from reaching .500.

West
1 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Division Winner (won 1 game playoff)/ 2nd Seed
2 Oakland Athletics Wild Card (lost 1 game playoff)
3 Seattle Mariners
4 Houston Astros
5 Texas Rangers

The American League West has three potential Division winners.  The Angels once again have a tremendous offense led by the best player in the game, Mike Trout, a star looking to rediscover his old form, Albert Pujols, and a declining star, Josh Hamilton.  If the Angels pitchers can stay healthy, they could win the Division.  The Athletics will once again work their magic and surprise everyone to finish the season tied with the Angels.  Another star will emerge in Oakland, a player who another club gave up on and let go.  The Athletics and Angels will have to play a one game playoff to determine who wins the Division and who is the Wild Card.  Ultimately, the Angels will win the Division and send Oakland to the Wild Card.  The Mariners will unfortunately fall just short once again and miss the playoffs.  They need a bit more offense in Seattle if they are to reach to playoffs, but that will have to wait until 2016.  The Astros are once again going to take a huge step forward.  Houston should finish .500 or better thanks to the continued development of its young stars in Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Collin McHugh.  The Rangers should be able to avoid the injury plague they suffered from last season; however, they still lack the pitching to compete, especially after losing Yu Darvish for the season due to Tommy John surgery.

The laughable Astros are only a memory now. (www.diehardsport.com)

The laughable Astros are only a memory now. (www.diehardsport.com)

Playoffs

October will once again give us some great moments to remember, beginning with the Wild Card games.

Wild Card

American League National League
Oakland Athletics Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland Indians San Francisco Giants

In the American League Wild Card game, the Athletics will have spent too much energy getting to the Wild Card game to overcome the Indians.  Cleveland will continue on their excellent season into the Divisional Series.  In the National League Wild Card game, the Pirates will finally give Pittsburgh the full playoff series it has been waiting for since 1992.  The Giants will finally run out of gas after back-to-back seasons of hard-fought competition to reach October.

Divisional Series

American League
ALDS
Toronto Blue Jays Cleveland Indians
ALDS
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Detroit Tigers
National League
NLDS
St. Louis Cardinals Los Angeles Dodgers
NLDS
Washington Nationals Pittsburgh Pirates
Albert Pujols and the Angels will come up short again. (www.monkeywithahalo.com)

Albert Pujols and the Angels will come up short again. (www.monkeywithahalo.com)

In the American League Division Series, the Blue Jays will run through the Indians after Cleveland runs out of gas fighting through the Wild Card.  Pitching should be fairly even, but offensively Toronto should have an advantage with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.  The Angels will once again come up short due to a lack of pitching to match up against the rotation of the Tigers.  Detroit has the best hitters in baseball in Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who can make up for any problems the pitching staff encounters.  In the National League Division Series, the Cardinals will fall to the arms of the Dodgers, as Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke finally translate their dominance to October.  The Nationals will continue their dominance as they fight past the Pirates.  While the series could be tight, Washington has the pitching staff to quiet the bats of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and the rest of the Pirates.

Championship Series

American League
Toronto Blue Jays Detroit Tigers
National League
Washington Nationals Los Angeles Dodgers

The Championship Series will pair off great offenses in the American League as the power bats of the Blue Jays match up against the all-around hitting ability of the Tigers.  The experience and rotation will be the difference for Detroit, even if Justin Verlander and David Price are not in vintage form.  In the National League, the Championship Series will see the matchup of two great pitching staffs.  Los Angeles will send Kershaw and Greinke to the mound to face off against Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, and Stephen Strasburg.  The Nationals will stop the Dodgers as Washington has a deeper roster and the ability to recover if any of its starters faulted.

World Series

The 2015 World Series will pit the Washington Nationals against the Detroit Tigers.  Both have excellent pitching staffs and line-ups.  Detroit has the better lineup, while Washington has the better pitching staff.  The biggest advantage exists in the lineup for the Tigers, which will propel Detroit to another World Series victory in six games.

Detroit Tigers 4 games
Washington Nationals 2 games
The Detroit Tigers will be celebrating again in October. (www.blog.detroitathletic.com)

The Detroit Tigers will be celebrating again in October. (www.blog.detroitathletic.com)

These are our predictions for the 2015 Major League Baseball season.  Love it?  Hate it?  Time will tell if we are right or wrong.  We never claim to know what will happen, but this is what we are predicting to happen.  Now it is time to watch how bad our predictions turn out to be once they meet reality, while enjoying another great season of baseball.

D, J, and B

Maximus Maxwell

The gamble paid off for Max Scherzer.  Simply put, the belief in himself that he was worth more than he had been offered, and that the lucrative contract was out there has come true.  A year after turning down the Detroit Tigers offer of 6 years and $144 million, Scherzer has signed a 7 year deal worth $210 million with the Washington Nationals.  This deal is the 10th largest in baseball history and the second largest ever for a pitcher, trailing only Clayton Kershaw.  While the debate can be had of whether the Nationals paid too much for Scherzer, what cannot be denied is Scherzer’s gambled paid off.

Scherzer’s stock could not have risen much higher than after the 2013 season.  He went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts against 56 walks (4.29 strikeouts/ walks), 0.970 WHIP, 214 ⅓ innings pitched, elected to the All Star team, finished 12th in the Most Valuable Player voting, and won the Cy Young Award.  Coming off by far the best year of his career, Scherzer signed a then record $15.525 million arbitration deal.  His future depended on his having another elite season, and Scherzer delivered.  In 2014, he went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA, 252 strikeouts against 63 walks (4.00 strikeouts/ walks), 1.175 WHIP, 220 ⅓ innings pitched, elected to his second All Star team, and finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting.  While not quite as good as 2013, Scherzer showed he has the ability to be and remain an elite pitcher by his performance in 2014.

Scherzer has become among the best elite pitchers in baseball.(www.thegreedypinstripes.com)

Scherzer has become among the best elite pitchers in baseball.(www.thegreedypinstripes.com)

Prior to his ascension to becoming an elite starting pitcher, Scherzer showed his durability.  He has made at least 30 starts and pitched 170 ⅓ innings per season for the last six seasons.  Scherzer has average 197 ⅓ innings pitched during this stretch, with the last two seasons surpassing the 210 innings pitched mark.  Durability is key if the Nationals are to get the full benefit of signing Scherzer to this long-term deal.

Scherzer’s belief in himself accomplished two things.  First, it got him the contract he wanted.  Additionally, the record salary arbitration and the deal with the Tigers and his new contract with the Nationals earned Scherzer an additional $81.525 million.  Second, Scherzer was able to add at least an additional year to his career by gaining the seventh year of the deal.  Assuming he stays healthy, this extra year should put 200 career wins easily within reach for Scherzer.

Scherzer has the grit and determination to stay on top for years to come. (www.blessyouboys.com)

Scherzer has the grit and determination to stay on top for years to come. (www.blessyouboys.com)

Players are deserving of the contracts they are offered.  The money is beyond comprehension for many people, but I personally will never begrudge a player for taking every dollar they are offered.  Major League Baseball is home to the absolute best baseball players in the world.  People who are the best at what they do should be, and often are, rewarded with high incomes and other benefits.  Baseball is no different.  Max Scherzer is an elite pitcher among elite pitchers.  His new contract with the Washington Nationals is his reward.  Scherzer believed in himself and took a chance that he could recreate his magical 2013 season in 2014.  While he may not have improved upon his performance he solidified his position among the best pitchers in the game and now has the contract to prove it.

D