Tagged: Joe Maddon

Finally

The 2016 World Series was a classic. Game 3 was one of the greatest games I have ever watched, yet it does not come close to Game 7. Two teams and their fans have waited a lifetime, or more, to win the World Series and for the Chicago Cubs the wait is finally over.

The drought since their last World Series championship for the Chicago Cubs (108 years) and Cleveland Indians (68 years) was well documented. Many fans had lived and died without ever seeing their team lift the Commissioner’s Trophy. In any World Series where the teams are so evenly matched there are one or two players who rise to the occasion and give their teams the extra push they need to win. Leading into the Series it was easy to think Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant for the Cubs or Corey Kluber or Francisco Lindor for the Indians would provide that extra push. The struggle between the teams was ultimately between the managers, Terry Francona and Joe Maddon. Francona and Maddon currently sit 30th and 66th on the all time managerial wins list. They are a combined 301 games over .500 in the regular season, and have each guided two different teams to the World Series. Francona and Maddon played the World Series like a chess match, mixing and matching the opportunities they were presented with the players on their roster. Each trying to see several moves ahead to outwit the opponent.

kluber
Corey Kluber started three times for Cleveland and left it all on the mound. (Ken Blaze/ Custom)

Game 3 is one of the greatest games I had ever seen played. The game saw great pitching and defense. Neither Josh Tomlin or Kyle Hendricks pitched beyond 4 ⅔ innings, but they both kept their team in the game. The Indians relied upon Andrew Miller (1 ⅓ innings) Bryan Shaw (1 ⅔ innings), and Cody Allen (1 ⅓ innings) to secure the 1-0 victory. The key was Bryan Shaw’s ability to bridge the five out gap between Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Limiting Miller to 17 pitches and Allen to 18 pitches meant keeping them fresher for longer as the World Series wore on. Despite the Cubs losing Game 3, Joe Maddon still utilized his bullpen in a way that set him up for success later in the Series. After removing Hendricks, Maddon brought in Justin Grimm (⅔ inning), Carl Edwards Jr. (1 ⅔ innings), Mike Montgomery (⅔ inning), Pedro Strop (⅔ inning), and Aroldis Chapman (1 inning). Spreading the workload around meant keeping arms fresh and the pressure on the Indians. Edwards Jr. took the loss for the Cubs. He retired Cleveland in order in the Top of the 6th. The top of the 7th started with a single to right field by Roberto Perez, Michael Martinez entered the game to run for Perez. A sacrifice bunt by Tyler Naquin moved Martinez to second base. One out with a man on second is not horrible, however a wild pitch allowed Martinez to move to third. Rajai Davis was walked to set up a double play, but the next batter, Coco Crisp, singled to right scoring the only run of the game. A single bad pitch cost the Cubs Game 3.

The hype around a Game 7 rarely lives up to the expectations. This Game 7 was one of the few exceptions. The pressure to perform when any mistake cost your team the World Series is immense. Once again the fingerprints of Terry Francona and Joe Maddon were all over this game. The Indians and Cubs combined to scatter 24 hits, commit four errors, and allow 15 runs, yet the game felt like the final score was 3-2. Timely hitting and bend-but-do-not-break pitching and defense were the deciding factors for who was crowned World Series champions.

rajai
Rajai Davis hit the biggest home run of his life when the Indians needed it the most. (Fox)

Joe Maddon rode Kyle Hendricks as far as he felt he could and lifted him after 4 ⅔ innings and just 63 pitches. The move seemed questionable at the time, but Maddon is the one getting paid to make these decisions, not us. After Hendricks, the Cubs relied on Jon Lester (3 innings), Aroldis Chapman (1 ⅓ innings), Carl Edwards Jr. (⅔ inning), and Mike Montgomery (⅓ inning) to bring home the victory. Lester was the bridge the Cubs needed to get to Chapman. The trust in the veteran left-hander was well founded. Handing the ball off to Chapman for the final four outs exposed how much Chicago had relied on their closer throughout the series and he finally ran out of gas. Rajai Davis hit the biggest home run of his life to tie the game. 93 pitches at maximum effort over three days against the same team takes a toll on any pitcher, and on a pitcher as unhittable as Chapman, he suddenly is human. After taking a two run lead in the Top of the 10th inning, Maddon believed his best option was to call upon Carl Edwards Jr. to get the final three outs. Edwards Jr. has just two career saves, the first on September 1, 2016 with the Cubs leading the National League Central by 15.5 games and the second on the final day of the 2016 regular season. Not exactly high pressure moments.

Cleveland never gave up, every time they would be down, they continued to crawl their way back into the game. Corey Kluber gave the Indians everything he had in his third World Series start. Terry Francona had to bring in Andrew Miller after one pitch in the 5th inning, as it was clear Kluber was done. Andrew Miller was exhausted like Kluber and Chapman, yet he still found a way to give Cleveland 2 ⅓ innings before making way for Cody Allen. The Cubs went hitless against Allen over two innings, allowing the Indians offense to catch up. The Cleveland bullpen was stretched to the breaking point, and Bryan Shaw allowed two runs in the Top of the 10th inning that secured the Cubs victory. Yes, Shaw allowed the World Series clinching run, but he is not to blame for Cleveland’s defeat. Simply one team finally defeated the other.

celebrate
It is finally next year for the Cubs. (Brian Cassella/ Chicago Tribune)

There are games and World Series where one team does not necessarily win, but rather the other team loses. The 2016 World Series was just the opposite. Both the Indians and the Cubs played like champions. There was no Madison Bumgarner or Reggie Jackson in this World Series where a single player put the entire team on his back and carried them to the title. Instead, both teams used team baseball to carry themselves to the edge of a championship. The Cubs were a better team in only a few moments in the seven game series, but when two teams are so evenly matched that is the difference between winning and losing. 49 of the 50 players on the Indians and Cubs rosters appeared in at least two games; John Lackey’s only appearance was as the Cubs starter in Game 4. Terry Francona and Joe Maddon used every ounce of energy available on their bench, and the Cubs had just a little more.

It took team baseball to end the Curse of the Billy Goat, but it was also team baseball that nearly kept it going for another season. The statistics are close, but the Cubs led in more offensive statistics and the Indians did not win any of these key pitching statistics. Here are the numbers for proof:

Offense

Cleveland Indians

Chicago Cubs

At Bats

232

245

Runs

27

27

Hits

55

61

2B

10

10

HR

7

8

Walks

24

22

Strike Outs

59

64

Batting Average

.237

.249

On-Base Percentage

.321

.316

Slugging

.371

.404

OPS

.691

.720

Pitching

Cleveland Indians

Chicago Cubs

ERA

3.71

3.43

Saves

1

2

Innings Pitched

63

63

WHIP

1.317

1.254

The 2016 World Series was an amazing seven game series to watch and enjoy. The numbers only confirm what we all know, this World Series was phenomenal. The fans of the Indians and Cubs were tortured while the rest of the baseball world were given the opportunity to step into their world for just a few days. I do not envy the stress and anguish felt by both teams and fans bases, but for the Cubs it was all worth it in the end. At last Cubs fans you do not have to wait until next year, celebrate for all the Cubs fans who were not able to see the Cubs win their third World Series championship. There is nothing to be upset about Indians fans your team gave you a great ride, the nucleus is there for Cleveland, you just have to wait a little longer.

Chicago Cubs Fans Gather To Watch Game 7 Of The World Series Against The Cleveland Indians
Cubs fans have waited a long time and celebrated accordingly. (Scott Olsen/ Getty Images)

P.S. This World Series was so heavily based upon team baseball that individual awards were not so easy to pick, nor did individual candidates stick out from the crown. Congratulations to World Series Most Valuable Player Ben Zobrist. Enjoy all the technology and stuff in your new Chevrolet Camaro.

DJ

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Predictions Sure To Go Wrong 3.0

The Winning Run is back again with another attempt at predicting the outcome of the upcoming MLB season. The last two seasons we have tried and failed miserably to accurately predict what would happen. We have failed much more than we have found success, much like in real baseball. These predictions are not designed to jinx particular players or teams. These are honest predictions, designed to predict how we collectively see the 2016 season playing out. We can say without a doubt that our only perfect prediction is that reality is better than fiction.

Carnac.jpg
Carnac the Magnificent knew what was going to happen, The Winning Run not so much. (The Tonght Show with Johnny Carson)

Here’s the breakdown of how we each think the divisions and playoffs will end up. Our final standings, based on the average placement between the four of us, will also include a brief scouting report from Bernie, as to what he sees in each team heading into the 2016 MLB season. His personal predictions were close to the collective predictions, and we have noted where they vary greatly.

Let us begin with the Senior Circuit.

*Note* An exclamation point (!) after a team name denotes a Wild Card berth.

National League

East Derek Jesse John Bernie
1 New York Mets New York Mets New York Mets New York Mets
2 Washington Nationals – ! Washington Nationals Washington Nationals Miami Marlins
3 Miami Marlins Miami Marlins Miami Marlins Washington Nationals
4 Atlanta Braves Atlanta Braves Philadelphia Phillies Atlanta Braves
5 Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia Phillies Atlanta Braves Philadelphia Phillies
  1. New York Mets:

The Mets shored up their interior defense by getting Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. If you watched last season’s playoff games, the Mets’ rotation always seemed to get beaten up the middle. Those guys will also likely provide a lot more consistent offense than Wilmer Flores or Daniel Murphy. The Mets are looking to play deep into October and I think they could do it.

2. Washington Nationals:

The Nationals are really the team equivalent of their star player, Bryce Harper; supremely talented, but mentally dysfunctional. There is a serious lack of team discipline and I don’t think Dusty Baker is the one to bring it. This is the major hurdle to the Nationals winning the division.

Dusty Baker
The question is will Dusty baker help the Nationals reach their potential. (Logan Bowles- USA Today Sports)

3. Miami Marlins:

Giancarlo Stanton’s contract has me believing that the Marlins are in it to win it now. They’ve always been good at developing talent so Manager Don Mattingly should have something to work with and collect some wins.

4. Atlanta Braves:

The Braves did some house cleaning, clearing the way for the wealth of talent in the minors. I’ve got to question whether they can generate any more runs this year than they did last year though. But they won’t be in last place.

5. Philadelphia Phillies:

I really shouldn’t have to say anything about this. No real change to expect anything better this year.

Central Derek Jesse John Bernie
1 Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates
2 Pittsburgh Pirates St. Louis Cardinals – ! Pittsburgh Pirates – ! Chicago Cubs – !
3 St. Louis Cardinals Pittsburgh Pirates St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals
4 Cincinnati Reds Milwaukee Brewers Cinncinati Reds Cinncinati Reds
5 Milwaukee Brewers Cincinnati Reds Milwaukee Brewers Milwaukee Brewers
  1. Chicago Cubs:

Let’s be honest, they’re the Cubs. If they’re going to win it, it’s as Cinderella (Bernie has them going into the playoffs as a Wild Card). Chicago needs that storyline. I really like their rotation and bullpen but they overworked Jake Arrieta because they didn’t trust enough of their other players. That’s got to change.

  1.      Pittsburgh Pirates – !:

I liked the way AJ Burnett found himself in Pittsburgh and I think Jonathon Niese may very well have the same sort of fortune in the Steel City. Michael Morse was a fun guy to watch in Washington, I’m going out on a limb to say he finds himself again and becomes a solid 1B for the Pirates this season. I’m still puzzled how these guys didn’t win the division last season.

  1.      St. Louis Cardinals:

Last year, El Birdos found the fountain of youth for their stars. If it happens again this year, then the zombie apocalypse has started with Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina. Or maybe they need to be checked out for cybernetic implants.

Kris Bryant Cubs.jpg
Kris Bryant is heping lead the strongest Cubs team since those uniforms were not retro. (Jonathan Danil/ Getty Images)
  1.      Cincinnati Reds:

The Cincinnati Reds may have done some house cleaning having traded away Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman. They still have some talent that I wouldn’t count out. What they definitely aren’t doing is wallowing.

  1.      Milwaukee Brewers:

Speaking of wallowing…you’ve got to wonder about the Brewers’ pitching. Like at what point do you ask whether you’d have better luck regularly shuffling up from your AAA squads just to give you opponents less time to scout out your pitchers.

West Derek Jesse John Bernie
1 San Francisco Giants Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers San Francisco Giants
2 Los Angeles Dodgers – ! Arizona Diamondbacks -! Arizona Diamondbacks – ! Arizona Diamondbacks – !
3 Arizona Diamondbacks San Francisco Giants San Francisco Giants Los Angeles Dodgers
4 San Diego Padres San Diego Padres San Diego Padres San Diego Padres
5 Colorado Rockies Colorado Rockies Colorado Rockies Colorado Rockies
  1.      Los Angeles Dodgers:

I’m not sure what the Dodgers were thinking during the off-season. What I am certain of is that letting Zack Greinke go and shuffling the management is not a good thing to do for some of the young guns on the team like Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig. If they had kept everything the same, I would have put them in first place for the division. (Bernie predicted the Dodgers to finish 3rd)

  1.      San Francisco Giants – !:

I don’t really think pitching was their weakest issue last season but I think they are going into 2016 with one of the most enviable rotations a manager could ask for. I’m not completely sold on Santiago Casilla and bullpen. If Denard Span can stay healthy, he’s a great addition to a strong lineup that is capable of getting the ball in play and moving around the bases.

  1.      Arizona Diamondbacks:

Zack Greinke and Paul Goldschmidt. Shelby Miller will get the run support he needed in Atlanta. But I don’t see enough depth here to remain consistent through the season. The bullpen can probably step in to help out the back end of the rotation. The lineup is young. Maybe they’re more disciplined and hungry than I think and could be a definite Wild Card contender.

Zack Greinke.jpg
Were the Dodgers Crazy to let Zack Greinke leave Los Angeles? (Rick Scuteri- USA Today Sports)
  1.      San Diego Padres:

The only reason I’m putting the Padres over the Rockies is that they made some interesting pushes last season that indicate to me they could get it together. Doesn’t mean there’s enough talent here to make the playoffs though.

  1.      Colorado Rockies:

The worst team ERA in 2015 and that’s with a pretty talented defensive infield. I’m surprised the fielders have enough gas in the tank to swing a bat when they’ve got to run around chasing hits all the time.

American League

East Derek Jesse John Bernie
1 Toronto Blue Jays Toronto Blue Jays New York Yankees Toronto Blue Jays
2 Boston Red Sox – ! Tampa Bay Rays Boston Red Sox Baltimore Orioles – !
3 New York Yankees New York Yankees Toronto Blue Jays Boston Red Sox
4 Tampa Bay Rays Baltimore Orioles Baltimore Orioles New York Yankees
5 Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox Tampa Bay Rays Tampa Bay Rays

The American League East was the hardest division to predict, as an argument could be made for each team winning the Division. Here are Bernie’s thoughts.

  1.      Toronto Blue Jays:

Biggest run differential of the 2015 season. Picking up Drew Storen was a great move to support their starting rotation. This team has what it takes on paper.

  1.      New York Yankees:

There’s no point in having three of the best relief pitchers in the league when you don’t have a strong enough rotation to have them shortening the games. Lots of experience but not the cohesiveness you see in the Cardinals. But these predictions are supposed to go wildly wrong and, in this case, I sincerely hope I am. (Bernie has the Yankees finishing 4th)

  1.      Boston Red Sox:

Ugh…I feel sick doing this. The Red Sox needed some serious pitching help. Clay Bucholz simply isn’t an ace. So they got one in David Price. They also picked up Craig Kimbrel so they’ve a good bullpen punch with him and Koji Uehara. As David Ortiz will be riding into the sunset this season, the Red Sox will be a good team to watch.

David Ortiz Swing.jpg
Can David Ortiz deliver one last magical run into October? (Elsa/ Getty Images)
  1.      Baltimore Orioles:

There’s a lot of great talent on this team. They’ve got a great rotation and bullpen with two highly competent catchers. I would somewhat question their interior defense but with Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and new addition, Mark Trumbo, the Orioles have got a lot of heavy bats to knock in runs.

  1.      Tampa Bay Rays:

This is a well-balanced pitching and defensive team but nothing exciting enough to write home about on the offensive side.

Central Derek Jesse John Bernie
1 Kansas City Royals Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins Kansas City Royals
2 Detroit Tigers – ! Cleveland Indians – ! Kansas City Royals – ! Cleveland Indians – !
3 Cleveland Indians Minnesota Twins Detroit Tigers Detroit Tigers
4 Chicago White Sox Detroit Tigers Cleveland Indians Minnesota Twins
5 Minnesota Twins Chicago White Sox Chicago White Sox Chicago White Sox
  1.      Kansas City Royals:

They’re the champs so it’s sort of needed to give them the nod for their division. Plus, the 2015 squad wasn’t made up of veterans in the twilight of their careers reaching deep down for that extra something to win it all. They’re young and agile. They get on base. They aggressively move around the bases. No one’s yet figured out how to stop them or slow them down.

  1.      Cleveland Indians – !:

These guys have a surprisingly good rotation with Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Cody Anderson. When I say surprisingly, I’m saying that how did they not win more? Francisco Lindor is young and if he’s coming into form, then we could be seeing a Wild Card contender here.

Francisco Lindor
Francisco Lindor could help the Indians win a tough American League Central.  (www.cleveland.com)
  1.      Detroit Tigers:

Jordan Zimmermann is not David Price and I’ll let you figure out whether that’s a good or bad thing. I actually think Justin Upton was a good pick up for the Tigers but I’m not convinced they can make the jump from bottom of the division to much higher.

  1.      Minnesota Twins:

I want to put this team higher but I think their second place divisional finish last season was more due to mishaps from other teams than their own solid play. Don’t get me wrong though, they’re on the right track. Just not this season.

  1.      Chicago White Sox:

The addition of Todd Frazier will help them generate some more offense. But is the increased offense a wash after losing the veteran leadership of Adam LaRoche to early retirement (more on that later)? Whenever issues involving a front-office exec doing something about the locker room make the news, you just know there’s some serious dysfunction going on.

West Derek Jesse John Bernie
1 Houston Astros Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Houston Astros Houston Astros
2 Texas Rangers Houston Astros – ! Texas Rangers – ! Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
3 Seattle Mariners Seattle Mariners Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Texas Rangers
4 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Oakland Athletics Oakland Athletics Oakland Athletics
5 Oakland Athletics Texas Rangers Seattle Mariners Seattle Mariners
  1.      Houston Astros:

I was really impressed by how the Houston Astros finished off the 2015 season. Something clicked and I think they’re going to ride this wave. Adding Ken Giles to the backend of the bullpen already featuring Luke Gregerson makes up a dangerous one-two punch to shorten games.

  1.      Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – !:

I think the bigger reason I’m putting the Angels here instead of the Rangers is more on Rangers. I think Albert Pujols will still be remarkably dangerous in the batter’s box. Something about the balance on this team with Mike Trout’s hustle gives me a good feeling.

MVP
Can any one challenge Mike Trout for AL MVP? (www.nbcsports.com)
  1.      Texas Rangers:

The Rangers are not going to take the proper steps to recover. I’m calling that they’re going to try starting the season hot and aggressive. By the All-Star break, this team will be on life support and need some serious therapy. But in reality, they look a better version on the Angels and since this prediction will be wildly off, they may very well win the division again.

  1.      Seattle Mariners:

Nori Aoki was a good pick up to strengthen their outfield and improve getting on base. They’re going to rely too heavily on their rotation to go deep to win games and that’s not good for Felix Hernandez nor Hisashi Iwakuma.

  1.      Oakland Athletics:

If Marcus Semien were a better fielder, I’d have more faith in this infield. On paper, this team would be a solid 2nd place team in the division. I just can’t make that call.

Playoffs

October is special, as the best baseball is on display and tensions continually grow throughout the month. The playoffs begin with the Wild Card games, which are a one game winner take all showdown. Wild Card teams better bring everything they have, or they will be on vacation.

Wild Card

NL Winner NL Loser AL Winner AL Loser
Derek Washington Nationals Los Angeles Dodgers Boston Red Sox Detroit Tigers
Jesse Arizona Diamondback St. Louis Cardinals Cleveland Indians Houston Astros
John Pittsburgh Pirates Arizona Diamondbacks Kansas City Royals Texas Rangers
Bernie Chicago Cubs Arizona Diamondbacks Cleveland Indians Baltimore Orioles
The Winning Run Pittsburgh Pirates San Francisco Giants Cleveland Indians Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

In the National League, the Pirates will finally get out of the Wild Card round. Gerrit Cole will have carried the pitching staff throughout the season, so why not one more game. In the American League, the Indians strong starting rotation will have saved the Cleveland bullpen and allow fresh arms to come out of the pen and dominate the Angels hitters when the pressure is on.

Garrit Cole.jpg
Garrit Cole will lead the Pirates charge into the playoffs. (Peter Diana- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Divisional Series

American League Divisional Series

ALDS 1/4 Winner ALDS 1/4 Loser ALDS 2/3  Winner ALDS 2/3 Loser
Derek Houston Astros Boston Red Sox Toronto Blue Jays Kansas City Royals
Jesse Kansas City Royals Cleveland Indians Toronto Blue Jays Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
John Minnesota Twins Kansas City Royals Houston Astros New York Yankees
Bernie Cleveland Indians Kansas City Royals Houston Astros Toronto Blue Jays
The Winning Run Toronto Blue Jays Cleveland Indians Houston Astros Kansas City Royals

National League Divisional Series

NLDS 1/4 Winner NLDS 1/4 Loser NLDS 2/3  Winner NLDS 2/3 Loser
Derek San Francisco Giants Washington Nationals Chicago Cubs New York Mets
Jesse New York Mets Arizona Diamondbacks Chicago Cubs Los Angeles Dodgers
John New York Mets Pittsburgh Pirates Chicago Cubs Los Angeles Dodgers
Bernie San Francisco Giants New York Mets Pittsburgh Pirates Chicago Cubs
The Winning Run Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates New York Mets Los Angeles Dodgers

In the National League, the Pirates will not be able to overtake the Cubs. The Pirates are a great team, but they have the misfortune of playing in the NL Central where the best team in baseball, the Cubs, also plays. The young arms from Queens and a more predictable offense will lead the Mets past the Dodgers who will miss Zack Greinke more in October than during the regular season. In the American League, the Astros will continue to play complete baseball and overcome the Royals, who after back to back trips to the World Series will finally run out of gas. While Cleveland’s pitching led them to the playoffs, it will be no match for the offensive power of the Blue Jays. Josh Donaldson is the reigning AL MVP, and yet he is most likely not the chief offensive threat for Toronto, as Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista can launch a baseball with the best in the game.

Byron Buxton.jpg
Byron Buxton and the Twins could make some noise, potentially even make the playoffs. (Scott Kane- Associated Press)

Championship Series

American League Championship Series

ALCS Winner ALCS Loser
Derek Toronto Blue Jays Houston Astros
Jesse Toronto Blue Jays Kansas City Royals
John Houston Astros Minnesota Twins
Bernie Houston Astros Cleveland Indians
The Winning Run Toronto Blue Jays Houston Astros

National League Championship Series

NLCS Winner NLCS Loser
Derek Chicago Cubs San Francisco Giants
Jesse New York Mets Chicago Cubs
John Chicago Cubs New York Mets
Bernie San Francisco Giants Pittsburgh Pirates
The Winning Run Chicago Cubs New York Mets

A rematch of the 2015 NLCS. Two great teams, but the Cubs finally get over the hump and return to the World Series for the first time since 1945. The Cubs are a year older and wiser and have extraordinary talent at bat and on the mound. The Mets are a great team, but they lack the offensive prowess to overcome the Cubs. In the American League, Toronto will find out that teams cannot rely on power to guide them to a championship, there has to be a backup plan. The Blue Jays are not flexible enough to meet this challenge. The Astros have built a potential juggernaut in Houston, which relies on power, pitching, speed, defense, and hustle. Houston wins by the sum of its parts.

World Series

World Series Winner World Series Loser
Derek Toronto Blue Jays Chicago Cubs
Jesse Toronto Blue Jays New York Mets
John Chicago Cubs Houston Astros
Bernie San Francisco Giants Houston Astros
The Winning Run Houston Astros Chicago Cubs

Sorry Cub fans, you will have to wait until next year…again. The Astros win it all in 2016. The speed of Jose Altuve, the power of Evan Gattis, the starting pitching of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh, the bullpen of Ken Giles and Luke Gregerson, the all-around ability of Carlos Correa, not to mention George Springer and Carlos Gomez puts Houston over the top. The Cubs have everything to win. The young core of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, plus Javier Baez all can continue to grow with a solid rotation of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and John Lackey. However, the Cubs are missing that it factor. Joe Madden will get the Cubs o click eventually, but in 2016 they will come one game short of that ever elusive World Series Championship.

Jose Altuve.jpg
It will be time to celebrate in Houston this October. (Houston Chronicle)

So there they are, the 2016 predictions by The Winning Run. Are we right about all our predictions, doubtful. Only time will tell how right or wrong we were with these predictions. Welcome to the 2016 MLB season, enjoy another great season of baseball.

DJ, JJ, JB, & BL

Moving On

The Chicago Cubs have finally clinched a playoff series at Wrigley Field. Let that sink in for a moment.  It only took the Northside faithful 99 years to see their beloved Cubs clinch a series at the Friendly Confines.  None of that matters right now though.  Chicago’s youth movement powered them past the best regular season team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Both teams fought through the toughest division in baseball and survived to make the playoffs and we pitted against one another in the NLDS.  Every baseball fan knows the lore of the Cubs.  Wait until next year (the eternal optimist).  The curse of the Billy Goat (very much real).  Steve Bartman (the scapegoat for a team that fell apart after a fan did what any fan would do, try to catch a foul ball).  Wrigley Field has kept the Cubs relevant even when the team was just plain awful.  No matter how terrible the team was the bleachers were usually full even during mid-week day games.  Wrigley Field was a destination for any and every baseball fan, including this one who sat in the right field bleachers three years ago during a Cubs victory against the Giants.

Some may call the Cubs, or some other team, a team of destiny.  Others will say it is time to break all the curses and bring a World Series championship to Wrigley.  Whatever you call them the Cubs are fun to watch.  They are playing far beyond their years and appear to have the ability to make a run at winning it all.  They are playing hard and with a style all their own.  Manager Joe Maddon is managing the team the way he wants.  He seems relaxed yet focused, which is rubbing off on his youth squad.  They have escaped the Wild Card game, which was a bridge too far for the Pirates and Yankees.  Undoubtedly, the Cubs have avoided the injury bug, which may have doomed the Cardinals.  They have avoided the decisive Game 5, unlike the other remaining six team, where any and everything can happen, good and bad.

The 1908 World Series champion Chicago Cubs (www.grayflannelsuit.net)

The 1908 World Series champion Chicago Cubs (www.grayflannelsuit.net)

The Cubs were stripped down to the bones and rebuilt after a couple lackluster seasons following back to back seasons of playoff disappointments.  Credit is due to General Manager Jed Hoyer and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein for their masterful job in getting quality returns on their trades and through the draft.  Both Hoyer and Epstein understood the task ahead of them and have seen the fruits of their labor.  The Cubs might win the World Series this year, or they might not.  Regardless how their season ends, the Cubs are relevant again.  Go to any Cubs away game and it has the feel that you are at a Cubs home game.  This can be annoying, but it speaks to the love and passion of the long-suffering fan base.  The Northside faithful are hoping for a World Series championship.  It is too soon to know if it is finally next year for the Cubs.  However, regardless of what happens during the rest of the playoffs, the Cubs are moving on to the NLCS.  This is good for these young players, for the Northside faithful, and for baseball.  The game is better when every team has a legitimate chance to win it all every so often, and it is time for the Cubs to get their shot.

Go Cubs Go.

DJ

Is This Real Life, Or Is This Just Fantasy

You can call me fanatical, old school, oblivious, or just stubborn but I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to play baseball. I cheer for my team, some times maybe a little too hard, but never to the point of being irrational. I prefer the hit and run or the sacrifice bunt to playing for a 3 run home run, although I do not believe there is anything necessarily wrong with home runs, I just prefer to see runs manufactured instead of waiting for the long ball that may never come. This is just how I prefer to see the game played.

There is however, one thing that I absolutely hate seeing in baseball and wish it was completely removed from the game, it is players gaining an unfair advantage through drugs. I do not mind it when players try to gain an advantage by kicking rocks into a speedy runners shoes, selling an umpire on a catch they did not make, pretending to get hit by a pitch, and a million other things that players have long done to try to gain an edge on their opponents. Plenty of people will say that this is a double standard, that both are cheating and therefore they should both be looked down upon. This is how I make the distinction between the two. One allows you to theoretically gain an advantage in winning a game. The other has the potential to do physical harm.

When Derek Jeter pretends to get hit by a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays, what harm is done by his cheating? Rays Manager Joe Maddon is ejected for arguing, Jeter is awarded first base, the pitcher must now face another hitter but now with a runner on first, Jeter can potentially score a run which could decide who wins or loses the game, and the American League East or Wild Card standings could be altered. This is not good as it could change how the game plays out. Emphasis on this being a game. Jeter did exactly what I believe many other players would do, he sought to, and was successful at, gaining an advantage for his team. Yes he cheated, but ultimately baseball is just a game and there are much more important issues facing the world other than who won today’s game.

Fooled ya!

Fooled ya!

When Ryan Braun is taking whatever drug he is using to allow him to play better there is a real danger involved, to himself and to others. Many of the drugs that are available to players do not have a long history of testing so the long term ramifications of using them is not fully understood. There may be long term health concerns associated with these drugs, but I, nor anyone else, should be able to tell a grown man what he can and cannot do to his own body. Everyone has the right to do what they would like with their body, so long as they are not harming others. This is where players like Braun and Alex Rodriguez cross the line. Their use of performance-enhancing drugs puts other players and fans in increased danger. If their drug of choice makes them 5% stronger then it also means that a thrown pitch or a batted ball back to the pitch will move 5% faster. This cuts down on the reaction time for other players or fans to protect themselves against the baseball. In 2012 the average fastball in Major League Baseball was 91.35 mph. A batter has 0.399 seconds to react to the pitch. In this small amount of time they must determine if the ball is a strike or a ball, if they will swing or not, or if they need to protect themselves from the pitch. Ultimately it all comes down to reflexes, because no one can truly think this quickly. Now back to the performance-enhancing drugs taken by a player. If the pitcher is taking the drugs then the 5% boost they get means the opposing batter now has an even shorter amount of time to react to decide to swing or not or to protect themselves. The 91.35 mph fastball is now traveling at 95.91 mph. Giving the hitter 0.380 seconds to react. The lose of 0.019 seconds to react can mean the difference between having your head turned away, your shoulder raised, or your back turned. If the batter is using the the 5% boost could mean a pitcher does not have time to raise their arms to protect themselves, open their glove to try to deflect or catch the ball, or even seeing the ball coming at them at all. Remember this is just the difference which a 5% boost in performance can make on an average fastball. Imagine how short the elapsed time becomes if the pitch is already an above average fastball and the performance increase is more than 5%. The baseball could easily permanently injure a player, or worse.

Imagine stepping into the batters box if Aroldis Chapman threw 5% harder.

Imagine stepping into the batters box if Aroldis Chapman threw 5% harder.

Major League Baseball is cleaning up the sport and those players who test positive for the performance-enhancing drugs or are associated with them are ostracized from the game. Personally I wish the penalties were harsher than they currently are, but that will hopefully come in time. The average fan has no recourse against these dirty players other than boo them. Giving people a second chance in life is important, but when you damage something that I love it is harder to allow for that second chance. This is why I do what I can to see the game cleaned up and for the good guys in the game to get their time in the sun. the fantasy baseball league I play in has the following six rules:

  1. Any and all players who have been suspended or accused of PED use are ineligible to be drafted or added to the roster later in the season.

  2. If you play a player who have been suspended or accused of PED use, whether knowingly or unknowingly, you must immediately drop the player and leave an open spot in your line up for 7 days.

  3. You can only add a new player to replace the dirty player after the 7 days have passed.

  4. Each player will police themselves in regards to hating dirty players.

  5. If you draft Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun, you are a complete moron.

  6. The following players are on the banned list, plus any who get busted during the season: 

I in no way contend that my banning of all dirty players from my league has any real impact on someone like Ryan Braun. I am not delusional enough to think that he remotely cares what I think. However, it gives me and the people I play against the satisfaction of knowing that the players who we use in our league play the game the right way. It is our way of hitting back against the players who cheat in such a way that it could potentially hurt someone.

Better to have a broken bat than broken face.

Better to have a broken bat than broken face.

I love baseball and do not want anything or anyone to ruin it. Yes fans and the media come down harsher on players when they are busted or suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs, but it is because baseball is held to a higher standard. It is America’s past time. During World War II, the Japanese did not yell “to hell with Sammy Baugh”, they yelled “to hell with Babe Ruth”. Baseball and its records are the most haloed among the major sports in America. The media coverage is not as intense or as long when a basketball player starts closing in on an all time record, but with baseball the media attention can become overwhelming when a player closes in on a single season record. Baseball and its fans deserve to have players who respect the game and its history. Major League Baseball has become serious about cleaning up the game and the growing disgust and animosity toward those found to have used performance-enhancing drugs is a sign that the game is on the right track.

D