A new season is here and despite a lukewarm stove during the offseason, there are some interesting changes that should make our predictions even more misguided than before. Here’s a breakdown of how we see the final standings and playoffs going down. Bernie’s providing a “scouting report” based on our averaged predictions this time around.
|NL East||Derek||Jesse||John||Bernie||Kevin||The Winning Run|
1st Place- Washington Nationals
The Nationals seem to be suffering from the curse of most Washington sports teams with their inability to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. After last season, this led to a hasty change in management. Any moron with a working foot and hands can drive a Ferrari fast. That’s what this team is and why they’ll win the division.
2nd Place- Philadelphia Phillies
We rag on them a lot. It’s been ten head-scratching years since they won the World Series looking like they could have been contenders for several years. So it’s well-deserved. This time, they cleaned house a bit with a lot of cash-in-hand to build a team on the fly.
3rd Place- Atlanta Braves
They’re rebuilding too but the rebuild has had some setbacks. Shelby Miller and Alex Wood floundered. Wood may not have been comfortable in Atlanta but Miller was left out to dry without run support far too often. The front office traded away the pitching staff (giving up Kimbrel for what!?) to get hitters but also gave up one of the best defensive shortstops in the Majors – Andrelton Simmons. Nothing has worked yet but they’re still not the head case that are the Mets.
4th Place- New York Mets
They still have formidable pitching if they can stay healthy. Their lineup isn’t drastically different than the one that made a World Series appearance in 2015. In some ways, this lineup has some serious slugging potential. But they’re the Mets. As long as there’s a lurking sideshow like Tim Tebow, you can bet these guys can’t stay out of their own heads long enough to hold it together for a season.
5th Place- Miami Marlins
Part of me would like to call this karmic retribution for ruining perfectly good World Series championship teams from the past. That part is because I don’t want to disparage Jeter but, to be fair, this also feels like certain teams flexing some influence to manufacture winners and losers. Or this could be a genius move to truly build from the ground up…I’m not holding my breath.
|Derek||Jesse||John||Bernie||Kevin||The Winning Run|
1st Place- Chicago Cubs
Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana are in. Jake Arrieta is out. Kyle Schwarber looks like he was stranded on a desert island during the off-season but in a good way. There’s far too much young hitting and defensive talent on this roster to think that turnover in the rotation is going to do much of anything. Heck, if Schwarber can run down a fly ball better, Cubs fans should be rejoicing because he showed in Spring Training that he can hit for power just from his shoulder rotation.
2nd Place- Milwaukee Brewers
3rd Place- St. Louis Cardinals
These guys are like the San Antonio Spurs. They capitalize on their experience and reload. However, the reloading hasn’t quite been adapting to the rapid changes going on in other places. Molina is still a machine but that’s relative to his age. Same goes for Carpenter, Fowler, and Wainwright (who’s currently hurt). Tommy Pham has a lot of hustle and if Wacha, Gyorko, Wong, and DeJong can find an extra gear to raise their game, third place is going to be off.
4th Place- Cincinnati Reds
One guy north of 30 on the top of their depth chart for fielding but a whole lot of questions about their rotation. If this team could gel together this season, the NL Central will probably be the most exciting division to watch this season.
5th Place- Pittsburgh Pirates
Heart doesn’t win games if you can’t keep them close. There isn’t enough depth here to contend with the rest of the division. Doubt they’ll come in last in the National League but they rest of the Central provides a big obstacle to move forward.
|NL West||Derek||Jesse||John||Bernie||Kevin||The Winning Run|
1st Place- Los Angeles Dodgers
Let’s give the 2017 National League Pennant winners their due. There’s little else to that’s necessary to mention.
2nd Place- Arizona Diamondbacks
I think Zack Greinke is ready to crush it this season. Taijuan Walker is a solid pick up to round out the rotation. Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb are a powerful one-two punch in a pretty formidable lineup. A healthy A.J. Pollock and an added bat with Steven Souza Jr. gives them a credible threat to unseat the Dodgers this year.
3rd Place- Colorado Rockies
The Rockies didn’t do a whole lot to solidify the impressive season they had last year. Blackmon has been on a steady increase over the last four seasons so he may regress this season. Their rotation is really well balanced without an elite ace.
4th Place- San Francisco Giants
The Giants added Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria to the lineup. Two guys whom many would have expected to be one-team guys for their HoF contending careers. Not sure if that’s a solution or snake oil for their woes that now include an injured (again) Madison Bumgarner.
5th Place- San Diego Padres
Paul Goldschmidt and the Diamondbacks have been waiting in the wings, could 2018 be there time to win the National League West. (Justin K. Aller/ Getty Images)
|AL East||Derek||Jesse||John||Bernie||Kevin||The Winning Run|
|2||Yankees*||Jays*||Blue Jays||Red Sox*||Red Sox*||Red Sox*|
|3||Blue Jays||Orioles||Red Sox||Orioles||Jays||Blue Jays|
1st Place- New York Yankees
Luis Severino made the case for being an elite ace to lead the Yankees’ rotation. They had one of most formidable bullpens in the Majors and they didn’t lose it. They dropped a Todd Frazier and picked up a Giancarlo Stanton. Can Aaron Boone lose with this team? It’s New York and odd things happen when you have that kind of pressure.
2nd Place- Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale is probably grinding his teeth a little bit about Corey Kluber getting the Cy Young. There’s also a healthy David Price. Rick Porcello is an enviable 3rd man in the rotation. Mookie Betts might be the most athletically gifted player in the Majors. They won the division last year and lost to the eventual World Series Champs.
3rd Place- Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays retooled their lineup a bit but they’ll have to do a lot in order to take any attention away from the Yankees or the Red Sox.
4th Place- Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are losing depth on both sides of the ball as Chris Davis and Adam Jones have become the elder statesmen of the team. Having one of the best closers in the game being stuck on the DL again shouldn’t be a concern if they’re going to struggle to keep games close going into the later innings. Manager Buck Showalter is a crafty guy though and somehow gets his teams through a lot more than expected. But this is a pretty stacked division.
5th Place- Tampa Bay Rays
Carlos Gomez was a surprisingly good pickup to replace Steven Souza Jr (especially since Souza’s starting the season on the DL). The Rays have a solid rotation with Archer, Snell, Faria, and Eovaldi but there’s an extreme of old journeyman and hopeful prospect talent on the other side that doesn’t bode well for a good season.
|AL Central||Derek||Jesse||John||Bernie||Kevin||The Winning Run|
|3||White Sox||White Sox||Royals||Royals||White Sox||Royals|
|4||Royals||Tigers||Tigers||White Sox||Royals||White Sox|
1st Place- Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians were a game and a series away from being right back in the action everyone thought they were going to coast into. They were stopped a team on an ascendant run while battling some tough late season injuries. 2017 Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, leads a strong rotation that should hold things down for a bevy of young talent in Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, and Bradley Zimmer to really break out while hustlers like Jason Kipnis and Yonder Alonso keep the wheels on track.
2nd Place- Minnesota Twins
Paul Molitor managed the Minnesota Twins like a Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn shore up a strong rotation with Ervin Santana looking more like he did eight years ago and a young firestarter in Jose Berrios who just needs to bring his home game focus on the road. Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano have some devastating bats that will keep the pressure on opposing pitchers.
3rd Place- Kansas City Royals
This team is rebuilding and it seems like they’ve got a plan. They’ve got some cash to pull in some talent later but only if they think they can make a run. It’s unlikely so third is an optimistic place that’s based more on their divisional opponents’ savvy and struggle.
4th Place- Chicago White Sox
5th Place- Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are at least trying to hold it together and present some semblance of a team. I’m still sore about the way they let go of Dave Dombrowski and I hope they’re kicking themselves repeatedly for it.
The Winning Run
1st Place- Houston Astros
They’re the champs. Let’s give them their due. They reloaded this offseason because there really wasn’t anything to rebuild.
2nd Place- Los Angeles Angels
The Angels probably aren’t putting all of their eggs into the Shohei Ohtani basket. They got Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler to add some firepower to the lineup. The rotation looks awful to me but maybe they think Garrett Richards is finally due to bounce back into his 2014 form. They’ll still need to tweak that bullpen.
3rd Place- Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners resigned Ichiro Suzuki. I really hope he can mentor some of their young talent. What I would love to see is that they ask him to start hitting for the fences instead of leading off so we can see some of his fabled home run hitting ability. There are some solid elements in Jean Segura and Robinson Cano, speed in the outfield with Dee Gordon, and if they can keep things close an excited closer in Edwin Diaz.
4th Place- Oakland Athletics
Moneyball doesn’t work when everyone else has the analytics you have now.
5th Place- Texas Rangers
The Rangers sold the farm and now they’re using some of their prize bulls to till the field for the next team to come in.
Will one of the best right handed hitters of all time, Miguel Cabrera, play for a last place Tigers team in 2018? (AP Photo/ Carlos Osorio)
|NL WC Winner||Rockies||Cubbies||Rockies||Dodgers||Dbacks||Brewers|
|NL WC Loser||Brewers||D-backs||Cardinals||Brewers||Marlins||D-backs|
|AL WC Winner||Yankees||Royals||Twins||Red Sox||Red Sox||Angels|
|AL WC Loser||Angels||Jays||Angels||Indians||Twins||Red Sox|
|NLDS 1-4 Winner||Dodgers||Dodgers||Dodgers||Dodgers||Dodgers||Dodgers|
|NLDS 1-4 Loser||Rockies||Cubbies||Rockies||Nationals||Dbacks||Brewers|
|NLDS 2-3 Winner||Nationals||Follies||Cubs||D-backs||Cubs||Cubs|
|NLDS 2-3 Loser||Cubs||Reds||Nationals||Cardinals||Nats||Nationals|
|ALDS 1-4 Winner||Indians||Indians||Astros||Astros||Red Sox||Astros|
|ALDS 1-4 Loser||Yankees||Royals||Twins||Red Sox||Astros||Angels|
|ALDS 2-3 Winner||Astros||Astros||Yankees||Yankees||Yankees||Yankees|
|ALDS 2-3 Winner||Red Sox||Yankees||Indians||Twins||Cleveland||Indians|
|ALCS Loser||Indians||Indians||Astros||Astros||Red Sox||Astros|
Red Sox fans should be excited. The Winning Run picked the Yankees to win the World Series. We all know that means the Yankees have no chance for another ring. (AP Photo)
|World Series Champ||Nationals||Astros||Yankees||Yankees||Yankees||Yankees|
|World Series Runner Up||Astros||Dodgers||Cubs||Dodgers||Dodgers||Dodgers|
Sorry in advance to the New York Yankees because this means they’re probably not going to win the World Series this year.
BL, DJ, JJ, & JB
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
There is so much to write about the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. Game 3 was a classic. The final score of a few of the games have been misleading, but overall it has been an excellent Fall Classic. I will revisit the World Series soon.
The World Series drought for the Cubs has been well documented, to the point of nausea. Over 70 years since they last played in the World Series and over 100 years since they last won it all. This background was great leading up to the World Series, but as the series has gone on I am less interested in it and more focused on the here and now.
Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd…(World Series of Dreaming)
Four years ago I had to opportunity to go to a game at Wrigley Field with Jesse. He was working in Chicago for a month and I flew over from New York to stay with him for a few days. We went to a game at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and Giants. We sat in the right field bleachers right behind Hunter Pence. It was a beautiful day game. Madison Bumgarner pitched for the Giants (I honestly did not remember him pitching until I looked up the game tonight). The Cubs were in the middle of rebuilding and were not very good that season. However, the Baseball Gods smiled upon us and the Cubs beat the Giants 6-4.
The most lasting memory I have, besides just being at Wrigley was singing Go Cubs Go after the final out. I am by no means a die hard Cubs fan. I grew up watching their games after I got home from school. I loved listening to Harry Caray announce the games and singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game. I felt a connection to the Cubs even as they were rebuilding, so watching them win a game then singing Go Cubs Go was magical.
The end of Game 5 of the World Series was a nice reminder of my experience at Wrigley with Jesse. Joe Buck managed to stay out of the way for a few minutes and allow the Cubs fans to sing Go Cubs Go on national television. There is something about listening to an entire stadium sing a song in celebration of their beloved team. For all the heartbreak and the decades of waiting, the Game 5 victory at Wrigley Field felt like a weight was lifted off Cubs fans. In some way that victory is enough to allow Cubs fans to wait until next year. The time, money, effort, and energy that many people put into baseball out of love can seem like a one way street, but there are moments like after Game 5 where it is clear that the love is traveling in both directions.
It is time to set some resolutions for 2016 and some teams have decided to start early on their resolutions with some big off-season moves. We thought it might be nice to give a quick recap of what we think are the top 2 moves in each division so far and what the other teams need to do in order to position themselves best for long-term success. We’re starting from the west and giving the nod to the NL as the elder statesman of MLB.
The two big moves in the NL West so far were made by the Giants and the Diamondbacks with the signings of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Zack Greinke respectively. Both of these teams have the hitting and fielding necessary to win games and all that they need is a rotation that could keep games from having NFL box scores.
Jeff Samardzija does not back down from anyone or anything. He will throw punches and eat innings for the good of the team. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)
The bigger move here is the Giants getting Cueto and Samardzija because, with Madison Bumgardner as their ace, there won’t be many easy games in a 7-game series. Looks like the Giants want to keep the even year cycle going into the 2016 season.
The Diamondbacks, with a lineup mostly under 30, can anchor a rotation with Greinke for a season or two as they piece together a powerhouse rotation. Maybe it’s a bit biased but Shelby Miller is better than you might think and with the run support he can get from the D-Backs’ lineup, should make him a solid #2.
Shelby Miller was excellent in baseball history in 2015. Only a Braves team being torn down around him was able to overcome his excellence on the mound. (www.statliners.com)
Now we’re not saying that there haven’t been other moves worth noting, but the two we’ve discussed change the dynamics of the division. At the beginning of the 2015 season, the NL West looked like a matchup between the Dodgers and the Giants. The rest of the division was going to be an afterthought. Now the Giants look like they’ve taken the catbird seat with the D-Backs as the biggest threat to unseat them. That said…
Los Angeles Dodgers
BL – I think the Dodgers need to balance themselves out and get themselves a good core group. It seems like they’ve got good hitters who don’t have the legs to field and the younger guys can’t make consistent contact. The best place to start would be revamping their infield fast…like should have been done yesterday.
Is Yasiel Puig destined to become a Dodgers legend or will he be moved to break up the outfield log jam? (www.gardygoesyardy.com)
DJ – The Dodgers have to focus on getting value instead of overpaying for everyone. Their payroll is shrinking some so they cannot continue to spend like the George Steinbrenner Yankees of old. The Dodgers need to decide who is the future of their outfield. Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford make for a crowded outfield. Each of these players plays best when they are in the lineup everyday. The Dodgers Front Office must decide if they will take the financial hit of paying Crawford or Ethier to go away, or risk trading away a decade or more of All Star play by moving Pederson or Puig.
BL – The Rockies lost nearly a quarter of their games in 2015 by substantial margins (4+ runs and 38 games to be precise). Colorado could use a lot more consistent pitching to keep games close. Keeping some scoring margins manageable means having a consistent defense to keep things under control but that might mean letting go of some hitting to get that. The focus should stay on improving the rotation and bullpen in order to make it easier on the defense. Losing John Axford might hurt them in the long run but a closer should only be the icing on the cake.
Nolan Arenado’s perennial Gold Glove defense is overshadowed by hit skill with the bat. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
DJ – The Rockies need power from their first baseman. Combined the Rockies first basemen hit 17 HR with 78 RBI. Ben Paulsen played 88 games at first and hit 8 HR with 38 RBI. Colorado needs more power to drive in runs. Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez both had monster years. If the Rockies can land a first baseman that can add a bit more power to the line up the Rockies could overcome many of their other struggles.
San Diego Padres
BL – The Padres need some sports psychiatry and not just for the players but the managers and front office as well. There’s plenty of talent on this team but it’s simply not working together well. Craig Kimbrel was brought in too early when there were other issues for the team to sort out. There’s a lot of money locked up in the outfield and pitching staff. Best thing for them to do is sort out a plan and stick with it.
Kevin Quackenbush and the rest of the Padres bullpen were severly overused in 2015. San Diego starters needs to do better in 2016. (www.friarsonbase.com)
DJ- The Padres were a mess and it showed in the pitching. The starting rotation only had one starting pitcher average at least 6 innings pitched per start, James Shields. This left the San Diego bullpen with too many innings to chew up. San Diego overworked their relievers. Five relief pitchers appeared in at least 53 games; Brandon Maurer (53 games), Shawn Kelley (53 games), Kevin Quackenbush (57 games), Craig Kimbrel (61 games), and Joaquin Benoit (67 games). No bullpen can survive this workload over the course of a season. If the Padres want to be better in 2016, it all starts with putting together a starting rotation that can go deeper in games.
BL and DJ
It all begins tonight. Ten teams enter. One team leaves. The remaining teams are about to begin the arduous journey towards a World Series victory. Tonight the Yankees and Astros will play the American League Wild Card game. Tomorrow night the Pirates and Cubs will play the National League Wild Card game. The entire season for each of these four teams comes down to a single, winner take all game.
Some may argue that a single all or nothing game is not baseball. I was of that opinion when this playoff platform was first instituted, but my attitude towards the Wild Card games has changed. The current playoff platform keeps more teams in contention deeper into the season, thus more fans are tuned into the game as a whole. This is good for growing the sport as well as from the business end of the sport. Under the old playoff platform where each division winner plus one wild card from each league made the playoffs you would not have had the chase in the American League by the Twins and Angels until the last day or so of the season, and even the Indians until the last week of the season. The dramatic turnaround of the Astros has been a long time coming, so simply playing in the Wild Card game is a thrill. Imagine how the city of Houston will be further energized if the Astros win and move on to the American League Divisional Series against the Royals. The Astros would be sitting at home now under the old playoff platform, instead Houston might be at the doorstep towards its own rebirth.
The Wild Card games also put pressure on teams to win their divisions. No team wants to go to a single, winner take all game. This keeps teams from cruising into October with the Wild Card. The American League Wild Card game is an opportunity for the Yankees to reestablish themselves as the Evil Empire and for the Astros to prove that their rebuilding plan is complete. New York is looking to return to its glory days and Houston is looking to begin writing their own. The National League Wild Card game allows us to settle once and for all who the better team is between the Pirates and the Cubs. They both were less complete of a team than the Cardinals; however, they proved for 162 games that they both deserved the opportunity to play for a World Series championship. This Wild Card game gives them that opportunity to prove themselves worthy.
The MLB Playoffs are not perfect, but neither is life. Several good teams did not make the playoffs this year. This is good for baseball. You should not want a good team to win a championship; you should only want a great team to win. The Playoffs are about rewarding the extraordinary. Will we see someone dominate like Madison Bumgarner did last year? No one knows. The one thing we do know is that for the next two evenings four teams who have survived the gauntlet that is the Major League season will take the field with their World Series aspirations on the line with every pitch and every swing. The Astros, Yankees, Cubs, and Pirates have to prove one more time that they are the team that is ready to fight.
Last year before the season began we offered up our prediction of how the final standings for each division would look. In addition to the final standings, we predicted the World Series. Our first attempt at predicting the outcome of a Major League season was less than great. We are hoping to improve upon our performance this coming season, but first let us look back.
These were our predictions against what actually happened during the 2014 season:
The American League East
|1||Tampa Bay Rays||Baltimore Orioles|
|2||Boston Red Sox (1st Wild Card)||New York Yankees|
|3||New York Yankees||Toronto Blue Jays|
|4||Baltimore Orioles||Tampa Bay Rays|
|5||Toronto Blue Jays||Boston Red Sox|
The American League Central
|1||Detroit Tigers||Detroit Tigers|
|2||Cleveland Indians (2nd Wild Card)||Kansas City Royals (1st Wild Card)|
|3||Kansas City Royals||Cleveland Indians|
|4||Minnesota Twins||Chicago White Sox|
|5||Chicago White Sox||Minnesota Twins|
The American League West
|1||Oakland Athletics||Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim|
|2||Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||Oakland Athletics (2nd Wild Card)|
|3||Texas Rangers||Seattle Mariners|
|4||Seattle Mariners||Houston Astros|
|5||Houston Astros||Texas Rangers|
The National League East
|1||Atlanta Braves||Washington Nationals|
|2||Washington Nationals (1st Wild Card)||New York Mets|
|3||New York Mets||Atlanta Braves|
|4||Philadelphia Phillies||Miami Marlins|
|5||Miami Marlins||Philadelphia Phillies|
The National League Central
|1||St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis Cardinals|
|2||Cincinnati Red||Pittsburgh Pirates (1st Wild Card)|
|3||Pittsburgh Pirates||Milwaukee Brewers|
|4||Chicago Cubs||Cincinnati Red|
|5||Milwaukee Brewers||Chicago Cubs|
The National League West
|1||Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|2||San Francisco Giants (2nd Wild Card)||San Francisco Giants (2nd Wild Card)|
|3||Arizona Diamondbacks||San Diego Padres|
|4||Colorado Rockies||Colorado Rockies|
|5||San Diego Padres||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|Games Won||Prediction||Games Won||Reality|
|4||Oakland Athletics||4||San Francisco Giants|
|2||St. Louis Cardinals||3||Kansas City Royals|
So the 2014 season did not go as we predicted it might. We were correct in the final standings 5 out of 30 times (16.66%). It is never good when you are batting below the Mendoza line. We correctly predicted 7 of the 10 playoff teams, including all five in the National League. On the positive side both of our World Series picks did make the playoffs, but on the negative side neither made the World Series.
Our predictions during the regular season were not the best. Obviously we did not foresee some of the injuries that altered how teams performed, such as in Texas where you could pick among many injured Rangers. We did well in predicting who would make the playoffs, but we were not great at predicting what would happen once those teams made it into the playoffs. We predicted that a San Francisco Bay team and a Missouri team would play for the World Series, with the team by the bay winning. However, in both cases we predicted the wrong team to reach the World Series. We picked the Athletics winning instead of the Giants, and we picked the Cardinals losing instead of the Royals. We were in the neighborhood with our World Series picks, so we have to give ourselves credit for something.
Our predictions for the 2014 season went horribly wrong, which was about the only thing we predicted with any certainty. While we were wrong on so many predictions, the season was more fun and exciting than we could have predicted. Our first try at predicting the outcome of the baseball season was not overly successful, but we will try to improve on our successes this season with our upcoming predictions for the 2015 season. Stay tuned for another set of predictions which have little to no chance of coming true.
I was sitting in front of the television scrolling through Twitter while watching the beginning of Game 5 of the World Series. I see a tweet in Spanish; sorry I cannot remember who posted it. I speak zero Spanish, but my eye caught the names of Brian Mejia and Oscar Taveras. Something did not seem right about it so I copied it and dropped it into a translator to get an idea of what it was saying. Not recognizing Brian Mejia’s name, I thought for a moment the tweet was referencing Taveras so people would have a connection to him. As soon as I hit enter and the translation came up, I was stunned. My mind just went blank for a moment as I tried to process that Oscar Taveras was dead. Oscar Taveras, a young man who I had seen play just recently hitting a pivotal home run for the Cardinals as they fought the Giants in the NLCS. I hoped it was a mistake and the media was reporting just a rumor, which would later prove false. As time passed and the reports came flying in, the horrible truth set in. Never mind his abilities on a baseball field, Taveras and his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, 22 and 18 respectively, were gone far, far too soon.
I watched Game 5. Madison Bumgarner was brilliant, throwing a complete game shutout. However, I had lost much of my interest in the game. Various media outlets were reporting Taveras’ death, before Fox finally reported it during the game. Some people felt Fox should have been quicker to inform the public of his death, but I appreciated their restraint to be sure the information was correct before their reporting. Listening to Ken Rosenthal report on Taveras left me feeling empty.
I watched the game. Even though I have no connection to Taveras besides watching him play, I was felt the sadness of his death deep. A member of the baseball family was suddenly gone. The Juan Perez double in the 8th inning, which scored Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, made me smile a little. Perez and Taveras were friends; they had played Winter Ball together in the Dominican Republic. I am not sure I could have continued playing had I just learned a good friend of mine had died. I was happy for Perez, if only the double was able to give him a few moments of reprieve from the sadness and pain he was going through.
The reaction all around baseball to the news of Taveras’ death was shock. One by one teams released statements expressing their sadness for the families and friends of both Taveras and Arvelo. Competition no longer mattered; rather the humanity is what mattered. Two mothers and two fathers lost their children. Siblings lost their best friends. People lost close friends. Two young people with many more years of life ahead were gone.
Everyone around baseball knew the death of Taveras and Arvelo were bigger than the game. The baseball family extends from Oscar’s teammates and opponents to the people who work in and around baseball to the fans. They all came together to collectively mourn and remember these two people. The idea of a baseball family is real. While Cardinals and Cubs players and fans may not like one another on game day, there is always a sense of respect for the other team. Baseball brings people together through their love of the game. While the baseball world is preparing to crown this years’ champion, it understands life is far more important than a game. Humanity will always trump competition. Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo have left us far too soon. May they both rest in peace.