It has been 20 years since the dawn of the 1998 baseball season. The season would see one of the great teams of all time as the Yankees marched towards the World Series, meanwhile Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing the single season home run record. Knowing what we know now about many of the players who helped revive baseball that summer does diminish some of the fondness. However as Mark McGwire famously said before Congress, “I am not here to talk about the past.”
The 1994 players strike severely damaged baseball. The cancellation of the World Series and the delayed start of the 1995 season saw fans turn their backs on the game. Arguing who is blame, the players or the owners, for this dark time in baseball is for another day, what mattered then was how would the game win back the fans it lost. Some fans still see 1994 as the death of baseball, don’t believe me check out this Facebook group which has more than 22,000 members. Right or wrong baseball needed a season to get its fans back.
Cal Ripken Jr. gave baseball a moment it needed to draw fans back to the game. (REUTERS/ Gary Hershorn/Files)
Baseball got a much needed boost when Cal Ripken Jr. played his 2,131st consecutive game, passing Lou Gehrig for most consecutive games played on September 6, 1995. This was a moment baseball desperately needed showing the good of the game. It was however, a moment. Baseball needed more than one night of glory, it needed a season of suspense and wonderment.
The 1998 New York Yankees are one of the greatest teams ever assembled. The Boston Red Sox won 92 games, yet finished 22 games behind the Yankees in the division. The Yankees finished the season 114-48. The Bronx Bombers had eight players with at least 17 home runs, five players with at least 84 RBI, and eight players with 21 or more doubles. The Yankees hit .288 as a team. On the mound, all five Yankee starters had at least 12 wins, a team ERA of 3.82, with the starters averaging 6 ⅔ inning per start, plus Mariano Rivera nailing down 36 saves out of the bullpen. In the Playoffs, the Yankees swept the Texas Rangers in the American League Divisional Series three games to none, allowing only one run. In the American League Championship Series, the Yankees dispatched the Cleveland Indians in six games. In the World Series, New York swept the San Diego Padres in four games. The 98 win Padres were no match for the Yankees. The biggest team in baseball helped put the game back into people’s lives as they rolled through the season and playoffs. Yankee dominance helped, but the primary attraction was in the National League.
There was little drama as the Yankees swept the World Series. (Jeff Haynes/ AFP/ Getty Images)
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa later became the poster children for what was wrong with baseball, but in the summer of 1998 they were what made baseball relevant again for much of the country. Divisional rivals on two of the most prominent teams in the sport, McGwire and Sosa embarked on a home run race that captured the attention of the country. When Roger Maris broke the single season home run record held by Babe Ruth, there was backlash. People felt Ruth’s record should be left alone. When Maris ultimately hit home run number 61 in 1961 he did it in game 162, which many believe meant his record deserved an asterisk as he took more games than Ruth’s 154 game schedule in 1927. If McGwire, Sosa, or some other slugger could hit 60 home runs fewer than 154 games they would hold the record.
McGwire hit 11 home runs by the end of April, only to hit 16 in May to bring his season total to 27 as the calendar turned to June. On May 22nd, Sosa had only 9 home runs against McGwire’s 24. Over the next six weeks Sosa got red hot, hitting 24 home runs. Heading into the All Star Break, McGwire lead Sosa 37 home runs to 33. The race for 62 was on. McGwire hit his 50th home run of the season on August 20th, Sosa followed with his 50th three days later on August 23rd. However in between a whirlwind began on August 22nd regarding McGwire’s use of Androstenedione. McGwire maintained his use of Andro was legal and it did not give him any added benefits on the field. This is perhaps the clearest beginning of the steroid era entering public knowledge. The use of Andro did little to distract the public from the frenzy of the home run chase. September 8th saw McGwire hit his shortest home run of the season, 341 feet, just clearing the left field wall in Busch Stadium. McGwire and the Cardinals were hosting Sosa and the Cubs that night. After initially missing first base in the midst of his joy, quickly retreating to touch the missed base, McGwire rounded the bases to officially set the new single season home run mark at 62. Sosa would tie McGwire at 62 home runs on September 13th. As the 1998 season wound down the question turned to how high McGwire and Sosa would push the home run record. For the only time all season Sosa took the lead on September 25th, when he hit his 66th and final home run of the season. McGwire would finish with a flurry, hitting five home runs in the last three games of the season to finish with 70 home runs.
The home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa helped revive baseball one home run at a time. (AP Photo/ Beth A. Keiser)
There was no doubt both McGwire and Sosa broke the single season home run record, Ruth’s and Maris’. Sosa would be named the National League Most Valuable Player, while McGwire got his name in the record books. The summer of chasing Ruth and Maris brought baseball the excitement back it lost in the 1994 players strike. The chase between McGwire and Sosa, coupled with the total dominance of the Yankees gave baseball the season it needed to win back fans and rebuild trust.
20 years have passed since the summer of 1998. We have learned so much about the men who played that summer. Far too many had their abilities aided by steroids and other performance enhancers. The steroid era was on full display, we just did not know it yet. The revival of baseball was both helped and hurt by the steroid era, many players have since fallen from grace. The game continues to grow and much of the magic I remember as a kid has returned. The summer of 1998 helped revive baseball, and yet my most vivid memory from that summer is having no interest in any of it. 1998 was my last season playing organized baseball. I had a coach who took the fun out of the game. He would scream and yell when the players, myself included, did not get a hit. He changed my batting stance over and over again. I came to dread going to baseball practice and games. The joy of playing baseball was gone. A year or so later I wanted to play for a travel team, but I was late to the tryout we did not get out of the car. This is how my baseball career ended. I am under no illusion I was good enough to play professionally, maybe not even in high school. However, one person ruined baseball, it took years for my love of the game to return. I hope he still remembers how great those handful of victories were for our Spring 11/12U rec league team 20 years ago.
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
After four seasons of attempting to predict how the Major League season will play out, one would think we would improve. Instead we were pitiful once again. The only consistency continues to be we are individually and collectively terrible at predicting the baseball future. Below is all the proof you need.
National League East
|1st||Washington Nationals||Washington Nationals||New York Muttz||Washington Nationals||Washington Nationals|
|2nd||Miami Marlins||New York Mets*||Washington Gnats||Atlanta Braves||New York Mets|
|3rd||Atlanta Braves||Miami Marlins||Atlanta Bravos||New York Mets||Miami Marlins|
|4th||New York Mets||Atlanta Braves||Miami Fish||Miami Marlins||Atlanta Braves|
|5th||Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia Follies||Philadelphia Phillies||Philadelphia Phillies|
National League Central
|1st||Chicago Cubs||Chicago Cubs||Chicago Harry Caray’s||Chicago Cubs||Chicago Cubs|
|2nd||Milwaukee Brewers||Pittsburgh Pirates||Pittsburgh Buckos*||St. Louis Cardinals*||St. Louis Cardinals*|
|3rd||St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis Cardinals||Cincinnati Fighting Vottos||Pittsburgh Pirates||Milwaukee Brewers|
|4th||Pittsburgh Pirates||Milwaukee Brewers||St. Louis Deadbirds||Milwaukee Brewers||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|5th||Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati Reds||Milwaukee Brewniversity||Cincinnati Reds||Cincinnati Reds|
National League West
|1st||Los Angeles Dodgers||Los Angeles Dodgers||Colorado Silver Bullets||Los Angeles Dodgers||San Francisco Giants|
|2nd||Arizona Diamondbacks||San Francisco Giants*||Los Angeles Vin Scullys*||Colorado Rockies*||Los Angeles Dodgers*|
|3rd||Colorado Rockies||Colorado Rockies||San Padres Big Macs||San Francisco Giants||Colorado Rockies|
|4th||San Diego Padres||Arizona Diamondbacks||Arizona Trouser Snakes||Arizona Diamondbacks||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|5th||San Francisco Giants||San Diego Padres||San Francisco Gigantors||San Diego Padres||San Diego Padres|
Justin Turner and the Dodgers won the National League Pennant, we didn’t see that coming for some reason. (Richard Mackson- USA TODAY Sports)
American League East
|1st||Boston Red Sox||Boston Red Sox||Toronto Canucks||Boston Red Sox||Boston Red Sox|
|2nd||New York Yankees||Toronto Blue Jays*||New York Spankees||New York Yankees*||New York Yankees*|
|3rd||Tampa Bay Rays||New York Yankees||Baltimore Riots||Toronto Blue Jays||Baltimore Orioles|
|4th||Toronto Blue Jays||Baltimore Orioles||Steve Irwin Killers||Tampa Bay Rays||Toronto Blue Jays|
|5th||Baltimore Orioles||Tampa Bay Rays||Boston Dead Sux||Baltimore Orioles||Tampa Bay Rays|
American League Central
|1st||Cleveland Indians||Cleveland Indians||Kansas City Monarchs||Cleveland Indians||Cleveland Indians|
|2nd||Minnesota Twins||Detroit Tigers||Cleveland Up Three Games To None*||Detroit Tigers||Kansas City Royals|
|3rd||Kansas City Royals||Kansas City Royals||Chicago Black Sox||Minnesota Twins||Detroit Tigers|
|4th||Chicago White Sox||Minnesota Twins||Minnesota Twinkies||Kansas City Royals||Minnesota Twins|
|5th||Detroit Tigers||Chicago White Sox||Detroit Militarized Zone||Chicago White Sox||Chicago White Sox|
American League West
|1st||Houston Astros||Houston Astros||The Acute Angels of Anaheim||Seattle Mariners||Houston Astros|
|2nd||Los Angeles Angels||Seattle Mariners*||Houston Colt 45s*||Houston Astros*||Seattle Mariners|
|3rd||Seattle Mariners||Texas Rangers||Oakland White Elephants||Texas Rangers||Texas Rangers|
|4th||Texas Rangers||Los Angeles Angels||Texas Dangers||Los Angeles Angels||Los Angeles Angels|
|5th||Oakland Athletics||Oakland Athletics||Seattle Seamen||Oakland Athletics||Oakland Athletics|
The Yankees were a surprise in 2017, which seems weird to say now. (Ben Solomon- New York Times)
National League Wild Card
|Winner||Arizona Diamondbacks||San Francisco Giants||Pittsburgh Buckos||Colorado Rockies||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Loser||Colorado Rockies||New York Mets||Los Angeles Vin Scullys||St. Louis Cardinals||St. Louis Cardinals|
American League Wild Card
|Winner||New York Yankees||Seattle Mariners||Cleveland Up Three Games To None||Houston Astros||New York Yankees|
|Loser||Minnesota Twins||Toronto Blue Jays||Houston Colt 45s||New York Yankees||Baltimore Orioles|
National League Divisional Series
|Winner||Los Angeles Dodgers||Washington Nationals||Colorado Silver Bullets||Washington Nationals||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Loser||Arizona Diamondbacks||San Francisco Giants||Pittsburgh Buckos||Colorado Rockies||Chicago Cubs|
|Winner||Chicago Cubs||Chicago Cubs||New York Muttz||Chicago Cubs||San Francisco Giants|
|Loser||Washington Nationals||Los Angeles Dodgers||Chicago Harry Caray’s||Los Angeles Dodgers||Washington Nationals|
American League Divisional Series
|Winner||New York Yankees||Boston Red Sox||Kansas City Monarchs||Cleveland Indians||New York Yankees|
|Loser||Cleveland Indians||Seattle Mariners||Cleveland Up Three Games To None||Houston Astros||Cleveland Indians|
|Winner||Houston Astros||Cleveland Indians||The Acute Angels of Anaheim||Seattle Mariners||Boston Red Sox|
|Loser||Boston Red Sox||Houston Astros||Toronto Canucks||Boston Red Sox||Houston Astros|
National League Championship Series
|Winner||Los Angeles Dodgers||Washington Nationals||Colorado Silver Bullets||Washington Nationals||San Francisco Giants|
|Loser||Chicago Cubs||Chicago Cubs||New York Muttz||Chicago Cubs||Los Angeles Dodgers|
American League Championship Series
|Winner||Houston Astros||Cleveland Indians||Kansas City Monarchs||Seattle Mariners||New York Yankees|
|Loser||New York Yankees||Boston Red Sox||The Acute Angels of Anaheim||Boston Red Sox||Boston Red Sox|
|Winner||Houston Astros||Washington Nationals||Colorado Silver Bullets||Seattle Mariners||New York Yankees|
|Loser||Los Angeles Dodgers||Boston Red Sox||Kansas City Monarchs||Washington Nationals||San Francisco Giants|
Some how none of us had the Astros in the World Series, much less winning it. WHY???!!!! (Eugene Garcia/ European Pressphoto Agency)
Breaking down how we did individually shows some bright spots here and there, but overall we were terrible. Here is a breakdown of everything we correctly predicted before last season began.
Jesse was the worst at predicting the season. He correctly predicted the final regular season standings of just seven teams, a sad showing at 23%. His correct predictions focused primarily on which teams would not contend. He was correct twice in the National League East, his best division, predicting the Braves would finish third and the Phillies would finish last. In the National League Central, he found his only correct prediction with the Cubs winning the division. Jesse looked into his crystal ball and saw the Giants finishing last in the National League West long before the rest of us. Moving over to the American League, the Yankees produced the second place finish he foresaw last April. In the Central, the Tigers followed through by finishing last. Finally, in the American League West, Jesse nailed it with his prediction of the Rangers finishing in fourth place. None of his playoff predictions were correct, and thus Jesse finished last in The Winning Run’s prediction standings.
Derek managed to finish with the bronze medal based on his predictions for the 2017 season. He predicted the final regular season standings for 12 teams, an impressive 40%, tied for the most. His predictions included picking every division winner before the season started. Consistency is the key to success in playing and predicting baseball. Derek was correct on the Nationals winning and the Phillies finishing last in the National League East. In the Central, Derek showed his prediction prowess as he was spot on with the Cubs winning, the Cardinals finishing third, and the Reds finishing last in the division. In the National League West, the Dodgers and Rockies came through finishing first and third respectively. The American League East was the weakest division for Derek, as he was correct only in predicting the Red Sox would win the division. The Indians and the Royals made Derek’s predictions true by finishing first and third in the American League Central. He was correct that the Astros would dominate and the Athletics would be left behind in the American League West. Success during the regular season is great, but as any Nationals fan know, success in the playoffs is what matters. Derek managed only two correct predictions in the playoffs, both concerned the Cubs. He was correct in predicting the Cubs would win their matchup in the National League Divisional Series and would lose in the National League Championship Series. Success in the playoffs is what matters, he will have to wait until next year to see if he climb higher on the podium.
Coming in second place, just missing the gold medal was John. While John managed only 10 correct regular season predictions, a respectable 33%, against Derek’s 12, his success in the playoffs earned him the silver medal. John got off to a good start with the Nationals winning and the Phillies finishing last in the National League East. His success continued in the Central as he again bookended the division with the Cubs and the Reds. The National League West saw him only predict the Dodgers winning the division. Moving over to the American League East we found John’s strength. He correctly predicting the Red Sox winning the division, the Yankees finishing second, and the Orioles finishing last. The rest of the American League was not as easy. In the Central, John managed to only predict the Indians winning. In the West he only correct prediction was the Athletics finishing last. However, once the calendar rolled over to October John made up for last time. He was correct, like Derek, in predicting the Cubs would win their matchup in the National League Divisional Series only to lose in the National League Championship Series. However, John predicted the Red Sox would be kicked out of the playoffs by losing in the American League Divisional Series. While his regular season predictions were a step behind, John was able to make up for his mistakes and use his predicting power to take silver with a solid playoff showing.
All four of us missed the most obvious sign to pick the Astros to win the World Series last season. (Sports Illustrated)
This leaves Bernie alone at the top of the podium. His success in the regular season and the playoffs earned Bernie the gold medal in predicting the 2017 Major League season. Bernie tied with Derek by correctly predicting the final regular season standings for 12 teams, 40%. In the National League East he had the Nationals winning with the Phillies bringing up the rear. The Central was his strength in the National League, as Bernie was spot on with the Cubs winning, the Pirates finishing fourth, and the Reds finishing last in the division. In the West Bernie found success with the Rockies finishing third. Once again the American League East was a source of strength, as Bernie had the Red Sox winning, the Yankees second, and the Blue Jays finishing fourth in the division. The Central was an easy pick at the top with the Indians, but below Cleveland his predictions missed. In the American League West, the Astros and Athletics finished as predicted first and last for Bernie. A strong regular season only gave way to an even strong playoff run. Bernie was correct in predicting the Yankees would win the American League Wild Card game. He was also correct in picking the Dodgers to win and the Nationals to lose in the National League Divisional Series. The gold medal winning push came in the American League Divisional Series. Bernie was perfect in predicting the four teams who would meet. He predicted the Yankees winning and the Indians losing in this round. If Bernie had only flipped his prediction to have the Astros winning over the Red Sox, he would have been perfect. Bernie found success in the playoffs while the rest of us faltered. The irony is Bernie lives in Washington D.C. and his local team is the Nationals, who are known for failing in the playoffs after a great regular season.
Collectively The Winning Run showed once again the more you know about baseball the less you know. Each of us love baseball and follow it religiously, yet we are terrible at these predictions. We all had the Cubs winning the National League Central and the Phillies finishing last in the National League West. Collectively, we failed at everything else. We failed to predict either the Dodgers or Astros would play in the World Series, even though we recognized both teams would be a force in 2017. We fail at predicting the baseball season every year, so why should this past season be any different?
DJ, JJ, JB, & BL
Pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training is without a doubt the most exciting time on the sports calendar where absolutely nothing happens. Literally it is a group of men reporting to the first day of work. They just show up and nothing, publicly, happens. There are no games, no monumental moments, just people walking in the door. Usually the free agents have been signed and introduced to the team and public, the draft picks have been around for almost a full year, nothing special is going on. Pitchers and catchers reporting is the most anticlimactic moment possible in sports, and yet baseball fans mark it down on their calendars every year.
We’re here. Now what do you want us to do? (www.dodgersphotog.mlblogs.com)
It is not what is happening, rather it is what could happen. This could be the first step teams take towards winning the World Series. This is the day baseball tells the world that summer and warm weather are coming soon. Players know this is when all their off-season work will begin to show. Umpires too. Fans know the sounds of baseball will soon return to their lives. The crack of the bat, the pop of the glove, the roar of the crowd, the static on the radio. The smells of baseball will return too. The fresh cut grass, hot dogs, beer, the smell of your glove. Every day until Halloween you can escape for a few hours and lose yourself in the game. Pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training is anticlimactic, however what will follow is not.
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.
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.
After a little time to reflect on the great World Series we just watched, we can now answer the question, which bullpen would run out of gas first. The Dodgers bullpen could bend no more and finally broke against the Astros in Game 7. Houston cruised to a fairly unthreatened 5-1 victory to secure their first World Series Championship. The Astros lineup continued to hit and Charlie Morton pitched the game of his life in relief. The 2017 World Series was thrilling; hitting, defense, and great relief pitching was on full display throughout the Fall Classic.
George Springer was the easy choice for Most Valuable Player, yet this year’s World Series did not have the sense that a single player was carrying either team. If Los Angeles had won Game 7, the choice for which Dodger should be named the Most Valuable Player would have almost certainly come down to who performed the best in Game 7. The constant back and forth between Houston and Los Angeles made no lead safe. Five of the seven games were decided by one or two runs. The lack of a single blow out meant both teams were fighting it out until the final out in every game.
The rebuild is complete, Houston has its first World Series Championship. (Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images)
The differences between the Astros and the Dodgers over the seven game series was miniscule. However, Houston’s bullpen was able to bend without breaking and the Astros lineup never cooled off. Every game came down to a few plays and the ability to make a catch, move a runner over, or get a batter to chase a pitch out of the zone. It would be easy to pin the blame on the loses in Game 3 and 7 on Yu Darvish, however there is plenty of blame and what ifs to go around throughout the series. Dave Roberts lifting Rich Hill after 4 innings in Game 2 and 4 ⅔ innings in Game 6, were both questionable moves. The Dodgers lost Game 2 in 11 innings, if Hill pitches just one more inning maybe the Dodgers bullpen can hold the lead. The Dodgers did win Game 6, but did they push their already tired bullpen one bridge too far heading into Game 7? We will never know the answers to the what ifs, and there is a chance that Dave Roberts made the right moves. Second guessing is what people outside the clubhouse do best, yet if those same second guessers were put in charge of a team they would not have all the answers.
A team cannot run out the clock in baseball, they have to play until all 27 outs have been recorded. The 2017 World Series showed in exciting fashion that a baseball game is never over until the final out is made. Few World Series are as closely matched as this one. Hope you enjoyed the drama, because next year’s version of the Fall Classic is not guaranteed to be as exciting as this one.
Congratulations to the Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions.
The World Series is close. Game 4 was the biggest blowout of the series so far, 6-2 Dodgers. Timely hitting in the late innings seem to be how games have been won and lost. Yes, both teams have to score runs to win, but more directly both teams need their pitching staffs to prevent runs from scoring, especially the bullpen. Pitching will win the 2017 World Series.
Both teams have pitched 37 innings through the first four games of the World Series. Houston has used nine pitchers, allowing 18 runs, 22 hits, 12 walks, 32 strikeouts, with a 4.38 ERA, and 0.919 WHIP. The Dodgers are hitting .176 with an .252 OBP. Los Angeles has used 12 pitchers, allowing 15 runs, 31 hits, 11 walks, 30 strikeouts, with a 3.41 ERA, and 1.135 WHIP. The Astros are hitting .226 with an .282 OBP.
Houston must bridge the gap between the starter and Brad Peacock to win its first World Series. (Brett Coomer/ Houston Chronicle)
Both teams have had moments of greatness on the mound and at bat. Ultimately the World Series will be decided by how the managers use their bullpen. Astros manager A.J. Hinch has relied on fewer pitchers, but for more innings per pitcher, while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has relied on more pitchers for fewer innings per pitcher. It will come down to whether the Astros bullpen tires out before Roberts pulls a pitcher too soon and replaces him with someone who is ineffective. Both approaches could work, but only one will win the series.
Houston is averaging more than six innings from its starters. Once the game goes to the bullpen, A.J. Hinch is riding the hot hand. Hinch is relying on Chris Devenski (3 ⅓ innings), Will Harris (1 ⅔ innings), and Brad Peacock (4 innings) to finish games. Harris and Devenenski are the bridge from the starters to Peacock. Unfortunately for the Astros Ken Giles has not helped, a 27.00 ERA in only 1 ⅔ innings has hurt Houston. This late in the World Series it is doubtful the Astros can give him more chances to figure it out. The Astros bullpen is a little shorter due to Giles struggles, but they are not alone in potential bullpen issues.
The Dodger bullpen has a cast of many to bridge the gap between the starter and Kenley Jansen, but is there a week link? (Matt Slocum/ AP)
Dave Roberts is sticking with the formula that got Los Angeles to the World Series. Dodgers starters are averaging less than 4 ⅔ innings per start, less than 5 ⅔ innings if you remove the disastrous start by Yu Darvish in Game 3. Los Angeles is relying on its bullpen for more outs. Brandon Morrow (4 innings), Tony Watson (2 ⅔ innings), Kenta Maeda (4 innings), and Kenley Jansen (4 innings) have been the workmen keeping the Dodgers close. Los Angeles has seen Brandon McCarthy (18.00 ERA in 1 inning pitched) and Josh Fields (infinite ERA) not perform when called upon, and with each out being so precious there is little reason to expect them to pitch again. The Dodgers too have a shortened bullpen in the now best of three series.
Defense wins championships, while this is true, at least in part, in the 2017 World Series bullpen management and usage will decide the victor. The Dodgers and Astros are playing a great team World Series. No single player has carried either team. How each bullpen performs will dictate if Houston gets its first ever World Series championship or if Los Angeles gets to relive the glory of 1988. Time will tell, but the key to winning lies within the bullpen. Every time the call to the bullpen is made, the entire World Series could be able to change.