year I started out my general baseball overview by saying that
you could head over to the cover page for Sports
here at the Backpack, use the links to the divisional articles,
and that would provide you with a summary of what I expected for
records and accomplishments from the teams.
I figured copying it all over to the
2011 version of this column was a lot of work.
But that too-much-work idea was mostly offered up in fun. The
real reason was my second thought:
cares? This year more than ever, I found myself staring at the
records while I tried to make the numbers match and throwing
my hands in the air. Toronto won 85 games last year… Boston
won 89 with a minor-league team occupying about half the starting
roster… and anyone that tells you they know what they’re talking
about when naming the games to be won in the American League
Central this season is full of crap, because that place is just
a whirlwind of crazy possibilities.
I stand by those thoughts this year.
have six teams in the American League winning 90 games. Six.
Texas, Detroit, New York, Tampa Bay and Boston.
possibly the best six teams in baseball.
all of them better than Philadelphia?
than St. Louis?
than San Francisco?
pressed to make an argument, I would say the best six teams in
baseball are in the American League.
five in each league make the playoffs.
does it really matter how many games behind Justin Verlander,
Prince Fielder, and Miguel Cabrera the Royals finish?
anyone expect Seattle to compete with Albert Pujols and the starting
rotation of the Angels?
there really an audience willing to watch the Baltimore Orioles?
…the Houston Astros?
you want the records… Sports
section… find the divisional pieces… enjoy. I did put a lot of
work into those reviews.
reality is one team gets a win while another gets a loss and the
two concepts have to balance in the end. It’s nice to think that
six teams in the American League can win 90 games. Who’s losing
those 540-plus games?
this piece, it’s an overview, the records don’t matter, and we
start with the playoffs…
the American League… Boston is the team to sit. I don’t like saying
that. Boston and Baltimore are two of my favorite teams. But of
all the problems and possible dilemmas facing the big six, only
the Red Sox are carrying baggage.
I think it matters if Bobby Valentine is making appearances on
New York radio? No. I don’t. I also don’t think chicken and beer
matter. But this isn’t Freud… and we aren’t talking about whether
a cigar is a cigar. Chicken and beer and interviews are the visible
part of the iceberg. The fact that people will be looking for
bottle tops and buckets in the trash after games… or questioning
Bobby’s investment of time… that’s what matters.
kind of why I would tell you that you need to give instincts and
gut feelings some respect. If something tells you “yes” or “no”
(or whatever the message may be), than sometimes you need to find
out why before moving on. Something’s up in Boston. It may be
the attitude of veteran players (an extension of the chicken and
beer)… it could be some missed messages in different layers of
management (we could potentially place the out-of-town interviews
in this subject)… it could be the arrangement of the pitching
staff… health concerns… other teams are just better… I don’t know.
instincts though are saying something is wrong in Boston, and
I don’t know if April through September is enough time to sort
Texas, Detroit, New York and Tampa head to the postseason. I have
Texas and Tampa as the wild cards.
the National League… I’m going with Philadelphia, Cincinnati and
San Francisco to win the divisions, with Miami and Atlanta taking
the wild card slots.
the American League… Boston… and only Boston. And, I think the
AL West leaders should be more fearful of that than Tampa or New
York. Because if Boston does make it, I believe it’s because they
played better than I expect, and as a result both wild card slots
will come out of the East.
the National League… Arizona is a good choice, considering last
season. But realistically, I’d go with St. Louis and Milwaukee
as the best bets to take a spot. Both have potentially solid rotations
in place, plus a division they should be able to win against.
keeping in mind… the Milwaukee Brewers were 57-24 at home last
season. That was 5-games better than any other team in baseball.
They also had a losing road record. It’s far more likely that
home record comes back to the pack a bit this year.
you have to remember what I said about David Wright when I looked
at the Mets. There are new rules in place. To my knowledge, a
player traded mid-season with an expiring contract cannot be offered
arbitration. There are likely some details I’m missing… such as
contract options and buy-outs… but the prevailing idea seems sound
-- you can’t trade prospects for a player and believe that at
least you can get picks back if that player leaves in the off-season.
top of that, much like last year, many of the players likely to
be moved or set up to be the next to hit free agency have moved
or been signed. Joey Votto… signed. Matt Cain… signed. Jesus Montero…
traded. Unless things collapse in Philly and go horribly wrong
in the front office, Cole Hamels is not on the market.
Santana is an interesting one, as is Jason Bay, and both play
in New York. If they play well, the Mets wouldn’t mind moving
the contracts… especially if they can get a prospect or two back.
already know Wandy Rodriguez is gone. The age of the dedicated-designated-hitter
is fading. Still, teams looking for a bat might just call Houston
about Carlos Lee. I definitely don’t expect Lee to move… just
saying in a surprise consideration, it’s worth pointing out.
Joel Hanrahan pitches in 2012 the way he did in 2011, the Pirates
will be fielding a ton of offers for his services. And if he does
pitch well, expect his name to be mentioned as the best reliever
available. I know… you’ve heard his name less than you ever had
heard Heath Bell before Bell rumors swirled over the past couple
of seasons. Get ready to hear it more.
Dodgers could go into dump mode… meaning pitching (Lilly, Billingsley,
Harang, and so on if they pitch well) and maybe Andre Ethier.
could be someone very interesting to watch. I highly doubt Seattle
will get rid of him. Just don’t see it happening. But if he somehow
starts the season hot… well, you tell me what happens in Boston
if the right field platoon isn’t working but Boston is right in
the playoff mix. (Ain’t happening… especially since Ichiro is
a lefty and Boston is already overloaded from that side… but it’s
fun to speculate. And a hot Ichiro playing good defense could
benefit California, Detroit, Tampa… see? Not so crazy.) The Mariners
built quietly this year though, and I don’t expect any major moves.
though… well, just about anyone could be traded from the A’s.
My guess would be to watch Coco Criso and Bartolo Colon as options.
the Indians closely. They have some interesting pitching that
they could move. I don’t know that they will, but if Detroit and
the wild card are long gone by mid-July, they might just listen
to inquiries on Derek Lowe or someone else.
I get any surprises in there for you? Ok… let’s see if we can
stir up some trouble in Boston.
Youkilis. See… half of the starting infield of the Boston Red
Sox is playing in Pawtucket right now. That would be shortstop
Jose Iglesias and third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Almost everyone
believes both will be with Boston next season, and many feel that
at some point during the season they could both be ready for a
major league role. Youkilis is beginning to wear out his welcome
in Boston… part of it injuries… part of it stories about his relationship
with some teammates. Youkilis as a trade option is a bit of a
surprise to mention, but shouldn’t really stun anyone if it happens.
taking… and this might be a surprise… Evan Longoria. Tampa is
going to the playoffs. And I think they are going to be on the
news from the first games of the season right until the last.
That type of consistency can bring constant media attention. (Which
the Rays have already earned with their stellar play in recent
years.) When you consider how solid the pitching is and how good
the defense should be, the attention will look for a hero, and
Longoria fits the requirements of the position. (Doesn’t hurt
that he’s part of the quality defense in addition to his offense…
and if the Rays win the division, even more spotlights could be
the National League… Jose Reyes. Same idea as for Longoria… Miami
to the playoffs and rewarding a major contributor of that success.
you want other candidates, look to the probable playoff teams
and figure out some of the usual suspects. Pujols will be a good
guess for driving California, and Hamilton the same for Texas.
I expect Gonzalez to deliver in Boston. Verlander will not repeat
candidates would include Joey Votto, since I expect Cincy to be
there. Buster Posey will get some attention if he returns to form
and stays on the field.
Longoria and Reyes are my picks.
going with Jered Weaver to win the award. I also think David Price
will be a strong candidate as the year plays out. Justin Verlander
of course. And, if Boston plays well, it’s very likely you’ll
see Jon Lester having quite the season. For teams with multiple
candidates, just keep your eyes on Tampa and California.
about Josh Johnson? Maybe Lincecum or Cain? Good choices. I’m
taking Mat Latos.
I go with Weaver and Latos.
of the Year
be thorough, we’ll include Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes in this
debate. And I’ll take Darvish to win it. Do not ignore Matt Moore
though. I think Darvish will have a good year. Moore could have
a great one. I’ll stick with Darvish (and chances are I’ll regret
not taking Moore).
don’t have a clue in the National League. People are talking about
catcher Devin Mesoraco of the Reds. The Padres traded Anthony
Rizzo to make room for Yonder Alonso. Hmm… let’s take Alonso.
That would be nice for San Diego… trade Latos and acquire the
Rookie of the Year, and potentially make trading Gonzalez and
Rizzo a bit less painful. I should note that Atlanta is adding
the very hyped Julio Teheran, and he should be good.
now… Darvish and Alonso.
of the year
love to see Joe Maddon win it, since I think he’s the best in
the game right now. But Tampa winning isn’t the surprise it used
to be these days.
Scioscia is an interesting candidate since California hasn’t been
winning the way Texas has lately, and unseating the Rangers would
go a long way.
money though, despite the idea that it seems so unlikely, has
to go on Maddon, unless Manny Acta and the Cleveland Indians become
a wild card threat. The AL teams are just so loaded that there
isn’t much of a room for any surprise candidate. If you’re looking
for one, pay attention to John Farrell, for the possibility of
doing in Toronto what I claim could get Acta a nod in Cleveland.
(It’s just even less likely in the AL East for a playoff surprise
than it would be in the Central.)
the NL… I can’t believe this… Ozzie Guillen and Dusty Baker are
the top candidates and I don’t know if there are other options.
I suppose Roenicke could win in Milwaukee if they take the division.
Davey Johnson is an interesting candidate if Washington clears
85-wins. In the end… give me Ozzie. The Marlins making the playoffs
will mean more than Cincinnati or Milwaukee.
wrap up the awards… Maddon and Guillen.
will eliminate Texas in the single-game event. Miami will do the
same to Atlanta.
I’m saying avoid the records in this column I won’t match up what
team would play where by record, and let’s pick Tampa and California
to play for the AL title, with Miami and Cincinnati to play for
I’ll predict California to win it all over Cincinnati in 6 games.