world series

2015 Predictions

Despite my complete failure to predict anything correctly last year, I’ve decided to roll out another set of predictions this year, apparently because I am a depraved masochist.  While I referred to my 2014 predictions as “bold”, I make no assertion about the boldness of this year’s predictions.  I no longer care about my perceived boldness.  I just want to get one right.

1.  Each National League division winner from 2014 (Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers) will repeat.

While the 2015 American League looks like a complete crapshoot, with various upstarts on the rise and traditional powers on the decline, I don’t expect much to change at the top of the NL.  The Nationals started with three excellent starters in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez, and then over the past year have added 40% of what used to be the best rotation in baseball (Max Scherzer and Doug Fister from Detroit).  The Dodgers are still the best team in the West on paper and have the means to add whatever they need over the course of the season.  The Cardinals, on the other hand, do seem to be vulnerable in the Central after a rather underwhelming 2014, but I’m not sure their division rivals have made quite enough strides to overtake them this year.  Which leads me to my next prediction…

2.  The Cubs will be a massive disappointment.

Everyone seems to love what the Cubs have done over the offseason, from signing Jon Lester to poaching Joe Maddon.  Add that to the best group of prospects in baseball, and many are picking the Cubs to experience a huge turnaround.  In fact, fans and bettors are so excited that the Cubs are leading World Series odds in Vegas, now at 6 to 1.  I’m sorry, this is just insane.  This is still a team that finished in last place in 2014, and the success of the team is largely tied to the development of youngsters with little to no major league experience, such as Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.  I have no doubt that the Cubs are headed in the right direction, but those counting on big things for 2015 are going to end up being very, very sad.  I mean, we’re talking about the Cubs!  Have we learned nothing from the past 100+ years?

3.  Two of the three longest postseason droughts will come to an end.

Only three teams have failed to make the playoffs in the past ten years: the Blue Jays (21 year drought), the Mariners (13 years) and the Marlins (11 years).  All three are improved for 2015 and have major sleeper potential, and I expect at least two of these teams to finally break through and return to the playoffs.  Honestly, I hope it’s not the Marlins, because I despise this franchise and their scumbag ownership, but the bottom of the NL East (Atlanta and Philadelphia) looks terrible and the Fish should get fat playing those teams 19 times each.

4.  Baltimore will win the AL East.

The Orioles look mediocre on paper and are generally not highly regarded by the advanced stats community.  This has been true for the past three years, but the O’s have posted three straight winning seasons, averaging 91 wins a year.  And while they have lost some key contributors from last year, like Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller, one must remember that they dominated the AL for significant portions of 2014 without Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.  Sure, the rotation is nothing special, but the same can be said for nearly all of their AL East rivals.

5.  The Yankees will have a losing record for the first time since 1992.

The post-Jeter era in New York has begun, and it does not look pretty.  Sure, Jeter’s statistics were in sharp decline over the past few years, and he was barely a shell of himself during his farewell tour in 2014.  But people tend to forget that statistics can only measure so much…and that Derek Jeter is magic.  Without magic, there is no life to the Frankenstein’s monster of the Yankees roster.  All you’re left with is a bunch of inanimate rotting body parts sewn together.

6.  The Giants will miss the playoffs.

Like clockwork.  It’s an odd year.  This will mean that this “dynasty” (I shudder at this word) will have made a total of three playoff appearances over a span of seven seasons.  What a joke.

7.  The Tigers will not win 90 games.

This is the same prediction I made as last year, but it’s significantly less bold this year, as many see the Tigers as on the verge of falling off a cliff.  I wanted to go out on a limb and say that the Tigers wouldn’t make the playoffs at all, but I can’t do it.  Or rather, I don’t want to.  With all the parity in the AL and two wild-cards, who knows.  Plus, unlike their emerging division rivals, the Tigers are clearly in all-in mode, and can go for broke at the trade deadline if they are anywhere close to contending.  But, even with some good breaks, I think 90 wins is the ceiling.

8.  The Nationals will be the best team in 2015…and it won’t matter.

I’ve lost all faith in the playoffs.  They are a complete crapshoot, and the more the playoffs are expanded, the more crappyshooty they will be.  I think the Nationals are the best team in the majors, but since when does the best team win the World Series?  Or even a good team?  Whatever.  I think I’ll just root for a Beltway Series, that will be fun.  May the best team win?  Not likely.

Playoff predictions:

NL East:  Nationals
NL Central:  Cardinals
NL West:  Dodgers
NL Wild Cards:  Pirates, Marlins

AL East:  Orioles
AL Central:  Indians
AL West:  Mariners
AL Wild Cards:  Angels, Tigers

NLCS:  Nationals over Dodgers
ALCS:  Orioles over Indians

World Series:  Orioles over Nationals

Worst Predictions Ever and World Series Possibilities

A few posts ago, I made my postseason picks, and they were perfect:

AL Wild Card:  Oakland over Kansas City
NL Wild Card:  Pittsburgh over San Francisco

ALCS:  Detroit vs Oakland
NLCS:  Los Angeles vs Washington

Yes, that’s an amazing 100% wrong.  Six out of six.  I mean, that takes some serious skill, right?

But I would suspect that I’m not the only one who predicted zero LCS participants correctly.  Both wild card teams are still alive, and both teams that won the most games in their leagues (Angels and Nationals) are out.  Only one higher seed (Baltimore) won its Division Series.

In the National League, it’s more of the same.  Either the Giants or the Cardinals will end up representing the NL in the World Series for the fifth straight year.  It’s completely the opposite in the American League, where whichever team goes to the World Series will be breaking a LONG pennant drought (29 years for the Royals, 31 years for the Orioles).

So, the following are not predictions (since I am obviously terrible at that), but a ranking of the most watchable potential World Series matchups:

1.  Kansas City vs. St. Louis
This would be a rematch of the memorable 1985 World Series, which the Royals won in seven.  Yadier Molina against the Royals’ running game?  Yes please.  And most importantly, this is the only remaining potential matchup that would involve a legitimate geographic rivalry.

There are eight possible World Series matchups that would involve a geographic “pair”:
i. Kansas City vs. St. Louis — The Show-Me Series or the I-70 Series
ii. NY Yankees vs. NY Mets — The Subway Series
iii. LA Angels vs. LA Dodgers — The Freeway Series
iv. Oakland vs. San Francisco — The Bay Bridge Series
v. Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs — The Crosstown Series or the Red Line Series
vi.  Baltimore vs. Washington — The Beltway Series
vii.  Cleveland vs. Cincinnati — The Ohio Series
viii.  Tampa Bay vs. Miami — The Citrus Series

This year, we had four matched pairs of teams (LA, Bay Area, DC, MO) in the postseason, which I’m pretty sure is a record.  The last pair standing is the Battle for Missouri, but if that happens, I really hope that people don’t continue to refer to it as the I-70 Series.  I mean, Baltimore and Denver are also on I-70, so the term could also refer to a Rockies-Orioles World Series.  And the last thing I would want is for people to get carried away with the Interstate monikers.  Would a Tigers-Marlins World Series be called the I-75 Series?  Would Yankees-Giants be called the I-80 Series?  Let’s just nip this in the bud right now.

2.  Baltimore vs. San Francisco
An all black and orange World Series!  Normally, I don’t like it when teams with similar colors play each other (especially teams that wear red…there are too many teams in red.  Why don’t more teams wear interesting colors?) but since it’s Halloween soon, why not?  In a postseason where the gap between well-managed and poorly-managed teams seems bigger than ever, this matchup would pit the two best remaining managers (Bruce Bochy and Buck Showalter) against each other, hopefully ensuring high-quality baseball where the outcome is decided by the players on the field, not by managerial bungling.

3.  Baltimore vs. St. Louis
An all birds World Series!  Surprisingly, there has never been an all birds World Series before.  Who would win in a fight, a real oriole or a real cardinal?  I think cardinals are slightly larger, but I can’t really be sure.  Whatever.

4.  Kansas City vs. San Francisco
This is the least preferable World Series scenario because it would be guaranteed to produce a rather unpalatable World Series champion.  If the Royals won, it would be despite (a) one of the most incompetent managers in all of baseball in Ned Yost and (b) going 6-13 against my Tigers this year.   How would I feel about having such an undeserving World Series champion, one that was clearly inferior to the team I root for?   On the other hand, if the Giants won, it would be their third championship in five years and would establish the weakest dynasty in the history of sports.  As a Bay Area resident, can I live with a spoiled and obnoxious fan base becoming even more spoiled and obnoxious?  (Apparently, before the Giants game began yesterday, fans cheered enthusiastically when the scoreboard announced that the Dodgers had been eliminated.  I don’t understand this.  Wouldn’t you want to face and defeat your biggest rival, rather than have someone else knock them off?  Even the vilest villain in a movie won’t let his henchmen kill the superhero; he wants the satisfaction in doing it himself.  Whether they’re clueless bandwagoners or just petty, Giants fans lack sense.)

Bold Predictions Revisited

In March, I made a few predictions about how the season would go.  Let’s see how I did:

Prediction #1:  The St. Louis Cardinals will win 100 games.

WRONG.  The Cards still won the NL Central, but they only won 90 games.  My prediction was based on the Cardinals’ impressive organizational depth, but what good is depth if it doesn’t yield any impact players?  Hot prospect Oscar Taveras failed to impress in his debut and Allen Craig fell flat and ended up in Boston along with Joe Kelly and his high 90’s heat that somehow doesn’t yield any strikeouts.  The seemingly deep rotation suffered heavier than anticipated losses, with Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia losing many games to injury and Shelby Miller experiencing severe growing pains.  But despite all that, the Cards were deep enough to weather a great deal of adversity and make the postseason for the fourth straight year.  So I was sort of right.  Okay, fine, I wasn’t right at all.

Prediction #2:  The Oakland A’s will win the most games in the AL.

WRONG.  This prediction looked great at the end of July.  The A’s had the best record in the majors, had just traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester and were gearing up for a deep playoff run.  I looked like a genius.  But then, as has been well documented, the A’s crashed hard to earth and barely snuck in to the playoffs as a wild card while it was the division rival Angels that captured the best record.  The A’s finished with the fifth best record in the AL, so I wasn’t even close…but it feels close to me.

Prediction #3:  The Toronto Blue Jays will contend for a playoff spot.

WRONG.  Again, this prediction looked really good earlier in the season, before the Orioles (!) pulled away from everyone in the division.  The Jays were flying high until their wings were clipped by injuries to Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion.  (I say their wings were clipped because Blue Jays are birds and have wings.  I have such a way with words.)  Anyways, the Jays weren’t officially eliminated until the final week of the season, but they weren’t a real contender at any point during the home stretch.

Prediction #4:  The Detroit Tigers will win less than 90 games.

WRONG.  Unlike the other predictions, I was actually close on this one.  The Tigers won exactly 90 games, and needed every single one because the Royals finished second in the AL Central with 89.  My concerns about the bullpen were exactly on point (except the part where I thought Joe Nathan would be any good) as were my worries about the depth of the rotation (Anibal Sanchez missed significant time and his replacements, such as Robbie Ray and Kyle Lobstein, weren’t very good).  The offense actually turned out to be better than I thought despite a down year from Miguel Cabrera, thanks to a career best season from Victor Martinez (32 homers) and a breakout performance from J.D. Martinez.  Anyways, I was close, but still 100% wrong…but I’m glad I was wrong.  Though it would be nice if I were even wronger, and the Tigers had won 100 games.

Prediction results:  0 for 4

Revised Postseason Predictions:

I predicted only two of five AL playoff teams correctly (Detroit and Oakland), but got four out of five NL playoff teams right (Washington, Los Angeles, St. Louis and San Francisco) plus all three division winners.  Though the teams I predicted to be in the League Championship Series are all still alive (Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, Washington), I’m going to change my predictions because the Cardinals haven’t been as good as I thought they would be and because Clayton Kershaw is an animal.

AL Wild Card:  Oakland over Kansas City
NL Wild Card:  Pittsburgh over San Francisco

ALCS:  Detroit over Oakland
NLCS:  Los Angeles over Washington

World Series:  Detroit over Los Angeles

The Bruce Is Loose

One day after giving up six runs in the 10th inning, pitcher Bruce Chen was cut by the Royals today.  Best case, this is a knee-jerk reaction to a painful (and, lately, rare) Royals loss; worst case, this a pretty dick move.  I have no particular loyalty to the Chinese-Panamanian Chen, but I am loyal to loyalty itself, and this was his sixth season with the Royals.  While not a star by any means, Chen did manage to post replacement level or better numbers for a team mired in perpetual mediocrity.  Until this year, that is; the Royals are in first place and are the hottest team in baseball.  The apparent dickishness of this move is due to the fact that major league rosters expand on September 1.  Two more days and they can call up whoever they want without having to cut anyone.  The Royals couldn’t keep the guy around for two more days?  It’s not about money, since they have to pay him anyways, and it’s apparently not about chemistry, since manager Ned Yost extolled Chen’s virtues as a clubhouse leader today.  So what is it?  Do the Royals really need that one extra arm in the bullpen that badly over the weekend?

This reminds me of 2006, when the perennially awful Detroit Tigers were finally in first place in September, and then decided to cut five-year veteran Dmitri Young for no obvious reason on September 6.  Granted, Young had been through a great deal of off-field issues during the year, including domestic violence allegations, a divorce and alcohol-related issues.  But no official reason has ever been given for this roster decision other than “performance”, and at the time it was surprising to everyone, including his teammates, because rosters had expanded and it would have cost the Tigers nothing to keep him around for the rest of the year.  Perhaps back then the off-field issues added up to just too much, but we’ll never know.  But it seemed like very strange timing to part ways with a guy who had been an integral part of your franchise for years.

The aftermath in 2006 was that the Tigers swooned to a 10-12 finish after cutting Young, allowing the Twins to overtake them for the Central Division crown on the season’s final day (but the Tigers did still manage to grab the wild-card and make a run to the World Series).   Perhaps the clubhouse was rattled by losing one of their veterans, perhaps it was karma for being dicks.  Will the same thing happen to the apparently dickish Royals in 2014 as they attempt to win the Central for the first time ever?  We’re about to find out.

Fantasy Memories: Ryan Klesko

In late April 2001, I had just graduated from college and was planning to go backpacking through Europe for most of the month of May.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to check my fantasy baseball team very much while I was traveling (no smartphones in 2001), so the night before I left, I set my roster one last time.  I think my first baseman was hurt or something, so I just picked up the highest ranked first baseman available on the waiver wire, who happened to be Ryan Klesko.  Despite a solid 2000 season, Klesko had started 2001 slowly, hitting only .247 in April, so someone had dropped him.  I didn’t know much about the dude at all, so I was just hoping that he would stay relatively healthy and at least not hurt my team too much while I was gone.

When I returned to the U.S. at the end of May, I finally logged back on to a computer and took a look at the numbers next to Klesko’s name.  My jaw fell off my face.  Ryan Klesko had gone insane.  In May 2001, Klesko hit .354/.464/.788 with 11 homers, 40 RBI and 10 stolen bases.  That’s double digit steals and homers in a single month.  I have no idea whether anyone else has managed this feat, but it seems like it would be extremely rare.  I checked all of the 40/40 seasons in history (Canseco, Bonds, A-Rod, Soriano) and none of them did it.  And Klesko was primarily a first baseman!  While I was off traipsing across Europe, Klesko was doing work, carrying my fantasy team on his back for an entire month.

Fantasy baseball managers tend to develop irrational attachments to certain players, or at least I do.  Very often, it’s a guy you feel like you “discovered”, someone you bought into and believed in before anyone else did.  In those cases, a large portion of that ongoing attachment comes from personal pride in your own fantasy baseball skills.  You identified a star before he became a star, therefore, you are also a star and every time you see his name in your lineup, you feel good about you.  I definitely feel that way about some of the guys I’ve had on my team over the years, like James Shields or R.A. Dickey. But this wasn’t the case with Klesko.  I was just plain lucky that I happened to have added him right before he exploded; I can take no credit in this.  But I continued to roster him on many of my teams up until he retired in 2007, and this was a different kind of attachment.  Call it eternal gratitude.

The 2001 MLB season was perhaps the most memorable of my lifetime.  Seattle won 116 games.  Barry Bonds hit a billion homers.  Ichiro won rookie of the year and MVP honors.  Albert Pujols’ ridiculous rookie year as the oldest-looking 20 year old in history.   9/11.  The Jeter Flip.  All of this culminated in the greatest World Series I have ever seen.  So it’s not surprising that Klesko’s amazing May has been virtually forgotten.  But not by me.  My gratitude continues until this day.  For that amazing month, thank you Ryan Klesko.  Thank you until the end of time.

Opening Day 2014: Bold Predictions

1.  The St. Louis Cardinals will win more than 100 games.

Let me just say first of all that I kind of hate the Cards.  I hate Ozzie Smith, who is one of the most overrated players of all time.  He’s in the Hall of Fame (on the first ballot, to boot) and Alan Trammell isn’t?  Seriously?  Dude contributed virtually  nothing with the bat for his entire career, I don’t care how good he was with the glove (and come on, is there really that much of a difference between Ozzie and Omar Vizquel?  For that matter, is there even much of a difference between Ozzie Smith and Ozzie Guillen?)  I hate Tony LaRussa, who is going into the Hall of Fame despite being a complete dick of a person and managing players who were some of the most egregious steroid abusers.  I hate the 2006 version of the Cardinals, who didn’t deserve to win a World Series over my beloved Tigers and are the worst World Series champion of all time based on winning percentage.  God I hate them.

But it’s been awhile since the franchise has really given me anything to hate, so my feelings are returning towards ambivalence, and with that comes objectivity.  Entering the 2014 season, the Cardinals are the only team that are an absolute lock for the playoffs.  If we fast forwarded to October and you told me that any other team (say the Red Sox or the Dodgers) missed the playoffs, I wouldn’t be too surprised.  But there isn’t any way in hell that St. Louis doesn’t make the postseason this year.  This team not only has a stacked rotation, bullpen, offense and defense, they have a loaded farm system and depth all around the diamond.  No other team is as prepared to handle the inevitable injuries that can pile up during the course of the long regular season.  Combine all that with their relatively weak division, and I think it’s completely reasonable that this team just runs away from everyone else in the National League.  No team has won 100+ games since Philly in 2011 and overall there might be even more parity this year, but the Cards, as much as I hate to say it, will be the exception.  I take no joy in this prediction whatsoever.

2.  The Oakland A’s will finish with the most wins in the American League (and get to the ALCS).

In 2012, no one picked the A’s to do much of anything, but they finished one game shy of the best record in the AL.  In 2013, very few people picked the A’s to repeat, but they again finished one game shy of the best record in the league.  I think most prognosticators have learned their lesson, so no one is picking the A’s for a complete collapse this year, but most are not picking the A’s to match their 96 wins from last year.  But I like their chances of not only winning their division, but having the best record in the league.

There’s still a lot of upside on this roster that wasn’t captured in 2013.  So while Josh Donaldson likely won’t match his MVP-caliber performance, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes are both primed to improve on poor 2013 season.  Coco Crisp won’t fall off as much as people think as long as he stays healthy (see previous post), and the A’s are getting close to perfecting the art of the platoon at both first base and at catcher (where I like both Derek Norris and John Jaso to have good seasons).  The real question with the A’s is with their rotation, after losing Jarrod Parker for the year and Bartolo Colon to free agency.  On top of that, A.J. Griffin is out for the first few weeks of the season.  But Sonny Gray looks like he could be a legitimate ace, something the A’s didn’t really have the last two seasons, and if they need another starter mid-season, I trust Billy Beane to go out and get one.  Moreover, I think any deficiencies in the rotation can be overcome by what looks like an even stronger bullpen than the 2012 and 2013 versions, which were both pretty damn good.

As for the postseason, the A’s deserved better than their two consecutive first-round exits at the hand of the Tigers.  So, I’ll say that they win the ALDS this year and exorcise some demons…but then lose in the ALCS in seven games to the Tigers, with Justin Verlander winning games 1, 4 and 7.  Sorry A’s fans, but hey, it’s one step further than last year.  I love Justin Verlander.

3.  The Toronto Blue Jays will contend for a playoff spot.

In the past two years, all four of the other teams in the AL East have made the playoffs.  It’s the Blue Jays’ turn!  Okay, well, baseball (and life) doesn’t exactly work like that, but I loved this team on paper last year and I like them even more this year.  The offense was fine last year and should be even better this season if Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes can stay somewhat healthy; I also like Melky Cabrera to come back and contribute, well, anything.  The bullpen, led by Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil, should be nails.  Like the A’s, the question marks are in the rotation. I’m a huge R.A. Dickey fan, so I think he has a good year, though maybe not quite Cy Young caliber.  Mark Buehrle is consistently mediocre, but at least he’s not going to kill you the way Josh Johnson did last year.  So really it comes down to Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison and Dustin McGowan in the back half of the rotation.  That’s an injury-prone strikeout artist with control issues, a high-upside rookie, and one of my favorite breakout fantasy candidates…from 2008 (and who has pitched less than 100 innings total at all levels since then).  That’s a ton of question marks, but I like the upside potential from this group.  If the Jays can get even league average performance from their starters, I like their offense and bullpen enough to keep them in the mix for a wild-card slot all year.  I’m not saying they’ll definitely make the playoffs, but they’ll get close.

4.  The Detroit Tigers will win less than 90 games.

Ahh…my Tigers.  I don’t even know what to do with these guys right now.  After an offseason and spring training where it appears ownership and upper management have gone collectively insane (Fielder-Kinsler trade, Fister trade, trading for two garbage shortstops to cover for Iglesias injury, failure to re-sign Scherzer, WTF Cabrera contract), this team just has a really bad juju to it.  I’m now prepared for the worst, but of course still hoping for the best.  But there is a ton of downside to this team.

– Offense:  With Prince Fielder departing, it looks like Miguel Cabrera could lead the league in homers…and the Tigers could finish last in the AL in home runs.  Where’s the power coming from in this lineup?  Even if you disregard power, however you set this lineup, spots six through nine in the batting order just look like black holes to me.  I expect Nick Castellanos to struggle to make contact his rookie year and I don’t have much hope for Alex Avila to be anything more than okay.  Granted, as long as the Tigers have Miggy they’ll at least be average, but will average be good enough?

– Starting pitching:  Despite the horrendously bad Doug Fister trade, I still think this could be the best 1 through 5 rotation in baseball if everyone stays healthy, even accounting for declines from Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, but the Tigers have been pretty fortunate the last couple of years health-wise.  If even one of these guys goes down, there isn’t a single guy in the organization who can step in as a serviceable starter.  Jose Alvarez could have been that guy, but we just traded him for SS A. Romine (can’t remember whether he is Austin or Andrew) in a panic move.  One injury will be tough to recover from; two and the season’s over.

– Bullpen:  The Tigers’ achilles heel the last two postseasons has been the bullpen, though maybe more due to Jim Leyland’s mismanagement.  But as mediocre as last year’s bullpen was, this year’s is stacking up to be much worse.  The best three guys from the Tigers’ 2013 bullpen (Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly, Jose Veras) are gone (or, in Smyly’s case, moved to the rotation) and have been replaced by Joe Nathan and a bunch of garbage.  Now, Joe Nathan is a pretty good closer, but there’s no way that one closer makes up for three solid bullpen arms.  Despite having the big names on their roster, the Tigers have underperformed during the regular season the last couple years, largely due to bullpen weaknesses.  This is only going to get worse this year.

The Tigers aren’t going to win 90 games.  Their only hope really is that 88 wins or so is enough to win the AL Central.  I think it just might be enough, but if the Royals or Indians get a little lucky this year, we could be looking at the end of the Tigers’ three-year postseason streak.

Postseason Predictions:

AL East: Boston
AL Central: Detroit
AL West: Oakland
Wildcards:  New York, Toronto

NL East:  Washington
NL Central:  St. Louis
NL West:  Los Angeles
Wildcards:  Honestly, I would not be surprised if it were any teams other than New York, Miami or Chicago.  Let’s just say Cincinnati and San Francisco.

ALCS: Detroit over Oakland
NLCS: St. Louis over Washington

World Series:  Detroit (88 wins) over St. Louis (101 wins).  Revenge for 2006!  Suck it St. Louis.

Eulogy for Barry Zito…and Something About a Squirrel

BarryZitoCard AndyPettitteCard

Way back in 2001, I was managing some girl’s fantasy baseball team for her, and I traded away Andy Pettitte for Barry Zito and Derek Lowe. At this point in time, Pettitte was already a well established name, with four World Series titles under his belt already, while Zito was a relative unknown in his first full season. I was taking a bit of a risk, but my talent assessment was spot on, as Zito would win 17 games that year and the Cy Young the next year, while Pettitte was highly overrated because of his media exposure. I won that trade. But the greatest artists are never truly appreciated in their time, and that girl “fired” me from managing her team after trading away the only player on her team that she actually knew.

Now it’s 2013, and with the retirement of Pettitte and the expiration of Zito’s horrible 7 year/$126 million contract, it’s time to take a second look back at that trade. Now, my fantasy league was not a keeper league and I know that fantasy baseball is not real life (my girlfriend keeps reminding me that as well), but considering how good that Pettitte-for-Zito deal looked two years after the fact, one would have expected that the deal would only continue to look better and better as the years went by, since Zito was much younger. Well, that hasn’t been the case, as Pettitte has generally been a decent middle of the rotation pitcher (in both fantasy and real life) when he hasn’t been injured or retired, while Zito has been a humongous piece of shit, pretty much the worst player in baseball over the last seven years. I can’t fucking believe that the Giants have won two World Series with this guy on the roster; it just makes me want to vomit on a squirrel. So maybe that 2001 trade wasn’t such the triumph of “talent evaluation” that I thought it was…

This is all just a roundabout way of getting to the point, which is saying that I can’t believe that Zito’s 7-year monstrosity of a contract is finally over. SEVEN YEARS.  These seasons are just flying by, and yet another one has come to an end. But we made it. We outlasted this terrible contract, the worst of all time. And as much as I loved making fun of Barry Zito, that sorry sack of snake semen, it’s time for him to go away. So, in hopes of your departure, this is my eulogy for you, Barry Zito, the ricin of fantasy baseball. You were truly magnificent in your awfulness. Now go jump off a cliff.

2008 Season Preview

I needed something fun and easy to read so I picked up “Now I Can Die in Peace” by Bill Simmons, a writer for ESPN.com.  Now, I have always enjoyed Simmons’ columns, I’ll admit that.  I would describe him sort of as like the average joe fan who turns out to be an above average writer.  Not a great writer; it’s a bit harder to read in book form and he definitely pales in comparison to other some-time ESPN contributers like Klosterman and Easterbrook.  Those guys are on a whole different level.

Regardless, the focus of the book is about the journey of the 2004 Red Sox and all their long-suffering fans.  86 years between world championships for them, 1918 to 2004 (quickly followed by 2007, of course).  And though Simmons’ refuses to use the word “curse” to describe the plight of Red Sox fans, he incessantly harps about how “this always happens to us”, saying how they’re so unlucky or this is so terrible, or it’s so hard to root for this team, blah blah blah.

What a bunch of whiny crap.

Look, unless you’re actually like 86 years old, I don’t buy any of this garbage about how long you’ve been suffering.  This guy is like 10 years older than me, so I’ll give him like 10 more years of following his team, so that takes him to around 1976 or 1977.  That’s like 30 seasons of baseball, out of which the Red Sox have only posted 5 seasons with losing records.  The most they lost in a single season in that span was 89 games.  They went to the playoffs 7 times from 1976 to 2003.  So why are you crying so much you gigantic baby.

The Tigers last won a World Series in 1984.  I was 5 at the time and had lived in Michigan for all of two months at that point, so I had no idea what was going on.  I started to follow baseball in 1986 and was heartbroken when they lost in the playoffs in 1987.  Now.  Since 1986, the Tigers have posted 16 seasons with losing records, including four 100+ loss seasons.  I almost feel like that 119 loss monstrosity in 2003 should count double.  Even if a “Red Sox fan” could love their team as much as I love mine, you really think you’ve had it harder?  You think you’re that freaking important?  Just shut up.

In my lifetime, we’ve had two playoff appearances (1987 and 2006).  Both times we fielded excellent teams, and yet somehow ended up losing to, by any objective measure, the TWO WORST WORLD SERIES “CHAMPIONS” OF ALL TIME (’87 Twins, ’06 Cards).  You can’t know what this feels like.  It’s like having your girlfriend stolen from you by Screech from Saved By the Bell.  Twice.

And enough with the whole “Red Sox – Yankees is the best rivalry in sports” garbage.  It’s a great rivalry, no doubt, and for the time being, it’s the best rivalry in baseball.  But the best rivalry in the history of sports, past present or future, is Michigan – Ohio State.  End of story.

My team has been terrible for most of my life.  And if I were like a Red Sox fan, I would be crying and peeing all over myself, saying “Oh no….what if I grow old and die before my team wins a World Series?”  Such a fan would use that as an excuse to expect the worst, to bail on their team when times get rough.  Rough times?  Try living through a 119 loss season.  Seriously.

But even in 2003, I wasn’t bemoaning my fate of rooting for a doomed team.  Hell no.  I believed that things would be better.  Maybe not right away, but I didn’t jump ship, I loved them with all their faults, maybe even because of their faults.  And whether it was 1987, 2003 or 2006, I knew I would someday see the Tigers win the World Series.  And not later on, like on my death bed.  I knew I would see it in the foreseeable future.  I knew it then.  I know it now.  I will see it happen.

So listen.  I could give an exhaustive player-by-player breakdown about how I think the season will go.  I could do that.  I could give a Peter Gammons-esque list of things that need to break right for something to maybe happen, i.e. “if player X stays healthy, if player Y breaks out, then maybe Team Z has a shot at making noise in the playoffs.”  I did this last year.  I said, “if the Tigers stay healthy, they could win 90 to 105 games.”  But what good is that?  It’s useless.  It’s gutless.

What is objectivity?  What is factual truth?  Can we ever truly know if the “facts” we hold to be true really are true?  Is foresight any different from memory?  Perhaps; knowledge of past is more than mere scienter; it’s memory corroborated by extrinsic evidence.  Maybe knowledge of the future seems less substantial; belief corroborated by nothing more than hope.  But if that belief and that hope are strong and virtuous enough, maybe that foundation is no less shaky than that of the “facts” we take for granted.

Maybe that seems tangential, but the point is this:  THE DETROIT TIGERS WILL WIN THE 2008 WORLD SERIES.  And that’s a fact.

EDIT:  OK, I guess I was wrong.