The Weekly Comebacker: The baseball week in review
The Week That Was in Baseball: October 29-November 4, 2012
Suds and Duds From TGG's Preseason Predictions
The World Series Postmortem Our Picks for the Postseason Awards

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The TGG Midseason Report Card
Our annual look
at the best, worst and most unexpected through the first 81 games of the 2012 major league season.

TGG Programming Note
The Comebacker is going into hibernation mode and will return when the new and improved This Great Game goes live on Sunday, December 30, 2012. During the time off, TGG will remain active in the social media universe with updates posted to the TGG Facebook page, so click here to like and receive our occasional facts and thoughts often reserved for the Comebacker.

Were We Right or Wrong?
Every year at the end of the season, we step back, take a look at our preseason picks and crow over what we got right­—while eating our crow over what we got wrong. Below is a collection of some of our hits and misses from back in March.

Prediction: Can Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle and Heath Bell complement a (Miami Marlins) team that is already loaded with young talent? Count on it. —Ed
Outcome: Reyes and Buerhle did their best, but Bell was a bust and the Marlins as a whole sank to a dismal 69-93 finish.

Prediction: The Reds’ all-around strength will make it tough for anyone else in the division to outdistance them. —Eric
Outcome: The Reds outdistanced second-place St. Louis by nine games.

Prediction: If Buster Posey can come back from injury…San Francisco will be able to think about a return to the World Series.—Ed
Outcome: Posey is the likely NL MVP and the Giants won their second world title in three years.

Prediction: A couple of Asian imports might help, but all in all the Orioles (will continue their) current run of woe, which could (and will) increase this year to an AL record-tying 15 seasons. Count on it.—Eric
Outcome: The Orioles had their first winning campaign since 1997 and nearly upended the Yankees in the ALDS.

Prediction: (The Baltimore Orioles are) young and untested, so they’ll win games 2-1 and then get beat 14-2 or 9-1.—Ed
Outcome: The surprising Orioles finished 93-69 despite nearly being outscored on the season.

Prediction: (The Boston Red Sox’) toughest foe may continue to be themselves—and the hubris-loaded Bobby Valentine, replacing the taciturn Terry Francona in the pilot seat, could make things worse.—Eric
Outcome: Right on both counts—the Red Sox’ players continued to lack self-discipline, and Valentine was a disaster.

Prediction: The Royals can hit their way past the .500 mark, (but) they can’t pitch their way there.—Eric
Outcome: The Royals were eighth in the majors in team batting average—and eighth-to-last in team ERA.

Prediction: Luke Hochevar can win 20 games this year. —Ed
Outcome: Only one major leaguer (Ubaldo Jimenez) lost more games than the Royals’ embattled “ace”; no one allowed more runs.

Prediction: The White Sox are said to be in refresh mode, but it all looks stale from this viewpoint.—Eric
Outcome: The White Sox led the AL Central over the eventual league champion Tigers before collapsing in the final weeks.

Prediction: Hail Albert Pujols and say hello to the World Series!—Ed
Outcome: Pujols got off to a lousy start and the Angels failed to reach the postseason.

Prediction: I envision the Rangers making it into the playoffs as a wild card winner.—Ed
Outcome: The Rangers made it to the playoffs as a wild card winner.

Prediction: It’s going to be a long, long climb back to respectability for the A’s.—Eric
Outcome: The A’s were the majors’ best team (51-25) after the All-Star Break, eclipsed Texas at season’s end to win the AL West and took the Tigers the distance in the ALDS before finally bowing out.

It Feels Like the First Time, Only Better
When the Giants gave San Francisco its first World Series celebration in over 50 years back in 2010, roughly a million people flooded the city for the team’s official parade and speech at City Hall. With the Giants winning it all again two years later—and with the same post-Series rally routine set in place—many expected the crowd to be smaller, especially given that it was taking place on Halloween, when schools are other entities already have daytime plans set in place.

Surprisingly, not only did the surge of fans match 2010, some believe it surpassed it—with estimates ranging up to 1.3 million, almost double the city’s population. There was certainly no shortage of the rabid among the fans; many of the prime spots along Market Street (for the parade) and City Hall (for the speeches) were already taken up the night before by those willing to sleep it through for choice viewing.

The Walking Dead is Eating Our Ratings
Maybe Scott Boras had a good point. A few years back, the super-agent proposed a Super Bowl-style pageant for the World Series, holding it at a neutral site on a pre-arranged date mixed with various forms of big-time off-field entertainment. Americans have basically turned Super Bowl Sunday into a national holiday and left the World Series choking in its TV rating dust. The 2012 Fall Classic between the Giants and Tigers registered the lowest ratings ever, averaging out at 7.6 on Fox; that figure slides further if you deduct the near-40 ratings achieved in the Series’ two participating markets, San Francisco and Detroit. The previous low tide for Series ratings came both just last year and in 2008, when Fox mustered an 8.4. The rating for the last Super Bowl, incidentally, was a 37 nationwide.

The Rotted Spoils of Steroid Usage
Life hasn’t been kind to two name players who couldn’t beat the system and got nailed for steroid use this summer. Of course there’s Melky Cabrera, the San Francisco outfielder who received a 50-game suspension and, even as he became eligible to rejoin his team, was forced to watch the Giants’ world championship from afar.

Then there’s pitcher Bartolo Colon, who was similarly disgraced after testing positive in the midst of a strong season for the Oakland A’s. Playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Colon took a line drive off his chin this past week, requiring a hospital visit and numerous stitches. Which leads us to segue to this: You can strengthen the pitcher’s cap as we discussed last week, but should we now be talking face masks as well?

Bonus Onus?
We’ll soon get a measure of appreciation from Giant players regarding Cabrera: Will they give him a full World Series share of roughly $300,000?

The Life and Death of Pascual Perez
Perhaps coming home and tolerating life in a crime-ridden country like the Dominican Republic is just a function of being in one’s element. Former major league pitcher Pascual Perez chose to live there; he also died there this past week, at the hands of assailants who beat him to death in what prosecutors are calling a premeditated home robbery over a pension check of $4,000. (One person was arrested several days after the crime.)

Perez’s was a fiery and flamboyant pitcher who went through occasional turbulence. The skinny but electric right-hander evolved in the early 1980s with the Atlanta Braves, peaking with solid back-to-back seasons in 1983-84 with a combined 29-16 record. In Atlanta he was best known for once showing up late for a game because he got lost on the freeway, and for being the central figure in an ugly series of brawls during a 1984 contest against San Diego which hit its low point when, after getting hit in retaliation for plunking a Padre hitter earlier, raised his bat in the air against anyone who dared challenge to confront him. A year later, he collapsed to a terrible 1-13 record and 6.14 ERA, and at one point was so disheartened that he briefly bolted the team.

After a one-year hiatus, Perez rediscovered himself with three impressive years at Montreal, sporting a 2.80 ERA over 70 appearances. He signed a big contract afterward with the Yankees, but won only three games at New York as he was dogged by injuries and, in the end, a drug habit that got him in trouble more than once.

It Said What?
“I just look illegal”—T-shirt worn by San Francisco reliever Sergio Romo during the Giants’ victory parade on Halloween.

If TGG Picked the Postseason Awards
It’s award season in baseball, with the beat writers, tabulators and banquet services industry kicking into high gear while the players get their down time in. This Great Game’s Ed Attanasio and Eric Gouldsberry reviewed their preseason picks for baseball’s four major postseason honors and, with the advantage of hindsight, rethink (or in some cases, reiterate) their choices from back in March.

NL Most Valuable Player
Ed’s pick back in March: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
Ed’s pick now: Buster Posey, San Francisco
Ed started with a Dodger, and now he’s taking a Giant. That’s a hard thing to do when you bleed Dodger blue. Kemp was MVP-worthy when healthy, but that was the problem; he hardly ever was, missing over 50 games due to injury after a strong start. For Ed, Posey’s toughness at the plate and behind it as catcher helped lead the Giants into the postseason and, thus, clinches his MVP call.

Eric’s pick back in March: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
Eric’s pick now: Buster Posey, San Francisco
A year ago, Eric had picked Posey as the MVP, but Scott Cousins ruined it all with his infamous home plate steamrolling a third of the way in. Call this better-late-than-never achievement belated credit, if only to stroke Eric’s ego. Stanton, had he played a full season, would have cruised towards 50 homers, 40 doubles, 115 RBIs and substantial MVP votes—but even with that, the dismal performance by his Marlin teammates would have sank his chances.

AL Most Valuable Player
Ed’s pick back in March: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles of Anaheim
Ed’s pick now: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Pujols’ MVP hopes were immediately doomed with an absolutely dreadful first month-plus in an Angel uniform. And while another Angel (Mike Trout) should likely get much love from voters, Ed now goes with the Cabrera, the man pretty much expected to tip Trout and the others with his triple-crown performance.

Eric’s pick back in March: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Eric’s pick now: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Safe pick then; safe pick now. Cabrera has been stiffed before in regards to this honor because his numbers have been so automatically brilliant but also lulling through the years. It’s taken him a rare triple-crown effort to finally get voters’ attention this year, and that still may not be enough given Trout’s phenomenal season in Anaheim. But Cabrera should uphold Eric’s March prediction and beat out Trout, who’ll receive the consolation prize with Rookie of the Year honors.

NL Cy Young Award
Ed’s pick back in March: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
Ed’s pick now: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
Twenty-seven pitchers won more games this year than Kershaw, last year’s Cy recipient—but no one had a better ERA. While voters will more likely agree that Kershaw should win this year’s hard-luck honors for lousy support, there will be less consensus on whether he wins a second straight Cy. They’ll get big-time lobbying from Ed, who believed Kershaw was the guy in March—and still thinks so now.

Eric’s pick back in March: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
Eric’s pick now: R.A. Dickey, New York
Bumgarner was another edgy pick who Eric thought would break out this year; it’s too bad the 22-year-old Giant lefty didn’t figure out his mechanics sooner than the World Series, for it might have kept him from fading late in the regular season when he was in the midst of Cy discussions. Eric now believes the honor will go to Dickey, whose knuckleball flabbergasted opponents and led to a 20-6 record, 2.73 ERA and league-leading 230 strikeouts for a subpar Mets team.

AL Cy Young Award
Ed’s pick back in March: Justin Verlander, Detroit
Ed’s pick now: Justin Verlander, Detroit
Safe pick then; maybe a safe pick now. Ed believes Verlander is deserving of a second straight Cy, and while voters may choose otherwise, here’s the question to consider: If you had to manage a game to save your life, who would you pick to start? Even now, most people might side with Verlander.

Eric’s pick back in March: David Price, Tampa Bay
Eric’s pick now: David Price, Tampa Bay
Eric is sticking to his preseason guns and picking the tall Tampa Bay lefty, who won the AL ERA title and whose 20 wins co-led the league with Jered Weaver.

NL Rookie of the Year
Ed’s pick back in March: Bryce Harper, Washington
Ed’s pick now: Bryce Harper, Washington
When Ed made Harper his choice back in March, it seemed rather dubious; all reports then didn’t have Harper even joining the Nationals until late in the year. But injuries forced Washington to hasten Harper’s debut, and he didn’t disappoint; nationwide attention and his role in taking the franchise to the postseason for the first time since well before he was born will likely help grant him the honor at age 19.

Eric’s pick back in March: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati
Eric’s pick now: Wade Miley, Arizona
Cozart was the leader in the preseason clubhouse after a brief yet stellar 2011 debut and spring training buzz over his play, and although he played the full 2012 season, his performance wasn’t the most dynamic among rookies. So Eric throws the curve and sides with Miley, who took home a very solid 16-11 record and 3.33 ERA. Harper may end up having the better career, but Eric believes Miley had the better year.

AL Rookie of the Year
Ed’s pick back in March: Jesus Montero, Seattle
Ed’s pick now: Mike Trout, Los Angeles of Anaheim
Ed thought Montero was ready to rock and roll in Seattle after impressing late with the Yankees in 2011, but the cool, thick northwest air and the Mariners’ zombie-like offense sapped the energy and inspiration out of his numbers. And after Trout’s sensational year, who else would you vote for?

Eric’s pick back in March: Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland
Eric’s pick now: Mike Trout, Los Angeles of Anaheim
Even with Cespedes’ .292 average, 23 homers and 82 RBIs, Trout was just was too good to ignore. But: After Trout logged 40 games and 123 at-bats the year before, don’t you think it’s high time baseball tightened the rules defining a true rookie?

NL Manager of the Year
Ed’s pick back in March: (No choice was made)
Ed’s pick now: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco
It’s hard to choose against Bochy, who once again used a wonderfully deft touch in piloting the Giants to a NL West crown and second world title in three years. And as in 2010, if the vote was to be held after the World Series, Bochy might win it—but the count is cast instead right at the end of the regular season.

Eric’s pick back in March: (No choice was made)
Eric’s pick now: Dave Johnson, Washington
Maybe Johnson was in the right place at the right time, but his sage certainly helped the Nationals make a rare (if unsuccessful) playoff appearance with the majors’ best regular season record at 98-64.

AL Manager of the Year
Ed’s pick back in March: (No choice was made)
Ed and Eric pick now: Buck Showalter, Baltimore
It was a close call between Showalter and Oakland’s Bob Melvin for both Eric and Ed, but Showalter gets the edge because he took a group of rejects, green talent and a once hopeless pitching staff for a franchise saddled with nonstop woebegone results since the 1990s and surprised everyone with a stunning 93-69 mark in a difficult AL East.

TGG Goes to CafePress
We’ve always gotten raves for how we look at This Great Game, and now you can own a piece of the brand. We’ve opened a page at the popular CafePress site, with apparel, mugs, clocks and other items dressed in the TGG brand now available. We don’t just throw the logo and be done with it, adding in some fun baseball trivia. We even have a boy brief for the ladies that says on the backside: “If baseball is on your mind at this point, we’re just what you need.” Now you can show the world that you’re a baseball expert...and you’ll look good, too. Check it out now!

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.