Having Our Cake and Humble Pie and Eating It
In March, we released our annual postseason predictions to see who would rise, die and surprise in 2011. Seven months later, we were proven once again that attempting to foretell an entire major league season is fraught with extreme hazard. Anyway, we went back and reread our thoughts of the time and came up with these hits and misses:
Prediction: “If (the Phillies haven’t) clinched by September 15, I’ll eat my weight in cheese steak sandwiches, I promise.”Ed
Outcome: The Phillies clinched on September 17ironically, against the St. Louis Cardinals. Joey Chestnut will soon give Ed a call to give him advice on pigging out.
Prediction: “…the rotation is the insurance policy that will blunt the disabled list blues and help the Phillies claim their divisional title.”Eric
Outcome: The Phillies led the NL in both ERA and disabled list activity, and won the NL East.
Prediction: “In a (NL Central) division reeking with weakness, the Reds stink the least.”Eric
Outcome: Milwaukee and St. Louis were both smelling pretty good at the end of the year; meanwhile, the Reds finished below .500.
Prediction: “Baseball Prospectus picked the Astros to have the worst record in the majors this year.”Eric
Outcome: Heck, we’ll just have Baseball Prospectus to do our picks from now on.
Prediction: “My pick to finish on top of the NL Central in 2011 is the Milwaukee Brewers…This team’s young stars will remind many of us of Harvey Kuenn’s Wallbangers.”Ed
Outcome: The Brewers won the NL Central and led the league in home runs.
Prediction: “With this formidable offense, (the Colorado Rockies) won’t need great pitchingbut they’ll have it anyway!”Ed
Outcome: Only the Astros (4.51) had a worse team ERA in the NL than the Rockies (4.43).
Prediction: “The Arizona Diamondbacks play in Spring Training Land, and they’ll be playing at that level once the real games start.”Ed
Outcome: The Diamondbacks won the NL West.
Prediction: “…this is the year we find out just how good of a manager (Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon) is.”Eric
Outcome: The payroll-slashed Rays edged out Boston for the AL wild card. Maddon is that good.
Prediction: “(The New York Yankees’) mid-rotation pitching is horrendous and the Bronx Bombers will be blowing up in the fifth-to-seventh innings all season long…Whom exactly is Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova anyway?”Ed
Outcome: We can’t speak for Mitre (four lousy appearances), but Nova finished 16-4 for the AL East-winning Yankees.
Prediction: “…Tampa Bay will take the wild card…”Ed
Outcome: Bravo, Ed.
Prediction: “…the Tigers’ sensational stopper (and my pick for the 2011 A.L. Cy Young) is Justin Verlander, who I predict will win 22-25 games and carry the team’s pitching staff.”Ed
Outcome: Verlander won 24 games and is a sure bet to win the AL Cy this coming week. Bravo again, Ed.
Prediction: “…the two dueling Cabreras in the (Cleveland) infield (shortstop Asdrubal and second baseman Orlando) are equally forgettable.”Ed
Outcome: Asdrubal Cabrera had a breakout year and started for the AL in the All-Star Game.
Prediction: “I’m betting (the Minnesota Twins) will fall short of Detroitbut a wild card could be the Twins’ consolation prize.”Eric
Outcome: The Twins lost 99 gamesbut at least Eric got the Tigers finishing in first place.
Prediction: “Basically, this is an Indian team that’s dead on arrival.”Eric
Outcome: The surprising Indians were above .500 for much of the year and finished second in the AL Central.
Prediction: “In a division unsettled at the top, I think the Rangers have the most horsepower and flexibility to repeat.”Eric
Outcome: The Rangers repeated as AL West champions.
Prediction: Eric and Ed both picked the Red Sox to win it all.
Outcome: The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs.
You Can Go Back HomeBut at Your Own Risk
The case has left other major leaguers from Venezuelan to give pause before coming home for a brief winter ball fling, but they’ve gone ahead anyway despite the runaway trend in kidnapping and a government gratuitously hostile to America. Ramos ignored the Modus operandi of other players who use bodyguards to protect themselves, taken alone and without any resistance. Perhaps immigration laws make it difficult for Ramos and other Venezuelans to move their families to the States, but it would sure seem to be a good idea.
Major leaguers obviously feel enough of a comfort level to return to his homeland during the offseason, even if that country is beset by crime, corruption and a wacko dictator like Venezuela is these days. Wilson Ramos, the rising star catcher for the Washington Nationals, was kidnapped at his family home in his native Venezuela this past week by four armed men in a SUV; the vehicle was later found abandoned a day later, and a day after that Ramos was safely found following a massive search-and-rescue mission, because the government badly wanted to avoid heavy criticism both home and abroad had the worse-case scenario played out.
Coffee is For Closers, Mr. Boras
It will be interesting to check back in four years and see whether the Phillies made the right move. Both players will be 32 next year; Papelbon obviously has more closer experience (especially in the postseason), but he’s been shaky over the last few years and the Red Sox seemed to lose confidence in him. Madson, on the other hand, emerged as a tough closer this past season and may not have peaked yet. Don’t feel a touch of irony if Madson signs with the Red Soxthen the real comparisons will start.
The first major free agent signing of the winter took place this past week when the Philadelphia Phillies locked up former Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon for four years and $50 millionthe largest single guaranteed payout ever to a closer. The move did not come without controversy; earlier in the week it was reported that incumbent Phillie closer Ryan Madson, also a free agent, had returned to Philadelphia for four years and $44 million. But that was news to Phillie president David Montgomery, who was asked by general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. to sign off on the dealbut he refused, believing there were better options still to explore. The 11th-hout rejection especially annoyed Madson’s agent, Scott Boras, who felt he and Madson were used as leverage. (Gee, Mr. Boras, now you know how it feels to be on the other side.)
What Are You Really Saying, Lance?
The sale of the Houston Astros to Jim Crane is said to be imminent, but it’s also said that the deal will only go through if Crane agrees to move the team to the American League. If that happens, we’ll be able to count at least one unhappy Houston fan in former Astro Lance Berkman. “I think it’s a travesty. (Houston) is a National League franchise,” he said, “I think if they were going to do something like that, Milwaukee’s the choice to go back to the American League; they’re historically an American League franchise.”
First of all, Milwaukee was a NL city first (when the Braves called it home from 1953-65), and an AL city second. Secondly, does Berkman, currently a St. Louis Cardinal, have an ulterior motive in suggesting the Brewerswho won the NL Central title over the Cardinals this past seasonshould go, while leaving the 56-106 Astros as easy divisional pickings? Hmmm…
Charlie Lea, 1956-2011
Charlie Lea, the only native Frenchman to throw a no-hitter in the majors, died this past week of a heart attack at the age of 54. The right-hander looked to be a star on the rise for the Montreal Expos during the early 1980s; his no-no took place in his sophomore 1981 campaign and followed that year up with a combined 43-31 record and a 3.07 ERA over the next three years. Additionally, Lea started and won the 1984 All-Star Game for the National League. But arm and shoulder maladies then crippled his career; he completely missed the next two seasons (1985-86) and an attempted comeback with both the Expos and Minnesota was both brief and lousy. He finished his career with a lifetime 62-48 record and 3.54 ERA.
Now Playing at TGG
The Teams section has been udpated to reflect results from the 2011 regular season.
If TGG Chose the Postseason Awards
This week, baseball names the winners of this year’s most coveted regular season honors: The Most Valuable Player, Cy Young Award, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year. TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio broke out the crystal ball back in spring training and gave our predictions for the folks we thought would be hoisting these awards seven months laterand our results prove that the crystal ball needs recalibrating.
So along with relisting our selections from the spring, here’s our predictions revisited now that the season is over. We’ll find out over the next few weeks if our selections are gelling with those of the writers, whose votes actually count.
NL Most Valuable Player
Ed’s pick back in March: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
Ed’s pick now: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
Cargo started off badly but righted himself to something closer to MVP form in the second half, but it was a case of too little, too late for a Colorado team that disappointed. Kemp had the best numbers, and although the Dodgers went nowhere but into bankruptcy this year, Ed scoffs at the theory (this year, at least) that one’s MVP chances should be elevated because his team is a contender. (Full disclosure: Ed bleeds Dodger Blue.)
Eric’s pick back in March: Buster Posey, San Francisco
Eric’s pick now: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
When Scott Cousins steamrolled Posey and knocked him out for the season, Eric felt like ripping up the proverbial betting ticket and throwing the torn pieces in the air. Unlike Ed, Eric believes that the MVP is for the most valuable, not necessarily the guy with the best numbers. So he sides with Braun, who was a major asset in the Brewers’ run to the postseason. (Because Braun may lose votes to teammate Prince Fielder, Kemp will likely win anyway.)
AL Most Valuable Player
Ed’s pick back in March: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
Ed’s pick now: Jose Bautista, Toronto
Longoria played well in the clutch and helped the Rays edge into the postseason, but he struggled below the .250 mark all year and was never on the voters’ radar. As with Kemp, Ed doesn’t care that Toronto finished at 81-81, believing that Bautista gave the Blue Jays more than any other player did for any one team.
Eric’s pick back in March: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
Eric’s pick now: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Had Gonzalez hit a few more home runs and his team made the playoffs, he’d be a prime candidate. (He’ll still get plenty of votes, just not enough.) Cabrera is now Eric’s choice, though he’s skeptical the Detroit slugger will win the award as he senses voters have become so accustomed to his seemingly effortless, outstanding stats over the years, heyjust what has he done that’s been so special of late?
NL Cy Young Award
Ed’s pick back in March: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
Ed’s pick now: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
Back in March, Ed went with the safe choice in Halladay and nearly got rewarded as the Phillie ace had another solid year. But Kershaw was even more so and now looks to be the choice among most people, including Edwho’s happy to switch his vote anyway since he bleeds that Dodger Blue.
Eric’s pick back in March: Josh Johnson, Florida
Eric’s pick now: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
Eric foresaw Johnson, one of baseball’s best when healthy, to ride a Florida team thought to be going places this season. For Johnson’s first nine starts (3-1 record, 1.64 ERA), Eric looked quite the prescient guy; but it would be the only nine outings for Johnson, whose shoulder got the best of him. So it’s Kershaw.
AL Cy Young Award
Ed’s pick back in March: Justin Verlander, Detroit
Ed’s pick now: Justin Verlander, Detroit
Winner! Winner! Here’s something Ed can place on his baseball pundit resume. The big, strong Detroit right-hander was his choice from the start, and he’s going to be vindicated with Verlander a lock for this honor.
Eric’s pick back in March: Jon Lester, Boston
Eric’s pick now: Justin Verlander, Detroit
Lester, a sound pitcher, seemed to be Eric’s logical pick to thrive with an intimidating Red Sox lineup behind him, but someone forgot to shut off the valve to the beer keg in the Boston clubhouse. So it’s Verlander.
NL Rookie of the Year Award
Ed and Eric’s pick back in March: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati
Their pick now: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
Both guys fancied the light-speed fastball of Chapman, who might have been on his way to the award had a sudden inability of strikes not hit him in May. So now they’re leaning on another fast-pitching closer in Kimbrel, the prime guy in a nasty Atlanta bullpen.
AL Rookie of the Year Award
Ed’s pick back in March: Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay
Ed’s pick now: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles of Anaheim
Hellickson had a very good year (13-10, 2.95 ERA) for the Rays, and he may very well grab the honorbut Ed has changed his mind and believes it should go instead to Trumbo, who conked out 29 homers with 87 RBIs for the Angels.
Eric’s pick back in March: Chris Sale, Chicago
Eric’s pick now:Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay
Eric was sold on Sale, the White Sox reliever who did shine in his initial season with a 2.79 ERA and eight savesbut his impact on the season just wasn’t enough compared to other rookies. So now, Eric’s picked up on Ed’s initial offering and likes Hellickson.
NL Manager of the Year Award
Ed and Eric’s pick back in March: None (no choices were made)
Ed’s pick now: Tony LaRussa, St. Louis
Eric’s pick now: Kirk Gibson, Arizona
Ed believes the retiring LaRussa should receive a lovely parting gift here for his work in bringing the Cardinals back from the dead. Eric was very impressed with Gibson, who channeled his leadership abilities as a player with the Tigers and Dodgers and forged an unexpected NL West title out of the Diamondbacks.
AL Manager of the Year Award
Ed and Eric’s pick back in March: None (no choices were made)
Ed’s pick now: Ron Washington, Texas
Eric’s pick now: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay
Watching Wash win his second straight AL pennant was enough to convince Ed. Meanwhile, Eric admits it: He has a man-crush on Maddon, who once again proved, by lifting the low-budget Rays to another unlikely postseason spot, that he’s the best manager in baseball today.
Marlin Web Bait?
Now that the Florida Marlins have officially changed their name to the Miami Marlins, will they change their web site to miamimarlins.com? They could, but first they’ll have to make a call to one Guido Blanco, who bought the domain back in 1997 with the intent to sell boats, not to beat the Marlins to the punch and then sell the domain to them for a ton of money. (Never mind that there was a minor league team called the Miami Marlins from 1956-60.)
Blanco’s business never took off and his site is currently dormantbut the Marlins still aren’t interested, and they’re not convinced that Blanco just happens to hold the domain for the purpose of selling boats. “Certainly not going to pay a squatter, I can promise you that,” remarked Marlin president David Samson, perhaps offended that someone is trying to beat him at the very game and owner Jeffrey Loria have made a living at with the team: Ripping others off.
Your Name Here
The Kansas City Royals are exploring the possibility of renaming Kauffman Stadium through a sponsors-right agreement with a corporation that could pay the team up to roughly $3 million per year. Just enough money for the Royals to bring in another substandard pitcher…
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.