Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXI: Crazy Trade Deadline. Crazier Cubs Game)

Written by :
Published on : August 5, 2016

 

 

Well, the trade deadline has come and gone. And it was a wild one. Maybe the craziest one ever. Since we last spoke, the Rangers got Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran. The Indians got Andrew Miller. And they didn’t get Lucroy. The Giants got Matt Moore and Will Smith. The Dodgers got Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. And they couldn’t unload Yasiel Puig. The Nationals got Mark Melancon. The Mets got Jay Bruce. The Marlins got Andrew Cashner. Chris Sale’s scissors stayed in Chicago. And now we can finally talk about what’s actually going on on the field. Yay!

 

On Sunday, the Cubs and Mariners played in one of the wackiest, most amazing games I’ve ever seen in my life. First of all, it’s best that we don’t speak Brian Matusz’ name ever again. The first three innings were essentially batting practice for Seattle and they went up 6-0 on homers before Theo Epstein shipped Matusz off to Siberia, or wherever starters with 14.00 ERAs go to repent. Maybe Baltimore?

 

Anyway, Carl Edwards Jr. came in in the 4th and 5th to stop the bleeding for the Cubs, striking out five of the six batters he faced. At this point, I was getting text messages from my brother-in-law as if the Cubs were somehow back in the game. I’d already received multiple texts on the disaster Siberia Boy had caused. But now I started hearing some optimism from my multiple Cubs text messaging groups. You read that correctly. Anyway, the Cubs did manage to get on the board in the bottom of the 5th when Felix Hernandez walked Ben Zobrist with the bases loaded and then plunked Addison Russell while they were still loaded, making it 6-2.

 

 

In the 6th, it looked like the Mariners were going to tack on to their lead after Joe Nathan came in and decided he was too old to be of any use. So Travis Wood replaced him on the mound and, after walking Seth Smith to load the bases, he promptly struck out Shawn O’Malley and Leonys Martin and got Robinson Cano to pop out. It was still 6-2 and Wood was out of a jam. The fun part was, in the 7th, Pedro Strop came in to relieve Wood, but Joe Maddon didn’t take Wood out of the game. He sent him out to play left field. And that same inning, he happened to make a spectacular catch into the ivy on a Franklin Gutierrez line drive. And that’s when Wrigley Field went nuts and my phone started to blow up. Oh, and apparently, when Wood came back to the dugout, Cubs’ catcher, David Ross, jokingly gave Wood some guff for not hitting the cutoff man after his catch. To which Wood just replied, “Fuck you.” Amazing.

 

In the bottom of the 7th, Zobrist tripled in Dexter Fowler, making it 6-3. And then in the 8th, Wood came back in from left to pitch. Because Maddon is apparently a tortured artistic genius. And was just getting started. Wood then picked off O’Malley as he tried to steal second for the 3rd out in the inning. Out of left field, indeed. Fuck you, indeed.

 

In the bottom of the 9th, with one out, the Cubs rallied with a double by Anthony Rizzo and singles by Zobrist and Russell, making it 6-4. Jason Heyward was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases. And then Wilson Contreras beat a throw to first on a bases-loaded double play attempt, making it 6-5. At this point, my wife did not want to watch the game. But when Seattle reliever, Steve Cishek, unloaded a wild pitch to the backstop, scoring Russell to tie the game, even she was like, “Oh my god!” as Wrigley, my phone and my mouth started screaming in unison. I guess Seattle was screaming too, since Cishek has since lost his job as closer. But that’s not my problem.

 

 

Fast forward to the bottom of the 12th, still tied 6-6. And say what you want about Jason Heyward’s season at the plate. He’s still the best defensive outfielder in the National League this year (and probably 3rd overall, after Kevin Pillar and Adam Eaton). And yes, he’s hitting .231, with an OPS+ of 73 (jesus). But he still has a 1.4 WAR and he was about to show some offensive value. With an 0-2 count, Heyward cranked a double off the top of the wall in right-center that came about a foot away from ending the game. Then he made his way to 3rd on a Contreras sac fly. And I don’t think a majority of Major Leaguers are beating that throw.

 

What happened next was full-on bizarre. With Hector Rondon’s spot in the order up next, the only pinch hitter Maddon could use was a starting pitcher. And instead of going with Jake Arrieta (who is hitting .279 with 2 home runs, but also strikes out half of the time), Maddon went with Jon Lester, who has a whopping seven career hits, but also only strikes out 30% of the time. I really don’t know. I just stopped questioning Maddon.

 

 

With two strikes on him, Lester actually laid down a perfect safety squeeze, scoring Heyward with the perfect head-first slide and the winning run. And nothing will ever be the same again. Lester got mobbed. Maddon kept doing his Beautiful Mind baseball math equations in the dugout. Everybody else lost their own minds. And it’s probably going to be a game I revisit for years to come.

 

Hey, you might not like the Cubs as much as I do. But at least that’s not trade talk. Let’s go around the league.

 

The AL East

Dylan Bundy might be the savior of the pitching-starved Orioles this season, as well as the most exciting American League rookie not born in Germany. And with the addition of Wade Miley, they might actually have a real 5th starter for the first time. I still think the Blue Jays are going to win the division. Especially if Troy Tulowitzki’s thumb doesn’t fall off. Aaron Sanchez is a legit Cy Young candidate. And it turns out they’re not moving him to the pen, after all. The Red Sox are waiting for any of Dave Dombrowski’s moves to pay off. And just when you thought we could finally stop talking about the Yankees now that they dealt Miller and Beltran and Aroldis Chapman, they have to figure out how to break up with Alex Rodriguez.

 

The AL Central 

One of the most interesting playoff scenarios (besides Texas-Toronto) is probably going to be between Cleveland and Texas, since Lucroy shut down the trade that would have made him battery mates with Miller and Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and Jeff Tomlin and Trevor Bauer and whatever other awesome arm he didn’t feel like catching. Until he went to Texas, I just assumed that Lucroy was an idiot. Either that or he saw the RNC and pictured Cleveland as a dystopian wasteland. But as of now, he might be getting the last laugh because Salazar is on the DL and Cleveland might not even win their division.

 

 

That’s because the Tigers are creeping. They’ve won eight of their last ten and are only 3 back of the Indians. Because while the Indians are 26-8 against the rest of their division (including 11-1 against the Tigers), they just cannot beat the Twins. So maybe if the Eastern teams beat up on each other down the stretch and Cleveland goes on another cold streak, the Motor City Kitties can slide in to the playoffs. 1908 World Series rematch, baby!

 

The AL West

A few weeks ago I was SURE the Astros were going to overtake the Rangers in the standings or at least move in to a Wild Card slot. But they got swept by the Tigers and now it looks like the Rangers are running away with this thing once again. I know AJ Griffin and Cole Hamels were their only starters to win in July. But with Lucroy and Beltran and a returning Shin-Soo Choo, that lineup is sick. The baseball pundits keep trying to sell me on the Mariners as a team to watch. And I’ll buy it as long as every game is as good as Sunday’s against the Cubs.

 

The NL East

The Nationals are viewed as trade deadline losers because they couldn’t land Chapman or Miller, but if that’s the case, why aren’t 27 other teams deadline losers? Mark Melancon is still a strong reliever. And they didn’t have to give up Lucas Giolito to get him. Then again, I’ve waited all season for Daniel Murphy to cool off. And now it’s August and he’s still hitting .358. The second best batting average in the league belongs to Wilson Ramos at .331. All that has to make them feel better about Bryce Harper hitting .234. What happened, breh?

 

The NL Central

 

Clayton Kershaw hasn’t pitched since June 26th, so he’s about to fall off all the NL leader boards due to inactivity. When that happens, Kyle Hendricks might actually have the best ERA of any starter in baseball. We can hold off with any Hendricks Cy Young talk for the time being. But these are the types of things I can talk about while the Cubs are hot. The Cubs were 11-17 without Fowler in the lineup. Now he’s back. The bullpen is upgraded. And John Lackey didn’t come here for a haircut. He came here for jewelry.

 

The NL West

The Giants have only won 5 games since the All-Star break. But with Hunter Pence and Joe Panik back in the lineup, as well as the additions of Eduardo Nunez, Moore and Smith, they might start to look like that Even Year team everyone seems to want. I don’t want it. But like, people who say words on TV seem to. But man, the Dodgers really need to take advantage of the Giants’ skid. I know they went 15-9 in July. And that they scored a lot of runs during that stretch. But only the Dodgers, who have seemingly had every single one of their starters on the DL this year, would actually go out to acquire another injured starter. But mostly everybody wants to talk about Yasiel Puig’s demotion from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Oklahoma City Dodgers. And then if he’s not careful, to the Tulsa Drillers, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and then the Great Lake Loons. Then maybe on a flight back to Cienfuegos. Remember 2013? Sigh.

 

The Rockies also got hot and were creeping up the division standings, as well as the Wild Card, but then Trevor Story went out for the season, destroying the worldview of every baseball fan who also loves shit-awful puns. I’m just thankful Jose Reyes went to the Mets and not Story, because of all the new lows the New York Post‘s headlines haven’t had to sink to yet.

 

 

Okay! That does it for this week. If you need more baseball, be sure to check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” MLB recaps with Joe Kilgallon, available at all the podcast places. Until then, Ichiro needs 2 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 46.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XX: Aroldis Chapman Arrives and Chris Sale Destroys)

Written by :
Published on : July 29, 2016

 

 

Man, I thought that with the trade deadline still a few days away, this week would end up being a snooze. But Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were officially inducted into the Hall of Fame, Aroldis Chapman was traded to the Chicago Cubs and Chris Sale joined the fashion police and went all Mark Fuhrman on some throwbacks. So let’s get in to it.

 

The first major shoe to drop before this year’s trade deadline was Aroldis Chapman going to the Cubs for Gleyber Torres (the #26 prospect in the Majors), Adam Warren, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. And it may be giving up a lot, but it looks like Theo Epstein believes this is the year and is going all in. And Addison Russell also exists, is only 22 and doesn’t leave a lot of room for any potential shortstops in the Cubs’ farm system.

 

Chapman does come with some baggage, to say the least. Last December, he allegedly choked his girlfriend and then shot up his garage, although no charges were filed and he already served a 30-game suspension earlier in the year. And those allegations are horrible. But honestly, the better he does in Chicago, the more the Cubs’ fan base will be willing to let them slide and give the flamethrower a second chance to be a better person.

 

 

All of that aside, Chapman was the biggest name in the deadline talks. The Cubs acquiring him also means that the Nationals and Giants didn’t. And they didn’t have to give up Kyle Schwarber in the process of addressing their most glaring weakness. Chapman debuted at Wrigley Field on Wednesday and threw 103 mph, so I’m guessing most of the critics on the North Side will be willing to move foreword. It’s not ideal for me either, but I know that sometimes shitty people are great at baseball.

 

As far as Chris Sale goes, wow. He didn’t want to wear the infamously hideous 1976 collared throwbacks because he said they were uncomfortable so he took a pair of scissors and destroyed them. Those are the same jerseys, mind you, that the White Sox wore with fucking SHORTS for the first game of a doubleheader that same year. I’d guess they’re on every short list for the ugliest jerseys in baseball history. Although it’s amazing that it happened, Sale’s antics earned him a five-game internal suspension and sparked a sea of trade rumors with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays and virtually every other potential playoff team. And I’ll go ahead and say that it’s probably not even the weirdest clubhouse incident to happen to the White Sox in 2016. But this is the type of awesome scumbag baseball lore that will stick around for a long time.

 

chicago-white-sox 1976

 

Over the weekend, Griffey and Piazza were formally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. And that led a lot of baseball pundits to ask the yearly question of, “Which current players could retire and make the Hall of Fame right now?” And I always shake my head when guys like Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Buster Posey are even brought into the conversation. You have to play 10 years in the Majors to even be considered for the Hall of Fame, everybody. So that rules all of them out.

 

Then you have to assume that anybody with a PED suspension is also eliminated, which takes care of Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, whether or not they would have made it in otherwise. David Ortiz also tested positive in 2003. So unless views on steroid use softens in the next decade, those guys aren’t getting in either.

 

So, who would get in? Good question. Here are the 10 most-likely if everyone’s careers were over right now.

 

1. Albert Pujols

579 career Home Runs. 3 MVP Awards. I can just stop talking there. But I’ll also tell you that JAWS ranks him as the second-best first baseman of all-time. Definite.

 

2. Miguel Cabrera
2 MVP Awards. 2 HR titles. 4 batting titles. A triple crown. JAWS has him as the 11th best first-baseman of all time. Definite.

 

3. Ichiro Suzuki
He’s closing in on 3000 hits. An MVP Award. 2 batting titles. 10 Gold Gloves. Definite.

 

4. Adrian Beltre
427 HR. 2862 hits. JAWS ranks him as the 5th best third baseman of all time. Very Probable.

 

5. Carlos Beltran

I talked about him earlier this year. But 412 HR. 2554 hits. JAWS says he’s the 8th best center fielder of all time. Probable.

 

6. Joe Mauer
3 batting titles. An MVP award. JAWS ranks him as the 9th best catcher of all time. Maybe.

 

7. Robinson Cano
261 HR for a second-baseman. That’s 6th all-time. He’s also 20th in hits. And JAWS says he’s the 14th-best second baseman of all time. Probably Not.

 

8. Chase Utley
242 HR at second. That’s good for 10th all time. JAWS says he’s 11th-best at second base. Probably Not.

 

9. Joe Nathan
He’s 8th all-time in saves. JAWS says he’s the 18th-best reliever of all time. No.

 

10. Dustin Pedroia

He’s got an MVP award and 2 rings. JAWS says he’s the 21st-best second baseman of all time. No.

 

Okay. As you can see it’s pretty bleak. So I’ll give you the next 10 guys on my list, based on Bill James’ Hall of Fame Standards Ranking. And just note that a 50 is the average for a Hall of Famer.

 

CC Sabathia (42), Matt Holliday (42), Jimmy Rollins (42), Victor Martinez (38), David Wright (36), Troy Tulowitzki (36), Hanley Ramirez (36), Joey Votto (34), Jose Reyes (34), Brian McCann (33). By the way, Yadier Molina has a 26. So everyone can shut up about him.

 

Okay. Let’s go around the league.

 

The American League

It looks like the Blue Jays and Red Sox are going to make some more moves. And that the Rays will be unloading some pitching. But even with Chapman gone, the Yankees are still in the best position to benefit before the deadline. You could still argue that they’re not dead yet (6.5 back in the division, 4 back in the Wild Card), but Andrew Miller’s trade value went up even higher. And he’s the new #1 on everyone’s list. Well, except for the Cubs.

 

Miller

 

I think it’s funny that on Tuesday, Chris Tillman, Steven Wright and Danny Salazar all had bad outings, so people started asking who the AL Cy Young should be and if anyone even wanted it. ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor has Zach Britton, Tillman, Sale, Cole Hamels and Salazar in their top 5. Here’s mine.

 

1. Masahiro Tanaka    3.3 WAR    3.25 FIP    3.00 ERA
2. Aaron Sanchez       3.0 WAR    3.36 FIP    2.72 ERA
3. Corey Kluber          3.7 WAR    2.91 FIP    3.44 ERA
4. Jose Quintana        3.1 WAR    3.46 FIP    2.97 ERA
5. Danny Salazar        2.7 WAR    3.31 FIP    2.89 ERA

 

Also, Prince Fielder is out for the year. But I’m sure we’ll know a lot more about the state of teams like the Rangers and Indians and whoever else after Monday’s deadline. Saying anything else would just be wild speculation. Let’s move on.

 

The National League

It looks like the Nationals are losing faith in Jonathan Papelbon, so if Andrew Miller lands anywhere, Washington is just as good of a guess as any. The other main names still on the market in the NL are Jeremy Hellickson, Jonathan Lucroy, Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzalez, Will Smith and Andrew Cashner. The Cubs could still go after a veteran bat. And the Dodgers want the entire Rays’ pitching staff, since they don’t have one of their own. Who’s ready for Monday?

 

Okay. That does it for this week. If you need more baseball, check me out on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. And in the meantime, Ichiro needs 3 hits and the Cubs’ Magic Number is 56.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode II)

Written by :
Published on : March 8, 2016

 

 

Yoenis Cespedes is almost single-handedly making me want to root for the Washington Nationals in the NL East this year. After the Mets gave Cespedes a $27.5 million salary ($22.5 million more than the hated-but-much-better Bryce Harper makes in Washington), he’s turned their Spring Training camp into a a daily episode of MTV Cribs, with multiple custom cars, two tricked-out Polaris Slingshots and a fire-breathing Lamborghini Aventador. All custom-designed by some guy in Miami who is probably not a total douchebag of the worst kind or anything. Now Cespedes is buying $7,000 grand champion hogs at county fairs, slaughtering them and riding horses to work. We get it, you’re MC Hammer.

 

The thing is, for all the love that Cespedes, the Mets and their pitching staff is getting right now, it was the Nationals who were in their same position this time last season. Now the Nats have Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman back for full seasons. And while Max Scherzer and a healthy Stephen Strasburg may not be deGrom-Harvey-Syndergaard, they’re still pretty fucking formidable. Especially since Scherzer is the best pitcher in the National League not named Clayton Kershaw. And despite all the fanfare, Steven Matz’ projections are pretty pedestrian, Bartolo Colon will be 43-years-old in May and Zack Wheeler’s stats don’t really inspire awe right now either.

 

Hate you.

 

There’s a bit of a drop-off in the rotation after the Mets’ Big Three. So I could see an argument why Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross actually round out a better overall rotation than the pitching Murderer’s Row/Greatest Staff Ever in Queens. And I haven’t even talked about Lucas Giolito yet. Call me crazy, but with identical Vegas odds (89.5 wins) and my growing hatred of the 22nd-best hitter in baseball (Cespedes), I am thinking the Nats’ luck can’t be nearly as bad as it was last year. Now somebody just needs to call Dusty Baker and remind not to do to Strasburg what he did to Mark Prior back in Chicago.

 

Around the League

Last week, I named Carlos Correa as my pick for AL MVP. This week, I’ve also made up my mind on my AL Cy Young choice and it’s Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. If you ask me, he should have won the award last year since he had the best FIP and second-highest WAR in the league. But as of now, he’s the best pitcher of the past 2-3 years who still hasn’t brought home the hardware. I think he’s due. And it’d be nice if his teammates scored some runs for him to help in his cause. I’m sure Sox teammate Jose Quintana feels the same way since it’s probably not fun for someone with a 3.18 FIP to go 9-10 on the year. That’s approaching 2015 Corey Kluber-level ridiculousness.

 

In the National Leauge, the Cy Young is always Clayton Kershaw’s to lose. I know that. You know that. Everybody knows that. But what do you want me to do – actually pick Clayton Kershaw? That’s no fun. That’s like picking Mike Trout to win AL MVP. It’s actually probably even easier than that. You gotta go bolder sometimes. And so I’m going to chose somebody else who’s never won it, and that’s Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. His projections are among the league leaders (with Kershaw, Scherzer, Jake Arrieta, Strasburg and Jose Fernandez), but MadBum is also looking at a league-topping 17-18 wins for the Giants. And that’s how Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel put the award away last year. I’d love to think another very-good-but-never-won-it player, Jon Lester of the Cubs, could have been my choice. But I already got my miracle pitching season out of Arrieta last year, so I can’t be too greedy. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija may be bust risks in San Fran this year, but Bumgarner never is.

 

Death, taxes and MadBum.

 

Also, since the Red Sox-loving media has spent about as much time as it could the past two weeks gushing over David Price and Craig Kimbrel and then crying about Pablo Sandoval’s tummy, this week they seem to have moved on to gushing over Mookie Betts. Next week I assume they’ll move on to Xander Bogaerts. But for now, did you know that Mookie Betts is also the greatest bowler of all time? You didn’t? Well he is. I don’t know how that will help the Red Sox to not finish in last place for the third straight year, but anyway, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts. If you’re a Yankees fun, your current Mookie Betts is Andrew Miller. He’s the reason you can rest assured that the same Aroldis Chapman you were super excited to have signed in the offseason is also the guy you can now be like, “30 game suspension? Pffffff. We have Andrew Miller!” My own personal Mookie Betts this week is Addison Russell of the Cubs. I love my Barry Larkin Starter Kit. And did you see the monster bomb he hit in Arizona in the second game? It went so far that it totally didn’t make me give a shit if he could bowl at all.

 

Alright. We’ve got four weeks to go before the season starts. And I need all of this to distract me from whatever insane shit happened in the 2016 Presidential race this week. I might even suggest Yoenis Cespedes as a third party write-in candidate. A Cuban-born New York billionaire who loves publicity? He’s like all the GOP candidates wrapped into one. Which gives John Kasich another reason to drop out since he doesn’t fit into this equation either. I’d actually be hard-pressed to think of many things inside the Yoenis Cespedes/John Kasich venn diagram. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. Four more weeks of Spring Training, baby! And I’ll be heading to Arizona to see the Cubs in three. If you see a Polaris Slingshot in the parking lot, it’s totally mine.

 

 

Angelino in the Outfield (Episode 1)

 

 


Great Expectations: A Spring Training Preview

Written by :
Published on : February 23, 2016

 

Oh no. This is a really weird feeling for a Cubs fan to have. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Lovable Losers on the North Side of Chicago seem to be both the unanimous pick to win their division and also a trendy choice for the 2016 World Series. And on paper it even makes sense. Last year, they proved that their young squad was ahead of their projected timeline, won 97 games and then went deep into the playoffs until they ran into a freakishly overachieving Daniel Murphy and a young Mets pitching staff that seems to remind everyone of the nineties Atlanta Braves. And then they went out in the offseason and got the best healthy pitcher and the best position player from their hated Cardinal rivals, and also added a guy who led the majors in WAR in 2009. Oh, and the rest of their seemingly-all-rookie lineup from last year is back and probably better than ever and still way too young and dumb to comprehend how a jaded, cynical asshole like me can still hesitate to be bullish on the prospects of a Thousand Year Cubs Dynasty.

 

This has to be too good to be true, right? There’s too much pressure. The Cubs never follow up a good season with another good season. Look at 1985, 1990 and every other year since The Year That Shall Not Be Named. And Jake Arrieta has to regress. Because he just has to. And John Lackey is 137 years old. And their bullpen isn’t quite there. And Jason Heyward isn’t a natural center fielder. And because they’re the fucking Cubs. Right? Like, why should I get my hopes up just to have them crushed again and again like I have my whole life? Why? Well… Because of Theo Epstein. And because of Joe Maddon. And because of that offense. Oh, that offense. And Kris Bryant. And Addison Russell. And Kyle Schwarber. And Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward is actually younger than Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward could win a Gold Glove in center. And because Arrieta may have pitched an assload of innings last year, but he famously stays in excellent shape. And because of how great of a story it would be if they actually did do it. And because, on paper, the Cubs just so happen to have the best team in baseball by a decent margin. Oh no, indeed.

 

 

The Rest of the NL Central

The Cubs may have kicked their ass and stolen their girlfriend, but the Cardinals are still the Cardinals. You just kind of assume they’ll be playing in October, no matter what. But even with Adam Wainwright back, the mystique feels like it’s gone, with a bad offseason and Yadier Molina needing to grow another thumb. Maybe their insane luck will finally run out. I also thought that about the Alabama football team back in September. Not that I should talk about football in the same breath I talk about St. Louis. Anyway… Then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not like they sucked last year either. But nobody likes to talk about them because they’ll probably just get to the Wild Card and lose again, if they do anything at all. And the only fun thing about that is if Sean Rodriguez goes HAM on another water cooler. This division will inevitably be drowned out by the tidal wave of Cubs expectations. And the Reds and Brewers have probably already
drowned in it.

 

The NL East

According to EVERYONE, the Mets have the greatest pitching staff of all time, ever. And, yes, it’s horrifying. Matt Harvey is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is a floppy-haired pitching monster. Noah Syndergaard actually is Thor. Big fat Bartolo Colon doesn’t age. Steven Matz would be a #1 starter on every other non-Mets team. And Zack Wheeler will be back in July to seal the already-done deal. Plus, all of them except Colon are 19 years old or something. The only problem is that nobody knows what type of hangover these guys will have from all those innings they ate up against Kansas City in the World Series. Or if they’ll even stay healthy. But if they do all bounce back, holy shit. Plus, they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, which all makes for an excellent case for them to go back to the World Series. No matter how much I hate that.

 

 

Overall this division is horrible. But Bryce Harper and the dysfunctional Nationals should contend. Even though Dusty Baker is their new manager. And nobody knows what to make of the Miami Marlins quite yet. Don Mattingly is their new manager. Barry Bonds is their new hitting coach. Giancarlo Stanton will be healthy. So will Jose Fernandez. But we’ll have to see what all that means, if anything. Or if those guys can even stay healthy in the first place. And anyone looking to make a bold prediction on the division a la the 2015 Cubs and Astros might want to keep their eye on the Atlanta Braves, who are building a monster farm team, even though they’ll most likely be just slightly less shitty than the Phillies in 2016.

 

The NL West

I hate to say it, but 2016 is an even year. So we can probably throw all the analytics out the window and just hand the San Francisco Giants their fourth world title seven years. Their pitching staff picked up two possibly-great/possibly-hugely-disappointing acquisitions in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And that could give them an edge in what everybody seems to think will be a three team race with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.

 

The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke. To the Diamondbacks. They also have a rookie manager in Dave Roberts. In a market that wore out Mattingly and sent him to Miami. They also didn’t do anything with their gigantic payroll in the offseason. And any time you need to rely on Yasiel Puig for anything other than drama, it’s a pretty scary predicament. But this is a deep team with a crazy-good farm system. And they’ll probably be in enough contention by the time the trade deadline rolls around to throw money at whatever problems they have (that don’t involve lack of team chemistry). Plus they still have Clayton Kershaw. At the end of the day, as a resident Angelino, I just want to see Vin Scully go out in style. And if that means the Dodgers have to be good for that to happen, I can accept that.

 

 

Yes, Arizona got Greinke. And Shelby Miller. And they still have unrecognizable superstar, Paul Goldschmidt and equally unrecognizable AJ Pollock. But their projections aren’t too high as of now because of a lack of offensive depth (sup, Yasmany Tomas?). And it seems more likely they could be this year’s Padres and/or White Sox. As for the 2016 Padres and Rockies, I’m not wasting my time. It is an even year, after all.

 

The AL East

Every team in the division not named the Baltimore Orioles seem to have a chance this year. But the overall consensus comes down to the rebounding Boston Red Sox and the reigning division champion Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I don’t know how acquiring David Price and Craig Kimbrel turns a 78-win last place team into a division favorite, but that’s just how the east coast media bias works. But it will be fun to see how fat Pablo Sandoval is. And if Hanley Ramirez can play first base. And it’s also the swan song for Big Papi. Plus, David Price is actually really fucking good. So I don’t know.

 

 

The Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball. And reigning MVP, Josh Donaldson. And their offense might be even better than last year since Troy Tulowitzki never got comfortable in Toronto in 2015. They’ll just have to stay healthy. And hope somebody on their team can pitch. As for the Yankees, they’re really old. And look how that worked out for them last season. Plus, you never know about that staff. And as good as their bullpen looks right now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Aroldis Chapman’s domestic abuse suspension. And the Rays have Chris Archer and the rest of their great starting five, but they’ll basically need everybody else on the lineup to be awesome to compete. Oh, and also the Orioles are in this division too, I guess.

 

The AL Central

The Royals won the World Series last year, no big deal. And they were one Madison Bumgarner away from being back-to-back World Series champions. Yet for some reason, Baseball Prospectus has them projected to be in last place in the Central in 2016. What gives? Maybe you can’t project things like ‘putting the ball in play and its positive consequences’ or ‘playing with a chip on their shoulder’, but whatever they did the past two seasons worked, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work again. They have the defense. They have the bullpen. It’s just so hard to make a good enough argument for or against a team with relatively zero stars, that’s this mediocre on paper, going to three straight Fall Classics.

 

 

The hot pick in the AL Central continues to be the Cleveland Indians because of an extremely good pitching staff. Add Francisco Lindor’s defense behind them and they could be a powerhouse. Or Michael Brantley could be hurt and their offense could struggle and they won’t have the money to make acquisitions at the trade deadline to compete. And while I have a soft spot for the Detroit Tigers, they’re also getting a little long in the tooth. They got Justin Upton to aid a pretty good, but aging offense. And they picked up Jordan Zimmermann and K-Rod to help out a healthy, but aging Justin Verlander-led group of arms. Health is the key here. And if they have it, they might compete. The White Sox might also compete, even though nobody outside of Bridgeport is talking about them. They got Todd Frazier. They have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a full season from Carlos Rodon. It’s just that everybody is distracted by the heat of a thousand suns ™ on the North Side. And the Twins have Miguel Sano, who is going to hit 40 dongs this year. Even though they were so terrible last year, that even when they were in first place for a while nobody bought it. If that makes any sense. Not that it should. Why would anything in this division make sense? I mean, Royals went to the World Series the past two years.

 

The AL West

Even though the Astros are the unanimous choice to win the division, everybody would rather talk about the Texas Rangers. Their 2015 playoff run was nothing short of a miracle. And now they’ll have full seasons from Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish. It’s just that nobody really expected the Astros to be where they were last season either. And now nobody expects them to regress. And the former hot choices in the division seem like yesterday’s newspaper. Mike Trout has no talent around him in Anaheim. Nobody wants to get fooled by the Mariners ever again. And the A’s need too much to get anything done.

 

 

So there you have it. Now you’re ready for the baseball season. And now you know why your team probably sucks and why you should switch allegiances to the Chicago Cubs. Or at least that’s how everything looks right now. Spring training, when nothing counts. And before the actual season comes with all its shitty reality to break hearts, launch new stars into the stratosphere and ruin every expectation, rendering long-winded predictions like the one I just spent way too long typing on a nice afternoon completely worthless. But hey, that’s baseball.

 

What else were we gonna talk about, Donald Trump?

 

 

 


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