Angelino in the Outfield (Episode X)

Written by :
Published on : May 7, 2016

 

 

It might be time to start looking at the 2016 Cubs as a historically good team. That’s a weird thing to say. But after the Cubs swept the Pirates on the road, they had a +93 run differential, which is the 3rd highest ever after 26 games since 1900 (after the +103 1902 Pirates and the +96 1905 Giants). I mean, they won 97 games last year and only finished with a +81 for the whole season. Now we’re bringing Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson in to the conversation? Oh boy.

 

And let’s look at the Cubs-Pirates series for a second. It was billed as the bitter rematch of last year’s NL Wild Card Game, the budding of a great new baseball rivalry. The Pirates had been red-hot coming in. They’re a very good team. And then the Cubs murdered them 20-5 in three games. All without Jason Heyward and Miguel Montero and the grand-slam-hitting Matt Szczur, not to mention Kyle Schwarber. And all while they showed up in wacky fucking suits. You’re goddamn right Sean Rodriguez is tipping his cap. If the Cubs can stay relatively healthy (oh please, God), and actually start hitting on a consistent basis (other than Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo), you could be looking at the ’98 Yankees. Or something even better entirely. I guess we’ll see what we learn after the big weekend series with the Nationals.

 

NL MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

 

Oh, I forgot to tell you; the Cubs have also yet to lose consecutive games this season. And they’re on pace for that run differential to end up at +576 for the season. Which is nuts. The all time record is +411 by the 1939 Yankees. And I have a strange feeling that you might hear them get brought up more as the season goes along.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Your entire team is in a shit-awful hitting slump? On top of that, your middle relief is horrible? Okay. Just have Kershaw go out there against the Padres and pitch a 3-hit complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts. Oh, and also have him single in your only run. Amazing. And that’s how Kershaw edges out Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg this week. I know there’s been a whole lot of talk about what Jake Arrieta has done in Chicago since last season. And there should be, the Cubs have won his last 19 starts. He’s basically 1967-1968 Bob Gibson, if Bob Gibson also did sexy, bearded Pilates and had a better batting average than his opponents. But that being said, Arrieta is still the second-best pitcher in baseball and Kershaw remains #1. Hell, I would have given him his 4th Cy Young Award last season. And that’s coming from someone who loves Jake Arrieta and would love to have it be the other way around. But if Kershaw keeps this up for one or two more seasons, he’s a bona fide first ballot Hall of Famer and (dare I say) probably the best pitcher in the history of that franchise. Except, you know, in the playoffs.

 

Speaking of playoffs, how garbage is that NL West division right now? The Giants are technically still in first place. Even though the back of their rotation is completely no bueno. In fact, the lowly Phillies and Marlins would actually be in first place right now if they were in the NL West. Speaking of which…

 

Look at the Phillies! They’re not legit, but look at them, anyway! It’s fun to see when a team that’s supposed to be terrible is actually playing well in May. And the Phillies are playing well. They swept the Nationals last week. They’re getting some pretty decent pitching – especially from Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola. And no team has struck out as many batters so far this season. However, their run differential is at -27. The team just doesn’t score. And FanGraphs has them sitting at a 0.1% chance to make the playoffs. Only the Braves and Reds (with their historically awful bullpen) are lower that that. I’d love for Odubel Herrera and the rest of the Phillies to prove me wrong, but I don’t think this team will even have a winning record at the end of the year. In other words, they’re about as legit as a Dee Gordon piss test (Marlins burn!).

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

It’s still Diaz, but I keep forgetting that Steven Matz of the Mets is a rookie. And as it turns out, he’s a pretty freakin’ good one. I told you I thought the Mets might be in first place for this week’s post. Let me give it one more week. Those guys are playing home run derby in almost every outing.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

Do you have any idea how much attention Manny Machado would get if he played for the Red Sox or the last place Yankees? He’s been lights out this season, but it seems like the only thing the media cares about in that division is how much Clay Buchholz and/or Dellin Betances suck. I’m so over it. At least Pablo Sandoval is out for the year, so I might not have to hear much about him anymore. Guys, it’s over. Travis Shaw is the Red Sox’ 3rd baseman. He’s doing okay. Just not as okay as the Orioles’ former (?) third baseman.

 

And for the love of Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor and (probably) Edgar Martinez, can we please stop referring to Big Papi as the greatest DH of all time? I know everyone loves him. I know he’s retiring. Yes, that “this is our fucking city” speech. Yes, the walk-offs in the 2004 ALCS. I get it. But come on. And, while we’re at it, can we also stop saying he’s the second-greatest Red Sock ever behind Ted Williams? Every time somebody does that I want to recreate the the Marshall McLuhan scene from Annie Hall, except I’m standing with Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Tris Speaker, Bobby Doerr and Jim Rice. All that being said, Ortiz and the Red Sox’ bats are hot.

 

AL Cy Young Award: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

This is just about the same scenario we had last week. Except now it’s May and it’s becoming clearer that the White Sox are actually good enough to dethrone the slumping Kansas City Royals in the AL Central. The Indians are still slightly favored to win the division, even though they badly need hitting and everyone in that city is still watching the Cavs. Meanwhile, the White Sox finally cut John Danks and will be going with a fluid 5th starter going forward on their very impressive staff. I think this is shaping up to be a pretty big summer in the city of Chicago.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

Shin Soo-Choo can come back whenever he wants. This dude isn’t going anywhere. Did you see that ALDS rematch series between the Rangers and Blue Jays in Toronto? If you did, then you saw Mazara, unfazed by the playoff atmosphere in May, show off his power at the plate and his cannon for an arm. And I’m sure Adrian Beltre will eventually have a say in this, but Mazara might already be the best player on that team.

 

The current most interesting team in the AL West (once we finally get over the Astros being bad) is the Seattle Mariners. Taijuan Walker and Robinson Cano have been great. Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez have not. But they’re winning. And you can smoke weed there. And like I’ve said before, a lot of experts picked Seattle to go to the World Series last year. Partially on how high they were on all four of the dudes I just mentioned. I’m going to go ahead and assume Seager (.260 lifetime AVG) is going to get above the Mendoza Line at some point this season, but there is a real concern with King Felix’ velocity. And that sucks to see a player who has been so good for the Mariners for so many years start to drop off when everything else finally seems to be falling in to place.

 

Okay. That looks like it’ll do it for this week’s Angelino in the Outfield. Last week, as soon as I turned in my post, it was announced that Paul Rudd would be playing Moe Berg in The Catcher Was a Spy movie. So I guess this column has magical powers. Or that anything can happen in baseball. Either or. In the meantime, check me out on the MLB Weekly recaps on the Comedians Talking Sports podcast with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. Go Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode VIII: Bottom of the 1st)

Written by :
Published on : April 22, 2016

 

 

Two years ago, I took my wife to watch a baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. And I pointed to center field and said, “That’s Mike Trout. He’s the best player in baseball.” That same game, Trout went 0-for-3 with a walk and my wife said, “I didn’t think he was all that good.” Now I know that what we’re dealing with now isn’t that much bigger of a sample size than my wife saw in 2014. But through the first two weeks of this season, Trout had really struggled, hitting only .220 and looking especially un-Trout-like on off-speed pitches.

 

On the other hand, Bryce Harper has been on an absolute tear in Washington. Sure, the Nationals have only played garbage teams. But still, they’re off to their best start in club history, thanks in large part to Harper, who might actually be better than he was in last year’s MVP season. And that’s truly scary. He’s improved his contact rate. He’s cut down on chasing pitches out of the zone. And that’s led him to currently have more walks than he has strikeouts. Not to mention hitting his second grand slam of the season in as many tries on Tuesday night, which was also his fifth home run in six games. Plus, having Dusty Baker in the dugout doesn’t really hinder everyone from making the comparison between Harper and Barry Bonds, who Baker managed in San Francisco from 1993-2002.

 

 

So… are we ready to officially declare Bryce Harper the best player in baseball? That was the big question this week. Which is not meant to disparage Trout, by any means. There’s no question he’ll improve. Everybody knows that. And it looks like he’s heating up as we speak. But even so, Harper’s WAR was slightly higher than Trout’s last season. And, like I said, he seems to be getting somehow better. So even if Trout rebounds to a .300/.400/.550 hitter with a 9 WAR, would it even be enough? With the NL East the way it is, I’m not so sure it will be. But as of right now, I’d say Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball. I’m not quite calling it a ‘clown question, bro’ (had to) but check back in with me after Harper is still doing this against teams that aren’t the fuck awful Braves, Phillies or Marlins.

 

And please don’t get me wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Harper is legit, the Nationals are legit. They were my pick to win their division, even when everybody else was picking the Mets. Especially if they stay healthy for once. Plus, what were they supposed to do – not beat the shit-ass teams they’ve beaten? Is Daniel Murphy not supposed to try to be the Lou Gehrig to Harper’s Babe Ruth, just because I hate him so much and because he probably thinks the Iron Horse is a down low bar in D.C. where he could run in to a lot of ‘like-minded’ conservatives who are totes just there because they “play such good house music” or whatever?

 

I’ll get over Murphy and last year’s NLCS at some point. I promise. But all that being said, the best team in baseball is still the Chicago Cubs. I think that’s safe to say at this point. I just watched their 16-0 drubbing of the Cincinnati Reds where Jake Arrieta just so happened to throw his second career no-hitter (the second-most lopsided no-no since Pud Galvin of the Buffalo Bisons defeated the Detroit Wolverines 18-0 in 1884). And it’s probably the greatest Cubs game I’ve ever seen in my life. Arrieta is 15-0 in his last 16 starts. He’s had 24 consecutive quality starts. And he also hasn’t given up a run at Wrigley Field since last July 25th. It’s bananas. Actually, all of their starters worked at least six innings in their first 14 games, which is also bananas. And even Jon Lester’s crazy, blooper-reel throws to first are getting outs. Just in case you needed more bananas.

 

 

What Lester should do is take a few throwing lessons from Jason Heyward, who those hillbilly Cardinal fans can boo all they want. Did you see that throw he made to nail Matt Holliday at the plate on Tuesday? He may have been 0-for-9 in those first two games of the series and batting .170 at the time, but that D don’t slump, son. And if Daniel Murphy is reading this, I’m talking about his defense. Double burn.

 

Anyway, with that pitching and that defense, the Cubs also lead the Majors in walks. Which is why their run differential still has them looking like the ’39 Yankees, even though Dexter Fowler is the only guy on the team with a batting average north of .260. But once those bats heat up, oh man, it’s crotch chop city in the Bridenstine household.

 

Man. It’s so weird to be this excited about the Cubs in April. But, again, let me have this.

 

This Week’s NL MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

 

He leads the league in wOBA, WAR and OBP. Harper and Murphy lead in about everything else. Fowler really has been the only consistent weapon for that offense throughout April (not counting that 16-0 clinic). And he’s also done it against teams that have actually won more games than they’ve lost. Seriously, there are rumors that even the Braves’ ground crew is phoning it in. I’m just saying.

 

This Week’s NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

There was a brief moment right after I submitted last week’s post where I could have given it to Vincent Velasquez of the Phillies. But other than that, Thor has had this on lockdown. I’m sure Arrieta and/or Clayton Kershaw (with his new 46 mph eephus) will eventually put an end to this. But any time you’re getting compared to J.R. Richard and (especially) Nolan Ryan on a consistent basis, you’re doing something right. And it looks like the rest of his team might be ready to start turning things around too. The defending National League champions are not a .500 team, no matter how much I want them to be.

 

This Week’s NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

You can probably tell that I do not like the Birds on Bats, but you have to just shake your head and shrug at their next man up mentality. First Jhonny Peralta goes down. Then Ruben Tejada goes down. Then like, 17 other shortstops go down in a game of shortstop dominos and next thing you know, there’s a 20th string shortstop in St. Louis hitting .385. And it’s not like it’s just him, either. They also have Greg Garcia and Jeremy Hazelbaker doing the same shit. And then Seung-hwan Oh in their bullpen. Oh, by the way, has two amazing nicknames that you need to know. They called him ‘Stone Buddha’ for showing no emotion when he pitched in Korea and Japan. And also, ‘The Final Boss’, which as far as relief pitcher nicknames go, has got to be in the top 5. Trevor Story is still having his moment in Colorado. But in terms of overall WAR, this week it’s Diaz.

 

This Week’s AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

With all the Harper vs. Trout talk this week, I guess everyone forgot that Manny Machado is the best player on the (current) best team in the AL and he leads in every offensive category that Josh Donaldson doesn’t. I feel like more people talk about Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo than they do Machado. And the only time this guy should come in 4th in a baseball conversation is if the first three people mentioned are Harper, Trout and Donaldson.

 

This Week’s AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

That Sox staff has been insane so far. Chris Sale is 4-0. Mat Latos has been outstanding, which is odd to say. And the guy with the second-lowest FIP in baseball (and tied for the AL lead in WAR) is actually the 1-1 Quintana. Actually, his FIP is almost a full run better than the 3-0 0.00 ERA’d Jordan Zimmermann of the Tigers, who apparently gets a little bit of help from Jose Iglesias at short. The White Sox have been doing well early. And they’re probably a little annoyed by all the attention on the North Side. But just imagine what this team would look like if they weren’t also 24th in baseball in runs scored.

 

This Week’s AL Rookie of the Year: Tyler White, Houston Astros

He’s still my pick, even though everybody would rather talk about Nomar Mazara in Texas and what they’ll eventually do once Shin Soo-Choo returns. We should be talking about the regression of that Astros staff and how it’s squandering some great individual performances by White, Jose Altuve and Colby Rasmus though. Because right now, the Astros are in a category with the Yankees and Twins as AL doormats. And in a league with this much parity, that is not an ideal place to be.

 

Okay. See you next week. Where hopefully, I can be even more annoying about the Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode VI: Opening Week)

Written by :
Published on : April 10, 2016

 

I love opening week. Everything is possible. Every team has a chance. And we’re already speaking hyperbolically about everybody we’ve seen, even though there are like, 159 games left. “The Red Sox need pitching! They have nothing after David Price!” That was the consensus around baseball this past week. And at that point Boston was 1-1. “The Cardinals have no hitting! Their pitching will have to carry them all season!” That was another one. At that point St. Louis was 0-1. And so forth and so on. I mean, both are probably true. But it’s April. You didn’t even know who Trevor Story was a week ago. You might forget all about him by June. And by the time I write this next week, the Padres might have more RBI than Kenta Maeda. We don’t really know. All that being said, I think it’s about time I put out my official predictions for the season to come for the very last time and also look at the Opening Week that was.

 

AL East

Stroman

 

I’m going with the Toronto Blue Jays. But mainly because I’m buying in on Marcus Stroman. I like the swag. I like that he beat Chris Archer head-to-head on opening day. And he looks like he’s going to help an otherwise so-so rotation (except for Aaron Sanchez, apparently) from ruining that great offensive output. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are playing for contracts. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki are also going to hit. And Kevin Pillar is trying to out-Kiermaier Kevin Kiermaier in center field. I think they’ll repeat as the division champions.

The Orioles and Yankees may lead after a few games (and I have no idea what’s going on with Starlin Castro, other than he likes to make huge debuts and then slowly let you down over time), but I’m still not sold on the Orioles’ pitching (even though, WOW! so far) or the Yankees’ collective age. Didi Gregorius and Castro may only be 26. But they also both hit .265 last year, so let’s not act like this is Derek Jeter and Tony Lazzeri quite yet. And I love the Rays’ pitching. I just don’t think Steven Souza Jr. is going to head up that offense. And I’ve never been sold on the Red Sox. We honestly didn’t need Clay Bucholz to suck to know that rotation has no depth past Price. At least Papi seems to be hitting. And maybe Mookie Betts will eventually warrant all the overblown hype. We’ll see.

 

AL Central  

Volquez

 

I’m picking the Royals to win the division, even though I really don’t want to. And I’ve got the Indians in the Wild Card. Edinson Volquez looked great in his debut. And we know that the Royals just do whatever it is that they do to win. I do feel like they’ve been extremely lucky with their lack of injuries the past two seasons and that the whole thing could be derailed. Because honestly, I think this division should be wide open.

I’m taking Cleveland because of their pitching. But the White Sox have that in spades too. And if they keep hitting with Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier in that lineup, I’ll completely forget about Drake LaRoche’s shitty homeschooling. I already gave my picks on a podcast before the season started, or I might go back and retroactively pick them. And as I type this, the Tigers are also 3-1, beating Jose Fernandez in their second game. And the 0-5 Twins need to show me something. Other than that they can lose to the Orioles.

 

AL West

Correa

 

I’m taking the Rangers to win the division and the Astros to win the Wild Card. Even though right now, it looks like Robinson Cano is going to hit 200 home runs and the Mariners will walk away with this thing. Hey, everybody seemed to pick the Mariners for the World Series last year until Cano had his worst season since 2008. He hit three bombs (one to each field) in the spring training game I saw on Easter, so who knows?

I just feel like the Rangers have too many weapons. And people are already arguing whether or not Carlos Correa is the best player in baseball. Because a rookie season and three games in 2016 trump everything Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have ever done. It’s April, like I said. This is what we do. So let’s already give awards while we’re at it…

 

Opening Week A.L. MVP: Starlin Castro, New York Yankees
In Castro’s debut with the Cubs in 2010, he became the first Major League player born in the 90’s. Then he homered in his first at bat. Then he set a record with 6 RBI in his debut game. Long story short, he made a lot of errors and wasn’t very good after 2011. Cut to 2016, and Castro is making the most of his Yankees debut, where he leads the league in RBI, SLG , OPS and WAR. And I don’t know if he still has the same walk-up song as he did with the Cubs, but that was THE jam.

 

Opening Week AL Cy Young: , Toronto Blue Jays

 

Advanced stats tell me it’s Jake Odorizzi of the Rays or Chris Tillman of the Orioles for striking out almost everybody he saw in those two innings, but I like the story of a guy who fought for the 5th spot in the Blue Jays’ rotation in spring training and emerged big in his first start of the season with the club. I don’t even know if he’ll end up in that rotation or in the bullpen, but whatever, man. Dude was good in the first go-round.

 

Opening Week A.L. Rookie of the Year: Tyler White, Houston Astros
I don’t know anything about this guy other than that he’s 25, he was a 33rd round draft pick and that he currently leads the American League in batting average and OBP. You know, after those three games.

 

Let’s do the National League.

 

NL East

Harper

 

I’m picking the Nationals with the Mets in the Wild Card. And that’s about exactly how things look as I type this. I’ve already written way too much about both teams. But what I didn’t know was that new acquisition and known homophobe, Daniel Murphy, would look every bit as good as Bryce Harper through the first three games for the Nationals. Also, I hate him.

 

NL Central

Arrieta

 

I’m picking the Cubs to win it all. You already knew that. I’m not changing my mind. And after a lot of internal debate, I decided not to take the Cardinals or the Pirates in the Wild Card. And I think I might be regretting that after Pittsburgh’s three game sweep of St. Louis to start the season. If Juan Nicasio can be that #3 starter after Cole and Liriano, they’re going to be hard to put away. Not to mention Tyler Glasnow showing up in July. Plus, didn’t they start off slow last year? Ugh. The good news for me is that the Cubs are fucking ridiculous.

I was there opening day in Anaheim. There is no Jake Arrieta regression to speak of. Then Lester looked great the next game. And he seems to be getting more comfortable in the National League, pickoff moves or not. Then there’s the fact that the Cubs have scored 29 runs in three games, which is somehow second to the Dodgers, who’ve played four. The only damper was the Schwarber injury which is a sobering reminder that, while embracing the bullseye, anything can happen. As I knock on wood nervously. But the sky really is the limit for that team. And the Reds are also 4-1, but somebody does have to play the Phillies after all.

 

NL West  

Seager

 

I like the Dodgers to win the division and the Giants in the Wild Card. And I said that before the Dodgers destroyed San Diego in the first three games. I expect a lot from Corey Seager and just assume they’ll buy away whatever their weaknesses are by the trade deadline. Conveniently for my choice, Clayton Kershaw (obvs), Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda looked great in their first starts. And Yasiel Puig could have finally decided he wants to be awesome. Inconveniently for my choice, the Giants might be even better.

They’re really deep and that park is only going to help Johnny Cueto. Who I never liked was the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they’re trying desperately to prove me right. It’s a shame AJ Pollock is out. And while Jean Segura and David Peralta seem like they’re trying to pick up the slack, it looks like that pitching staff is a dud. You know, four games in.

 

Opening Week N.L. MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs.    
You may think I’m still high from Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs in spring training. But he’s also been killing it in the first three games (and almost killing Kyle Schwarber in the process) going 7 for 12 with a double, a triple and a home run. And with that tiny sample size, he’s tied for the Major League lead in WAR and 4th in the Majors in wOBA. And Schwarber really had no chance at that ball.

 

Opening Week N.L. Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets.

 

Of all the great one game pitching performances in the past week, Syndergaard’s was probably the best. The Royals can play “American Woman” when he takes the mound all they want. Thor doesn’t care. And either does that nasty slider.

 

Opening Week N.L. Rookie of the Year: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies.
Eventually we’ll all get over his last name. But in the past week, Story became the first player in Major League history to hit home runs in his first three games. Including two off of Zack Greinke in the opener. His first four big league hits were also home runs. And he hasn’t even played in Denver yet. He may not be the best hitter on his team thus far (that would be DJ LeMahieu), but if you want to forget all about Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes, he’s your man.

 

Okay, we did it. One week in the books. And there’s a long way to go. Check back next week, where everything will be thrown out the window and we’ll start all over. You gotta love April.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode I)

Written by :
Published on : February 27, 2016

 

 

Last week on Monday Night Raw, Shane McMahon made a shocking return to the WWE after a six year absence. And it was soon announced that he’d be facing the Undertaker inside ‘Hell in a Cell’ at WrestleMania 32. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, Theo Epstein happened to be watching. Because just three days later, Dexter Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs was as close to a WWE-style swerve as an actual non-scripted sport can get. The only thing it was missing was cued-up entrance music (“My Way” by Fetty Wap, would have been perf) and his Cubs teammates chanting ‘holy shit’ and ‘this is awesome’ (clap clap clap clap clap) after the big reveal.

 

Until that very moment, the consensus foregone conclusion was that Fowler had signed with the Baltimore Orioles. It was speculated and anticipated for weeks by baseball’s talking head community until it evolved into a full-blown fact. Right up until the moment it wasn’t. And after receiving a text that just said “Fowler!” from my ‘Go Cubs’ iPhone message group, I was so confused and skeptical that I didn’t believe the news until I actually saw the video of a 6’5″ dude in street clothes who looked a lot like Dexter Fowler walking onto the field with a guy who looked a lot like Theo Epstein and being greeted by a group of guys in Cubs uniforms who looked exactly like the rest of the Chicago Cubs. It wouldn’t take long for a meme to go out on social media with Steve Harvey holding the Miss Universe card and saying, “DEXTER FOWLER HAS SIGNED WITH THE ORIOLES.”

 

 Fowler will be back with the Cubs.

 

And while I could talk about what the Fowler signing means for the 2016 Cubs (the best team in baseball on paper just got better, Jason Heyward can now move back to right field where he’s won three Gold Gloves and it creates an insanely flexible lineup depth with Fowler, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber in the other outfield slots, etc.), it’s probably best to use this as further proof that conventional wisdom at the start of Spring Training doesn’t necessarily equate to actual regular season results. And everything we think we know about the 2016 season before it starts is probably just as true as the fact that Dexter Fowler is the new leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

All that being said, I still can’t think of a reason why it won’t be the Cubs’ year in 2016. Yes, I’m still worried about the Cardinals. And I still think the Pirates are probably vastly underrated. And I know that saying, “Anything less than the World Series would be a huge disappointment” is a statement that is probably held equally true for the Mets and the Dodgers. And I know that the Nationals were the team that looked like the hands-down best-on-paper team last year. That is, of course, until they weren’t. But it’s still February as I type this. And hope still springs eternal. So as of right now, I’m a believer.

 

Around the League

 

The more I think about the 2016 Boston Red Sox and their high win projections, the more I have a problem with them. Pablo Sandoval showed up to Fort Myers looking like me after a cake bender. And if you combine that with Hanley Ramirez at first base, I don’t see why every team they face wouldn’t just put on a dead-ball-era bunt clinic until the Red Sox can figure their own shit out? But the good news for the Red Sox is that every team in their division has a really good reason why they won’t win either. The best one is that 5’8″ Marcus Stroman is going to become the the ace of the Blue Jays like he’s pitching’s Jose Altuve. And Jose Bautista’s contract looks like it’s already a distraction. As are the whispers that Troy Tulowitzki can’t hit outside of the thin air of Coors Field. And those two teams are the favorites in the division. If you add to that, the uncertainty of the rotation and age of the position players in New York, a possible 30-40 game suspension of Aroldis Chapman, a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t score runs and an Orioles team that doesn’t prevent runs, it leaves me throwing up my hands and saying, “Let them eat cake.”

 

I’m increasingly curious to see Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios in Minnesota. Not to mention Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park. That’s too much young talent to not pan out in a division where I’m totally ready to see something new and exciting happen. That could also occur if the White Sox can score runs and if the Indians can play defense. I just don’t want to see a scenario where these Kansas City Royals, who have the 13th-highest payroll in baseball and who will not be sneaking up on anyone this time around, can become the 1998-2001 Yankees or the 1988-1990 Bash Brother A’s. I can only take so many cuts to Happy George Brett in the owner’s box before I get sick of this double-tapered shit.

 

 Can the Royals really do it again?

 

My way-too-early AL MVP pick is going to be Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros. Especially now that they created the Chase Utley Slide Rule to protect him. Mike Trout is still probably going to be the best player in the league. But he’s going to get ‘LeBron Ruled’ out of the award until the Angels can put a decent lineup around him. The same probably goes for Josh Donaldson and even a returning Miguel Cabrera because nobody likes repeats. So that probably leaves us with Manny Machado, who probably won’t be in playoff contention and Correa who probably will. And my backup choice is obviously Dexter Fowler, the definite new right fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

And while I haven’t decided on my pre-season NL MVP pick quite yet, I will say that if the Diamondbacks are really going to be in contention, then there’s no reason it won’t be Paul Goldschmidt. But you can’t rule out never-been-picked guys like Giancarlo Stanton (with his zero facial hair and his Barry Bonds) or whichever Cubs player hogs up the most attention in their historic season. Or it could even be whoever this Royce Harper guy is Dusty Baker keeps talking about. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

Well, we have actual Spring Training games next week. We’ll get to see Lucas Giolito and Julio Urias and Corey Seager and Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo and start forming actual thoughts about these teams as they move towards the regular season. I’ve given you my picks for World Series champion and AL MVP. And with just a little bit more information, I can form enough of an opinion to the wrong about the rest. Stay tuned.

 

 


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