MY ANNUAL ASSESSMENT OF THE STATE OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL (PART II)
Pontifications, Predictions, Jabs, Japes, and Unapologetically Blue-Biased Opinions on the Upcoming 2018 Baseball Season.
All right, in my previous post I’ve given my assessment of how things will shake out in the NL West. Granted, I’m wearing my Dodger Blue Tinted Glasses, BUT even the most zealous Giants Fan would have to agree that my Ever-Lovin’ Bums are most likely going to win their sixth straight division crown and are playoff bound. We still have the rest of the two leagues to deal with, right? Am I an expert? Well, as much as anybody else is, yes. So, here’s where I go with the rest of MLB …
BUT FIRST, let me opine on the issues confronting my beloved game. Let me just say that the “Pace Of Play” concerns being voiced by the Commissioner’s Office are unwarranted. There is a beautiful, scientific AND naturalistic symmetry to the game of baseball that is so appealing and “human” as to be sacrosanct. Nine innings, six outs per inning, three outs per side, nine players on both offense and defense, ninety feet between bases … brilliantly reconciled to a human’s ability to put a batted ball in play and to reach base safely. If a batter strikes a ball and it can be fielded and thrown to first prior to the batter’s arrival, it is an out. Or, if a fielder can catch the ball before it hits the ground, it’s also an out. A batter gets three strikes and four “balls,” three realistic opportunities to put the ball in play. If you don’t receive the three “strikes” within the “strike zone,” you are awarded the base after the pitcher fails to deliver a “hittable pitch.” There are four bases, and if the offense can move their “batter/runners” around the four bases they get a “run.” The team with the most “runs” after nine innings, WINS! Perfect!
The geometry is perfect. The baselines that extend from both first and third bases stretch into an ever widening designated “fair” territory and into infinity. There are no rules designating the boundaries of the field of play. The distance of 60 feet 6 inches between the pitcher’s rubber and home plate is in mathematical compliance with a reasonable assumption of a human’s capability to throw, and in turn, hit a baseball. The act of hitting a round baseball with a round bat may be the single most difficult physical act in any man-made game. And, unlike other sports, there is NO restriction on the time required to complete any of these requirements. The Game is the Game. It’s aesthetic, it’s poetry and its appeal are predicated on these rules as they have been written. They work … BEAUTIFULLY … WHY MESS WITH IT????
Oh, I know that commerce is king and that trying to adjust the game to the new ADD impaired populace is paramount to the “powers that be,” whose main concern is profit margins and maintaining relevance in an ever-changing marketplace, but I believe they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The beautiful symmetry of the game has already been compromised by the adoption of the Designated Hitter. No longer was nine men a side, on both offense and defense, required. Why? Because certain players were not adept in the basic skills of the game? Well, that’s where the strategy of team managers became important. Your pitcher can’t produce offensive results? What to do? Pinch-hit? Ask the defensively-minded player to perform a basic baseball skill? Bunt? No, let’s just bow to the “casual” fan and allow an offensively skilled player to represent the more defensively skilled player in the lineup! Let’s add a 10th player! BULL PUCKY!!! So, let’s add to the dilution of the game by adding “clocks” and artificial rules to accommodate advertisers. NOBODY in attendance at a major league game is whining over how long it takes the game to be played. Every game is different, every game is unique … maybe it’s the “snowflake” quality of baseball that irritates the Trumpian pillagers of the game. Well, I say, “Screw ’em.” Baseball needs no alterations. It is the “perfect” game. Let’s just freaking PLAY BALL!!!
National League Central:
- CHICAGO CUBS. How in the world can you pick against the Cubbies? They’ve added Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow to an already elite roster. They see our Dodgers as their primary “nemesis.” I agree. The only NL teams that can thwart the Cubs are the Dodgers and Nationals. I expect to face them once again in the NLCS. My fondest desire is to absolutely CRUSH Darvish in the playoffs.
- MILWAUKEE BREWERS. They almost made the postseason last year, and with the moves they’ve made there’s no reason to think Yelich and The Crew can’t at least threaten the D-Backs and Rockies for a Wild Card spot.
- ST. LOUIS CARDINALS. Ozuna was a great addition and the Cardinals should NEVER, EVER be dismissed. There is something about this franchise that is special … despite their recent forays into scum-sucking cyber-criminality.
- PITTSBURGH PIRATES. Yeah, they’re rebuilding and their window has appeared to close. But, you know what? These guys could make some noise and I hope they do! Maybe they could be an NL version of last year’s Minnesota Twins. OK, maybe not … but, Yoda might say, “Suck, they will not.”
- CINCINNATI REDS. Well, there’s Joey Votto.
National League East
- WASHINGTON NATIONALS. I’ll be honest, if there is one team I don’t want to face in the playoffs, it’s the Nationals. If that rotation stays healthy, holy guacamole. This may be the year they get out of the first round.
- NEW YORK METS. Assuming that potentially dominant pitching staff stays healthy then the Mets are contenders. BUT, has that potentially dominant pitching staff ever stayed healthy? No. Until they do … Mets won’t get within 15 games of Nats.
- PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES. Come on, you have to like their attitude! Personally, I’d like to see these guys surpass the Mets! At the very least they’ve built an interesting team in Philly!
- ATLANTA BRAVES. In a division where second place is up for grabs, why not the Braves? Wouldn’t it be cool to see Charlie Culberson get a base hit to win a game that knocks the Mets out of the postseason? Plus, Freddie Freeman is pretty cool.
- MIAMI MARLINS. Well, it seems fitting that one of the features at their ballpark is a fish “tank.”
- HOUSTON ASTROS. Let me be clear, picking the ASSTROS to win the division isn’t rocket science. Clearly, they are the best team in the West. BUT, I’m here to say that these guys are poor representatives as MLB’s champions. Dallas Kuechel has been obnoxious and less than admirable this offseason. Yasi Gurriel should NEVER be forgiven for his racist taunts during the World Series and the fact he wasn’t suspended during the WS speaks to The Commissioner’s cowardice. Manfred had an opportunity to make a powerful social statement in line with Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson’s courageous stance and he whiffed. Listening to Houston’s broadcasters this Spring I’m more than willing to cast aspersions on their organization’s dedication to equality and justice in the sport. I know they’re the darlings right now, but they are even lower than the Giants in my humble opinion. SCREW THE HOUSTON ASTROS! I’d love to get another crack at them, but they won’t get past the Yankees this year.
- LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM. First off, I’m glad Dodgers didn’t get Shohei Ohtani and I’m kinda glad the Angels did. I think it might be fun to watch but I don’t think he’s the “Babe Ruth Of Anywhere,” now he might be the “Eddie Gaedel Of Anaheim,” but who cares? Still, I love what they’ve done picking up Cozart and Kinsler … Mike Trout is still the BEST player in baseball and Upton will contribute, so in a weak division, they’ll finish second. Wild Card? Depends … but I wouldn’t bet on it.
- OAKLAND ATHLETICS. Mark my words … they will surprise you!
- SEATTLE MARINERS. Why not? They won’t contend, so throw ’em a bone.
- TEXAS RANGERS. Weak team in a weak division and I just don’t like the state of Texas. So, I say they finish LAST!
- CLEVELAND INDIANS. Another 100 wins and another crapshoot in the playoffs.
- MINNESOTA TWINS. Gotta tip your hat, they’re all in and I love it. Should be fun to watch!
- CHICAGO WHITE SOX. I’m going out on a limb and picking them ahead of KC just because they have some AWESOME young talent.
- KANSAS CITY ROYALS. They could easily finish ahead of the ChiSox and might even give the Twins a run for their money, but let’s be honest … what difference does it make? They ain’t knocking off Asstros, Yankees, Red Sox or Indians are they?
- DETROT TIGERS. Sort of like the Royals, even if they’re better they’re not a threat for postseason. Are they?
- NEW YORK YANKEES. Look, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, I get it. But, I’m picking the Yankees because I’m rooting for a good old-fashioned Dodgers vs. Yankees World Series! How cool would that be?
- BOSTON RED SOX. Probably the third best team in AL no matter how you slice it. Could they prevail? Sure they could! Will they? I doubt it.
- TORONTO BLUE JAYS. They’re always better than you think.
- BALTIMORE ORIOLES. They won’t surpass Red Sox or Yankees but they could sneak themselves into a Wild Card. They just need to win season series against Blue Jays.
- TAMPA BAY RAYS. I honestly don’t know. It looks like they’re rebuilding, but do you trust them not to compete? Best last place team in baseball.
Well, that’s it for now! Keep an eye out here for more baseball brilliance!