May 27, 2023
Fake News and Real Miracles
Happy Memorial Day Weekend from Santa Fe, location of the temporary office of your roaming Commissioner, and permanent home of the Fuego of the Pecos League. It may not be as green as Iowa, but this part of northern New Mexico is a place where miracles can happen, and dreams can come true. Welcome to the Home Page of Santa Fe Fuego Professional Baseball Team!
(Fort Marcy Park, June 12, 2022.) The Fuego defeated the Colorado Springs Snow Sox 13-11. I love that, although there were 24 runs scored in the game, the picture I have is of the batter trying to sacrifice the runner at second over to third base. No Moneyball in the Pecos League! The Fuego’s 2023 season begins May 30, and their home-opener is June 1st against the Trinidad Triggers (independent ball obviously still has independence in choosing nicknames). History of Pecos League.
In my last post I mentioned that I have always thought of Easter as the beginning of spring, no matter when it may fall on the calendar. Since we started frequenting Santa Fe (and getting to spend time with growing grandchildren) I have rediscovered my own childhood impression that the end of the school year is the beginning of summer. This is certainly true when it frees young borderline ballplayers to join independent league teams like the Fuego, where they can start – or continue – chasing their dream of playing professional baseball. Sometimes that dream miraculously comes true after a very long time, 33 Year old Rookie Gets his First MLB Hit! – YouTube, and sometimes a player does not experience it until after he is dead. Young Archie Graham Tribute – YouTube. Irrespective of whether the dream ever comes true, the process is almost always a grind. Welcome to the Pecos League (yahoo.com).
(Jared Gay came all the way from Rochester, NY, and is a two-way player. His numbers don’t quite match Shohei Ohtani’s, on the mound or at the plate, but he leads in the moustache category. http://www.pecosleague.com/pecosleague.asp?page=39&year=2022&id=67&seasonid=33320.)
The Fuego players are definitely throwbacks. Like us Society members, they play mostly for the pure love of the game even though the miracle of making it to MLB has some historic precedents for them. If Mike Trout Played His Entire Career in the Pecos League: An OOTP Experiment – M-SABR (msabr.com). Making as little as $50/week, the players are housed in local homes just like in the old days of Moonlight Graham. I have not yet asked Mrs. Commissioner to embrace that hosting tradition, but she is on board with frequenting Fort Marcy Park which is only a 15-minute walk from our home.
I hope to give you regular updates on the Fuego throughout the season as they look to improve on last year’s 21-25 record. However, as you may have already noticed, my posting schedule has become less reliable. My time and inclination for writing was disrupted by the events of 2022, but I am trying to get back into a routine both at home and at the office. I can report generally that we have experienced some not-so-minor miracles during this period. I say more about that in the accompanying post, Memorial Day Reflections. Here I will simply catch up on my delinquent duties as Commissioner.
I intended to post my initial impressions of MLB 2023 on May 1, and new Society member Dr. Alex Rose recently texted me from Idaho that I am now almost 4 weeks past my time! Well, I have been on the road (Dallas, Nashville, Knoxville, D.C., NYC, Boston and Santa Fe), trying to reassure my clients that I am still practicing law. But regardless of that excuse, the fact is that my tardiness simply saved you from reading some fake news that would have likely been the focus of an earlier post. In contrast to what I might have written on May Day about potential MLB “miracles”, here is the MLB reality in late May:
1) PIT is not going to make the post-season despite a very fast start (they were 20-9; they are now 26-24. Sorry, Joel from Pittsburgh!);
2) NYY and NYM will still make the post-season despite very slow starts (a combined two games over .500 on May 1; now 9.)(sorry, to myself); and
3) TEX will not make the post-season despite still leading the AL West by 3 games on May 26 (Sorry, Ross from Dallas).
I saved item 3 for last because I am less certain about it. Bruce Bochy has obviously made a tremendous difference in the Ranger ethos, as TEX is playing outstanding baseball even without Jacob deGrom or Corey Seager for most of the season so far. (Check out this stat sheet: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjotdmS6pD_AhVUlmoFHf0wB6IQFnoECA4QAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.teamrankings.com%2Fmlb%2Fstat%2Frun-differential&usg=AOvVaw3Cg6c1iOrvjBilMtS1nggT.
Bochy is a certain future Hall of Fame manager, and he might actually be able to turn the Rangers all the way around in one season. They lost 94 games last year, but miraculously are on pace for 104 wins in 2023. Do you really think they can sustain that level of turn-around? About ten of you predicted that the Rangers will be in the post-season, so the fast start is not a complete surprise to you. However, I doubt that you expected this level of success, and I am still a complete skeptic. I stand by my prediction that HOU will win the AL West again, and that TEX will not be one of the three AL Wild Card teams.
Several of my other predictions, however, I might take back if the Society rules allowed for that. Here are four:
1) CWS to win the AL Central. The good news is that they are only 5 games out of first. The bad news is that they are nine games under .500! I obviously over-estimated the effect of getting rid of Tony La Russa, but I still won’t excuse him from responsibility for this team’s perennial underperformance. The likelihood now is that CWS will be a major seller at the trade deadline. (Tim Anderson to LAD and Lucas Giolito to HOU are already persistent rumors. Lance Lynn, anyone?) I still maintain that owner Jerry Reinsdorf made a huge mistake in putting the old-school La Russa in charge of this talented group of modern Latin players, and the ensuing damage will take a long time to repair. (FN 1) Righting this ship and climbing to the top of the AL Central would be something of a miracle from this standpoint.
2) San Diego to win the NL West. Okay, it is still early, but how can you have any faith in this team, even with its recent upswing? The pitching is a thin and the super-stars in the field are all underperforming. Bob Melvin is a good manager, but he is not Bruce Bochy. The Padres owners are surely wishing that they had been the ones to lure Bochy out of retirement and back to San Diego rather than seeing him return to suit up with the Rangers. His twelve years as SDO manager were not great, but Bochy is a better manager now and SDO certainly has better players now! I have to believe that Bochy would get more out this SDO team than we have seen so far. But, it is not too late for Melvin to engineer something of a miracle turnaround, at least another minor one. (FN2)
3) Trea Turner to win the NL MVP. Yes, it is still early in the season, but it is almost certainly too late for Turner’s MVP bid. His start in PHI has not gone as anyone planned or expected, particularly after his Babe Ruth impersonation in the WBC. Trea Turner booed by Phillies fans, hits tying homer in 9th – ESPN. Turner’s slash line as of May 26 is .244/.291/.676. These are below the league average and far below MVP consideration. He would have to put up historic numbers over the next 110 games to get any significant votes for MVP. I am definitely not counting those 10 points as I calculate my chances of winning a fourth Rocky. (PHI has also struggled as a team, but I can still see them putting it together for another late run to the World Series as I have predicted.)
4) TBR to win only the AL East. Obviously, I called it correctly that the Rays would again surprise most everyone and triumph over the Evil Empire NYY. However, I am somewhat regretting not going farther and giving TBR the AL Pennant or even the Commissioner’s Trophy as WS champs. TBR is playing so well that some experienced observers are speculating that they must be cheating! WFAN’s Evan Roberts accuses Tampa Bay Rays of cheating (awfulannouncing.com). (I don’t follow Evan Roberts, but the article says he once blasted David Price, so that makes him pretty smart in my book….) It would be something of a miracle if TBR exceeds the all-time win record (116) after winning only 86 games last year (currently on pace for 116). But it will not shock me if the Rays win the World Series, nor would it bother me. The organization just does the job better than everyone else. They deserve everyone’s respect, even Evan Roberts’. I am certain that Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner respect them.
There are other predictions that I might rethink, including TOR as an AL Wild Card. I don’t really regret making this selection even though the Blue Jays are currently in last place and the players just called a “players only” meeting. Blue Jays hold players’ meeting after series loss to Rays (mlb.com). Those events always mean that things are not going well, but there is still plenty of time for the team to recover even in the very competitive AL East.
The surprise team there, perhaps even more so than TBR, is BAL. Even after a “break-out” year in 2022 (83 wins), most experts viewed the Orioles’ off-season as a bust and expected the 2023 results to revert to typical BAL depths (averaging 100 losses the previous 5 years). So far the experts have been very wrong. BAL has the second-best record in MLB and just won two out of three games at NYY. I, for one, love it when BAL is good. They have one of the best ballparks and one of the best uniform sets in all of MLB (excluding the weak City Connect effort by Nike: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiawonywpP_AhWzlWoFHR3FCiYQvOMEKAB6BAgPEAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thebaltimorebanner.com%2Fsports%2Forioles-mlb%2Forioles-city-connect-jersey-SSMJSS7VXNH4BEAX6WPI2C5JUU%2F&usg=AOvVaw3JrtWgKQ6Evl5ZNAlZh1lO.) Regardless of what they are wearing, it is good for the sport when the Orioles are good. So I will be pulling for them even though I did not pick them in our competition. Is this great start simply fake news, or is BAL for real? Babe never got to play there, but perhaps his appearance in bronze will bring about a miracle on Eutaw Street.
(July 6, 2021, BAL 7, TOR 5. The Orioles only won 52 games that year, so seeing them get a W was something of a miracle.)
Interestingly, just yesterday Jack texted me a picture to ask if it was ok if he sold a shirt I had bought him. It was the shirt he has on in the photo I had selected above! Not exactly a miracle, but perhaps not a coincidence? And speaking of discerning coincidences or miracles, I think I have posted this story before, but now seems like a good time for re-run.
It is more than compelling evidence that unseen powers are at work at the ballpark and in my life. The comments that appeared when the story was first posted online by the Miami Herald back in 2012 all insisted that I faked the photo. I assure you I did not. Besides, Mrs. Commissioner would never do that even if I asked her to, which of course I wouldn’t.
Real miracle, not fake news.
FN 1 – One smart decision that CWS GM Rich Hahn should be credited for is not re-signing former MVP Jose Abreu. The three-year, $54 million deal HOU’s owner Jim Crane doled out to Abreu has so far returned a .529 OPS, 164th out of 165 eligible players (league average is .700. 2023 MLB Player Batting Stats | ESPN). I complimented Crane on his work as “interim GM” before he hired Dana Brown, but this decision now looks like about a $50 million loss, at least. How long does Dusty keep playing Abreu? Does HOU look to trade for another 1B? Perhaps even more than the injuries to the pitching staff, this is a major problem for HOU. As I often say, some of the best deals you ever make are the ones you don’t make. In retrospect, just keeping Yuli Gurriel would have been the better move. (.304/.344/.799 slash lines for MIA so far, not to mention his historical record of clutch hits for HOU and still the best hair in MLB. Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel has MLB’s craziest hair – Sports Illustrated.) Considering all of this, will Rick Hahn have the courage not to trade Dylan Cease in the overhaul of the CWS roster?
FN 2 – Recall that SDO won only 89 games last season and finished 22 games behind LAD in the NL West before turning the tables and ousting the Dodgers in the Division Round of the post-season. That was perhaps a minor miracle, but what we are seeing so far this year in the NL West is potentially a major one. How is Dave Roberts’s team 10 games over .500 (31-21) with all the players lost to free agency and injury? Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy and James Outman are major contributors, along with an apparently endless supply of young arms. If they keep this up and win another NL West crown under these circumstances, Roberts could definitely be called a miracle worker, no matter what happens in the post-season. Of course, if last night’s game at TBR was any indicator, LAD still has a long way to go to be competitive for World Series title #8. The TV broadcast showed LAD’s Master Executive Andrew Friedman sitting in the press box of his old employer, TBR. He must have been wondering why he taught his padawans so well.
April 10, 2023
Looking Forward to the Past
I hope you had a blessed Easter or Passover season, according to your beliefs. Regardless of when they fall on the calendar the passing of these religious holidays has always marked the beginning of spring to me. That, of course, marks the start of the MLB season and the official authorization to wear white (on home uniforms). This year I was fortunate enough to witness this milestone in one of the temples of baseball, Fenway Park, and to do so with Mrs. Commissioner and our son, Jack.
(PIT@BOS, April 5, 2023) (Jack is wearing the Rafael Devers Home Run Chain which was the promotional give-away for the game :)).
This was the second visit to Fenway for me and Mrs. Commissioner, but it was Jack’s first time. He immediately agreed with me that Fenway belongs at or very near the top of our ballpark rankings. This was park #25 in our quest to see a game in every MLB park, and despite the cold weather it was a fantastic ballpark experience. (We arrived at twilight, and I forgot that I was wearing my prescription sunglasses during this picture, but Society member and lifelong Red Sox fan Chip Babcock said I looked “Reggie Jackson-esque”, so I may wear them through all games going forward.) The game featured four home runs in the first inning (3 by BOS) which made the already energized Fenway crowd hyper-excited (they ultimately lost the game though!). The fact that we had perhaps our best seats in all of our ballpark trips certainly added to the excitement.
(Field Box 38, Row A.) (Christian Arroyo batting.) But the simple proximity to the field and the players does not guaranty a thrilling game experience. The details of what you can see are the substance of the experience, and Fenway Park has historic detail in every square inch. I could write several paragraphs about what I see in just the picture framed above, but I will leave it to you to study and have your own true ballpark experience.
Many have written that this is the new Golden Age of Ballparks, and that it has done much to revitalize urbanism in America. https://metropolismag.com/viewpoints/paul-goldberger-ballpark-book-architecture-urbanism/. I have written my own view on the topic, including my favorable review of Goldberger’s work. https://babesbaseball.wordpress.com/2019/08/02/reading-my-future-through-mlbs-past/. Having now visited nearly all of the “retro” parks as well as most of those remaining that pre-date Camden Yards in Baltimore, I can say that I am very thankful for the replacement of 70’s brutalist-style parks in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and St. Louis., and the effort to do so with the recreation of the ballparks long-past. However, our recent visit to Fenway reminded me (as well as Jack) that “retro” is not as good as “authentic”.
Fenway is authentic because it is old. Major League Baseball has been played there since 1918, and no amount of reverence for the past in designing a new park can replicate that history. The quirkiness of a park might be replicated (think Tal’s Hill in “old” Minute Maid , an homage to Crosley Field in Cincinnati), or the entire park can even be replicated (think Yankee Stadium), but the “feel” of an old ballpark is only true when it is authentically old. Fenway Park has this true feel, of course, as does Wrigley Field, but Jack and I even felt it at the Oakland Coliseum (that is how it will always be known to me).
(SFO@OAK, August 2, 2017)
These parks feel like my childhood experiences at a game, and those memories are certainly part of why I love baseball so much. Seeing a game in the new Yankee Stadium did nothing for me even though it appears exactly as the old one. Appearance is not reality. So, yes, I would rather watch a game in Oakland than in the Bronx, and it is not because of my abiding hatred of NYY.
As I get older myself, I appreciate more the older things in life, and enjoy even more the opportunity to share them with the younger generation. Baseball itself is a historic treasure that I cherish, but seeing it played up-close in a place where the sport has thrived for over one hundred years is a blessed way to begin the season. Of course, seeing a baseball game anytime or anywhere can also be a blessing. I take the opportunity any time and any place I find it.
(Lindsey Nelson Field, Knoxville, TN, March 25, 2023 – Tennessee 9, Texas A&M 6)
(Lance Berkman Field, Faith West Academy, Katy, TX – March 15, 2023. Coach Martinez let me participate in practice and even gifted me with an official hat!)
Since I have been traveling for the past week, I have not yet been able to post your picks. We have several new members competing this season, so the process will take me even longer this year, but I hope to have the 2023 competition page up by the end of this week. There is also much to comment on regarding the surprising start to the 2023 MLB season. As usual, I will hold-off until May 1 to make any formal opening observations, but there is one question I can’t delay asking: Have you seen what is happening in Tampa Bay? (I told you the Rays are good.)
And speaking of TBR, there is one note to start the season that I can’t defer. I mentioned in predicting that the Rays will win the AL East that they are strong throughout the entire organization, including in the radio broadcast booth with Dave Wills and Andy Freed. When I tuned into the Rays’ Opening Day broadcast I was surprised to hear that Dave Wills was not at the microphone. After a couple of vague references to his absence I Googled his name and found this shocking news that I had somehow missed during Spring Training. https://www.mlb.com/news/dave-wills-longtime-rays-broadcaster-dies-at-58.
Listening to a MLB game on the radio gives me the same authentic feel as did watching a game at Fenway. The skill of the announcer can have as much of an impact as the historical qualities of the ballpark. Dave Wills was one of the best. He was a big part of my adoption of TBR as my second favorite team.
RIP Dave. Your voice will be missed around the MLB world, but particularly in San Antonio.
March 29, 2023
At the risk of alienating every Society member I will again start my “prediction post” with a reminder that my opinion matters because I won the Rocky last year. As Scrooge protests to the Ghost of Christmas Present, “One has to speak up for oneself”. I will go Scrooge one further and include a picture of my success.
(“Here’s thuh pitch…!” painting in the background by W.B. Thompson. https://www.mangotangoart.com/artists/wb-thompson/.)
Yes, three Rockys now grace my office bookshelf, although the first one should carry an asterisk since only three members participated in our first year, 2008. I have some reason to be proud, obviously, and perhaps a small platform from which to recommend my picks in our sixteenth year of competition. But then so do the other twelve of you who have one Rocky on your shelf. You know who you are, but here is the link for all Society members to review and experience Rocky-envy (thinking of you, Chip). https://babesbaseball.wordpress.com/past-champions/. There is glory to be had, whether it is your first, second or fourth Rocky. Like the reformed Scrooge did for Tiny Tim, I am happy to assist you in any way I can. So here are my picks for you to either emulate or excoriate. If you are inclined to the latter, I simply say “Bah! Humbug!”.
AL West – HOU How can you pick anyone but the Astros? They won the division by sixteen games last year and the team should be just as good this year even without Justin Verlander. Losing Jose Altuve to injury for as much as three months won’t help, of course, but no other AL West team is going to improve enough to overtake even a diminished Astros team that will win its sixth division title in the last seven seasons.
AL Central – CWS Last year this was a no-brainer pick and most of us made it. This year it seems almost brainless given how badly the White Sox actually performed in 2022. However, I am a big believer in “addition by subtraction” and the excising of Tony LaRussa from this organization should have a liberating effect on the players. Oddly, I don’t think I have ever heard of their new manager, Pedro Grifol, but I’m still taking him as an improvement over Hall of Famer LaRussa who managed like he was from another era. Grifol will have to outduel future Hall of Famer Terry Francona in CLE, but I am counting on his pitching staff to carry him to just that result. (Losing Jose Abreu to HOU hurt but watch out for Andrew Vaughn who moves from right field to first base.)
AL East – TBR Most will consider this pick to be equally brainless. How can I put them ahead of NYY or TOR, and perhaps even BAL? Well, if you follow my picks and commentary, you know that the Rays are my second favorite organization. I have even done what little I can to move them to San Antonio (the “San Antonio Reys” – you heard it here first.) They struggled last year and have questions again about the rotation with Tyler Glasnow’s on-going injuries, but I believe they have the most collective talent – from the field to the front office to even the radio broadcasting booth. (Take a listen to Dave Wills and Andy Freed. They are great.)
AL Wildcards –
– NYY – Everyone knows how much I hate the Yankees, but this year they have a team that I almost feel sorry for. Five major acquisitions (Rodon, Bader, Montas, Effross and Trivino) were out already due to injury and now Luis Severino is as well (this happens to him every year!). Aaron Judge and Nestor Cortes are very likely to come back down to earth after career years. Everyone else is either at the end of their career (LeMahieu or McDonald) or their career hasn’t even started yet (Volpe or Peraza). No way this team wins 99 games again. Still, I will let them sneak into the post-season just in the hope that they have to play the Astros again. We know how that will turn out.
– TOR – I am tempted to pick the Blue Jays to win the division but have resisted for two specific reasons. The first is that I still love the Rays. The second is that I still don’t believe in the Blue Jays. They made some major changes in the off-season by trading Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel, which tells me that they did not believe in themselves, either. The additions of Chris Bassitt, Dalton Varsho, Kevin Keirmaier and Brandon Belt provide some good experience and upside to go with Guerrero, Bichette, and Springer. The pitching is good, also, so they should get into the post-season but probably won’t win a series and certainly won’t win the pennant.
– CLE – the “little team that could” shocked everyone with their 2022 performance. They played really good defense, made good contact and pitched well. However, they won the weakest division in baseball and then exposed just how weak NYY actually was. Will they continue to perform above their weight? Likely. Should they be picked over LAA or even SEA? Probably. They have Terry Francona, so I am going with them.
AL Pennant – HOU – Again, how can I not pick the Astros? They are the best team in the AL, if not all of MLB. That doesn’t ensure that they will win the AL pennant again but picking them to do so is definitely not brainless.
NL West – SDO – Another pick that could seem brainless considering that LAD won 111 games last year compared to SDO’s 89. Sure, the Padres took them down in the best of 5 post-season division series, but that doesn’t translate into the entire 2023 season. What does translate is the appreciation in the Padres’ roster and the depreciation in the Dodgers’ roster, both in the off-season and Spring Training. (See discussion below). The Padres have Juan Soto for a full season and have added Xander Bogaerts. They have their own issues with Fernando Tatis, Jr. serving a drug suspension for two months and Joe Musgrove on the IL for perhaps the same period after dropping a weight on his foot! (Both very dumb actions by very good players). However, I think the tide has turned south in Southern California in the NL West. I don’t know where Peter Seidler and the rest of the SDO ownership is getting all this money, but the power in the division will continue in their direction as a result unless the Dodgers acquire Shohei Ohtani. (See more of the discussion below).
NL Central – MIL – I don’t like this division. I didn’t even like it when the Astros were a part of it. It seemed like it was always STL’s to lose, and LaRussa was the coach then, so I really wanted them to lose (except in 2011 when Lance Berkman played for him). On paper, it still feels like STL should win, but the pitching is suspect and the offense seems to underachieve. (See FN below.) MIL often overachieves (except for Christian Yelich) and they were on their way to doing that last year when the front office traded Josh Hader. That was one subtraction that definitely was not an addition. This year I have a hunch Yelich turns it around and the front office leaves well enough alone and the Brewers win the division.
NL East – ATL – I was going to pick PHI here because I think Trea Turner makes them just as talented as ATL. Over the 162-game season, however, I still think ATL wins more games. That is not the end of the story. (See discussion below.)
NL Wildcards –
– LAD – No Trea Turner, no Justin Turner, no Cody Bellinger (ok, that might be a good thing) and many, many other departures. No Walker Buehler and now Gavin Lux is also lost to injury for the season. Gonsolin and Treinin are out for extended periods. Clayton Kershaw is ancient. Dustin May is still rehabbing. Can you name their shortstop? You get the picture? SFO had a 26 win drop-off in 2022. Could LAD exceed that? That would still give them 85 wins so I’m putting them in the post-season, but they are not going far into October. Remember, the 111-win team lost in the division series last year!
– PHI – They are the defending NL champs and they signed Trea Turner. (See below for full discussion.)
– NYM – They won 101 games last year and added Justin Verlander to the pitching staff to go with Max Scherzer. They lost Jacob deGrom to free agency and Edwin Diaz to injury. Just when good things are happening, something goes bad. They are the Mets. I’ll keep them in the post-season, but not for long. Come October Verlander and Scherzer will be 90 days shy of a combined 80 years old! Can they carry a team deep into the post-season? I don’t think so. And remember, no Edwin Diaz to back them up.
– FN. (Feeling the need to justify leaving STL out of the post-season) – Why not go with the team that has a generational talent at third base (Arendao), an MVP at first base (Goldschmidt) and a likely Hall of Famer leading their pitching staff (although Wainwright is out for a while with an injury). My response is that the presence of those three guys just makes STL seem to me like the NL equivalent of LAA – great individual players on a very incomplete team that underachieves. (Uh, that also explains why I didn’t pick the Angels in 2023, and some of you will recall that I swore I would not do so in my post reviewing the 2022 season. Arte, please sell the team or trade Trout and Ohtani!)
NL Pennant – PHI Yes, you see that correctly. I have ATL winning the division but PHI winning the pennant, just as it happened in 2022 (win, repeat). The Phillies have game, particularly in a short series, or even in a seven-game contest. They were two wins away from winning the World Series without Trea Turner. Of course, I am assuming Bryce Harper recovers fully from his off-season surgery, and that they find someone to replace Rhys Hoskins who was lost for the whole season following his injury in Spring Training. Even with these questions this team is fully capable of repeating as NL champs. Both PHI and ATL are fun to watch, have beautiful ballparks and great fan support. However, like with LAD, I can’t name ATL’s shortstop and, perhaps most importantly, if I don’t have to listen to the war chant or see the tomahawk chop endlessly I will enjoy the World Series much more. (Now if we can just get John Smoltz chopped from the announcer’s booth….)
World Series – HOU – Obviously I am an Astros fan. I picked them to win last year, and I believe the team might be even better this year. The loss of Justin Verlander to free agency and significant injuries to Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers and Yordan Alvarez are concerning, certainly, but I firmly believe the team’s talent is deep enough to overcome these difficulties. Equally obviously, I am bullish on PHI. I think there is a very good chance they beat the Astros, or any other AL team, if they get back to the World Series. However, I think it is time for a repeat champion and what better way for the Astros to forever erase the taint of 2017, while at the same time cementing themselves inside NYY’s head, than to align themselves with the last great (and likable) consecutive championship teams – the Yankees of 1998-2000.
AL MVP – S. Ohtani – Can there be anyone else? He already vanquished Mike Trout this spring. He wouldn’t have had to vanquish Aaron Judge last year if Judge didn’t play for NYY, but there is no chance of Judge hitting 62 homers this year, so no worries there. The only thing that keeps Ohtani from winning the AL MVP is if he gets traded to LAD during the season. (I am tempted to add a FN that this would invalidate my SDO pick, but trades are just part of the game. We all have to calibrate for them. Remember this, any of you who are inclined to pick LAA!)
AL Cy Young – C. Javier – Did you watch the World Series? Framber Valdez will be the team’s #1 starter now that Verlander is gone, but Javier is likely to be the team’s best pitcher and possibly the best in the entire AL. If so, my World Series prediction will look even stronger.
AL Batting Title – T. Anderson – Did you watch the World Baseball Classic? This guy can hit no matter what position he plays. And did I mention that he doesn’t have to listen to Tony LaRussa any longer?
NL MVP – T. Turner – Again I ask, did you watch the World Baseball Classic? If so, did you wish that Turner had been batting for USA with 2 outs in the 9th instead of Mike Trout? Enough said right there. Returning to the NL East and batting in a line-up with Schwarber, Harper, Realmuto and Hoskins (well, whoever replaces him) almost guarantees to me that Turner will have a career year. That is more than enough for him to win the MVP.
NL Cy Young – A. Nola – Someone has to pitch PHI back to the WS. Nola did his part last year and finished 4th in the Cy Young voting. I certainly don’t see Sandy Alcantara repeating as a unanimous winner (he looked average in the WBC). Max Fried pitched well for ATL and finished second in last year’s voting, so he is a good candidate. I am tempted to pick Corbin Burnes because he is so chapped at losing his arbitration case against the Brewers. No one will be more motivated for personal success, and he just hired Scott Boras as his agent. But I am going with Nola. I got to meet his parents at one his college games. They were very nice folks, and they raised TWO good MLB players. You have to respect them, and you should pull for at least one of their kids.
NL Batting Title – F. Freeman – Whoever is ultimately responsible for the drama that caused him to leave ATL for LAD (and it is probably himself), you have to give Freeman credit for continuing to perform at an elite level even outside his comfort zone. He continues to be an exceptionally good hitter and was within .001 of a batting title last year. I assume that the new rule banning defensive shifts will add at least that much to his average in 2023 and that he will get more walks this year without either of the Turners or Cody Bellinger to protect him in the line-up. (Wait, did I just say that Cody Bellinger offers protection to a player hitting before him? Is that what the Cubs were thinking?) All of this just confirms my addition-by-subtraction theory which will aid in getting Freeman a batting title.
Now you know my amateur mind. If you are interested in the minds of those who actually make a living out of this endeavor, I have pasted in a couple of links below. You can find many others by simply Googling “MLB Predictions”. I can also highly recommend the Ballpark Dimensions podcast, hosted by Mike Petriello and Matt Myers. I think they have the best baseball show in the podosphere, and they will post their selection show on Thursday in time for you to consult their picks if you want. As with all recommendations, however, Caveat Emptor! One needs to speak up for oneself.
Email your picks to email@example.com. Many of you have already sent me your picks, but you are free to make changes up to midnight Thursday night.
March 26, 2023
March 17, 2023
Irrational Exuberance – “Let’s be careful out there!”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the Commissioner’s office situated high above the San Antonio River, which will be dyed a brighter shade of green today in honor of the saint.
(St. Patrick’s Day @ Arneson Theater, San Antonio Riverwalk, photo courtesy #SARiverWalk)
Celebrating Ireland’s patron saint on the reputed anniversary of his death has become a world-wide event. 17 Biggest and Best St. Patrick’s Day Events Around the World – Trips To Discover. And given the historical record that we have of St. Patrick, my guess is that he would consider the festivities a bit over-the-top. He was, after all, a Christian missionary, and the remembrance was originally a Roman Catholic “religious” holiday (a redundancy, of course, since “holiday” is a derivation of “holy day”, which means religious). What is St. Patrick’s Day? Why do we celebrate it? Is it religious? (usatoday.com). However, there is no reason to believe that Patrick (or any other right-thinking saint) would have opposed a little imbibing in his honor (Patrick did flourish in Ireland, after all), so I fully support some sense of celebration today. The question, of course, is “to what degree?”
One of the Christian tenets that I believe should resonate across all religions is “all things in moderation”. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+6%3A12&version=ESV. Losing control in any sense, even when you are deliriously happy, is dangerous and often leads to an abrupt end to one’s happiness. Witness Edwin Diaz and his teammates from Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic!
This exuberance: Edwin Díaz suffers apparent leg injury after celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory vs Dominican Republic – YouTube.
Leads to this: Edwin Diaz likely out for season after after disastrous WBC injury (nypost.com).
As B.A.B.E.S. members, we never want to lose our exuberance for life or for athletic competition, particularly baseball. I love the vitality that Latin players bring to the game and fully support the sledgehammer they have taken to some of baseball’s ridiculous unwritten “rules”. https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/fernando-tatis-jr-s-grand-slam-on-3-0-count-angers-rangers-and-sparks-talk-over-baseballs-unwritten-rules/. But this is an example of how we have to be evermindful of our frailties, even if we are world-class athletes. And this is not peculiar to any ethnic group! Everyone is susceptible to it.
Cody Bellinger dislocates shoulder celebrating home run – YouTube. And there are many other examples, I’m know.
So, on this day when you might be inclined to celebrate exuberantly, please do not do so irrationally. Moderation in all things is the best approach. And always remember, whatever you are doing:
Oh, and remember that your picks are due by midnight, March 30. As I warned you in my last post, keep an eye on the MLB injured list when making your picks. Important names are being added every day. https://www.mlb.com/injury-report (updated).
Make your selections wisely and email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 10, 2023
Old Remembrances. New Beginnings.
Some pictures tell timeless stories.
(Casey at the Bat, Space Coast Stadium, March 8, 2015)
And some pictures tell stories of a particular time and place and activity.
(Spring Training with my daughter, Alix. Space Coast Stadium, March 8, 2015)
“Casey at the Bat” is a poem written by Ernest Thayer in 1888. It is practically universally known by ardent baseball fans and remains popular 135 years after it was written (Oh, that I would write something so memorable). The poem’s theme of great but unfulfilled expectations is a true metaphor for life and perfectly captures the agony of defeat that all ballplayers experience at some point in their careers (and usually on a daily basis). For those of us who subscribe to the theory that “baseball is life”, “Casey at the Bat” is not just a “poem about baseball”, but rather a picture of our own experience.
Nevertheless, I found it somewhat unsettling that a life-size statue of Casey would be placed outside of a Spring Training ballpark. After all, Spring Training is when hope springs eternal (or at least throughout the pre-season and perhaps continuing through the first month of the season). I wrote about this “spring training amnesia” in my remembrance of one of our B.A.B.E.S founders, and the namesake of our annual award, Rocky Walker. I post this link every year, and I hope you will take a minute to remember a great baseball fan and eternal optimist.
The reality, of course, is that we are all fallible and mortal. We strive for perfection and accomplishment knowing that our lives will be imperfect and likely filled with many more moments of failure than of triumph. Even so, we begin again every year – perhaps even every day as ballplayers do – to continue the quest.
For more than those 135 years since the publication of Thayer’s poem baseball has provided players and fans alike the opportunity to strive anew and hope for triumph. Indeed, that is the reason for our Society, to focus our daily striving on the game we all love. Of course, unlike fantasy or rotisserie leagues, you only have to work on our picks up to Opening Day. After that, you can simply enjoy the game. You can worry about your picks, of course, but you can’t change any of them.
The experience of failure every day in baseball helps you to recall that, just as in life, one loss is not a perpetual defeat. Any loss, no matter how crushing, does not mean that you won’t triumph in the end. The quest goes on. So, start preparing for this year’s selections and then a season full of ups and downs.
Opening Day is March 30. Picks are due by midnight that day.
© JSR 2023
Member, Society for American Baseball Research
10 thoughts on “B.A.B.E.S. – Homeplate”
“Off Season”, what’s that? Way to go Scott….glad to see you finally created a blog so all can have the benefit of the baseball thoughts that I must hear everyday!
WAS Scott Brosoius 3b home grown ? A good guy in the 90’s. Scott, I like your balancing of the Yanks from the 90’s as opposed to present day. I agree, It is honestly not the same- too many bad trades. Eric
Eric, Brosius was drafted by OAK and played there 10 years before being traded to NYY for Kenny Rogers in 1997 (funny, huh?). Brosius became a free agent after that season but resigned with NYY and contributed to World Series wins in 1998-2000.
Great thoughts in the spirit of the season Scott. But no reference to the Evil Empire? That should have been a softball for you….
Thanks, Jed, but due to my Advent pledge to love my enemies (12/1/12), I refrained from the many opportunities to include NYY in the piece, including making them the evil force that created the need for the Christmas Story in the first place.
okay Scott … Sitting here waiting for your January installment. After all it is January 7th! Having withdraws. Can’t wait to see if the Dodgers bought enough players. I mean properly filled out the roster with capable players. I don’t view it as buying players as much as I believe they are trying to win now as they begin to rebuild a depleted farm system.
Not buying that are you?
Your wait is over, and your work has begun. Before we talk about LAD, we must start thinking about the strength of Spain’s rotation, or whether Canada has enough power on the left side of the infield. So many questions in today’s integrated, global world.
Now that is service! We’re you smiling?
You might enjoy this video! I missed the WBC deadline but when are the MLB predictions due?
Re: the Cardinals “uncharacteristic” World Series fielding snafus, the ESPN radio commentary I heard the other night BEFORE Game 1 was that the Cardinals outfield were the three worst fielders in the league, and under some fielding analytics tool I’ve never heard of (sort of like WAR or some similar acronym), they actually predicted that the Cardinal gloves would lose the game for them. Pretty interesting!