November 2, 2017
Prophecy Fulfilled! And they even featured the World Series MVP.
(Sports Illustrated cover, June 30, 2014)
How do you explain something so improbable as predicting that a team in the middle of its sixth consecutive losing season (with a combined win % of .403) would win the World Series only 3 seasons later? There is only one way to explain it, with the words of the almost immortal Vin Sculley: “the impossible has happened.”
But isn’t that what “prophecy” is – foretelling not just an event, but one that is unthinkable? Whoever is responsible for the SI prediction, either writer Ben Reiter or some unnamed headline writer, he or she should be recognized as sport’s premier prophet. Add in that the prophecy was made in the context of a journalistic jinx believed as much as Holy Scripture itself and you have a truly apocalyptic moment. (Apocalypse, after all, means “revelation”). And dare I point out that Houston recently experienced flooding of biblical proportions? Clearly, some higher power is at work in the universe and it is not all bad.
And speaking of prophets, they may be lesser ones (hey, even the Bible has its Minor Prophets), but these B.A.B.E.S. members deserve recognition for predicting the impossible, even if they were not as forward thinking as SI. (And doesn’t the fact that HOU had never won a World Series constitute an even greater miracle than last year’s predictions of a Cubs win? CHI had a longer drought but at least there was precedence.) Kudos to Leo Gonzalez (2011 B.A.B.E.S. champion), Jennifer Rose (Mrs. Commissioner), Bruce Ruzinsky, Hudson Stone and Madison Stone (Houston brothers, two in reality and three in spirit).
And speaking of those three Houstonians, it looks like the 2017 B.A.B.E.S. champion will fittingly reside in Houston. Madison now leads with 47 points. Bruce and Hudson are right behind with 46 points each. There are many variables, but the most certain development appears to be Hudson gaining 10 additional points with his pick of Corey Kluber as the AL Cy Young, and that may be enough to win the Rocky. However, if Clayton Kershaw wins the NL Cy Young, Madison will almost certainly be our winner (with a new record for points – which would be totally appropriate in this record-breaking year). If Max Scherzer wins the NL Cy Young and Kluber does not win the AL Cy Young, then Bruce is the winner. Whichever outcome is revealed (apocalypsed?), the Rocky and the MLB Commissioner’s Trophy will both be Houston Strong.
It reminds me of one of my favorite verses from one of those Minor Prophets, Habakkuk:
“Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.” Hab. 1:5
November 1, 2017
The Saddest Day of the Year
I write that headline before I know whether the Astros will fall short tonight in their quest to bring the first baseball world championship to the State of Texas. A combined 100 years of failure (55 for HOU and 45 for TEX) is on the line in Game 7 tonight, and the outcome could result in extreme sadness in at least part of the Lone Star State. The Rangers fans will have an interesting emotional experience watching Yu Darvish pitch against the Astros tonight. My guess is that most will be pulling for Darvish, and not just because of Yuli Gurriel. Whatever the outcome, there will be at least a touch of sadness because Game 7 of the World Series is the day that we know that the baseball season must end.
It might have ended last night if the Astros had done the little things better, both on the field and in the dugout. Josh Reddick’s failure to get the runner home from third in the 5th inning when the Astros had two on and nobody out certainly hurt. The pressure was on him since Justin Verlander was the next hitter and could not reasonably be expected to drive in the run. Alas, Reddick could not even put the ball in play, striking out on a sweeping curveball from Alex Hill. That happens to the best hitters, of course.
Although logical, I disagreed with A. J. Hinch’s decision to pinch hit Evan Gattis for Verlander in the 7th after Reddick walked. Verlander was still HOU’s best pitching option and all he had to do was bunt Reddick to second. Harder to understand was Hinch’s failure to pinch run for Gattis when he reached first base on a fielder’s choice. When George Springer got an infield hit off of Corey Seager’s glove at short, Gattis was not able to take third base. It seems almost certain that speedy Derek Fisher would have gone from first to third on the ball that rolled well into left field away from Seager. Unfortunately, Hinch didn’t make the pinch runner change until Gattis got to second. Then Fisher could only watch and stay at second when Alex Bregman lined out to centerfield. Had he been on third, he would almost certainly have scored on a sac fly. Then the killer happened in the bottom of the 7th when Joe Musgrove gave up a HR to suddenly reborn Joc Pederson. Did Hinch really think that Musgrove, a rookie, was a better pitching option in that situation than sticking with Verlander? I don’t.
Baseball is a game with so many little things that can determine the outcome. Hinch has done a great job all year, in both the big and the small aspects, but I found a lot to criticize in his performance last night. Here’s hoping that he won’t add to my sadness tonight as the season comes to a likely dramatic, but most definite end.
October 28, 2017
My Bucket is Full (Well, Almost)
I have never made a bucket list and I don’t intend to start now. I had my reasons for not doing so, like just trying to count my blessings as they occur, but now making such a list would seem to be bordering on greed.
I went to my first World Series game last night with my son, and it was won by the Astros, our favorite team. That is practically an entire bucket list right there. But before you accuse me of being unimaginative, I’ll admit that there is at least one thing missing, actually two – two more wins for the Astros to become World Series Champions. I know that is asking a lot, particularly by someone who has been so blessed, but if the Cubs can win it all, why not us? And I won’t even ask to be there in person.
Of course, the Astros themselves will have the most to say about my dream/prayer. Through three games, they have been the better team, in my opinion. I say this even though it took a miracle (or two, or three) for HOU to win Game 2 and they were in danger of losing Game 3 until the final out despite having dominated the game in the batter’s box and on the field. To repeat Joe Garagiola’s observation in the B.A.B.E.S.’ worthy quote box, any combination of hitting, pitching and defense can win a championship. The Astros have dominated on defense and been better than LAD in both pitching and hitting. Keep up any two of those, and the outcome could be expected as much as desired.
October 23, 2017
Love Your Brother as Yourself
Even a casual reader of this site knows that I am a Houston Astros fan. A careful reader may have discerned that my brother, fellow Society member Carl, is a Dodgers fan – and a big one. This could be a problem for our family relations if we had not already planned for the happy experience of both of our teams making it to the World Series. From the start of the post-season we agreed that we would each pull for the other’s favorite team in the hope that one of us would end the season happy, even if it was at the expense of our own happiness. You know the Biblical principle. Well, it is about to be tested. Let’s go, Astros!
Ten days I ago I speculated that the winner of this year’s Rocky would likely come from a group of four Society members. Those four members are technically still in the hunt, but they have been joined by a fifth member. Madison Stone has earned his way into the limelight by correctly predicting that HOU and LAD would compete in the World Series. That deserves some high praise, as well as the twelve additional points points he earned to bring him into a second place tie with Ross Forbes. They each have 35 points. Eric Hoffman still leads with 40 points, but I believe he will be eliminated by the outcome of the Series and the resulting point totals of these five members:
Ross and Madison each predicted that Clayton Kershaw will win the NL Cy Young. However, Madison took his hometown Astros and Ross took the Dodgers in the Series. So if Kershaw wins the Cy Young and LAD wins the Series, I think Ross will be our winner. But if Kershaw wins the Cy Young and HOU wins the Series, Madison should be our winner. However, if LAD wins the Series, Chris Sale wins the AL Cy Young and Kershaw does not win the NL CY Young, then Steve Jacobs becomes our first two-time winner of the Rocky.
If HOU wins the Series and Max Scherzer wins the NL Cy Young, then Bruce Ruzinsky could be our winner. I say “could” because if those two events occur and Corey Kluber wins the AL Cy Young as Hudson Stone (Madison’s brother) predicted, and Paul Goldschmidt does not win the NL MVP, then we would have a tie between Bruce and Hudson. That would be a remarkable way to end our 10th season – with our first set of co-champions.
So much to watch for, and so many possibilities. It’s enough to make brothers of us all.
October 13, 2017
MLB is down to four teams competing for the 2017 Commissioner’s Trophy and it looks like we are down to four contestants for the 2017 James L. Walker Award (a/k/a the “Rocky”). Barring a 28th World Championship by NYY (which is certainly not out of the question), I think the winner will come from one of these four Society members.
Steve Jacobs, Bruce Ruzinsky and Hudson Stone still have both pennant winners alive and all have a potential 62 points to garner, assuming there is no departure from the likely individual awards winners. Steve needs a LAD/HOU World Series with LAD prevailing. (I should DQ him because he did not have the loyalty to pick his beloved NYY, but then I didn’t pick my Astros either). Bruce and Hudson both have HOU and CHI as the pennant winners with HOU prevailing in the Fall Classic. They also have solid individual picks in Scherzer and Kluber, respectively. Could we have our very first co-champions? Ross Forbes now has all his hopes pinned on LAD and Clayton Kershaw. The first Dodgers title since 1988 and a fourth Cy Young Award for Clayton Kershaw could earn him the Rocky. That would be one Dallas boy helping out another.
Of course, there are many other possibilities. Enjoy the competition even if you are not likely to be the winner, and look on the bright side. Aren’t you thankful that you are not a Washington Nationals fan?
October 12, 2017
Winners and Losers in the MLB Division Series (and not just according to the score)
- A.J. Hinch/Jeff Luhnow (winners) – GM Luhnow credits Hinch’s B.A. in Psychology for the excellent rapport between the Astros’ manager and players. Hinch should be given an honorary Ph.D for all the cheer that is visible at all times in the Astros’ dugout. (Imagine what the team clubhouse must be like.) We’ve had Small Ball and Moneyball. Now we have Play! Ball. Obviously, we need more Liberal Arts majors in MLB. Perhaps Luhnow should have been listed first since he is largely responsible for the playground that Hinch manages so well. Even if HOU does not win the World Series Luhnow has cemented his reputation. (And he can always blame the SI jinx: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/06/sports-illustrated-houston-astros-2017-world-series-champs-mlb.) Not only is Luhnow a master of sabremetrics, but he is the rare visionary who can also look backward to baseball’s glory days. Name another “Moneyball” guy who would hire a manager based primarily on his ability to handle personalities.
- John Farrell (loser) – Sure, his team lost on the field, but my guess is that Farrell was done as BOS’ MGR even if the Red Sox had beaten the Astros. Another World Series title might have saved Farrell’s job, maybe, but at the press conference announcing the change GM Dave Dombrowski sounded like a man who had made up his mind a long time ago. With his record of success in BOS and TOR, you would certainly expect Farrell to manage another team. If it doesn’t happen quickly, then we will know that there was more going on in the BOS clubhouse than was reported, but then isn’t there always? Beer and chicken, anyone? https://deadspin.com/5848921/pitchers-hooked-on-beer-fried-chicken-and-video-games-francona-on-pills-the-boston-globes-version-of-the-2011-red-sox-collapse.
- Joe Girardi (winner) – I may be in the minority here, but I think Joe is a great manager. He may make a mistake or two (see #4), but he has managed NYY through a generational transition that could have been a terrible decline and never even had a losing season. He has a World Series title and, assuming Brian Cashman renews his contract after the season, is almost certain to win another. Heck, he might win title #2 (and NYY’s # 28) this year! They would be crazy to fire him.
- Aroldis Chapman (loser) – Sure NYY upset CLE and Chapman did his part by saving two games and having an E.R.A. of 0.00, but once again he showed his ability to take the joy out of winning. Worse than his criticism of Joe Maddon following the Cubs’ historic win in last year’s World Series, Chapman took after Joe Girardi in the middle of the ALDS by liking an Instagram post that called Girardi an imbecile. Objectively speaking, I maintain that his action supports that conclusion about him more than the failure to ask for video reply of a called HBP brands Girardi. https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/10/07/aroldis-chapman-instagram-comment-joe-girardi.
- Dave Roberts (winner) – Managing through two incredible streaks in the regular season, one positive and one negative, Lopes showed that he is as even-keeled as a human can be. With the sweep of ARI in the NLDS, he also showed that he has his team back on the beam at the right time. The D-Backs won 11 of 19 against LAD in the regular season but basically had no chance when it really counted.
- Washington, D.C. (loser) – You read that right; I’m not just talking about the Nationals’ franchise. They are merely a symptom of an entire hapless district that is obviously broken. Maybe I’m just angry because I keep picking WAS to win the World Series, but nothing ever gets finished here. The franchise has never won a post-season series despite having leads of 6-0 and 4-1 in winner-take-all game 5’s. Not even the great Max Scherzer could save them. In fact he presided over a comedy of errors. Heck, even when they were leading the division as the Montreal Expos in 1994, the players’ strike wiped out any hope of a title. It’s time to call it quits. If MLB ever considers contraction again, I vote for the Nationals and the whole District of Columbia, where nothing positive ever gets done, either. (That is as political as B.A.B.E.S. will get).
October 6, 2017
Hello, It’s Me
Many events and obligations conspired to keep me from commenting during the entire course of this MLB season. One happy distraction was another cross-country trip with my son, Jack, where we visited 3 more ballparks, including two by the Bay.
We also listened to a lot of great music. I discovered in the process that he had never heard of Todd Rundgren. I quickly corrected that error in my parenting and, in the process, realized that one of Todd’s songs reflects my complex feelings for baseball.
Give these lyrics some thought if you have a few moments to spare during the action-packed, but nevertheless nostalgic, days of October.
It has been a remarkable year already in MLB, with several historically dominant performances by pitchers, hitters and even entire teams. The post-season is off to an equally remarkable start, and we appear to be headed for some epic confrontations between perhaps some of the best teams in baseball history. Enjoy it.
Enjoy also the fact that we are experiencing some historic B.A.B.E.S. performances. With only the regular season completed, a half dozen of you have already amassed more points than some of our previous champions!
Eric Hoffman nailed 8 of the 10 post-season teams, in the right qualifying position, and also predicted Jose Altuve’s 3rd AL batting title. That gives Eric 34 points already, and he has both of his WS teams alive and Clayton Kershaw as the NL Cy Young winner. I would call that a historic start.
Ross Forbes has 29 points and LAD and Clayton Kershaw to look forward to for potentially many more points. Those picks could compensate for his selection of his hometown Rangers’ as AL champion. (First off-season inquiry: Will Jon Daniels tear his team apart in the time leading up to the opening of the new Globe Life Park? Why not go ahead and dismantle a two-time division winning team. They are tearing down a perfectly good stadium that is barely 20 years old.)
Steve Jacobs, Bruce Ruzinsky and Hudson Stone (28) are close behind and each of them has both WS teams alive and at least one solid contender for the individual awards. Many others of you are in nearly the same position, so do not turn off your sets.
Yogi Berra taught us all that “it ain’t over till it’s over.” Todd Rundgren wrote that “sometimes I can’t help seeing all the way through.” October, in general, and October baseball in particular, are worthy times.
The link to the standings is below. Please check my math.
March 31, 2017
But Sunday’s coming. Time to get your B.A.B.E.S. picks in.
For those of you who recognize the Easter message in that statement, I hope you don’t consider it a sacrilege that I apply it here to MLB’s Opening Day. Of course, if you are on this distribution list you already know that I consider baseball a Divine creation, so perhaps no apology is necessary.
From the picks I have seen so far, some of you either have received special revelation from above or are just expecting a miracle. But there is also that tried-and-true strategy – the deal with the devil. I may have to pick those Damn Yankees myself this year because they look reborn (24-6 in Spring Training). Will you NYY lovers take the bait?
Let me know by Sunday.
March 26, 2017
By this time next Sunday
Your selection work will be done and the MLB players’ long season will begin.
ATL@NYM starts the season at 1:05 EDT. That’s the first Sunday Day Game Opener in my memory. In fact, there will be three Sunday Opening Day day games, with BAL@TOR and BOS@PIT preceding the now traditional ESPN Sunday Night Opener, World Champion CHI@STL.
Of course there really are no traditions left. Remember when CIN, the very first professional team, always played the season opener? Notice the interleague game on Opening Day? And shouldn’t the Cubs get to open at home as one last celebration of ending the curse? I guess they will delay that until their home opener on April 10 against LAD (a night game at Wrigley, by the way – tradition?).
Oh well, at least B.A.B.E.S. is building its own tradition. This will be our 10th year. In nine competitions we have had nine different winners. All of you who are looking for your first title, take heart! And get your picks in by next Sunday.
March 20, 2017
Spring Training Report
Have you been paying attention to Spring Training? If not, here are a few highlights for you to consider when making your picks:
The Colorado Rockies’ camp has looked more like a M*A*S*H unit than a baseball camp.
Most teams must think it has been Spring Break rather than Spring Training, with so many players out of camp for the World Baseball Classic. My team, the Astros, have been without 5 key players for the entire camp due to the WBC (Correa, Altuve, Bregman, Beltran and Gregorson – 6 if you count Aoki). Although the WBC has had some very exciting games, it will be interesting to see how the greatly disrupted camps impact the upcoming season.
We know one disruption already, with Salvador Perez suffering a knee injury. He is supposed to be okay, but those events are the kind that could kill the WBC. Also, with the USA advancing to the semi-finals for only the 2d time, there is more opportunity for disaster. I hope none occurs because I really like watching the WBC games.
Finally, Tim Tebow got a few hits, made a few catches, and managed to get assigned to the Mets’ low-A team. Not bad, but also not-coming-to-a-MLB park near you soon.
Even so, one member has already picked the Mets to be World Champs. I wonder if he was counting on Tebow?
Looking forward to getting your picks on or before April 3.
March 4, 2017
Did you know?
That it has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs won back-to-back World Series? Could this be the year they finally break the curse?
And adding to the mystery of the Cubs finally winning one World Series, for the first time in recorded history there was no recorded snow fall in January or February in Chicago. What in the name of Joe Maddon is going on here?
I hope you are thinking carefully about that, as well as starting to make your B.A.B.E.S. predictions for 2017.
The age of the winners of the last 3 Rocky’s has been 15, 14 and 85, respectively. Isn’t is about time we get some production from the middle of the order?
For those of you with short memories, here are the predictions you must make:
– the winner of each division and the two wild card qualifiers from each league; the pennant winners from each league and the World Series Champion.
– the MVP, Cy Young winner and batting champ from each league.
The outline and point system can be reviewed here: https://babesbaseball.wordpress.com/membershipcompetition/.
Send me your selections by replying to this email and completing the list below by Noon on April 3.