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 last year. 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 the great 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 add some experience and upside to go with Guerrero, Bichette and Springer. 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 SEA or even LAA? 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 MLB. That doesn’t ensure that they will win the 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, and will continue in that direction 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 them). On paper, it still feels like STL should win, but the pitching is questionable and the offense seems to underachieve. 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. (See FN below)
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 November 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 borderline 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.
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. 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 last week 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 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 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.)
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. The 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? That bodes well for my MIL pick!) All of this just confirms my addition-by-subtraction theory which will aid in getting Freeman a batting title.
Now you know my 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!