March 30, 2012
In preparing my B.A.B.E.S. picks for this year, I looked back at our selections from the past 2 years. Interestingly, although there were 16 members participating in 2011, there were only 5 separate clubs picked as World Series champs and one of those was the Cubs (which obviously is a statistical outlier that must be disregarded). Further, there were only 8 clubs in the NL picked for the play-offs (again, one of which was the Cubs) and only 9 AL Clubs. That shows clearly that we did not believe there was much parity in the leagues. STL was certainly a surprise World Series winner, but that was due more to their uninspired play for the first 5 months of the season. They were picked by 5 of us to at least be in the play-offs. In 2010, there were only 3 clubs picked as World Series Champ among the 10 participants, and none of them were SFO (3 of us did pick the Giants to be in the play-offs).
Well, my guess is that in 2012 there will be more diversity in our picks for World Champion. It is a certainty that the pool of potential winners will be deeper. I say that first because there will now be 10 teams that actually make the play-offs and therefore be guaranteed a shot at the title, but secondly because in my view there are 10 teams, and perhaps more, that have a World Series caliber line-up. I don’t think any of us would have said that last year, but with the movement of major stars and the rapid development of young players (particularly pitching staffs) several new teams have to be considered.
There are the usual suspects, of course – in the AL you have NYY, BOS, DET, TBR, TEX (can you believe we now consider the Rangers to be a regular contender for the championship?) LAA (any team with Pujols has to be considered, and the Angels weren’t that far away before adding him). In the NL, you have PHI, STL, SFO, MIL, COL, LAD, ATL and ARI (no one saw them coming last year but I’m guessing Kirk Gibson’s first team’s 96 wins was not a fluke).
I assume that some of you, like me, are also considering these clubs: MIA (new in name, uniform, ballpark, roster and manager, with two surprise titles in their history already), TOR (quietly building a contender even in the AL East – Wild Card #2?), MIN (surely last year’s disaster was an injury-caused fluke for this very successful franchise, and they have their old GM back), CIN (one year removed from the play-offs with added pitching depth, but the new closer Madsen is now out for the year).
On top of these real possibilities, there is bound to be a sleeper such as ARI last year. WAS? (bright young stars and an experienced mgr); CLE? (very good for 120 games last year): CWS? (hurt by player departures, but is the absence of Ozzie addition by subtraction?) CHI? (just so that Robert and Tim know that I don’t really hate the Cubs and that I do believe that God can make ANYTHING happen, I’ll list them as a sleeper pick to break the curse in year 105. If they do win it all this year, we’ll know with certainty that there is a God and that He has a very favorable opinion of Theo Epstein.
That’s 22 teams out of 30 (or 21 if you’re an agnostic and prefer to omit the Cubs). I may have even left out one or two others that you guys are considering. So it should be a really interesting year. Let’s see if we can live up to the name Best American Baseball Experts and make some expert selections in the team races, even with such parity. I will be back to you in a few days with some thoughts on the individual awards.
I have already received several entries. Everyone please get me your picks by April 5. I’ll accept any changes up to that time, particularly if you want to change that CHI pick. (Aren’t you NYY fans glad I now have someone else to pick on?)
Those of you in San Antonio mark your calendar for lunch on Thursday, 11:45am, at Acenar.