When Past is Prologue and When it Ain’t
Watching the ESPN opening night game between the Royals and Mets, the conversation was understandably about whether the two teams would make the post-season again in 2016. The Mets have a great rotation, a lousy bullpen, and a lineup that is better than the one they began 2015 with. But was the second half of 2015 just a perfect storm for them in much the same way 1969 was for Seaver, Koosman and company? The writers are picking New York, but some times past just ain’t prologue.
That is my prediction. The Mets don’t have quite enough to make the playoffs in 2016. It is a big surprise but I am picking the Washington Nationals to win 93 games and the NL East. Stephen Strasburg will pitch like it is his walk year and the offense will be bolstered by Ben Revere and Dan Murphy’s contact hitting. After Scherzer and Strasburg the pitching is thin, but look for Lucas Giolitto to give them a big boost in late June if the bats aren’t carrying them.
And I am parting company with many on the Cubbies as well. The last time Theo Epstein had Jon Lester and John Lackey–2011–they were not a formidable duo and I don’t think the Chicago pitching on the northside is as good as on the southside. No, I like the Pirates and that whole Rust Belt thing they have going. They have the best fans, the best ball park and are the closest thing to the Kansas City Royals the National League can offer. I am picking them to make it to the NL Championship Series against the Nationals.
There is going to be a more competitive race in the NL West than in the Central. I like the Diamondbacks because no one else does. Chris Owings can fill in for A.J. Pollack and their starting rotation should be good enough to earn one of the Wild Card spots where they will beat the Cubs because of that pitching thing. The best of the West will be the Giants because Brandon Belt is going to have a big season and Johnny Cueto will too. And like with the Pirates, there is just the whiff of something different about San Francisco. It is where my wife and I spent our honeymoon thirty odd years ago. You could walk down Market Street with a joint even then and I have never gotten over the place. So put them in first place where they will play the Nationals in the NLDS.
The American League ceased to have fascination for me after 1957. I was a big Cleveland Indians fan as a kid and Herb Score was my hero. He had been hit by a truck as a kid and I was a sickly eight year old, not allowed to leave the house but religiously following baseball on the radio and in the box scores. And then the horrible accident happened to Score. It unnerved me. McDougal was maybe the only guy on the Yankees I liked. It was a tough year and I decided I needed a change of scenery and found it in the National League with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Maybe that is why I like the Cleveland Indians all over again, or maybe it is because they are the New York Mets of the American League. They have an anemic attack but the best pitching in the American League. Is there a trade deadline addition that can push them across the goal line? I think Cleveland makes the Wild Card Game against the Texas Rangers, finishing behind the Royals, but beating Texas to advance into the real post season. But the best two teams in the American League are the Blue Jays and the Astros. Bill Gilbert has the scoop on the Astros, but Carlos Correa and George Springer are going to have big years as will the pitching staff. The big bats north of the border will be enough to carry the AL East and the young pitching: Stroman, Sanchez and Osuna, will be very good. I’m picking Houston and Toronto in the AL Championship Game, with Cleveland a sentimental favorite.
I was reading Barry Svrluga’s fine piece about Theo Epstein yesterday and could not maneuver around how a Washington Post sports writer was crying crocodile tears for the Cubbies. Oh boo hoo, hoo. They haven’t won the World Series since 1908. Maybe so, but they made the big dance seven times thereafter and in the more recent past have been in the playoffs seven times as well. The Washington Nationals have seen post season baseball twice since 1933 and there wasn’t even a team for more than three decades in one of the largest cities in the country and the most prestigious in the world. That is a past that should always be prologue to greatness in DC, and Barry is in his walk year.
I would like to predict a Washington and Cleveland World Series. Nothing would make me happier, but I fear that Houston, Pittsburgh and Toronto will upend that apple cart. I’m going to make Bill Gilbert happy and predict a Houston Pittsburgh Championship Series with the Pirates taking the rings.
AL East: Toronto Al Central: Kansas City AL West: Houston Wild Cards: Cleveland and Texas
NL East: Washington NL Central: Pittsburgh NL West: San Francisco Wild Cards: Arizona and Chicago