Once again one of my favorite times of the year is upon us.
College football and pro football are getting underway, hockey training camps are kicking up, and baseball is coming into its stretch run.
As a Texan, my focus tends to be on football rather than baseball. It’s natural. The day A.L. MVP Pudge Rodriguez broke his thumb, all three news stations back home lead off with the same story… Cowboys training camp.
The Cowboys, by the way, were playing golf that day.
This year, however, I’m caught up in baseball more than usual. My Rangers are of course out of the mix, (insert Dr. Claw’s voice, “We’ll get you next time SEATTLE!”) but regardless, it has been an up and down year.
I love the fact that after last year’s cry of baseball analysts was a lack of parity in the majors (you’ll remember that eight teams were within striking distance or managed to win 100 games) it looks like no one will win 100 this year. The White Sox have the best chance, and they’re going to have to go 18-7 the rest of the way to do it.
I think what has made this late season so interesting is the American League Wild Card. Five teams are within five games of the Cleveland Indians for the last spot, including the godforsaken Detroit Tigers, who are three games above .500 for the first time since the Eisenhower Administration.
Other teams have fallen apart completely as the Tigers and Yankees have surged. Baseball’s anointed team at the All-Star break, the Oakland Athletics, are two games off the pace for both the AL West lead and the Wild Card.
With the exception of the San Francisco Giants and the aforementioned (hell yeah, 700 verbal SAT) Yankees, almost every division leader has been average at best since the break.
And so, baseball parity seems to be back, at least for the moment. Some small market teams are winning (even the Marlins had a brush with .500), which is a nice change. It’s hard not to root for a team like Oakland and laugh when a team like Houston or Texas can’t win.
But enough random thoughts, I’ll go ahead and toss my predictions onto the fire, for you to agree or disagree as you please. Yankees and Mets fans, caution here, you aren’t going to be too happy with me. Please don’t kill me. Please.
Prediction one: Five teams are basically a guarantee in my opinion, the Yankees, White Sox, Atlanta, St. Louis and the Mets, despite the fact that the Mets and Braves seem to have very little interest in winning right now.
That leaves three spots. This year, those belong to the Giants, A’s, and Indians.
The Giants are playing some of the best baseball in the majors right now, and I don’t see Arizona catching them. The Indians are playing better than most other Wild Card teams (except for the Tigers, who are entirely too cursed to win) and let’s just call the A’s a hunch.
Prediction two: White Sox and Giants in the World Series.
I think the young White Sox pitching staff (average age, 14) will beat the old Yankees pitching staff (how is old is David Cone? 39? Is that in millions of years?) in the ALCS. I know that defense tends to win championships, but this year may be an exception. Pitching and offense will win championships for the Sox, even if their defense is one of the worst in the league. Say what you will about youth and inexperience, but I think the Sox take the Yankees in seven games.
As far as the NLCS, San Francisco should beat the Braves to advance. San Fran will most likely have a tough road in facing both the Mets and Braves, but there are no easy ways out of the National League. Any of the four teams that get in can get to the World Series. It’s my belief that the hitter friendly Pac Bell Park will ruin the Braves pitching staff. Should be another close series, but I’ll see the Giants in six.
Prediction three: Dusty Baker gets his championship.
The best manager in baseball (no, not Joe Torre) will finally lead his team all the way. I think the pressure (and a certain right field wall in San Fran) will finally kill of the young White Sox team and their pitching staff. I think this year we’ll have a gem of a Series though, and I really am looking forward to all that’s coming up.
If I lost you in all that baseball gibberish, you do have another option faithful sports fans.
I think the Giants are 1-0.
A quick note to everyone who made it this far. Log on to ESPN and go to their fantasy section. Find the college Pick ’em and start picking out the winners of college football games each week. I created a Cornell Big Red group, so if you decide to join, we can show those kids at schools like Ohio State that Ivy Leaguers really do know football. Thanks everyone, see you in two weeks.
Archived article by Charles Persons