Monday, August 20, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Pennant Races

The baseball season is still interesting for about 15 cities in America right now. With the addition of the Wild Card, almost everyone is still in this thing. The Dodgers haven't won a game since the All Star Break, but they're still just 6 back for the wild card. Sweet!

You'll get a lot of windbag analysis about who is going to make the playoffs and why every time you turn on ESPN. That is a complete waste of time. I'll tell you right now what is going to happen, and then we can all marvel at my genius as it unfolds. (Or none of it will happen, but by then you'll forget all about this post.)

Boston Red Sox: They're in even though it appears that Eric Gagne is a complete disaster. Still, for Gagne to singlehandedly giveaway their (once)commanding lead in the AL East would be an incredible feat I would love to witness firsthand. I just don't think he has the commitment necessary to carry the whole team on his back down the shitter. He'll do what he can, but he can't do it alone. These madcap lovable underdogs (with the $200 million dollar payroll) will finish it up and win the East.

New York Yankees: Of course they'll get in the playoffs. Like the inevitability of a long term losing fight against cancer, the Yankees always come out on top. a $300 million dollar payroll will do that for you. The good part is that they'll flame out in the playoffs since the only reliable starter is Pettitte. They'll look old and brittle again in the playoffs, but they'll get there.

Cleveland Indians: At first glance, they really have the stink of a loser. But the thing to focus on here is how good the starting pitching has been. CC has been lights out, and every team that faces Carmona trips over themselves to say how filthy he is out there. Westbrook and Byrd have been good since the All Star break too. Sure, no one can get a hit except Victor Martinez, Ryan Garko and Grady Sizemore. Guys like Blake, Barfield, Peralta and Lofton will somehow get on base once in awhile. Hafner is hitting .250, so he'll even hit someone in on the "blind squirrel finding a nut" theory. When you only give up 3 runs a game, your chances of winning are pretty good. The wild card here is the Joe Borowski factor. That guy is falling apart. My verdict? In and a quick exit from the playoffs.

Detroit Tigers: All the national pundits think it's going to be roses in the Motor City now that Joel Zumaya is back. When was the last time he pitched? Spring training? These guys have totally sucked since the break, and the problem has been bad starting pitching. On top of that their bullpen ERA is about 5.00, so they have to score about 11 runs a night. That's going to be an issue. I don't think they do it unless they kick the crap out of the Indians this week. Out.

LA Angels: This team look like it could be trouble for the rest of the American League. They've got 24 of their last games at home, and they're 40-17 at "fake rocks in the outfield" Park. That and their starting rotation should carry them over a Seattle team I just can't seem to believe in. Which brings us to...

Seattle Mariners: Any team with Ben Broussard in their starting lineup is going to have a problem at crunch time. Broussard will be tighter than a guitar string and wiff at the worst possible time. Guys on the corner with one out? Here comes Broussard swinging at air on the high fastball. I have "the book" on him, so why wouldn't the American League? They've had a remarkable year, but it's not time for them yet. Out.

Everybody else in the AL? They're done. Period.

New York Mets: They're in and apparently the class of the NL. Does this mean they'll win the NL and compete in the series? Probably not. But they'll get in the playoffs. I like Glavine, Maine, and Hernandez in a short series. Wagner can still get it done as a closer. It just seems like they'll lose in convincing fashion in the playoffs, doesn't it?

Philadelpha Phillies: I don't know why this team can't get it done. Everywhere you look, there's a really good player. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand, Ryan Howard, and Shane Victorino are all really good (and in some cases great) ball players. Cole Hamels is a witch. But then you notice that Charlie Manuel is managing, Russell Branyan is getting key late season at bats, and Adam Eaton is a starter. They even think it's a good idea to give the ball to Kyle Lohse every 5th day. That's all you need to know. They will lose in heart breaking fashion somewhere in the last few days of the season. You'll see video footage of a glum Jimmy Rollins in the dugout watching a bunch of opposing players high fiving each other as the rest of the smiling Phillies pack their bags for an off season fishing trip in Cabo. It's so clear it's like it already happened.

Atlanta Braves: They don't have any real reason to be in the mix, but yet here they are sitting just a few back. I like the mix of players on this team, and the trade deadline moves were huge. Teixeira has been mashing since he got out of Camp Dead End (aka Texas Rangers), and they've got 7 guys hitting in the neighborhood of 300. The duo of Hudson and Smoltz is rock solid. I like these guys to track down the Wild Card, and maybe...just maybe, tracking down the Mets to win the East.

Chicago Cubs: Yes, the feel good Cubbies are making it happen and everyone feels like it's going to happen too. I wouldn't be so sure. Something about this team doesn't seem right to me, and there's that whole "Cubs Thing" that can't be ignored. Zambrano, Hill, and Lilly are all pretty good with Zambrano being the class of the staff. But, who would you rather have on the hill in a must win game: Zambrano or Smoltz/Glavine/Peavy/Webb/Penny? I'd take any of the other potential playoff teams #1 over him. There's going to be a sickening media crush around this team, but don't be duped. They don't have enough.

Milwaukee Brewers: Now there's the kind of total collapse you just don't see very often. If this had happened in a city like New York or Boston, there would be bodies in the streets and Chris Capuano's head posted on a stake at the city limits. Since it's Milwaukee, 10,000 season ticket holders are grumbling while having another brat. Nobody else gives a shit. They overperformed in the first half, took the All Star break, saw they were in first, and flipped out. They are now assuming their place as the Toronto Blue Jays of the National League...a pretty good team that can't get enough payroll together to truly compete to win. I think they have a shot to finish 4th in the Central if they totally freak in September.

St Louis Cardinals: The Cards had one legitimate starter after winning the World Series last year in Chris Carpenter. After Carpenter's first start, his arm fell off, and they were screwed. They have one guy hitting over .300 (Pujols) and one pitcher with more than 10 wins (Adam Wainwright). Their bullpen is OK though (3.83 ERA) and they're winning games like they did last year at this time with timely hitting. I don't know how, but I think they'll win the Central. This is based mostly on the fact that the Brewers are terrible right now, and the Cubs will choke. Unfortunately we'll have to hear about what a genius Tony LaRussa is again, when I'm not sure he could get a pizza and a six pack to my house if I gave him $20 and directions.

Arizona Diamondbacks: They will finish the season scoring less runs than their opponents and make the playoffs. Why? They have good starting pitching, and must give up when they get blown out early. Brandon Webb has been unhittable, and an influx of young hitters make them pretty legit to make some noise. They'll flame out in the playoffs for sure, but this is my lock team to get in. Grab whatever odds you can on them. Why? Two reasons: The Dodgers and Padres.

LA Dodgers: These guys suck all of a sudden and I don't know why. But make no mistake, they do suck. Russell Martin is a great catcher, Brad Penny is a hammer, and then it's a bunch of guys. Jeff Kent leads the team with 16 home runs. Didn't A-Rod hit 16 in a week of April? Juan Pierre steals a shitload of bases but can't draw a walk. Consequently, he's not really on base that often. Nomar is a shadow of the player he once was in the glory days. You know who leads them in hitting? Andre Ethier. No, I don't really know who he is either. It just ain't happening here.

San Diego Padres: They've got some really good pitching and a bunch of crappy everyday guys. How crappy? You know how the Indians can't score any runs? These are all the guys the Indians traded away because they weren't as good as the guys that aren't scoring the runs. It's like a trip down memory lane if you're from NE Ohio. Remember ex-Indian greats like Milton Bradley (on the DL twice already), Kevin Kouzmanoff, Josh Bard, Brian Giles (who has hit seven (7) home runs this year after the steroid crackdown), and earlier this season Russell Branyon (whose 16 hits included 7 home runs. He also hit .197.). Chris Young and Jake Peavy aren't enough to do it alone. They're out.

The rest of the National League like Colorado has no chance. It's over. A couple wagers I like? The Braves to win the NL at 8-1. If they keep playing solid ball they get in. Then they're as good as anyone with Smoltz and Hudson. I also like the Angels at 3-1, but not as much since the odds are a little short. Arizona at 4-1 would be my third flier. Drop a little cash on all three and see what the hell happens. What else do you have to do this October?


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