All Star Check-In:
Smudge on the Crystal Ball
How's Round-ball Nostradamus doing at mid season? Like most baseball analysts, my track record is a mixed bag. That's because, despite what the Stat Heads try to tell you, baseball has too many variables to allow for absolute certainty. Every year those of us who love the game end up with egg as a fashion accessory. But, thus far, I'm not doing too badly.
I'm 100% on the money re: the National League Central and close on all the rest, except the American League East, which I declared a toss up, and the AL Central, though I did pick the Indians as my dark horse. The Blue Jays were my pick in the AL East and they are coming on strong and the Orioles are fading.
Biggest Screw-ups: I really thought the Twins and the Diamondbacks would be much better. The Twins have been absolutely putrid–so bad, in fact, that one must contemplate whether their passel of young 'can't miss' players might be busts. The D-Backs spent a lot of money to assemble a win-now team, but are so lost in Roadrunner's dust that the only logical course is to fire the entire management team and hold a fire sale. Right now I would appear to be wrong about the White Sox, who are currently hovering near 2nd in the AL Central. But I still maintain they are overrated and point out that they are just two games over .500.
Just as Bad as I Predicted: The Rays are a lost cause and my mantra remains: "Sell this AAA team to a MLB city." The A's prove that Billy Beane's sabermetrics are as worthless as his pitching staff. The Reds blew up their team, as did the Brewers, so there wasn't much hope there from the start. (Okay, I'll raise the issue: Does faded Cincinnati still warrant a MLB franchise?) The Padres are simply a mess I don't see getting better for some time. We also knew the Braves and Phillies were rebuilding, but the Phils are exactly as predicted: a team that loses more than it wins, but is really fun to watch–as in "watch out" in 2-3 years.
Things to Watch in the Second Half:
1. The Cubs have come back to earth and–as yours truly said–if you live by young talent, you can also die by it. Since the end of May, the Cubs haven't even been a good team, let alone a World Series favorite. I'm standing by my remark that the Cubbies will be hibernating long before the Fall Classic begins.
2. The injury bug has returned the to Mets young staff and this doesn't bode well, as the Mets remain offensively challenged. I look for the Marlins to overtake them in the standings and for the Nationals to win the NL East.
3. It probably doesn't matter who comes out of the NL Central and East, because the Giants and Dodgers are the best teams in the NL. I still think the Giants will win the World Series. The Dodgers are actually a flawed "team," but their pitching will make them dangerous in the postseason. Clayton Kershaw, if he remains healthy, is the hands-down Cy Young winner and, perhaps, MVP as well.
4. I said the Red Sox would be better and they have been, but I doubt they are good enough. Their pitching is pretty bad, actually and, at present, the David Price contract looks like Rusney Castillo Part Two. Look for Steve Wright to return to earth around September 1; knuckleballers need summer air for their pitches to flutter. The Sox must get pitching help to go very far and they will have to overpay to get it. The days of GM hoarding young studs and offloading duds is over.
5. The Yankees have been worse than mediocre; they've become boring! So much to be done, but first: get prospects for Beltran and try your best to get someone to nibble on McCann, Ellsbury, and Sabathia. McCann should definitely be moved—catchers seldom stay in their prime beyond 4 years and he's well past his better days. Either trade or resign Chapman. I'd trade him, but not for middling prospects. If the Cubs want him—and they do–the price is Kyle Schwarber; take it or leave it, because if you leave it, the Cardinals and Pirates both have higher-ranked farm systems. Dump Pineda for any pitching prospect whose pitches travel under 400 feet. Teixeira would normally be a trade prospect too, but his bad knee makes that unlikely. There are very few untouchables on this team: Tanaka, Gregorius, Castro, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo…. The A-Rod Problem: Ultimatum time. Here's the deal: A buy-out if he announces he's done at season's end, then a final swing through the AL with requisite ceremonies. Otherwise, release him and he'll finish his career elsewhere on Yankee bucks, but sans the acclaim he so dearly desires.
6. The Tigers may be facing many of the same decisions as the Yanks. It's simply hard to imagine this team as good enough, especially with the crippling loss of J D Martinez. Should they limp into the postseason and pray for a miracle, or sell ageing assets (Verlander, Maybin, Victor Martinez, Kinsler) while they still have value? If it's my team, I sell.
7. Believe it or not, the Angels are more of a mess still. Their farm system is the worst in MLB and an already horrible pitching staff just lost C J Wilson for the year. Tim Lincecum isn't anyone's answer with an ERA north of 7.50. Mike Trout is having another monster year–so much so that SABR manlove/numbers-crunchers have already proclaimed him MVP. I say he's not an MVP for the simple reason that he's not very valuable on this roster. The Angels could finish 4th or last without him and should consider trading him for the gadzillion prospects he'd bring. Unless they rebuild radically, the future looks more hellish than heavenly for this team.
8. Was the Royals championship a fluke? Let's just say I'm not predicting another in the foreseeable future.
9. Like I said above, I like the Giants to win the World Series, though it sure would be neat if the Indians did so. If not the Giants my favorites are (in order): the Pirates, the Rangers, the Jays, or the Dodgers. Darkhorse? The Indians, of course. The would-need-to-get-lucky possibilities are (in order): Nationals, Red Sox, Astros, Marlins, Tigers, Royals, Mets.