Monday, November 9, 2009

20/20 Hindsight---American League East

  • My predictions in retrospect----American League East:

It's that time of year in which I have to either tear my rotator cuff patting myself on the back (among other places) or issue mea culpas en masse for being-----the rarest of the rares for me----wrong in my pre-season prognostication.

We'll start with the American League East in examining my predictive skills with full disclosure and even-handed (what else?) analysis and none of the caveats and stammering that comes from the stat zombies, "well, harumph, we would've been right if the player lived up to their statistical projections, blah, blah, blah".

No kidding!

American League East, Paul's Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox *(Wild Card Winner)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

American League East, Actual Order of Finish:

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox *(Wild Card Winner)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

New York Yankees:

Paul's Predicted Record: 97-65

Actual Record: 103-59

Do I get 3/4 credit for having predicted the Yankees would win the World Series even though circumstances and outright honesty required I pick against them in the ALCS and the World Series?

In all fairness, my case for the Yankees losing to the Angels in the ALCS was solid enough. The Angels had the Yankees number for so long, weren't afraid of them and had so many intangibles going for them that it was a reasonable belief that the Yankees overworked starting pitching, shoddy set-up crew and manager Joe Girardi's propensity for doing stupid things would lead to his club getting bounced.

That said, I did make the pre-season pick; the did win the World Series; and I did alter that selection in the playoffs. In my defense, it would've been the easiest and most self-interested thing to do if I maintained the pick against my beliefs----and I didn't. I took my beating following the Yankees win and was done with it.

I was right about C.C. Sabathia adjusting to New York and pitching brilliantly; that Joba Chamberlain would struggle as a starter and be moved back to the bullpen for the playoffs; Mark Teixeira behaved in an exemplary fashion on and off the field; and that Andy Pettitte would supplant the more expensive and highly paid imports in the playoffs.

I was wrong about Derek Jeter's range and production at the plate declining (he had a fantastic year----never doubt Jeter); Joe Girardi learning on the job to become a solid strategic manager (someone hide that stupid blue binder); Alex Rodriguez winning the MVP; Chien-Ming Wang having a super year; and the big one----A.J. Burnett getting hurt. Burnett stunned me by staying healthy. His performance was about as expected for someone as talented and flighty as he is, but he got in his 200+ innings and was far more durable than I thought possible given his history.

Boston Red Sox:

Paul's Predicted Record: 94-68

Actual Record: 95-67

I had the Red Sox winning the Wild Card and losing to the Yankees in the ALCS. Jason Bay had as solid a year as I thought, was a reasonable though not identical replacement for Manny Ramirez----but I'm sure the Red Sox were happy with Bay's improved defense and attitude. David Ortiz's fade continued. Their offense was an issue and they did make a bold trade to replace the shot Jason Varitek with Victor Martinez.

It's amazing how a team that had built as large a surplus in starting pitching as the Red Sox that they still needed to search for starters as John Smoltz and Brad Penny were rotten and mediocre, respectively; and Daisuke Matsuzaka got hurt.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Paul's Predicted Record: 82-80

Actual Record: 84-78

I nailed this one.

The way the Rays had everything work right for them in 2008 working with an overmatched manager; a bunch of young players; erstwhile journeymen; and hanging-on veterans wasn't going to happen again, especially in that division. They weren't going to sneak up on anyone in 2009. Andy Sonnanstine was atrocious; Troy Percival got hurt; the planned platoon of Matt Joyce and Gabe Kapler in right field was a train wreck. Their bullpen struggled despite misleading statistics that they had a good year and the team faded out over the last month of the season, at times appearing to quit.

I thought Pat Burrell would beef up the DH spot, but he looked fat and disinterested and was terrible; Jason Bartlett has blossomed into a star, something I never saw coming; and Ben Zobrist proved to be far more than a roving utility player with some occasional pop.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Paul's Predicted Record: 70-92

Actual Record: 75-87

I can't take credit for predicting the demise of J.P. Ricciardi because I've been predicting the demise of J.P. Ricciardi for the past three years. I can take credit for the Blue Jays circumstances reaching critical mass in the mind of Roy Halladay that he asked to be traded. Vernon Wells was a nightmare and their injury-riddled starting rotation and ever-present spectre of Ricciardi and another blow up hovered over the club as things spiraled by the summer.

The Blue Jays weren't as bad as their record indicated. They got off to a very hot start and contended early; my prediction of 70-92 isn't as close to accurate as it appears on paper. How Marco Scutaro became such a good hitter is a mystery; Scott Rolen was having a good offensive year before he was dealt to the Reds.

Baltimore Orioles:

Paul's Predicted Record: 71-91

Actual Record: 64-98

This is the third year in a row in which the Orioles got off to a respectable start and fell off the cliff in the summer. I expected an improvement in the club's fortunes and in a way, I was right. They incorporated some of the impressive youngsters Andy MacPhail's devotion to the farm system and dealing fading vets for prospects has wrought. Their young pitching like Brad Bergeson and Chris Tillman showed promise; Adam Jones and Matt Wieters bring hope to the offense.

I thought the Orioles would fire manager Dave Trembley and make a big move on Tony La Russa after 2009. They kept Trembley and La Russa stayed in St. Louis. I felt the Orioles would improve enough on paper to surpass the Blue Jays; I was wrong, but they did improve because they're no longer relying on fading veterans in favor of developing their own players.

I was pretty accurate about the AL East. There weren't many "boy, did I blow that one" moments in my predictions. I'll make up for it tomorrow when I recap my picks for the AL Central. In short, I picked the Indians to win the division and they were nothing short of a catastrophe. I'll have to steel myself for the unavoidable----that I was horribly wrong about something, believe it or not.

  • Speaking of predictions and mea culpas----or not...

I've never quite understood why people get so worked up when an athlete makes bold statements and predictions and celebrates them when they're right,lambastes him when they're wrong. Nor do I get why even the most swaggering, arrogant, and loudmouthed athlete can't credit their opponents when they lose.

Joe Namath and Mark Messier provided two of the more memorable bits of bluster when they guaranteed their teams would win in the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup playoffs.

Namath made his cocky statement before Super Bowl III when his Jets----heavy underdogs----were playing the mighty Baltimore Colts. The AFL was still seen as something of a subpar joke by most NFL people and Namath had nothing to lose by coming out with his guarantee. What was going to happen if he was wrong? Everyone expected the Jets to get blown out anyway. If he was right, he'd look like a hero; if not, it would've been forgotten.

Messier came through with a hat trick in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the New York Rangers were on the way to their long-awaited Stanley Cup after the team fell behind the New Jersey Devils 3 games to 2. Messier lit a fire under his club and came through on the ice; he would've been a laughingstock had the team not won, but part of that was leadership on the part of the team captain; it was also partially a motivational ploy for Messier himself----and it worked.

What are these players supposed to say? That they think they're going to lose? There's no risk in making such statements. If they win, they were right; if they lose, then whatever.

People get worked up when someone like Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies comes out with his crap, but Rollins is one of those players who needs that kind of pressure to perform----and he's come through many times. The issue with Rollins and others is that they don't know when to stop. After the Phillies lost, he came out with the familiar nonsense with the following:

They were the better team this series.

Do I think we're the better team? I really do. They just executed. I think we weren't playing bad, but they were playing that much better.

They got the hits, we didn't. It's that simple.

Rollins is going to have trouble dealing with his loss of skills in the coming years because his ego is so invested in what he does. Would it be so hard to admit that his team got beaten by the better team? To say that "we're still better" is a character flaw that's embarrassing and stupid. It's not a negative to admit that one was wrong; that they were beaten by a better team. But people like Rollins see it as a weakness to give in on anything. This is why he's never going to change his hitting style or personal style; this is why his career is crashing like a meteor.

Rollins is too egotistical, blind and invested in his persona to make the required adjustments to play at a high level. It's not just class that separates Rollins and his Yankee counterpart Derek Jeter; it's willingness to acknowledge and address frailties. Jeter had a renaissance defensively and offensively because he took steps to overcome his inevitable age-related whittling of skills; Rollins will never do that because he can't.

This doesn't make you a better man.

It's no sin in life to make a mistake; the sin is not accepting those mistakes with humility and doing your best with what's left. Rollins may not realize this, but he's going to learn the hard way----soon.

  • Viewer Mail 11.9.2209:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

So I shouldn't expect to hear about Roy Halladay going to Boston at the GM meetings next week but it's possible. I'll prepare myself accordingly.

Oh, there'll be the inevitable rumors popping up all over the place----many of them ridiculous. Then there'll be the stories of non-existent deals that a desperate reporter heard from a bellhop and ran with to create a splash. This is why I don't believe any deals are "done" until I see said player standing in front of his new team's logo holding up a jersey amid the popping of flashbulbs. Until that happens, I don't want to hear about it.

I'd be shocked if the Blue Jays trade Halladay to the Red Sox. And Halladay wouldn't solve the Red Sox multitude of issues anyway. My money is on Halladay going to the West Coast, most likely the Dodgers; and don't count out the Rockies----Halladay's from Colorado and they have the prospects to get it done.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:

*Cue the sarcasm* Those GM meetings sound like a real blast! The NHL is holding their GM meetings next week I believe, during the season. Why not try that, MLB?

Best line:
"Are Ichiro and Mastui Brokeback buddies in which they're willing to sacrifice anything and everything to be near each other?"

Let's hope not. But if they are, who wouldn't pay to see that!?!

Finally, on Tim McCarver... what you said needed to be said. I agree. Baseball for Brain Surgeons, McCarver's book, rests prominently on my coffee table. It's a fascinating book I recommend to any baseball nut; but you're right, that knowledge has morphed into blind blabberings in recent years. I wish you would've mentioned the worst part of McCarver's situation: that he is stationed alongside Joe Buck. I cannot stand listening to Joe Buck anymore -- way worse than McCarver in my opinion. FOX Sports is run much like FOX News wherein any old piece of shit with an opinion will do.

Um. Not only would I not pay to see Ichiro and Matsui as Brokeback buddies, but I wouldn't even watch it for free. But, to each his own. The Prince passes no judgments.

With McCarver, maybe I'm a little more chafed to him because he was a Mets broadcaster for so long and I had to listen to him as his act grew repetitive and tired. When he was at the top of his game as a broadcaster, it was easy to let little irritants go. Now, it's not just stale, but he's showing his age with laziness as well. Combine that with his pomposity and it's time to move forward with new blood.

Buck is a farce and the only thing that will prove his incapacity to be the "face" of broadcasting is the ill-advised attempt to branch out into a multi-level entity. Where's Artie Lange when we need him? Only Artie can save us. He may be an anti-hero, but it's all we have.


Jeff said...

Following on the coat tails of your Ichiro/Matsui theme, maybe Halladay would only go to Colorado if they brought in fellow Coloradans Chase Headley, David Aardsma and Luke Hochevar... cuz like McCarver teaches us, all baseball players feel more comfortable playing with people who are from the same place.

Yeah, nevermind. That's stupid.

She-Fan said...

Halladay to the Rockies. That would make sense since he's from Colorado. But if the Dodgers pay him more, the home advantage would probably go right out the window. On the other hand, I wonder how the McCourt's divorce will hurt the team's ability to get deals done, Torre's extension aside.