Mets shouldn't hesitate to spend big on Michael Conforto
Mets' wait to play is so very 'weird'
Resisting drastic steps, scrapping Mets-Nationals series was right call
Postponed Mets opener a harsh reminder of ongoing COVID-19 battle
The risk Mets are taking with Francisco Lindor's $341 million contract
PHILADELPHIA — April is the cruelest month for the tiny society of people who predict Major League Baseball season outcomes.
Let’s say you put your name on the idea that the Atlanta Braves will win it all this year. Then you watch them stumble out of the gate, getting swept in three games by Joe Girardi’s Phillies.
That’s when you have to remind yourself that playing the first three games out of 162 would be like running the first 11 seconds of a 10-minute mile. That you certainly wouldn’t stop running after 11 seconds if something went wrong. You keep running. Therefore you stick to what you published less than a week ago.
(By the way, this calming technique also can apply to fans who worry that their team is, say, 1-2).
Last year, I picked the Dodgers to make the World Series…and lose to the A’s. Oh well.
Here’s a deeper dive into why I went the way I did with this season’s picks:
1. New York Yankees
2. Toronto Blue Jays (WC)
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Boston Red Sox
5. Baltimore Orioles
Yup, I’m going to stick with the Yankees to prevail despite their sudden transformation to the 2018-19 Mets on the days that Jacob deGrom starts. There’s too much talent here, too many strong track records, to think otherwise. And I think enough guys from their upside pitching play, be it Domingo German, Corey Kluber, Luis Severino or Jameson Taillon, will succeed sufficiently for this group to post a 97-65 record.
If you watched the Blue Jays take two of three from the Yankees in The Bronx, you sneaked a peek at their foundation of young talent – and their big winter catch George Springer isn’t even active. They’re legit. They’ll stick around to qualify for October.
I don’t think the Rays will do the same as they defend their American League crown. Too many doubts linger about their pitching’s ability to duplicate last year’s results and their offense’s potential to greatly exceed last year’s results.
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Minnesota Twins (WC)
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Detroit Tigers
Don’t tell anyone, but when I originally submitted my picks, I designated Eloy Jimenez as my AL Most Valuable Player. The very next day, poor Jimenez ruptured a pectoral tendon and will miss most if not all of the season, prompting the White Sox to oddly place Jimenez’s jersey in their dugout, the sort of tribute we typically see from fates far more dire. Nevertheless, while I switched my MVP pick to the Angels’ Anthony Rendon, I stuck with the Chisox winning the division because as high a ceiling that Jimenez possesses, he doesn’t pitch. And the White Sox’s pitching staff looks scary good to support a still-impressive lineup, albeit one that saw young stud Tim Anderson leave Sunday night’s game early.
The Twins are the Twins. They’ll be right in the thick of it again with that pretty big matzo ball of 18 straight playoff losses hanging out there.
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland Athletics
3. Houston Astros
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Texas Rangers
Shohei Ohtani’s first start of the season began amazingly before concluding in disturbing fashion; the Angels say he’s OK. If he can stay healthy and provide value as both a starting pitcher and designated hitter? Wow. New general manager Perry Minasian really upgraded the roster he inherited with under-the-radar moves like the pickups of shortstop Jose Iglesias, closer Raisel Iglesias, starting pitcher Alex Cobb and others. It’s time for Mike Trout to finally win a playoff game or three.
The Astros just thoroughly thumped the A’s for four straight games, silencing the Oakland fans who wanted to finally boo them for their sign-stealing. The A’s pitching should recover, and the Astros’ pitching depth stands in question, which is why I put the defending division champs ahead of Dusty Baker’s group, with neither qualifying for the playoffs.
ALCS: White Sox over Yankees
I do wonder whether the Yankees’ repeated October disappointments will weigh on them, whereas the White Sox can go into the tournament relatively fresh, with skipper Tony La Russa, who turns 77 on October 4, the oldest manager to reach the World Series.
1. Atlanta Braves
2. New York Mets (WC)
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Washington Nationals
5. Miami Marlins
I am bullish on the Braves despite their rough start out of the gate. They field a fierce offense and an intriguing pitching staff, and they have built an organizational culture as good as any that allows newcomers – like Marcell Ozuna last year and Josh Donaldson two years ago – to thrive.
Within the Mets, I am bearish on Francisco Lindor, Edwin Diaz and Jeff McNeil, among others, for 2021. Yet their vastly improved roster depth enables them to cover up for dips to some as long as enough people meet or surpass their projections. I believe that will happen to the tune of a 90-72 record and a wild-card berth, their first playoff appearance since 2016.
More than any other team this opening weekend, the Phillies have made me question my placement of them (for third place). Because they would’ve made the playoffs last year if not for a historically awful bullpen. And if Dave Dombrowski fixed that bullpen…well, I placed them third because I think their overall talent can’t match up with the Braves’ and Mets’. Meanwhile, we’ll get a better idea of the COVID damage to the Nats, whom I put fourth, over the next few days.
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
In a winter defined by cost-cutting throughout the industry, this division arguably took the hardest. Credit the Brewers and Cardinals for doing the most among the least here, and Milwaukee gets the edge thanks to a starting rotation topped by Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff as well as an outfield that welcomes aboard Jackie Bradley Jr. to join Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich (and Avisail Garcia). The Cardinals should be very concerned about their pitching.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Diego Padres (WC)
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies
How can you bet against the Dodgers, easily the roster with the highest ceiling and the deepest well in the business, to prevail in the marathon of the regular season? They have put together more contingency plans than Chuck Rhoades in “Billions.”
The Padres might have pulled off the most fascinating winter of any club, adding a trio of starting pitchers (Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell) and extending dynamic Fernando Tatis Jr. _ consequently raising the bar for Lindor _ to make their 19 regular-season matchups against the Dodgers must-see TV. They and the Dodgers should feast on the rest of their division.
NLCS: Braves over Padres
Even coming off a mere 60-game season, don’t underestimate the hangover effect of defending a title, the Dodgers’ 2020 title proving particularly emotional given the 32-year drought and the pandemic hurdles. I also will be impressed if Trevor Bauer, given his history, manages to avoid creating any mini-crises that drain the energy of his teammates.
World Series: Braves over White Sox
No, the All-Star Game won’t be in Atlanta, thankfully and correctly, but there’ll be no keeping the Fall Classic out of there. Series MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. will showcase his talents on the biggest stage to give the Braves their first title since 1995 and the NL East its sixth since the Mets last won it all in 1986.
This week’s Pop Quiz question came from the late Jan Bottone of Wellesley, Mass.: Name the former American League Cy Young Award winner who released a country-music album called “No Secrets.”
There’s a podcast called “This Life Ain’t For Everybody,” hosted by Chad Belding, that has welcomed a handful of well-known ballplayers. Most recently, Belding held an interesting conversation with Brewers All-Star reliever Josh Hader. It’s worth checking out.
Your Pop Quiz answer is Barry Zito.
If you have a tidbit that connects baseball to popular culture, please send it to me at [email protected]
Share this article:
Source: Read Full Article