Thursday, March 30, 2006

In Which Rose Makes Some Predictions

Regular season

AL West
The Angels have the strongest lineup, true. I just can't bring myself to pick them. Sorry, it's that whole "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" thing. Just... no. Instead, I'm picking the A's. Any team that has the moxie to take the field in those uniforms has what it takes to win. Plus, if the A's win it all, then I might get to try on a World Series ring. Hey, it makes as much sense as picking the Rangers, Leem.

The Seattle Mariners will continue to be cute when they try.

AL East
Of course it's going to come down to the Red Sox and the Yankees. One will win, and the other will get the wild card slot. Seriously, why do any of the other teams bother pretending to play?

AL Central
I know that you can't really go off of what happens in spring training, but the White Sox are taking such a beating that I just can't pick them to win this one. Cleveland pretty much takes it by default.

AL Wild Card
See "AL Central" above.

NL East
True to form, the Florida Marlins have followed a reasonably successful season by dismantling the team and selling it for parts. Yeah, I don't get it either. Maybe the thought is that having one really good season every seven years or so brings in more money than cultivating an audience.

The New York Mets have a better shot than in recent years simply because they've replaced Mike Piazza with a catcher who can actually throw out would-be stealers at second base. Paul Lo Duca is a former Dodger who fell victim to a Moneyball-inspired trade. He's not the flashiest player out there, but he has -- you will forgive the phrase -- the hustle.

The winner? The Atlanta Braves. Haven't you been paying attention? It doesn't matter who does well for which team. The NL East has been on Braves-take-the-division autopilot for well over a decade, and I don't see any signs that anyone will be waking up any time soon.

NL Central
This one will probably come down to St. Louis and Houston, with the St. Louis Cardinals edging out Houston, because pitching can only take you so far.

NL West
Okay, so I'd probably pick the Dodgers regardless, because I'm all mushy like that -- but, see, I think they actually have a shot this year. First of all, they don't have much competition: The Rockies suck; the Padres are a .500 team; the Diamondbacks will either be dreadful or untouchable; and the Giants are Barry Bonds, which is not a good thing to be right now. But here's the important thing: Grady Little has declared that in the hour before a game, if a clubhouse television is on, then it will be showing tapes of the opposing team. And since his other rules stipulate that there will be no music over the speakers, and no playing of the cards or dominoes, the players will have no choice but to run out to the field knowing what they're up against.

NL Wild Card
Houston. Unless they win their division, in which case it will be the Cards. Unless Arizona has one of their on-years, in which case it's them. Oh, and unless Jim Tracy works a miracle in Pittsburgh. Heaven knows, he has the incentive.


Going on sheer momentum, Boston defeats Cleveland in four.

The Yankees defeat Oakland in five. Sorry. They'll also win in five if the Angels take the division, as they probably will, notwithstanding my pick. It won't really matter anyway.

Obviously, Atlanta's not moving on. They never think that far ahead. Whoever's playing them wins in four games. The other team will likely be Houston. Again.

Dodgers play the Cards. In the ninth inning of the fifth game, with two outs, Dodgers leading 5-4, Eric Gagne stands on the mound. There are St. Louis runners at second and third. The cleanup hitter is coming to the plate. In the number five slot is some kid who dreams of making it above the Mendoza line.

The dugout phone rings. Grady Little calls for time and picks up the receiver.


"I wasn't planning to, Mr. Lasorda" Grady says, calmly. "You shouldn't have done it in 1985, either." He hangs up, and flashes the "walk" signal. Gagne rolls his eyes; it's not like anyone really needed to spell this out. He walks the cleanup hitter, strikes out the kid on three pitches, and -- at long last -- all is right in that little corner of the universe.

Sadly, Tommy Lasorda passes away the next day.

Boston defeats the Yankees, because karma's a bitch, Steinbrenner.

Houston wins in six. Tommy Lasorda is so indignant that he comes back to life and refuses to leave his office all winter.

World Series
Continuing the recent years' parade of unlikely winners, Houston knocks off Boston in six games.

Individual winners
I'm not touching these until the injury reports start coming in. I'll think about it once we see who's staying healthy and who's stepping up to fill in for injured teammates.

Unless some employment falls into my lap, it looks like I'll be free for opening day. Come on, L.A. people. Who's taking me to the game? I'll buy you a Dodger Dog.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

This Is Ponderous, Man

Time for the obligatory prediction entry. This is the one that annualy shows the idiocy of a layman trying to predict sporting outcomes. (How many of you got the Final Four right this year? Hell, I was ecstatic that I correctly "predicted" one of them, especially since I don't follow college basketball at all unless it involves my UConn Huskies.)

For the record, regarding the above parenthetical, I was born in Connecticut and lived close to Storrs. So I have a valid reason for rooting for the Huskies. But enough rhetoric, it's time for the guesses to begin...

Disclaimer: I tend to pick with my heart and not my head. Sue me. And good luck getting any money with that move...

NL Division Winners and Wild Card:
NL East: Atlanta Braves (I'm not picking against them until they show they are mortal)
NL Central: Houston Astros (Even sans Clemens , their pitching is unrivaled)
NL West: LA Dodgers (Counting on a Nomar comeback and a "Little" miracle)
Wild Card: NY Mets (Yeah, right...)

AL Division Winners and Wild Card:
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays (Fingers crossed, even though I'm a Bosox fan by proxy)
AL Central: Chicago White Sox (See note above about Houston's pitching)
AL West: Texas Rangers (And there is the "heart not head" pick)
Wild Card: Oakland A's (Will be tough in this four team division, but possible)

The Astros and the Mets move on, with Houston prevailing in six games.

Chicago and Texas ace the first round, but the Sox pummel the Rangers in the ALCS.

World Series
A repeat of 2005... kind of. Chicago will win again, but this time it will take all seven games.

NL: David Wright, NY Mets
AL: Mark Teixeira, Texas Rangers

Cy Young
NL: Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros
AL: Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins

Rookie of the Year
NL: Prince Fielder, Brewers (barely edging out the Padres' Josh Barfield)
AL: Brian Anderson, White Sox

Manager of the Year
NL: Grady Little
AL: Joe Maddon (Watch out for the Rays...)

Comeback Player of the Year
NL: Nomah ('Nuff said)
AL: Jim Thome

It took me only a half hour, and one beer, to write this one and I didn't give much thought to it before I started. Didn't want to, really. Talk about going with my heart and not my head...

... but that tactic seems to be working out for me lately.

Devin? I'll see you on Opening Day...

Pre-Season Prognostication

NL East: The Philadelphia Phillies have a lot of firepower this season, including shortstop Jimmy Rollins. They'll need it to keep the Braves in line.

AL East: Picking this winner is like picking the Best Soundtrack Oscar winner. Sure, there are contenders, but as long as John Williams is live, he'll win the award. As long as the New York Yankees are in operation and George Steinbrenner keeps sacrificing young virgins underneath Yankee Stadium, they'll win the division. (C'mon, Toronto, prove me wrong.)

NL Central: The safe bet is the St. Louis Cardinals. The outside bet is Houston, if Roger Clemens decides to roost there after May. Whichever team raises the Central flag, it won't be my beloved Cubs. The team is simply not moving forward, and will be lucky to finish above .500. Thanks, Tribune Company!

AL Central: The Chicago White Sox may not repeat as World Series champions, but they will repeat as division winners. The Twins will only miss out on the division title by a couple of games, and will wind up as the AL Wild Card representative.

NL West: The hardest division to pick, because the talent level is lower across the board than any other division in baseball. However, with Grady Little building the team back from the ashes, give me the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles.

AL West: As much as I want to pick the Rangers... as much as I want to drink the last sip of Jon Daniels Kool-Aid... as much as I want to look at the rotation... I can't pick against the California Angels.

MVP: Rangers 1B Mark Teixeira
Cy Young: Twins hurler Johan Santana
Rookie of the Year: Seattle catcher Kenji Johjima
Manager of the Year: Nationals skipper Frank Robinson
Comeback Player of the Year: Jeff Bagwell (sentimental pick, because I want to see him beat the "insurance" scam the Astros are trying to run)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Seven Days

I'm tired of waiting. Yes, I know I'm not the most patient person, but I don't want to talk anymore about the Rangers' off-season moves, the lack of a fifth starter, the iffy injuries, the merit of Jon Daniels' moves, Soriano's outfieldophobia, or anything that isn't in a box score.

The good news is, I only have to wait seven days.

I've been getting calls for the last week asking where my seats are. (See, my friends know that asking whether or not I'm going to the game is just a waste of time.) I did get tickets for an exhibition game on Saturday night, but I'll be working that night. Dammit.

Amanda, my Lovely Betrothed, is as happy about the upcoming season as I am, and will be there for the majority of games with me. Of course, I'd be hard-pressed to match the first game I took her to -- it was a day where I had suite tickets, and ended up hanging out Jon Daniels. She might be a little bit spoiled, but I don't mind so much.

I guess I should try and make a unifying point here, but there really isn't one more than this:

One week from now, I'll be back in Section Five with my Homies. Drinking beer. Screaming for the home team. Loving life.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

In Which Rose Has Cause For Optimism

News flash from Vero Beach: The Dodgers are getting along. I repeat: The Dodgers are getting along.

This was not entirely unexpected; after all, a good portion of the team played together for the Red Sox under new Dodger manager Grady Little. Dodger team owner Frank McCourt has never pretended that the Dodgers were his first choice of team: He first tried to buy the Red Sox, and, when that proved impossible, he bought the team closest to him in and brought Boston to Chavez Ravine. He came close to hiring a Boston GM, too, but he eventually went with someone from the Giants. For about half a second, I was worried that Ned Colletti's presence was proof that the team had been infiltrated by evil baseball fans from San Francisco, but I got better.

The thing I'm liking about Colletti is that he understands the concept of developing players. The Jacksonville AA team is especially packed with talent, and the Vegas AAA team is no collective slouch. Though it must be tempting to rush some of them through the ranks, Colletti has done exactly what he should do: Bring in some veterans to hold down the major league fort for a season or two, until the kids are really ready to take their turn.

The thing I'm not liking about Colletti is that he sometimes shows up with his Giants World Series ring. Yes, it's a World Series ring, and that's something to be proud of -- but, dude. You're with the Dodgers now. Show some sensitivity.

I've read many an article on Grady Little that explains how back when he was managing in single-A ball, the cohesiveness of one of his teams was cemented by a bus accident; and how, in absence of a unifying traumatic effect, he's decided that one big way to cement big-league team chemistry is to have veteran players share their wisdom with younger players. He's got two young catchers, Dioner Navarro and Russell Martin, teamed up with two, well, old catchers, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Pat Borders. If either of the kids becomes the first Dodger catcher in ages to foil a respectable number of steal attempts, then every penny spent on the veterans will have been worth it.

As a plus, Sandy Alomar, Jr. can actually still play, which is looking more and more likely to be a Good Thing come April: With projected regular starter Dioner Navarro recovering from a hamstring strain, other whiz kid Russell Martin will likely be the primary catcher for the first couple of weeks. Problem: He's not used to playing in major league opening-day chaos. (Heck, he's not even used to playing in AAA opening-day chaos. Or AAA at all, for that matter.) So Little's thinking that it might be a good idea to have an opening-day catcher who won't be freaked out by all the loud sounds and bright lights.

Speaking of veterans, Vin Scully is back for his fifty-somethingth season as a Dodger announcer. He's seen it all, and he'll tell you about it without missing a pitch. Like the players, he's easing back into regular-season form, and if he's not at the absolute top of his game -- well, neither are half of the Dodgers. Vin's pushing 80. What's their excuse?

If any new Dodgers happen to be reading this -- and, really, stranger things have happened -- I have three words of advice: Listen to Vin. Vin can peg a player from a mile away. He can tell the kids a thing or two about what it is they're doing, and mention a few players from the past with similar habits, all while pointing out how the outfield shifts for each of the current players and correctly predicting most of the managerial moves. With one quiet comment at a recent press conference, he got Frank McCourt to promise to return names to the back of Dodger uniforms in 2007. Vin could probably also leap tall buildings in a single bound, out-skate Brian Boitano and cure this nasty headache that seems to have taken over my skull, but he doesn't want to show off.

Anyway, listen if you can. For you non-L.A. types, the local radio station that plays the Dodger games usually simulcasts the telecast for the first three innings. They've started streaming since last year, so I'll put up the link if it turns out to include Dodger games.

If the bullpen stays healthy this year, it should be one heck of a show.