This Time, It’s for Real: The Last Days of A-Rod

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The headline above is a reference to a Sports Illustrated column of the same name that was published almost exactly three years ago. The article, written by S.L. Price, detailed how Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez went from heralded prospect to superstar to steroid abuser to pathological liar. The line that stuck with me and many others in the first paragraph of that column: “But the end? The end is pain, and pain is ugly.”

Three years after “The Last Days of A-Rod” ran in SI, Alex Rodriguez has finally reached his painful end. It hasn’t been pretty.

In reality, the entire 2016 season has felt like one singular, massive dead end for Rodriguez; this dead end of his career has no cul-de-sac to turn around from, either. A career .295 hitter, A-Rod is hitting just .204 this year, tied for the lowest figure of his career. That career dates back to 1994, when he came up with the Mariners as an 18-year old wunderkind. The date of his debut, July 8, 1994, came just over a month before the MLB Players Association went on strike and effectively ended the ’94 season. That’s right, A-Rod’s emergence onto the baseball scene predated the most consequential sports work stoppage in recent memory. Now, he’s the only player left from that bygone era.

That changes this Friday. The team and Rodriguez called a sudden news conference at 11:00 AM on Sunday to make an announcement. No one knew what the announcement would be about, but many guessed it had to do with the next chapter of A-Rod’s career. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it was about: the team announced an agreement that would allow Rodriguez to play his final game on August 12 and remain with the team in an advisory role for the rest of this season and next year, as well. The somewhat shocking, abrupt end for A-Rod seems like an unjust conclusion to a career that saw him hit 696 home runs, rack up 3,114 hits, and drive in 2,084 runs.

But it isn’t an unjust end when you think about who we’re dealing with: an avowed and well-known steroid user who lied about his PED use on multiple occasions over the course of many years.

In 2007, Rodriguez was interviewed on 60 Minutes by then-CBS News anchor Katie Couric; she pressed him on his use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez flatly denied using PEDs and even went as far as saying that he “never felt overmatched on the baseball field”. In 2009, Sports Illustrated reported that Rodriguez had tested positive for several banned substances; however, there was, at that time, no punishment for a positive drug test. Because 5% of all players tested positive at some point in 2003, though, Major League Baseball undertook a new disciplinary system that enforced mandatory suspensions for positive drug tests. This system took effect in time for the 2004 season. Rodriguez was in the clear. Or so it seemed.

After the Sports Illustrated report, Rodriguez finally came clean about his steroid use. Calling himself “young, stupid, and naive,” Rodriguez admitted to ESPN that he had indeed been using steroids from 2001-2003, when he played for the Texas Rangers. He also cited pressure to perform under a 10-year, $252 million contract, one that was then the largest contract in the history of professional sports. As repulsive as Rodriguez’s cheating was, it was at least somewhat understandable as to why he would do such a thing. Think about it: player signs massive contract, feels pressure to live up to it, crumbles under that pressure, caves to using steroids. Okay, fair enough. Even with the denials and the lying and the naiveté, fair enough. It would surely be a mistake that Rodriguez would learn from and not make again in the future.

Except that wasn’t the case at all. Rodriguez failed us, the Yankees, and himself four years later. Again.

In early 2013, documents obtained by the Miami New Times linked Rodriguez and several other players (Nelson Cruz, Ryan Braun, Bartolo Colon, others) to a clinic in South Florida known as Biogenesis. MLB’s investigation into the matter spawned several 50-game suspensions, a 65-game suspension for Braun, and worst of all, a 211-game suspension for Rodriguez. In this situation, Rodriguez could have admitted guilt, cut his already enormous losses, and moved on with his prolonged exile with whatever reputation he had left. Instead, he did what he’s been doing for the past ten years: denied any wrongdoing even against a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

It went that way until shortly into 2014. On February 7 of that year, Rodriguez announced that he would be (mercifully) dropping all of his lawsuits against Major League Baseball in the Biogenesis matter. The concession of defeat in the case seemed to signify that A-Rod had finally run of legal options and could no longer pursue any more rulings in the court of law. He would serve his suspension for the 2014 season because he had finally reached checkmate.

In reality, February 7, 2014 marked a line of demarcation in Rodriguez’s career and, more importantly, his life. From then on, he changed, or at least he seemed to.

From that date forward, he seemed more humble, more contrite, and more giving of his time. He said in an interview with Tom Verducci that he was “happy and relaxed”, seemingly a far cry from feeling “enormous pressure to perform” in Texas. A-Rod was A-Rod as we’ve never seen him before, or at least not recently. He was happy again, having fun playing the game, and even making us forget about the years of steroid use, denial, and lies that predated his renaissance.

He was just different. He even went on TV for FOX during the MLB playoffs last season and he was…. good. Really good. His opinions on hitting and the game in general opened many viewers’ eyes to his baseball IQ, an aspect of his game that was overshadowed by his talent and, later, his fall from grace. He was even likable, consistently cracking self-deprecating jokes about his career and life in baseball. He even gave fellow disgraced legend Pete Rose this sage advice in the middle of a rain delay during Game 6 of the NLCS:

And, like I said earlier, he was really smart. He said before Game 1 of the World Series that if the Mets “catch the ball”, they would win the series. Sure enough, in the bottom of the first inning, this happened. Prescient analysis, indeed.

And that’s why his new role with the Yankees, as an adviser and special assistant, is just perfect for him. Very few people know the game quite like A-Rod does, and his ability to impart that knowledge to the Yankees’ young players could be critical in their development. It has been said multiple times that the Yankee players, and particularly the Latin players, adore Rodriguez, and there’s a reason why: the 40-year-old has become something of a father figure to them, giving them tips and advice that he’s learned over the course of 23 years in professional baseball.

This role for A-Rod is starkly different than the role he played in baseball for so many years. That role evolved over time. He started as a prodigy and then became a superstar, multi-millionaire, pariah, liar, pariah again, liar again, mentor, father figure, and, finally, legend. When it comes to the Hall of Fame, he has no chance of getting in; unlike Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and others, Rodriguez actually failed multiple drug tests. The aforementioned names aren’t getting in the Hall anytime soon, and Rodriguez probably won’t ever get in. He has himself to blame for that omission, especially considering that he was headed for Hall of Fame numbers in the first seven years of his career with the Mariners. It is uncertain whether or not he would have kept up his production without PED assistance, but we’ll never know if he would have. That’s the shame of this.

Alex Rodriguez is many things to many people. He is one of the most polarizing athletes in sports, but he seems to have changed quite a bit since the early days of his career. Some changes have been for the better and others have been for the worse. He’s far from perfect and his reputation will never be saved with those who are unforgiving to steroid users.

But it’s hard not to acknowledge this: statistically, he’s one of the best hitters in the history of baseball. Consider this: for each 162-game season, Rodriguez has averaged 41 home runs, 121 RBI, 19 stolen bases, 78 walks, and 181 hits. Not bad at all.

That hitter, disgraced as he is, will soon leave us. We’ll never get the chance to watch him again after this Friday and his impact on the game, positive and negative, will live on for years to come.

Let’s cherish him, as his last days really are upon us and his departure from the game is imminent.

Winners and Losers, MLB Trade Deadline Edition

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The MLB trade deadline has come and gone, and there was plenty of intrigue and even more dealing to go along with it. Of course, with every trade deadline, there are winners, losers and teams that stayed quiet. These are the stories of the winners and losers of baseball’s trade deadline. There will be three of each type of team, and there will be explanations as to why they are in their respective categories.

So let’s get this started: here are the MLB trade deadline’s winners and losers.

Loser: Houston Astros

If you’re trying to find positives for the Astros at the trade deadline, consider this: they didn’t do anything. On the other hand, if you want to try to find a negative for the Astros this year, it would be that….. they didn’t do anything.

While that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the results of last year’s trades, the Astros’ inaction runs counter to what the Texas Rangers, the team Houston is trying to catch to win the AL West, did on Monday. Texas acquired outfielder/designated hitter (but really designated hitter) Carlos Beltran from the Yankees and catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers; more on them later. The Astros did absolutely nothing, unless you consider trading away Scott Feldman and Josh Fields to be earth-shattering, landscape-changing moves in the AL West.

Those moves are most certainly not that, and the Astros did not acquire any pieces that will help them reach the playoffs this year. If you consider GM Jeff Luhnow’s nonintervention a positive thing, you probably don’t agree with Houston’s placement on this list. But I, like many others, see it as a negative, so the Astros are definitely a loser here.

Winner: New York Mets

Okay, Jay Bruce is certainly not Yoenis Céspedes. Céspedes, the Mets’ prime deadline acquisition last season, hit 17 home runs for the team in just 57 games. He’s back this year, but has been hobbled with various injuries for most of the season. Hence, the result of Céspedes’ health mixed with the collective failure of the rest of the Mets’ lineup is a team that is currently batting .205 with runners in scoring position on the season. Yes, .205. That’s historically godawful.

The acquisition of Bruce, though, may alleviate some of those struggles. Bruce is hitting .360 with runners in scoring position on the season; the problem is that he has been inconsistent in past years with runners on base. It’s hard to predict how Bruce will do in the Mets’ lineup, but this much is true: he leads the league in RBI and is having the best season of his career.

The trade for Bruce is far from a perfect acquisition for the Mets. The team now has four corner outfielders, no healthy center fielders, and is still dealing with injuries up and down the roster. However, Bruce will provide an immediate lift for the offense, even if he isn’t going to come close to Céspedes’ production from the second half of last season.

The Mets will gladly take Bruce’s offense and worry about positional fit later.

Loser: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates easily had the most confusing trade deadline of any team in baseball. First, GM Neal Huntington decided to ship Mark Melancon to the Nationals in exchange for left-hander Felipe Rivero and prospect Taylor Hearn. Then, Huntington flipped struggling starter Francisco Liriano and two prospects for Toronto’s best AAA pitcher, Drew Hutchison. So basically, the Pirates traded a known commodity in Liriano and two promising commodities (prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez) for an unknown commodity in Hutchison. This would come as a surprise to you if you didn’t know that Huntington was the same person who traded starting second baseman Neil Walker to the Mets before last season for fifth-starter and perennially mediocre lefty Jon Niese.

But wait, there’s more! The Pirates then traded a player to be named later to the Yankees for Ivan Nova. Okay, that’s cool, but why would the Pirates need another starting pitcher when they already had enough to begin with? That’s because the team traded Niese back to the Mets in exchange for Antonio Bastardo in the ultimate junk-in-exchangefor-total-garbage deadline trade.

So yeah, things went really strangely for the Pirates at the deadline. They’re throwing in the towel on this season (we think) but it’s kind of hard to tell what they’re doing when almost all of their moves contradicted each other within the course of just 48 hours. But other than that, everything’s just fine.

Winner: Texas Rangers

This one is almost a no-brainer. Texas made its team appreciably better on Monday by way of two separate trades for Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy. These moves plug obvious holes in the lineup that were previously filled by Robinson Chirinos and Prince Fielder; Fielder is out for the season after finding out last week that he would need a second neck surgery. So the Rangers were able to fill those holes in the lineup, but that’s not all they did on Monday.

In one of the sneakier, more underrated moves of deadline day, the Rangers were also able to acquire relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers in the Lucroy deal. Jeffress has saved 27 games for Milwaukee this year and has quietly been one of the best closers in the game as of late. The Rangers had an obvious need for a closer after Shawn Tolleson’s season-long implosion and subsequent demotion to AAA. Jeffress fills that void, and his acquisition is huge for a team that has been looking for a closer since practically the beginning of the season.

The Rangers were one of the big winners at the trade deadline, making moves to improve their weaknesses while keeping the rest of the big-league roster intact. While Texas gave up several good prospects (Dillon Tate, Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz) to accrue these assets, they’re going for it all right now.

And if you had the best record in the American League, why wouldn’t you push all of your chips to the center of the table?

Loser: Miami Marlins

For as bad as the trade deadlines of Pittsburgh and Houston were, the Marlins’ one has to take the cake. And it’s not even close.

Last week, GM Michael Hill, the replacement for the since-departed Dan Jennings (who happens to be the same person as former manager Dan Jennings), traded pitcher Jarred Cosart, minor-league pitchers Tayron Guerrero, Luis Castillo (not that Luis Castillo), and injured reliever Carter Capps to the Padres. In return for this hefty price tag, the Padres sent pitchers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea to Miami. While neither pitcher is having a great season, both would theoretically help a Marlins staff that has struggled somewhat behind ace José Fernandez.

The problem is that only one of those pitchers was fully healthy.

Rea made his first start for the Marlins on Saturday, going 3 1/3 scoreless innings before leaving the game with arm soreness. Rea’s first Miami start would also be his last; after the team placed him on the 15-day DL, it traded him back to San Diego in exchange for Luis Castillo, the prospect who has originally traded for Rea and Cashner. The Marlins have reasoning for doing this, according to Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

While it’s fair for Miami to be upset with the Padres for giving them damaged goods, couldn’t they have done a little more research before acquiring Rea? Also, the Fish made a trade with San Diego earlier in the summer to acquire Fernando Rodney. In that trade, Miami sent pitcher Chris Paddack, a 20-year-old prospect, to San Diego. Paddack recently found out that he needs Tommy John Surgery; the Padres aren’t crying foul about this. They were aware of the risk in trading players and understood that acquiring a player from another organization wouldn’t be a guaranteed success.

This is a lesson that the Marlins can learn from. But knowing their organizational history, it’s highly unlikely that they will.

Winner: New York Yankees

The Yankees finally did the right thing this year and distanced themselves from mediocrity to build a bright future for years to come. I suggested they do this about 2 1/2 weeks ago, and to the approval of fans and baseball observers, the great rebuild has finally come to fruition. In conceding failure for this season, the Yankees are building a potential future dynasty for years to come, as ESPN’s Andrew Marchand writes:

In acquiring not one, not two, not three … but 12 prospects by trading Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova, Cashman has transformed a Yankees farm system that was once an eyesore into one envied in the game.

Cashman’s plan is somewhat akin to Riley’s plan with the Heat six years ago, when he shaved off salary-cap space to add James and Chris Bosh to form his super team, which reached the NBA Finals four straight years and won two titles. The Yankees have now created a prospect pool which allows them to not only offer gobs of money to free agents, but also gives them the possibility of more glory.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the Yankees could go in several different directions here. They could use their prospects to clear cap space and sign free agents (as Marchand suggests), they could use the prospects as trade chips for present or future stars, or they could keep their prospects and hope most if not all of them pan out. They really could go anywhere from here, and GM Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner should be applauded for building a bright future for the Yankees’ organization.

Watching the Yankees sell is something many of us never thought we would see. But now that they have, it’s easy to see that they made the right decision for the future and betterment of their franchise.

The Toronto Blue Jays Turned the AL East on Its Head This Weekend… Or Did They?


The Toronto Blue Jays, bonkers trade deadline performance and all, still entered last weekend down 4.5 games to the AL East-leading Yankees.  But they had the chance to change that, with three games in the Bronx starting Friday.  And change that they did.

Friday saw a well-pitched game head into extra innings; starters R.A. Dickey and Nathan Eovaldi allowed one run each over seven and six and a third innings, respectively.  After nine, Yankees manager Joe Girardi turned to rookie reliever Branden Pinder, and Pinder rewarded his manager’s loyalty by promptly serving up a solo jack to Jose Bautista.  Toronto won.  3.5 back.

Saturday marked the second start in the Blue Jays career of David Price, acquired from the Tigers at the trade deadline.  He would be facing Ivan Nova, who had been dealing with arm fatigue in recent weeks.  The game was scoreless, until the sixth inning, that is, when Justin Smoak belted a grand slam to break the tie.

Two more Blue Jay runs would be added over the course of as many innnings, Price would pitch seven shutout innings, and the Blue Jays would win again.  2.5 back.

Sunday presented an opportunity for the Yankees to get some of their lead back, with consistent #2 pitcher Masahiro Tanaka hitting the mound.  The Blue Jays sent Marco Estrada to the hill.  Tanaka was plenty good enough to win, only allowing two runs on home runs to Bautista and Josh Donaldson.  But Estrada was better, going six and a third scoreless innings.  The combination of  LaTroy Hawkins, Aaron Sanchez, and Roberto Osuna would not allow a hit the rest of the way, and the Blue Jays completed the weekend sweep.  1.5 back.

Sunday afternoon’s game also featured this piece of abject stupidity, but whatever:

So the AL East looks drastically different today, the complexion of it flipped upside down.  One would assume.

While the Jays have trailed in the division for the majority of this season, numbers, and particularly win-loss records, can be very misleading.

This season, the team north of the border has had the best run differential in Major League Baseball, at +129.  That figure is even better than the one posted by baseball’s best squad, the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cards are 71-40.  The Jays are 61-52.  Why?  One-run games.

While their run differential has been outstanding, their record in games decided by one run has been atrocious.  At 12-23, they have the second worst record in the sport in these games.  Something called expected win-loss record says the Blue Jays should have been 69-44, given their run differential.  That record would be second best in baseball, only behind St. Louis.  But their performance in one-run games has left them playing catch-up all year.

So what do we chalk the Blue Jays’ tough losses to this season? Straight, dumb luck.  The New York Times‘ Victor Mather explains:

Fans are often suspicious of such teams, contending that they lack “heart” or “clutchiness.” But records in one-run games are largely a matter of luck. Teams that fare poorly in close games are just as likely to fare well in them in the future. Teams that do well in blowouts are just good teams, period.

(There is a team worse than the Jays in one-run games this year: The Oakland A’s are 13-26. Though Oakland is an afterthought this season at 51-62, it has a respectable plus-35 run differential, better than the Rays, Rangers and Twins, all of whom are around .500.)
In their 11-1 run, the Jays have outscored their foes by 67-32, and their run differential now stands at 597 to 468, or plus 129, dwarfing the next best team in the league, the Astros, who are plus 78. The Yankees, who still lead the Jays by a game and a half, are plus 61.

Though they cannot match the Jays, the Yankees are having a much improved season in run differential. Over the last two seasons opponents outscored the Yankees. In 2014, the Yanks were 84-78 while posting a minus 31. In 2013, they were 85-77 and minus 21.

Manager Joe Girardi got a lot of credit for keeping an apparently underwhelming team in contention. Most notably, he managed the team to a 30-16 record in one-run games in 2013. But no such magic is needed this season; the Yankees have the numbers to back up their record.

For every team like the Jays whose true abilities were hidden by a poor record, there is a team that fashions a fine record despite a mediocre run differential.

This is exactly the point I’m trying to articulate: the Blue Jays’ “resurgence” really isn’t one; all there is to their recent success is their performing to their potential… and the trades they made.

At the time of Troy Tulowitzki’s first game with the team, Toronto was a mediocre 50-51.  They won their next two games, and on July 30, pulled their second blockbuster trade of the week, picking up David Price.  Today, they’re 61-52, and with the offense humming as usual and the rotation bolstered, the Jays are looking very, very dangerous.

And here’s the thing: Tulo hasn’t played that well for Toronto.  The career .298 hitter has batted just .244 for the Jays, albeit in a scarce 53 plate appearances; this shouldn’t be anything to worry about.  However, his addition has helped the other batters in Toronto’s ridiculous batting order, and this is partially the reason why the trade for him has been successful.  And Price, in just two starts, has allowed exactly one earned run and helped a pitching staff in desperate need of support.  He wasn’t a bad acquisition, either.

So what does all of this mean for the Yankees?  Jacob Shafer at Bleacher Report wrote about that yesterday:

Well, now it’s three games, but the point is taken. The Yankees, however, need to regroup in a hurry.

Beginning Tuesday, they embark on a six-game road trip that begins with a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians and concludes with a trio of contests north of the border against these same Blue Jays.

If Toronto sweeps, or even wins, that series, it’s probable we’ll have a new leader in the AL East. And the two clubs will meet for four more in New York beginning Sept. 10.

Any Yankees turnaround will begin with the offense, which ranks second in MLB in runs scored (yes, they trail Toronto).

But the starting rotation, which owns an ERA of 4.31, needs to pick up the slack. To that end, how huge would it have been for New York to grab Price from the Detroit Tigers at the deadline, adding him to its arsenal and keeping the stud southpaw away from Toronto?

So this is the one important question: are the Blue Jays the favorites in the AL East?

At this point in the season, I’d have to say yes.  They have enough pitching now, and when it gets combined with that crazy lineup of theirs, the Toronto Blue Jays may just be the scariest team in the American League.  They could make a deep run in October, and it is just about assured that their 22-year playoff drought is about to end.

But one thing is clear: their emergence shouldn’t be a surprise.

A-Rod Should Get His Money

As you probably already know, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hit his 661st home run on Thursday night, passing Willie Mays for fourth all-time on the home run list.  However, the feat has now turned into a childish fight over whether A-Rod should get paid a $6 million bonus that was promised to him in 2007.  When he signed his contract then, it stated that he would be paid the bonus, as it is (or was then, anyway) a “marketing opportunity.” However, the Yankees’ organization does not plan to pay A-Rod the bonus because it is no longer a marketing opportunity, due to his repeated PED use and his hitting a good deal of good deal of those home runs while supposedly juiced.

First of all, I’ll tell you my opinion right now, straight up: I think he should get the money.  When an organization signs a player to a contract, it should at least have to fulfill the obligations of that contract.  If the player is forced to play out the contract for the team that signs him, the team should have to fulfill its end of the bargain as well. After all, this is an organization that is able to pay its players large sums of money to its players, especially those who are older and past their prime (Rodriguez is making $22 million this year, the product of the worst MLB contract of all time.)  They are far from financially constrained; they can give up $6 million for one of its players giving their organization publicity, good or bad.

Second, let me just say how ridiculous it is that a player’s organization is regarding an incredible accomplishment as nothing more than a “marketing opportunity.”  Sure, A-Rod cheated (a lot), but for a player to attain an accomplishment as impressive as this in pinstripes?  People will identify that moment forever with the Yankees. More that that, however, for Alex Rodriguez, at this point in his career, this achievement is one that will last a lifetime.  Can the same be said about “marketing opportunities?”  I don’t think so.  I look at this contract just like any other incentive-based deal: if the player reaches the milestone that is outlined in the contract, the team should just pay him the money.  It’s just like if there is a $1 million bonus for a pitcher to reach a certain number of strikeouts.  If the pitcher reaches that number, the team pays him, not for the “marketing opportunity”, but for the accomplishment attained.

Personally, I find this debate to be one of the stupider and more childish sports debates we’ve had in a long time.  It is also stupid and childish on the part of the Yankees to not pay him the money because of so-called “marketing opportunities.”  I wish that the organization would just do the right thing, fulfill its contractual obligations, and pay him his well-deserved money.  But that won’t happen; they won’t pay him voluntarily.

Long live “marketing opportunities.”

MLB Season Preview

NL East

Team W L
Washington Nationals 96 66
Miami Marlins 86 76
New York Mets 84 78
Atlanta Braves 78 84
Philadelphia Phillies 64 98


Discussion: The Nats win this division easily due to the ridiculous starting rotation and their above-average line-up.  The Marlins take a leap forward as Jose Fernandez returns from his Tommy John surgery to put forth a solid second-half of the season.  The Mets improve over last year with the solid addition of Michael Cuddyer and improvements to the bullpen as well.  The Braves stay around the same as they finished last year because their key gains match their key losses.  They are very similar to how they were last year.  And the Phillies are just going to be really, really bad and that’s that.  Their rotation, lineup, and bullpen are all terrible.  They will be the worst team in baseball.

NL Central

Team W L
Pittsburgh Pirates 89 73
St. Louis Cardinals 87 75
Chicago Cubs 81 81
Milwaukee Brewers 81 81
Cincinnati Reds 69 93


Discussion: The Pirates bring back many of the same players from last year, but the addition of Francisco Cervelli behind the plate will help its pitching staff take the next step.  Pedro Alvarez rebounds from a poor season in 2014, leading the Bucs to their first division title since 1992.  The Cardinals will be there; they always are.  They haven’t gotten much better, however, and the division around them has.  They will fall slightly.  The Cubs had a very solid offseason, and look for prospects Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant (when he comes up) to have good campaigns.  The Brewers stay where they were last season, and Jonathan Lucroy has an MVP-caliber season.  Finally, the Reds have a poor season, suffering as the division pushes forward around them.

NL West

Team W L
San Diego Padres 88 74
Los Angeles Dodgers 84 78
San Francisco Giants 81 81
Colorado Rockies 72 90
Arizona Diamondbacks 69 93


Discussion:  The Padres take a leap forward this season, as the additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, James Shields and others catapult the Pods to the division pennant.  The Dodgers take a step back with the losses of Hanley Ramirez and Dan Haren.  The Giants, in an odd-numbered year, take a step back as they lose Pablo Sandoval and, for the beginning of the season, Hunter Pence.  The Rockies and Diamondbacks, two rebuilding teams, round out the division basement, each losing at least 90 games.

AL East

Team W L
Baltimore Orioles 85 77
New York Yankees 82 80
Toronto Blue Jays 81 81
Boston Red Sox 80 82
Tampa Bay Rays 69 93


Discussion: This division only features one sure-fire basement team (the Rays).  The Red Sox improve off of last year, but weaknesses at pitcher and catcher will serve to hold them back.  The Blue Jays, besides the addition of Russell Martin, are not as strong as last year with the losses of Juan Francisco and Melky Cabrera.  The Yankees; who knows?  They could be anywhere from 60 to 90 wins, but on paper, they are an around .500 team.  And the Orioles, this year’s weakest division winner, will have just enough to win the division, along with the comeback of Manny Machado.

AL Central

Team W L
Cleveland Indians 89 73
Detroit Tigers 87 75
Kansas City Royals 83 79
Chicago White Sox 81 81
Minnesota Twins 69 93


Discussion: The Twins carry the bottom of this division, as they are still awaiting the development of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, who are starting the season at class AA.  The White Sox improve off of last year’s showing with additions of Melky Cabrera, David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija help improve the team, but they are still weak at second base, right field and in the bullpen.  The Royals lose pieces from last year’s team, namely DH Billy Butler and ace James Shields; they take a small step back.  Finally, the Indians take a leap of faith to the top of the division, needing all-around solid seasons from Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn to do so.  The Tigers finish second, and have to be concerned over the plight of Justin Verlander.

AL West

Team W L
Seattle Mariners 95 67
Oakland A’s 86 76
Los Angeles Angels 84 78
Houston Astros 83 79
Texas Rangers 67 95


Discussion: The Mariners lead this division, as the addition of Nelson Cruz helps alleviate the pressure of Robinson Cano to produce.  Also, Felix Hernandez wins his second Cy Young leading one of baseball’s best pitching staffs.  The A’s are a mystery, but they will most likely be good enough for second in this division.  The Angels are also a mystery, but I have them behind the A’s because it remains to be seen if Josh Hamilton can figure himself out and if Albert Pujols can have another good season.  The Astros will be a surprise; they take a leap forward this year with the additions of Jed Lowrie and Evan Gattis.  Finally, the Rangers will easily finish last in the division after the season-ending injury to Yu Darvish.






Wild Card Game: Cardinals over Marlins





Wild Card Game: Tigers over A’s


(2)Pirates vs (3)Padres: Pirates in 5

(1)Nationals vs (4)Cardinals: Nationals in 4

(1)Nationals) vs (2)Pirates: Pirates in 7

Explanation: The Nationals easily dispose of the Cardinals in the first round, and the Pirates and Padres play a tightly contested series that goes the distance.  In a  7-game series, the pitching of the Pirates catches up to that of the Nats.  Also, their outfield (Marte, Polanco, and McCutchen) will be this year’s version of the Royals’ outfield last year.  The Pirates win the NL.


(1)Mariners vs (4)Tigers: Mariners in 4

(2)Indians vs (3)Orioles: Orioles in 5

(1)Mariners vs (3)Orioles: Mariners in 6

Explanation: The Mariners’ pitching coupled with enough offense gets them past the experienced Tigers.  The experience of the Orioles, along with the return of Manny Machado, leads them past the Indians.  Then, the Mariners defeat the Orioles in a solid championship series.  They take the pennant.

World Series: (2)Pirates vs (1)Mariners: This series will be tight.  However, the Mariners’ pitching, especially in a three or four-man rotation, allows few runs.  Also, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano have sold series, and the talent on each side in too much for the Bucs.  Mariners win in 6.

Most importantly, this season will be fun.  Your guess is as good as mine as to who wins.