Most informed baseball scribes are hesitant to make outrageous claims and statements for fear of the backlash. But as an uniformed hack I have the creative license, and general lack of viewing audience, to throw as much crap against the wall in the hopes of making just some of it stick. Here are 10 bold predictions for the second half of the 2012 MLB season starting with..
#1) the Boston Red Sox will make the AL playoffs and Bobby Valentine will be named AL Manager of the Year. There is much too much talent on this Boston roster to let a little dysfunction ruin the season. They are after all only 9.5 games behind the first place Yankees and can expect Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, and Clay Buchholz to all return to the lineup soon. With enough time to make a playoff push look for Bobby V to garner much of the credit for changing the culture of the clubhouse by directly challenging the credibility and accountability of underachieving players OR things continue to backfire and Boston finishes dead last in the East and Valentine returns home to Stamford, CT where he will resume his duties as Director of Public Health & Safety.
#2) Speaking of health and wellness, the Texas Rangers will finish the regular season with the best record in baseball but fail to make it out of the divisional round of the playoffs due to a season ending injury to Josh Hamilton. Nobody wants to see an athlete get injured, especially one as talented and transcendent as Hamilton, but backs can be tricky things. There is no rhyme or reason to a bad back. I have a colleague who spent an entire morning on the floor of his office after spasming when he bent over to tie his shoe. Every time Hamilton swings through a first pitch changeup or runs into the outfield fence it looks like he is on the precipice of completely throwing his spine out of alignment. I hope I’m wrong about this because we all want to see the best teams and players on the field when it counts most.
#3) Which leads us to the Steel City where the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to win the NL central and Andrew McCutchen is your NL MVP. I jumped on the Pirate bandwagon pretty hard last year and that didn’t go so well but I’m hoping this year is different because @thecutch22 is the Man and there is just something about the way he carries himself on the baseball field that inspires confidence in others. A .362 average with 18 HRs and 60 RBI doesn’t hurt either. Props also for having the coolest twitter handle in baseball, a title formally held by @JoeyBats19.
#4) Cole Hamels will be dealt away by the Philadelphia Phillies before the end of the trading deadline. There is no guarantee that he wants to resign with Philly anyway, even if they do end up throwing boatloads of money his way. The smart move is to trade him away for a couple of major league ready prospects in the hopes that these new bats can add depth to a lineup that once again features a healthy Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Can we talk for a second about how good the 2013 Dodgers rotation would be with both Clayton Kershaw and Hamels? The Dodgers, who were my preseason pick to go to the World Series, may have too wait another year because…
#5) The San Fransisco Giants are going to win the NL pennant. For the record, I’m basing a significant portion of this prediction off of what I witnessed in Tuesday’s ASG. And what the heck happened to Melky Cabrera? When he was with the Yankees nobody believed that the Melkman was going to be anything more than a 4th outfielder at best. If the Giants can get anything out of Tim Lincecum, who posted a 3-10 record with a 6.42 ERA during the first half, during the rest of the season then they have to be considered the favorites to win the NL where they will face…
#6) The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It’s like 2002 all over again. Except Mike Trout is faster than Darin Estrad and Mark Trumbo hits the ball an average of 100 feet further than Tim Salmon. And that’s before even mentioning Albert Pujols who, unbelievably, isn’t even the best player on the team right now. How long is his new contract again?
#7) Much to the disappointment of the entire state of Missouri, Robinson Cano will finish the season with the most homeruns in the AL. He already has 20 HRs and I’ll say he closes the year around 42. And for the record Kansas City, I wouldn’t have chosen Billy Butler for the HR Derby either.
Speaking of the derby, for the 2013 ASG, MLB is going cut down the length of the HR Derby and add a skills challenge where multi tooled players like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper compete in a series of challenges like hitting the ball to the opposite field, robbing homerun balls, and a timed first to third sprint. And before all you baseball purists get your trading cards in a bunch, ask yourselves this question: does the HR Derby really need to take 3 hours? Wouldn’t one round of competition suffice?
#8) The Chicago Cubs will finish with the worst record in baseball but their young 1B Anthony Rizzo will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award over Bryce Harper. It’s going to take Theo Epstein a few years to right the ship but Cubs fans are accustomed to waiting. And with players like Rizzo and Starlin Castro providing a foundation for years to come, the future is bright on the Northside.
#9) At some point this season Bryce Harper will be sent back down to the minors. Bold right? And for Harper it’s not a question of talent but, in my opinion, the kid cannot be mentally prepared to handle a pennant race. He’s only 19 years old and when most of us were that age we couldn’t figure out how to get to class on time let alone lead a team to the MLB playoffs.
#10) And finally, months will pass and yet Tony La Russa will still be unable to offer up any sort of valid reason for why he chose not to start RA Dickey in the All-Star Game.