Tuesday, July 04, 2006
My Preseason Baseball Pix are Holding Up!
Here are the picks I made before the 2006 baseball season began. I think I'm actually doing pretty well. 3 of the teams I picked currently lead their divisions (Mets, Cards & A's), while the others are all within striking distance. Even the Angels, who are five games out right now, are capable of making a run at any time. Check out my picks, exactly the way they appeared on my web site: www.thisgreatgame.com, in late May '06:
My take on 2006
By Ed Attanasio, thisgreatgame.com
Before I make my predictions for 2006, let me go into the five basic reasons why these picks might stink. These are the five factors that can make every single one of my preseason selections meaningless:
1.) Bad Attitudes: If a star player doesn’t like his contract because his completely obnoxious agent gets in his ear and convinces him that he’s underpaid and then the star player pulls baseball’s version of a T.O. – well, that can cause a shift in a team’s attitude faster than you can say “trade me.” Things like sulking, whining to the press, complaining and a general “me-me” approach to life all fall into this category. Can you say Dick Allen, Reggie Jackson or Lenny Randle?
2.) Bad Injuries: Any injury is bad, but to succeed you have to avoid the season-ending ones. A crucial injury to a starting player can hurt a team faster than you can say, “J.D. Drew.” Things like sprained eyebrows, broken fingernails, bad sunburns and cottonmouth do not fall into this category. “Sorry, Kevin Brown. We either need a note from your doctor, or you’ll have to suit up for PE just like the rest of the class.”
3.) Bad Distractions: Strawberry, Gooden, Albert Belle and even Albie Piersall all had one thing in common – they were bad distractions. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, Satchel Paige, Rick Dempsey, Kristi Benson and yes – even little Eddie Gaedel – would be considered good distractions. Team play and practical clubhouse jokes = good. Cocaine and wife beating = bad. Bad distractions can sideline a team faster than you can say, “Hey Dave Stewart – that’s a man!” Things like wild sex parties, strippers turned wives, wives turned strippers and “Hey, I’m not gay!” press conferences all fall into this category.
4.) Bad Moves: General Managers who haven’t purchased “Trades for Dummies” should hit Barnes & Noble before the season starts, because no doubt there will be some doozies again this year. Making a dumb trade or free agent move will hamper a team faster than you can say, “Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio”. Things like trading away top prospects for old suspects and paying top dollar for free agents who deserve to be free for the rest of their lives both fit comfortably within this category.
5.) Bad Managers: How hard can it be if Yogi did it well? Face it, a Sparky Anderson, Dick Williams or Connie Mack comes along once in a lifetime, and they’re aren’t many of those still around, except for maybe Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa. And there must not be many good ones coming along in the near future either -- otherwise why would a team pay big bucks to recycle Jim Leyland? A bad manager that can’t create team chemistry will down a team faster than you can say, “Ted Turner.” Things like leaving relievers in too long; staying with slumping stars too long and sitting in the dugout and taking naps that are too long come to mind. Ever heard of guys like Patsy Donovan or Bill Killefer? No, and you know why? Because no one remembers bad managers!
So, here are my picks and my reasons why:
Chisox: Thome, they are the best in the whole shebang. The highlight of their off-season was a wonderfully touching drama called, “Keeping Konerko.” It’s a ratings smash! They lost pitcher Orlando Hernandez, but instead of crying, promptly went out and got Javier Vazquez, who’s probably a better hurler right now anyway. They will miss Aaron Rowand’s glove in the outfield, but with gritty team-first players like Iguchi, Dye, Crede and Pierzynski, the Chisox should do more than make up for it. This team is well-coached, well-stocked and well; they’ve got AL-that and more.
Yankees: The cast of Desperate Housewives has more chemistry, but who cares – they have so many horses on this club they might just win 90 by accident. Their lineup is strong from Damon to Posada, with a deep bullpen and solid starting rotation, featuring old reliables Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina. If Steinbrenner can stay out of their way long enough for them to get on a roll, the Bronx Billionaires could be there at the very end.
A’s: Billy Beane is moneyballing it once again all the way to the playoffs with a bunch of smart players who take a lot of pitches and have great on-base percentages. While incorporating newer players into the lineup (Nick Swisher, Bobby Crosby); throwing in an incredible array of young arms to complement Barry Zito (Rich Harden, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton) and taking chances on others who may still possess some skills (Esteban Loaiza and Frank Thomas) the East Bay Boys will overcome their opponents with live arms and solid fundamental baseball.
Angels: The team that doesn’t want anyone to know it’s in Anaheim is no longer a Mickey Mouse operation. Say halo to our little friends down Disneyland way, because they’ve got a lineup that is neither Goofy nor Cinderella-ish. They’re just good. With young up-and-comers like third baseman Chone Figgins, first baseman Casey Kotchman and rookie catcher Jeff Mathis, the Angels are doing the right thing by bringing up rookies to mix in with their veteran talent like Vladmir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Bartolo Colon. Getting Jeff Weaver, a late free-agent pickup from the Dodgers, will help the starting rotation for the simple fact that he throws a lot of innings and has never been hurt. And when his younger brother Jared hits the bigs – watch out -- scribes will be waxing nostalgic about the great daze of Dizzy and Daffy Dean.
A.L. Champs: CHISOX
Dodgers: Nomar excuses this time around. The Blue Crew pulled the trigger and went out and got a GM (Ned Colletti) who isn’t afraid to go for the fences. They picked up Nomar Garciaparra, who should have no problem switching to first base; Rafael Furcal, who signed a monster contract and will lead off; Bill Mueller, the consistent third baseman with one of the wisest bats in the game, and wily old veteran Kenny Lofton, who always seems to pop up on good teams and make them better. Add names like the dependable Jeff Kent, and the fragile J.D. Drew to a hurling corps consisting of Lowe, Perez, Gagne, Gagne and Gagne, and you’ve got a team with a ton of potential – to both succeed as well as fail. I’m betting they succeed.
Giants: Will Barry shine? You bet. Will the steroid issue affect his play? No way. The man is in his prime and will once again shine as the premier hitter in the game, right now and for all time. If I wax poetic about Barry Bonds, it’s because he is a specimen we will not see ever again. If his remaining cast of characters doesn’t get distracted witnessing Barry’s heroics this season, they will get into the playoffs and perhaps beyond. Pitchers Schmidt, Morris and Cain won’t have folks reminiscing about Spahn, Sain and pray for rain, but they could come close. There are questions in the bullpen, most of them surrounding the health or Armando Benitez. The infield is solid with Omar Vizquel at short, Pedro Feliz at third, veteran Ray Durham at second and promising sophomore Lance Niekro at first.
Mets: Mets’ fans have waited way too long to be back on top. They’re tired of hearing about the Yankees and the Red Sox. And this off-season, they acted like it. Picking up a celebrity list of free agents, the Mets are ready to strut down Broadway in late October once more. The Metros added one new big name – Carlos Delgado, and a couple other solid ones like LoDuca and Nady, who has real power potential. Third baseman David Wright has the stuff that’s named after him while fleet shortstop Jose Reyes should raise some eyebrows with his glove and feet. Throw in a proven starting rotation lead by Pedro Martinez and backed up by Tom Glavine and Victor Zambrano, and closer Billy Wagner to mop it up and shut it down. Will the Mets win? Piecing it together will be tougher than completing Sunday’s New York Times crossword puzzle, but if it happens, they could go all the way for the first time since Buckner let the big one roll through his legs.
Cardinals: I like Tony LaRussa for two reasons. One, he saves a lot of animals’ lives, especially cats. Anyone who would do that can’t be all bad. Also, he’s a smart manager. He will squeeze more talent out of a team than most managers. And with a pitching rotation that starts with Carpenter, Mulder and Suppan; a super-deep bullpen lead by Jason Isringhausen; and a powerful lineup featuring names like Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen, you’ve got a post season combination – a winning team playing their first year in a new stadium.
N.L. Champs: METS
World Series Champs for 2006 (drum roll please). REPEAT! CHISOX in Six.