Happy Opening Day ⚾️

Happy Opening Day of Baseball, the day that Astros and Nationals fans alike can feel excited and good about their 0-0 teams. Sure, one team is excited to see prospects arrive in town and the other is raising a championship banner, but what’s the difference? From sea to shining sea, fans have good reasons to put on their team’s hat and feel good. May we all enjoy it.

For Phillies fans like me, we’ve been waiting for today since November 5th. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of the 2022 National League Champions. We welcome newcomers like Turner, Walker, Soto, Kimbrel, and Strahm. We put a blue flag up in center field. We should be a very good team, again. On paper, a playoff team. Maybe a division winner. Maybe another trip to the Fall Classic. Maybe a World Championship. They’re all maybes though, 162 games away. You don’t get to start ahead because of last year. You start all over again.

Anyone who thinks they’re good at predictions is a G*d damned liar. Baseball season is longer and more unpredictable than any other American pro sport. Last year I said the Phillies would bash their way to 90+ wins and an NLCS loss to the Dodgers. Then a long season for Castellanos, a fired manager, major injuries to Harper and Segura, and a bunch of other stuff happened. The Phillies won 87 games and finished third in their division, becoming literally the last team to slide into the playoffs. Then they proceed to steamroll St. Louis, Atlanta, and San Diego on their way to an NL Pennant. Did you pick Aaron Judge to go yard 62 times and win the AL MVP? I doubt it. So many things can and will happen in the next six months. Even if you get a pick or two right, you’d look bad if we made you show your work. No matter how many analytics we have, some things defy our expectations.

And yet I’m going to go ahead out there and throw some ignorant predictions out into existence anyway. Just because it’s fun. Just so some idiot with a spreadsheet can laugh and call me stupid. Honestly, the evidence will say they’re right.

So we’ll start in the AL, where I’ll call Houston (west), Chicago (central), and Toronto (east) as my division winners. I’ll take the Yankees, Guardians, and Mariners as my Wild Cards. I’ll pin my top five in the AL MVP race as Guerrero, Ramirez, Trout, Alvarez, and Rodriguez. The AL Cy Young will go to Cole over Ray, Valdez, Bieber, and De Grom. The AL Rookie of the year will go to Gunnar Henderson of Baltimore. Pedro Grifol of Chicago will be AL Manager of the Year. I’m picking the Cleveland Guardians to win the pennant.

In the NL I’m going to make sure I jinx the Mets (east), Brewers (central), and Dodgers (west) by picking them to win divisions. I’ll take the Phillies, Padres, and Braves to win Wild Cards. I’m picking Acuna to win the NL MVP narrowly over Freeman, Machado, Betts, and Lindor. I’m going with Scherzer to edge out Urias, Verlander, Nola, and Fried for the Cy Young. I’m picking Jordan Walker to win Rookie of the Year for St. Louis. Of course Buck Showalter will win Manager of the Year, he’s a genius. And of course, I’m again going to pick the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the pennant over the Phillies, because that pick turned out okay last year.

Just because I want the world to burn, I’m picking the Cleveland Guardians. Yes guys, to win the World Series.

Some other fun picks for you- Bryce Harper plays first base. Shohei Ohtani is traded to the Mets and leads them in a come from behind division win, passing the Braves and holding off the Phillies, then leaves after the season anyway to go to the Dodgers. Baltimore plays an absurd number of 10-8 games. Arizona finishes ahead of San Francisco. Jacob de Grom makes 26 starts. Pittsburgh finishes ten games better than Washington. Oakland announces their move to Las Vegas. Chicago has two top ten MVP and Cy Young finishers in the AL, but nobody in the top five. Aaron Judge hits 42 homers.

These picks are literally just the first things that popped into my mind. I have no idea.

Play ball ⚾️!

MLB Divisional Series Prediction

Playoff baseball returns to South Philly.

Time for the divisional round predictions, beginning in the AL.

Astros over the Mariners in four. This series ended up being harder to predict than I thought. On paper? Astros in three. Their roster is simply good enough that they should go to a sixth straight ALCS three games from now. They dominated the head-to-head with Seattle and had the best record in the league. However I just watched Seattle win the most impressive series of the Wild Card round. They make you earn all 27 outs. I’ve also seen Verlander lose some big ones over the years. The Mariners are a hot team. Even still, Houston is the favorite. Seattle takes game three at home, their first home playoff game in 21 years. Houston wins the other three.

Yankees over Guardians in five. Can you say “best series of the round?” The Guardians finished the season really well. Their pitching just dominated Tampa. I’m surprised we’re here, but this series is going to be good. The Yankees are better than the Rays though. Their offense is simply not getting shut down like that. I maintain the first four months of the season aren’t the fraud, August is. The Yankees showed me enough to believe during September, and I think they pull this out. It goes back and forth, Yanks win the odd games.

Dodgers over the Padres in four. The Padres roll in on fire. They beat a 101 team to get here. Their pitching is fire. They got timely hits. They also went 5-14 against LA this year. The Dodgers had the best record in the sport, easily. The Padres pitching will win them a game, I’ll say game two. Dodgers win the rest.

Braves over the Phillies in five. I have to pick my team, right? No. The Braves are the best team in baseball right now. They know how to win in October. They’re better at six out of nine positions in the line-up. They have a better bullpen, particularly with David Robertson out. And their pitching is lined up. I’d give the Phillies a slight edge in the postseason rotation, but that edge could grow if Strider can’t give them a real start Friday. I think the Phillies win games two and four, but not getting two starts from either ace is the difference here.

It Took 11 Years, but F*** the Cardinals

It seemed like we’d always be good. Five divisions in a row. The best record in baseball two straight years. Three NLCS appearances. Two NL Pennants. Two NL MVP’s. A Cy Young. A World Series MVP. And yes, a World Series championship. The Phillies were invincible.

Until October 7th, 2011. That night Roy Halladay got out dueled 1-0. The game ended with Ryan Howard on the ground with a torn achilles. The Cardinals won the series. Then they won the World Series. A much younger Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina got their rings. Halladay was never the same again. Howard was never the same again. Chase Utley was hurt a lot after that. Cliff Lee too. The Nationals got good. The Mets got good. The Braves got good too, really good. The Phillies went 11 years before they saw the playoffs after that.

Being a Phillies fan in 2011 was cool. The stadium was packed every night. The stadium ended up being sold out for years. The team spent big money bringing great players to the city. We were winners. Then we weren’t. In a few short years we weren’t even good anymore. The stadium emptied. All the heroes left. Halladay even died. The f***ing insect Mets fans even started to infest our stadium to watch their perennial failing team again, with their stupid little chants.

I’ve had a Phillies 17 game season ticket package with my father since 1991, but it was never cooler than 2007-2011. I was 24 when they won the first division and 28 when they won the last one. The World Championship, the heated rivalry with the Mets, Howard’s majestic homers, the best middle infield in baseball, the four aces- it was awesome. Then it was over, and we’re a real adult, and sports kind of suck until Nick Foles performs the ultimate Jesus act and beats Tom Brady to win a Super Bowl for Philly. Honestly that stupid f***ing NLDS loss to the Cardinals ends up being a demarcation point between my fun young adult years and descending into adulthood. It didn’t bother me as much at the time as it grew to over the years. Really. That game bothers me more than some things that happened to me personally.

So yes, when the Phillies had a chance to play the f***ing Cardinals, I got excited. Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright are all legends, much respect to them. But seriously, the Phillies had a chance to end their careers, in their home park? Holy shit. This was too good to be true. To sweep them? Amazing. To watch their fans empty out before game one was over, in the ballpark the national media swears is “baseball heaven?” Yes, this feels better than good. Let me keep feeling this. It’s not personal because they’re bad people or something- but they were the ones celebrating on our field as our best player laid on the field injured, our era over. So I’m not saying it’s special, but let ‘em know the Phillies did it. The Phillies ended their legends. Hell yeah.

MLB Playoff Predictions- Wild Card Round

Quick and dirty here- these are my predictions for this weekend.

AL Series- Rays @ Guardians- This series is going to have a lot of people picking the road team. They come from the better division, they’ve been here the past few years. And they’re going to lose here in three games, taking game two only.

AL Series- Mariners @ Blue Jays- This series is really even on paper. Seattle played really well down the stretch. Toronto is a cut above though. I see Toronto winning this series in three games, the first and third.

NL Series- Padres @ Mets- You know how bad I want to pick the Mets to lose this, right? And there’s a case. San Diego has a great pitching staff. Scherzer is iffy in the playoffs. Soto and Machado are monsters. The Mets lineup had a good year, but it isn’t their strongest suit. I’m not going to pick a 100 win team to lose in the first round though. Their starting pitching will give them two great performances and their bullpen will hold their leads. Mets win games two and three.

NL Series- Phillies @ Cardinals- You know how bad I want to pick the Phillies, right? They’re on the road though, against the team of destiny in the second half. I’m not sure anyone scores in game one, since neither pitcher gave up anything to the other team this year. I’ll give St. Louis that one. I think Nola gets it done in game two though for the Phillies. Game three is basically a crapshoot, but I’m picking my Phillies to avenge 2011 and get the win here.

All Rise (and my other picks for MLB Award Winners)

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was watching Aaron Judge play in International League Playoff games in Allentown for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. He was big- really big. He hit the ball hard. He seemed to have fun. He was really good. It wasn’t long after that he became a Yankee, and he was really good there. It was fun to watch then. It’s even more fun to watch now.

Aaron Judge is my pick to win the AL MVP, and he should win it unanimously. His AL record of 62 home runs is one of the greatest seasons we’ll ever see, and he seemed to really enjoy doing it. What’s not to like? He won the home run title, the RBI title, finished second in batting average, and as a result narrowly missed the triple crown. It’s a historic season. No, it is not the record. Barry Bonds absolutely used performance enhancing drugs, we’re all sure of it, and I’m also sure that Major League Baseball turned the other cheek to cash in on him doing it. Both his single season and all-time homer records are certainly tainted, and denied the feats to more incredible people, but that’s the choice MLB made. They ruined their own record books for money, and they did it with McGwire and Sosa too. All that argument about records aside, Judge did set the American League record. He did it clean. It was fun to watch. He should win the game’s highest individual award, and win it without opposition (sorry, Shohei).

The National League MVP should narrowly go to Freddie Freeman. I don’t think you could go wrong if you gave this award to Paul Goldschmidt either, it’s really damn close. Freeman was second in batting average, first in hits and runs scored, and plays an elite defensive first base. Goldschmidt was third in average, hits, and runs, and second in RBI’s, while also being very good down at first. I’d vote Pete Alonso in fourth for his second in homers, first in RBI’s season. The gap here? Freeman played on the best team this season. I’d round out my ballot here with Dansby Swanson (yes, really), because that dude is clutch as hell, in fifth, and Trea Turner in fourth.

My National League Cy Young would go to Sandy Alcantara, ever so narrowly over Julio Urias. Urias edged Alcantara in ERA and won three more games, but had less strikeouts and 50+ less innings. Are my penalizing Urias for pitching on a team that could pace him? Sure. I just put a lot of stock in an arm being a horse out there. Max Fried, Corbin Burnes, Aaron Nola, Yu Darvish, and Zac Gallen all deserve a nice finish too.

My American League Cy Young would go to Justin Verlander. The future Hall-of-Famer won the ERA title and won the most games in the American League. Dylan Cease was right there with him in both categories and finished ahead in strikeouts and innings, but nine innings edge isn’t enough. Hat tip to Gerrit Cole, Shohei Ohtani, and Alex Manoah here too.

My American League Rookie of the Year would go to Julio Rodriguez, with ease. Nice job by Steven Kwan and Adley Rutschman, but not quite. My National League Rookie of the Year would go to Spencer Strider, just barely over his teammate Michael Harris. It’s all Braves here.

My National League Manager of the Year would go to Rob Thomson of my Phillies. He took over a team under .500 and lifeless, and took them to the playoffs. Other managers did more this season, but they did more with better teams. In the American League, Terry Francona should win Manager of the Year without a vote. Nobody had this team anywhere near .500, let alone winning 90 games. Seattle’s Scott Servais and Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde deserve votes, just for second place.

MLB Could Fix Their Blackout Problem, But…

Apparently MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred hates TV blackouts as much as the fans do. He says the top priority of the league right now is “reach.” He is concerned that not enough people can watch baseball.

I’m kind of having trouble believing him. There are a lot of games right now being shown behind paywalls. They don’t have to be. You also have MLB’s own blackout rules on local market games for their own MLB.tv service. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is available on most cable and streaming services, but you have to pay for that. I’m short, it costs money to be a baseball fan in your living room, let alone if you want to go to games.

When baseball was the top sport in America, all you needed in the early days was a radio to listen, or later a TV with an antenna. That is over and long gone, and not really to any improvement in the experience of the fans. Now you pay for what you want to get, and pay handsomely.

Good luck changing this though. Between the league wide TV deals and “home market” TV deals negotiated by the teams, every team in the league has $100 million in gross revenue before they even start. Bigger teams like the Dodgers or Phillies have even more. While viewership has dropped, networks and streaming services will pay for this because it increases their negotiating power with each other and consumers. More importantly advertisers will pay to be on during games because they know the viewers had enough money to purchase television to begin with, so they probably can afford their products too. In other words, the money is too good to break up the racket. Sure, MLB could negotiate deals that don’t have paywalls and blackouts, but they’d get less money for that deal.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.