Postcards before the Baseball Apocalypse: Thoughts before the 2016 World Series

Well, I guess the Nationals didn’t make the World Series, huh? And now, random unorganized thoughts on the World Series we ARE getting:

Something’s gotta give

As I’m sure you know and will no doubt be reminded 1,908 times, this is a match-up of “cursed” teams. The Cubs, obviously, haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and hadn’t even been to one before this year since 1945, when a goat was infamously refused admission to Wrigley Field, leading to the infamous “Curse of the Billy Goat”. Cleveland, meanwhile, hasn’t won a World Series since 1948, and is said to have been cursed to never do so again because of the trading of popular star Rocky Colavito in 1960. Others, however, say that the curse is actually the “Curse of Wahoo”, which fates the Indians to runner-up status until they remove the unquestionably politically-incorrect red-faced smile from their uniforms entirely (the Indians have made it much less prominent recently, but it’s still there).

Unless you count the three different Washington baseball franchises as one line of tradition (and most don’t), these are the two most snake-bitten teams in basically all of North American sports. One of them has to break a curse here, right? Or are we doomed for an endless series where the extra innings spread on until Baseball Armageddon?

Andrew Miller, Destroyer of Worlds

It’s hard to put into words how great Andrew Miller has been lately, and how well Terry Francona has used him. Ignoring the outdated orthodoxy that caused even the relatively-maverick Buck Showalter to hold Zack Britton for a save opportunity that never came, Francona deploys his best pitcher when he’s most needed.

And for that reason, it is going to be imperative that the Cubs score early and probably often. Because Miller Time probably means another year without a World Series title if they don’t.

Kyle “Kirk Gibson” Schwarber

I’m looking forward to seeing Kyle Schwarber, making his first appearance since getting injured all the way back in April. He’ll only be DHing and perhaps pinch-hitting, but with his bat, that could easily mean we might see a Kirk Gibson moment where a player who has no business being in the game delivers a magical moment.

Or maybe he’ll be a total non-factor who strikes out. Where’s the fun in that, though?

Terry vs. Theo

Amazingly, the fact that Theo Epstein’s team is facing Terry Francona’s team hasn’t gotten as much play as I thought it would. I mean, it’s been brought up a lot, but not as much as I thought it would have. Probably because of the bigger storylines going around.

Blah, Blah, Blah, get to your prediction:

Cubs in 6.

Why?

Depth. I think that the Indians can win match and defeat the Cubs at the top of the rotations and with the bullpen, but the deeper lineup for the Cubs and starting rotation give them the overall edge. To rewrite a song: “Hey Chicago, what do you say, the Cubs have finally won the day!”

 

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“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): Cleveland should change it’s logo to Louis Sockalexis

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season (and in some cases the aftermath). Earlier installments can be found here. Now, the Indians.

The Cleveland Indians, have, wisely, decided to demote Chief Wahoo. It’d be even better if they banished him entirely, or at least relegated him only to throwback uniform days, but it’s a start. Instead, they’ll be going with the block-C logo.

But… why not actually pay tribute to the person who Cleveland has claimed was the inspiration of the name? Louis Sockalexis. Oh, whether or not Cleveland is actually called the Indians because of Sockalexis is… complicated, the fact remains, as the great Joe Posnanski said in that article:

“I don’t believe the Indians were named to honor Louis Sockalexis, not exactly. But I do believe the Indians name could honor him. That choice is ours.”

So… why not honor him? Change the logo to show him or acknowledge him. Perhaps the logo can BE Louis Sockalexis. oh, sure, he wasn’t the most handsome guy, but to honor him would be a much better logo than the hyper-racist Chief Wahoo.

So do it, Cleveland. Make Louis Sockalexis the icon and logo of your team.

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Bartolo, C.C., and the rest of the 2002 Indians rotation in INDIANS STRIKEFORCE VS. THE SCATMAN

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Ultimate Sports Force. It’s the beloved and now-defunct comic book company that gave us such classics as the Cal Ripken-led Shortstop Squad, the power-filled Cosmic Slam, the Sasquatch-filled Mariners Mojo, and the Yankee retelling (with gratuitous Cal Ripken appearance) of Cosmic Slam entitled Championship Challenge. Today, we look at a Ultimate Sports giveaway comic featuring the 2002 Indians, as we read Indians Strikeforce Versus the Scatman:

StrikeforcecovYes, this is a comic in which C.C. Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Danys Baez, and Ryan Drese have to protect Cleveland from somebody called the Scatman. It also has Bob Feller, now-retired clubhouse manager Cy Buynak, and MONKEYS MADE OUT OF MUSIC. Go below the jump to see some of the glories it brings:

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“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): Fun Times in Cleveland Again!

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, Cleveland!

Sports Illustrated has predicted that the Cleveland Indians will win the World Series this season, breaking the Curse of Rocky Colavito and bringing (depending on how the Cavaliers do) possibly the first “Big Four” title to Cleveland since the 1964 Browns*.

I don’t agree with them, but I can sort of see where they are coming from- the Indians are one of those teams that are way better than many people think.

After all, they have some of the most underrated players in the game. Michael Brantley came in third place for MVP last year, and yet he’s most anonymous. Yan Gomes is becoming one of the best catchers in the league. Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana are good and sometimes great, although Santana had a bad year batting average last year (he made up for it, some could argue, by leading the league in walks). New addition Brandon Moss has pop.

And, oh, right, they have the reigning AL Cy Young in Corey Kluber, who may be the most anonymous Cy Young Award winner ever. I’m reasonably sure that if you asked 100 baseball fans who won the AL Cy Young last year, most of them would think it was Felix Hernandez or Chris Sale or that Clayton Kershaw was so good they just gave him the AL Cy Young based on his interleague games. And it’s not just Kluber- SI noted this:

“After last year’s All-Star break the rotation led the majors in strikeout rate (9.33 per nine), home run rate (0.56 per nine) and FanGraphs’ WAR (11.0), while trailing only the Nationals in ERA (2.95).”

 

Hmm… maybe SI is on to something.

If they are, LeBron James really is going to have to win the NBA title this season, otherwise his title as Cleveland’s savior might end up taken by Terry Francona (who, of course, has a habit of breaking curses). I mean, damn, he comes back to Cleveland and it ends up that the Indians end the city’s long championship drought? And what if they beat the Yankees on the way? Oh, the awkwardness!

Next Time: The Reds

*Football note: It is a cruel irony that all of the Browns’ titles came before the Super Bowl was instituted, as the Super Bowl ended up becoming such an institution that the NFL’s pre-Super Bowl champions have become almost afterthoughts in the sport’s history. The Browns won 4 pre-Super Bowl NFL championships and four title in the All-America Football Conference, a sort of proto-AFL that was partially absorbed into the NFL in 1950. However, their total lack of titles- even conference titles- in the Super Bowl era have turned them into a joke amongst football fans. A similar cruel fate has befallen the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills’ AFL championship teams.

 

 

2014 SEASON PREVIEW (PART 4): Best Case/Worst Case for… the AL WEST (with Getty Images)

Today, we look at the AL West, and what could go right… and what could go wrong. Complete with Getty Images that may or may not have anything to do with the actual team.

Here we go:

Oakland Athletics

Best-Case Scenario: Billy Beane‘s @#$% finally works in October, the Athletics win the World Series, and their long-term stadium situation is finally solved.

Worst-Case Scenario: Billy Beane’s @#$% doesn’t work very well during the Regular season this year, the Athletics finish third, and finish the season as a barnstorming team when their stadium in Oakland disappears in a sinkhole of bad plumbing and a dark spell cast by Al Davis in the late 1990s.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: See above, but remove the barnstorming, the sinkhole and Al Davis’ dark spell.

Texas Rangers

Best-Case Scenario: It finally happens, and the Rangers win the World Series with the help of a resurgent Prince Fielder, the ever-underrated Shin-Soo Choo, a breakout year from Jurickson Profar and a Cy Young year from Yu Darvish.

Worst-Case Scenario: Ian Kinsler is a wizard, and his wish for the Rangers to go 0-162 comes true.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: It all falls apart: Fielder continues to decline, Choo has an off-year, Adrian Beltre shows his age, Darvish gets hurt, Profar muddles and the Rangers have their worst year in years. Ron Washington is fired despite his recent extension.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, West Coast, United States of America, North America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Sol System, Milky Way

Best-Case Scenario: Mike Trout wins Triple Crown, MVP, All-Star Game MVP, the Home Run Derby title, Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsman of the Year, the AP Male Athlete of the Year, an EGOT, the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom as he single-handedly straps the team on his back and brings them to the World Series. Or something like that. In reality, the Angels probably need Trout to keep on Trouting while having both Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton show their old selves and the pitching staff stepping up.

Worst-Case Scenario: Mike Trout gets hurt. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: To be honest, Trout getting hurt is arguably the worst-case scenario, as I find it highly unlikely that both the rest of the lineup can take up the slack AND the pitching takes a step forward.

Seattle Mariners

Best-Case Scenario: Felix Hernandez is still awesome, Hisashi Iwakuma gets better (health-wise), Taijuan Walker gets better physically and on the field, and Robinson Cano… just keeps doing what’s he’s doing.

Worst-Case Scenario: Robinson Cano gets hurt in a money-counting incident, misses rest of the season.

Worst-Case Scenario that could actually happen: Felix actually starts to show that he may be human, Iwakuma and Walker struggle with health problems all year, and Cano has problems playing in Safeco Field all year around.

Houston Astros

Best-Case Scenario: Ha. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Are you kidding me? Even their best-case scenario sees them, at the absolute very best, in fourth place. In some ways, their best case scenario may actually be for them to have one of the worst records in league, as it’ll let them get better draft picks.

Worst-Case Scenario: 1898 Cleveland Spiders.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: 1962 New York Mets.

2014 SEASON PREVIEW (PART 3): Best Case/Worst Case for… the AL CENTRAL (with Getty Images)

We continue our big preview of the MLB Season by looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the AL Central. And, what’s more, that includes Getty Images, no matter how irrelevant the picture is.

Detroit Tigers

Best-Case Scenario: Who need Prince Fielder? They have Miguel Cabrera still, and their starting rotation is still one where the reigning Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, may not even be the ace, due to Justin Verlander. And they now have Joe Nathan as their closer! With that, there can only be one best-case scenario: World Series Title.

Worst-Case Scenario: The Tigers are seized and sold to pay off Detroit’s bankruptcy debt.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: Joe Nathan starts showing his age, Verlander’s below-average-by-his-standards season last year turns out to have been the start of his decline, and it turns out that maybe Miguel Cabrera did need Prince Fielder. And even then, they still probably are in the playoff hunt.

Cleveland Indians

Best-Case Scenario: They make the playoffs again, and actually make it farther than the Wild Card game this time.

Worst-Case Scenario: Nick Swisher secedes from the Union to found the state of “Brohio”.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: With two pitchers (Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir) having left in Free Agency, the depth isn’t what it used to be, and the Indians are left in the dust in the AL Central.

Kansas City Royals

Best-Case Scenario: The youngsters make a great leap forward, James Shields continues to do well, and the Royals sneak in as a Wild Card.

Worst-Case Scenario: Young guys flop or get hurt, James Shields starts to take a downturn, and the Royals fall back into the total basement.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: See above. I couldn’t come up with anything outrageous for the Royals.

Minnesota Twins

Best-Case Scenario: Joe Mauer wins the batting title and upsets both Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis for the 1st-base starting spot at the All-Star Game. The new pitchers turn out to be genius moves. The Twins end the season near .500 and plenty of good prospects in their future.

Worst-Case Scenario: Joe Mauer goes outside Justin Morneau‘s house to play 1980s power ballads from an oversized stereo system. Hurts himself lifting that stereo. Misses rest of season.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: The pitchers brought in flop, Mauer doesn’t improve all that much playing every day at 1B, or, worse, gets hurt. Prospects get hurt or hit a ceiling. Last place. Glen Perkins is the lone Twins All-Star at Target Field after Josh Willingham‘s “Final Vote” campaign falls short due to the fact he’s going against Derek Jeter, who will end up in the ASG this year, no matter how or what, even if he’s hitting .220.

Chicago White Sox

Best-Case Scenario: The Jose Abreu signing is genius and some other stuff goes right (primarily with the pitching staff), and the White Sox are a surprise contender for awhile before fading in the second half.

Worst-Case Scenario: They do more-or-less what they did last year, and Paul Konerko gets so depressed he decides to retire early.

Worst-Case Scenario That Could Actually Happen: See above, only presumably without the Konerko retirement.

Next on the list of Best Case/Worst Case: The AL West.