ST. LOUIS, MO – This time last year I was drinking heavily, cursing the word baseball and even looking forward to Rams football. Why? The Cardinals were 10 ½ games out of the playoffs, never mind the division. Low and behold, the Cards won 26 of 29 to finish the season and make the most incredible playoff run in major league history. So, if 2011 taught me anything, it is that everything is possible. That said, here are some Brave Predictions on Pennant Race Tops & Flops:
NL WEST CHAMPS: Arizona Diamondbacks: Nothing speaks louder than run differential. This team leads the west in that category and the telling story is schedule. They get to play the Giants nine times between now and the end of the season. Right now they are four games back. All they need to do to make the playoffs is take five or six of nine and beat the Rockies/Padres more than everyone else in order to win the division.
NL WILDCARD: Pittsburgh Pirates: People keep waiting for the Buckos to collapse but that ain’t happening folks. Thanks in part to their 20 years of baseball incompetence, their schedule down the home stretch is easier than getting in Short Matt’s pants. Their schedule is littered with marquee-match ups with the beleaguered Astros and anemic Cubs. That’s because MLB tried to make sure the Cards were playing the Reds and Brewers down the stretch.
NL WILDCARD: St. Louis Cardinals: My Red Birds making the playoffs in itself is not surprising. The fact that the NL Central will put three teams in the playoffs is surprising, though, because everyone considers it some sort of subset of baseball. But when you add a team to the division everything changes. All of a sudden you have another opponent you play 18+ times that knows your tendencies. Traditionally, the NL Central has had the tightest races because there are 90 division games versus 72 division games (5 team divisions), or 54 games in that 4-team abomination out West. In the NL Central, there are so many more games that matter. This isn’t just my bias speaking. This is fact.
This fact is why teams that come out of the Central typically beat heavily favored teams from the East or West that are, um…”over-hyped large market crap.”
Okay. I have said enough about that.
AL WILDCARD: Baltimore Orioles: Currently there are five teams vying for two spots in the AL Wild Card and the Orioles are perched in the best position to take one of those spots, simply because no one outside Baltimore even knows they exist. Even the Pirates are getting more press. But that is exactly why the O’s get in. They are a bunch of young guys playing hard-nosed baseball for themselves. There isn’t a team in baseball I would rather play for than the O’s right now.
AL WILDCARD: Oakland A’s: This one is a crap shoot but I figured of the four remaining teams in contention this is the only one that has a preseason JG Clancy 4,000,000 to 1 World Series Champions bet riding on it. Also, Poo-Holes not making the playoffs and the Cardinals scoring the most runs in baseball without him makes me really happy.
BIGGEST FLOP, NL: Atlanta Braves: Of all the teams coming down the stretch, the Braves have the easiest schedule, with a six-game wrinkle in there. That is the six games they play against… The New York Metropolitans. Mets take five of six and the Braves play .500 ball onto the golf course for the second year in a row. It’s not like anyone in that city is watching anyways.
BIGGEST FLOP, AL: Prince Fielder: Can you imagine the seismic activity that occurs when he hits the water during a belly flop? Mexico better prepare itself for a rough October of earthquakes and tsunami’s because the man with his own gravitational pull will not be pulling balls out of Comerica Park. He will be pulling dollars out of Kate Upton’s G-String at Verlander’s party in Cabo.
And that’s the story. Please comment below and check out Lori Levine’s column today on NFL Training Camp. She’s hot and she covers the Jets in-fighting, T.O., and the Dolphins sucking… Up tomorrow: some sort of diseased Yankee fan, Different Matt.