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2012: MLB Predictions

April 5, 2012

By Ross Mitchell

So after yet another brief hiatus here are my quick MLB Predictions. The PUP List will be back up and running next week with our April Point Guard Power Rankings, our first ever NFL Mock Draft, and Cubs and White Sox coverage. As you can see based on his standings below, I have limited expectations. One thing I want to mention about the Cubs (which I was going to in that Spring Training piece I never finished…that Spring Training piece I never started), I am already drawing a huge issue with the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer regime.

(Before I get into it I’m watching the St. Louis Cardinals play the Miami Marlins on Major League Baseball’s Opening Night. I think the architect who designed the Miami Marlins new stadium said to himself, “I’m going to suggest we make the outfield walls the same shade as a Hollywood green screen, every other wall out of the neon tiles you’d find in a public bathroom and add some crazy carnival-themed monument in center field as a joke just to give ownership a scare,” and then everybody loved it. Or the conference room was filled with marijuana smoke similar to the rock concert at conclusion of Cheech & Chongs Up In Smoke and Jeffrey Loria had just watched Avatar)

I understand that Epstein might be a bit weary on splurging in his first season at the helm as Team President. After all, his recent additions of John Lackey and Carl Crawford resulted in resounding thuds for the Boston Red Sox, but I feel he took zero steps to improve the North Siders. He traded away Sean Marshall, arguably the best left handed reliever in baseball for Travis Wood, a player who did not make the major league roster. He allowed Aramis Ramirez to walk to a division rival who is paying him just (in sports terms) $10 million. Mostly I loath what the Cubs are doing at First Base.

Both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder were free agents. Yes they received contracts over $200 million each. It is a lot of money to invest in one player, but the Cubs were content with making offers in the “$18 million dollar per season” range. They were never truly in the running. Instead they traded Andrew Cashner, once their top pitching prospect for Anthony Rizzo, a former Red Sox and San Diego Padres farm league gem (under Epstein and Hoyer respectively). Rizzo isn’t the opening day starting First Baseman.

That honor goes to Bryan LaHair, who after 175 years in the minor leagues, was handed the opening day First Base job. He did hit a respectable .295 in the Cactus League but did not hit a home run and drove in a paltry 6 RBIs (Rizzo batted .364/2/5 in four less games and 28 less at bats). Essentially the new Cubs brain-trust elected to pass up on the best player in the world and arguably the best left handed power hitter in baseball for someone who spent more time in the minor leagues than Kevin Costner’s character in Bull Durham, or a prospect they have drafted or traded for three times collectively.

If the Epster regime (an uncreative collaboration of their last names) wants the Cubs to contend in the near future they need to get incrementally better at the Major League level. I’ve made this case before and the counterargument is “Exactly! You can‘t invest $200 million on one player!“ or “They can’t build a championship team overnight!” To which I reply, yes, they cannot build a championship team overnight. Which is why they need to add cornerstone pieces to build around. Currently the Cubs have Starlin Castro and nobody else. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters have upside but are anything but a certainty. And they can spend $200 million on one player. They can spend as much as they want on any player, there is no salary cap in baseball. Sure it isn’t my money and contracts are guaranteed, but if Epster is hesitant to overpay for a big named player because of previous follies, they will never truly be in contention.

(If Epster believes the fan base has an exorbitant amount of patience, they took the wrong job. I will not validate that he is used to the demands of Red Sox Nation so therefore the Cubs job should be a breeze. The pain and torment of 104 years without a championship, the 67 years without winning the National League Pennant is in a completely different stratosphere than anything the Red Sox fans endured. Sorry, that’s fact)

Yes building the farm system is vital (I don‘t think he envisioned Randy Wells and Travis Wood bolstering Iowa‘s starting staff), but this season is already a wash. What should we expect next season? What should we expect the season after that? Theo didn’t build the 2004 Red Sox World Series Championship squad with farm system talent. Contrarily he traded the farm for Curt “Just Shut Up No One Cares” Schilling, traded for Mark Bellhorn, signed Keith Foulke, and signed Gabe Kapler. He traded Nomar Garciaparra, a player who came out of Boston’s farm system, for Orlando Cabrera at the trade deadline.

In 2007 only Dustin Pedroia began his professional career as a Red Sox minor leaguer. My point is most of the Red Sox championship teams were already in place when Theo was named General Manager in 2002. Those who weren’t came at a hefty price, from other organizations. The Cubs don’t have a Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, and Johnny Damon on the roster. They need to add proven talent. And by definition, that “proven” talent cannot come from “unproven” prospects.

Anyway, here’s my predictions. I freely admit that I did not take the time to ensure the league record would arrive at .500. They are just an estimation with a margin of error of +/- 3 games:

AL East
2. New York Yankees (104-58)
*Tampa Bay Rays (95-67)
Boston Red Sox (90-72)
Baltimore Oriels (88-74)
Toronto Blue Jays 81-81)

AL Central (a.k.a. Quadruple-A)
1. Detroit Tigers (110-57)
Cleveland Indians (82-80)
Minnesota Twins (77-85)
Kansas City Royals (75-87)
Chicago White Sox (70-92)

AL West
3. Texas Rangers (97-65)
*Los Angeles Angels (95-67)
Seattle Mariners (88-74)
Oakland Athletics (72-90)

NL East
2. Philadelphia Phillies (95-67)
Washington Nationals (88-74)
Miami Marlins (87-75)
Atlanta Braves (82-80)
New York Mets (68-98)

NL Central
3. St. Louis Cardinals (94-68)
*Cincinnati Reds (93-69)
Milwaukee Brewers (90-72)
Pittsburgh Pirates (84-78)
Chicago Cubs (71-93)
Houston Astros (60-102)

NL West
1. Arizona Diamondbacks (99-61)
*Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)
San Francisco Giants (90-72)
Colorado Rockies (90-72)
San Diego Padres (71-91)

* = Denotes Wild Card

AL MVP: Albert Pujols (LAA)
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander (DET)
AL Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia (LAA)
AL ROY: Yoenis Cepedes (OAK)

NL MVP: Matt Kemp (LAD)
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg (WSH)
NL Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly (LAD)
NL ROY: Bryce Harper (WSH)

Playoffs:

Wild Card:
Los Angeles Angels over Tampa Bay Rays
Los Angeles Dodgers over Cincinnati Reds

League Division Series:
Detroit Tigers over Los Angeles Angels
Texas Rangers over New York Yankees
St. Louis Cardinals over Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers over Philadelphia Phillies

League Championship Series:
Detroit Tigers over Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cardinals

World Series:
Detroit Tigers over Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series MVP: Prince Fielder

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