Making Sense of the 2018 Baseball Season

Predictions regarding what will and won’t happen during the baseball season are a fool’s errand.

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I’ve read a handful of 2018 season previews and here is what I can tell you. The Yankees will hit home runs, the Astros will win a boat load of games, the Red Sox are a lock for one of the AL Wild Card spot, the Angels aren’t, the Dodgers will be good and for some reason, the Nationals are a favorite to win the World Series (along with the Astros and the Yankees.)

There.

You’re welcome.

Here’s the thing though, how are the Nationals a favorite to win the World Series? Dear God baseball people, have you not learned anything? The Nationals have been a favorite to win it all for the past few years and last I checked, they definitely haven’t. In fact, taking it a step further, the Nationals have lost in the National League Divisional Series in four of the last six years. The NLDS is not the World Series. It’s not even the NLCS, which is after the NLDS and before the World Series.

Picking the Nationals to win the World Series is like trying to get a dog to play fetch, only the dog has no desire to really play fetch. If you throw the ball, they’ll run after it. They might even start back in your direction with the ball in tow. But they won’t actually return the ball to you. They won’t actually fetch. They’ll just punk you. You’ll chase the dog down, wrestle the ball from their mouth and then throw it again, hoping this will be the time that they actually bring it back.But they won’t. They’ll never bring it back. Just like the Nationals of Washington D.C. will never win the World Series.

And I say never because their best player, Bryce Harper, is definitely skipping town once the season is over.

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You had a good run, Nats. I like your uniforms. I respect that you have “Washington” on your away jerseys, even though it’s a long name. I wish the Phillies would do that. They don’t. It bothers me.

And hey, speaking of the Phillies, the Eagles’ neighbors are making noise as a trendy wild card pick. The upside of that is that they are being talked about positively, something that has been somewhat of a rarity in recent years. The downside is that the trendy wild card pick usually never pans out and is almost more of a curse than anything. Oh well. It’s not like Philadelphia is really going to notice. Not with the Super Bowl hangover still lingering and the Sixers headed for the playoffs. The Phillies have a built in pass this year. I guess that’s a good thing.

One of the things almost everyone can agree on is who will the American League MVP. It’s Mike Trout of the Angels. Of course, because this is baseball and baseball is slowly fading in terms of widespread popularity and devolving into largely a regional sport, you might not even know who Trout is.

This is Mike Trout.

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He is really good at baseball. Like really good.

Problem is is that you might only know this if you happened across one of the many articles written by baseball scribes about his greatness. I’ve never seen Trout play, although to be fair, I, probably like you, really only watch baseball now when it’s my team playing or it’s the World Series. The Angels haven’t had much success when it comes to the playoffs and thanks to pesky time zones, Trout’s games start way past bed time here on the east coast. It’s a rough combination. I say we start a Kickstarter to get this Jersey boy on the Phillies and be done with it. Cool?

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So close.

Elsewhere around the league, the Astros are a heavy favorite to repeat as champions. Yes, it makes total sense. They are bringing back the bulk of the team that won in 2017 and those dudes are mostly all still in their prime. If you were looking at a team that could possibly repeat, the Astros would be a safe bet.

But, how often does this actually happen? Teams repeating, regardless of the sport, rarely happen. The last team to repeat was the Miami Heat, who won the NBA Championship in 2012 and 2013. The same two teams have played in the finals for the last three years, the Cavaliers and the Warriors, and neither has won back to back championships. In the NFL, everyone thought the Seahawks were poised to start a dynastic run after they beat the Broncos. But then the next year they lost to the Patriots and since then, it’s only gotten worse. Their window has closed. Even the Patriots haven’t repeated as champs since the 2003 and 2004 seasons. In baseball, the last team to repeat were the Yankees, who won three years in a row, from 1998 to 2000.

So even though it looks like a safe bet that the Astros could repeat, history is definitely not on their side. Although I’m cool with them, based in large part to Jose Altuve’s stone cold response to President Trump when the team visited the White House earlier this year.

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His eyes speak for a lot of us in that picture.

If the Astros don’t win, then yes, it is possible that the Yankees do and if the Yankees do, then everything really is terrible. I liked it better when the Yankees were supposed to be bad. That was fun. Although as a Red Sox fan, I have firmly taken the position that a good Yankees’ team is actually beneficial for the Sox. I have also firmly accepted that this is partially a form of rationalization, but it’s sports and sports is full of situations where you irrationally rationalize a great many things.

I’m not sure the Yankees will win, though. And no, I’m not just saying that because they’re the worst. I’m saying that because they had a lot of young dudes who had career years in 2017 and in turn, could be primed for a regression or two. Maybe pitchers have figured out how to pitch to Aaron Judge? Maybe Greg Bird is out for longer than expected? Maybe Giancarlo Stanton isn’t ready for prime time? Those are all possibilities. Plus it’s not like the Yankees’ pitching staff outside of their bullpen is rock solid.

Of course the Yankees currently have only the seventh highest payroll in baseball thanks to all of their young guns, so they’ll be in prime position to reload throughout the season if need be. That, more than what they have now, is what should scare people. Anyone can look good when a fight starts. What’s problematic is the people who get stronger later in the fight, which is what the Yankees could do.

You know, because the Yankees are the worst.

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Well then, what will happen this season?

I’m happy you asked. What will happen this season? A lot of things. The baseball season is the length of forever. That’s a fact. People are primed to embark on a Marvel movie marathon before Avengers: Infinity War hits and even that is shorter than the baseball season. Players will get injured, players will either under-perform or over-perform. One team no one saw coming will crash the party in October and one team that everyone saw coming will shit the bed once the summer heat kicks in. Plus let’s be honest, the playoffs have been an exercise in momentum. The hot team usually wins. So therefore, it doesn’t matter how will a team starts off or looks in July. What matters is playing well in September and making it to the playoffs, then riding that hot hand all the way through the playoffs, into the World Series and to victory.

That’s also why I can’t get behind the Nationals. They looks great when it’s hot, yet they look they shells of themselves once the leaves start to fall, which is when it really matters. It’s also why no one who really follows the Red Sox is that hyped about the team. It’s not that they are returning basically the same squad as last year, but now with a dude who can actually hit home runs (J.D. Martinez.) It’s because they haven’t done a damn thing in the playoffs since winning the World Series in 2013. Until the Red Sox can actually win a postseason series, everyone is going to look at them with skepticism.

The regular season is fun and it’s enjoyable. Going to a baseball game, especially when the weather is nice, is always a quality experience. But when it comes to what really matters, when it comes to what will really happen this season, it all depends on how things shake down in September. Everything until then is just cupcakes and gravy. The meat and potatoes won’t be ready until football is back, you’re wearing a hoodie in the chilly fall evenings and the kids are back at school.

And Bryce Harper is that much closer to being a member of the Yankees.

Because the Yankees are the absolute worst.

 

  1. Yes, I don’t understand how the Nationals can be a favorite to win anything but baseball’s biggest disappointments award. They never come through when it matters most.
    As for the Yankees, I’m a fan. But I must agree, this all looks too good right now. All those homers in the middle of that lineup. The smart acquisitions and the stocked farm. But it’s the rotation of IF that makes me dubious. I would be plenty good with another solid postseason run and a couple young pitchers growing into starters. That would be great.

    It’s wide open this season. Unless the Astros run away and hide, and win it all again, lol.

    Great look at ’18!

    Reply

  2. Yankees suck. What else matters?

    Reply

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