Roughly one-third of the way through the MLB season and…it’s clear that the Chicago White Sox are a contender for the AL Division Crown. As I mentioned before, any team that is overwhelmingly picked to win that division in March is usually not in contention in June.
The White Sox are the only team in the AL Central with a positive run differential, and while Paul Konerko won’t continue to have a .434 BABIP, barring injury, he is in line for his third consecutive .300/30/100 season. At age 36. After taking a pitch to the face against the Chicago Cubs.
Put another way: Paul Konerko is the man and the White Sox should allow me to have a pleasant summer!
All 27 glorious outs from Phil Humber’s Perfect Game against the Seattle Mariners.
Though I’m not quite sure how I feel about the National League yet, the 2012 baseball season will be one hell of a ride for the American League. The Angles, Rangers, Yankees, Rays and Tigers could all win over 90 games. The Red Sox should get something of a bounce back and the White Sox can’t be that terrible again (can they?).
The only certainty in the upcoming season is that an AL Central team will not win the Wild Card. The Tigers could be great, but they could also be an injury away from being a disaster. Adam Dunn and Alex Rios were historically bad for the White Sox last year and the odds of them not improving, even slightly, are astronomical. Jake Peavy will be two years removed from a first-of-its-kind surgery, which bodes well. The Cleveland Indians were a decent team last year and don’t figure to take a step back, despite one of their better known players not being the guy he said he was. I’ll believe in the Kansas City Royals development/improvement when it happens. Now, the White Sox and Indians won’t make the playoffs, but will be decent enough clubs to make life difficult for other AL teams.
The Rangers lost CJ Wilson to the Angels and signed Yu Darvish. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Japanese sensation transitions to playing in the US and in a very tiny ball park. The Angels went crazy with money and signed Wilson and a guy by the name of Albert Pujols. Much like the Prince Fielder deal, the Pujols contract will be worth it in the first few years (10 years, $240 million (WHY COULDN’T I HAVE BEEN GOOD AT BASEBALL!????!?)), but paying a 40 year old man some $30 million a year to hit a baseball isn’t a good idea. No matter how well one eats, no matter how hard one works out, no matter how competitive a person is, hand-eye coordination (the most important thing to have in baseball) declines with age. There’s also that pitching staff: Jeff Weaver, Dan Haren and CJ Wilson is a nice trio to trot out on the mound three of five games.
Do I really have to talk about the New York Yankees? No, because they’re the Yankees. Even if you don’t like baseball, you know that the Yankees are always good and spend lots of money to be good. Which they will continue to do. The Boston Red Sox follow a similar approach, and if their players have any pride will play better. I look at the Red Sox as a better version of the White Sox - hard not to be even incrementally better, but still probably not good enough. Lastly, there are those pesky Tampa Bay Rays. The polar opposite of the Yankees in so many ways (having never won a World Series and spending virtually no money), the Rays are the true Moneyball team of the world. The real market-inefficency exploiters, they have been a powerhouse in baseball’s hardest division since they redesigned their uniforms before the 2008 season.
I’m not ready to make division winner/wild card predictions yet, but I know that 2012 AL baseball will be highly competitive and fun.
Alright, well, I have decided to relaunch my baseball blog. It has been revamped, and will no longer serve as a pure baseball blog. I intend to touch on many subjects near and dear to my sports’ heart. I welcome any and all feedback. So, let’s get started, shall we?
From a personal standpoint, the 2011 MLB baseball season sucked. In a lot of ways, 2011 just sucked from me in all sports. But baseball was historic suckage. Oh, sure, I made some great personal gains throughout the year, but really…I would have traded living with my parents for a little while longer for a Bulls championship or Jay Cutler not breaking his thumb against the San Diego Chargers. Or for people NOT to act like a college football program is more important than child rape (I’m looking directly at you, Nike CEO Phil Knight). But, I digress.
At the start of the year, I was convinced the White Sox would win about 88 games and the division because there was no way they couldn’t. They had, on paper, the deepest pitching in the division. They had just gotten a metronome of a man of production to fill the biggest need from the 2010 team: a left-handed thumper. Then they actually started to play baseball and my dreams were shattered in comedic fashion. DH Adam Dunn, CF Alex Rios and 2B Gordon Beckham were all historically bad (hey look! Those are all separate links to separate pieces highlighting just how terrible they each individually were! Neat-o!), manager Ozzie Guillen quit on the team and the $127 million Chicago White Sox went 79-83.
Now the White Sox have a new manager who has literally never managed anything before but is a fan favorite and let the most productive member of the team over the last 15 years walk away. Oh, and the team that beat them by some 16 games last year just added Prince Fielder to their already-not-lacking-lineup. Goodie!!
Prince Fielder, all easy fat jokes aside, is really good at hitting a baseball. He more than compensates for the loss of Victor Martinez and Magglio Ordonez for the Tigers, at least in 2012 and 2013. However, I’m not sure that $214 million will be worth it over nine years. Tigers’ Owner Mike Ilitch is aiming for a World Series win immediately and doesn’t care about the rest of the contract. Armed with two of the best five hitters in all of baseball (one righty, one lefty. How nifty!), the Tigers now ask themselves the enviable question, “Where do we play Miggy since Prince doesn’t want to DH?” Apparently third base, although the last time the Tigers tried Miguel Cabrera there in 2008, he lasted for all of 116 innings. According to FanGraphs.com, without which I would not survive, the Tigers are trying something historic. Yeah, I think the 2012 Detroit Tigers are going to score a lot, but they’ll need to. They are a bad defensive team to be kind, a terrible defensive team to be more accurate.
Now, I said no easy fat jokes and I meant it, but Prince Fielder’s size is a legitimate concern for the Tigers. For the record, he isn’t a vegetarian, but he does work hard to keep himself in good shape and has only missed 13 games since becoming the full-time first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2006. That’s pretty incredible in and of it self, but he’s also a big guy. A very big guy and very big guys tend to develop health issues as they age. Hell, look at the injuries Frank Thomas battled starting in 1997 and he didn’t have close to Fielder’s waistline. The human body can only carry so much on it before the frame gets tired. I don’t for a second doubt Fielder’s competitive spirit or want to live up to the value of his contract (which he almost certainly won’t be able to do), but a large degree of his production is out of his control. All of that is before we even mention his genetic lineage. If the Tigers win the 2012, 2013 or 2014 World Series, then congrats to Ilitch and GM Dave Dombrowski. They managed to buy themselves a title, which New Yorkers will tell ain’t exactly easy. But if they don’t, things could be mighty ugly in Detroit.
As of right now, yes, I think the Detroit Tigers will win the AL Central division and win it rather easily. But…the AL Central is weird. Yes, it’s mostly bad, but it is also weird. In the AL East, you know it’s always going to be a three way between the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. The West is the Angels and Rangers (hey Oakland! What happened to that Greatest-GM-To-Never-Win-Anything thing?! Whaaaa haa haaaappen?! Lolz). But the AL Central? Every year, it’s someone new. The prognosticators (oh which I don’t consider myself one, I’m just a guy with a computer and an internet connection) are always wrong, and that’s not a shot at them. On the left are years and predictions of who will win, on the right, who actually made the playoffs.
2005 [Twins] White Sox
2006 [White Sox/Indians] Tigers/Twins
2007 [Twins] Indians
2008 [Tigers] White Sox
2009 [Twins] Twins
2010 [Tigers] Twins
2011 [White Sox] Tigers
Eek. In just one single year, 2009, the experts were correct and even then, it took a one-game playoff to get a division winner between the Tigers and Twins. The Tigers have three guys that are going to be paid $20 million. They are the best team in the division and should win it. Unless Prince Fielder starts to think he is Adam Dunn. Or Miggy gets hurt, which isn’t crazy since third base is a far more demanding position than first and Miggy isn’t exactly Jack LaLanne out there. Or some other disaster hits Detroit (like the rest of the roster sucking and three players not being enough to get them to the playoffs). That last bit is a real possibility, with Austin Jackson’s getting on base ability lacking, Delmon Young (also a big boy) nowhere near as good as he should be, Jhonny Peralta unable to spell correctly and coming off the best year of his career and legitimate questions about the depth of the pitching staff.
Yes, the Tigers made an insane move designed to win the World Series real quick. God bless ‘em. The White Sox are stuck with bad contracts and the worst farm system in the world. Sadness. But, hey…at least baseball is getting closer.