MLB 2012: Dog Days

It’s been forever since I’ve made a baseball related post. In fact, I may not have posted anything since my early season picks. But I have been following the MLB season closely this year (as always) and I have a few thoughts as we enter the final stretch of another great season.

  • One of the great stories of this year has to be the Nationals. Strong starting pitching has fueled this meteoric rise to the top of the National League. (This club has come a long way from their “Washington Natinals” days.) I can’t believe that they’re actually going to follow through on this plan to shut down Stephen Strasburg. Limit his innings; skip a start or two…sure. But total shut down? We’ll see. Bryce Harper has flourished because he hasn’t been asked to carry the club. He’s been an important complementary piece. I like the way this club is built, especially now that Drew Storen is back and pitching in high leverage late inning spots. If they take the training wheels off of Strasburg, this team could be playing deep into October.
  • For the record, I did call the White Sox resurgence back in April. (Don’t believe me? Click here.) The recipe has been solid starting pitching, anchored by Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, and a top flight offense. The addition of Kevin Youkilis makes an already tough lineup that much deeper. And having Good Alex Rios show up this season always helps. Adam Dunn is your Comeback Player of the Year. The Tigers are nipping at their heels, but I like Chicago to at least stay in the hunt until the very end.
  • It’s crazy that a 3rd place team could end up winning the World Series this year. I know the powers-that-be think that they’ve really hit on something special with this additional Wild Card spot, but I remain unconvinced. Of course, I was late to the party on the whole Wild Card thing to begin with, so this is a “purist’s” perspective.
  • Did anybody see the O’s playing this well for this long? And how about the Pirates? It’s been 40 years since both of these clubs were relevant at the same time. Although I’m always rooting for my Cards to make the playoffs, if they don’t, you’d better believe I’ll be rooting for Pittsburgh all the way, baby.
  • What can you say about Mike Trout? When the Angels signed Albert Pujols, they thought they were inking a perennial MVP candidate. Little did they know that the 2012 AL MVP was already on their roster. Trout has absolutely been the offensive catalyst this club needed. He can truly do it all: hit, run, throw, hit for power. And he looks like he’ll be a fixture in the Anaheim OF for the next decade. Impressive.
  • Red Sox fans, looking like a third straight postseason that you’ll have to sit out. I tried to tell you. Verbatim, on this site, I told you back in March: “Personally, I think the Valentine selection is a train wreck waiting to happen.” The only question is how long management decides to deny that this whole situation is broken. Expect Josh Beckett and Jon Lester to be pitching for different clubs when spring training begins. It’s a changing of the guard in the AL East, folks. Toronto and Tampa are going to be relevant for a long time and the Yankees are always going to be the Yankees. Right now, the Sox have the 4th most talented roster in the division. Ouch.
  • Ben Sheets? What sort of Faustian deal did you strike to lead to such a resurgence? Omar Daal would like to know.
  • No baseball column by yours truly would be complete without an honest assessment of my beloved Cards. This season has been full of pleasant surprises. Lance Lynn has emerged as a solid starting pitcher. Allen Craig has become a force in the middle of the lineup. Yadier Molina is following the Ozzie Smith career path to offensive relevance to add to his defensive wizardry. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday have turned in their typically productive seasons at the plate and Adam Wainwright looks fully recovered from last year’s injury. But injuries have popped up, as we knew they would with a team this brittle: Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman have been virtual non-factors this year and Jamie Garcia has also been bitten by the bug. As of this writing, we’re only 3.5 games out of the wild card. With some of our injuries, I’ll take that. This team has a proven pedigree of playing well down the stretch. But it’ll take a solid run to make up ground on Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Maybe by the time of my next baseball post, one of those two clubs will have faded.
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