We now enter into the great black hole of the sporting calendar: baseball season is over, football season is in full swing, and basketball and
hockey start their seasons up. (Are the NHL players / owners on strike? Haven’t they been on strike for, like, five years? I can’t keep up. Who cares. Hockey is irrelevant to me.)
But before we buckle up for the long dark night of the soul that is winter sports, it’s time to look back on the baseball season that was and, more specifically, to the predictions I made at the start of the year and to look forward to the MLB hardware to be distributed in a few weeks.
In this space back a few weeks ago, I predicted the winner of the Reds / Giants series would go on to win it all. Got that one right. And that’s about all I got right in this postseason. Congrats to the Giants. Backs to the wall, down 3-1 in STL, they came charging back to win 7 straight in October to earn their second championship in three years. Hats off, boys. You deserved it. I predicted the Giants would win their division back in April and I did fairly well through the rest of the NL West, accurately picking LA to finish second and AZ third. Other than flipping SD and COL, I nearly ran the table on this one.
I really aced the AL Central exam, correctly picking every team. Yes, I even had the Sox finishing in 2nd — I always thought they had the pitching to carry them, although nobody could’ve predicted a Cy Young-esque season by Chris Sale. I also did fairly well in the NL Central; other than picking my Cards over the Reds, I had every team in their rightful place in baseball’s most crowded division. I hate to see the Astros leave our division, though. Now we have one less pushover.
As for the other divisions, well…show me anybody who had Oakland and Baltimore earning playoff berths back in April! My picks weren’t terrible: I had Philly winning the NL East (a strong finish pushed them to 3rd); Texas winning the AL West (one Josh Hamilton fly ball did me in); and Tampa cruising in the AL East (another 3rd place finish). I was really wrong about Atlanta — they had a great season, the one-game Wild Card “play-in” notwithstanding. And I also thought Miami would be solid.
As for the MLB hardware, here’s how I see things shaping up:
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
On Sept. 1, I would’ve made a strong bet that Mike Trout was going to win this one going away. But you simply can’t deny a Triple Crown winner, especially one who was playing meaningful games throughout the season’s final month. On top of that, Cabrera was gimping around on one leg for most of the final two months of the season and he continued to crush the ball. If Miggy doesn’t win this, it’ll be an absolute travesty.
NL MVP: Buster Posey
This is a fairly weak crop, but Posey is the most logical choice. A league batting title, coming off a debilitating injury, while playing the most taxing position in the league on a World Championship club…the case is pretty much closed here. I’ll be interested to see how many votes Yadier Molina nabbed. With Albert’s departure, he became the soul of a team that made another deep postseason run. Molina has taken the Ozzie Smith ascendancy path to offensive production; 2012 will go down as his 1987 and I expect him to finish 2nd in the balloting, much like Smith did that year (losing out to State Farm spokesman Andre Dawson).
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
Really, this thing is a toss up. Some voters will be swayed by David Price’s gleaming ERA crown and his 20 wins. Others will reward Jered Weaver for winning 20 games in only 30 starts. And who could argue? I’ll go with Verlander; sure, his 2012 pales in comparison to his otherworldly numbers of a year ago. But he still led the league in strikeouts, was 2nd in ERA, and pitched his team to a postseason berth. Expect this voting to be extremely close.
NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey
This will also be a tough one, with plenty of solid choices. Gio Gonzalez paced the league in wins, Clayton Kershaw won the ERA crown, and Dickey barely upstaged Kershaw in strikeouts. Throw in Johnny Cueto, Matt Cain and Stephen Strasburg…and this thing could go a number of ways. I’ll go with Dickey, who captured everyone’s hearts with his knuckle-balling rise to prominence this season. Aside: has another 200 strikeout pitcher in recent memory won fewer games than Cliff Lee this season? Lee turned in another solid season, but Philly rewarded his excellence with only 6 W’s. Crazy.
AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout
Trout can absolutely do it all: hit, throw, run, catalyze a major league offense. No other rookie in recent memory has dominated so fully and completely. He should win this thing easily.
NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper
Now, if you want to look at stats, there are far more compelling arguments to be made for guys like Todd Frazier and Wade Miley. But, come on. Harper may not have fully lived up to the hype he’s received this year, but I have a feeling he’ll come out on top here and I don’t really have a problem with that. Watch him play; it’s like he’s trying to win the Dirty Uniform award in warm-ups. I love his motor, I love his attitude, and I think he wins this one easily.
There you have it. I don’t have any strong feelings about Manager of the Year. Right now everybody is wanting to put Bruce Bochy in the Hall of Fame, so he’ll probably win in the NL. You’d have to go with either Buck in Baltimore or Bob Melvin out in Oakland. Actually, it’s too bad you can’t recognize them both for the jobs they did. Until next spring…