The St. Louis Cardinals are now tied for the most wins in all of baseball! Not a bad start for the team that lost both their manager and their top player this past offseason. While this may not come as much of a shock to us loyal Redbird fans, I guarantee that it was unpredictable to the rest of the league. Of course we knew that Lance Lynn was going to start off 6-0 and that Beltran was going to hit 10 homers in the first 30 games. And we also knew that Matt Carpenter was going to carry the team through the Lance Berkman injury. (I hope you recognize my sarcasm). But for those who didn’t know, here we are! The Cardinals are back to win another crown. Now let’s take a look at some other headlines that actually could be labeled as a surprise:
Let’s start with the American League playoff race. If the season were to end today, the division leaders would be Texas, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay. Most of you probably expected Texas, but what about Cleveland and Tampa Bay? The tigers return with one of the top pitching staffs in baseball and also made one of the biggest splashes this offseason in signing Prince Fielder, yet they sit two games back of Cleveland, having recently been swept by the Mariners, who had a .414 winning percentage last year.
And while some expected Tampa Bay to do well, did you really expect them to start off by sweeping the Yankees? And would you have had that high of expectations if you knew that three of their top starters would miss significant part of their season so far? (Longoria, Upton, and Jennings). I mean, yes they have a great pitching staff, but their staff is ranked 21st in the majors for quality starts. Yet they still sit on top of the always competitive AL East.
Okay, so the Yankees aren’t on top of the AL East, but they’ll still make the playoffs, right? Well, not if the season were to end today. Now that baseball has expanded to a two-team wildcard, the one-game playoff would actually be held between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles haven’t been to the playoffs since 1997 and the Blue Jays haven’t been there since 1993 (the year they won the Series). Could this be the year that the Yankees don’t make it? We’d have to expand the playoffs to 6 teams if that happened! You can’t have the playoffs without the Yankees!! (That was also sarcasm).
In the National League, things are also a bit different this year. Joining the Cardinals on top of their divisions are LA Dodgers and Washington Nationals. Last year the Dodgers showed more fight in the courtroom than on the field and the nationals have never won a division. Actually, they did win in 1981 but that was due to a players’ strike, and they were winning in 1994, but that season also ended in a players’ strike. So let’s hope the Nationals drop a bit in the rankings so that we can avoid another such incident.
But let’s not stop there, let’s also discuss the season-ending awards given to the league’s top players. And let’s start with the MVP. The MVP of the American League is quite simple, as Josh Hamilton has swept every category. He is 18 points ahead in batting average, 4 ahead in homeruns, and 10 ahead in RBIs. Looks like we have our first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. And if he continues on the pace that he is on now, then he will shatter both the homerun record and the RBI record, hitting 76 and 194, respectively. And what is it that you say!? Josh Hamilton is a free agent after the season? Looks like the Angels may swoop in with another 10 year offer for too much money. Sorry Texas fans!
In the National League, Matt Kemp dominates the discussion, but he is denied the Triple Crown by his very own teammate, Andre Ethier (30-27 in RBIs). Not far behind in some of these categories are Jon Jay (BA), Rafael Furcal (BA), Carlos Beltran (HR, RBIs) and David Freese (RBIs). Again, Cardinal fans totally predicted that! And like Hamilton, if Kemp continues on his torrid pace, he will also set record highs in homeruns and RBIs. But I expect both of these guys to get asterisks next to their names because anyone who can hit more than 40 homeruns today MUST have used steroids. So congrats Hamilton* and Kemp* on your MVP awards!
The NL Cy Young award goes to none other than our very own Lance Lynn. If he continues on the pace that he is on, then he will finish with a record of 31-0 with a 1.40 ERA. That’s pretty realistic. And who finishes second in wins? None other than Kyle Lohse, with a record of 26-5 for the Redbirds. We should have traded him when we had the chance. And back to the topic of Lynn, if he finishes with such numbers (which we have no reason to believe he won’t), then he’ll be the run-away favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year award also, beating out the Cub’s Bryan LaHair.
For the AL Cy Young, the race is a lot tighter, but why not give it to the guy that was predestined to receive it before the season even began? Yu Darvish, you’re our winner with a 22-5 record and 238 strikeouts. Welcome to the big leagues, Yu! I hope you finish better than Hideo Nomo did. But like Nomo, we’ll give you the Rookie of the Year award. Cepedes was a close second.
Manager of the Year has to go to Mike Matheny, for exceeding all expectations in following the legendary TLR. And in the AL it has to go to Buck Showalter of the Orioles. Anyone who can turn that club into a bunch of winners deserves that award.
So what are my predictions for the World Series? Well you have to go with the Cardinals! My prediction is St. Louis over Texas again (sorry Ron Washington), and we’ll do it again in 7. La Russa will be brought in to work the bullpen and Chris Carpenter will get the save, earning the closer’s role in mid-September.
Not a bad year for baseball.
Other notable stats to look for:
Adam Dunn completely shatters the strikeout record, breaking the current record before the All-Star Break.
Also happening before the All-Star break, Valentine and Red Sox agree to part ways by mutual consent. Red Sox finish last and hire Curt Schilling. Next year, they finish even worse and then try with John Kruk. Eventually they realize that hiring Baseball Tonight personnel isn't the way to go, though it does grant them 2 games a week on ESPN.
Lastly, Jamie Moyer decides he isn't ready to retire, so the Angels, looking for a veteran arm to round out their staff, also offer him a 10 year contract and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Hey, I know all of this is a bit crazy, and it may be a bit pre-mature, but if Mel Kiper is allowed to post about next year’s NFL draft, then I should be allowed to post about this year’s baseball season. See you at the World Series, Cards fans! Be sure to bring your rodents!