Mea culpa: 2016 in review


Fake news is all the rage this year, but hopefully readers can tell the difference between it and false analysis. Because there’s been plenty of the latter here.

One of the ancient Greeks — it could have been one of the Romans, I could be wrong about this parable, too — said that if you like something you’ve written, you should reread it 10 or 20 years and you’ll be sure to change your opinion.

In this personal case, it didn’t take 10 years, but 10 months. Rereading some of my posts was as embarrassing as an adult rereading the diary they wrote as a teen. It was as humbling as if any of us stood in the batter’s box to gauge the actual speed of a major-league fastball. Funny, it doesn’t seem so fast on TV.

I saw so many things wrong, I thought the president-elect was whispering in my ear. Or Alec Baldwin.

The good news is that some of the failures were epic, like a Babe Ruth strikeout. Ruth said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way,” and it didn’t, all the way on this long, lonely walk back to the blogger’s dugout.

I wasn’t all wrong, of course, but it was a Colorado Rockies’ kind of year prognosticating: a few longballs  — most notably on the Cubs, whom I pegged from the start of spring training, and their curse, which I derided almost as long — some excitement but a sub-.500 record in the end.

To the review:

Wrong

  • “Vegas says the Twins are 50-1 to win the World Series. If you’re looking for a longshot, try the Twins, who won’t be 50-1 for another decade or so.” That’s right in one regard for all the wrong reasons. The Twins won’t be 50-1 this year, they’ll be 1,000-1. If that.
  •  “Remember when David Ortiz started the season with three homers, four doubles and nine hits in the first week of the season and it was frequently asked why he’s retiring? He’s 9-for-36 and without a homer since April 12. Answer is, because it’s not easy to maintain that pace at age 40.” Ortiz not only maintained that pace, he bettered it. He led the AL in doubles (48), RBIs (127), slugging percentage (.620) and OPS (1.021). The good news is, having retired, he definitely won’t maintain that pace at 41.
  • “Memo to (John) Farrell: the reason your team is paying (David) Price $30 million a year is to get Price as many starts as possible, not to defer to Steven Wright.” Wright was an All-Star; Price was average. Too bad Farrell couldn’t use Price to pinch-run for Ortiz when he did Wright and Wright got hurt, because Price had pitched and put the Sox in a 6-2 hole.
  • “The Cardinals are still an elite team and a good bet to win 90 or more games for the fourth straight season and the sixth time in the last eight. But the NL Central is the new AL East and the Cardinals get to play the role of the Yankees. Or in current political terms, the Cardinals are Donald Trump, and the Cubs and Pirates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.” Wrong in multiple ways. The Cards didn’t win 90, the NL Central wasn’t as good as the AL East, and the Cubs were Donald Trump even if they have an owner who looks and thinks more like Cruz (Ted, not Todd). The Cards did play the role of the Yankees: neither made the playoffs.
  • “It’d be simpler to try to prove the Indians are a 90-win team, even if they’re not, again.” Technically, they weren’t a 90-win team. They won 94 and 10 more in the playoffs.
  •  “Maybe there’s a method to what (Dave) Stewart is doing, going against the culture with his management style as he once did with his pitching style. Maybe he’s as wild a GM as he once was a reliever, not sure where the next move, like his next pitch, is going. He has the Diamondbacks in position to contend in 2016, and we’ll find out if it’s easy to sustain an organization as his trades indicate he thinks it is.” If Stewart had a method, it was anarchy. The D-backs won 69 games and fired him, deservedly so.
  • “The Rays also added from the Mariners Brad Miller to play shortstop in place of departed free agent Asdrubal Cabrera, and Logan Morrison, who had a .685 OPS, to DH, because collecting the rejects of a 76-win team is bound to help.” Miller didn’t hurt; he hit 30 homers. Morrison didn’t help; he hit .238 and is a free agent.
  • “The Pirates will be again be one of the best teams in baseball’s best division in 2016, but there’s more of a sense of foreboding about them than the Cardinals or Cubs. The latter two will have other chances. With the Pirates, it seems as if there’s only so many.” Again with the NL Central. It wasn’t that good, and neither were the Pirates. They won 78 games.
  • “(Trevor Story is) unlikely to lead the Rockies in home runs, let alone the National League or MLB.” Right for all the wrong reasons. Story got hurt, but he hit 27 homers in 97 games. He missed the last two months, and it’s not a stretch to think he might have hit the 14 homers he needed to tie teammate Nolan Arenado for the team lead, which would have been the NL lead. It’s also not a stretch to think he might have fanned the 76 times needed to tie Chris Carter (206) for the NL lead.
  • “… the Rangers have survived free-agent defections and serious injuries and  they’ll probably win 85-90 more games again this year.” They won 85 by Sept. 11 and 90 on Sept. 20 and five more before the end of the season for 95 in all, more than any team in the AL. Then they won none in the playoffs.
  • “The 2016 Brewers won’t be very good, which is good for the Brewers because they’re not trying to be. The Brewers will lose 95 games in 2016, or more, but will any Brewers fan be indignant after the team lost 94 last season?” Correct in a partly cloudy way. The Brewers lost 89, but weren’t very good and Brewers fans weren’t indignant, those that remained after a third season in the last four years of 88 losses or more. 

Right

  • “If there’s a reason the 2016 Cubs can’t win, it’s not identifiable in March.” More Cubs. “When the Yankees decide to divest themselves of the game’s best bullpen, it’s most likely to be to the Cubs, who are run by folks who know something about winning over present-day opponents and historical strawmen.” And more Cubs, on the curse. “It’s all hooey of course. The main thing the Cubs have been cursed with is a lack of talent.” If you’re going to be right on one thing, it might as well start at the top. The Cubs were the best team in MLB from the day they signed Ben Zobrist, and the idea of a curse or jinx was poppycock. Forty years of rooting for the Red Sox can help you identify it when you see it.
  • “(Nats GM Mike) Rizzo has been an astute judge of talent and built an organization of which much is expected, but if he was looking for players to exile after 2015, he should have started with Jonathan Papelbon.” And more Papelbon. ” ‘If you do the job, it’s not a problem,’ Nationals manager Dusty Baker said early in the season, after Papelbon stumbled to a couple of saves. That must have tickled Cubs fans familiar with Baker’s innate knowledge of pitching. Sometimes how you do the job is indicative of a problem, and we’ll see how long it takes Baker to admit the Nats have one.” About four months, since it took the Nats till August to jettison Papelbon. If you’re going to have a whipping boy, there weren’t many better to have this year than Papelbon, who had a 4.37 ERA and a long history of boorishness. He’ll have to get a lot more outs for a team to tolerate the latter.

  • “The Mets have (Yoenis) Cespedes back for the whole season, after a winter of angst. They’re neatly positioned to defend their NL East title, if their pitchers stay healthy.” Pretty big if. If you include the postseason, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey topped previous season highs by a combined 106 innings in 2015. Say what you want about Scott Boras, but he’s entitled to an I told you so.

  • “It’s hard to blame (Manny) Machado for charging (Yordano) Ventura or (Joe) Maddon his empathy. But if the Orioles lose the pennant by a game, there’s a chance one of them might have been won by Machado in his absence.” The Orioles won 89 games, same as the Jays and lost the tiebreaker and wild-card game at Toronto. Machado lost four games to his suspension and the Orioles lost two of those. Maybe if Machado isn’t suspended the Orioles get home field and Zach Britton does more than warm up and maybe the AL playoffs are changed in so many ways. Charging Ventura is like engaging in political discourse on social media. It’s pointless, even if Maddon thinks otherwise. But Machado took a swing at Ventura so it’s all good.

  • “No World Series champion has repeated since the Yankees won the last of three in 2000, and it doesn’t seem likely the Royals will break the streak.” The Royals didn’t break .500. The Cubs in 2017 might be another matter.

  • “The Angels won 85 games last year and finished third in the AL West, but take away (Mike) Trout and they would have looked more like the Athletics, who won 68 and finished last. … Unfortunately for Trout, it appears he’s in for a few more seasons like the last one.” The Angels looked even more like the A’s in 2016, winning 74 games to  Oakland’s 69 and needing an 8-2 close to the season to do that. And they had the AL MVP on their side.

  • “The 2016 (Red) Sox are an enigma. There’s an abundance of good, young talent, but there are almost as many questions, from Clay Buchholz’s confidence (is there anyone who believes in Buchholz less than Red Sox fans? Unless it’s Buchholz himself) to Carson Smith’s flexor to (Jackie) Bradley’s All-Star second half vs. his AAA first half (.267/.352/.539 vs. .4-for-30) to who sits next to Pablo on the bench and will there be enough room?” Buchholz was an enigma again, pitching to an .830 OPS in the first half compared to a .612 in the second. Now he’s a Phillie. And Carson Smith’s flexor flexed wrong and he pitched just 2.2 innings. The Sox were pretty good anyway.
  • This year’s (Padres) team isn’t very good and may break the 70s streak, although not in a good way.” The Padres won no fewer than 71 games and no more than 77 for five straight seasons, until they slipped to 68 in 2016. They may be starting a new streak.
  • “The Phillies had four 90-win seasons followed by four non-winnings seasons and they won’t win many more than 70 games this season, if that.” They won 71, which is not many more, though with MLB’s worst run differential at -186, they were lucky to do that.
  • “It might be true that (Corey Dickerson for Jake McGee) could be a bad deal for the Rockies. Even more, it could be a bad deal for the Rays, too.” Dickerson batted a career-low .245 with a career-low .293 on-base percentage, career-low .469 slugging percentage and career-low .761 OPS (can you tell who has Dickerson in our playback league? Not bitter, not at all). McGee was worse, throwing a career-high nine homers, giving up a career-high 56 hits and having a career-high 4.73 ERA and career-high .887 OPS against (I don’t have McGee, but if I did I’d be just as bitter). The trade hurt both teams, and it serves them right.

Editor’s note: The original version had the wrong year in the headline. Speaking of getting things wrong, what’s one more?

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