Opening Day – FINALLY – is upon us. The MLB and MLBPA did their darndest over the winter to dangle us like stale cotton candy stuck on a wad of freshly chawed chew to delay Opening Day via what seemed to be endless negotiations, but they merely delayed it by a week. Spring training was shortened so we may see some crazy-ass baseball for a few weeks, but it ought to be fun.
I took a swing at the teams and thought about writing a prediction – who will suck, who won’t, who will make the playoffs despite their roster or manager or owner – but said to myself, “no, let’s not do that. Let’s talk about the MLB farm system. – the other 98%,” Personnel volume-wise, it is not 98%, but by player salaries it has to be close. The baseball farm system, in case you do not know, is a place where you get what you want to make everything better for yourself on the cheap. This is also known as MLB owners collectively stating, “we’re going to drag your sorry asses all over the place via bus just for you to get a chance to get to The Show.”
The MLB, Major League Baseball for those who do not know, has consolidated their minor league ranks into the MiLB, or “Minor League Baseball.” The reason why they consolidated is the reason why owners of teams do everything, to save some money. Yeah, you’ll still see minor leagues unaffiliated with MLB, but those players are seriously toast. They are done, have been done for a few seasons, and are just there to tip their hat, strike out or throw a hammy, then limp back to the dugout. That’s more of a sideshow circus than baseball IMO, but people still go to see it. The Schaumburg Boomers, part of the Frontier League which I believe is an MLB “Partner” league (AKA you don’t really exist in their eyes, but it is baseball so whatever now pay us), would be one of those teams.
Generally during this time of year Major League Baseball fans such as I mull over their favorite team’s impending moves for the upcoming season. We’ll sit around the metaphorical stove and keep ourselves warm with loads of firewood, black coffee and baseball chatter. But right now, it’s quiet… too quiet.
First off, I am a San Francisco Giants fan. Ergo while I will love this series, it’s Giants first for me. Have been since the mid ‘80s when I moved to Los Angeles and found the Dodger faithful about as lackadaisical a fan base as I have ever witnessed. Show up in the 3rd inning, leave in the 7th. Loved Dodger stadium, Dodger dogs, and the game. But the fans? Not so much. When I was able to go to the NLCS in 1985 and watched as Jack Clark cranked out a 3-run homer so the Cardinals could advance and leave the Dodgers at home and watch Pedro Guerrero throw his mitt up in the air in disgust, I smiled. The team may not have deserved this fate, but the fans did. The Dodger were up 2 games to nil and had lost 4 straight, with the last two being losses in the top of the 9th behind their closer Tom Niedenfeur, who was then dubbed Tom Need-in-fewer-games.
So, I jumped onto the Giants bandwagon and have been a fan ever since. After all, they were the Dodgers main rival no matter how far behind them that season they were as the Giants ended up an awful 62-100 in 1985. By 1987 I had moved from Los Angeles to northern California and the Giants were a team on the come. The rivalry grew more intense, intense enough that on April 21, 1987 in Candlestick Park, someone threw a battery (along with beer) at Dodgers first basemen Mike Marshall who made an ass of himself rounding the bases after hitting a 3-run homer. It wasn’t a car battery, don’t be ridiculous. I think it was a D and I’m pretty sure it didn’t hit him plus other small hard objects were tossed as well (and more beer). Hence, we started calling every Giants home game when they Dodgers came into town “Spark Plug & Battery Night.” Needless to say, security got beefed up a bit more.
The Giants fans were far more rabid. They had to be. Before the jewel the Giants play in now – Oracle Park – Candlestick Park was their home and was one of the worst stadiums ever. When you went to a game in July and sat in the cheap seats, you didn’t just bring a jacket, you brought a sleeping bag. The fog coming in off the bay was so cold it could turn a mild California summer day into a Midwestern winter one. 1988 saw the Dodgers get to the World Series and they upset the favored A’s led by a blindered Tony Larussa who just couldn’t see how his two main hitters went from normal big men to ginormous hulks. By 1989, the Giants had caught up and got to the World Series the summer I moved to Chicago. I intensely watched and cried. Not because they were swept by the A’s, but because of the devastating earthquake that hit during the beginning of Game 2.
I could go on and on about the Giants, Dusty Baker pulling the same crap Larussa did except this time it was one player rather than two, and the three World Series victories they captured in the ‘10s once they got a far better manager in Bruce Bochy… who came from the Padres. But this is not about the Giants, it’s about the current rivalry between the Dodgers and the Padres.
It’s spring training and all the teams are out there getting prepped for the six months of regular season ahead of them. Baseball, since its season is so long, is a weird sport and team fortunes can change pretty quickly. However, I am not going out on a very long limb by stating this could possibly be the most lopsided season we’ve seen for a long time. The disparity between awesomeness and sorry-ass, to me, has never been wider.
For some teams the season will be far longer than they want. As such let’s start in reverse, like a spinning bunt that hits fair but slowly trickles right over the foul line to ultimately just be a strike… or in these collective teams’ cases, an out.
The ‘Keep your Bats in the Rack” Group
Colorado Rockies – they traded their best player, Nolan Arenado, to the Cardinals for a sack of seeds that no matter good the soil is and how carefully they water, will never germinate to anything of substance. They will be so bad that if California slides into the ocean, the Rockies still won’t win the NL West. They’re destined to be bad for a minimum of 5 years. Are there other teams worse than the Rockies? I believe yes, at least two.
Sports contracts and sports car prices. They are the two biggest sticker shock things in the world for white men. Not all white men, of course. But the ones that run to social media to furrow their brows and wave their fist in the air are all assuredly foaming at the mouth with indignation at the fact that the San Diego Padres and their neophyte turned supernova shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. came to an agreement on a 14 year, 340 million dollar contract that will pay Tatis to stay in San Diego until after his age 35 season, at an annual rate of 24.3 million dollars.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. It wasn’t supposed to end with fans, who had stayed loyal for so long, to get a taste of glory only for them to get punched in the stomach, over and over again. It was supposed to be a new era. Not the penny pinching from the ghosts of ownership past. There was supposed to be a run of talent in the minor league system that allowed for big name free agents to come to the team, as a destination point.
But that is over now. Because the Cubs are now a fucking embarassment.
Alright so that was something, right? About an hour after my fourth installment of predictions were posted, the league expanded this year’s playoffs to 16 teams. I kinda just tossed my arms in the air about it. Then it felt like the season would be canceled every day for about three weeks. Somehow, almost everyone played 60 games. So here we are, the field is set, and the chaos of a best-of-three first round series is ready for Tuesday. Who will survive all the way through the most bonkers MLB playoffs ever? Well, some of us got together in a digital way and tried to guess at it for your amusement.
Life is complicated enough right now. COVID is nowhere near slowing down, mostly thanks to the minions who believe it’s a hoax. There are more than 150,000 people who would love to debate those residents of Idiocracy if they could but they can’t, as they died.
Now we have sports making a comeback… of sorts. In a quick breeze let’s rush through what’s up before we get into the nitty gritty dirt band of details for the NHL playoff system.
Every year, around late-March, I write up my postseason predictions for MLB on a legal pad and tape it to my cubicle wall. I did it this year, too. Then, well, you know. For like 8 years, I guessed that the Nationals would win it all, because frankly it made sense. Then I stopped doing that and believed too much in a Cubs resurgence. Then the Nationals won the Series. So lets just put as much value as possible into what I’m about to predict. If I’m right, I will spend the rest of my life angry that I didn’t put money on this result.
We have come to the end of the regular season predictions. Monday, I predicted the Easts. Yesterday, I went after the Centrals. If one thing is clear, its that these are for Houston and Los Angeles to lose. In a normal year, they should probably have their divisions wrapped up by mid-September. Much like the other four, these two will go into the last few games with titles and playoff spots on the line.