With today’s official kickoff of the Major League Baseball season, I have decided to throw out my personal commemorative first pitch, of sorts. In fact, I’m throwing out SIX PITCHES, in the form of my half-dozen “locks” or guarantees for the upcoming campaign.
Nothing outrageous ….. such as the Pittsburgh Pirates making the playoffs.
Nothing obvious ….. such as the Pittsburgh Pirates missing the playoffs.
Nothing cruel ….. such as being subjected to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But, I do have a solid six hunches regarding the upcoming slate of regular season and postseason action. Will I be wrong? Nope, not a chance …..
San Francisco Giants – One & Done
The defending World Champions were an aberration, if not a freak of the modern game. Dominant starting pitching, complimented by a stifling closer? Yep. But, the Giants lineup was pasted together with retreads, fill-ins and future contributors. Aubrey Huff led the team, across the board, in offensive production – and he gathered slightly above average numbers.
It won’t happen, again. They will be home when the playoffs begin.
Mr. November Nails 3,000 Hits During A Stellar Season
It’s hard to believe the New York Yankees do not have a member of the 3,000 hit club. As we know, that’s about to change, with Derek Jeter needing just 74 hits to become the 28th member of the prestigious group – and he’ll do it in near record time.
But, my bold guarantee is Jeter reaches his milestone during an impressive “Jeter-like” season, hitting over .300 and serving as a spark plug to the Yankees offense. He’s been written off way too soon.
Gonzalez, Santana & Beckham
No, I am not referring to Adrian, Johan or David. As the 2011 season comes to an end, names like Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Santana and Gordon Beckham will be even more recognizable as the budding stars of the game’s next era. All three of these players will take a GIANT step toward such prominence, this year.
Brewers Prove An Ageless Reality
We’ve witnessed this mistake numerous times over the last 30 years. George Steinbrenner tried it; along with Tom Hicks, Drayton McLane, Gene Autry and a few other owners. Championship-caliber teams can rarely be built, or substantially comprised during a single off-season. But, that’s exactly what Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin are trying, in Milwaukee.
With the certain departure of Prince Fielder, after 2011, the Brewers are ALL IN with additions, such as Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and most recently, the baggage-ridden Nyjer Morgan. Such teams lack continuity and are under an immediate pressure to win, on Opening Day. If they’re not in contention at the trade deadline, most assembled clubs are broken apart.
I expect the Brewers to be “sellers” as August approaches.
Top Rookies Are Not In The Majors
I have absolutely no idea who the American and National League “Rookies Of The Year” will be …. but, I’d be willing to bet neither player starts the season on a big league roster. It’s happened many times and will likely happen, again, in 2011. I suppose this is my way of suggesting some caution on hefty predictions for Jeremy Hellickson, Brandon Belt and Chris Sale.
Hall Of Fame – Class Of 2017 ???
As the 2011 season concludes, Jim Thome and Chipper Jones will officially go on the “Cooperstown Clock”. I’m more optimistic regarding Thome’s impact during the season, but it’s obvious both players are coming to the finish line of superb careers.
Thome will reach 600 homers, which virtually locks him in as a first ballot inductee. I think Jones is a much more debatable candidate. I’m tempted to include Ivan Rodriguez, but I can see him hanging around in 2012, especially if he’s above the 2900 hits plateau.
*** Tomorrow, I will cast a half dozen bold predictions for the Orioles