No Predicting This World Series

If, however, recent, and not so recent World Series history tells us anything, it is that anything can happen this week. The Royals bullpen could blow three leads, Bumgarner could get roughed up in the first inning of game one. The Giants could continue to score runs on wild pitches and errors by the pitchers as they did against the Cardinals. A light hitting middle infielder like Joe Panik or Alcides Escobar could hit a big home run or two to win a game. The kvetching that these are not the best two teams in baseball, whatever that means, notwithstanding, this should be a fun World Series with lots of interesting stories and players, but the way each team got to this point is a reminder that predicting what will happen next is a mug's game.

In Defense of This World Series

he games themselves still need to be played and it is possible this World Series could be a less than dramatic one, but that can happen any year even when the Yankees or Red Sox are playing. However, the stories, players and characters behind this World Series are as compelling as in almost any year. If you're a baseball fan and don't realize that, you haven't been paying attention.

Pedro Martinez Shows Solidarity with a Young Pitcher

Following a season that was been dominated by MLB relentlessly telling fans that Derek Jeter is class act deserving of their respect, to the point where even Yankee fans were tired of it, Martinez demonstrated that he, like his longtime Yankee rival, is also a class act, willing to stand up for somebody who he thinks was treated badly. That too deserves our respect.

Melky Cabrera and Baseball's New Steroid Problem

Melky Cabrera’s suspension for the use of testosterone is a blow to the pennant hopes of the San Francisco Giants as Cabrera was having a great year and had been a key ingredient to the Giants being in first place at the time of the suspension. The impact of this event, however, goes far beyond one team. Cabrera’s steroid use demonstrates that while steroid abuse is probably not as rampant at it was 10-15 years ago, the steroid era is not as firmly in the past as many in baseball would like to believe.

Maybe Melky is Actually a Good Ballplayer

Cabrera’s career, to be sure has been an odd one. Before 2010, he had established himself as a useful, if not quite good, outfielder: a valuable fourth outfielder on a good team or a passable starter on a bad team. In 2010, however, he was terrible, hitting .255/.317/.354 for the Braves. The Kansas City Royals took a chance on Cabrera; and the outfielder had a career year in 2012, hitting .309/.335/.470, numbers he is on track to easily exceed this year.

Hunter, Blue and Holtzman

On the surface, these three could not have been more different. Blue was an African American from Louisiana, Hunter a country boy from North Carolina, and Holtzman was from St. Louis and retired with more wins than any other Jewish pitcher in baseball history. It has been more than 25 years since any of these pitchers has thrown a pitch in the big leagues and their respective places in baseball history are now secure. Hunter became a Hall of Famer and a beloved figure in North Carolina before passing away in 1999 at the far too young age of 53. Holtzman’s name occasionally crops up in connection with his longtime friend and teammate Reggie Jackson and was briefly a manager in the Israeli baseball league, but is generally remembered as a solid and dependable pitcher, but not much more than that. Vida Blue is remembered as the guy who had all the talent in the world, but could never entirely get it together.

The New Free Agency

One would expect that many teams would be courting Pujols and Fielder, both of whom are likely to remain among the best players around for at least a few more years. The relative lack of interest in both of them indicates quite a bit about the state of baseball economics and salary structures today. As has been the case for many years now, although all teams are free to pursue Pujols and Fielder, there are several small market teams for whom, due to their lack of revenue and payroll limitations, signing a premier free agent is not a realistic hope. It has been a long time since the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals or Minnesota Twins, for example, have made a major splash in the free agent market.

What is a "True Yankee" and Why Should We Care if Jorge Posada is One

Should Posada move on to another team next year, one of the great Yankee careers will have come to an end. Inevitably, the baseball media and blogosphere in New York, will begin questioning Posada’s credentials as a “true Yankee.” Putting aside the legitimacy of questioning the credentials of a player who played a key role in four Yankee World Series winning teams, delivering numerous big seasons and clutch hits along the way, this also draws attention to the absurdity of this term.

Expanding the Playoffs Solves the Wrong Problem

The efforts to expand the current baseball playoffs so that a total of ten, rather than eight teams, earn a post-season berth is a good effort to solve a relatively minor problem, that will do nothing to address the more serious issue facing competitiveness in baseball. The alleged problem is that too many teams are never in the running for a playoff spot thus causing fans to lose interest early in the season, while the same small handful of teams dominate the playoffs.

Ten Questions from 2010

The 2010 baseball season, like most baseball seasons, was full of surprises, disappointments and great moments. Although the playoffs have not yet begun, it is still a good time to reflect back on the season which is just ending. Looking at the great moments, surprising seasons, great plays and the like are all good ways to do this. However, 2010 like almost all seasons raise intriguing questions across a range of baseball related topics. Some of these questions will be answered in the next weeks, others next year, and still others in the next decade or so.

Five Things to Look for in 2010

The long off-season is finally winding down. It seems like ages ago that questions of where Matt Holliday and Jason Bay would sign and whether, where and for whom Roy Halladay would be traded first arose. Now spring training is coming to an end and Opening Day is a few days away. The upcoming baseball season will answer many questions. Most will be regarding on the field events. Will the Mariners have improved sufficiently to seriously contend? Can the Red Sox new emphasis on pitching and defense carry them past the Yankees? Will the Phillies become the first National League team to win three pennants in a row since Stan Musial was a young star on the Cardinals.

Has Bill James Jumped the Shark

James is, to some extent, a victim of his own success. He changed the way we write about and understand baseball which led to many imitators who have become competitors. Similarly, James was too smart and too influential to be overlooked by the generation of general managers who have been influence by him. In this respect, Theo Epstein deserves credit for acting more quickly than his competitors in securing James’ services. James’ journey from fringe figure to wise old man of the game has been impressive and rewarding for both him and his longtime fans. However, his recent writings have been a disappointment. It would be great to see James regain the edge he had a quarter century ago, but perhaps that is not a realistic expectation and we should just be grateful for the contributions he has made.

Pair Up in Threes-Baseball's Greatest Gangs of Three

The questions of how the core four of the New York Yankees compare to other groups of four players who played together for ten or more years, which was discussed here last week, raises the question of what was the greatest threesome of all time to have played together for ten or more years. There are four serious contenders for the best group of three players as well as one group, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr, who are not eligible because they all missed time due to military service.

Not All Payroll Differences Are the Same

When the Yankees won the World Series last year there were predictable complaints that the Yankees had bought their World Series victory. Others argued that in baseball championships can’t be bought offering the fact that the Yankees had the highest payroll, by far, in baseball for several years running andhadn’t won in 2004-2008. It seems clear that, at least on some level, the Yankees bought the championship in 2009, just as the Phillies bought the championship in 2008 and the Red Sox did in 2007. All these teams invested money and ended up winning the World Series. The more accurate way to phrase it is that the Yankees paid more for their championship, have had the highest payroll for the last several years, by a significant margin, and that while high payrolls don’t guarantee championships, they certainly help a great deal.

Your Team Not Going to the World Series Anytime Soon? Choose a Second Team

This situation, however, has been part of baseball for a long time as for most of the sport’s history there were teams that remained out of contention for decades. For example, the St. Louis Browns won exactly one pennant between during the 20th Century before they moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles in 1954. The Athletics were relatively moribund for the middle of the 20th Century failing to win a pennant between 1931 and 1972. The Senators/Twins franchise, the Phillies and others experienced similar periods of a quarter of a century or more without winning anything.