The Breakdown: Baseball, baseball, baseball
Iconic manager Joe Riggins once said, “Baseball’s a simple game: You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball.”
OK, so he wasn’t exactly an iconic manager as much as a pretend manager in an iconic movie (“Bull Durham”), but, still, he makes a pretty good point in that baseball is relatively simple.
I mean, of all the games I’ve sat through in my life with people who know nothing about sports, baseball seems to be the most universally understood. There are no whistles, no fouls, no penalties. There are no full-on formation changes (apart from a defensive shift whenever Ryan Howard comes up), and it’s slow enough to where – if there were a confusing play – you could explain it to someone in eight different languages before the next play happened.
It’s great and with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training the last few days, it’s officially time to start turning our attention to our national pastime. But unlike most other writers who use the spring as a way to unleash a swarm of sabermetric statistics at you – telling you to watch out for Phil Hughes because his WHIP is so strong in the first part of the season, even though his motion seemed to lose a lot of actual whip come August – I’m going to keep it simple here in The Breakdown by, um, breaking down some things you need to know to get ready for the season.
Here’s a collection of thoughts, predictions and, yes, stats (I’m still a writer, after all):
Thought No. 1: CC does not stand for Cap’n Crunch. While he may be losing out on a great endorsement opportunity here, Yankee ace CC Sabathia came to Tampa on Monday having also lost 25 pounds. Sure, he’s still the size of three Ichiros and, no, the pinstripes still don’t mask any of his 300-pound girth, but the guy seems to have rededicated himself entering what could be a contract season (he can opt out of his current deal this fall). Or maybe he just stopped picking food that came with prizes inside the box. He attributed his weight loss to not eating Cap’n Crunch every morning for breakfast. Nothing more. Other good advice on becoming a better ball player …
Pep Talk No. 1: Don’t bet on the Bruins. OK, UCLA doesn’t have much to do with the MLB, but this is still baseball and more importantly, pretty bizarre. Actor Charlie Sheen – yes, the guy from “Major League” and all those police mug shots – was asked to give a pep talk to the baby blue-clad Bruins. His inspiring words? Don’t do crack and drink chocolate milk. Um, done and done.
Stat No. 1: Only three teams have finished with 100 or more wins since the 2004 season: the Yankees (2009, ’04), the Angels (’08) and
St. Louis (’05, ’04).
Prediction No. 1: No team will win 100 games this season. The Phillies, clad with their four-ace rotation, are the best bet, but let’s face it, getting triple digits is pretty tough and only usually done by dominant teams in weak divisions. I just don’t see it this year.
Thought No. 2: Pujols getting punked. Albert Pujols said he won’t negotiate a contract extension once he reports to spring training, and seeing as he reports today, it looks as though he will be a free agent this fall. The Cards are actually pretty lucky, because there’s only one team with the money and need (for a first baseman) that could pick him up, and that’s the Cubs. Some talking heads actually think Pujols could wind up playing home games at the Friendly Confines. As much as I’d love to see an MVP and, arguably, the best hitter in the game on my favorite team, I feel this a) won’t happen, or b) if it did happen, it’d end badly. (Think: Alfonso Soriano, Nomar Garciaparra, Jim Edmonds, etc.) I can dream, though, right?
Prediction No. 2: The Giants won’t even win the NL West, let alone a second straight World Series. The smoke and mirrors of their offense last postseason can’t hold up all year, again. Sure, they have one of the best rotations in baseball, but you still need to score runs. The Rockies are going to edge them out of the division crown because they can outscore teams.
Baseball really is that simple: You score more runs, you win.
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