Some semi-bold predictions entering the 2009 season
The Rays will be even better; the Yankees (gasp) will miss playoffs again
Manny will be Manny, but the Mets' Carlos Beltran will win the NL MVP award
If Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter is healthy, La Russa will be a genius again
This is the time of year when I make semi-bold predictions. I have started to call them "semi-bold" predictions, because I think truly BOLD predictions would be things like:
The Washington Nationals will reach the World Series.
The Washington Nationals will reach a local television audience larger than the average crowd at a Huey Lewis and the News concert.*
*A couple of people have written in to say -- without any apparent irony -- now that Bruce Springsteen has done halftime at the Super Bowl, the obvious next choice is Huey Lewis and the News. These are people from my generation, and I would like to fully come out in favor of this choice -- I love HL and the N -- though it does seem a bit of a stretch to think that the current version of Huey Lewis will jump from the New Mexico State Fair (Sept. 12), to the Kansas State Fair (Sept. 13) to the Super Bowl. But ... that's the power of love.
Point is, my bold predictions are not that bold. Last year, I predicted that the Tampa Bay Rays would be in contention late in the season, that Johan Santana would win the Cy Young and throw a no-hitter and that discarded Royals outfielder Emil Brown would have roughly the same season as $12 million per year free agent Jose Guillen. Looking back, those were only semi-bold predictions. I was right on the Rays, wrong on Santana (though he might have been the best pitcher in the National League) and wrong on Emil Brown (but not $12 million wrong). If I can go one-for-three on the semi-bold predictions, I'm doing pretty well.
So, here are some semi-bold predictions for 2009.
1. The New York Yankees will miss the playoffs again.
Anyway, I love Sabathia, but I have been going back and forth on how he will pitch for the Yankees. On the one hand, he's a great pitcher who looks to be going right into his prime. On the other hand, he has pitched about a million innings already and he does not have a great history at Yankee Stadium. On the other hand, this is the new Yankee Stadium, and anyway his history at Yankee Stadium was AGAINST the Yankees, which is a whole different thing. On the other hand, three bad starts in a row and he will feel like he's pitching AGAINST the Yankees again.
And so on.*
*This has nothing to do with anything, but I have started to play the "That's good, that's bad" game with my 7-year-old daughter. Remember that game? I think it was from the old Electric Company show. A man fell out of an airplane. That's bad. No, that's good -- there was a haystack. That's good. No, that's bad -- there was a needle in the haystack. That's bad. No that's good, he missed the needle. That's good. No, that's bad -- he missed the haystack.
Anyway, Sabathia isn't the reason I think the Yankees will miss the playoffs again. And Joba Chamberlain's sudden and shocking decrease in velocity is not the reason. And the aging of Derek Jeter is not the reason. And the fact that sooner or later Mariano Rivera will either age or be forced to return to his home planet is not the reason. And the sad ballad of A-Rod is not the reason either.
No, the simple reasons are that I think that Tampa Bay will be better than last year. And I think Boston is a more complete team than the Yankees. In my view, those are three of the five best teams in baseball, and one is going to miss the playoffs. I think it will be the Yankees.
2. Tampa Bay will be better than 2008.
Now many people seem to think that the Rays will fall off this year -- and I guess that's logical -- but I can't help but think the opposite. Now, they have David Price, who I think could have a huge rookie season. Now they have Pat Burrell, who I think will have a big impact on that offense. And more, I think all those players I mentioned above could be BETTER in 2009. Upton has the ability to be an MVP candidate. So does Longoria. Pena could be more like he was in 2007. And so it goes.
I don't know how much better a team can be than the Rays of 2008. They won the American League East and went to the World Series. It's hard to improve on that. But I think, all in all, the Rays are a better baseball team now.
3. Zack Greinke will win the American League Cy Young Award.
4. Oakland will have a losing record for the third straight year.
But I don't get it. I really don't. I do not understand this team at all. I have no idea how they are going to win games. I'll be happy to be wrong and then read all about it in Moneyball II: The Wrath of Beane.
5. MannyBManny wins again.
But everywhere he goes, baseball teams win. And he's one of the best hitters in baseball history. Just goes to show you: Winner can mean many different things.
6. Carlos Beltran wins the MVP Award.
Now, I don't think Beltran will be the best player in the National League in 2009. That is always Albert Pujols. And Manny will be Manny. And Beltran's teammate David Wright has put up MVP numbers the last couple of years. But Beltran is the guy who can change the game when you least expect it. I will always remember a game in Kansas City when he battled hard for a walk, stole second, stole third and scored on a short sacrifice fly that barely drifted beyond the infield. After the game, then-Royals general manager Allard Baird gushed: "He can do anything he wants." I think he wants to win the MVP in 2009.
7. Tony La Russa wins manager of the year again.
8. Johan Santana throws the Mets' first no-hitter ever.
9. Baltimore's Matt Wieters will do something absolutely amazing like hit a high fly ball that does not land for two days.
Joe Posnanski is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and the author of joeposnanski.com.
MLB Truth & Rumors