More than six months have passed since making my predictions for the 2010 Major League Baseball season.
Well, so much for the Seattle Mariners winning the World Series. The Mariners had the kind of year they would just as soon forget. They lost 101 games finishing with the worst record in the American League. I didn’t see the Texas Rangers coming in the AL West.
However, I did not do so badly with the rest of the AL. I correctly picked the Minnesota Twins to win the AL Central. Then again it is not exactly a bold prediction as they have won the division six out of the last nine seasons. I also correctly picked the New York Yankees to go to the post-season. Well, if you want to be technical about it I picked them to win the AL East rather than the Wild Card. But the Yankees have made the post-season in fifteen of the past sixteen seasons. Again, not exactly going out on a limb.
I did go out on a limb for the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, the Sox were impaired by a lot of broken limbs and other body parts. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis spent more time in the infirmary than they did on the field this season. The Sox did manage 89 wins with names like Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, and Jed Lowrie in the lineup. Alas, the Tampa Bay Rays were far healthier and won their second AL East crown in three years.
But it was the National League where I excelled. I picked the Philadelphia Phillies to win the NL East, the Atlanta Braves to win the NL Wild Card, the Cincinnati Reds to win the NL Central and the San Francisco Giants to win the NL West. Ladies and gentlemen, I went 4-for-4.
Now I know what some of you will say. The Phillies had won the NL East for three straight years. Picking the Phillies to win a fourth straight NL East crown was no leap of faith. While the Braves had not been in the post-season for five years, given this was Bobby Cox’s last shot it wasn’t a huge stretch of the imagination to pick them. The Giants were also not an outrageous pick. They have the pitching led by two time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. It was simply a question of whether they would hit and once they acquired Pat Burrell and then called up Buster Posey from the minors they did.
Unfortunately the San Diego Padres did not hit. In fact, the only hitting the Padres did was when their pitching hit the wall in late August. They would embark on an untimely ten game losing streak en route to losing 23 of their last 37 games. As for me, I thought the Padres would improve in 2010 and picked them to finish third in the NL West. I am sure that in spring training the Padres would have been happy to finish in third. Instead, they go home to a bitter winter with a second place finish after having led the division for nearly the entire season.
But picking the Cincinnati Reds to win the NL Central in 2010? At the risk of speaking immodestly, that took chutzpah. After all, the Reds haven’t been in the post-season since 1995 and haven’t had a winning record since 2000.
When looking at the pre-season predictions of the baseball writers at Sports Illustrated, they almost unanimously picked the St. Louis Cardinals to repeat as champions of the NL Central. And who could blame them? With a lineup led by three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and a starting rotation led by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, how could they lose?
Yet there was one baseball writer at Sports Illustrated who went against the grain. Cliff Corcoran also picked the Reds to win the NL Central. In fact, Corcoran and I were almost in simpatico with our NL picks with the exception of the NL West (he picked the Los Angeles Dodgers.)
I must also give Tyler Kepner of the New York Times credit as he too put the Reds atop the NL Central. Kepner wrote, “Joey Votto is a star, and Jay Bruce has a chance to be a difference-maker.” Well, the Canadian born Votto will very likely win the NL MVP. As for Bruce, he sure made a difference.
So why did I like the fabulous Dusty Baker’s boys? Votto? Bruce? Was it Bronson Arroyo anchoring the starting rotation? How about Francisco Cordero in the pen? No. It’s Orlando Cabrera. I knew the Reds truly had a shot when they signed the Colombian-born shortstop to a one-year contract last February. It was the moment I saw Red.
Now Cabrera’s numbers in 2010 weren’t earth shattering. He finished the season with a .263 batting average with 4 homeruns and 42 RBI. He also missed nearly 40 games this season due to a strained oblique muscle. Despite his modest statistics and missing more than a month of action, Cabrera has a knack for being on winning teams. After nearly eight seasons with the Montreal Expos, Cabrera was traded to the Red Sox during 2004 season and would earn a World Series ring. Since then, Cabrera has made it to the post-season in five of the past six seasons — twice with the Angels, once with the White Sox, once with the Twins, and now with Cincinnati. If the Reds decline to offer Cabrera a contract for 2011 someone is sure going to sign him. With Orlando Cabrera on your team there is a good chance your team will play baseball in October.
So what are the Reds chances this October? Sorry, I have the Phillies winning the NLDS in four.