Today is Opening Day, as there are three Major League Baseball games scheduled, and welcome to our inaugural set of post-season predictions for 2016 baseball season. I would call it our “first annual,” but had a professor in college who flew off the handle about how there is no such thing. I wish to avoid his potential wrath by refraining from using the word annual until next March, after this inaugural set of predictions.
Here’s our game story for the 2016 World Series, followed by our Comeback Player of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP predictions:
Kansas City Wins Game Seven, Forces Cubs to “Wait ’til Next Year,” Again
Bob’s Baseball Tours Blog, Kansas City, MO
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
The Kansas City Royals defeated the Chicago Cubs in an epic Game Seven for the ages. While most of America was sympathizing with the Cubs for not having won the World Series since 1908, the Royals continued their small market three year run of greatness with a payroll in the middle of the pack and defeated their third post-season opponent with a top ten payroll from this past season.
The game began as a classic pitchers duel between a pair of National League Cy Young contenders, as soon-to-be free agent, Stephen Strasburg, acquired from the rapidly fading Washington Nationals at the trading deadline, gave up only one unearned run in six-innings of work. However, Strasburg was matched by Jon Lester, who worked around a series of jams, including back-to-back strikeouts of Alcides Escober and Mike Moustakas with the bases loaded to end the fifth-inning. Lester allowed only a fourth-inning solo home run off the bat of Lorenzo Cain in 6 2/3 innings of work.
Each team advanced runners into scoring position in the seventh frame, but neither could score.
The Cubs took the lead in the top of the eighth on a perfectly executed squeeze play in which Jason Heyward scored on a well placed bunt off the bat of Ben Zobrist. Heyward had reached third base with one out after almost homering off the top of the centerfield fence on a ball that just glazed a jumping Cain. Nevertheless, he scored to give the Cubs the lead.
The Royals tied the game in the bottom of the inning when Alex Gordon scored scored from first base on an Omar Infante double with two out. Infante was tagged out at home on the next pitch after trying to advance on a curveball in the dirt in a race for the ages against Cubs catcher, Miguel Montero.
It looked as if the Cubs may end their championship drought when Kyle Schwarber launched a Wade Davis offering into the water fountains in right center in the top of the ninth. The home run gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
Cubs closer Huston Street, who stabilized a shaky bullpen mid-season after being acquired from the Los Angeles Angels, came on to preserve the 3-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth and proceeded to strike out the side on only 10 pitches. However, a curveball that Eric Hosmer swung and missed on that would have been the final out of the game bounced in the dirt and briefly got away from the Cubs catcher. Montero sprinted 10 feet to his right after the ball and launched a strike to Anthony Rizzo at first base for the final out of the game.
The Cubs celebrated on the field and Chicago went wild around Wrigley Field, where thousands of fans had congregated in Wrigleyville in hopes of celebrating what over a 100 years in the making.
Television cameras captured Cubs President, Theo Epstein, cracking open a can of Bud Light and fireworks were being launched in the streets with crying fans of all ages celebrating together. It was the start of the party for the ages.
Epstein was general manager of the Boston Red Sox when the Curse of the Bambino was silenced and was the man hired to end the Curse of the Billy Goat.
And then it happened.
As the Cubs were celebrating in Kansas City, much like the San Francisco Giants after game seven of the 2014 World Series, Ned Yost strolled onto the field to challenge the close play at first. The umpires ran past him into their dressing rooms, where they were met with a call from New York. Homer was safe.
In addition, Street had broken his left big toe in the celebration near the mound and couldn’t continue to pitch.
After a lengthy warm-up session, former Cubs closer, Hector Rondon, toed the rubber for a team and fan base in disbelief and Hosmer on first base representing a Royals team used to winning in the most unexpected of ways.
The first Rondon pitch to Salvador Perez sailed to the backstop and Hosmer advanced to second base with the tying run now in scoring position. The second fastball from Rondon sailed for the middle of the plate and was rocketed over the left field fence and into the number five above the Royals Hall of Fame. The number five is representative of George Brett, the Royals G.O.A.T. As the “5” shattered in “The Natural” like fashion, the Royals captured their second consecutive World Series and the Cubs were left to “Wait ’til next year.” Again.
Here our other predictions (i.e. totally inaccurate guesses) for the 2016 Major League Baseball season:
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (traded to Kansas City Royals at trade deadline; see story above)
Although Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, I am going to choose Strasburg for a variety of reasons. He’s ultra talented, has a vast array of pitches to get hitters out, has shown flashes of brilliance in extended periods and has been on the verge of truly breaking out for years now, is now healthy again after suffering from a back ailment last season, and, well, who are we kidding? I’m only picking him because he’s in a contract year. That’s it. Once he gets (over) paid, I won’t pick him again.
AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
The 2014 Cy Young winner had a down year last season. Upon further review of the numbers, it was more like he was extremely unlucky in a season in which he still finished in the top ten in Cy Young voting. The Indians are a talented club who, like Kluber, didn’t catch many breaks. If the tables turn and things even out in the long run, it seems both Kluber and the Indians are poised for big things this year.
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Stanton is the first player since 1961 who may be able to legitimately hit 60 home runs in a season. He hit 27 homers in only 74 games last year and his age suggests his best is yet to come. If he were allowed to take the juice the way Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and about a few hundred others did around the turn of the century, I would say he could hit 80 home runs in a season if he stayed healthy. He has that much power, yet is developing into a great overall hitter, too. One of these years he will win an MVP and I predict this is his year.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
I bucked conventional wisdom by not picking the best pitcher in baseball to win the Cy Young in the National League, but will not buck it when it concerns the best player in the game. In the last three years, Trout has been named MVP once and finished runner-up three times. Choosing anyone else over this 24-year old superstar is crazy. There is no other legitimate choice than the Willie Mays of this generation.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
Not only is Waino going to win this award, but he is on a short list to win the Cy Young, too. Wainwright ruptured his achilles in his fourth start last season and was supposed to miss the rest of the season. Instead, he rehabbed like a madman and pitched out of the bullpen by the end of the season and pitched well in the pen in the play-offs. Predicting him to win this award is simply too easy.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Although Darvish won’t be ready for the start of the season after missing all of last year by having Tommy John surgery, he will be back in time to make a significant contribution for the Rangers in 2016. Darvish made the All Star Game in each of his first three seasons in the league and is only 28-years old. He’s a big strong kid and his return will be welcomed by those in the heart of Texas.