2021 MLB Postseason Predictions and Preferences


It’s that time of year again – playoff baseball! Actually, the Wild Card games have already been played, but I consider those more of a play-in game than an actual playoff.  The good news is that one of my two favorite teams, the Boston Red Sox, won one of those Wild Card games (my other favorite team, the New York Mets, failed to finish the season with even a winning record after being in first place for much of the first half of the season).  The other good news is that two of the three teams I loathe the most – the Yankees and Cardinals – were eliminated in the Wild Card games.  The other team I hate, the Los Angeles Dodgers, lives on to play another playoff series.

Here is my ranking of teams from the one I most want to win the World Series to the one I want to see make the earliest possible exit:

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Atlanta Braves
  6. Houston Astros
  7. San Francisco Giants
  8. Los Angeles Dodgers

And here are my dispassionate predictions for how I think things will actually play out:

League Divisions Series:

  • Red Sox defeat Rays
  • White Sox defeat Astros
  • Dodgers defeat Giants
  • Brewers defeat Braves

League Champion Series:

  • White Sox defeat Red Sox
  • Brewers defeat Dodgers

World Series:

  • White Sox defeat Brewers

We shall see in a few weeks if my predictions play out.

Back in March I posted my 2021 regular season predictions and only managed to correctly predict 6 of the 10 teams that would qualify for the postseason.  I was way too high on the Mets and the Padres, but I think the Blue Jays (who I had predicted to win the AL East) were extremely unlucky to end up missing the postseason entirely based on their run differential.  The Giants and the Astros were teams I didn’t being as good as they ended up being.

 

Previous MLB postseason preferences and predictions:

Photopost: Tropicana Field


On our vacation to Universal Orlando, my son and I took a side trip to see the Boston Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.  This is the 13th current Major League Baseball ballpark where I’ve attended a game in addition to 6 former stadiums.  It was my son’s 6th ballpark.

The Rays are the defending American League champions and currently have he best record in the American League, but still draw a small crowd on a Thursday night in September.

The first thing we learned is that the Tampa Bay region is larger than I realized.  We got to downtown Tampa and it was a still a 30 minute drive to St. Petersburg.  I thought the cities were right next to one another.  I noticed exit signs for the home venues of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in downtown Tampa and I wonder if the Rays’ low attendance problems have anything to do with being so far away from the rest of the local teams. Of course, Tropicana Field is also generally poorly regarded among MLB ballparks, which probably contributes to attendance problems.  At any rate, after driving through several rain squalls we arrived in sunny St. Pete where a rainbow pointed towards The Trop’s tilted dome.  It was an impressive introduction!

From our seats out in left field behind the Red Sox bullpen.

Even though the Rays are one of the newest MLB expansion teams, Tropicana Field is actually the 8th oldest currently MLB ballpark.  It opened in 1990 and hosted NHL hockey and Arena Football before 1998 when the Rays played their inaugural season. Tropicana Field is the only current MLB venue with a fixed roof.  I think only the Rays and Blue Jays play home games on artificial turf instead of grass, which is quite a difference from the 1980s when about half of the ballparks had artificial turf.I noticed during the game that ground balls would zip along the artificial turf into the outfield (and sometimes past the outfielders) which is quite a difference to how grass slows a ball down.  During the game I heard a sound that I thought was people stomping their feet, which was strange since the game was sparsely attended (the official attendance was 7,923 souls).  My son pointed out that it was actually the sound of rain falling on the roof.  Since the roof is made of some kind of fabric, we could actually see it billowing as the rain ran down the exterior.

One of the highlights of The Trop is a touch tank with actual cownose stingrays who get a great view of the game and are protected from home runs by netting.

It’s hard to judge a stadium when there’s no home crowd, but Tropicana Field feels too sterile and lifeless for a baseball game.  I have to give credit to the Rays management for trying hard to improve the fan experience.  There was a good food court with a lot of options, on-field entertainment between innings, and some nifty lighting on the underside of the dome that made it different colors (including making it look like a giant orange).  The Rays are a talented, first-place ballclub and deserve a packed house.  But ultimately, no matter what they do with it, The Trop is just never going to be an inviting place to take in a game.

A mid-inning mascot race was very short and not as fun as the Nationals’ Presidents Race or the Brewers’ Sausage Race.

The game we saw by the way was really good, an old-fashioned pitching duel. The Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez has his best start of the season and Garrett Richards pitched the final three innings to preserve a shutout.  Although, the Rays starter Shane McClanahan allowed four runs but was never really hit hard.  The game moved briskly and finished just after 10pm, so we had plenty of time to drive back to Orlando before midnight.

 

The player intro videos for the Red Sox included landmarks from Boston which I thought was a nice touch.

 

Eduardo Rodriguez warms up before the game.

 

Rafael Devers is close to scoring one of the Red Sox 4 runs.

 

Recovering a shattered bat from the infield.

Current ballpark rankings.

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. Fenway Park
  3. Oracle Park
  4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  5. Petco Park
  6. Citi Field
  7. Nationals Park
  8. Miller Field
  9. Dodger Stadium
  10. Citizens Bank Park
  11. Guaranteed Rate Field
  12. Yankee Stadium III
  13. Tropicana Field

Former ballpark rankings

  1. Tigers Stadium
  2. Shea Stadium
  3. Yankees Stadium II
  4. RFK Stadium
  5. Stade Olympique
  6. Veterans Stadium

2021 Major League Baseball Predictions


April 1st is Holy Thursday, and if I can be a little bit sacrilege, I think it will be all the more holy by coinciding with Major League Baseball Opening Day. I think this will be an exciting season and I look forward to watching lots of games and maybe, just maybe, being able to attend a game before the season ends. Here are my predictions for how the season will shake out:

NL EAST
The NL East will be one of the more competitive divisions. The Mets have had top-notch pitching for several seasons and new owner Steve Cohen has given them support with a beefed-up lineup and bullpen. They’ll face strong competition from Atlanta but both teams should easily sew up postseason spots. Washington and Philadelphia will be good but not good enough. Miami made a surprising playoff appearance in a COVID-shortened 2020 season but will revert to the mean this year.

  1. New York Mets
  2. Atlanta Braves (wild card)
  3. Washington Nationals
  4. Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Miami Markins


NL CENTRAL


The NL Central remains the most mediocre division. I have a good feeling about Milwaukee winning their first division title since 2018, but St. Louis is always competitive and can’t be counted out. The rest of the division have lots of deficiencies to work through and can shake out in any order.

  1. Milwaukee Brewers
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Chicago Cubs
  4. Cincinnati Reds
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates

NL WEST


San Diego was already a contender and made themselves the favorite by having arguably the best offseason in MLB. The Dodgers will see a dropoff from their World Series championship season but should have no problem securing a postseason spot. The rest of the division will be competing to see who is the least mediocre.

  1. San Diego Padres
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (wild card)
  3. San Francisco Giants
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. Colorado Rockies


AL EAST


Except for Baltimore, the AL East is always a strong division and this season will be no exception. Toronto is stacked after a productive offseason and should win their first division title since 2015, with strong competition from 2020 World Series runners up, Tampa Bay. The Yankees have relied on their one-dimensional approach of mashing homers in their tiny ballpark to secure postseason spots (only to suffer humiliating 16-1 losses and walkoffs off Aroldis Chapman) will find it harder to compete against strengthened opposition including a rebounding Red Sox.

  1. Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Tampa Bay Rays (wild card)
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Baltimore Orioles


AL CENTRAL


The White Sox appear poised to snag their first division title since 2008 after a strong offseason. They will have to fend off a highly-competitive Minnesota squad. The rest of the division will shake out on how well their young and up-and-coming players will perform.

  1. Chicago White Sox
  2. Minnesota Twins (wild card)
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Detroit Tigers
  5. Cleveland Indians

AL WEST


I feel that this is the hardest division to predict but Oakland feels like a safe pick to win it. The Angels have the talent that just hasn’t clicked may find this to be their lucky year while Seattle has a chance to succeed with a young roster. Houston lost key players in the offseason and will see their postseason streak come to end.

  1. Oakland Athletics
  2. Los Angeles Angels
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Houston Astros
  5. Texas Rangers

Past Predictions for Previous Seasons (If You Want to Check My Work):

The Milagro in the Sligo


Twenty years ago today, the Boston Red Sox played the Cleveland Indians in the 5th and deciding game of the 1999 American League Division Series.  This game became an instant classic due to the performance of the great Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez that helped clinched the series for the Red Sox.  I was reminded of this game because of this oral history compiled by Ian Browne on MLB.com.

It brought back memories of watching this game with Susan (many years before we were married and were new to living in the Boston area) at the Sligo Pub in Somerville’s Davis Square.  If I could find all the people who were in that dive bar that night and interview them for an additional oral history, I would, but I’m just going to have to rely on my own memory.  Susan and I didn’t have a tv at the time so we went looking for a bar to watch the game, but all the watering holes in Davis Square were so packed it was impossible to see the tv.  The one exception was the Sligo, a pub we’d never before entered.  The other bars were full of college kids, but the clientele of the Sligo was slanted toward middle-aged and the accents were clearly those of lifelong locals.  Nevertheless, we were welcomed to take a seat at a table and watch the game.

The Red Sox were the 81st year of their World Series drought, and lost to Cleveland in the 1998 ALDS. Pedro’s excellent season – including striking out 5 of 6 National League sluggers in the All-Star Game at Fenway Park – instilled hope among Red Sox fans that this would be the year.  But then Cleveland won the first two games, and worse, Pedro injured his pitching shoulder.  Somehow, the Red Sox came back and won the next two games in Boston, including a 23-7 drubbing in Game 4.  And so the series returned to Cleveland for the deciding game 5.  Pedro wasn’t expected to be able to pitch again and the Red Sox started the struggling Bret Saberhagen and hoped for the best.

The box score says that Pedro Martinez entered the game in the top of the 4th, but honestly those first 3 innings felt like a whole game in its own right.  The Red Sox scored 2 runs in the 1st, but the Indians came back and scored 3 in the bottom of the 1st and 2 more in the 2nd.  In the top of the 3rd, the Red Sox rallied again, and the Red Sox leftfielder Troy O’Leary came to bat with the bases loaded.  O’Leary hadn’t hit well in the series so far, but a man at the bar had faith in him.

“O’Leary is due! He’s gonna hit a homah!”

Lo and behold, O’Leary knocked the first pitch to right-center for a grand slam.

“You did it!” exclaimed several men at the bar.

“I didn’t do it, O’Leary did it.  I’m just some drunk guy at a bah!” the prognosticator demurred.

The Red Sox now had a 7-5 lead but it didn’t last long because the Indians scored another 3 runs in the bottom of the inning.  Then the Red Sox tied the game in the top of the 4th at 8-8.  It was in the bottom of the 4th when everyone was stunned to see Pedro Martinez heading to the mound to pitch.  Everyone was nervous, fearing that this slugfest was no place for an injured pitcher, hoping against hope that Pedro wouldn’t get smacked around too.

But Pedro had a calming effect on the game.  Cleveland failed to score in the bottom of the 4th – the first time they put a 0 up in any inning – and neither team scored in the 5th and 6th innings.  Things got so quiet that the barfly at the table opposite us put her head down for a rest.  At least she tried, but loquacious sportscaster Tim McCarver wouldn’t stop talking.

The woman lifted her head and shouted “Shut the feck up, McCavah!  You’re such a Chatty Cathy!” She punctuated this by putting her head back on the table. As Susan noted, there was a sense that no truer words have ever been spoken.

The Red Sox took the lead again in the 7th inning on a 3-run home run by none other than Troy O’Leary.  O’Leary tied a postseason record with 7 RBIs in a single game.  Meanwhile, Cleveland didn’t score at all.  In fact they weren’t able to get a hit off the amazing injured arm of Martinez.  The fans in the bar grew more optimistic that the Red Sox would win this game and advance to the American League Champion Series.  One guy prematurely anticipated that the Red Sox would beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS and then the  New York Mets in the World Series.

“New York, New York – DOUBLE HAMMER!!!” he repeated like a mantra.

The Red Sox did indeed win the game and the ALDS with Pedro no-hitting the Indians for the six innings he pitched.  The game went down in history as the Martinez Milagro. Susan and I pledged to return to the Sligo to watch the Red Sox if they had a chance to clinch the ALCS.  Sadly, the Red Sox lost the ALCS in five games to the Yankees, although the one game they won was another classic in which Pedro outpitched hated former Red Sox Roger Clemens.

2019 MLB Postseason Predictions and Preferences


Well, the Major League Baseball postseason is upon us again.  I’ve defied the orthodoxy about having just one favorite team and followed my beloved New York Mets since childhood and my hometown Red Sox since moving to Boston 21 years ago.  For the first time since 2014, neither one of my favorite teams will participate in the postseason.  To add insult to injury, teams that I absolutely despise – the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves – will all be in the competition to add to their massive piles of pennant flags and World Series trophies so their stuck-up fans can lord it over the rest of us peasants.

My strategy in a postseason like this is to root for underdogs and teams with long droughts of winning pennants and championships.  As a Mets fan, I’m supposed to hate the Washington Nationals, but I’ve never been able to build up the enmity since the only time the two teams were both good enough to battle for the NL East title was 2015, and Mets got the better of the Nats that season.  The Nationals have consistently been a top-notch team the past decade, but have famously never won a postseason series.  Plus, I have a lot of friends in the Washington area and it would be nice for them to see their team get of the schneid.

The other National League team I’ll be rooting for is the Milwaukee Brewers.  Like the Nationals they are a franchise dating back to 1969 (they played one season in Seattle before moving to Milwaukee in 1970) and have never won a World Series.  The Brewers have one pennant flag from 1982 when the team still played in the American League.

Over in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays are the franchise with the most futility, having won only won pennant (2008) since joining MLB in 1998.  The Oakland A’s historically have won a lot of World Series (9, with the most recent in 1989), but in recent decades they have become an underdog favorite for succeeding despite low payrolls and a decrepit stadium.  Honestly, it would be a delight to see smart, small market teams like the A’s and the Rays upset big money teams like the Yankees and Dodgers.

The remaining AL teams are the Minnesota Twins and the Houston Astros.  I have a soft spot for the Twins, a team that has won two World Series, most recently in 1991.  A Twins championship would also be a victory for a small-market team, albeit not quite the extent of an A’s, Rays, or even Brewers championship.  The Astros won their first and only World Series in 2017, so can’t really be viewed as an underdog, but they’ve put together a solid, likable team and I wouldn’t begrudge them a second championship.

Just out of a twisted curiosity, I’d love to see a World Series matchup between the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers, the two teams who switched leagues, to the distress of baseball purists everywhere.  Another fun matchup would be the Washington Nationals versus the Minnesota Twins, a franchise that played as the Washington Senators until 1960.

With that said, here are my preferences and predictions:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

WILD CARD GAME

Preference: Nationals defeat Brewers
Prediction:  Brewers defeat Nationals

DIVISIONAL SERIES

Preferences: Braves defeat Cardinals, Nationals defeat Dodgers
Predictions:  Braves defeat Cardinals, Dodgers defeat Brewers

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Preference: Nationals defeat Braves
Prediction: Dodgers defeat Braves

AMERICAN LEAGUE

WILD CARD GAME

Preference: Rays defeat A’s
Prediction: Rays defeat A’s

DIVISIONAL SERIES

Preferences: Twins defeat Yankees, Rays defeat Astros
Predictions: Yankees defeat Twins, Astros defeat Rays

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Preference: Twins defeat Rays
Prediction: Astros defeat Yankees

World Series:

Preference: Nationals defeat Twins
Prediction: Astros defeat Dodgers

Previous preferences and predictions:

2019 Major League Baseball Predictions


Time begins on March 28th, when a new Major League Baseball season starts and all the teams are tied for first place (well except in the AL West where Seattle and Oakland have already played two games in Japan).

Here are my predictions for how the 2019 will come to an end.

NL East

The Phillies aggressive offseason will give them the NL East title, although the Nationals will be neck-and-neck with them over the season. The Braves will regress a little after last season’s division championship.  The Mets sadly will continue to lack the offense to support the stellar pitching. And Miami will continue to be mediocre.

Philadelphia
Washington (wild card)
Atlanta
New York
Miami

NL Central

The Cubs will reclaim the NL Central and Milwaukee will capture the wild card.  I’m honestly not sure how the rest of the division will shake out, because the Reds and Pirates have the talent to surprise, but then again the Cardinals could be better than 3rd as well.

Chicago
Milwaukee (wild card)
St. Louis
Cincinnati
Pittsburgh

NL West

The boring old Dodgers will continue to dominate, while improvements in the Padres will help them snag a distant second place.  The Rockies will regress after their 2018 Wild Card season and Arizona and San Francisco will each drop down a notch.

Los Angeles
San Diego
Colorado
Arizona
San Francisco

AL East

The Red Sox won’t win as many games as last season but neither will the Yankees.  The Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles will each be a little bit better than 2018, but the division will still shake out in the same order.  Excepting the Orioles, this is probably the strongest division in baseball & its a shame that only 3 teams can make the postseason.

Boston
New York (wild card)
Tampa Bay (wild card)
Toronto
Baltimore

AL Central

Cleveland will once again win the AL Central, largely for lack of competition within the division.  I expect the Twins will be the only other team to finish over .500, and the remainder of the division could shake out in any order.

Cleveland
Minnesota
Chicago
Detroit
Kansas City

AL West

The Astros, like the Dodgers, will continue to make the regular season a formality.  Oakland may challenge for the Wild Card, but I don’t expect much from the rest of the division.

Houston
Oakland
Los Angeles
Seattle
Texas

WILD CARD PLAYOFFS:

Washington defeats Milwaukee
Tampa Bay defeats New York

DIVISIONAL SERIES:

Houston defeats Tampa Bay
Boston defeats Cleveland
Washington defeat Chicago
Los Angeles defeat Philadelphia

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES:

Boston defeats Houston
Washington defeats Los Angeles

WORLD SERIES:

Somehow the Miracle Mets swoop in and win it all on the 50th anniversary of their first championship!

Red Sox World Series Games Ranked


The Boston Red Sox have won four World Series championships in the past 15 seasons, becoming the most dominant team so far in the 21st century. In those four World Series, the Red Sox have played in 19 games, winning a remarkable 16 of them. While every World Series game the Red Sox play in is special to Boston fans, I’ve decided to take on the task of ranking all of the games from 19 to 1. Factors considered in devising the rankings include games that clinched a championship, dominant pitching performances, memorable big hits, victories in close games, wins after losses, wins on the road, late inning runs scored, and what I like to call the “weirdness factor” for unusual moments in World Series games.

19. 2013 World Series Game 2 – 10/24/13 – Cardinals 4, Red Sox 2

The Red Sox swept the 2004 and 2007 World Series, and won Game 1 in 2013, so this loss ended a 9-game win streak and became the Red Sox first World Series games loss since 1986.  This is also the Red Sox only loss at Fenway Park in these 19 games.  Despite the Sox looking lifeless against Cardinals’ starter Michael Wacha, David Ortiz put them up 2-1 with a home run in the 6th.  That was all squandered in the 7th inning when two errors contributed to a three-run inning for the Cardinals.

18. 2013 World Series Game 3 – 10/26/13 – Red Sox 4, Cardinals 5

The Red Sox suffered back-to-back losses and were behind in a World Series for the only time in the 21st century after the next game in St. Louis. With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dustin Pedroia made an absolutely stellar diving play and threw home to prevent Yadier Molina from scoring the winning run.  But then catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia attempted to get a double play on Allen Craig running to third and threw wide of third baseman Will Middlebrooks.  Craig tripped over Middlebrooks prone body and umpire Jim Joyce made a controversial call of interference allowing the winning run to score for the Cardinals.

17. 2007 World Series Game 1 – 10/24/07 – Rockies 1, Red Sox 13

The Rockies entered the World Series having swept the Phillies in the NLDS and the Diamondbacks in the NLCS, and had won 21 of their last 22 overall.  Meanwhile, the Red Sox had to claw themselves back from a 3-1 deficit to win the ALCS from Cleveland.  So, of course, game 1 was a blow-out for the Red Sox. Josh Becket struck out the first 4 batters he faced on his way to 9 Ks in 7 innings, and rookie Dustin Pedroia homered to lead off the game, among other highlights.

16. 2013 World Series Game 1 – 10/23/13 – Cardinals 1, Red Sox 8

Another Game 1, another blowout.  The Red Sox came out strong with 3 runs in the 1st inning and 2 runs in the 2nd, aided by multiple errors by Cardinal fielders. A great catch by Carlos Beltran at the bullpen wall robbed David Ortiz of a grand slam that would’ve made the game even more of a laugher.  Papi did get a two-run homer later in the game. Jon Lester was masterful in 7-2/3 innings of scoreless pitching for the win.

15. 2004 World Series Game 2 – 10/24/04 – Cardinals 2, Red Sox 6

Curt Schilling returned to the mound for the first time after his famous “Bloody Sock” game in the 2004 ALCS, still feeling the effects of a torn tendon in his right ankle.  Nevertheless, he still pitched 6 innings allowing one unearned run for the win.  The Sox committed four errors for the second game in a row, with 3 by Bill Mueller alone.  Orlando Cabrera, Jason Varitek, and Mark Bellhorn drove in two runs apiece for the Red Sox offense.

14. 2018 World Series Game 1 – 10/23/18 – Dodgers 4, Red Sox 8

Game 1 was touted as a matchup of ace pitchers, Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw, but neither pitcher had his best stuff.  The Red Sox scored two runs in the first inning and one in the third, but the Dodgers kept chipping away to tie the game up.  The Red Sox went ahead for good in the fifth inning, but the close game felt it could go either way until finally a cathartic 3-run blast by pinch hitter Eduardo Núñez in the 7th gave the Red Sox a comfortable 4-run lead.

13. 2004 World Series Game 1 – 10/23/04 – Cardinals 9, Red Sox 11

Still giddy after coming back from being 0-3 versus the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, the first game of the World Series proved to be a sloppy one.  The Red Sox made 4 errors and the two teams combined to score 20 runs, a World Series game 1 record.  Things started well with a 4-run first inning powered by a David Ortiz 3-run homer.  But despite having lead the game by as many as 5 runs, by the top of 8th inning the game was tied 9-9. In the bottom of the 8th, Mark Belhorn hit a 2-run homer that pinged off the Pesky Pole to put the Red Sox up for good.

12. 2007 World Series Game 2 – 10/25/07 – Rockies 1, Red Sox 2

The Colorado Rockies scored a run in the first inning off of Red Sox starter Curt Schilling for what proved to be the only time they’d have a lead in the World Series.  Schilling and Red Sox relievers Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon kept the Rockies bats quiet after that.  Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell provided the offense to allow the Red Sox to eke out the win.

11. 2018 World Series Game 2 – 10/24/18 – Dodgers 2, Red Sox 4

Los Angeles was up 2-1 in the top of the 5th when Andrew Benintendi made a balletic catch the nipped a further rally by the Dodgers in the bud.  In the bottom of the 5th, the Red Sox had their own 3-run rally to take the lead for good.  David Price allowed only 3 hits in 6 innings of work, and Joe Kelly, Nathan Eovaldi, and Craig Kimbrel kept the Dodgers hitless for the rest of the game.

10. 2018 World Series Game 3 – 10/26/18-10/27/18 – Red Sox 2, Dodgers 3

The weirdness factor plays a role in getting this Red Sox loss into the top ten.  This game was already a World Series classic after 7 innings with the Red Sox struggling against the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler, and the Red Sox starter Rick Porcello and the bullpen allowing the Dodgers only to score 1 run.  Jackie Bradley, Jr. tied the game with a home run off Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen in the 8th.  What had been a briskly-moving pitchers duel then entered extra innings.  The Red Sox took the lead in the 13th, but a throwing error by Ian Kinsler allowed the Dodgers to score the tying run in the bottom of the inning.  Nathan Eovaldi, who had been scheduled to be the Game 4 starter for the Red Sox, had one of the most remarkable World Series performances as a reliever instead, throwing 97 pitches over 6 innings, allowing only 3 hits.  Unfortunately, one of those hits was a walkoff homerun by the Dodgers’ Max Muncy in the 18th inning.   The marathon game set a World Series record for longest game by innings and by time at seven hours and 20 minutes, longer than the entire 4 game World Series in 1939.

9. 2007 World Series Game 3 – 10/27/07 – Red Sox 10, Rockies 5

At four hours, 9 minutes, this game also set a World Series record for longest 9 inning game (since broken).  The first World Series game ever played at Coors Field saw plenty of offense.  Rookies Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia combined for 7 hits, 4 RBIs, and 3 runs scored.  Daisuke Matsuzaka became the first Japanese pitcher to start and win a World Series game, and even had a hit and 2 RBIs.

8. 2013 World Series Game 6 – 10/30/13 – Red Sox 6, Cardinals 1

The Red Sox were up 6-0 by the 4th inning, and John Lackey pitched masterfully for 6-2/3 innings, with the bullpen preventing the Cardinals from getting any hits for the rest of the game.  Despite being a rout, this is still a significant game for Red Sox fan as it is the only time in these four World Series victories that the Sox clinched the championship at Fenway Park. Five years later this is still the most recent time any team has clinched a World Series victory in their home ballpark.

7. 2013 World Series Game 5 – 10/28/13 – Red Sox 3, Cardinals 1

Jon Lester once again proved he was the ace, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 7-2/3 innings.  The Red Sox scratched together 2 runs in the 7th inning to take the lead for good.  Koji Uehara took over for Lester to get a four-out save.

6. 2004 World Series Game 3 – 10/26/04 – Red Sox 4, Cardinals 1

From 1998 to 2002, Pedro Martinez was the most dominant pitcher ever to wear a Red Sox uniform.  By 2004, he’d begun to decline, but in this World Series start, Red Sox fans got a glimpse of the old Pedro. Martinez allowed only 3 hits in 7 innings pitched, with 6 strikeouts.  It was also the last time Martinez ever pitched for the Red Sox. A homerun by Manny Ramirez, and great defensive plays by Ramirez and David Ortiz helped earn Martinez his World Series victory.

5. 2007 World Series Game 4 – 10/28/07 – Red Sox 4, Rockies 3

The Red Sox had a 3-0 lead by the 7th inning, but the Rockies chipped away in the 7th and 8th inning to make this the closest of all the Red Sox World Series clinching wins.  World Series MVP Mike Lowell hit a home run and Jonathan Papelbon got the save for starter Jon Lester.

4. 2018 World Series Game 5 – 10/28/18 – Red Sox 5, Dodgers 1

David Price, who started Game 2 for the Red Sox, and faced three batters in the Game 3 marathon, started once again for Game 5.  He did not appear tired at all, but stronger than ever, allowing only 1 run on 3 hits in 7 innings.  World Series MVP Steve Pearce hit a 2-run homer in the 1st inning, and then Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Pearce again each had solo home runs in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings. Joe Kelly and Chris Sale both struck out the side for the final 6 outs to clinch the Red Sox 4th championship in 15 years.

3. 2013 World Series Game 4 – 10/27/13 – Red Sox 4, Cardinals 2

Down 2 games to 1 and still smarting over the previous night’s interference call, this game felt like a must win for the Red Sox.  The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the 3rd, and Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz was lifted for a pinch hitter in the 4th.  But Red Sox relievers – including remarkable performances by Felix Doubront and John Lackey – were able to hold the Cardinals to just 1 run on 3 hits the rest of the game.  Jonny Gomes’ 3-run homer in the 6th inning put the Red Sox ahead for good.  Koji Uehara got the save, memorably picking off Cardinals’ pinch runner Kolten Wong for the final out.

2. 2004 World Series Game 4 – 10/27/04 – Red Sox 3, Cardinals 0

Red Sox fans waited generations to see this game, played during a lunar eclipse that made the moon appear a deep red color.  Johnny Damon lead off the game with a home run, and David Ortiz and Trot Nixon each drove in a run in the third for all the offense the Red Sox would need.  Derek Lowe allowed only 3 hits over 7 innings of work, and the bullpen maintained the shutout, the only time in these 19 games when the Red Sox did not allow a run.  Keith Foulke got the save and all of New England celebrated the end of the 86-year World Series drought.

1. 2018 World Series Game 4 – 10/27/18 – Red Sox 9, Dodgers 6

After a disheartening loss in the 18-inning game earlier that morning, the Red Sox looked to be in a bad place having used their planned Game 4 starter Nathan Eovaldi and most of their bullpen in Game 3.  The Red Sox batters definitely looked tired as they only managed one hit off of Dodgers’ starter Rich Hill in the first six inning.  Red Sox emergency starter Eduardo Rodriguez held his own for five scoreless innings, but then allowed 4 runs in the 6th, including a devastating 3-run blast by Yasiel Puig.  It looked like the turning point in a World Series going in the Dodgers’ favor, but the Red Sox did not follow the script.  Mitch Moreland hit a 3-run homer in the top of the 7th inning.  Then Steve Pearce hit a solo home run to tie the game in the 8th.  Just as fans began to fear another extra-inning marathon, the Red Sox pounded out 5 more runs in the top of the 9th inning, including 3 runs driven in by Pearce’s base-clearing double.  With 9 runs scored in the final 3 innings, the Red Sox did not just win the game but took a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series.

Red Sox are the 2018 World Series Champions!!!


When I moved to Boston 20 years ago, the Red Sox were a team that always played well but often fell short of making the playoffs.  Or if they did make the postseason, they would lose in some horrible way.  Now they seem to win World Series Championships routinely.  Last night’s win by the Red Sox finished a 4 games-to-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.  They’ve added another trophy to go alongside the ones from 2004, 2007, and 2013 for 4 championships in 15 years.

Each team is special in there own way, but the 2018 team is by far the most dominant Red Sox team I’ve ever seen.  After winning a team-record 108 games in the regular season, they beat the 100-win Yankees 3-to-1 in the ALDS, the 103-win defending champion Astros 4-1 in the ALCS, and the Dodgers – returning for a second consecutive World Series – 4-1.  The team went 7-1 on the road in the postseason and clinched all three series in the opponent’s ballpark.

This team also just seems to be plain likable.  There’s the core of young killer B’s – Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Andrew Benintendi, and Xander Bogaerts.  There are veterans brought in from other teams specifically to get the Red Sox to another World Championship – J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale, and David Price.  And there are the role players who stepped up big in the most unlikely situations – Nathan Eovaldi, Joe Kelly, Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, and World Series MVP Steve Pearce.

I got to see the Red Sox with my family at several games at Fenway, as well as at the White Sox ballpark in Chicago, and even game 2 of the ALCS.  Is was a fun and entertaining season.  And now the long winter of baseball emptiness begins.  But first, there’s a parade on Halloween!

MLB Postseason Preferences and Predictions


It’s that most wonderful time of year again: the baseball postseason. Here are my preferences and predictions.

My Preferences

As Bostonian and a Red Sox fan, I’m all in for the Red Sox going all the way this year. I especially want to see the core of young star players – Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Rafael Devers – win their first championship together (and Xander Bogaerts, despite his youth, winning his second). Here are the rest of my preferences from most to least:

Milwaukee Brewers – If the Red Sox fail to win, I’ll be pulling for the Brewers as they are the team that’s been around the longest without ever winning a championship.  They’d also follow the Astros as the second team to win a pennant in both leagues.

Oakland Athletics – I’ve long admired the A’s ability to play exciting, winning baseball on a tight budget, so I wouldn’t mind seeing them go all the way.

Colorado Rockies – I have no strong feelings for or against the Rockies, but since they’ve never won a World Series they rank higher rather than lower.

Chicago Cubs – After the Red Sox broke their World Series drought, it was great to see them win another  a few years later, and I suspect Cub Nation would also enjoy an overdue run of good fortune too.  Plus I have a soft spot for the team after having a good time at Wrigley Field this summer.

Houston Astros – The Astros were an exciting and deserving World Series champions last season, and I think will be the Red Sox toughest potential opposition this postseason.  Back to back championships wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

Cleveland Indians – Generally I’d root for a team that has the longest World Series drought in baseball, but I think before they win Cleveland should change their name and retire their racist logo.  Then they can win in their very first season of their new identity as the Cleveland Spiders or something.

Atlanta Braves – I still bear residual resentment against Atlanta for their 1990s-2000s dominance.  Then there’s the tomahawk chop.  Then there’s their totally unnecessary taxpayer funded ballpark in the suburbs.

Los Angeles Dodgers – The Cardinals and the Dodgers are my least favorite National League teams so really I’ll only root for the Dodgers if they end up playing my least favorite team overall, the Yankees.

New York Yankees – God forbid that the Yankees win a series, or even a game, or even score a run. Just exit early.

My Predictions

National League Wild Card Game

Chicago defeats Colorado

American League Wild Card Game

New York defeats Oakland

National League Division Series

Atlanta defeats Los Angeles, 3-1
Milwaukee defeats Chicago, 3-2

American League Division Series

Houston defeats Cleveland, 3-0
Boston defeats New York, 3-2

National League Championship Series

Atlanta defeats Milwaukee, 4-2

American League Championship Series

Boston defeats Houston, 4-2

World Series

Boston defeats Atlanta, 4-1

 

 

Major League Baseball Expansion: A 48 Team Option


Last week I wrote about the possibility of Major League Baseball adding two expansion teams and what a 32-team baseball league might look like. I proposed using expansion as an opportunity to radically change some ways that MLB is currently contested while bringing back some traditional elements.  These changes would make the regular season and postseason more fair and competitive as well as drawing more fans and increasing television ratings.

This week I will propose an even more radical change to Major League Baseball as we know it: adding 18 new teams and creating a 48-team league! In my previous post, I made a list of 25 cities that could possibly become homes to a new baseball club.  So let’s award expansion teams to Buffalo, Charlotte, Columbus, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Louisville, Mexico City, Monterrey, Montreal, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Portland, San Antonio, San Juan, and Vancouver. You may ask, how on Earth can Major League Baseball handles something as unwieldy as 48 teams in cities across North America? The answer is by creating a promotion and relegation league system.

What is a Promotion and Relegation System?

Developed in the 19th century for the English Football League, promotion and relegation originated to guarantee that the league competition by expelling the teams with worst records at the end of the season and bringing in new clubs for the next season. Eventually a pyramid of football divisions grew so that each season the top division would “relegate” its worst-performing teams the second division and “promote” the second divisions best teams to the first division. This happens between the second and third divisions, third and fourth divisions, and so on.  The promotion-relegation model is common in European sports leagues and is used in various leagues across the world except in the United States in Canada.

The reason for the lack of promotion and relegation in the United States and Canada goes back to the formation of the first professional baseball league, the National League in 1876.  While the English Football League hoped to promote competition among the best of the existing football clubs, the National League awarded franchises to a limited number of owners to create teams with exclusive territorial rights, and other sports leagues in the US and Canada have followed the same model.  No matter how poorly a team performs it will be guaranteed a spot in the league the next season (as long as the owner keeps the team financially solvent). No matter how well a team in a lower division performs, it will not gain access to the Major Leagues.

In fact, over time lower divisions became known as the Minor Leagues and were developed as a “farm system” where teams affiliated with Major League teams to develop players. Minor League games are more about watching individual players develop and on-field entertainments than winning or losing games which is rendered meaningless by the farm system. The only way Minor League cities have been able to break into the Majors is via infrequent expansions which involve hefty expansion payments to the existing teams, and little chance to develop a cohesive team before beginning play, which means expansion teams are almost universally awful in their first years. The United States is generally regarded as being the beacon of free-market capitalism, and yet while promotion-relegation leagues is a merit-based system, the closed shop of US sports leagues is akin to socialism.

Transition Period

So 18 new baseball clubs are born – and we’ll use the 18 cities I cited above in this example – now what?  To ease us into the new paradigm, lets have a five-year transition period. The current 30 MLB teams will become the MLB First Division and function pretty much as it does today with two leagues of 15 teams each arranged into 3 divisions, with a tiered playoff.  The 18 new teams would play in the MLB Second Division, likely arranged in 3 divisions of 6 teams each with their own postseason competition.

At the end of the five-year transition period, the six MLB First Division teams with the worst cumulative regular season records over those five years will be relegated to MLB Second Division. Just for this example, I determined that the six MLB teams with the worst cumulative records from the 2013 to 2017 regular seasons are the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and San Diego.  These teams will be relegated to MLB Second Division in the example below.

How a MLB Will Work With Two Divisions

We now have two divisions of 24 teams each.  Much like I proposed for the 32 team option, these teams would be aligned regionally into three leagues of 8 teams each in both divisions.  The 8 team leagues would be a shorter 154-game schedule with no interleague play.  The regional proximity within the leagues would help reduce the wear and tear of travel, encourage rivalries, increase attendance with fans of the away team able to travel to more games, improve broadcast ratings by having most games in the same time zone and starting at consistent times, and playing a balanced schedule that most fairly judges which teams are the best teams.

After the regular season ends, the top team in each league would be awarded the pennant and 8 teams would advance to a postseason tournament. This would be the top two teams from each of the two leagues, and two wild card teams from among the third place finishers.  The teams would be seeded to play in a best-of-5 quarterfinal series, with the winners advancing to a best-of-7 semifinal series, and a best-of-7 World Series.  MLB Second Division would also play a similar postseason tournament.

Here is what the two divisions would like in the first season of the promotion and relegation model:

MLB First Division

EAST CENTRAL WEST
Atlanta Chicago Cubs Arizona
Baltimore Cleveland Houston
Boston Colorado Los Angeles Angels
New York Mets Detroit Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Yankees Kansas City Oakland
Toronto Milwaukee San Francisco
Tampa Bay Pittsburgh Seattle
Washington St. Louis Texas

MLB Second Division

EAST CENTRAL WEST
Buffalo Chicago White Sox Las Vegas
Charlotte Cincinnati Mexico City
Miami Columbus Monterrey
Montreal Indianapolis Oklahoma City
Norfolk Louisville Portland
Orlando Minnesota San Antonio
Philadelphia Nashville San Diego
San Juan New Orleans Vancouver

Promotion and Relegation

Most people are most familiar with promotion and relegation from the English football league system.  Each season, the three worst teams from the Premier League (the first division) are relegated to the EFL Championship (the second division), and three teams from the EFL Championship are promoted to the premier league (in this case, the top two teams from the regular season and the winner of a playoff among the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place teams). Across the world’s sports leagues there are different models of how many teams are promoted and relegated, and what determines which teams will be promoted and relegated.

My plan would have three teams promoted and three teams relegated each season.  1 team from each league in MLB First Division – East, Central, and West – is relegated and replaced by a team from the respective leagues in MLB Second Division. Instead of simply relegating the team with the worst regular season record from each league, instead the teams relegated would have the worst cumulative record over two seasons.  I propose this rule for three reasons:

  1. No team will end up being relegated for having just one bad season. They’ll have a chance to prove themselves the next season.
  2. Since every team will want avoid relegation by having a strong 2-year cumulative record, a team will have the incentive to try to win every game possible, even late in the season when the team’s been eliminated from postseason contention.
  3. A team promoted from the lower division will have a minimum of two seasons at the higher division, giving them a year to find their footing in the new division, and avoid teams popping back and forth between divisions each year.

Promotion would involve simply advancing the pennant winner from each second division league to the first division league.  I tried to come up with a way that the second division playoffs could be used to determine some or all of the teams promoted, but strictly basing it on the best performances in the regular season seems most fair to me.

Minor Leagues

Even with 48 teams playing in the Major Leagues, there would still be a lot of Minor League teams and each MLB team could affiliate with at least 4 MiLB teams.  Ultimately though, I think it would be imperative to rethink the farm system and expand the promotion and relegation system.  There are enough cities currently at the Triple A and Double A levels of Minor League Baseball that could create a 3rd and 4th division of 24 teams each.  Expanding the promotion and relegation system would make competitive professional baseball available in cities across America. The Minor Leagues could be streamlined then to just two affiliated teams per MLB team: one for development, and one as reserves.

With 48 (or 96) teams, obviously the best players will cluster in the MLB First Division. Teams in lower divisions will try to scout and acquire players to improve themselves and get promoted to a higher division. But there would also be opportunities for teams in the lower division to improve their team and/or financial status by trading their best players or selling their contracts to top division teams.  I would also suggest that MLB adopt player loans, where teams that have a player under contract can temporarily have that player play for a team in another division.  This would be a benefit for top division teams who have young talent that they want to get more playing time, but a team in a lower division going through a rebuilding period may also keep their best players happy by allowing them to play for a more competitive team.

 ***

I won’t go into in this post, but for this new model to work, other things that will need to be adjusted include free agency eligibility rules, the amateur draft, territorial rights, and even MLBs antitrust exemption.  And I’m sure that there are hundreds of little things I’ve overlooked.  Nevertheless, I think this would be an effective approach for MLB to consider in growing baseball and making it more competitive in more cities throughout the continent, while establishing a means to continue to grow into the future.