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:

Movie Review: Once Upon a Time In Queens (2021)


Title: Once Upon a Time In Queens
Release Date: September 14, 2021
Director: Nick Davis
Production Company: ESPN | ITV Studios America | Kimmelot | MLB Productions
Summary/Review:

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about the 1986 New York Mets is one that I will have trouble reviewing objectively as it pushes all of my nostalgic buttons.  I tend to be a nostalgic person to begin with but this film hit me more emotionally than I ever expected.  It’s not just that it’s about my favorite baseball team’s best season ever but that it so richly captures the time and the place of New York City in the 1980s, which I experienced vicariously as a child of the suburbs.  And it’s not even that it was the “good old days,” as this film demonstrates it was a time of unrepentant greed, unrestrained substance abuse, toxic masculinity, and racial tensions, all of which were exemplified by the Mets.  And yet, there is something about the community that came together around these deeply flawed men who did amazing things on the ballfield.  Living in the past quarter-century of a Yankees-worshiping society, it’s hard to believe how much the Mets were beloved and unifying.

The four-part documentary goes deep into the roots of the Mets, a team that was a replacement for New York and Brooklyn losing the Giants and Dodgers that somehow won a miraculous World Series in 1969, and then trading away their franchise pitcher Tom Seaver in 1977.  The first part focuses on how the team gained a new owner in 1980 and with a new general manager put together the pieces of a winning team that would have very exciting second-place finishes in 1984 and 1985 before dominating baseball in 1986.  The other three parts focus on the season itself with a good amount of film footage both on and off the field, some of it that I’d never seen before.

As you’d expect from a documentary, there are a lot of talking head interviews, and many but not all of the Mets’ players are represented.  Some of the best observations come from Kevin Mitchell, who was a rookie in 1986 and played only one season with the Mets, and Bob Ojeda, who was in his first season with the team and thus has something of an outsider’s perspective on the team’s perspective.  Manager Davy Johnson is also very insightful.  The heart of the film, though, is dedicated to the stars of the team: Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and Dwight Gooden.  All of them came from troubled family backgrounds and all of them suffered from addictions. I was impressed by how candid and introspective each of these men are in their interviews. The other big star of the team, Gary Carter, died in 2012, otherwise he would’ve been a prominent subject as well. Instead archival footage and interviews with his wife have to suffice.  At the other end of the spectrum, Lenny Dykstra appears to be inebriated and still full of himself.  But he does provide some of the documentary’s best laugh lines.

As documentaries go, there’s nothing groundbreaking in its filmmaking, but it’s extremely well-edited.  I also loved the soundtrack which ranges from Tom Waits to the Beasties Boys to the Mets’ own rally songs (yes, they recorded two that season).  Writers like Greg Prince and Jeff Pearlman offer expert opinion and context while a wide variety of fans including Chuck D, Cyndi Lauper, George R.R. Martin, and various people who recorded “where was I” videos of their experiences during the legendary Game 6 of the World Series.  I didn’t feel that it was necessary to keep cutting in scenes from the movie Fear Strikes Out for the Keith Hernandez story. I also think the epilogue overstates things about the Mets’ “collapse” after 1986.  While they didn’t make it to another World Series, the Mets remained a very good team through the 1990 season. It was harder to start a dynasty in the 1980s, and had the three-division structure of MLB been adopted a decade earlier, the Mets would’ve finished in first place 7 years in a row.  Despite it being a 4-hour movie, Once Upon a Time in Queens went by quickly and left me wanting more.  If you like sports’ documentaries it is definitely worth your time.

 

Rating: ****

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):

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 11


Last week I had no podcasts to share.  This week I have a bumper crop!

Afropop Worldwide :: Remembering Tony Allen

Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen died this spring, shortly after releasing his final album Rejoice, with Hugh Masekela. Afropop Worldwide revisits Allen’s storied career.

BackStory :: The End of the Road: BackStory and the History of Finales in America

My favorite history podcast BackStory comes to an end with an episode about finales in American history, from President George Washington to Mary Tyler Moore.

Hidden Brain :: The Night That Lasted A Lifetime: How Psychology Was Misused In Teen’s Murder Case

The story of a Black Boston teenager, Fred Clay, who spent 38 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted based on evidence the police extracted using hypnosis.

The Last Archive :: For the Birds

Rachel Carson, the extinction of bird species, and climate change.

99% Invisible :: Freedom House Ambulance Service

The modern practice of paramedics serving communities with an emergency medical service began in the Black community in Pittsburgh just over 50 years ago.

60-Second Science :: Animals Appreciate Recent Traffic Lull

One side benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic is the reduced use of automobiles.  Some cities (not Boston, of course) have even taken advantage of creating space for people to walk and bike by closing roads to cars.  But even in rural areas, animals are thriving because of fewer collisions with motor vehicles.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Take Me Who Out to the Ballgame?

If you’re American, you’ve inevitably sung along with the chorus “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” baseball’s unofficial anthem.  But if you’ve never heard the chorus, you may not know that the song is about a woman who wants to watch baseball at a time when that was considered a men’s only activity.  The podcast explores the history of how the song went “viral” and features music by Chicago White Sox organist Nancy Faust.

Throughline :: The Long Hot Summer

Civil disturbances in Black communities in America in 1967 lead President Johnson to call the Kerner Commission. The commission’s report revealed evidence of police violence that was criticized and ignored at the time, but still reads as a diagnoses of our present-day crises.


Book Review: K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by


Author: Tyler Kepner
Title: K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches
Publication Info: New York : Doubleday, [2019]
Summary/Review:

Tyler Kepner explores ten different pitches in baseball, describing how they’re thrown, how they move, and the history of how they originated and developed.  The ten pitches include standard pitches like the fastball, curveball, and slider.

But Kepner also explores pitches that only an elite cadre of pitchers can master (the knuckleball) and a pitch that only one pitcher can really handle (Mariano Rivera and the cutter).  He also explores pitches that had peaks of popularity in the past but are all but absent in the present-day game (the screwball and the splitter).  Kepner even devotes a chapter to spitballs, scuffballs, and other modifications to the ball that affect pitches and the gamesmenship of pitchers known to use them.

The book is written in an oral history style, relying on Kepner’s interviews with current and retired pitchers and coaches as well as quotes from earlier works that covered now deceased pitchers.  The book is a creative way to look at the history of baseball from the perspective of one of its most important facets.

Favorite Passages:

Every pitch is a decision. That is the beauty and the burden of the pitcher. Think there’s downtime in baseball? Tell it to the man on the mound, all alone on that dirt bull’s-eye. The catcher thinks along with him, back behind the plate, but the pitcher rules the game. Nothing happens until he answers these questions: Which pitch should I throw, where should I throw it, and why? It is an awesome responsibility.


I’ve found that most people in baseball tend to be…pretty nice. And of all the subsets of folks in the game, knuckleball pitchers might be the nicest. They are also part of the smallest group, which helps explain it. Almost all knuckleballers were rejected by the game before they could last very long. They earned their living by grabbing the wing of a butterfly and then, somehow, steering it close enough to the strike zone, again and again, to baffle the best hitters in the world.


In the 1930s, the prime of the great Giant lefty Carl Hubbell, “screwball” came to describe a specific genre of Hollywood comedies: battle of the sexes, often with a woman’s madcap antics upending a stuffy man’s world. In his book about Depression-era films, Andrew Bergman wrote that “screwball comedy,” like Hubbell’s famous pitch, was “unconventional, went in different directions and behaved in unexpected ways.”


“Have I ever told you about my agreement with the ball?” Quisenberry asked Angell, who said no. “Well, our deal is that I’m not going to throw you very hard as long as you promise to move around when you get near the plate, because I want you back. So if you do your part, we’ll get to play some more.”


After two chaotic decades or so, the spitball was banned for 1920, the same year the country went dry under Prohibition. The rule simply turned the mound into a speakeasy, with many pitchers going undercover to get the same slippery edge as their predecessors.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending May 23


All Songs Considered :: Little Richard’s Life in 10 Songs

A tribute to the groundbreaking Rock n’ Roll artist through music.

Fresh Air :: Janelle Monáe

An interview with one of my favorite musicians, actors, style icons, and all around people.

The Politics of Everything :: Is Baseball Safe?

MLB is planning to return for a shortened season, but will it be safe for players, coaches, umpires, and other ballpark employees with the continuing threat of COVID-19?

Radio Boston :: As Mass. Reopens, Are You Ready To Start Riding The T Again?

Decades of disinvestment in Boston’s public transportation creates the conditions where many commuters will not feel they can safely travel while practicing social distancing.

Radiolab :: Speedy Beet

Beethoveen may have composed his music to be played at a much faster tempo leading to his music being seen in a different light.

Snap Judgment :: The Country Doctor

The story of an Islamic doctor who loves serving the community in a small Minnesota town until he learns that most of the people their voted for Trump.


Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Appearances in 2020

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.

The Great Baseball Card Bubble of 1987


I saw this tweet the other day and I had to laugh because it brought back memories of the time in my childhood when I was deeply invested in the baseball card collecting hobby.  I can’t remember when I started collecting baseball cards, but sometime in the early 80s my uncle gave me a large number of cards from the 1978 Topps set.  To this I added current cards from wax packs my parents would buy me, hoping to get cards of the two New York City teams and some of the big stars of the day like Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, Mike Schmidt, Eddie Murray, George Brett, and Fernando Valenzuela.

Oddly, my baseball card hobby actually preceded my baseball fandom by several years, but by 1985 when I started following baseball intensely, my card collecting also picked up. Now I I would my money from birthdays and such at corner stores on wax packs hoping to get my favorite team (now solely the Mets), the best players of the day, and hopefully complete the set.  I started getting Baseball Cards Magazine and learned a lot about the history of baseball cards going back to the 1950s when Topps started, and even earlier cards made by no longer extant companies.  I also learned that Topps was not alone, but had competitors named Fleer and Donruss, and soon a company called Score would release a set with color photos on both sides of the card!

Baseball Cards Magazine informed me that older cards were most valuable, but there were also error cards from more recent sets that were rare and valuable.  I searched my cards, but alas, never found the rare variants. Another type of card considered valuable is the rookie card, which is the very first card issued for a particular player by any company.  Sometimes rookie cards were issued before a player even made their Major League debut, and I found I had a Mark McGwire card from when he was on the USA baseball team in 1984. The Baseball Cards Magazine price guide said my card was worth $15 (I never sold it though).

Towards the late 80s, the baseball card hobby began shifting more and more toward emphasis on collecting rookie cards.  It helped that a large number of young players began emerging as potential stars at that time.  Wally Joyner, pictured above, was the first rookie player elected to start in the All-Star Game ever in 1986, and in 1987 even more rookies made the All-Star rosters.  Soon the ads in the back of Baseball Cards Magazine were all selling lots of rookie cards by the 100s for players like Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Will Clark, Mike Greenwell, Mark McGwire, Gregg Jeffries, Benito Santiago, Kevin Seitzer, Ruben Sierra, Cory Snyder, Danny Tartabull and of course, Wally Joyner. The hope for collectors is that by buying up lots of cards of players when they were young would make them more valuable for resale when they became Hall of Famers. The hobby became less appealing to me the more it became an investment vehicle like the stock market.

Of course, none of these players were inducted into the Hall of Fame, and most of them weren’t even superstars.  Bonds, Canseco, and McGwire were superstars but are also among the most prominent players to have their legacies tarnished by using performance enhancing drugs. I avoided buying the lots of rookie cards, although I was convinced to save up my money to buy the 1987 Topps Traded set, which had 132 cards of players traded since the original 1987 set was published and included the first cards of several “prominent rookies.” I believe I saved up $15 plus shipping & handling to get this set by mail order.  This spring when I was in a baseball card shop in Cooperstown, I saw the exact same set for sale for $10.  The lots of rookie cards that my fellow hobbyists invested in 30 years ago have similarly not appreciated in price.

These days, my son – and to a lesser extent, my daughter – has taken up an interest in baseball card collecting.  Baseball cards have come a long way, and following the innovations of that first Score set now have color photos on both sides on high-quality card stock.  Unfortunately, this means one can no longer buy a pack with pocket change at the corner store, but have to spend several dollars for a pack at a specialty shop.  Instead of a rookie card bubble, my son is drawn in by the chance of getting limited edition cards inserted into packs that have actual player autographs and swatches of game-used uniforms and equipment (which strikes me as eerily like the relics of Christian saints).  While I can’t say these cards are worth what my son is paying for them, it is nice that they are actually something unique and pleasant to look at. You can’t say that for a lot of 100 Wally Joyner rookie cards.

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: