From ESPN to the New York Times
to Sports Illustrated
, the baseball world is all predicting that the San Francisco Giants make the playoffs in 2012. Many have them losing to the Angels in the World Series (a repeat of 2002), or losing to the Marlins in the prior round. While many discounted the Giants chances in 2011 despite their 2010 World Series victory, it seems that the combination of new bats and the return of Buster Posey has made believers of former skeptics. The Giants’ success could hinge on Brandon Belt, who may finally be primed to live up to his billing as a future All-Star. Barry Zito’s season holds no such suspense; after a terrible spring Zito either leaves the roster by midseason through injury or is finally cut loose.
Hope springs eternal on the Giants opening day, and with Matt Cain under contract and Buster Posey back, everyone is all smiles for the 2012 season. Even diehard Giants pessimists seem optimistic, with few giving any team but the Diamondbacks a shot to challenge the Giants for the division title.
The addition of a second wild-card team explains some of this positive feeling, as does the Giants signing of Matt Cain. And for all the publicity about the $2 billion purchase of the Dodgers, few expect Magic Johnson’s team to compete for a playoff spot this year.
Abandoning the Red Sox and A’s
I’ve followed baseball since 1962, and this is the first year that I will not root for the Red Sox to do well. The Red Sox were popular underdogs in the days when NBC Game of the Week announcer Curt Gowdy would describe Fenway slugfests as “Pier Six brawls,” and we all thrilled to the Sox’s 1967 miracle season.
But after winning the 2004 and 2007 titles, the Red Sox have lost their feisty underdog identity. And after hiring the anti-union, reactionary loudmouth Bobby Valentine as manager, they deserve the poor season they will endure in 2012.
As for the A’s, how can you root for a team whose owners disdain Oakland and who are real estate speculators using a baseball stadium to secure space for new condos? Moneyball
may have given Billy Beane more space to be the front man for these wrongdoers, but I find that fewer and fewer baseball fans are fooled.
The Sad Sack Cubs and Mets
Sadly, the Cubs have become boring. Nobody sees the team making the playoffs, and the optimism that surrounded the new ownership a few years ago has dissipated. Theo Epstein has his work cut out for him, and I wish him luck.
For all of the excitement of the 2011 season’s last day and the playoffs, the baseball season begins with at least half the teams joining the Cubs in having no chance to win a title. There is no possibility of a San Francisco 49ers-type 2011 run in major league baseball this year, and fans of the Padres, Royals, Pirates, Astros, Mariners, and the truly woeful Mets are in for a long slog.
The Mets have accomplished something rare in baseball history: they built a new stadium that failed to boost the team’s attendance, success or bottom line. The Wilpon and Katz families recently settled the multimillion dollar claim brought against them by the trustee for victims of Bernie Madoff, but the Met's remain a messed up franchise with no light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s hard to argue against the Giants winning their division and going on to play for the National League pennant. Giant fans have had enough grief playing the Marlins in the playoffs, and I would prefer that the Giants not have to face them in the postseason.
More difficult to assess is the American League, where four teams – the Tigers, Angels, Yankees and Rangers – are legitimate contenders to win the World Series. I’d like to think that the Tigers now have all the pieces to reach the World Series, but the Angels will be a challenge.
I try to avoid recalling the 2002 Series, so I’ll go Giants-Tigers in the 2012 Classic. And I’ll give my pick on that match up before the 2012 World Series begins.
Randy Shaw recommends the 1951 version of Angels in the Outfield, particularly for fans of the old Forbes Field.