The HBT staff makes its World Series predictions

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If you think about it (and look at it a bit sideways, with one eye-closed), this isn’t a seven game World Series. It’s a best of 169, with the 97-65 Red Sox and 97-65 Cardinals in a dead heat before their final games.

OK, maybe that’s not true. But if it were, it would absolve us from making any sort of prediction, because all of us here at HardballTalk already whiffed on a 169-game prediction. We took the Nationals or the Tigers or someone back in March, so claiming we have some sort of clairvoyance now is disingenuous in the extreme. But, hey, that’s baseball, right? We can know an awful lot about it — and I think we do — yet still have no idea what’s gonna happen. Indeed, some crazy people may argue that that’s what makes it so cool.

But of course, convention is such that people who opine about baseball are supposed to make predictions. And we will. Even though this is one of the more evenly-matched World Series in living memory. Even though anything can happen. Even though Silva is a degenerate Cardinals fan and most of the rest of us couldn’t give a care one way or the other, thereby infusing our predictions with a fun mix of both bias and indifference.

But here goes:

  • Craig: Cardinals in seven because, well, I don’t know and I kinda like their starting pitching. Still not abandoning my pick of the Nationals to win it all. DON’T COUNT THEM OUT!
  • Aaron: Cardinals in six. He didn’t say why, but I’ll assume it’s because he really doesn’t want a Game 7 interfering with his trick-or-treating next Thursday.
  • D.J.: “Cardinals in six games. Carlos Beltran WS MVP (the only way such an outcome is palatable for me).” Mets fans: even more degenerate than Cards fans.
  • Drew: He eventually said Cardinals in six. For a while he didn’t respond to my email asking for a prediction because he was busy posting insane crap like this on Twitter. I’m actually surprised he didn’t pick the Cards in two “because of Ditka” or something. He claims this is an unbiased selection, though, so we’ll take him at his word.
  • Matthew: Red Sox in six. This is quite the improvement over his last Red Sox prediction.
  • Bill: “Cardinals in five.” Please excuse his curtness, though. He’s too busy sobbing over footage of the Joe Carter home run, which happened 20 years ago today.

So that’s that. Given our usual level of accuracy, I think these predictions mean that the 1969 Seattle Pilots will prevail over the 1874 New York Mutals in 11 games, with Brabender going the distance with a two-hit shutout.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.