I do a lot of radio appearances throughout the year, most of which vanish into the ether. Every now and then a station will post the audio. TSN 1200 in Ottawa is one of those stations. They booked me Thursday morning to talk about Opening Day, the coming 2018 season, and the Blue Jays, specifically. However, shorty before my segment, we all learned of the passing of Expos and Mets great Rusty Staub. As a result, this appearance opens with a remembrance of Staub, and it was my great honor to be able to pay tribute to Staub in a city so close to Montréal. We proceed to the regularly scheduled preview material from there, starting with the Blue Jays and broadening out to work in the Red Sox, Indians, and Shohei Ohtani, among other things. Enjoy.
Thursday is Opening Day of the 2018 Major League Baseball season. In anticipation, I took a look at “the best of everything” in the American and National Leagues, one piece for each league, naming the best lineup, rotation, bullpen, player, pitcher, manager, and much more, including best team (my de facto pennant picks) and the corresponding runners-up.
Get ’em while they’re hot, the season will likely change many of these rankings, and first pitch, from Jose Ureña of Marlins, is at 12:40 pm EST!
The Best of Everything: American League
The Best of Everything: National League
I’ve been a bit lax about updating this site with my latest pieces over the last couple of weeks, so here are links to three of my latest. These weren’t necessarily intended as regular-season-preview content, but they loosely function as such.
On March 16, I took a look back at this winter’s glacial free agent market. In doing so, I identified what some of the offseason’s free agent winners had in common, but the anchor of the piece is a list of the five free agents who were hurt most by the surprisingly stingy market. Note that this piece was written before the Orioles went off-script and gave Alex Cobb a four-year deal for a guaranteed $57 million. That contract recalls the Orioles’ similar belated overpay for Ubaldo Jiménez in 2014 ($50 million, 4 years, signed February 19), a deal which was included in my piece on post-pitchers-and-catchers signings back in February (and which I wrote up for SI.com in 2014). The Cobb contract should work out better for the Orioles than the Jiménez deal did, but it remains an inexplicable overpay, particularly in the context of this offseason, for a 30-year-old pitcher who has never made 30 starts or thrown 180 innings in a season and didn’t even make my list of the top 20 free agents back in November.
On March 21, I surveyed the seven teams who are considered locks for the postseason–the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees–and tried to determine which one of them is most likely to fall short of the playoffs based on the likelihood that at least one of those teams will fail to make it to the postseason.
On March 23, I presented my preseason Misery Index, ranking all 30 teams by how much misery they have brought upon their fans, with an emphasis on recent seasons (the Astros, for example, rank 30th).
Looking at those three topics together, they all seem to focus on the negative, but worry not, this week I’m focusing on the positive, and I’ll have links to those pieces tomorrow.
My latest for The Athletic crunches the numbers on the 15 hitters to make the move from Nippon Professional Baseball to the major leagues without prior experience in a western-hemisphere league and uses them to make projections, and set expectations, for what Shohei Ohtani’s performance at the plate in 2018. As you’ll see, I discovered a surprising consistency in the manner in which those hitters’ production translated to MLB. It will be interesting to see if Ohtani’s performance follows suit this season.
I somehow managed to get a Detroit Wolverines reference in the last two pieces I’ve had published. This one concerns the late-career returns of Hall of Fame-caliber players to the teams with which they formerly starred. I compiled a list of 53 such players stretching back to the 1893 Giants and found that such reunions aren’t always as depressing as you might think. However, at 44, Ichiro Suzuki is among the oldest of all of them.
This was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and the Tigers’ recent uniform changes gave me an excuse, and The Hardball Times actually paid me to do it. It’s a definitive history of the many (many) iterations of the Detroit Tigers’ Old English D, both the D’s on their jerseys and, more crucially, because previous to this there were no thorough resources for it, the D’s on their caps. It covers every Old English D in franchise history dating back to 1896, and includes at least a thumbnail image of each, nearly all of them taken from photographs of actual Tigers players in uniform.
Tigers fans and baseball historians may want to bookmark this one. Given how frequently the D has changed, this piece can be used to date photographs of Tigers players. It can also be used to expose just how inaccurate the Tigers’ caps in the Cooperstown Collection series by both New Era and American Needle are (though there are a few American Needle caps that get my stamp of approval available via Detroit Athletic Co.). If that sounds like a very specific pet peeve to you, you might want to avoid asking me about their St. Louis Browns caps. Unfortunately, I’m unlikely to get an excuse (or a paycheck) to do a history of the St. Louis Browns’ various cap logos.