Oh right, what about those Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or the San Francisco Giants? Yeah well, what are you gonna do, right? It's baseball! I've been basking in the first half of the 2013 season, and, with its resumption today after the All-Star break layoff, I thought I'd offer up a few thoughts and observations for you to take with you through the end of the season:
- Sports Illustrated recalibrated their World Series predictions in their new issue, so I guess that gives the rest of us license to do the same. They have St. Louis beating Texas at the end. I'll stick with my World Champions-to-be the Atlanta Braves, this time beating the Detroit Tigers in 7 games instead of beating the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, who will miss the playoffs and suffer an offseason of acrimony, finger-pointing and bitter recrimination.
- Like you, I'm loving the Pittsburgh Pirates story. For a big part of my youth, they were a dominant team, but the last time they were any good, we were all 21 years younger. I had thought that the big surprise story this year would be the Kansas City Royals, and in some quarters, it's a big surprise that they're not contending. A little piece of every baseball fan will die if the Pirates collapse in the second half, and don't at least finish with their dignity intact and their first winning record since 1992. Is that too much to ask?
- My San Francisco Giants, currently 8 games under .500 and yet only 6.5 games out of first place, will do one of two dramatic things in the next 3 months, all without making the playoffs. I'd give them about a 60% chance to actually have a worse second half, and to get to a "rebuilding" mindset about 6 weeks from now, if not sooner. As baseball becomes a sport of prospects in their 20s, as opposed to a sport of expensive free agents in their 30s, look for the Giants to embrace the new trend and start selling off parts (Pence, Lincecum, Romo and so on) in favor of stocking the farm. Then again – there's a 40% chance they start playing really, really well, far better than their mostly-abysmal first half, just enough to contend for second place or a strong third, and call it an odd-year aberration on the way to their third straight even-year World Championship in 2014.
- I'm also looking forward to the Great Steroid Bust of 2013. Any day now, Major League Baseball is going to announce who's in trouble from the Biogenesis scandal. Clowns like A-Rod and Ryan Braun will be suspended, most likely for a long time, and even their own union has proactively announced that it won't defend them. It's clear that the players, the grand majority, are looking to move on from this story and the taint that comes from it on their own steroid-free performances. Who among us isn't looking askance at Chris Davis, rightly or wrongly, for instance? I'd like for this whole thing to be gone, with the dopers swept out for good and playing field metaphorically leveled again.
- Can the Oakland A's keep playing this well? Man, I hope so. I've actually been to more A's games this year than Giants games, and all of a sudden it's just a fantastic atmosphere over there in the disgusting, decrepit Oakland Coliseum. I haven't seen such excitement and fan unity & cohesion since the BillyBall days. They're a fun team with what appears to be a terrific set of individuals for the second year in a row, and my dream Series is them vs. the Pirates this October.
- Hedonist Jive's favorite ballplayers, as of July 2013, in no particular order (see my 2010 list here – it's funny to see how many of those guys are out of baseball, on different teams, or just flat-out stink now): Andrew McCutchen, Pablo Sandoval, Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman, Chris Sale, Yu Darvish, Shelby Miller, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, Craig Kimbrel, Grant Balfour. Why? I don't know. I like these guys, the way they play the game and stuff.