Welcome back baseball fans, gamblers, and baseball fans who gamble. Time for that annual midcourse correction wherein I tweak those spring selections and bring you up to date on the state of the various races, now that the July 31 trading deadline has passed. First, let’s commend Major League Baseball for cleaning up its act. No longer can the New York Yankees and a few big-money franchises “buy” a player they need after the July deadline via the waiver-wire scam. Long overdue, sez I.
Let’s take a look at the major trades that should make a difference come the October playoffs. First though, we consider those failures to trade that disappointed so many fans in New York and LA. The first-place Yankees in the AL East Division, soft on the starting pitching, stood pat. The NL West Division shoo-in Dodgers, weak in relief pitching, did not strengthen their bullpen. Contrast that with the rising Houston Astros, arguably the best team in baseball, who flexed their muscles further by adding front-line starter Zach Greinke from Arizona and Joe Biagini and Aaron Sanchez from Toronto to an already powerful pitching staff for this year and those to come. Outfielder Derek Fisher goes to the Blue Jays.
The National League East-leading Atlanta Braves secured big-time bullpen help in the persons of Mark Melancon from the Giants and Shane Greene from the Tigers. Cost? A few minor leaguers. The busy Chicago Cubs, in a tight three-way battle with the Cardinals and Brewers for the National League Central Division crown, gained an edge by getting proven hitter Nick Castellanos from the Tigers. They also loaded up on reliever relief with right-handers David Phelps from the Blue Jays and Dan Winkler from the Braves, as well as left-hander Derek Holland from the Giants.
In the American League Central the muscular, offense-minded Minnesota Twins shored up their mediocre bullpen by adding Sam Dyson from the Giants and ageless Sergio Romo from the Marlins. In a gamble to keep pace with the Twins the second place Cleveland Indians dealt the talented but troubled narcissist Trevor Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds for another troubled talent, volatile Yasiel Puig in a three-way barter that saw the Reds send infield prospect Taylor Trammell to the Padres, and the Padres in turn send right-handed slugger Franmil Reyes to the Tribe. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays, trailing the Yankees in the American League East Division, and battling Boston and Oakland for a wild card spot, buffed up big by acquiring slugging first baseman Jesus Aguilar from the Brewers, second baseman Eric Sogard from the Blue Jays, and added right-handed pitchers Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson from the Marlins. The Red Sox, in need of pitching, traded for the Orioles’ starter, Andrew Cashner.
Of lesser, passing note, the upstart Giants received Scooter Gennett from the Reds, prized pitcher Marcus Stroman went to the Mets from the Blue Jays, and lefty Drew Pomeranz moved from the Giants to the Brewers. The rest of the trades are minor and need not concern us when we place our bets on the October outcome.
So about those promised tweaks in my spring selections? Not much change, really. In the National League the Dodgers and the Cubs are right where I picked them—on top, where they will stay. As for the National League East, the upstart Atlanta Braves jumped from third, where I picked them, to first, a place they will not relinquish till the playoffs. My perennial pick for first place, the Washington Nationals, has slipped to a second place tie with the Philadelphia Phillies; look for one of them to be the first wild card team. The second wild card team? Try the Saint Louis Cardinals of the Central Division.
In the American League, the Western Division will finish Houston first and Oakland second, as I predicted in the spring. In the American League East I picked Boston first, the Yankees second, and the dangerous Tampa Bay Rays third; drop the Red Sox to third and you have the new order of finish. The American League Central is without doubt the league’s most exciting race. In the spring I picked Cleveland to win it with Minnesota second, but the Twins were my long-shot pick of the year. The pair are now in a fierce battle for the division pennant; the loser will be the first wildcard. The second wildcard? Either Oakland or Tampa Bay, flip a coin.
Now, what you been waiting for. How they will finish and the ultimate winner:
In the National League, the Dodgers will defeat the Cards and the Cubs will edge the Braves. The Dodgers will beat the Cubs.
In the American League, the Astros will defeat the Indians and the Twins will upset the Yankees. The Astros will trounce the Twins.
In the World Series the Astros will whip the Dodgers in six.
BN: The Dodgers have everything…except the key to beating an American League team.
Be thoughtful in how you spend your winnings. A second yacht is not the way to thank me for giving you this inside information. And remember that these selections are guaranteed. If the teams do not finish in the order predicted, I will provide you picks for the following year free of charge!