Breaking Balls: 10 bold predictions for the second half


The only thing missing from Mike Trout is a moustache. (Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire)

Well, that was one heck of an All-Star Game we had, huh? Okay, it was pretty boring – almost comatose – and I really only vaguely remember that it happened, but I need to mention it to kick off my premise for this week. What do you expect from an exhibition game? Sure, the winner gets home field in the World Series, but I can guarantee you that no one actually playing the game gave one tiny piece of crap about that during the game.

I kind of remember that Justin Verlander lit up the radar gun with speeds of 100 miles per hour and then was lit up by the National League hitters in a pitching performance that was positively Atlee Hammaker-esque. What? Too old a reference? What about Tom Glavine-ish? Really? I’m still going to have to explain it? Fine. Both of these guys did not pitch well in All-Star Games.

Anyway, now I’m feeling a bit put out. You guys should have at least gotten the Glavine reference. Whatever. I’m a professional and I’ll rise above it.

With the All-Star Game behind us, the second half of the season is officially underway. Okay, yes, you’re right again. Mathematically, the second half started in early July. Give it a rest, nerds. I mean it more as a symbolic thing. I almost feel like you don’t even want me to finish this column.

Well, two can play at this game. This week I’m going to give you a top 10 list. Ha ha! Now who’s laughing? Lists are one of the laziest forms of writing in the wide world – second only to Twitter. Lists don’t require any sort of story development or linear flow. See?! You’re not the only one who can be sassy. I can be sassy, too. You just got sassed.

I realize that not all of you were sassing me earlier and I hate to punish innocent bystanders – though some of you did a good job of looking like you weren’t sassing me, but were secretly quite sassful.

Okay, so here’s my list.

The Top 10 Bold Predictions for the Second Half of the Baseball Season (TTBPSHBS™)

To be clear, these are bold predictions. You won’t see any easy predictions that we already are sure about, like “Cubs fans looking forward to next year” or “Yankees make the playoffs” or “Bobby Valentine is nuts.”

1. Los Angeles Dodgers will collapse. Maybe I’m cheating with this one because the team’s fall from first place already happened. But I’m counting this because I bet my friend Gabe a month ago that this would happen. And it’s going to keep happening. I like the Dodgers franchise – a lot. I live in L.A. and this is our home team (suck it, Anaheim). I don’t want to sound like I’m only picking on them, because I also think the Orioles and Pirates will disappoint their fans.

2. Cole Hamels will not get traded. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is the real culprit here. It’s all pretty complicated, but suffice it to say that it’s no longer a slam-dunk great idea for the Phillies to trade away an impending free agent like Hamels. Philadelphia has the third-highest payroll in baseball, and they aren’t going to fill seats by trading for a prospect. Too bad for the Phillies that Ed Wade isn’t in Houston anymore to give away their talented players. As a side note, I think Zack Greinke will get traded by the Brewers. Okay, I need to slow down. In only two list items, I’ve listed five bold predictions. Pace yourself, Jed. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

3. Pirates will miss the playoffs. This team is getting so close to being a legitimate threat. They’re just a year or so away. The division is weak, and I do think they’ll have a winning record for the first time in 120 years (give or take), but I hope they don’t squander some of their impressive minor leaguers for some “crafty” veteran who won’t actually make a difference.

4. Mike Trout show will continue. Trout is only 20 years old, and he’s easily the most exciting player in baseball with his blazing speed, awesome defense and wicked bat. It’s almost disturbing how good he is. I am disturbed. I sometimes have trouble even believing what I’m seeing. He’s the type of phenom that Yankees and Red Sox fans think all of their minor leaguers will be. If you were going to design the ideal baseball player, he would look a lot like Trout – except with a mustache, of course.

5. Justin Upton will struggle. But he won’t get traded. There’s no way for the Diamondbacks to get anywhere near full value right now for a player who is only 24 and is already a star in the league. They haven’t announced it yet, but he is injured. He hurt is thumb, and now he’s just a singles hitter with an occasional extra-base hit. Injuries to thumbs or hands or wrists take away a batter’s power. So, Arizona will not trade him, then when the season’s over, they’ll announce he had an injury. Because this is what players and teams do, because players and teams aren’t always forthcoming in the middle of a season.

6. The Kevin Youkilis “ef you, Bobby Valentine” hitting performance will continue. And then he’ll get injured. And then he’ll return and continue to pound the snot out of the ball. I wrote about this earlier that sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery to get out of a funk. Sometimes it takes a few days to adjust, but not for Youkilis. He’s killing the ball and you know when he’s up at the plate and that ball is coming in, he imagines it’s just a miniature Bobby.

7. Ryan Dempster will get traded and then crash. There isn’t a hotter pitcher in the league than the Cubs’ Dempster and Chicago wants to trade him for prospects to fuel their rebuilding process. The problem is that no matter how well he’s been pitching, he’s still just Ryan Dempster. You guys remember him, right? The mediocre pitcher who is more of an innings-eater than an ace. Every mediocre pitcher has stretches of dominance, and it’s the perfect storm for the Cubs to dupe some hapless team into overpaying. Speaking of “hapless,” this sounds like a perfect trade for the Dodgers. They need hitters to stay in the playoff race. They don’t need any pitching. But Ned Colletti has a history of dumping top prospects for a few months of a mediocre player. Come on, Ned. Six years of performance from a prospect is worth more than some “veteran” schlub for half a season. (Sorry, math nerds, less than half a season.)

8. Detroit will continue to stink. And the team isn’t very good either. I joke! I’m a joker. It’s what I do. Another joke worth mentioning here is the Detroit Tigers’ defense. The only stats they lead the league in are weight and girth. No one’s really surprised by their inferior defense, but it’s the pitching that has been a real disappointment. And the batting lineup has under-performed as well with very little contribution from the bottom of the lineup – you could say that it’s very top-heavy! I joke!

9. More players on my fantasy team will get injured. You know how this season there seem to be more injuries to star players throughout the league? Joey Votto, Roy Halladay, Jayson Werth, Chase Utley. So far, I’ve had 11 significant injuries on my team with as many as eight at one time. I was in first place, and now I’m treading water in sixth place. Hey, Bud Selig, time to lift that ban on HGH. Let’s get those players back on the field.

10. Umpires will keep blowing calls. I know this is an easy one and isn’t really a “bold” prediction, because it is more certain than death, taxes or a Chipper Jones injury. But I kind of wasted some of my predictions in the first two and I’m really just trying to fill out the list to 10.

Well, there it was. My bold predictions list. I hope that those of you who weren’t sassing me earlier enjoyed it. And for those of you that did sass me, I hope you’ve learned a lesson in the price you pay for your sassy ways.

Play ball!

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