I am a bitter man. A small, bitter man. A petty, small, bitter man. And this baseball season has not gone according to plan for my favorite team, the Giants. When will the baseball gods cut them some slack? It's been a hard-to-watch year.
As such, I want to take out my aggressions on another fan base. Looks like there are still a lot of teams having fun out there. But their backs are turned. The punchbowl is just sitting there. The perfect crime.
The question is simple. There are 10 teams currently in line for a playoff spot. There's still a chance for the Orioles, Indians, or Diamondbacks to have a freaky-hot run and make the playoffs, but for now let's focus on the 10 teams who would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
Now pick which one is going to be the Giants of 2014.
The difficulty is that you don't get to know what sorts of offseason moves they'll make. If the Rays trade David Price for Xander Bogaerts, well, that changes all sorts of things. But forget that. Look at the teams as presently constructed, and get ghoulish. Doom one of them to purgatory next season. I'm doing it because I have a black heart. You can do it for your own reasons.
Don't be a jerk and pick the Pirates, either. Let them have their season.
One of these teams will be the answer. It happens almost every season. It was the Phillies and Brewers last year, the Twins in 2011, the Diamondbacks in 2009 … the beauty about the 10-team playoffs is that has to happen almost every year. Them's the odds.
Let's get a couple teams out of the way. The Cardinals have a safe. Inside that safe is the secret to making good players. You cannot look inside the safe. But if you weren't already convinced, notice that Matt Carpenter is one of the very best second basemen in the league, and that they have an above-average rotation despite losing two pitchers to injury and another to free agency. They can't stop producing talent. They're not in the discussion.
As much as I'd like to point at the Dodgers and wish-cast them into last place, that's probably not going to happen. Take, for example, the Dodgers' current team. They're a little light at second base. What could they possibly do?
Dodgers Don't Intend To Pursue Robinson Cano
Yes, you do.
Robinson Cano is expected to sign the largest contract of the offseason, but it doesn't sound like the Dodgers will be a major factor in those discussions.
Yes, they will.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that the Dodgers have privately stated they don't intend to pursue Cano or bid on any other high-priced free agents this offseason.
They are privately stating lies. LIES. They'll spend to improve. And they don't really do anything small.
Plus, there's the whole part about Yasiel Puig turning into Jeff Francoeur, even though I've asked really, really nicely. It's hard to predict the Dodgers in last place.
The Rays and A's are young, and they're built by some of the brightest baseball minds in the league. It almost feels like there should be a substantial penalty for them, considering they aren't likely to spend a lot in the offseason. But that's always true. Bartolo Colon shouldn't be this good next year, but the A's should get better contributions from their young pitching. If I had to pick one of the two to falter, it'd be the A's because I'm not wild about their position-player core. But I trust both to mix and match with replaceable parts in the offseason, and both are quite young.
Winter is coming for the Tigers. Winter is coming. They'll have a $200 million payroll one of these years, and it'll produce $15 million worth of value. If they can't develop prospects to fill in the gaps, it'll be a long few years.
But not yet. Not in 2014. They should be pretty danged good again. If you're predicting doom for them next year, you're predicting injuries. That's not the point of this. This isn't a dead pool. Or, it's not a dead pool with respect to specific injuries to specific players.
The Braves have that young, otherworldly outfield in place for the next few seasons.
Goodness. But it's a young team, and like the Cardinals, the Braves seem to know something about development and interchangeable parts that other teams don't. They'll have Brandon Beachy for a full season, too. Did you know that Kris Medlen leads the team in walks? He has 38 in 148 innings. The Braves will be fine
Like the Giants. Who are awful. Which makes me bitter. So maybe it will be the Braves, smart guy.
Probably not the Braves. So we're down to the Rangers, Reds, Red Sox, and Pirates. And you can see the problem with this exercise. These are all good teams. It's hard to imagine them struggling. It's like picturing Bryce Harper as a sore-legged, 40-year-old DH. It might happen eventually, but it breaks your brain when you attempt to visualize it.
The Reds are Votto-powered, but they could lose Shin-Soo Choo. Brandon Phillips isn't getting younger, and neither is Bronson Arroyo. They're on the short list.
The Rangers might lose Nelson Cruz, whose true talent level is a little suspect now, anyway. Adrian Beltre will be 35, and the rest of the lineup has been less than impressive all season. They don't make the short list, though, because of their young pitching. Even if you dock them for Matt Harrison's back, there's still Darvish and Holland, Ogando and Perez. They aren't a lock to win 90 again (or this year, even), but a complete collapse seems completely ridiculous.
One of the big pluses for the Red Sox in their bounce-back season has been their bench. Mike Carp and Daniel Nava have been outstanding, whereas the big-ticket signings (Napoli, Dempster, Victorino) have been a mixed bag. Never trust the bench. And all of those players listed should get worse before they get better.
But the farm, though. The farm. And the money. The best reason to pick the Sox, really, would be their division. They don't get to play the Astros 489 times every year.
Which leaves us with the ... aw, dammit Pirates, stop looking at me like that. Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano shouldn't do this again, and the Pirates have the worst run differential of any team on this list, but I can't think of a way to end this sentence without a negative connotation, so here's a GIF of an upside-down hedgehog floating in water:
Look at the little feller go! Not thinking about A.J. Burnett and Russell Martin's advancing age now, nor am I thinking about how super-bullpens don't tend to roll over to the next season.
Not picking the Pirates, darn it.
It's probably the Pirates.
The Plexiglas principle isn't something you can just ignore. But it's no fun to pick the Pirates. I'm a small, petty, bitter man, and now I'm sort of annoyed. Good article, fella.
The consolation: The Pirates will win the World Series this year. Now everyone's happy! Especially that porcupine. Not a care in the world. Not a single care.