2016 baseball predictions – knuckleball edition

By Larry Levin, Publisher/CEO

It’s that time of year when baseball predictions are about as common as NCAA brackets. So the last thing you need from me is another guess on how the Cards and other teams are likely to do this season.

But there’s lots to predict about baseball that has nothing to do with where the teams end up. We could guess attendance, or MVPs, or any number of things that get guessed at every year, things that geeks like me love to talk about but might serve as an excellent cure for your insomnia.

So let’s pick out some things that maybe not everyone has considered or talked about, things that, yeah, are a bit of insider baseball. But you might remember you heard them here first, especially if, as is most likely, I’m wrong and you want to rub it in. Here goes:

1. Earliest Elimination: This one’s fun because almost half of the National League has all but surrendered any sort of chance to win. So the order, from first to last, for some of these teams’ death knells, will be:

• Brewers (by Aug. 31)

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

• Phillies

• Braves

• Rockies

• Padres

• Reds (by Sept. 12; they’ll cling to playoff eligibility by being only 15 games behind the wild card contenders until this date).

Over in the American League, look for the A’s, Twins and possibly White Sox to be unable to keep with the others. Many more teams will be in it at the end here than in the NL.

2. Most Disappointing Player: On this one, I’m gonna go with Matt Harvey of the Mets and Alex Gordon of the Royals. Harvey will be overshadowed by his fellow starters Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, and his bionic arm might give out by year’s end. Gordon will lose power and his defensive brilliance will begin to erode ever so slightly.

3. Most Likely to Whine: Not counting Adam LaRoche’s preseason rants about being told by White Sox President Ken Williams that his 14-year-old son can’t spend every day in the clubhouse? Oh, this one’s easy: Cubs manager Joe Maddon, hands down. Watch him find some way to use some story or another – a fight, an injury, a rivalry – to gin up his players. He’s a master at uncovering the common enemy for the benefit of uniting his troops.

4. Best Jewish Player: Toughie, it’s slim pickings right now. Ryan Braun’s at that slidey part of his career. So is Ian Kinsler. Joc Pederson was great first half, awful second, in his rookie campaign. I’m going with Kevin Pillar of the Blue Jays.

5. Most Overtly Devout Clubhouse: Hard to say. Used to be Rockies. Cards are pretty strong. May be too many to offer an accurate list.

6. Biggest Controversy: Easy peasy. Bryce Harper says something (else) outrageous that becomes talk show fodder for weeks. That, or some close play at home plate or second base that reinvigorates an insufferable rules discussion.

7. Saddest Story: One of our National Baseball Treasures passes away. Don’t want it to happen, but folks like Willie Mays, Henry Aaron and others are getting up there. I wish they could live forever.

8. Most Predictable Story: Cards get punished for Chris Correa Hackgate. Lose draft pick(s) or draft pool dollars, or both. Story ends. Unless it’s proved that Astros actually did steal Cards’ proprietary info. Then story resumes.

8. Most Joyous Story: Other than the Cards’ achievements? Well, that will have to be the NL winning the All-Star Game, with winning pitcher Aaron Nola from the Phillies supported by game MVP, Giants’ 2B Joe Panik.

9. Cardinal All Stars: Adam Wainwright, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk. Stephen Piscotty ultimately gets named as a replacement to the game for an injured player.

10. Biggest Boobird Rant (Courtesy: Aaron Levin): What percentage of Cards’ fans will ream out Jason Heyward on his return to Busch? Fifty? Seventy? Ninety? Inquiring minds want to know. And we only have weeks before we find out!

10. Late season stories: Alex Reyes proves he can survive toke-free by burning ’em up with three late-season starts in which he’s still throwing 98 mph in the sixth inning-plus and grabs a playoff roster spot (oops, was that a real prediction?).

11. The Designated Hitter: Commissioner Rob Manfred says something about the DH that leads to raucous playoff-announcer buzz and leads to nothing in the offseason.

12. Most Bizarre Story: Other than radical rightist Phyllis Schlafly already claiming that baseball should deny visas to foreign players? Who knows, maybe Donald Trump will make baseball his next immigration issue, and advocate for building a wall between the United States and the Dominican Republic. Quite a wall!

13: The Final Word: Goes to the Final Boss, Cards’ reliever Seung-hwan Oh. Between his freaky delivery and Jordan Walden’s Jump Step, we’ll be twitching all year. But in a good way!