Dan's Dugout: Crazy Things That Can Happen in 2018 • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Crazy Things That Can Happen in 2018

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Predicting the baseball season is only slightly less difficult than forecasting the weather.

We know the 30 teams will play 162 games each, with the division winners and wild-cards playing on into October.

The weather people are also sure of only one thing: it’s always 50 per cent chance of precipitation. Either it will be wet or dry. Nothing in-between.

That being said, no baseball editor worth his salt would miss the chance to post his own fearless forecast. So here are a baker’s dozen of things that could actually happen this summer:

Ronald Acuna has already been compared to Hank Aaron

1. Ronald Acuna, Jr. will become the first player in National League history to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the same season. Corey Seager nearly did it a couple of years ago but had to settle for runner-up status in the MVP voting. As for Acuna, the 20-year-old Venezuelan is coming off a season in which he was Minor League Player of the Year for both Baseball America and USA TODAY and MVP in the Arizona Fall League. Although he’ll spend the first two weeks at Triple-A Gwinnett so the Braves can gain an extra year of service time, the soon-to-be Atlanta leftfielder turned heads in the Grapefruit League with a league-best .432 batting average. He also showed speed, power, and a powerful arm that makes him the second coming of the young Andruw Jones. In fact, former Braves batting champion Ralph Garr already compared Acuna to Hank Aaron – not just because their names begin with the same letter.

2. The Houston Astros will keep custody of the American League’s Most Valuable Player award but Jose Altuve won’t. This will be the year the diminutive second baseman will win his fourth batting crown but watch the MVP trophy awarded to double-play partner Carlos Correa. All the Puerto Rican shortstop has to do is avoid those risky head-first slides.

3. Clayton Kershaw, who already has three Cy Young Awards on his trophy shelf, was virtually perfect for the Los Angeles Dodgers this spring but won’t win his fourth. This year’s National League prize will be No. 1 for the No. 1 of the New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard. Out almost all of last year, the fireballing 6’6″, 240-pound righthander will not only reach the rare 20-win plateau but stage a season-long duel for the prize with teammate Jacob deGrom.

A healthy Noah Syndergaard may take his first Cy Young.
Credit: Bill Menzel

4. Thanks to serious injuries to staff ace Madison Bumgarner and fellow starter Jeff Samardzija, the San Francisco Giants won’t continue their streak of reaching the postseason in even-numbered years. World champions in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Giants have morphed into the oldest team in the majors, adding Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria in trades. That helps the offense, which was pathetic last year, but not enough to make the Giants giants again.

5. With power up and down the lineup, the 2018 New York Yankees will break their club record, set in 2012, of 245 home runs. The 50-homer twins, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, may have a hard time topping the two-man total of 115 produced by Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961 but the team will still take dead aim on the team home run record of 264 held since 1997 by the Seattle Mariners.

6. Speaking of teams, the Mariners and the Washington Nationals enter the season as the only teams never to reach the World Series. That will change this fall as the Nats ride the pitching tandem of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg to their first Fall Classic berth. Leading the charge, impending free agent Bryce Harper will have his best season.

7. With 240 wins, Bartolo Colon is just three behind Hall of Famer Juan Marichal and five behind Dennis Martinez, the career pitching leader among Latinos. But Colon showed last year that he’s finally finished, a status confirmed this spring when the Texas Rangers released him.
Time to hang ‘em up, Bartolo, after a colorful 20-year career that took him around both leagues.

8. Both Florida flubs will draw little more than flies – sparking talk that one or both may relocate. Derek Jeter and his new regime have not only decimated the Marlins roster but also the front office, where Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Jeff Conine, and Jack McKeon offered a measure of respectability. A series of payroll-slashing trades has also decimated the Tampa Bay Rays, whose biggest problem is a domed ballpark that is also doomed because of its bad location. Montreal has been mentioned multiple times as a possible spot for the Rays but the Marlins have a new ballpark and may get more time. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if both teams fail to draw a million fans.

Kris Bryant’s bat is better than his glove
Credit: Paul Beaty, AP

9. Powered by infield cornermen Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, plus comebacks by Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward, the Chicago Cubs will take a run at the National League mark for home runs by a team in a season. The Houston Astros hit 249, the record, before moving to the American League but the Colorado Rockies, the only current NL team in the Top 10, rank only ninth with 239 – a mark that might be within reach if the winds blow out at Wrigley Field.

10. There will be zero no-hitters in the American League but three in the National: by Max Scherzer (Nationals) and Jake Arrieta (Phillies), who have pitched them before, and first-timer Noah Syndergaard, aiming for the first untainted no-hitter in Mets history.

11. Batting ahead of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge will follow his Rookie of the Year season with the first five-homer game in baseball history. Stan Musial and Nate Colbert had five homers in a day but only because they appeared in doubleheaders.

12. Brad Ausmus, deposed by the Detroit Tigers at the end of last season, will be the first manager hired by whichever teams decides to make their current boss the first pilot fired. Former Boston manager John Farrell, who took his team to the playoffs last year, will also get back into the dugout – perhaps with Cincinnati Reds, the team that hired him as a special assignment scout.

13. Players are so miffed that the owners froze them out of lucrative free agent paydays during the winter that a labor dispute is virtually certain after the current Basic Agreement expires (after the 2020 season). The Players Association has already filed a grievance against the Marlins, Rays, Pirates, and Athletics and could have expanded that segment to make a blanket indictment of the clubs. Such solid players as John Lackey, Greg Holland, Jason Werth, and Brandon Phillips still haven’t found homes – and may not unless something gives soon.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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