What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
EDITOR’S NOTE: Boyd Bergquist was the sports director at KETS-TV in East Tree Stump, Nebraska for almost 40 years. Known across the Husker state as the voice of the Boy’s High School Basketball Tournament, Bergquist was a four-time winner of the Marv J. Butz “Golden Cob” Award For Excellence In Nebraska Broadcast Journalism. That background, along with his quick if not cliché-riddled wit and love of single-malt scotch makes Bergquist a perfect fit to be our “Question” guy, but today, he’s here to dish up a preview of the upcoming baseball season.
Baseball season is underway; now that we are past the first weekend we can finally get a look at what these teams are working with for 2022 campaign. But with all the big-dollar free-agent moves we saw this off-season, with the short spring training after the lockout, who the heck knows who is any good?
I do, but I’m not into the usual “power ranking” stuff. Instead, I’ve broken down all 30 major league squads into six easy-to-understand groups based on what these teams can realistically expect in 2022.
These are teams ready to pop the corks…no ifs, ands or buts.
1) Atlanta Braves: You’re the champ until somebody beats you. I learned that in my first sports job ever, back in my days in the Navy Signal Corps when I covered the Marine Corps Boxing championships. Those jarheads loved to beat the bejeezus out of each other, and that’s when I got my first lesson on how to spot a winner.
It almost always isn’t the guy flat on his back with blood running out of his ears.
That’s what the Braves were last year. It does something to your confidence to be the last man standing. Yeah, I know it’s hard to repeat, but I just can’t count out the champ…unless that team undergoes a massive transformation. That leads to the second thing about this team. Don’t forget that despite all the off-season losses (Freddie Freeman et al…), this team gets back three guys they won without…Charlie Morton, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Soroka…at some point this season. Not to mention Brian Snitker is the best manager in the game. Underestimate this team at your own risk.
2) Tampa Rays: Every year, they seem to win with a team full of guys you never heard of. The pitching staff will define that, with the possible exception Corey Kluber, whose “gas tank light” has to be coming on soon. As far as the “every day” players go, you already should know Randy Arozarena. If you don’t…you will. Along the way, you’re surely to become familiar the name Wander Franco, who will be the break-out star of 2022.
And yes, I just called you “Shirley.”
3) Los Angeles Dodgers: On paper, one can make the argument the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. But then again, communism works on paper. Every year, the Dodgers reload, and almost every year, they find a way to putt short of the cup. This team just feels like the 90s Atlanta Braves; they’ll end up with a bazillion division titles and only one World Series.
4) Toronto Blue Jays: This team came right down to the last weekend in 2021 after two years of being the “Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars” of baseball. Now, they get to play a full season’s worth of honest-to-goodness home games. They improved the infield defense and the line-up with the addition of Matt Chapman. They improved the rotation with the addition of Kevin Gausman. Oh…this team still has George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vlad Guerrero, Jr. Even in a loaded American League East, look for this team to shine.
5) Chicago White Sox: Here’s a team that should blow through the AL Central. They hit the tape with a 13-game lead last year, and even you buy what the Twins did, there’s no way they somehow suddenly got 20 games better. In other words, there will be objects in the Mighty Whiteys rear-view mirror, but they won’t be closer than they appear.
Did you ever almost complete a jigsaw puzzle, but the three pieces you have remaining don’t fit the holes you have left? Welcome to the stories of these teams…
1) New York Yankees: If there were a baseball version of “Hard Knocks,” you’d have to make it about the Bronx Bombers. Their GM is crying about the off-season, he’s blaming everybody under the sun except his own team for their recent failure to get back to the World Series, and they couldn’t get a deal done with Aaron Judge. But none of those things add up to the Yankees’ biggest problem. Between Gerritt Cole and Aroldis Chapman, the Pinstripes pitching staff is a work of fiction. It might as well have “Nuke” LaLoosh, “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Amanda from The Bad News Bears.
2) Houston Astros: After all the non-sense about sign-stealing, where did this team end up? Right back in the World Series…and they very well could end up there again. The problem in Houston is the window is now officially closing. The loss of Carlos Correa is going to hurt no matter what. Jeremy Peña could be the AL Rookie of the Year, and that’s still a downgrade for the Astros. Not to mention, Lance McCullers, Jr. is still struggling with injury issues and Father Time is creeping up on Justin Verlander.
3) Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers might have the best pitching staff in the NL. What’s missing? OFFENSE. Look at what happened last season in the play-offs. Good pitching beats good hitting almost every time, and that becomes EVERY time when the hitting isn’t that good. So, what did the Brewers do? Granted Hunter Renfroe is a solid upgrade over Jackie Bradley, Jr, but somebody needs to offer protection for Christian Yelich. The Brewers hope that will come from Renfroe and possibly Rowdy Tellez. But as the guy who runs this blog says, hope is not a strategy.
4) Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies loaded that band-box known as Citizens Bank Park with what could be the most fearsome line-up in the Senior Circuit. What’s missing? DEFENSE. This team couldn’t catch the ball if you gave them those giant “Hamburger Helper” gloves. The fact they listed Kyle “DH stands for Designated Hamburger” Schwarber as an outfielder tells you all you need to know.
5) St. Louis Cardinals: The Red Birds have the best defense in the game. Five of the nine Gold Gloves awarded in the National League last season went to Cardinals. St. Louis won’t lack for offense either. What’s missing? STARTING PITCHING. Injuries already have Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty out until at least Memorial Day. That means heading into 2022 the Cardinals are relying on a 41-year old Adam Wainwright. They’re also gambling on the health of Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson…who pitched in a combined total of 11 games in 2021.
Welcome to a collection of clubs who almost have the goods to win on their own; but anything is possible if they get more than one “lucky break.”
1) Seattle Mariners: We’re two decades away from the Mariners last post-season appearance, and that streak has an outside shot at ending this season. But as the song says, you’re going to need some shades for this team’s bright future. Like the Brewers, they had a bad case of offensive anemia. Adding Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez should cure that. Adding the reigning Cy Young winner in Robbie Ray can only help a pitching staff that took the M’s to 90 wins last season. Given that I’ve already mentioned the closing window for the Astros…could this be the year?
2) New York Mets: Until further notice, my official position on optimism concerning the New York Mets is this: I’ll believe when I see it. It’s already looking like another promising spring in Port St. Lucie might become another long summer in Queens. Sure, I understand the excitement over new owner Steve Cohen’s spreading money across the free-agent market like a lawn sprinkler, but come on, Mets fans. Haven’t you seen this movie before?
It starts with off-season acquisition(s), then guys like WFAN’s Gregg Giannatti will yell about it all across March, then somewhere between April and August the wheels come off. This is followed by a winter of discontent, then something re-energizes Mets fans for the spring. Lather, rinse, repeat.
This year, we didn’t even get a first pitch before Jacob deGrom got shut down (again) and the aging Max Scherzer is suffering various aches and pains (again). Check back with me in August.
3) Boston Red Sox: See everything I said about the Mets with the following changes. Replace “Jacob deGrom” with “Chris Sale,” change “Steve Cohen” with “Tom Werner,” and remember the Red Sox have won something since 1986.
4) San Francisco Giants: Last year’s Giants were the textbook definition of “everything going their way.” They can’t do it again…or can they?
5) Minnesota Twins: On the plus side, the Twins snagged a legitimate superstar in Carlos Correa. There were other quality additions in Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, Gio Urshela, and Gary Sánchez (even if both J-Dub and I don’t trust a catcher who can’t catch). Losing Mitch Garver and Josh Donaldson is the cost of those adds, but getting Michael Piñeda out of town is the classic case of addition by subtraction. Either way, adding those guys with a healthy Byron Buxton can only mean improvement to a team which narrowly avoided 90 losses in 2021.
That’s the problem. Even a 10-game improvement only gets this team’s nose above .500. To stay in the White Sox’ rear-view mirror, the Twins need more like a 20-game upswing, and they simply don’t have the starting rotation it will take to do that.
Do I really need to explain this one? They aren’t terrible, but they also aren’t great. These are team you can expect to be somewhere around the .500 mark.
1) San Diego Padres: Sure, this team has some talent, but I simply don’t see how far this bus goes with it’s engine in the shop for up to three months. Without Fernando Tatis, Jr, this bus doesn’t have a stop in October on it’s rout.
2) Los Angeles Angels: I saw FanGraphs has this team projected to finish 82-80. If that’s the case, it would their best record since they last made the play-offs in 2014. Look for another year without October in Anaheim.
3) Miami Marlins: Let’s all say it together…this is yet another Marlins team with tantalizing young pitching possibilities and just not enough lumber. Well, except the signings of Avisaíl García, Joey Wendle, and Jorge Soler should change that. Also, if the anticipated “breakout season” for Jazz Chisholm Jr. happens to be in 2022, this team should easily see .500.
4) Texas Rangers: How many times have you seen a team that lost 102 games, spend a half-billion dollars, and still will only have a top side of maybe .500? That’s how deep the hole is the Rangers are climbing from.
5) Chicago Cubs: 2022 will mark the sixth season since the Cubs won the World Series. Only 103 more to go to tie the previous championship drought. But at least they still have a few years during which they can still claim to be “rebuilding.”
One way or another, these teams need to make a decision about their future.
1) Washington Nationals: Going from a championship to 97 losses in two years is a rough ride. Now the immediate future in D.C. comes down to two things? Can Stephen Strasburg avoid having an MRI machine named for him and can they sign Juan Soto to a contract extension?
2) Detroit Tigers: It’s weird to say the post-Miguel Cabrera era is starting while he’s still in Detroit, but that’s what the signing of Javier Baez and the big-league debut of Spencer Torkelson mean.
3) Kansas City Royals: It’s official…Bobby Witt, Jr. is “today’s future” for the Royals. That means the clock is ticking until “yesterday’s future” in Salvador Perez and Adlebierto Mondesi are on the trading block.
4) Colorado Rockies: I have no idea what is happening with the Rockies. They didn’t trade Trevor Story despite getting a ton of offers, then didn’t sign him. Then they signed Kris Bryant for sever years and $182 million.
5) Oakland A’s: I do know what is happening in Oakland. I started writing this before the A’s traded Sean Manaea and Aaron Holiday to the Padres, but now it’s clear they’ve made their decision. We’ll check back on the A’s in 2023.
Everybody has hope on Opening Day, but some lose it far faster than others. But that begs the question: Can you have “heartbreak” if you never had expectations to begin with?
Indians Klingons Guardians of the Galaxy: Here’s just another team that will be lagging far behind the White Sox in the AL Central, also know as MLB’s “Remedial” Division. At least the Indians Klingons Guardians of the Galaxy will have solid pitching with the likes of Shane Bieber, Cal Quantrill, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Emmanuel Clase, but unless they can find a way to get the newly-signed José Ramírez about 17,000 at-bats, none of those arms are getting any run support. If nothing else, they have a silly name we all can make fun of for years to come.
2) Baltimore Orioles: What else can you say about a team whose goal for 2022 is to not lose 100 games. The O’s have lost at least 108 in three of the last four years. It took a pandemic to keep them under that mark in 2020. You can’t lose 100 if you only play 60. The secret to this team in in the future. John Means, Trey Mancini, and Cedric Mullins are the core of what’s to come as the Orioles have two of the top six top prospects in the game in Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez.
3) Arizona Diamondbacks: Some say the Diamondbacks are the antithesis of the Giants, meaning this is the team where everything went wrong. That may be true, but this is still not a good baseball team, and they really didn’t change much from the side that went 52-110 in 2021. Look at it this way. Even if the Snakes have a miraculous 20-game improvement, they would still be a 90-loss team.
4) Cincinnati Reds: The Reds made the post-season in 2020. The Reds barely missed October baseball last season. That is not be the same team taking the field this year. Joey Votto and Luis Castillo seem to be the only ones left, and they took turns during the off-season driving cabs to the airport, In fact, my bet is Castillo wore out his shoulder hauling suitcases.
That may not actually be the case, but it makes sense when you consider all the players the Reds shipped out of town. They handed one-way tickets and airport cab fare to Sonny Gray, Nick Castellanos, Tucker Barnhart, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suárez, Wade Miley, and Amir Garrett. The only question is between Castillo and Votto…will they have to do “Rock Paper Scissors” to see who drives who to the airport?
5) Pittsburgh Pirates: Baltimore and Pittsburgh have an odd set of unions. These two cities feature occasional successful football teams who have a blood-hate for each other. Deing on the opposite slopes of Appalachia, the plumbing in either city only works when all 14 indoor toilets in West Virginia are flushed simultaneously.
But this is about baseball, and the common thread between the Orioles and the Pirates can be found in their farm systems. The only difference is the Orioles still have their prospects down on the farm (for now), where the Pirates’ prime young talent is already Pittsburgh. Either way, you can book both of them to lose 100.
Got a question for our 70’s TY Sports Anchor? Got your own take? Nothing is “off-limits,” and no take is “too hot.” The only questions or comments Boyd Bergquist can’t handle are the one you don’t send him!
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