Hey readers, my name is Charlie Clarke. I’ll introduce myself a bit before I delve into this piece. I’ve been writing for just under two years now. Starting with my high school paper, I’ve edited for FanSided, written with SB Nation, and interned with WGN Radio in Chicago, where I reside. Currently, I write with Baseball Prospectus, 247Sports, and the Chicago Tribune Media Group.
There are a couple of reasons I decided to contribute to Charles’ 1st and Inches blog. We met last year as roommates and became good friends, feeding off of each other’s sports knowledge. I can say confidently say that not many people heading into sophomore year in college know as much and/or are as smart about sports as Charles. Hopefully he has similar praise for me.
While I have opportunities to cover many of the teams I’ve grown up rooting for, I chose to write here because it’s a place with much more freedom as far as topics and ideas go…also because he offered. I’ve covered the Rangers twice in Chicago (which you can read here and here) and that’s just about my only experience with Texas, where I’d assume most of this readership calls home.
Anyway, I look forward to whatever my future is with this site, and hopefully y’all read my stuff.
Seeing as last night was the conclusion of the ‘first half’ of the 2016 MLB season, I examined each club’s record and pretended as if it were Opening Day. Much to my surprise, there weren’t too many surprises. The Cubs and Giants are really good. The Braves and Reds are really bad. Like any year, some teams have overachieved, some have underachieved. Bartolo Colon continues to be Bartolo Colon, with one extra homer. Here’s my summation of 2016’s MLB script, enjoy.
In the National League…
The Cubs have grabbed the headlines. And if not nationally, definitely in Chicago. However, they aren’t the best team in the Senior Circuit. The youth and aura that comes with entertaining Cubbies fall just a tick below the well-rounded maturity of the Giants, who have played like the even-year Giants. San Fran’s rival ball club, the Dodgers, have been carried by Clayton Kershaw, who is posting one of the best pitching seasons, and careers for that matter, that we’ve ever seen. The Diamondbacks are at the cellar of the West, and take the crown as the most disappointing team so far. The most impressive NL team may be the Miami Marlins, who have succeeded without Dee Gordon and dealt with a very underwhelming Giancarlo Stanton prior to his recent outbreak. Miami’s outfield mirrors Pittsburgh’s, which boasts impressive speed and power left to right. The Pirates and the Cardinals look to be chasing for a Wildcard spot, as do the Mets. The Nationals have Daniel Murphy, who appears to be a leading candidate for NL MVP at this point, and they sit comfortably atop the East.
In the American League…
The Rangers have surpassed expectations, taking the record crown thus far. Injuries to the pitching staff have become an annual occurrence in Arlington, but Ian Desmond and Nomar Mazara have kept the Rangers above competition. Their in-state rival Astros have bounced back from a horrid start to now becoming Texas’ biggest threat, thanks to an impressive young core of hitters. On the east coast, Baltimore, Boston, and Toronto boast three of the most potent offenses in baseball, turning eastern ballparks into telephone booths. The Yankees’ relief formula has worked, but other facets of the game haven’t. Cleveland has soared to the top of the central above the mediocre trio of Detroit, Kansas City, and Chicago. The Tigers have their same old relief pitching problem, the Royals have simply underachieved all around, and the Sox have been as streaky as it gets. Those three will all fight for a spot in the Wildcard game with two teams from the east and likely just one from the west.
MVP’s, ROY’s, and CY’s…
Can Kershaw win the MVP again? Probably not. Kris Bryant has MVP hype, but Daniel Murphy has MVP numbers. I’ll take the former Met. There are so many candidates in the AL. I can default to Mike Trout, but I won’t. Give me Manny Machado from Baltimore, with low confidence in the selection.
Rookie of the year selections are easy this year. I’ll take Francisco Lindor from Cleveland and Corey Seager from the Dodgers, who rank 8th and 9th in MLB WAR respectively.
The Cy in the NL should go to Kershaw if he returns at all this year. The AL holds so much less pitching depth. Give me Chris Sale, again with low confidence.
The All-star game. Should fans select the players or not? Writers and die hards say no. Casual fans say yes. Now that the vote is exclusively online, fan voting loses its touch for me. If you take it away, the game is evidently more fair, just as quality, but the fans lose their say. I’ve been torn on this subject but I’d relegate the selection to managers.
Health of baseball. In my opinion, baseball is growing. Yes, at the youth age, we’ve seen a slight decline in participation. But people are watching baseball like crazy. The Blue Jays have the Rogers Centre packed and the entire country of Canada tuned in. If the Cubs continue to roll, they’ll have the entire United States tuned in come playoff time. Baseball is popular locally across the country, but certain teams have made the game increasingly national.
Final Thoughts and predictions…
Even year so the Giants win it all. I actually do think they have the most well-rounded team in baseball. They will beat the Indians, whose pitching staff will anoint them AL pennant champions. The NL will win the all-star game, because pitching trumps hitting at PetCo Park.
Thanks everyone for reading my first piece. Hopefully I can spread my opinions and analysis further in time to come. I’m excited to continue to write, especially with Charles now. If you care to, follow me on Twitter @CWClarke18 and feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.