The new major-league baseball season starts tonight. It's now or never to make predictions. Oh, woe. What's a poor prognosticator to do?
How indigent is this prognosticator? No crystal ball, for starters. That's the biggest liability, by far. All the other prognosticators seem to have a crystal ball. Where does one purchase a crystal ball? Can you get one on eBay? It seems to be a secret, like no other since the Manhattan Project.
Also, this baseball prognosticator has no inside info from anonymous experts. And no access to clubhouses where, for every 500 bland or banal quotes by players and managers there is one, maybe, that is truly insightful, spontaneous or newsworthy. Still, no access means no access. It means not even that 1-in-500 pithy remark that can then be expanded into countless narratives and counter-narratives.
Well, this baseball prognosticator doesn't need no stinking crystal ball, inside info or clubhouse access. This baseball prognosticator is, in all modesty, fearless. This baseball prognosticator goes commando style, using only his wits and his guts.
So, without further delay, let's get to it. The following are predictions for the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics' 2013 seasons:
Marco Scutaro will not hit .362 with a .385 on-base percentage, as he did for the Giants in 61 games in 2012. What will he do this season? No idea. We're working here without a crystal ball, remember? We could guess. We could throw out a number, say .279 with a .350 OBP. But that's just guesswork. This isn't the time for guesswork. This is the time for predictions. What, it's not good enough to go out on a limb and predict what Scutaro won't do, that he won't bat .362? Hmm. Tough readership.
Yoenis Cespedes will not have a sophomore jinx with the A's. In fact, the 27-year-old outfielder will continue to develop his already astounding skills. Although technically a rookie last season, Cespedes was a longtime star in Cuba and came to Oakland nearly fully formed as a big-leaguer, as his .292 batting average, .505 slugging percentage, 23 homers, 82 runs batted in and 16 steals in 20 attempts attest. You want a bold prediction? OK. Cespedes will soon become the most accomplished and most exciting ballplayer to come out of Cuba since Tony Oliva some 50 years ago and he has the potential to be compared someday to the great Minnie Minoso.
Tim Lincecum will not repeat as the National League's worst starting pitcher. You can take that prediction to the bank, although the bank may insist on putting it in a high-risk, low-yield account. No worries, though, because there is just no way Timmy is going to have back-to-back funky seasons. Admittedly, there is a seductive temptation to predict Giants manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti will at some point place Lincecum in the role of middle relief, as they did in the 2012 postseason, with extraordinary results. But that prediction would be appropriate only in an alternate baseball universe, not in the stodgy real regular season we'll be stuck in. Still, watching Timmy come out of the 'pen and mow down the Tigers in the World Series was quite the thrill for Giants fans, wasn't it? And it makes you think — what if?
The A's will not set any attendance records (high or low) as they continue to toil in the Oakland Coliseum, the once-plain-but-adequate ballpark bordering on minimally atmospheric that has been a colossally inappropriate eyesore since the Raiders returned some 18 years ago. Here's a bonus A's prediction: Team ownership will continue to whine, ineffectually, about the need for a new ballpark somewhere, anywhere — — be it Oakland, San Jose, Las Vegas, San Juan, Salt Lake City or Timbuktu.