Baggs makes his fearless predictions for MLB 2012


Baggs makes his fearless predictions for MLB 2012

PHOENIX Tim Lincecum is about to twirl and deal for keeps,which means Id better hustle to get my 2012 predictions out there.

Annual reminder: Infotainment purposes only. Please do notpawn any belongings on your way to the sportsbook. (Unless its that euphonium.Youre never actually going to learn to play that thing, are you?)

AL WEST: Rangers, Angels, Mariners, As
Not sure if Texas can get back to the World Series, but Ilove their power-packed lineup. Even though the Angels staff might be bettertop to bottom, Texas has plenty of live arms in the rotation and bullpen.

AL CENTRAL: Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins, White Sox
You heard it here first: The Royals will score more runsthan the Tigers this season. Youre welcome, Jonathan Sanchez. Justin Verlanderis still better than you, though.

AL EAST: Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles
Anyone who thinks about picking Baltimore also thinks aboutself-appendectomies. I like everything about the Rays except Joe Maddon dyeinghis hair.

Id love to take the Royals as my dark horse team. But itshard to pick against the second-place clubs in the West and East. Mike Sciosciamight resemble the Kool-Aid man more and more every year in that redwindbreaker, but the man knows how to beat the Yankees.

NL WEST: Diamondbacks, Giants, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres
Very, very tough call here. Im going with the Diamondbacksbased on their farm system in addition to the major league roster. Where theGiants have little rotation depth, Arizona could call up Trevor Bauer or TommySkaggs. Theyve got more in their system to trade in late summer, too. Plus Imnot sold on the Giants leadoff situation.
NL CENTRAL: Brewers, Reds, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, Astros
Houston will be baseballs only sixth place team, but thatsonly because by rule, they cant finish 187th. Lets go withMilwaukee here. Theyll still hit plenty, and their top three starters are theclass of the division.

NL EAST: Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, Braves, Mets
The Phillies lineup is getting so old, I half expected themto sign Steve Finley on general principle. But, hey. Halladay, Lee, Hamels.That gets you a hand stamp. Plus the Marlins will be in a fishbowl, literallyand figuratively, as the newest subjects of The Franchise. Cant wait for theshow where Zambrano and Ozzie go to the Sunglasses Hut together.

The Giants have not fared well in one-game wild cardplayoffs. Dont worry. Mark Gardner will not start this time.

ALCS: Tigers over Rays
NLCS: Brewers over Giants
World Series: Tigers over Brewers
Viva la Rust Belt. Prince Fielder clubs a game winner offJohn Axford, and all six people who live in downtown Detroit celebrate.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young: Zack Greinke
AL Rookie: Matt Moore
NL Rookie: Zack Cozart
AL Manager: Whoever the Royals manager is. Wait, its NedYost? I may have to rethink this whole dark horse thing
NL Manager: Ron Roenicke
Choco Tacos I will consume in Coors Field press box: Atleast eight.

Enjoy the season!

Cubs rock Kershaw, reach first World Series since 1945


Cubs rock Kershaw, reach first World Series since 1945


CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.

If Cubs get to World Series, injured slugger could make surprise return


If Cubs get to World Series, injured slugger could make surprise return

As if the possibility of clinching their first National League pennant in 71 years didn’t create enough drama and excitement in Wrigleyville, the Cubs have sent Kyle Schwarber to the Arizona Fall League, hoping he can add another chapter to his October legend.
Schwarber earned this chance after beating every expectation in his recovery from major surgery on his left knee in April. The Cubs haven’t ruled anything in or out – and still need to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers one more time this weekend – but they want to see how he responds on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox and ultimately decide if he would be a viable designated-hitter option for the World Series.
Schwarber gained clearance on Monday from Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL after a devastating outfield collision during the first week of the regular season. Schwarber immediately phoned president of baseball operations Theo Epstein after the six-month checkup.   
“I wasn’t expecting the call,” Epstein said. “We got news that was beyond better than we could have expected by any reasonable standard. 
“He asked for a chance to do this. And with as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him – and potentially to us – we wanted to give him that opportunity.”