We did this to preview the NFL season. Seemed logical to do something similar to wrap up MLB 2008. Here now: a look back, through five questions.
WHAT WAS THE BEST STORYLINE IN BASEBALL THIS YEAR?
Ed's note: Lots to choose from here. The Rays seem a logical first choice, but you've also got "finally, it's the year of the Cubs," Lee and Lincecum emerging as the top pitchers in baseball, the final season of Yankee Stadium and more. Whatcha got?
"Up until the last couple of weeks of the season, clearly the best storyline would have been the Tampa Bay Rays taking down the bullies of the AL East and making the postseason (hell, finishing over .500) for the first time in franchise history. But then, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the Houston Astros selflessly and thoughtfully gave the Cubs their first no-hitter in 36 years. The Astros organization rose up above the adversity of not being able to read a weather report to generously allow themselves to be humiliated up in Milwaukee, and hardly complained about it at all afterward. They are true heroes and role models." - Michael Bradt, HireJimEssian.Com
"Call me sadistic (ooh, again), but the storyline that kept me glued to the box scores was B-B-Barry Zito's chase of 20 losses. It has nothing to do with Zito. I'm told he's a very nice fellow. But with 17 losses and an $14.5M salary this season, BBarry's season has come to triumphantly encapsulate the insidiousness of Scott Boras and the optimistic blindness of some GMs. I'm not sure what metrics the Giants considered when doling out the deal—Hair quality? Guitar chops?—but Zito had one dominant season, in 2002, a couple very competent years, and then some mediocre ones. Then he got an epic deal. He's lucky his 17th loss came at a time when the government is considering a $700B bailout of Wall Street; otherwise, he may go down as the biggest investment in a lost cause in history." - Neil Janowitz, Associate Editor of ESPN The Magazine
"Hands down-the Minnesota Twins. The Rays have been a HUGE story, but since they were already featured on the cover of ESPN the Magazine, they are no longer the story. Their success in the postseason will determine how good the story is because we have been doubting them since the All-Star Break and now realize that in fact they are good." - Ben Fawkes, former ESPN intern and rabid Minnesota sports fan
"The A-Rod-Madonna story. When you have unnamed sources saying that A-Rod told one of his teammates, "Madonna is my f-ing soulmate, dude" it doesn't get better than that. The only sad thing is that this story cooled down too quickly." - Jeff Bradley, ESPN The Magazine senior writer
"I would have to go with Josh Hamilton's phenomenal season, making the remarkable rise from heroin to hero. His story has helped me to realize how little praise you get if you simply do your job really well, as I have tried to do as a middle school teacher and counselor, as compared to if you make horrible choices, destroy the quality of life for yourself and those around you, and then do your job really well. I have been truly inspired by the Josh Hamilton story, have just purchased several needles, and look forward to reporting back on my own career in three years." - Nico, AthleticsNation.Com
"Tampa Bay simultaneously keeping the Yankees out of the playoffs and making all the talking heads look ridiculous by winning games early on and never looking back. The Rays were able to reshape their entire roster in one offseason by picking up guys like Jason Bartlett and Eric Hinske and turn a collection of talent into a real team, while not listening to any of the cliches about how a contender was supposed to be built." - Dave, U.S.S. Mariner
WHAT WAS THE WORST STORYLINE IN BASEBALL THIS YEAR?
Ed's note: We'd say A-Rod and Madonna has to take this one, although Barry Zito could sneak in here. Let's see what our people have to say.
"The single worst storyline in baseball was the Red Sox font office propaganda against Manny Ramirez. Luccino and Epstein need to run a presidential campaign—their level of shameless politics in the name of self-preservation and image are world-class, and yet completely classless—especially in the face of Manny's domination when free from their New England yoke." - Reverend Halofan, HalosHeaven.Com
"Dustin Pedroia's 'grit,' which is only matched by his stubble." - Travis Goldman from Pinstripe Alley
"A-Rod and Madonna. Clemens and McNamee. Yankee Stadium Grief. Mariners suck. Billy Beane breaking up the A's when they were still in the race. Mariah Carey's first pitch in Japan." - Jon Scher, Matt Meyers and Ed McGregor, baseball editors of ESPN The Magazine
"Any storyline with Hank Steinbrenner involved. The man's a great example of being born on third and thinking he's hit a triple. Or in the words of Apu "Why are you not shutting up?" Close second? Curt Schilling. Same response, shut up!" - Tom Dakers, BlueBirdBanter.Com
"The worst story line was the San Diego Padres transforming into one of the three worst teams in baseball. It's bad when your fans start focusing on the No. 1 draft pick in June. I guess the good news is the Padres management will be forced to stop gloating about the previous four seasons when the Padres were almost contenders." - JBox, Gaslamp Ball
"The single worst storyline in baseball, sadly, has just started. And any time you hear 'destiny' or '100 years' or 'billy goat' the music starts again, like the menu screen for a DVD you left on all night. The Cubs are good because they spent money, concentrated on pitching and depth, hired a great manager and didn't mess with it. It could have been done before." - Chris Sprow, general editor of ESPN The Magazine
"The story I was most tired of hearing would probably be a three-way tie between these headlines:
1. Joba Chamberlain Is Native American
2. Joba Chamberlain: The Next Jesus?
3. Joba Chamberlain Reacts to Roy Halladay's Fourth Consecutive Complete Game."
- Bradt of Fire Jim Essian
WHAT DID YOU COMPLETELY GET WRONG ABOUT THIS SEASON WHEN YOU LOOKED AHEAD IN MARCH?
Ed's note: Preseason predictions are a dicey business (our man Steve Phillips had the Mariners winning 92 games; Peter Gammons called the Braves in the World Series on Opening Night). What did our contributors and friends utterly miss the boat on?
"I am shocked that the White Sox are probably going to win the AL Central. I had them handicapped as the 4th best team on paper, some of their best players aging and zero power up the middle. Instead, Ken Williams looks like a genius. He got Carlos Quentin when another team had basically given up on him, John Danks for Brandon McCarthy, and Gavin Floyd from the Phillies. Add in Alexei Ramirez as a potential future star at just over a $1 million and a totally re-invented bullpen, and they're good. Still, on paper, prior to this year, it all didn't look like much. Now it looks like another good 3-4 year run." - Sprow
"I totally missed the boat on the Mariners. While I realized they outperformed their runs scored and allowed in 2007, I thought the addition of Bedard and the improvement of some of the players wouldn't pull them down that much. I didn't see it as a strong division, so I gave them a very good chance to finish first. Instead, everything that could go wrong did. This was a truly horrible team." - Dave Pinto, BaseballMusings
"I bought into the hype about the Tigers offense—adding Cabrera and Renteria to an offense that was already good, but we all forgot to notice that these guys were old. Only Granderson and Cabrera were under 30 and it showed. Counting on Sheffield, Pudge and Renteria to all stay healthy and perform well was a little nuts, but for whatever reason, we missed it." - Dave from U.S.S. Mariner
"Ryan Dempster. As a Cubs fan, I was horrified when Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild penciled Dempster into the rotation, especially after watching him put up a 5.35 ERA in limited time in that role in 2005. He's done nothing but be the most consistent Cubs pitcher all year. Well, not nothing. He also carries a joy buzzer, wears a fish tie and sometimes asks you to pull his finger (DON'T DO IT). But I certainly never thought I'd want him starting Game 1 of the NLDS." - Bradt
"The Rays." - Most of America
WHO'S GOING TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES AND WHY?
Ed's note: C'mon, Lou. Do it for the ivy. C'MON!
"The Cubs. Why? Well the Red Sox broke a long drought and so have the White Sox so it is their turn. Add in an amazing bullpen and an impressive top three starters in Zambrano, Dempster and Harden (two good Canadian boys). I think they have a shot." - Dakers from BlueBirdBanter
"Dodgers vs. Red Sox could be interesting." - ESPN The Magazine senior editor Jon Scher
"I like either the Cubs or Angels, favoring the Cubs. Just because Zambrano and Harden, really well-rested, have the ability to take the bat out of the equation on some days. I like that both teams have wear-you-down lineups that take walks and hit homers, but more that they have power arms up front and in the pen. When K-Rod blows a save in Game 1, it goes to his head and the Cubs are in the drivers seat. That all means the White Sox probably win it." - Sprow
"Dodgers, because the world is a cruel place." - JBox from Gaslamp ball (a Padres fan)
"As of this writing, it looks like the Red Sox and Angels will meet (I'll pick the Red Sox) and that the Rays and White Sox will meet (I'll pick the White Sox - when in doubt, go for experience). In the battle of the Sox, I see the Red Sox prevailing. In the NL, as of this writing it's impossible to predict the matchups, but I'll give the Dodgers a nod as the NL's hottest team going into the postseason, and I'll guess that the Cubs will get enough out of their injury-prone rotation to get through the NLDS a winner. From there I'll take the Dodgers for no good reason (some injury involving Rich Harden and a goat, or Steve Bartman and Alfonso Soriano), and I'll give the World Series to the Red Sox in 6 games, despite "Manny being Manny" and hitting .600 against his former team." - Nico from AthleticsNation
"The Brewers. There will be no stopping the Brew Crew after they win a dramatic NLCS Game 7 at Wrigley Field." - Bradley from ESPN The Magazine
"The Red Sox are the best team in baseball, but I'm going with Tampa, because nothing would upset Red Sox fans more than losing to a city of retired Yankee fans. And whatever bothers Boston fans is okay by me." - Dave from U.S.S. Mariner
"The Rays. They're being guided by some force that even a council of the gods couldn't comprehend." - Janowitz from ESPN The Magazine
"The American League champion will once again take it all. I hope it is the Angels, I dread it is the Red Sox. The National League doesn't have a prayer against either of them or Tampa Bay." - Reverend Halofan from Halos Heaven
IF YOU HAD TO SUMMARIZE THIS SEASON IN HAIKU FORM, WHAT'S YOUR POEM?
Ed's note: The haiku is truly underrated.
"Lee might get the Cy
But here's a clue for you all
The greatest is Doc."
- Dakers, BlueBirdBanter
"Yanks and Tigers suck.
Rays and Twins go to the wire.
Is this parity?"
- Bradt of Fire Jim Essian
"A-Rod with Madonna.
Yankee Stadium gone
Can Red Sox win it all?"
- Our man Ben Fawkes
"Yankees watch at home!
Rebuilding sucks but worse yet
is the off-season"
- Nico from AthleticsNation
"The Mariners suck
Why am I a fan of this?
At least Vidro's gone."
- Dave from U.S.S. Mariner
"A season of heart.
Triumph of the little guy.
Please put Gagne down."
- Janowitz from ESPN The Magazine
"Change your uniform
or be named after laundry
Halos, Rays, Snakes, two Sox"
- Reverend Halofan, Halos Heaven
"One hundred year drought
Sweet rain of wins falls from Lou
Rays shine in the end."
- Pinto from BaseballMusings
"The House That Babe Built
Gone The Way of The Dodo
To The House George Built"
- Goldman, Pinstripe Alley
Empty For Amazin' Rays
Leave F-L-A, M-L-B"
- Bradley, ESPN The Magazine