We're just a few days away from the start of the World Series, and so far the lead-up of the 2017 postseason has brought us the tale of three potential dynasties -- one that has already flamed out, one that never get started and another flickering on the vine of hope.
It seems like yesterday that we were being reminded, sometimes even by club execs, that the Chicago Cubs were built for the long haul, not a one-year stand; that the Cleveland Indians had all the pieces in place for a prolonged run; and that quietly the Houston Astros were retooling after a disappointing season and on the verge of a breakout year.
Now only Houston is left -- and yes, there appears to be a problem because Justin Verlander can't pitch both of the next two games.
In the meantime, the Los Angeles Dodgers have done the deed and provided the Fox Network with one half of their dream TV matchup of the Dodgers and New York Yankees in the World Series. Fox might've been dreaming about this all along, but certainly wasn't expecting as much. The fact that the Yankees played the early game throughout the early stages of the postseason is all the evidence ones need that Fox (and MLB) was fearful of a dreaded Cleveland-Houston ALCS matchup.
The Cubbies have their sometimes obnoxious celebrity fans, but in real TV time are no match for the Yankees under normal circumstances. Nobody will admit it of course, but the Astros don't get much support from the TV suits.
The Fox execs aren't the only ones rooting for the Yankees, either.
Nobody would've believed it as recently as a month ago, but the Yankees had a lot of support from unexpected sources in their ALCS matchup with the Astros. It all stems from an ill-timed and rather startling revelation less than two weeks before the end of the regular season that the Astros had fired 10 professional scouts.
One of the most metric-driven teams, the Astros evidently buy into the theory you can learn more by reading numbers than you can with the naked eye. The hard-liners among the baseball establishment, who may not be in the majority much longer if indeed they are now, disagree with that position -- pointing out those scouts were instrumental in acquiring some of the young talent that makes up the nucleus of the club. And they are really furious about the timing -- with the Astros preparing for a postseason run.
For the 10 scouts who were let go, however, the biggest sting of all would be if the Astros don't win the World Series -- assuming of course that the organization would honor the time-honored tradition of giving rings to all scouts, even those who get canned two weeks before the season ends. I know a lot of scouts would take a pink slip if it came with a ring.
By the way, if you need an indication how big that axe job was by the Astros, they fired twice as many pro scouts as the Orioles employ, which means the O's might have as many openings in that department as they do in their starting rotation.
Yankees starter CC Sabathia made $25 million in 2017, the last year of his contract before heading to free agency again. He won't make that much next season, but he'll get more than that during the next two. He might be a 37-year-old, soft throwing and somewhat portly left-hander, but Sabathia seems to have reinvented himself as Bartolo Colon, a portlier right-hander who carried his fastball into his 40s.
Sabathia never really went away, at least partly because his contract wouldn't allow it, but he gets my vote for Comeback Player of the Year. It's going to be interesting to see how the Yankees handle the negotiations knowing there's at least one AL East rival who knows how to offer contracts worth $12.5M a year (see Ubaldo Jimenez, $50M, four years).
While on the subject, there were a few teams who made nice turnarounds in 2017, but the Milwaukee Brewers are my Comeback Team of the Year. That was an impressive run they made at the Cubs, and word from those in the know is it wasn't an accident and the Brew Crew will be heard from again in the years to come.
Former O's executive Doug Melvin was moved out of the picture last year, but he gets a lot of credit for rebuilding the Brewers and then starting the re-tooling process after the inevitable letdown.
Every time I see Yankee first baseman Greg Bird's picture-perfect swing launch another line drive I'm thinking it's costing Eric Hosmer money. Many observers had Kansas City's free-agent first baseman signed, sealed and delivered for the Yankees, but that now seems very premature.
Long before long and strong right fielder Aaron Judge showed up, Bird was considered the prize prospect coming through the Yankees' system, and he was set to be locked in at first base before injuries started playing havoc with his career. It's his bat that's locked in right now, and if the sweet-swinging lefty can stay away from the disabled list, the Yankees have another young, cost-efficient, budding star on their hands and Chris Carter almost invisible in the rear view mirror. Hosmer will have to look elsewhere for his payday. He'll do OK, but don't look for him to get any pinstripe money.
Sort of speaking of which, will the real Aaron Judge please stand up? (Actually, I think I'll take either one.)
Who spilled the kerosene in the Cubs' bullpen? Talk about a six-alarm fire! It was hot enough to burn up a dynasty. And what in the name of Joe Maddon was John Lackey doing out there?
Count me among those who believe hitters aren't good or smart enough to hit foul balls on purpose. They get a lot of credit for not succeeding at what they're really trying to do -- get a hit. Having said that, Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner is a gigantic pain in the pitch count.
If his batting average was based on his number of swings, Gardner would have trouble hitting .150. The worst thing a pitcher can do is get the count to two strikes against this guy. Sometimes he even hits foul balls into the upper deck. He's a pest. In other words the kind of hitter the Orioles could use.
Speaking of which, now that he's been gone a couple of years, does everybody realize just how good Brian Roberts was as a leadoff hitter? He and Al Bumbry are 1-2 in O's history it says here, and you wouldn't go wrong either way.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com