What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I’m a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2012 title for all 30 teams.
When we said we were going to dream of a championship for all 30 teams, we weren’t messing around. Let there be no greater proof of that than this article. Yes, that’s right, I’m going to tell you how it is the team that won 56 games in 2011 will bounce all the way back to their first ever World Series championship. All I ask from you, dear reader, is to suspend your sense of disbelief and dream a little dream with me.
Imagine if you will a 2012 season that would go down as one of the most memorable ever. It would be a season known by many names. For some, it would be known as The Year Nobody Wanted to Win the NL Central. While the NL Central may be home to the defending champions, it will be a very rough season for most everyone in the division. Already having been abandoned by superstar Albert Pujols, the Cardinals will suffer further losses from all sides. First, a setback in Adam Wainwright’s recovery from Tommy John surgery. Next, Matt Holliday was felled after blowing out his knee in Spring Training. But the ultimate blow was Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltan and Lance Berkman suddenly all feeling their age almost overnight. For the Cardinals 2012 would be The Year Everyone Got Hurt.
Meanwhile the Brewers were doing their best to keep their season from falling apart after losing Prince Fielder in free agency and Ryan Braun’s suspension was upheld. That all quickly unraveled after Yovani Gallardo’s shoulder turned into pudding, Shaun Marcum never remembered how to pitch, Zack Greinke cracked under the pressure, Mat Gamel never panned out, Aramis Ramirez got paid and stopped trying and Nyjer Morgan got suspended after getting into a physical altercation with Tony Plush (don’t ask, this is a dream, remember?). For the Brewers, 2012 would be the Year Everything Fell Apart.
That should have gifted the division to the Reds, but that wasn’t meant to be either. Instead of newly acquired Mat Latos putting the rotation on his back, he tore it, and everything else, down around him. That long-lost bad attitude of Latos’ reared its ugly head in the worst of ways as he began clashing with the coaching staff from day one, steadily poisoning the rest of the pitchers against them in the process. After Dusty Baker forced him to throw 140-pitches for the third time in his first ten starts, he’d had enough, leading to very loud and very public argument between the two. That caused the locker room to fracture and ultimately cost Baker his job, not that it stopped the turmoil. As the team desperately clung to hope in the division, the internal drama finally proved to be too much for Joey Votto who finally came out to demand a trade in public. For the Reds, 2012 would be The Year It All Burned Down.
As for the Pirates and the Cubs, well, it was just like any other year for the Pirates and the Cubs. But the Astros…
Ah, yes, this would be their year… almost by default, but still their year. With the NL Central crumbling around them, the ‘Stros snuck up on everyone thanks to a quietly strong rotation, led by Wandy Rodriguez, who ignored all the trade rumors, and Brett Myers, who had one of his occasional good years. Behind them, Bud Norris continued his improvement into a front line starter, J.A. Happ pitched like he did in Philadelphia and Jordan Lyles actually got some good luck for once. Before anyone even noticed, the Astros suddenly boasted the fifth-best pitching staff in the National League. Coupling that with a lineup that went from awful in 2011 to slightly better than awful thanks to an All-Star campaign from Jed Lowrie and Brett Wallace FINALLY making good on his potential, the Astros managed to squeak out a division title with a whopping 83 wins.
That division win was cute and all, but nobody expected Houst to actually do anything with the post-season other than justify Bud Selig’s decision to add a second Wild Card in 2012. But, boy, was everyone surprised when the Astros shocked the world by taking out the Phillies in the NLDS (to nobody’s surprise, Ryan Howard made the last out of the series). Then they re-shocked the world by besting the Diamondbacks in the NLCS, though it was a real shame to see Justin Upton and Chris Young both get knocked out of the post-season after colliding while going after the same flyball in Game 1. After that, there was no stopping the roll of luck the Astros were on. Not even the Rangers and their “Third Time’s a Charm” appearance in the World Series could slow them down, not with Carlos Lee hitting like he was 25 again, Jason Bourgeois making the Rangers regret having Mike Napoli behind the plate the entire series and Bud Norris throwing a combined 17 shutout innings. To the rest of the world, this would be The Year Cinderella Won the World Series. But to the Astros and their fans this would be The Greatest Season Ever.
Alas, this is nothing but a dream… a crazy, improbable, possibly drug-induced dream.