Hot-stove chatter usually half-baked

By Randy Richardson

A panel of MLB.com and MLB Network analysts came together before the 2015 MLB baseball season to vote on which teams they thought would make it to the postseason. These so-called experts came to the conclusion that the Washington Nationals would take the crown in a series against – cough – the Seattle Mariners.

I’m not making this up.

The best and the brightest of baseball analysts didn’t come close to getting it right. The team that they picked to win it all didn’t even make it to the postseason. Heck, the Nats barely played above .500 baseball, going 83-79, ending seven games back of the New York Mets in the NL West. The Mariners just plain stunk, finishing in fourth place in the AL West, with a 76-86 record.

By the way, this same pool of baseball knowledge had the Angels and the Red Sox following the Mariners in the voting for the AL champion. Neither of those teams played beyond the 162-game minimum in 2015, either. The Red Sox finished dead last in the NL East, as far away from the pennant as a team can possibly get.

Apparently, MLB.com and MLB Network use the term “expert” rather loosely. In all seriousness, one could have tossed the names of the 30 MLB baseball teams into a hat and blindly picked out two teams and done just as well as their collection of baseball minds.

Clearly baseball prognostication is anything but an exact science. Even in this day and age of sabermetrics, where every single aspect of the game of baseball is dissected and analyzed to the Nth degree, it’s still really nothing more than a crapshoot.

Over the course of the next four months, all kinds of self-proclaimed baseball experts will be spouting off about what will happen as far as players, teams, and the upcoming season. They call this the hot-stove league, and most of what comes out of it is half-baked.

Thanks to the Internet and social media all this chatter borders on lunacy. Did you hear that Theo Epstein is in talks with Cy Young’s agent to bring him back from the dead to fill in the hole in the Cubs’ starting rotation? No, I swear it’s true. It has to be, KicktheGoat just tweeted it.

During the offseason, everyone’s an expert. On talk radio, in print and online, they’re all yammering about what’s supposedly going to happen in the coming days, weeks and months. They get away with it because it makes for good water-cooler chitchat. Rarely does anyone check them on what they’ve said or written. Most of The Blather goes into the ether to be replaced by The Latest Blather which will then be substituted for by The Very Latest Blather.

The temptation is to believe what these talking heads are blathering about.

One word of advice: Don’t.

Don’t believe any of what you hear or read until it has actually happened.

Don’t believe that David Price is a Cub until he has signed with the club.

Don’t believe that the Cubs are going to win the World Series until they actually do.

Going into the 2015 baseball season no one picked the Cubs to win it all – except for Robert Zemeckis, the writer and director of Back to the Future II, who wasn’t claiming to be a baseball expert and made the prediction 30 years ago.

But come 2016, the Cubs aren’t going to be sneaking up on anyone. Those so-called experts who never saw 97 wins and a trip to the NLCS in 2015 are going to be climbing about the Cubs’ bandwagon in stampedes. This happened before in 2004, and it didn’t end well. Curse that Sports Illustrated cover of Kerry Wood staring down the batter with the infamous headline: “Hell Freezes Over: The Cubs Will Win the World Series.”

So do the only to stifle the giddiness.

Ignore them. Don’t pay attention to any of it.

Turn off the radio.

Put down the newspaper.

Close the browser.

If history is any lesson, the worst thing that can happen to a team is to be the team that is expected to win it all.

Because in baseball the experts are almost always wrong.

Randy Richardson is the author of the Wrigleyville murder mystery, Lost in the Ivy, and a regular contributor to Wrigleyville Nation.