2012 Baseball Predictions: Fred Wilpon Is Next Frank McCourt

I thought I’d share some interesting 2012 predictions from Joe Sheenan of Sports Illustrated, who lists Wilpon among some his prophecies.

1. The Marlins won’t get a playoff spot for their money. The Marlins committed $191 million over six years to Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, then fell short in their pitches to C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. That may be costly. The Marlins are certainly better for adding the three; however, they currently project to win about 84-85 games, making them no better than the third-best team in the NL East. As in 2011, their 2012 fate may be decided by the health and effectiveness of Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez — as well as whether the latter embraces his new position. All things considered, the Phillies and Braves are still a bit better than the Marlins.

2. B.J. Upton is the next Matt Kemp. The Dodgers’ Kemp combined his experience and raw talent to take a huge step forward at age 26, nearly winning the NL MVP award. Tampa Bay’s Upton has long shown similar skills — he just had his second 20/20 season — but a very high strikeout rate has prevented him from hitting for average and getting on base at high rates. As with Kemp, though, Upton, 27, has years of experience as he reaches his peak, and will take a big step forward next year, cutting his strikeouts, hitting .290 and pushing for the AL MVP award, while getting the Rays to the postseason again.

3. David Price is the next Clayton Kershaw. Like the 2011 Dodgers, the Rays will watch two young stars take big steps forward. Price quietly had a better year in 2011 than he did in his “breakout” 2010, striking out more hitters and walking fewer while carrying the highest workload of his career. Like Kershaw, Price will build on this improvement to be the best starter in his league and win the Cy Young Award.

4. An even number of teams will make the playoffs. What that number will be, we still don’t know. MLB has a plan in place to expand the postseason by one team in each league, setting up a one-game playoff between two wild-card teams that would then advance to the Division Series. As we enter 2012, though, we don’t yet know whether this will come to pass next season or in 2013. That’s important information for teams such as the Blue Jays, as they try to decide how much they can invest in a playoff push in the short term. MLB’s dallying over this decision is one of the lingering problems with the celebrated new CBA.

If the playoffs do expand, the biggest beneficiaries will be the teams trapped behind the two scary monsters in the AL East — the Jays and Rays. The Angels and Rangers will also benefit, with an additional spot to fall into for the loser of their escalating war for the AL West crown. It’s less clear in the NL, where there’s significantly more parity, but the teams that finished around .500 last year — the Nationals, Dodgers and Reds — have to feel better about their chances if the door to the playoffs opens wider.

5. Fred Wilpon is, unfortunately, the next Frank McCourt. The Mets’ owner hasn’t quite raided the till quite so blatantly, but it’s becoming clear that like the Dodgers, the Mets are a large-market team in name only. Despite owning their own regional sports network and playing in a taxpayer-funded ballpark just 3 years old, the Mets will cut their payroll by $20 million or more in 2012, and they seem resigned to penny-pinching over the short term as the team gets its finances back in order. The Mets have won one postseason series since 2000, and that streak won’t change next year.

6. Yu Darvish will have a better debut season than did Daisuke Matsuzaka.

7. Attendance at Hall of Fame Weekend will languish as just one living Hall of Famer is inducted.

8. Replay will get calls right, but be cumbersome.

9. The A’s, and their ongoing attempts to relocate to San Jose, will be the big off-field story as the team loses 100 games.

10. The Reds will win the World Series.

I disagree on the Marlins – at least one wild card comes out of the NL East and I think it could be them. I like the Upton/Kemp comp, but not the Price/Kershaw one. If Darvish signs he’ll be a star. The A’s wont be the only team that loses 100 games. The Reds wont win the World Series, the Angels or Phillies probably will.