Almost There

We’re almost there. The MLB preseason is just about over. Opening Day is Monday, though as usual, we’ve got Scheduled For TV games on Sunday–three of ’em this year.

As we all know, the beginning of the season means two things: cats are making predictions and this year’s baseball video games hit the shelves.

Let’s start with the bad news.

Check out this commercial for MLB The Show 17.

Assuming you haven’t fled, screaming in horror, let’s talk about what’s wrong with this.

For starters, did you notice that every single person in the commercial is “this guy” and “he”? I’m not sure whether Sony thinks that women don’t play video games or that there aren’t female baseball fans, but either way it’s a damned offensive assumption.

Then there’s the celebration of Manfred’s Kool-Aid. “Quick three inning games”? Are you kidding me?

And speaking of that guy–four jobs and twelve kids? Come on! As Groucho Marx once didn’t say, “I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while!” Maybe if the dude hadn’t dropped $300 on a PS4 and $60 on the game, he could afford to quit one of those jobs.

I don’t play video games–not even baseball games–but I’m tempted to buy a PS4 just so I can boycott MLB The Show 17. The only thing stopping me is that Sony makes the console too.

Moving on.

Of course we’ve begun indoctrinating Rufus into the household traditions. He’s seen some baseball on TV (about ten seconds worth of highlights), so we figured he was qualified to make predictions for the 2017 season.

On the other hand, he is new to the concept, so we decided to start him off with something straightforward: predicting the final standings for the American League West. We’ll keep working with him during the season, and if his predictions pan out, we’ll give him a shot at the playoffs.

He used a treat-based methodology to make his selections.

The final prediction:

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Houston Astros
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland Athletics
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

It’s not the order I’d have liked to see, but it’s not completely unreasonable, based on the preseason predictions. For comparison, FiveThirtyEight has Houston, Seattle, Texas, LA, and Oakland.

Rufus definitely enjoyed making his picks.

He was, however, rather less enthusiastic about the obligatory Wearing of the Cap that followed.

Predictions

Bleah!

Yes, it’s a cat post and a baseball post. Take that, haters!

Happy New Year once again!

Winter is officially over. Whether you’re a Reform believer who considers the season to have begun on 3/22 in Australia, a Conservative believer looking to San Diego Sunday night, or an Orthodox believer honoring Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon*, you can agree that the first game of the season has been played. Even if your team lost, all is right with the world for this one day: baseball is back.

* Or Cincinnati, for the truly Orthodox.

OK, I know there are a few Ultra-Orthodox believers who consider the concept of official games in March to be heresy. I presume that both of you will be glued to your TVs this afternoon for your Opening Day.

Naturally, the media are filled with predictions. For what it’s worth, the Dodgers are the early favorites in Vegas to win the World Series (11/2 odds; it’s amazing what winning a couple of religiously dubious games will do for your reputation). By contrast, Vegas has the Astros at 250/1 odds and almost* everyone else has them down for a dead last finish.

* See below.

There’s a long-standing tradition of calling on pets to pick the winners–and many of the professional predictions read as though they had been picked by a pet. Last season’s best feline prognostication came from Baseball Prospectus. To make everything crystal clear: I’m using “best” to mean “most entertaining”, not “most accurate.” Note that none of the selected teams made the playoffs.

But it’s a tradition, and I, being a traditionalist, figured I should do my part. I chose to avoid the usual approach of having the cats choose all of the divisional winners, the winners at each stage of the playoffs, and the World Series winner. Not only does that help make this post slightly less of a clich√©, but it also made the project practical. By the time I herded five cats through a process that long and complicated, we would already know the World Series winner, and be looking ahead to 2015.

I settled for just asking the crew to pick the winner of the AL West. To give a basis for judging each cat’s reliability and interest in baseball, I also asked them to recall who won the division last year. Maggie graciously lent a hand (two hands, and at least one hip, actually) to the task of feline management. Thanks, Maggie!

It's Texas, damn it!We kept it simple. One piece of paper with the logos* of the five teams in the division. One treat for each logo. We told them to eat the treat that was next to last year’s division winner. After they scarfed the first treat down, we replaced it, and asked them to eat the treat of the team they thought would win the division this year.

* We used the teams’ logos rather than their names because we’re pretty sure that only Kokoro is literate. (Yes, ‘Nuki and Rhubarb are fond of reading the newspaper, but they’re traditional feline butt-readers; we were quite sure that they would not be sitting on the treats.)

The Results

2013

  1. Oakland – The As won the division last year by 5 1/2 games. None of our panel correctly identified them as the winners.
  2. Texas – The Rangers finished the season second in the division. Yuki recalled them as having won. Yuki is the cat who has been most interested in watching baseball on TV, so it’s not too surprising that he came closest to getting it right.
  3. Anaheim (Don’t get me started on that whole “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim thing. Sheesh!) – The Angels finished the season 18 games behind the As. Watanuki remembered them as the winners. My assumption is that since ‘Nuki is the most avid birdwatcher in our crew, he was irresistably drawn to the Angels wings and feathers.
  4. Seattle – 25 games back. Rhubarb identified them as the winners. In his defense, he did see or hear portions of most of their games last year. Maybe the name just stuck in his head.
  5. Houston – The Astros were the only team to lose more than 100 games last year and finished 45 games out of the division race. Kokoro and Kaja both pointed to them as the division winners. Ladies, I don’t know what to say. (Kaja at least has the excuse of having been isolated in Maggie’s office for most of the season, so she can legitimately claim to have been out of touch. That doesn’t explain Kokoro’s pick. Maybe she was confused by the Astros’ peculiar ability to beat the Mariners (9 of 19, including four of six in April and four straight in September).

Our panel went 0 for 5 in picking last year’s division winner, right in line with the standard set by the Baseball Prospectus team!

Maybe I should have asked Grey Tabby to participate. She may not see much baseball, but at least she understands competition.

Moving on. What about the panel’s predictions for this year?

2014

  • Mariners?  Pblthhhhhhht!
    Yuki picked the Rangers. As the panelist who came closest to retroactively picking last year’s winner, his prediction for this year bears a certain amount of authority. I wouldn’t venture to guess whether he’s made a rational assessment of the odds, or just likes Texas.
  • I'm not going to wear the damn cap.
    Kaja also picked the Rangers. Interesting that the two major antagonists on the panel reached the same conclusion. Maybe there’s something to this Texas bandwagon.
  • Texas?  Don't talk to me about Texas.
    Or maybe not. ‘Nuki disdains Texas. He was born in California, and by gum, he’s going to pick California teams. For this year’s division winner, he’s chosen Oakland.
  • I'll get you for this.  Just you wait...
    Kokoro has joined ‘Nuki, also picking Oakland. Did she copy off his answer sheet? Did she belatedly realize that the As have won the division the past two years and decide they’re poised for a third victory? Or does Ms. Koko-poof just have a sneaking fondness for the As’ center fielder, Coco Crisp? She’s not telling.
  • Oh, God!  Why did I pick Houston?!
    So far we’ve got a tie with two votes for the Rangers and two for the As. Rhubarb is the tiebreaker. His choice is… (dramatic pause) The Houston Astros! Um, what? Was that supposed to be a vote for the Rangers? I could see how he could have gotten confused: Arlington and Houston are only about 250 miles apart. Or maybe Mr. Rhubarb has a fondness for the underdogcat. After all, he did retroactively pick the Mariners for 2013. Come to think of it, given his namesake, it’s highly appropriate for him to pick the loveable losers to go all the way.

There you have it. According to a fully qualified team of feline experts*, the 2014 AL West Division champions will be the Rangers. Or the As. Or the Astros. Given the demonstrated accuracy of felines in picking sports winners, my recommendation is to put your money on the Mariners or Angels.

* Translation: They are unquestionably expert at being cats.

Services are again being held at convenient temples across the country. Time to make your plans to sneak out of work and soothe your soul at least once this season.

Just one word of advice: no matter how much they enjoy watching games on TV, don’t take your cats to the ballpark. They’ll complain when you refuse to buy them a hotdog, try to run onto the field to chase ground balls, embarrass you by cheering for the wrong team, and fall asleep in the second inning, leaving you to defend them against foul balls and suicidal seagulls.