1 Lucky Break All 2013 World Series Contenders Need to Win It All
Even the most potent teams in history needed something unexpected to help give them a push.
For the Cincinnati Reds in 1975, they received a gift when Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee inexplicably threw an eephus pitch to Tony Perez in the top of the sixth inning in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series. Perez turned on the pitch, launching a two-run home run that allowed the Reds to climb back from a 3-0 deficit.
The San Francisco Giants caught some major breaks on their way to a World Series title last year. Johnny Cueto's injury in Game 1 of the ALDS, Angel Pagan's ground ball that hit the third base bag against the Detroit Tigers, and Gregor Blanco's perfect bunt that somehow stayed inside the chalk are great examples.
Here then is one lucky break that each 2013 MLB World Series contending team will need to aid their quest.
For the purposes of clarification, contending teams will be the top 13 teams and their current odds as posted by the LVH (Las Vegas Hotel & Casino).
Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton Struggles to Adapt in New Home
Once a team reaches the playoffs, all bets are off. Anyone has the capability of going all the way.
In the case of the Texas Rangers, they could use a break just to get there.
With an AL West that promises to be competitive throughout the regular season, the Rangers will be challenged. Their former slugger, Josh Hamilton, will be hoping to help his new team, the Los Angeles Angels, to the promised land as well.
The Rangers need Hamilton to completely struggle as he makes his way through his first season in completely new surroundings. Much like Albert Pujols' early struggles that hampered the Angels last season, the Rangers would absolutely love it if Hamilton suffered a similar fate this year as well.
Philadelphia Phillies: Haren Hip and LaRoche Labrum
The Philadelphia Phillies join the Texas Rangers as 20-1 favorites to win the 2013 World Series. Reinforced with the additions of Ben Revere, Michael Young, John Lannan, Mike Adams and Delmon Young, the Phillies are hoping for a few good breaks as well.
One of those breaks could come by way of the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals bolstered themselves with the addition of Dan Haren to their vaunted starting rotation. They also re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoche, who produced brilliantly for them last season after surgery for a torn labrum in 2011.
The Phillies are largely looked at as finishing third in the NL East behind the Nationals and Atlanta Braves. However, they still have a solid chance of making the postseason as a wild-card team.
Their path to the postseason could be greatly helped should Haren's alleged issues with his hip pose a problem. They would further be aided if LaRoche were to fall victim to injury via his repaired labrum.
Haren admitted earlier this month that his hip has been a lingering issue since early in his career, but that he monitors it through stringent workouts and keeping his weight down.
Injuries certainly play a huge role in the success or failure of each team. They can also greatly enhance the chances of competing teams as well. The Phillies may well need that to happen to get by two tough teams in the NL East.
Tampa Bay Rays: A Healthy and Productive Luke Scott
Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Luke Scott has certainly seen his share of time on the disabled list over the past two seasons.
Scott tore the labrum in his shoulder in 2011, limiting him to just 64 games. The injury clearly had an effect on Scott, hitting just .220 on the season with 54 strikeouts in 209 at-bats.
The Rays took a chance on signing Scott last year, hoping he could return from his injury and provide adequate production as their designated hitter.
Scott again couldn't avoid injury, making two trips to the disabled list with back spasms and an oblique injury. Scott managed just 14 home runs and 55 RBI in 96 games.
Nonetheless, the Rays signed Scott for one more year. With few options available on the open market, Scott will be counted on once again to provide protection for Evan Longoria in the Rays lineup.
The Rays absolutely need a full year from Scott. An injury-free season could see him return to the form that produced 27 home runs and 72 RBI in 2010 for the Orioles. That would be a huge benefit to the Rays, who need every break they can get to stay competitive in the fight for a postseason berth.
At 18-1 odds, the Rays aren't a longshot, but any break they can find can shorten those odds.
St. Louis Cardinals: A Failed Reds Experiment
The St. Louis Cardinals caught a few breaks last season on their way to a postseason berth. Chris Carpenter's near-miraculous return from surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome was one of them.
Facing 18-1 odds to win the World Series this season, the Cardinals could use a few more breaks like that as well.
One of them could be the failure of an experiment being conducted by their NL Central Division rivals, the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds are moving closer Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation this season, hoping that Chapman can follow in the footsteps of fellow southpaw Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox.
Sale was wildly successful in his transition, posting a 17-8 record and 3.05 ERA in 29 starts.
However, the Cardinals would love to see Chapman perform more like Daniel Bard, who absolutely bombed in his transition to the starting rotation for the Boston Red Sox last season.
Bard continued struggling even after he returned to the bullpen at Triple-A Pawtucket, putting the finishing touches on a massively disappointing campaign.
The Cardinals would love to see Chapman suffer a similar fate.
New York Yankees: Finidng the Fountain of Youth
Between the position players, starting rotation and bullpen, the New York Yankees will have eight players who are at least 32 years of age.
CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, Mariano Rivera, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki are all expected to be key contributors. Two of them—Pettitte, Rivera—are beyond 40 and will be heavily relied upon to add stellar seasons.
Returning from injury later in the season will be 32-year-old Curtis Granderson (32 in two weeks) and possibly 37-year-old Alex Rodriguez.
Manager Joe Girardi is hoping that his older charges can somehow continue competing against the likes of much younger teams in Toronto, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Boston. At 16-1 odds, Las Vegas obviously factored in age as a consideration as well.
Finding a magical youth potion would certainly serve the Yankees well in their quest for their 28th World Series title.
Maybe they can dispatch a relative of Ponce de Leon to find another fountain of youth somewhere in Florida while they're there for the next few weeks.
Atlanta Braves: A Harper Sophomore Slump and Strasburg Struggle
The Washington Nationals are considered favorites to defend their NL East title over the Atlanta Braves.
Despite the Braves adding Justin and B.J. Upton, the Nationals reinforced their roster as well. In addition, they'll have both Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg for a full season.
At 20 years of age, Harper is expected to continue getting better and better. But the Braves wouldn't be terribly upset if Harper experienced the dreaded sophomore slump.
They probably wouldn't be too annoyed if Strasburg somehow struggled as well.
Up, Up & a Hey is a new Twitter handle that's been created in honor of the new Braves outfield. While they'll certainly help the Braves offense, their 16-1 odds of winning the World Series would be enhanced by calamity that befalls the Nationals in some way as well.
San Francsico Giants: The Dodgers Fail the Chemistry Test
Despite winning the 2012 World Series and returning their team largely intact, the San Francisco Giants are not the odds-on favorite to win the title again this season.
In fact, their neighbors farther south—the Los Angeles Dodgers—surpassed them.
Facing 10-1 odds, the Giants are still considered one of the teams much more capable than others of taking home the trophy. But they could use a break or two to get there.
For instance, if the Dodgers fail the chemistry test similar to last season's final few weeks, that could help.
The Dodgers' addition of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Joe Blanton were big moves in their quest to make a push for the postseason last year. However, the Dodgers won only three more games than they lost following their late-season acquisitions. Chemistry, along with an ailing Matt Kemp, had a lot to do with their struggles.
The Giants would love for the new-look Dodgers to once again stumble to find their way as the 2013 season progresses.
Toronto Blue Jays: Keep Tommy John South of the Border
Bad breaks neatly summed up the 2012 season for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Their starting rotation was decimated last season with injuries. Brandon Morrow missed a large chunk of time and three other pitchers, most notably Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek, suffered season-ending elbow injuries that required Tommy John surgery.
The Blue Jays are one of the favorites to win the World Series at 10-1 odds. However, that won't happen if any of their current pitchers suffer from last year's injury bug.
The Blue Jays need to do everything possible to keep their pitchers' elbows healthy, even if that means taking away Tommy John's passport and keeping him as far away from the Rogers Centre as possible.
Cincinnati Reds: A Repeat of an Anomaly
The San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds were the only teams in baseball last season in which all five starting pitchers registered at least 30 starts.
In today's day and age, it's a feat when a team achieves that mark.
The Reds, facing 9-1 odds to win the World Series this season, will need that same luck as they embark on the defense of their NL Central Division title.
They'll be doing so with Aroldis Chapman replacing Mike Leake in the rotation. Chapman has yet to start a major league game in his career.
If the Reds can repeat last year's lucky break in which no pitcher missed a start, their odds of winning the NL Central title once again, along with a World Series trophy, would be greatly enhanced.
Los Angeles Angels: HVB Becomes Highly Valuable Benefits
The Los Angeles Angels acquired three starting pitchers—Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton—during the offseason.
The new trio replaces Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, and will be counted on to provide support at the back end of the starting rotation.
Considering that many experts believe the Angels' weakness could be their new rotation, the combination of Hanson, Vargas and Blanton will have to become a trio that outperforms expectations.
The acronym for the new trio is HVB. For the Angels to be successful and improve on their 8-1 odds of winning the World Series, the HVB acronym will have to mean Highly Valued Benefits.
Only good benefits delivered by this trio can bring the Angels their second championship trophy.
Washington Nationals: Up, Up & a Hey Becomes Down, Down and Away
With their current 8-1 odds, the Washington Nationals are one of the leading favorites to win the World Series in 2013.
They will need Lady Luck to get there.
The nation's capital has not hosted a World Series game since 1933. The Nationals would dearly love to finally make that happen.
Standing in their way in the NL East is a vastly improved Atlanta Braves team that now features the outfield trio of Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward, dubbed Up, Up & a Hey.
A massively disappointing debut from that group of slugging outfielders would take at least one contender out of the picture for the Nationals.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Kershaw Becomes Koufax and Greinke Becomes Drysdale
The Los Angeles Dodgers of the 1960s featured two outstanding pitchers in Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
In 1965, the dazzling pitching duo combined for 49 wins and 15 shutouts in leading the Dodgers to a National League pennant and victory over the Minnesota Twins in the World Series.
The Dodgers need a similar performance from Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in 2013.
Kershaw has already drawn comparisons to Koufax, winning a Cy Young Award at the age of 23 in 2011.
Greinke also has a Cy Young Award to his credit, matching Drysdale.
If the two can put together a magical season similar to Koufax and Drysdale in 1965, the Dodgers' 8-1 odds of winning the World Series would be given quite a boost.
Detroit Tigers: Bruce Rondon Pitches Like Rivera
The Detroit Tigers at 6-1 are the odds-on-favorite to win the 2013 World Series.
However, they'll be attempting to do it without an established closer.
With Jose Valverde off to parts unknown, Detroit could be relying on a young, unestablished closer in Bruce Rondon to seal the deal in the ninth inning.
Rondon throws up to 100 MPH and has electrifying stuff, but plate command is still an issue for the 22-year-old Venezuelan.
For the Tigers to be truly successful in 2013, they'll need Rondon to summon up the command and show that he can be the next Mariano Rivera.
Considering the stacked lineup Detroit will throw out on the field every day along with an outstanding rotation and veteran bullpen, a successful rookie season from Rondon could lead the Tigers to their first World Series title since 1984.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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