Well, maybe they didn’t wish for these things, but I did on their behalf. That’s close enough for our purposes. Now it’s time to see whose wishes came true:
Our wish: A designation that properly identifies their location.
Did it happen? No, and it won’t anytime soon. There is too much money tied into their use of the name “Los Angeles.” The other option is to move north and play in the city. Or maybe Irwindale is available.
Our wish: Someone to replace Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio as the faces of the franchise.
Did it happen? It’s sad that Biggio had to overstay his welcome to reach 3,000 hits; he used to be such a great player. Meanwhile, Lance Berkman quietly enjoyed another fine season, but it’s the little adverb in that last clause that’s causing trouble—I’m not sure that folks outside of Houston identify with Berkman the way they did with Bagwell and Biggio.
Our wish: A manager who can get them deep into the playoffs.
Did it happen? Priorities shift. Reaching the playoffs would seem to be a greater concern.
Our wish: Health and continued production from Vernon Wells.
Did it happen? The good news is that Wells played 149 games. The bad news is…everything else. Wells turns 29 in December, so he’s not old, but his 85 OPS+ in 2007 is cause for concern. That’s the same OPS+ posted by Yadier Molina, Jason Tyner and some other guy named Wells who pitches for St. Louis.
Our wish: Plate discipline for Jeff Francoeur.
Did it happen? Yes, but at the cost of some power. Francouer’s BB/K rate improved from a Dunstonesque .174 to a more Samuelish .326. His ISO dropped .038 in the process.
Our wish: Proof that Bill Hall‘s 2006 wasn’t a fluke and Rickie Weeks‘ was.
Did it happen? Call this a draw. Hall came down in a big way; his drop wasn’t quite as precipitous as Wells’ and Hall is younger, but still. Weeks, meanwhile, had a bizarre season. His batting average dropped .044, but all his secondary skills improved, as did his defensive reliability.
Our wish: An 83-win team that takes the World Series doesn’t need any wishes.
Did it happen? Last I checked, they still have their rings.
Our wish: A way to get back some of the $294 million they spent on free agents this winter.
Did it happen? No, but they did a real nice impression of the 2006 Cardinals. Except for that whole run-the-postseason-table thing.
Our wish: More production, less drama from their prospects.
Did it happen? I called out Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes and Josh Hamilton. Young held his own as a rookie, in a Rocco Baldelli kind of way; Dukes got off to a promising start before imploding again; and Hamilton, despite battling injuries, became one of baseball’s feel-good stories of the year…for the Cincinnati Reds.
Our wish: A pitcher or two to go with Brandon Webb.
Did it happen? Uh, you could say that. Doug Davis, Livan Hernandez, and Micah Owings all made strong contributions, while the combination of Randy Johnson and Yusmeiro Petit helped as well. This turned out to be more than enough to overcome a surprisingly lackluster offense and propel Arizona into the NLCS.
Our wish: A front-office staffer who can convince Ned Colletti that former mentor Brian Sabean’s strategy of giving away promising young players and signing old guys whose specialty is playing defense isn’t necessarily a recipe for success.
Did it happen? Colletti has made three trades in 2007: Elmer Dessens for Brady Clark, Wilson Betemit for Scott Proctor and Travis Denker for Mark Sweeney. The Betemit deal sort of fits the Sabean m.o., although at this point, Betemit is more young than promising. On the free agent side, Luis Gonzalez worked out okay, but Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre, Randy Wolf, and Jason Schmidt combined to form a sinkhole of epic proportion. This team should have contended. If the organization had made an honest commitment to its young talent, it probably would have.
Our wish: A general manager who doesn’t overvalue defense, particularly in older players, and a manager who recognizes that Pedro Feliz makes way too many outs to be given a starting job.
Did it happen? You have to ask?
Our wish: Patience.
Did it happen? Yep, they had a good plan and they knew it. I cited the need for another starting pitcher—hello Fausto Carmona. I suggested that they needed Andy Marte to step in and Jhonny Peralta to step up; they got one of the two. They also made the playoffs. That works.
Our wish: A mascot that makes sense.
Did it happen? Nope, it’s still a moose.
Our wish: An owner that isn’t bent on destroying big-league franchises.
Did it happen? Nope, it’s still an art dealer.
Our wish: A youth potion for Moises Alou, Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, Pedro Martinez and Jose Valentin. An aging potion for Philip Humber, Lastings Milledge and Mike Pelfrey.
Did it happen? Alou and Hernandez struggled to stay healthy but were effective when they did; Glavine pitched well except for one notable start at the end of the season; Valentin stunk. Humber and Pelfrey were awful in limited opportunities, while Milledge held his own despite sporadic playing time. We’ll say yes, but not as much as the Mets might have hoped.
Our wish: Health for John Patterson and Nick Johnson. More trade opportunities with the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners.
Did it happen? Between the two of them, Patterson and Johnson played seven games. No further trades were made with the Reds and Mariners.
Our wish: A plan that involves something other than throwing too much money at mediocre middle relievers.
Did it happen? Maybe just a plan of any kind would be a good place to start.
Our wish: A postseason that doesn’t involve the Cardinals.
Did it happen? I see now the error in my phrasing. Technically I nailed this one.
Our wish: Health for Cole Hamels. A better appreciation of what Pat Burrell has done for the franchise.
Did it happen? Hamels made 28 starts. That’s not quite what I had in mind, but it’s close. Burrell did what he always does, but it seems like people didn’t complain about it as much. I guess they got distracted by the Phillies’ first playoff appearance since 1993.
Our wish: Continued development from young pitchers Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, and Ian Snell. Someone to complement Jason Bay on offense. Proof that Freddy Sanchez wasn’t a fluke.
Did it happen? Duke was terrible, Maholm slightly less terrible, and Snell pretty good (if inconsistent). Bay got plenty of help on offense but saw his own bat disappear. Sanchez wasn’t a fluke.
Our wish: Learning from Vicente Padilla what Kevin Millwood evidently failed to teach them. More than two innings from Eric Gagne. A resurrection of Hank Blalock‘s once-promising career.
Did it happen? I don’t know that Padilla has taught the Rangers anything; at the very least, he’s provided them with another data point. The Rangers coaxed 33 innings out of Gagne and then turned him into Boston’s problem—well played. Blalock posted some nice numbers when healthy, which wasn’t often enough.
Our wish: Health and consistency for the starting rotation.
Did it happen? Yep, that and a World Championship.
Our wish: A general manager who won’t trade their good young players for spare parts.
Did it happen? They gave away Brendan Harris, but he wasn’t considered a top prospect. Plus the Reds deserve credit for swiping Josh Hamilton from the Cubs (who took him from Tampa Bay in the Rule 5 draft).
Our wish: A domed, pressurized stadium with a see-through roof.
Did it happen? No, but they shocked just about everyone with a brilliant late-season run that pushed them into the World Series.
Our wish: Sorry, I’ve run out of Gil Meche jokes.
Did it happen? This wasn’t really a wish. Meche pitched well, and the Royals lost fewer than 100 games for the first time since 2003. The $55 million question remains: Was this a fluke, or was there genuine improvement in 2007? Decide for yourself whether I’m talking about Meche or the Royals.
Our wish: Continued health for Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez; continued development from Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, and Joel Zumaya.
Did it happen? Guillen and Ordonez had monster seasons—in many years, Ordonez would have been a lock for MVP with his numbers. Verlander held steady (and improved his strikeout rate), Bonderman regressed, and Zumaya got hurt.
Our wish: A few starting pitchers to follow Johan Santana in the rotation.
Did it happen? Carlos Silva provided innings. Scott Baker? Matt Garza? Sort of, but not really. On the bright side, Jason Tyner hit a home run.
Our wish: A different division.
Did it happen? No, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. When the Royals shut them out on September 20, the White Sox actually slipped into last place; only a 6-3 surge to close the season pushed them back into fourth place.
Our wish: A relaxation of team grooming rules.
Did it happen? Carl Pavano‘s contract is still ugly. Does that count?