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November 1, 2011

Hobart Picks the 2011 Season

Hobart Picks the 2011 Season photo

In April, we ran our first ever "Hobart expert picks" for the 2011 baseball season. With the season just now over, we thought it would be fun to revisit our picks, and the season in general. Here are our reflections:


Stewart O'Nan,
Author of Emily, Alone, Last Night at the Lobster, and Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season (with Stephen King), among others


Alas, my Sox succumbed to Dice-K's and Buchholz's season-ending injuries and Lackey flat-out sucking. The Phils and Yanks had a free pass in the playoffs but once again quietly choked. Hats off to Jimmy Leyland's Tigers for putting the whup-up on A-Fraud & Co, and to the Cards (and Mr. Ruland) for taking the Phils and Brew Crew on the road and then the Rangers on the big stage. Living in an NL Central city, I saw the Cards all year long, and I must say they were unimpressive until September, when, still 6 or 7 games out, they played the Bucs and every guy in their dugout was up at the rail and cheering with every pitch. Say what you will about LaRussa and the Steroid Era, but he had his guys believing in themselves. The team's heart was as big as Matt Holliday's head.

Let the Hot Stove talk begin. Theo and his reconvened brain trust are going to make the Central way more competitive next year.


Jess Walter,
Author of The Financial Lives of Poets, The Zero, and Citizen Vance among others


Baseball humbled me. I made my slick, cynical predictions (fat-cat Yankees and Red Sox in the ALCS beating whatever lame shit-squad limped out of the NL — the unconscionable American income inequity playing out on the diamond — Occupy Second Base!) and what happens? Magic. I was in a bar for St. Louis's epic victory in Game 6 of the World Series, and all around me grown men and women slapped their heads (slapped their heads!) with each dramatic turn of the most amazing game I have ever seen. Great sport can be like great art — transcendent. I wish I could forget my picks. But I can't. I was a fool. I was a jackass. I was sad, silly and cynical. I forgot that to not believe in hope is criminal. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin might have been talking about the 2011 World Series when he said, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." David Freese might have been talking about ontology when he said, "This rocks."


Erik Smetana,
Editor of Stymie Magazine


I run a journal focused on sport and literature, that might make someone believe I know what I'm talking about when it comes to baseball. Those people would be wrong, their wrongness evidenced pretty soundly by my picks for this past season. I went with some safe picks — the Yankees — and some of what I thought were safe picks — the Red Sox. I picked my hometown team to make me look like I had an inkling of insight and the rest, well the rest of my picks were a mix of unmitigated disaster and gut selections. That all said, at the end of the day it doesn't matter because my team, my Redbirds, took it all. Freese, Craig, Berkman, Pujols, Carpenter, et al were studs at the plate and on the field. They were like the kid on the playground who gets bullied day in, day out (all season long) and then their mom takes them to Tae Kwon Do classes over the summer. That next fall, they aren't taking any crap and they're going to rain down some fury on any bullies that cross their path. First the Phillies in what was maybe the most uneventful series of the Cardinals' playoff run, then the Brewers went down in a battle of the country's beer capitols, leading to the Rangers who at least made it interesting. The Rangers who had the announcers in their backpocket (especially after game five), including St. Louis' own Joe Buck. But the Cardinals picked themselves up and hit back and kept on hitting and hitting and hitting until the Rangers couldn't do anything but hop on a plane and fly back to their Dallas suburb of a home with an intact record of zero world championships to the Cardinals' eleven.


Rick Moody,
Author of The Four Fingers of Death, Right Livelihoods, and The Diviners among others


My picks for the NL East were on the money for a while in the mid-season, and very nearly correct at the end. I didn't expect Philadelphia's collapse or the Yankees' whimper in the playoffs, nor could anyone, I suppose, have expected St. Louis's sterling come-from-behind play in the series. But all in all I think I did a reasonably good job for my little piece of the field. Perhaps we will get another chance in 2012.


Owen King,
Author of We're All in This Together


I saw my beloved Red Sox twice in July, a pair of artless wins against the Royals, 13-9 and 12-5, featuring ignominious starts from Andrew Miller and John Lackey. What was already obvious was that if the Red Sox didn't lock down every single outing from Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, they'd never make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Less obvious: they wouldn't even make the playoffs. Ruined partly by frathouse shenanigans, partly by their manager's mind-boggling insistence on wheeling out the husk of Tim Wakefield for an ass-kicking every five days (while saving out-machine Alfredo Aceves for relief duty), and partly by incredibly shitty luck, my World Series pick croaked on September 28th in Baltimore.

On the plus side, the Rangers and the Cardinals did just fine, thank you, putting on a legendary World Series without the participation of big market monsters like the Yankees, the Mets, the Phillies, or even the Red Sox.