Braves take next step?

I was sitting inside the “Tark Room” at Piero’s Italian Cuisine on Saturday night, and the ambience of the famed restaurant UNLV legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian frequented during his days as coach of the Runnin’ Rebels was typical.

Background music, wine glasses chiming one another while silverware screeched on dinnerware, conversations were fluid, and then ... the Los Angeles Dodgers imploded in Game 4 of the World Series.

Brett Phillips’ walk-off single against Kenley Jansen thanks to a comedy of errors turned the dim-lit room into a sports bar, as the patrons, including myself and the trio I was dining with, erupted in a manner an outsider would have thought we were eating at a sports bar.

Baseball. Man, it’s wild.

So why not bring an end to the season with my wild takes on four teams catching value to win the 2021 World Series?

The Atlanta Braves (12-1) pushed the Dodgers to the brink in this year’s National League Championship Series after holding leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in a decisive Game 7. After being denied their first World Series appearance since 1999, the Braves will come into next season with talented youth on their pitching staff, as it’s quite clear the organization is set up for success this decade. Locking up free agent Marcell Ozuna will be key to a lineup that includes Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman.

Speaking of youth, the San Diego Padres (12-1) will once again be a team to contend with. The talent of Fernando Tatis Jr. is contagious and has made playing for the Padres fun. His swagger carries over to an explosive lineup.

San Diego also has a young, talented pitching staff, one that will only get better. If healthy once the 2021 season starts, Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet at the front of the rotation will provide a stout 1-2 punch.

The Chicago White Sox (12-1) were fun to watch this season. They emerged as the most balanced team in the A.L. Central, and I think will be better than Cleveland and Minnesota. The Indians head into the offseason with far too much uncertainty, and the Twins lost their ninth straight playoff round when they were swept by the Houston Astros.

I was a little shocked by the departure of manager Rick Renteria, but it tells me the organization has higher standards for a young roster that ended a string of seven consecutive losing seasons with its first playoff appearance since 2008. Don’t be surprised if the Pale Hose make a run next year. 

I can’t believe I’m writing about the cheating Astros (30-1), but I was extremely shocked to see them make it to the ALCS. I was even more surprised to see them erase an 0-3 hole in the seven-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. They proved they didn’t need a garbage can for their offense and showed plenty of resolve. I know George Springer could test free agency, and Justin Verlander won’t be back until 2022, but manager Dusty Baker knows how to get the best out of his players. Houston carries the most ridiculous value of the four teams mentioned.

That’s a wrap for 2020 in as quirky a season as the Dodgers’ Game 4 follies. I finished the campaign 21-16 and am hoping my preseason prediction of Los Angeles hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy has taken place and we can look forward to the possibility of regularity next season.

Last week: 2-1

Season: 21-16