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Rounding Third: Some September predictions

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Updated: 9/03 9:47 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It takes a big person to admit they were wrong.

When the Oakland Athletics dealt slugger Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for left- hander Jon Lester, I believe I wrote the A's, who were the best offensive team in the league at the time, would barely skip a beat.

More specifically ... "Yes, the A's lose a big part of the lineup in Cespedes, but his myth certainly exceeded his actual production. He may hit a lot of long home runs, but if you are an advanced statistics guy - which we all know Billy Beane is - you know he's nowhere near the best bat in that lineup.

Perhaps I am underestimating his impact, but I am guessing they won't even notice he's gone. Put it this was way, adding a legitimate ace, more than outweighs whatever Cespedes brings to the table."

Ok. Not so much.

The A's offense has gone in the tank since the deal and as we head into action on Wednesday they are 4 1/2 games back of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West and have had to acquire slugger Adam Dunn to hopefully make up for the production that has been missing since Cespedes was sent to Boston.

To my credit, though, I did point out how Cespedes would be missed in the playoffs, where he hit in all 10 of Oakland's postseason games over the last two years.

I also could point out that most of my preseason predictions have been right on the money, but humility is a virtue.

Regardless I am going to try my hand again at some predictions and a few other things to watch for here in the final month of the regular season.

ST. LOUIS WILL WIN NL CENTRAL

This really isn't going out on a limb because the Cardinals wrestled the top spot away from the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this week. This is one that has been coming for a while. For whatever reason, I just couldn't see Milwaukee lasting all season at the top of the division. Every time I expected the Brewers to fall off, though, they just bounced right back. However, this current slide might just be their death knell. How good are the Cards? Well, they made up a three-game deficit to the Brewers in the month of August without Adam Wainwright even winning a game. He's already started his September with a win, so they may be getting ready to run away and hide and have a four-gamer with the Brewers on tap for this weekend. The Brewers had a nice run, but two weeks from now we are all going to be scratching our heads wondering how they were able to stay in first place for so long.

SEATTLE WILL GET THE SECOND AL WILD CARD

The Seattle Mariners find themselves 1 1/2 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the second wild card spot in the AL. But with a favorable schedule coming up that could change real quick.

Felix Hernandez hasn't been himself lately and is winless in his last three starts. Nobody seems all that concerned, though. With him, Hisashi Iwakuma and now James Paxton, the Mariners offer up a pretty impressive a pitching trio.

Do you think anyone wants to face Hernandez in a one-game playoff? Especially the Oakland Athletics. King Felix is 9-2 with a 2.72 mark ERA in 17 outings in Oakland.

One thing that may worry me if I am a Mariners fan is that Chris Young is struggling. His 151 innings are the most he has thrown since 2007. There is a very good chance that he is done. Now, he's not exactly Hernandez, but he has been as solid as anyone for the Mariners. And let's face it, I may trust a wily veteran like him more in October than a young Paxton.

Actually picking the Mariners to emerge as the second wild card has more to do with the other teams in the AL, specifically Kansas City. The Royals have been out of their minds for the last month or so. As awesome as it would be to have the Royals back in the postseason, it's just not going to happen.

ALL MAJOR AWARDS STILL UP FOR GRABS

All the major awards in both leagues are still up for grabs. Well, except for the National League Cy Young Award. Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw can probably make room on his mantel for his third award and second in as many years. The only question is if he is going to pile on an NL MVP, too. He makes a great case, but Miami's Giancarlo Stanton also id putting up big numbers, albeit on a team that will likely be watching October baseball.

Two players to watch here: Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen and St. Louis' Matt Holliday. The Pirates are only two games back in the wild card and if 'Cutch has a big month, they very well may be making their second straight playoff appearance. We've already mentioned how the Cards turned it around in August and Holliday was a big reason why. Twenty-three of his 81 RBI came last month and voters have a very short memory. Another couple of weeks of production from him with the Cards riding high could go a long way.

In the AL, it's almost a given that Angels outfielder Mike Trout will nab the MVP if his team gets to the postseason, which barring a complete collapse should happen. He is the front runner for sure, but most of the time these awards are won in the final month. Keep an eye on Seattle's Robinson Cano. He's about the only bat in that Mariners' lineup and if he has a big month and carries his team to a postseason spot, that might be enough to get him the award. And, of course, you can never count out reigning two-time winner Miguel Cabrera, who could be in for a big final month of the season.

The AL Cy Young Award is a little more cloudy. Seattle's Felix Hernandez looked like a lock a few weeks ago, but he has struggled. Detroit's Max Scherzer has been great, but if you want a bold prediction, how about this one ... Angels righty Jered Weaver. Not exactly going out on a limb, as he is tied for the AL lead in wins, but if he is lights out down the stretch here, he could sneak in and win this award. Especially with how thin the Angels' starting staff is at the moment. In fact, mark me down. I'm going with Weaver to win the award.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THURSDAY, SEPT. 25

Why such an odd date you ask? Well, that will be Derek Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium. And, yes, it will be his last game there, as the Yankees are not going to be making the playoffs this season. It's quite remarkable that they've stayed in the mix as long as they have, but they will come up short. Like Mariano Rivera, Jeter's career will end with barely anyone paying attention.

Speaking of Jeter, the Yanks are having their "Tribute to the Captain" festivities on Sunday, three weeks before the end of the actual season. This isn't the final Sunday at home for them. So, why this day? Why so early? Well, it's probably simple. Ticket sales were likely down since it was the first week of the NFL season. What better way to fill the Stadium than to have their Jeter ceremony.

It's always about the green.

THERE WILL BE ANOTHER MANAGER FIRED

Houston's Bo Porter became the first manager to be fired earlier this week, but he won't be the last.

If you are a betting man, you can put your money on Kirk Gibson not being at the helm when the Arizona Diamondbacks close their season. Arizona has been awful all year and there were some rumblings before the season even started that he was on thin ice.

Texas' Ron Washington is probably a good bet, too. He has taken that team to two World Series appearances, though, The Rangers will let him finish the season.

YES, WE ARE LOOKING AT A FREEWAY WORLD SERIES

At the beginning of the year, I picked the Cardinals to beat the Tigers in the World Series. I have the right to amend that and I will. When it is all said and done, the World Series will be won by a team playing in Los Angeles. I am not sure which one, but the Angels and Dodgers will be the ones fighting it out.

There is still a long way to go, though,

And as always, I reserve the right to change this around a few weeks from now.

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