Bill Madden is a renown baseball columnist for the New York Daily News since 1989. Originally, he grew up in Oradell, New Jersey. A former high school graduate of Bergen Catholic, Madden went onto stardom after getting hired by the Daily News in 1978. Originally, he covered the Yankees before graduating to a columnist for New York’s hometown paper.
With a enormous resume that includes several books along with serving on the Baseball Hall of Fame Historical Committee in 2005, 2007 and 2008, Madden is an accomplished sports writer. Since players usage of PED’s has become public knowledge, he’s been an outspoken critic of voting for any former player into Cooperstown. That even includes Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Along with many other ballplayers, they used performance enhancing drugs to gain a competitive edge.
The steroid or juiced era was the responsibility of Major League Baseball. Former league commissioner Bud Selig turned a blind eye to it following the end of the strike. Instead, baseball rode the “Chicks Dig The Long Ball” campaign which featured Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa shattering Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61 in 1961. It wasn’t until the BALCO scandal that things came to a head. Eventually, star players Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro were forced to testify in front of Congress. Most denied usage or pleaded the fifth which only cast more doubt. It forever tarnished McGwire’s legacy despite slugging a single season record of 70 home runs in 1998. Only Giambi admitted to steroid and human growth hormone (HGH) use in front of a grand jury in December 2003. Of course, Palmeiro embarrassed himself by defiantly saying he never used steroids only to get caught red handed.
It’s interesting to note that during this era, writers benefited from covering the sport. Madden’s former coworker Mike Lupica wrote a book entitled Summer of ’98. It was based on the 1998 season which featured McGwire and Sosa chasing history. It also details the Yankees special season en route to their 24th World Championship. The book is also a family affair with Lupica discussing his relationship with his son who also was a huge baseball fan. So, it wasn’t just about McGwire and Sosa but that was a prominent theme that season for fans and media. Nobody knew what was happening off the field. In retrospect, it came off hypocritical because that book made Lupica money. Of course, he and other baseball writers went back to bashing these players which is all part of what makes the media vultures.
Fast forward to the present and it’s only gotten worse. With Alex Rodriguez revealed as a steroid cheat who was caught twice including for his role in the Biogenesis baseball scandal, he served a MLB record 211-game suspension that included all of 2014. A-Rod returned to the Yankees in 2015 ready to put the past behind him. With so much uncertainty about what he would have left after being away from the game for a year and a half, some prognosticators doubted him. Could an aging Rodriguez who would turn 40 on July 27 still produce at a high level? He’s certainly answered that defiantly with 32 home runs and 83 RBI’s. The 32 dingers lead the ball club and the 83 base knocks trail only team leader Brian McCann (87).
Before the season started, the Daily News had its annual Baseball Season Predictions. Among the notables was how many homers would A-Rod hit. Madden, who has made no secret of his disdain for Rodriguez voted for a mystifying 9. Every other baseball writer had A-Rod in double digits. This is the same columnist who took three teams out of the NL East including his World Series pick the Marlins with Jose Fernandez winning World Series MVP. That was a reach with Fernandez needing time to recover from Tommy John surgery before returning to the mound in July. He’s only made eight starts and has posted a 2.06 earned run average (ERA) with a 5-0 record. Miami is without Giancarlo Stanton who’s been out since June 26 since surgery on a broken left hand. He’s been taking batting practice and could finally return before season’s conclusion.
While Madden was way off on the Marlins and White Sox who he took to win the AL Central which I also shamelessly did, he did nail the Mets to win the NL East. They lead the Nationals by 7.5 games with 16 games remaining and have a magic number of 10. But he also predicted Matt Harvey for 20 wins and the NL Cy Young. A bit unrealistic considering Harvey’s return from Tommy John. The Dark Knight has performed admirably going 12-7 with a 2.88 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 171-plus innings. He’s made 26 starts and will get two more before the postseason. Even with controversy surrounding him due to egotistical agent Scott Boras, who wanted Harvey’s innings limited. At first, Harvey toed the company line which didn’t sit well with Mets fans. But he sat down with management and straightened everything out. With him starting to wear down, how effective will he be in the postseason?
Madden also nabbed the Cardinals, who always defy logic. He also got the Dodgers. So, he did well in the NL. But his AL picks are a mess with the Orioles, White Sox and Mariners failing to live up to expectations. His AL wildcards weren’t much better with the Angels a long shot and the Tigers way out after selling David Price to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline. Baseball predictions are hard. So much factors in including injuries and how well teams jell. You also can’t predict which teams will be buyers. Who had the Jays getting Price and Troy Tulowitzki? No one had the Mets acquiring Yoenis Cespedes after nearly dealing away Wilmer Flores and Zach Wheeler for Carlos Gomez. Still, you would expect a knowledgeable and respected writer like Madden to do better than 3 out of 10.
I’ll admit to erring with the White Sox and not sticking to my guns with the Royals. I also felt the Mariners could contend in a wide open AL West. Instead, they’ve flopped with Robinson Cano having a second straight down year. Instead, it’s between the Rangers and Astros with Texas holding the upper hand after taking the first three of a big four-game series to go in front by a game and a half. Texas went out and acquired Cole Hamels. A pitcher I didn’t want the Yankees to get due to the Phillies’ asking price. Brian Cashman stuck to his guns holding onto prized prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Severino has pitched solidly improving to 4-3 in a road win over the Rays. A good response after his worst outing in a blowout loss to the Jays. I felt the AL East was wide open due to no team really having a decided edge. It wasn’t until Toronto went out and got Price that they took over. The Yanks led the division most of the summer. They’re still in solid position for the first wildcard despite the losses of Mark Teixeira (31 HR) and 14-game winner Nathan Eovaldi.
My NL picks were the Nats, Cards, Dodgers, Pirates and Giants. So, I got three right. I can’t remember who my AL wildcards were. I think I had the Royals and Angels. It just goes to prove that no matter how much of an expert you are, making predictions can make anyone look bad. Including Madden, who might not want to review his own.