Even though 1.23% of the season has already passed before our eyes, it is time to make my fateful predictions for what will happen 6 months from now. The start of the season got lost in the shuffle of NFL moves and college basketball but I was legitimately exicted watching the games on Monday. Following the trends in my own mind, hunches on who will be on fire and who will sputter out, the shots in the dark follow the break.
1. Boston: I have no affinity for Red Sox Nation so please do not view these predictions as my wishes for the coming season, but with the shored up back end of the rotation and the experience in the line-up, I like the Sox to win the toughest division in baseball this year. Penny and Smoltz are two additions that I love and you know Theo was not going to make them unless he sabremetric'd it all to hell. If Ortiz stays solid and Bay gives them what he has been giving for his career, Boston will be on top. Notice "if" is a huge part of any sport's predictions, but especially so for baseball.
2. New York: I think the Yankees will struggle under the weight of their expectations and their chechbook this season, but over such a long stretch of games, their talent will give them enough to win what should be a very competitive wildcard race. C.C. looked subpar to say the least in his debut but he will give them enough quality starts. I actually think A.J. Burnett will have the better overall season than Sabathia. When A-Roid/Fraud/Hole comes back, the line-up will be given that shot of adrenaline or whatver enhancing substance it needs to produce big time numbers and Texiera will appreciate the help in the power department. Nothing would please me more to see the Skanks fail this year, but in the end they just have too much...or do they?
3. Tampa Bay: In order to make a magic season, the Rays needed timely hitting, great pitching, and a dash of luck. The precarious nature that propelled them to the AL pennant leads me to beleive a few balls will bounce the other way for them this year. This is not to say the Rays will not be good so you folks down in Tampa do not cast away your season tickets just yet, but do not expect to see the myriad of Dick Vitale interviews on baseball you saw or heard last year and I think we can all agree that is a good thing.
4. Toronto: First off, I love Cito Gaston, love him. Many forget he won back to back World Titles but the man did it. He doesn't quite have the talent he did on those teams but he does have Halladay on the bump, Rolen, and Vernon Wells. Ah Vernon Wells, what form will he show up in this year, the Blue Jays' record may depend on it and that includes what they could get for him in a deadline move. Toronto hovers around .500, give or take 5 games.
5. Baltimore: Hope the Camden faithful enjoyed spoiling Sabathia and the Yankee's opener, it's all downhill from here.
1. Minnesota: This division should be as crazy as last year looking at the teams, and it certainly is a toss-up, but I am big believer in Ron Gardenhire. Morneau is vastly underrated and this team has had another year to gel after losing Hunter and Santana. With Crain and Nathan holding things down in the pen, the Twins should once again be able to squeak out close games.
2. Chicago: That crazy Ozzie Guillen, what will he say next? He is like the Pedro of managers, if Pedro did a heavy amount of drugs. But the man knows baseball and he should have the Southsiders in the hunt coem this fall. I am just not in love with that rotation though when you have Contreras and Colon on the back end (pun kind of intended).
3. Cleveland: Hi Mr. Lee, this is Earth, welcome back. There will be no storybook season for Clif again this year. Carmona may still be the stud but excuse me if I do not trust Carl Pavano to be an all-star. Love the way Grady Sizemore plays and love Shin-Soo Choo's name, but I don't think it's going to happen this year for the Tribe.
4. Kansas City: I do not know kind of cheeba they were smoking over at the NY Times when they picked the Royals to win this division, but I hope their brain hasn't melted from it. We all like to take flyers, but come on. Truth be told though, the squad actually looks decent. Coco, Jose Guillen, and DeJesus is not the worst outfield and I do like Mike Jacobs. Familiar faces in the rotation lead me to think this team could be decent, and by decent I mean decent for the Royals, and by decent for the Royals I mean 72 wins.
5. Detroit: If this happens I think this could be Jim Leylands final year with the Tigers. Just like last year on paper they look darn good, but something is not right in their heads. They cut Shef loose, Dontrelle was put on the DL for "anxiety" and Zamaya has shoulder problems. I think they are going to struggle early and that will snowball into a season of lackluster play and individuals worried about their stats instead of wins.
1. Texas: Yes, this is my flyer and yes I know this probably will not happen but you only need to beat out three teams so you are sitting at a statistical advantage. This pick is dependent upon Kevin Millwood, Padilla, and Kris Benson having strong years. The offense will be there we know that, but if these three can give quality starts, it could be a magical run in Arlington. Just wondering what it would be like if Anna Benson was still around and tried to mix it up with Josh Hamilton, that would be one tough test brother and we all thankful it will not be coming.
2. Los Angeles of Anaheim but really Los Angeles and formerly California: This is the team that should win the division when you look at their line-up. Vlad, Torii, and Abreu in the outfield, Figgins causing chaos should not have a slowdown in the offense. Gary Matthews, you deserve every bad thing being writted or said about, that is all. I love that the Angels ran out and grabbed Brian Fuentes after they lost K-Rod, but K-Rod he is not and the starting pitching may be their downfall.
3. Seattle: Catfish had one of the lines of the year when he remarked that Xtra Medium would find him facedown in his backyard pond if it ever came out that Junior Griffey used PEDs. Honestly to me it would be crushing as well but these days you cannot tell and cannot be shocked when it happens. Griffey is interesting to me as to whether I should love him the way Catfish does; I loved his video game, both the Super Nintendo (Can O'Corn!) and the Nintendo 64 version and his swing is damn sweet, but he is also kind of aloof and not the most genuine of people at all times. I do lean toward the positive side when I think of him though, I guess his performance in Little Big League tipped the scales. Oh right the Mariners, the good news is a better season that last year and get well soon Ichiro!
4. Oakland: Jason Giambi's back! Bad news though Oaktown fans, he is no longer juicing. Billy Beane is once again putting his baseball mind to the test with the young starting rotation. Dallas Braden, Sean Gallagher, Dana Eveland and Josh Outman could be the next wave of greats, but no Rick Peterson to coach them up, instead it's Curt Young. Good luck Curt!
Boston over Texas
New York over Minnesota
Boston over New York
1. Atlanta: I hate the Bravos just about as much as any team in my stable of sports detestables, which is why I am picking them. Every winner in this year of sports going back to the Phillies has been a team I do not like so I expect the trend to continue. The Furcal dealings were shady, and they lost out on many of the free-agents, but with boozin' Bobby at the helm and veterans like Glavine and Hudson taking the mound, the Braves have what it takes to hang around and if they hang around they could win it.
2. New York: Second fiddle to the Braves once again but I expect them to complete the Big Apple wildcard sweep. The 2-1 opening day win over the Reds made such a statement for Mets fans. Johan came out and pitched brilliantly yet they held only a one run lead. Manuel then yanked Santana and brought in Sean (not Shawne) Green and then followed with Putz and then K-Rod for a 10 pitch 9th. This just did not happen last year and it is the difference for them this year. The question becomes how will Beltran and Delgado hold up? And can Shef add anything besides his 500th?
3. Florida: The Marlins simply find a way to remain competitive. If the excuse for bad crowds is playing in Dolphins Stadium, there should be noone when they move into their new one because this team is exciting to watch. Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla lead the offense, not so much on defense though. Emilio Bonefacio is my new favorite name (Emilio!) and has ignited their fast start. Of course, that start is against the Nationals, so while they will be young, good, and exciting, they will not make the postseason.
4. Philadelphia: The honeymoon is over. The Phillies deserve all the credit in the world for winning it all last year, but they will find it tough sledding this year. Cole Hamels health has to be the number one concern. That starts to call into question the whole rotation. Jamie Moyer is older than Dikembe Mutombo and he is the number 2. That is not a joke he is four years older than Dikembe. Brad Lidge exercised the demons last year by not dropping a save but can he repeat that this year? The offense will still be productive, but Ryan Howard will still strikeout and even with all their good fortune last year they only won the East by one game.
5. Washington: Can I really say this any better than Julian Tavarez?
1. Chicago: This year's installment of the Cubs should be even better than last year's. Bradley and Miles provide even more left-handed pop to the line-up which already has Soriano, Ramirez and D-Lee. Fukudome needs to step his game up though if they are going to go farther than a first round exit. Hard to find a better starting rotation than Zambrano, Dempster, Lily, Harden, and Marshall.
2. Houston: Not feeling truly confident on putting the Astros this high, but I think their stars will keep them near the top of the division. Berkman, Pence, Lee, Tejada, and Oswalt will determine this team's fate.
3. St. Louis: People are chirping about Pujols possibly winning the triple crown this year. If he does, I think it will be one of those accomplishments that raise baseball's national awareness come football season, especially since Albert did an SI cover about how we should believe he didn't juice. The only reasons I think the Cards will finish behind the Cubs and 'Stros is the question mark of Carpenter and their bullpen.
4. Milwaukee: The Brew-crew had a great run last year and it was fun to watch, but get ready for reality. Sabathia put the team on his enormous back last year and even though Yovani Gallardo may one day be a star, the team will limp along this year. There will be flashes of brilliance from Manny Parra and of course Ryan Braun, but the season overall ends with a dud.
5. Pittsburgh: Go crazy folks, the Pirates will lose slightly less games than they did the previous four seasons, so no 94-95 loss season this year! I hate the Steelers just about as much as any team, but the Pirates do not bother me that much. They did in the early 90s being a Mets fan when they had Bonds, Bonilla, Drabeck, and Zane Smith. Hated Zane Smith. But their years of ineptitude has left me acutally rooting for them to do well. I would trade Pirate success for Stellar success anyday.
6. Cincinnati: I like where Walt Jocketty is trying to take the team, the problem is they are not there yet and Dusty Baker is at the helm. That may be a little too rough on Dusty, but with the line-up they have it is going be another one of those seasons at the Great American Ballpark. The attempt at small ball will probably not draw the big crowds but if you are a Reds fan you should not be used to being optimistic anyway.
1. Los Angeles: The line-up is great, the pitching may be iffy. Remember when Jason Schmidt was a lights out ace? If he can return to form it would ease the pressure on that staff. Ethier, Kemp and Manny headline the offensive production which should be near the top if not the top of the league. My doubts about the other teams in the division have as much to do with this pick as my confidence in the Dodgers.
2. Arizona: Baseball managers are truly some of the most incognito team leaders in all of pro sports, yet they make so many decisions in a single game that can affect the outcome. Bob Melvin had an abysmal year his second in Seattle and that kind of wrecks his overall record but he has gotten the most out of this Diamondback sqaud each year he has been there. Webb, Haren, and Garland are a strong first three on the mound, it will be up to Doug Davis and Max Scherzer (sounds like a member of the reich no?) to take them to the top. The line-up doesn't scare you to hear the names, but they play small ball and execute very well.
3. Colorado: Hard to make this pick with the Rockies losing Jeff Francis for the year, but maybe the return of Troy Tulowitzki can rekindle some of that 2007 magic. Matt Holiday's departure will be felt in many games, which will keep this team from reaching the playoffs, but Clint Hurdle may have some help if Speier, Embree, and Huston Street can be good in the bullpen.
4. San Francisco: Tim Lincecum's performance on opening day just enhanced the argument about his likelihood of wearing down this year. This would where the Giants could really use an earn-your-paycheck season from Zito, but unlikely.
5. San Diego: In a word: Bad. They are currently 1-1, but big shocker Cliff Floyd is on the DL. Peavy has not much behind him and the bullpen might be overworked and it is not that great to begin with. Expect Peavy and maybe Giles to be gone by the deadline.
Chicago over New York
Los Angeles over Atlanta
Los Angeles over Chicago
Boston over Los Angeles: Red Sox Nation gets the last laugh over Manny and another annoying fanbase gets another championship.