Baker: "Hey Carlos, can I ruin your arm like I did with Prior and Wood and I will do with Volquez and Cueto in a couple of seasons?"
Zambrano: "I am going to pound you like I pounded Michael Barrett."
Hey everyone, first time writer here. As I have been commenting about some people's predictions, I have decided to post some of my own.
I think we all agree that 2009 is a wide open year. The AL MVP is the third best player on his team, the AL Cy Young had the fluke season of all fluke seasons, and the World Series featured two teams that many people don't expect to see back there this year. Without further ado...
NL East Champion: New York Mets
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins
This has developed into a two team race between the Mets and the Phillies. Some people see a resurgence from the Braves, but with only one consistent bat (McCann) in their lineup I don't see it happening.
The Phils' lineup is good, but their whole team seems teetered on the brink of a collapse. They need to walk a little more and strikeout a little less, and Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton only have so many good innings in them.
The Mets lost several games last year because of poor bullpen performance. With a much improved bullpen, this year is finally the year that the most talented team on paper actually captures the division crown.
NL Central Champion: Chicago Cubs
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Houston Astros
5. Milwaukee Brewers
6. Those poor, poor Pirates
Picking anyone but the Cubs here is silly. They have the best lineup, best rotation, and one of the better bullpens in the division. For this team, it's about finally going somewhere in October.
NL West Champion: LA Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
It doesn't matter if Manny signs or not. This is one of the more talented young teams in baseball. Every player in the core—Martin, Loney, Kemp, Ethier, Billingsley, and Broxton—is 27 or younger, and they will all improve this year.
The Diamondbacks have a shot, but their own young talent seems a little rawer, and losing The Big Unit and Owings in the rotation hurts their chances. They also once again lack that big bat provided by Adam Dunn last year.
NL Wild Card: Cincinnati Reds
Yes, the Reds. This team will finally reverse the losing culture in 09. Edinson Volquez has emerged as a great power pitcher, and Johnny Cueto came on strong in the second half. The steady Aaron Harang and new acquisition Micah Owings only add to the depth. The lineup has many underrated bats, including Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto.
The bullpen is weaker, but Dusty Baker will try to minimize the innings between his starters and closer Francisco Cordero. There's no reason why this team can't make a run in the weaker National League.
AL East Champion: Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
This is the toughest division to predict. It could be said that three of the four best teams in the league play in it, and one will definitely not make the playoffs. It looks like the Red Sox have the steadiest team, with some measure of consistency in their lineup, staff, and bullpen.
The Yankees have a lot of questions in their rotation, including the troubled arms of Burnett and Chamberlain and the inconsistency of Wang. The Rays, though they have improved as well, as still very young and could collapse.
AL Central Champion: Minnesota Twins
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals
This division is wide open, but the Twins seem most likely to emerge victorious. The Tigers will struggle to find any pitching at all, the Royals don't quite have the oomph in their lineup that they would need to win, the Indians will find that the recession of Cliff Lee will leave a hole at the front of their rotation, and the White Sox aren't getting any younger.
All in all, the Twins have a strong young lineup, an average bullpen and the most underrated pitching staff in baseball. Look for Liriano to be more like '06 than '07 and Baker and Slowey to have breakout seasons.
AL West Champion: LA Angels
2. Oakland A's
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners
The Angels were hurt by the loss of K-Rod and Teixeira, but there is still no team in the division ready to dethrone. The A's have vastly improved their lineup through the addition of Holliday, Cabrera, and Giambi, but their pitching is still too young and Justin Duchscherer, like Cliff Lee, should recede a bit, leaving them without a true ace.
The Rangers will always go nowhere until they learn their lesson about trading young pitchers.
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees
I decided to give the Red Sox the edge in the east, but here the sheer ability of the Yankees will shine. Mark Teixeira should have a monster year in the Bronx, while A-Rod, despite any steroid allegations, may still be the best player in the game today.
I would not be surprised if the Yankees or Red Sox didn't qualify—this division is somewhat of a crapshoot—but the two rivals are the surest bet to come out of one of the strongest divisions in years with a playoff spot.
Red Sox (1) over Twins (4)
Yankees (3) over Angels (2)
Cubs (1) over Dodgers (3)
Mets (2) over Reds (4)
Cubs (1) over Mets (2)
Yankees (3) over Red Sox (1)
Cubs (1) over Yankees (3)
OK, OK. I don't know if the Cubs can actually win the World Series. The playoffs are essentially a throw-the-cards up situation; look at how frequently the wild card team makes the World Series.
The Cubbies, however, have by far the best team on paper in the National League, and if they can stay healthy and focused, then there's no reason why they can't bring joy to a city that has suffered for so long.