Every early April, baseball junkies like myself are on the verge of being committed to an asylum due to baseball withdrawal, though the end is in sight. It’s all I can do to not be donning a straight jacket to surmise who might take each division, the wild cards, the pennants, and the trophy at the seasons end, so that’s what I’ll do here.
I cannot predict the future, and my flux capacitor is on the fritz, so I couldn’t make the trip to November to see who finished where, but I’ll do my best to predict such without the help of Marty Mcfly.
Firstly, the American League. In the AL, the Eastern Division has arguably three of the best teams in all of baseball. The Boston Red Sox, who have the best staff in baseball as well as best bullpen and one of the top offenses, the New York Yankees who over pay and continue to under produce, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who are America’s new favorite team, are all among the elite squads throughout. The problem arises that only one team in each Division gets an automatic berth into the play-offs, and the rest of the world must sit and wait to see to whom the coveted Wild Cards go.
Prediction: Red Sox take the Division, Yankees and Rays battle and jockey for second place, the Baltimore Orioles take third, and the lowly Toronto Blue Jays trade Halladay mid-season, and become the cellar dwellers.
Prediction: the Cleveland Indians take the division with Kerry Wood (not Rick Vaughn) closing games and Mark DeRosa playing every position, including field maintenance crew. Next is Minnesota, the Tigers, the ChiSox, and even with the new high-powered offense, the Royals remain where they usually are at the end of the season, fifth place. When your pitching staff couldn’t get me out, you’re not winning any games. Nice try KC.
Finally, the West. No questions asked, the weakest division in the American. Los Angeles down-graded with the departure of Mark Teixeira and Casey Kotchman. However, the addition of Bobby Abreu will help with some of this lack of power that Kendry Morales brings to first base. In Texas, the one thing always missing is pitching, and nothing’s changed. Oakland definitely re-upped their squad for the better, but is in desperate need of arms, and the only thing Seattle changed was adding a washed-up outfielder/DH that cures exactly zero of the infinite problems they have.
Prediction: Angels easily take the division, followed by the Athletics, the Rangers, and the Mariners in last place once again.
On to the National League, my favorite. The New York Mets are a clear favorite on paper. They sured up the back end of their bullpen, signing two above average closers in J.J. Putz and Frankie Rodriguez. They are quickly getting a reputation for blowing their chances at post-season play as the season draws to a close, however. These additions will help. Their starting rotation is the only question mark, and will prove to be a hindrance if they don’t step up. The Phillies, defending World Champions, will be coming into 2009 with a similar team, with the exception of Pat Burrell and the addition of Raul Ibanez. Atlanta added three starters to their rotation in Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vazquez. Additionally, they brought in veteran, reliable outfielder Garret Anderson. Other than bringing in these arms, they will be returning Tim Hudson late in the season, recovered from Tommy John. If, and it’s a big if, the Braves can keep everyone on the field (ha.) and Jeff Francoeur figures it out again, they could be dangerous, especially with Chipper Jones still hitting .345. The Marlins are in fact dangerous as well. They have a youthful pitching staff and a lot of talent and more waiting in the wings. If they, like the Rays last year, play above their heads, watch out. The Nationals remain repugnant and have gone so far as to call me to round out their starters for them, yuck.
Prediction: New York Mets take the second spot, following Philadelphia closely. Atlanta comes in third, followed by Florida, and the Nationals lose 100 games, as well as Adam Dunn not hitting 40 home runs for the first time in six years.
In the NL Central, things are a bit more complicated. The Cubs are similar to last year, with the additions of Kevin Gregg as their closer and Milton Bradley in right field. They took a step forward, in my opinion. The Brewers, on the other hand, take a step back with the departures of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia. Houston remains unwilling to make any strides forward with development, and are an old team who have only one pitcher. The Cardinals lack pitching, and will be hurt because of this fact. The Reds also fail to bring any useful new talent to their ball club, but have some as is, and will see benefits of these players, most notably Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. I think I could make Pittsburgh’s squad and play everyday if I so wished. They’re abysmal and that’s that.
Prediction: Cubs take the division, followed by Cincinnati, Milwaukee, the Astros, and the horrendous Pirates who also lose 100 games.
Lastly, in the National League West, the Dodgers lost a lot of pitching, but remain a very strong team, especially with Orlando Hudson replacing the geriatric Jeff Kent. Arizona is solid all the way around and will give Los Angeles fits. Colorado lost a lot of talent in both pitching and offense. The Giants have a decent pitching staff, however they lack any offense whatsoever. The San Diego Padres will move Jake Peavy midseason to the Angels, losing the last bit of talent they have.
Prediction: The Diamondbacks give up a late lead and lose by a game to the Dodgers. In third, San Francisco comes in followed by Colorado and San Diego, who could also lose 100 games.
For the American League Wild Card, the Rays beat out the Yankees who fail to make the playoffs for the second time in as many years. Money isn’t everything. In the National League, the surprise Diamondbacks beat out the Mets by a game and for the second time in as many years, there is no October baseball in New York. There is a God.
The pennants are won by the Boston Red Sox on the backs of, well who cares, anyone on their team as they’re completely stacked through and through, topping the Angels in 5 games. The National League representative in the World Series is the Dodgers, Manny Ramirez blasts his way through play-off pitching in a seven game series with Arizona.
The World Series again goes to the Red Sox as Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Smoltz and Daisuke Matsuzaka are too formidable a post-season rotation to be touched by anyone. Sox sweep, and take home their third World Series in the decade.
It might seem as a stretch, but a very reachable stretch. That being said, it's my opinion, and while I will never admit to being wrong, because I never am, I'm no expert. Just a knows-more-than-most fan.