It's the most wonderful time of the year. No I'm not talking about Christmas, the last day of school, or a personal favorite, the beginning of March Madness. I'm talking about Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season.
Baseball kicks off tonight when the Atlanta Braves face off against the reigning World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies at 8 p.m. tonight on ESPN. That's all great and what not, but the REAL Opening Day is tomorrow when there is non-stop baseball for twelve hours, from 1p.m. until 1 a.m.
Whether you watch from your team's local network or the quadruple-header on ESPN and ESPN 2, baseball owns TV tomorrow.
Since this is my favorite sport, my favorite to write about, and overall, the best sport known to man, it is time for some season predictions. I will give you my division winners from all 6 divisions, give you the winner for October, and my picks for the award winners. I will also look forward to hearing peoples' comments and opinions about what I write.
First off, I will start in the Jr. Circuit and give the three American League division winners.
AL East—Red Sox. I say this for a number of reasons. Nothing is more important than pitching, and the Sox's pitching staff is loaded from top to bottom. With a healthy Beckett, an improving Jon Lester, and a motivated Brad Penny, the Sox have one of the best, if not the best, rotations in baseball. I didn't even mention Dice-K, who won 18 games last year. Also, you can't forget about that Wake geezer too; everyone loves him. Also, every game is over after five innings with this bullpen. With Ramirez, Delcarmen, Saito, Masterson, and Jonathan Papelbon, this staff can carry the Sox straight to the series.
Key to Success—Offensive Health. If David Ortiz and Mike Lowell are healthy, or even at 90 percent, the Sox offense will be saying "Manny who?" Let's not forget that this team was very unhealthy when they lost in game 7 of the ALCS.
AL Central—Indians. This one was actually a tough call. The AL Central is one of the weaker divisions and could be won by any of the five teams. Yes, that includes the Royals. However, I think Travis Haefner is motivated and ready to rake along with Victor Martinez. This on top of an excellent MVP candidate in Grady Sizemore and an improving Shin Soo Choo, the offense should be good enough in a weak division.
Key to Success—Back of rotation/end of game. I'm not worried about Cliff Lee or Fausto Carmona. If Carl Pavano (remember when the Red Sox said was untouchable?) and either Scott Lewis or Anthony Reyes can win more than 10 games, 90 wins is a possibility. A healthy Kerry Wood would also make them contenders in October too.
AL West—Angels. Really? When can the AL West step up and become dangerous? Not this year, but the Angels' window of owning this division is closing. However, the Halos have their three best pitchers in John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar all out for at least the first two to three weeks of the season. Dustin Moseley, Nick Adenhart, and Shane Loux will have to step up to get off to a good start. Only if the Rangers could pitch to match that offense, we could be talking about one of the best teams in baseball.
Key to Success—Fundamentals. As long as Moseley, Adenhart, and Loux stick to what type of pitcher they are and not try to be Lackey, Escobar, and Santana, they should be ok. Also, a healthy Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero, and Juan Rivera will make this offense good enough to be similar to the team that won 100 games in 2008. Brian Fuentes also needs to step up, or else the Angels will start missing K-Rod.
AL Wildcard—Rays. Apologies to be handed out to: Yankees, Twins, and White Sox. The Rays are a lot younger, a lot more matured, and also a lot more seasoned than the other three teams. The Rays are a young team with an immense amount of talent. C.C. Sabathia was a great signing and he'll be fine, but I have never trusted A.J. Burnett pitching, and 2009 will be no different. He has guaranteed money for five years and he's never had back-to-back good seasons. The Yanks lack a solid bullpen, while the Rays have a very good one. The White Sox's rotation is getting older, while the Rays have no starter even close to 30. The Rays have speed, power, youth, and defense while the Twins only have power and defense. The Rays are here to stay.
Key to Success—9+9=8 or some other witty Joe Madden motivational thought.
Awards time...yay! (Hold round of applause until November)
AL MVP—Grady Sizemore. This is a very tough decision as well. Please let me send my apologies to: Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, Evan Longorhia, and Josh Hamiliton. Sizemore will steal over 40 bases, will push for 30 HR's, and will easily score 100 runs. He also plays every single day with Gold Glove caliber defense. What else can I say about the guy? Since no one hits 50 HR's or wins 25 games, this is a slam dunk pick.
AL Cy Young Award—Roy Halladay. This is a very tough decision, probably the hardest one. Sorry to: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, and Francisco Liriano. No one throws more CG or innings than Doc does. He has a really low WHIP, gets the job done with SO, and has a really good beard. He also throws the least amount of pitches for complete games too. He's a lock for 35 starts, 220 IN, and 23 wins.
AL Rookie of the Year—Elvis Andres. A completely surprise pick. I say this for a few reasons: he is younger than me, truth, and he is too stubborn and stupid to realize what's going on. He also plays in Texas, so he will hit. His glove is well above what it should be for a young kid and will overall be a pleasant surprise.
AL Champs—Red Sox. See above. With superstars at multiple positions and a strong pitching staff, they are the American League's best team.
This is part one of two with NL Predictions coming later tonight. If you cannot wait to see them, check out Facebook. So the jury's out; whatcha think?