OK, so it is opening day part three, but close enough. This time of year calls for predictions. In 2006 I correctly picked the Cardinals at the beginning of the season, but last year did not go nearly as well. Here is hoping even years are good ones for me.
1st: Boston Red Sox (90-95 wins) This is one of the easier decisions concerning the divisions. The Red Sox are clearly the best team in the East. The line-up is potent with David Ortiz and Manny Rameriz. As long as Beckett does not spend an extended period on the disabled list, the Yankees will be left in the dust.
2nd: New York Yankees (86-91 wins) Remember when you could name all five starting pitchers? The Yankees will score plenty of runs with the All-Star line-up they possess, but they will have to slug their way victory. The best part about this season might be listening to what comes out of Hank Steinbrenner’s mouth.
3rd: Toronto Blue Jays (84-89 wins) Every year sports writers think the Blue Jays might make the East a three-team race. Every year the Blue Jays have an absurd number of injuries and fall out. Coming out of spring training, this appears to be the case again. If they stay healthy, they contend. But that is a huge if.
4th: Tampa Bay Rays: (77-82 wins) The Rays have a starting rotation? Almost, with three good starters in Scott Kazmir, Scott Shields and Matt Garza. Their line-up is always capable of scoring runs. The bullpen is a mystery, and they are a young team playing in a veteran division. That should not stop them from making life difficult for contending teams.
5th: Baltimore Orioles: (58-63 wins) This team is sad. Cal Ripken Jr. could probably make the team at his current age and start third base. They have Brian Roberts (at least for now) and a bunch of youngsters. Long season ahead.
1st: Cleveland Indians (87-92 wins) Continuity is great, and the Indians have it. The Tribe starts the season with virtually the same team that took them to the ALCS last year. This means they know how to play with each other, and if needed they have cash saved up for a mid-season trade. They have the deepest rotation in baseball, with three pitchers starting in AAA who would start on almost any other team.
2nd: Detroit Tigers (85-90 wins) Batting eighth for the Tigers is Jacque Jones, who hit in the middle of the line-up for the Twins last season. This team will rake in runs all season. As long as their pitching staff can stop the other team from running up the score, this team will win a lot of gamers. Expect Dontrelle Willis’ ERA to be in the 6.00s.
3rd: Kansas City Royals (74-79 wins) Good news Royals fans. Your team is not going to finish in last place. Unlike the Twins and White Sox, the Royals youngsters actually look promising. Jose Guillen, steroid use aside, will be a nice shot in the offenses’ arm. A .500 season is not out of the question.
4th: Minnesota Twins (73-78 wins) Francisco Liriano is expected to carry this rotation while coming off of Tommy John surgery. Livan Hernandez, who had a 4.93 ERA last season, is the opening day starter. This teams has a lot of questions, not all of which can be answered with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau’s bats.
5th: Chicago White Sox (70-75 wins) This team has a mix of really old and young players. The problem is the old players are over the hill and the young players are raw. The team batting average last season was pitiful (league worst .246) and the pitching was not much better. Will Ozzie Guillen actually be willing to give back money when this team tanks?
1st: Seattle Mariners (83-88 wins) I do not love this team. However, they have the best contact hitter in baseball (Ichiro), the most underrated closer (J.J. Putz) and a great 1-2 punch in Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez. As long as they can stay healthier than the Angels (which appears to be the case) they should squeak by as the division champs.
2nd: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (82-87 wins) The season has not begun and John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, the team's top two starters, are both out with injuries. The team has a plethera of proven outfielders, but last time I checked, none of them can pitch. This team will operate like the Tigers with a lot of games where the final score is 10-8. The goal will be to have 10 more often than eight.
3rd: Oakland Athletics (77-82 wins) Two certainties with this team. The pitching will be above average, and the hitting will be below average. Their split with the Red Sox in their opening series was an early indication of what the team is capable of - .500 baseball. They would be fun to watch expect they do not score runs, which makes boring baseball.
4th: Texas Rangers (65-70 wins) No pitching, a shaky line-up and a another last place season for the Rangers. General Manager John Hart did wonders in Cleveland, but has not even come close matching that success in Texas. This may be the end for him.
1st: Atlanta Braves (84-89 wins) A scary line-up (which includes the pitchers) and a solid rotation. This looks like the Braves of old, and it should play out like that. Make the playoffs, exit first round. That will still be an improvement on the past couple of seasons.
2nd: Philadelphia Phillies (83-88 wins) The historic comeback made last season was no accident. Solid pitching with a bunch of MVPs in the line-up is an excellent mix. They could steal the division away again, and will provide great entertainment all season.
3rd: New York Mets (82-87 wins) If this reminds you of someone else’s predictions, (maybe Tim Kurchin’s) I’ll admit I agree with him. This race is tough to call, but two things the Mets lack is youth and health. Usually those are key ingredients to success. Johann Santana may post an ERA under 2.00.
4th: Washington Nationals (75-80 wins) At least they can say they were in first place for one day. Ryan Zimmerman is the real deal, but we know that. They have an environmentally safe ballpark, the first of its kind, which is nice. Other than that, just hope Chad Cordero gets enough saves to be good for your fantasy team.
5th: Florida Marlins (60-65 wins) A 10 million dollar payroll. Amazing. Can Hanley Rameriz drive in 500 RBIs? If he can, the team will contend. That might be a bit too much to ask, so lets just hope they average more than 500 fans per home game.
1st: Chicago Cubs (85-90 wins) Is it the Cubs year? No, but with the Central so shaky, they will make the playoffs again. Even though they have a lot of nice pieces, they do not look like a championship team. If Derek Lee can repeat his 2005 performance, maybe they have a chance. Then again, they are the Cubs.
2nd: Milwaukee Brewers (83-88 wins) This team could be a huge letdown after the last season's surprise. Ben Sheets needs to stay healthy for an entire year for them to have a chance. I do not see it happening. They may fall hard, or rise to the top. Unpredictable is usually not a good thing.
3rd: Houston Astros (79-84 wins) Why the high placing? Look at the rest of the Central. Their pitching could be good, and the offense might score runs, or the whole team might go to heck in a hand basket. Much like the Brewers. At least you can count on Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.
4th: Cincinnati Reds (77-82 wins) Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are possibly the best one-two combination in the division. Past that, there is a lot of potential to the team. Some people say this team is a dark horse, but I do not see it. Maybe they will trade Ken Griffey Jr. to a contender so he can try and win a ring.
5th: St. Louis Cardinals (76-81 wins) Did this team win the World Series two years ago? They haven’t fallen off the face of the planet like the Miami Heat in the NBA, but they are a shell of their former self. Albert Pujols cannot be counted on, as he is a twist away from season-ending elbow surgery.
6th: Pittsburgh Pirates (59-64 wins) I am making a bold prediction here – the Pirates will have yet another losing season. The team has Jason Bay and… a lot of future losses ahead. If only they could infect the Steelers with their horridness.
1st: Colorado Rockies (89-94 wins) Will this team win 22 of 23 games again and play in the World Series? Maybe not, but that does not stop them from winning the West. The line-up is great from top to bottom, and the pitching is the best in the history of the Rockies. The defense is not too shabby either.
2nd: San Diego Padres (88-93 wins) Pitching is a wonderful thing, and the Padres have plenty. As long as Jake Peavy is not pitching in the playoffs, he is lights out. They might not have the best offense, but they allow so few runs it does not matter. Chris Young proved as long as you are not pitching for the Rangers, you can pitch well.
3rd: Arizona Diamondbacks (87-92 wins) If this team was in the NL Central, they would run away with the division. If Randy Johnson stays healthy and can dominate at some level, this team could take this division. But like with Ben Sheets and Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, the chances of that are slim.
4th: Los Angeles Dodgers (80-85 wins) Is there something infecting Los Angeles? Like the Angels, the injury bug has bitten this team, only for the Dodgers it is their infield. Lack of a good farm system might make for a rough start they will not recover from. At least Joe Torre does not have to deal with George anymore.
5th: San Francisco Giants (65-70 wins) The best part about the Giants is that steroid king Barry Bonds is no longer on the team. Otherwise things look grim. I hear I am up for the starting third base job, I will keep people updated on that.
AL Wildcard: Detroit Tigers because of the 1927 Yankee replica offense
NL Wildcard: San Diego Padres with one of the best rotations in baseball
World Series Prediction: Cleveland Indians over the Colorado Rockies. The torment Cleveland fans have endured since 1964 without a major sports championship ends with a bang.