Monday, April 02, 2007

Baseball Preview

Big day for sports, with opening day coinciding with the NCAA basketball championship. I'm joining the crowd and taking the Gators tonight. Here are my predictions for the upcoming Big League season, in order of finish:

American League East
Boston They could all flop or blow their arms out, but the upsides of Schilling, Beckett, Dice-K and Papelbon (either starting or in the pen) are spectacular. And if they split the difference, the Sox still have enough offense to be really good.
Yankees (WC) Look for second basemen Robinson Cano to have a breakout season and add to the parade of stars in the Bronx -- which will make the Yankees's next playoff swoon that much more unforgivable.
Toronto The Jays can hit with any team in baseball, have a lights-out closer and top-tier number one starter, but there is not enough pitching here to keep up with the big-market bullies.
Tampa Bay A lot of young talent in Tampa. Unfortunately they all play the same couple positions and occasionally throw bats at umpires.
Baltimore Peter Angelos and Daniel Synder are locked in a Baltimore-Washington parkway showdown to prove how much money they can make for themselves by denigrating their respective sports franchises.

American League Central
Cleveland The Indians took a step back last year, but in 2007 Sizemore, Hafner and company make up for it.
Minnesota Their patented second half charge falls short this time.
White Sox Ozzie Guilen's transformation from breath-of-fresh-air to the manager-who-beat-a-reporter-over-the-head-with-a-clipboard will be complete by season's end.
Detroit I don't trust their young pitching staff at all. 2006 smells like a fluke.
Kansas City If you don't have anything nice to say . . .

American League West
Angles The Halos have to overcome the bad karma of the terrible huge money signing of Gary Mathews Jr. -- who was a stadium-aided one-year anomaly even before he was a known HGH user.
Oakland It's amazing how the A's keep their heads above water despite losing significant talent every year. Although I'm sure the fans in Oakland are plenty sick of moral victories.
Seattle Ichiro: Will he stay or will he go?
Texas The Rangers seem to struggle when they are not basking in the euphoria of jettisoning A-Rod.

National League East
Mets What a starting lineup. A big question mark of a pitching staff -- especially if Pedro doesn't come back as Pedro.
Philadelphia (WC) With Howard, Rollins, Utely, Myers and Hamels locked up for the rest of the decade, the Phillies will be contenders for a long time.
Atlanta Should be back in the mix, especially if Chipper Jones can turn back the clock like he did in the second half of last year. A real threat to New York and Philly.
Florida If Florida didn't have the misfortune of playing in the stacked NL East, the young Marlins would challenge for the playoffs again.
Washington It will get very, very ugly.

National League Central
Houston The Astros bullpen reverts to form and leads them back to the top of the Central. The 'Stros still have a good chance of snagging Clemens for the second half, especially if they are winning.
St. Louis They miss out on repeating not because they slipped, but because the National League gets a little better.
Chicago Even with Soriano, the Cubbies lineup is thin. And the not-quite ghosts of Prior and Woods will haunt Wrigley like that silly goat and Bartman already do.
Cincinnati They will probably hit a lot of home runs.
Milwaukee Watch for Prince Fielder to start producing like his dad did.
Pittsburgh Jason Bay must feel like he's back in his Canadian homeland, because he has nobody around him.

National League West
Dodgers The Dodgers pitching and speed suits their mammoth ballpark.
San Diego Ditto for the Padres -- if you switch speed for defense
San Fransisco Bonds will take Aaron down this year. That used to really bother me. It's funny how having Bonds on your fantasy team changes your perspective
Arizona A team that could surprise. A nice core of young players, and an ace in Brandon Webb. Colorado High altitude baseball probably wasn't the world's greatest idea.

Manny Ramirez, Boston Unless he quits mid-season -- to pursue archery or solve the crisis in the Middle East -- Manny, who's been dutifully protecting Ortiz all these years, finally has a guy behind him who will force pitchers to throw him the occasional fastball.
AL Cy Young
Johan Santana, Minnesota Only arm problems can stop him.
AL Rookie of the Year
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston I hate the rule too, but technically he is a rookie

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia The Phillies new team emphasis on stolen bases, and a home park suited to the slick fielding shortstop's power swing, will allow Rollins to go 30/50 this year, and back that up with 140 runs and close to a 100 RBI's. If you don't believe me check out how close he was, despite a brutally slow start, to those numbers last year.
NL Cy Young
Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs With a nasty demeanor and a nastier sinker Zambrano, who's a lot younger than you think he is, is playing for a contract extension this season.
NL Rookie of the Year I'm not going to even pretend I know.

World Series: Boston over Philadelphia
The people of Boston need to accept that they are now the Northern chapter of the Evil Empire.

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