Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Real 2010 Baseball Predictions

Sorry about that: Had a little "April Fool" trick played on me. I had to step away from the computer and watch the twins, and I don't mean the Minnesota variety. I mean the nearly 3-year-old nieces, who are almost as excited about the start of baseball season as I am.

Too bad I can't take them to Yankee Stadium for another few years, until they begin to really understand.

Though I did take them into Nana's backyard, and show them, "This is what happens when the Yankees bat," and swung, and went into John Sterling's, "It is high! It is far... "

Then I said, "And this is what happens when the Mets bat," and swung, and said, "Ow! Ow! Ow! Oh, that hurts! I gotta spend 2 months on the Disabled List!"

They didn't laugh. There's so many good jokes they won't get for a while yet.

Okay, now... Here's my official 2010 Major League Baseball Predictions.

American League East: 1. New York Yankees, 2. Tampa Bay Rays, 3. Boston Red Sox, 4. Baltimore Orioles, 5. Toronto Blue Jays.

If I pick the Yankees to win the whole thing, I'm biased; if I don't, I'm not properly supporting my team. But, let's face it, no team in the AL is better equipped to win the whole thing than the Yankees. Tampa Bay, right now, looks better equipped to make a run at Playoff qualification -- through either the Division Title or the Wild Card -- than Boston. And the bird teams are way out of it.

American League Central: 1. Detroit Tigers, 2. Minnesota Twins, 3. Chicago White Sox, 4. Cleveland Indians, 5. Kansas City Royals.

None of these teams looks all that overpowering. The Tigers won the Pennant in 2006, but that was after blowing a huge lead over the Twins for the Division; then the Twins got shocked by Oakland in the Division Series (the only postseason series the A's have won since 1992, and I don't ever again want to hear that Billy Beane is a genius) and the Tigers benefited from the Yankees slumping at exactly the wrong time, before sweeping the A's. Then the Tigers blew it again last season. But they have youth and experience on their side. If they can stay healthy... The Twins already haven't, with closer Joe Nathan out for the season. The ChiSox could surprise, the Tribe have lost too much to cheapness and injuries, and if the Royals were a soccer team, they would have been relegated years ago.

American League West: 1. Anaheim Angels (that's what I'm still calling them, regardless of what they call themselves), 2. Seattle Mariners, 3. Texas Rangers, 4. Oakland Athletics.

The Angels have had a lot of turnover, and lost their biggest bat and a great outfield arm (Vladimir Guerrero), their most verstaile offensive weapon (Chone Figgins), and their rotation ace (John Lackey). But they always manage to find new guys to bring in, including former Yankees Bobby Abreu and now Hideki Matsui. It came without 2 wins of getting them a Pennant last season. However, since they started reaching the postseason again in 2002, in 8 seasons they've won just 1 World Series, just 1 Pennant (still more than they won in their first 41 seasons), and just 3 Division Series. With the talent they've had, they should have won more.

And look who they've lost to: The 2004, '07 and '08 Red Sox (who cheated and thus were unworthy champions), the 2005 White Sox (and there are some who think it that one may also have been dubious), and the 2009 Yankees (well, that one was fully-earned). I can't overlook the Halos. The M's and Strangers have improved, but not enough.

The A's continue to look more and more like the current team most likely to move (now that the Marlins are building a new ballpark), and I don't mean within their metro area. Unless they can put something together fast, and get people to come to the park and demand a new place (like the M's did in '95 and the Padres in '96 & '98), the A's may become the first MLB team to move to a 4th metro area.

American League Playoffs: East Champion Yankees over West Champion Angels in 4, Central Champion Tigers over Wild Card Rays in 5, Yankees over Tigers in 6.

The Angels have beaten the Yankees in the postseason before (twice), and so have the Tigers (once), but neither looks as solid as the Yankees do.

National League East: 1. Phillies, 2. Marlins, 3. Braves, 4. Mets, 5. Nationals.

The Phillies are loaded, and (essentially) trading Cliff Lee for Ray Halladay leaves them slightly stronger. They have offense. They have defense. They have pitching. They have talent. They have experience. They have know-how. They have hunger, especially after they lost last year's World Series, a Series they could well have won. Their only question marks are Cole Hamels (who will probably bounce back) and their bullpen (Brad Lidge might not, but they could deal for a reliever).

The Marlins and Braves both have a "one year away" feel to them. The Mets, if they ever got fully healthy, could get into the Playoff hunt, but there are too many things that need to break their way for them to contend this season -- and perhaps, given their injuries, I shouldn't have used the word "break." The Nats have begun to build, and they were better than their 2009 record suggests, but they are still at least one more season away from respectability, and probably three away from genuine contention. If they can just hang on to Ryan Zimmerman...

National League Central: 1. St. Louis Cardinals, 2. Milwaukee Brewers, 3. Chicago Cubs, 4. Cincinnati Reds, 5. Pittsburgh Pirates, 6. Houston Astros.

Aside from the AL East, this could be baseball's most interesting division. Any one of the teams I put in the top 3 could take it. In fact, I'm going to say that whoever finishes 2nd will get the Wild Card. The Reds might surprise, the Pirates have improved a bit, and the Stros, well, if you close your eyes (and they close the roof to keep out the infamous Houston humidity and mosquitoes), you can imagine Ryan pitching to Ausmus, with an infield of Bagwell/Biggio/Thon/Caminiti, and an outfield of Cruz/Cedeno/Wynn... and, hopefully, imagine them in the Astros' current uniforms, not those Trix-colored monstrosities of the late Seventies.

National League West: 1. Los Angeles Dodgers, 2. Colorado Rockies, 3. San Francisco Giants, 4. Arizona Diamondbacks, 5. San Diego Padres.

If only the American League had the 3 Divisions and the Wild Card from 1985 to 1993, Don Mattingly would have made a few more Playoffs. With the current setup, Dodger coach Donnie Regular Season Baseball can ride Joe Torre, Russell Martin & Co. to another postseason, but his Curse will still keep the Bums out of the World Series. The Rockies are still young and exciting, the Giants are improved, the Snakes take a step back, and the Padres, well, San Diego has great weather and a nice new ballpark.

National League Playoffs: East Champion Phillies over Wild Card Brewers in 3, West Champion Dodgers over Central Champion Cardinals in 5, Phillies over Dodgers in 5 -- which would mean the Phils have beaten the Bums in 3 straight NLCS, as opposed to the 2 straight the Bums won over the Phils in 1977-78. Justice at last (and I don't mean David Justice).

World Series: A Yanks-Phils rematch? Why not, they may be my 2 favorite teams, but they're also the 2 best teams. Cliff Lee, who beat the Yanks in Games 1 & 5 last fall, is gone, but Roy Halladay is there, leaving the Phils with a net of... not much. Unless Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both hit in October/November 2010 as well as Utley hit in October/November 2009, it will once again be... Yankees in 6.

The easy pick for me to make, sure. But can anyone make a viable, well-argued case for a team other than the Yankees... or the Phillies... having a parade down their city's main drag in November 2010? I can't.

Well, actually, I can. If I put my mind to it, I can argue anything, even something with which I do not agree. But I just don't feel like it. Yankees Win Title 28. That's my story, and until someone celebrates over the Yankees, I'm sticking to it.

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