Thursday, April 9, 2009

Everybody else is doing it, so why can't I?

True story: The Cranberries were singing about baseball predictions way back in 1993. Photo from this site.

I love predictions. They remind me of the halcyon days of my youth, way back when neither the Internet nor ESPN as we now know it existed (Australian Rules Football, anyone?) and geeks like me had to rely on preview magazines to prepare for the season.

I’d devour those publications until they were dog-eared and eventually would compile my own predictions. Sometimes I was right on, like when I predicted the San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl XIX. Most of the time, I was not. Like in 1987, when I picked Curt Young to win the Cy Young and Tony Fernandez to win the MVP. Fernandez might have won it if he wasn’t hampered by injury the last several weeks, damnit.

I haven’t gotten much more accurate as an adult, but these crappy times invite nostalgia. So along those lines, here are my predictions—even though I’m a couple days late and absolutely nobody at all, outside of my friend and fantasy baseball rival Rob, has wondered what I think about the upcoming season. Enjoy, and laugh at me in October.

1.) Rays: Always a bit wary of picking last year's Cinderella to repeat, but I think they've got the depth--particularly on the farm--to do it.

2.) Red Sox: Best and deepest pitching in the league, so much so that Clay Buchholz will win many more games than Brad Penny and John Smoltz combined. Just a little unsure of the offense beyond the top of the order. Can someone among the aging trio of Mike Lowell, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek have a classic season?

3.) Yankees: Yes, everything went haywire last year and they still won 89 games. But A.J. Burnett is French for Carl Pavano, there should be serious doubts about the ability of C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira to handle the glare of New York and this aging, bloated team of mercenaries is a dinosaur in baseball’s New World Order. Cuddly Joe Girardi should be a barrel of laughs by May 15.

4.) Orioles: A meager pitching staff shouldn’t conceal the fact that, for the first time in more than a decade, they really seem to be building something solid here. Too bad they’re stuck in the East.

5.) Blue Jays: The window slams shut. Roy Halladay is a goner at midseason (darkhorse contender: his hometown Rockies) and the Cito Gaston-led Jays are so bereft of hope by midseason that they go all-in with the early ‘90s nostalgia and begin holding post-game concerts featuring the likes of the Gin Blossoms, Snow and Firehouse.

1.) Indians: Hard to pick a winner in a division as balanced as it is mediocre, and Cliff Lee is already displaying signs that last year was the biggest fluke of all-time. But the offense is loaded and a fertile farm system should generate enough pitching reinforcements to give the Tribe the flag.

2.) White Sox: Easiest predictions of the year: A.J. Pierzynski will make countless enemies and Ozzie Guillen will say something that makes his bosses cringe.

3.) Twins: Missing Joe Mauer for an entire month could be the difference for a team that has little margin for error.

4.) Royals: Seriously, people are picking these guys as sleepers? With Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez in the rotation and Kyle Farnsworth serving up fat flat fastballs?

5.) Tigers: Only one Detroit-area team is going to make its residents forget that they’re neck-deep in the Great Depression II. True confession time: I picked these guys to win it all last year.

1.) Angels: No pithy comment here, not for a team that, three days into the season, has gone through more than any team should ever have to endure with the tragic and senseless death of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart. Awful.

2.) Rangers: Just loaded with young talent. Unfortunately, some of it won’t make its way to a big league mound until next year.

3.) Athletics: Going with third-year hurler Dallas Braden and four first- or second-year players in the rotation. Presumably, this is Billy Beane’s way of proving he’s smarter than all of us.

4.) Mariners: Better than they were last year, when they were the biggest flop of all-time, but still a long way off.

1.) Braves: They won so often that it’s old habit to pick them to win it again. Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez add some priceless (ok, not exactly priceless) durability to the rotation and Tommy Hanson is the next great homegrown arm. Key is keeping Chipper Jones intact for 140 games.

2.) Phillies: Just a hunch that this is a team that’s not going to age well, particularly on offense, and any absence by Cole Hamels will be tough to overcome.

3.) Mets: Sure, the bullpen is improved, but it couldn’t be much worse. And who feels comfortable with that rotation beyond Johan Santana?

4.) Marlins: Imagine if their management tried.

5.) Nationals: Egads.

1.) Cubs: The new Red Sox. No matter what they do over 162 games, it all comes down to winning 11 games in October.

2.) Cardinals: Questions up and down the pitching staff, but Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan annually get more out of less than just about anyone. Plus, that Pujols guy is OK.

3.) Reds: To those touting the Reds as a potential contender: Their manager is Dusty Baker. Good pitching, though, at least until he ruins it.

4.) Brewers: Ken Macha left NESN for this?

5.) Pirates: Seventeen straight losing seasons. That is really hard to comprehend. And the amazing thing is, outside of a fluky run at a pennant in 1997, the Pirates haven’t even flirted with respectability since Sid Bream chugged home ahead of Barry Bonds’ throw.

6.) Astros: Check out their Pythagorean (I can never spell that unless I cut and paste it) numbers from last year. This team is headed for a steep, drastic fall.

1.) Diamondbacks: Brandon Webb’s shoulder issues are a big worry, but the staff is still loaded and there’s not a more exciting young team west of Florida.

2.) Giants: My favorite darkhorse. Just a little offense and they could win the division. Alas. that's probably too much to ask.

3.) Dodgers: Can Manny pitch? Or help Joe Torre not destroy a bullpen?

4.) Rockies: That World Series run will go down as one of the all-time odd occurrences.

5.) Padres: Yikes. Why do I picture John Moores nursing a drink at a local watering hole and pumping the quarters he has left into a jukebox that plays “End Of The Road” on a continuous loop.


ALDS: Indians over Rays in 5, Red Sox over Angels in 3
ALCS: Indians over Sox in 7. Just like in '97, the Indians get hot at the right time and win the pennant despite being the worst team in the field.

NLDS: Cubs over Braves in 4, Cardinals over Diamondbacks in 5
NLCS: Cubs over Cardinals in 7. It’s just like the Red Sox vs. Yankees, except not as tasty to Fox and ESPN.

World Series: Indians over Cubs in 6. Kerry Wood closes it out—seriously, how delicious would THAT be?—and 792 reporters spend the Series trying to track down Steve Bartman.

AL MVP: Grady Sizemore, Indians
AL CY YOUNG: Josh Beckett, Red Sox
AL ROY: Travis Snider, Blue Jays

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. May as well name it after him.
NL CY YOUNG: Matt Cain, Giants
NL ROY: Tommy Hanson, Braves

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