It's that time of year again, when hope springs eternal for your team, unless you live in Pittsburgh or Kansas City. When every little hit means a lot to your fantasy team. When the TV broadcast shows the player's stats from the previous year instead of the current year. When you have to remind yourself that yes, even your team will lose at least a handful of games, and that it'll be alright. So without further delay, here are my picks for the coming baseball season.
NL East: The Phillies are an awfully trendy team to make the World Series this year. It kind of makes me want to spite them. That's probably a bad idea, since they've got so many darn good players and they added Halladay. Yup, I just talked myself into picking the Phillies even though I don't want to. I think the Braves are a team on the rise, and Bobby Cox's last season might have enough magic in it to get them the Wild Card (and Cox another Manager Of The Year Award). The Nationals, my National League team after my time in D.C., are still doing their best Teddy Roosevelt impression. And if you know what that means, big bonus points for you. I laugh at the Mets. There might not be a better team for schadenfreude in all of baseball. So here's how I see it shaping up: Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins, Nats.
NL Central: As strange as it might seem, I think the Cubs might be flying a bit below the radar. Probably because this is really just a mediocre division. I think the "under-appreciated" tag could probably be applied to the Brewers too. As unlikely as it sounds, the Reds have been building a little something there in Cincy, but I think it's a team with too many high-upside/not-enough-consistency guys. I've read some stat-heads who think this could be a break-out year for the Reds, but I don't see them doing it day-in and day-out. The Cardinals are probably still the cream of the crop, so they'll get my nod. NL Central finishes: Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Pirates.
NL West: Of all the divisions in baseball, this is the one I pay the least attention to. Which is probably too bad, because I think it's kind of a young and sexy division. But the late games, and the fact that I'm an American league guy always result in me ignoring this division until about the last 2 weeks of the season, which always seem to be interesting. This year I think there's a clear favorite in Colorado, but the Dodgers are dangerous and San Fran has a team of arms. If the whole divorce thing affects L.A. they might not make it too far. Or then again, they could rally around it and thrive. That human factor thing... Still, I think the NL West goes down like this: Rockies, Dodgers, Giants, D-Backs, Padres.
NL Wild Card: I'm gonna stick with that nice storybook line I proposed above. I think the NL Central is too mediocre, the NL West is too irrelevant for 150 games of the year, and the rest of the NL East is too old (Mets), young (Marlins) or bad (Nats) to be a factor. Bobby Cox gets the Braves to the playoffs one last time.
MVP: Pujols is, of course, the best player in the NL. But he's won the award. The past two seasons and three times total. Voters tend to hold these things against players. So this year it'll go to an "underdog" who gets lots of press as the not-Pujols option. I'm gonna say Troy Tulowitzki is that player, and thus, the NL MVP.
Cy Young: Roy Halladay is the favorite, what with his moving to the lesser league and out of the AL East. But Santana was the favorite when he migrated too, and that didn't quite work out for him. This year it will. Halladay might be more likely to see the playoffs, but I think Santana will eke out a Cy Young award over the new Phillie.
Rookie: Heyward. No questions asked.
AL East: Hmm. After game one it's tempting to pick the Red Sox. Actually, that was a joke. Anyone who knows me knows that I'd never pick the Red Sox. They are bad people who don't deserve any niceness. I'm super peeved at the Yankees, after last year's complete thrashing of the Twins, so I don't want to pick them either. I don't know that the Rays have the consistency to top either team, but they might have the talent. The O's aren't a good team, though they have some good players, and Toronto has got to be reeling, right? The more I think about it, this might be the Yankees last year before they suddenly get too old (and then a year later too young?), so I'm going to give them the edge over the Rays. AL East finishes thusly: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, O's, Blue Jays.
AL Central: I've been telling people for years about 2010. I've been preaching that every year the Twins were taking a step towards this season. 2008 they made it to a 1-game playoff. 2009 they actually made it to the post-season. Now we're here. And you'd better believe that I believe. This is a very very good Twins team. People are selling their pitching short. That's a mistake. It's hard to do the same with their lineup, though some have suggested that Delmon Young and J.J. Hardy are the holes in the batting order. I think if you have those two hitting 7 & 8, well, then they aren't exactly holes. Until Nathan went down with an injury there wasn't really much negative you could say about this team. And sure, losing Nathan hurts - that's 70 innings of really good pitching that you're missing out on. But a slight downgrade for 70 innings isn't going to kill a team. Especially one that should be able to score like the Twins should be able to score. There's a rest of the division here somewhere... The White Sox have a fantastic rotation and all-around pitching staff. Detroit has some dangerous players to complement their very plebeian players. Cleveland usually does well in the years when they aren't supposed to, so watch out for them too. Kansas City is, as always, a year or two away from being a year or two away. So here's how the AL Central goes: Twins, White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City.
AL West: The Angels lost two of their big stars to division rivals this past year in Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero. And yet, I still like them. Because dysfunction is the name of the game in Texas (Vlad) and early-hype/late-mess is the way they do things in Seattle (ala Starbucks (man, those places turn into a dump late in the day, huh?)). Plus the Angels have the best manager in baseball. I predict the AL West will finish: Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Athletics.
AL Wild Card: Can I pick no one? The Red Sox could easily get this, but I have my principles. The Rays could too, but, like the Red Sox, they play in a crowded division where they could all beat each other up. So maybe this is the second time an AL Central team gets the Wild Card, and I'll give the White Sox the nod.
MVP: Now that we know Mauer can actually get the love, I say he gets it again. Who's better in the AL? Nobody, that's who. Quiet you Yankees fans shouting about A-Rod and Teixeira. Ok, fine, I'll acknowledge that both could give Mauer a run for his money.
Cy Young: King Felix, who should have won it last year.
Rookie: Brian Matsuz is the name I'm hearing a lot of... apparently he plays for... a team.
NLS: Braves over Rockies, Cardinals over Phillies.
NLCS: Cardinals over Braves.
ALS: Twins over Angels, Yankees over White Sox
ALCS: Twins over Yankees
World Series: Twins win a rematch of the '87 Series (I almost went with the '91 rematch) in 6 games at their new Target Field. Magic.
Put me in coach
I'm ready to play