BASEBALL HAS FINALLY STARTED – AND THE WINNERS ARE…

14Apr12

I know, I know…it’s only been a week since the season has begun.  How could anyone possibly know who the winners are?  The reality is, no one knows.  But that doesn’t stop everybody with a keyboard from making their projections, does it? 

Hey, look what I’m sitting in front of.  A keyboard!  I guess that means that it’s my turn. 

You’re probably thinking, “Why didn’t you make your picks a week ago, like everybody else?” 

That’s a very good question.  Thanks for asking!  The answer leads to my second point. 

Why does everyone pay sooooooo much attention to the spring training results?  I’m not saying we should completely ignore spring training.  It definitely serves a purpose.  But the purpose it serves is not to determine who will be the starting shortstop, who will be hitting in the #3 spot or who will be pitching on opening day.  Well, not usually. 

The purpose of spring training is twofold (fancy word, huh?).  First, it is a chance for the starters to get fine tuned, get their eye on the ball at the plate, get the rhythm going on defense and simply get their head ready for the long season ahead.  And make no mistake, the coaching staff knows who the majority of the starters are before spring training begins.  This includes the top pitchers and position players. 

The other purpose is for the remaining players to try out for the team.  A hand full of pitchers may be trying out for the #4 or #5 guy in the rotation, or for one of the two or three openings in the bullpen.  A backup position player may be trying to prove that he’s worth keeping on the bench as a pinch hitter or a utility player that can spot a starter that has shown signs of fatigue. 

The remaining players will be designated to some level of minor leagues, depending on whether or not the coaching staff thinks they have a realistic shot at making it to the show this year, or ever.  Ironically, the trend lately is to send the players that have the highest expectations of being called up to AA ball, not AAA.  This way, they will be every day players, not sharing time with someone else. 

The bottom line is this… spring training is very entertaining, as the million fans that spend the month of March in Arizona and Florida will attest.  (Okay, maybe not a million, but it sure seems that way when you’re trying to drive in the area of one of the ball parks!)  But it does very little to demonstrate the powers to be for the regular season.  With all of the tryouts and split-squad games, the win-loss records mean very little. 

Even the pitcher’s records mean very little, since they usually show up with the intention of trying out a new pitch to add to their arsenal.  More times than not, it means that they appear to get lit up because they’re throwing something that they have not yet perfected.  Yet when the regular season begins, it’s usually pitching that dominates the first few weeks (unless you’re in Boston or Detroit). 

So, there’s my explanation of why I waited a week longer than everyone else to make my predictions.  That doesn’t mean that mine will be any better (or any different) than anyone else’s picks, but now you know the deep thoughts (a little Jack Handy humor there) involved in waiting. 

On to the picks!  I’m not going to write a paragraph about every team, since that would turn this into a novella instead of an article (oh, excuse me…a post).  I’ll keep it short and sweet! 

National League East:  I don’t care what everyone says about the Phillies lack of run production, they still have a fearsome starting rotation and have now acquired one of the best closers in the business in Jonathan Papelbon.  I know the Marlins and Nationals are both supposed to be improved, but this division is tough and Philadelphia is still on top until someone knocks them off. 

1)     Philadelphia

2)     Miami

3)     Atlanta

4)     Washington

5)      N.Y. Mets 

National League Central:  This is a tough one to predict, with all of the off season movement.  There will be several teams that will compete for most of the season, but I think it will come down to two teams by August, Cincinnati and St. Louis.  One team is on the way up, but the other team has the experience, so I’m taking a real chance with my pick.  I’m taking the experience. 

1)     St. Louis

2)     Cincinnati

3)     Milwaukee

4)     Houston

5)     Chicago

6)     Pittsburgh 

National League West:  I’ve heard so many predictions on this division, my head is beginning to swirl.  I don’t get it. Arizona won the division last year and then went out and got better in the off season.  Case closed!  The real battle in this division will be for a wild card spot (or two).  If the Giants can figure out a way to score runs, they will take second place easily.  If not, look for Colorado.  I don’t buy the Dodgers resurgence yet.  Sure they got off to a great start, but this is a long season and I don’t think they are there yet.  Look out for them in 2014! 

1)     Arizona

2)     San Francisco

3)     Colorado

4)     Los Angeles

5)     San Diego 

American League East:  It pains me to say this, but this is the Yankees’ division until someone takes it from them.  Believe me, being a lifelong Red Sox fan, I nearly choked on that last statement, but I have to be honest.  This may be a very long season for Boston. Tampa Bay will be there all season long and Toronto has made some moves that puts them back into the conversation again.  Thank the baseball gods for Baltimore or the Red Sox could very well be in the cellar. 

1)      N.Y. Yankees

2)     Tampa Bay

3)     Toronto

4)     Boston

5)     Baltimore 

American League Central:  This one is over before it begins. Detroit may very well win this division by twenty games.  No other team in this division will even contend for a wild card spot.  Not much else to say. 

1)     Detroit

2)     Chicago

3)     Cleveland

4)     Minnesota

5)     Kansas City 

American League West:  Everyone is talking about the Angels and this being their year.  I’m not ready to hand the keys of the presidential suite over to them yet.  They’ve got a pretty darn good team to jump over in the Texas Rangers, and that is not going to be an easy task.  Look for this one to go down to the last week of the season, with the second place team most likely grabbing a wild card spot. 

1)     Texas

2)      California  Anaheim Los Angeles

3)     Oakland

4)     Seattle 

As far as playoffs go, this will all change by July, but here’s what I’m saying now: 

National League –Cincinnati and Miami will grab the wild card spots. Arizona will win the National League crown. 

American League –Tampa Bay and Los Angeles will grab the wild card spots. Detroit will win the American League crown. 

World Series –Detroit brings the trophy home! 

There you go.  Carve it in stone!  Now, go and enjoy the remaining 154 games of the season!!

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