Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Talkin' Baseball.

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
—"Centerfield," John Fogerty

Next to Christmas, March has to be my favorite time of year. Spring Training is in full swing and the first exhibition games finally start. We observed this momentous occasion this morning by watching the first televised game of the year, which also happened to be the first-ever game for the "new" Washington Nationals as they beat the Mets on ESPN.

We'll have to see what happens with the Nationals this year. After the sad death of baseball in Montreal (a travesty carried out by MLB which never should have happened, but that's another rant), I'd love to see the franchise bounce back and be successful. However, with the dismal track record of baseball in Washington, I'm not holding my breath. Plus, I do have to say that I'm a little disappointed with their new name. It would have been much cooler for them to resurrect the old Senators name (especially since they seem to have resurrected the old '60s-era Senators uniforms), I can see MLB's logic of wanting to differentiate this National League franchise from the two American League franchises that preceded it. Doesn't mean I agree with it, though.

But that's all beside the point. The reason I'm here now is to give you all my fearless (and probably wrong) predictions for the upcoming season, division by division...

National League

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

This will probably be the closest division race in the Majors this year – a four-team battle right up to the end. And while it pains me to pick my Dodgers to finish behind the hated Giants, those top four teams can finish in just about any order. The only sure thing is another season in the cellar for the pitiful Rockies. (Am I alone in thinking that they had the worst off-season, by far, of any team this year? The made no significant moves and still managed to get worse. But at least they don't have that whore-lovin' Denny Neagle to kick around more...)

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

Yeah, I know I'm going out on a limb here, but I think this is the year for the Reds to surprise a lot of people. They'll have a tough fight with the Cubbies, though.

1. Atlanta Braves
2. New York Mets
3. Florida Marlins
4. Philadelphia Phillies
5. Washington Nationals

The Mets have made a lot of splashy signings this winter, but it won't be enough to overcome the strengthened pitching of the Braves. But expect a closer race if John Smoltz' arm can't deal with the rigors of starting. And as far as I'm concerned, as long as Atlanta has the braintrust of Scheurholz, Cox and Mazone, they'll always be the team to beat. The Nationals will be bringing up the rear, just like they were used to doing in Montreal, but it shouldn't be quite so bad this year.

Wild Card
It'll be a dogfight between the Cubs and the Mets, but the Cubs will squeak by.

Pennant: Chicago Cubs

American League

1. Angels
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Texas Rangers
4. Oakland Athletics

Forget the Sox and the Yanks – the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Orange County California U.S.A. (or whatever they'll eventually wind up calling themselves) are now the strongest team in baseball, thanks to a series of savvy off-season moves. And while the Mariners made some flashing signings with Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexton, they didn't do anything to improve their pathetic pitching, so this won't be a very close race.

1. Minnesota Twins
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Kansas City Royals

The Twins are just getting better and better, which will allow them to hold off the also improving Tigers and Indians. And look for the Royals to be this year's big 100-game loser.

1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
5. Toronto Blue Jays

As usual, this will be another two-team race, but look for the Orioles to at least close the gap a little. Frankly, the Yanks and Sox are pretty much interchangeable atop the standings, but I'm giving Boston the edge because they won't have Jason Giambi and Kevin Brown weighing them down.

Wild Card
It'll be the Yankees, easily. Unless, of course, they wind up winning their division, in which case it'll be the Sox again. Same ol', same ol'...

Pennant: The Angels

World Champions: The Angels

Feel free to check back with me in six months to see how badly I messed this up...

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