Thursday, February 14, 2008

Baseball's Back!

Yes, pitchers and catcher report today, marking the official start of spring training. What better time for all of us to put those Congressional hearings behind us, and for me to make my bold (and probably wrong) predictions for the coming season. Here are my predicted final standings, along with the occasional random comment:

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

Frankly, those top three positions will probably be interchangable, with that trio fighting it out until the last weekend. San Diego's additions this winter tended toward the old and questionable (Jim Edmonds, Randy Wolf, Olmedo Saenz) and will likely be disappointing despite their fearsome pitching. And the Giants just have to many pieces to pick up yet.

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

Still the weakest division in baseball. The Cubs should walk away with this one easily.

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

Despite the splashy addition of Johan Santana, I just don't see the Mets having the heart to overtake the Phillies. Meanwhile, the Marlins should put up strong competition for the worst team in the majors.

NL Wild Card: New York Mets

NLDS: Dodgers over Mets, Cubs over Phillies
NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers

AL West:
1. Anaheim Angels not of Los Angeles
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Texas Rangers

The Mariners made some smart moves this offseason -- look for them to make this a close race with the Angels. The A's and Rangers... eh, not so much.

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

The Tigers look like a juggernaut in the making. Beware. Meanwhile, the Royals have quietly been making some meaningful improvements. It won't be enough to pull them out of the cellar in their division, but look for them to have a better record this year and no longer find themselves in the coversation about the worst team in baseball.

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

Ugh. My least favorite division in baseball. But still, look for some history to be made here this year -- the Yankees missing the playoffs for the first time since 1994 (expect come poor decision making by the junior Steinbrenners) and the Rays making their first-ever finish out of last place. Tampa Bay has some very impressive young studs and although they're inexperienced, they'll still be able to easily top the trainwreck that is the Orioles.

AL Wild Card: Cleveland Indians

ALDS: Tigers over Angels, Red Sox over Indians
ALCS: Tigers over Red Sox

World Series: Tigers over Cubs in 5

I tried to approach these selections objectively and not let my heart be my guide (otherwise my beloved Dodgers would be walking away with the title). Yet somehow I wound up with the 2008 World Series being a rematch of the 1908 fall classic. That much karma (along with Ryan Dempster's preseason prediction) should be enough to make Cubs fans' collective heads explode, but unfortunately for them, I don't see it turning out the same way as last time. Wait 'til next century, guys.

(However, this does give my a chance to plug a really great book I recently read: "Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History" by Cait Murphy. I consider it a must-read for anyone who loves baseball, but it has a lot to offer non-fans as well, particularly the eye-opening look at just how different life was in America 100 years ago.)

Time to play ball!