Folks, I have to apologize for not getting my AL Previews up in time. I had most of it written, and somehow it didn’t save on my computer. I like to think that it wasn’t my fault, but knowing me I probably didn’t save things correctly. Because I’m technologically challenged. I’ll get to it sometime this weekend or next, so it may just have to be my "only sports blogger who can’t get his picks up before opening day preview." But whatever. In the meantime, I’ll give the readers what they really want: my post-season picks.
Considering my penthouse view of the Cincinnati Opening Day parade (kind of cool to watch it from above), it’s good to see baseball’s back in action. Although considering it was snowing yesterday here, it doesn’t feel like baseball season. So for all you people who skipped out of work in order to catch a parade, a game, or just lounge around all day drinking beer and watching America’s pastime, here we go.
AL East: Boston Red Sox - Ya know, for a team that prided themselves on NOT being the Yankees for eleventy billion years, the Red Sox sure have started doing a pretty good annual impersonation of the Bronx Bombers. Back in 2004, when the Sox finally won the title, I was pretty happy for them and my good friend JShy, a lifelong Sox fan. And that's even with the fact that they beat my Cards in the Series. But now they're just as, if not more so, annoying than the Yanks. But sadly, I can't see any team taking them down this year in the AL East. The Jays and O's are a few years away from contending, the Rays don't have the firepower, and the Yanks just don't seem to be on the Sox' level. The lineup is the best in baseball, and the pitching staff is loaded, both with starters and relievers. If they can stay healthy, they're going to win 100 games.
AL Central: Chicago White Sox - It kills be to pick this team, because I can already hear my college buddy Fetta calling me to tell me what a genius I am for picking his team to win the division. As much as I don't want to pick them, I don't see anyone else stepping up and taking the crown. The Royals and Indians suck. The Twins did nothing to improve in the offseason and who knows if Mauer and Morneau will ever stay healthy. The Tigers don't have enough firepower to supplement Mr. Alcy Miguel Cabrera. I really like the moves the Pale Hose pulled in the offseason, especially the signing of Adam Dunn. He could hit 50 HR's in US Cellular Field, but you know he's good for at least 40. The staff is deep, and if Jake Peavy can stay healthy, this team is going to make a deep October run.
AL West: Oakland A's - Some, if not all of you, are going to think I'm crazy for this pick. But I don't care, I have Tiger Blood running through my veins. In my big splash pick of the year, I like the A's to be this year's San Francisco Giants. Their rotation reminds me a lot of the Giants, with Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden all having the capability of holding teams to one or two runs on a more than regular basis. With Brian Fuentes taking the closer role, this pitching staff is one of the best in baseball, and will be for sometime. The lineup is not imposing, but they can manufacture runs and play small ball with the best of 'em. Look for a lot of 3-1, 2-0, 2-1 victories this season as the A's overtake the Rangers for the AL West title.
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies - I really wanted to pick the Braves here because everybody and their mother is picking the Phils, but I just can't. The Phillies have a loaded lineup, and a once in a lifetime starting rotation. The usual suspects are back in the field for the Phils with Rollins, Ibanez, and Howard. With the Roys (Halladay and Oswalt), Cliff Lee, and the best fourth starter in baseball, Cole Hamels, how is anyone going to stop this team except God himself by inflicting injuries. *** Writers note: God, I'm okay if you make that happen, and would prefer if it did while one of them was slamming a Geno's cheesesteak *** Some are worried about injuries to Brad Lidge and Chase Utley, but something tells me this team will be just fine beginning in about mid-May.
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers - If Wainwright doesn't go down for the season, I'm picking the Cards here (Hear me sighing? You should). The Brewers made some great moves in the offseason. I'm not too worried about the injury to Zach Greinke, who should be back early in the season. Either way, Shawn Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, and Randy Wolf should be able to weather the storm until that happens. With bash brothers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun leading a solid lineup, I like the Brew Crew to edge out the Cincinnati Redlegs in a close division race.
NL West: Colorado Rockies - Toughest call here, as I don't think that the loser of this division gets the Wild Card. The pitching staff isn't that solid behind Ubaldo Jimenez, but pitching becomes super important in the playoffs. Runs however, can get you to the playoffs, and the Rockies can hit. The lineup in run-friendly Coors Field is impressive with franchise face Todd Helton and MVP candidates Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. I think the Giants suffer a hangover year after the World Series title and the Rockies edge them out in yet another close race. No other NL West team comes close to challenging for the title.
AL Wildcard: Texas Rangers - I really think losing Cliff Lee to the Phillies and Vlad Guerrero to the O's hurts this team, but not enough to push them out of the playoffs. They still have the firepower in the lineup with Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. And the staff is still strong behind the arms of C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, and Neftali Feliz. If Brandon Webb returns to Cy Young form, expect the Rangers to win the division. But I don't think that's going to happen, so the Rangers will settle into the Wild Card, edging out the Yanks and the Twins in an EXTREMELY close race.
NL Wildcard: Cincinnati Reds - Tough call here between the Reds and Braves. I literally flipped a coin, and since the parade is going on and I live in Cincinnati, I decided to give it to the Reds. Their lineup was the most potent in baseball last year, and the pitching staff is deep. Their starters are injury plagued for the beginning of the season, but they have about 17 starters on the roster. I don't expect either Joey Votto or Johnny Gomes to repeat their numbers for last year, but I think Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs have breakout seasons. They won't repeat the division, but this team is primed to contend for NL Central titles for years to come.
ALDS: Red Sox over Rangers; White Sox. The Red Sox overwhelm the Rangers with their arms and their bats and coast to a sweep. The White Sox edge out the A's in a low-scoring, tense series that goes five games.
NLDS: Reds over Rockies; Phillies over Brew Crew. The Reds and Rockies duke it out in a high scoring slugfest, but the Reds pitching staff shuts down the Rockies in Game 5. The Phillies' bats get to the Crew's pitchers, and the Phillies' arms shut the Crew's bats down, as the Phils coast to a sweep.
ALCS: White Sox over Red Sox. The Red Sox pitchers just can't get it done, and the White Sox pitchers rise to the occasion, shutting down the Red Sox bats in the last two games of a very close six game series.
NLCS: Phillies over Reds. Anyone remember what happened last year? Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in Game 1 and the Reds were shut out again in Game 3 as they got manhandled by the Phillies. Expect a repeat performance as the Reds need to find another team to play in the postseason.
World Series: Phillies over White Sox. In a closer than you think series, the Phillies pitching staff just overpowers the White Sox in Games 6 and 7 to take home their second World Series title in four years and continue their dominance over the rest of the National League.