Believe it or not, it's time, yet again, for the Major League Baseball season to get underway. That's good news for those of us who enjoy watching the best players in baseball play the best sport ever created. That's bad news, however, for us Astros fans because, well, the Astros suck. But at least the Astros still have Carlos Lee holding down left field.
As I do every year, I thought I would like to throw out my MLB predictions for the year. And you might want to pay attention because I predicted six of the eight playoff teams last season, and I got one of the two teams to make the World Series. Yes, I missed on the Rangers and Reds, but seriously, how many of the so-called experts had the Giants making the World Series like I did, huh?
So, let's get to it.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST 1. Boston Red Sox The BoSox added speed and power in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to an already potent offense. And the pitching should be just good enough to get them into the playoffs.
2. Tampa Bay Rays The Rays lost Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena to free agency during the off-season. But they've still got Evan Longoria, who is one of the best players in baseball. And while their offense is depleted, they've still got that one ingredient that every team kills for, and that's outstanding starting pitching.
3. New York Yankees No player in the history of this franchise has ever got 3,000 hits. Not Babe Ruth. Not Lou Gehrig. Not Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio. This season, Derek Jeter will get his 3,000th hit. And despite what the talking heads on ESPN will be saying throughout the year, Jeter is not, and never will be, the greatest Yankee ever. Hell, he's never even been the best player on his own team, and he's still only the second-best shortstop currently on that roster.
4. Baltimore Orioles The American League version of the Astros rode a legend as far as they could, invested big money in free agents in attempts to keep the dreams alive and have since wallowed in mediocrity for years. But unlike the Astros, the Orioles seem to have tired of mediocrity and instead of hiring the likes of Ed Wade, they've put guys with the reputation of building winning teams, Andy MacPhail and Buck Showalter, in charge.
5. Toronto Blue Jays Hey, Toronto is a nice city.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL 1. Minnesota Twins The Twins have the best catcher in baseball, Joe Mauer. Their starting rotation doesn't attract the attention of the Phillies', but it's an underrated staff that gets the job done. Joe Nathan returns to close this year. Then there are guys like Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer. The Twins just find a way to win. Except for when they play the Yankees in the playoffs.
The class of the American League
3. Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander heading the rotation and Jimmy Leyland as manager means this team is always a danger to win. Of course, they've got to keep some of their players out of jail and away from the bars.
4. Cleveland Indians They play in a nice stadium. And they have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
5. Kansas City Royals There's no truth to the rumor that they've petitioned to play a minor league schedule.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST 1. Oakland A's The team doesn't generate much offense, and nobody shows up to watch in that awful relic of a park. But GM Billy Beane has quietly assembled a young, superb starting rotation, and that could be just the ticket for the A's this season.
2. Texas Rangers This team still has a lot of talented hitters. But it took the midseason acquisition of Cliff Lee to put the Rangers over the top and send them on the way to the World Series. Cliff Lee's gone, so let's see what kind of magic Nolan Ryan can work up this season.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim The Angels had the run of this division for several seasons. That run is over.
4. Seattle Mariners Seattle's a really nice city. And it's a nice ballpark. But the team, not even so-so. NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST 1. Philadelphia Phillies The Phillies starting rotation is the envy of baseball, comprising four guys who would easily be the ace pitchers on any team in baseball, except maybe the San Francisco Giants. I can't wait to see who they dump on the Astros this season.
2. Atlanta Braves No Bobby Cox as manager for the first time in forever, yet Chipper Jones is still around to give nightmares to Astros fans. They've got a good pitching staff, and outfielder Jason Heyward is the real deal.
3. Florida Marlins This team just always seems to hang around on the basis of some solid, no-name pitching.
4. Washington Nationals Somebody has to finish in fourth place in this division.
5. New York Mets So how did investing money with Bernie Madoff work out for you guys, huh?
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL 1. Cincinnati Reds This team has talent, lots of talent, and lots of young talent. They're the defending division champs, and the future is bright.
2. Milwaukee Brewers This is probably the last go-around for the Brewers as Prince Fielder is a free agent after the season. They went out and traded for Zach Greinke to improve the starting staff.
3. St. Louis Cardinals Let's see how much of a genius Tony La Russa really is when Adam Wainwright is missing from that rotation. And I'm just not buying Lance Berkman as an everyday player in the outfield.
4. Chicago Cubs They added Matt Garza to the rotation as the team ace. But they're still stuck with Carlos Zambrano.
5. Houston Astros They thought trading for an injury-prone middle infielder from the Colorado Rockies would make them a better baseball team. So of course, he's injured. But at least new second baseman Bill Hall will strike out a lot while committing bunches of errors at second base.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates Ed Wade would be an improvement for this franchise. That's clue number one for just how bad this team has become.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
The class of the National League
2. Colorado Rockies This is a good all-around team. But the pitching just isn't good enough to stick with the Giants.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers The Dodgers were once one of the crown jewels of baseball. Now they're set to be the prize of a divorce proceeding. Where have you gone, Sandy Koufax?
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4. San Diego Padres Another team torn apart by the divorce of the owner. Their best players are gone, so don't expect a repeat of last season's near-miracle run to the playoffs.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks There's no truth to the rumor that Arizona law enforcement officials are lined up waiting to check the papers of all of the non-white guys on the team.
PLAYOFF PICKS AL: Red Sox defeat A's. Twins defeat the Rays. And the Twins, without having to deal with the Yankees this season, advance to the World Series. NL: Giants defeat Braves. Phillies defeat Reds. Giants defeat Phillies.
And in the World Series, the Twins beat the Giants.