With baseball season due to start next week, I thought I should put myself on the line and make some predictions. I'm going to do the American League today. I'll follow up with the National League and postseason picks tomorrow, and I'll give a more in-depth look at the Astros on Monday.
So here's the American League. I list the teams by division, and by predicted order of finish in the division from first place to last.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST:
1. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox didn't go money crazy like their rival New York Yankees during the offseason. They settled on guys like John Smoltz instead. But their Manny Ramirez distractions are gone, and they're returning most of the same division winning team they had last season. This team wins the division.
2. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays shocked the majors last year. There were some people who thought the team might be good, and might actually win more than 70 games for the first time in team history. But nobody picked them to get to the World Series. They didn't make any major changes. The Rays won last year because of their pitching and defense, and they've got the same pitching and defense this year. They won't need to surprise anyone this season; it won't matter because they'll still be good, but they will have to settle for the Wild Card again.
3. New York Yankees: The Yankees spent a ton of money this off-season. But I see guys like CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett getting injured far more than I see them contributing to a Yankees pennant run. The Yankees are also an old team, and I just see this team being torn apart by injuries and the whole Alex Rodriguez scandal.
4. Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have some young talent, and some old talent. But they just can't seem to compete when it counts. Still, the best pitcher in baseball is Roy Halladay, and he's the ace for the Blue Jays, so they have that going for them.
5. Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles were once one of baseball's great teams. But for the past decade or so, they've become one of baseball's biggest jokes. There is some decent talent on this team with Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts, but they're not enough to keep the Orioles from finishing last.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL:
1. Minnesota Twins: The Twins should never compete for the playoffs. They don't have a large payroll. They don't sign big free agents, and they're constantly losing their big-name players. Yet the Twins compete every year because they always have good pitching and good defensive players. If any AL team is this year's Tampa Bay, it's the Twins, though that's not fair to the Twins who always find some way to compete.
2. Chicago White Sox: The White Sox are always hard for me to figure me out. When they should be good, they're bad. When they should be bad, they're good. I think they'll be good this year, but not good enough to catch the Twins.
3. Cleveland Indians: The Indians can score runs on anybody. And in Grady Sizemore, they have one of the best players in baseball. The big question is the pitching, especially the bullpen. The Indians are putting their hopes on Kerry Wood to stay healthy for a whole year and close out the games. But even if Wood stays healthy, I don't think they have enough to catch the Twins or White Sox.
4. Detroit Tigers: The Tigers had their chance several years ago. But they failed. This team is aging, and I don't see where they have made any improvements to the roster.
5. Kansas City Royals: A once proud franchise attempting to become relevant. But I don't think they'll be relevant this year.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST:
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels aren't a flashy team. They do the little things, like pitching and defense and base running, right. They don't make mistakes. They win. It'll be just another ho-hum year in Anaheim.
2. Texas Rangers: If the Rangers can ever get some pitching, they'll be dangerous. Still, Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler are some of the best players in baseball. And maybe Kevin Millwood will remember how to pitch. They're the best of the rest of the AL West.
3. Oakland A's: The A's have injuries in their pitching. They're depending on Jason Giambi to return to his steroid days, stat-wise. Matt Holliday is the new addition in the outfield, but he'll probably only be around until the trading deadline. It's going to be a ho-hum year in what is probably the worst ballpark in the majors.
4. Seattle Mariners: Hey, at least Junior Griffey has returned to Seattle. Unfortunately, I don't think the Mariners have much else to offer. However, they do play in a nice park where you can get some great garlic fries.
Angels defeat the Red Sox and the Rays defeat the Twins. Then the Rays defeat the Angels and return to the World Series.
Rookie of the Year will be Tampa Bay's David Price. He's starting the season in the minors like Evan Longoria did last season for Tampa. He'll be up and in the rotation soon, though.
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First Manager Fired will be Joe Girardi.
Manager of the Year will be Ron Gardenhire with the Twins.
MVP will be Josh Hamilton.
The Cy Young winner will be Roy Halladay.