With all of the craziness in the NCAA Tournament, let's not forget that the baseball season is starting on Sunday with no less than our Chicago White Sox unveiling their World Championship banner. Minnesota Red Sox has provided a spectacular in-depth look at all of the baseball teams at his Siberian Baseball site, so I highly recommend checking that out. Here are my quick predictions for the American League this season (with the National League and playoff predictions coming up within the next few days):
1) New York Yankees – With a true leadoff man back in the fray with the Yanks again in Johnny Damon, this team is going to slug its way to the top of the division again. The lack of improvement in the starting rotation is going to kill them again in the playoffs, though.
2) Toronto Blue Jays – The crazy Canucks were tipsy in giving B.J. Ryan such an exorbinant contract, but A.J. Burnett is going to thrive under Roy Halladay (Burnett made a wise choice in picking a place where he wouldn't be the #1 starter). This team is going to leapfrog the Red Sox by virtue of having the best pitching staff in the division.
3) Boston Red Sox – The "Josh Beckett/Curt Schilling DL Watch" is a spinoff of the Chicago original of the "Kerry Wood/Mark Prior DL Watch." If Beckett and Schilling were guaranteed to be healthy all season, I would pick the Bosox to win this division. I'm not betting on that happening, though. Plus, the loss of Johnny Damon is going to hurt this offense more than Red Sox fans care to admit.
4) Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Honestly, the collection of young talent on this team reminds me of the Indians from last year. I would not be shocked if this team makes a quantum leap over the Red Sox and Blue Jays this season. Seriously – anyone that runs a fantasy baseball team knows that the Rays have some good talent on that roster.
5) Baltimore Orioles – This team has picked up both Corey Patterson and Latroy Hawkins. I foresee supreme suckage.
1) Chicago White Sox – When the world champs have gotten deeper in both hitting and pitching, that spells a repeat. I've already gone in depth on how much I loved the offseason moves by the Sox. This is going to be another fun year on the South Side. The only area that concerns me is closer – I still don't have faith that Bobby Jenks is going to be as consistent as we need him to be.
2) Cleveland Indians – This team is a little bit weaker without Kevin Millwood, but that will be balanced by the growth of their phenomenal young players by the end of the year. This is my bet for the Wild Card team.
3) Detroit Tigers – They haven't improved at all, it's just that…
4) Minnesota Twins – … this is the year that the Twins fall off the table. Notwithstanding Johan Santana, who is the best pitcher in baseball right now, this team regressed substantially last year and they haven't made any improvements.
5) Kansas City Royals – Transaction wire yesterday: “The Kansas City Royals have been optioned to the Pacific Coast League. The Portland Beavers have been called up as replacements.”
1) The Los Angeles Angels of the Town Up the Road from Laguna Beach and Other O.C. Cities Cooler Than Anaheim – Still an incredibly balanced team. The only way the Angels don't win this division is if Bartolo Colon gets too hungry one day and eats Vladimir Guerrero and Mike Scoscia suspends Colon indefinitely for not leaving any scraps. Anyway, the Angels are really good.
2) Oakland A's – Moneyball continues to allow this team to compete, but the Angels have surged clearly ahead of Oaktown and the Wild Card is getting out of reach with the AL East teams and the rise of the Indians. I'm still a big Barry Zito fan, though.
3) Seattle Mariners – The pitcher everyone compares phenom Felix Hernandez to is Dwight Gooden, as if that was a good thing. Funny, a pitcher that became coked up to the point where the zenith of his career was at age 19 doesn't conjure up a positive image. Let's hope he doesn't go down this road. Ichiro continues to kick ass, but the rest of the lineup is pretty lackluster.
4) Texas Rangers – W's old team will once again lead the league (a) in batters that hit 30 homeruns with only 60 RBI and a OBA under .300 and (b) pitchers that strikeout more cameramen than hitters. This is a higher-rent older version of the Devil Rays.