The final countdown to the beginning of the MLB season has begun in earnest as we are now 6 days from opening night on ESPN where the Yankees face the Red Sox in what looks to me as it should be some of the closes races for all the divisions in recent years.
CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett should stir even the most casual fans as the Yankees attempt to repeat in 2010. They will be missing some key elements from last years championship club. Gone are Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Melky Cabrera and with Joba Chamberlain losing the battle for the 5th spot in the rotation to Phil Hughes, some of the experts are concerned that age may be creeping up on them as many of their key players, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are all 35 years old and above.
Since the steroid issue is being monitored at it’s highest level since the testing began a few years back we are seeing less and less of career seasons from this age group. It’s nice to see the playing field becoming more level than in the past decade or so.
This still won’t stop the Yankees, Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays from fighting it out for the two spots for October baseball. They will clearly be the favorites in the American League along with the two other division winners to play in the post season.
However don’t be fooled into believing that the runner up in the Central Division won’t be fighting the AL East for the lone Wild Card position. Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota are all very capable of winning 90 plus games this year so all and all this could be real fun.
The two other long shot Wild Card contenders may just come from the AL West where the Angels, Rangers and Mariners are going to have a knock em out drag down battle for that crown.
For the American League that makes it nine teams by my calculations will be battling in September.
The National League may have even more.
The Philadelphia Phillies, the NL representative in the World Series for the past two seasons with one win and one loss, have their sights set on three straight appearances, something that has not been done in the National league since the St. Louis Cardinals accomplished this feat from 1942-1944.
Their first challenge for that appears to be coming right out of the NL East where the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins are poised to challenge the Phils. I’m one of the few few writers who actually believe that if the New York Mets can stay healthy this year that they too will be vying for the division crown. Most writers are picking them fourth in the division closer to the Washington Nationals than the eventual winner of the NL East.
If that does in fact happen then there definitely will be changes in the Mets organization starting with the end of the Omar Minaya/Jerry Manuel era which quite frankly suits me just fine.
The Central Division is a crap shoot in that no fewer than five of the six teams can lay on a claim to be in the hunt. The St.Louis Cardinals are and should clearly be the favorites if for nothing else that the top of their rotation could easily win 35-40 wins from Carpenter and Wainwright.
The Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers should be right there and will go as far their starting rotation will allow. The Cubs have to get a Cy Young effort out of Carlos Zambrano and The Brewers bats will have to stay hot all season long.
The Cincinnati Reds and the Houston Astros are the long shots here but to count them out now would be a mistake in my humble opinion. each year it seems the Reds are the sexy, trendy pick to be a dark horse that succeeds but I’m not a big Dusty Baker fan. He ruins pitchers by simply over working them and if that trend continues he will be on the outside looking in perhaps even before the season ends.
The National West is perhaps the most intriguing division in all of baseball. in each of the last few years the bottom feeders of the National league have all improved their teams considerably with perhaps the exception being the San Diego Padres but the Dodgers, Rockies, Diamondback and the Giants are likely to finish the season with perhaps a few as seven games between them. The big question here should be however can any of the teams reach 90 wins?
Personally, I think not.
Ok, so here goes. These are the Official “Vegas Rich” MLB Predictions. Please feel free to pick your own and blast these. I know you will because you always do.
AL EAST AL CENTRAL AL WEST Red Sox 95-67 Tigers 89-73 Angels 90-72 Rays 91-71 Twins 88-74 Rangers 88-74 Yankees 88-74 White Sox 85-76 Mariners 82-80 Blue Jays 74-88 Indians 75-87 Athletics 72-90 Orioles 73-89 Royals 73-89
ALDS Red Sox 3 - Tigers 1 Rays 3 - Angels 2
ALCS Red Sox 4 - Angels 3
NL EAST NL CENTRAL NL WEST Phillies 92-70 Cardinals 88-74 Rockies 89-73 Mets 88-74 Brewers 86-76 Dodgers 86-76 Braves 88-74 Reds 84-78 Giants 85-77 Marlins 83-79 Cubs 80-82 Diamondbacks 83-79 Nats 73-89 Astros 79-83 Padres 59-103 Pirates 74-88
NLDS - Mets beat Braves in Tie Breaker Game Phillies 3 - Cardinals 2 Rockies 3 - Mets 1
NLCS Rockies 4 - Phillies 3
World Series: Red Sox 4 - Rockies 2