As the calender turns to March, it is that time of year again when we force ourselves to turn away from the latest U.S. Women’s soccer headlines (“U.S. Starts Algarve Cup By Defeating Denmark!”), and turn, instead, towards the rising sun of Spring Training, and a new baseball season.
Which means it’s time for my 2012 baseball predictions.
You know the drill. I predict, you shake your head sadly, we all forget about it a day later and move on with our lives. So let’s get on with it.
1) Tampa Bay
3) New York
This is the year Tampa Bay begins to take charge in the East. The pitching, the youth, the coherent plan emanating out of the front office. It’s a good time to be a Rays fan.
Boston is still a very good team, but I don’t think they’ve gotten last season’s collapse out of their collective heads. They wasted unbelievable seasons by Ellsbury and A-Gone, Beckett is a head-case, Lester let the team down in the end, and Bobby V. is too much of a lightning rod for this to be a smooth year in Boston.
With the retirement of Posada and the jettisoning of Burnett onto Planet Pittsburgh, The Yankees are going through a kind of youth movement by attrition. Pineda was a nice pickup, but with two statues on the left side of the infield, a mediocre defensive outfield, and a team that is being heavily courted by the A.A.R.P, the Yankees have to hit a wall, and my money says it happens this year.
Toronto is like the girl on the fringe of her group that you should hit on because she’s the one most likely to say yes. Not a threat to the others, but just interesting enough to keep your eye on.
Baltimore is the girl whom your best-friends wife insists has a nice personality. Keep moving; nothing to see.
3) Kansas City
Not so comfortable with my three middle picks, but confident that Detroit and Minnesota will be the bookends. I like where K.C. is headed, but I think Cleveland is, for the time being, a step ahead of them.
Robin Ventura will restore order in the White Sox clubhouse, and they could be better than I suspect, but there are just so many unanswered questions on this team right now that it is almost impossible to predict how they’ll finish. So let me go ahead and foolishly say they’ll win 79 games.
Minnesota, even if Mauer and Morneau are reasonably healthy, is a bad team in a nice park.
If we’re going ahead this year with two Wild Card teams, and as of this writing it looks like we are, then one of the Wild Card teams will be either the Angels or the Rangers. The other could be either Boston, or even, in a surprise, Cleveland.
Both the Angels and the Rangers have established themselves as the Dreadnoughts of the Western Division. It should be a heavy-weight slug-fest of epic proportions, you know, like the ones we used to get excited about between the Red Sox and the Yankees. I have to give a slight edge to Pujols and the Angels.
The Mariners, with Ichiro batting third, finish third by default because Oakland will basically field a Four-A baseball team (again) this season.
A.L. MVP – Albert Pujols
Cy Young – David Price
Rookie of the Year – Brett Lawrie
5) New York
It all begins with the pitching, and I think the Phillies will find a way to score enough runs to support their legendary pitching staff. Their window may not be open for much longer, but they should be able to hold off the competition in their own division.
The Braves have excellent young pitching, but there are some players on that team (Hanson, Jones, Jurrjens, and others) that are good friends with the D.L, and I’m not sure their lineup is sufficient to score enough runs to keep their pitchers from blowing out their arms. Jason Heyward’s performance will go a long way in determining the overall success of this team.
I really like the Nats. I think they are only a year or two away from being serious contenders. I was even tempted to pick them to finish in second place in the N.L. East, but I chose the safe pick instead. Harper will play at some point, and, for the Nats, the earlier the better. Strasburg and the two Zimmerman boys (Jordan and Ryan) along with Harper will offer a plethora of choices for Nats fans to cheer about.
It is much anticipated that the Marlins, with all the changes they’ve made (not the least of which is their brand new stadium) will perhaps challenge for the top of the division this year, and perhaps they will. I think Mike (Giancarlo, please) Stanton will lead the league in home runs. But I also think the rest of their best players are all too injury prone to lead this team out of mediocrity. They’ll win more than they’ll lose, but they won’t see more than 85 wins this year.
The Mets won’t compete until around 2014, but I do like their G.M. and his associates, and Terry Collins was a good boy in Year #1. Reyes was more exciting than he was highly productive, and I think they’ll be able to replace the runs they lost when he booked town, bogus batting title in tow. But their pitching is probably the worst in the division, and until a couple of their young pitching prospects develop, and until current ownership is towed out to sea and buried in a lead-lined container, the immediate future looks bleak.
I had a hard time picking the winner here, but I like the Brewers starting pitching, and Braun will be back for a full year after-all, so I think they have enough to keep the wolves at bay for 2012. The Reds are just too enigmatic to predict (though Votto is great) and, yes, the Cardinals have been weakened by the losses of Pujols, LaRussa and Duncan. Even with the return of Wainwright, I just don’t see enough pitching there to grab the division.
The Cubs, Astros and Pirates are each in various stages of rebuilding (or, in the Pirates case, re-re-re-rebuilding.) The Cubs seem to be in the best position to turn things around the quickest of this group, but not this year.
The Diamondbacks are for real, and no other team in this division has enough balance to challenge them this year. Justin Upton could win the MVP award this season. They are not a GREAT team, but they are perfectly capable of repeating in this mediocre division.
I considered picking the Rockies to finish third, but Tulowitzki is due to carry this team into the playoffs (and, with a second Wild Card, he still might.)
I love the Giants top three pitchers: Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner, but this team reminds me a little of the Mets in the early-to-mid ’70′s, excellent starting pitching with a well-below average offense. They should win 80-something ballgames, but until they locate another serious bat, their fans will be treated to a lot of 3-2 pitching duels.
Even the magic of Kemp and Kershaw couldn’t lift the Dodgers out of mediocrity last year, and I don’t expect things to change much this year. Another proud franchise undermined by horrid ownership.
The Padres play in lovely San Diego, so even if they suck, their fans will enjoy the day at the park.
N.L. MVP – Joey Votto
Cy Young – Yovani Gallardo
Rookie of the Year – Bryce Harper
- Yankees Enter 2012 as an Under the Radar Team, but Still the Most Complete Squad (bleacherreport.com)
- We’re No. 5! MLB’s Near-Miss Kings (blogs.wsj.com)
- Bobby V Didn’t Wait Long to Spice Up the Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry (newsfeed.time.com)
- MLB Spring Training 2012: Intriguing Teams to Follow Leading Up to Opening Day (bleacherreport.com)