Spring training is over, and I find myself at loose ends. Since moving to Phoenix a few years back, this has become the saddest time of the year for me. Over the last five weeks I’ve been going to as many games as I can — laid-back, sun-filled, perfect-temperature affairs featuring plenty of hope and gentle Sonoran desert spring breezes, not to mention washed-up veterans and fresh-faced, can’t-miss prospects. That’s over now. The inferno of a Salt River Valley summer looms. Baseball here is, ideally, a spring and autumn affair, and it is lovely. Summer: not so much.
And yet Opening Day still inspires a certain amount of excitement, the fruit of spending my formative years compulsively collecting baseball cards (Topps only — Fleer and Donruss were for kids who didn’t understand tradition) and religiously scanning box scores in the Warsaw Times-Union. Random memories come flooding back, like that fantastic 1982 Brewers lineup, the 1984 Cubs’ collapse, youthful debates with my best friend as to whether Eddie Murray would ever make the Hall of Fame (a debate that fifteen years later would cost me ten hard-earned dollars). And so, while I know it’s not exactly FPR’s usual fare, the arrival of Opening Day tomorrow compels me to share with you my Certain Knowledge as to this year’s division winners. With playoff predictions thrown in as well.
I’m calling out my fellow editors Wilson, Kauffman, and Peters — at least — to join me in this exercise. Bill, though, also needs to predict the order of finish in the NY-Penn League. If he gets it exactly right, I pay him $100. A generous offer. Because that’s the kind of guy I am.
And of course you, dear reader, are invited to give your predictions in the comments, should you care to engage in a little friendly competition. Here we go:
AL East: Red Sox. Yankees finish no higher than 3rd.
Al Central: White Sox. Royals with shocking 3rd-place finish.
AL West: A’s. Am actually looking forward to the Moneyball flick this fall. So is my wife, who tells me that Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane.
NL East: Braves. Pains me to say it, but Darryl Hart man-crush Chase Utley doesn’t see the field this year for the Phils, I’m afraid.
NL Central: Reds. With the Cubs putting up a surprisingly good fight for 2nd. Cardinals finish 4th. Goodbye to Pujols.
NL West: Giants. And the D’backs will be pretty awful — fewer than 70 wins.
Al Wild Card: Rangers.
NL Wild Card: Phils. I do love me some Cliff Lee.
ALCS: White Sox over Red Sox.
NLCS: Braves over Reds.
World Series: Braves over White Sox.
Anyone who picks the World Series correctly gets a free dinner if and when they roll into Phoenix.