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.
And remember to support your Local Nine this summer. That’ll be the AZ Rookie League and the Tucson Padres for me. And hey, Fall Ball starts in just six and a half short months.
If the Tigers don’t win it all, it will be because everyone else cheated. Mark me.
In Single A, west of Old Man River, watch out for the River Bandits, provided Modern Woodman Park doesn’t float down to Cairo this spring and the insolvent Muckdogs don’t withhold their talent ere they come to financial ruin in some mad attempt to support Bill’s ill-conceived “poetry night” fundraiser. East of the rising waters, beware the Lugnuts, whose stadium stands on the ruins of Diamond Reo and whose mascot looks like a giant testicle.
I don’t know anything about the American League until October. Homer that I am I have to pick the Phillies in the East. The big question is whether two aces in the rotation can make up for two bats in the line-up. But since Bobby Cox is no longer managing the Braves, I suspect the Phils will win the division.
Braves as wild-card.
Giants in the West.
Reds in the central.
And since the only radio station I now get in Hillsdale that broadcasts the real (read: National) league comes to me from Cincinnati, and boy are the announcers fired up about the Reds, I’m picking the Reds to face whomever in the Series. It might be a case of what happened to the Phillies in 2007 and 2008 — out in the first round of the playoffs the former year (same for the Reds last year against the Phils) — and then the whole enchilada in the next.
In the Pinckney (Leo, that is, not Charles Cotesworth), the only division that matters, the order of finish (should justice prevail) will be 1) Batavia; 2) Jamestown (home of Lucille Ball and Roger Tory Peterson); 3) Auburn (home of William Seward); 4) Mahoning Valley (which gave the world Jim Traficant); 5) Williamsport (in whose 1972 Little League World Series I would have played if only the Batavia Nationals hadn’t blown that first-round game; and 6) State College, favorite team of Phil Jenkins.
Okay, I am not feeling quite up to snuff this season, but I’ll at least say the following:
a) You are a kind man to think the Cubs will do anything this season (although, is coming in a close second to the Reds really “something”? Only in the “fightin'” Central). I’m predicting third place for the Cubs, despite some improvement in the quality of play thinks to Quadfluence.
b) I don’t think the Braves are back all the way yet, and am flabergasted to hear JB thinks they will dethrone the Phillies.
Except on those points, I agree with JB’s. Save that I am counting on the Tigers somehow — despite not making the playoffs — to win the Series. Peters will help them skip two spaces and take October.
I think Professor Hart would agree that yesterday was what one might call a “soft opening” to the season, and that today we can truly celebrate the arrival of baseball when Doc takes the mound in South Philadelphia.
NL-Braves, Reds, Rockies, My heart says the Fightin’ Phils with the Wild Card, but my head says the Giants
AL-Red Sox, White Sox, Rangers, A’s win Wild Card
And, no, I’m not kidding…World Series: Rockies over White Sox
Note how the Yankees cheated on opening day. Or, as some would say, “scored more runs.”
First, kudos to JB for throwing down the gauntlet. And amen, brother, to “Topps only.” Darryl is right that the retirement of Cox will hurt the Braves but I’m going with them anyway.
My most outrageous pick is the O’s–the woes are over in Bal’mer. I’m really conflicted about this. I grew up singing “Oriole Magic” and could recite the era’s of Cy Young (Flanagan), Cy Old (Palmer), Cy Future (MacGregor), and Cy Clone (Davis). Deprived of the Senators, they were my team and all of Virginia’s. But the Curse brought on by the Dark Lord of Baltimore himself–Peter Angelos–has been as undeniable as his sins against the baseball gods have been many. Somehow, though, Buck Showalter has appeased them. Unless Angelos commits some new sacrilege, they’ll leapfrog the Rays and Jays and contend.
NL — Braves, Reds, Giants, Phils as wildcard
AL–Orioles, Twins, Rangers, Sawx as wildcard
As a White Sox fan I’m always wary of early-season enthusiasm, though I’m gratified by the appreciation they’re getting here. I think I’ll do what I do every year: complain and claim that they’re the worst team in the AL Central masquerading as competent until they make it to the post season. It beats being a Cubs fan, which (sorry Dr. Wilson) is a grave character flaw.
I stand with you, Mr. Harvey. Four generations of my family have rejoiced and suffered with the fate of Baltimore. An article you might appreciate: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/07/a-perfect-game
Thanks for playing along, everyone.
Andrew, I am impressed by the bold/slightly mad pick of the Orioles in the AL East. Been a while since they’ve had a rotation like Palmer, Flanagan, et al., but it seems that they do have some good young arms. They also have Mark Reynolds, who will set yet another new strikeout record this year — maybe 300?
Lot of White Sox love on here. Ideally, Ozzie Guillen would be named permanent manager. I don’t know if he can manage, but the entertainment factor is awesome.
Cardinals in fourth place?? That would shock me.
I would almost die if the Royals managed to finish third. For quite some time it has been very difficult to be a Royals fan without completely despairing three or four weeks after opening day.
AL East: Red Sox, Rays, Yanks.
AL Central: Twins, Tigers, White Sox.
AL West: Angels, Rangers, A’s.
NL East: Phillies, Braves, Mets.
NL Central: Cardinals, Reds, Brewers.
NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Rockies.
AL Wildcard: Rays.
NL Wildcard: Reds.
World Series: Phillies over Red Sox.
To persist in my unfortunate Cubbiness (and I confess, I should be a Southsider, and only a freak occurance kept me from being one), let me add in I’m thrilled to hear positive predictions about the O’s. I’m planning to go down to the Yard to see my favorite first baseman play with his new team sometime soon.
Not that it matters this far down the pecking order, but does MM really think the Brewers are going to have a better lousy season than the Cubs?
National League: Phillies pitching roster is going to be tough but I wouldn’t abandon the Mets chances even though they generally fail spectacularly in September…as opposed to failing spectacularly all season since they moved into TARP Field. San Francisco seems to be going the way of the AL Red Sox so far…what a fine park they have though.
American League: Peter’s churlish manner covers an abject fear of Yankee Superiority although the Rays are going to be interesting. Toronto may return as well after the long stint in the weeds over a gutted payroll
Whatever the case may be, may we all agree that under no circumstances should the fall be stained by the terrible spectacle of the Tomahawk Chop.
The Cards and Reds are going to be battling it out for tops in the NL Central… I really didn’t put much thought into Brewers vs. Cubs.
If I had to choose between them, though, I would choose the Brewers, especially if Greinke’s injury turns out not to be too serious.
(In my opinion) there is a distinct possibility that the Mets will finish in 4th place in the NL East – things are not looking good for the Amazins.
I went to the Nationals game on Saturday, by the way, and Jayson Werth doubled in his first two at-bats. He’ll need a lot more of the same if he’s going to make himself worth the contract he signed.
Things never look particularly good for the Mets and this is part of their charm. Their new park is grittier than the Yankees Limestone Temple and damned if the pulled pork sandwiches aint better. Some pilots descending into La Guardia still juice the jets just to hear it on the radio while following the directions to land.
Anyhow, baseball aint been worth a good gawd damned since the Bums was wrenched from Brooklyn. May the Giants beat San Diego tonight.
Ah, mid-80s nostalgia! The summer of Reagan, before Ollie North and the evil non-American Blue Jays spoiled my innocence! The era of Brett, Motley, Saberhagen, and Howser … when KC really was king. Heaven for a boy from the Kansas Prairie (and don’t you dare say the Royals are a Missouri team … them’s fightin’ words).
Topps baseball cards! My brother and I were obsessed. My fondest memory is shooting all of the ’85 set’s “Olympic” cards with our BB guns because those weren’t “real” players! Little did we know that Olympic team included such villians as McGuire and Clark. Cardinals, Giants, and Steroids? Need I say more?
Super late in reading this post, and, halfway through the year we’re not doing so well in Oakland. But, I can’t wait for Moneyball
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