Good Evening
Good Evening

The 2011 predictions contest

Boston Red Sox's Carl Crawford grounds out to

Boston Red Sox's Carl Crawford grounds out to first base against the Tampa Bay Rays, his former team, during the first inning of a spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., Tuesday, March 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Credit: AP

Looking back on my predictions from last year, 2009 and 2008, I'm not sure I could correctly forecast league pennant winners if my life depended on it.

Last year, I had the Yankees and Phillies meeting up in the Fall Classic, so of course both teams fell in their respective League Championship Series. The prior two seasons, I nailed the losers of both LCS, but had them getting eliminated by teams that didn't advance to the second round, or qualify for the playoffs at all.

But we gotta keep trying, right? So here we are once again, ready to pit my predictions against yours.

Let's start with the rules this year, to get them out of the way:

1) Submit your picks for all 30 teams, the wild cards, the Championship Series and the World Series (including a winner) as a comment on this blog post.

2) After you register your picks for public consumption, e-mail me at to confirm your handle with me. This way, if you win, I'll have your e-mail address on file.

3) Submissions will be accepted until the first pitch of regular-season play. Right now, we're supposed to kick off Thursday at 1:05 p.m. with Tigers at Yankees and Braves at Nationals. If there are massive weather issues - and that's looking like less of a potential problem, at the moment - then we'd keep it open until we have a first pitch somewhere.

4) Upon the conclusion of the World Series, we'll award: One point for each team you place correctly, and two additional points for each wild-card team you identify. Three points for each team that advances to the Championship Series. Four points for each World Series participant. And five points for the World Series winner.

5) The winner - the entry that gets the most points - can pick one DVD from Major League Baseball Productions' collection.

Here's a more detailed breakdown of the rules.

OK, now my predictions, which also will be detailed in Newsday's annual baseball preview section, coming out tomorrow:

AL East: 1. Boston; 2. Yankees; 3. Tampa Bay; 4. Toronto; 5. Baltimore.

Thoughts: The Red Sox, to me, are a few games better than the Yankees and Tampa Bay, because of their starting pitching. I gave serious thought to placing the Rays second and the Yankees third, but I couldn't quite get there, especially once I broke down the starting rotations and realized that Tampa Bay's starters (beyond David Price) have better reputations than their actual major-league numbers right now.

Perhaps those reputations become realities; it's not like any of the Rays' starters are anything approaching old. But the fact that Tampa Bay has to completely rebuild its bullpen gave me further pause.

AL Central: 1. Detroit; 2. White Sox; 3. Minnesota; 4. Kansas City; 5. Cleveland.

Thoughts: The way I saw it, the Tigers have the division's best starting pitcher in Justin Verlander and its best player in Miguel Cabrera, and plenty of depth to support that pair. I am skeptical of the Twins' pitching, and the White Sox? Honestly, I couldn't pick the White Sox again, after going with them the past two years and seeing them fall short. Gotta mix it up sometimes, just for mental health.

(Which means, of course, you should go with the White Sox in your contest submissions).

AL West: 1. Oakland; 2. Texas; 3. Angels; 4. Seattle.

Thoughts: I love the A's, as I've made pretty clear, and their added bullpen depth should cover up for Andrew Bailey's injury. The Rangers, in addition to the obvious of losing Cliff Lee, give me pause because I wonder how C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis will respond to their heavy, late-into-October workloads.

AL Wild Card: Yankees. In what should be a fierce, fun battle among the Yankees, Tampa Bay, the White Sox, Minnesota and Texas.

ALCS: Oakland over Boston. Youth carries the day, and the Bay area gets its second World Series in two years.

NL East: 1. Philadelphia; 2. Florida; 3. Atlanta; 4. Mets; 5. Washington. 

Thoughts: No, the Phillies haven't had a very fun spring, with Chase Utley's health uncertainty the lowlight. But the starting rotation is unblemished, and with those five guys as the backbone of the team, I'm willing to give Charlie Manuel and his crew some major benefit of the doubt.

Besides, I'm not buying what the Braves are selling - I don't love the offense, even with Dan Uggla (who is a defensive liability) aboard. I do like the Marlins, though, who are teeming with young talent.

NL Central: 1. Cincinnati; 2. Cubs; 3. Milwaukee; 4. St. Louis; 5. Houston; 6. Pittsburgh.

Thoughts: As we've discussed, the Reds have benefited greatly this spring from their adversaries' misfortunes. Hence the call to go with them to repeat. The Cubs? What the heck, I like their pitching. The Brewers and Cardinals are both top-heavy and bottom-light.

NL West: 1. Colorado; 2. Dodgers; 3. San Francisco; 4. San Diego; 5. Arizona.

Thoughts: I just don't believe in the Giants, despite their great starting rotation and their improving farm system. Their offseason moves (re-signing Aubrey Huff for big bucks and bringing aboard Miguel Tejada to play shortstop, most notably) only re-enforced my questions about GM Brian Sabean's roster management skills. If the Giants win the division again, then Sabean and his crew will deserve a real reassessment.

Like Detroit in the AL Central, I think Colorado has a great ace in Ubaldo Jimenez, two great everyday players in Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki and sufficient roster depth to complement that trio.

The Dodgers might be a wreck on the ownership level, but I like their talent. San Diego, meanwhile, seems poised for a jolt of reality.

NL Wild Card: Dodgers. See above.

NLCS: Philadelphia over Colorado. Once that Phillies rotation gets into October - even if, let's say, only three of the big four are healthy - I don't see how the Phils lose.

World Series: Philadelphia over Oakland. See above.

OK, now you've seen my predictions. Get to it and put yours here. Will Bob Tufts, the only person to pick the Giants as World Series champions a year ago at this time, defend his crown? Will 2009 winner Dennis exact revenge, evoking the theme from "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"? Will the venerable Richie G. achieve his lifelong dream and finally win some free crap from this blog?

You gotta be in it to win it. Get in your picks by Thursday afternoon.

--The Mets now say that Carlos Beltran, barring any further setbacks, will now start Opening Day. Maybe it just speaks to the positive bias I have toward Sandy Alderson, but this feels different from past Mets decisions. Rather than "We've got to get off to a good start!!! Revenues are at stake!!!" this is more a matter of, "Let's give it a shot." Or "Roll the dice," as Alderson says in David Lennon's story.

--Lennon also wrote a good story on David Wright and his relationship with new hitting coach Dave Hudgens.

--The Mets are awaiting more news on Ronny Paulino.

--The Yankees made roster decisions. Eric Chavez looks like a great fit for now, yet you'd be naive to forget his health issues of the past four years. The selection of Eduardo Nunez over Ramiro Pena reflects Joe Girardi's increased comfort level with Nunez, who is obviously the superior player.

As for the catchers, Gustavo Molina getting the job over Jesus Montero is a disappointment to the Yankees, who were hoping that Montero could contribute to the big-league team as a part-time player. Montero is still only 21, though, so this is hardly tragic. The Yankees should take this moment, however, to discuss once again whether Montero is truly a viable, major-league catcher. Most folks from other teams, while noting Montero's improvement, still aren't convinced.

--Curtis Granderson is hoping to be ready by Opening Day.

--With Mat Latos injured, the Padres will start the season with a four-man starting rotation. I discovered this information on Twitter.

--OK, so once again, enter this big contest. And later today, we'll give away another copy of the 2011 Amazin' Avenue Mets Preview.

--Oh, and one more thing: Live chat tomorrow (Wednesday) at 3 p.m., from the Yankees' workout at the Stadium.

New York Sports