I am the go-to guy when it comes to forecasting the loser of the League Championship Series.
Alas, this year, we'll again try to correctly anticipate the team that wins the LCS, not to mention the World Series. Here we go:
AL East: 1. Yankees; 2. Boston; 3. Tampa Bay; 4. Baltimore; 5. Toronto.
Thoughts: Yes, count me in with the pack in believing that any of the top three teams can win this division. The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays just might be the best three clubs in all of baseball. The Yankees get the edge because they have the deepest roster, along with re-enforcements in the minor leagues and the willingness and ability to make a midseason acquisition. For similar reasons, Boston gets the edge over Tampa Bay. The Rays have the least room for error.
AL Central: 1. White Sox; 2. Minnesota; 3. Detroit; 4. Kansas City; 5. Cleveland.
Thoughts: The Twins have the clear edge on offense, the White Sox on pitching. I'm going with the arms, and with the notion that Gordon Beckham, Paul Konerko and Alexis Rios will lead a lineup that perform well enough to give the pitchers leads (if not necessarily comfortable leads) to protect.
AL West: 1. Angels; 2. Texas; 3. Oakland; 4. Seattle.
Thoughts: Two months ago, I would've said the Rangers here. But Texas had a lousy spring training, lowlighted by the Ron Washington revelation that puts the manager on the hot seat. The Mariners? As I've indicated, I'm not sold, and I think Cliff Lee could wind up being traded yet again come July. When in doubt in the AL West, go with the Angels.
AL Wild Card: Boston
ALCS: Yankees over Angels. With a four-man rotation, this time.
NL East: 1. Philadelphia; 2. Atlanta; 3. Florida; 4. Mets; 5. Washington.
Thoughts: Even with the Phillies' current injury woes, they still have a terrific offense and the two aces in Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. Of course, they should have a third ace in Lee, but they don't. The Braves' starting pitching should strong even after trading their best starter from last year, Javier Vazquez. The Mets? I think they could linger around .500, so I guess you could say they'll finish a "strong fourth." It's the sort of phrasing I can envision on Jerry Manuel's resume.
NL Central: 1. St. Louis; 2. Cubs; 3. Milwaukee; 4. Houston; 5. Cincinnati; 6. Pittsburgh.
Thoughts: OK, so maybe I got a little hyper a couple of months ago in predicting that Mark McGwire would distract the Cardinals. On second thought, probably not. The Cubs should put up a better fight, Rick Peterson will help the Brewers' pitchers and the Brads _ new manager Mills and new manager Arnsberg _ will help the Astros steal a couple of games. I'm not sold on the Reds. Things have had a way of not working out for them for quite a while now.
NL West: 1. Dodgers; 2. Colorado; 3. Arizona; 4. San Francisco; 5. San Diego.
Thoughts: For all of the Dodgers' woes, they still have a potentially superb lineup, and I think the starting rotation will exceed expectations. I just think they'll win, say, 91 games, instead of last year's 95; hence their placement on yesterday's "Five teams that will be worse this year" list.
NL Wild Card: Colorado.
NLCS: Philadelphia over St. Louis. Halladay will win NLCS MVP, shining in his first postseason.
World Series: Yankees over Phillies. The Yankees have spent the most money of any club, by far, and their roster reflects it. They have the best team. It's that simple.
So we're talking about a season in which seven of eight playoff teams would repeat, with only the White Sox (replacing Minnesota) as a new entry. Should this happen, you'll have the yakosphere (trademark Neil Best) complaining that the industry has become too predictable. And you'll have small-market teams complaining that the Yankees, now fully utilizing their resources.
And that narrative will partly direct the collective bargaining negotiations (the deal expires after the 2011 season), which will be somewhat contentious but ultimately not produce a work stoppage.
MVP: Gordon Beckham, White Sox, and Albert Pujols, St. Louis.
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit, and Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz, Baltimore, and Jason Heyward, Atlanta.
Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen, White Sox, and Joe Torre, Dodgers.
And now, for our second annual predictions competition:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Sunday night's Yankees-Red Sox game, which is the start of the regular season.
4) While trolls are welcome here, in the interest of preventing silliness, you can't submit picks identical to someone else's _ in other words, all 30 teams in the same exact place, with the same postseason results.
5) 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.
Last year, we had 24 competitors, and Dennis won, as he was the only person to correctly forecast a Yankees-Phillies World Series. He had the Yankees winning, too. Now, after a winter's hibernation, Dennis has returned to the blog just in time to defend his crown. Dennis crushed me last year, requesting the most expensive DVD, so I shudder to think what he'll want this time if he prevails again..
If you have any questions about the competition, just ask. Best of luck.
--David Lennon closed out the Mets camp.
--As had become clear in recent days, Curtis Granderson will play centerfield and Brett Gardner leftfield for the Yankees. The Yankees catchers are ailing.
--Bob Tufts hooked us up with this story about the increasing pervasiveness of sophisticated statistics. It's interesting how many teams still struggle with measuring defensive play.
--Best of luck to former Newsday teammates Johnette Howard, Wally Matthews and Shaun Powell, all of whom will be involved in the new ESPN New York venture that launches today.
UPDATE, Sunday, 10:18 p.m.: The ballot box is now closed. We have 17 contestants in this year's contest. Best of luck to everyone.