Here are my fearless predictions for the upcoming baseball season which just kicked off with a Rangers/Astros game this evening. I kept forgetting that the Astros have migrated to the American League after 50+ years in the National. I miss those happenin’ 1970s psychadelic uniforms they wore well into the non-psychadelic ’80s. They’ve got a better look now, but they’re certainly at the bottom end of what’s generally considered to be this year’s possible contenders. The Houston team is a multiyear rebuilding project with a roster of mostly-unknowns and a new manager who is way younger than me. But more power to them all – I’d love to see a team build itself up from within with young players who then become stars together.
Kind of like the Yankees in the early to mid 1990s before they began an amazing run of post-season seasons that, as much as it pains me to say, is now over. My first prediction for 2013 baseball is that the Yankees will NOT be in contention for the first time since 1992 or so. It’s been interesting to watch various prognosticator shows on MLB or ESPN where the boys simply cannot bring themselves to count the Yankees out.
I can, and I’ve been a fan of that team for more than – Good GOD – 40 years.
Look how much talent the Angels had last year, and how despite all of it they could not recover from a horrible April by the end of the season, and sat on the sidelines in October. Now look at the injury-riddled aging Yankees, missing much of the meat of their line-up until mid May, with the Biogenesis shoe ready to drop on A-Rod and a possible money-saving salary-cap ducking contract voiding… the Yankees will struggle to get to .500 by June and will never recover in a hotly competitive AL East where it might only take 90 games to win, but I can’t see them getting there.
I can, however, see Baltimore getting there. Or maybe Tampa Bay. Or everyone’s favorite on paper, Toronto, who will probably do just fine, although I think they have last year’s Marlins and all their expensive signings looming over their shoulders. What I think will happen is that the Orioles will take the division, the Blue Jays will get one of the wild cards, and both the Yankees & Red Sox will battle not to be last.
The AL Central will be more fun because of who I think will be this year’s Cinderella team – The Kansas City Royals. Yeah, the Royals have sucked since the late ’80s, but they’ve put together a solid group of young players who had an amazingly impressive spring, and I think they are poised to be in 2013 what the Orioles were in 2012 and what the Nationals were in 2011 – the team-formerly-known-as-suck that’s clearly on the way up. I don’t think they’ll make the post season, but I think they’ll have wins in the high 80s and fall short of the Tigers, who I can see winning the division unless Justin Verlander breaks his schvantz with Kate Upton. The Royals will get back in the post-season in the next few years if they keep this up, though.
The AL West is an interesting mix – the Angels have a hitting line-up as good as the great slugging teams of all time, but beyond Jered Weaver very little pitching. The Rangers have lost a lot of talent but made some nice replacements and will certainly be competitive. And the A’s have some great pitching. All in all, I’d think the Angels & Rangers will be at the finish line, although I’m not sure which will win the division and which will be the other wild card.
Over in the NL East, it’s easy to pick the Washington Nationals – this time they’ve got more experience, they’ll have more Strasbourg, and they are loaded with good young talent. The Braves will compete as they always so, and fight with the Phillies for the wild card. The Marlins & Mets will fight for the cellar.
NL Central: I still like the Reds, who ought to go further in October this time. I think the Cardinals have run out of last-minute heroics and luck, and the Brewers will be the main challenge to the Reds, with a rejuvenated Pirates team playing spoiler, along the lines of the Royals in the AL. When the dust clears, I think the Reds take it.
NL West: The Dodgers went on a spending spree and put together a very impressive line-up, although they have some weak spots in their pitching staff and are vulnerable to injuries. Still, it’ll be them & their rival Giants fighting it out, and I think both of them will wind up in the post-season, with one winning the division and the other getting the wild card. The Diamondbacks will compete & play spoiler here.
I hope I’m wrong about the Yankees and that everything magically comes together, but I’m too much of a realist. I’m sure Pettite & Rivera will have wonderful farewell seasons. Having Gardner and Joba back ought to be a positive. Jeter ought to come back from his injury decently, but I worry about that after seeing him this spring. Texiera & Hughes remain injury prone and they’ll miss Granderson’s bat. I just don’t see it happening this year, and with most of that team aging, they’d better start beefing up the farm system the way they did in the early ’90s and patiently grow the core of a new Yankee team that could start its run in another 5-6 years or so. But I doubt it – it took nearly 10 years of suck & disappointment & (temporarily) taking the reins from Steinbrenner before the Yankees learned to patiently grow a team, and the successful run they had didn’t reinforce that lesson but probably undid it due to the way affluence breeds complacency. Bummer.
Welcome back, baseball… it’s been a long winter.