Braves-Phillies tonight was fun. Kind of a dull game, but Philly got the tying run to the plate in the ninth before losing 4-1.
Monday is the big day. That’s when the majority of teams take the field for the first time. That’s when from noon until night there’s constant baseball running on ESPN, ESPN2 or Fox Sports Net North.
I heard Peter Pascarelli on ESPN Radio prior to the Braves-Phillies game tonight say he’s calling for a Cardinals-Twins World Series, with St. Louis winning in six.
Now for a few of my thoughts and predictions on the season:
- Not to sound too homer-ish, but the Minnesota Twins got a really good shot of winning the AL Central. However, every team in the division has at least a pretty good shot of contending. No team really stands out. And it’s Opening Day. I don’t care if you’re in San Diego, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, whatever. You always hope THIS is THE YEAR your team turns the corner. Losing Scott Baker and Joe Mauer prior to the start of the year is pretty discouraging for Twins fans, though.
- I expect Carlos Gomez to improve on last year’s stats (his OBP can’t get worse, can it?), Denard Span to be about the same, and Alexi Casilla to regress some. If Casilla hits second, he will be hurt more than anybody by the loss of Mauer to injury. Now, I know Mauer is supposedly only going to miss a little time, but initial reports this offseason had him missing little time in Spring Training, and here we are on Opening Day and he’s still hurt. I don’t believe he’ll be out a long time, but you never know.
- AL Central: I’m saying the Twins take this division down but not by much. I know a lot of people are high on Cleveland, but the Star Tribune’s La Velle E. Neal blogged the same thing I’ve been saying for the last few days: It’s hard to be too high on a team when it’s third starter is Carl Pavano. He hasn’t been a relevant pitcher since 2004 with the Florida Marlins. Heck, in the four years since he’s started a grand total of 26 games. That’s it. Also, the Chicago White Sox won’t be as bad some predict (I’ve seen way too many last-place predictions for them. Geesh, losing Jon Garland hurts, but not that much. RUNDOWN: 1. Twins. 2. Indians. 3. White Sox. 4. Tigers. 5. Royals.
- AL East: For all of the money they spent, is anyone else unimpressed by the New York Yankees’ lineup? I realize A-Rod will be back in a month, but I’ve seen in some places Hideki Matsui as their cleanup hitter. That would have fine a couple years ago, but he had a pretty ho-hum 2008 (93 games, .424 slugging, sub-.800 OPS). Maybe he bounces back. I still like the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in this division. It’s funny to me how I think the Rays lost very little from a year ago (I think they’re better on paper after adding Pat Burrell), yet everyone picks Boston to win the division. The Rays still get no respect! Well, color me disrespectful too, but I’m going with Boston by a hair. Rays get the wild card. RUNDOWN: 1. Red Sox. 2. Rays. 3. Yankees. 4. Blue Jays. 5. Orioles.
- AL West: This could be a great divison race I think. Losing Mark Teixeira and injuries to Ervin Santana and John Lackey definitely pull the Los Angeles Angels back to the rest of the pack. The Oakland A’s are better on paper from a year ago. Much better, in fact. Really young rotation though, but the additions of Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi are good ones. And boy, can the Texas Rangers rake! Hamilton (aka Ham Slamwich), Kinsler, Michael Young, an emerging Chris Davis, Blalock. If only they could pitch (some things never change). Losing Milton Bradley will hurt them a lot. Steps forward by Davis and Blalock would help. RUNDOWN: 1. Angels. 2. Athletics. 3. Rangers. 4. Mariners.
- NL Central: Another race with some really good teams. The Cubbies will be the favorites, and you can never count out La Russa and Pujols’ Cardinals. They’re always there. The Brew Crew lost CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, but they still got pop with Prince, Braun, Hardy and Co. And I think the Cincinnati Reds will be Major League Baseball’s most improved team. Lot of great young talent with Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Chris Dickerson, etc. Might be a fun team to watch in 2010, but not yet. RUNDOWN: 1. Cubs. 2. Cardinals. 3. Brewers. 4. Reds. 5. Pirates. 6. Astros.
- NL East: This division should be all about the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. The Mets REALLY bolstered their bullpen from a year ago by adding Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz. The Phillies did little (who can blame them?). They simply replaced Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez. But the Phillies have been Biff Tannen to the Mets’ George McFly for the last couple season. The Mets need to have that McFly moment – when their arms are getting twisted behind their back – where they turn around and knock Biff to the ground Jack Dempsey style. I still like the Phillies. RUNDOWN: 1. Phillies. 2. Mets. 3. Marlins. 4. Braves. 5. Nationals.
- NL West: The Los Angeles Dodgers got Manny Ramirez back, and boy does their lineup look a heck of a lot better with him. A full year of Manny means this division is once again for their taking, right? Well, I’m a pitching kind of guy. So I’m saying the Dodgers don’t take this division because I like the Arizona Diamondbacks again. Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, and a young up-and-comer in Max Scherzer. Here’s the difference between the Dodgers and D’Backs: up-and-comer Clayton Kershaw is LA’s third starter, while Scherzer is Arizona’s fifth. The San Francisco Giants will be a lot better too, with a big three of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and the never-say-retire Randy Johnson and some improving young position players. RUNDOWN: 1. D’Backs. 2. Dodgers. 3. Giants. 4. Rockies. 5. Padres.
ALDS: Red Sox def. Twins; Rays (wild card) def. Angels.
NLDS: Cubs def. Phillies; D’Backs def. Mets (wild card)
ALCS: Red Sox def. Rays.
NLCS: Cubs def. D’Backs.
World Series: Red Sox def. Cubs.
And finally, I’ll be at the Metrodome for Opening Day. Here’s my picks to click for the opener: Twins’ Jason Kubel, Mariners’ Wladimir Balentien (figured I should go out on a limb on something).
That’s it. Watch these predictions crash and burn.