Can you smell the clean scent of freshly cut grass? Feel the sun beaming down? Or smell the hot dogs from the stands? It’s Baseball season, yet again and with the Opening Series having already commenced down in Australia with the Dodgers sweeping the Diamondbacks in two games, it’s time to welcome the pastime back home and play ball.
Opening Night 2014 will feature the Dodgers taking on their neighbors to the south the San Diego Padres on ESPN. The Dodgers will be a nearly inescapable presence in primetime, as they showoff their $235-million payroll, and young stars like Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw, many consider them the hands down best team in the league, and a lock to win in the Fall Classic.
But there are 29 other teams who will be vying for that same honor–to be left standing in October in a best-of-seven Series. From the mighty franchises who are rebuilding, like the Yankees, to the small payroll teams struggling to stay afloat and the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, each team has a story to tell.
I will go division by division picking favorites, then will whittle down a team from each League to represent in the World Series and pick the winner.
Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
A ‘3-headed hydra’ footrace to the end will ensue down the stretch with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays all doing their best to one-up each other. The addition of the second Wild Card will give new life to the Fall frenzy and will bring back the importance of playing all 162 games. How confident are we in the Red Sox chances to repeat? Can the old Yankees win 28 for their retiring Captain with their off season pickups? How pesky will those meddling Rays be with their flair for the dramatic? All things that make you wonder.
Division winner Prediction: Yankees*
No slight to the Orioles or Blue Jays, but look for things to remain status quo in the division with the same teams vying for supremacy. Yankees will do enough to win the division after an impressive year from Tanaka, a rebounded Sabathia who has much to prove as the team’s Ace and a team who will play up for Jeter. Where they go after is very much in the air.
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
A one team to rule them all, one team to find them (Lord of the Rings reference) type of division, with the Tigers so far and ahead the leader of the pack. While I’m not in love with the Tigers showering Miguel Cabrera in $300 million dollars, he’s still the best hitter in the sport and the depth of that team still remains.
Division winner prediction: Tigers*
Seattle Mariners **
The American League West has been a little bit odd these past few years, with the Rangers dominating and making World Series but having nothing to show for it. The Angels buying up player after player, and having arguably the best player in the game in Mike Trout and not even making the post season. What in the blue hell is going on? Will 2014 be the year of reason in the West? And what about the ‘new look’ Mariners, with Robinson Cano ready to spread his wings and be the everyday face of the franchise?
Division winner prediction: A’s*
Last year’s division winners, the most robust team start to finish in the division–even in losing their ace Jarrod Parker, and the drama around the hellhole ball park they play in. They remain the team with the least amount of holes to fill in the division, and as for everything after the regular season, their propensity for getting tossed from playoffs quickly will again prove true.
AL TEAM TO ADVANCE TO WORLD SERIES: Tigers
New York Mets
The tale of the National League East is really quite simple, the Nationals will come back, any good the Braves do will lead to yet another early round exit and the Phillies may be this year’s version of last year’s Red Sox. Yes, I just said the Phillies may win a World Series. I’m serious.
But let’s talk about what I know for a fact–the Nationals won’t tank the division away like last season. Bryce Harper is jacked and ready to stay healthy and play through anything that’s thrown his way. I’m picking them as my favorites to win the division. But let’s talk about those Phillies for a second, here’s what their off-season looked like: AJ Burnett, Marlon Byrd, good stuff. Some age on the team, with Rollins and Howard not spring chickens anymore, and Utley although potent, very injury prone. Still, keep an eye out for them to make moves.
Division winner prediction: Nationals*
St Louis Cardinals
Here’s what I know: The Cardinals are really good. The Pirates want to be where the Cardinals are, and are close but no cigar. And the Reds, much like the Braves and A’s will again be ejected from playoffs early, if they make it.
But back to Pirates and Cardinals, these two teams played an entertaining game of Chess all last season. The thing the Pirates have to prove is that they’re not fool’s gold–despite losing Burnett, the team has the depth to be true contenders. Cardinals pitching rotation needs to be feared and respected, with Wacha and Rosenthal.
Division winner prediction: Cardinals*
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
In 2014 here’s what you need to know, there’s the Dodgers, then there’s everyone else. It’s just that kind of a year for the Dodgers, who’ve transformed into the West Coast Yankees. Can they go all the way?
Dodgers may want to hold their horses, the season has begun with injuries to Clayton Kershaw, Puig and heck, Matt Kemp isn’t even back yet. Staying healthy will be key, if they can remain intact and on the field, they will easily pull away in the division, getting Kemp back to full strength is going to be the difference in winning it all. Oh, and there’s this thing called pitching, which also is pretty important.
Division winner prediction: Dodgers*
NL TEAM TO ADVANCE TO WORLD SERIES: Dodgers
World Series Projected Matchup: Dodgers VS. Tigers
World Series Prediction: Dodgers win in 6