I know I have been scarce lately, but i have not given up completely on this blog. (Indeed, once things are settled, I hope i can get back into this for real. I should: I have been thinking about films - the idea that 2016 might be the year of the decade. There might be something there - if I get around to writing it.) Right now, though, it is time to welcome the baseball season - coming this evening - not a minute too soon. Spring in New England is the usual mess - the morning I thought I'd overslept by two months: yesterday it was snowing; today it's past 50, sunny and perfect. Just in time! It's been a nice spring for baseball - I finally watched a World Baseball Classic, very gratifying - but I am glad for the arrival of the real thing.
1 Boston - they look like the clear favorites, though there are reasons to worry. They are already having issues with the health of their pitching, which might be worrisome, though they are deep enough to survive. Take Price and Pomeranz away, and they still can run Sale, Porcello, Rodriguez and Wright out there. They have a great core of young position players, but they also have some holes: do we really trust Sandoval? Mitch Moreland? their catching? do you? Still - they have to be the team to beat here.
2 Toronto - easy to see decline, without Encarnacion, with Bautista and Tulo getting older, but I don't think they are going to fall too far, not with the pitchers they have. i expect them to hang around,a nd be the most obvious candidate to pounce if the Sox run into trouble.
3 NY - lots of question marks here, too, but they seem to be reloading nicely. Can Tanaka and Pineda stay healthy enough to carry them? will their young hitters continue to hit? somewhere in the middle I suspect, low 80s.
4 Baltimore - they should be able to mash; they might have some serious pitching weaknesses. If they find arms, they could be dangerous - no reason to dismiss them, really. Yanks and Jays seem better balanced, though.
5 Tampa - I suppose they can put things together, but they have no margin for error at all, and lots of room for errors. BUt they do have some arms and bats - they could get in the race, though it's a long shot.
1 Cleveland - they come off a very close run for the championship, bringing back a strong lineup, extraordinary pitching (at least if they are all healthy), high ed bullpen - they should take the division and be in the running for the world championship once again.
2 Detroit - getting old, but they have talent - things would have to go perfectly, and they would have to find some relief pitching, but they have the core of team that can win some games.
3 KC - can they come back? Yordano Ventura's death leaves their rotation, already a bit thin, even weaker - the offense disappeared last year, but they have talent out there,that should rebound. Still - hard to see them being good enough to take down both the Indians and Tigers.
4 Minnesota - they wildly over-performed 2 years ago, collapsed completely last year - will they land in the middle? Seems likely to me. Sano and some of the other kids are promising - can they develop? if they do, they might be okay, sooner rather than later.
5 Chicago - they sem to have decided to blow it up, start it over - Dave Dombrowski was more than willing to help them. Moncado couldbe the real deal - maybe not immediately, but stranger things have happened. But I suspect it won't matter - they will find ways to move Quintana, maybe Robertson, Frazier if they can,and put themselves in a place to be relevant by 2020 or so.
1 Seattle - this is brave, but they have to win it someday. This is actually the hardest division to call, I think - any of the three contenders are very capable of inning the division. Still - Seattle added Segura and Smyly - that's not bad. They had talent - Cano and Cruz and Seager, etc - they should be good, and this could be the year they break through.
2 Houston - or Houston could. McCanna and Beltran are old, but they are reliable professionals, and not required to be the best players onthe team:that's Altuve and Correa, maybe Springer.They could use more pitching, I think - Keuchel needs to bounce back, they need to keep McCullers on the hill - but they are in a good spot to contend.
3 Texas - or why not Texas? Maybe lack of pitching depth; maybe aging hitters; maybe the usual swings of fortune. They have certainly swung, from playoffs to dreadful to best record in the AL - thy seem far more volatile, even now, than their competition, who should get their 85 and depend on how many more they can win - Texas doesn't feel like a guarantee to win 80.
4 Anaheim - poor Mike Trout. Of course when you have Mike Trout, you don't need a lot of things to go right to be in the thick of things. Some pitching here, a couple good years from people like Calhoun, they could be - well, a .500 team. Poor Mike Trout.
5 Oakland - unfortunately, they are the type of team that desperately prays their best player is healthy and pitches well, not so they can contend, but so they can trade hi for something. Though usually when I make cracks like that, the team ends up winning the division. Unlikely.
1 Washington - they won last year which is a reason to pick someone else; but they should be pretty good - Harper is more likely to bounce back than not; they have a fine rotation - they should be there when all is said and done.
2 NY - They could be very good, of course, especially if they get all those pitchers healthy for most of the year. Even without that, they have a decent team - they should be in contention, in position to win. Not the best bet.
3 Philadelphia - I have to have some fun. Why the Phillies? no good reason, but they have some interesting players around, so why not? I don't expect much of the bottom of this division so let's back the long shot!
4 Florida - probably should let them have third, the outfield is too good, they should score some runs - but they are dull and going nowhere.
5 Atlanta - they are going to the suburbs, but nowhere else that I can see. Though Bartolo Colon seems to be able to carry a team, so, hey, who can say?
1 Chicago - there's no reason to pick against them. Unless a couple pitchers get hurt, they are going to be in the thick of the hunt to win it all again. If anything , with Schwarber healthy, maybe Hayward coming back - they could be better.
2 Pittsburgh - I expect them to come back nicely. Cole is healthy - McCutcheon had a bad year, and those guys tend to come back to the norm - they have a good enough team, they should be around.
3 SL - As should the Cards. I don't see anything about them different than the usual run of Cardinals teams - a bit of luck, they win 98 and the division; a bit of bad luck, 86 miss the wild card. Most likely? 91 and the wild card?
4 Milwaukee - they can hit; any pitching to speak of? not much. I imagie they will be interesting to watch, with Braun and Vllar - the rest, though? I'm not convinced.
5 Cincinnati - another team with some talent around the diamond - Votto, Duvall, Suarez are all decent - but there isn't much else here.
1 Arizona - all right. You have to say one crazy thing a year, and this is mine. Last year, the were the fun pick - but I stayed away and they went straight into the toilet. This year, no one is picking them to do much - but why not? reversion tot he norm, for guys like Greinke? a healthy AJ Pollack? Maybe Shelby Miler comes back - maybe Tajuan Walker steps forward? Lots of ifs, but a lot went wrong last year that shouldn't have - so maybe this year it goes right... More fun than picking the Dodgers to lose in the division series again...
2 LA - I know, they are the best team out here. They should win. The won last year even without Kershaw for a long stretch of time - unlikely to see that again, but they should be fine. Just boring.
3 SF - same story as always with the Giants - great pitching - good players, but thin in the field - not likely to fail, but a lot has to go right to win the division.
4 Colorado - offense! poor pitchers. They shouldn't be awful, but it is going to be hard to get past the teams ahead of them.
5 SD - Another team not really in a position to do much this year.
All Right - Post-seson?
AL: Boston - Cleveland - Seattle & Toronto/Houston - Red Sox of Indians in the series, probably depends on whose pitching is healthy, and who gets hot.
NL: Washington - Chicago - Arizona & - actually, this is tough (since I'm being weird with the D-Backs) - at least 5 more teamsthat are very solid contenders. I'll guess it's the Dodgers and Mets. who comes out? Cubbies, obviously.
MVPs: Al - Trout of course. The usual suspects as runners up - Betts and Altuve and Machado... NL - Harper likeliest, Bryant and Seager and Golschmidt are real contenders.
Rookies: Should have been paying attention - Andrew Benintendi!
And will the Cubs repeat? or will the Sox take their 4th of the millenia? Or is this the Indian's year? or something weird - something really cool? Seattle and Washington? I suspect - Cubs beat Indians, second year in a row.