I cannot convey how excited I am for this upcoming baseball season. Not being a big college hoops fan, for me the ides of March bring Spring Training and the beginning of another glorious baseball season.
So here I am going to try the proven “fact or fiction” routine. And yes, I do know it isn’t as compelling when someone isn’t asking me the questions, but oh well.
Fact or fiction: Barry Bonds will get to 755 home runs this season
Fiction. I would be surprised if Barry plays in more than 100 games this season, much less hit 21 home runs. He is playing outfield like a 90-year-old man, has no one to protect him in the inept Giants line-up and pitchers just plain shouldn’t fear him anymore. I think he hits in the neighborhood of 8-15 home runs, periodically fighting off nagging injuries all year. At this point he is hurting the Giants more than he is helping them.
Dice-K will be the ace of the Red Sox staff
Fiction, but with a ton of conditions. Schilling, Beckett and Papelbon should all be better than Dice-K, since he is in his first year. But if Schilling shows his age, Beckett gets dominated by AL hitters again and Papelbon shows growing pains becoming a starter, Dice-K will rise as the ace. As it stands now a lot of things would have to go wrong for the other starters and right for Dice-K for him to become the “ace” of the team.
Many of last year’s playoff teams will find themselves there again
Fact. Last year’s playoff teams: Mets, Yankees, Tigers, Twins, Dodgers and Cardinals should all find themselves in familiar territory this season. All the NL divisions seem to be relatively unchanged (with the Giants being the only team to make a splash) so last year’s division winners should have a good chance to repeat. In the AL, the Central will be tough again with the Tigers, Twins and Indians fighting tooth and nail to make it. The West is terrible and very up in the air. Oakland and LA seem to be the front-runners, but it is really anyone’s division. The East is going to be a dogfight between the perennial fat-cats, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Toronto is improved and got a huge boost finishing second last season, while Baltimore and Tampa Bay are both scrappy teams that should be tough outs for any team.
Both wildcard teams will come from the East
Fiction, neither wildcard will come out of the East divisions. In the NL the Braves, Phillies, Marlins and Nationals are all mediocre teams with glaring flaws. They will beat up on each other and thus take each other out of the wildcard race. I see the NL wildcard coming out of the West, in the person of the Dodgers/Giants/Padres. In the AL the Yankees and Red Sox are both very talented teams but I see one of the teams in the Central being better suited to land the wildcard. The Tigers are rock solid, especially with the addition of the dangerous Sheffield, and seem like the division favorites. But the Indians are coming off an injury riddled season and have a solid core of young talent that gets better every year. The Twins can never be counted out with Santana and the Mauer/Morneau hitting combo. One of those teams will be good enough to win the wildcard.
Big money free agents like Zito and Soriano will be worth it
Fact. Both Zito and Soriano are moving from the AL to the NL and should thrive in their new homes. Zito has not lived up to his 2001 form and was quite overpaid in free agency. But pitching against limp NL offenses like the Pirates, Brewers, Padres, Astros, Nationals and others will go a long way for him. I look for him to win about 14-18 games and maybe even 20 if he gets some offense behind him. As for Soriano he is going to be batting against weaker NL pitching and has a certain Derek Lee batting in the same line-up as him. Even though he won’t be in the launching pad that is Arlington, Wrigley is a fairly hitter friendly park. His home run numbers may dip a little but his RBIs and steals should rise.
Roger Clemens will pitch outside of Houston
Fiction. I just don’t see the Yankees or Red Sox shelling out the money to rent a pitcher for a few months. Then again you never know who will get injured. I don’t think a return to New York or Boston is what Clemens really wants, even if Houston ends up stinking. The Astros can and will give Clemens all the comforts he wants; hopefully he sees that and stays in Houston. Plus do you really want to deal with the media in NY or Boston again Roger?
The Cardinals will repeat as World Series winners
I will have to take the field on this one and go fiction. The Cards were the worst Series winning team in a long time. I mean Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver as your #2 and #3 starters? You must be kidding. Pujols as your only consistent hitter? Come on. The Cards won on about 15 Tiger pitching errors and every single Tiger hitting a slump at the same time. Even though the NL stinks and they will probably repeat as division champs, someone like the Mets or Dodgers should knock them out.