It snowed around 8 inches two days ago. Not exactly what I was expecting exactly one week before the first pitch of the 2013 baseball season, but a reinforcement that I really want spring to get here soon. And nothing rings in spring (sorry Señor Groundhog) like the beginning of the Major League Baseball season. While I’m enjoying March Madness, I am absolutely excited for baseball season to begin. True some of it may be tied to the fact that the Royals actually employ a handful of professional starting pitchers instead of hitchhikers picked up off of I-70 like the past few seasons, but that’s only part of the story. I simply love baseball. (You might have picked that up from the fact that it took 3 full columns for me to vent my frustrations with the Hall of Fame). The sights, the smells, and the sounds are unmistakable. The opportunity to spend 3 hours talking, laughing and cheering with friends and family as we take in the local team is something I relish. In fact, one of the things I am looking forward to the most this year (obviously behind the mid-summer birth of my 3rd child…don’t want any angry comments about priorities!) is getting to watch my hometown Atlanta Braves visit my current town Kansas City Royals for the first time and getting to do it with my father and brothers. It just doesn’t get much better than that! Ok, so you are probably getting the point…
Now one of the other rights of passage of spring is the Random Thoughts Illustrated Baseball Preview. I have heard from some that expectations are getting higher after I
got lucky picked the Ravens to win the Super Bowl this year and the Heat to win the NBA Finals last year and got both correct. Well, please temper your expectations. While I did have the Giants in the World Series last year, I had them losing to the Angels who did not make the playoffs. (Of course…if I’m riding a hot streak, maybe I should pick a Royals vs. Braves World Series and hope for the best…or I could get off this tangent and resume the column). So as I was saying, as much as I’d love to tell you that I will be just as accurate with this one, all I can guarantee is that the Astros will NOT win the National League this year. (wait for it… wait for it…) Because they are in the American League now!! Bazinga! Ok, well I will also guarantee that they won’t win the American League either. So there’s a guarantee for you. Beyond that, here’s what I think will happen! (We’ll break this into two columns so I don’t lose you in a 4,000 word column…)
National League East
- Washington Nationals (98-64)
- Atlanta Braves (90-72)
- Philadelphia Phillies (81-81)
- New York Mets (79-83)
- Miami Marlins (60-102)
The East feels pretty similar to last season. The Nationals are the head of the class with their young guys continuing to get better and Strasburg off of his innings limit. They also bolstered their already talented bullpen. The Braves did everything they could to strengthen their lineup and should field a Wild Card caliber team. As for the rest of the division, the Phillies appear to be sliding, the Mets rising, and the Marlins… well they will be Tom Petty-ing. (They’re FREEEEEEEEE… FREE FALLIN’!!)
National League Central
- St. Louis Cardinals (94-68)
- Cincinnati Reds (91-71)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (80-82)
- Milwaukee Brewers (75-87)
- Chicago Cubs (70-92)
One of these days I really want the Pirates to make that next leap… I just don’t feel it yet. The Cardinals and the Reds are the class of the division yet again. They will both win fewer games simply by the Astros no longer being in the division, but they should still both be postseason bound. The Cubs should start moving upward and hopefully for that fan base they will appreciate the improvement. And then there are the Brewers. They keep drifting farther away from the playoff team they were not long ago.
National League West
- Los Angeles Dodgers (91-71)
- San Francisco Giants (89-73)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81)
- San Diego Padres (75-87)
- Colorado Rockies (64-98)
The Dodgers have spent roughly 48 times more than the nation of Cyprus’ GDP in this past offseason alone. They flirted with the playoffs last year, but came up short. This season they will have a full year of “Magic” and provided the early injuries don’t keep piling up, the playoffs should return to Chavez Ravine. The Giants are the defending champs and will have another really good season, but when all is said and done the strength of the division will be the downfall of the Giants as they come up just short. The D’backs will be a threat all year, but could use just a little more to get them over the hump. As for the Rockies & Padres ……….. I’m sorry I think I dozed off.
- Wild Card: Braves over Reds
- Division Round: Nationals over Braves; Dodgers over Cardinals
- Championship Series: Nationals over Dodgers
Who else could win the NL Pennant?
Come back tomorrow for the American League Preview!!