MLB Opening Day is like no other day of the year.
Today is the one day out of the season where every team can claim to be in first place. Whether you finished in last or first the previous season, you can throw it out the window.
It’s a fresh start and a day of optimism for everyone throughout Major League Baseball.
Pirates fans are optimistic of a winning season. Cubs fans are optimistic of finally winning the World Series. Yankees fans are optimistic that their owner will be able to bail them out since they screwed up the Cliff Lee signing. Maybe this year they won’t spit on opposing players’ wives. I doubt it though.
Between seeing your team’s new offseason acquisitions or awaiting your team’s young prospects to take the next step, MLB Opening Day provides a certain excitement rivaled by few other events.
This past offseason was like all others, except in one aspect. The rumors were there and the big name free agents were there. The only thing missing? The Yankees outbidding everyone. That’s not to say they didn’t try, but for once, they were unsuccessful.
Along with the start of any sports season comes the predictions from all of the experts and crazy fans. I’m not an expert, but I’m definitely a crazy fan, so I won’t deprive you of my predictions.
Unless I somehow ingested the drug from “Limitless,” don’t expect too much from me. After all, this is sports, and anything can happen.
One quick side note: How many of you picked the Giants to top the Rangers in the World Series? I’m guessing it was probably the same amount of you who picked all four Final Four teams correctly.
Nevertheless, here are my picks:
Winner: Red Sox
Why: The Red Sox have just too much talent. An injury plagued team last year is an offensive juggernaut this year. Beckett and Lackey improve, while Lester stays ace material. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford make the difference. Even if this team battles injuries, I still feel they are talented enough to win the division.
Second: Twins or White Sox
Why: The AL Central was the hardest division for me to pick. All three teams have the pieces in place to win their division. The Tigers and White Sox improved through offseason acquisitions and the Twins get back Justin Morneau. The reason I picked the Tigers is because their pitching staff has a chance to be deadly. They picked up Victor Martinez and also get back a healthy Magglio Ordonez. Will Rhymes and Ryan Raburn make the most of their opportunities and the Tigers head to the playoffs.
Why: Many people point to the losses of Cliff Lee and Vladimir Guerrero as a chance for another AL West team to step forward. One problem, none of them have done anything significant enough to put them on the level of the Rangers. The Rangers only had Cliff Lee for a portion of the season and even when he was in Texas, he wasn’t lights out. The Rangers picked up Adrian Beltre to fill Guerrero’s empty spot and have a ton of talent on offense. The Rangers win the AL West, basically, by default.
Second: White Sox, Twins
Why: Just because the Yankees didn’t do anything in the offseason that improved their club, it doesn’t mean they are suddenly terrible. Yes, they also lost Andy Pettitte and have a questionable starting rotation, but they are still extremely talented. This team still has Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera just to name a few. If this team gets any help from the back-end of their rotation then they could even push for the AL East crown. For now, they will have to settle for the Wildcard spot.
Cy Young: Jon Lester
MVP: Miguel Cabrera
R.O.Y: Jeremy Hellickson
Why: While the talk of the NL East this offseason has been the Phillies, everyone has forgotten about the Braves. This team made the playoffs last year, only to be hampered by late season injuries. They get a healthy Chipper Jones and Martin Prado back. They received Dan Uggla via trade and have a healthy Jason Heyward with a year in the big leagues under his belt. The Phillies have injury issues and I think it takes them a while before they hit their stride.
Why: My initial pick was the St. Louis Cardinals. That is, until, Adam Wainwright suffered a significant elbow injury. The Reds won the division last year and not much has changed. The Brewers upgraded their pitching staff during the offseason but lack the depth to take over the Reds. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce lead the offensive attack while Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez and Bronson Arroyo lead the rotation. Add in a full season with the hard-throwing lefty, Aroldis Chapman, and the Reds should repeat as Central champs.
Why: Aside from the Phillies, the Giants have the best starting rotation in baseball. Coming off a World Series victory, the trio of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner won’t sneak up on anyone. The Giants lost Juan Uribe to the Dodgers but Miguel Tejada should be able to fill his void. Buster Posey should continue to build on his incredible 2010-11 season and Bradon Belt should provide an impact right away. The Giants should be able to hold off the duo of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
Second: Brewers, Reds
Why: Even if the Phillies get off to a rough start, they have the rotation to carry them along until their offense catches up. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels lead one of the most anticipated rotations in history. If the Phillies offense is clicking, they are among the best. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins need to get healthy and stay healthy. The loss of Jayson Werth hurts, but Cliff Lee should do plenty to make up for it. If the Phillies make the playoffs, everyone should look out.
Cy Young: Roy Halladay
MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
R.O.Y: Brandon Belt
Red Sox vs. Phillies
A potent offense versus a lights out pitching staff. Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis and Crawford against Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels. Normally, I would side with the team with the best pitching staff but the Red Sox seem too talented. Jon Lester is a Cy Young candidate and the rest of their rotation has potential. Last year, Beckett was bothered by injuries and Lackey was adjusting to battling the Yankees and Rays instead of the Athletics and Mariners. For example, in ESPN Experts’ Predictions, 45 out of 45 experts have the Red Sox winning the AL East. Out of the 45 experts, 42 of them have the Red Sox in the World Series. Out of the 42 experts with the Red Sox in the World Series, 33 of them have the Red winning the World Series. Sometimes, you just got to tell yourself, keep it simple stupid. This year, belongs to the Red Sox.