Well, well, once again I’m posting — for all to see and marvel at — my 2008 Major League Baseball predictions for the up-coming season.
East: New York Yankees
Both the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees had an unusually quite Hot Stove Season. This will surely be a tough call. We all hope that the Red Sox magic from 2007 would spill-over into 2008. However, I will leave sentiment aside here because I sense that it may be too much to expect the young guys (Dustin Pedrioa, Jacoby Ellsbury, etc) to have a great run in the long-term in replacing the Sox’s fading stars (David Ortiz and Manny Ramíerz). The Yankees, although they had a slow start last season, were much more of a consistent team. The Red Sox will, once again, be playing for the Wild Card. I like their chances.
Central: Detroit Tigers
Wow, on paper the Detroit Tigers have a powerful line-up and are expected to score 1000 runs this season. The addition of ace Dontrell Willis surely gives them hope on defense as well. I really can’t buck “conventional baseball wisdom” here. The Cleveland Indians have a team that quickly matured with aces C.C. Sabathia (19-7 3.21), Fausto Carmona (19-8 3.06) and Joe Borowski (44 saves). Expect the Indians to be in the Wild Card hunt.
West: Seattle Mariners
This year’s out-on-a-limb™ pick is the Seattle Mariners. Last year’s 88-74 (6 games back) finish was a great leap forward from the last few really disappointing seasons. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim look great on paper but “chemistry” is a big ingredient with a ballclub. I expect the Angels to compete strong all season long but no Division Win and no Wild Card for them. Torii Hunter will have wished that he stayed put in Minnesota.
East: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies’ hot streak late last season (winning 13 of 17) I think can be seen as a prelude to this season. With back-to-back MVPs in Jimmy Rollins (2007) and Ryan Howard (2006) the team should have no problem scoring runs. The only serious question will be if their cobbled-together pitching staff can hold out for a long season. The New York Mets also look good in terms of numbers and especially with new ace Johan Santana. The Mets should be content with a Wild Card this year.
Central: Chicago Cubs
This is certainly the most difficult of the divisions to predict. The Chicago Cubs have had good pitching but lacked in hitting in recent years. So they will surely welcome Kosuke Fukudome from Japan (.305 career average) to shore-up the 5th slot. The St. Louis Cardinals are always a sentimental favorite of mine but they have way too many issues to seriously contend this year. The Cincinnati Reds are stocked with young talent and I’m hope new manager and three-time National League Manager of the Year (’93, ’97, ’00) Dusty Baker, a.k.a. Johnnie Baker Jr., learns not to overuse young talent (** cough** Kerry Wood ** cough**). I do expect the Reds to both compete and surprise but will hold back on another out-on-a-limb™ pick prediction here. However, I may regret it.
West: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks should be battling all season for the top slot out west. Arizona has great pitching including aces Brandon Webb and Dan Harden. Los Angeles finally will have some power in the person of Anruw Jones. The 2007 National League Champion Colorado Rockies had a great late-season run last year and they surely have the foundation to compete for the Wild Card. The Rockies were no “fluke” last season. They have been building home-grown talent wisely and now all have noticed.
Photo: Carl Crawford in his “new look” Tampa Bay Rays uniform.