Sunday Sports Blogging: Opening Day

by Brien Jackson

And it’s about damn time. Finally, we can stop spending our sports time obsessing over amateur basketball. And of course, the new season demands predictions, which I’ll put behind the jump.

NL East:

1. New York Mets: The Mets problem over the past 2 seasons has been the bullpen, and now that they have K-Rod and J.J. Putz at the back end, it’s hard imagine they haven’t straightened that out.

2. Philadelphia Phillies: Having Chase Utley out for the beginning of the year will make it hard to edge out the Mets in the long run, but they still look like the 2nd best team in the division by a solid margin.

3. Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla are a nice young core, and their nice collection of young talent should be able to mount a respectable finish in a relatively deep division.

4. Atlanta Braves: Not bad, but not as good as the 3 higher teams.

5. Washington Nationals: They’re making a real effort to improve, but they’re still easily the worst team in this division.

NL Central:

1. Chicago Cubs: I can’t stand them, and I’m quite sure they’ll choke in the playoffs, but they still look like the best team in the division.

2. St. Louis Cardinals: With Chris Carpenter back, and C.C. Sabathia out of Milwaukee, the Cardinals are the 2nd best team in this division almost by default.

3. Milwaukee Brewers: No C.C., no Sheets, but they still have enough talent in the lineup to finish in the top half of the division.

4. Cincinnati Reds: It’s odd to think about it, but the starting rotation is actually Cincinnati’s strength, and their ability to score runs potentially a question mark. A top 3 of Edinson Volquez, Aaron Harang, and Bronson Arroyo, with the prospect of Johnny Cueto breaking out in the 4th spot, make this a relatively impressive National League rotation.

5. Houston Astros: They’re not getting any younger, and Roy Oswalt can’t pitch every game.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates: Probably the worst team in all of baseball.

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: A nice rotation, a solid upper half of the lineup, and, of course, Manny ought to be enough to win this division, but not by much.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks: A rotation with Brandon Webb and Dan Haren has a lot of potential, as does their youthful line-up, but much like last year, they just don’t appear to half enough to get over the Dodgers.

3. San Francisco Giants: the bottom 3 in this division are all pretty bad, I think San Fran is probably the least bad due to some solid starting pitching, and a pitcher friendly park.

4. San Diego Padres: The Padres are very bad, and they tried to deal their best player in the offseason, but…

5. Colorado Rockies: …the Rockies managed to get their best player dealt.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: Picking against the Yankees in the division is a very trendy thing to do these days, but c’mon. The top end of Sabathia-Wang-Burnett is arguably the best in the division, and Pettite-Chamberlain is easily the best 4-5 combination in the league. They shouldn’t have trouble scoring runs either, even with A-Rod missing time early. If they can sta healthy, and find a way to get the ball to Rivera, the Yankees will win a lot of games.

2. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox aren’t far behind the Yankees as a complete team with very few holes. They’ve also got largely proven players, and a ballpark they’re well suited to playing in.

3. Tampa Bay Rays: I think the Rays will probably win around 90 games, but quite frankly they have to do it again before I’ll be able to imagine them passing the Yankees and Red Sox in this division.

4. Baltimore Orioles: They have major questions surrounding their pitching staff, but it’s hard not to like their lineup.

5. Toronto Blue Jays: Roy Halladay only gets to pitch once every 4-5 days.

AL Central:

1. Detroit Tigers: They’re already having some injury problems, but I think the team that should have won the division last year and is probably the most talented should put it together this year.

2. Chicago White Sox: They’re still a very good team on paper, but they’re also not getting any younger, and Detroit still look betters.

3. Minnesota Twins: A team that seems to be a perennial over achiever could do it again this year, but I think they’ll come in 3rd.

4. Kansas City Royals: A perennial basement dweller, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I just like them better than I like Cleveland.

5. Cleveland Indians: An aging team that traded it’s best player last July, Cleveland will continue to decline, and may sell off more parts by the deadline.

AL West:

1. Los Angeles Angels: The only legitimately good team in the worst division of baseball.

2. Texas Rangers: A nice lineup with Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton, but no pitching will keep them under .500 and out of first place.

3. Oakland A’s: Adding Matt Holliday is nice, but they’re still not a very good team. Don’t be surprised if Holliday is traded at the deadline.

4. Seattle Mariners

AL Divisional Playoffs:

New York Yankees d. Detroit Tigers

Boston Red Sox d. Anaheim Angels

NL Divisional Playoffs:

Los Angeles Dodgers d. Philadelphia Phillies

New York Mets d. Chicago Cubs

AL Championship Series:

New York Yankees d. Boston Red Sox 4-3

NL Championship Series:

New York Mets d. Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1

World Series:

New York Yankees d. New York Mets 4-2

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