Well, I wanted to get all the previews up before tonight’s opening game, but at that point I hadn’t really anticipated having a pair of jammed fingers from playing basketball. I’m usually able to type pretty quickly, but then again, I’m usually able to type using my right middle finger and, should the situation require it, thumb.
That being said, I’m going to try to fire out the rest of these previews tonight, particularly since I also have another article to write tomorrow for my actual job, which, naturally, is also about baseball. Gloriously, there is no escape.
I had anticipated to once again let my East Coast Bias shine through in this post, since I’m more familiar with a few of these teams than, say, the San Diego Padres. Anyway, no promises now — we’ll see how the digits hold up.
So let’s dive into the Senior Circuit, starting with the WFCs.
When I went to see the Phillies play the Red Sox in a interleague game last June, I believed that I was only seeing one potential World Series champion franchise take the field, and it was the team that wound up playing the waiting game against Jamie Moyer en route to a convincing win over the eventual World Champs. And, while the Sox were one win away from returning to the World Series, and while the Sox took two of three in the regular season series with the Phils, ultimately, it was the Phillies who were, as Chase Utley would put it, the World Fucking Championship team on the field on that day.
And you know what? I didn’t have a problem with it. I happen to know a ton of Phillies fans, and, unlike with the Yankees and to some extent Mets fans friends, I don’t get a huge kick out of it when the Phils fail. Seriously, who would really enjoy a forlorn Phillie Phanatic? That’s madness.
Now, granted, the Phils did contribute to the ruination of my birthday in 1993 — thanks a lot, Mitch Williams — after much of the Philly contingent of my family was traumatized, but I don’t hold a lot of ill will towards them. Or didn’t, is maybe a better word.
But what they did at the end of last year was tremendous. Once again, they outlasted the chirpy, gutless New York Mets to win the NL East after the Mets once again embarrassed themselves by declaring themselves the most talented team in the division, only to once again choke against the Florida Marlins on the final weekend of the year. And then, following their run past the Brewers and, as a Manny guy, their unfortunate win NLCS win over the Dodgers (I forgive you), they went and did what nobody in the American League, including the Red Sox, could do, and that was finally put a stake through the heart of the goddamn Tampa Bay Rays, once and for all.
From there, my relative indifference towards the Phillies swoll almost to the point of well-wishing. Obviously, Utley’s World F’N Champions speech and the mainstream emergence of Cole Hamels facts helped this along. And, of course, the Phanatic.
So, I hope the 2008 Phillies all enjoyed their winter as the World Champs (Except for Pat Burrell. Fuck him.), and I hope they have another great year in 2009. But, as a Sox fan, I hope it’s not quite as great as a year ago. We’ve got more World Series of our own to win.
The Phils’ season got off to a rough start on Sunday night when Brett Myers reverted to his early 2008 form and served up batting practice to the Atlanta Braves. It’s probably not anything to worry about yet, though. There’ll be 161 more games to build up those concerns and make guys like J-Roll whine about front-running fans and try to talk their way out of town (anyone remember that now?)
Just another reason why baseball is awesome.
Thumb’s swelling up bigtime, so I’ll try to pick up with the previews tomorrow if possible. IN THE MEANWHILE, here’s a rough approximation of how I think the divisions will pan out this year, with some very brief thoughts for the NL teams on why I have them ranked where I do. I’ll try to improve upon these tomorrow, though, obviously, time is running out.:
1.) Boston Red Sox
2.) New York Yankees
3.) Tampa Bay Rays
4.) Baltimore Orioles
5.) Toronto Blue Jays
1.) Minnesota Twins
2.) Cleveland Indians
3.) Kansas City Royals
4.) Chicago White Sox
5.) Detroit Tigers
1.) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2.) Oakland Athletics
3.) Texas Rangers
4.) Seattle Mariners
WILD CARD: New York Yankees
New York Yankees over Minnesota Twins
Boston Red Sox over Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Boston Red Sox over New York Yankees (I swear, this is bias-free.)
1.) Atlanta Braves (I really like the replenished pitching staff.)
2.) Philadelphia Phillies (They should find their way into the playoffs as a wild card, I’m guessing.)
3.) New York Mets (almost put them in 4th place… I hate the “improvements” made to the team by Minaya. Almost reminiscent of a Steve Phillips touch-up job on those Bobby V teams that needed help.)
4.) Florida Marlins (they’ve got a lot of solid young pitching, but the team defense is suspect, especially on the infield, which should work in particular against Volstad)
5.) Washington Nationals (You’ve gotta respect an organization this blissfully unaware of the need for pitching at the Major League level.)
1.) Chicago Cubs (I could see them having another down year, too. But this division is extremely weak. That was my belief a year ago and then they went and produced two playoff teams, but the Brewers should be down this year and nobody else really looks like they’ll step up.)
2.) St. Louis Cardinals (For this exercise, we’ll just pretend that Chris Carpenter will stay healthy all year.)
3.) Cincinnati Reds (It probably wouldn’t be wise to sleep on their pitching. They’ve got quite a bit of it, a decent closer and some strong hitters. In this division, you shouldn’t need much more.)
4.) Milwaukee Brewers (Lost Sabathia and Sheets. Replace them with Braden Looper. I don’t expect that to do the trick. They could sink even lower.)
5.) Pittsburgh Pirates (They’ve got more pitching than the Astros, in my opinion. Even if they don’t, they have a ballpark that’s more forgiving of most mistakes.)
6.) Houston Astros (Following his brief stint in New York, I actually have a canned message in my cell that reads “Pudge sucks”.)
1.) Arizona Diamondbacks (Webb/Haren 1-2 punch and a strong lineup will be tough for the Dodgers to top two years in a row.)
2.) Los Angeles Dodgers (Manny Ramirez is awesome. That is all.)
3.) San Francisco Giants (Zito can’t be as awful as he was last year again this season, can he? He’ll probably make a decent #4 behind Lincecum, Cain and Randy Johnson. Now if only they could learn to hit.)
4.) Colorado Rockies (I’m unsure what this team was trying to accomplish in the offseason.)
5.) San Diego Padres (Less a baseball team and more a sociological consequence.)
WILD CARD: Philadelphia Phillies
Chicago Cubs over Philadelphia Phillies
Arizona Diamondbacks over Atlanta Braves
Arizona Diamondbacks over Chicago Cubs
Boston Red Sox over Arizona Diamondbacks
I believe this is the second year in a row I predicted the Diamondbacks would reach the World Series. Somehow, it never gets old. Or manages to be right.