As winter dies and spring is born, baseball once again rises from the ashes like the legendary phoenix. The 2014 season had already really begun last weekend in Australia as the Los Angeles Dodgers took two from the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but it gets into full swing this week. The Dodgers again are in the spotlight tonight in San Diego against the Padres for the Sunday Night game on ESPN. Everyone else kicks off Monday and Tuesday.
There are a lot of running storylines for the 2014 season, none bigger than the last ride for the captain of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter. It’s also commissioner Bud Selig’s last year as well (thank the Lord Almighty). But there’s also the new era of instant replay and the rise of a new generation of superstars, many from abroad.
Many teams have improved, some got worse, some stayed the same. Baseball has reached probably its highest level of parity in history, so just about any team can win it all. But only 10 teams can play in October, and only one can become World Series champions.
Tampa Bay Rays 96-66
New York Yankees*: 94-68
Boston Red Sox 89-73
Baltimore Orioles: 80-82
Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84
Why: The AL Beast is probably the toughest division in baseball, producing a wild card team every year since 2006. Even with questions in their lineups, New York and Tampa Bay have two potentially dominant rotations.
Detroit Tigers: 95-67
Kansas City Royals: 90-72
Cleveland Indians: 78-84
Chicago White Sox: 71-91
Minnesota Twins: 66-96
Why: Even after dumping Prince Fielder, losing Jose Iglesias, and trading Doug Fister for basically nothing, Detroit remains the most talented team in the Central. The young Royals will continue to get better and will have a go for their first playoff appearance in almost 30 years.
Texas Rangers: 97-65
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim*: 91-71
Oakland Athletics: 89-73
Seattle Mariners 72-90
Houston Astros: 57-105
Why: The Rangers will finally get it together and avoid another September collapse with acquisition of Prince Fielder. The Angels will finally live up to the billing thanks to resurgence from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton (and the continued brilliance of Mike Trout) and will beat out a tough race for the second wild card.
Washington Nationals: 97-65
Atlanta Braves*: 93-69
New York Mets: 82-80
Philadelphia Phillies: 68-94
Miami Marlins: 65-97
Why: The Nationals’ rotation is deep and downright terrifying, and Bryce Harper will lead the way in a breakout season for the 21 year-old. Atlanta will survive this injury catastrophe and will make it back to the postseason without Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. The Mets could use this season as a bridge to a very bright future.
St. Louis Cardinals: 98-64
Cincinnati Reds*: 95-67
Pittsburgh Pirates: 85-77
Milwaukee Brewers: 76-86
Chicago Cubs: 61-101
Why: St. Louis remains a deep club, probably the deepest in the majors at just every facet of the game. The Reds could have an answer to their leadoff woes in the form of Billy Hamilton, and they have some of the best pitching in the game. Pittsburgh takes a bit of a step back, but their future remains bright thanks to Gregory Polance, Gerrit Cole, and of course, Andrew McCutchen.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 102-60
San Diego Padres: 84-78
San Francisco Giants: 81-81
Arizona Diamondbacks: 76-86
Colorado Rockies: 68-94
Why: The Dodgers should easily run away in this weak division. Resurgence from Matt Kemp will make them even more dangerous come playoff time.
AL Wild Card: New York over Los Angeles
ALDS: New York over Texas (3-1), Tampa Bay over Detroit (3-2)
ALCS: New York over Tampa Bay, 4-2
NL Wild Card: Cincinnati over Atlanta
NLDS: Washington over St. Louis (3-2), Los Angeles over Cincinnati (3-1)
NLCS: Los Angeles over Washington, 4-3
World Series: New York Yankees over Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2
Why: Two big market superpowers will collide for the first time since 1981. The Dodgers have the star power to stand out in a loaded NL. The Yankees have enough pitching depth and a good amount of seasoned veterans to make up for the losses of Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte. Also, don’t underestimate the Jeter factor this season. This may be a homer pick, but I think the Yankees will be serious contenders this year and send the Captain out a champion for the sixth time.
MVP: Mike Trout (Los Angeles)
Rookie of the Year: Masahiro Tanaka (New York)
Cy Young: David Price (Tampa Bay)
Manager of the Year: Ned Yost (Kansas City)
Comeback Player of the Year: Derek Jeter (New York)
MVP: Joey Votto (Cincinnati)
Rookie of the Year: Gregory Polanco (Pittsburgh)
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles)
Manager of the Year: Fredi Gonzalez (Atlanta)
Comeback Player of the Year: Matt Kemp (Los Angeles)