2014 Major League Baseball Preview

mlbThe 2014 Major League Baseball season is only five days away.

There are a lot of storylines heading into the season.  Will the Red Sox repeat?  Will the Yankees and Nationals bounce back?  Will the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig become a star and not a headcase?  Will the Pirates take the next step?  All of those questions will be answered in this preview and proven wrong during the season.

So, without further ado…

Note: *- wildcard team

American League

East Division

  1. Boston Red Sox (98-64)
  2. New York Yankees-* (95-67)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays-* (93-69)
  4. Baltimore Orioles (88-74)
  5. Toronto Blue Jays (80-82)

Analysis:  The AL East is still the best division in the majors.  Any of these teams could contend for division titles outside of the AL East.  Hell, I think that the Blue Jays will finish near or at .500.

At any rate, the Red Sox have close to the same squad that won it all last season, and is the team to beat in the division.  Hell, I’d be shocked if the Red Sox do not contend for the AL pennant.  The team that should be much improved is New York.  My Yankees acquired arguably the most sought-after pitcher in Masahiro Tanaka, who should be the guy that should help take the pressure off of CC Sabathia.  More importantly, the arrivals of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran should boost an offense that includes a healthy Mark Teixeira.  As  long as Tampa Bay employ Joe Maddon as its manager, the Rays will always be there in the end.  It’s too bad that the Orioles and Blue Jays are in this division – two good teams that would at least contend for division titles elsewhere.

Central Division

  1. Detroit Tigers (96-66)
  2. Cleveland Indians (90-72)
  3. Kansas City Royals (88-74)
  4. Minnesota Twins (74-88)
  5. Chicago White Sox (72-90)

Analysis:  Even with the changes the Tigers endured in the offseason, they are still the class of the division.  Iconic manager Jim Leyland retired shortly after the end of the playoffs, and Detroit traded away slugger Prince Fielder to the Rangers.  As long as they still have Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers should be fine.

Everyone else in the division is playing for second place.  The Indians were a great story last season, and should be in the mix for a wild-card spot this season.  Terry Francona is one of the best managers in the majors and should have Cleveland ready to go this season.  And as great a story as the Indians were, the Royals were an even better story.  Ned Yost is doing a good job in managing Kansas City, and “Big Game” James Shields is the undisputed ace of the Royals’ pitching staff.  As for Minnesota and Chicago, have fun waiting for football season.

West Division

  1. Texas Rangers (93-69)
  2. Oakland Athletics (92-70)
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim near El Segundo south of Hollywood (81-81)
  4. Seattle Mariners (78-84)
  5. Houston Astros (60-102)

Analysis:  The Rangers are looking to avenge last season’s flame-out near the end, when they allowed the Athletics to pass them en route of winning the division for the second year in a row.  When Texas acquired Prince Fielder during the offseason, I thought that move will help put it over the top.  After all, their lack of hitting hurt the Rangers last season.

Oakland will still be a good team this season, but I don’t think the Athletics have the horses to hang with the Rangers this time around.  The Angels have to be the most overrated team in the majors.  The Angels have this going for them, they serve as a cautionary tale for other teams: you cannot buy a championship.  Sure the Mariners have Robinson Cano – and waaaaaay overpaid to do so – but they are still mediocre.  And I would encourage Astros fans to hang in there until football season, but the Texans suck too.

National League

East Division

  1. Washington Nationals (94-68)
  2. Atlanta Braves (90-72)
  3. Philadephia Phillies (87-75)
  4. New York Mets (70-92)
  5. Miami Marlins (60-102)

Analysis:  I think the 2014 should be renamed “Nationals Revenge” because I think the Nats have a lot to prove after last season’s meltdown.  The Nats were a M.A.S.H. unit last season, and still finished within reach of a wildcard spot.  Plus, seeing Nats slugger Bryce Harper so yoked up is an indicator that he and the Nats mean business this year.  The Braves will contend as usual, but I dunno if they have the horses to overtake the Nats this season.  I mean sure, there are the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward, but what about that starting pitching?  Kris Medlen?  Mike Minor?  Really???

And there are the Phillies.  Poor guys.  This is a talented team that has underachieved in recent seasons, been doing so since they won the World Series in 2008.  Maybe new manager Ryne Sandberg will help Philly get it together?  I doubt it, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, the Mets are still the Mets, and will be among the cellar dwellers in the division.  They MIGHT be a slightly improved team, but that’s not good enough in a division with the Nats and Braves.  As far as the Marlins are concerned, I’m still amazed that management has not been “French Revolution”-ed and run out of town by the locals.  How the Marlins were able to rip off the city for that new crib, still suck and get away with it is beyond me.

Central Division

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates-* (94-68)
  3. Cincinnati Reds-* (93-69)
  4. Chicago Cubs (75-87)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (70-92)

Analysis:  This division and the AL East are the best divisions in baseball.  The Pirates and Reds will repeat as wildcards, and the Cardinals will luck their way into another division title.  Look, I lived in Cincinnati for four years, so I had learned to hate the Cardinals as much as I do the Red Sox – so I may be a bit biased against St. Louis.  However, there is no denying that St. Louis (and Tampa Bay) is the best run organization in baseball.  The much-improved Pirates (it’s about damn time they were good again), and Reds will make the Cards sweat in defending its Central Division crown.  Hell, this division didn’t resolve itself until the last couple of weeks of the season.  I am looking forward to seeing how this division shapes out after the All-Star break.

As for fans of the Cubs and Brewers, what can I tell you?  The Chicago will still suck and Milwaukee is still stuck with its lying drug cheat (Ryan Braun).  By the way Chicago, nice new perverted mascot…

West Division

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72)
  3. San Francisco Giants (85-77)
  4. Colorado Rockies (81-81)
  5. San Diego Padres (65-97)

Analysis:  The Dodgers-D’Backs rivalry will make this division “must-see TV”.  Seeing managers/old school former players Don Mattingly and Kirk Gibson jaw at each other during the big brawl between the two teams last season was epic.  Speaking of the Dodgers, they should repeat as division champs this season.  They have a powerful starting lineup led by Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and the enigmatic Puig.  L.A. also has the best starting pitching rotation in the majors led by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren.  Having closer Brian Wilson doesn’t hurt either.  The only thing that will get in the Dodgers’ way is themselves – see the latest stunts pulled by Puig.

The aforementioned D’Backs and Giants are good, but not great.  Both will fight it out for the right to play spoiler to the Dodgers/second place in the NL West.  The Rockies are just mediocre, nothing to get too excited about.  As for the Padres fans, there is always football season!

American League champions:  Boston Red Sox

National League champions:  Los Angeles Dodgers

2014 World Series champions:  Los Angeles Dodgers

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