Monday, April 02, 2007

Baseball preview: It's a beautiful day- let's play 2!

Opening Day combined with the NCAA Championship game make this one of the greatest days of the sports year

The Super Bowl, the Daytona & Indy 500s, the final days of Wimbledon & the US Open, Sunday at the Masters and in the old days a big heavyweight bout all have a certain unique and exciting aura about them that make them the best sporting days of the year.

Today, with the Opening Day of the 2007 MLB season and the NCAA basketball national championship game later tonight, has to be right up there with all those luminous events as a singularly spectacular day to be a sports fan. Throw in passover, the finale of prison Break and another episode of dancing with the Stars and you've got enough going on to qualify for national holiday status.

But nothing beats the pomp, pageantry, and propensity to see 'roided-up records set than opening day, and ESPN has a great double-header scheduled this afternoon. Devil Rays at Stankees at 1:00 followed by Boston at Kansas City at 4:00.

There will be some games tonight, although evidently not on Extra innings, but by 9:00 everyone will be glued to that ultimate reality show with the winner taking home the ultimate prize, the title game rematch between the Florida Gators and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

That game is still 8 hours away, though. In the meantime I will enlighten you with my always-entertaining MLB 2007 Season Predictions, guaranteed to come true or at least ensure I will have to endure months of unending verbal abuse.


A.L. East: Boston- this is the year that the Sox unseat the reigning 10-year division champion Stankees. Boston is not only stacked offensively thanks to the addition of Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew, but the rotation should be one of the best in baseball and Papelbon is back to close out close games.

Sure the Sox have questions, like will Coco rebound from his injury-riddled 2006 season, can Pedroia handle the strain of playing 2B for a contending team in the cauldron of Beantown, and will Lowell duplicate his bounceback season of 2006, but with five potential .300 hitters ( and 2 guaranteed 35+ HR/120+ RBI men the offense should score enough runs to take the division crown.

New York- great lineup, but that rotation is as old and thin as Ann Coulter. Toronto is loaded on offense as well with the addition of Frank Thomas but the loss of Ted Lilly could hurt the Blue Birds more than they realize. Beyond Cy Halladay the rotation is shaky and in this division that's all it will take to miss the postseason. Baltimore & Tampa Bay? Just watching, thank you.

A.L. Central: Chicago- everyone loves either the defending division champion Twins, ready-to-blossom Indians or the dominant Tiger team that went to the Series, but don't sleep on Crazy Ozzie's squad. The Sox are still loaded on offense with the Fearsome Foursome of Crede, Thome, Dye and Konerko combining for 151 homers last year and the pitching staff, though slightly overworked in recent years, has the potential to make the Chisox a title contender again.

Meanwhile Detroit lost its horse, Kenny Stickum Rogers, for a few months and my money says Gary Sheffield somehow poisons that chummy clubhouse by mid season. Minnesota has one pitcher, a Cy Young lock no less, but four guys had career years last year so don't look for that to happen again. Cleveland-when C.onstantly C.onvalescing Sabathia is your ace, you got no shot.

Plus if the White Sox don't win it will be fun to see how bad Ozzie will implode.

A.L. West: Texas- the ultra-chic pick this year evidently is the LA of Anaheim Angels, who have been picked by many experts to be this year's Cinderella team and go all the way (S.I. picked the Halos to win it all, thank God.) Closely trailing the Angles are the always-competitive A's, but the loss of Barry Zito, the final ace from that Terrific Triumverate of Zito-Hudson-Mulder, should kill Oakland's chances.

But I like the Rangers to get back to the postseason with reclamation project Sammy Sosa poised for a big comeback and boasting an offense that just won't quit. Hurlers Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla young Brandon McCarthey are just good enough to get it done, and they have two closers so when Eric Gagne breaks down Akinori Otsuka (32 saves last year) can step back in.

Wild Card: Stankees a $200 million payroll and a big mid-season acquisition (Rocket fueled?) should be enough to get the Empire into the playoffs



AL Champ: Boston


N.L.East: Phillies- once again I am going against the grain as everyone seems to love the Mets repeating their success of 2006. I look at a threadbare rotation and an old, potentially washed up closer that will have a hard time overcoming the loss of Pedro Martinez. That's why I like the Phils, with their solid starting five (Myers, Hamels, Garcia, Eaton & Moyer) and dynamic offense led by reigning MVP Ryan Howard, to make it to the postseason for the first time since 1993.

N.L. Central:Cubs- while it seems everybody loves the Brewers- today- and the Cards and 'Stros have solid but pitching-thin clubs, when you take all that money the Tribune Co. spent (more than $300 million in upgrades) in its swan song season owning the team, throw in a combative, competitive coach like Lou Pinella, a Cy Young candidate (Victor Zambrano) and a pair of potential MVPs (Soriano, Lee) and you've got the makings of a curse-busting season.

Unless of course all that Stankee/Boston-like free spending blows up in their faces.

N.L. West: LA Dodgers- this division will most likely be the wild west shootout like it was last year when 3 teams went down the stretch with a chance to win the divison and two, the Padres and Dodgers, made the playoffs.

Arizona is a young but trendy pick and San Fran will be better with Barry- Zito I mean- but I like the Dodgers combination of quality starters (Lowe, Penny, Schmidt, Wolf) and plethora of .300 hitters. The Pads, Giants and D-Backs will all be in the mix, and even the hapless Rockies should be improved, but I love L.A. here-plus they're the West Coast Sox.

Wild Card: Mets- decent enough pitching (most like a mid season trade if Petey doesn't return) and a star-studded lineup will get this team back to playing October baseball.



NL Champ: CUBS

WORLD SERIES: Red Sox over Cubs in 7 games

AL MVP: Big Papi, DH BOS he will finally make the voters get over the hangup about him not playing the field when he mashes 55 homers and 145 RBIs for the division winners

NL MVP: Jose Reyes, SS NYM the supersonic shortstop will be the spark plug of the dynamic New York offense; he will lead the majors in steals, triples and being most exciting player to watch every at bat

AL Cy Young: Johan CyTana, MIN the 2-time winner for the Twins is sure to get 35 starts being the only quality starter for Minnesota now that Francisco Liriano is out for the year, and those starts will equate to 21-25 wins, a microscopic ERA & WHIP and close to 300 strikeouts

NL Cy Young: Carlos (don't call me Victor again) Zambrano, CHI I've picked this guy for three years running and one of these times he's gonna make me look like a genius. The ace of the new Cubs with Wood & Prior no longer in the picture this stud is poised to have a huge season, further justifying his demands for a mega buck contract.

AL Rookie of the Year: Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS I know it's not fair because the guy had pitched for 67 seasons in Japan but if Nomo, Ichiro and Kaz Suzaki can win it so can he. the talented & enigmatic man known as Dice-K will win 18 games, have an ERA near 3.00 and a WHIP near 1.10 and strengthen the rotation of a playoff contender all while adapting to life in a foreign country; of course I'm referring to the Red Sox Nation.

NL Rookie of the Year: Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B ARI This kid has got a ton of potential and a devastating bat; he hit the first major league pitch he ever saw for a grand slam after a September callup and he carried a .395 OBP in 340 minor league games. With the 3B job his to keep for the Pads he should have enough ABs to win the award.

Plus I just love saying his name (kouzmanoff, kouzmanoff, kouzmanoff...)

That's all for now. laugh if you want, but I will have the last laugh come October.

And if I'm wrong I'll just start over under another


Butch said...

CUBS PITCHER YOU PICKED FOR CY YOUNG IS CARLOS ZAMBRANO. Victor is the ENIGMA Neanderthol that was with the Rays.

J Rose said...

Butchie, great catch on my Neanderthal-like Fruedian slip!