The opening series has come and gone, the last remaining games of spring training are still to be played, and rosters everywhere are beginning to take form. That means it’s time for some predictions!
Every year magazines give their opinions on division winners, sleeper playoff contenders, and eventual World Series champions. Not here. This season, the battle for last (if you care – and if you don’t, you’re reading the wrong blog) will be as intense as the battle for first. The following are my division-by-division picks:
AL East: Baltimore Orioles. They traded away their staff ace and one of the top pitchers in all of baseball in Erik Bedard. Ouch. Brian Roberts looks to be next out the door, not to mention the loss of Miguel Tejada. Though Adam Jones joins Nick Markakis in what looks to be a respectable – if not dangerous – outfield down the road, they won’t be near enough to keep this squad out of the division cellar for years to come. You know the Yanks or Sox won’t slip, the Jays are perpetually average, and the Rays (they dropped the “Devil”) are on the verge of relevance. The O’s could very well be the worst team in baseball this season.
AL Central: Chicago White Sox. My initial thoughts on the appropriate pick for this division was the Royals, but Alex Gordon and Billy Butler give them a decent core, and Zack Greinke and Gil Meche – with Joakim Soria closing – look good enough to fend off the Sox. Nick Swisher should see statistical improvement in Chicago, but his bat won’t be a difference maker.
AL West: Texas Rangers. The inevitable injuries to Oakland’s roster could make this division race interesting. The addition of Josh Hamilton should replace some of the power lost with Mark Teixeira’s departure in ’07, but overall the roster isn’t much improved over last season, so there’s no reason to expect different results.
NL East: Florida Marlins. Any time you lose a giant chunk of offense (Miguel Cabrera; 34 HR, 119 RBI, .320 AVG in 2007), you’re in trouble. Their starting rotation is atrocious. While the loss of Dontrelle Willis isn’t necessarily a huge one, the loss of any semblance of veteran leadership and/or consistency certainly doesn’t help. Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Jeremy Hermida will contribute, and they’re sure to rebuild back into contention, but it won’t be this season. The ‘Fins are another contender for the worst record in baseball.
NL Central: Pittsburgh Pirates. Because what have they done to improve? The rest of the division has only gotten stronger. It’s going to be another long summer for the Bucs.
NL West: San Francisco Giants. Easy choice here. Benji Molina (19 HR, 81 RBI, .276 AVG in ‘07) will bat in the heart of the lineup. The addition of Aaron Rowand will provide a much needed spark to the order, but who will he drive in? Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain would be solid anchors for any staff but will waste away on this team. It’s too bad Barry Zito isn’t as good as his contract (which will be discussed at a later date) would have you believe. The Giants are another team who could easily finish with the worst record in baseball.
The worst team of the 2008 season will be: The Baltimore Orioles! This team stinks, they’ll only get worse if they trade away Brian Roberts, and rest of the AL East will beat up on them all season long. They lost 93 games in 2007 and could easily surpass that number this year.
A few other teams that many might expect to contend could just as easily disappoint:
The Padres are an injury or two away from a terrible rotation, and they certainly won't be beating their opponents by outscoring them. Even if they're not historically bad, they could have a tough time keeping up with their competition in the NL West.
Seattle fans should temper their expectations as well. Off-season acquisition Erik Bedard won't hurt anything, but they gave up a ton of talent to bring him in, and Richie Sexson remains a giant hole in the middle of that line up. Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling this team could flat out stink.
So there you have it – ’08 predictions, Bad Baseball style. I’ll be sure to track these teams – along with any other surprises – as the season plays out.