Though it’s been said by practically everyone I know about 100 times in the past week, I think it doesn’t hurt to say it again — spring is truly the one time of the year that Ithaca is gorges. More importantly, with all this great weather comes the start of Major League Baseball. After a 2004 season filled with surprises — including a Red Sox World Series that had the Babe rolling in his grave and Yankees fans beating up Boston fans on the streets of Collegetown — here are my divisional and World Series winner predictions for 2005:
AL East: Yankees
As usual, the AL East is a powerhouse. The Red Sox and the Yankees are easily the two best teams in baseball — and not coincidentally the two teams with the highest payrolls — and will certainly battle for the top spot in the division. At the same time, however, don’t discount the rest of the teams in this division. As I write this, the Blue Jays sit at the top of the standings in the east, and they have the players to stay near the top throughout the season. With Roy Halladay and Ted Lilly anchoring the starting rotation, Miguel Batista closing games (Batista claims he’s going for 50 saves this season) and Vernon Wells, who is simply put, a beast at the bat, the Blue Jays have definitely improved their playoff hopes. That’s right — I’m saying the Blue Jays will end up in third, despite their pathetic last-place finish a year ago. Nonetheless, the star-studded roster of the Yankees, which now includes pitching superstars Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano will pull this out easily. I just can’t see this team winning fewer than 100 games.The Sox, whose off-season wasn’t nearly as impressive as the Yanks’, will be nipping at New York’s heels as usual.
AL Central: Tigers
Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit was really able to turn it around this year. Pudge Rodriguez was batting up near .400 for much of last season, and the squat catcher almost earned himself a guaranteed MVP nomination in the first half. I think he’ll easily be the best catcher in the majors this year. The rest of the Tigers’ offense is monstrous, with Dmitri Young returning at first base and Carlos Guillen at shortstop. If the young pitching staff can get its act together, the Tigers will easily be a playoff contender.
AL West: Rangers
This is the tightest division in baseball, although I firmly believe that none of these teams have a chance against either the Red Sox or the Steinbrenners. The Rangers made it close in their run at the playoffs last year, although they finished last in their three-way race with Oakland and the Angels. Texas will take it this year — five guys with 20 homeruns don’t let first place slip away twice.
NL East: Braves
It apparently makes no difference who is actually on this team, because the Braves are always good. Seriously — I think we can leave the analysis at that, because 279 straight years of coming in first earns you that kind of respect. I think the Mets will make a run at first place after the addition of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez, but it’s not going to be enough for the Amazin’s, who just had a pathetic 0-5 start.
NL Central: Astros
First, all the Cardinals players will be off the steroids this year due to media attention, which will cost their offense tremendously. Fine, Albert Pujols is the man, but Clemens, Pettitte, and Oswalt on your pitching staff takes care of guys like that pretty fast. In addition, the Stros’ aging offense is nothing to scoff at. Craig Biggio can still hit, and Lance Berkman (yes, I know he’s out until May) is a powerhouse.