Cleveland to avenge Series loss to Cubs

By Steve Sell
March 31, 2017

It’s often been said the sequel never lives up to the original.

We’re going to find out in the 2017 World Series if that's true.

Chicago and Cleveland played one of the most scintillating World Series in recent memory in 2016, with the Cubs overcoming a 3-1 deficit to end their 108-year championship drought.

I’m generally not a big believer in picking a World Series repeat because it never seems to work out that way anymore as injuries play such a huge role. But the Indians clearly look to be the class of the American League and ditto for the Cubs in the National League.

Here’s how the divisions will play out:

• AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST •

1. Boston — If David Price can overcome his elbow problems, the Red Sox will be formidable at the top of their rotation. And even without the retired David Ortiz, they’ll certainly hit. A healthy Price is the difference between just a playoff team and a World Series finalist.

2. Toronto — Slugger Edwin Encarnacion is a huge loss, but there’s still plenty of firepower. Is the starting pitching good enough to catch the Red Sox?

3. New York — The Yankees will try to out-slug their opponents and turn games into seven-inning affairs as Dellin Bentances and Aroldis Chapman are close to unhittable in the eighth and ninth.

4. Baltimore — The Orioles are a mirror image of the Yankees without the eighth-inning reliever as closer Zach Britton needs a setup man. They are always the toughest team to peg because they're feast or famine because of their home run dependence.

5. Tampa Bay — Since Joe Maddon left, the Rays have basically become the permanent cellar dweller.

• AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL •

1. Cleveland — When they say it’s too good to be true, it generally is. But the Indians may be the exception because if they avoid injuries to their starting pitchers, they’ll win it all.

2. Detroit — The Tigers’ stars are getting old. How many more productive years can they squeeze out of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Justin Verlander?

3. Kansas City — The last go-around for the Royals. The team will be broken up after this year because David Glass simply can’t afford to pay everybody. If the Royals are out of contention on July 31, look for a fire sale.

4. Chicago — The White Sox are in a total rebuild. They are following the blueprint of their crosstown rival Cubs and taking heavy losses now to get better down the road.

5. Minnesota — The Twins were better than what they showed last year, just like they weren’t as good as what they showed in 2015 by finishing second in the division. They could inch past Chicago.

• AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST •

1. Texas — When in doubt, stay with the most reliable team.

2. Houston — The Astros are a powder keg about to explode. Only if they had a little more pitching.

3. Seattle — The Mariners seem to be stuck in the middle, not good enough to catch the top two and too good to finish below the bottom two.

4. Los Angeles — One of the best races of the year will be the Angels trying to hold off Oakland for the final spot.

5. Oakland — “Moneyball” has run its course in Oakland —  a place where players try to revive their careers when nobody else will take them.

• Wild-card teams — Toronto, Houston

• AL Champion — Cleveland

• NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST •

1. Washington — I can’t give up on the Nationals, but the window is barely cracked open. Still look great on paper, but a lack of a proven closer is huge.

2. New York — It’s all about the pitchers being healthy. The Mets should at least make the Nationals work for the division title.

3. Miami — The Marlins might be able to win 75 games and take third. The death of star pitcher Jose Fernandez will linger for years.

4. Atlanta — Remember when the Braves won 14 division titles in a row? At least there’s a new ballpark that will allure fans even though the team should be very bad.

5. Philadelphia — I never thought the Phillies would be a franchise that spins its wheels. Can’t see them getting any better for a long time.

• NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL • 

1. Chicago — Everything fell right for the Cubs last year, but don’t expect it to happen like that again. But still a team that should win 95 to 100 games.

2. St. Louis — Can the Cardinals carry over their good spring? If the pitching lives up to its potential, a 90-win team.

3. Pittsburgh — The Pirates have been right there on the cusp the last few years, but can’t get past the play-in game. Maybe a candidate to take a step back.

4. Milwaukee — It’s starting to turn into a yearly battle with Cincinnati for fourth.

5. Cincinnati — Reds fans yearn for the Big Red Machine days.

• NATIONAL LEAGU WEST •

1. San Francisco — It’s not an even-numbered year, but still going with the Giants because they do all the little things right.

2. Los Angeles — Not enough help for Clayton Kershaw in the pitching department.

3. Colorado — It’s about time for the Rockies to have a good year. Been a long time.

4. Arizona — The Diamondbacks are starting to become irrelevant.

5. San Diego — No team in baseball is more bland.

• Wild-card — St. Louis, New York

• NL Champion — Chicago

• World Series Champion — Cleveland


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