It’s been 18 years since a team has won back-to-back World Series championships.
That would have been in 2000 when the New York Yankees finished off going back-to-back-to-back.
So is it going to be 19 years, or will the Houston Astros repeat after a year that few probably picked them to win it all at the start of the 2017 season?
Houston fulfilled the Sports Illustrated prophesy cover from 2014 by winning it all. It was about that time the Astros were near the end of their full-fledged tanking job, accumulating high draft picks that came through with aplomb.
The Astros certainly have a team to repeat. They added Justin Verlander at the end of last season and then struck gold by acquiring former Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole, who may fulfill his immense promise with a better team around him.
But there are many worthy teams that will try to unseat the Astros, most of them in the American League. It seems there’s a tilt toward the AL, which has more of baseball’s top talent.
Here’s how I see it:
• AL EAST •
1. New York — If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. But the Yankees’ lineup could be one of the most damaging in baseball history. If they get any starting pitching at all, 100 wins is a possibility.
2. Boston — The Red Sox picked up J.D. Martinez, the most sought-after power hitter on the market to prop up a lineup that relied on singles and doubles last year. The pitching is still a concern. Lefty ace David Price's health holds the key to the team.
3. Toronto — When I look at the last three teams in the division, the Jays seem to be the best of the worst. Still enough stars here to win 85 games.
4. Baltimore — The Orioles might be big sellers at the trade deadline as they have a number of players who have been there a long time and have worn out their welcome, but still have value.
5. Tampa Bay — The Rays will be pesky, but there’s little pitching left. And they still play in baseball’s worst home park.
• AL CENTRAL •
1. Cleveland — The question isn’t if the Indians will win, but by how much. Should be a double-digit margin after Game 162.
2. Minnesota — The Twins greatly overachieved last year. Just remember they were a 59-win team in 2016. I’ve got to think they’ll fall back a bit.
3. Chicago — This is a team on the rise. The Sox have a young, exciting lineup and a stocked farm system.
4. Kansas City — Just enough left to win about 75 games. But the starting pitching is very shaky.
5. Detroit — Miggy Cabrera is still there, but the full-blown rebuild has begun.
• AL WEST •
1. Houston — The Astros, if they stay healthy, will gallop away from the competition.
2. Los Angeles — If the Angels had more pitching, they would give Houston a decent run.
3. Seattle — The Mariners seem to be spinning their wheels in muddy mediocrity.
4. Texas — The Rangers have been a contender for a long time, but this doesn't seem to be the year as they have overturned their lineup.
5. Oakland — It's been a while since "Billy Ball."
• Wild cards — Boston, Los Angeles
• AL Champion — New York.
• NL EAST •
1. Washington — Maybe the surest lock in all the divisions. When are the Nationals finally going to break through and win the World Series? There's been too much talent here not to make the Fall Classic.
2. New York — The Mets are the only other team in this division that will finish over .500. If their pitching ever lives up to the hype, they could win 90.
3. Atlanta — Remember when the Braves were winning 14 division titles in a row? Not many do.
4. Philadelphia — The additions of Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta makes this team watchable again.
5. Miami — Hand-down, the worst team in baseball.
• NL CENTRAL •
1. Chicago — The Cubs didn't have much of a letdown last year, but some of the key pieces have followed the money trail out of town.
2. St. Louis — Milwaukee is the popular pick for second, but I like the Cardinals if their pitching holds up.
3. Milwaukee — One of those teams that overachieved, but the starting rotation is shaky.
4. Pittsburgh — The Pirates had a nice run, but their window of opportunity has closed. Hard to believe they basically gave away Andrew McCutcheon.
5. Cincinnati — The Reds have been stuck in neutral for a long time. They can't seem to find any pitching.
• NL WEST •
1. Los Angeles — You would think the Dodgers' run would be over at some point, but just can't see it.
2. Colorado — The Rockies have some mashers and their pitching is getting better.
3. Arizona — The injury to Zack Grienke sends up red flags.
4. San Francisco — The Giants are an old, aging team and just lost Madison Bumgarner for a while. Not a good combination.
5. San Diego — Now that Eric Hosmer is with the Padres, I have a reason to check them out from time to time. Maybe the most anonymous team in baseball.
• Wild card — New York, Colorado
• NL Champion — Los Angeles
• World Series Champion — New York Yankees