OK, I didn’t pick the Kansas City Royals to win their division in 2015 after they had finished one run away from winning the 2014 World Series.
I thought the Royals overachieved in 2014 and I picked them to return to mediocrity in 2015. So, of course, they won the World Series.
Now I’m sure everybody is picking them to make it a 3-peat Series trip. But there’s something different about a team that’s won it compared to a hungry team that had come just oh so close.
I believe the Royals will fall back as they have achieved their goal and complacency is going to set in, no matter how much they deny it. You can see it already in spring training, I get the feeling they're a team that believes all they have to do now is push a button and they're going to win 90 games.
They have been blessed with an incredible bullpen the last two years, which has kept them from diving headlong into extended losing streaks. But something tells me the hitters are going to slump and the starting pitching won’t be nearly as good as the last two years.
That being said, here’s my 2015 picks.
• AL EAST •
1. New York — Even with Aroldis Chapman out for a month for suspension, the Yankees have put together a Royals-type of bullpen that shortens games to six innings and they certainly hit the ball a lot better.
2. Boston — The addition of David Price is huge. It gives the Red Sox an ace, as their Nos. 2 through 5 guys are run of the mill. This team will hit enough though to win 85.
3. Toronto— This could be a combustible season for the Jays. Sluggers Jose Batista and Edwin Encarnacion are in their walk years and grumbling about their contracts. This could be Team Mutiny.
4. Baltimore — The Orioles did very little in the offseason. Still a lot of sluggers, but pitching is scarce.
5. Tampa Bay — Those people who feed all the stats into a computer say the Rays could be an 88-win team. Who is going to drive in the runs?
• AL CENTRAL •
1. Detroit — The Tigers have made some shrewd moves. If Justin Verlander returns to form, they could win about 92.
2. Cleveland — Love that Cleveland pitching. It will finish ahead of Kansas City assuming Michael Brantley returns in a timely manner.
3. Kansas City — I always worry about the Royals’ offense. Mike Moustakas and Salvy Perez are going to slide. There’s holes at second and right field and I've got a hunch Alcides Escobar is going to be in the .240s. They way overreached for Ian Kennedy, who will win maybe 10.
4. Chicago — The White Sox might be a sleeper. But that’s what I said about them last year.
5. Minnesota — This is the actual sleeper. Minnesota could very well be a .500 team if its young players come along like the Cubs’ young phenoms did last year.
• AL WEST •
1. Texas — Toughest division winner to pick. Texas could win 85 and take it.
2. Los Angeles — Still enough good players to stay in the hunt.
3. Seattle — I misfired badly on the Mariners last year. They’re flying more under the radar this time.
4. Houston — It all came together for Houston last year. It can’t be that fortunate two years in a row.
5. Oakland — I’m not quite sure what they’re doing in Oakland. Maybe Moneyball has run its course.
• Wild-card — Boston and Cleveland
• AL Champion — New York
• NL EAST •
1. Washington — Still the best overall talent of any team in the division. New manager Dusty Baker might be the guy who gets the best out of this underachieving team.
2. New York — Amazing pitching, but a couple of those guys are candidates to break down.
3. Miami — Jose Fernandez is healthy for an entire year. How long before new hitting coach Barry Bonds gets cranky and leaves the team?
4. Atlanta — The Braves have made tons of moves, stockpiling young players. Could be a factor by 2017.
5. Philadelphia — This is a total teardown and now the rebuilding process begins.
• NL CENTRAL •
1. Pittsburgh — The Pirates need to get over the hump as the window is closing. I may be the only person not picking the Cubs.
2. Chicago — When it’s too good to be true, it’s generally too good to be true. Was Jake Arrieta a one-hit wonder?
3. St. Louis — The Cardinals have been so good for so long it’s hard to pick them this low. But this team could starve to score runs.
4. Milwaukee — It’s flip-a-coin time.
5. Cincinnati — Hard to see this longtime powerhouse in such disarray.
• NL WEST •
1. San Francisco — It’s an even-number year. It’s Giants Time.
2. Los Angeles — Who is going to win a game once you get past Clayton Kershaw?
3. Arizona — Keep an eye on this team. The added pitching could make it a factor and it could move past the Dodgers.
4. San Diego — Is there a more drab team than San Diego?
5. Colorado — Unless it’s the Rockies, though they at least score runs.
• Wild Card — Chicago and St. Louis
• NL Champion — San Francisco
• World Series Champion — San Francisco over New York