Once last year's major league baseball season concluded, somebody sent me an unsigned letter basically telling me what a moron I was in picking the 2014 races.
The author took a lot of time on it, I will give the person that. It showed where I picked the teams and how they actually finished.
I think I had something like 11 of the 30 teams in the correct spot. Never mind that in several instances I just had teams turned around.
Picking baseball races is more difficult than any other sport. Injuries play such a key role in a team’s season. Just look at Texas last year, I picked it to win the American League West and nearly every top player on its roster went down. It wasn’t so much how I misfired, but how injuries can destroy a team.
Baseball is getting more and more balanced—the Royals proved that last year. The Yankees used to buy championships, but not even the Steinbrenner money has produced much lately. San Francisco has won the World Series three of the last five years and for most of the season it toils on the West Coast in anonymity before the nation is introduced to it in the playoffs.
I’m sure I’m probably way off again this year. The American League simply has no team that stands tall. The East is a total mess as four teams could legitimately win the division. The Central is the most improved as the White Sox, Indians and Royals should challenge Detroit. The West looks to be a three-team race.
The National League could potentially have two super powers in Washington and Los Angeles, but again it comes down to health. No team has a better 25-man roster than Washington, yet four key players may be opening the year on the disabled list. The Nationals may be the 2015 version of the Rangers, though if the injuries aren’t to their pitchers they won’t take a mighty fall.
So here’s my picks. And for that writer who thought I was a moron, I didn’t need your letter to tell me that. It’s common knowledge. I'll be looking forward to hearing from you again after this season to tell me what a fool I was.
• AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST •
1. Baltimore — Nobody is ever supposed to repeat in the American League East. But the Orioles seem to have the least number of flaws.
2. New York — I know, I know, the Yankees are declining and there’s no Derek Jeter. My fingers just won’t allow me to type “5. New York.”
3. Boston — From worst to first back to worst. The next logical step is first again and the Red Sox are the trendy pick. But I don’t like their pitching.
4. Toronto — On paper, second-place talent. But on the field, it translates to fourth place.
5. Tampa Bay — No more Joe Maddon, no more smoke and mirrors for the Rays.
• AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL •
1. Detroit – I was all set to put Chicago in this spot, but the Tigers have been such a sure thing.
2. Chicago — The White Sox could be the 2015 Royals.
3. Cleveland — One reputed publication has the Indians in the World Series. They’re good, but not quite that good.
4. Kansas City — A letdown is inevitable. The starting pitching scares me. Will Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas ever break out?
5. Minnesota — The Twins are much better, but how do they dislodge any of the top four?
• AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST •
1. Seattle — Nelson Cruz is the missing piece to the puzzle, a thumper in the middle of the order.
2. Los Angeles — The Angels are aging and their window of opportunity is closing.
3. Oakland — Billy Beane continues to tear down and rebuild in the blink of an eye.
4. Texas — There’s no way the Rangers can be hit by such a slew of injuries two years in a row.
5. Houston — Houston, we have a problem. Just not as many as in years past.
• WILD CARDS •
• AL CHAMP •
• NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST •
1. Washington — One of these years the Nationals are going to play up to their potential. When that happens, they’re going to win 110 games with that amazing pitching.
2. Miami — Somebody has to finish second. If pitcher Jose Fernandez can come back to 100 percent, he’ll give this team a chance to win 85.
3. New York — Been a long time since the Mets were relevant, but they’re getting there.
4. Atlanta — The rebuilding project is under way.
5. Philadelphia — The rebuilding project is under way, Part II. The Phillies waited too long, though, and it’s going to take them much longer than the Braves to be contenders again.
• NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL •
1. Pittsburgh — The Pirates’ time has finally come.
2. St. Louis — The Cardinals somehow won the division last year, but the offense isn’t good enough to overcome a pitching staff that could be derailed by injuries.
3. Milwaukee — The Brewers led the division for the better part of four months last year, then tanked. Tough team to get a read on.
4. Cincinnati — If everybody stays healthy, the Reds could be baseball’s sleeper.
5. Chicago — Sporting News picked the Cubs to win it all. What were they smoking?
• NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST •
1. Los Angeles — There’s World Series talent on this team. Can it live up to the hype?
2. San Francisco — It’s an odd year, which means wait until 2016 for the Giants to win it all. The loss of Kung Fu Panda Pablo Sandoval will hurt.
3. San Diego — I think this is baseball’s most intriguing story because of all the moves it made. It’s almost like a rotisserie team. Too bad nobody else will think like me.
4. Colorado — Does anyone outside of Colorado even realize the Rockies exist? They are a true regionally based team.
5. Arizona — Will duel with the Phillies for the National League’s worst team.
• WILD CARDS •
St. Louis, San Francisco
• NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPION •
• WORLD SERIES CHAMPION •