In a way, going 100 years without winning the World Series is almost as memory-erasing as actually ending the streak of futility would’ve been for the Cubs. At least, that’s the way I’m trying to look at it. No more looming, self-imposed deadlines; instead I think it should just be considered a clean start. That said, it’ll be a steep road to climb for the North Siders this year, as the National League has only gotten stronger and the American looks to be showing no signs of fading. Last year I went 3-for-4 with NL playoff team picks, but blanked in the AL. We’ll see if I can do better this year. Here are my division-by-division predictions for the 2009 baseball season. Teams are listed in the order in which I think they’ll finish in the standings, with playoff teams in bold.
|NL West||NL Central||NL East|
|AL West||AL Central||AL East|
|Rangers||White Sox||Red Sox|
I suppose there are a few highlights that might deserve a bit more explanation:
- I think the Giants are ready to turn it around, and the Rangers are ready to take a very big next step. (These probably qualify as my biggest “surprise picks.”)
- Conversely, I think we’ll see the Rays and Angels fall right back off after their division-winning runs last year. (The Phillies, however, will contend for the Wild Card.)
- The Yankees have done everything they can to buy their way back into the playoffs this year, but they are still only the second-best team in New York.
- After the Brewers’ WC run last year, I think the NL Central will now go back to being the weakest division in baseball, meaning it shouldn’t be too tough for the Cubs to make it three division titles in a row. The Cardinals worry me, as always, though—and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Reds made a huge leap up from last year.
- The Indians wouldn’t surprise me if they made a big comeback and contended for the AL Central.
I’m going to forgo the complete playoff projections for now (those are more fun to do in October), but my early World Series prediction is the Dodgers over the Red Sox. I think if that happened, the Manny-focused coverage alone might be enough to cause the Fox broadcasters’ heads to explode (and that could only be a good thing).