Posted by Steve
Each year around this time, I’m digging around for my Opening Day cd, which features Centerfield, The Boys Are Back in Town and of course, B.B.K.T.U.T.H. It is a bit bittersweet this year, as I won’t be heading over to the guys’ house on Campbell in La Crosse to watch the game and following it up with a softball game. In fact, I won’t see it live at all.
Either way, Opening Day is always one of the best days of the year. It’s cool that it’s against the Cubs, but dumb that it’s at Wrigley. That whole 80% chance of rain thing is a bummer.
Anyway, we’re all set to go. I finally got around to updating the roster and roto cards. The rotation is set (Vargas is gone, w00t!), Rivera is the backup catcher and McClung (odd choice…) is the long reliever.
Before I continue, here’s my one negative paragraph. They are not only starting Tony Gwynn, but they are hitting him second. That is incredibly frustrating to me. Alright, moving on.
I am a bit nervous about the forecast with Sheets pitching. Something about rainy, 40-degree conditions mixed with the first start of the year mixed with Ben makes me uneasy. I have the feeling the Cubs are going to do everything they can to get this game in, so I just hope nobody gets injured.
I never really got around to doing a season predictions post this year, so I’ll throw one out here in a travel-sized version. Everyone, and I mean everyone nationally is picking the Cubs. I don’t have any problem with that, as the Brewers and Cubs appear pretty even. Of course, I don’t understand why Sports Illustrated picks the Brewers for third (a 15-game improvement for Cincinnati? Really?) or why Yahoo! sports picked the Brewers for fourth.
Here’s how I see the central playing out. It’s really a two-team race. The Reds have some good young players, but they also have Dusty Baker, so they won’t play those good young players. The Cardinals don’t have enough offense or pitching. The Astros have terrible pitching, and the Pirates will stink, though it looks as though they may finally be rebuilding correctly.
The Cubs have made a couple additions, but not much. Kosuke Fukudome is the big one, but he replaces a Murton/Jones platoon, which wasn’t half bad. Fukudome will probably be a small upgrade offensively over that platoon but a bigger upgrade defensively. All in all, that was definitely a good signing for the Cubs.
The other big addition is Geovany Soto at catcher for a full year. Many have high hopes for Soto, and he’s pretty clearly an update over Jason Kendall, but his high BABIP over his career suggests that he may not be quite as good as advertised.
The Cubs are also going with Felix Pie in center. I think Pie will be a pretty good player, but his plate discipline last year left much to be desired. He’ll probably be a work in progress this season.
Meanwhile, the Brewers had more personnel turnover than the Cubs, specifically in the bullpen. Cordero, Wise, Linebrink, Spurling are out; Gagne, Riske, Mota, Torres are in. Gagne probably won’t be as dominant as Cordero was at times, but Riske and Torres should add some stability and depth to a pen that was worn out by the end of last season. At catcher, Kendall isn’t much of an upgrade, yet the fact that he’s replacing Johnny Estrada makes him just fine with me.
But the biggest change for the Brewers, and the reason I believe they will win the NL Central, is the defensive shakeup. Moving out Braun for Hall at third and Hall for Cameron in center will have a bigger positive improvement than anything the Cubs did this off-season.
AL East-Red Sox
Yankees have too many question marks with their pitching. Surprise pick–Tampa Bay will finish third.
The Indians are also my pick to win the World Series.
AL West– Angels
Relatively weak division, but Seattle doesn’t have enough outside of Bedard and King Felix.
AL Wildcard– Tigers
Mashing offense will get them past the Yankees.
NL East– Braves
Everyone is high on the Mets and Phillies, but not many are giving Atlanta much consideration. I really like their off-season moves to bring in more pitching, and Jones-Teixeira in the middle of the lineup is scary.
NL West– Diamondbacks
Great pitching and an improving young offense will carry them past Colorado.
NL Wildcard– Rockies
This was a toss-up for me between Philadelphia, Colorado and New York. I don’t think the Mets have enough offense after Wright, Reyes and Beltran, and I don’t think the Phillies have enough pitching after Cole Hamels, so I’ll go with the defensively great Rockies.
I’d like to conclude with a quote from Ned Yost from OnMilwaukee.com:
“These kids have all gone through it now. There’s nothing I need to tell them,” Yost says. “They’re prepared; they understand what it feels like, what it smells like to go through it.”
I’m sure you’re wondering, ‘what does it smell like to go through it?’ The answer: Sweat, cologne, toothpaste and hot, hot desire.