I'm back online and officially writing this from deep in the heart of Halo country. Although the funny thing is I moved in on Saturday morning and been out and about several times around my home and I haven't seen one Angels cap. I've seen three people wearing Dodgers caps and tee shirts, but I still haven't encountered the Halo fan in its natural habitat. Good thing because I've been sporting my A's tees all weekend.
Weird things happened while I was away. Esteban Loaiza is starting the season on the DL instead of trying to pitch through an injury like he did last year (to horrific results). The A's weren't ready to take a ride on Marty McFly's Delorean and released Erubiel Durazo. And somewhere, Ricardo Rincon got the shakes when he found out that Todd Walker was about to make his return to the Coliseum. Oh and a couple of other things happened as well as Chad Gaudin got stretched out to replace Loaiza in the rotation (guess Billy Beane meant what he said in the interview with AN about loving Gaudin's stuff). I like the move because the A's will be able to see what they have in Gaudin as a starter just in case Kennedy stumbles, the A's have a backup now waiting in the wings when Loaiza gets healthy. And finally, Travis Buck is doing his best Andre Ethier impression coming out of camp with the team. It just goes back to something my Dad once told me, "No matter how hard people will try, they won't be able to hold a good man down. So be a good man." Buck was nothing short of spectacular this spring. We'll see if he can keep it up starting today.
I figured this would be a good time to just spin the crystal ball and try and come up with predicitions for the season. 2007 is upon us and I was lucky enough last year to correctly predict the World Series champion (for pretty much the first time in my life). Yep, I picked the St. Louis Cardinals to take it all in 2006. Course I predicted they would do so over the Boston Red Sox, so I was wrong on that one. I also suggested that the Astros were another team I liked a lot last season and they nearly knocked the Cards out of the playoffs with a late season surge.
This year? I usually base my picks on pitching. Who has a lot of good pitching and who doesn't? I'm a firm believer in pitching being the most important factor in determining a winner, especially come playoff time. That being said, the teams I think have the best chance going into this season are, the Tigers, Angels, Red Sox, Dodgers, Twins (especially if they decide to go with younger arms in their system and dump the Ponsons and Ortizes of the world) and I like the Diamondbacks as my surprise team this year. The Marlins could be a darkhorse as well. Here is how I see the divisions shaking out:
- Marlins: I do think the Marlins could be a big surprise this year. They have great young starting pitching and a young lineup that has some spectacular young players. They might not be household names, but they might be very, very soon.
- Brewers: This is my upset special. I think the Brewers have some great young starting pitching prospects and they also have an up and coming starting lineup. I like the Cards, but I think the Brewers are ready to take that next step.
- Diamondbacks (Wild Card): This is my surprise pick this year. I think getting out of New York will reinvigorate him and together with Webb, they will form one of the best one-two punches in the NL.
- Red Sox: I've got to give the Red Sox the edge mostly because of their rotation. The Yankees have the better lineup, but I'll take the better pitching for the division title.
- Blue Jays
- Devil Rays
- Tigers: Everyone seems to think that this division will be a dogfight, but I just don't see it. The Tigers have an amazing starting rotation, a flamethrowing bullpen and added Gary Sheffield to improve the lineup.
- Indians: The lineup is killer and the rotation is just good enough to hold off the rest of the division.
- Twins: If the Twins went with their young pitchers instead of the retreads, I might like them to challenge for the division title, but throwing Ortiz and Ponson out there seems to be foolish to me.
- White Sox
- Angels: I hate this team, but you can't argue against pitching and this team has it in great supply.
- A's: I'm truly befuddled by this team. I honestly believe it can finish anywhere from first to last. Last year I was confident that the A's were going to wind up winning the division going away. This year, the injuries are already cropping up, but at least there is some excitement over having Buck in the lineup. As long as Harden stays healthy, I think the A's remain competitive. If not, both the Rangers and Mariners could surpass the A's this year.
- Rangers: I like the addition of Brandon McCarthy and Catalanotto. But Kenny Lofton and Sammy Sosa? Yikes.
- Mariners: Will Felix take the title of King this year or will be another year off? And will Ichiro's situation become a distraction? One thing is for sure, I'm betting the A's don't win 17 of 19 from this team again this year.
Ultimately, I see the Dodgers facing off against the Tigers in the Fall Classic. I think the Tigers take that next step. I mean, how many times do you think Polanco will grimace his way on board this year only to get doubled home by the wild, violent Sheffield bat. You can't beat Verlander, Bonderman, Robertson and old man Rogers.
With all that being said, the games happen on the field and who knows what 2007 holds? Play ball!