Mets: So yeah, the Mets are going to win the division. I'm not happy about it, but it would be surprising if my happiness just now started to have any bearing on anything. And speaking of my fragile happiness, I got myself a brand new pet peeve in the playoffs last year. It seems like everywhere I went, someone was making sense of the NLCS by citing stuff that happened 20 years ago. "Well, we'd better hope Willie's boys play like it's 1986 and not 1985." This was being presented as serious analysis, and it's just stupid. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Keith Hernandez is not walking through that door.
Braves: I'm fascinated by the Braves, in large part because I don't know who a lot of these guys are. I was aware of Brian McCann's incredible season, but only vaguely. Like how I'm aware of the fact of agriculture, though it doesn't weigh heavily upon me. But this looks to be an interesting team: storied veterans, ambitious youngsters, and Bobby Cox's grumpy ass watching over them all. I think I would have enjoyed following the various personnel moves and positional battles Atlanta's had to deal with, as these fellows have. I have this weird suspicion that the Nats aren't going to win the division this year, and if that happens I'm pulling for the Braves, not least because their recent signing of Mark Redman will give me a chance to dig into my endless supply of pictures of rappers.
Above: When there's smoke in the air his nose like Basset Hounds.
Phillies: I like old players. The older the better. If Julio Franco were wearing any other uniform, I'd have a shrine to him in the pantry. This creates problems for me from time to time. Randy Johnson is a hideous redneck headhunter who looks like he participates in Civil War reenactments and on the wrong side, but he's really old. What do I do? There is no such conflict with Jamie Moyer, however, and I'm glad to see him on a team where he'll be regular presence on my television. One thing I don't like: clown red uniforms. So on balance, screw the Phillies.
Marlins: You already forgot about Anibal Sanchez' no-hitter, didn't you? Here's something to guarantee that you'll remember it for the rest of your life.
Nats: So Bill James once wrote this essay about how everyone thought free agency and whatnot was going to ruin competitive balance in the 1970s, but it didn't happen until the 1990s. He was so wrong he might as well have been talking about Pete Rose, but that's beside the point. The 2007 Nationals are going to be what I thought we were getting in 2005, i.e., a really really atrociously bad baseball team. I thought the first edition was going to be awful, and they weren't. I thought the 2006 version would fulfill my prediction, but they were just run-of-the-mill, Orioles-style bad. Finally the apocalypse is upon us.
It'll be interesting to see, inter alia, how long it takes for the opinionists in the media to get angry. At this point, it's not like anyone doesn't think they're going to be really bad, but no one seems to mind. The Plan is still getting the benefit of the doubt, and it's easy to be flip when the awfulness of the team you have to watch all the time is still only theoretical. I figure by June, Tom Boswell's columns will be nothing but jaggedly sarcastic variations on Nats marketing catchphrases. "Stan Kasten can pledge his allegiance . . . to my ass!"
Um . . . Astros
Astros: I have no idea. None of these teams is that good. The Astros have a disturbing willingness to let Guzman-level offensive zeros play every day, but if their continued enabling of Roger Clemens' yearly prettiest-girl-at-the-dance routine pays off, they could do it.
Cardinals: Why are they being so damn cheap? I mean, they've got a new ballpark, a rabid fanbase, and a frigging world championship, and they're nickel and dimeing themselves out of what should be the easiest divisional crown since . . . well, since the 2006 NL Central. You can make an argument that they're not any worse than they were, but they won 83 games last year, so that really isn't good enough. I was about to pick them first, but I really can't justify it.
PS You should always read Yard Work, and you should especially read this. That site gets just transcendent sometimes.
Brewers: How long have we been waiting for these guys to get good? Seems like a while, but maybe I'm getting them conflated with Cleveland. Well, it's time to strike, because the iron is hot. Here's the secret decoder ring for that last sentence: "iron" means NL Central, and "is hot" means sucks. And "strike" means win 85 games.
The only thing I regret about canceling my MLB Audio subscription is that I won't get to hear Bob Uecker. If TBS maintains their long-standing policy of showing Major League five times a week, that'll take the sting off it.
Reds: I remember when Dunn/Griffey/Kearns were going to be a historically great outfield and push the Reds over the top. Hell, I was a Cardinals fan back then, and I worried about it. Couldn't sleep, lost hair -- all that. That's got nothing to do with nothing, but I'm getting to the point that I feel like I've been following baseball for a while. I remember a time before Sean Casey, and now he's already washed up. Clearly, I have nothing to say about the Reds.
Cubs: Yeah, whatever.
Pirates: Every pious complaint I make about the state of the Orioles applies here, too. This isn't based on anything but personal observation, but Pittsburghers seem to have a well-developed interest in their own baseball history, which is downright impressive considering how bad they've been for so long. They deserve better -- the decor at your typical expatriate Pittsburgh bar needs the kind of update that only a World Series can provide. By the way, that's one hell of a ballpark. You should see it.
Dodgers, featuring special guest posters Dayn Perry and his trusty thesaurus: The Sidesteppers of the Municipality of the Heavenly Messengers anticipate that the annexation of the erstwhile supreme hurler of their bêtes noires will engender supplementary conquests.
Diamondbacks: New uniforms! Exciting prospects! ¡Livan! This is the first time in my life I've wanted to be anywhere near Arizona. Seriously, I've been thinking about it, and the D-Backs might be the funnest team to be a fan of right now. They've got a farm system to make Stan Kasten drool, and there's nothing sweeter than seeing a young athlete you've been observing for years establish himself as a major leaguer. Well, I suppose there are sweeter things in, like, real life, but we're focusing on baseball here. I'm not talking about a child's laugh or whatever, you sissy. If you're looking for that kind of thing, go here while I talk about Randy Johnson.
And they got Randy Johnson, which has got to be fantastic. According to sociologists, 95% of this glorious nation hates New York City, and Phoenix is no exception. Johnson is going to be way better here than he was with the Yankees, so that's one point. Plus his return reminds everyone of the 2001 World's Series of Base Ball, a triumph for Yankees-haters everywhere, so that's two points.
Then there's the new uniforms, which may not be great but are certainly an improvement. I'd always been vaguely embarrassed about the very existence of the Diamondbacks. They conformed to every detail of the stereotype of the classless expansion team, and as a modern baseball fan I felt somewhat responsible. All that purple, the swimming pool in the ballpark, the awful name voted on by locals, the whole thing. They were like the Rockies, but with a more effeminate shade of purple. Now the purple's gone, so all they have to do is change their name and move to Boston.
Padres: Cornering the market on Gileses, just as the Nats are buying up all the Ryans. I'm still waiting for my offer.
Above: the only Giles not under contract with the San Diego Padres, with hind.
Giants: Barry Bonds is going to be huge this year. His knee's better, he's out to piss everyone off, and he's going to overshadow completely another almost 80-win season. Which isn't a tragedy or anything.
Rockies: The Rockies have a chance to the be this year's Marlins. And by that I mean "finish well under .500 and not make the playoffs."
Yankees: You don't need me to tell you about the Yankees. I feel about the Yankees the same way I feel about American Idol: it's this thing that everyone's always going on about, and I just don't get it and wait for it to blow over. It worked with the New Kids on the Block.
Red Sox: You know what Daisuke Matsuzuka doesn't do? There are many correct answers to this question: photosynthesis, play the balalaika, throw the gyroball, write detective fiction. For some reason, gullible sportswriters accept that he doesn't do three of those things, but can't get their minds around the fact that he doesn't throw a gyroball. They're fixated on the damn thing. Which he doesn't throw. I felt like repeating that because you're going to hear he does over and over again from lazy, ink-stained wretches who use their deadlines as an excuse for not figuring things out for themselves and repeating utter codswallop until it becomes conventional wisdom.
Blue Jays: Seriously, how many of you remember that the Jays wound up in second place last year? They could finish first this time around (well, theoretically they could) and the headline on ESPN would be "Yankees and Red Sox: What Went Wrong?" Serves them right for Alex Trebeck, I guess.
Orioles: Another year in the mines. The only thing to look forward to is Buck Martinez saying "Chad Bradford." That's gonna be pungent!
This was one of the first entries I wrote, but thinking about it further, the Orioles really make you appreciate baseball. Yeah, they're not going to be very good. No, they don't have a chance. But I'm still going to watch, and there are things to look forward to. Miguel Tejada is a great player in his prime. Erik Bedard could be one of the best pitchers in baseball. Nick Markakis might be at the start of a Hall of Fame career. You're going to see Daniel Cabrera scare the hell out of batters, Corey Patterson run really fast, and Leo Mazzone rock back and forth all season long.
The fact that such a sad franchise can afford the viewer so many pleasures is a perfect encapsulation of baseball's awesomeness.
Devil Rays: I wouldn't begrudge the Rays their utterly meaningless existence except that it seems like they play the O's 40 or 50 times a year, which means that I spend far too much time watching games from the hideous domed putt-putt course they call home, and every time I see that place I die a little.
Indians: I love this division. Nobody's too good, only Kansas City is too bad, and you know Ozzie Guillen is going to blow up in a totally hilarious manner at some point. I picked Cleveland simply because, all things being equal, they're the only team whose youth makes improvement likely.
Twins: I still can't believe Justin Morneau won the MVP. But I'm one of those stat-head dorks grizzled newspapermen are always complaining about, and I think the MVP -- as well as everything else you foolish hyoo-mans are concerned with -- should be decided by a series of ones and zeros.
Tigers: Remember when the Marlins won the World Series (the second time) and suddenly speed was cool? And teams were getting in line for the chance to give Juan Pierre money? I hope the lesson that managers take from the Tigers' unexpected success is that heavy smoking is cool. We need more public figures who smoke heavily.
White Sox: But that probably won't happen -- I didn't notice a lot of managers calling Magglio Ordonez names after the Sox won.
Royals: Everything you need to know about the Royals is right here.
A's: Just when I think my ignorance can't get any more ignorant, I get to this division. Are we still supposed to mention Moneyball when we talk about the A's? I'm serious; I haven't been keeping up.
I like that Jason Kendall, even though by all accounts he's as dumb as two donkeys tied together. He's got an odd statistical profile: no power (career high in HR: 14), little patience (career high in BB: 79, but that's 20 more than he's had in any other year), and he doesn't strike out (career high: 79, but that was another aberration). You look at his batting line and you think middle infielder, but he's a 150-game-a-year catcher. It looks like he's declining quickly -- what used to be little power is now deadball era-type power -- but he still gets on base, thanks to decent batting averages and lots of HBPs. That decline's come too soon perhaps for a Hall of Fame bid (he's only 33 this year), but I'm rooting for him to bounce back.
Angels: Every angel exhausts his species. Especially these two:
And as long as I'm stealing images to fill out comments about team I don't know nothing about and care nothing about, let me assuage my guilt by telling you to investigate the works of Nedroid. If you're going to listen to my dumbass baseball predictions, listen to this: Beartato is the star of the new millennium. This one's my favorite. Beartato, suckas. Get used to it.
Mariners: The Mariners have a chance to be this year's Marlins. And by that I mean "get their manager fired."
Remember when they won 150 games or whatever because they got rid of A-Rod? I guess they need to do that again, because it's been all downhill from there. Ichiro's had enough of this crap. He's going where the action is. He didn't come all this way to let some Orioles cast-off "baseball man" (defined as someone who's been fired twice) tell him what to do.
Rangers: So, the Rangers . . . should I just wrap this thing up? I think I'll just wrap this thing up.
ILL-THOUGHT-OUT BUT NONETHELESS GUARANTEED TO COME TRUE MISCELLANEOUS PREDICTIONSMVPs: Pujols and Ortiz
Cy Youngs: Schmidt and Halladay
Wild Cards: Arizona and Boston
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
Kenny Rogers suspended for: upon being discovered with a copious amount of wood glue on his glove, giving the home plate umpire a brisk, open-handed slap across the jaw
Cristian Guzman's batting average: .214
Cristian Guzman's on-base percentage: .214
All Star Game result: don't care
Number of times I re-use that squirrel picture: 7