Though the Mayans never thought it would arrive, Detroit Tigers fans have been looking forward to 2013 for what seems like a b’ak’tun (that’s Mayan for a long time — not long in Cubs’ years, but still…). Picking up Prince Fielder to fill the void left by Victor Martinez and his blown out knee during offseason a year ago proved how serious ancient owner Mike Ilitch is about winning a title before he passes into Xibalba (sorry, I know — Mayan references are so 2012).
At the time, looking forward to this year I described the idea of having a middle of the order that boasts not only Fielder and Martinez but also the now reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner in Miguel Cabrera as an “embarrassment of riches.” Well, the rich got richer this year. Adding Anibal Sanchez to an already dominant rotation and bringing in a highly-motivated clubhouse leader in Torii Hunter makes the Tigers an easy choice to take the AL Pennant for the second year in a row. Making it to the Series was an incredible ride, but it always felt a year too soon. That’s not the case this year. Everything is in place now for the Tigers to Restore the Roar of ’84 and win their first World Series in 29 years.
Looking at my 2012 predictions, I whiffed on the Rays and Jays, but nailed it with the other AL playoff participants and called the MVP and Cy Young winners — the aforementioned Cabrera and David Price. I even called the Giants making the World Series (unfortunately) so I feel pretty good about my performance going into this season. So here we go…
AL East Champions: Tampa Bay Rays
The flavor of the year is clearly the Toronto Blue Jays after they basically traded for the entire 2012 Marlins roster, but wining the offseason rarely means winning the real season (eg. 2008 Tigers, 2011 Orioles, 2012 Angels to name a few clunkers). The 2013 Jays have a lot more questions than answers if you ask me: Can a bunch of mercenaries come together as a cohesive group? Can Josh Johnson actually stay healthy for once? Can R.A. Dickey repeat his magical 2012 season, this time in the AL? Can an aging Mark Buehrle still be effective? We’ll see… I feel like I pick the Rays every year, but the East has never been more wide open and the Rays are in as good of a position as anyone this year with the return of a healthy Evan Longoria and a rotation that includes the reigning Cy Young winner. The Red Sox are still rebuilding and the Yankees have officially fallen off the age and injury cliff. The Orioles got luckier than any team I can remember in 2012 with a 29-9 record in one-run games and 16-2 record in extra-innings. That is simply unsustainable.
AL Central Champions: Detroit Tigers
“DUH!” It’s as obvious as the idea of a Cool Ranch Dorito Taco that the division will be owned by the Tigers again, so the race for second will be the only real question. The White Sox will be solid as usual, but not quite up to snuff. Cleveland made some interesting moves bringing in Nick “Top Step of the Dugout” Swisher, Michael Bourn and Terry Francona to manage the motley crew, but they’re also trying to rekindle the fires of flameouts Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka — moves that reek of desperation. Kansas City has also made some interesting moves trading for James Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis so I could see them finally emerging as a second-place contender. Oh yeah, and does anyone remember Minnesota? Me neither.
AL West: Oakland A’s
This is easily the most interesting division in the league with the Angels trying to become the Rangers by signing Josh Hamilton and the Rangers trying to get rid of Nolan Ryan (WTF?). I might be the only one, but I think his slumping September numbers and considerable offseason weight-gain mean Mike Trout is due for a disappointing 2013. Couple that with a rapidly declining Albert Pujols and the distinct possibility Hamilton ends up passed out on the women’s room floor of the Whisky A Go-Go leading to a lengthy rehab stint — I smell an impending train wreck in La-La Land. Meanwhile, Texas’ window is rapidly closing and you know they’re feeling the pressure when there are rumors of a power struggle in the front office that could mean the exit of the Ryan Express. But while those behemoths battle for headlines, the A’s will just keep winning divisions. I chose the wrong time to back of the Moneyball bandwagon last year, but I’m not making that mistake again. Billy Beane always finds a way to put together a ball club of nobodies that somehow put it all together anchored by cunning, guile and dominant pitching. They should make a movie about it…
AL Wild Cards: Texas Rangers & Toronto Blue Jays
It’ll be strange not seeing the Yankees lose to the Tigers again in the playoffs, but it had to come to an end at some point.
NL East: Washington Nationals
A famous D.C. resident once wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” about far more important matters, but Thomas Jefferson might as well have been writing about the truth that the Nationals are going to dominate the NL East this season. Unrivaled pitching depth is their core, anchored by All-Stars Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez and their exciting young lineup built around rock-star prodigy Bryce Harper will be too much for the rest of the division. The Braves will be their closest competition — another winner of the offseason by cornering the market on Uptons, Justin & B.J. — but I just don’t see them challenging the Nats. The Phillies are only getting older and more feeble. The Marlins have proven they’re simply an elaborate ponzi scheme for owner Jeffrey Loria (who should be in jail for the shit he pulled on Miami baseball fans last year). And who knows (or cares) what the Mets are doing?
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
I’m so damn sick of typing the same thing every year and have been sick of the Cardinals since the mid-80s, but I see no reason to question their dominance of the division yet again this year. I would love to pick the Reds, but Dusty Baker and his wristbands will always find a way screw things up somehow. In yet another facepalm moment, it took them until this past weekend to figure out that one of the best closers in the league, Aroldis Chapman, should remain just that — a closer. In Dusty NO ONE Should Trusty. The Brewers will most likely lose Ryan “Technicality” Braun to a PED suspension at some point and the Pirates are the Pirates. As for Cubs fans like me, the only positive thing we can look forward to is that they can’t finish 6th this year because Houston moved to the AL. Just staying below 100 loses will be a victory. But 2014 will be another story. Stay tuned…
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
The smoke and mirrors that the Giants have been using to win two World Series in three years have to go away at some point, don’t they? I predicted they would go to the WS last year, but I also predicted they would do it with a Cy Young winning Tim Lincecum. I was right about the former in spite of being completely wrong about the latter, yet SF always finds a way — until now. Maybe it’s because he’s from my home town of Lansing, MI, but I believe in Magic. Earvin Johnson and a diabolical team of investment bankers combined forces to buy the Dodgers for a record TWO BILLION DOLLARS and appear ready to spend another $2 billion more to field a winning roster. While I don’t normally buy into this kind of spend-to-win mentality, I guess I’m just as sick of the Giants as I am of the Cardinals so I’m willing to jump on their cash bandwagon. CHA-CHING! It doesn’t hurt that they already have Clayton Kershaw as the backbone of an already deep rotation that now features Zack Greinke.
NL Wild Cards: Cincinnati Reds & Atlanta Braves
Even Dusty can’t keep the talented Reds completely out of the playoffs and the Braves will get in, only to face the nightmare of the one game Wild Card again and the infamous (and bogus) Infield Fly Rule.
World Series: Detroit Tigers over the Washington Nationals in 6
Who needs a closer? Overwhelming pitching and the deadliest 3-4-5 hitting combo in recent memory led by the third consecutive Tiger to win the AL MVP in Prince will be more than enough to bring the World Series Championship back to the Motor City.
AL MVP: Prince Fielder, DET
AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish, TEX
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, WAS
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg, WAS