We’re back, baby! After an interesting off-season of trades and free agent moves, it’s time to evaluate everyone and make predictions for the 2011 season (this year, before the season starts). My optimism for the Tigers and Cubs clouded my judgement last year, but I still batted .500 for the season. I won’t make that mistake again, though I’m quietly optimistic each will be in their respective division races for most of the season.
AL East Division Champions: Boston Red Sox
Remember when the BoSox were the other Lovable Losers? Those days are long gone as they’ve clearly turned to the Dark Side and become the other Evil Empire, buying their way to the top of the division once again. The major off-season additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will prove to be too much for an aged Yankees squad and a depleted Rays team that missed it’s window of opportunity. Beantown has lost its soul, but gained a perennial championship contender—not a bad deal if you ask me and other Cubs fans.
AL Central Division Champions: Minnesota Twins
It pains me to admit it, but the Twins are simply the best organization in the division. They’ve proven it year after year and, despite big time free agent pickups by the Tigers and White Sox, they will prove it again. The return of Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan will only make last year’s division winner that much better. Too bad they always embarrass themselves and the AL Central by repeatedly shitting the bed in the playoffs.
AL West Division Champions: Oakland Athletics
Billy Beane hasn’t abandoned his Moneyball principles, the A’s have just taken close to a decade to recover from losing all the home grown talent they built up in the early 2000s to free agency. With an impressive stable of young power arms in the rotation and bullpen, Oakland will rise again as the ultimate symbol of the wit and guile of the underdog overcoming the superior resources of it’s oppressive foes. And it’ll be just in time for the Moneyball movie release. Gotta love Hollywood endings.
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees
The original Evil Empire will still have just enough left in the tank to outlast other Wild Card contenders such as the Rays, White Sox, Tigers and Rangers. An almost-guaranteed major trade deadline acquisition won’t hurt their chances either.
NL East Division Champions: Atlanta Braves
Despite Philadelphia assembling possibly the most formidable rotation in modern times, I’m picking the Braves for the second year in a row. The superior depth of talent at every phase of the game will be too much for the Phillies, especially with the offense being a shadow of it’s former self due to age (Rollins), free agency (Werth), declining skills (Howard) and injury (Utley).
NL Central Division Champions: St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati will fall back to earth as Dusty Baker continues to leave a trail of droopy-eyed, armless pitchers in his wake with Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey being his latest victims. Milwaukee will underachieve yet again and the Cubs… well they’re still the Cubs. Even with the loss of Adam Wainwright, Dave Duncan will find a way to get the most out of the arms the Cards have left and Albert Pujols will be extremely motivated to showcase his skills for the highest bidder at the end of 2011. Please notice I’m giving zero credit to the highly-overrated Tony Larussa—I hate that drunk-driving prick.
NL West Division Champions: Colorado Rockies
This was the hardest division for me to pick since I really don’t like any of these teams. But superior talents like Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ubaldo Jimenez, will lead Colorado to the title over a very lucky Giants squad.
NL Wild Card: San Francisco Giants
I still can’t believe that team that barely made the playoffs actually won the World Series, but it’s hard to count the World Champions out completely. Even though they were clearly the worst title team since the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, using smoke & mirrors and getting every bounce along the way, they’ll find a way to make the post-season again.
World Series: Boston Red Sox over the Atlanta Braves in 6
In what would’ve been a subway series 60 years ago, the Sox will have now purchased their third World Series title in eight years.
AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, BOS
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, SEA
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, STL
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, PHI