After another long, cold winter without baseball (ok so it wasn’t exactly cold in StL) tonight our boys of summer return to the field!! The Cardinals are playing in Miami against a team to keep your eye on this season – the newly renamed and renovated Miami Marlins. I’m pretty excited, are you? The Marlins have a new stadium and we will break it in this evening at 6p to officially kick off the 2012 MLB season!! (Technically the Mariners and A’s already played 2 official regular season games in Japan last week, but lets face it – no one actually considers that to be the start of the season!! The other 28 teams still had a week of Spring Training left to play!!)
I spent close to 2 weeks in Florida during Spring Training and made it to 7 games, seeing a total of 9 different teams play, and I gotta say – I’m excited for this season!! Here are my predictions for what we can expect to see this season.
The EAST division is going to be a tough one, like usual. Arguably the best and toughest division in baseball. The Yankees have a good chance at ending up atop the heap again, especially with the addition of Michael Pineda, who they got from Seattle for something like a few subway tokens and a pair of seats from old Yankee stadium. But other teams out east may make it challenging for them. Players being a year older makes most of the Rays old enough to drink, and that extra bit of maturity and experience will likely show up on the field. They’ve had good pitching, as long as their bats can provide run support they have a fighting chance to contend. Of course the Red Sox have a shot – if they stay in the dugout and focus on the game. And don’t count out the Blue Jays who have a lot of upside coming into this season. From the CENTRAL I think we can expect to see the Tigers, who have added Prince Fielder to their infield. He will more than adequately replace Victor Martinez. In my opinion they are the stand alone division winners, but anything can happen!! Out WEST the Angels are the team to beat, having added our beloved Pujols and CJ Wilson! Signing Albert gives them a ton more runs, RBIs and HRs, and adding CJ not only improves their rotation – but they took him away from their closest divisional competitor – the Rangers. Texas replaced him with Yu Darvish, who has the potential to make an impact. Having said that – Japanese pitchers have not historically made the expected splash in their American debut. Either team could claim that title.
The Phillies will likely reign again in the EAST as they have lost nothing but gained Jonathon Papelbon. The Marlins are jumping leaps and bounds over what they typically do, and their new ownership seems to want to actually KEEP good players instead of selling them in order to help other teams win titles! Fans and players alike must be completely confused!! Ok so they probably won’t take out the Phillies, but they have a shot to be a great team this year. The Nationals, too, are setting big goals. Their manager said that if they can’t make the playoffs in ’12, he has no business managing the team. Those are some pretty big words….. And let’s not forget the Braves – one of the best teams through August last year. Unfortunately for them, they share the division with Philly so it’s unlikely they’ll get very far. The CENTRAL division is obviously going to be taken by the St. Louis Cardinals!! There’s no reason to think we aren’t still the team to beat after losing Albert Pujols. We have plenty of bats left in our lineup to carry us to the top. In fact – we were in 1st place last year while El Hombre was on the DL! Adding Beltran and having Wainwright back are pluses and Carpenter will only be out 6 weeks or so. The Reds could make some noise for us having added Matt Latos and Ryan Madsen but I still think we got this. Milwaukee lost Fielder and I think they did little to compensate. They could be tough, but probably not tough enough. The WEST has Arizona, who can likely repeat their incredible 2011 season with their very talented and very young pitching, but the Giants will put up a good fight with the return of Buster Posey.
In the end – I think the Angels, Tigers and Yankees will top the AL divisions, while the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Phillies will be the leaders of the NL. The wild cards (there should be 2 in each league this year) could go to Rangers, Blue Jays or Rays in AL; Giants, Braves, or Reds in NL.
No matter what the outcome – I’m just happy because it’s finally OPENING NIGHT!! 162 days of fun in the sun (plus playoffs of course)
[OOPS!! It was just made aware to me that Ryan Madsen is having Tommy John surgery, so obviously he will not make any appearances for the Reds this year. Bummer for them – great news for Cardinals fans! (Although I never consider a player’s injury to be a good thing) Anyway – just a little FYI]