It’s time for a little dose of reality and perspective – Cards ‘N Stuff style! The first week of the season is almost in the books, and just like last season – and perhaps every season before it – fans of every MLB team are freaking out and crying for mama, or calling their team’s ticket office and asking – in all seriousness – “What do you mean you can’t sell playoff tickets in April?!”
In the immortal words of Tony La Russa: “It’s the first week of the season! I don’t understand this.”
If you aren’t familiar with our little MLB Division Snapshot format, it goes like this: For each division in baseball, we take a look at how things stand today – who is in first, second, last, etc. – and tell you what will prove true, what won’t prove true, and what might stand a chance of becoming true. And this year, we added a little bit extra.
At the end of each division’s Will, Won’t…Might? write-up, we (I don’t know why I say ‘we’ when I mean ‘I’…it ain’t a group of us, people!) posted a little graphic that shows the standings this time last year and the final standings at the end of the 2011 season. That should be fun, huh? So think twice before you yell and scream about my predictions. It’s not like I’m pullin’ this outta’ my…uh…hat. It happens every year.
Okay, okay…I know you want to get on with it, but real quick – for those still catching up – HERE’S A LINK TO LAST YEAR’S SNAPSHOT. Now…Let’s get into it!
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Will: The Rays are for real. They will find a way to make the playoffs…but it may not be by winning the division. Their hot start will cool and settle into consistency. Expect them to ultimately finish where they are right now – second. And expect the Red Sox to finish more or less where they are now as well…behind the Rays.
Won’t: You know how some teams are said to be “built for the postseason” or “built for the regular season”? It seems as if the Orioles are built to sprint out of the gate…and then fall on their faces. They won’t even contend, so don’t get excited by yet another first place appearance in the first week of the season. The Yankees won’t finish anywhere near where they are right now either. They won’t even finish in the latter half of the division. Expect them to win the AL East this year with the division finishing exactly as it did in 2011: Yanks, Rays, Sox, Jays, Orioles.
Might: The Yankees may lose out to the Rays for the AL East crown, but it’s not likely. Also, this Red Sox team has a bad vibe. I don’t see them even making the playoffs this year…even with an extra Wild Card spot. They seem ripe for an upset…by perhaps the Blue Jays. Toronto could take third from the Sox and set off pandemonium in Red Sox Nation with a fourth place finish.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Will: Detroit is easily the class of this division. It won’t even be close. See that 2 game gap only 4 games in? Yeah…that’s no fluke. It will be an “also ran” division in the AL Central this year. I also see the White Sox surprising a few people under first time manager Ventura. They will finish in the top half of the division. Look for the Indians to finish exactly where they are now…fourth.
Won’t: The Royals won’t finish in third…and they won’t avoid the bottom half of the division. A lot of people are high on KC this year…if for no other reason, than the division they play in…but I’m not fooled. KC is still KC, and they still have to play the rest of the American League this year (unless Bud changed that one, too). But don’t expect Minnesota to be as bad as most predict this season. They won’t finish last…and likely won’t finish next to last, either.
Might: The Royals might avoid last place and push the Indians even further down…although it’s not likely. Of course, the White Sox could be just as bad as everyone expects them to be and finish in the bottom half of the division. But here’s the kicker…the White Sox, Twins, Indians, and Royals are all – in various corners of cyberspace – expected to be pretty bad this season. They can’t all finish in last place (believe me, I think this division has tried it a few times). Someone might just surprise you this year.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Will: Yes…Texas will win this division. Yes…Oakland will finish in one of the last two spots in the division. Do I even need to explain this one? The A’s are bad, people. If you watched Moneyball and then started watching Major League Baseball games expecting to see a division champion come out of Oakland…brotha’…you got played.
Won’t: Okay…whose the dude that thought the Mariners were going to finish ahead of the Angels? Come on…raise your hand. SMACK! That’s what you get! Seattle won’t contend. They won’t finish ahead of the Angels. And the Angels won’t finish anywhere but directly behind the Rangers…in the butt-kissing position. Look, I know some of you are Brendan Ryan and/or Mariners fans…but the A’s and Mariners spent several games playing each other. That’s like picking between cow manure and horse dung…they’re both sh**. Neither will factor in the division race.
Might: The Angels might push the Rangers and even overtake them. I guess it could happen…if a lot of things go right for LA and a lot of things go wrong for Texas…but that’s a lot of lotta’s. The Rangers offense and pitching…and their offense, too…should propel them to the top again. Oh…and the A’s might finish ahead of the Mariners. But who cares, right?
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Will: There’s not much here to bet on…and even that is rife with conjecture and supposition. But Miami will finish in the middle of a much-improved pack. Philadelphia will finish the season ahead of Atlanta, and the gap between Philly and the Braves will be much smaller than it was in 2011. Other than that…
Won’t: The New York Mets won’t finish anywhere near the top of the division. They like to believe getting Santana back and Wright fully healthy will help them put it together…and in another division that might be true…but the reality is that this division is largely improved across the board. It’s not so much a matter of whether or not the Mets wins are legit – it’s simply the fact that the Nationals and Marlins both got better. And you can bet Philly and Atlanta won’t finish in the bottom half of the division any more than New York will finish in the top half.
Might: Really, much of this division is wide open. The Marlins and Nationals have the talent and might make a push at second place in the division…but all things being equal, the Phillies and Braves are the teams to count on. Miami might completely lose control of all those fiery personalities and finish fourth, and the Mets believe they can keep themselves out of the cellar this season. If Santana, Wright,and a few others can stay healthy, they might be right.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Will: The Cardinals will win the division, and the Cubs will finish in the bottom half of the division. Also, the Reds have the firepower and pitching depth to finish ahead of Milwaukee – yes, that will happen. Finally, the NL Central champs will finish lower than one would expect from a team a couple wins away from the World Series last season – Prince or no Prince. A lot has to go right for the Brewers to beat out the Reds…and I just don’t see it all happening this season.
Won’t: The Pirates and Astros won’t finish in the top half of the division. After years spent occupying the cellar, the Pirates won’t be able to avoid a return trip – if only for a short time. They also won’t be able to finish the season with a winning record. The Reds and Brewers won’t finish in the bottom half of the division, and the distance between the Cubs and first place won’t be 2.5 games. For the bottom three teams – Pittsburgh, Houston, and Chicago – 2012 won’t be pretty.
Might: The Brewers might overtake the Reds and push the Cardinals again if all of their starting pitching gets the job done – but that’s a big if. Grienke is an issue waiting to happen, Marcum has a recent history (read: Spring Training) of shoulder soreness, Gallardo still can’t figure out the Cardinals…etc. While the Reds and Brewers fight it out, the Astros might surprise some people. There seems to be a lot of renewal taking place in the NL Central. The entire division might look drastically different in a few years. The Cubs might be good again, the Astros will be gone, and the Pirates might fall into a winning season here and there. Combine all of that with the Reds’ salary limitations after Votto and Phillips, and this division might be unrecognizable by 2017.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Will: Arizona will win this division and the Dodgers will find a way to contend. The gap between the two teams will be smaller than many would think. Colorado will finish in the middle of the pack, and the Padres will finish in the bottom half of the division. Of course, the “wills” end there.
Won’t: The Giants won’t finish in last – although their recent pitching struggles could be a sign of concern – and the bottom three teams in the division won’t be nearly so closely bunched together. Likely the Padres won’t be able to stick with a group that is so clearly better than the friars. It won’t be a fun summer in San Diego – at least not for baseball fans.
Might: The Diamondbacks might run away with this division again, but it won’t happen early. The Dodgers might actually be able to stick with them for much of the season…but the D-backs uncanny consistency and ability to accumulate wins while everyone else is sleeping might leave them with one of the best records in the NL. San Francisco, by the way, might fall so far back by August that they won’t even appear in the playoff picture, if recent rumors about Lincecum’s velocity are rooted in any truth at all. With the exception of the Giants, this division might actually end up looking more like it’s first week picture than different from it.
Alright…that’s going to do it for the day. There’s not a lot of new information here, but the post is more an exercise in consideration – thoughtfully considering the division races rather than quickly jumping to conclusions – than anything else.
Day game today as the Cardinals go for the sweep in Cincy…