Since we always endeavor to be interesting, I’m going out on a limb with some of these predictions. Don’t expect me to stand by them. Let’s just say they’re made in the moment.
*The Braves will the NL East. Philly has the starting pitching, of course, but their offense is no longer a strength and that bullpen is due to implode. They’ll win the Wild Card because they get to play so many games against the Muts.
*The Mets will be the worst team in baseball, by far. All according to new GM Sandy Alderson’s plan. Think about it. Johan Santana may not pitch until late in the season, if at all. Their rotation consists of the always-unreliable Mike Pelfrey, 36-year-old R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese. Their farm system is barren and the last time Terry Collins was a manager his players revolted. (And those were the Angels of Tim Salmon, Darrin Erstad and Garret Anderson, none of whom were ever confused with a clubhouse cancer.) Alderson is smart enough to know that the only way to fix the Mets is to blow ‘em up and start over. David Wright and Jose Reyes will both be playing elsewhere by season’s end.
*Wright sure would look good in a Braves uniform, but FW will import another guy known to be popular with the ladies: Grady Sizemore. Yes, I’m aware he’s been best by injuries the last two years, missing most of the 2010 season after microfracture surgery on his left knee. But he’s a gamer and, modern medicine being what it is, I’m betting on a comeback. He’ll be in Atlanta by July, acquired for Vizcaino and McOut. Sizemore is only 28 and and missed just nine games from 2005-2008. In ’08 he slugged 33 homers, doubled 39 times and stole 38 bases. If he comes back as half the player he was Sizemore would still represent a significant upgrade in center. So would Curtis Granderson.
*Why would the Yanks trade their CF? Because they’re not going to make the playoffs and Granderson can fetch the young arms they’ll need to contend in 2012. That rotation is sketchy at best and, outside of Rivera, the bullpen ain’t much, even with the addition of Pedro (“got no complaints”) Feliciano. Don’t forget their aging line-up. The piper is ready to collect.
*The Evil Empire’s decline marks a major transition in the game, as power has shifted back to the Senior Circuit. Will that translate to home-field advantage in the World Series for the Braves?
*Why not? Jason Heyward makes the leap to superstardom in 2011, taking pressure off Martin, Uggla, B-Mac and Chipper. Kimbrel proves to be an adept closer, set up by a deep bullpen led by George Sherrill, who will remind Braves fans of Mike Remlinger circa 2002.
*I’m not going to contradict all conventional wisdom. Boston will represent the AL in the Fall Classic, and even though it appears foolhardy to suggest the Braves are a better team I ain’t picking the Sox. Also, either CD or I will get arrested for fighting with a Boston fan at Turner Field — probably some fat redneck from South Carolina. I except one of you guys will be more than happy to bail us out.
*Etcetera. The Orioles will finish above .500 for the first time since 1997, when they drew 3.7 million — roughly 2 million more than in 2010; Colorado will lead the NL West at the All-Star Break and after Game 162. They had the best offseason no one is talking about, retaining Jorge De La Rosa while adding useful complimentary players like Matt Lindstrom, Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez (96 RBI for the M’s in ’09); Oakland will win the AL West thanks to three starters (Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez) who will inevitably be compared to Hudson, Mulder and Zito; St. Louis will win the Central and re-sign Albert Pujols; Milwaukee contends but won’t overcome a horrendous defense — new SS Yuniesky Betancourt is the modern-day Andres Thomas and Rickie Weeks is an error machine at second; the Pale Hose will join the A’s, Boston and the Twins in the AL playoffs; St. Louis, Colorado, Philly and the local nine will compete for the NL championship in 2011, the last year we’ll see only 8 playoff teams. Unfortunately, Bud ain’t done fucking up the game.
Selah, and happy 2011.