I decided to forgo buying a season preview magazine this year, in favor of availing myself of a free subscription to Sports Illustrated. (Thank you Coke Points. Your final gift to me. RIP.) I received their baseball preview yesterday and read their scouting reports last night. I haven’t watched any Spring Training so far and even missed watching Team America’s awesome victory in the World Baseball Classic. With changes coming to my job and my entire living schedule, I’m just not sure I’m going to be able to follow baseball this season as much as I have been. My enthusiasm just isn’t where it should be.
So let’s get down to it. Your 2017 World Series winner will be (JDH417 waits five full minutes for the clouds to part and for a divine light to shine upon him, gifting him with prophecy) . . . determined by the end of this post. We’ll have to work our way through this and arrive at a solution the hard way.
The American League East is expected to be dominated by the Boston Red Sox with the addition of Chris Sale to the rotation and their awesome hitting. I’m not sold. Even if they win the division, frankly, they’re soft. Dustin Pedoria’s got grit, but he’s the only one. They’re not going anywhere near the World Series. People are counting out the Blue Jays after losing Edwin Encarnacion, but Marcus Stroman really impressed me in the WBC. I think they’ve got the grit. Expect them to at least get a Wild Card.
Meanwhile, Boston’s loss was Cleveland’s gain. Encarnacion, along with Michael Brantley returning from injury, should give the Indians plenty of pop. With Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller, along with the rest of the staff healing from last season’s late injuries, they should be getting plenty of outs. They should win the AL Central going away. Unfortunately, the window may have closed for the Tigers and the Royals due to a couple of unfortunate deaths. Tigers owner, Mike Illitch, was the soul of the team (not to mention the money) and pitcher, Yordano Ventura, was the Royal’s fire. Detroit may spontaneously combust from injuries to their older players. Kansas City’s homegrown core may be dispersed during or after this season. (Sigh. I like those guys together so much. They should start a band in the offseason.)
Boy did I get it wrong last year, riding the Astros and the Rangers to the championship. The Astros are just so loaded with the youthful talent. Seductive. Then they add high-level veteran talent in Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick. Very seductive. They finally got rid of that stupid hill in the outfield. Extremely very seductive. I just have to question their pitching. The Rangers are a bunch of “if’s.” If Cole Hamels bounces back from a late season slump. If Yu Darvish returns to his pre-injury form. If the rest of the rotation pitches the way they should be capable of pitching. If the bullpen’s arms don’t fall off covering for the rest of the rotation when they don’t. If Mike Napoli can still be productive after a poor post-season last year. If Shin-Soo Choo can come back from his injury and stay healthy. And can Joey Gallo stop striking out all the time? Maybe the Rangers can win if a few if these things come together. The Mariners are actually a more complete team than either of these guys, but will team history get in their way? I’ll take the Astros taking the AL West with reservations.
The National League East should be a slam dunk for the Washington Nationals, as everyone says every year. However much talent gets added to this team, they’re cancer-ridden. It starts with their unofficial captain, Bryce Harper. He really needs to go to a team where somebody like Adrian Beltre or Big Pappi can screw his attitude on straight. I don’t know how the Mets are going to score runs, but their opponents aren’t going to score any either with the Met’s starting rotation. I’ll pick them to win the division. The Nationals may talent their way into a Wild Card.
The Cubs are going to degrade badly after their World Series triumph. It’s their starting pitching that’s going to collapse. Unfortunately for the Cardinals and the Pirates, they’re not in a position to capitalize on the Cubs’ weakness. It’s still going to be the Cubs winning the NL Central. Let’s just move along.
Let’s start with Rockies here first in the NL West. I don’t think they’ll win it, but they are intriguing. If they could just stay healthy and get a little pitching, they’d bludgeon everyone. It’s too much to hope for. Meanwhile, the Giants at least shored up their bullpen by adding Mark Melcancon and getting rid of Hunter Strickland (addition by subtraction). Relief pitching overshadowed every other problem they had. Oh, crap! Wait. They kept Strickland. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto’s great performances this year will all be wasted. I guess it’ll be the Dodgers winning the division, but they’ll choke in the playoffs. (Meanwhile on the Padres, it's nice to see so many former Chihuahuas on the big league club. Unfortunately, they're listed as the worst team in SI’s preview because of their pitching.)
So how does it all end? Cleveland over the Astros in the AL. Mets over Cubs in the NL. (Yes, shocking. Isn’t it? The Dodgers lose in the Division Series after accumulating the best record in baseball.) Cleveland takes it all. I can only really see them losing if they suffer a rash of injuries during the season, in which case I’ll go with the Astros again (foolishly) as my backup pick.