“Baseball is a game of inches.”  That’s a cliché that’s thrown about quite often by announcers, analysts, and old timey fans.  It’s true to a degree and was so during the 2015 World Series between the Mets and Royals.  An in between hop, a jump on a fly ball, a throw that just barely pulls someone off the bag or goes up the line.  “Give ‘em an inch, they’ll take a foot.”  That’s another more universal cliché you often hear.  That sentiment summed up the Royals this postseason as they used every mistake and every opportunity to make their opponents pay for giving just an inch of hope.  The Royals mustered 7 come from behind wins this postseason and actually trailed the Mets in every single game of the World Series.  They plated over 40 runs between the 7th and 9th innings during the playoffs.  It was that never say die attitude and confidence that propelled them to winning the 111th Fall Classic.

Game 1 saw the notion of inches on the first pitch as Alcedis Escobar put one in the left-center gap.  Yoenes Cespedes got a bad jump and then miscommunicated with rookie Michael Conforto as to who was playing the ball.  Cespedes stabbed at it, but missed by a few inches.  The Mets would take the lead 3-1 later in the game.  The Royals tied with the Mets again taking the lead on a Eric Hosmer error scoring Juan Lagares.  In the bottom of the 9th with Jeurys Familia on the mound who hadn’t given up a run in the postseason, Alex Gordon takes him deep on a ball that was up in the zone by a mere few inches.  It took 14 frames to settle, but you got the sense that KC wasn’t going to let up and would find a way to win.  In the 14th, an error by David Wright pulled Lucas Duda off the bag and led to the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Hosmer, redeeming himself.  This would be the first of several Mets miscues that the Royals would use to their advantage. 

Game 2 was a one-sided affair with Johnny Cueto pitching masterfully as he kept the Mets’ hitters off balance the entire game.  Duda managed the only 2 hits for New York and yet they still had the lead at 1-0 going into the 5th.  During that half inning, the Royals used timely deke and dunk hits sprayed all over the field to put 4 runs on the board.  Cueto didn’t need any more than that keeping the Mets guessing the whole night with his myriad styles of delivery to the plate.  Kansas City would add 3 more runs in the 8th to complete the 7-1 romp on their way to holding serve in their home ballpark.

Needing a win in Game 3, the Mets sent fireballer Noah Syndergaard to the mound.  His first pitch came within inches of drilling the hot hitting Escobar.  That kind of bravado from Syndergaard could either juice up the Mets for a comeback in the series or awaken the Royals even further to keep up the pressure, now with a chip on their shoulders.  This game, the Mets dominated as the bats came alive en route to a 9-3 victory.  Wright had 4 RBI and it looked briefly like New York was poised to make it a very competitive series.  In an interesting managerial move, Mets skipper Terry Collins used his setup guys Reed and Clippard, along with his closer Familia in a mop up role where they weren’t needed. 

Game 4 pitted Chris Young against the newest Met pitcher, Steven Matz.  Both pitched great through the first few innings.  Rookie Michael Conforto came out in this game belting 2 homeruns for New York.  Kansas City would touch Matz in the 5th on an RBI single from Gordon and again in the 6th on a Lorenzo Cain single.  New York would take a 3-2 lead into the 8th but no lead was safe against this resilient Royals club.  After 2 walks from Clippard, Collins went to his closer Familia again.  Hosmer hits a weak ground ball to 2nd that Daniel Murphy misplays allowing the ball to miss his glove by a mere inch or two.  The tying run came in and back to back singles plated 2 additional insurance runs.  Royals closer Wade Davis closed the doors on the Mets with a six out save to put KC up 3 games to 1.  During the 9th, another costly mental error hurt the Mets when Cespedes was doubled off to end the game.

In a must win Game 5, New York sent out Harvey again to save the season.  Embroiled in a controversy over his innings limit the past two years, it appeared Harvey was primed to take the Mets on his shoulders in this pivotal elimination game.  He pitched masterfully throughout the game doing what no other Mets starter had done before – consistently get the Royals to swing and miss.  Kansas City had largely avoided the Mets advantage of power pitching, proving to be very hard to strikeout.  Harvey dispatched 9 Royals via the strikeout in Game 5.  Curtis Granderson led off the game with a homerun and the Mets got an insurance run on a Hosmer error.  Going into the 9th, Harvey had only 102 pitches in the game, leaving everyone to wonder who would pitch the final inning.  With Familia warming up, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen informed Harvey his night was over.  A jazzed up Harvey immediately went to plead his case to Collins insisting he wanted to go back out there.  He could be seen saying “no way!” over and over about being taken out.  Collins relented and the crowd erupted when Harvey ran out of the dugout.  However, as they had been the entire series, the Royals were un-phased by the roar of the crowd or the sense of drama and destiny of the Dark Knight out to save Gotham from elimination.  Cain worked a full count into a walk to start off the inning.  Instead of going to the closer, Collins stuck with his starter to go after Hosmer, who was destroying the ball with runners on base.  Cain stole second easily and Hosmer laced a double to left scoring their first run.  Now Familia was brought into the game asked to be perfect with no one out and the tying run on second.  Hosmer went to 3rd on a grounder by Mike Moustakas.  Next up Salvador Perez (eventual MVP) hit another weak grounder to the left side.  Wright snatched it up and even looked Hosmer back before firing to first.  As soon as Wright looked to first, Hosmer bolted for the plate.  Duda’s throw was off the mark, yet again opening a window for Kansas City as they tied the game.  A good throw and the game is over with the series moving back to Kansas City.  The Royals would blow it open in the 12th plating 5 runs to cinch the series. 

 Some interesting notes regarding the series:
·         The inside the park homerun to start Game 1 was the first since 1929
·         Familia is the first pitcher to blow 3 saves in the World Series.  Game 5 blown save was without surrendering a hit
·         KC first team to trail 3 games in the 8th or later to win all 3
·         After Game 1, KC did not have another homerun.  Mets had 5. 
·         Wright, Murphy, and Cespedes went 11-64 (.171) for the series

This past Saturday marked the 29th anniversary of the pivotal Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Mets and the Red Sox.  I was reminded of the similarities between that Mets team and this year’s Royals team.  Both were/are come from behind teams that always believe they’re in the game no matter what.  Game 1 of the 2015 World Series had a coincidence that is particularly memorable for me.  During last night’s game in the 8th inning, Eric Hosmer had a grounder handcuff him which brought in the go ahead run.  Hosmer is a 2 time defending Gold Glove winner at 1B known for his defense.  Were it not for Alex Gordon and his heroics in the 9th, that could have been the turning point in the game last night.  It instantly took me back 29 years (I had just turned 9) to the ’86 series and Game 6. 

Everyone remembers Bill Buckner as the pariah that ruined the chances of the Red Sox to break the Curse of the Bambino that had plagued them since Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920.  The routine grounder went through Buckner’s legs allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run and force a Game 7.  That error overshadowed an outstanding career as Buckner notched 2715 hits, 1208 RBI and hit .289 for his career.  Buckner has noted several times that the media had more to do with his notoriety than actual fans. 

Now my team was on the winning end of the whole situation, so clearly I was happy with the result.  However, it has always bothered me that Buckner gets the blame for the Red Sox collapse against the Mets when so many more factors came into play.  Going back to that night, October 25, 1986 the Red Sox had a 3 games to 2 lead and were winning Game 6 heading into the bottom of the 9th 5-3.  Bob Ojeda had scattered 8 hits over 6 innings giving up 2.  Roger Clemens was rolling giving up 1 and striking out 8.  In the top of the 10th, Rick Aguilera surrendered a homerun to Dave Henderson and another RBI double to SS Marty Barrett.  This gave the Red Sox a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the 10th.

Calvin Schiraldi who pitched the 8th and the 9th was called on to go one more frame.  Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flied out to start the inning leaving the Mets to their last at bat.  The Kid, Gary Carter, started things off with a 2 out single.  Kevin Mitchell, pinch hitting, gets another single.  Ray Knight goes down 0-2, leaving the Red Sox one strike away from winning the Series, when he miraculously gets another single, scoring Carter making it 5-4.  So some blame to Schiraldi for giving up 3 hits and 1 run.  Bob Stanley comes in to relieve Schiraldi.  Mookie Wilson battled Stanley to 3-2 and multiple foul balls when Stanley uncorks a wild pitch and Mitchell scores tying the game (Knight to second).  So some blame to Stanley for bringing in the tying run with a wild pitch.  Fair to say everyone is rattled on the Boston side and the pressure is ratcheted up quite a bit.  Now the infamous play, and Mookie grounds one down the first base line to Buckner.  Mookie was fairly fleet of foot having stolen 25 bags that year.  I’m sure that factored in for Buckner who would have had to beat him to the bag.  Buckner didn’t field cleanly and the ball trickled into right field with Knight coming around for the winning run. 

The Red Sox had a 3-0 lead in Game 7 heading into the 6th as Bruce Hurst had their number that year and dominated again that night.  Schiraldi took the loss in Game 7 surrendering 3 runs that would be the difference in that game too.  However, all anyone remembers from that series is Buckner’s gaffe when the game was already tied due to other errors and mental mistakes. 
Full disclosure from the beginning, I am a die-hard Mets fan of 31 years, so I will try to contain my jubilation and table my bias regarding this preview.  The 2015 World Series  will be represented by 2 teams that have been woefully bad for much of the past two decades.  Both clubs turned things around by bringing up quality talent from their farm systems and filling the gaps with great trades and solid role players.  Both clubs are also chasing their first World Series win in 29/30 years.

The Royals had much success in the late 70s and 80s culminating with a World Series victory in 1985.  They would contend in the West for the rest of the 80s.  By the mid 90s, they had become a bottom dweller in the American League.  Throughout much of the 2000s, they were among the worst teams in all of baseball.  2010 was a turning year for the team as they called up young talents Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, and Mike Moustakas.  They also traded Zack Greinke, acquiring Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and other prospects from the Brewers.  Although they would still struggle, the foundations for the current team were coming together.  Last year, with the Tigers collapsing down the stretch, the Royals surged their way into the playoffs and caught fire through the first two rounds.  This year, they signed veterans Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales in the offseason and bolstered their pitching staff and lineup by trading for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist at the deadline.  The Royals are a comeback team, having come from behind 3 times to win in this postseason already.  They have a lot of confidence that they can win any game no matter what the circumstances.  That pervasive attitude among the team makes them hard to put away.

The scary part of this team is the timely hitting.  Morales was the only Royal to notch 100 RBI this year and no one had more than 22 homers.  However, they have tons of players who can hit in the clutch and they seem to have a different guy step up each night.  Escobar and Cain have been great table setters, and the Royals have had clutch hits from Morales, Zobrist, and Perez throughout the playoffs.  Plus they still have Hosmer and Alex Gordon who can both ignite at any moment.  Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, and Cueto are all capable of pitching lights out, but they aren't untouchable.  The starting pitching is competent, however no one has had a dominant season or postseason run.  If the pitching can keep the Royals close in games, their lineup can manufacture runs in several different ways.

2015 marks the first time since 2009 that neither the Giants or Cardinals won the NL pennant on the way to the Fall Classic.  The Mets are certainly an out of left field surprise to represent the National League in this year's series.  Like the Royals, they have had many stretches with terrible teams in the past few decades.  Their last World Series appearance was 2000, losing in 5 games to the Yankees in the subway series.  They are also approaching 30 years since a title, having last won in the infamous 1986 series with the Red Sox.

As they approached the midseason point this year, the Mets had the worst ranked offense in baseball with many analysts comparing them to a Triple-A lineup.  It was a foregone conclusion to most that the Washington Nationals would run away with the NL East leaving the Mets and Braves to vie for 2nd place and...maybe...a wildcard opportunity.  The Mets pitching staff kept them in the hunt for the first half of the season, but they were without David Wright, Lucas Duda started to slump after a hot start, and they didn't have much additional offense.  The team had fallen behind Washington 4.5 games and needed a push.  They were heavy into a deal for Carlos Gomez (who they originally had and sent to Minnesota in the Johan Santana trade) right at the break.  That deal fell through, paving the way for the Mets to pick up Yoenis Cespedes for a couple of prospects.  When I heard about them getting Cespedes, I was sure they gave up one of their young arms, but the pitching staff was kept in tact.  Cespedes ignited the Mets, along with a Nationals breakdown, and catapulted them to their first division title since 2006.  They went from the worst offense in baseball to the best offense in baseball down the stretch.

This postseason for the Mets has been dominated by power pitching and the unforeseen and other wordly hitting display by Daniel Murphy.  The much maligned Matt Harvey seems to have shed his concerns about innings in order to chase a title.  Harvey picked up key wins against both the Dodgers and Cubs.  Jacob deGrom has found a way to battle his way to 3 wins while not having his best stuff.  Noah Syndergaard has shown great poise for a 22 year old beating the probable Cy Young winner in Jake Arietta and holding his own against the other potential Cy winner in Greinke.  The bullpen has also been lights out as Jeurys Familia has not allowed a run as of yet.  The biggest story thus far has to be Murphy who has caught fire over the past two weeks.  After just 14 home runs all season, Murphy has 7 long balls already in the postseason, including a record setting 6 games in a row current streak.  He's gone deep against Clayton Kershaw (twice), Greinke, Arietta, and Jon Lester, four of the best pitchers in the game. 

Ultimately, I think this World Series comes down to the ages old battle of power pitching versus clutch hitting.  Can the young Met arms continue to throw smoke, locate their pitches, and rack up strikeouts?  Can the comeback Royals keep the magic going with timely hits and key run production?  Will the layoff for New York impact their momentum especially for Murphy?  These are some of the biggest question marks coming into next week.  If Kansas City can put up runs against the Mets' fireballers, they will take the series far and can certainly win the whole thing.  Likewise if the Mets can avoid the vaunted Royals bullpen and strike early and often against their starters, they will take control of the series. 

It should be a great World Series, and although I'm pulling for the Metropolitans, that never say die attitude of the Royals has me very weary indeed.  Mets in 6 (of course I'm biased).       
Haven't had time to draft a post, however, you have my word that our picks are authentic and were crafted before the season actually started (you'll see from the picks that none of us are front-running).  And this is really for our benefit, anyway (not yours... if anyone out there is considering betting off of our analysis, let me be the first to advise you against doing that).


AL MVP-Adam Eaton
NL-MVP-Bryce Harper

AL CY-Chris Sale

AL ROY-Sean Newcomb
NL ROY-Kris Bryant

AL MOY-Terry Francona
NL MOY-Joe Maddon

AL Comeback -  Prince Fielder
NL comeback  -Matt Harvey

AL Most Excited-Adam Eaton
NL Most Excited-The Cubs


AL MVPMike Trout
NL MVP – Giancarlo Stanton

AL CYFelix Hernandez
NL CYClayton Kershaw

AL ROYCarlos Rodon
NL ROY Kris Bryant

AL MOYRobin Ventura
NL MOYTerry Collins

AL Comeback – Prince Fielder
NL Comeback – Matt Harvey

AL Most Excited – Alex Rodriguez
NL Most Excited – Matt Harvey


AL MVPRobinson Cano… this is linked to my WS pick and Trout is certainly the best player on the planet but Cano has been really good for a really long time and I think if the Mariners do well, he will be in serious conversation (deserving of an MVP in his career)
NL MVPAndrew McCutchen… thought about Puig but I think McCutchen is the best player (non-pitcher) in the NL by pretty wide margin.  Barring injuries, it’s his to lose. 

NL CY – Clayton Kershaw… I really want to go with someone else but I can’t.  I wasn’t
AL  CY – Felix Hernandez… admittedly, hedging my bets here.  I don’t expect Felix and Cano (both Mariners) to win these major awards but I think that one of them will. 

AL MOY – Robin Ventura… it’s hard not to like what the White Sox are doing and I think Robin Ventura will have his ball club playing well this year.
NL MOYDon Mattingly better results with (seemingly) less.  I think that this year’s Dodgers team is built to win, addition by subtraction.

AL ROYDalton Pompeythe Blue Jays have a couple other guys that could vie for the ROY award (namely, starting pitchers Alex Sanchez and Daniel Norris) but Pompey will be a Web Gem favorite, he’ll steal a bunch of bases and he’s slated to lead off in front of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson… in a relatively weak AL-ROY class, Pompey, who is starting in Center Field for the Blue Jays has an opportunity create some early buzz and help his team reach the postseason.
NL ROYJoc Pedersonall of the ROY buzz has been focused on the Paul Bunyan-esque slugger known as Kris Bryant but he’s not on the opening day roster for reasons outside of his control so the door has been cracked for someone like Joc Pederson or Bryant’s teammate Jorge Soler to make it a competition.  I like Joc Pederson… in 553 minor league at bats, he posted 33 HR, 30 SB and a 1.017 OPS.  It’s very unlikely he’ll replicate those numbers at the big league level but the soon-to-be 23 year old slugger is a player to watch in 2015.

AL Comeback – Derrek Holland
NL Comeback Joey Votto



1.       Nationals
2.       Mets*
3.       Braves
4.       Marlins
5.       Phillies

I concur that this division belongs to the Nationals.  Their lineup is solid and with Gio Gonzalez as your 5th starter, you’re doing something right.  As a Mets fan, I’m hopeful they pull it together for their first playoff run since 2006.  Losing Wheeler will hamper that somewhat, but there’s hope that fireballer Noah Syndegaard will break in with the team sometime this year.  The Braves and Marlins could flip flop for 3rd and 4th place, but losing Justin Upton and Jason Heyward will deplete the Braves.  The Phillies are still too old, too injured, and haven’t been able to rebuild yet.  Miracles do happen, but the situation looks bleak for the Fightin Phils.

1.       Cardinals
2.       Pirates*
3.       Reds
4.       Cubs
5.       Brewers

I hope the Pirates can pull out the division and make a deep playoff run, but the Cardinals are just so balanced of a team.  Adding Heyward should help, and their staff is still strong with Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn at the top.  I don’t think the other 3 teams in the division will put up much of a fight for a playoff spot.  The Reds get Joey Votto back, but his numbers were declining before the injury last year.  The Cubs have some nice young talent and they’re very much anticipating big things from Kris Bryant, whenever they bring him up.  I think they’re a year or two away from being a big presence in the NL Central. 

1.       Dodgers
2.       Padres
3.       Giants
4.       Rockies
5.       Diamondbacks

I think the Dodgers are still the favorites in this division, but the Padres have made some bold moves in the off season.  The Dodgers lost their middle infield, but defensively their replacements in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick should succeed.  Yasiel Puig should come into true form negating the loss of oft-injured Matt Kemp.  Two Cy Youngs helming the staff in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke should provide plenty of wins.  The Padres added Upton and Kemp to their outfield as well as Big Game James Shields as their #1 starter.  Scouts and pundits are also expecting a good showing from Andrew Cashner as well.  I don’t think it’s enough to overrun the Dodgers.  The Giants are always that team you don’t think will be good and then they win the World Series.  They replaced Pablo Sandoval with comeback player of the year Casey McGehee.  Madison Bumgarner is a legit Cy Young candidate, but the rest of the staff is either old or shaky (ahem..Tim Lincecum).  Brandon Belt could have a breakout season.  There’s no major reasons to be optimistic for either the Rockies or Diamondbacks this year.

1.       Yankees
2.       Blue Jays
3.       Red Sox
4.       Orioles
5.       Rays

The AL East is one of the hardest to predict.  I think every team except the Rays have a shot at the division.  The Red Sox seem to go last to first every other year, so who knows how they’ll perform.  The Yankees get Tanaka back from injury along with hit or miss Michael Pineda and aging CC Sabathia.  I’m sure the lineup will produce runs, but consistency will be a key factor in their success.  Josh Donaldson was a homer and 2 RBI away from a 30/100 season last year and he bolsters the bash bats of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.  The key for Toronto will also be consistency of their pitching.  If crafty and aging pitchers RA Dickey and Mark Buerhle can fool hitters, they could make a run.  The Orioles also suffer from pitching, and I don’t think they’ll repeat as Division champs.  Or I could have it completely wrong. 

1.       Tigers
2.       White Sox*
3.       Indians
4.       Royals
5.       Twins

Another tough to call division, the Tigers have the bats to produce runs, but pitching is a bit of a question mark here as well.  They lost a Cy Young ace in Max Scherzer to Washington and Justin Verlander begins the season on the DL.  If he bounces back and they get typical performances from Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes, it’s theirs to lose.  The White Sox and Indians will battle for the top spot all year as well, both of whom have solid young talent ready to produce right now.  I don’t think the Royals did enough with the rotation to be a viable threat, and the Twins don’t look very promising either.

1.     Mariners
2.      Angels*
3.      Athletics
4.      Rangers
5.      Astros

The Mariners and Angels should jockey positions throughout the season.  The M’s added Nelson Cruz to give Robinson Cano some additional weight in the lineup.  For the Angels, a lot will rest on the type of season they get from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.  The Rangers have Prince Fielder coming back but lost their ace Yu Darvish to Tommy John.  The Astros are a year or two away from making some noise in this division.

AL Champ – White Sox
NL Champ – Cardinals
WS Champ – Cardinals

I think the Cardinals are just too balanced and solid with scrappy players that find ways to get hits and score runs.  


   1. Dodgers
   2. Padres
   3. Giants
   4. Diamondbacks
   5. Rockies

Dodgers made some big changes over the winter and I like the moves.  They should be better defensively with Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick.  The Giants have a lot of questions with starting rotation and I don't see a repeat.  Padres are improving.  Going with more offense after years of trying to win with just pitching.  Rockies are just bad.

   1. Pirates
   2. Cardinals *
   3. Cubs *
   4. Brewers
   5. Reds

I think this may be the Pirates year.They have some good young players who I think are going to get better.  I think the Cards have weaknesses, but I think getting Heyward will pay off big for them.  Cubs will make the playoffs, but that's all.  They're a few years or less from being ready.  Joe Maddon will lead them there.  Reds lost too much of their rotation.

   1. Nationals
   2. Mets
   3. Marlins 
   4. Braves
   5. Phillies

There's no reason for the Nats not to win the division.  First, there's no one to challenge them.  At all.  Mets are improving and are loading up with good young pitching.  Yes they lost Wheeler, but there's arms in the minors just waiting.  They don't have enough bats to carry them to more than a .500 record this year.  The Marlins have improved, but don't get Jose Fernandez back till mid-season, that will put them at third place.  Braves are rebuilding and traded away a lot of offense.  But no team will be as bad as the Phillies this year, I see 100 losses for them.

   1. Mariners
   2. Angels *
   3. A'S
   4. Astros
   5. Rangers

Mariners look ready to take this division.  Adding Nelson Cruz should help Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.  Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith should also help put runs on the board.  I think the experiment by the Angels of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton has burned out.  A's traded away too much to repeat with a winning record.  Astros are improving and wouldn't be surprised if they do finish 3rd.  Rangers have too many injuries to rebound from and Yu Darvish could be out for awhile.

   1. Indians
   2. White Sox *
   3. Tigers
   4. Royals
   5. Twins

I think if the Indians can carry the momentum they had the end of last year into this year, they will be strong.  The starting rotation had an ERA of 2.95 after the all-star break last year.  I like the moves the White Sox made, which is why I picked them 2nd.  With Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn gone, they should strikeout a lot less.  I don't see the Royals repeating what they did last year - that bullpen will come back to earth.  I've been picking the Tigers here the last few years and they have disappointed.  Justin Verlander looks like he might be losing a little and losing Max Sherzer will hurt.

   1. Blue Jays
   2. Red Sox
   3. Yankees
   4. Orioles
   5. Rays

Eveyone is picking the Red Sox this year and I don't see why.  I think they have too many people who should be DH's.  Their defense will be bad.  With the addition of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, the Jays look ready.  If Dickey and Buehrle hold up, they can do it.  Yanks are getting younger, but still have too many players that are done.  Orioles didn't do anything to improve and Showalter can't work magic every year.  The Rays will miss Maddon.

AL Champ-Mariners
NL Champ-Pirates

WS Champ-Pirates


AL East
     1.      Yankees
     2.      *Blue Jays
     3.      Orioles
     4.      Red Sox
     5.      Rays

Tough to pick a front runner in this one.  The Orioles won it last year but this is the AL East where teams other than the Yankees rarely seem to win twice in a row… the Yankees finished second last year despite losing Tanaka and I really think they’re a much better team heading into the season this year than they were last year IF their pitchers can stay healthy.  The Red Sox offense looks really scary but their pitching doesn’t wow me at all.  The Blue Jays are a popular pick and I guess I’m buying into it by putting them second and making them a wild card selection… losing Marcus Stroman hurts and not having Melky Cabrera certainly doesn’t help but they have really good depth across the diamond and some young arms who could surprise some people.

AL Central
     1.      White Sox
     2.      *Royals
     3.      Tigers
     4.      Indians
     5.      Twins

This is going to be a fun division to watch.  The White Sox look like a team destined for the postseason – solid pitching, young studs at multiple positions (Jose Abreu could hit 40 HR) and some veteran leadership to keep the clubhouse in order.  The Tigers have a sneaky good lineup and a very formidable top 3 in their rotation.  Of course, the Royals surprised a lot of people last year… they won’t sneak up on anyone and I could very easily see them missing the playoffs (the World Series hangover is real).  The Indians are a fun team to watch – in this division, it’s all about chemistry and momentum.  Who can maintain momentum and keep things moving in the right direction…

AL West
     1.      Mariners
     2.      Angels
     3.      Astros
     4.      Rangers
     5.      Athletics

The Mariners appear to be destined for the playoffs… The 'Stros appear to be a year or so away but I think they’ll be competitive this year.  They have one of the deeper rotations in this division and upside at every position – certainly enough to land them in the top three.  Where the Mariners set themselves apart is their star quality (namely Robinson Cano, King Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager) and the depth they have in their rotation and their bullpen.  It’s easy to say that the Angels should be in the playoffs given the fact that they won it last year and they have the best player on the planet in Mike Trout and perhaps the greatest first baseman of all-time in Albert Pujols but I think they’re going to miss Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton (who combined for 7 WAR last year).  The Rangers and Athletics have both been nearly decimated by injuries in the early going… not a good omen for their upcoming seasons.

NL East
     1.      Nationals
     2.      Braves
     3.      Mets
     4.      Phillies
     5.      Marlins

Horrid division… Nationals run away with it, boasting the best lineup and rotation in this division (perhaps in the all of baseball – Gio Gonzalez is their fifth starter).  Mets losing Wheeler hurts, otherwise I’d say they supplant the Braves here but the Braves pitching should hold up.  Phillies and Fish duke it out for last.

NL Central
     1.       Cardinals
     2.       *Pirates
     3.       Cubs
     4.       Brewers
     5.       Reds

Competitive division… the Cubs could have enough to sneak into the playoffs as a wild card in this division (either passing the Pirates who I have in second or earning the second wild card in this division) but the Cardinals seem to be the cream of the crop.  They just always seem to do the right things.  They re-tooled their lineup without selling the farm… it’s a shame we will never get to see Oscar Taveres patrolling the outfield at Busch Stadium and a loss like that will hurt in many ways but the Cardinals traded one of their young arms (Shelby Miller) for Jason Heyward which opened up a spot in their rotation for Carlos Martinez, who arguably deserved the spot in the rotation, last year. 

NL West
     1.       Dodgers
     2.       *Padres
     3.       Giants
     4.       Rockies
     5.       Diamondbacks

Another competitive division… the Padres might have a better lineup on paper but the Dodgers still have the best rotation and better star quality.  Some of those battles out west will be fun to watch – I expect a lot of fireworks.  I’m not sure it’s ever smart to bet against the Giants but there’s just not enough there for me to bet on.  One of these years we’ll see a full season of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowistzki… or maybe we won’t.  Love that Rockies lineup but can’t get excited about the rotation… Kyle Kendrick would be their opening day starter (with the amount of work that bullpen will be getting, I expect Latroy Hawkins arm to fall off).  Diamondbacks don’t enamor me.  Traded away a bunch of young arms and left themselves with not a whole lot…

AL Champ – Mariners
NL Champ – Nationals
WS Champ – Mariners

This is a wild pick but I think that the Mariners and Nationals both appear to be in a position to make the playoffs and if either of those teams are in the playoffs, they have the quality at the top of their rotation to win it all.  I think that the Nationals can out-muscle the Dodgers in a long playoff series… until the Dodgers prove otherwise, they’re not gritty enough to grind out big playoff wins.  I think that there are a lot of up-start teams who will just be happy to be there which bodes well for hungry teams.  I’m excited to see what King Felix and Stephen Strasburg can do against each other on the big stage… all that being said, it will probably be a Yankees/Cardinals World Series.
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