American League Baseball Preview

Barry Rothbard

While the snow rains down love on Hamilton, NY on this lovely, Tuesday evening in April, America’s pastime commences another grueling season. While summer certainly feels like a mere rumor at this point, most places in the country are seeing flowers beginning to bloom, skirts getting shorter and their favorite Major League Baseball teams taking the field once again. And while it may pain you to watch a four-hour game, particularly if you are a Seattle Mariners fan, it is that time of the year again. In a couple months, baseball will take over the sports world, as the NBA playoffs eventually will come to an end, and the NHL (if anyone notices) will break for the summer. And with a new season comes new expectations, new faces, and new, equally abysmal predictions. Remember, yours truly prophetically picked the tournament missing Kentucky Wildcats as the NCAA sleeper team this year.

AL East Champion: The Boston Red Sox, as much as it pains this Yankees fan to say, will take back by far the best division in baseball this year. Odds are the Rays pitching will not sustain last year’s bill of health or its consistency. The Yankees have karma’s enemy, Alex Rodriguez, kissing mirrors when he’s not getting his nails done, an overpriced pitching staff (A.J. Burnett: the next Carl Pavano), and a washed up shortstop with no range. Meanwhile the Blue Jays and the Orioles are, well, the Blue Jays and the Orioles. Although the Orioles have two of the best up-and-coming outfielders in the AL (Nick Markakis and Adam Jones), their pitching is less intimidating than Zac Efron. Boston is simply the most complete team in baseball, as they have (along with the worst fans) the deepest pitching with Clay Bucholz waiting in the minors, the best closer/bullpen, a lineup filled with patient, smart hitters, and the swagger that the Yankees had once upon a time.

Amount of mirrors A-Rod kisses this year: 17 (one every time he strikes out in the bottom of the ninth inning).

AL Central Champion: Choosing this division winner is like trying to name every movie that Samuel L Jackson (128) or Christopher Walken (111, check out Balls of Fury, you’ll thank me later) has appeared in. So not that it really matters come October, but the Minnesota Twins will take this division that is about as bad as the Jonas Brothers. The only intrigue in this division is what Ozzie Guillen will say next and whom it will offend. Maybe he will put Bartolo Colon on a diet and the Sox wins the division. But, odds are Bartolo still hits up KFC and Dairy Queen in between innings. Besides that, the division is filled with atrocious pitching staffs (aside from Liriano and the Twins), and lineups are filled with question marks. Kansas City has talent, but they are clearly a couple years from remotely contending, and the Tigers are lacking in experience, depth and pitching. The Indians may have the coolest bro in baseball in Grady Sizemore, but their third pitcher is Carl Pavano. ‘Nuff said.

Denard Span will steal 40 bases and become a house-hold name.

AL West Champion: The Oakland Athletics have the youngest pitching staff in the AL, but it is also the most talented, and it will lead them to a division crown. Rookies Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are studs in the making, and scouts all over the AL have been showering them with praises. Billy Beane knows what he’s doing, and the veteran help he has inserted into the batting order (Giambi, Cabrera, Garciaparra) should vastly improve their league-worst offense from last year. The Angels lost Texeira and K-Rod, and their pitching staff is reeling thanks to John Lackey and Ervin Santana’s injuries. The Rangers have a nice core of young players and good pitchers in the minors, but are really a couple years away from making any serious noise. As for the Seattle…at least you have Kevin Durant. Oh, wait…

Giambi will have a better season than Teixeira.

AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays. Who would you rather have: James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza or CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Chien-Ming Wang? It’s a no brainer: the Yankees pitching staff is the third-best in their own division, and that is why they will once again miss the playoffs. Once the Rays add David Price to the rotation in a couple of weeks, they will have the best rotation in the league.

Manny will hit 40 homers while being Manny.

AL MVP: Grady Sizemore because he’s the man and because I took him with the first pick in my AL-only fantasy baseball draft (meaning he will have a bad season, a sex tape with Lindsay Lohan and him will surface, he will get busted with an ounce of cocaine Matt Jones style, or all of the above). Seriously though, this guy is the truth, and plays for the love of the game, baby. Papelbon, Miguel Cabrera and Nick Markakis are also front-runners for this honor.

David Ortiz will be taken down by Prince Fielder in a hot-dog Eating Contest as a part of All-Star Weekend.

AL Cy Young: Jonathan Papelbon. I know it’s usually impossible for a closer to win the Cy Young award, but there are no starters in the AL who really jump out this year. Francisco Liriano and Felix Hernandez are stellar, young pitchers who certainly have Cy Young stuff, but they’ve never done it for an entire year (and Hernandez is on an atrocious team). Sabathia needs to lay off the White Castle, and John Lackey’s arm may fall off sometime in July. That leaves Papelbon, the child-eating, flame-throwing, beast that I wish was a Yankee.

Gary Sheffield will choke Mr. Met out.

AL Rookie of the Year: Matt Wieters (catcher, Baltimore Orioles). Wieters is starting the season in the minors, but only so the Orioles can get out of paying him arbitration next year. Every scout says he is a switch-hitting monster with more legit power than most Major League first basemen. And his milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

Baseball games will no longer be considered “Priceless.”

World Series Champion: The Boston Red Sox will beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.