This has to be the oddest “opening day” in the history of Major League Baseball. The season actually opened last week, in Japan, with no national TV coverage. Then, ESPN had their contractually-obligated opening night festivities on Wednesday in Miami, with the team formerly known as the Florida Marlins. Those pricey revamped fish christened their new ballpark in the first televised game of the year.
Yesterday, some of the teams kicked off their openers, and the remaining teams will get underway today. This year, for the first time ever, there will be an additional wildcard in each league, so follow me past the jump for my 2012 predictions…
EAST – New York Yankees -To the detriment of most baseball fans, the Evil Empire should have enough to hold off the Rays and Red Sox to win the East again. They have three legitimate MVP candidates in 2nd baseman Robinson Cano, 1st baseman Mark Teixeira, and outfielder Curtis Granderson. Their pitching staff behind ace CC Sabathia and closer Mariano Rivera will have just enough to lead them to the East crown.
WILDCARD – Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays are just a solid fundamentally sound team that finds a way to be in the thick of the playoff race every year.
CENTRAL – Detroit Tigers – They have the best pitcher in the game in reigning Cy Young and MVP winner, Justin Verlander. Plus, after adding slugger Prince Fielder to their already potent lineup to hit behind perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, they should run away with the Central.
WEST – Los Angeles Angels – The addition of future Hall Of Famer Albert Pujols, will be the boost their offense needs, but plucking C.J. Wilson from the Rangers‘ pitching staff will be equally as important.
WILDCARD – Texas Rangers – If Yu Darvish can pitch well enough to offset the loss of Wilson, the Rangers could overtake the Angels for the West. Either way, they should have enough for a playoff spot.
EAST – Philadelphia Phillies -The Phillies finished last season with the most wins (102), and they’ll be close to the top of the MLB standings again. Most teams are lucky to have one ace on their pitching staff, but Philly has three.
WILDCARD – Atlanta Braves – The Braves won’t blow away a playoff shot this year. They’ll need some of their young talent to make a step in play this season, but they should have enough to see the retiring Chipper Jones off with a playoff appearance.
CENTRAL – Cincinnati Reds – I think the Reds will break through in ’12, allowing them to pass the Cardinals and Brewers for the Central title. Recently “paid” Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, along with Jay Bruce, will power their offense along. Additionally, the team’s new closer, Sean Marshall, will be a big plus for their bullpen.
WEST – Arizona Diamondbacks – Their solid starting pitching behind staff #1 Ian Kennedy should be enough for them to repeat as West champs. Right fielder Justin Upton will be in the NL MVP discussion.
WILDCARD – San Francisco Giants – Of their top 4 starting pitchers last season, only one had a winning record, but the worst ERA among them was a 3.21. All they need is the offense to make a small uptick in production and they will win a playoff spot.
Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia Phillies – I think these two teams are on a collision course and a 7 game series between them could be one for the ages. My prediction is happiness in Motown in 2012.