So that time of the year is upon us again...
The season is about to begin and I feel obliged to make my picks.
They are never right... yet sometimes bold (last year I picked the Pirates to win the Central. For a while I looked pretty smart.)
It is an unusual practice that doesn't really take into account the fact that the teams we are picking now are going to change throughout the season.
Marco Scutaro won the NLCS MVP for the Giants and became their spiritual leader last October. He spent most of 2012 with the Rockies. I would be hard pressed to find a single forecast for the Giants last season that would mention Scutaro.
But I will make the predictions anyway. Why?
Because they are fun.
THE OFFICIAL SULLY BASEBALL PICKS FOR 2013
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST CHAMPION
The Rays can pitch and will add Chris Archer to the mix with defending Cy Young winner David Price. Evan Longoria is back and Wil Myers will make his long overdue big league debut. Joe Maddon is the best manager in the game and the time is right for the Rays.
The Blue Jays have a lot of talent but so did the 2012 Marlins. I will believe it when I see it. The Yankees are falling apart and it is tough to restock when you can't spend money and your farm system stinks. The Orioles might take a step back from their startling post season finish last year. That being said, they are stacked with pitching talent and Buck Showalter can push the right buttons. The Red Sox are going to be bad. But with young players like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks, at least they will give Red Sox Nation hope for the future.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL CHAMPION
Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander have at least three more seasons together as teammates. This is their window of opportunity to bring a World Series title to Detroit. They have holes on the team, the most obvious one being their bullpen. But they have pitching depth, firepower, a Hall of Fame manager and three legit superstars. This is their division to lose.
The rest of the division is a "your guess is as good as mine" grab bag. The Royals could be improved or they can flop. The White Sox nearly won the division last year but are unpredictable. They could be a Wild Card team or a 90 loss club. Terry Francona is a nice fit for the Indians who are a few years away. The Twins could be a disaster or maybe they stay healthy and shock everyone.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST CHAMPION
Once again I find myself picking the Angels. They have the lineup. They have the pitching. They have the resources. Any lineup that has Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton at its core will do well. And Jered Weaver will win a Cy Young one of these years. Maybe this is the year.
Welcome to the best division in baseball. The A's won the division last year and have their core back. They should be a year better. The Rangers fell apart down the stretch. The team that looked like a lock for three straight pennants wound up blowing the Wild Card. They still have talent and will be solid all year. The Mariners are loaded with talent and could be the surprise team of the league. The Astros will be the punching bag of the division and inflate some win totals.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARDS
The A.L. West will bring about three playoff teams. The A's have too much talent and enthusiasm to go away and Profar and company will give the Rangers one last gasp as they hold off the Yankees, Blue Jays and Royals to become the first third place playoff team.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST CHAMPION
Nothing brave with this pick. And no picking the Braves either. The Nationals can hit, pitch, slug, field and now they have a deep bullpen and no restraints on Stephen Strasburg. They were an out away from the NLCS last year. This year, they have something to prove. And Davey Johnson could have his Cooperstown ticket punched.
The Braves will be more than an Upton family reunion. They are a deep club that will challenge the Nationals all year long. After Atlanta, the Division looks weak. The Phillies window is closing as the team's age is showing. The Marlins will be fielding an AAA team but those kind of clubs can be dangerous. The Mets are a disaster and should be playing kids all year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL CHAMPION
Underestimate the Cardinals at your own peril. Sure they have injury issues and lack of depth up the middle. They also have a gaggle of young excellent pitchers being added to the mix. And by mid season, Oscar Tavares will be electrifying Cardinals fans everywhere.
The Reds could easily win the Division and have one of the best overall teams in baseball. The Pirates have talent. Can they PLEASE win 82 games this year? The Brewers will have the Ryan Braun PED mess hanging over their heads all season. The Cubs will flop and flounder and take over the Astros role in the division: They will stink and trade away all of their good players.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST CHAMPION
What role will Tim Lincecum play? Will he return to his role as Cy Young contender? Or will he be the super reliever again? Either way, the defending World Champions seem poised for another deep October run, provided Buster Posey stays healthy and avoids collisions at the plate.
For all of their spending, the Dodgers still have some massive question marks. But the potential for the LA/San Francisco rivalry to spark again is remarkably exciting. The Padres have a lot of young talent and could sneak up on people after their solid second half in 2012. The Diamondbacks made a serious blunder dealing Justin Upton. We will see if grit trumps talent as Kirk Gibson wants clones of his spirit but not ability. The Rockies are a fascinating train wreck.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WILD CARDS
The Wild Card Game for the National League will probably be a better match up than the ALCS. The Braves and the Reds have the talent to beat out the Dodgers for the one game playoff.
And if you thought picking Division Winners was futile, wait until you see my post season picks!
AL WILD CARD GAME: Athletics def. Rangers
NL WILD CARD GAME: Braves def. Reds
AL DIVISION SERIES: Tigers def. Athletics - Rays def. Angels
NL DIVISION SERIES: Nationals def. Braves - Cardinals def. Giants
ALCS: Rays def. Tigers
NLCS: Cardinals def. Nationals
WORLD SERIES: St. Louis Cardinals defeat Tampa Bay Rays, 4 games to 2.
For good measure, here are my award picks:
AL MVP: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
NL MVP: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
AL CY YOUNG: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Oscar Tavaras, St. Louis Cardinals
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
So there you have it. My picks are in before the season starts.
Do NOT take these to the bank. My picks tend to not work out. But I made them, and that is all that matters.