The first day of summer starts today. I know that the official date for the Northern Hemisphere usually occurs around June 20th or 21st - but with the first pitch of the MLB season taking place tonight - so to does the idea of summer: tailgating, beer, hot dogs, baseball, and cracker jacks. Note: I don't count the two games that took place in Japan between the Mariners and Athletics, mostly because I had no idea they even occurred until after I saw Felix Hernandez's statistics on my fantasy team actually counted. Anyways, with the new season comes a new found hope for every team in baseball. Realistically we know that the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, and Rangers will be contenders... we also know that the Pirates will not finish above .500. Let's kick off the season with some more predictions that may or may not even come close - that's the thing about baseball - as long as you don't suck, you can win on any given night.
MLB Opening Week Picks:
Wednesday April 4th
St. Louis Cardinals (Lohse) vs. Miami Marlins (Johnson, -180), 7:05 PM - ESPN
The opening of a new ballpark in Miami and the reigning World Series Champions to get the baseball season started. Now that's how its done. South Beach and Rings - something Lebron James has been looking for, ZING! The Miami Marlins are a revamped team bringing in top free agents like Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, and Carlos Zambrano while also relying on their home-grown prospects in Giancarlo Stanton, Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison, and their ace Josh Johnson. The Marlins have been heavily criticized in years past for not spending money on players and getting rid of managers (Freddie Gonzalez and Joe Girardi) that have done terrific jobs given the talent on the field. This year - they look to be real contenders. They have the talent on the field, a fiery Manager in Ozzie Guillen, and will finally get the support from fans showing up to their ball games. In 2012, the Marlins will be a fun team to watch and one that I think will have success in making the playoffs. I see them getting off to a strong start by beating the Cardinals in game 1 of 162. I'll take the Marlins in this one.
Thursday April 5th
Boston Red Sox (Lester) vs. Detroit Tigers (Verlander, -145), 1:05 PM - ESPN2
Two teams touted by many to make a deep run in the upcoming season. After last seasons colossal collapse, the Red Sox have brought in Manager Bobby Valentine to shake things up in the clubhouse. I'm not sure he's the right answer, but I do see a turnaround for the Red Sox this season. The Tigers went out a spent big money on their new 1B Prince Fielder. Funny thing about that is they already have an MVP caliber 1B in Miguel Cabrera. I'm all for ramping up the offensive production - but not at that cost. There were other holes on the Tigers like depth in the rotation that are left unfulfilled. For this game - I like the Red Sox to get 2012 started off on the right foot.
Los Angeles Dodgers (Kershaw, -155) vs. San Diego Padres (Volquez), 7:05 PM - MLBN
I honestly can't name five players on the Padres. Can you? The Dodgers on the other hand have been in the news recently after the $2 Billion sale of their franchise to a group of owners that includes Magic Johnson. Something about this new partnership tells me that things are changing in the right direction. Getting rid of the media circus that was Frank McCourt is exactly the right way for the Dodgers organization to start 2012. They also have some pretty legitimate talent with reigning NL MVP in my book Matt Kemp and 2011 CY Young Clayton Kershaw. Not a bad nucleus to build your franchise around. I see the Dodgers getting the W in this one.
Friday April 6th
New York Yankees (Sabathia) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Shields), 3:10 PM - MLBN
The Rays get it. They put a cheap product out on the field loaded with tons and tons of talent. It's probably the result of sucking for about 15 years and loading up on draft picks - but they've got the best young talent anywhere in baseball. Their 2012 payroll totals up to $41.9 million or just about 20% of the Yankees 2012 payroll. In terms of running an organization that's how its done - minimize costs and maximize returns. That's what I've learned so far during my MBA - future employers where you at??? The Yankees on the other hand are dishing out nearly $200 million in player salaries this year - but somehow they're flying under the radar. Of the 52 ESPN Baseball Experts, only 3 of them picked the Yankees to win the World Series. They probably know something I don't, but I still have faith this year in the Yanks. For this game (no line yet) I'll roll with the Yankees - but I still love the future and outlook for the Rays in 2012.
Other Predictions, just because:
AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Tigers
AL West: Angels
AL Wild-Card: Rays
AL Wild-Card: Red Sox
NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Reds
NL West: Giants
NL Wild-Card: Marlins
NL Wild-Card: Dodgers
AL MVP: Evan Longoria, Rays
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester, Red Sox
NL MVP: Jose Reyes, Marlins
NL Cy Young: Cliff Lee, Phillies
World Series Champion: Yankees over Giants - fun fact: The last 6 times Kentucky has won the NCAA Championship, the Yankees have gone to the World Series.