2010 Major League Baseball Preview

Just about a year ago instead of doing a baseball preview I opted to instead lament the fallen state of “The National Pasttime”. But last week something strange and unexpected happened. I was doing a little channel surfing on a particularly barren night of television and I happened across a Pittsburgh Pirates spring training game…and it made me happy. They lost the game, but that is beside the point. Spring training games don’t count anyway, and being a Pirates fan has made me somewhat desensitized to the effects of losing. What surprised me was that twinge of excitement I felt that baseball was back. I haven’t felt that way in a long long time. I don’t know how long it will last, as I have no misguided hope that my favorite team will end its 17 year losing streak, but for now I will embrace the anticipation and do the full blown preview and prognostication that I just couldn’t find the energy to do last season.

National League

EAST

Philadelphia Phillies              91-71

Atlanta Braves                         89-73

Florida Marlins                       82-80

New York Mets                       71-91

Washington Nationals          64-98

The Phillies lost pitcher Cliff Lee but added perennial All-Star Roy Halladay to the rotation and made no significant changes otherwise, so there is no reason to think they won’t dominate the division yet again. I think the Braves will make a valiant run in honor of their manager Bobby Cox, who is retiring at season’s end. The Marlins have maybe the best player in baseball in Hanley Ramirez, but still most folks believe they overachieved last season and may drop off a bit in 2010. The Mets were riddled with injuries last season and hope to avoid that problem. They have one of the best pitchers around in Johan Santana and added outfielder Jason Bay’s bat to the lineup, but I don’t believe they will be any better this year than last. The Nationals are…well, they are the Nationals. They were the worst team in baseball a year ago and are unlikely to improve significantly at the moment. They have some excellent young talent in the pipeline, but those players are a couple years away from making an impact on the big club.

CENTRAL

St. Louis Cardinals               89-73

Chicago Cubs                         85-77

Milwaukee Brewers             77-85

Cincinnati Reds                    76-86

Pittsburgh Pirates                73-89

Houston Astros                     70-92

The Cardinals are right up there with Philly as the class of the National League and it would be shocking if they didn’t remain on that perch. The hiring of former home run king and apparent steroid user Mark McGwire as the hitting coach caused a bit of a stir in the offseason, but will be a non-story by summer. The Cubs have been so very close, but just can’t get over the hump. The big question in Chicago is the bullpen, so keep an eye on that situation in the first few weeks of the season…it may go a long way to determining the team’s level of success or failure. They did jettison troubled outfielder Milton Bradley, which is addition by subtraction. The Brewers have been making inroads the past few seasons, and this may be the year  they hit the inevitable snag, the lull, the step back before truly leaping forward. The Reds, Pirates, and Astros are all battling to not finish in last place, which is sort of sad. It wasn’t that long ago that Houston was a World Series team, and anyone familiar with baseball’s rich and storied history knows that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have winning traditions but have fallen on hard times.

WEST

Colorado Rockies                   89-73

Los Angeles Dodgers            88-74

San Francisco Giants            87-75

Arizona Diamondbacks       78-84

San Diego Padres                   77-85

I don’t have any logical reason or empirical data to back it up, but I think this is the year the Dodgers fall off a bit. This will still be one of the most competitive races in baseball, likely coming down to the final week. The Giants have finally moved beyond Barry Bonds, and I think that will bode well for them. Pitcher Tim Lincecum anchors the pitching staff and if Barry Zito can regain his stuff that’ll be a huge boost. Colorado is one of those teams that has no true superstars but all they do is win. San Diego and Arizona are complete messes right now and building for the future.

American League

EAST

New York Yankees                 99-55

Boston Red Sox                        93-69

Tampa Bay Rays                      86-76

Toronto Blue Jays                   72-90

Baltimore Orioles                    71-91

It seems like the AL East always comes down to the Yankees and Red Sox. I wish I could say 2010 might be different or exciting, but I have to be honest. The Yankees are able to buy success better than any team in professional sports, and this year they went out and got outfielder Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers. They lost Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon as well, but I don’t think those losses will hurt all that much. The poor Red Sox might be the only team in history to be so consistently successful yet finish 2nd most of the time. The Sox lost slugger Jason Bay but added John Lackey to the rotation, so they will still be better than any team in baseball not named the Yankees. Tampa added a much needed closer in Rafael Soriano, but I don’t think it will make much difference. Toronto and Baltimore will once again battle to not finish dead last. The Orioles should show some improvement over last season, but I still like Toronto a little better, even with the loss of Roy Halladay.

CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox                 88-74

Minnesota Twins                    87-75

Detroit Tigers                          81-81

Kansas City Royals               73-89

Cleveland Indians                 61-101

No division in baseball has been more competitive over the past few years. It’s almost always a toss-up as to which of three teams…the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox…will come out on top. A few things have happened this offseason that may…or may not…make the 2010 picture just a little clearer. Most knowledgeable fans expected the Twins to eventually lose All-Star catcher (and one of the top all around players in the league) Joe Mauer to a big market team that could afford a mega million dollar contract. However, Mauer went against conventional wisdom and recently signed an 8 year extension with his hometown club, which is shockingly sweet in such a cynical business. That good news was offset by losing closer Joe Nathan for the season because of an elbow injury. That might prove to be catastrophic for Minnesota’s season in such a tight race. Meanwhile, the Tigers traded away outfielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Edwin Jackson and added outfielder Johnny Damon. That’s a net loss in my book. The woes befalling Detroit and Minnesota will ultimately benefit the White Sox, who will have the benefit of a full season from late-2009 pitching acquisition Jake Peavy. Kansas City has a good mix of veterans and youngsters, and even though they aren’t quite ready to be considered anywhere near competitive yet they are showing signs of life. Cleveland has reverted back to the laughingstock days that inspired the 1989 film Major League (“What the hell league you been playing in??  California Penal”), and may very well lose 100 games.

WEST

Seattle Mariners                    92-70

Los Angeles Angels              89-73

Texas Rangers                       86-76

Oakland A’s                            77-85

The old saying is “you can’t go home again”. Ken Griffey Jr. is aiming to prove that statement false, and I think he just might do it. Griffey spent the first 10 years of his injury plagued career in Seattle, and returns as a 40 year old man in the twilight of that career. Most likely he will only be asked to DH, and that should work out well. He is just 70 home runs shy of becoming only the 5th player ever to hit 700 for a career (the others are *Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays), and maybe with a few injury free seasons in Seattle he can get there. Seattle also added pitcher Cliff Lee, which is probably the acquisition more likely to have a significant impact. As a Pirate fan I will be keeping an eye on former Bucs shortstop Jack Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell. Maybe they can finally experience the sweet taste of victory out west. Many baseball pundits seem to be predicting the fall of the three time defending division winner LA Angels, but I am not sure the decline will be too precipitous. They will still be right there at the end, they just have better competition now. The Angels did lose slugger Vladamir Guerrero and pitcher John Lackey, subtractions that will be felt. And no, adding former Yankee Hideki Matsui does not even things out. Speaking of Vlad, he ended up in Texas with the Rangers, which instantly makes that team better. I am not really impressed with the Rangers’ rotation, but maybe their young guns will surprise me. One of the biggest stories to come out of the offseason is the fact that Texas’ manager is apparently a cokehead, so that is a development to keep an eye on throughout the season. Oakland’s only meaningful offseason move was to add pitcher Ben Sheets to the rotation. If Sheets is healed up completely from elbow surgery it will be a quality addition, but the A’s still have a lot of work to do.

In the postseason it looks like we’ll be watching Philadelphia, St. Louis, Colorado, and Atlanta in the National League and the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Mariners in the American League. Another Yankees/Phillies World Series would not at all frost my cupcake as a fan, so I’d like to see either the Rockies or Mariners (or even the Red Sox) somehow defy the odds…but I won’t hold my breath.

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22 thoughts on “2010 Major League Baseball Preview

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