Chris from New Jersey: A Few Opening Day Thoughts
By Chris Hurd
Ah yes, spring is in the air.
The NFL is in a labor dispute, the NBA is on its way to a labor dispute, the NHL is plodding along, and I am going to get 5-9 inches of snow tonight in Northern New Jersey (come on!!!).
With the NCAA Championship still a few days away, it is time to begin talking about the only sport left that America does not have to worry about, Major League Baseball. And as all good de-facto sports aficionados do at this time of year, it is time to tell you all who is going to make the Playoffs and the World Series.
Pay attention Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals fans, you are about to find out you can go home with some other teams right now. I mean really, why bother playing the season. But, I digress……….
I have to preface these picks by mentioning I am a Mets/National League fan (Noontime sports needed me to present a balanced MLB picture, you know)
The American League Playoff Picture:
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Texas Rangers
AL Wild Card: Chicago White Sox
The Logic: The East and the West were easy for me to call. Although there is the possibility of the Angels being better, I don’t think that they will be good enough down the stretch this season to get over the hump vs. the Rangers.
The Red Sox are the cream of the crop in the Al East, no doubt. The more interesting question that can be asked here is who will push them, the Rays or the Yankees? I would content that it will probably be the Yankees, but don’t count out the young Baltimore Orioles making a K.C. Royals type run of 2003.
The Central was a tougher call because I think that the wild card will come out the this particular division and who do I have winning that special prize…Ozzie Guillen’s Chicago White Sox. Detroit’s staff seems to be the tops in the Central and will break the recent stranglehold over the division that the Minnesota Twins have had.
The National League Playoff Picture:
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
NL West: San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card: Cincinnati Reds or Atlanta Braves
The Logic: Again, I had a very easy time calling the East and the West in the National League. Philadelphia’s pitching staff makes them the favorite, but the absence of Chase Utley for any extended period of time should be a cause for concern.
The Atlanta Braves will give the Phillies a run, and of course, my New York Mets will be eliminated from playoff contention after Opening Day!
The World Series champion San Francisco Giants have what it takes to return to the playoffs in 2011, with the same pitching staff intact from last season. I would not be surprised if the West is a close race, but we will have to see how the young arms of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner will hold up after a short off season.
In the Central, I am going with the popular pick this off-season, the “Brew-Crew” (Milwaukee Brewers). Great moves in the offseason brining in Zack Grenke and Shaun Marcum, and you have to believe that Prince Fielder will have a big season heading into a free agent year.
The Reds should be good enough to challenge the Brewers for a playoff spot, but I cannot rule out the Braves from making a return this season too. They had a chance last year and have the pieces to get over the hump. The Reds play the Braves for the last time in a mid-July series, so I have to think at that point both squads will be scoreboard watching for the rest of the season.
Let’s leave it at that for now, but I mean, I don’t want to dampen every team’s hopes by calling the World Series now, so I’ll save that for another blog, but in the meantime … Be Good All!