Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 Major League Baseball Preview

American League

East                                         Central                                    West   
New York Yankees                  Detroit                                     L.A. Angels
Tampa Bay                              Kansas City                             Texas
Boston                                     Minnesota                               Seattle
Toronto                                   Cleveland                                Oakland
Baltimore                                Chicago White Sox

Wild Cards: Boston, Texas
Al Champ: Detroit

National League

East                                         Central                             West
Philadelphia                            Cincinnati                         Arizona
Washington                             Milwaukee                        San Francisco 
Miami                                     St. Louis                            LA Dodgers
Atlanta                                    Pittsburgh                          Colorado
New York Mets                       Houston                             San Diego
                                                Chicago Cubs

Wild Cards: Milwaukee, San Francisco
NL Champ: Philadelphia

World Champ: Philadelphia

The 2012 season brings new playoff formats with an additional wild card, some significant player moves, and a new home, new name, and new attitude in South Florida with the Miami Marlins new ballpark on the grounds of the Orange Bowl with the seats and walls painted the most hideous shade of green since pop art of the 1960’s – so ghastly green even Kermit the Frog or the GEICO Lizard would puke.

American League East
We report from Baltimore and now it can be announced with no hesitation or qualification, the Baltimore Orioles are the undeniable worst team in major league baseball. Their biggest off season move was bringing back the cartoon bird for a uniform style including white front panels on their hats copied from the 1975-1988 uniforms. Aside from that the team has picked up a handful of castoffs and foreign talent hardly looking like a team ready to do better than another 90 plus loss season. Buck Showalter is a brilliant manager but his presence no doubt means saving the team from being a 100 plus loss team as they were destined to be two years ago before his arrival. Spark plug lead off hitter, second baseman, Brian Roberts, still hasn’t recovered from having his noodle scrambled will eerie silence concerning his prospects. Only four members of the team would be in the starting line up at their positions on most major league teams: Adam Jones – CF; Nick Markakis – RF; J.J. Hardy – SS; and Matt Wieters – C.  Jim Johnson is the only sure major league quality reliever while Mark Reynolds bat – low average, high power might land him somewhere, but not at third base.  Jake Arrieta will be their opening day starter, a promising kid, but are there any starters on the Orioles who’d be #4 or #5 starters elsewhere if in the majors at all?

The Yankees will be rushing against father time to win another division champion while other teams have more persistent talent to move forward in October. The Tampa Bay Rays and Red Sox will battle for second and a wild card spot. Given the Red Sox are searching for a closer and are a team in transition – how much can a new manager, Bobby Valentine, do to right the Sox?

American League Central
The Detroit Tigers have one liability. They’re a pretty crappy fielding team, but with the addition of Prince Fielder batting cleanup and whacking homeruns from the cleanup spot their hitting and pitching put them ahead of the rest of the league. 

The Kansas City Royals have some good young players starting to hit their prime. The question is will the team be a winner before they become too expensive and move on as is the fate for small market talent – so sad considering in the mid-70’s and through the 1980’s, the Royals were one hot team. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins are looking for some sweet fortune from healthy M&M’s, Morneau and Mauer for any chance to resume winning ways in 2012. The Indians are in regroup mode while the White Sox are in disassemble and start over mode.

American League West
Acquiring Albert Pujois makes a solid well-led, Los Angeles Angels now the favorite in the West while the World Series loser of the past two seasons will put up a good fight and at least fill a wild card spot. Seattle is beginning to rebuild as Oakland blew up their ship to rival the Orioles for the #1 draft pick after season’s end.

National League East
The Philadelphia Phillies remain the team to beat in the National League despite not reaching the World Series the last two years. With their elite starting rotation and a tough lineup they can never be counted out of any discussion.

The next three positions are pretty interchangeable. If all the moves in Washington take hold and Stephen Strasburg succeeds as the team’s pitching ace, the Nationals will enjoy their first winning season since coming to Washington from Montreal in 2005. Davey Johnson has a mixture of young and established players who should finally cross the .500 barrier and begin to establish themselves as contenders.

Down south, the Braves and the Miami Marlins in their new home will also be factors in the division and are possible contenders. The New York Mets need their ownership situation secured before they can be counted in any discussion except how much better are they than the Baltimore Orioles.

National League Central
Three teams are capable of winning the Central giving Cincinnati the edge for having lost the fewest key talent this year. How much Pujois and a new manager diminish the champs in St. Louis and Price Fielder’s departure will hurt the Brewers remains to be seen, but such losses won’t be pain free. The Pittsburgh Pirates can justifiably flirt with the .500 mark if a tough opening schedule doesn’t bury them too soon. The Cubs are rebuilding with Theo Epstein as their new architect after his success in Boston. The Astros will spend their last year in the National League as a nothing team and might have a new name in their new league, the AL West next year.

National League West
Kirk Gibson has the Arizona Diamondbacks fighting much like his character as a player to repeat as west champs but will face a tough challenge from the San Francisco Giants’ freak show. The Dodgers finally have stable ownership that will work diligently to move the Dodgers forward, but are probably a couple players short to contend – however, they will have the resources to make a move if they are in striking distance. Meanwhile the Rockies and Padres continue to build for a future day.

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