Today is the first full day of action around MLB. It's the best day of the year because every team believes they are the best and that they have an opportunity to reach the playoffs. Over the year's the parity around the game has grown immensely to the point that many teams, mostly in the NL, are in it until the end of August.
Unfortunately, only four teams from each league can make the playoffs and this is how I envision the season playing out.
Even though the Blue Jays finished ahead of Boston in the division last year, they did not spend the money or make the improvements that the Red Sox' did during the off season. Boston has a deep lineup that includes Ortiz & Ramirez, and their starting rotation might be the best in baseball. With Papelbon back as closer their bullpen is all but shored up. Still, I like the Yankees to win their tenth straight division title in what will be a two-team race. If Tampa and Baltimore played in another division then they might have a shot.
Baseball's best division produced two playoff teams last year and the same thing might happen this season. Despite the loss of Kenny Rogers, Detroit has an intimidating pitching staff and they added Gary Sheffield during the off season. The White Sox have a chance to return as the elite team in the division, but with aging veterans and a shaky pitching staff the South Siders will have to wait another season. Minnesota might have the best pitcher in baseball, but after that many people could not name the rest of their staff. I forecast them to take a step backwards this year.
This paves the way for the young and energetic Cleveland Indians who have been predicted by many experts to win the division. If they can remain healthy and shore up their bullpen they have the best chance to win the AL Central. As for the Royals, at least they have Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon on their team.
Like the AL East, this division usually comes down to two teams, the Angels and A's. While I think the Rangers could be competitive their pitching is still very shaky. As for Seattle, they might be the team to take home the honor of first manager and GM to be fired mid-way through the season.
Despite losing veteran Frank Thomas and having question marks in the outfield, the A's have a solid team. Nick Swisher needs continue his hitting prowess and Rich Harden must stay healthy in order for his team to contend with the Angels. Still, I like the Angels with their elite pitching staff and dominating bullpen to win the division. Not to mention they still have Vladamir Guerrero roaming the outfield.
First round: Red Sox over Angels; Yankees over Indians
ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox
AL World Series Participant: New York Yankees