MLB: American League Preview – Looking into the Crystal [Base]ball

Safeco Field

Where Ichiro Suzuki's dreams go to die.

The signs of spring are in the air – the buds are blooming, the birds and the bees are having interspecies sex with each other for some reason, the bears are emerging from their dens to warn people about the risk of brushfires, and baseball is back in session for another marathon season.

This can only mean one thing: cowboy up, strap on your cup and pack your lip full’a chew, cause it’s time for a goddamn MLB preview!  I’ll peer into my crystal (base)ball and break down the American League division by division, and I won’t rest until every single division is broken down to a bloody pulp – all three of them!  Not even if it takes me four whole hours with no gin breaks!  I don’t care, that’s how much I love MLB!  Let’s get started!

AL East

A lot of people like to say the media has an East Coast bias, or something, but that’s not true – they just have an Interesting Things bias, and in baseball more interesting things tend to happen in the East, particularly the AL East.  The Yankees and Red Sox usually spend the most money, dole out the most dumb contracts, and generate the most player movement overall — three things which make for very interesting fodder for the talking heads in the media to talk about, with their heads.

And in order to keep up with those two teams, the Jays, Rays, and Orioles are forced to either spend money as well or get creative with their rosters just to compete, which makes the whole division pretty fucking compelling in the otherwise snailpaced world of baseball.

That being said, the AL West is actually the more interesting division this year, with the Angels gorging themselves on the free agent market like a heartbroken bitch on a carton of strawberry ice cream, and the Rangers coming off back-to-back World Series appearances (it feels weird to type that… when exactly did the Rangers stop sucking, again?  It all happened so fast).

I’m only choosing to start with the East to piss off all the East-Coast-bias conspiracy theorists, throw a little fuel on that fire – why the hell not?  Eat your heart out, middle America.  And by “eat your heart out” I mean “go suck a Bible.”

#1 – New York Yankees

As a Sox fan it literally makes me sick to my brain to pick the Stankees as division winners, but as a baseball fan/writer this is like the easiest fucking decision I’ve ever made.  They won 97 games last year and lost no key players from that squad over the winter except AJ Burnett and “Hip Hip” Jorge Posada, which are really both cases of addition by subtraction when you think about it.  Throw in the fact that they added Michael Pineda and Hiroki “Asian Invasion” Kuroda to their starting rotation, and boom – in the words of that guy who kept mispronouncing TJ Housmandzadeh’s name on that fantasy football commercial, “Champion-ship!

#2 – Boston Red Scare

There’s just too much talent on this team for them to have a repeat performance of last year’s “Nightmare on Fenway” fuckjob, which, of course, included not only the unforgettable 7-20 September supercalifragi-collapse, but also a pathetic 2-10 start that had many experts wondering if what appeared to be Terry Francona on the bench was actually just some sort of hologram.  After a while it became apparent that it was indeed flesh-and-blood Tito managing the team, and the non-hologram skipper went on to lead the Red Sox to within one game of a playoff spot even despite their gawd awful start and finish to the season, so you know they’ve got talent.

They lost Papelbon over the offseason but added Andrew Bailey, which in my eyes is basically a wash, so this is pretty much the same team as last year.  They won’t be suffering the same fate, however, and there’s a simple 4-word explanation why not: Happy Valentine’s Day Bitches.

#3 – Tampa Bay Rays

Remember when the Rays used to be called the “Devil Rays” (or “D-Rays,” if you were a badass who didn’t play by the rules)?  Ahhh, those were the days.  They really don’t make team names like they used to.  Anyway, the D-Rays have a disgusting wealth of pitching, but it’s kind of tough to win games in the AL East if you can’t score – hell, it’s tough to win games anywhere if you can’t score (see?  No bias here) – and the D-Rays have more trouble getting runs than a fullback in a Mike Martz offense.  Yeah, I just went cross-sport analogy on your ass.

The Rays lineup has its bright spots, but it’s got a lot more holes than those of the Yanks and Sox, namely a big hole in the exact shape of Sean Rodriguez near the backside of it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got about as much respect for Joe Maddon as you can have for a guy that’s the spokesperson for a one-a-day men’s vitamin pill, but he won’t be able to catch lightning in a bottle again this year – the Red Sox won’t make it so easy for him twice.

#4 – Toronto Blue Jays

I thought for a while about putting the Jays above the Rays – I really did – but there’s still just too many question marks on this team.  They’ve got a few good young pitchers but no real ace, and some decent positional prospects but nobody really polished enough at the plate to protect Jose “I Am Not a Crook on Steroids” Batista.  I don’t see everything clicking for them enough this year to the point where they finish ahead of Tampa, who will probably win around 90 games.

If they get bigtime years out of Romero and Cecil, and if youngsters like Colby Rasmus step up and fulfill their potential, then the Jays could be every bit as good as the Rays – most likely, though, this young team is still probably a year and a free agent addition away from playoff contention.  Next year, Jays fans – next year in Canada (…get it?  Like, “next year in Jerusalem”?  Only with Canada?  Damnit, if you have to explain a joke it’s not funny).

#5 – Baltimore Orioles

What to say about the old Birds, aside from the fact that they suck?  I could talk about how they’re rebuilding with a bunch of young talent, only they’ve been doing that for about two fucking decades now.  The last time they finished over .500, Bill Clinton hadn’t even skullfucked Monica Lewinski yet (…well, he hadn’t been caught for it yet, anyway).  The last time they won a playoff series, the goddamn Cold War was still at its peak.  I mean, think about that for a second – the last time the Baltimore Orioles won a playoff series, “Commie” was pretty much the worst insult in the American dialect.  That really puts things in perspective in terms of how long the Orioles have blown for.  I guess it’ll be fun to watch Buck Showalter make a bunch of mortal enemies, if nothing else.

AL Central

What a clusterfuck this division is.  Other than the Tigers, every team is liable to do just about anything this season, from dwell in a musty-ass cellar to possibly steal a wildcard spot.  I’m not gonna pretend I’ve got any idea how this division actually winds up playing out, and by that I mean I’m absolutely gonna pretend I have an idea – here’s exactly what will happen:

#1 – Detroit Tigers

Nobody can touch Justin Verlander.  Even if he regresses back to the mean a little this season – which I do expect, since it would be utterly inhuman to duplicate his results from last year – he’ll still be the best pitcher in baseball, seeing as there is a shit ton of room for him to regress between him and that mean.  Verlander and Max Scherzer (who definitely wins the award for Pro Athlete Most Likely to be Mistook for a Nazi Character from a WWII Film) form a sexy 1-2 punch, and throw in the surprisingly effective Doug “Double” Fister and you’ve got yourself a hot little number of a rotation there.

Oh, not to mention they went out and teamed Prince Fielder up with The Drunken Assassin (a.k.a. Miggy Cabrera) to form arguably the best smashmouth hitting tandem in baseball.  Bang, biscuit!

#2 – Cleveland Native Americans

I don’t know – why the fuck not?  I toyed with the idea of putting the Royals here, and the Twins, and even the White Sox, but in the end – after many long, arduous seconds of contemplation – Cleveland seemed to have the most reliable starting pitching of the four… other AL Central teams.  All four teams have lineups that can hit decently well and none have rotations that’ll blow anybody away, but the Indians have Ubaldo Jimenez, and even Bad Ubaldo (who we saw last year) is probably better than any pitcher KC, Minnesota, or Chicago has.  Plus, if Good Ubaldo (two years ago) should decide to make an appearance, he would easily be the second best pitcher in the whole division, so… yeah.

#3 – Minnesota Mauers

Man, Ron Gardenhire just keeps plugging away, doesn’t he?  He was like Joe Maddon before Joe Maddon, but he doesn’t get half the credit old One-A-Day gets for some reason.  For the record, Gardenhire is the main reason I’m picking the Twins to finish ahead of the Royals – I think the Royals have more talent overall, but Gardenhire always seems to get more out of less than anybody expects, so I’m going with the Twins.  On top of that they’ve got Mauer and Morneau, who – provided Morneau bounces back from his concussion problems – are still the two best position players on either team.

#4 – Kansas City Royals

A lot of people are picking the Royals to make a little noise this year.  Personally, I don’t see them making much more noise than a loud fart.  I mean, when your ace pitcher is Luke Hochevar (career 5.49 ERA), I don’t know how much noise you should really expect to be making.  When your “ace” Luke Hochevar is backed up in the rotation by Jonathan Sanchez, Bruce Chen, and Luis Mendoza (5.38 average career ERA between them), you’ll pretty much be lucky as shit to win half your games.  Unless a few of KC’s young prospects step up to the next level with some seriously monster years, I see this Royals team the same basic way I see the Blue Jays – next year in Kansas City.  Sorry, I’ll stop doing that now.

#5 – Chicago White Sox

Like I said, I’ve got no real idea what’s gonna happen in this division.  None of the teams seem terrible.  Somebody’s gotta finish last though, so it might as well be the team with the brand new manager and the slightly insane GM.  On a side note, let me just express how happy I am that displaced Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen got another managing gig in baseball immediately after leaving the ChiSox – baseball needs Sir Ozzie.  He’s like a breath of fresh weed smoke.

AL West

Queue up Sisqo: “We goin’ straaaight, toooo, the wil’ wil’ west!  We goin’ straaaaaaaight, toOoOo, the wil’ wil’ (the wil’, wil’) WEST!”  If only the corresponding Will Smith movie wasn’t so bad, I might actually have some fond memories of that song.

Anyway, the West is indeed very wil’ this year, with the Angels adding top free agents Albert PooHoles (sp) and CJ “Mr.” Wilson, and the Rangers coming off two straight World Series appearances/fuckups.  Growing up as a baseball fan in the late nineties and 2000’s, this was always the easiest division in the AL to win – and technically it still is, since there’s only four teams in it instead of five – but it’s become a hell of a lot tougher in recent years, culminating with the showdown brewing between Texas and LA this season.  The idea that the Angels and Rangers had a “rivalry” of any kind used to literally be a fucking joke to me, but I’m not laughing at the AL West anymore.  Well, except at the A’s.

#1 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of USA of Western World of Earth of Milky Way Galaxy

I had a tough time with this one, but ultimately that Angels rotation just goes too deep.  Mr. Wilson – despite being a bit overhyped in my opinion – literally shifted the balance of power from the Range’ to the Ange’, if you catch my drift.  Had CJ Wilson stayed with the Rangers, I would’ve probably picked them to win the AL West again – that’s how close this shit is.  We’re splitting the tiny hairs that grow on other hairs… we’re through the looking glass here, people.  I don’t even know what the fuck that last sentence means, that’s how close this division race is.

The Angels were already a fairly talented team who seem to win more games than they lose every year, so for them go out and add Albert Fucking Pujols is almost enough to give them the nod in and of itself.  But to also rob your chief rival of their best pitcher and add him to your already stacked stable of starters?  That’s some knockout punch shit, right there – game, set, division for Arte Moreno & Crew.

#2 – Texas Rangers

If Ron Washington starts sharing his cocaine with his players, I could wind up eating my words about the Rangers finishing second this season.  Just kidding – I’m sure the players have no problem finding their own cocaine.  Seriously though, very close race here.  Even without Mr. Wilson, Texas’s rotation is nothing to shake your dick at, in the immortal words of Randy Moss.  I’m not really sure if I used the phrase correctly or not, but what I’m trying to say is that Texas’s rotation isn’t half bad.  Add that to the fact that they can flat out rake the fucking ball, and the Rangers look to be in decent shape for defending their AL crowns.  They’ve got a few holes in their lineup, circa Craig Gentry, and overall I like the Angels a little better thanks to pitching, but Texas should still be a force to be reckoned with out in the wil’ wil’ West.

#3 – Seattle Mariners

Boy, the Mariners really bent the Ichiro Era over and raped the wits out of it, huh?  Talk about screwing the pooch.  I mean, what did they get out of it – one playoff appearance?  …Out of eleven years of one of the best hitters of this generation? In a four-team division where you have a 25% chance of winning at the start of every season?  Way to go jackasses.  For the last three years, I’ve been predicting Seattle to turn the proverbial corner and contend for a playoff spot.  Well no more – I’ve finally learned my lesson.  I expect the Mariners will finish somewhere around .500, but I secretly hope they bottom out bad and trade off King Felix to the Sox for pennies on the dollar at the deadline.

#4 – Oakland Athletics

Hahahahahahaha, ohhhhh mercy.  Okay, no, wait… hold up a second.  Alright, here we go: imagine you live up in a small village in the dark ages.  Your village has a noble bloodline and produces some badass motherfucking warriors, but it’s a broke old place and nobody there can afford to make weapons to defend themselves.  Every year a bunch of wild viking tribes come riding through – not only do they easily overwhelm the villagers’ defenses, raping and pillaging the shit out the place, but they also recruit away all the village’s best warriors to run with their hoard in search of glory and riches.  What I’m getting at is, the Oakland A’s are your village.  And the viking tribes are the rest of the MLB.

Final AL Predic’

#1 – Detroit Tigers

#2 – New York Yankees

#3 – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Milky Way Galaxy

Wildcard #1 – Boston Red Scare

Wildcard #2 – Texas Rangers

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Andy J. Krom is bringing baseball back.  Enjoy more Krom on Twitter and You Tube.

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