What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
For the longest time, I used to be a blog-lemming and would write predictions about baseball before the season. Then I realized just how fucking stupid that is.
The Major League Baseball season is a 162-game marathon. That means you can’t really tell what a team is going to do until you see it perform against other major-league squads. You can’t take much stock in what happens in spring training, because that IS NOT about major-league talent. The Grapefruit and the Cactus leagues are more about figuring out which players are headed for which level of the minors, and getting the vets in shape for the upcoming marathon.
That also means you really don’t know what these teams are all about until they see about a week’s worth of honest-to-goodness big-league competition. Now that we are at that point, it’s for for retired bookie in me to take a hard look at each teams chances to emerge victorious from the marathon known as baseball season.
30) Philadelphia Phillies – Odds To Win World Series: 400/1
It’s going to get worse in Philadelphia before it gets better. Right now, the Phillies are like a a store closing; everything must go. The difference is the prices haven’t been slashed. Jimmy Rollins, Antonio Bastardo, and Marlon Byrd were already liquidated in the off-season, and many other pieces the Phillies will likely be unloaded. The two most interesting are Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard.
When it comes to Hamels, the Phillies are keeping the asking price is high, which is to be expected given Hamels’ status as one of the best pitchers in the game. The Phillies chances for finding a team willing to pony up get better the closer we get to the trade deadline and the Phils’ get farther away from contention.
As far as Howard is concerned, the problem is the price is already too damn high for a high-mileage slugger who is clearly on the down-slope of his career. The market for him is limited; he really only has value as a DH in the American League, but his gargantuan contract makes a deal difficult at best.
The future in Philadelphia is at least five years away. How’s that for alliteration?
29) Colorado Rockies – Odds To Win World Series: 300/1
Last year, the Colorado Rockies were dreadful, and they did not make a single significant move in the off-season. The bottom line is this team will be lucky to win 65 games. Ironically, the Rockies couldn’t win, but they led the National League in scoring last year. Keeping key cogs like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez healthy certainly helps that, but until this team can pitch and play defense. If not, this could be another fire-sale in the making, with all offers considered for Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Justin Morneau.
28 ) Texas Rangers – Odds To Win World Series: 275/1
The Rangers season promises to be little more than a slow-motion train-wreck, and the locomotives is already coming off the rails. The money-combo one-two punch of Yu Darvish and Derek Holland are already hurt. Even if they were healthy, Texas doesn’t have a #3 starter behind that. Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo also are becoming guys likely to open at a Disabled List near you at any time. Moreover, the AL West is loaded with talent; the Rangers simply don’t have the horses to stay in this race. The upside is Texas has a loaded farm system, so they could conceivably made deals if they wanted to be a player in the AL West, but such a mortgaging of the future doesn’t seem likely in Dallas.
27) Minnesota Twins – Odds To Win World Series: 250/1
The best way to sum up what will be a long summer in Minnesota: Last year, this team could have been out-pitched by the softball toss kids at the Special Olympics. They tossed a ton of money at Ervin Santana to fix that, and he promptly bought an 80-game suspension for mainlining Bonds-Clemens-olol. The upside for the Twins is they’ve quietly assembled a respectable offensive core with Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, and Kurt Suzuki all coming off of some level of breakout season. Then it just becomes a question of how long until Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano arrive on the scene?
26) Tampa Bay Rays – Odds To Win World Series: 200/1
This season marks the beginning of the “Post-Joe Maddon” era in Tampa. It’s likely going to look a lot like the “Pre-Joe Maddon” era; seasons full of 75 wins and highlighted by sweeping teams like the Twins. This team can still pitch, but runs might be rarer than Kosher bacon.
25) Arizona Diamondbacks – Odds To Win World Series: 180/1
This team will be a hodge-podge of questions in 2015. How effective can the new front office duo of Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa be? Is Chip Hale ready to em a major-league skipper? Can Yasmany Tomas follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Jose Abreu and make an immediate impact? Can they get at least two of the umpteen quasi-serviceable pitchers they have to deal reliably? Your guess is as good as mine.
24) Milwaukee Brewers – Odds To Win World Series 150/1
There’s a lot of delusion around this team. There’s a school of thought which believes this team can contend with a core of Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, and Aramis Ramirez. That same school believes the Brewers are in a “now or never” situation because all three of those guys are headed for free agency at the end of the season. If that were true, don’t you think they would have done something more significant during the winter than trading for Adam Lind?
23) Miami Marlins – Odds To Win World Series 125/1
The Marlins have come a long way from the team that lost 100 games in 2013. They made a $325 million commitment to superstar slugger Giancarlo Stanton at the beginning of the off-season, They are looking forward to getting back a healthy Jose Fernandez. They added Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, and Michael Morse to form a surprisingly-complete roster. It’s way to soon to call this team a contender, but the Marlins are moving in the right direction.
22) New York Mets – Odds to Win World Series: 110/1
One on hand, the return of Matt Harvey will prove to be a bight spot for the Mets this year. On the other, it doesn’t solve any of the other problems this team has.
21) Oakland Athletics – Odds to Win World Series: 100/1
It’s been another off-season in Oakland where general manager Billy Beane; four All-Stars from the previous season have. The conventional wisdom like to believe this “Money-Ball” stuff works, but that also ignores the fact these “Money-Ball” teams have never reached a World Series.
20) Chicago Cubs – Odds to Win World Series: 80/1
Everybody’s all whipped up on the North Side about this year’s Cubs, but the excitement is a bit premature. Joe Maddon is in town to guide this young team through what will be some heavy-duty growing pains. For example, it looks like this team could have a serious shot at shattering the 2013 Houston Astros’ record of 1,535 strikeouts. Someday, the Cubs young core of Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and uber-prospect Kris Bryant (when he finally learns to hit real pitching and learns to play defense) could Chicago the most potent offense in baseball, but until then, expect this team to get themselves out more often than Michael Jackson had plastic surgery.
Oh, and I don’t buy the pitching staff. I’ve never been a believer in Jon Lester. sure, he’s got decent career numbers, but more often than not, he’s not been the #1 guy on the staff. Now, he’s being looked to as the leader in Chicago, and I’m not sure that recipe is going to cook. Not to mention, he’s leading a staff consisting of Travis Wood, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and an attempt revamp Edwin Jackson (again).
The year may be coming, but it isn’t this year.
19) Houston Astros – Odds To Win World Series: 75/1
The Houston Astros took a big step forward last year in the form of a 19-win improvement over 2013. Granted, they are still light-years away from contending for a division title, but out of all the teams you would not consider to be favorites, this one might be the most interesting. They’ve got a batting-title-winning shortstop in Jose Altuve. They’ve got a budding star in George Springer. They’ve got a farm system loaded with top prospects. And they’ve got no pressure to perform. That’s the stuff “dark horses” are made of.
17-T ) New York Yankees – Odds To Win World Series: 70/1
There’s a lot of new things in New York. Didi Gregorius gets the unenviable task of replacing Derek Jeter. Dellin Betances stepping into the closer’s role will also be something to watch, if for no other reason than he has no experience as a closer and there’s no real closer option on the roster. That’s really the theme here; top to bottom, the pitching is shakier than Jell-O in an earthquake. the starting rotation is depending on Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia; three guys who all have a long history of injuries.
17-T) Atlanta Braves – Odds To Win World Series: 70/1
The Braves are now a high-wire act; they are attempting to balance rebuilding while remaining competitive. It’s not going to happen. Even though they added Nick Markakis and Alberto Callaspo, the loss of Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, and Justin Upton will prove to be too much to overcome.
16) Chicago White Sox – Odds To Win World Series: 60/1
There’s really no debating the White Sox made the most moves in the off-season. The question is will it make a difference now or later? A lot of people look to the addition of Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to an offense that averaged 4.07 runs per game last season, and the fact that gives protection for Jose Abreu as the key to the offense. A lot of people look to the addition of Jeff Samardzija giving the White Sox the front-line right-hander to make him, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana one of the best 1-3 trio in the American League. A lot of people look to the addition of David Robertson solves the bullpen problem.
But here’s the reality. Sure, the heart of the line-up is now more interesting, but who is going to get on base in front of those guys? Sure, Samardzija is an honest-to-goodness ace, but who is going to be the back-end of that rotation? Sure, Robertson can close games, but what about the set-up guys who leaked last year to the tune of a 4.38 ERA last year?
15) Kansas City Royals – Odds To Win World Series: 50/1
Yeah, I get they have yet to lose a ball game this season, but that’s not going to last. This team simply is not the same as last year’s AL Champs. Out goes James Shields, Billy Butler, and Nori Aoki. In comes Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales, and Alex Rios. No matter, this is still a roster built on speed, defense, and a shut-down bullpen. But the question is how good can the rotation be without Shields. They also have no depth either in pitching or position players.
13 – T) Baltimore Orioles – Odds To Win World Series: 30/1
The team that lapped the AL East field last year waved goodbye to Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller. The Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays have both improved significantly. Nobody really knows what will happen with Manny Machado’s recovery from injury, and Matt Wieters is already hurt again. Nobody really knows which Chris Davis shows up for 2015; the one who crushed in in 2013, or the one who limped into a suspension in 2014.
13 – T) San Francisco Giants – Odds To Win World Series:30/1
The Giants are the poster-child for why I quit writing these things during spring training. Had I written this three weeks ago, I would have had the Giants rated much higher on this list; after all, the only team in baseball with a bigger horseshoe up its’ collective ass is St. Louis. Face it, the Giants have been the definition of “getting hot at the right time” over the last five years. Their three World Series titles have involved a lot of things going right at precisely the right time, but this year looks to be the one where it finally doesn’t go San Francisco’s way.
First of all, replacing Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse with Casey McGehee and nobody is going to create a huge problem offensively. Brandon Belt is still waiting to become the 40-homer slugger the Giants think he will be, and until then there is precious little protection for Buster Posey in the batting order. Short of that, the G-men are betting hard on a breakout season from sophomore Joe Panik and a healthy one from table setter Angel Pagan.
Second, and most important is the starting rotation. Madison Bumgarner is solid as the ace, but after that things get dicey. Matt Cain is coming off shoulder surgery and is already hurt again, three’s the geriatric duo in Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson, and nobody really knows which Tim Lincecum the Giants will get.
10 -T) Toronto Blue Jays – Odds To Win world Series: 25/1
The Toronto Blue Jays clearly went “all-in” for 2015 season by adding Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin. That wasn’t all, but it’s clear the belief in Toronto was that Baltimore got weaker, and the time to strike is now.
10 -T) Pittsburgh Pirates – Odds To Win world Series: 25/1
While the Pirates lost Russell Martin, they actually scored in terms of re-signing Francisco Liriano to a three-year, $39 million deal prior to the pitching market exploding. When you consider what guys like Ervin Santana (four years, $55 million) and Brandon McCarthy (four years, $48 million) got, the Pirates find themselves in sound financial shape to add for a play-off run. Another step forward from Gerrit Cole and a breakout season from Gregory Polanco seem likely, and while the NL Central as a whole may be the deepest division in baseball, the Pirates are in good shape to make it three straight playoff appearances.
10 – T) San Diego Padres – Odds To Win World Series: 25/1
What do you do when you have the worst offense in all of baseball? Complete overhaul. That’s really the only term which describes what happened in San Diego. The Padres have completely overhauled their lineup with the additions of Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Derek Norris. The best part is the Padres pulled this off without losing anything of real value; they didn’t have to part with a “top-three” starter or any of their marquee prospects. So, when you couple a vastly-improved offense with a 3.27 team ERA which ranked fourth in all of baseball last year, it’s pretty clear the Padres could be a force to be reckoned with.
So, why aren’t they higher on this list? Because I have a rule against teams who are completely rebuilt in their first season together. Team chemistry matters.
9) Cleveland Indians – Odds To Win World Series: 20/1
I watched a lot of the Cleveland-Houston series during opening week, and I see bright futures for both these teams. The Astros days as a cellar-dweller are over, and Cleveland’s ascent to the top of the American League is about to begin. The difference is that the Indians are a few years further into the process. The surprise postseason team of 2013 was also a surprise contender down the stretch in 2014. Just on that alone, Cleveland shouldn’t be sneaking up on anybody anymore.
Now is the time for Cleveland to take that next step, and the pieces are in place to do that. The injury to Yan Gomes hurts, but it isn’t a fatal blow. As with any team, staying healthy is key, but in Cleveland, that really applies to key components like Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. Down the road, the Indians really need to find a #2 starter to go with reigning Cy Young winner Cory Kluber. The continued development of Carlos Carrasco helps, but he is still too far away from being a solid #2 to fill this need now.
It’s also time to unload Nick Swisher. His days of being a contributor to a contender are over; time and injuries have seen to that. It’s time to send him to a young and upcoming team (like the Astros) who need a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
8) Seattle Mariners – Odds To Win World Series: 15/1
This could be a big year in Seattle. Last year, the path to winning started with the signing of Robinson Cano. The Mariners missed the play-offs by one game in 2014. Since then, Seattle has added the right-handed power threat they’ve spent years looking for in Nelson Cruz. The right-field platoon of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano should be a significant upgrade over the cavalcade of bums they’ve been running out there literally since Jay Buhner left.
If James Paxton and Taijuan Walker take the next step the terrific duo of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, the rotation should gel ahead of one of the best bullpens in baseball.
6 -T) Cincinnati Reds – Odds To Win World Series: 12/1
All the pieces are still there for this team to make another run at contention, having moved Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon during the winter meetings and adding Marlon Byrd to fill the void in left field. Don’t look now, but Cincinnati has quietly assembled one of the better farm systems in baseball, so selling on some veteran pieces and retooling the roster may not be the worst thing for the franchise. That becomes especially true when one considers the general weakness of the back end of the rotation, and they have yet to make a significant addition to a bullpen that ranked 26th in the league with a 4.11 ERA last year.
6 – T) Boston Red Sox – Odds To Win World Series: 12/1
There’s no doubt the Red Sox came into 2015 disappointed over what happened in 2014. Boston made every effort to turn things around, and in doing so gave themselves a chance to contend in a suddenly wide-open AL East. Mookie Betts looks like a superstar in the making, and there’s plenty of thunder in the Boston bats, but there are still some big questions to answer.
First, how big will Pablo Sandoval get? Will he hit .320 in Fenway, or will he hit 320 on the scale?Then, there is the matter of the Hanley Ramirez experiment in left field. Granted, playing left in Boston might be the easiest outfield job in the bigs, but there’s still the matter of 81 games on the road. I get nervous enough about guys changing leagues, let alone learning a new position.
Lastly, the Red Sox have no legitimate #1 pitcher. Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello are more like solid #3s. Boston needs to go hard after an ace between now and the trading deadline.
5) Detroit Tigers – Odds To Win World Series: 10/1
The following might be the biggest miss in terms of off-season prognosticating:
“The Tigers and David Price have had no conversations on a long-term contract this off-season, source says. So the Tigers—for now, at least—have retained the ability to sign Max Scherzer and trade David Price.”
Well, that didn’t happen. Max Scherzer took his talents to Washington, and David “Is Going To Command a Very High” Price is still in the Motor City, thanks to a 1-year, $19,750,000 contract. But, he’s an unrestricted free-agent after this season, and you know somebody is going to drive a dump-truck full of money up in front of him. This is where the Tigers become a parade of “What Ifs”… if for no other reason than the Tigers might be in “all or nothing right now” mode.
Honestly, the offense likely isn’t going to be a problem in Detroit, but that once-feared pitching staff is not what it was three years ago. Consider the following…Justin Verlander is still on the 15-Day Disabled List, and the Tigers are being really vague about his status. On the other side of David Price, something has to give in regards to their current pitching situation. There’s really no denying, a rotation featuring Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene is a significant downgrade from last year, and the Tigers have yet to address their disaster of a bullpen. That leads to the “What if” that should keep Tigers’ fans awake at night:
Boil it all down, and what you get is a Tiger team with too much talent not to contend, but enough variables to give one cause for concern. .
4) Los Angeles Angels – Odds To Win World Series: 7.5/1
After winning an MLB-best 98 games last season, the Los Angeles Angels still look to be the most complete team in the American League. They have no obvious major weaknesses, and they still have as much cash as any franchise out there.
That isn’t to say there are areas of concern. Howie Kendrick is now getting his mail a few miles further up I-5 in Los Angeles, which means the second base duties fall on the unproven Johnny Giovatella. The Halos would love to go shopping for a leftie reliever, but even if they don’t that bullpen is one of the best in baseball. Garrett Richards’ recovery from knee surgery will be more closely watched than the boobs on that redhead from Mad Men.
The big problem this team has will be the Josh Hamilton situation. Good, bad or inifferent, they need to get that problem resolved quickly; the last thing this team needs is an “A-Rod” style slog through a swamp of off-field bullshit.
3) Los Angeles Dodgers – Odds To Win World Series: 6/1
Thanks to a $3 billion regional television deal, the Dodgers will be to the next 15 years what the Yankees were to the last. That leads to the $3 billion question: Can Don Mattingly become the next Joe Torre; can he meld all those big-dollar egos into a team that can win.
Don’t forget, there were calls for Mattingly’s head as recently as last year when the Dodges stumbled coming out of the gate. The reason is simple. At some point, the Dodgers must win in October. The heat may not be there right now, but another post-season loss to St. Louis will bring that pressure faster than bean dip to a colostomy bag. This is why Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman wasted little time shaking things up.
With Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon, and Hanley Ramirez gone from the lineup, the Dodgers need Yasiel Puig to become consistent at the plate. They also are relying on top prospect Joc Pederson living up to his lofty billing. Another big Dodger bet is on the new middle-infield combo of Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins to relive days of past glory.
But the big question is Clayton Kershaw. There’s a reason why he’s earning the nickname “Peyton;” he’s becoming the baseball poster-child poster for “Choke-tober.” Not only that, but the Dodgers need help from the back of the rotation as well. Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson have both proved capable of pitching like top-of-the-rotation starters when healthy, and if they can both make 30-plus starts, with the majority being quality ones, the Dodgers once again look tough on paper.
But now, they have to deliver.
2) St. Louis Cardinals – Odds To Win World Series 5/1
The St. Louis Cardinals just know how to win; it’s as simple as that. The Redbirds have played in October in each of the past four years and 11 of the past 15. All signs point to them taking the field in the post-season once again this year.
Adding Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Matt Belisle, and Mark Reynolds to the mix addressed all of the Cardinals’ off-season needs. A healthy Michael Wacha is the variable which could push St. Louis over the top.
1) Washington Nationals – Odds To Win World Series: 2/1
By keeping Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, the Nationals should have a rotation that stacks up to any in the league. Not to mention, it’s a safe bet we have yet to see the best Stephen Strasburg has to offer post-Tommy John surgery. Oh, by the way…did I mention the Nats added Max Scherzer to that rotation?
Granted, this team’s offense has looked has looked flatter than warm beer on a hot day, but that’s due to two solvable problems. First, they need to get healthy. Once they have Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, and Denard Span healed up and producing, this team can jog through the marathon of baseball season because nobody in the NL East can really push them.
Problem number two is the one that needs to be dealt with by October. At some point between now and then, the Nats need to either a) get Danny Espinoza to be the second baseman they think he will be or b) find the guy who will be.