MLB in 2011
A preseason overview


If you want to see the records I’m predicting for most of the teams, you can head over to the home of Sports and find all six columns that review the divisions. Normally I would place them here as well, but there are two reasons why that didn’t make sense to me…

(1) That’s an awful lot of work. Really. Plus…

(2) Who cares? This year more than ever, I found myself staring at the records while I tried to make the numbers match and throwing my hands in the air. Toronto won 85 games last year… Boston won 89 with a minor-league team occupying about half the starting roster… and anyone that tells you they know what they’re talking about when naming the games to be won in the American League Central this season is full of crap, because that place is just a whirlwind of crazy possibilities.

So the reality is… the exact records don’t really matter. For every winner in a game there will be a loser… and whether winning 89 or 99, four teams will make the playoffs. So let’s get to it…

Playoff teams

In the American League… Boston, Minnesota and Texas win the divisions, and New York takes the wild card.

In the National League… Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Francisco will be joined by Atlanta.

Outside chance candidates

In the AL there are lots.

Tampa still strikes me as one of the top three American League clubs. The problem is, compared to Boston and New York there are simply too many weaknesses (depth of their bench is a huge whole) and bullpen issues to believe they can get past just the Yankees or Red Sox for a shot at the postseason wild card. Forget about getting past both of them to guarantee a spot.

More likely we are looking at either someone toppling Minnesota or Texas for a division crown… or, taking advantage of a weaker division in the Central or West to have a better record than Boston or New York when the dust settles.

So… American League and possible playoff threat I’m not picking to make it but could… we’ll go with Chicago as a possible division winner and Oakland as a potential wild card team. If California’s pitching can rise to a dominant level, I certainly believe they could win the AL West crown. And Detroit is a possibility. But Chicago would be my first choice, and Oakland my second if the original picks don’t make it… White Sox by winning the division and the A’s by sneaking into the wild card.

Milwaukee is the obvious choice to be able to take a division or the wild card slot in the National League. Colorado a very close second, and is also capable of taking their division or the wild card. Other than that, the National League consists of Cincinnati… last year’s winner of the NL Central… and not much else.

Surprising trades

Does anyone think the Yankees will trade C.C. Sabathia?


Because if not… with Adrian Gonzalez already in Boston and the biggest potential free agent pitcher off the market… we’re pretty much done with alot of the discussion.

I don’t see any major trades that even look likely. That could change… and probably will change… once we have some teams out of it in late June and thinking for 2012 and beyond. For now though… it’s a bit strange. No amazing free agents for a team to get a return on… no ready destinations that seem like natural fits.

Prince Fielder moving is possible… and since he actually will be leaving after the season, is an easy choice for trade possibilities. Milwaukee needs to be out of it for that to happen though, along with finding a team in the playoff hunt that needs his bat and doesn’t mind losing him when he bolts for Chicago. Would Oakland… Tampa… or a team like Minnesota trade for him if the situation was right? Maybe. But I think Milwaukee will be in the race, keep him, and settle for getting back two draft picks.

The Mets will place just about every player on the market, so I don’t know if this offers what should be termed a surprise. I think that includes Jose Reyes along with Carlos Beltran. And, without a doubt they want to move Francisco Rodriguez. (Trust me, the Mets want nothing to do with people counting his appearances as they relate to the option for 2012 kicking in. They will dump him at the first sign of an even marginally acceptable offer.) but all of their major trade chips come with tricky scenarios. Reyes you could offer arbitration to and get draft picks if he leaves… you likely wouldn’t offer arbitration to Beltran or Rodriguez. So who would trade for any of them? And what would they be willing to offer?

Maybe this is a shocker… I would not be surprised to hear Hanley Ramirez’s name mentioned in June and July. In fact, I would not be surprised to see him moved ahead of Reyes. Now… two things have to happen. First, the Marlins need to be out of it. Second, there has to be a market for shortstops. If I were looking for a shortstop though, I would inquire about Ramirez before committing alot in order to bring in Reyes.

The thing is… I just don’t know which of the bad teams will be ready to deal. Let’s check out the American League to show what I mean. Baltimore and Toronto really don’t have much, since players like Matt Weiters have virtually zero chance of moving. Now apply the theory I noted when I said Adrian Gonzalez already got traded to the Blue Jays getting rid of Shaun Marcum or Mike Napoli. Between trades and free agency, the Blue Jays are pretty much settled for now. Pieces Toronto would have moved during this season have already been packed and shipped. Same theory holds true for Kansas City and Cleveland overall… though Soria and Sizemore could be targets. Even Seattle doesn’t have much of value that they would also trade.

Minor ripples in the trade waters? Let’s see…

Kelly Shoppach is playing for Tampa right now and I think his contract ends after the season. Since he likely won’t bring back major draft picks, the Rays could trade him for a decent offer… and Boston could need catching, so someone they had in their system might be a thought.

Carlos Pena could be available… if the Cubs are done or they need room for Fielder. Doubt this one though.

Hmm… here’s a thought. I’ve heard Mark Beuhrle wanting to be in St. Louis before. Trouble is, I think the White Sox will be in the race for the AL Central. Still, he may be the best pitcher available and could bring back a haul from a team needing a starter… but the Cardinals would likely be the only place he’d approve, and quick math and no research has me thinking he can veto any trade.

It would not stun me at all to see Jonathan Papelbon moved during the season. But planets need to align to put that in motion.

Frankly… there’s not alot that makes sense to predict right now.

The MVP race

This is a tough one… because there are really no leading candidates.

Absolutely the first baseman… Gonzalez and Teixeira… are good choices. I do believe Gonzalez will win the award more than once while in a Boston uniform. But I think the award goes elsewhere in 2011. (There’s simply too much betting on how good the Red Sox are… and media attention being focused on the entire group, with Youkalis and Pedroia and Crawford in the lineup as well… to think that he will get credit for winning the way someone on Minnesota or Tampa would should those clubs get to the playoffs. Make no mistake… players like Mauer and Longoria are awesome. They are breathtaking talents as well. But Gonzalez will need to do more in Boston to win the award this year than either of those two will need to deliver to get more votes. In fact…)

If Minnesota or Texas win their divisions, look at Joe Mauer and Josh Hamilton to collect plenty of votes. In Detroit, I think Victor Martinez could get a huge following for his impact on the pitching staff and the offense. (Don’t forget… Martinez caught both Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia in Cleveland when they won Cy Young awards. Justin Verlander could be the third one he’s been the primary catcher for in five years. (Yes, I believe he was hurt in 2008 when Lee won. He had caught Lee in Cleveland prior to that season though, and was there for something like half the season.) And he gets alot credit for the emergence of Buchholz in Boston.)

To be different… I’ll take Victor Martinez. If he’s hitting, Detroit is winning, and Verlander is doing well, there will be stories about his impact on pitchers and whether or not he gets the full credit he deserves.

National League.


Too easy… and likely too correct.

I’m going to take Troy Tulowitzki in Colorado.

Other than him, look at Milwaukee if you’re trying to think outside of St. Louis for a home to this award winner. Both Braun and Fielder could be good candidates. Buster Posey would be a good name in San Francisco, and Brian McCann for Atlanta.

Cy Young

Justin Verlander is at the top of my list in the AL.

Sabathia has been building consistent support for efforts in New York… and if they win with that pitching rotation, it will be because he was incredible. And I think the Angels and A’s will both present multiple candidates for consideration.

Halladay is so obvious a selection… and Lincecum is a pretty good second option. Tim Hudon would be a good name… Ubaldo Jiminez… Zack Grienke already has one, so another is possible… Matt Cain… Cliff Lee… the list is amazing in the NL.

I’m going to pick Roy Oswalt. Why? To be different. He’s been very good for quite some time, and is playing for one of the right teams as far as support is concerned, so throwing his name in the mix isn’t obscene or outrageous. And, honestly, I don’t want to go with obvious… Halladay, Lee and Lincecum… though those are the best bets to make.

Rookie of the year

Zero clue. Worthless for me to even guess.

Manager of the year

Ok… this one depends on who makes the playoffs.

In the American League, I’ll go with Joe Madden, Bob Geren, Jim Leyland, Ozzie Guillen, and Ron Gardenhire. And, I’ll use that order of preference. (So… if Tampa makes the playoffs, I’m saying Madden gets it regardless of anyone on else on the list leading their team to the postseason. If Oakland makes the playoffs, Geren gets it unless Tampa makes the playoffs.)

In the National League, I think we’re looking squarely at Colorado and Milwaukee. Jim Tracy and Ron Roenicke.

Playoff games

As of right now, I have Boston playing Minnesota and New York against Texas. If that happens, I like Boston against New York to wrap up the AL championship… though Texas could certainly defeat New York.

Give me Boston to make the World Series.

In the National League, my records have Atlanta playing San Francisco and Philadelphia against St. Louis. In those matches, the Braves and Phillies advance, with Philadelphia moving on from there.

In the World Series, Boston will face Philadelphia. And, I’m predicting a title for the Phillies… which I don’t believe for one second. But, since I predicted the Giants would play in the World Series and lose last season… and since I don’t want to jinx anything… yeah, we’ll say that I think Philly knocks off Boston.


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