MLB in 2012
A preseason overview


Last year I started out my general baseball overview by saying that you could head over to the cover page for Sports here at the Backpack, use the links to the divisional articles, and that would provide you with a summary of what I expected for records and accomplishments from the teams.

Basically, I figured copying it all over to the 2011 version of this column was a lot of work. But that too-much-work idea was mostly offered up in fun. The real reason was my second thought:

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.

And I stand by those thoughts this year.

I have six teams in the American League winning 90 games. Six.

California, Texas, Detroit, New York, Tampa Bay and Boston.

Quite possibly the best six teams in baseball.

Are all of them better than Philadelphia?

Better than St. Louis?

Better than San Francisco?

I’d say yes.

If pressed to make an argument, I would say the best six teams in baseball are in the American League.

Only five in each league make the playoffs.

So does it really matter how many games behind Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, and Miguel Cabrera the Royals finish?

Does anyone expect Seattle to compete with Albert Pujols and the starting rotation of the Angels?

Is there really an audience willing to watch the Baltimore Orioles? …the Houston Astros?


If you want the records… Sports section… find the divisional pieces… enjoy. I did put a lot of work into those reviews.

The reality is one team gets a win while another gets a loss and the two concepts have to balance in the end. It’s nice to think that six teams in the American League can win 90 games. Who’s losing those 540-plus games?

For this piece, it’s an overview, the records don’t matter, and we start with the playoffs…

Playoff teams

In the American League… Boston is the team to sit. I don’t like saying that. Boston and Baltimore are two of my favorite teams. But of all the problems and possible dilemmas facing the big six, only the Red Sox are carrying baggage.

Do I think it matters if Bobby Valentine is making appearances on New York radio? No. I don’t. I also don’t think chicken and beer matter. But this isn’t Freud… and we aren’t talking about whether a cigar is a cigar. Chicken and beer and interviews are the visible part of the iceberg. The fact that people will be looking for bottle tops and buckets in the trash after games… or questioning Bobby’s investment of time… that’s what matters.

It’s kind of why I would tell you that you need to give instincts and gut feelings some respect. If something tells you “yes” or “no” (or whatever the message may be), than sometimes you need to find out why before moving on. Something’s up in Boston. It may be the attitude of veteran players (an extension of the chicken and beer)… it could be some missed messages in different layers of management (we could potentially place the out-of-town interviews in this subject)… it could be the arrangement of the pitching staff… health concerns… other teams are just better… I don’t know.

My instincts though are saying something is wrong in Boston, and I don’t know if April through September is enough time to sort it out.

California, Texas, Detroit, New York and Tampa head to the postseason. I have Texas and Tampa as the wild cards.

In the National League… I’m going with Philadelphia, Cincinnati and San Francisco to win the divisions, with Miami and Atlanta taking the wild card slots.

Outside chance candidates

In the American League… Boston… and only Boston. And, I think the AL West leaders should be more fearful of that than Tampa or New York. Because if Boston does make it, I believe it’s because they played better than I expect, and as a result both wild card slots will come out of the East.

In the National League… Arizona is a good choice, considering last season. But realistically, I’d go with St. Louis and Milwaukee as the best bets to take a spot. Both have potentially solid rotations in place, plus a division they should be able to win against.

Worth keeping in mind… the Milwaukee Brewers were 57-24 at home last season. That was 5-games better than any other team in baseball. They also had a losing road record. It’s far more likely that home record comes back to the pack a bit this year.

Surprising trades

Ok… you have to remember what I said about David Wright when I looked at the Mets. There are new rules in place. To my knowledge, a player traded mid-season with an expiring contract cannot be offered arbitration. There are likely some details I’m missing… such as contract options and buy-outs… but the prevailing idea seems sound -- you can’t trade prospects for a player and believe that at least you can get picks back if that player leaves in the off-season.

On top of that, much like last year, many of the players likely to be moved or set up to be the next to hit free agency have moved or been signed. Joey Votto… signed. Matt Cain… signed. Jesus Montero… traded. Unless things collapse in Philly and go horribly wrong in the front office, Cole Hamels is not on the market.


Johan Santana is an interesting one, as is Jason Bay, and both play in New York. If they play well, the Mets wouldn’t mind moving the contracts… especially if they can get a prospect or two back.

We already know Wandy Rodriguez is gone. The age of the dedicated-designated-hitter is fading. Still, teams looking for a bat might just call Houston about Carlos Lee. I definitely don’t expect Lee to move… just saying in a surprise consideration, it’s worth pointing out.

If Joel Hanrahan pitches in 2012 the way he did in 2011, the Pirates will be fielding a ton of offers for his services. And if he does pitch well, expect his name to be mentioned as the best reliever available. I know… you’ve heard his name less than you ever had heard Heath Bell before Bell rumors swirled over the past couple of seasons. Get ready to hear it more.

The Dodgers could go into dump mode… meaning pitching (Lilly, Billingsley, Harang, and so on if they pitch well) and maybe Andre Ethier.

Ichiro could be someone very interesting to watch. I highly doubt Seattle will get rid of him. Just don’t see it happening. But if he somehow starts the season hot… well, you tell me what happens in Boston if the right field platoon isn’t working but Boston is right in the playoff mix. (Ain’t happening… especially since Ichiro is a lefty and Boston is already overloaded from that side… but it’s fun to speculate. And a hot Ichiro playing good defense could benefit California, Detroit, Tampa… see? Not so crazy.) The Mariners built quietly this year though, and I don’t expect any major moves.

Oakland though… well, just about anyone could be traded from the A’s. My guess would be to watch Coco Criso and Bartolo Colon as options.

Watch the Indians closely. They have some interesting pitching that they could move. I don’t know that they will, but if Detroit and the wild card are long gone by mid-July, they might just listen to inquiries on Derek Lowe or someone else.

Did I get any surprises in there for you? Ok… let’s see if we can stir up some trouble in Boston.

Kevin Youkilis. See… half of the starting infield of the Boston Red Sox is playing in Pawtucket right now. That would be shortstop Jose Iglesias and third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Almost everyone believes both will be with Boston next season, and many feel that at some point during the season they could both be ready for a major league role. Youkilis is beginning to wear out his welcome in Boston… part of it injuries… part of it stories about his relationship with some teammates. Youkilis as a trade option is a bit of a surprise to mention, but shouldn’t really stun anyone if it happens.

The MVP race

I’m taking… and this might be a surprise… Evan Longoria. Tampa is going to the playoffs. And I think they are going to be on the news from the first games of the season right until the last. That type of consistency can bring constant media attention. (Which the Rays have already earned with their stellar play in recent years.) When you consider how solid the pitching is and how good the defense should be, the attention will look for a hero, and Longoria fits the requirements of the position. (Doesn’t hurt that he’s part of the quality defense in addition to his offense… and if the Rays win the division, even more spotlights could be on him.)

For the National League… Jose Reyes. Same idea as for Longoria… Miami to the playoffs and rewarding a major contributor of that success.

If you want other candidates, look to the probable playoff teams and figure out some of the usual suspects. Pujols will be a good guess for driving California, and Hamilton the same for Texas. I expect Gonzalez to deliver in Boston. Verlander will not repeat here.

NL candidates would include Joey Votto, since I expect Cincy to be there. Buster Posey will get some attention if he returns to form and stays on the field.

So… Longoria and Reyes are my picks.

Cy Young

I’m going with Jered Weaver to win the award. I also think David Price will be a strong candidate as the year plays out. Justin Verlander of course. And, if Boston plays well, it’s very likely you’ll see Jon Lester having quite the season. For teams with multiple candidates, just keep your eyes on Tampa and California.

How about Josh Johnson? Maybe Lincecum or Cain? Good choices. I’m taking Mat Latos.

Here… I go with Weaver and Latos.

Rookie of the Year

To be thorough, we’ll include Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes in this debate. And I’ll take Darvish to win it. Do not ignore Matt Moore though. I think Darvish will have a good year. Moore could have a great one. I’ll stick with Darvish (and chances are I’ll regret not taking Moore).

I don’t have a clue in the National League. People are talking about catcher Devin Mesoraco of the Reds. The Padres traded Anthony Rizzo to make room for Yonder Alonso. Hmm… let’s take Alonso. That would be nice for San Diego… trade Latos and acquire the Rookie of the Year, and potentially make trading Gonzalez and Rizzo a bit less painful. I should note that Atlanta is adding the very hyped Julio Teheran, and he should be good.

For now… Darvish and Alonso.

Manager of the year

I’d love to see Joe Maddon win it, since I think he’s the best in the game right now. But Tampa winning isn’t the surprise it used to be these days.

Mike Scioscia is an interesting candidate since California hasn’t been winning the way Texas has lately, and unseating the Rangers would go a long way.

My money though, despite the idea that it seems so unlikely, has to go on Maddon, unless Manny Acta and the Cleveland Indians become a wild card threat. The AL teams are just so loaded that there isn’t much of a room for any surprise candidate. If you’re looking for one, pay attention to John Farrell, for the possibility of doing in Toronto what I claim could get Acta a nod in Cleveland. (It’s just even less likely in the AL East for a playoff surprise than it would be in the Central.)

In the NL… I can’t believe this… Ozzie Guillen and Dusty Baker are the top candidates and I don’t know if there are other options. I suppose Roenicke could win in Milwaukee if they take the division. Davey Johnson is an interesting candidate if Washington clears 85-wins. In the end… give me Ozzie. The Marlins making the playoffs will mean more than Cincinnati or Milwaukee.

To wrap up the awards… Maddon and Guillen.

Playoff games

Tampa will eliminate Texas in the single-game event. Miami will do the same to Atlanta.

Since I’m saying avoid the records in this column I won’t match up what team would play where by record, and let’s pick Tampa and California to play for the AL title, with Miami and Cincinnati to play for the NL.

And I’ll predict California to win it all over Cincinnati in 6 games.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at