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The baseball season really snuck up on Besse and myself, so our predictions are a few days late. I mean there were games in March. The Celtics were pushing for the playoffs, the NCAA tournament was going on, then all of a sudden its time for baseball. Well wait no further, here are the official 2008 predictions from the Sports Brief, division by division as well as the most important awards. Feel free to leave comments with your own choices.
Besse- Red Sox I like the Red Sox to hold off what will be a tough division for once. Once Beckett is healthy, the rotation will strengthen and with Papelbon at the back end of the rotation, they won’t lose many games late. The offense is virtually the same here, and I expect a big year from Manny Ramirez. The Yankees will contend, as will the Blue Jays. Some quiet moves by the Blue Jays and people are overlooking them again. The Rays will be a surprise to many. Their staff isn’t uber-talented, but it’s deep and the lineup is young, fast and exciting.
Keefe- Red Sox The Red Sox will win back to back division titles for the first time since 1915-1916. It’s been that long, so it won’t be easy. With Schilling out for likely the season, Dice-K and Lester will have to pitch like #2 and #3 and not walk the house and get pulled after 5. I think Dice-K will certainly improve from last year, not as much as Beckett did in year two in Boston, but improve nonetheless. Manny will have a monster year and force the Sox to pick up his club option for next year. Yankees will of course challenge followed by the Jays, Rays (out of the basement) and O’s.
Besse- Tigers This will be the best offense in the game. The addition of Miguel Cabrera is tremendous, but I question the pitching staff. Verlander will compete for the Cy Young, but Bonderman has yet to see the other side of the hill, and Rogers, Willis and Robertson are all good, but each has question marks. The bullpen, meanwhile, is scary at the back end, especially without a bonafide closer and Zumaya on the shelf for now. Look for them to hit their way to the postseason and then flop.
Keefe- Tigers I really like what the Tigers did in the off season picking up one of the best players in baseball in Miguel Cabrera and a guy in Willis who won’t have to be the ace and should return to form from a couple seasons ago. Once they’re all healthy they can trot out a lineup with Granderson, Renteria, Sheffield, Magglio, Cabrera, Guillen, Pudge, Polanco, and Jones. Seriously? The Indians being unable to sign C.C. will hurt them this year, and the rest of the division will be looking up on Detroit all year.
AL West Besse- Mariners My surprise team of 2008. Erik Bedard just made this pitching staff scary. If he and King Felix pitch to potential, this is the scariest one-two punch in the game. With a deep staff (Miguel Batista is the 5th starter) and JJ Putz closing games, I like this team’s chances in a punching judy division. Richie Sexson will bust out and while I’m at it, so will Adrian Beltre. The Angels are facing serious question marks in the rotation due to injury, and there’s not much in terms of offense.
Keefe- Mariners I’m not quite as high on Seattle as Bess is but I still like them to win the West. Bedard will be in the hunt for the Cy Young as will Putz. Even though they had to give up Adam Jones in the deal you have to like the trade for the Mariners. With guys like Ichiro, Sexson, and Beltre they need to win soon. Most people are picking the Angels, but with Lackey missing at least a month and Escobar out for the season, they will be one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Oakland and Texas also play in this division.
Wild Card Besse- Indians The Indians aren’t much different from a year ago, although one can assume the ALCS experience furthered the maturation process of guys like Sabathia and Carmona. This is a talented pitching staff from top to bottom, although Joe Borowski is a bit shaky at the back end. The lineup isn’t scary, but it’s no pushover, either. They’ll give the Tigers a run but eventually settle for a wild-card birth and a 1st round match up, and rematch, with the Red Sox. Keefe- Yankees The Yankees will be your American League Wild Card team for the second year in a row. There are question marks all over their pitching staff, but reigning MVP Alex Rodriguez alone can get this team into the post season. And with a payroll of over $209 million, that’s 70+ million more than 2nd place, they better get in the playoffs, no excuses. The Indians will be right there and maybe even the Blue Jays if they remain healthy.
Besse Picks: Mariners over Tigers Red Sox over Indians
Keefe Picks: Red Sox over Mariners Tigers over Yankees ALCS' ' Besse Picks: Red Sox over Mariners Keefe Picks: Tigers over Red Sox
Besse- Mets This may be the best team in baseball. The pitching staff is solid 4-deep led by perennial Cy-Young candidate Johan Santana. Billy Wagner rarely missteps in closing games and David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran lead an offense that will be potent all season long. It won’t be as dangerous as the division rival Phillies, but it will certainly punish the lack of pitching on that Philadelphia staff. Keefe- Braves Mets and Phills are getting all the attention, but I like the Braves to surprise them both. Smoltz, Glavine, and Hudson have already played their best baseball, however they still have something left in the tank. Mark Teixeira will have a monster year. In 54 games last year with Atlanta he had 56 RBIs along with 17 HRs and he hit .317. They lost Andruw Jones and Edgar Renteria from last year’s team, but Jones struggled big time. Chipper, Francoeur, McCann (maybe the best hitting catcher), and Kelly Johnson will provide enough offense to get the job done.
Besse- Cubs I love the depth of this division. I don’t think the Brewers have enough starting pitching, nor a closer, to keep up with the Cubs, but they’ll be exciting to watch. That’s a young team that needs a few more pieces to climb over the hump. I like the Cubs offense a lot, and the addition of Fukudome isn’t getting enough attention. The wildcard here is Kerry Wood and whether or not he can make the transition to closer. Carlos Marmol is in the wings, but Lou Pinella would be better served with Marmol setting up Wood in the 8th.
Keefe- Cubs No team here really separates themselves from the pack. I’m taking the Cubs because of Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano. Kerry Wood scares me as the closer, but not enough to pick the Brewers, Reds, Astros, Cardinals, or Pirates. Look for the winner of the NL Central to have the fewest wins of any division winner. The Brew Crew will contend just because of the mashers in the lineup, but why the hell did they spend all that money on Gagne and let Cordero go? They don’t deserve to make the playoffs after that.
Besse- Dodgers That’s right, I’m doing it. This will be a close race all season long, but the emergence of Chad Billingsley, James Loney, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, along with the magic of Joe Torre in that dugout will bring the Dodgers to the top of this division. I think it’ll happen on the last day of the season, too. The Diamondbacks have solid pitching with the addition of Dan Haren and Brandon Webb as the ace, but can Brandon Lyon duplicate 47 saves by Jose Valverde a year ago? And the Rockies overachieved, plain and simple. The Padres don’t have enough offensive firepower to support Jake Peavy and Chris Young, and the Giants suck.
Keefe- Diamondbacks I’ll take Arizona to win the west. With respect to C.C. and Carmona, Bedard and Felix, Peavy and Young, Beckett and Dice-K, the D-Backs have best 1-2 punch in all of baseball with Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. The lineup is horrible, but check out the rest of the NL West. The Dodgers and Rockies will be there, as all three of these teams can rack up wins over the Padres (when Peavy isn’t pitching) and the Giants.
Besse- Braves I initially wanted to go with the Braves here, but it seems like there are too many good teams out west for the Wildcard not to come out of there. But that will be the downfall of that division. It’s so good and so deep, that with four teams who all seem to be playoff caliber clubs, we likely won’t see a 90-game winner out of there. You can make a case for the Padres and Diamondbacks based on the pitching, but I’m not convinced their lineups will suffice. Which brings me back to the Braves: Smoltz, Hudson, Glavine and possibly a rejuvenated, healthy Mike Hampton. Rafael Soriano is unproven as a legitimate closer, but he’s got good stuff. The lineup is solid with Teixeira, Jones and Francoeur, and with Bobby Cox at the helm, I like this pick.
Keefe- Mets I didn’t have the Mets winning their division, but it’d be crazy to say they miss out on the playoffs once again this year. That collapse from last season won’t happen this year with Johan Santana going every fifth day. He will be right there for Cy Young, (shocker), but the rest of the staff, including Pedro who left his first start early, won’t allow for the Mets to run and hide in the East. With the steady play of the Braves, who can out manage just bout anyone, particularly the Mets they win the division. Fighting the Mets will be the Brewers, Dodgers, and Rockies. I think the Phillies will struggle this year despite having 3 of the best players in baseball.
Besse Picks: Mets over Dodgers Cubs over Braves
Keefe Picks: Braves over Cubs Mets over Diamondbacks
Besse Picks: Cubs over Mets
Keefe Picks: Braves over Mets
Besse Picks: Cubs over Red Sox – Kerry Wood strikes out David Ortiz to end 100 years of frustration.
Keefe Picks: Tigers over Braves
Besse- AL: Erik Bedard NL: Jake Peavy
Keefe- AL: Justin Verlander NL: Jake Peavy
Besse- AL: Manny Ramirez NL: David Wright
Keefe- AL: Manny Ramirez AL: Mark Teixeira
Rookie of the Year
Besse- AL: Joba Chamberlain NL: Kosuke Fukudome
Keefe- AL: Jacoby Ellsbury NL: Justin Upton