A October to Remember in Baseball? (List)
Tonight marks the begging of a month long battle for ten teams who will try to win the World Series. One of the many great things baseball has done to improve the game was introducing another wild card winner for both leagues. This created a bigger battle for your division, and also gave teams like Oakland, and Baltimore more hope in reaching the playoffs. I will run down my thoughts on all ten teams, and also give you some things to watch for; and last but not least give you my World Series champion. The list is in order from wild card teams to division winners, the order does not reflect my predictions.
Baltimore Orioles. 93-69 American League wild card
Baltimore will face-off against the Texas Rangers tonight in a winner-take-all match up. This team is not even considered an underdog, because of what happened in Oakland, but instead this team ran the New York Yankees down all September, but just came up two games short of a division crown. Orioles are a young team, but are going up against a team that has been to two straight World Series appearance, but the Rangers have fallen recently. My what to watch for is this, can the Orioles continue winning? The have won 29 one run games, and are only plus seven in the runs against and runs scored department. If you look at their stats, they sit in the middle of Major League Baseball in hitting, pitching, and fielding. How can a team be a playoff participant when they have stats like that? If this team wants to make a deep run, then they will have to continue to do the little things, and get key hits. If not this Cinderella story will come crashing down, perhaps tonight.
Texas Rangers 93-69 American League wild card
Lets flash back to last October, when the Rangers were not once, but twice one strike away from winning their first World Series title, now flash forward to September, 5th; the Rangers were five games up on Oakland. Even on September, 28th the Rangers were up three games, and still found a way to lose the division. Rangers are the 2012 version of the 2011 Boston Red Sox, but lucky for Texas there is an extra wild card spot for them. Can Josh Hamilton save this team, or is this the end of the dynasty that has made Texas Rangers look like the best American League team the past three seasons. My what to watch for is this, can the Rangers forget about the regular season, and just focus on the now. One win, and they move on. Just focus on the game at hand, and not worry about trying to make the World Series for the third straight time, because if this team is the best in the American League then they will make it there, if not then just thank Hamilton for his great tenure as a Ranger, and see him put on a Boston Red Sox jersey this winter.
Detroit Tigers 88-74 American League Central champs.
This team made a splash last off-season, by signing Prince Fielder to a nine year-$214 million deal. The Tigers stumbled out of the box, not reaching .500 until the All Star break, but caught the Chicago White Sox at the end to capture their second straight American League Central crown. My what to watch for is this, can the Tigers pitchers show up? We know about Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer, but besides those two the Tigers have some question marks. Also we know about Prince, and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, but after those two; there is no one else on this team that screams watch out for. I can see this team beating Oakland, but after that I do not seeing this team reaching the World Series.
Oakland Athletics. 94-68 American League West champs.
This team has the lowest payrolls in all of baseball. Team plays in one of the hardest divisions, and not to mentioned traded away three great pitchers this past off season in the likes of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzales, and Andrew Bailey, yet this team still somehow won the West. The A's biggest move was acquiring Yoenis Cepedes from Cuba. Somehow Billy Beane continues to find great starting pitching. My what to watch for is this, can the A's continue this unbelievable Cinderella story? Their lineup is not scary like the New York Yankees, but the A's dark horse is their pitching staff. If this team continues pitching like they have done the past three months, then it is not unthinkable to say this team could perhaps stun everyone and win the World Series. I for example do not seeing them getting past the first round.
New York Yankees 95-67 American League East champs.
With the highest pay roll in the Majors, you would think the Yankees will always win the East, but this season was tough for Bronx Bombers. Not only were the Orioles nipping at their heels, but also those pesky Tampa Bay Rays were right there too. The Yankees dealt with some serious injuries this season, but somehow overcame all of those to reach the postseason. The Yankees are getting healthy at the right time, and they are my American League champs of right now, but my what to watch for is this, can they continue hitting home runs? Yankees led all of baseball with 245 long balls. If they run into a team lets say Oakland or Detroit with some decent pitching then they could create some trouble for them. We will just have to wait, and see.
Atlanta Braves 94-68 National League wild card
The Braves have been riding the farewell train with Chipper Jones this year, and how nice it would be too send Jones away with his second World Series ring. The Braves were just behind the Washington Nationals in the East, but had to settle for the wild card. They have a great pitching staff, and a deep lineup. I can see the Braves going all the way, but they also play in a very hard league, which might make it difficult for them to even make it to the divisional round. My what top watch for is this, can the Braves forget about last season collapse? They need to focus on the now, and not worry about life after Chipper or the horrific 2011 collapse, because right now they are in the playoffs, but have to go against the reigning World Series champs in a winner-take-all-match-up, because if they do not focus on the now, then they will the in past come tomorrow.
Saint Louis Cardinals 88-74 National League wild card
This team was a Cinderella story last season. Barley making into the playoffs last season, and going all the way. Now this season they lose a multiple most valuable player winner in Albert Pujols, and their "ace" for most of the season in Chris Carpenter, and have a new manager for the first time since 1995. Most people would say it would have been okay for the Cardinals to just roll over, and rebuild. This team got right back up, and are trying to defend their crown. My what to watch for is this, can the Cardinals repeat? We have not seen a team repeat since 2000 when the Yankees did it. This team, might be underdogs, but that name does not phase them, it actually gives them motivation. I will say that tonight the Cardinals will lose to the Braves, but if the Cardinals do indeed win tonight, then I will jump back on their bandwagon all the way back to a World Series championship, because if this team gets on a winning streak they wont stop winning.
San Fransisco Giants 94-68 National League West champs.
2010 this team won the World Series, and now have a chance to win another won. This team has a very deep lineup that might have the new National League MVP on it in Buster Posey. This team is very resilient. They lose All Star closer Brian Wilson, and their "ace" Tim Lincecum had a very tough year, yet this team still won the West by a landslide. Not even the Los Angeles Dodgers spending spree could have slowed down the Giants. My what to watch for is this, can the Giants pitching staff step up? If Timmy struggles, and Cain does not show his best stuff then this team will be trouble. Even though you can say this team has a deep lineup, it all starts with their pitching staff. I see this team as a potential World Series favorite, if everything goes correctly.
Cincinnati Reds 97-65 National League Central champs
This team from start to finish is great. They have a great pitching staff, a dangerous lineup, and a closer that can reach triple digits. This team was the first team to clinch their respective division this season. My what to watch for is this, will inexperience cause this team to slip? This will be the second trip to the postseason since 2010, but before 2010 you would have to go back to 1990 to see when the Reds last played in October. I think the second time around will help calm the nerves for this team. I might be picturing a Reds-Yankees World Series, but I don't know quite yet.
Washington Nationals 98-94 Best Record in baseball and National League East champs.
The last time Washington D.C had postseason baseball was in 1933 when the Washington Senators or the now Minnesota Twins played there. That is 79 years ago. This team is young, inexperience, but amazing. Before they shut down Stephen Strasburg I had this team as my World Series favorite, but now I would have to say they might only make it to the second round. I love how Mike Rizzo has taken all the blame for this problem with Strasburg, and I love the team that he has created. I can see this team becoming the next dynasty in baseball. My what to watch for is this, how will the city, and the players respond to not only having the best record in all of baseball, but bringing back postseason baseball to a city that has already had two teams leave the city? I hope the Nats surprise me, and go all the way, but I just don't see that happening without Strasburg. Maybe next year.