I figure if I don't do this now, I'm in danger of never doing it. In my limited spring training write-ups, I've been somewhat critical of the Mets. It's not that I don't think they'll be good...it's just that I don't think they'll be as good all season as they were last year. But I think this team has the chance to hit its stride at the most important time - September and October - which is the opposite of what happened last year. So, without further ado:
THE NL EAST
A lot of people are down on the Mets. I agree with a lot of what they are saying, but it's not the end of the world. The Mets just aren't going to be as good as they were last year...but they'll still be good. The problems are:
1) The rest of the NL East is better (except for Washington, who I hear might set the record for losses in a season)
2) The Mets' pitching is weaker.
The Mets can still outhit 90% of the National League, and they will still win the division.
The Phillies, I think, will run away with the wild card this year. I think the NL East will be a 2-horse race (I don't buy the Braves for a full year, and the Marlins will take a step back), and the Mets will pull away from the Phillies in September with a healthy Pedro* leading the way...but the Phillies will still be better than the rest of the National League.
Surprise here is the Cincinnati Reds...mostly by process of elimination. Carlos Zambrano guaranteeing a world championship pretty much guarantees the opposite. The Astros will probably finish second, but they're not going to be very good. St. Louis shouldn't have been the division champ last year, let alone the other things they did afterwards (*sigh*), and they'll be third place this year. Then the Cubs. Then the Brewers, then Pirates. So the Reds sustain for the full year what they started and couldn't maintain last year.
The only other good team in the National League (outside of the Mets and Phillies) will be the Los Angeles Dodgers, who I feel are much improved this year. They'll win this division easily, outpacing the Padres (under new management), Rockies (improved, but not great), Diamondbacks, and Giants.
NLCS: I think Mets over Phillies, but I can see the Dodgers getting past Philly too. Mets to the World Series.
The Red Sox did a lot of tweaking, and improving. The Yankees got rid of some problems, but still have the usual baggage (A-Rod). I say Sox win the division, and Yankees get the wild card, and next year the Jays and Orioles make their move (with the Devil Rays maybe a couple of years away?).
Here's where I think a lot will happen in 2007. The Detroit Tigers had too many career years by some aging guys (Kenny Rogers) and young guys last year. I don't think they'll repeat that. I think Gary Sheffield might be on an island, and the Tigers won't recapture the glory they experienced last year, as age catches up to some, and the league catches up to the young guys. The Indians, I think, will be better, like 2 seasons ago, but not great. The White Sox will be good, maybe third place behind the Indians, and ahead of the Tigers. But I think the Twins win the division - I think they're the best team. Now, the big news: I think the Royals will be a lot better. I think they'll be over .500, and be the most improved team in baseball. I can't particularly tell you why, but I think they had a smart offseason, and improved themselves in the right areas.
The A's win this division. They lost Barry Zito, but they'll have a (hopefully) healthy Rich Harden back for an entire season, so they're right back to where they were last year. And I think Mike Piazza will be what Frank Thomas was last year for them. The Texas Rangers are a chic pick to win the West (especially since Buck Showalter is now gone...and we know his history), but I don't think they'll pass the A's.
ALCS: The Sox and Yanks make early exits, and the Twins have the pitching to outlast the A's.
WORLD SERIES: Mets in 6. Why not? It's a new season. Hope springs eternal.
NL MVP: Ryan Howard. He's going to carry the Phillies all year, especially in that park.
AL MVP: I want to say someone different here, but I think I have to go with David Ortiz. If the Red Sox win the division, like I think they will, he will be the main reason why.
NL CY YOUNG: Despite Cole Hamels' claim that he'll win 20, this award will go to Carlos Zambrano, who will then take the money and run in free agency.
AL CY YOUNG: Hmm...Rich Harden.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: I don't know any NL rookies. If Mike Pelfrey qualifies, I'll say him...but I fear he doesn't qualify.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Let's go with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Why not.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Let's say he stays healthy and playing in his hometown....Cliff Floyd puts up some nice numbers in Chicago.
So there are the picks. I'll still be distracted this weekend by the NCAA tournament (I'm having a great bracket this year so far...one of my best ever in 14 years of keeping track), and then school has been busy...and I'm busy setting up the "New Baseball Pool II"....but I'll be ready to go for the regular season. So please keep checking back.