Taking a stab at 2010 season picks
Here is my vision for the end of the 2010 season:
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and general manager Ken Williams knocking FOX’s Chris Rose to the ground while wrestling for the World Series trophy.
Ozzie’s youngest son, Oney, ripping Williams in a tweet delivered straight from the victory podium.
Ozzie’s oldest son, Ozzie Jr., pouring champagne on his girlfriend and fellow reality TV star, Kim Kardashian.
That’s right, I’m picking Team Wacko to win the World Series.
Ridiculous? Perhaps. But so is the notion of trying to predict the actual Series champ seven months in advance.
Spare me those computer simulations with their “deadly accurate” forecasts of exactly how many games each team will win.
Tell me which players will get hurt. Tell me which teams will provide the best replacements. Tell me which moves will be made in the July and August trading periods.
Tell me all that, and I will tell you which team will win the 2010 Series — or, at least, give you a reasonably good guess.
Predictions are fun, but remember last year when Sports Illustrated picked the Mets to win the World Series?
The choice was bold, but not outrageous. Then the Mets turned into a walking commercial for the Hospital for Special Surgery, with half their players hobbling around on crutches or with their arms in slings.
Those knuckleheads at SI, how come they failed to anticipate all that?
Allow me to share my philosophy for this column, which my ruthless, unrelenting bosses demand, without fail, on the eve of every season:
- Never pick the Yankees.
- Almost never pick the Red Sox.
- Try to approach the column seriously, assessing each team’s strengths and weaknesses. But then, at the precise moment my head is about to explode, go off the board.
Hence, the White Sox.
Last year, I had the Rays beating the Phillies. Not crazy. Also not correct.
A few years back, I had the Cubs ending their quiet little championship drought. Definitely crazy. Definitely incorrect.
This season, the Yankees and Phillies look like the two best teams on paper. I can easily foresee a World Series rematch if the Series started, like, tomorrow. But a 162-game regular season and two playoff rounds will come first.
The trick to identifying a potential champion is not simply picking the most talented outfit. The winner will need financial flexibility to add payroll, a strong farm system to deliver both quality depth and trade fodder and, last but not least, luck.
The White Sox, at the very least, will be a better team than most people think.
Their pitching, starting and relief, could be astonishingly good. They will score enough runs only if center fielder Alex Rios and right fielder Carlos Quentin produce monster seasons, and that’s a lot to ask. But the Twins’ loss of closer Joe Nathan created an opening, and if the Sox reach the postseason, a rotation of Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks could evoke memories of their title run in ’05.
The White Sox probably are not as flush with cash as they were last season, when they obtained two pricey players, right-hander Jake Peavy and center fielder Alex Rios, within a two-week period. Their farm system, too, is not as deep as those of some other clubs, but when Williams needs a piece, he usually gets it.
Of course, Team Wacko annually leads the league in volatility, and the potential for controversy is even greater this season. Guillen, Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf will be the stars of a reality show on the MLB Network. Little good can come of such an endeavor, at least from a baseball perspective.
The beauty of the game is that virtually every contender can be viewed through the same cynical prism. Bear with me now as I harp on the weaknesses of every club that dares threatens my anointed champions.
- The Yankees largely avoided injuries with an older roster last season, and I’m not sure they can do it again.
- The Red Sox will excel at run prevention and reinforce their offense if necessary. But let’s see right-handers John Lackey and Josh Beckett both produce 30-plus starts.
- The Rays’ starting pitching is not at the level of the two AL East super-powers, their bullpen will miss setup left-hander J.P. Howell early and their budget already is shot — not good.
- The Twins? No Nathan and no dominant starter for the postseason unless left-hander Francisco Liriano turns back into Francisco Liriano.
- The Tigers? The back of their rotation is a major question, and they are too old in some spots, too young in others.
- I’ve said my piece about the over-hyped Mariners. I’m forever skeptical of the Rangers. The Angels, as usual, are legit, but their lack of elite starting pitching would be an issue in the postseason.
Now to the inferior league
- The Phillies already are worried about their pitching depth, though my guess is they will re-sign Pedro Martinez, who unfortunately cannot both start and relieve.
- I love the Braves, but worry about the age/injury factor with closer Billy Wagner, setup man Takashi Saito and third baseman Chipper Jones.
- The Marlins will hit, but their rotation beyond Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco is a crapshoot. The Brewers are similar, though their pitching is stronger overall.
- Talk to me about the Cardinals, and I’ll bet you that at least one of their core players — most likely right-hander Chris Carpenter, maybe first baseman Albert Pujols — will miss significant time.
- The Cubs? Good luck to Lou managing that bullpen.
- In the N.L. West, the suddenly trendy Rockies possess enough young talent to patch any weakness. My only question is whether they can handle expectations, something they did not do well in ’08 coming off their only World Series appearance.
- As for the Divorce Court Dodgers, manager Joe Torre has spoken openly about the team’ lack of a No. 1 starter, and owner Frank McCourt refused to add payroll in midseason even when he was, ahem, happily married.
- The Giants’ pitching is terrific, but I’m sorry, first baseman Aubrey Huff and super-utility man Mark DeRosa will not make enough of a difference offensively.
OK, that about does it.
The White Sox are my only team left standing, though it’s always possible that Ozzie and Kenny will end up rolling in the mud.
Hold off on your Internet snark, your vicious blogs and those ever-cheerful comments that appear at the bottom of my columns.
The best part is, you can play the exact same process-of-elimination game that I just did, substituting your favorite team as champion.
It’s baseball. It’s unpredictable. And it will consume us all for the next seven months.
Enjoy the season, everyone.