No team has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees won in three consecutive seasons from 1998-2000. Can the Red Sox be the first team to do it this century? Read on.
I took a detailed look at the AL East in a previous column, so you can check it out here. Quick synopsis: Red Sox have the best organizational depth of any team. If they need help, they have it down on the farm or they have chips they can use to trade.
I really wanted to pick someone else besides Detroit because they seem to be everyone's default pick for this division, but I see them as a flawed team. Their starting pitching is outstanding, but who is going to hit besides Miguel Cabrera? Spare me the Ian Kinsler acquisition-- he will be a bust. Problem is that all the other teams in the division are more flawed. Kansas City is too young and unproven. Cleveland has John Axford as their closer-- enough said there. I think the White Sox will surprise some people. I expect Jose Abreu to have the same effect in Chicago that Yasiel Puig did with the Dodgers last year. Forget about Minnesota.
Let's see how Oakland responds to having the "favorite" tag for a change. They have always embraced and thrived with the underdog role. Pitching is what sets Oakland and Seattle apart from the rest of the division.
AL Wildcards: Tampa Bay, Seattle.
Let's see if the Nationals can fulfill their potential now that Davey Johnson is no longer their manager, although I don't think they did themselves any favors by hiring Matt Williams. A month ago I would have picked Atlanta, but season-ending injuries to starting pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are too much to overcome. It's a shame. Don't laugh at my picking Miami to finish third. Stop it, I say!
I don't want to be too predictable, so I'm all-in on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen may be the most dynamic duo in baseball. I think they got just enough pitching to overtake perennial powerhouse St. Louis. Cincy keeps slipping backwards, and early season losses of Mat Latos and Aroldis Chapman will be too much to overcome.
The Dodgers overtook the Yankees for largest payroll in baseball so they had better be good, or "Donnie Baseball" will be out of a job. I think they'll be good, but not great. The Giants under Bruce Bochy are always good. Look for San Diego to be a bit of a sleeper.
NL Wildcards: St. Louis, San Francisco.
AL Championship Series: Boston vs. Oakland. Oakland is too young, and Boston's time is now.
NL Championship Series: St. Louis vs. Pittsburgh. Nationals made the wrong choice in manager. I'm riding the Pirates as long as I can (which will be this series).
World Series: Boston vs. St. Louis. Ho-hum. There is something to be said for knowing how to get "there." Cardinals and Red Sox will repeat last season's World Series with the results being the same.
World Champions: Boston Red Sox. Fire up the duck boats!