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Bull Penned

by Archives April 7, 2009

So the season is finally underway, and every baseball connoisseur has to give his predictions. It isn’t safe to just bet that everyone will have a good time, A-Rod will get severely booed or that the McDonald’s Filet O’Fish commercial is the funniest thing since Dane Cook (and just as mindless). No. You have to put your baseballs to the walls and make some sort of gutsy claim, something that will end up on the pages of a highly respected periodical and will make or break your credibility. So seeing as how I have none of that overrated “credibility”
yet, I’ll go ahead and give you my fearless predictions for the division and wild-card winners of the 2009 season.
Starting in the National League East, home of the former Expos, the race will come down to the Phillies and Mets. New York has a lights out bull-pen and solid enough offence to take this division
from Philadelphia – but not by much. New York will win the division by three or fewer games, with Atlanta, Florida and Washington all over nine games back. Though the Nationals continue to mysteriously lure big name free-agents, their complete void of any quality pitchers will have them out-slugged more often than not. Look for Ryan Zimmerman to have his best season
to date, though. Philadelphia will win the wild-card.
In the N.L. Central, I really can’t see anyone taking the division away from the Cubs. Though Chicago has had a grey cloud over their heads for about as long as baseball has existed, they have a solid rotation and a potent offence. Though their late inning relief may be suspect, with reliable starter Carlos Zambrano, and a break-out performance from Canadian Rich Harden, this group will be putting teams out of games by the sixth inning. Look for Chicago to acquire a closer by the deadline if no one emerges on the team. They’ll win the division by seven games, ahead of an upstart Cincinnati team that will surprise
the league with great young pitching.
The Reds might have challenged the Cubs but, with the loss of Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, they’ll be sorely missing some pop in the middle of their line-up. They will not be far off of a wild-card, however.
Out in the N.L. West, where mediocre teams go for victories, you can bet the farm on Dodger Blue at the top of pile. A balanced roster mixed with very little competition will offer little resistance to a division title. Newly re-signed Manny Ramirez is only signed for a couple of years instead of the four or five year deal he was seeking, so he’ll still be looking to put up big numbers for another gigantic
payday. Signing free agent Pedro Martinez, to join other former Red Sox cast-off Ramirez, could solidify their title victory. The Rockies will have to cope with the departure of Matt Holliday
and the loss of Jeff Francis for the entire season due to injury. Colorado is doomed. If San Francisco gets another excellent year from Tim Lincecum, all while coaxing some former greatness out of living relic Randy Johnson and getting what they paid for out of Barry
Zito, they may come within seven games of competing with Los Angeles. The mild mild west is as tame as ever.
The bigger questions lie in the American
League, where all the true contenders
will prowl in the East. The question really is whether Tampa Bay(without any significant off-season action) can repeat what many viewed as a fluke season that drove them to the World Series. They still have a great team, but the two beasts they climbed over just got a whole lot bigger. Consequently, there is no chance in this division for anyone but the Red Sox, Yankees, or again by miracle, the Rays. It really is a toss up, but I have to give this one to the Yankees. They have one of the fiercest pitching rotations I have seen in the past few years. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Chien-Ming Wang can all win 20 or more games, especially when backed up by a batting order filled with clean-up hitters. A-Rod, Kanekoa Texeira
and Hideki Matsui will probably be the heart of the order, but when you have guys like Jorge Posada and Xavier Nady hitting at the bottom of the order, there is no easy out. I give New York the advantage over Boston, but only by the slimmest of margins. The only other pitching staff that can rival New York is Boston, with Josh Beckett, Dice-K and Brad Penny. Their key players like Jason
Varitek and David Ortiz are getting older, but they’ll still be beating up on a lot of teams this summer. The division race will definitely go down to the wire, with match-ups between the Yanks, Sox and Rays all being of utmost importance.
The Yankees will win it by a single game over the Red Sox who will have the wild-card as a consolation.
In-land, the A.L. Central division will be tough to call. The Twins will once again get a productive season from Justin
Morneau and if Francisco Liriano can stay healthy, look for him to contend
for the Cy Young, putting up 18 wins and keeping his ERA around 2.75. Unfortunately for the Twins, hitting champ Joe Mauer is already plagued with back problems that can only get worse as a catcher. The White Sox may have looked like contenders, but their aging core of hitters just isn’t enough to convince me that they can beat the Twins or my pick for the division, Detroit.
The Tigers have the best line-up to win this questionable division. Miguel Cabrera will again anchor a capable line-up that includes Maggs Ordonez, Brandon Inge and Curtis Granderson. Detroit over Minnesota by 4 games.
Finally, over to an interesting A.L. West. The usual suspects immediately come to mind. The Angels will win this division , and not because the division hasn’t improved. Oakland represents their main competition, but look for new A’s Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi
to have mediocre seasons. Holliday is away from the hitter’s sanctuary that is Coors Field, and Jason Giambi has all but exhausted the magic from that moustache he grew last season. Though Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra
give experience to the infield, it won’t be enough to topple Anaheim’s multi-layered strengths. Anaheim wins by eight games.
So with the wagers made and my fingers
crossed, it is time to sit back and watch the drama unfold. When Bull Penned returns at the tail end of the summer, I’ll either have a resounding “I told you so” prepared, or an elaborate excuse as to why my predictions are about as accurate as Miss Cleo’s. See you next semester.
Go Habs Go!

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