Last season, I was very daring and bold with my American League picks, brazenly dismissing the Yankees and predicting that the Minnesota Twins were the class of the American League. The Twins got part of the way there, but it was the Yankees who gelled in midseason and rode their cavalcade to another sickening World Series Championship.
If that wasn't bad enough, I feel now as though there's nobody in particular who can get in their way. Yankee fans seem to have this "woe is me" attitude, as though they're the diva who just wants to whine and get attention. I'm sick of them. I'm sure everyone who's a Mets fan, or a fan of any other team is sick of them. Unfortunately, we can't get away from them.
1) New York Yankees (111-53)
I called a lot of factors about the team into question last year, like the strength of their pitching staff and the durability of some of their players, and I was proven wrong on all fronts. So I give up. I can't bother fighting it anymore. There's always some issues, whether it's over Joba and Phil Hughes, or the fact that everyone still hates A-Rod, or whether guys like Teixeira, Swisher and Sabathia can repeat their strong showings, but does it really matter? People are up in arms over getting rid of Johnny Damon but nobody seems to realize that the guy they brought in to replace him is 10 times better. Believe me. Yankee fans just want more attention. Just shut up and enjoy watching your damn team run away with it again.
2) Tampa Bay Rays (94-68) (Wildcard)
Love this team and their young underdog spirit. And guys like Longoria, BJ Upton and Carlos Pena are just eminently likable and starting to enter their primes. And they definitely have the pitching behind James Shields and Matt Garza, and David Price is probably ready to emerge after a solid 2nd half. They came back to earth a bit last year after shocking everyone in 2008, but they'll be back, and they'll be tough to beat.
3) Boston Red Sox (92-70)
This team has pitching galore, but I have this odd feeling that they will scuffle a bit on offense. They're built around speed and guys who get on base alot in Ellsbury, Pedroia and Youkilis, but I'm dubious as to whether or not Ortiz will ever return to his 2004-07 form. Mike Cameron is a nice addition, but he won't provide the production lost in the Jason Bay deal. They'll certainly contend, but I think they'll come up a little bit short.
4) Toronto Blue Jays (80-82)
Too many bad contracts makes this team a bit of a sinking ship. They got some nice chips in the Halladay trade, but it's not going to make a difference playing in this division, where they seem to constantly be doomed from the start.
5) Baltimore Orioles (74-88)
Talented pieces are actually in place here, but they're still at least two years away from being taken seriously. Nonetheless, optimism, a word that hasn't existed in Orioles vernacular for several seasons, is actually creeping back into the fold.
1) Minnesota Twins (90-72)
In giving long term contracts to Morneau and Mauer, the Twins have shown that they are indeed willing to do whatever it takes to keep the nucleus of this team together. Many players get traded away, but it seems like their system, clearly one of the best-run in the Major Leagues, can keep churning out talented prospects wherever they are needed. They're going to have a big problem closing games with Nathan out, but this is a team that does not quit and I think that's going to be enough to give them another division title.
2) Chicago White Sox (88-74)
A full season with a healthy Jake Peavy ought to help out quite a bit, but the bats of Magglio Ordonez and Paul Konerko are starting to get up there in years. Based on where these two guys, perennially among the league leaders in power production, landed in my Fantasy league draft, it seems that most people have soured on them.
3) Detroit Tigers (87-75)
Also contenders but lack in depth in their pitching rotation behind Verlander and Porcello. Austin Jackson looks to be an interesting prospect to watch in Center Field taking over for Granderson, but the rest of the lineup seems to be a bit boom or bust.
4) Kansas City Royals (75-87)
The constant theme of two steps forward, two steps back will repeat itself in KC. Zack Greinke is all world, but there's just not enough talent behind him, pitching-wise, to think they're going to surprise anyone. If Greinke could go 7 innings and bridge right to Joakim Soria for 2 every day, they'd be golden, but Baseball doesn't seem to work that way.
5) Cleveland Indians (68-94)
I saw a game at Jacobs Field last season, and while it's a beautiful ballpark, it's emblematic of the City of Cleveland itself. On a beautiful, sun-soaked Sunday afternoon, the ballpark was at best 1/3 full, even in the best seats in the house. It's a failing, depressing team based in a depressing city, and Grady Sizemore is basically a one-man island surrounded by the dreck that is Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera.
1) Anaheim Angels (93-69)
I keep picking the Mariners to knock them off and to this point it hasn't happened. They lost John Lackey and I'm not convinced Joel Pineiro is the answer to replace him, but this team is tough to beat no matter who goes to the mound for them.
2) Seattle Mariners (91-71)
This race will come right down to the wire but the Mariners will fade down the stretch. Cliff Lee makes their pitching rotation even more respectable after Felix Hernandez, but I don't think it's going to be enough.
3) Texas Rangers (85-77)
Another chic pick to win this division, they boast a boatload of offensive firepower (as usual) in guys like Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, but now they finally have some solid pitching to back them up. Give them another year. If they continue to improve and add a couple more pieces, I'll give them serious consideration in 2011.
4) Oakland Athletics (73-89)
AL MVP: Evan Longoria, TB
AL CY YOUNG: Felix Hernandez, SEA
AL ROY: Austin Jackson, DET
ALDS: New York over Minnesota, Tampa Bay over Anaheim
ALCS: New York over Tampa Bay
I'm ready and waiting for another season of clenched teeth and ear-covering. Bring it on.