Baseball sparks spring fever

The opening of the Major League Baseball season seems to hold greater importance to fans in the area this spring. It isn’t that the Minnesota Twins are headed to the World Series, or anywhere close for that matter.
People are so desperate for any sign of springtime that people who wouldn’t normally rejoice over baseball’s beginning are clutching onto it as their first sign of spring fever.
The Major League Baseball season should be intriguing. Some of the old guard like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have slipped to the second tier, while new teams like Toronto and Washington have become the fashionable choices as World Series contenders.
Here is one person’s view of how the 2013 Major League Baseball season will shake out.

American League Central
1. Detroit. 2. Kansas City. 3. Cleveland. 4. Chicago White Sox. 5. Minnesota.
Detroit will be the most heavily favored division contender in baseball. The Tigers might coast through the first three-quarters of the season like they did last year, but they have enough juice to win this division by 30 games. Adding Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter and deleting Delmon Young? Did any team have a better winter than that?
Kansas City is the best of the rest, which ain’t saying much. Minnesota will spend one more year at the bottom before starting its move upward next season.

American League East
1. Tampa. 2. Toronto. 3. Baltimore. 4. Boston. 5. New York Yankees.
The biggest advantage Tampa has over Toronto is managing. Toronto’s every day lineup is the best in the division, but I’ll take Tampa’s starting rotation over the mega-million rotation put together by Toronto. Tampa’s rotation is young and good and getting better. Toronto’s rotation has peaked. Baltimore, Boston and New York will be a step back. Baltimore was a contender last year purely due to the brilliant managing done by Buck Showalter. Can he perform his smoke-and-mirror act for another season?

American League West
1. California. 2. Oakland. 3. Texas. 4. Seattle. 5. Houston.
This is the season the Angels fulfill their promise. They aren’t perfect, but they have fewer holes than their counterparts. Oakland has some impressive pieces, especially Yeonis Cespedes and some young pitchers. Texas took a step back, letting too much talent go in the off-season. Seattle might compete in the A.L. East, but the Mariners will be 20 games out in this division. And the Mariners will still be 30 games better than Houston.

National League Central
1. Cincinnati. 2. St. Louis. 3. Milwaukee. 4. Pittsburgh. 5. Chicago Cubs.
Cincinnati has amassed enough talent to win this division comfortably. The team with the most possible upside to threaten Cincinnati is Pittsburgh. But we might wait another decade for the Pirates to recognize their abilities. St. Louis will sink like a rock if either Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran misses an extended stretch of time. Milwaukee’s signing of Kyle Lohse makes them a threat to St. Louis, but the Brewers are still 10 games behind Cincinnati.

National League East
1. Washington. 2. Atlanta. 3. Philadelphia. 4. New York Mets. 5. Miami.
Washington has the future every team dreams about. With Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, etc., the Nationals are set to be a top contender for the rest of the decade. Atlanta will be nipping at the Nationals’ heels most of that time too. There’s a substantial dropoff with each the next three teams. Philadelphia has three starting pitchers and an aging lineup. The Mets have David Wright and a bunch of below average pitchers. The Mets look like all-stars compared to Miami, which is an embarrassment to baseball.

National League West.
1. San Francisco. 2. Los Angeles Dodgers. 3. Arizona. 4. San Diego. 5. Colorado.
Every year I downgrade the Giants and they keep coming back. Bruce Bochy is a magician, to win 90-plus games with that roster. The Dodgers spent tons of money, but they still don’t have a team that will scare anyone. The Diamondbacks are a sleeper. There’s a good young team lurking there, with plenty of fire. San Diego is another team that’s starting to mature. Colorado has a decent offense with Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, etc., but the Rockies have a dreadful pitching staff that will serve as an anchor that keeps weighing them down.

American League Championship Series:
Los Angeles Angels over Detroit

National League Championship Series:
Washington over Cincinnati

2013 World Series:
Washington over Los Angeles Angels