The new Major League Baseball (MLB) season finally begins on American soil with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres Sunday night. There is a lot to watch for this season as MLB says goodbye to Derek Jeter, welcome back to Albert Pujols, and braces for season long battles in the American League East, National League Central and National League West.
Here is what else to expect for this MLB year:
NL East: 1. Washington Nationals, 2. Atlanta Braves, 3. Philadelphia Phillies, 4. New York Mets, 5. Miami Marlins
The Nationals will bounce back after last season but the Braves will be on their heels all season and will challenge for a wild card spot. The Phillies need to stay in it early or there could be a fire sale by the Fourth of July. The Mets are still a year away from significant improvement and the Marlins are exactly Bud Selig’s worst fear. No hope.
NL Central: 1. St. Louis Cardinals 2. Cincinnati Reds, 3. Pittsburgh Pirates, 4. Milwaukee Brewers, 5. Chicago Cubs
The Pirates fall a bit back without AJ Burnett and the Reds take advantage. This feels a lot like last year when the Cardinals won 97 games and all three teams contended til the end. Expect the same with a slight edge to the Cards and their experience. The Brewers will hover around the .500 mark and the Cubs are still a couple of years away from contention.
NL West: 1. San Francisco Giants, 2. Los Angeles Dodgers, 3. Arizona Diamondbacks, 4. San Diego Padres, 5. Colorado Rockies
One of baseball’s best rivalries will be one of the highlights of the 2014 season as the Giants and Dodgers go toe to toe all summer long. Expect the Giants to come out on top after a disappointing 2013 season because of a better pitching staff, manager and organization. Arizona will not be far behind but will not contend for a wild card after losing Patrick Corbin. The Padres and Rockies will continue to flounder as they wait on their young talent.
AL East: 1. Boston Red Sox, 2. New York Yankees, 3. Tampa Bay Rays, 4. Baltimore Orioles, 5. Toronto Blue Jays
The Red Sox, much like the Cardinals, will implement some youth to their roster and be better for it. The Yankees and Rays will be with them all season but Boston prevails. The Yankees will improve but there’s too much age to get any further than a wild card. The Rays battle them for that spot while the Orioles and Blue Jays wonder just how many games they could win if they were not stuck in the AL East.
AL Central: 1. Detroit Tigers, 2. Kansas City Royals, 3. Cleveland Indians, 4. Chicago White Sox, 5. Minnesota Twins
Verlander is back to form and Scherzer is in the final year of a contract. That seems like too much for the Royals to overcome although they will contend for a wild card. The Indians will contend for a while but will fade away as the summer wears on. The White Sox and Twinkies have work to do.
AL West: 1. Los Angeles Angels, 2. Oakland A’s, 3. Texas Rangers, 4. Seattle Mariners, 5. Houston Astros
Albert Pujols is back and so too are the Angels. They don’t have enough pitching to reach the World Series as currently constituted but they have enough to surpass the A’s without ace Jarrod Parker who was lost for the season. The Rangers made some moves but are not the same without Nolan Ryan in charge. The Mariners should be better but the Astros are like the Marlins; No hope.
Here are your season awards.
NL MVP : Bryce Harper
AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL Cy Young Award: Adam Wainwright
AL Cy Young Award: Justin Verlander
The World Series will feature MLB’s two best markets again as the Cardinals meet the Red Sox in a rematch of the 2013 World Series. The Cards get their revenge as David Ortiz more closely resembles the 38-year-old man he is rather than the 38-year-old man Barry Bonds was. Cards win in six.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the NL Central