"Hit this, sucker."
Sorry to recycle those famous words -- well, famous among the two or three of us Cleveland-area baseball fans that actually remember Jim Thome saying them -- but they haven't rung this true in a long time. Falling one game short of the World Series means the team with the worst logo in professional sports is pretty damn close -- especially without any major losses -- to accomplishing something of merit. Like, oh, I don't know, WINNING A FUCKING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OF ANY KIND FOR CLEVELAND FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1964. But I'm not bitter and harbor no animosity towards The Red Sux Nation nor The Fucking Yankees for outspending everyone on an annual basis thereby increasing their opportunities because, hey, that's the American way, isn't it. An actual salary cap would be socialistic and Stalinistic and would only lead to premarital intercourse, rampant wide stancing and the ingestion of illegal substances while zoning out to Grateful Dead albums. But enough about the fucked-up economics of the sport and onto the stuff that stirs the competitive soul, the action on the diamond.
AL East: Sure, Grade A wingnut Curt Schilling is hurt and Josh Beckett has a wonky back, but Boston can still smack the ball and probably has the deepest staff in baseball. The Fucking Yankees have seen some young talent blossom (Robinson Cano, Gnats-Frighten-Me Chamberlain) and have the capacity to take on monster contracts while scoring more than [insert disgraced politician joke of your choice], but there's some wear and tear in the field and especially on the mound. But not on the Clutchiest Shortstop of Clutchdom, the World's Only Living Superhero, by gosh! Toronto is quietly accumulating some skill and with some breaks (such as the bones of the above clubs) could push for a playoff spot. Tampa Bay and Baltimore merely suck in varying degrees, and once all that top-shelf youth begins to earn their paychecks -- which might start happening in Tampa this year -- they'll be leaving for greener pastures anyway. En plus, fuck you Floridians for getting rid of 'devil.' Wankers.
AL Central: Let's get the scrubs out of the way. Hard to believe that the Royals were at one time the poster child for professional expansion teams way back in the 1970s, when such teams received no perks of pity. They did it the old fashioned way -- they ehhhhned it. (It just isn't the same without audio. Oh well.) Anyway, despite young and talented dudes like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, they will continue their recent trend towards the pleasantly bad. At least Gil Meche sort of deserved his ridiculous contract last year. I really thought his ERA would be above five. Good job! The Twins? Well, they resigned Joe Nathan. They'll be 'scrappy' once again and finish under .500. The White Sox are only a few years removed from a world championship, and they can still clobber the ball, but good luck with those starters. I suggest kidnapping and/or human sacrifice. Which leaves us and Detroit. On paper, they have the better lineup and we have the better staff, though I certainly worry about C.C. and Fausto staying fresh after last season's marathon. The Tigers are currently infected with a rash of injuries and that might be prove to be just enough difference to give us the edge, but flip a coin.
AL West: The Los Angeles Angels of Walt Disney's Anti-Semitic Corpse of Anaheim will repeat, but barely. I know the Mariners are a chic pick, but they didn't add a reconstituted Ken Griffey or Edgar Martinez to the lineup, were outscored last year despite their 88 wins, and unless Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard turn into the second coming of Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar, forget it. That's all assuming another Angel starter doesn't get hurt. Oakland is retooling on the fly once again and will play this season's version of September spoiler. And then there's Chimpy's old team and its joke of a staff. But please, Ian Kinsler, hit 30+ for my fantasy team, thanks.
NL East: The NY Mets are not my favorite squadron, and they have been bitten by the injury insect as well, but they did add the best pitcher on Planet Earth and there's simply no way they can top last year's masterpiece of chokery. Philadelphia has a top-flight lineup and Cole Hamels and Atlanta has quietly added some pop since abdicating their near-birthright to the divisional throne, but will either one have enough to hold off the Mets? Florida traded a bunch of their best players for the 85th year in a row -- hard to blame them when three people come to the game, but did you really have to trade Cabrera to the Tigers? -- and the Senators simply aren't very good. Now about Washington's baseball team. Admit it. You chuckled.
NL Central: You know the second Kerry Wood blows a save, some fucker will ramble on about that goddamn curse. Shut the fuck up already because it doesn't matter. Why? The Cubs are the best all-around team in the division again and curses only work in literature and film. I'd love to see a fellow, brat-eating Midwestern city get in, but the Brewers don't have enough pitching and you know Ben Sheets will get hurt like he does every year. You can set your watch to it. Each season has a sleeper, and what the hell, I say it's Cincinnati. The Reds, like the DEVIL Rays, have some nice young talent, but aren't quite ready at the moment. Boy, did the Cardinals get crappy quick, but when you drink the bitter bromide of age, ineffectiveness and injury, that's what happens. The Pirates will likely float below .500, but their staff isn't as bad as you think. Matt Morris, Paul Maholm and Zach Duke can't be that bad again, can they? And then there's the Astros, wasting the arm of Roy Oswalt and a solid lineup. But man, the rest of those pitchers. Must be something in the Texas water.
NL West: The Dodgers have a quality staff, a monster, if aging, closer, and young dude James Loney will be crushing the ball with gusto. Funny how I don't hate Joe Torre anymore now that he's not wearing pinstripes. San Diego had the best 1-2 punch in baseball in Jake Peavy and Chris Young, and don't be surprised if the latter continues to get better as his ERA and WHIP have improved three years running. They don't brutalize the ball, but their babyfaced lineup will score just enough -- barely -- though I wonder how many quality starts 752-year old Greg Maddux can give them. A hell of a run by Colorado, but does anyone really see that happening again? They have enough talent to do so. Arizona added Dan Haren to an already excellent staff, but lest we forget, they, like Seattle, were outscored last year, so don't put on your shuffleboard shoes yet, retirees. Holy hell, the Giants might have the worst everyday lineup in the history of the known universe. One hundred losses is a possibility. I could see poor Matt Cain impersonating Nolan Ryan circa 1987: leading the league in ERA and going 8-16.
AL wild card: Just wouldn't be an American League postseason without The Fucking Yankees, would it? Why, yes it would because Detroit, not The Fucking Yankees, will be the fourth playoff team in the American League. Of course Alex Rodriguez will get blamed. Duh.
NL wild card: The *rolls die* Padres edge the Phillies, Brewers, Rockies, Braves and Diamondbacks.
ALCS: Boston over Cleveland. Again. Sigh.
NLCS: The Non-Evil team from New York over The Ghost of Harry Caray.
World Series: Yes, they'll repeat. Boston over The Non-Evil team from New York. Get ready for rehashes of Buckner and cokeheads a' plenty.