The Boys of Summer are back and Al Dannity expects familiar faces to dominate the diamond in Major League Baseball this season.
A familiar foursome The American League has a slight problem. Not a single game has been played yet we already know two of its playoff teams, are confident about the third, and have little reason to go against the fourth.
Starting off with the certainties. The Boston Red Sox have reloaded on defense to such an extent that they could set all kinds of records this season. With Lackey, Lesters and Beckett in the starting rotation, Boston has the deepest pitching staff in all of Baseball. For my money, despite such phenomenal defensive prowess they aren’t even the best team in the AL East. That honour remains with the World Champion New York Yankees. Already a juggernaut on both sides of the ball, the Yankees added 2009 All Star Curtis Granderson to their line-up in the off-season. Boston and New York will still be playing come October.
Moving out west and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lost a huge weapon in John Lackey but remain too good for the chasing pack for now. Seattle and Texas both have promise in their line-ups but neither the Rangers nor Mariners are primed to make the breakthrough in 2010. Come next year I expect that to change but for now the offensive might of the Angels will be enough to retain the AL West title.
The only area of doubt remaining is the AL Central. If a player of the calibre of Joe Nathan went down for the season anywhere other than Minnesota it would almost be safe to write off the season. The Twins however are that unique little franchise that finds a way to win. With Joe Mauer having just committed to play until he turns 35 and an ever improving pitching line-up, I fancy Minnesota at +125 to win the division. If you’re keeping score I’ve picked the same four teams that made last year’s playoffs to be back in 2010.
Suddenly the Nats matter Fans who complain about an East Coast bias in the media were given plenty to complain about this off-season where the media continued its love affair with a player that has yet to throw a single pitch in the majors, and probably won’t until at least June.
Stephen Strasburg is undoubtedly a player with tremendous potential but he’s signed to the worst team in Baseball and has yet to step up to the mound for that club. Of course the key issue with Strasburg is that the aforementioned worst team in Baseball happens to be the Washington Nationals. In a down year for Washington sports, outside of Hockey, all eyes are on Strasburg to bring some respectability to the club. It’s a tough ask, especially when AP reports about how Strasburg performed in an intra-squad game with a minor league team get carried nationally.
The Nats won’t contend this year but it does promise to be an entertaining year in the National League with plenty of moves being made to keep the playoff race interesting. When it comes to winning the NL pennant however don’t look beyond the loaded Phillies at +250.
We’ll have deeper analysis of all the divisions over the next couple of weeks. For the best MLB betting lines check out Sports Interaction’s online sports book.