Welcome Back Baseball

Jason Rickett Welcome back baseball! It’s great to have you back. There are so many great storylines to follow this season but obviously one, the one you all care about, is will the Cubs repeat as world series champions? And I regretfully inform all those of us, myself included, that are Sox and/or Cardinals fans that I definitely wouldn’t bet against it. Latin was fortunate enough to have the world series trophy come to the theater a week or so ago and all the Cubs fans poured in to take a photo. Even a diehard Cardinals fan and an avid Cub hater like myself showed up. There is, for the first time in a long while, a lot of reason for hope and high expectation for North Side baseball fans. Your years of fandom have finally paid off to Forbes best leader in the world, analytics guru Theo Epstein. I just can’t deny it – the Cubs roster is stacked from top to bottom. Reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant is one of the best hitters in baseball and he’s only entering his 3rd year. Anthony Rizzo has been an all-star for 3 straight years and he won a gold glove for his stellar fielding. Rizzo is in my opinion the most lovable player on the team once known as the lovable losers. He overcame cancer and has become one of the best players in the game with a real shot at the MVP this year. If you need any more proof about just how awesome of a guy Rizzo is watch the  video (link below). His old teammate and longtime friend, also a cancer survivor and cub ace John Lester is poised to have another great year. The Cubs won 103 games last year AND THEY DIDN’T HAVE SCHWARBER FOR ANY OF THOSE GAMES. Sox fans, Cubs haters, I’m with you, believe me, but I just can’t give any reason to not think that the Cubs aren’t going to be great this year no matter how hard I try. Sorry. Thankfully the Cubs aren’t the only storyline worth following and if you, like me, would rather follow anything other than Cubs winning a whole bunch of games then ignore what I just said and listen to me now. The Cubs certainly aren’t a lock for the world series and one contender who might dethrone them is the very team the Cubs beat in Game 7, The Indians. Yep the Indians are back and much better with the addition of home run machine Edwin Encarnacion and a healthy rotation the team that came so close just 1 year ago is poised to win it this year. And as the only good team in the division, sorry Sox fans, they are a virtual lock for the postseason. The sox do have two things to look forward to the call up of the number one prospect in the minors Yoan Moncada and a very high draft pick. If you want something to cheer for cheer for the other Sox, the Red Sox. Former White Sox ace Chris Sale will finally get the run support he needs to get serious consideration for the Cy Young and, The Red Sox with Sale are the favorites to win the AL East. The Blue Jays are a good team with a chance to make some noise thanks to a great rotation but an aging Bautista just isn’t enough and Kendrys Morales is not nearly the player that Encarnacion was. The AL West, however, is the best division in baseball. The Mariners, the Astros, and the Rangers are all very good teams and it is not unlikely that all 3 of the make the playoffs. Oh and Mike Trout is on the Angels. The unquestioned best player in baseball could possibly carry the Angels to the postseason with a little help from living legend Albert Pujols. The NL West is much less inspiring. The Dodgers are clearly the best team and Clayton Kershaw is the most dominant pitcher I have seen in my lifetime. The Dodgers would be elevated from World Series hopefuls to legitimate contenders if Rich Hill can stay healthy and the uber talented Yasiel Puig reaches his incredibly high potential. The Giants are uninspiring to me despite the addition of Johnny Cueto because they were awful down the stretch last season. The Giants will struggle to put up runs and their lack of bullpen won’t help matters. My sleeper team this year is the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 3-4 combination of Jake Lamb and MVP Candidate Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best in baseball and a bounce back year from Greinke or Shelby Miller might be enough to get them a wildcard. The Nationals will run away with the NL East behind a resurgence from 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper and will give the Cubs a run for their money in the postseason. The Mets are the best team that won’t make the playoffs thanks to a poor defense and bullpen. However, Thor and Degrom are two of the best pitchers in the league and could make them a tough out if they do make it to the playoffs. The only team not named the Cubs that can make a playoff push this year is their longtime rival my St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals are used to being the alpha dogs/bullies of the Central and they won’t roll over and submit to this changing of the guard. Ace Carlos Martinez and a very high powered offense makes them a dangerous team no one wants to face. However, the Cubbies will take the division.   Award Predictions:   NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw. I know very boring but he is undoubtedly the best pitcher in baseball. The only way he won’t win is injury or voter boredom.   AL Cy Young: Chris Archer. Chris Archer is one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. He arguably the best slider in baseball. The only thing standing in his way is team success. He might not rack up enough wins with a wear Rays lineup supporting him.   AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Benintendi. Clear choice here he was rated ESPN’s top prospect this spring and he is set up for success in a great Boston lineup.   NL Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson. The future face of the Braves will thrive in an otherwise weak pool of candidates.   AL MVP: Carlos Correa. Carlos Correa takes the award over Trout not because he is better but because his team is better. Unfortunately, that matters a lot to voters.   NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt. I’m torn between Harper and Goldschmidt, but I gave Goldschmidt the nod for bringing a less talented team to the playoffs and a better On Base Percentage.   Playoff Predictions   Wild Card:   Mariners vs. Rangers   Cardinals vs. Diamondbacks   Divisional Round:   Red Sox vs. Mariners   Astros vs. Indians   Dodgers vs. Cardinals   Cubs vs. Nationals   Conference Finals:   Mariners vs. Indians   Cubs vs. Dodgers   World Series:   Dodgers vs. Indians The 2017 World Series Champions will be the Cleveland Indians making it twice in a row that the longest streak of not winning the World Series will be broken. Kershaw will come up just short once again and the Indians will get their redemption. ]]>