It’s that time of the year again where I preview the 2012 Major League Baseball Season, from who will win the Division’s to who will hoist the World Series Championship when it’s all said and done! The Major League Baseball season officially starts this week over in Japan but will start next week for everyone else when it hits the States starting in the new home of the Miami Marlins. Out of thirty teams one will be left standing with the right to be called the “2012 World Series Champion!” With that being said lets start off with the American League!
The American League has not hosted a World Series Champion since 2009 when the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies and each of the last two years the defending American League Champion has been the Texas Rangers, will that all change this season? The American League also welcomes Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder from the National League over to the American League creating quite possibly the most competitive league of the two in major league baseball. Only one team will have the right to represent the American League in the 2012 World Series and look to end the National League’s dominance the last two seasons. Lets take a look at each of the three American League divisions starting off with the AL East:
1. New York Yankees
The defending American League East Champions are poised to repeat this season after improving a pitching rotation that was criticized all last season. The Yankees got through 162 games on the arms of ace CC Sabathia, rookie Ivan Nova, inconsistent A.J. Burnett and two pitchers past their prime Freddy Garcia & Bartolo Colon. With that rotation New York was able to win 97 games and make it into the postseason where their rotation could not matchup with the Detroit Tigers.
For quite a while (even dating back to 2009 when they won the World Series) the Yankees have been criticized for their lack of bullpen depth and now they have it with at least 6-7 starting pitchers on their roster. New York’s biggest flaw was matching their pitching with the pitching of an elite Baseball team and that’s what kept them from winning their 28th World Championship. New York has that and will be a top favorite to be crowned American League Champions.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays for all intensive purposes were not supposed to be competitive last season. For all intensive purposes they were not supposed to make the playoffs either. But in reality the Tampa Bay Rays were competitive last season (despite losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and basically all of their bullpen) and did make the playoffs in miracle fashion in Game #162. Many people thought that this team would be good again but it wouldn’t be till 2012 or 2013 when more of their “homegrown” talent continued to develop and live up to their potential.
Well one year removed off of their projected “down year” the Rays are back and looking a team that may be better then their American League Championship team back in 2008. The starting rotation, if it lives up to it’s potential, may be the best in all of Baseball and their bullpen, despite all the losses they faced heading in 2011, may be the best bullpen in Baseball. This team is very dynamic, very young and very fun to watch.
With all those positives comes the hunger this team will desire for all season long. They will keep the American League East extremely close all season long and challenge for the division crown. I believe the “projected success” for this team is the only thing holding them back from being an American League East division winner prediction.
3. Boston Red Sox
Boston has dealt with their fair share of ups and downs & heartbreaks. But Game #161 for them snapped one of the most popular Red Sox dynasties into pieces leaving “scorched earth” for new manager Bobby Valentine and new manager Ben Cherington to deal with. Times they are “a-changing” in “beantown” and I believe that while they will be competitively dominant they will face a lot of struggles as they try to gel this team back together after the horrible collapse from last season.
The Red Sox locker room is tumultuous and I believe still has remnants of it from last season. Carl Crawford will deal with the pressures of his huge contract from last season and Adrian Gonzalez will continue to prove he is the team leader now. But the biggest issue I believe the Red Sox will face is Bobby Valentine as their new manager. Valentine wasn’t their first choice to be manager and isn’t necessarily the “Red Sox material” of most managers they hire. His first season should be a bumpy one as the Red Sox continue to their pursuit to return to October Baseball.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
This Blue Jays team reminds me of the Tampa Bay Rays from a couple years ago. You think they are going to explode as a team and contend but wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t. I still think that is the case here.
Toronto has made phenomenal strides in recent years to improve this team and they continue to do so on a regular basis. Being the AL East hurts them and the competitive level is just so high amongst all five teams. Toronto is almost there but it’s just not this season.
5. Baltimore Orioles:
This Orioles team frustrates me a lot. I predicted they would be competitive last season and they weren’t. I predicted them to be competitive two years ago and they weren’t then either. So I’m just going to predict them for last place in the AL East this season as that potential “window of success” is starting to close on them and I predict that Buck Showalter won’t be the manager in Baltimore come the end of the season.
1. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers did what they could to improve their rotation last season and they did with the addition of Doug Fister who played a key role in their late October run to the ALCS. But when it came to meet up with the Texas Rangers last season’s ALCS there was one thing miss, offensive depth. Well they answered that question doing the off-season by adding Prince Fielder.
A line-up with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in it is almost every manager’s dream, especially in that ballpark. Both of these players will compliment each other so well and make each other better on a game-to-game basis. Compare that to their already good rotation and bullpen & you have a very good well-rounded team.
It also helps that the Tigers sit in the AL Central, quite possibly the worst division in all of Baseball. I really see Detroit winning close to 100 games this season and possibly pulling away in the AL Central come late-August/early September. This team has a chip on their shoulder and they want to win a World Series for the motor city.
2. Kansas City Royals
For years most scouts kept telling baseball fans that come 2012 this Royals team is going to be just as good as the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays team were. You remember that 2008 Rays team right? Well they went straight to the World Series in a season that shocked the Baseball world.
Well while the Royals will be good this season they won’t be that good. They still have a season or two to fine tool this team and help bring Baseball back to Kansas City but will prove to be a top competitive team in the AL Central this season. Kansas City still has a couple of holes to fill on this team and need to continue to develop the future stars they have before they come knocking on the door of the Detroit Tigers.
3. Cleveland Indians
This franchise shocked Baseball last season as for the good part of the year they were leading the AL Central until after the All-Star break where they started to fall apart. Cleveland has made some competitive moves the last year or so by getting guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe but they won’t repeat what they did last season. For me, until this team makes some more key additions they may have reached their plateau; it actually wouldn’t surprise me if they fall below the Twins in the AL Central standings this season.
4. Minnesota Twins
It seemed like I couldn’t bet against the Minnesota Twins at all. Every season they looked like they would finally collapse and they would then make the playoffs by winning the division. Well if you guessed that I had the Twins being competitive in the AL Central last season you were right.
It’s starting to surprisingly look like the Twins may have gotten all they can out of the Morneau & Mauer in Minnesota and may be focusing more on developing younger talent for the future of this franchise. I don’t see Minnesota really being that competitive this season and may be at best a 75 win team. They just need to reboot their logic and starting planning for the future to bring this franchise back to its dominance.
5. Chicago White Sox
Don’t expect much from the White Sox this season. This is admittedly a “rebuilding season” for the 2005 World Series Champions. The “Ozzie Guillen era” is over in Chicago and now they look towards the future in former player now manager Robin Ventura. It’ll be a hard year for this White Sox team and its fans as they rebuild.
1. Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels had the biggest off-season of any team in all of Major League Baseball. For the last couple of seasons the Angels have been playing “second fiddle” to the Texas Rangers in the AL Western Division, a division that the Angels dominated for most of the 2000’s. Being the “red-headed stepchild” to the Rangers dominance the last couple of seasons led them to landing two of the biggest stars from the 2011 World Series as they shockingly signed Albert Pujols away from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals and ironically enough, C.J. Wilson from the rival Texas Rangers.
I truly believe the Los Angeles Angels will be the best team in Baseball this season. The signings remind me a lot of what the Yankees did in the 2009 off-season when they signed CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeria and AJ Burnett. The Yankees retaliated missing the playoffs in 2008 with these signings and ended up winning the World Championship in 2009. Los Angeles have missed the playoffs since being eliminated by the Yankees in 2009 and retaliated by making the biggest off-season splashes in all of Baseball.
The addition of Albert Pujols does a lot for a team whose offense has gotten older in recent years and now changes the complexity of this team as an offensive unit. As for the pitching CJ Wilson is merely an addition to an already great pitching rotation that turns this former Rangers to a potential #3 starter behind Dan Haren and Jered Weaver. The Angels have a lot of good things going so far and look to be the team to beat in the West.
2. Texas Rangers
They have won the American League Champions two years in a row. That statistic alone is one to be proud of but it also shows that the last two seasons they have been the losers in the World Series. In 2011 they were literally one out away from becoming World Champions and blew it all in Game 6 of the World Series & eventually losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. Texas looks to once again capture the American League Champion and this time win the World Championship.
Derek Holland has proven to be a potential ace in the future but not right now. Neftali Feliz is trying to become a starter this season but most of the time those experiments never pan out well. Not to mention the Rangers enter this season with some off-season controversy after Josh Hamilton relapsed again. Texas is going to have a good season but the little dynasty of American League dominance is going to end this season.
3. Oakland Athletics
Oakland had a really crazy off-season this year as they traded away Trevor Cahill & Gio Gonzalez, arguably the aces of this young A’s staff and also sent young closer Andrew Bailey to Boston. The Athletics then responded to those trades by signing Manny Ramirez and Cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes & adding some much needed offensive depth to their team. The moves left many people scratching their heads as it looked like your normal “rebuilding year” and instead the A’s showed that they wanted to be at least a contender in the West. Obviously the A’s have a while to get back to their early 2000 AL West dominance but at least they have given fans a reason to go visit the ballpark with Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup.
4. Seattle Mariners
Things have been rough in Seattle the last couple of seasons. The big Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee trades never really worked out & the glory days of Lou Pinella coaching have been long gone. That trend will probably continue this season as well but at least there is hope after they traded away pitcher Michael Pineda for the Yankees prized prospect Jesus Montero. It’s all part of a rebuilding process in Seattle and one that will continue for some time as I predict them to be the “bottom feeders” of the AL West this season.
American League Division Winners: New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels
American League Wild Card Teams: Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers
For more Baseball talk join us every Sunday on “The Wheelhouse” and download the show at www.wheelhouseradio.com!
Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com
Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com
You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck