The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
You're not going to believe these pre-season picks

Well, Major League Baseball finally got it right by having all 30 major-league teams play their first game of the season on the same day, a true Opening Day, versus spreading it out over a few days like it’s been done for the past several years.  I’ve long advocated for baseball’s Opening Day to become a national holiday, but how could you celebrate a holiday when it’s spread over several days?

I’m a few days late in getting out my pre-season predictions before Opening Day, but it’s no big deal since I figure it’s shaping to be a pretty boring regular season anyway, with regard to the division races and wild cards.

Boring?

It will be boring from the perspective that I think all of last year’s division winners will repeat again this season.  Boston, Cleveland, and Houston in the American League.  Los Angeles, Washington, and Chicago in the National League.  With the exception of the Red Sox, they aren’t viable challengers who can overtake last year’s winners, unless of course last year’s winners should unfortunately incur injuries to key players.  Repeating division winners can make for a boring regular season.  Each of those six teams is returning a strong club; and even though the Red Sox and Nationals have new managers in 2018, they figure to be very capable of leading their veteran teams.

The only division that might be contentious is the AL East where the Yankees will give the Red Sox a good run for its money for first place, like they did last year.  A lot of people are picking the Yankees to win the AL East because they believe the addition of slugger Giancarlo Stanton will propel them to overtake the Red Sox.  I don’t see Stanton and fellow slugger Aaron Judge repeating their “career years” from last season, when they both led their respective leagues in home runs.  Plus, it is unrealistic to think Yankees first-year manager Aaron Boone’s, with his lack of actual managerial and coaching experience, will be as good as 10-year veteran manager Joe Girardi, who came within one game of getting the Yankees to the World Series last year.  The “Baby Bombers” will have a good team again, but will have to settle for a wild card spot again, finishing behind Boston.

Now, here’s the really crazy part of my predictions for this year.  In addition to the Yankees, the other three wild-card spots will be repeat teams from last year, too.

The Minnesota Twins helped themselves in the offseason with the addition of veteran players in some key spots.  I predict they’ll win the other American League wild-card spot again.  The Los Angeles Angels will be better this season, too, so they could be the top challenger to the Yankees and Twins for a wild-card spot, but ultimately will fall short.  I don’t expect new Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani to provide the Angels the impact everyone is expecting this year.  The Angels have open questions in their pitching staff.

In the National League, Arizona and Colorado will outpace the Brewers and Mets for the other two wild-card spots.  The Rockies added much-needed depth to their relief staff.  The Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt will continue to lead a good offensive team that will be without the slew of home runs from J. D. Martinez in the last half of last season.  I’m picking them to repeat even though the Brewers, who were on the verge of reaching the playoffs last year, added veterans Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain to bolster their outfield, while the Mets hired former Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway as its new manager to harness their young stable of horses on the pitching staff.

Based on history, I realize the odds of every playoff team from last year, including the wild cards, repeating this season are practically zilch.  It’s never occurred since the divisional playoff system began in 1969.

However, here’s where I deviate from last year’s overall results.  The Astros and Cubs will win their respective leagues, but the Cubs will prevail over the Astros in the 2018 World Series.  Cubs manager Joe Maddon will figure out a way to re-focus his team this season to re-capture the magic of the 2016 team.  For Cubs fans though, that really wouldn’t be such a boring season after all, would it?

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