And to get the predictions over with before the All Star game, the rest of the AL outlook:
Chicago: Adam Dunn may – must- rebound from horrible 2011; Alex rios, not so much. Should be a calmer losing clubhouse without Ozzie Guillen.
2012 Prediction: 74 wins, 4th place.
Cleveland: Ubaldo Jimenez is apparently one angry Indian, but it looks more and more like it was Cleveland that got scalped in the Colorado trade. If this team could stay healthy, it might have a shot at respectability . Then again, if pigs could fly , umbrella salesmen would be millionaires. For now, the best bet for both is to hope for rain-outs. 2012 Prediction: 76 wins, 3rd place
Detroit: Quite a trifecta with the addition of Fielder to the potential duo of MVP’s, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. As good as Cabrera has been, one might suspect his best is yet to come and ’12 could be it. Like a grumpy porcupine, Detroit is simply untouchable.
2012 Prediction: 100 wins, 1st place
Kansas City: good high draft picks starting to pay dividends, but still a pitcher and a year away from real competitiveness.
2012 Prediction: 81 wins, 2nd place
Minnesota: Justin Morneau seems to be over his concussion finally; now the only headache for the Twins is a general lack of pitching and hitting. Cuddyer’s departure will leave a big hole in clubhouse and lineup.
2012 Prediction: 68 wins, 5th place
LA-Anaheim: A good team which got better in the off-season. Yet it’s worth noting that Pujols has been in a steady decline for the past three years (though at 99 rbi and over .500 slugging last year, he’s still pretty formidable!) and his bat may not be enough to compensate for the other aging, declining bats in the outfield. Morales could be a big return ; still in this division it would take divine intervention for the Angels to win it all.
2012 prediction: 94 wins, 2nd place
Oakland: hey, Brad Pitt almost won an Oscar wearing an A’s cap! Can the Yankees or Phils say that? And Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, their surprise off-season signing, is off to a flying start in the USA. So they have that going for them too. Beyond that… well, if the rules are ever changed so that the team with most yellow and green on hat wins, Oakland might have a sporting chance again.
2012 Prediction: 62 wins, 4th place
Seattle: no one loves Oakland more than the Mariners. Or at least they should; without the A’s Seattle would have little chance to ever climb out of the basement. Ichiro is a national treasure in two countries and a surefire Hall of Famer down the road, but at almost 39, a guy who’s career has been built largely on speed who had a lower on base percentage than fellow oldie Juan Pierre and hit fewer extra base hits than kurt Suzuki last year may be past his “best before” date.
2012 Prediction: 64 wins, 3rd place
Texas: you must have been hibernating if you didn’t know about Yu this past winter. Darvish may be a big gamble and won’t dominate like he did in Japan, but his work ethic seems solid and he won’t need to dominate opponents with a team that can produce runs like Texas. Feliz a starter? Remains to be seen. But even the downside of questions about the Rangers seem to point to an easy ride to the playoffs again. Jays looks silly for trading Napoli to them so easily. Cruz will have massive year; only question about hamilton should be his physical durability, not his sobriety.
2012 Prediction: 101 wins, 1st place.
American League miscellania:
Batting Title: Cabrera (DET), Cano (NYY), Young (TEX)
Home Runs: Cabrera (DET), Bautista (TOR), Cruz (TEX)
RBI: Cabrera (DET), Granderson (NYY), Pujols (LAA)
…that’s right, I called it here first… look for Miguel Cabrera to win the first Triple Crown in over 40 years.
Wins: Verlander (DET), Weaver (LAA), Shields (TAM)
ERA: Verlander (DET), Romero (TOR), Holland (TEX)
MVP: Cabrera (DET), Cano (NYY), Cruz (TEX)
Cy Young: Verlander (DET), Shields (TAM), Romero (TOR)
Rookie: Darvish (TEX). Too bad Alvarez tossed 63 innings for Toronto last year and isn’t a technical rookie.
Playoffs: Tampa over Anaheim (1 game)
Texas over Tampa
New York over Detroit
Texas over New York
World Series: oddly enough a rematch of 2011 teams but this year
Texas over St Louis in 5 (with home advantage) or 6 (with Cards holding advantage)
So there you have it… after almost four decades it is finally the Rangers time to shine. But Miguel Cabrera will steal the spotlight during the regular season. And our Blue Jays– our Jays will continue to be tolerably decent and once again talk of “next year”.