Ah, spring. Renewal and rebirth.
And every team comes to spring training tied for first. Every team has a shot at a title. Except, of course, all those teams that don’t because their rosters are filled with more cheap cadavers than our low-rent ward.
The way I see it, the 30 MLB teams are divided into three groups: those that are dead on arrival, those that will definitely be alive in September and those that, like me, are somewhere in between.
Wish it was wide open, but if you think there’s any chance those damn Yankees aren’t going to repeat with that ridiculous roster you’re more of a blockhead than I am.
Here are my rankings, 30 to 1, beginning with the hopeless 10.
Dead on arrival
30. Washington Nationals — And I thought my team was bad when I lost 96 games in D.C. as skipper of the Senators in 1971. The Nats lost 103 last year and should lose another hundy easy this season. Stephen Strasburg looms on the horizon and Yankee fans must be getting excited about the prospect of acquiring him in 2013 after he completes his growing pains in Washington.
29. Pittsburgh Pirates — Seventeen straight losing seasons? If you had to bet on it, which do you think will happen first, the Buccos have a winning record or science finds a way to reanimate the cryogenically frozen?
28. San Diego Padres — When Adrian Gonzalez gets shipped off at the trade deadline they can call in a Padre to give last rites to the team from my hometown.
27. Kansas City Royals — The best pitcher in baseball and … and … and … good luck, Zach Greinke. The Royals have averaged 98 losses the last six seasons.
26. Toronto Blue Jays — Let’s see, Aaron Hill hit 36 home runs, Marco Scutaro (in Beantown now) scored 100 runs and Roy Halladay (in Philly) went 17-10. And you finished 28 games out of first place. It only gets worse this season. 25. Arizona Diamondbacks — The D-Backs have gone from 90 wins to 82 wins to 70 wins the last three seasons. On days Chris Snyder catches, the Snakes will have zero Latinos in the lineup, which should make local sheriff Joe Arpaio happy even if that demographic fact does coincide with another last-place season.
24. Baltimore Orioles — It sure looked like the O’s had fleeced the ‘Stros in that 5-for-1 deal for MiggyTejada. Until, that is, those five guys took the field. Matt Albers (5.51) and Dennis Sarfate (5.09) both got rocked in the bigs last year; Troy Patton had a 6.45 ERA in Triple-A; and Mike Costanzo hit .202 in the bushes last year. Only Luke Scott, who will turn 32 this year, has been halfway decent. To compound matters, the O’s signed Tejada, who has led his league in GIDPs five of the last six seasons, to a one-year deal.
23. Houston Astros — The good news for Houston is they no longer have Albers, Sarfate, Patton or Costanzo in their system and won’t have the aged Tejada grounding into double plays this season. The bad news is everything else.
22. Oakland A’s — How’s that Moneyball working out ferya, Billy Beane? They screened “The Blind Side” for us down at the lab last weekend and the ol’ Splinter got a little misty. But nobody’s ever gonna make that other Michael Lewis book into a movie now that it’s proved to be pure fiction. The low-payroll A’s have won 76, 75 and 75 games the last three seasons.
21. Cleveland Indians — How many kicks to the gut are Tribe fans gonna take? CC Sabathia wins the Cy Young, gets dumped for prospects. Cliff Lee wins the Cy Young, gets dumped for prospects. Then Sabathia and Lee square off in a World Series that Cleveland fans couldn’t possibly watch. Poor bastards will have trouble watching what’s left behind again this year too.
20. Cincinnati Reds — The Great American Ballpark will now be home to the Great Cuban Phenom. But Aroldis Chapman’s 100 mph fastball won’t be able to do anything about a lineup that finished 24th in the bigs in runs scored and 28th in OBP.
19. Milwaukee Brewers — Fielder and Braun could be the best 1-2 punch in baseball, but how are they gonna get 27 outs every game?
18. New York Mets — OK, they got hit by a ton of injuries. And I suppose you can blame Citifield for the fact that Daniel Murphy led the team with 12 home runs. But how do you explain the fact that the guys who started the 137 games Johan Santana didn’t had a combined 5.13 ERA? In such a pitcher friendly park? Let’s face it, Omar Minaya took all that money and built a one-man rotation. 17. Chicago Cubs — Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot walked a combined 158 times last year. I walked 162 times in two separate seasons. Just in case anyone wants to know why the Cubs will have trouble scoring runs this season.
16. Florida Marlins — The Marlins remind me how much I miss fishing. And now I’ll remind them that if projected starters 2-5 had a combined 4.86 ERA last year you’re probably not going to contend.
15. Seattle Mariners — Everyone’s giddy about Cliff Lee pairing with King Felix at the top of the rotation, but the M’s could be looking at a slew of 2-1 losses with this anemic lineup. After finishing last in the league in runs scored Seattle lost team OPS and HR leader Russell Branyan (.867, 31). Are they really expecting Casey Kotchman and Ken Griffey, Jr. to replace that pop?
14. Detroit Tigers — Curtis Granderson was the motor in the Motor City until he motored off to the Bronx. Now Detroit has replaced Granderson, who has an .828 OPS in six big league seasons, with Austin Jackson who has had a .766 OPS in five minor league seasons. The Tigers could be stuck in neutral this season.
13. Tampa Bay Rays — It’s one thing to be David vs. Goliath but these poor bastards have to fight two AL East Goliaths every year with their puny sling of a payroll. “And David drew back his sling … and the second Philistine clubbed him over the head.”
12. San Francisco Giants — If the Giants clinch a playoff spot with Tim Lincecum on the mound, Bengie Molina and Pablo Sandoval better not jump on him or the little fella could be joining us here in the afterlife.
11. Texas Rangers — For the record, when I managed the Rangers to 100 losses in 1972 all I turned to for solace was ice cold beer. The Rangers are on the rise, but with a sidearmer with a 4.58 career ERA (Scott Feldman) you’d have to be on drugs to think they’re a legit contender.
Alive and kicking in September
10. Minnesota Twins — Hallelujah for Target Field. Baseball should be played outdoors so God can watch one of His all-time great creations catch for the Twins.
9. Colorado Rockies — The Rocks have spent the last four years alternating 70-something-win seasons with 90-something-win seasons. Ubaldo Jiminez wins 20 and the Rocks break the trend with another 90+ season.
8. Chicago White Sox — Buehrle, Peavy, Floyd, Danks, Garcia. With that rotation, the White Sox will contend even with Juan Pierre and Alexei Ramirez in the lineup.
7. Atlanta Braves — According to the seamheads and their Pythagorean theorem the Braves should have won 91 games last year (they won 86). And that was with their rightfielders combining for a .743 OPS. Now phenom Jason Heyward is in right to add some thunder to Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. They’ll win 90+ this season.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers — How is Vicente Padilla the Opening Day starter on a division favorite? This guy was probably the single biggest reason Ron Washington turned to drugs last season. 5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — Not sure where Torii Hunter was going when he called black Latinos “imposters” but Mike Scioscia’s rainbow coalition of whites, blacks, Dominicans, Venezuelans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Japanese is going to its usual destination: the playoffs.
4. St. Louis Cardinals — When he’s not falling asleep at stoplights or covering for cheater Mark McGwire, Tony La Russa is a helluva manager. He’s won four division titles in the last six years, and with a lineup built around Pujols and Holliday and a rotation topped by Wainright and Carpenter, you can bank on him making it five out of seven this year.
3. Boston Red Sox — Adding John Lackey to Jon Lester and Josh Beckett? Sure would have been nice if Red Sox management had known pitching won pennants back when I was playing.
2. Philadelphia Phillies — If I had my choice of players to pilot once we get this “Avatar” technology down it would be Ryan Howard. Can you imagine this guy’s power with my plate discipline? We’d go to the World Series every year. Kind of like the Phillies do now.
1. New York Yankees — In my career from 1939 to 1960 the Yankees won the AL pennant 15 times and the World Series 11 times. If they’re off on another run like that I may seriously have to reconsider this eternal life thing.
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