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|4/6/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
|It's that time of year, the Observer baseball poll is back|
By Ross Eberhart
This is the year. I know it.
There is no doubt in my mind - 2013 is going to be the year in which I finally win the Observer baseball poll
Yes, I realize I said the exact same thing last year.
And the year before.
And the year before that.
Yes, I am aware that no Observer sports editor has ever won in the 14-year history of the competition.
Yes, I was the dummy who picked the Orioles to finish last in the American League (AL) East last year when they ended up being the wild card.
And yes, I picked the Nationals to finish fourth when they ended up having the best record in all of baseball (oops).
But you have to understand - after coming achingly close last year with a second-place finish - this is the year that I win it all.
And if it doesn't happen... well then, 2014 is going to be the year. Book it.
Looking to keep yours truly winless in the poll is a group of senior baseball and softball players. Abby Pewe and John Diercks from Cal-Wheat, Morgan Oldsen and Jake Thumann from Central and Morgan McAleer and Ben Hildebrandt from Northeast.
Also in the field is the returning champion, Anthony Green, who is about to finish his freshman year at Wartburg.
While one Green is looking to make Observer baseball poll history by becoming the first back-to-back champion, another is looking for redemption, as Anthony's twin brother, Nick, returns as this year's Jarvis Rule recipient.
As a refresher, the Jarvis Rule allows those who finished last in the poll to return the next year to prove that their previous finish was a fluke.
The rule's namesake, former Northeast principal Joe Jarvis, is again in the field and so is a fellow poll stalwart Bill Homrighausen.
Each year, the baseball poll tries to include a mini battle for bragging rights within the overall competition and this year it is between the area's athletic directors as Cal-Wheat's Leon Dieckmann, Central's Kurt Kreiter and Northeast's Gregg Mohl look to showcase their baseball knowledge.
Rounding out the group of participants is the Sports Guy, who will again have a chance to break the dreaded "Observer sports editor curse." Doesn't that just roll off the tongue?.
As the proprietor of the poll, I have the opportunity to explain my predictions, which means you will have the opportunity for a good laugh if you stumble back on this six months from now.
American League East - No division was tougher to predict than the AL East, which has four teams that could legitimately win the division. In the end, I went with the Rays, who have an abundance of talented arms, one of the best managers in the game in Joe Maddon and will hopefully get a full season out of Evan Longoria, to win the division. No team made a bigger splash this off-season than the Blue Jays, who I have finishing second. Injuries have ravaged the Yankees, but I still think they finish third ahead of the Orioles, who are almost guaranteed to bite me in the backside for the second-straight year. That leaves the Red Sox, who have free fallen over the last two seasons.
American League Central - This division will continue to belong to the Tigers, who are coming off a season in which they advanced to the World Series. I am really high on the Royals this season and I think the Indians will be better than expected this year as well. On the flip side, I think the White Sox will take a dip after last year's second place finish. That leaves the Twins, who have a beautiful ballpark, but an ugly team.
American League West - Even with the acquisition of Albert Pujols last year, I was not enamored enough with the Angels to pick them to topple the Rangers, which proved to be a good decision. Another solid off-season, though, and the emergence of Mike Trout have me believing in the Halos. The Rangers lost some big pieces from last year's team, but I believe they still have enough to finish second. The Athletics came out of nowhere to win the division last year, but I have them third. The Mariners are not going to be very good, but on the bright side, they are not the Astros, who were somehow worse than the Cubs last season.
National League East - I may not have learned my lesson about the Orioles, but I am a believer in the Nationals and their two phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. The Braves have both Upton brothers at their disposal this year and will have one of the most talented outfields in the majors. The Phillies still have their group of pitching aces, but their offense has fallen off. I think I can name only one Mets player, but I can name at least three Marlins who were traded away in Miami's latest fire sale.
National League Central - This is still the Reds division to lose as Cincinnati will be led by MVP candidate Joey Votto. You can never count out the Cardinals, which is very hard to say as a Cubs fan. This might finally be the year in which the Pirates finish the season with a winning record (it has not been done since before I was 10 years old). The Brewers are one Ryan Braun suspension away from being cellar dwellers, but for now it is the Cubs, who have to settle for fifth (and I totally hope that I am wrong).
National League West - The Angels were not the only Los Angeles team to make a splash this off-season, as the Dodgers are almost an entirely different team from the one that started last year. Pitching led the Giants to their second championship in the last five seasons, but I am still suspicious about their offense. The Diamondbacks were hurt by injuries last year and their window seems to be closing. I know absolutely nothing about the Padres and Rockies, which probably means they will have fantastic years.
American League Wild Card - Once again, the MLB is having two wild cards in each league. These two wild card teams will play each other to determine the true wild card (sort of like the play-in game in the NCAA tournament). This true wild card is whom I asked the poll participants to pick. In the American League, I think the Blue Jays will take on the Rangers with Texas coming out on top after failing to do so last year.
National League Wild Card - In the NL, I see a battle between the Braves and Giants with Atlanta knocking off the defending champions.
World Series - Last year, I got half of the World Series matchup right (thanks Tigers), and this year I'm going for the whole thing. Now it is up to the Angels and Nationals to prove me right.
World Series Champion - Here is something I never expected to say - go Nationals!
American League Cy Young - Now in his second season in America, Yu Darvish should be ready to become one of baseball's best pitchers.
National League Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw already has one Cy Young, he won in 2011, and the young pitcher will have a good shot to win number two this season.
American League MVP - If the Rays do come out on top in what could be a battle royal in the AL East, it will be because of Evan Longoria.
National League MVP - I picked Joey Votto to win last year as well and if it had not been for a mid-season injury, he might have. A full season with the Reds should be enough to get it done this year.