|He's back. And he stepped on a banana peel on the mound.|
Why They'll Win: Two of the all-time great talents in Cabrera and Verlander. Prince Fielder would be the big star on most teams, he's third banana here, and V-Mart's gone fourth. A pitching staff full of guys who can bring it, and a sneaky good lineup beyond the big guns. Lots of talent pushing its way up out of the system, providing some trade chits to flip at the deadline. Jim Leyland is definitely on the plus side of the managerial ledger. They play in a division weaker than the first pull off a keg of Natty Ice.
Why They Won't: The middle infield is uninspiring and the bullpen is unsettled enough they brought back Papa Grande, whose numbers have been on the Heath Bell train for a while now. Austin Jackson's the only outfielder who should be starting on a first division club.
Moment They're Dreading: Leyland falls asleep in the dugout during the game with the Tigers holding a six game lead on Kansas City. By the time he wakes up, they've dropped their customary 8 straight in August and are in second place.
Kansas City Royals
Why They'll Win: Ransacked the farm system to bring in two real live pitchers from Tampa Bay. Alex Gordon has quietly turned into a great player. Billy Butler hits the ball real hard, and is not allowed to catch it. Eric Hosmer's much better than he was last year. Tons and tons of young talent, and lots of trading chits in the farm system.
Why They Won't: Kansas City is where pitching careers go to die. Management unerringly picks the wrong guy to send down to AAA, as per Rany on the Royals. The young stars consistently fail to develop, while mediocrities like Jeff Francoeur get locked into long term deals. Until recently, their training staff was the best argument out there for Obamacare; there may still be residual damage lurking.
Moment They're Dreading: General Manager Dayton Moore charges into the clubhouse post-game with a necktie around his head, shouting "TRUST THE PROCESS! TRUST THE PROCESS!" before vanishing into the bowels of Kaufman Stadium, ne'er to be seen again. Afterwards, reports find out he has traded the entire farm system to Atlanta for Mike Minor. Slugger, the Royals' leonine mascot, takes over as GM.
Why They'll Win: Terry Francona is now leading the charge. All the wishcasting of the mid-2000s is gone, replaced by some surprising talent. Santana can play for anyone, and Kipnis, Chisenhall, Brantley, etc. are solid. Vinny Pestano is the best reliever named "Vinny" this side of Jersey. Justin Masterson appears to have made a deal at the crossroads, and is dealing in a way we've never seen him deal before. Swisher and Bourn are solid additions, and Trevor Bauer could turn out to be a steal.
Why They Won't: Ubaldo Jimenez currently leads the "what happened to that guy" standings, ahead of Halladay and Lincecum. The lineup's a bunch of good, not great players, and nobody's got more than moderate thump. Francona got lost walking to the stadium; God help him the next time he goes looking for the bullpen.
Moment They're Dreading: Francona goes missing before a day game. He is never found, but six weeks later his Indians cap washes up on the beach in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Chicago White Sox
Why They'll Win: They always do well when preseason predictions count them out. Konerko and Dunn can still bring the thunder. Kenny Williams always finds a mid-season surprise or two.
Why They Won't: Dunn and Konerko are getting old and their bats are slowing down. The young talent is either not young or not talented. The pitching staff is thin and injury prone; at some point Jake Peavy's just going to snap in half mid-delivery. Beckham, Viciedo and Ramirez have all largely failed to develop. Hawk Harrelson is the announcing equivalent of the guy who gave press conferences in Iraq claiming there were no US tanks in Baghdad.
Moment They're Dreading: The first time the Cubs put together a three game winning streak, which is when all the media attention will switch to the North side.
Why They'll Win: Justin Morneau could revert to MVP form. Joe Mauer could revert to MVP form, and have luxuriant coiffure besides. The double grab bag of talent they got for their various center fielders could turn into something good. Glen Perkins has found himself as a closer.
Why They Won't: Mauer could keep turning into Jason Kendall. Their DH flunked out of being a Pirate. 3/4 of their infield is Plouffe, Florimon and Dozier, and when an obsessive baseball fan like has no idea who the hell most of your infield is, you may be in trouble. Seriously, it's like the spring training montage in Major League over there.
Moment They're Dreading: Manager Ron Gardenhire sends the lineup card out to start a game and the P.A. announcer starts saying things like "Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?"