|"Past a diving Cthulhu. I'm telling you, Hastur, he's got to make that play"|
Toronto Blue Jays
Why They'll Win: They pantsed the bottom half of the NL East and took both their lunch money and their talent. Reyes, Johnson, Dickey, Bonifacio (when used properly) are a lot of talent. Melky Cabrera may be off the reindeer antler extract, but he's still better than what they were running out there last year. Jose Bautista is healthy. Edwin Encarnacion has left his E5 days behind him. Their bullpen is finally healthy. They have a manager who wants to be there. The Yankees and Sox are in down years, the Rays have James Loney at 1B, and the Orioles stood pat with a team that was luckier than a leprechaun in a horseshoe factory. Also, they stock the visiting clubhouse with poutine, to slow opposing players down.
Why They Won't: Bautista's banged up again and feuding with umpires. Colby Rasmus remains a riddle wrapped inside an enigma tied up with a Skynyrd t-shirt. Dickey's been banged around and the Jays have no one who can catch him. Way too much swing-at-the-first-pitch in this lineup.
Moment They're Dreading: "A week ago, the Yankees were ten games out. Now, it's just four, and they're heading into a series with the Blue Jays at the Stadium"
Tampa Bay Rays (No Devil)
Why They'll Win: No front office in the game is smarter. No manager is smarter than Joe Maddon, or puts his players in position (literally and figuratively) to do well better. Evan Longoria is healthy and is monstrous. Desmond Jennings is coming into his full potential. Ben Zobrist is the new Tony Phillips. The guy who won the Cy Young Award last year may or may not be the best pitcher in the rotation, and there's plenty more on the way. The guy who's #2 in the rotation at Durham would be starting for 25 teams. Wil Myers, like winter, is coming.
Why They Won't: Their stadium is a black hole of despair. Their first baseman is James Loney. Evan Longoria always gets hurt. And they don't have enough money to counter any moves Boston or New York or Toronto makes at the deadline.
Moment They're Dreading: The moment in mid-August when they look around for someone to plug in at DH and realize that their best choice is probably in Durham - and they called up Wil Myers two months prior.
Boston Red Sox
Why They'll Win: With apologies to Jack Nicholson, this team needed an enema, and it got one. Lots of big contracts have gone out the door and the power structure is clear. Will Middlebrooks is the real thing. So's Jackie Bradley Jr. Jacoby Ellsbury wants his money. Laser show. Big Papi can still hit moon shots with the best of them. Their manager is back home where he belongs. Fenway still confounds opposing pitchers and left fielders alike.
Why They Won't: Too much talent walked out the door. Papi's getting old and the pitching staff's inconsistent and injury-prone. Relying on the Daniel Navas of the world to come through too often is a recipe for disaster. Manager John Farrell didn't exactly set the world on fire in Toronto. There's not not enough thump in the lineup, even in the down AL East.
Moment They're Dreading: When Terry Francona comes to town with the Cleveland Indians and, behind former Sox prospect Justin Masterson, sweeps the Sox right out of playoff contention.Glen Ordway on WEEI immediately demands that ownership fire Farrell, bring back Francona, re-sight Manny Ramirez, and resurrect Dick Radatz to turn the team around.
New York Yankees
Why They'll Win: Money. Lots of it. No team can buy its way out of mistakes, injuries, bad signings or unexpected hiccups the way the Yankees can, even with the Katzensteinbrenner Kidz trying to rein in spending. C.C. Sabathia is still C.C. Sabathia. Mo on a farewell tour is still the greatest closer ever. Aging talent is still talent, and 50% of ARod is still better than most other third basemen who've ever lived. Also, Jeetah is a winnah.
Why They Won't: Too old, too many injuries. They've got a catching tandem like a vaudeville routine from Omaha in 1927. If the Steinbrenners are serious about getting under the luxury tax, there aren't going be any reinforcements coming at the end of July. Underrated GM Brian Cashman is clearly getting sick of this crap and may walk at year's end.
Moment They're Dreading: As the Yankees careen into a nine-game losing streak coming out the All-Star Break, announcer Suzyn Waldman melts down on air. Sympathetic vibrations from her accent simultaneously cause massive structural damage to the new Yankee Stadium and summon Cthulhu from his slumber in beneath the seas. The Yankees then sign Cthulhu to a 7-year, $187M contract to play first, and flip Mark Teixeira to the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Why They'll Win: Chris Davis seems to be possessed by the spirit of Brady Anderson. Jim Johnson gets saves with smoke and mirrors, but he gets saves. Adam Jones is the real deal, and Nick Markakis can fake it most of the time. Manny Machado is going to be one of the great ones. One of these days, Matt Wieters is going to have the season everyone's been waiting for. Buck Showalter will personally rip out the throats of underperforming players with his teeth. Peter Angelos no longer gets involved in personnel decisions.
Why They Won't: Last year, their record in one run games indicated they were lucky. Insanely lucky. Lyle-Lovett-marrying-Julia-Roberts lucky. The appropriate response under these circumstances is to recognize you were lucky, then go out and improve your ballclub. The Orioles did not. They're not going to be that lucky this year.
Moment They're Dreading: Owner Peter Angelos announces he's going to be more involved in personnel decisions.