One week to go until opening day and this spring exhibition schedule can’t end soon enough for the Rangers.
They have been awful in all facets of the game, except for PR spin.
The Rangers close out Arizona spring camp with a whimper, and with four more games: two today, one tomorrow, and one Saturday. Sunday is an off day. Then they travel back to the Ballpark for two practice games against the Reds, Monday and Tuesday.
Wednesday is another off day. (One could argue that every day was an off day for the Rangers this spring.)
Then, Thursday, March 29, the bell rings. The season starts with the first of four games at the Ballpark against the Houston Astros. And the long slog that will be 2018 begins.
You don’t need a crystal ball to be able to handicap the American League West, at least not who comes out on top. The Astros were the best team in baseball last year, and are better at the start of 2018 than they were at the start of 2017. Scary good.
Beyond that, it’s a weak division. Oakland will be the surprise team in the division. They started to percolate a bit at the end of last season, have some really good young hitters, and should break away from the mundane rest of the West. Regardless of the moves the Angels and the Mariners made this offseason, they had a long way to go and didn’t add nearly enough. Los Angeles finishes third because Mike Trout. Then it’s a dog fight for last place between the Rangers and Mariners. The Rangers offense will be better than the Mariners’. Nobody’s pitching will be worse. It’s a toss up.
The AL West will finish this way:
Seattle/Texas, pick ‘em
Or, a more accurate way to describe it is this:
(a million miles)
Seattle/Texas, pick ‘em
The AL Central will be much tighter. Cleveland and Minnesota will go neck to neck. Cleveland wins by virtue of having Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. The White Sox will surprise a lot of people though. They’ve been rebuilding and stockpiling and are about a year away from really competing. Kansas City is in the long slow decline from respectability, a trek Rangers fans can identify with. And the Tigers have thrown in the towel.
The division will look like this:
The AL East will be a two-team dogfight between the Yankees and Red Sox. Boston has won the division the past two years. Despite every expert seemingly handing the division to New York, Boston’s pitching is too good. And while the Yankees offense is going to be scary, Boston won’t cower. But the Yankees pen will make the difference. Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Toronto have no chance.
New York, Cleveland, and Houston win the divisions. Boston and Minnesota win the wild cards in the American League.
The National League West will be the strongest division in baseball in 2018. Even the Padres will be respectable. The Giants got a lot better, but they were so bad last year, they needed to get a lot lot lot better just to get better. The Rockies and Diamonbacks will fight it out for second, and it will really all depend on how long Zack Greinke is out of service. The Dodgers are a shoo-in for the NL West.
In the NL Central, two teams have already thrown in the towel (Cincinnati and Pittsburg). Milwaukee made some great strides, adding bats and arms. St. Louis is always a contender. And the Cubs snagged Yu Darvish, fresh off a World Series meltdown of epic proportions. Going out on a limb, here is how the NL Central will finish:
The NL East is as lopsided as the AL West with the Washington Nationals having already clinched the division. They have talent all over the place, and Bryce Harper in his walk-away year. The Mets have deGrom and Syndergaard. Philadelphia improved greatly with Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta but not enough to make a dent in DC. Atlanta is getting better. Miami is a Triple-A team.
National League division winners are Washington, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles. Wild card winners are Chicago and Colorado.
Washington wins the World Series.