One of my favorite things about baseball is predicting what will happen in the season to come. I spend a great deal of my time in the off-season thinking about next year. In 2010, my predictions were a mixed bag. I thought the Seattle Mariners would win their first World Series. Alas, the Mariners lost 101 games and finished last season with the worst record in the American League. However, I was spot on in picking Mariners ace Felix Hernandez to win his first AL Cy Young Award. Of course, I didn't expect he would do it with a 13-12 won loss record.
I also correctly predicted all three National League divisional winners plus the wild card spot. Sure, picking the Philadelphia Phillies to win the NL East might have been a no-brainer. But how many people out there were willing to take a flyer on the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central? Well, aside from myself, there were precious few.
Now without further adieu here are my predictions for the 2011 MLB season. I think you will agree they are my most outlandish yet.
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
# - AL Wild Card winner
AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD RECIPIENTS
AL MVP – Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles
AL Cy Young – Trevor Cahill, Oakland Athletics
AL Rookie of the Year – Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners
AL Manager of the Year – Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
AL Comeback Player of the Year – Bartolo Colon, New York Yankees
New York Mets
St. Louis Cardinals
San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers
## - NL Wild Card winner
NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD RECIPIENTS
NL MVP – Carlos Lee, Houston Astros
NL Cy Young – Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs
NL Rookie of the Year – Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
NL Manager of the Year – Mike Quade, Chicago Cubs
NL Comeback Player of the Year – Dontrelle Willis, Cincinnati Reds
2011 MLB POST-SEASON
AL Divisional Series (ALDS) – Best three out of five
Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers – Tigers in five
Baltimore Orioles vs. Oakland Athletics – Orioles in three
AL Championship Series (ALCS) – Best four out of seven
Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers – Tigers in six
NL Division Series (NLDS) – Best three out of five
Chicago Cubs vs. San Francisco Giants – Cubs in four
Houston Astros vs. Philadelphia Phillies – Phillies in five
NL Championship Series (NLCS) – Best four out of seven
Chicago Cubs vs. Philadelphia Phillies – Cubs in seven
2011 WORLD SERIES – Best four out of seven
Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago Cubs – Cubs in seven
Now, at this point, there are undoubtedly some of you who have become very concerned for my well-being. You may wonder if I have ingested a banned substance or perhaps you might speculate that I have had insufficient exposure to sunlight during the course of this harsh winter. Of course, there will be others who could care less and just as soon see me descend into madness. Well, whether you care about my good health or not, I can say with sound mind and without a moment's hesitation that I am predicting the Chicago Cubs will win the 2011 World Series.
Believe me when I tell you that the cataclysmic nature of this prediction is not lost on me. The Cubs, after all, have not appeared in a World Series since 1945 and haven't won it since Roosevelt was President. That would be Teddy Roosevelt. So why should this year be any different than the 102 years which preceded it?
The Cubs' fortunes began to turn late in the 2010 season when they promoted third base coach Mike Quade their interim manager following Lou Piniella's abrupt departure from the club in late August. I have been an admirer of Quade since 1993 when he managed the Ottawa Lynx (the Triple-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos). Quade's low-key approach was a welcome contrast to Piniella's volatile temper. The Cubs went 24-13 over the last six weeks of the season. Cubs' management was sufficiently impressed with Quade's stewardship to give him a two-year contract with a club option for 2013.
The Cubs have also made a number of off-season improvements. They have added ex-Tampa Bay Rays Carlos Pena and Matt Garza. Pena gives the Cubs some much needed left-handed power in the middle of the lineup. And don't expect him to hit .196 in 2011. Meanwhile, Garza adds depth to a starting rotation that includes Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells. Garza and Zambrano are arguably the most intense pitchers in baseball. Once Quade took over, Zambrano was able to channel his intensity and did his best pitching of the season. I see Garza similarly thriving under Quade's quiet leadership.
Meanwhile, the bullpen has added a familiar face in Kerry Wood, who will be closer Carlos Marmol's eighth inning set up man. I also expect rebound years from Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez as well as a breakout season for Kosuke Fukudome. Look for both Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro to avoid the sophomore jinx and for Marlon Byrd to have another solid season in centerfield. The returning Reed Johnson gives the Cubs additional depth in the outfield.
Now the Cubs aren't exactly speed demons and more than a third of the roster is over the age of 30. But Quade is ideally suited for a veteran team that needs a manager who can stay at arm's length and let them play. I have a feeling this is the Cubs team that will make history.