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HOBART "expert" picks for the 2012 Season photo


Jim Ruland,
Author of Big Lonesome

You don't want to bet against me.

In last year's baseball picks preview, I predicted the World Series winner. I picked the winner of Super Bowl XLVI — in October. I'm even leading my office pool for the NCAA college basketball tournament.

That's why I'm asking Aaron to put me first so you don't have to read the rest of these jokers. Because when it comes to Hobart's sports prognosticators there's me and then there's a bunch of Minor League Guys.

But the news hasn't been all good.

Last year I teamed up with my brother, a fantasy baseball guru, and went to Vegas for the National Fantasy Baseball Championship draft.

The good news: one of my brother's teams cashed in. The bad news: it wasn't my team.

This year I'm going to take a seat on the fantasy bench and commit my real dollars to my picks:


American League


National League


East: Yankees


East: Phillies


The Hangover 3 is going to be set in Boston. At least that's what it will feel like to Red Sox fans. The Yankees are the pick here, but the addition of an extra playoff game feels like it was created with the AL East in mind.


The Nationals closed out 2011 on a surge that almost brought them to .500. Almost. I've been betting against Philly for five years. Not this time. They've still got the pitching to get it done.


Central: Detroit Tigers


Central: Brewers


No one else in the division posted a winning record last year.



I'm looking for the team with MLB's best home record to win the division again. If Milwaukee can post a winning record on the road this year, they'll be the team to beat in the National League.


West: Angels


West: Who Cares?


I'm going with the Angels and I don't think there's a second place. Forget about Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales is poised to have a monster season. But do they have the pitching?


You can't spell pity without parity, and the NL West remains baseball's most enigmatic division. We don't even know who the owner of the Dodgers will be. The only thing that can be said with any certainty is that the Padres will suck. You could probably make money betting against them. (Hmmmm...) I'm going to go with San Francisco as a value pick.


Wild Cards: Boston & Texas


Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodger & Washington D.C.




Two words: Troy Tulowitzki.


Postseason Predictions


In the American League, the Angels will have their mega season toppled by a superior pitching staff in Detroit.

In the National League, the Dodgers will sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard team. Toward the end of last season they seemed to pull it together when they realized they had baseball's best pitcher and best power hitter combo. Look for them to shock the world.

Or at least the Phillies and then get thumped by Milwaukee, who in turn will get toasted by Detroit.

You can take it to the bank. Or let me do it for you. For a small commission...


Stewart O'Nan,
Author of Emily, Alone, Last Night at the Lobster, and Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season (with Stephen King), among others


American League


National League






Yankees — Dumping A.J. Burnett was the best move they could have made. Finally their starters and pen lead the way instead of being a mean complement to the offense.

Red Sox — With Lester and Buchholz healthy, and solid years from the SeaDog trio of Pedey, Youk and Ells, as well as Gonzo and Papi, the Sox scrape together 93 wins for the wild card.

Rays — Still not enough hitting to cover their 4 and 5 starters.

Jays — Not enough anything. Especially fans.

O's — O!


Phillies — Older, already banged up, but you can't beat the rotation.

Marlins — Crazily enough, my wild card. Funny how a new park paid for with public money almost guarantees success in any professional league. (I said almost, Pirates.) It's okay--the school system hasn't made the playoffs in years.

Braves — Had a clear path last season and came up short. This time someone's in the way.

Nationals — Because it's an election year, and the Mets have hit bottom.

Mets — It's the ghost of Bernie Madoff! Tell me, Spirit, are these things that may be, or must be?






Tigers — 1-2 starters are outstanding, lots of offense and a decent pen. In a so-so divison, they could top 100 wins.

Cleveland — It's like the X-Files: I want to believe, but there's not enough going on for a whole movie. Who in the world is Fausto Carmona?

White Sox — Ozzie's gone, and there's no one to blame anymore but the players.

Royals — Out of the cellar, but still afraid of the light. Enjoy the close-up of the thermometer on the carpet in mid-August.

Twins — It's a sad day when I call my beloved Rock Cats' alumni The Lowly Twins. Simply not enough major league average players. Where have you gone Joltin' Justin Morneau? Or, I am Joe Mauer's Knee. Neck. Back.


Reds — Theirs to win or lose. Everyone else is already looking to the off-season.

Cards — Last year's world champs were maybe the 6th best team in the majors. Maybe. In September LaRussa had them believing they could win it all. By then, Mike Metheny will have them believing they can be a .500 club.

Brewers — Someday my prince will leave. And so will my MVP's magic potion.

Pirates — A rotation of has-beens and never-wases, a nonexistent offense, and an All-Star closer with nothing to do. 20 straight losing seasons, despite Clint Hurdle doing everything he can.

Cubs — Under construction. The management apologizes for the mess and inconvenience.

The Phantom Astros — Worst team in baseball. By design. It's easier to move when you're not taking any players.






Angels — After taking the last two off-seasons off, the historically big money team of the division opens its wallet and finds Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Oh, that's right: we're rich.

Rangers — Ron Washington's paranoid fantasies about the Rangers having a target on their back kind of come true. The rest of the league forgets about the Yanks, Sox and Tigers for a little while the Angels kick his club's ass into a well-deserved second place.

Mariners — Ichiro in the three-spot would help if he were the Ichiro of 2002. And were hitting leadoff, #2 and clean-up as well. Another wasted season for King Felix. To escape angry fans, Chone Figgins changes name to Sean.

A's — Billy Beane is a genius. Billy Beane is a genius. Billy Beane—hang on, we have to put giant tarps over the entire upper deck. There—genius!

Astros — I'm just going to move them over now, since it doesn't matter. They'll be dead last wherever they go. But hey, Billy Beane, they spent even less money than you. And they don't have Manny.


All four clubs tie for first with 82-80 records. At first Bud "Allan" Selig says that's fine, since it's late and he's tired and no one really cares anyway, then, citing an unprecedented tie-breaker, he gives the division to the team with the lowest median age. Just kidding--that was last season.

Giants — No idea what happened to these guys last year. Any club with a 1-2 of Lincecum and Cain should wreak havoc in the postseason. Just get there, guys!

Dodgers — Kemp, Ethier & Co continue to flounder.

Rockies — No reason these guys should contend past the break, but they will.

Padres — They've got spunk. I hate spunk.






Sox and Angels don't have the full package and go down in the first round. Yankees take revenge on the Tigers.


Reds and Marlins are just happy to be there. Phils pay back the Giants.


World Series: YANKEES


Yankees over Phils in what should have happened last season.


Jess Walter,
Author of The Financial Lives of Poets, The Zero, and Citizen Vince among others


American League


National League






California Angels (Key Player: Luis Pujols Key addition: C.J. Wilson. Key Steroid: Human Growth Hormone) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Key player: Evan Longoria. Key Addition: Carlos Pena. Key Steroid: Deca Durabolin.)

With the Rays suffering from long-term side effects of Deca Durabolin (carpal tunnel, edema and unsightly back acne) the Angels cruise, winning in four games when a raging Pujols sets a record with 19 home runs in four-game series and then sets about murdering the losing team and defiling their dead bodies.


Cincinnati Reds (Key player: Joey Votto. Key Addition: Ryan Madsen. Key Steroid: Dianabol) vs. Philadelphia Phillies: (Key player: Ryan Howard. Key Addition: Jonathan Pappelbon. Key Steroid: Equipoise.)

Down 3-1, the Phillies, amped up on horse steroids, go on a rampage, winning game five, 93-2, and game six, 109-1, forcing a wild game seven, which they win, 203-8. Afterward Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins kills and devours his Reds counterpart.


World Series


Phillies win in 6 games as Roy Halladay, juiced to the gills on Stanazol, wins twice, reaching 1,400 miles per hour on his fast ball, killing his catcher, the umpire and a ball boy, but baffling the Angels hitters, who set about destroying their locker room, their worthless testicles shrunken to size of Cocoa Puffs.


Erik Smetana,
Editor of Stymie Magazine


"Why you should root for any team, even the Cubs, other than the Angels this baseball season"

Typically I reserve all of my sports related vitriol for the city of Chicago, a place that is equal parts awesome (i.e. everything not sports related) and equal parts demonic forces creeping forth from the dankest bowels of hell (i.e. Chicago sports). My complete disdain for Chicago sports has nothing to do with history or the quality (or rather lack thereof) of their teams, but is more an issue of geography. I live in St. Louis, a place where kids are raised to despise the Cubs and the Blackhawks, and at the very least mock the Bears. You have to have rivals to make sports interesting, the idea of enemies is what makes two teams facing off worthwhile.

Fans love rivalries and look for ways to create new ones where there's nothing but two groups of well paid athletes knocking around a ball or a puck. Because let's be honest, without the human side of sports, it would be kind of boring. If games didn't mean anything beyond the simple win/loss tally, nobody would be watching. And if no one is watching, the money isn't rolling in and away goes sports as we know them. My point being if I'd sat down to write this piece on December 7th of last year, it might have taken a different direction. I might have gone on for paragraphs about all the things that make Chicago sports not worth watching, whether they were true or not. Instead, here's a list of some, not all -- that list would be too expansive and due to its ever increasing scope might possibly open up a rift in time and space dooming us all to an alternate universe where the only pizza was deep dish and the Cubbies held eleven World Series titles -- the reasons why the Los Angeles, or is it Anaheim, or California, hell let's just call it what it is, Disneyland Angels will not win the October Classic in 2012.

  • Treachery and traitordom should never be rewarded, or at least not more rewarded beyond a ten year $254 million contract.
  • Speaking of millions, Los Angeles County has more than 10 million people mulling about clogging up highways and bussing tables waiting for their big break as an extra on CSI. They also have something like 9 million professional sports franchises (not including USC athletics). The math doesn't work out right, there's not enough people to watch or care about the Angels. If no one cares, no one believes and if no one believes, the Angels don't exist. Kind of like Santa Claus.
  • Los Angeles has more than 300 days of sunshine a year, it sounds like they're stealing some of poor Seattle's sunshine. So not only is it a province of traitors and the treacherous, but also supervillainous thieves (if comic books have taught us anything, it's that only supervillains make attempts at weather control).
  • The city has a Walk of Fame, so does St. Louis. Hollywood's officially debuted in 1960, St. Louis' debuted in 1989. This is clearly a case of time-travel related shenanigans made possible through some "movie related" technological innovation courtesy of James Cameron. 3D? Whatever you say LA, whatever you say.
  • There was a movie about the Angels that established the fact that they couldn't be real contenders without divine intervention, sequels were made even. Tim Tebow doesn't play for the Angels, he's a Jet now. So clearly, by geographic association, the Yankees are going deep this autumn (note, the Mets will remain pond scum forever more).
  • Hollywood taught us that "There's no crying in baseball," but it is also apparently illegal to cry on the witness stand in LA - it seems that there's a conspiracy to squash emotion in the city, what's next? Gemstones in the palms of our hands dictating we're the next lucky contestant in Carousel? Soylent Green? The Rams moving back to Los Angeles? Oh, wait, that last one is probably going to happen.

Rick Moody,
Author of The Four Fingers of Death, Right Livelihoods, and The Diviners among others


National League East, Final Standings


Florida Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets




This is my list, and I am sticking to it. The Mets, my team, the team I care about, is nominally out from under its threat of lawsuits, but I believe the trouble is deeper than meets the eye. The Marlins, on the other hand, are looking rather spectacular. I believe this is the year for the big shakeup in my division. However, I'm betting that Philly will take the wild card (and in the rest of the NL, I would suggest, St. Louis and San Francisco are likely victors), and because Florida has no recent playoff experience. Philly will prevail. They will then get their asses kicked in the Series, and the winner will be some uninteresting AL team, by which I mean not New York or Boston


Andrew Ervin,
Author of Extraordinary Renditions


April’s cruelty is manifest most clearly, I imagine, in spring’s annual disruption of our cynicism and discontent. It’s impossible to be miserable—okay, too miserable—with the daffodils tossing their heads in spritely dance and the Phillies about to take the field. It’s a time of pure and untrammeled potentiality. Everything is possible. The disappointments of the last few seasons are long forgotten. This year will be different, right? Right?

The Phillies have won the division title five times in a row and they beat the Rays in the 2008 World Series. That feels like an eternity ago. If the team has had an Achilles heel since then, it's been the hitters' lack of discipline. The last two seasons ended with Ryan Howard at the plate and he will start 2012 on the DL because of a ruptured Achilles tendon. You can’t make this shit up. Of course it’s his Achilles. And now it looks like Chase Utley could miss a chunk of the season because of his bad knees. Despite the injuries, however, I remain strangely optimistic and predict that the Phils will win it one more time with its aging core of homegrown infielders: Utley, Howard, and Jimmy Rollins.




World Series:


Phillies over Yankees in 6 games.


Michael Czyzniejewski,
Author of Chicago Stories and Elephants in Our Bedroom


American League


National League


East: Tampa Bay          s


East: Miami Marlins


Deciding the name “Rays” is still too controversial, the team will drop the concept of nicknames entirely, confusing opponents with plain white jerseys and allegiance to no animals, nowhere, no fucking how.


They will ride the fact they're now the Miami Marlins, all the players finally knowing specifically where in Florida they play and what stadium to drive to.


Central: Kansas City Royals


Central: Pittsburgh Pirates


It's their turn, so they have to win, via AL Central charter.


“We Are Family 2012!” will win the division at 80-82, fending off the Cubs, who can only give Theo Epstein 700 at bats, per league rules.


West: Los Angeles Angels


West: Los Angeles Dodgers


Albert Pujols will homer in every at-bat in the first half of the season, giving the Angels an insurmountable lead, insurmountable even when he goes 0-93 in the second half, relegated to DH, some pinch-hitting, and long naps in the clubhouse.


Magic Johnson will become the first player-owner in league history, propelling his new team to a championship with a winning smile and an endless barrage of Rent-a-Center promos during visitors' at-bats.


Wild Card: Houston Astros


Wild Card: Portland Sea Turtles


To help accommodate Bud Selig's vision of parody, the Astros will move to the AL West in June, succeeding without having to face the mighty Pirates and Cubs 35 times.


First mid-season expansion team to ever to make the playoffs.


ALCS:          s over Royals


NLCS: Sea Turtles over Marlins


The Team With No Name from Tampa Bay will sweep, pitting the Royals against each other, ending in pointless in-fighting an bloodshed, a la A Fistful of Dollars.


Carlos Zambrano will explode in Game 7, intentionally hitting 11 consecutive Sea Turtles batters after seeing a sign held up by a fan in the crowd claims that in nature, a Sea Turtle could so beat up a Marlin.


World Series: Sea Turtles over          s


The Portland Sea Turtles will be crowned champions of baseball in their first half-season, but their victory will be overshadowed by the constant question: “Which Portland?”


Owen King,
Author of Reenactment and We're All in This Together


American League


National League


East: New York Yankees




I don’t want to throw wild accusations around, but at this point, what reasonable person can deny the likelihood that Mariano Rivera bathes nightly in the blood of virgins? There is no other possible explanation for the man’s immortality. I dislike him immensely. Worse still, this Yankees team could win 95 without him, and without breathing hard. With him, they’ll get 107. The rotation is stout and the line-up is mighty. I envision many 10-4 victories. By mid-August Joe Girardi’s playoff roster will be set and he will be free to while away the last six weeks of the regular season giving names to his favorite chest hairs.

Meanwhile, the Rays can certainly pitch, but I’m not too optimistic about their offense after Longoria. Moreover, they seem due for a fade. That leaves the Red Sox and the Blue Jays battling it out for second — the Orioles are going to buried so deep in the concrete floor of the basement that you won’t even be able to hear the screams — and I’ll take the Fenway Heroes by a whisker and put them in as the Wild Card home team. I don’t believe we’ve seen the best of Adrian Gonzalez yet, and I have to believe that we’ve seen the worst of Carl Crawford.


Last year in this venue I revealed the depth and breadth of my knowledge of the senior circuit by picking the Cubs to win the pennant. To limit my embarrassment here, I’m going to skip the divisions and wild cards and go straight to the pennant. My choice: the Nationals. My reasoning: the thunderous, season-long sucking noise coming from Citi Field will distract the rest of the league just enough to allow the Nats, warned by wily veteran manager Davey Johnson to wear ear plugs, to slip through the golden gates and into the promised land.


Central: Kansas City Royals




I was tempted to pick the Royals out of the Central last year, but I didn’t like their pitching staff. Well, I still don’t like their pitching staff. They have a lot of young hitting, though, and this is an iffy division. The Tigers are the other good team: in Justin Verlander they might have the best player in the game. I’ll nonetheless take the Royals on the grounds that they’re hungrier, or ought to be.





West: Texas Rangers




In one of the great jerk moves in recent memory, earlier this month new Angels lefty C.J. Wilson “pranked” Rangers catcher Mike Napoli by tweeting the latter’s cell phone number to the world. In the process, Wilson, who was dreadful in the postseason last year, opened himself and his team up to all manner of hardball comeuppance. If the Angels had hoped to overtake the Rangers in the West, they lost their chance the moment that Wilson was possessed by his inner fraternity brother and logged on to Twitter.

The Rangers remind me a lot of the Yankees: they’re really good all over the place. Additionally, Ron Washington is an outrageously underrated manager.




Wild Card




Red Sox over Angels




Division Series




Yankees over Red Sox
Rangers over Royals




Championship Series




Yankees over Rangers




World Series


On paper it looks like a classic Godzilla vs. Bambi match-up and I can’t see it playing out any other way. The Yankees win it in five games over the Nats and then, following his post-game interview with Bob Costas, Mariano Rivera floats up to Olympus to reassume his rightful place beside Juno.


Nick Mainieri,
Hobart contributor


American League


National League


East: Yankees
Central: Twins
West: Mariners
Wild Card 1: Royals
Wild Card 2: Red Sox


East: Phillies
Central: Brewers
West: Dodgers
Wild Card 1: Cubs
Wild Card 2: Nationals


Of course, baseball engenders in us the illusion that something can last. With every two-strike hit, when the singles string together and our team scratches one run closer, baseball kindles a false, but sustaining, hope: we can beat time. But because we love it and it lies to us, the game—as Bart Giamatti teaches—must also break our hearts. Perhaps predictions, then, taunt us with this future heartache?

This winter eroded my allegiance to any individual club, and so I find myself rooting almost entirely for the success of individuals—a few friends on big league rosters, old pals who work for various organizations, and buddies who are fans. I hope Ervin's Phillies do well. Hell, I even hope Burch's M's win some games.

What I truly need are the familiar things. The clichés, man. The pop of a fastball in the catcher's mitt. The peanut shells underfoot. The first, cold Old Style in the Wrigley bleachers. I wish for that moment, right after a base hit to right, when the runner from first has rounded second and the right fielder's throw vectors over the infield toward third. I wish for that moment to stretch out, like the summer does when we still believe it is a slow thing. We look at the runner and we look at the throw, hovering. And though we already know the outcome, we wonder, for a breath: is he out, or will he survive?

For now I must remain foolish, clinging to the notion that the end of things doesn't bear much looking into. And so I've based my predictions on something other than the cold analytical eye they require—an eye I have trouble focusing, anyway, if last year's picks are any indication.


World Series: Yankees over Brewers in a 7-game World Series


Kyle Beachy,
Author of The Slide


American League


National League


East: Yankees


Central: Cardinals


If Boston were indeed to plummet, if there be any possible way a city can find to succumb to gravity's desire and plummet from wherever exactly they've been perched since winning whenever the hell their teams all started winning, I cannot imagine it would be a "bad" thing for the universe. Thank you, Albert's God, for not making him a Red Sock.


We'll begin here because I was raised in St. Louis, and have attended many games over the years: at the old Busch; the new Busch; games before which Ozzie back flipped and Wizarded the middle; in which Vince stole second, and then third, and Willie stood dour-faced and bored, he seemed so terribly put out by the game we all knew he loved; Ray Lankford, we knew you and loved and did not bemoan your lack of let's call it a champion's essence; games where Mark McGwire mashed towering shots into spiritual heights or Jim Edmonds feigned exhaustion, gut-held and pained of face, sliding too gracefully after balls he could have caught upright but Did Not Want To, because watch him leap, pirouette, and roll before standing to the thunderous applause of we who did not have much else in town to care about, and thus here did indeed care with every cell available. This decade has been too good to Cardinals fans, and we could not be more grateful for it. We see Adam Wainright throwing again and forgive him Phish fanhood — hear his gentle drawl and know he is one of us. By god have we missed him. We see Berkman, Holliday, even Beltran, now, and know our offense will survive. David Freese! David! Please do not start drinking again! We believe in Tyler Greene because why should we not. Daniel Descalso: our hearts, his hands, two halves of sureness itself. We will be fine, thank you.


Central: Indians




Has anyone seen the White Sox? Oh Jesus.


Hahahahahha. The Mets are pond scum.


West: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim


West: Giants


I recall a certain Kent Bottenfield. Do you? It doesn't matter. In 1999 Kent Bottenfield somehow, through the divinations of Dave Duncan, wrangled himself to an 18-7 record, an All-Star appearance, and finally a trade, along with the enigmatic Adam Kennedy, in exchange for Jim Edmonds. To whom, you ask? What team would so near-sightedly lunge for a 31-year old, overweight, balding (I do not remember if he was balding) man in the middle of gearing up (descent is terror on aging knees) for the cloudy far side of his career's peak? Says official record, judiciously, of Bottenfield's time in Anaheim: "he was unable to duplicate his past success." To the surprise, let's add, of precisely nobody with working eyes. So who? What dumb-hatted team? Why, none other than The The Angels Angels of Anaheim, who then were called...who cares. Do you care? Unless you are Adam Novy, I doubt you care. But for everyone else I want to make just one point about the aging, balding, extremely proud though devoutly God-fearing future designated hitter that this other team in red procured themselves over the winter. I was not raised the sort of person who can wish failure upon someone, especially not someone who gives so god-blinking much money to charity, and who did not exactlynot contribute to the baseball riches that have stacked chiplike in St. Louis of late. I am, however, whether by loophole or whatever, able to deal in "regret" as if it were pork futures. And upon this man, former American Hero, I wish a future rife with regret. That big dumb idiot dumbface who himself lunged after a purse only slightly bulgier than the one already on his arm. That dumbfaced radio fascist who spurned as close as America has to a living baseball god, The Man Himself, Stanley, in exchange for smoggier pastures. Who will himself soon stand as a kind of god indeed, dripping the respect he demanded, but one among a thousand others, regretful for the days when he was loved with perhaps less capital but surely more heart, thumping boom boom thunder from we St. Louis fans wearing and screaming and praying his name, who would drive home, eat, and sleep with fat Alberts running through our heads. Thank you so much for replacing our city's only classical music station with Christian inspiration. Enjoy the traffic, you dummy.


I once — and this was back when Padres games were still at Jack Murphy Stadium, the era of No Fear Gear and Seau's restaurant chains, boardshorts and white-framed glasses and a beach-borne insouciance paired awkwardly with rampant, surely roided brawn that seemed in some cases to extend, as if by gravitational miracle, from shoulders actually into a bro's hair; which is to say, an era removed by years but not spirit from today — once attended one of those Padres games when the papas wear the fatigue jerseys in honor of military servicemen across the globe. Do you know that San Diego is a bastion of conservative values both political and social? It is true. And do we believe that Albert will find joy on this coast? Probably. For a couple years, anyway. Until even these pale excuses for seasons begin to take inevitable tolls, his bulging knees and exhausted feet and fragile elbow creaking in the foggy mornings and cool (get yourself a sweater, Albert! Something light, a cardigan maybe! Drape it like a shawl over your gargantuan and overpaid shoulders, you shit! Wear a hat! Wear the hat you may or may not wear when you're elected into the Hall of Fame! And share some speech that lumbers like your pathetic excuses to run out ground balls, citing God and thanking God and the Bible and Jesus and God and your wife and exuding the proud aura of a God-blessed hero of God's footsoldiers! Remember adjectives! (Remember to thank St. Louis and be cautious of the regret, which is known to cause stutters.)) evenings he enjoys over a nice glass of, what, sacramental wine? Holy shit I've never been more bitter.


Wild Card: Royals


Wild Card:




Two. There are two in each league I guess now.


World Series:


One day I will forget Albert Pujols.


TS Flynn,
writer, teacher, and baseball blogger.


Baseball is unpredictable. I know it, you know it, and everyone who watched the final night of the 2011 regular season knows it. I’m going to predict the 2012 season anyway. I crunched data, employing a complicated algebra that takes into weighted consideration a variety of factors, including (but not limited to): my level of interest in a team’s history, uniform, and ballpark, as well as a quantifiable analysis of their personnel achieved by dividing each player’s VORP by the degree to which I consider him a good guy or a bozo. For example, despite his 27.6 career VORP, the presence of Nick Punto is enough to prevent me from picking the Red Sox to win it all in 2012, because he bugs me. Yes, I know he was on the world champion Cardinals in 2011. That’s what statisticians call an anomaly.


American League


National League


East: Yankees


East: Nationals


With apologies to Kris Kristofferson, the Yankees are a walking contradiction, partly Ruth and partly friction. Their roster is full of guys I like and guys I can’t stand: Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera and Nick Swisher, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. My opinion doesn’t count for much here, though, because the bottom line for the Yanks is their bottom line. Even if Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia each have double-digit Ws at the break, GM Brian Cashman will still retool for the second half. The East is theirs in 2012. The Rays will be very good too. Matt Moore, James Shields, and David Price comprise a rotation that is as promising as any in baseball. But that’s not going to be enough to win the division, because they play under a dome on plastic grass. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are going to watch the postseason on television in 2012. It’ll require a full season to purge 2011’s fried chicken, cheap beer, and choke. The Blue Jays might contend with the division leaders for a few months until their domed stadium and fake grass doom them to finish below the Orioles, who will be sporting magnificent tri-color caps embroidered with a cartoon bird wearing a tri-color cap with a cartoon bird wearing a . . .


Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, and maybe (probably) wunderkind Bryce Harper will put the Nats in contention. Add manager Davey Johnson to the mix, and I think they’re a club that can win the division. The Braves, as always, have good young pitching. Chipper Jones is limping to the end of his career and Jason Heyward needs to kickstart his. The Braves retooled their uniforms during the offseason, removing the offensive howling Native American patch from their sleeves. And they’ll wear throwbacks on weekends at home. That combination is good for +5-7 wins in my book. Meanwhile, the red-clad Phillies enter the season with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley hobbled and big galoot Jim Thome (bad back and all) hoping to contribute on defense. Still, a rotation featuring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels is enough to make me think they’ll have a shot at a wild card berth. The 2012 Miami Marlins are a circus sideshow. Sure, they have talent. They also have Ozzie Guillen, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, and Jeffrey Loria. I predict a colorful collapse by July 1st. The New York Metropolitans dropped the black accents from their uniforms. That was a good move.


Central: Tigers


Central: Cardinals


It’s impossible to look at the AL Central and imagine a scenario other than a Tigers division title. Fielder, Cabrera, Verlander, Leyland. I’m not certain it’ll be a cakewalk, but the Tigers will win the AL Central. As a fan, however, I’m hoping for big seasons from Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy on the South Side of Chicago to give the Tigers something resembling competition. If Shin-Soo Choo returns to form, the Cleveland club might make things interesting too. The Royals will continue their slow-but-incremental improvement. I’m looking forward to seeing Eric Hosmer’s first full season. We’ll have to wait until 2013 for Salvador Perez’s, since he tore his meniscus during a spring-training bullpen session. It’s a cruel blow, and one has to think it may be the karmic price the Royals must pay for turning its once-pristine ballpark into an exhibition space for large billboards. Further up Interstate 35, the Minnesota Twins will field a major league ballclub with a lot of AAA talent. Maybe Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will return to form in 2012. That would be nice.


There’s a steep drop from the top to the bottom of this overstuffed division. If the Cardinals could win the 2011 World Series without Adam Wainwright, they can probably win the NL Central in 2012 with him. I’m sure Brewers fans are looking forward to a full season with Ryan Braun but they won’t win anything without a replacement for Prince Fielder. In Cincinnati, if this isn’t the year Aroldis Chapman discovers the strike zone, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips will have to produce a lot of offense to outscore Reds opponents. Theo Epstein’s restoration project on the North Side of Chicago will take a couple of years. In the meantime, expect the Cubs to continue filling their lovely little ballpark with fans and losses. The Pirates don’t have much, the Astros have nothing.


West: Angels


West: Dbacks


It’ll be interesting to see if the addition of Yu Darvish and Neftali Perez to the Rangers’ rotation will be enough to offset the Angels’ acquisition of CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols. I think the Angels are due, and they’ll win the West in 2012 despite my strong dislike for red uniforms. The Rangers will make the postseason tournament via the wild card whether they solve their first base riddle or not. The rest of the West will be fun to check in on throughout the season. The A’s will enjoy power binges from odd couple Manny Ramirez and Yoenis Cespedes. Jemile Weeks is fast. And Kurt Suzuki has embraced his dual role: catcher/trade bait. The Mariners will not be a good team—losing Pineda really hurts—but they do play in a beautiful ballpark, and Felix Hernandez and Ichiro are still there. I want to see how Ichiro adapts to the 3rd spot in the order. I predict a big year for #51, maybe even double-digit home runs. You might doubt me but you shouldn’t doubt Ichiro.


Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Drew Pomeranz will give the Rockies a chance against the DBacks this season. The Dodgers can expect a monster season from coulda-been-MVP Matt Kemp. That’ll be great for the fans. And the new, Magic-led ownership group will be great for the club's future. Unfortunately, $2bn and change wasn't enough to evict Frank McCourt from the parking lot. Up the coast in San Francisco, Buster’s back and they still have the core of the 2010 world championship club. Here’s an idea for the marketing department: strap Brian Wilson’s beard to a motorcycle and launch it over a shark in McCovey Cove. Until that happens, I have to believe it’s the DBacks division to lose. And now I’ve reached the point in this exercise when I have to admit I don’t know much about the Padres. They’re the hole in my swing. I’ve heard the weather in San Diego is perfect.


Wild Card: Rangers & Rays


Wild Card: Rockies & Braves






Champion: Rangers vs. Tigers


Championship: Nationals vs. Rockies






World Series: Rangers over the Nationals in 6 games



J. Ryan Stradal,
Hobart contributor


I’ve won my fantasy baseball league the last seven years in a row. My first paid job in my life was as a baseball statistician for STATS Inc., then out of Lincolnwood, IL. I played baseball briefly in high school and formed a computer-based league in middle school where seven friends and I invented over 200 players from scratch based on every possible performance-based anomaly and statistical aberration.

What this means is that maybe it sounds like I know what I’m talking about when I predict Major League Baseball but I really have no goddamn idea.


American League








1. Tampa Bay Rays — One of my favorite moments in cinema last year was watching Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman have their passive aggressive tête-à-tête over the fate of Carlos Pena. Five uniform changes later, Pena is the highest-paid man on the Rays, his career OBP is only .009 points lower than Scott Hatteberg’s, and he’s surrounded by an obscene amount of young talent. He might get his ring before the master of Moneyball gets his.

2. New York Yankees (Wild Card) — This is an aging team with a few promising young pitchers that might even just barely go .500 against their division, but it won’t matter, because they’ll be 6-1 against the Twins this year, and sweep them on the final week of the regular season to lock up a Wild Card spot. This is possible only because Derek Jeter and Minka Kelly’s rekindled romance didn’t even make it into the regular season. Jeter had his best month last year during their breakup and batted over .300 the rest of the way.

3. Boston Red Sox (Wild Card) — If Nick Punto gets more than 166 plate appearances, your team can certainly make the playoffs, but will not advance beyond the first round.

4. Toronto Blue Jays — Unless Brett Lawrie can step it up and Adam Lind can turn back the clock, Jose Bautista is going to lead the MLB in walks for the second straight season. So take your kids to SkyDome and tell them to watch as the best power hitter in the league jogs ninety feet. Tell 'em that this is the price of greatness.

5. Baltimore Orioles — They look in the mirror and tell themselves, yes, we know we just don’t have the pitching to compete in this division. If only they could hire a certain character from The Wire to stand outside the visitor’s clubhouse and whistle “The Farmer In The Dell,” they may have a shot. Otherwise, Nolan Reimold will have to read Saul D. Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals,” internalize the first rule of power tactics (power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have) and become the runaway team MVP.






1. Detroit Tigers — Hey, they have one projected starter I’ve never heard of. Andy Dirks! Enjoy being on the best team in the AL, kid. Even if you barely play well enough to stay in the majors, remember that Ernie Banks never earned a World Series ring, but Steve Lombardozzi, Willie Canate, and Jarvis Brown all have them. Enjoy the ride.

2. Cleveland Indians — This year’s Indians are the Red Hot Chili Peppers of the AL; experienced and competent at their own craven brand of entertainment, maybe better than you expect live, but paying anything over ten bucks to see them is too much, and they’re sure as hell not going to win any awards anymore.

3. Minnesota Twins — They’re like working-class Republicans, in that they need everything to go perfectly right in order for their plan to make any sense. The minute there’s a significant unexpected injury, everything is going to hell, and their worldview means that there’s no help on the way. If Liriano is truly back, Capps manages to never get booed off the field, and Morneau & Span stay concussion-free, these guys will finish a distant second behind Detroit and be proud of it. But that’s a lot to ask of these guys. Did you know Joe Mauer has only hit one home run in the Twins’ new ballpark, after two seasons? Guess they’ll have to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

4. Kansas City Royals — The Pittsburgh Pirates of the AL. Look at young powerful lineup! They’re like a Mount Rushmore made out of lawn mower blades! If baseball was the Hunger Games, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alex Gordon would all be Career Tributes. Too bad that Jonathan Sanchez is their ace, they’re counting on consistency from opening day starter Bruce Chen, their shutdown closer is out for the year, and no other member of their rotation had a winning record or an ERA below 4.11 as a Royal last season. Putting their lineup with that pitching staff is like pairing osso buco with Mr. Pibb. You might think it would make me angry, but it just makes me sad.

5. Chicago White Sox — OK, they’re coming into 2012 without Mark Buehrle (last year’s ace), Carlos Quentin (a lineup fixture who had a WAR of 3.2 last year), and Sergio Santos (last year’s closer), and replaced them all with people who are worse. Oh, and starting DH Adam Dunn’s .159 batting average last year was the all-time lowest among all players with at least 375 plate appearances, ever. Like in Major League history. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.






1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County California, United States of America, Western Hemisphere, the Earth, the Solar System, the Universe, the Mind of God — Is Arte Moreno the Daniel Plainview of baseball owners? He bought Albert Pujols for this team? Only one season of baseball before the world ends, andthis vast, selfish inequity is what we get? Occupy Los Angeles of Anaheim!

2. Texas Rangers — I love Ron Washington, but this rotation can’t compete with the Angels. And there are too many questions, like: Can Joe Nathan and Josh Hamilton stay healthy? What is Yu Darvish? Did anyone call Mike Napoli’s phone number when C.J. Wilson posted it on Twitter? When are they finally going to get a player named Walker?

3. Seattle Mariners — It came out this week that 84-year old Seattle Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, in 21 seasons, has never once seen his team play live. This ain’t the year for him to start.

4. Oakland A’s — Typical Billy Beane offseason, trading three of the team’s best players for prospects, who he will one day trade for prospects. On a good team, Coco Crisp would be batting ninth or coming off the bench. On a mediocre team, he’d bat leadoff. On the A’s, he’s batting third.







So the TIGERS end up in the World Series, probably against the Philadelphia Phillies. In six games, Andy Dirks is going to GO OFF, become a household legend, leave for a bigger contract in several years, finish out his career as a pinch-hitter for San Diego, and on this day in 2032 he’ll vomit on a server at 3 A.M. at the IHOP in Livonia, Michigan and, stinking of Popov vodka, he’ll make the papers again.

But what do I know.





image: Ryan Molloy