Has it really been more than two months since I last wrote anything? What the hell happened?
More on what I've been up to later, but for the first step in getting back to blogging regularly, here are my predictions for the 2015 Major League Baseball season.
1. The St. Louis Cardinals will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season. Death, taxes, and the Cardinals making the playoffs, right? Normally yes, but there will be a changing of the guard in NL Central this year. The Cubs will be much improved between their own talent and bringing in Joe Madden as their new manager (more on that a little later), and the Pirates are going to be really, really good as well. Somebody has to take a step backwards, and that team will be the Cardinals. While I don't expect a complete collapse from this year, they aren't going to be in the playoff hunt down the stretch.
2. The Seattle Mariners will win the AL West. Speaking of changing of the guards, the Mariners have added enough to their team to overtake their division rival Angels. Nelson Cruz getting 4 years in his offer from the team will look really stupid in a couple years, but he'll provide enough boost to their offense in 2015 that the Mariners will win over 90 games and take the division crown. Taijuan Walker will also get to show his stuff in the rotation in the season, albeit in somewhat limited fashion since he's only 22 and pitched only a handful of starts last year.
3. The three-team race in the AL Central will not involve the Detroit Tigers. The theme of perennial contenders being overtaken by their division rivals is a theme here. Miguel Cabrera will still be productive, but he'll show his best years are finally behind him; the same will go for Justin Verlander. The White Sox, Indians, and Royals will all be vying for the division title by September, with the Tigers on the outside looking in.
4. Troy Tulowitzki will finally play in more than 140 games this year and be the hot-ticket item by the trade deadline. The Rockies will want some prize prospects in exchange for Tulo by July, but they'll still need to eat some of the $118 million he is owed in his contract despite moving him. A team in need of a slugging shortstop (*cough cough* THE METS *cough cough*) will make great use of him in the second half of the season.
5. Kevin Gausman will have a monster break out year for the Orioles. The Orioles have been very careful in how much they have used Gausman so far in his career, but this year they will let him loose and he will turn into the team's de facto ace. He will lead the team in wins and ERA on the season, emerging as their #1 starter as they make another push for October.
6. The Yankees will finish under .500 for the first time since 1992. Scary to think there are players on active rosters in Major League Baseball who are not old enough to remember the last time the Yankees had finished under .500. The Yankees are on the decline dating back to last season, and their roster of guys well into their 30s are only going to keep declining. They will be fighting the Rays for last place in the AL East.
7. The San Diego Padres will be baseball's most improved team from last year. There will be several teams who will win 8-10 more games this year over last, including the Astros, Cubs, Mets, and Marlins, but the Padres have added both offense and starting pitching to compete with the Giants and Dodgers in their division. I don't see them beating out the Dodgers for the division title, but they will take one of the Wild Card spots in the NL.
8. The Chicago Cubs will finish over .500 for the first time since 2009, and Joe Madden will be NL Manager of the Year. The Cubs are still a year or so away from truly competing for the NL Central, but they will take major strides forward this year with Jon Lester anchoring their pitching staff and Joe Madden calling the shots. Kris Bryant won't be on their roster to start the season, but he will join the team by Memorial Day and provide an immediate impact from both offense and defense. The rest of their young core of players will continue to develop, because....
9. Adam Jones and Anthony Rizzo will be the league MVPs. Adam Jones is the cornerstone of the Orioles' offense now, and he will carry the team to their second consecutive division title. Anthony Rizzo will lead the Cubs' young talent and give their fans the most reason to get excited in a very long time.
10. Clayton Kershaw will win yet another Cy Young Award, and Felix Hernandez will win it in the AL. I tried being cute last year by picking someone other than Kershaw to win the NL Cy Young. Shame on me, because as boring as it is to pick a favorite, nobody else comes close to his level of dominance. The scary thing about Kershaw is that he just turned 27 earlier this week, so he's just now entering his prime. As for King Felix, his win-loss record will finally no longer be as mediocre as it has been the last few years (even though that doesn't mean a whole lot for a pitcher anyway).
11. The Los Angeles Dodgers will finally get over the hump and defeat the Seattle Mariners in the World Series. The spending spree the Dodgers have gone on the last few years will finally pay off for them in an all-west coast Series. Mariners fans will have plenty to hang their collective hats on since they've never gotten this far in October before, and who wouldn't want to watch a Kershaw vs. King Felix matchup in Game 1?