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Enough About Cigars, It’s Opening Day!

Now I know that we usually write about cigars, what with this being a cigar blog and all. Today there is just one thing on my mind, and it sure isn’t tasty stogies – it’s Opening Day! It’s the day that signals the official banishment of winter in the northeast, the day where fans of every team can feel full of hope and optimism, and mostly the day where the excitement and anticipation for the long upcoming season are at fever pitch.

I have been playing and watching baseball for as long as I can remember. My Dad even negotiated me into the local tee-ball league a year early by offering to coach the team. I think I was 4 that year, I barely remember it but I know I played and loved it. I find the game to be very relaxing, yet it is intertwined with intense suspense and excitement at the same time. Not unlike smoking a complex cigar.

A little background on me – everyone knows BCP is a true-blue New York company, but me, I’m a transplant from New England, and I have a severe case of the New England disease that is loving the Boston Red Sox blindly. Now I’m deep in enemy territory, but I thoroughly enjoy the rivalry and respect the Yankees as a worthy adversary and know that it wouldn’t be nearly as fun or exciting without them.

No matter what your team is, today everyone has a chance to be the 2011 World Series champ. Everyone’s record is 0-0, and any player could win the batting title or the MVP. Of course every fan knows about the great off-season acquisitions by my beloved Sox, as well as the smooth pick-ups from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Oakland and Milwaukee. However, we all also know that the games are played on the field, not on paper, and that projections and past performance don’t have any impact on the upcoming season. Of course as stat-geeks, us baseballs fans can’t resist trying to guess at what is going to happen on the field, so here are my projections for the upcoming season:

AL East

  1. Red Sox – I know, a fan pick, but this team is on paper the best in the MLB. Deep rotation, significant bullpen improvement and an absolutely star-studded line-up are going to put us over the top. Oh yeah, and I guess the Yankees thought it was a good idea to have absolutely no left-handed pitching besides C.C., wonder what Ellbury, Crawford, Gonzalez, Ortiz, and Drew are going to do about that short porch in the House that I Built (with my tax dollars).
  2. Yankees* – The Yankees will always be there. Sure they have serious starting rotation issues, but the offense will make up for it and the Soriano/Rivera combo will certainly hold any leads the starters manage to give them. I predict a heated race for the division with the Yanks taking the Wild Card by a mile.
  3. Orioles – In any other division in baseball, I think this team would have a shot at winning it. With Buck Showalter at the helm and the slew of fantastic moves this off season I think this team is the most improved in the MLB.
  4. Rays – It’s too bad that team got dismantled. It was an excellent example of how a small market team can be successful on a limited budget. Obviously they couldn’t keep all those guys together, so they made the right moves for the future and I expect they’ll be back in contention in 3-5 years, but this season is going to be a losing one in Tampa Bay.
  5. Blue Jays – Another team that might be somewhat competitive in a different division, these guys don’t have nearly enough weapons either in their line-up or on the mound to be more than a blip on the radar for Boston and New York.

AL Central

  1. Twins – Minnesota always wins. I love this organization, they play the game the right way, nearly to the point where it doesn’t matter who is on the field. Ron Gardenhire will find a way to make sure the Twinkies come out on top again.
  2. Tigers – With Miguel Cabrera finally getting some protection from Ex-Sox Victor Martinez, this line-up is going to be formidable. A few question marks in the rotation, but if everyone performs to potential they will be strong. I predict a great fight between MN, Detroit and Chicago, but the Tigers are going to come up a bit short.
  3. White Sox – Adam Dunn is a nice pick-up, but I don’t see Peavy returning to Cy Young form and besides Dunn it’s the same old White Sox that weren’t quite good enough last year being not quite good enough again.
  4. Royals – This farm system is loaded, but it won’t make a difference this year. I think a few impact kids will get a shot towards the end of the year and lift this team over Cleveland
  5. Indians – This team is hurting. They don’t seem to have any consistency or prospects to improve. Sizemore coming back could be a boost, but my money is on another dismal year in northern Ohio.

AL West

  1. Rangers – Despite the loss of Cliff Lee, I think the Rangers have enough of their core locked in to take this relatively weak division. The remaining starters should hold up just fine, and the offense looks potent.
  2. A’s – The staff that led the AL in ERA last year is pretty much intact, and the offense is much improved with some nice additions. I think the A’s will make this division closer than it was last year, but won’t score enough runs to put them over the top
  3. Angles – Always competitive, the Angeles just don’t have anything that makes me believe they’ll be back on top this year. Their outfield will be one of the best in the game, but questions in the bullpen, rotation and with scoring runs will keep them from doing much
  4. Mariners – Seattle will bring up the rear again in 2011. I do think they’re moving in the right direction with some young talent and not being bogged down with bad contracts, but they won’t compete this season.

*Wild Card

MVP – Miguel Cabrera

Cy Young – Jon Lester

NL East

  1. Phillies – The rotation is too strong. They already have some injuries and the offense isn’t bulletproof, but their front four will take this strong division down.
  2. Braves – Another solid rotation and a potent line-up will make the Braves very competitive, but in the end they won’t catch the Phils.
  3. Marlins – They always seem to find a way to hang around. They’ll be another bunch of young, talented kids playing over their heads, but I think they’ll be over .500 and in the rearview mirrors of the Braves and Phillies.
  4. Mets – Sorry to all the Mets fans here in the office, but these guys are going nowhere. Santana starting the season on the DL, Bay being hurt and a slew of other questions is going to leave the Mets weak and hapless in 2011. I can’t believe they spend that amount of money on such a bad team, but somehow they manage.
  5. Nationals – Still in the basement this year, but this team is moving in the right direction. I don’t think Werth was a great signing, but overall they made some solid moves and have good young talent on the way.

NL Central

  1. Brewers – Zack Greinke is going to put these guys over the top. They’ve already got a potent line-up and a decent bullpen, and the addition of an ace and a great #3 in Shawn Marcum will shore up their rotation and put them on top
  2. Reds – They were playing way over their heads last year, but I think now with some experience and confidence they can keep it up. Votto has the potential to turn into a superstar, and they have stability and depth all over the field. The potential impact of Chapman at the back end of the ‘pen could make their games very short.
  3. Cardinals – With Wainwright done for the year, the Cards are in trouble. In an overall improving division, St. Louis is standing pat which makes them lose ground. I think Pujols will have a monster year, but it won’t be enough to keep them in contention.
  4. Cubs – Another team that spends a ton with awful results. The addition of Garza will improve their rotation and I think Carlos Pena was a great pick-up for them, but overall their team is weak and will be a non-factor by July.
  5. Astros – Houston is on the right track for improvement, but they won’t be a factor in 2011. They need significant improvement in all aspects of the team before they will be relevant again.
  6. Pirates – I would bet the farm on a 19th straight losing season in Pittsburgh. This team was once great, and the current ownership has turned them into a laughing stock. I feel bad for all Pirates fans and I hope they get someone in there who can pull the organization together and start getting it moving towards some sort of plan to win again.

NL West

  1. Giants – They will repeat as division champs. They trapped magic in a bottle last year, but now they’ve got the confidence and experience on their side. The 2nd best starting staff in the NL coupled with what I expect to be an improved offense will keep them on top.
  2. Rockies* – Carlos Gonzalez is turning into an elite player. Tulowitzki proved last September that he is capable of carrying a team on his back. The fiery offense will keep them in the running for the division title up until the end and they will take down the Wild Card.
  3. Dodgers – A solid rotation and decent offense will make LA a factor, but they don’t have enough strength on either side of the ball to make a serious run.
  4. Padres – After a shocking 90 wins in 2010, the Padres will return to reality in 2011. Some holes will be exposed and they will not repeat their success in a very strong division.
  5. Diamondbacks – Arizona hasn’t done much to improve. They seem to have some talent coming down the pike, but they’ve unloaded most of the players with the ability to win them games now, and they seem focused on the future. This division is too good for some young kids to make a miracle run, so AZ will bring up the rear in the NL West.

*Wild Card

MVP – Carlos Gonzalez

Cy Young – Roy Halladay

Playoffs

AL

1st Round – Red Sox vs Rangers, Twins vs Yankees

ALCS – Red Sox vs Yankees

NL

1st Round – Phillies vs Rockies, Giants vs Brewers

NLCS – Phillies vs Giants

World Series – Red Sox over Phillies in 5

I hope you’ve all drafted your fantasy teams, made up excuses for your bosses why you need to be out of work today or tomorrow afternoon, and in general have the same spring in your step today that I do. Now sit back, relax, light up a stogie and watch your team begin another wonderful season of America’s greatest game.