It is Holy Week when Roman Catholics commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord. It is also Passover when Jews commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. But more importantly we are in the last week of Spring Training and so it is time for the 2010 Irascible Poet Baseball Preview;
Baseball is the most contemplative sport. It follows the seasons and most resembles daily life since it goes on for months and months. I think the thing that I like best about Baseball is that it is every day. During the season you can watch the game and just when you need it it comes through for you.
Last year I was unemployed and depressed. I was sitting at home stewing in my own self pity and I had the White Sox game on and what do you know Mark Buehrle throws a perfect game. Baseball coming through for you.... I have been reading a new biography of Willie Mays by James Hirsch and he talks about the idea of Willie Mays catching a ball in center field-- sheer perfection in the face of the ordinary. Baseball is like being allowed to watch an artist paint or sculpt. It is sheer perfection but also failure and doubt and if you are a Cub fan like my dear friend Mark Tardi it is agony punctuated by numbness. I of course am a White Sox fan and so my life is filled with agony and deformity rather than numbness.
Everyone is making their picks and so here are mine;
National League East
The NL East is an interesting division. The Phillies are a great team and they have a great ball park but I do not think that this is their year. The New York Mets should be a great team but the combination of their ball park which is too big and David Wright's weight gain does not bode well for them and then there is the fact that this is Bobby Cox's last year in Atlanta. I think that this is the difference and that Atlanta wins this division and gives them a storybook ending for Cox's career.
National League Central
It is well known that the Cubs give me hives and their fans make me want to vomit but I think that this might just be a good year for our bastard cousins on the North Side. This is Lou Piniella's last year with the Cubs and even the most vitriolic Cub hater has to like Lou (Just like we liked Ernie Banks only an idiot did not like Ernie Banks). The Milwaukee Brewers look good as well and the Cardinals have Albert Pujols which makes them a good team. Look for Dusty Baker to be fired by Cincinnati in May. So my pick is the Cubs by one game over the Cardinals who will win the NL Wild Card
National League West
This is the weakest division in baseball. The Dodgers are going no where fast and the divorce drama will get worse before it gets better. The Padres are an empty shell. The Rockies are a good team but the team to watch is the San Francisco Giants. This is their year with great pitching they win the west.
Now we move on to the real league, The American League.
American League East
The Yankees/Red Sox division is dominated by that rivalry and it produced a World Champion for only 200 million dollars last year. The Yankees are a great team but how long can this chemistry last? The Red Sox have one of the best pitching staff's and they also have the advantage of being an underdog. I would watch this division you will have a three way race between the Ray's, Red Sox and Yankees but the team that is most interesting are the Orioles. They have a good core of young players and could finish fourth and be over .500 if that happens this division tightens and the Yankees/Red Sox do not win 95 games. Having said that this is how they finish.
American League Central
This is my home division. Filled with evil teams like the Twins and Tigers. Actually I like to call the AL Central the old jeans division it is so comfortable and the rivalries are fierce but no where near the meanness of Yankees Red Sox and that is because there are no assholes in the Midwest they have all migrated to the area between Philadelphia and Boston. Having said that this division will be the most competitive of the entire MLB. The Twins are a good team, my White Sox have the best rotation and do not forget the Indians who are young but have Grady Sizemore who is a great player. Watch for the Tigers to fall apart trading Curtis Granderson was a stupid move. So here is my call...
oh and it will be another year of a one game playoff between two 88 win teams....
American League West
Is this baseball's most boring division? The Angels are about as exciting as a visit to a State Farm office. The A's could be a great team if someone would just show up to their games, the Mariners play in a great ball park and the Rangers could be great if it were not so damn hot in Texas. Having said that I think this is the year that that Rangers finally win the division. The cocaine problems of their manager will be resolved in May when he is fired and the Angels will be weakened.
I am not going to pick a World Series Winner mostly because I do not really care.
I remember once when I was travelling in Europe in the late 1980's that I read an article by David Halberstam in the International Herald Tribune about what it is like to be away from Baseball in an alien land on opening day. I felt this six times in my life when I lived outside the USA and I have to say that opening day and the baseball season is one of the only things I truly missed while living abroad. There are allot of great places to live in the world and i have lived in two of them but there is always an emptiness because of the lack of baseball. There is something cleansing about baseball something reassuring.
You can become immersed in it's minutiae and remove yourself from reality which makes all the difference in a world of pain. Other sports are great I enjoy College Football and the World Cup but there is just something about the crack of the bat that I cherish and in the end cannot live without. Roger Angell one of baseball's great writers said once that baseball is like a religion and once you are inducted you need it the way a Catholic needs the Eucharist or a Buddhist meditation.
That seems right to me so only a few days left to the crack of the bat....