The long period of grim fasting and meditation is over.   We can once again embrace joy.  Renewal and rebirth are all around us.

Oh and Lent ended and Easter happened as well.

Those first three sentence of course referred to:

OPENING DAY!

Once again, my favorite holiday has come and this time the Giants run off into the forest and the rest of us follow and try to pull off what they have two out of the last three years.  As I have for the last twenty or so, dating back to when I used to write them long-hand and tape them to the door of my dorm room, I yet again humbly submit my fearless forecastings for the 2013 season, this time with a few sentences of explanation for my predictions.  I invite your comments and by comments I of course mean your outright scorn and derision because as per usual I would feel more secure about these picks if I used tea leaves, astrological charts, or at least used astrological charts while drinking tea.  And as with last year’s picks, I won’t dare try to pick pennant or World Series winners.   In any event, enjoy:

NL EAST

1.  Washington- A 98-win team added a leadoff hitter and this time there’s no cockamamie innings limit on Strasburg.  Let’s see how they do overcoming the heartbreak of last October.

2.  Atlanta- Not one but two Uptons and the best bullpen in baseball.  Just hope that the Uptons don’t live down to their less-than-dialed-in reputations.

3.  Philadelphia- That’s still Halladay, Lee, and Hamels in the rotation and that’s still Papelbon in the bullpen.  But that whole team is another year older and and just as injury-prone and help isn’t coming from the farm like it used to.

4.  New York- Harvey and Wheeler and Niese and d’Arnaud prove that better days are coming.  Marlon Byrd starting in right field proves that they may not be here just yet

5.  Miami-  I never thought I’d say this, but poor Giancarlo Stanton.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  pack the Marlins up, ship them north, and give us the new Montreal Expos.

NL CENTRAL

1.  Cincinnati- I never said the Braves had sole possession of the title of best bullpen in baseball and the Reds have  Cueto and Latos in that rotation.  And they’ve got Phillips and Votto in their lineup and now they’ve added Choo to the top of the lineup and seriously did nobody notice that this team won 97 games last year?

2. St.  Louis- These guys always seem to figure it out somehow and God knows they’ll hit but will they pitch enough? And how soon will they come to regret that contract extension for Adam Wainwright like almost everyone who hands out a pricey contract to a starting pitcher does at some point?

3.  Milwaukee-  Adding Lohse makes them better, but not better enough to challenge the Reds and probably not better enough to overtake to the Cardinals.

4. Pittsburgh- It has to turn around for them some time, and I’m not just saying that because the Dread Pirate Andrew McCutcheon has about the coolest nickname in the game today and and even just having only seen it on television I love that park.  Between McCutcheon and Alvarez and McDonald there’s good stuff here.  It just needs reinforcing.

5. Chicago– Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro…give Theo Epstein more time.  As in more than this year.

NL WEST

1.  San Francisco– I don’t care how much money they’re spending in L.A.– until further notice the group with Matt Cain and Madison Baumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong in the rotation and Buster Posey behind the plate that seemed to figure it out more and more as the year went along last year gets the nod.

2.  Los Angeles– Okay, I care a little how much money they’re spending in L.A.  Kershaw and Kemp and Jansen are reason enough to hope before you even get to Beckett and Crawford and Gonzalez– all of whom are guys being counted on to have big comebacks from last year’s Beantown train wreck

3. Arizona- Upton or no Upton, they still have enough talent between Kennedy and Cahill in the rotation and Montero and Goldschmidt in the lineup to make a go of it, but having to deal with the Giants and the Dodgers will make it tough.

4.  San Diego-  Better than you think, but still only treading water in this division and it’s going to be really tough without Headley

5. Colorado- As usual, they’ll have some guys put up some impressive offensive numbers.  As usual, it won’t be enough.  The finest humidor  in the world wouldn’t be enough to solve their pitching problems.

Wild Card 1: Atlanta

Wild Card 2: Los Angeles

AL EAST

1.  Toronto- It should all work.  Adding Dickey and Johnson and Buehrle should give you a standout rotation.  Adding Reyes and Bonifacio should give you just the table-setters you need for Encarnacion and Bautista.  This team should lead a notoriously tough division.  Ask all those ex-Marlins how well these frantic facelifts go.  Again, it should work and they should win in the 90s- which would be one massive improvement from their 73-89 finish of a year ago.

2.  Tampa Bay- Only the Rays could trade away the likes of Wade Davis and Big Game James Shields and still legitimately look at their rotation as their strength.  They may struggle to score runs but Will Myers will be there sooner rather than later.  And I’ve learned not to bet against Joe Maddon.

3. Baltimore- It’s not that Buck Showalter’s group took a step back.  It’s that a tough division got tougher.  There’s a lot to like about this group, but let’s just see if last year was the first major step to the promised land or an anomaly.

4.  New York- No team with C.C. Sabbathia in its rotation and Robinson Cano in the middle of its lineup is without hope.  But boy are they old and boy are they fragile and boy is no help coming from Columbus or anywhere else any time soon.

5.  Boston- Was it just that they needed to bring in John Farrell and Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino and a bunch of other allegedly swell Joes?  They’ll help and God knows it can’t be any worse than last year was.  But the climb up from the ditch they drove into won’t happen overnight.

NL CENTRAL

1.  Detroit- Verlander, Scherzer, Fielder, Hunter, a healthy Victor Martinez…what’s not to love? Well, the bullpen.  But that can be fixed during the season and if it can’t, if anyone can make it work, Jim Leyland can.

2. Kansas City-  It’s really hard to go from being a 72-90 team to a contender…and these guys may just pull it off.  It doesn’t hurt playing in this division, but  Shields and Davis give them the rotation they need to go along with a lineup that with Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Eric Hosmer has talent coming out of its ears.

3.  Chicago- With Sale and Peavy they should be in it, but losing Pierzynski and his 26 home runs doesn’t help and a lot of the other teams in their division got better.

4. Indians-  With the additions of Swisher and Bourn and yes Francona and the dreaded Bullpen Mafia, they could make the NL Central race a four-team scramble.  That starting rotation is still problematic though,  to say the least.

5. Twins- Ron Gardenhire, Justin Morneau, and Joe Mauer all deserve better– and they just might get before season’s end.

NL WEST

1.  I think they’ll ultimately regret it, but for now Hamilton makes what was already a good offense a whole lot better.   Not many teams could so easily endure the loss of a Zack Greinke, but then not many teams have a Jered Weaver.  Oh and that Trout fellow in the outfield seems to have some ability.  Just remember this is a tough division and they didn’t win last year when they were expected to…

2.  Oakland-  If I’ve learned not to bet against Joe Maddon, I’ve really learned not to bet  against Billy Beane or anybody else who manages to scoop up people like Yoenis Cespedes when nobody is looking.   Flash-in-the-pan theories be damned, this group didn’t win 94 wins by accident last year.  That’s a solid little rotation they’ve got and the should hit just enough.

3.  Texas- I think ultimately they did the right thing, but for now they’ll miss Josh Hamilton, although Pierzynski and Berkman will help offset his loss. They’ll be in it and the likes of Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, and Leonys Martin are coming.

4. Seattle- As a Mets’ fan, I can appreciate the plight of a team trying to turn things around in a tough division and counting on a big contribution from Jason Bay to do it.  For any team with someone like Felix Hernandez in the rotation, all could not possibly be lost, but this may take a while.

5.  Houston- Again speaking as  a Mets’ fan, I thought it was tough enough when they put the Braves in the NL East.  For these poor guys to be thrown to the lions in this division…it’s just going to be tough.  For the foreseeable future.

Wild Card 1: Tampa Bay

Wild Card2 : Oakland

You heard it here first!

Happy Opening Day!

And don’t forget to write your Congressman…make Opening Day a national holiday!

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