Opening day snuck up on me. I really didn't know the regular season began tomorrow until I opened this morning's sports section and saw the TV listings. (For all the kids out there, a newspaper is something you read when the router is balky.)
I guess that's what happens when you go from being in a town with 2 MLB teams to a town with none.
As I said in a post a while back, even though I'm neither a White Sox fan nor a Cubs fan, I will miss having big-league ball in my town. Oh, and I'll miss the Cubs, too.
I'll miss Ozzie Guillen's daily silliness and the sports soap opera that is the Cubbies. I'll miss classy Paul Konerko and wacky Cra-Z Zambrano. I'll miss Jake Peavy's injury du jour and the ascension of Starlin Castro. And as long as I'm being honest here ... I'll miss that steady AP freelance paycheck I got for showing up at the ballpark and taking my own hacks a couple times a week.
I'm sure I'll watch plenty of baseball on TV - I mean, how can I help it? There pretty much is a game on some channel 24/7 - but it won't be quite the same.
All that being said, I still will follow the game. And, like everybody else, I still have opinions. So here's my quick 2011 forecast ...
AL East: Red Sox. They made all the right moves over the winter and figure to be quite hungry after starving last year. The Yankees? Freddy Garcia made their rotation and Bartolo Colon is in their bullpen. Nuff said.
AL Central: Twins. Especially if Justin Morneau is healthy (and Jay Mauer stays healthy). But I do like most of what the White Sox did during the offseason and would expect an extremely close race. If that's the case, the Twins usually take advantage of the Sox choke instincts and prevail.
AL West: Angels. This division really is anybody's guess, so this anybody will guess Mike Scioscia.
AL Wild Card: White Sox. (Or Twins if they get edged in division).
NL East: Phillies. I'm trying to figure out a way they don't win it. And I'm failing.
NL Central: Reds. Should be an interesting race. The Cardinals almost always contend but have injuries galore and that whole Pujols Contract Thing hanging over their heads. The Brewers will score lots of runs ... and give up more. The Cubs often fail when expected to succeed and vice versa, so maybe they'll fool everybody. Dusty Baker clubs have trouble winning two years in a row, but I think the Reds have most of what good teams need.
NL West: Giants. Though I certainly could see the Rockies or Dodgers winning this, too.
NL Wild Card: Rockies.
AL: Red Sox over White Sox; Twins over Angels; Red Sox over Twins.
NL: Phillies over Rockies; Giants over Reds; Phillies over Giants.
World Series: Phillies over Red Sox. Too much pitching. Darn good hitting, too.
AL: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox. We'll see how he performs with the pressure on. And with a great lineup around him.
NL: Roy Halladay, Phillies. He probably won't win it because voters don't like starting pitchers, but his dominance has a domino effect on the NL's best rotation - and best team.
AL: Jered Weaver, Angels. A very good young pitcher becomes an outstanding veteran.
NL: Roy Halladay, Phillies. Duh.
HEADLINES WE'LL BE SICK OF BY MIDSEASON
5. Cubs' Quade Benches Soriano Again for Not Running Out Flyball.
4. Last-place Pirates Look To Trade Top Players.
4. Steinbrenner Blasts Yankees; Threatens Sweeping Changes.
2. Selig Blasts Union; Union Blames Owners.
1. Pujols Says It's About Respect, Not Money.