Between the Madness comes baseball's Opening Day

Mar 31, 2009 5:07 PM
by Mark Mayer |

I know it’s hard during March Madness to believe baseball is about to start, but it’s about to start.

Sunday night the world champion Phillies, 20-1 at the Hilton this time last year, host the Atlanta Braves in Philadelphia. There are five games Monday, highlighted by NL West champ LA Dodgers at San Diego. Most everyone else goes Tuesday.

During the offseason, the national treasury shifted from Washington D.C. to the New York Yankees after spending more money than Capitol Hill for CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett.

Manny will be Manny again at Dodger Stadium, while lefty Randy Johnson will look for the fountain of youth at rival San Francisco. Heck, even Washington found enough stash to put together a package for ex-Cincinnati slugger Adam Dunn. Check "Take A Chance On" (p12) for more on Dunn.

Tampa Bay needed a solid righty stick and found one in ex-Phillie Pat Burrell. Boston stockpiled an already solid pitching staff by acquiring Takashi Saito and Brad Penny from the LA Dodgers. And the Cubs, well they add Milton Bradley and lose Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa to Cleveland.

From a betting perspective, it’s hard to remember a year where there have been more proposition wagers. We listed a few that may whet a bettor’s appetite and will offer a few recommendations.

As for the regular season, here are our early selections with the understanding that we are allowed a mulligan at the All-Star break.

American League

East: Red Sox, NY Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles.

Central: Indians, Tigers, Royals, Twins, White Sox.

West: Rangers, Angels, Mariners, Athletics (Series odds, p14).

National League

East: NY Mets, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals.

Central: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Astros.

West: Dodgers, Giants, D’backs, Rockies, Padres (Series odds, p.14)

Why not the Yankees is chemistry, something all the money that the Steinbrenners have just can’t buy. Why not the Angels is less depth with the loss of Mark Teixeira, K-Rod and the steady Garret Anderson, though adding Bobby Abreu will help.

Putting K-Rod and JJ Putz on the Mets should solve that long-standing bullpen problem. The Cardinals overachieved through numerous injuries last year and potentially have a great pitching staff. If the Giants could have signed Manny to go with their bunch of stud pitchers, they would have gotten the division nod. As for which teams will and won’t exceed their potential, here’s 15 predictions.

OVERS

LA Dodgers (85): The Dodgers won 84 games with a half year of Manny and Clayton Kershaw. The lineup is solid top to bottom and in baseball’s easiest division.

St. Louis (83½): A bargain considering the Cardinals won 86 last year with a patchwork unit. If former ace Chris Carpenter is back to his old form, this number is a steal.

Cincinnati (79½): A jump from last year’s 74 wins, but justified. The Reds have some of the best young talent in baseball.

Detroit (81½): The Tigers were a huge disappointment with 74 wins. Just can’t see another collapse. Miguel Cabrera can rake with anyone.

Seattle (73): Ichiro, Johjima and King Felix are a nice foundation. The M’s had everything go wrong a year ago. Somebody has to challenge the Angels?

NY Mets (89): The Mets won 89 last year and didn’t have Putz and K-Rod to set up and close. Blowing a division lead won’t happen three straight years.

Texas (74): Nolan Ryan is now an influential part of Texas management, which means the Rangers may just get some pitching to match those big bats.

San Francisco (79½): I love that pitching staff, especially with Randy Johnson joining Tim Lincecum. We’re excited about left-hand hitting first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who has shown some pop this spring.

UNDERS

NY Yankees (94½): A-Rod, CC, AJ, a new ballpark and still those Red Sox! And now the Rays are involved. All that money and a hard time reaching 90 victories!

Chicago Cubs (92½): In the tough NL Central Division and without both Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa. Cubs won 97 last year and should have made the Series.

Milwaukee (81½): No Sabathia and who knows about Ben Sheets? If Cincy and St. Louis rise in the Central, somebody has to drop.

Baltimore (72): There’s Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora and Nick Markakis, After that, I couldn’t name anyone else on the team. The management doesn’t spend. Name me one starting pitcher?

Colorado (76½): I can’t figure out why the Rockies would trade Matt Holliday, their best player? And pitching 81 games in Coors Field is always dicey.

Oakland (82½): And, why would the A’s acquire Holliday if they’re already hinting about trading him if they’re out of the race?

Tampa Bay (88½): Getting Pat Burrell makes the Rays better, but now everyone is on to them.