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Every Team in Two Sentences 2016

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Opening Day is here, everyone.

Blue skies, Nothing but blue skies.....
Blue skies, Nothing but blue skies.....
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It's finally here, folks. Opening Day, all 'round the world. Or, at least, all around the country, I suppose.

I'm tempted to quote Counting Crows's "Long December" to try and describe the feel of this offseason, and how bitter much of the feeling toward the team has been, but when I actually think of it, the song seems far less apropos than it initially felt in my head. After all, Adam Duritz specifically says he has reason to believe this year may be better than last; the big problem for Cardinal fans this winter has not been frustration waiting for better times, but the feel of not enough being done to prevent a near-inevitable slide, and the ascension of the club's most historic rival, the ever-hated Cubs, to prominence that has engendered so much discontent amongst the red-clad faithful.

There is a feeling watching the Cubs suddenly become the hot pick of everyone and their sibling to win the division, 110+ games, the World Series, and possibly a universal championship put on by space monsters of some sort, while the Cardinals languish in obscurity, signing their Mike Leakes and sticking with internal options, that feels almost impossibly dark. If mongooses one day started killing humans at an enormous pace, I can imagine a cobra, seeing a Time cover at the airport bookstand about The Mongoose Menace, and saying, "Hey, what about us, guys? I mean, sure, mongooses are super scary right now, but we're still pretty deadly, right? Cobras? Terrifying cobras? Right over here? Anyone?" and then picking up his tiny, cobra-sized briefcase with his tail and shuffling into line for the body scanner, his slightly shabby businesscobra's fedora pulled slightly low over his beady cobra eyes as he intentionally avoids meeting the gaze of anyone else in the airport. A man standing behind him in the queue looks down, starts a bit, and then says, "Oh, hey, a cobra. Wow. Boy, remember when you guys were the biggest thing on the block? I'll bet you guys are super scared of all these mongooses, right?" as the cobra mutters something noncommittal and then shuffles forward slowly with the line, wondering how it all went so wrong, and how many more times he's going to have to have this same conversation.

Anyhow, we are mere hours away from baseball, real baseball, and so here is my third (I think) annual season preview, presented to you in as brief a format as I can manage, while also utilising a vast, vast number of commas, semicolons, and other forms of arcane punctuation to stretch the legal definition of what can be properly called a sentence. As always, teams will be listed in the order I believe they finish, first to last within each division.

And without further ado, we begin over in the American League, with....

American League East

The former behemoth division to end all behemoth divisions, the evening-out of the American League in general has been most notable in the East, where remarkable parity has broken out, shocking when you consider how different the teams' various realities are.

Toronto Blue Jays -- The loss of David Price this offseason lowers the ceiling on their rotation considerably, and the pitching as a whole has to be a real concern. All the same, the offense has the potential to be the best in baseball again, even with some regression built in for a few players, and their ability to outslug opponents will be enough to capture the crown of baseball's most tightly-bunched division.

Boston Red Sox -- They're the trendy pick to win the AL East and a possible title contender, and it's easy to see why: they have a potentially-great offense, a beefed-up bullpen, and the ace they so sorely lacked last year to stabilise and elevate the rotation. But I still see pitching issues behind David Price, a lot of faith being put in some high-risk relief arms, and a Wild Card berth for the American League's most operatic team.

Tampa Bay Rays -- The Rays' rotation may be the best single aspect of any team in the AL East, even considering the behemoth that is the Toronto offense. But looking at the lineup, I just don't see enough runs, and bullpen attrition has already begun for the ultimately slightly short Rays.

New York Yankees -- Perhaps more collapse potential than any other team in baseball due to the enormous age of the lineup -- not to mention the injury-proneness of much of that lineup -- and not enough starting pitching to get consistent leads to that three-headed monster at the back of the 'pen. The Yanks soft reset goes on, though, playing out the end of the 2009 championship club's fallout, and in two years New York may legitimately feel "Long December" fits their situation completely.

Baltimore Orioles -- The O's have had a nice run of being one of the better clubs in the American League, but it looks as if that time is now coming to an end. Too little pitching, no plan and bad health for their one potentially ace-level starter (Kevin Gausman, that is), and a bizarre fixation on sluggers at the expense of all else will sink Baltimore this season.

AL Central

The Tigers have been the Yankee-like figures of the division for the last decade, dominating the Central most seasons while outspending everyone due to the largesse of their pizza-pizza-fueled war chest. The cost of short-term gratification is just now beginning to take hold, though, and the emergence of younger, leaner, more nimble and deadly competitors has pushed the Tigers aside. This division will rival the East in terms of top to bottom parity, though there is one other team with serious collapse potential besides the aging Tigers.

Cleveland Indians -- You know, I'm really getting tired of picking the Indians to be good; they are the ultimate Charlie-Brown-kicking-the-football club in all of sports right now. Still, a solid-enough offense, vastly improved defense featuring one of the most exciting young shortstops in the game, and a pitching staff that might be the AL's best will finally, finally make this the year that Cleveland lives up to our expectations.

Kansas City Royals -- The arguments over whether projections and the people who create them just Hate The Royals or not has served to obfuscate the twin facts that yes, the Royals have built themselves a solid baseball team, and no, they are not perennial title contender good. The bullpen will again be great, and there is still youth to bet on here, but a very shaky starting rotation and a lineup a little short on oomph will leave KC barely on the outside looking in at a third consecutive playoff run.

Chicago White Sox -- It's amazing; you would think it would be impossible to be both mediocre and dreadfully boring while having one of the most exciting pitchers in the game in Chris Sale taking the mound for you every fifth day. And yet, here we are, with the White Sox achieving just that feat through a continuous shuffling of interchangeable, extraordinarily mediocre deck chairs.

Detroit Tigers -- There is a way the Detroit Tigers could be healthy, be productive, and ride an aging core to another 90+ win season. What feels far more likely, though, is an endless litany of minor aches and pains affecting their early-morning-buffet-crowd offense, at least one major arm injury between Jordan Zimmerman and Anibal Sanchez, and a season that could very well go completely off the rails in spite of their attempts to outspend time.

Minnesota Twins -- The Twins made some noise last year, but mostly in that unsustainable, Mariners-would-buy-into-this way, and the Plexiglass Principle alone would provide at least narrative support for them being a little worse this year. The future is bright in Minnesota, still, but that future is probably one more year away, still.

AL West

Ah, the AL West. Perhaps the weakest division in all of baseball, in terms of top-to-bottom mediocrity, though the American League lacks the outright tankers we find in the NL this season. There are some potentially solid clubs here, but all are flawed in one way or another, and there's some real fall-off-the-board potential as well.

Houston Astros -- The 3-4-5 spots in the rotation are all definite concerns, and the offense still struggles to get on base badly enough to be a real concern for me going forward, but of a deeply flawed collection of teams the Astros have the highest ceiling and are most on the upswing, I believe. Plus, they have Carlos Correa, that 21st century shortstop version of the Maxim Gun, and that's a hell of a place to start.

Seattle Mariners -- New General Manager Jerry Dipoto took steps to address the club's horrific OBP problems this offseason, bringing in players like Adam Lind and Chris Iannetta to try and complement the all-around solidness of Corey Seager and Robinson Cano. Unfortunately, it looks like the workload is finally starting to wear on King Felix, and the rest of the pitching depth the Mariners were counting on has failed to coalesce, though adding the dependable, if unspectacular, innings of Wade Miley should help some.

Texas Rangers -- If things work out for the Rangers, once Yu Darvish returns they could have one of the more imposing rotations in all of baseball. The rest of the team is in flux, however, as they try to turn a monster system into another monster team, and enough will go wrong in Arlington that I see them just missing out this autumn.

Oakland Athletics -- Sonny Gray is awesome, Josh Reddick is a very good all-around player, and Stephen Vogt is an intriguing multi-position bat (sure would be cool if the Cards had him right now, wouldn't it?). Beyond that, though, this is a very bad roster, and proof that sometimes, when you run your franchise like one long series of chemistry experiments, whether by necessity or for other reasons, sometimes that beaker in your hand is going to blow up in your face.

Anaheim Angels -- The Angels have had the best player in baseball for four years running, at absurdly cheap salaries, and in that time have failed to win a single playoff game. If that's not the sign of a poorly-run team, I don't know what is.

Now, on to the Senior Circuit, the one we all know and love...

National League East

The strangest division in baseball, with perhaps the worst bottom end, but also last year's NL World Series representative and the National League's best player sitting at the other side.

Washington Nationals -- Following one of the most disappointing seasons by anyone in recent memory, Dusty Baker is poised to win another manager of the year award just by being handed the keys to a Ferrari that last week blew a gasket, prompting its angry owner to sell it for 2000$ OBO!!! on Craigslist. There is some fragility on this roster, certainly, but tremendous talent all over the field, from a rotation that could be dominant, one of the best third basemen in the game when healthy, and a young shortstop poised to jump into the discussion as part of the positional renaissance happening right now.

New York Mets -- I know, everyone is picking the Mets to be Amazin' this year, and it's easy to see why when you look at their rotation. That rotation, though, I believe will prove so risky as to be an actual Achilles' Heel, and the offense, while better than last season's early iteration, isn't good enough to carry them should the run prevention power of Thor and His Valhallans fail to come through in a suitably Valkyrian fashion.

Florida Marlins -- The Marlins should still feature one of the best young outfields in all of baseball, and one of the most intriguing middle infield duos to be found, to go along with one of the more exciting young stud pitchers in the game in Jose Fernandez. The problem is a profound lack of depth, and very little of note beyond Fernandez on the pitching side, dooming the Marlins once again to a season of anonymity, aside from the occasional Giancarlo highlight reel homer and whatever bizarre thing their owner does this year.

Philadelphia Phillies -- The Phillies are pointed in the right direction, with some fairly canny trades helping to turn things around on Ruben Amaro's way out the door. All the same, it's difficult to find too much to say about the Phightin's, beyond the fact we'll know far more at the end of the season than we do now about what their next contending team is going to look like.

Atlanta Braves -- The Atlanta Braves are going to be terrible this year. They should trade Freddie Freeman, even if the return is more that of a solid player, which is what he is, rather than a superstar, which is what they want to believe he is. That is all. And yes, more than two sentences, and about the worst team in baseball, no less.

National League Central

The division we all know and love, the old Comedy Central days are now so long in the mirror as to be almost impossible to recall. There is a murderer's row at the top, and two tanking teams at the bottom. The Reds may avoid last place simply by Joey Votto's force of will, though like his on-base percentage I doubt the people of Cincy will appreciate it.

Chicago Cubs -- The Cubs are a very good, and very complete, club right now, particularly with the additions of all-around star players Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist over the offseason. And for at least as long at the top end of their rotation holds together in fine fashion, they're going to be tough to catch this year, even if the hype has clearly gotten a bit out of control.

St. Louis Cardinals -- Potentially the best second-place team in baseball, I think the projections, er, reports of the Cardinals' decline are wildly premature, particularly as so much of the rhetoric is based around an aging core that isn't properly the club's core of production any longer. Still, there are big-time concerns with the offense, even if there is real potential for improvement over last year's club, and the rotation could dominate the league or all hit the DL at the same time in mid-June.

Pittsburgh Pirates -- Easily the best third-place team in baseball, the Pirates have an awesome core of talent, supplemented by canny, astute, shrewd, discriminating, clever, discerning (trying every word I can think of to avoid saying 'cheap'), moves made on the margins of the roster. Still, the Buccos are in a fight against two other titans, both of which have both the smarts to match their construction and the resources to spend beyond the more modest means of Pittsburgh themselves (or perhaps just beyond the willingness of Pirate ownership), meaning it's tough to see any way this amazing team does any better than the Andrew McCutchen Memorial Invitational One-Game Playoff again this year, and considering the excellence of the Mets, I think there's a good chance they miss out on that, as well. (single tear)

Cincinnati Reds -- The Reds' half-assed rebuild carries on apace, slowed by no-trade contracts and the player who refuse to waive them, although I will give Walt Jocketty and Co. credit for making a few fairly good deals over the past year. Unfortunately for the Reds, they play in the division with those three titans I've already mentioned, and that means they will likely both lose a huge number of games this season and also struggle to move back toward relevance without making some higher-upside additions than what they have so far in this process of rebooting the club.

Milwaukee Brewers -- The Brewers, as opposed to the Reds, are doing their rebuild in a way I much more can get on board with. Milwaukee and Cincinnati will fight it out at the bottom of the Central standings this year, and I can see four and five going either way, but the future for the Brew Crew is very bright, as they've made some extremely smart bets and are amassing a war chest of talent that could propel them into another 2008-2011 sort of run within three or four years, I think.

NL West

Yes, it's an even year, and yes, that means the Giants are probably going to win the World Series. While the Central is probably still the toughest division in baseball, the Dodgers and San Francisco are trying to say something about that, and even Arizona wants to get involved. Even if the DBacks' attempts to get involved look nightmarishly misguided almost exactly half the time.

San Francisco Giants -- There's a real chance the Giants could be absolutely awesome this year, with perhaps the best infield in all of baseball to go along with a rotation that could be among the game's most dominant. On the other hand, the out of character spending spree upon which El Gigantes embarked this offseason could go very wrong, too, as the rotation, in addition to being potentially dominant, could also potentially be extremely risky, and both Matt Duffy and Joe Panik have to be considered at least moderate question marks for the near term.

Los Angeles Dodgers -- We keep waiting for the Dodgers to take over baseball, and it keeps not happening, proof that this game is just fucking hard sometimes, man. The way things appear to be going for LA so far this year, I expect what already felt a little like a slight transition year to turn into a full second-place, missing-the-playoffs-by-three-games DISASTER, as well as a referendum in certain places on just how smart the supposedly smart guys of baseball really are. (Spoiler alert: they're still pretty smart.)

Arizona Diamondbacks -- The Diamondbacks went out of their way to try and become both relevant and interesting this offseason, signing the second-best free agent pitcher on the market to an enormous deal, trading away the first overall pick in the draft for a glorified number three starter, and just generally saying and doing things that prove Tony La Russa may not know how the hell to build a baseball team, but he still gets how to fuck with the people in the audience. The only problem: a stars-and-scrubs construction leaves you vulnerable when, say, your star center fielder goes down just before the season starts, and there's regression in them thar hills even for the mighty Goldschmidt, although I expect he'll still be quite wonderful.

San Diego Padres -- I said last year the Padres would win an award relating to being the Most Overhyped Offseason Club, and if said award had existed, I would have been right. (One of the only things I got right, unfortunately.) Now A.J. Preller and Co. are trying to pivot away from their initial strategy, and rebuild on the fly, prompting the question: why did you trade away a close-to-contending rebuild project in the first place?

Colorado Rockies -- I really don't know what to say about the Rockies. Or, more properly, I'm tired of trying to come up with things to say about the Rockies in these kinds of columns, and trading a bat-first outfielder who could very well have moved to DH in 2017 for a late-inning injury-plagued reliever is, for a bad team, a terrible idea, making it even harder to come up with much of use to say. So, I won't. And that's now more than two sentences about maybe the other worst team in baseball, as well.

World Series Prediction

Ah, yes, that moment in which I try to imagine baseball six months from now, and then predict the outcome of that imaginary baseball. Good times. This year I will say...the Boston Red Sox will earn themselves a Wild Card spot and then zoom ahead to a championship, defeating the Cardinals in a six-game scrum, largely on the strength of David Price's Bumgarner 2014-esque performance, thus presenting us with the latest and greatest heartbreak of our recent relationship with both the city of Boston and left-handed natives of Tennessee. It's not going to be much fun.

Oh, who am I kidding? We all know it's going to be the Giants.