A year ago, I correctly forecasted the Toronto Blue Jays’ first-place finish in the American League East—and now I can’t stop predicting stuff for 2016. Kevin Pillar will steal 30 bases! Josh Donaldson will produce 45 homers and six new hairstyles! It’s going to be splitsville for Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani! More importantly, here’s how the division is going to end up:
5. Baltimore Have you looked at the Orioles’ pitching staff? I sure hope so, because you’re their fifth starter. Put down that magazine and start getting loose in the ’pen, rookie. This is a team whose “ace” amassed a 4.99 ERA in 2015. It’s a team that pays money to Ubaldo Jimenez—to pitch the baseball. I’m not saying this rotation is close to a disaster, but watch for it in the next Michael Bay movie. It’s the one that transforms into a FEMA trailer.
4. Tampa Bay You want pitching? The Rays have pitching! This is the best rotation in the division and it sure will be fun to… sorry, I can’t keep up the charade. This team is sooo boring. You bore me, Tampa Bay Rays, with your stupid rhyming name and your batting order of nobodies. It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that no player on Tampa will hit 20 homers or steal 20 bases in 2016. Imagine the thrill of going to the league’s worst stadium to watch the division’s worst hitters. If the Rays were a colour, they’d be grey. If they were an ice cream flavour, they’d be grey.
3. Boston Many see a rebound season coming for the Red Sox. And the argument is always the same: Sure, they finished dead last in 2015, but Boston can win the division in 2016… if Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez hit better, and if they can figure out what to do in left field, and if Dustin Pedroia can find a donor for a hamstring transplant, and if the Blue Jays fall down a well. Signing David Price to a seven-year contract was a great move. (This just in from 2021: Signing David Price to a seven-year contract was a terrible move.) But at press time, Major League Baseball continued to stubbornly insist that teams have to throw pitches in every game—not just one in five. Who’s going to crank out wins after Price? Rick Porcelloh-my-God-another-home-run? Clay Buchholz? For those scoring at home, this marks the fifth straight year that Buchholz is purportedly going to stay healthy and put it all together.
2. New York How old are the Yankees? Their Opening Day game was delayed for several minutes when Carlos Beltran kept yelling at Houston’s outfielders to get off his lawn. Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (combined age: the Moon) are all top-notch hitters, and New York will probably do very well in the seven games in which all three of them play. But after that, it’s going to be triceps this and rheumatism that. Age spares no one: This year, Jacoby Ellsbury continues his decline from five-tool player to three-tool player to guy who wears an onion tied to his belt.
1. Toronto Forget about next year. Ignore contract demands and negotiations. The world of 2017 does not exist (kind of like if Donald Trump gets access to the nuclear codes). This is all that matters: The Jays scored 891 runs last year—and this season, their lineup is better. Better, as in more good. Half the batting order can be in a slump. The other half can be playing in street clothes. Jose Bautista can bat wearing flip-flops and a blindfold. It won’t matter. The Jays will still put up nine squillion runs. They are an unstoppable killing machine built to make full-grown adult pitchers cry and Goose Gossage throw a sandwich at his TV. Do not overthink this. The Jays will repeat as division champs. They will do well in the playoffs. It won’t be that hard. The hard part comes after.