The predictions

Yes, my Sports Illustrated baseball preview issue arrived a week ago, but their predictions were printed on a dark green background in white text that came out a little blurry in my copy. And that’s why it’s taken me so long to post these!

Also, I realize I haven’t yet used Bill James’s quick-and-dirty prediction formula as I’ve done previously.

Sports Illustrated Bill James formula
AL East
1. N.Y. Yankees 1. N.Y. Yankees (96-66)
2. Boston Red Sox 2. Boston Red Sox (89-73)
3. Toronto Blue Jays 3. Toronto Blue Jays (85-77)
4. Baltimore Orioles 4. Baltimore Orioles (71-91)
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (63-99)
AL Central
1. Cleveland Indians 1. Chicago White Sox (93-69)
2. Detroit Tigers 2. Minnesota Twins (92-70)
3. Chicago White Sox 3. Detroit Tigers (87-75)
4. Minnesota Twins 4. Cleveland Indians (83-79)
5. Kansas City Royals 5. Kansas City Royals (60-102)
AL West
1. L.A. Angels 1. L.A. Angels (91-71)
2. Oakland Athletics 1. Oakland Athletics (91-71)
3. Texas Rangers 3. Texas Rangers (80-82)
4. Seattle Mariners 4. Seattle Mariners (75-87)
NL East
1. N.Y. Mets 1. N.Y. Mets (92-70)
2. Atlanta Braves 2. Philadelphia Phillies (86-76)
3. Philadelphia Phillies 3. Atlanta Braves (83-79)
4. Florida Marlins 4. Florida Marlins (80-82)
5. Washington Nationals 5. Washington Nationals (74-88)
NL Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals 1. St. Louis Cardinals (89-73)
2. Chicago Cubs 2. Houston Astros (84-78)
3. Milwaukee Brewers 3. Cincinnati Reds (78-84)
4. Houston Astros 4. Milwaukee Brewers (77-85)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates 5. Chicago Cubs (70-92)
6. Cincinnati Reds 6. Pittsburgh Pirates (67-95)
NL West
1. L.A. Dodgers 1. San Diego Padres (86-76)
2. Arizona Diamondbacks 2. L.A. Dodgers (82-80)
3. San Diego Padres 3. Arizona Diamondbacks (76-86)
4. Colorado Rockies 3. San Francisco Giants (76-86)
5. San Francisco Giants 5. Colorado Rockies (73-89)

The biggest surprise in the Sports Illustrated predictions is the position of the Cubs, but I guess that’s the eternal optimism for you.

Their World Series pick is for a freeway series, Angels over the Dodgers. Incidentally, they’ve changed the parking procedures at Dodger Stadium this year (and raised the parking rate from $10 to $15 in the process), so any late-arriving fans can be ascribed to the parking attendants not knowing what they’re doing, rather than the usual apathy.

My schedule is clear for Monday and MLB Extra Innings will definitely be on DirecTV, if nowhere else, so I’m ready for another year of Opening Day blogging.

(Note primarily to myself for future reference: here’s how I fixed the problem with the

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It Happens Every Spring

Every year, about this time of the pseudo-spring, I read a baseball book. I try to limit myself to one–aside, that is, from the annual Baseball Prospectus (and, now, for the first time, The Hardball Times Season Preview)–because I spend plenty of non-reading time thinking about baseball; my reading time should, I figure, be mostly baseball-free.

This year, after reading a great interview with the author at my favorite Cardinals blog, I chose Wall Street Journal sportswriter Sam Walker’s Fantasyland: A Sportswriter’s Obsessive Bid to Win the World’s Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseball League (2006). I had skipped it when it was in hardcover because, despite years of being a statistically literate baseball fan, I’d always avoided fantasy baseball. But the same day that I read the interview–which made clear that the book would be of interest to any somewhat nerdy baseball fan, despite fantasy-avoidance–my friend Eric, ruthlessly drawing on all the power of a decade-long long-distance friendship, talked me into running a fantasy team in his league. So how could I not read Sam Walker’s book?

It’s good–Walker is very good at sketching out characters, building drama, and getting the reader deeply involved in the utterly inconsequential. The book deserves, and will, if I stay organized, receive, a full post (cross-posted, like this one, at my book blog). For now, though, I’ll just reproduce the passage that made me get up and find the laptop. Walker has just finished–in his eyes fairly successfully–his first fantasy draft in the nation’s premier fantasy league. Drunkish on Guinness from the post-draft party at a bar in Queens, he wanders back to his Greenwich Village apartment. And he experiences a moment that seems to encapsulate my love of baseball, cities, and, in particular, New York:

By the time my shoes meet the pavement in Manhattan, it’s well past midnight. As I’m staggering home down Bethune Street, something on the sidewalk catches my eye. It’s scuffed and cracked and frayed at the seams, and probably not even made of leather, but nonetheless it’s a baseball. On a damp and chilly night at the end of March, I step into the middle of the cobblestone street and, after checking for cabs, wheelchairs, dogs, bicyclists, and beat cops, I fix the ball in my fingers with a two-seam grip and take the sign.

Then I set, kick, and deliver.

The ball bounces under the glow of streetlights, skitters on a manhole cover, and ricochets off the front tire of a Toyota. The real major league season doesn’t start for a few days, but mine begins right now. One of the advantages of owning a Rotisseries team is the inalienable right to throw out your own first pitch.

Players are working out, in Florida and that other place, Anthony Reyes of the world champion St. Louis Cardinals reportedly has command of his two-seamer, and even Rick Ankiel has a chance at making the major-league roster–as a hitter. We’re almost at the best time of year since October; you could do far worse than usher it in with Sam Walker.

Best kid since Jeffrey Maier?

Vivaelbirdos poster Brock20 found this video of a kid, all of about four years old, doing imitations of the batting stances of several Cardinals. He’s got them cold–check out the swing and follow-through on Pujols–and the deadly home run stare. Hard to believe a four-year-old can mimic that ice-cold look, but he does. It’s uncanny. His Jimmy Edmonds is really good, too.

Meanwhile, his kid sister sings “Row Row Row Your Boat” in the background.

Opening Day is getting close.