Nine into Four – Pt 1, the leftovers

I can’t remember going into a baseball season in which there are so many good teams to choose from in order to pick division and wild card winners. The reality though is that, with some notable exceptions, the best teams are all in the American League. In fact, nine of these teams could easily reach the postseason and no one would be surprised.

The beauty of it this year is that the nine outstanding AL teams are equally spread in each of the three divisions which should make for great races. I don’t have the same issues in the NL where I see five, perhaps six, teams as contenders with only the Phillies and Cardinals at the level of the AL teams.

Two points: I really dislike the fact that Sunday night is Opening Night. I am simply not a fan of the season beginning on Sunday night. Secondly, I hate the fact that the Yankees and the Red Sox open the season against each other. That is a rivalry that should begin as late as possible in the season to allow fans the joy of two starts to the season.

Alas, it is not the case.

However, I will not be derailed as I will make my predictions in full on Monday. Because nothing that happens Sunday night (except, heaven forbid, a major injury) will alter my selections. Today, I will share with you the teams who I feel will not be part of things other than serve as spoilers or chum or, like the Pirates, feeders for teams in need of parts.

Before I begin, let me share some key credentials: I read, think, and study baseball just about every day of the year. Secondly, and I don’t mean to brag, I may be the worst prognosticator you will ever read.

Nevertheless, here are the teams who we will not be reading about in September/October or November.

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays – way too many holes and they don’t deny it. The rebuilding has begun.

Baltimore Orioles – still too young and missing pieces. However, I will be surprised if they are not a contender next season.

AL Central

Kansas City Royals – While I wasn’t a fan of the money spent on Jason Kendall the team really did no harm to itself this offseason and reports are that their farm system is on the rise. In the meantime, they will fight off 100 losses particularly if Zach Greinke is less spectacular than last year.

Cleveland Indians – Here is another team that is rated highly for the farm system and could be classified as having an eating disorder after having purged so many stars.

AL West

My “on the bubble” leftover teams are the Texas Rangers and the Oakland A’s for being in the leftover pile. I originally had the Rangers firmly in my Top Nine but between the Ron Washington situation and their unpredictable health and rotation I am wavering but I still expect I will be writing about them on Monday.

Oakland A’s – This is my “if” team and if guys like Ben Sheets, Coco Crisp and Jack Cust come through, they could be the surprise of the AL because I do think they have the best bullpen in baseball.

Over in the NL, parity most definitely means mediocrity (and worse). My non-contenders:

NL East

Washington Nationals – Washington: first in war, first in piece, last in all of major league baseball.

NL Central

Houston Astros – New manager Brad Mills will be thinking how nice it was sitting next Terry Francona as the Red Sox bench coach. This will be a popular season for the headline, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Pittsburgh Pirates – The Akinori Iwamura Trading Deadline Watch has begun.

NL West

San Diego Padres – This team may have the worst offense in NL and this is before the team considers trading Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres will need a lot more than their camouflage uniforms this year to hide how terrible they will be.

There are many NL teams that you might be wondering why I didn’t include on the leftover list. Hey, I need to write about somebody other than the Phillies and Cardinals on Monday.

The comments section on Billy-Ball.com is the place for you to go on the record with your 2010 picks. See you there!