Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Statement made

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver came down hard on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling during a press conference on Tuesday, and on Wednesday's podcast, I praised not just the lifetime ban, but also the punishment's powerful delivery

I opened the show with my reaction to Silver's strong statement.

Also, Comcast SportsNet NBA/Celtics analyst Kyle Draper joined Wednesday's podcast to share his reaction and to help break down the NBA Playoffs.

I closed out the show talking Stanley Cup Playoffs, and looking at John Lackey's dominant start against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest podcast).

@DannyPicard

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Boycott Game 5?

Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson wants Los Angeles Clippers fans to boycott Game 5 at the Staples Center, but my message on Tuesday's show was exactly the opposite

Clippers fans owe it to themselves and to their team to show up and support the likes of Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin.

I opened Tuesday's podcast advising those in LA to make sure they show up for Game 5, and be as loud as they've ever been. Because let's face it, this Clippers team has a chance to make a serious run at an NBA Championship.

And who wouldn't want to support that?

Also on Tuesday's show, NHL Insider Jimmy Murphy joined me (36 minutes in) to get you ready for Bruins vs Canadiens and to discuss the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest podcast).

@DannyPicard

Monday, April 28, 2014

Statement to Sterling

The LA Clippers wore their pregame warmup shirts inside-out before Sunday's playoff game in Golden State, but the strongest statement they could make to their racist owner, would be to make a run and win the NBA Championship . . . for themselves

Before Donald Sterling's most recent racist comments were released over the weekend, had you asked every Clippers player and coach if they were trying to win a championship for their owner, they would have told you, "No."

They're trying to win it for themselves and the fans. Nobody was out on the court this season thinking, "We're gonna win this one for Donald!"

I opened Monday's podcast with my reaction to Sterling's racism, why he should be suspended, why he'll eventually be forced to sell the team, and what the Clippers can do to rise above it all.

Also on Monday, I previewed the Boston Bruins' second-round playoff series with the rival Montreal Canadiens. And I closed out the show applauding Major League Baseball for its latest rule change.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest podcast).

@DannyPicard

Friday, April 25, 2014

In full control

The Bruins battled back from a 2-0 deficit in Game 4 and defeated the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime Thursday night, meaning Boston will have a chance to close out the series back home in Game 5

It wasn't Brad Marchand's best game, but his teammates bailed him out. Now, the Bruins have a commanding 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series, and are one win away from a date with the Montreal Canadiens.

On Friday's show, I reacted to the Bruins' Game 4 overtime win, and looked ahead to Saturday's Game 5 at the TD Garden.

I also discussed what went wrong for the Red Sox in getting crushed by the Yankees on Thursday, and more importantly, what went right for New York and CC Sabathia at Fenway.

And I closed out Friday's show talking NBA Playoffs. Why didn't the refs call Chris Paul for a foul on Steph Curry's final shot? I have a theory of my own that you might want to hear.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Thursday, April 24, 2014

More Pineda pine tar

It seems that Michael Pineda didn't learn his lesson from a few weeks ago, and because he had more pine tar smeared all over his neck on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox, and the umps, had no choice but to do something about it

Let me repeat that. ALL OVER HIS NECK.

It was just two weeks ago that we had this same conversation: Pineda was caught with pine tar smeared all over his throwing hand in a game against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

On Wednesday night, Pineda had more pine tar showing. He just plastered it onto a different part of his body.

And once again, the issue here isn't that he was using pine tar. It was that he, once again, was too obvious and blatant about it. And just as Yankees GM Brian Cashman said after the game, the Red Sox had no choice but to call him out during the game.

So John Farrell told the home plate umpire, and Pineda was ejected on the spot.

I opened Thursday's show with my reaction to another Pineda pine tar incident.

Also on Thursday's show, NHL.com's Matt Kalman joined me to discuss the Boston Bruins' series with the Detroit Red Wings.

And I closed out the show discussing the NFL schedule and an MLB instant replay issue that you need to hear to believe.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bruins dominate in Detroit

Dougie Hamilton scored one of Boston's three goals in a Game 3 win, and with the Bruins leading the series 2-1 over the Red Wings, it's time to recognize that Detroit is no match for the B's

Mike Felger asked me about the Montreal Canadiens on Comcast SportsNet Tuesday night. So I assumed he wanted me to look ahead to the second round.

I had no problem doing that, because, through three first-round games against the Red Wings, it's clear to me that the Bruins will be moving on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

On Wednesday's show, I reacted to the B's big 3-0 win over Detroit in Game 3, and gave a prediction for the rest of the series.

I also took a look at Jon Lester's tough night against the New York Yankees. And Jacoby Ellsbury's return to Fenway wasn't the biggest story of the game. Masahiro Tanaka's outing was.

And I closed out the show discussing Albert Pujols' 500th career home run, and the upcoming NFL schedule release.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cause for concern?

Clay Buchholz struggled mightily on Monday against the Orioles, and because of his injury history, some are left wondering if the issue is greater than just a lack of velocity

I'm not ready to assume injury just yet with Buchholz. But I can understand why others would be concerned.

On Tuesday's show, Providence Journal Red Sox beat writer Brian MacPherson joined me to discuss Buchholz and other issues surrounding the team.

I also gave my reaction to the first two games of the Boston Bruins' playoff series with the Detroit Red Wings.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Friday, April 18, 2014

Living up to the hype

All week long, I told you that Thursday night's Red Sox game against the White Sox was 'must-see TV,' and after seeing this pitcher's duel play out, it's evident that it was indeed worth watching

The Red Sox defeated the White Sox 3-1, and both Jon Lester and Chris Sale were dominant.

On Friday's show, I reacted to how it played out, while looking back at what's happened so far in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Barstool Sports' Rear Admiral joined the show to talk playoff hockey and to help give one final preview to the Boston Bruins' first-round series against the Detroit Red Wings.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Signs of encouragement

Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller pitched two shutout innings out of the bullpen on Wednesday night in Chicago, and was a major reason Boston even had a chance to win the game in the 14th inning

The Red Sox still aren't hitting the way they'd like, but outside of Edward Mujica in this game, their bullpen put on their work boots on Wednesday and proved to be the most encouraging sign for a team that's looking to get back to .500.

On Thursday's show, I praised the likes of Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Miller for giving the Red Sox a chance to tie the game and send it to extra innings, where they ended up winning it in the 14th.

I also looked at the first night of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and looked ahead to the now-official NBA playoff brackets.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Errors costly for Sox in Chicago

Xander Bogaerts made a costly throwing error in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday night, but he's not the only one to blame in the Red Sox' loss to the Chicago White Sox

You also have to blame the umps for blowing a potential inning-ending strike-three call in the ninth. And of course, Mike Carp should have caught the bad throw from Bogaerts.

I opened Wednesday's show reacting to the loss, and taking a look at another solid outing from Jake Peavy.

Also, I reacted to the clown who decided to place a backpack on Boylston Street on Tuesday night, which made it awfully difficult to enjoy watching the Red Sox game.

I closed out the show taking a look at the Stanley Cup and NBA playoffs.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Even Stronger

One year ago, David Ortiz helped console an entire city, following the tragic events at the Boston Marathon, and on Tuesday, we all reflect on the day Boston was attacked by cowards

The phrase was "Boston Strong." The memories that accompany that phrase include many emotions.

And when people needed someone to help in the healing process, Big Papi grabbed the mic and poured his heart out at Fenway. It was just one of the many examples of how important Boston's pro sports teams were in the days, weeks, and months following the Boston Marathon bombings.

On Tuesday's show, I looked back to last year's marathon and tried to re-capture the moments that helped everyone heal.

I also looked ahead to the Red Sox' series in Chicago, and reacted to some of the comments that Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli made on Monday.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Monday, April 14, 2014

Faith in the system?

Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected from Sunday's loss to the Yankees, and while he criticized the league's replay system after the game, perhaps in this situation the umps got the call right

After reviewing a potential inning-ending double play in the fourth, the initial call was overturned and the runner was ruled safe at first, giving New York the eventual game-winning run that scored from third on the play.

You already know that I hate the new replay system. But I think they got the call right on Sunday night. Instead, the Red Sox should be upset at some of their own decisions in losing three of four games in the Bronx over the weekend.

I reacted to the entire series on Monday's show. And Comcast SportsNet's Mike Giardi joined me to chime in.

Plus, I gave my Stanley Cup Playoff predictions. And my final thoughts on Bubba Watson winning his second Green Jacket.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pineda's pine tar

Michael Pineda picked up his first win of the season on Thursday night in six strong innings against the Boston Red Sox, but the story of the game wasn't his nasty slider

The story was the obvious pine tar that was smeared all over the palm of Pineda's throwing hand and glistening for the cameras to see.

Key word: "obvious."

I gave my reaction to the use of pine tar on Friday's show. I also discussed what went right and what went wrong for Clay Buchholz in the loss to New York.

And while the Red Sox were wise to say all the right things regarding Pineda's pine tar, a story broke Friday morning that shows a few Boston players are complaining about something else. And that "something else" is PED's.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ready for the Bronx?

Clay Buchholz leads the way for the Boston Red Sox in New York on Thursday night, and he'll need to be a whole lot better than he was in his first start of the season

On Thursday's show, I previewed the four-game series against the Yankees, and called for Jackie Bradley Jr to not just stay in the starting lineup, but to also play center field, and slide Grady Sizemore over to left field.

I also reacted to the Red Sox' 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday at Fenway, which included a big-time home run from David Ortiz in the bottom of the eighth.

And an early look at the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Is the new format meant for more divisional rivalries in the postseason? Or are the new set playoff brackets strictly for gambling purposes?

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Odd man out

 Mike Carp has been a valuable piece to the Red Sox since being traded to Boston before last season, but with a potentially overloaded roster forthcoming, somebody has to go

In a perfect world, Mike Carp remains a member of the Boston Red Sox for the rest of the 2014 season. But a Major League roster consists of only 25 players. So, as the Red Sox will soon find out, the world is anything but perfect.

The impending return of Shane Victorino from the 15-day disabled list means that somebody has to go, plain and simple.

Assuming that David Ortiz stays off the DL (he's been favoring his right leg recently), when Victorino gets back, the Red Sox will have one too many outfielders on their 25-man Major League roster.

When all are healthy, Victorino, Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley Jr, Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Carp are the six players in Boston who are outfield-ready. Of those six, only Nava and Carp can play first base.

Do you really need two outfielders who serve as backup first basemen?

Believe it or not, at the conclusion of spring training, that's the way the Red Sox had set their 25-man roster. Instead of moving either Nava or Carp, they chose to send Bradley Jr down to Triple-A Pawtucket.

As Victorino was diagnosed with a Grade 1 hamstring strain the morning of the season-opener in Baltimore, the veteran right fielder was placed on the DL, and Bradley Jr was called back up to join the team.

Initially, Bradley Jr was really the only story here: A top prospect who had a cup of coffee in Boston last year, destined to be the long-term replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury in both center field and at the top of the Red Sox batting order.

Was he ready? Heck, did the Red Sox even need him to be ready?

The answer to those questions, initially, was, "No," in the minds of those making the decisions. That's why they sent him back down to the minors at the very end of spring training.

Sizemore's resurgence didn't help Bradley Jr's chances of making the big club. But the Red Sox would have been crazy not to take a chance on Sizemore if he could stay healthy and produce. He's done both. And nine games into the regular season, Sizemore is hitting .364 with eight hits, two doubles, and a home run in seven games as Boston's starting center fielder.

Now though, nine games into the regular season, Bradley Jr has played in eight of those games, and has been in the starting lineup for seven of them. He's hitting .400 with eight hits, two doubles, five RBI, and five runs scored.

Small sample size, sure. But along with his confidence at the plate (he walked three times in Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers) Bradley Jr has also shown his speed on the base paths, and has proved to be an above-average outfielder with great instincts. And that's exactly what he was projected to be. His success shouldn't come as a surprise.

Certainly, Bradley Jr is no longer the story here. He's not just earned himself a permanent spot on the 25-man Major League roster, but Bradley Jr is also making it extremely tough for Red Sox manager John Farrell to take him out of the every day lineup.

Even against left-handed pitching.

Entering their four-game series against the New York Yankees in the Bronx, which begins Thursday night, Bradley Jr got the start in two consecutive games against lefty starters to close out the previous series against the Rangers.

So as Victorino gets set to attempt a return (he's eligible to come off the DL April 15), the Red Sox will have a decision to make.

That leads us back to Carp.

If Sizemore and Bradley Jr aren't going anywhere -- which they shouldn't -- then the only way to make room for Victorino would be to do something with either Gomes, Nava, or Carp.

Let's be honest and not waste any time on Gomes. We all know he's not going anywhere.

So the decision is really between Nava and Carp. Both can play the outfield. Both can play first base. But that's pretty much where the similarities end. At the end of the day, this decision will come down to value. Value to the Red Sox, and value in the trade market.

Nava can hit from both sides of the plate, and he can be used in the lead-off spot, when needed. His season hasn't been very good out of the gate, but for someone who hit .303 in 134 games last year, the Red Sox shouldn't be willing to give up on someone who has shown as much perseverance as he has throughout his career.

Carp, the age of 27 (turns 28 in June), is three years younger than Nava. He hits strictly from the left side of the plate. His power potential is greater than Nava's. And the argument can be made that if Ortiz ever went down with an injury, Carp could be someone to assume that designated hitter role.

But we're having this conversation as if Ortiz is healthy. And even if Ortiz did go down at any point, it wouldn't be the end of the world if Napoli and/or Nava split time at DH and first base.

So it seems that, for the Red Sox, Nava has more valuable qualities than Carp. Meaning, Carp should be the odd man out. When Victorino is ready to return, Carp needs to be the guy to go.

Still in his late 20's, Carp would be more valuable in a trade than Nava. And the Red Sox would probably be able to get more in return for Carp. What's best for another team, might not be what's best for the Red Sox.

As I said on Wednesday's show on iTunes (RIP Ultimate Warrior-4/9/14), this idea that the Red Sox should send Bradley Jr back down to the minors when Victorino is healthy, because they NEED to hold onto Carp, is OUTRAGEOUS.

Think about what you're saying. You're falling in love with Mike Carp.

I even said this on Wednesday's show and in shows prior, I'm not here to run an anti-Carp campaign. That's not my goal.

My goal is to try and make the most logical decision for the Red Sox, if I had to put myself in the shoes of general manager Ben Cherington.

In a perfect world, in which 26-man rosters exist, Carp remains in Boston. But that's not the case.

Plain and simple, Carp has to go.

@DannyPicard

Remembering the Ultimate Warrior

 Just days after returning to WrestleMania and being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame over the weekend, the legendary Ultimate Warrior passed away at the age of 54

Upon hearing this shocking news, I closed out Wednesday's show with an Ultimate Warrior tribute, which included a classic promo from the former WWF (yes, I said "WWF") champion.

Also on the show, I reacted to the Boston Red Sox' 10-7 loss to the Texas Rangers. And with some upcoming roster decisions to be made, I put myself in the shoes of Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, and discussed what I would do as some key injured players get ready to return.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Making his case

Jackie Bradley Jr had another all-around impressive night in a 5-1 win over the Rangers on Monday, but as Shane Victorino gets closer to a return from the DL, the Red Sox will have a decision to make

I mean, you already know how I feel.

Bradley Jr should have been on the Major League roster to begin with. Fortunately for him, Victorino's hamstring injury opened up a spot for the young outfielder. And he hasn't disappointed.

On Tuesday's show, Providence Journal Red Sox beat writer Brian MacPherson joined me to discuss what the future holds for Bradley Jr when Victorino returns.

And I continue to push for Bradley Jr to remain, not just with the team, but in the lineup.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Monday, April 07, 2014

Fit for a King

David Ortiz's introduction during Friday's World Series ring ceremony was one of the only highlights for the Boston Red Sox over the weekend, as they were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in three games at Fenway Park

On Monday's show, I looked back at the weekend that was at Fenway, and looked ahead to the Red Sox' three-game set against the Texas Rangers.

Also on the show, I talked Bruins, gave a National Championship prediction, and yes, even reacted to WrestleMania XXX.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes (refresh in iTunes to download latest show).

@DannyPicard

Friday, April 04, 2014

Time for Red Sox to stick with the kids

Jackie Bradley Jr didn't disappoint in his first start of the season on Thursday, and it's just a reminder as to why the Red Sox should make a strong effort to keep playing the "kids" in 2014

Those "kids" include Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, and yes, Bradley Jr.

All offseason I called for the Red Sox to "let the kids play." Not bringing Stephen Drew back to Boston has allowed John Farrell to go with Bogaerts and Middlebrooks every day. The re-emergence of Grady Sizemore's career has somewhat affected the plans for Bradley Jr, but the young outfielder got his first start of the season Thursday night in Baltimore, and the kid had a night for himself.

Also having nights for themselves were Bogaerts and Middlebrooks. All three of the "kids" helped the Red Sox to a 4-3 win over the Orioles.

Now, the question is, how do you find room for Bradley Jr? My answer to that question is, it doesn't matter. Just find room. And let the kids play.

I opened Friday's show with this topic, and also reacted to the Bruins' 4-3 OT loss in Toronto. Listen and subscribe to "I'm Just Sayin" on iTunes NOW.

@DannyPicard

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Bruins lose in Detroit, Sox win first game of season

The Boston Bruins lost to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night, and while it's possible that it could be a first-round playoff preview, the result wasn't exactly an indication of how that potential seven-game series would play out

On Thursday's show, I reacted to the Bruins' loss in Detroit. And I also gave my strategy for Thursday's game in Toronto. Hint: it includes resting some key pieces.

Also on the show, I recapped the Boston Red Sox' first win of the season.

Listen to "I'm Just Sayin" every weekday by subscribing on iTunes.

@DannyPicard

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Manziel in New England, Red Sox at White House

Johnny Manziel is in New England to visit the Patriots, and while many have wondered why Bill Belichick would bring the quarterback in, the reason may not be that difficult to comprehend

Comcast SportsNet's Mike Giardi joined me on Wednesday's show to discuss some of the Patriots' recent visits, which include Manziel.

He brings up the term "advanced scouting," and I couldn't agree more. In fact, I believe the only reason Belichick is bringing Manziel in is because he can. The Patriots' mastermind is already in 2014 preparation mode. And perhaps Manziel makes a start under center against New England this year. Belichick's already getting ready for it.

We also discussed the Boston Red Sox' visit to the White House. Forget about Jonny Gomes' outfit. What the hell were Clay Buchholz and Dustin Pedroia wearing? Also, what in the world was Edward Mujica doing there?

And I looked ahead to the Red Sox' second game of the season. Should Jackie Bradley Jr get the start in right field over Mike Carp?

Listen to today's show by subscribing to "I'm Just Sayin" on iTunes.

@DannyPicard

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

2014 MLB predictions

 The Boston Red Sox begin their World Series title defense in Baltimore on Monday. They'll feature a familiar pitching staff, a new center fielder, and the start of a new era at shortstop. But will it be enough to repeat as champions?

Nobody has won back-to-back World Series titles since the New York Yankees won three-straight in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Before then, it hadn't been done since the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993.

So, it has been accomplished. And perhaps, you could make the case that somebody is "due" to repeat. If anyone can do it, it's a Red Sox team that, again, returns much of its championship pitching staff from last season.

And while I have the Red Sox making the postseason once again, I don't actually have them winning it all in 2014.

On Monday's show, I gave my MLB season predictions. Here they are for you in print:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AL EAST: Tampa Bay Rays
--The Rays ended up holding onto their ace, David Price, and that's probably a good thing if they want to be contenders. Tampa Bay won 92 games last year and lost to the eventual World Series champs in the ALDS after beating Cleveland in the Wild Card game. Look for youngster Chris Archer to establish himself as a stud pitcher in a Rays rotation that's already pretty damn good with Price, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb. And oh yeah, their offense will only get better as American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers enters his second season. The Red Sox will win 91 games and get one of the wild card spots. A rock-solid Baltimore Orioles club will wish they were in a different division. And the final game of Derek Jeter's career will be at Fenway Park on September 28. First pitch is at 1:35.

AL CENTRAL: Detroit Tigers
--Assuming the Tigers are still in the playoff hunt by the All-Star break, reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer won't be getting traded in the last year of his contract. The Tigers and Scherzer could not agree to a new deal in the offseason, and with Scott Boras as his agent, it's likely he'll be hitting the free agent market at season's end. Expect Detroit to make one more run at it with Scherzer still in the mix. And Justin Verlander didn't have his best season in 2013. He'll be better than 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA in 2014. And new closer Joe Nathan will only solidify the Tigers' pitching staff. It's their division to lose.

AL WEST: Los Angeles Angels
--Had the Texas Rangers or Oakland Athletics been completely healthy to start the season, the Angels would be just another team in the West. But the Rangers' rotation is all banged up entering the year, with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison all on the DL. As for Oakland, 24-year-old Sonny Gray had his coming-out party in Game 2 of last year's ALDS when he out-pitched Verlander, striking out nine Tigers in eight scoreless innings and a 1-0 Athletics win. Had young starter Jarrod Parker not just had Tommy John surgery, I would have been strongly predicting Oakland to be a World Series contender. But look for the Angels, behind ace Jered Weaver -- and a lineup that is stronger than Oakland's -- to win the West in a close three-way race.

AL WILD CARDS: Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers


NATIONAL LEAGUE

NL EAST: Washington Nationals
--The Atlanta Braves won the East last year, and while they're still a very good ball club, they're also suffering from injuries in their rotation. Starters Kris Medlen and Mike Minor begin the season on the DL, allowing Nationals starters Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann to get a head start. I'll give Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies a shot to bounce back from a nightmarish 73-win season, but if they don't get off to a good start, expect Lee's name to come up in trade chatter once again. And if the Phillies can find someone wants to pay the 35-year-old (turns 36 in August) $25 million next season, then they'll be out of contention for sure.

NL CENTRAL: St. Louis Cardinals
--The Cardinals lost in the World Series, but it seems like they're only going to get better in 2014. Their rotation is stacked. I mean, does anybody on that entire pitching staff throw under 95 mph? Don't be surprised if 22-year-old Michael Wacha ends up winning the Cy Young in 2014. He's that good. Expect the Cardinals to also have the best closer in the game, in flame thrower Trevor Rosenthal. St. Louis could win 100 games.

NL WEST: San Francisco Giants
--The Giants didn't make the postseason after a 76-win regular season in 2013. But don't forget that they won the World Series the year before that, in 2012. Expect 24-year-old lefty Madison Bumgarner to battle Wacha for the Cy Young, and expect veteran starter Matt Cain to have a bounce-back year. Bumgarner is a 200-strikeout guy who posted a 2.77 ERA last year. If he's not already, he'll certainly be the team's go-to ace by the postseason.

NL WILD CARDS: Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates


POSTSEASON

ALDS:
--Boston Red Sox over Los Angeles Angels
--Tampa Bay Rays over Detroit Tigers

ALCS:
--Tampa Bay Rays over Boston Red Sox

NLDS:
--St. Louis Cardinals over Los Angeles Dodgers
--Washington Nationals over San Francisco Giants

NLCS:
--St. Louis Cardinals over Washington Nationals

WORLD SERIES:
--St. Louis Cardinals over Tampa Bay Rays


AWARDS

AL MVP: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez (Los Angeles Dodgers)

AL CY YOUNG: Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox)
NL CY YOUNG: Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants)

@DannyPicard