Mon, Feb. 17

Macafee's Monologues: Baseball is in the air

Every year as the Commissioners Trophy is raised over the head of the most recent World Series Champion, this past year being the Kansas City Royals, I think to myself I can't wait until pitchers and catchers report. Every year that's the thought that pops into my head, and every year I am like a little kid on Christmas when that day comes around.

This year, Christmas came a little early in my household, well at least as a dedicated member of Red Sox Nation. I fell asleep one day around noon, for a midday nap, after I had finished my duties at the office.

I woke up to an alert from ESPN that the Boston Red Sox had signed the ace they needed in David Price. I woke up ecstatic for the signing and immediately texted one of my lifelong friends, who happens to be a Yankees fan, saying "you like that signing?" He responded with a couple words which I don't really know if I could print in the paper.

But anyways, that started the anticipation for the new year of the great sport of baseball. Teams have made moves, some are still making them, whether they were for better or worse, the mitts are popping, and the balls are being hit out of the park, making that beautiful sound that any baseball fan could recognize from a mile away.

So like my baseball fan counter-part, Bill Helm, recently released his picks for Division winners in the most recent sports sections of the Verde Independent and Camp Verde Bugle, I decided to do the same.

American League

East- Boston

West- Astros

Central- Royals

Wild Card- Blue Jays

Wild Card- Yankees

National League

East- Nationals

West- Giants

Central- Cubs

Wild Card- Pirates

Wild Card- Mets

So like my colleague, I will save my postseason picks for just that, the postseason, but first I will start with my explanation for the American League.

As a Sox fan it was hard not to put them as the favorite to win the East, which in my eyes could be won by three of the five teams. This is also why I chose two of the three teams to make it to the Wild Card game. After losing Price, I don't think the Jays have enough pitching to win the East but they have the bats to get into the playoffs. The Yankees, with the addition of Chapman, even if his is serving a 30-game suspension, will still have the best bullpen in the league, allowing their starters to only have to go six innings.

The Sox solidified their hold on the East with the addition of David Price, last year they brought in the hitting talent and the necessary pitching to hold down the back of the rotation.

After finding a youthful talent in Eduardo Rodriguez the Sox have a solid rotation 1-5. Porcello caught on towards the end of the season and Joe Kelly found his groove when it was a little too late. Along with those three, Clay Buchholz is in as the No. 2 starter and has the potential to be an ace if he can stay healthy.

Its Senor Octubre's last season and I can think of no better ending for Big Papi himself than going out on top. If the Sox stay healthy and Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez stay healthy and lay-off the cheeseburgers, watch out.

The Astros completed their rise last season with the emergence of Carlos Correra in the middle infield and Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel making a statement last season.

Along with I don't see any strong teams in the West that will challenge the Astros reign.

The Central in the American League is hands down the Royals to lose. The defending World Series Champions lost virtually nothing, resigning Alex Gordon and agreeing to terms with Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain. They could make another run in 2016.

As for the National League, it was a lot harder to make my decisions. The only Division that I believe there is a hands down no-brainer is in the Central. Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon and the Cubbies have made to many great moves over the past year that I think 2016 could be there year.

They have the youth, in Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russel. They have two post-season veteran starters in Jon Lester and John Lackey, and they made two huge moves this offseason bringing in Jayson Heyward and Ben Zobrist.

The rest of the National League really was a toss-up, between the Mets and the Nationals in the East, whomever takes the bragging rights, the other will be in the Wild Card. I gave the upper hand to the Nationals because of one-name, Bryce Harper.

I think the Mets will take on the Pirates in the Wild Card Playoff game. The Pirates have gotten in via Wild Card the past three years after breaking their playoff drought and I believe this is the year they will get past that one-game playoff.

As I narrowed my options for the NL West, I immediately took out the Padres and the Rockies and left the Diamondbacks in because I do think they made enough moves to surprise some people this year.

The Dodgers are the Dodgers and if it comes down to it they will spend money to make themselves playoff worthy. Whatever happens though I do not believe it will be enough to overcome the three-headed monster that is the San Francisco Giants pitching staff.

Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzjia earn the Giants my nod in the west, not to mention veterans Jake Peavy and Matt Cain at the back end of the rotation.

That being said look for my playoff predictions come October, until then you can catch me doing what I love, watching baseball.

-- Follow Greg Macafee on Twitter @greg_macafee and Instagram @VerdeValleyNews

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