Welcome back to the bar.
It’s been a while. We were closed for renovations. Some wise guy painted black bars over our Ravens mural; that took some time to clean up. While we were it at it, we changed the decor.
Now that Maryland’s men’s basketball season has ended, everything in Connolly’s is in black and orange. Time for you to talk some baseball with the barkeep. And I’ve got a solid question for you today.
Each year we make our baseball predictions for The Sun’s special section – it’s about that time for me to send mine in. And I don’t see any way around it: I’m predicting the Orioles win the division again.
I know – a Baltimore homer. But here’s a little historical perspective:
This is my 15th season covering the team, and I’ve never once predicted in March that the Orioles would win the division at season’s end. Last year I had them back in the playoffs, but as a Wild Card.
In 2013, I said they would finish above .500, but fail to make the postseason – and I was right.
In 2012? Um, I was a bit off on that one. I had the Orioles finishing dead last in the American League East -- and they reached the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
Point is, I’m not perfect (I’m sure that was what all of you were thinking) and I’m not just being an Orioles drone here. I was prepared to select the Toronto Blue Jays as my division winner, but the season-ending knee injury to pitcher Marcus Stroman makes that rotation too shaky to pick first (though I still love their gritty additions of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson). I’m going with the Blue Jays to end up third.
I have the New York Yankees fourth, because I think they are too old to make a run and the Tampa Bay Rays, who are too banged up and undermanned, finishing fifth.
So that leaves the Orioles and the revamped Boston Red Sox, who I think will make the playoffs. The Red Sox are the chic pick this year given their bevy of offseason moves. But I just haven’t bought into that rotation or a bullpen led by the ageless Koji Uehara, who is already dealing with injury.
I asked two Boston scribes what they thought – and both said they were choosing between the Orioles and Red Sox, as well. And both were leaning to the Orioles.
Frankly, I think the Orioles will take a step back from their 96-win season last year. But the rest of the teams in the division are just as flawed, or more so. I don’t see another club moving up to meet the Orioles – unless the Red Sox package some top prospects for a rotation boost (Cole Hamels?). And since that hasn’t happened yet, I’m picking the Orioles to repeat as division champions.
Daily Think Special: Who wins the 2015 American League East?