America’s pastime is back, baby.
And after two straight seasons saw two franchises that suffered unbearable losing for years win the World Series,—the Chicago Cubs in 2016 and the Houston Astros in 2017—there’s a renewed interest for a lot of fans.
In the 2000s, historically important teams such as the Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees were mediocre. Stars were mired in steroid scandals and big-market franchises found their footing, establishing super teams and breaking records statistically and monetarily. In 2017, the Astros had one of the greatest offenses of all time statistically. They even captured the World Series to top off the season. Consequentially, MLB revenues exceeded $10 billion for the first time ever in 2017, and television ratings were the highest ever for the third straight year. When fun, big-market teams are good, people pay attention.
And baseball’s renaissance continues. An exciting offseason with no lack of major moves gives momentum to a number of teams and stars heading into summer 2018. So, two weeks into the season, here are the one hundred percent foolproof predictions for the 2018 MLB season.
American League Champions: The Houston Astros
The Astros are the best team in baseball (see last year). They’re battle-tested in October, and they only got better by adding right-hander Gerrit Cole in a trade with the Pirates. Second baseman Jose Altuve, the reigning AL MVP, is 5’6” and still batting at an insanely high average. Shortstop Carlos Correa is only 23 years old and getting better.
Giving the Astros a run for their money in the AL is going to be tough. The Indians, Yankees and Red Sox are the three teams that stand the greatest chance, in that order. The pennant series will be competitive because regardless of the Astros’ roster superiority, the three aforementioned clubs each have at least one component that can be a trick up their sleeve come October (Terry Francona, all the homeruns in the world, and Chris Sale, respectively). But look for the Astros to represent the AL in the World Series.
National League Champions: The Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers, baseball’s highest spending team by nearly $30 million, have long come close to the ultimate honor of the show, but their exorbitant spending has not been enough.
Until now. The Dodgers nearly beat the World Series champion Cubs in the playoffs two years ago, and they probably would have if not for a Yu Darvish meltdown on the mound. The club brings back nearly everyone—except Darvish—from that roster, and their war of attrition on their payroll is bound to work sometime, right?
It’s a bet I’m not entirely comfortable with, but I’m willing to take the Dodgers over their closest NL contender: the Washington Nationals.
The Dodgers’ postseason failures pale in comparison to the Nationals’, who have never escaped the first round in the Bryce Harper-era. I would take Clayton Kershaw over Max Scherzer down the stretch. That means we have a World Series rematch of the Dodgers versus the Astros.
World Series Champion: Houston Astros
In the end, the Astros firepower might be too much for any foe to vanquish. If you out-maneuver the club in one regard, they’ll end up outmaneuvering you in two others. The 2017 World Series between the Dodgers and Astros went seven games, but the Astros have only improved since then. I wouldn’t be surprised if it went seven again, but the Astros’ multifaceted prowess gives them the edge in this contest.
American League MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels outfielder
I once saw Mike Trout in a New York City hotel lobby. He looks like a miniature Barry Bonds, which is strange because he’s the same height as Barry Bonds. Regardless, Mike Trout is good at baseball. He won the AL MVP in 2014 and 2016 and finished second and fourth in voting in 2015 and 2017. He’s Mike Trout.
National League MVP: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals outfielder
Baseball’s chosen one—Harper—is in the last year of his contract with the Nationals. He missed fifty games last season in what was an MVP caliber year for the star, despite the injury. Next to Trout, he is the most complete player in baseball, able to do it all from anywhere, every time. Considering he has the chance to sign a deal that could be worth half a billion dollars when he hits free agency this winter, I’m expecting the best Bryce Harper seasons yet.
American League Rookie of the Year: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels outfielder/pitcher
Ohtani is the Japanese reincarnation of Babe Ruth. He can hit home runs consistently and get you seven clean innings on the mound once a rotation. The first two weeks of the season show that, if anything, the 23-year-old Japanese rookie phenomenon has been under-hyped and not over-hyped. He currently has 3 home runs and a .368 batting average AND 2 wins on the mound with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts. Long live Shohei.