Hope Springs Eternal... Except for these Baseball Teams
February has long been a tough month for sports nuts. After the Super Bowl, fans of the 31 teams that didn't win are left walking the landscape aimlessly like a pack of muttering zombies with months to contemplate what went wrong and whether it will ever go right. Meanwhile the NBA and NHL are not yet ready to start talking playoffs, while college basketball's March Madness is still almost a month away. But then, all of a sudden, Major League Baseball awakens from its slumber. Pitchers and catchers start reporting to Florida and Arizona, followed shortly thereafter by position players. It's time to start getting excited about baseball? Sure, why not? The slate's clean, your team has some new faces in camp, and maybe they can make a run this year. Then Vegas sportsbooks release their projected 2013 MLB win totals and, for some, reality sets in.
Houtson Astros. It's a brave new world for the Astros! They are in a new league, American, a new divison, West, with a new manager, Bo Porter, the youngest skipper in the league. Talk about a fresh start. Well... not so fast. The over/under for Astros wins this year is 59.5, which means most folks in the know think your team is going to lose over 100 games for the third consecutive year, which kinda stinks. There's only one way to go but up, but to get there the 'Stros are going to have to climb over the likes of the Angels, A's, Rangers, and even the Mariners. Houston, we still have a problem.
Miami Marlins. Madman owner Jeffrey Loria dupes South Florida into one of the worst sports facility deals of all time, gets a new stadium that looks like it came out of the imagination of a Miami Vice fanatic, splashes money around, watches his team finish dead last in the NL East, and proceeds to cut $70 million in payroll. The Marlins win total for 2013 is set at 64. But even if they win 100, "fans" won't show up until the playoffs.
Minnesota Twins. The once-scappy Twins, who always seemed to be vying for the postseason and a chance to have the Yankees whip them, have fallen off the competitive grid the past couple of years. After losing 99 games in 2011 they bounced back last year to lose only 96. The good news is Mauer and Morneau may both be healthy. The bad news is, that may be all Minnesota has. Projected win total: 67. Y'know what? We like the over.
Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets. Here you have three potentially rabid fan bases with teams all projected to win somewhere in the low- to mid-70 game range. Out in the thin air of Colorado you really believe anything can happen until you realize that this is a team that finished a full 12 games behind the 4th place Padres in the NL West. Not only has Theo Epstein not fixed the Cubs, they lost 101 games last year. But, who cares, Wrigley's packed either way. The Mets started off last season hot, then finished less so, with 74 wins. This off-season they traded Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and his 20 wins to Toronto for prospects. GM Sandy Alderson says the Mets are not "punting" on this season. A potential starting outfield of Mike Baxter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Lucas Duda says otherwise.
Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals. Vegas actually has each of these two once-storied franchises approaching the 80-win mark, but after years and years of futility it's hard to get excited about making it to mediocrity. The last time these two teams were relevant Barry Bonds was a skinny kid with a peanut-sized head and George Brett was battling Goose Gossage and hemorrhoids. It would truly be fantastic to see one of these clubs make the playoffs.
Happy Spring Training and screw the NFL scouting combine!