Rob Lucas: Looks like Nationals’ year. Really

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Rob Lucas

I love Opening Day. Partly because itís the beginning of baseball, partly because it means spring is coming and partly because it shoved NHL even further down the ďAmerican Sports that are Currently RelevantĒ list. OK, letís be honest. The NHL isnít even on that list.

But Opening Day is full of hope. Everyone is in first place (even the Cubs!) and no team is out of the playoff picture yet (even the Cubs!).

More importantly to me, I hope for my Brewers. As I sit here watching them against the Rockies, I begin to wonder what will happen to the 2013 squad. Will they flounder the first four months like last year? Will they surprise early on against an easier schedule and push for the division? Will they crap themselves like my momís sick dog did on my hallway floor, finishing worse than even the lowly Cubs? Well, letís hope it isnít number 3 (via number 2).

Regardless of what will happen, Iím here to predict what might happen. Because my predictions always work out so well, right? (Iím looking at you New Mexico!)

NL EAST: For once, it wonít be the Yankees or Red Sox dominating the division. The Yankees and Red Sox are both bottom dwellers this year, so itís all about the Rays, Blue Jays and even the Orioles.

Tampa Bay, despite their fan baseís best effort to let them revel in obscurity, continue to be the deviation from the norm ó a small market team that competes ever year, similar to the early 2000s Twins. Their pitching is tremendous, even after the loss of James Shields. Their offense needs a full season of Evan Longoria, but it should be good again.

The Blue Jays made the splashy moves this offseason with the acquisition of, well, the Marlins, and the addition of Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

It should come down to those two, though the upstart Orioles could make some noise if their pitching comes around. Iíll go with the Rays to win the division, but the Blue Jays as a close second and a wild card winner.

AL CENTRAL: The Tigers are the class here. Last yearís World Series runner-up shouldnít have any problems taking care of the lowly Royals and Twins. The Indians and White Sox wonít offer much resistance either. Boy this division is rotten.

I expect a bounceback year in the power department for Prince, ending with over 35 homers. The Tigers will beat up on poor divisional opponents and net the best seed in the AL playoffs.

AL WEST: I know the Angels are trying to win now, but in five years, when they are paying Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols the GDP of some small African nations, it will be hard to be competitive.

However, there is no denying that the move to sign Hamilton helps them now. The Angels were rebuffed by Greinke, who jumped ship to the Dodgers, and have some holes in their pitching staff.

The Rangers will need to make up for the loss of Hamilton and Michael Young, and I can promise that wonít come from A.J. Pierzynski (holy 2012 contract year, Batman!)

I feel like the Angels will get the job done this year, but the Rangers will take that second wild card.

NL EAST: I canít wait to see the Braves and Nationals fight it out all year. I really like what each team did to make that next step.

The Nationals will have a full season of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. They are kind of good.

The Braves added Justin and B.J. Upton and will get a full season from Kris Medlen in the rotation. They are also kind of good.

I will give the edge to the Nationals, but this division will be within a couple of games.

On a sidenote, the Marlins are apparently still a real team that gets to play a full MLB schedule. They will lose 100 games this year. By August.

NL CENTRAL: Oh how I wish I could pick the Brewers to win this division or even make a wild card, but I canít. There are too many holes, especially in the rotation and near the bottom of the lineup.

The Reds will be the team to beat with the Cardinals close behind. Dusty Baker has a strong offense and solid pitching staff. With Chapman going back to the bullpen, there arenít many holes to see on this Reds squad.

The Cardinals have faced a rash of injuries this year, which likely keeps them out of the division title. It shouldnít keep them out of the second wild card, though.

Oh, the Cubs are in this division. Thatís right. They are terrible. If they donít lose 100 games, Iíll be amazed. However, they should be good again soon. You know, like 2018.

NL WEST: The Giants are the obvious frontrunner here, returning their team from last year and having the advantage of going into this season knowing how bad Tim Lincecum really can be. The man is a gascan right now and I donít think a haircut will fix that.

The Padres are improved, but the Rockies are horrendous and the Diamondbacks keep dumping talent like women dump my phone number. Quickly and with no regard for where it goes ó just get it out of their possession.

San Fran should see another playoff run this year, but it wonít end as well as last season.

AL Playoffs: Blue Jays over Rangers (Wild card play-in). Tigers over Blue Jays, Rays over Angels. Rays over Tigers.

NL Playoffs: Braves over St. Louis (Wild card play-in). Braves over Giants. Nationals over Reds. Nationals over Braves.

World Series: Nationals over Rays in 6. You heard it here first, folks. Do NOT bet on the Washington Nationals this year.†

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