As my wife talked to our 4-month old daughter on the living room couch, I stood in the kitchen leaning against the countertop perusing the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. It was the baseball preview issue, so I skimmed through the meat of the magazine until I got to the season predictions. I was not shocked, but still irritated, to find the Padres predicted to finish last in the NL West; despite what appears to most in the San Diego community, and to a lesser extent the larger baseball community, significant and line-up improving off season player personnel moves. However, it was good to see Cam Maybin singled out in regards to the lucrative contracts being pulled in by the 2005 draft class. I skimmed through the tripe about the Giants being so great and how nobody in the NL West, let alone the Padres, can finish ahead of them in the standings. Finally, I got to the breakdown of the Padres in their current state 114 pages into the magazine and 10 pages from the Toyota Prius C add on the inside back cover. Of course, no recent Padres prediction is complete without mentioning the Adrian Gonzalez trade; I wonder how soon Anthony Rizzo will be forced to bat .400 plus in the minors before disappointed Cubby fans demand his call up on local sports talk radio?
I suppose the reason for all this is that, with the exception of the division leaders, baseball doesn’t exist west of the Mississippi River. If one looks at an AL or NL East team schedule, instead of the names of the west coast teams they’re scheduled to play, they have things like “Thar be dragons here.” What other explanation could there be for consistently listing the AL and NL West previews dead last for their respective leagues? It surely cannot be because we read and write from right to left. Maybe it’s because that’s the direction the Sun travels across the sky or because baseball writers wake up early in the morning, while west coast teams are still sleeping, and find the only interviews they can get are from the east coast players that are up already reading about the greatness of the Yankees. I know, I know, this trend will not break. It will take the Padres winning a World Series in order for them to be predicted to finish fourth in the division. And I suppose it is better to be expected to do little and exceed those expectations. Still, after reading this preview, I immediately through the magazine into the recycling bin; I pulled it out shortly after. Many of you are thinking (if you’ve gotten this far) that predictions this time of year are like pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving; everyone brings one and some of them aren’t very good. But I eat pumpkin pie like it’s my job and like that not so very good pie I consume, I do so with baseball predictions as well and regret it once I do.
So with a bad taste in my mouth, and indigestion to boot, let me make my own predictions about this baseball season: Some east coast team with a payroll over $100 million will not make the playoffs. Furthermore, I predict that some no name, $50 million payroll, fly under the radar because they’re not supposed to be any good and play their games once all the so called sports writers on the east coast have gone to bed, team will surprise a lot of people and make the playoffs. Let’s all hope that team is the San Diego Padres.