by Kevin Burton
So I woke up Monday morning and all my teams were in first place, Reds, Royals, Mariners. All three.
Just wanted to say that while I can. None were tied for first either. All had very slim leads. All were still in front Tuesday.
Now it’s Wednesday, top of the morning and…Royals still first, the others now tied. Reds lead by percentage points over Milwaukee, Seattle is in a flat-footed tie with Oakland.
But how long can it last? April is the morning of baseball season. These leads could melt away like the morning dew.
The last time the Mariners won their division was 2001 the year they won 116 regular season games and flamed out in the playoffs.
The Reds won a division in 2012. They made the playoffs last year but their league-worst .212 batting offense failed to score a single run in being swept out of the post-season.
The Royals won their division in the World championship seasons of 2015 and 1985. Nothing in between, nothing since 2015.
Before this season, both Baseball America and Sports Illustrated predicted all three of my teams would finish fourth in their respective divisions.
CBS Sports had five writers make predictions. Two picked the Royals third one picked the Reds third. All the others had them all fourth or fifth.
So you can see why I didn’t wait for say, a Monday in June to try to write about my first-place teams.
But just to keep the dream alive, I sought out the sunniest scenarios available for my teams. Don’t hold your breath, but here they are.
Drew Koch made the case for the Reds as division champs on blogredmachine.com.
“There is no clear-cut favorite in the National League Central. Any one of four teams can win,” Koch writes. “The Reds may not be the favorites, but timely hitting and the best rotation in the division will be enough to take the division with 89 wins.”
“The Reds, despite losing Trevor Bauer, still have the best starting rotation in the division. Can the offense rally from last year’s terrible performance? If the answer is yes, this team will win the NL Central.”
The case for Seattle also relies on the lack of a runaway favorite atop the division.
“My high school crush was cool, cute, confident, sunny and smart. I was to put it charitably, a work in progress,” writes Anthony Castrovince on mlb.com.
“But we had a good rapport, a fast-forming friendship, and importantly, shared singlehood. So one day, when she mentioned that she did not have a date for our upcoming senior prom, I had the craziest thought: “Why not me?”
Alas, that didn’t work out for Castrovince. But he says the Mariners should also be thinking “why not us” in a winnable AL West. He makes the case.
. “For starters, the Mariners have just $51.5 million committed to 11 players in 2021 and less than $14 million on the books for ’22. And they have what our MLB Pipeline folks recently ranked as the number four farm system in the sport, with six players on the most recent top 100 players list.”
“Three of those six — outfielder Jarred Kelenic, right-hander Logan Gilbert and outfielder Taylor Trammell were recently mentioned by general manager Jerry Dipoto as likely to contribute in 2021, as was catcher Cal Raleigh.
“‘They’re super talented players,’ Dipoto told reporters, ‘and my guess is they’ll hit the ground running when given the opportunity.’”
“Now, I’m not suggesting that the Mariners are really going to win the AL West in 2021…but at worst, there is an opportunity for them to pad their win total and vie for an AL Wild Card spot, which matters more in Seattle — home of the longest playoff drought in North American professional sports.”
Here is a best-case scenario for the Royals, spun by ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle
“Andrew Benintendi rediscovers the star path he once was on in Boston. Adalberto Mondesi breaks out with a 25-homer, 50-steal season that puts him in the MVP conversation. The rotation flourishes from depth and the ongoing infusion of recent early-round draft picks. Bobby Witt Jr. joins the party by June, pushing the Royals to a 90-win, wild-card season.”
And that kids, is what hope sounds like in April. But just in case none of this pans out, I do hope the San Diego Padres people will save a spot for me on their bandwagon for the post-season.