Luke Graham: Baseball on the upswing |

Luke Graham: Baseball on the upswing

Luke Graham

Luke Graham

— Can baseball be making a comeback? Let's look at it. Football is the alpha male, no questions asked. All you have to do is turn on the television and get NFL lockout talk shoved in your face.

This might be the opportunity baseball needs. Predictions for this season are coming in a few paragraphs, by the way. But first, a few lockout thoughts.

Major League Baseball knows what a lockout can do. Look at what happened to baseball in 1994. After the season ended with no World Series and the lockout finally ended in April 1995, no one watched. No one cared. Just a bunch of overpaid guys arguing with their billionaire bosses.

Heck, last year, more people watched "American Idol" than the World Series.

But now, baseball has a chance.

Football probably will always be king. But a long lockout would turn some people away. Say it extends into late summer and early fall, a time when, normally, many fans have lost interest in the 162-game baseball schedule and already started looking at NFL training camps.

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If that's not there, baseball will be the game. The late season will become the postseason and people will watch.

Colorado should be a good indicator — it's Broncos country. Although, with the Broncos' poor season and the Rockies' relevance, some could argue that trend is shifting.

Still, even last year, people were looking forward to the Broncos' season before baseball ended.

But if the Rockies are in contention and there is no NFL season, an October baseball ticket would be the hottest commodity in town.

Just a thought.

Now, to my favorite column topic of the year: baseball predictions.

Last year, I nailed Felix Hernandez as American League Cy Young and Neftali Feliz as AL Rookie of the Year. I also had Boston not making the playoffs.

Sadly enough, my prediction of the Rockies winning the 2010 World Series was dashed. My man-crush on Joe Mauer didn't help him to the MVP, either.

But hope springs eternal. Here are my picks for the new season:

■ AL MVP: Kevin Youkilis, Boston — Love him in what's probably the best lineup in baseball. Red Sox fans just would love a healthy year.

■ AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit — Chalk up 230 innings, 250 strikeouts, 20 wins and a new shiny trophy.

■ AL Rookie of the Year: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Minnesota — Japanese batting champion and top import this year. He'll fit in Minnesota's lineup and be one of the top second basemen in the league.

■ National League MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado — I am picking Tulowitzki until he wins it. Best defensive shortstop in the league and new face of Colorado sports. Please, please, please stay healthy.

■ NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia — Easy choice. See the past 10 years.

■ NL Rookie of the Year: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati — Somehow the lefty still qualifies as a rookie. Making his second appearance on the Luke Graham MLB picks list, as I had him in the same spot last year. He'll save 45 games.

■ AL Wildcard: Oakland

■ AL East: Boston

■ AL Central: Detroit

■ AL West: Texas

■ AL Division Series: Boston against Oakland; Texas against Detroit

■ AL Championship Series: Boston against Detroit

■ NL Wildcard: Atlanta

■ NL East: Philadelphia

■ NL Central: Cincinnati

■ NL West: Colorado

■ NL Division Series: Colorado against Philadelphia; Cincinnati against Atlanta

■ NL Championship Series: Cincinnati against Philadelphia

■ World Series: Boston beats Cincinnati in six games

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