Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Luke here.
Baseball is the girl you want to bring home to mom.
One hundred and sixty-two games of love. It starts in March, just as the seasons swing from cold weather and snow to flowers blooming and sun shining. It ends in October, after roughly eight months of ups and downs fit for any relationship.
And it’s here. No more teases of spring training or winter meetings. Today, around baseball, is Opening Day.
My girl looks great this year.
The girl I brought to the prom, went through ups and downs with and eventually introduced to my mom is the Colorado Rockies. No longer the team that just plays at altitude, my girl has a chance to be prom queen. Everyone thinks so. She’s sleek and sexy. She’s got it all. Young, vibrant and built for the long term. Of course, there are problems in our relationship. Her bullpen scares me, missing a key cog in Huston Street. Her rotation is pretty on the outside, but I can’t expect her to match the quality starts she turned in last season. I suppose I’m just trying to find things wrong with our relationship — reasons I can’t commit.
Expectations in our relationship never have been a good thing. The Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton contracts without results created a turbulent time for us. Rebuilding with Dan O’Dowd nearly sent us to divorce.
Then 2007 came and we had bliss. The next season, there were expectations and our relationship faltered. But we stuck it out, and last season, we worked things out. We started to see the promise and were a blown Street save from a two-step date with a deciding game in the wildcard round against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.
So there is better than hope for our relationship this year. There is excitement.
It’s baseball season again.
But how does it shake out? I have no idea, but here’s whom I like, outside of my girl.
A.L. MVP: Joe Mauer, Minnesota — Best pure hitter in the game. Plus, you have to love he is staying in Minnesota for the long term.
A.L. Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle — Pitches in a pitcher-friendly park and might have the best stuff in the league. If the Mariners can hit, because they can certainly field, he could win 20 games.
A.L. Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz, Texas — He can flat bring it and should get a chance with the Rangers to stick around for the entire season. Showed glimpses of nasty stuff on the mound last season.
N.L. MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado — Plays premium defense, and if he can get off to a good start, he should have a career year in one of the best National League lineups.
N.L. Cy Young: Chris Carpenter, St. Louis — If he can stay healthy, he’s one of the most consistent and dominating pitchers in the league.
N.L. Rookie of the Year: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati — The Cuban defector hits 100 mph but will start the season in the Reds Triple-A organization. He shouldn’t be down there long, however.
A.L. Wildcard: Tampa Bay
A.L. East: New York
A.L. Central: Chicago
A.L. West: Anaheim
New York against Anaheim
Tampa Bay against Chicago
Tampa Bay against New York
N.L. Wildcard: San Francisco
N.L. East: Philadelphia
N.L. Central: St. Louis
N.L. West: Colorado
Colorado against St. Louis
Philadelphia against San Francisco
Colorado against Philadelphia
Colorado beats Tampa Bay in seven games.
— To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org