Resolutions to ring in 2014 from each division
Braves seek to survive first round of playoffs; Bucs aim to continue their ascent
With 2014 upon us, it's time for New Year's resolutions. The ones I'm talking about don't involve an improved diet or more exercise. Come to think of it, they may, but only if they help a player rip a few more home runs or add a little more break to that slider.
Anyway, from chatting with my sources (OK, the ones located in the recesses of my imagination), I've discerned some of the most significant New Year's resolutions from teams within each of the six divisions in the Major Leagues. As an added bonus, I'll predict the most likely results of these resolutions.
In the NL East
The Braves won this division last season, and their New Year's resolution starts with something simple: Survive the first round of the playoffs. They haven't done so since they beat the Astros in the 2001 Division Series. In fact, they've lost six straight Division Series, and they also dropped the 2012 Wild Card game to the Cardinals.
The likely result: As long as the Braves continue to lack power pitching, their chances of traveling deeper into October are about as good as Hank Aaron and Dale Murphy performing a duet on "American Idol."
Elsewhere in the division, the Nationals are loaded. If their superstar tandem of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper stays healthy and productive, all things are possible for this team. But that's not their New Year's resolution. It's that Matt Williams becomes their Mike Matheny. Just like Matheny, Williams is a former Major League player who never managed before. And all Matheny did in his first year in charge of the Cardinals was take them to the NL Championship Series in 2012, and then he led them to the World Series last year.
The likely result: Nationals fans will reminisce about the good old days of Davey Johnson.
In the NL Central
Among the heartwarming stories in baseball last season, the rise of the Pirates from years of despair ranks near the top. They reached the playoffs for the first time since 1992, and they also posted their first winning season since then. Their New Year's resolution is -- over time -- to make the Andrew McCutchen Pirates as prominent as the Barry Bonds Pirates.
The likely result: These Bucs will give it a nice try. I mean, there is only so high they can rise, considering the never-ending juggernaut that is the Cardinals organization resides in the same division.
The Reds have the same problem as the Pirates -- the Cardinals. But the Reds also have enough talent with the likes of Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips and others to reach the NLCS and beyond.
The likely result: Did I mention the Cardinals?
In the NL West
The Dodgers' roster currently features a slew of outfielders, and the front office's New Year's resolution is to deal Matt Kemp to the highest bidder. In fact, Kemp has been rumored to be trade bait for weeks, despite winning two Gold Glove awards, capturing a couple of Silver Slugger nods and finishing second in NL Most Valuable Player Award voting in 2011. It's just that he has been terribly fragile during the past two seasons, and since the Dodgers' new ownership has spent like crazy in recent years, they want results.
The likely result: Kemp isn't going anywhere.
In the AL East
You have to begin with the team that missed the playoffs in 2013 for only the second time in the past 19 years. October without the Yankees dominating your television screen is borderline un-American, but not to worry. With Hank and Hal Steinbrenner resembling their father, George, by opening their wallets wide and often this offseason, their New Year's resolution is to get the Yankees back to world championship form in a hurry.
The likely result: Masahiro Tanaka is virtually in pinstripes as we speak. Count on it.
But what about the Red Sox? They were deeply inspired last season, representing their city after the Boston Marathon bombings. As the defending champs, they have enough pitching and hitting to stay dominant for a while. Boston's New Year's resolution is to win its fourth title in 11 years.
The likely result: It won't matter, because Pinstripe Power is back.
In the AL Central
The Tigers have dominated this division for the past three seasons. That said, they enter 2014 without future Hall of Fame manager Jim Leyland, accomplished slugger Prince Fielder or solid pitcher Doug Fister. So others in the division are feeling good about themselves. Take the Indians, for instance. They improved last season under new manager Terry Francona, and the Royals showed flashes of turning their potential into reality.
The likely result: So much for daydreaming. The Tigers will take the division for the fourth year in a row. They still have Miguel Cabrera, after all.
In the AL West
There are so many teams in this division with much to prove. The Angels wish to prove that last year was a fluke, after they imploded despite all of that expensive talent. The Rangers wish to prove that they are ending their brief absence from the World Series by adding Fielder. The Mariners wish to prove that Robinson Cano is only the beginning of their search for relevancy. The A's wish to prove that they can remain the team to beat in the division despite stadium issues and talk of relocating. The Astros wish to prove that they can win.
The likely result: The Astros still won't win.