The MLB season starts tonight. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Hell, I don't know. It starts like four different times.
Anyway, I'm looking through the season and highlighting some things that WILL HAPPEN*. And, for a bonus, I'll mix in some things I actually do think will happen! I'm helpful. To the calendar!
(*Will not happen, probably, but hush up)
Saturday, March 22: Clayton Kershaw goes 6 2/3 with two earned runs on five hits, striking out six. Meanwhile, some guy I've never heard of scores a meaningless run for the Brewers in the third inning of their spring training game against the Angels, because #scheduling.
Sunday, March 30: The Padres lose to the Dodgers, making Los Angeles 3-0 despite only three teams total having played a game. Basically, if you own Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and/or Yasiel Puig, you're in first place right now and you want to call the rest of the season off.
Monday, March 31: Most of the rest of the big-league teams kick off their season, including the Red Sox, who appear on ESPN for the first of 387 regular-season appearances in 2014. The Giants, frustrated that they are already a game and a half back in the division, ask Arizona if they'd like to play a "fiver-header." The Diamondbacks deem this request unclassy. Meanwhile, Casey McGehee hits two opening-day homers.
Tuesday, April 1: Casey McGehee is 100 percent owned in all fantasy leagues.
Wednesday, April 2: Casey McGehee goes 0-4 with four strikeouts. Jon, your leaguemate, sends you a trade offer of McGehee for Shelby Miller.
Saturday, April 5: The undefeated Twins win their fourth straight to start the season. An expert is asked if they are "for real," and when he or she answers "no," is accused of being a "hater."
Tuesday, April 8: Billy Hamilton steals his seventh base of the season. He has no caught stealings, but also no extra-base hits and no RBI. But he has more steals than any two players combined. It's weird and crazy and no one can explain it. But hey, you own him, and a category win is a category win.
Friday, April 11: With Wil Myers stuck at only two hits so far in the season, premature murmurs about a possible minor-league demotion start. He responds by going 3-for-4 against the Reds.
REAL PREDICTION: Traditional slow-starter Mark Teixeira will do the same this year, without much production in the season's first two weeks. Unfortunately, it continues for much of the year, rendering Teixeira a fantasy afterthought for basically all of 2014.
Monday, April 14: The Dodgers have their fifth day off in the last 15. Zack Greinke is overhead talking about how great it was that they had that Australia trip, because of the subsequent rest.
Tuesday, April 15: Jon, that leaguemate who thought grabbing Casey McGehee in a ten-team mixed league was a good idea, has somehow managed to lead in all ten categories of your 5x5 league. He has posted smack talk and is still sending you bad trade offers. You hate him.
Friday, April 18: Noted moviephile John Axford sees Transcendence, declares it "transcendent," giggles to himself for an hour.
Monday, April 21: Jeff Samardzija throws the season's first no-hitter, in the Cubs' 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks. He does this despite five walks and 134 pitches. The shutout lowers his WHIP, but at 1.42, he still isn't helping you much.
Saturday, April 26: In his first start of the season, Cole Hamels goes five shutout innings. He leaves after 75 pitches, but looks fine. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman makes his own 2014 debut, pitching a scoreless ninth in the Reds' 6-1 win. Fantasy disabled lists everywhere celebrate.
REAL PREDICTION: Yasiel Puig gets off to a bit of a slow start to 2014 - at least as it compares to his insanely successful 2013. People wonder whether he'll bounce back, but this is his new normal: a .280ish batting average, no more than 20 home runs, that sort of thing. Good, but not meeting the hype.
Thursday, May 1: The Twins lose to fall to 10-16. The person who called that expert a "hater" on April 5 is nowhere to be found.
Monday, May 5: Eric Hosmer hits his ninth home run of the season. He's hitting .365/.489/.588. Normally I tell you to ignore small-sample production like that, but it's Hosmer, so ohboyohboyohboyohboyhe'sgonnawinMVP.
Wednesday, May 14: Yu Darvish finally finishes the Astros off, getting a no-hitter against them after what feels like a billion-and-a-half different chances. Unlike Samardzija, Darvish is lighting it up on the young season, to the tune of a 5-0 record, a 1.25 ERA, and a 0.94 WHIP. Jon emails you an offer of Huston Street and Lucas Duda for him.
REAL PREDICTION: Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager are the only Seattle hitters worth owning in shallow leagues. Brad Miller and/or Nick Franklin will be decent but nothing special, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison will once again struggle to remain healthy, Justin Smoak will continue to disappoint. Considering the early-season injuries to the Seattle pitching staff, the Mariners will once again be a second-division team with Cano, Seager, and Felix Hernandez as bright spots. Don't go crazy.
Saturday, May 24: Frustrated after having him on your roster all season despite his subpar production, you dump Nick Markakis. You win a prize for being the one millionth person to get frustrated with Nick Markakis in fantasy history.
Sunday, May 25: Markakis goes 3-for-5 with a home run.
Monday, May 26: Jon picks up Markakis.
Tuesday, May 27: Jon offers you Markakis for Carlos Gomez. Jon is still in first place.
REAL PREDICTION: As good as Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen are, Jose Tabata will continue to disappoint in Pittsburgh. Gregory Polanco will get called up in late May, and he'll win the National League Rookie of the Year. Holy crap, that outfield, you guys.
Wednesday, June 4: Billy Hamilton steals two bases. He's hitting .280/.302/.302, but already has 50 stolen bases. I have no idea if that is acceptable production or not, and no one else does, either.
Sunday, June 8: Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales meet for their weekly checkers game.
Tuesday, June 10: On the Yankees' first trip to Seattle of 2014, Ichiro shows Masahiro Tanaka around the city, including the market where they throw the fish (I don't know its name and it's more fun to say that than to Google). Tanaka, despite coming from Japan, the country embodiment of the eccentric rich genius, formally declares America weird. Ichiro nods in a "dude, right?" way.
Monday, June 16: The Twins lose their ninth straight game. That expert from April 5 takes a sabbatical from work to wade through his Twitter mentions in hopes of finding that person who called him a hater and gaining retribution.
REAL PREDICTION: Nate Jones won't be the White Sox closer by this point in the season. He has the velocity, but the results have never really been there, and 2014 won't be any different. Matt Lindstrom and/or Mitchell Boggs will get plenty of opportunities.
Monday, June 23: Derek Jeter gets his first two-hit game of the season. No joke here; I could totally see that being true, yet he is as I write this owned in 59 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Guys, come on.
Friday, June 27: John Axford sees the new Transformers movie and says it "Needs more Shia."
Sunday, June 29: Just like it took us a year and a half or so to finally call them the "Tampa Bay Rays" instead of the Devil Rays, the last analyst finally manages to say the Astros are in the American League on his first try. Celebrations are held throughout Houston, because that's the closest they can come to good baseball stuff happening.
REAL PREDICTION: Eric Young Jr. won't be fantasy-relevant this year. There are all sorts of rumors that the Mets will use him in left and Chris Young in center - relegating Juan Lagares to the bench - so EY can lead off and steal bases. But the Mets aren't dumb; they aren't going to compete in 2014, and they need to see if Lagares can hit enough to support his glove. The outfield will be Chris Young-Lagares-Curtis Granderson most of the time, and while EY will steal when he plays, he just won't play enough. Find your steals elsewhere.
Wednesday, July 2: Troy Tulowitzki plays in his 90th consecutive game, dating back to 2013. He throws a party to celebrate "My Own Personal Cal Ripken Streak." He stubs his toe at the party and misses Thursday's game.
Friday, July 4: On Independence Day, it is the Reds' turn to have the ugliest caps in the world. I don't know what they'll look like, because my eyes work and that makes me ineligible for baseball cap design work, but MLB is just the best at insanely ugly hat designs.
Wednesday, July 9: Allen Craig hits the DL, and you manage to snag Oscar Taveras just before his call-up. Jon posts a whiny message-board post about how "I never get the player I want."
Sunday, July 13: It's the season's midway point. Your favorite player is an All-Star. Your favorite team is in first place. You just got promoted at work and found out you're having a baby. But the thing that makes you happiest is that Jon has finally fallen out of first place. It wasn't even you who overtook him; you're just happy he fell back.
REAL PREDICTION: Bryce Harper will be very good in 2014. He'll stay healthy and continue to develop. But the MVP talk is overblown. He's a top-fifteen fantasy outfielder; he's not a top-three or whatever. I love him, too - still have a picture in my phone of when he was in the minors and I saw his first pro home run - but he's in the second tier.
Wednesday, July 16: THERE IS NOTHING TO DO TODAY OR TOMORROW OH MY GOD WHY CAN'T WE ALWAYS HAVE SPORTS.
Thursday, July 17: Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales try to hog the dead air on sports TV by hosting a charity Risk tournament. Scott Boras wins.
Monday, July 21: The Reds and Brewers play a double-header to make up for an earlier rainout. Billy Hamilton steals seven bases; Joey Votto walks seven times; the Brewers win both games.
Wednesday, July 23: The Tigers, who lead the AL Central by 15 games already, let Miguel Cabrera play second base for a few innings. The team doesn't say why, but it comes out later that Brad Ausmus has a friend who plays in a fantasy league with a one-game rule for positional eligibility. His friend's name is Jon, and while it isn't the same Jon as the one in your league, you are starting to think you hate all Jons.
Saturday, July 26: Mike Trout goes 2-for-4 with a home run and a steal. He's hitting .324/.430/.568, with 20 home runs and 28 steals. America yawns. People got tired of Tom Hanks being the best actor, too.
Thursday, July 31: An uncharacteristically active trade deadline sees seven different cross-league trades. Basically every single-league-only fantasy league is thrown into serious turmoil, further proving why single-league-only is a dumb way to play. (Sorry, even though I'm in an NL-only league, I hate them. You want scarcity? More owners or deeper rosters. Don't arbitrarily wipe out half the player pool.)
REAL PREDICTION: Brett Lawrie finally puts most of it together in 2014. After two years of below-average OPS+ production, he stays mostly healthy this year and puts up 20-some home runs and 15ish steals. He's still below the top third basemen, but should provide the biggest return on investment of the guys drafted in the teens.
Friday, August 1: The Dodgers, Cardinals, and Nationals all have big division leads. The Braves are seven games ahead of the second-place team in the wild-card chase. Sure, the Reds, Brewers, Giants, et al, are battling it out for the second WC, but everyone else is just like "Hey, when's October?"
Saturday, August 2: Ryan Howard, mired in a 3-for-41 slump, is claimed on waivers by the Angels in an effort to block a competitor from adding him. The Phillies, seeing an opportunity, say screw it and let him go to Anaheim.
Saturday, August 9: The Red Sox take on the Angels in Los Angeles. Grady Sizemore, on the DL with a hamstring pull, meets Mike Trout before the game, shakes his hand and says, "Dude, I was you once."
Tuesday, August 12: George Springer, called up by the Astros in mid-June, hits his 13th home run, a walkoff to give Houston the win over Minnesota. A not-as-clever-as-he-thinks-he-is copy editor posts a picture of the team jumping in celebration with the headline "Springer In Their Step."
REAL PREDICTION: Ryan Braun will be hella-good. I'm of the "PED effects are overrated" camp, and I think he'll be ... well, maybe not back to normal, per se - he's 30 now - but a .300 average, 30-some homers, 20-some steals. Don't shy away.
Sunday, August 17: The A's take on the Braves in Atlanta. While Jason Heyward tells him about the new-new stadium Atlanta will have in a few years, Josh Reddick just stares at the ground, thinking of the shoddy plumbing in Oakland's park.
Tuesday, August 19: Stephen Drew stands on Kendrys Morales' shoulders and they put on a trenchcoat, trying to sign with an NBA team.
Wednesday, August 20: The Padres take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles. While the Dodgers haven't yet clinched the West, let's be serious, they kind of have. Meanwhile, Jedd Gyorko hits two home runs, bringing you above Jon in the league standings. Jon is now in fourth and plummeting, and his message-board posts have become much less common.
Tuesday, August 26: Eric Hosmer hits his 80th home run, breaking all sorts of records. (Okay, maybe not. Don't take it away from me.)
Sunday, August 31: The Mets, in a distant third in the division, call up the Knicks to see what that whole Phil Jackson thing is all about.
REAL PREDICTION: Josh Reddick will be Oakland's best fantasy outfielder this season, as Coco Crisp struggles to maintain his 2013 power, and Yoenis Cespedes can't get back to 2012. Reddick is a top-20 fantasy outfielder.
Tuesday, September 9: With only the AL West and AL East still really up for grabs among the divisions, ESPN spends the morning wondering what would happen if Peyton Manning was coached by Bill Belichick.
Thursday, September 11: Jon, now in seventh place, has started accusing you of cheating. You promise yourself Jon won't be invited back next year.
Saturday, September 13: The Rangers host the Braves in a mid-September interleague matchup between playoff contenders. Everyone looks at it blankly, wondering why the hell these two teams are playing each other now.
REAL PREDICTION: Michael Cuddyer put up a .382 BABIP in 2013. He's traditionally a decent BABIP guy, but .382? That's not reality, and that's not continuing. It'll fall to his norm in 2014, rendering him a decent fantasy option, but nothing like he was. Call it a .270 average, 15 homers. If he's starting for you, you want to upgrade.
Sunday, September 20: Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales start their own reality show, Ballers Without A Ball.
Thursday, September 25: Pittsburgh beats Atlanta, but because Milwaukee beats Cincinnati, both the Pirates and Braves clinch wild-card berths. The teams dogpile on each other, in the friendliest moment in baseball history.
Saturday, September 27: Your buddy Jim clinches the win in your league. Jon swears he'll never play with you "cheaters" again. Later that night, he emails you about a trade offer in your football league.
Sunday, September 28: Houston plays the Mets in New York. It's the last day of the season, and they are a combined 50 games out of first. It's the most pointless pro sporting event ever, which is why it's the Ceremonial Drew-Morales Game. The Mets sign Drew, and the Astros sign Morales, and both teams let both guys play all nine positions.
Monday, September 29: On the first day after the regular season ends, the Mets and Astros extend Drew and Morales qualifying offers for 2015. A nation weeps.
REAL PREDICTION: Maybe I'm buying into the hype, but Yordano Ventura is going to be a stud. I think he outproduces James Shields on a per-inning basis, and runs away with the American League Rookie of the Year. I don't think it'll be enough to get the Royals into the postseason, but it'll make the loss of Shields much easier to tolerate.
So there it is. I ran through the whole thing. In case you got bored with it (and also because I didn't actually list all of these):
|East||Central||West||Wild Card 1||Wild Card 2|
|American League||Rays||Tigers||Rangers||Red Sox||A's|
|MVP||Cy Young||Rookie of the Year|
|American League||Eric Hosmer (I'm weak!)||Yu Darvish (I'm still weak!)
||Yordano Ventura (Seriously, I'm powerless)
|National League||Hanley Ramirez||Adam Wainwright||Gregory Polanco|