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The 2014 MLB season is set to begin in earnest on Sunday night with its stateside Opening Day. However, that is just the preview of a full Monday slate that includes five nationally televised season openers on ESPN.
Accordingly, ESPN has published its experts’ predictions for the upcoming MLB season in preparation for what should be a national holiday (if Ozzie Smith and Budweiser say it, it must be true). Among the individual awards, Xander Bogaerts (41 votes) edged out Masahiro Tanaka (37) and Jose Abreu (28) in the voting to predict the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Red Sox as a team received only two votes among 44 experts to defend their 2013 World Series title. Does that seem right to you?
Of the rest of the voters, 12 picked the Washington Nationals, 11 selected the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7 chose the St. Louis Cardinals, 6 voted for the Tampa Bay Rays, 5 for the Detroit Tigers, and 1 crazy person randomly picked the Cleveland Indians to win it all. (Apparently that person flipped a 27-sided coin featuring every MLB team except the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, and Miami Marlins.)
I guess I wasn’t expecting everyone to jump on the boat-like bandwagon of the Boston Red Sox after last year’s improbable World Series trophy. But you’re telling me they got only one more vote to win the World Series than the freaking Indians? And only three others (five overall) thought Boston would make a second straight World Series appearance. The Tigers and the Rays were the most popular picks to make the World Series out of the American League. (The Indians? Not so much.)
Must have been the retirement of Ryan Dempster that turned a lot of experts off the 2014 Red Sox. (I suppose you could convince me Jacoby Ellsbury’s departure may have something to do with it, too.)
Bogaerts was narrowly named the favorite to bring home the ROY trophy, edging the Yankees’ $155 million Tanaka and the White Sox’ $68 million Abreu. I’ll be honest — give me a moment while I shift into Dan Dierdorf triple-negative mode — that wouldn’t be the worst consolation prize for not winning the World Series again.
Among the other individual awards, Dustin Pedroia was the only Red Sox player to receive a vote for this year’s AL MVP — his 1 being juuuust a few behind the 100 votes for Mike Trout and his shiny new $144.5 million contract. Jon Lester (2) and Clay Buchholz (1) each got votes for the 2014 AL Cy Young award (Yu Darvish was most predicted to win with 65 votes).
In the National League, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, and the Cincinatti Reds’ Billy Hamilton were the top choices for MVP, Cy Young, and ROY award winners, respectively.
But what does ESPN know… Who do you think will win this year’s awards?