Earlier today, Erin referenced the fact that the White Sox and Tigers are “widely considered the favorites to win the division.” Your feelings on the truth of her statement depend largely on what sources you read and which analysts you view as credible and/or noteworthy.
While I haven’t been keeping a running tally of who is picking what team in the AL Central, I don’t get the sense that the Tigers or White Sox are viewed as favorites. Everyone who is at least marginally attached to reality recognizes that the Twins were the class of the division in 2010. They wound up 6.0 games ahead of the White Sox and 13.0 games ahead of the Tigers even though the TC boys were without many key parts for extended periods of time.
Heading into the 2011 season, Chicago and Detroit have made some improvements, but like this year’s version of the Twins both remain teams with flaws, holes and question marks. As a result, it is not surprising to me that a lot of people are viewing the division as a three-team race.
There is another fairly large camp that feels that the Twins will, once again, find a way to win the division. This group consists of two sub-camps. There are those that feel Minnesota is still the team to beat on paper while the others have been burned so many times for writing off the Twins that they simply refuse to pick against them anymore. This latter bunch of folks has also surely learned from several years of watching analysts from the “mainstream” media pick against Minnesota only to look like complete fools by season’s end. Even in the years when the Twins don’t bring the divisional crown back to the Twin Cities, they typically stay in the mix until the end keeping everyone on their toes.
A few weeks ago I linked to this piece by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports where he declared that the Minnesota Twins were still the “prohibitive favorites” to win the division. The problem is I think a vast majority of Twins fans thrive under the belief that everyone is picking against our team. We, as Twins fans, seem to revel in the “underdog spotlight” and I think that leads to a bias we perpetuate in our own minds. We cling to the projections of those in the media who dare pick against our team and ignore when people like Jeff Passan write that we are still the class of the division.
I’m not like most Twins fans though. In fact I may have a “reverse” bias. After rooting for the Twins and Royals for the last 15-16 years it’s not hard to understand why. Since the Royals typically head into spring training with the upside of maybe finishing third in the division every year, I have been forced to cling to the positive projections of the Twins to help me keep my sanity. Early on when I met my wife’s family – who are all pretty much Royals fans – they asked me what I would do if the Twins and Royals were both really good and competing for the division against one another. My response still holds to this day, “I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Obviously I’m still waiting to cross that bridge, though I hope someday I will have to.
In the interest of keeping things as unbiased as I can, I will do my best to showcase the AL Central predictions of others as I come across them.
First up today we have Jimmy Boyd’s 2011 MLB Predictions:
While this is far from a “mainstream” baseball site, paying attention to guys who make picks for a living can be a very fruitful practice. When someone like Mitch Williams on MLB Network throws out his projections for the upcoming season, he knows full well that the accuracy of those picks will be irrelevant to his livelihood at the end of the season. Guys like Jimmy Boyd, and the Vegas handicappers, make a living with their picks. Their ability to accurately assess how things are going to turn out literally puts food on the table.
Getting away from the betting world of sports, let’s turn to Democrat and Chronicle.com
From the headline you’d assume the author – Bob Matthews – doesn’t believe the Twins will finish in 1st place in the upcoming season.
"I like Minnesota’s starting lineup and resourceful manager Ron Gardenhire, but here are several reasons I’m not sold on the Twins overall …"
Bob then goes on to hit all the typical question marks surrounding the 2011 edition of the team. The bullpen, the middle infield, Morneau’s health, Valencia’s ability to do it again, the rotation and the lack of a true ace, etc. etc. His analysis is spot on and we all have similar questions. There is really nothing in the article I take issue with and the way it was going as I read it, I expected he would conclude with a pick of the Tigers or White Sox. Instead he left it with this:
"The White Sox and the Tigers — Both improved significantly this offseason while the Twins were relatively quiet.Gardenhire will get the most out of his players, but Ozzie Guillen (White Sox) and Jim Leyland (Tigers) could have more talent to work with."
So it would appear that Matthews is either hedging his bets by not picking against the Twins or he is in the three-team race camp. With regard to the the above quote I would argue against the fact that the White Sox and Tigers both improved “significantly” this offseason but that is a column I plan to write once we are closer to Opening Day. I would also take issue with the notion that Ozzie and Leyland “could” have more talent to work with. I don’t think they do and honestly I don’t think it is all that close.
The point of all of this is not to suggest that Erin was either right or wrong in her take on the prevailing opinion of how the AL Central will shake out in 2011. I’m just trying to frame everything in a proper context and show both sides. My assessment runs counter to hers, but again that doesn’t mean that I am right or wrong either. We all have our biases and we all view things through our own lenses. We all have different tinting on our lenses which filter and distort reality.