And now the HBT staff’s 2014 predictions

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We’re usually way wrong with this stuff. Waaaay wrong. All of us picked the Phillies to win the NL East in 2012. We all picked the Nationals last year. Not picking the Braves is probably always madness, I have no idea. But we’re all likely going to all whiff on one or 24 of these picks this year, too. Bank on it. But we make our picks anyway because that’s what professional baseball writers do. And, unlike some folks out there, we own our wrongness. Those other analysts merely adopt the wrong. But we’re born in it, molded by it.

Which is to say: we don’t take this exercise entirely seriously. No battle plan survives engagement with the enemy and such. If these predictions make you angry or resentful or convinces you that someone harbors bias or a vendetta against all that you love, well, you probably need to see a therapist.

Whatever the case, it’s fun to try to predict the future, darn it, so here we are. Wild card picks have an asterisk next to them.

CRAIG

AL East: Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Jays
AL Central: Tigers, Royals, Indians, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, *Athletics, Angles, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, *Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, *Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies
World Series: Cardinals vs. Rangers — Cardinals win.

AARON

AL East: Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: Tigers, Indians, Royals, Twins, White Sox
AL West: Rangers, *Angels, A’s, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, *Pirates, Reds, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, *Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies
World Series: Dodgers vs. Red Sox — Dodgers win

MATTHEW

AL East: Rays, *Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays
AL Central: Tigers, *Royals, Indians, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Athletics, Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, *Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, *Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies
World Series: Cardinals over Rays

D.J.

AL East: Rays, *Red Sox, *Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays
AL Central: Tigers, Indians, Royals, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, *Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, *Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies
World Series: Cardinals vs. Rays – Rays win

DREW

AL East: Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Jays
AL Central: Royals, *Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, *Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, *Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres
World Series: Nationals vs. Rays — Nationals win.

BILL

AL East: Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays
AL Central: Royals, Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, *Athletics, Angels, Mariners Astros
NL East: Nationals, *Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, *Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies
World Series: Red Sox vs. Dodgers — Dodgers win in 6

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.