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And now HardballTalk’s 2016 Predictions

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By now I don’t need to tell you how silly it is to predict the outcome of a baseball season in which over 2,400 baseball games are played by over a thousand players, all of whom are subject to injury and/or wild variation from past performance or reasonable expectations. Baseball is freakin’ chaos, my friends. And while that is one of the top things to recommend it, it’s also the thing that makes predicting its outcomes a fool’s errand.

Let no one say that Bill and I aren’t fools. We’re gonna make our picks anyway, because that’s what we do. You can see our top-to-bottom divisional picks in our individual previews, but know that we have the following teams winning divisions and wild cards:

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Royals
AL West: Astros
AL Wild Cards: Blue Jays, Rangers

NL East: Mets
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: Pirates, Giants

We diverge a bit on our playoff/World Series picks:

Bill: Red Sox vs. Astros in the ALCS; Mets vs. Cubs in the NLCS. Cubs vs. Astros in the World Series and . . . CUBS WIN

Craig: Red Sox vs. Royals in the ALCS; Giants vs. Cubs in the NLCS. Giants vs. Red Sox in the World Series and . . . GIANTS WIN

No, I don’t think the Giants are the best team in baseball. I was just burned in 2010, 2012 and 2014 by them and I’ve decided that going with dumb even year juju is a better system than one in which I pretend I know anything. Honestly, if someone put a gun to my head I’d probably pick the Cubs or Red Sox, but everyone’s gonna do that this year and where’s the fun in that?

Obviously, based on that bit of incoherence, Don’t take this exercise terribly seriously. No battle plan survives engagement with the enemy and such. If you save these and throw them back in our faces come October, well, you’re sort of missing the point. Unless we’re right, of course, in which point we’ll make a big show of how right we were because we control the posts that go up on this website and our egos are very, very fragile.

Anyway, there is only one thing you can definitively take away from this: we hate your team. Yes, yours. And yours too. God, how can you root for them?

Adrian Beltre cleared for extended spring training

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Adrian Beltre has been on the disabled list all year because of nagging right calf strain, but he’s about to take a big step toward getting back to action.

Beltre has been cleared to begin playing in extended spring training games. He’ll commence them tomorrow at the Rangers facility in Surprise, Arizona. After three games the team’s doctors will reevaluate him. If things go well, he’ll likely be sent off for a full minor league rehab assignment.

Joey Gallo has filled in for Beltre all season, bringing a lot of power but not much else to the table. While Beltre is 38, his all-around game would be welcomed back on the field and his leadership would be welcomed back in the Rangers clubhouse. On a personal note, Beltre is only 58 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.

Barring a setback, he’ll be back with the big club in early June and will hit the milestone eventually.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.