By Chris Hoffman

National League: Arizona, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Atlanta (Wild Card)
American League: Los Angeles, Cleveland, Boston, Detroit (Wild Card)

NL MVP: Prince Fielder
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez

AL Cy Young: C.C. Sabathia
NL Cy Young: Dan Haren

World Series: Arizona over Cleveland in six

Yes, I’m such a fan of the American League that I barely pay attention to the National League, except to make sure the Dodgers and Giants are getting killed. This year, however, should be like the last in that every division in the NL has a legitimate multi-team race for the crown, making for great baseball. The National League East is going to be the most exhilarating and tightest race of them all with the Phillies, Mets and Braves – yes the Braves – battling for two spots because, let’s face it, the wild card is going to come from this dominant division. I’m not sold on the Cubs, especially considering the question at the end of the bullpen in Kerry Wood. The Brewers, despite their youthfulness and starting pitching woes, are going to learn from their mistakes down the stretch last year, especially manager Ned Yost. I loved all the hoopla in L.A. this offseason around the hiring of Joe Torre, but it won’t be enough to contain the Diamondbacks. The Rockies needed a nearly impossible run to make it last year, so I’m not sold on them, and the Padres haven’t recovered from last year’s one-game playoff loss to Colorado.

The American League West is already decided because, let’s face it, the Mariners are still at least a year away and the second best team in the division is probably Oakland, a team with perhaps the most unknown players in the league. I can’t wait for the year that neither the Red Sox or Yankees make the playoffs, but that glorious day is still at least a few years off. The good news is that the Yanks, who shouldn’t have been playing in October last year, will falter down the stretch due to their unproven pitching and the division race will be over weeks before the end of the season. The best race in the league is coming in the Central, but this time the consolation prize is going to be the wild card. Behind the one-two punch of Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, the Indians are going to edge the Tigers, but Detroit will recover from its slow start to battle until the end.

By John Greely

American League: Boston, New York (Wild Card), Cleveland, Los Angeles
National League: New York, Arizona, St. Louis, Chicago (Wild Card)
World Series: Cleveland over Chicago in seven

AL Cy Young: Cliff Lee
NL Cy Young: Ben Sheets

AL MVP: Manny Ramirez
NL MVP: Derrek Lee

So those are my highly scientific picks for the 2008 season. It really pains me to have put both New York teams, Boston and a Los Angeles team in the playoffs, but my laziness in coming up with picks left me no choice. The Indians are going to surprise everybody, if they ever find a closer who pitches better than Chris Hoffman. (Here’s to hoping that Joe Borowski does not read this and hunt me down.) I guess it would not be much of a surprise if they did well, as they are a pretty solid squad, but calling it a surprise pick increases my credibility, which is what really counts. Outside of those picks, I begin to care less and less. Honestly, who cares who wins the NL Central? I have Lee and Sheets winning the AL and NL Cy Young respectively, though their win totals may suffer due to lack of relief pitching. (I do not trust Eric Gagne, even for a second.)

Ramirez is sort of a bland pick at MVP, but the Sox are going to do well no matter what, so he is going to have the numbers. Lee is pretty good, I suppose, and, in the NL, that will probably carry him to MVP. Also, the Cubs will be in the Series, so I guess Lee will probably have some role in that. Speaking of the Series, the Cubs are in it! I know I just mentioned that, but I feel it bears repeating. The Cubbies in the Series! An entirely Midwest series will kill all the ratings, but will also restore a small-town feeling to baseball. Plus, it provides an opportunity to dash Cubs fans hopes yet again. Ahead in the Series 3-0 against the Indians, NL MVP Lee will say they have it locked up. He will immediately be hit by a meteor and incinerated on the spot. However, one highly improbable occurrence would not be enough to truly get at Cubs fans. Thus, every starter will fall victim to some Simpsonesque tragedy, and they will be forced to play late-season trade pickup Juan Pierre. You know where it goes from there. Indians win in seven, Cubs fans are cursed for another 100 years.

By Alex Pavlovic

American League: New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Boston (Wild Card)
National League: Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Arizona, San Diego
World Series: Arizona over Cleveland in seven

AL MVP: Manny Ramirez
NL MVP: Chase Utley
AL Cy Young: Chien-Ming Wang
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy

Despite what I’ve been told over the years about not being able to be a Giants and A’s fan at the same time, I’ve always held to my firm belief that fans are well within their rights to choose a team from both leagues. Over the years, my dual baseball loves have given me a threesome that’s included plenty of ups – Bonds and the Big Three – and plenty of downs – slide Jeremy, you have to freaking slide! – as well. After years of contending but never winning it all, both of my hometown teams have started the rebuilding process. Why do I bring this up in a season preview? Because I’m the master of segues (the writing transitions, not those really fruity looking motorized things), and my friends, here’s your theme for the 2008 MLB season: rebuilding.

While big names like Vlad, Big Papi, Sheffield and Schilling continue to get old before our eyes, a new generation of stars will step up to rebuild baseballs image. Look for this to be the year that guys like Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum and Alex Gordon establish themselves as perennial All-Stars. Throw in the Upton brothers and a cornucopia of other emerging players, and you’ve got a new generation of stars to make us forget about the Steroid Era, assuming the media and Jose Canseco ever let us. On a related note, if anyone knows of a third Upton brother hanging around, please direct him to the Giants front offices immediately. I don’t care how old he is. Thanks.

A changing of the guard is upon us, and it’ll play itself out in the playoffs. Cleveland is finally ready to upend the Sox and Yanks, even though ESPN probably won’t acknowledge it, but my gigantic crystal balls tell me that the D-Backs two headed snake-monster of Webb and Haren will raise Arizona to its second World Series title. Also I ate chicken wings with Haren once so we’re pretty much best friends, and we all know it’s in bad taste to root against your best friend.

By Kevin Klein

National League: Arizona, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New York (Wild Card)
American League: Los Angeles, Detroit, Boston, Indians (Wild Card)
World Series: Detroit over Arizona in seven

NL CY: Cole Hamels
NL MVP: David Wright

AL CY: Chien-Ming Wang
AL MVP: Manny Ramirez

The winner of the 2008 World Series will be coming from the American League Central. Now before all three of you Royals fans get excited that I’m talking about you because you’ve managed to stay above .500 this long in the season, I’m sorry, but it’s the Detroit Tigers I am referring to. Despite a sluggish start from newly signed Miguel Cabrera and the rest of Detroit’s All-Star studded lineup, this team has both the power and pitching to make a championship run. With a young pitching staff led by Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander and the most daunting lineup in baseball, early injuries and the league’s worst record won’t last long.

As far as the AL East goes, it’s nothing but the green-monster’s dreaded watchman in Manny Ramirez – now you get the dread pun. Despite being hampered by injuries the past two seasons, Ramirez has jumped out of the gates with a strong April, carrying the Red Sox’s lineup thus far. My surprise Cy Young candidate is the highly underrated Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang. After recording 19 wins in back-to-back seasons and winning his first three outings of the season, I think that this is the year Wang finally breaks the 20-win plateau and becomes the first Taiwanese pitcher to bring home the award.

In the NL, no team has the combination of hitting and pitching like the Arizona Diamondbacks. The two-headed monster that is Brandon Webb and Dan Haren creates such a formidable one-two punch that no team is going to want to face them come playoff time. Offensively, Arizona has a young squad led by the outfield trio made of veteran Eric Byrnes and two future superstars with Chris Young and Justin Upton, with both already proving their power with five homeruns apiece.

My pick for the NL Cy Young award has to come from the East. No, it’s not Santana, I’m talking about the Phillies’ lefty Cole Hamels. The San Diego native has one of the best changeups in the game, which he complements with a fastball in the low 90’s and manages to keep his opponents off-balance while he piles up the K’s. David Wright is Mets baseball, but even with his MVP heroics it will not be enough to stay ahead of the Phils, who will still lose in the first round of the playoffs anyways.

By Rob Garcia

American League: Boston, Cleveland, Seattle, Los Angeles (Wild Card)
National League: New York, Chicago, Arizona, Colorado (Wild Card)

World Series: Boston over Arizona in six

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
AL Cy Young: Jake Peavy
NL MVP: Matt Holliday
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana

For those of you that are going crazy about the events of Major League Baseball’s first 12-15 games, let me remind you of one thing: it is a long season.

To give you a bit of a perspective, if we say the average game length is three hours, you could actually travel around the world more than seven times during the course of just one team’s season. That’s basically a roundabout way of saying things like the Cardinals’ top record in the majors, Mariano Rivera’s 0.00 ERA and Nick Swisher’s facial hair are all simply not going to last.

Let’s begin with Boston… wait, this isn’t SportsCenter! In the humid home of the Diamondbacks, opponents’ batting averages will to continue to dry up as long as Brandon Webb, newly-acquired Dan Haren and pitchers’ batting champ Micah Owings present one of the most dangerous trios in the National League. And if Randy Johnson is indeed back to kill some birds and strike out some batters, Arizona definitely won’t need to score its current seven runs per game average to get wins.

Ok, it’s probably inappropriate to discuss NL hurlers without talking about Johan Santana’s “smooth” transition into a New York Mets jersey. The $150 million richer Santana, a Cy Young winner two years ago, should have no problem locking up the award again unless he decides to pull a Barry Zito.

Even though Boston may stand atop the AL once again, Beantown will have to watch out for a few teams lying in wait right now. Before you know it, Seattle will have its ace Erik Bedard back along with closer J.J. Putz’s intimidating chin hair, the Tigers will refresh themselves on the meaning of a RBI and the strength of Cleveland’s rotation won’t be “flying” under the radar anymore.

All in all, the Red Sox will win their third World Series in five years, but I’m really just waiting to see if the Cubs win their first NL pennant in over 60 years, so I can say, “What the Fukudome?!”

By Matt Connolly

American League: New York, Boston (Wild Card), Cleveland, Los Angeles
National League: Philadelphia, New York (Wild Card), Milwaukee, Arizona
World Series: Anaheim over Arizona in six

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
AL Cy Young: Fausto Carmona
NL MVP: Chase Utley
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy

A little over two weeks into the season, the early success of my Yahoo fantasy teams along with daily doses of Baseball Tonight have helped me cope with the fact that I still have not found a way to watch Giants games for free in Santa Barbara. More importantly, these recent developments have put me back in the euphoric mindset that can only accompany the beginning of another exciting year of renewed rivalries, pennant races and grand jury trials that attempt to weed out the juicers from non-juicers, as if anyone still cared.

As my hometown orange and black will be lucky to win fewer games than the jersey number of their $126 million junkballer – yes, I am referring to Barry Zito, and his jersey number is 75 – it is about time that I moved on to actual contenders that know how to put runs on the scoreboard.

It will be much of the same in the AL East, with New York and Boston fighting tooth-and-nail for the division crown only to realize a couple weeks before playoffs that both are a lock for October. The AL West will also see the reigning champs take hold of another title, as the Angels’ imposing offense with K-Rod at the back end out will be too much for Seattle or Oakland to handle. Some might scoff at the audacity of even mentioning the A’s as AL West contenders, but the master of moneyball, Billy Beane, has yet another youth movement working to perfection thus far.

The Central division should be the most closely contested race in the AL, with the White Sox, Indians and Tigers all sticking it out until the very end. I cannot imagine with the offense that both Cleveland and Detroit have that either will continue their early-season struggles, despite obvious pitching weaknesses. As much as I would like to jump on the Kansas City bandwagon and support super sophomores Brian Bannister and Alex Gordon, I believe it will be a three-headed race to the finish.

Over in the National League, the playing field is much more leveled which should allow several teams in every division to make some noise. I could easily see four NL West teams going down to the wire -guess which team is being left out – in a September showdown.

When it comes down to the NL East and NL Central, head-to-head match-ups featuring the Phillies and Mets, as well as the Brewers and the Cubs should be expected. Unfortunately for those diehard Chicagoans that believe a 100-year anniversary will somehow end the curse, I have the Cubbies barely missing the cut between the four teams despite Steve Bartman’s newfound innocence.

Ultimately, in a season where my beloved Gigantes have fallen into a black hole of no talent, old men and questionable at best prospects, I thought it would be fitting to pick the team that they faced back in the 2002 World Series to win the entire deal. As long as the rally monkey does not make a comeback appearance, I am in good health taking the Halos all the way.