The more I think about it, even if I keep the status quo regarding all of my March picks, I'm fine. Sort of. I have reason to waffle. For one, the Yankees' pitching is a mess, and I had them taking the East -- along with the World Series, for that matter -- but who knows? Pinstripes still could prevail in a division of underwhelming teams. The Yanks are just five games out. That said, I'm waffling again. I wrote before the season that their pitching ranks among the AL's best because former Nippon Professional Baseball star Masahiro Tanaka "is the real thing." He was that and more with a 12-4 record and a 2.51 ERA while sitting among the AL leaders in strikeouts, innings pitched and complete games.
Notice I'm writing in the past tense when talking about Tanaka. Courtesy of a damaged right elbow, he spent the last few days becoming the fourth Yankees starting pitcher on the disabled list.
The Yankees still have Derek Jeter, though. He hasn't had one of his vintage seasons with the bat or the glove, but he has done enough to keep the third-place Yanks one game behind the pitching-challenged Blue Jays and within striking distance of an AL East-leading Orioles team that is no better than decent.
End of waffling. I'm sticking with the Yankees.
Let's jump to the NL Central and a Cardinals team that can't hit. Worse, they lost catcher Yadier Molina, their most valuable person, to a right thumb injury. He likely would return to the Cards' lineup only if they make the playoffs. So no waffling here. I'm switching to the Reds, with super-rookie Billy Hamilton, splendid pitching and enough of everything else to survive what will be a four-team rumble to the finish line of the division. The Brewers currently are a game ahead of the Cardinals, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Reds and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Pirates. Remember, too, that when Joey Votto (left knee) and Brandon Phillips (left thumb) return down the stretch for Cincinnati, it will be like the Reds making a couple of blockbuster trades -- without giving up anything.
As for the other divisions, I'm still preseason good. Take the AL Central, which was a no-brainer from the start. With all of that hitting and pitching (well, theoretically), the Tigers were declared the class of the division by nearly everybody, and nothing has changed. Actually, that pitching thing for the Tigers has changed, because their arms aren't as stifling as they used to be, but it hasn't mattered. I typed in March that "the Royals have to prove they are more than a tease." Now we're in July, where Kansas City is 6 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in second place, partly because the Royals are just 4-9 overall against the Tigers this season.
That means the Royals' tease continues. So does the dominance by the Tigers, along with the return of the Angels to the living, which I predicted before the season by typing that Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton "can't spend another invisible year at the plate." They haven't. They've rebounded to help turn the Halos into one of baseball's most prolific hitting teams. The Angels' pitching also is pretty good, but that of the Athletics is pretty outstanding. Plus, only the Halos score more runs in the Major Leagues than the A's.
Thus a dilemma. Do I stick with the Angels as my original pick to win the AL West, or do I switch to the more loaded Athletics, who lead the division by 1 1/2 games over the second-place Halos?
Gut feeling ... Angels.
Something also tells me not to switch from taking the Dodgers over the Giants in the NL West by just a little. This isn't a difficult choice. As I noted before the season, the Dodgers will take the division due to a slew of brilliant pitchers, the gifted Yasiel Puig and a lot of money. After a horrible start (like last season), they sprinted to the NL West lead (like last year), and they'll discover ways to hold on until the end (like last year).
Unlike last year, the Braves won't win the NL East. I typed as much during the spring when I took the Nationals, and Washington's improving bunch is tied atop the division with Atlanta for the lead. While both teams pitch well, the Nats pitch better. The Braves also have trouble scoring more than any team in the Major Leagues not named the Padres or the Cards. The Nationals don't have such issues. Washington also has significant motivation to get it right this time after finishing 10 games behind division-leading Atlanta last year despite slightly better talent.
Even so, the Braves will join the Giants as NL Wild Card teams, as I typed before the season. In contrast, I had two last-place teams these days (the Rangers of the AL West and the Red Sox of the AL East) as AL Wild Card teams, but those honors will go to the A's and the Royals.
Pennant winners? World Series champion? I originally had the Cardinals versus the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series and the Tigers and the Yankees in the ALCS. Then I had a World Series between the Yanks and the Dodgers, with the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour capturing everything.
I'm not giving this portion of my revised version until later.
You know, much later.