Who is the early favorite to win next year's World Series?
Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times
I think the third time will be a charm for the Texas Rangers, who will reach the World Series for a third straight year in 2012 and finally win it. As gut-wrenching as their seven-game World Series loss to St. Louis was, the Rangers will be better for the experience, more prepared to perform under the intense pressure of the playoffs and even more determined to win.
They should be every bit as good, if not better, in 2012 than they were in 2011. Every position player from a deep and powerful lineup will be back. Their only prominent free agent is pitcher C.J. Wilson, and I think he will return.
Wilson's free-agent value probably dropped enough with his shoddy post-season performance that he won't get an obscene offer from the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees that will blow the Rangers' offer out of the water. I think he has a sense of unfinished business with the Rangers, and really, what other team will give him the best shot of getting to and winning the World Series?
Great to see Monday that the Major League Baseball season was shortened a month thanks to Tony La Russa retiring. With that and Albert Pujols becoming a free agent, we can rule out a repeat fluke. The Cardinals are one of the luckiest World Series champions in my four decades of following baseball. They also highlight why MLB should cut the season by at least two weeks. The current marathon allows a team such as the Cardinals to play one great month and carry that momentum to a place they don’t deserve to be.
That said, next season’s World Series favorite will be clear after the free-agent signing period. The Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Giants are contenders, but key losses (or gains) could push one of them -- particularly the club that lands Pujols or Prince Fielder -- to the top of the heap.
Dave van Dyck, Chicago Tribune
Who else, the Yankees. The Yankees are always the favorites, just because they spend most. Just think what could happen if they ever figured out how to spend it wisely. So the question becomes: Who’s the second-favorite? Don’t discount Texas coming back for another try, or that doggedly determined franchise in Tampa Bay, or even Boston, with a new GM, new manager and perhaps new outlook.
But the trend, either real or fluky, seems to be moving toward National League middle market teams who have created a special chemistry. Who might be the next longshot Cardinals or Giants? How about the Diamondbacks or the revitalized Marlins?
Photo: The Texas Rangers make their way off the field after batting practice before Game 2 of the World Series. Credit: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press