Rodney Campbell: The Nationals Have the Beltway Humming

Written by Rodney Campbell

It’s snowing. Play ball!

aNewDomain — The East Coast and even Texas are covered in snow and ice. So, naturally, it’s time to talk spring baseball.

Spring training camps are opening in Arizona and Florida, putting fans across the country in the mood for warm, lazy days at the ballpark. Some of those faithful have reasons for optimism. Others? Not so much.

Here’s a look at the teams with a shot at World Series glory and clubs that are looking at 2016 or beyond, complete with odds on winning the Series.

Fitted for a ring

Washington (6-1): With one of the better starting rotations in the game and playing in a weak division, the Nationals have reason to be excited about going deep into October. The everyday lineup is pretty good, too.

St. Louis (8-1): Another season, another legitimate shot at the World Series for the Cardinals. A balanced lineup, good starting pitching and a front office that knows how to do business give St. Louis another shot at the title.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (10-1): Defending MVP Mike Trout is the best all-around player in the game and the Angels are the top team in a pretty good division. Their bullpen makes a big difference late in games.

Boston (12-1): If the everyday lineup stays healthy, especially Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox could go from worst to first in the AL East. Signing the mercurial star was a risk Boston had to take after a terrible 2014 season.

Los Angeles Dodgers (13-1): The Dodgers lost significant power by trading Matt Kemp and letting Hanley Ramirez get away by free agency. The lineup may still be better and defending Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw is as good as it gets but the Dodgers’ fate will be decided by their bullpen.

On the verge

Chicago Cubs (15-1): Despite a flurry of offseason improvements, it’s highly doubtful the Cubs will win their first World Series since 1908. They haven’t even made the Fall Classic since 1945. No doubt they will be better. Just not good enough.


San Francisco (15-1): The Giants like to win World Series titles every other year. Losing key leadership and clutch hitting from third baseman Pablo Sandoval will take its toll. Still, don’t be surprised if Madison Bumgarner wins the Cy Young Award.

Chicago White Sox (17-1): Lost in all the Cubsmania during the offseason is the good job the White Sox did in improving their lot. Adding outfielder Melky Cabrera, first baseman Adam LaRoche and starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija makes this a much better team.

Detroit (18-1): It’s hard to tell what to expect from the Tigers. They won 90 games last season and have enough talent to top that number. But losing ace Max Scherzer via free agency leaves a big hole to fill.

Seattle (18-1): Good pitching and the addition of slugger Nelson Cruz make the Mariners contenders. While the AL West is still good, Seattle will be helped by the decline of the Oakland A’s.

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

San Diego (20-1): Few teams were as busy as the Padres during the offseason. They did a complete makeover of their outfield and added James Shields to an already decent starting rotation. They are in the running for a wild card spot.

Cleveland (22-1): Were last year’s 85-77 record and Cy Young effort from Corey Kluber flukes? Or were they the start of something big in Cleveland? This team is hard to decipher.

Toronto (24-1): The Blue Jays’ everyday lineup is packed with power: Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and newly acquired Josh Donaldson all hit at least 29 homers last season. Mediocre pitching could again be Toronto’s downfall.

Pittsburgh (25-1): Coming off two consecutive playoff appearances, a rarity in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are due for a letdown. If the Cubs are as good as advertised, Pittsburgh will be starting its offseason a little early.

Baltimore (28-1): Losing key contributors in outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis along with prized reliever Andrew Miller will keep the Orioles from repeating their 97-win showing from last year. It will be an accomplishment for them to make the playoffs again.

Wait ’til next year

New York Mets (30-1): There is light at the end of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. Ace Matt Harvey is back after missing the 2014 season following Tommy John Surgery, leading a strong rotation that should keep the Mets in a lot of games.

New York Yankees (30-1): Derek Jeter’s retirement removes the final piece of the Yankees’ late ’90s-early ’00s dynasty. In his place is 25-year-old Didi Gregorius, a washout with the Diamondbacks, of all teams. The biggest drama this season, though, will center on how much Alex Rodriguez has left in the tank. Hint: Not much.

Kansas City (32-1): Last season’s surprise World Series participants didn’t fare as well in the offseason, losing ace James Shields and designated hitter Billy Butler. The Royals are extremely young and face a ton of pressure coming off an 89-win season.

Oakland (35-1): The A’s are always tinkering and the 2015 edition is the result of much in- and off-season musical chairs. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, third baseman Josh Donaldson and pitcher Jeff Samardzija have gone elsewhere. Oakland looks primed for a backslide.

Miami (40-1): Instead of trading slugging right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins signed him to a $325 million contract. Could this be the beginning of another ramp-up to an eventual World Series appearance for Miami?

Not their time

Tampa Bay (50-1): The Rays lost their general manager and manager in the offseason to teams with more cash. The everyday lineup doesn’t look intimidating and the starting rotation lacks a true ace.

Milwaukee (55-1): The Brewers’ playoff window appears to be closed. They are probably good for about 80 wins this season, enough to finish fourth in the NL Central.

Texas (55-1): What the Rangers would give for a (mostly) healthy season. Texas lost 2,281 player days to the disabled list last season, 833 more than second-place Arizona. Ace Yu Darvish is a superstar and third baseman Adrian Beltre is a potential Hall of Famer. After that, questions abound.

Houston (60-1): Management’s plan to skip out on signing pricey free agents and going with the kids appears to be paying off. Houston went from 51 wins in 2013 to 70 last season.

Cincinnati (60-1): Decent starting pitching doesn’t do much good when the bats aren’t producing in a hitter’s park. The Reds tumbled from 90 wins in 2013 to 76 last season. Look for a win total somewhere between those numbers this time around.

Wait ‘til 2020 … or later

Atlanta (80-1): Remember when the Braves were a lock to make the postseason? They will have a tough time matching last season’s 79 wins.

Colorado (130-1): The dregs of the NL West are really bad. The Rockies haven’t been above .500 since 2010.

Arizona (150-1): First baseman Paul Goldschmidt was having an MVP-type season when his hand was broken by a pitch. It was that kind of season for the Diamondbacks.

Minnesota (175-1): A new manager and the return of Torii Hunter don’t register much. Just like the Rockies, the Twins haven’t broken .500 since 2010.

Philadelphia (200-1): With Jimmy Rollins gone and possibly ace Cole Hamels, second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard following him out the door, the Phillies are in the throes of a rebuilding project.

For aNewDomain, I’m Rodney Campbell.

Photos of the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants, Getty. All Rights Reserved.