Nostradamus and the Mayans discovered that predicting the end of the world left them with red faces.
So predicting that the Cincinnati Reds might make the World Series in 2013 probably will leave this prognosticator with a red face, too.
Nobody asked Nostradamus or the Mayans to predict what will happen in the 2013 baseball season and they probably wouldn’t have because, after all, they thought there wouldn’t be a 2013 baseball season.
But Major League Baseball put out the 2013 schedule and that means somebody has to make the predictions, somebody more reliable.
So the tea leaves were checked, the tarot cards were read and Punxsutawney Phil was consulted.
The envelope, please.
The Cincinnati Reds are loaded and it looks as if every other team in the division has notable weak spots. And one, the Houston Astros, is completely gone, shipped ignominiously to the American League West, where they will finish last.
While the Reds filled their one weak spot by adding a legitimate leadoff hitters in Shin-Soo Choo, their chief rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, are pitch-poor.
The Reds have their same five-man rotation that won 97 games last year in Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake. The bullpen remains one of baseball’s best and we all know how important pitching is in baseball. Don’t leave home without it.
With Choo leading off, manager Dusty Baker’s batting order is in perfect order — Brandon Phillips in his best spot as No. 2 (no more bouncing between first, second and fourth), Joey Votto batting third, Ryan Ludwick at clean-up, Jay Bruce batting fifth (he’ll drive in more than 100 runs this year and hit 35 homers), Todd Frazier with a big bat at sixth, Zack Cozart batting in a comfortable No. 7 spot instead of trying to beat leadoff and catcher Ryan Hanigan putting his versatile bat in the eighth spot.
Barring disastrous injuries or tremendous flops (always possible), the Reds should run away and disappear from view in the National League Central.
And does it really matter how the rest of the division finishes other than for wild card consideration — which won’t come from this division.
The finish: Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and, of course, the Cubbie Bears.
NL East: Washington, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Miami.
NL West: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Arizona, Colorado, San Diego.
Wild card: San Francisco.
NL pennant winner: Cincinnati.
AL East: Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Boston, New York (the Red Sox and Yankees, fourth and fifth, and don’t you just love it?).
AL Central: Detroit, Cleveland (Am I dreaming?), Chicago, Kansas City, Minnesota.
AL West: Los Angeles of Anaheim, Oakland, Texas, Seattle, Houston.
Wild card: Baltimore.
AL pennant: Los Angeles of Anaheim.
World Series: (Well, I’m not going to do it all for you, but a Reds-Angels World Series is a possibility. Anybody who tries to hold me to all this or takes this as gospel, well, I’ll sell you Great American Ball Park for $24.
Five things that have to happen for the Cincinnati Reds to have a successful season, one to make discerning fans happy:
No. 1: Their big off-season acquisition, center fielder Shin-Soo Choo, must do what he was acquired to do — be a standout leadoff hitter with a high on-base average so he is in position to score 120 runs.
No. 2: Joey Votto must come all the way back from last season’s knee surgery and not only continue his ability to get on base, but to once again drive souvenirs into the bleachers and onto the grassy knoll behind the center field wall and a home run on Opening Day might set the tone.
No. 3: Significant contributions from what could be a suspect bench, perhaps their only Achilles heel. The starting eight is as solid as any team in baseball, but there will be slumps and injuries and the bench brigade must be armed and ready.
No. 4: Now that will he or won’t he be the closer is resolved and Aroldis Chapman is the closer, he must do exactly what he did last year — intimidate and produce. With him as the party’s over finisher, the rest of the bullpen sets up perfectly with a left-handed/right-handed set-up combination of Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton that was operative the second half of last season. And Broxton can move into the closer’s role if Chapman needs some restful days.
No. 5: Once they’ve made the playoffs, they no longer should be happy just to make they postseason, they should gear themselves to winning it all, think about how flashy those gaudy World Series rings would look on their fingers.