Cubs over KC for first crown since 1908 |

Cubs over KC for first crown since 1908

Thomas Ranson
Behind the

Baseball season is finally here.

The Major Leagues kicked off the 2016 season on Sunday with a triple-header and the rest of baseball followed on Monday, including the Giants and A’s. And only a short, one-hour drive to the west, the Reno Aces began their season on Thursday and they boast some local flavor with two ex-Nevada stars — Braden Shipley and Brett Hayes — auditioning to be called up to The Show.

What can be expected for the new chapter in professional baseball? Which team is next to end the long drought of the coveted World Series trophy? Will the Cubbies finally end the Billy Goat curse?

The Giants made some splashy moves in the offseason, signing a couple starting pitchers to help Madison Bumgarner not bear all the weight of the rotation. The Diamondbacks stole one of the Dodgers’ aces and the A’s, well, the story never changes. Try to get the most out of what little they have and groom them well enough to be plucked away by the bigger fish.

Here’s how I see the year unfolding.

American League

• The AL East could be tough to decide after Toronto won the division and New York surprised some by sneaking in with the wild card. Outside of the only Canadian team, the rest of the east was within striking distance of each other. I wouldn’t count out Baltimore or even Tampa Bay this season. Even Boston stands a chance.

• The AL Central is Kansas City’s division to lose, just like last year. I don’t see anyone stealing the Royals’ thunder this season but the beauty of baseball is how much the injury bug can derail a team. If KC can’t field a good team and you’re looking for the dark horse, Minnesota might surprise a lot of people.

• The AL West came down to a crazy finish last year when Texas overtook Houston and both left Los Angeles out in the cold. Any of these teams could take the top spot this season but after Seattle disappointed last year, the Mariners should be able to rebound. And never count out Oakland.

National League

• The NL East is going to be a two-team race like last year. Washington collapsed after almost everyone picked the Nats to go all the way, but the Mets swooped in and gave New York something to cheer for in the fall. The Mets are young and have solid pitching. Last year wasn’t a fluke.

• The NL Central plays out as the toughest and most competitive division in the MLB. St. Louis has been in control for the last decade but this division belongs to the Cubs. They’re loaded and if it weren’t for a power outage at the plate in the playoffs, they would have been in the World Series. And they’re a fun team to watch, as are the Pirates.

• The NL West got another player to compete with the Dodgers and Giants in the offseason. Zack Grienke ran to the desert for more money to help bolster the Diamondbacks’ staff, while the Dodgers didn’t do much except hire a new manager. If you’re looking for a dark horse in the NL, though, Colorado might turn some heads, especially after roughing up Grienke on Opening Day.

Now, time for the picks.

• In the AL, New York, Kansas City and Texas will come out on top of their divisions with Seattle and Toronto nabbing the wild card. Kansas City over Toronto, and Texas over New York. Kansas City will return to the World Series.

• In the NL, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will take the division, and San Francisco and St. Louis will play for the wild card. Chicago over San Francisco, and New York over LA. In a rematch of last year’s NLCS, Chicago comes out on top.

The Cubbies will win the World Series.

Thomas Ranson can be contacted at