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Tom Jones' Two Cents on Baseball 2017

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina gives a thumbs-up to a pitcher during a spring training baseball workout in Jupiter, Fla. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he's "hopeful" to have a new contract for Molina before opening day but said a deal was "not done" as of Thursday night, March 30. Molina homered in a game against St. Louis' top minor league affiliate while reports surfaced that he's nearing a new contract agreement. Fox Sports reported during the game that Molina and the Cardinals are finalizing a three-year deal worth between $55 million and $65 million. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File) NY320
FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina gives a thumbs-up to a pitcher during a spring training baseball workout in Jupiter, Fla. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he's "hopeful" to have a new contract for Molina before opening day but said a deal was "not done" as of Thursday night, March 30. Molina homered in a game against St. Louis' top minor league affiliate while reports surfaced that he's nearing a new contract agreement. Fox Sports reported during the game that Molina and the Cardinals are finalizing a three-year deal worth between $55 million and $65 million. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File) NY320
Published Mar. 31, 2017

Times columnist Tom Jones give you his Two Cents look at the 2017 Major League Baseball season.

AL team that won't be as good as you think

The Rangers won 95 games last year even though they scored only nine more runs than they gave up. That suggests a team that is closer to .500. The division is loaded, and their pitching is not after their top two of Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels.

NL team that won't be as good as you think

The Cardinals have made the playoffs five seasons in a row and in 12 of the past 16. But that streak will end because, the guess is, their pitching will finally falter.

AL team that will be better than you think

Most are burying the Yankees and, again, their pitchers' health is always an issue. They might not catch the Red Sox and Jays in the division, but they will hang around most of the summer because of an improved lineup featuring Matt Holliday and Gary Sanchez. They also have money for midseason additions.

NL team that will be better than you think

The Phillies aren't a division contender or anything close to that, but with decent pitching (led by ace Jeremy Hellickson), this team will get better and better and contend in a year or two. (Keep an eye on the Braves, too.)

Player you need to watch

Stay up late to watch the Angels' Andrelton Simmons. This sounds crazy to say, but some think he might be the best defensive shortstop in baseball history. He's the best there is today.

The MVP

He won't win the MVP, but there is no more valuable player to his team that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. Don't look now, but he's closing on Bench, Fisk and Yogi among the best catchers ever, and on Stan the Man, Gibson and Ozzie as the greatest Cardinal ever.

Team you should root for

Last year, the whole nation rallied around the Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908. Well, now it's on to the team the Cubs beat. The Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948. This is the best Tribe team since it had Jake Taylor, Roger Dorn, Willie Mays Hayes and Wild Thing Vaughn.

Team you should root against

It's disgusting to see how badly the Pirates are working to get three-time DUI suspect and all-around bad dude Jung Ho Kang out of South Korea.

Three players most likely to be traded

Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Alex Cobb (Rays), David Robertson (White Sox)

Rookies of the year

AL: Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox). NL: Dansby Swanson (Braves)

Player we're going to miss

David Ortiz. No more Big Papi. How sad. Although we won't miss his 22-minute home run trots.

Thing we're going to miss

The four-pitch intentional walk. I still love seeing the occasional air-mail to the backstop.

Three players that you must stop and watch whenever they are at-bat

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Bryce Harper (Nationals), Manny Machado (Orioles), Mike Trout (Angels)

Three pitchers that you can't take your eyes off

Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Aroldis Chapman (Yankees), Johnny Cueto (Giants)

Best pitching staff

The Indians, Nats and Cubs are all loaded. The Blue Jays, Giants and Dodgers are solid, too. But the Mets, when healthy, are the best. Noah Syndergaard, above, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey are all capable of a Cy Young. If Steven Matz can stay in the rotation, he's the best fourth starter in baseball.

Best lineup

The chic pick is the Astros, but how can you not pick the Cubs? Anthony Rizzo, right, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras. Jason Heyward might be their eighth-best hitter. They lost Dexter Fowler and no one seems to care. That's how good they are.

Three games to never miss

Any Yankees-Red Sox game. Any game at Wrigley Field. Any Giants-Dodgers game.

Three games that are boring

Any game at Oakland's pit of a stadium. Any 3-1/2-hour game (except for Yankees-Red Sox). Any game in the state of Florida when the attendance is below 9,000.

Three players it hurts to see not wearing a Rays uniform

Wil Myers (Padres, left), Ben Zobrist (Cubs), Wade Davis (Cubs)