I read an article on MLB.com several days ago explaining how the American League Central will be the powerhouse of the big leagues in 2016. It looks like each team in the division has at least improved in some way–maybe save the Royals, who have won the American League two consecutive seasons and are the reigning world champs. I won’t argue that at all, but I took the premise a step further for my latest Flyer News article. The National League Central is just as much a juggernaut. Three teams–St. Louis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh–made the postseason out of that division last year, and all three are still in a position to contend.

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Midwest figures to make big impact on 2016 MLB season

America’s breadbasket caught a bunch of talent in the off-season, and will look to harvest the benefits in 2016.

It’s pleasing to me that the power has shifted from the New Yorks, Philadelphias, and Bostons of the nation to rust belt and agriculture-heavy areas like Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Kansas City. Baseball, as a whole, has recently had a wide geographic spread of champions–at least a much better distribution than the NFL or NBA can sport in the last several seasons.

If you read that article, you’ll see why at least seven or eight of the 10 central division teams are in a position to contend in 2016, but don’t be surprised if neither division is represented in the World Series. Why?

Span in CF 7.1.14

First, it’s an even-numbered year. The last time the San Francisco Giants failed to win a World Series in an even-numbered year, it was 2008 and the Philadelphia Phillies hoisted the trophy. Adding Johnny Cueto and a dynamic Denard Span (pictured left) to to the roster, there is no reason the Giants should not challenge the Dodgers for the NL West this season. On top of that, manager Bruce Bochy clearly knows what he’s doing in the postseason, and he has a roster seasoned to playing deep into October.

Second, the young blood in the American League will again challenge the Royals, or whoever wins the AL Central. The Houston Astros were a few outs away from knocking off KC in the 2015 ALDS, and their young lineup will be more potent with another year of experience. They’ll be an exciting team to watch in 2015, along with the Toronto Blue Jays, who finally got over the hump and made the postseason for the first time since 1993 last year. With arguably the most dangerous offense in the league, the Blue Jays will be a force to be reckoned with all season. A Tigers-Blue Jays postseason series would be absolutely captivating as they may sport the top two offenses in the league. Think Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton versus Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

The Midwest sports much of baseball’s talent, but will have to struggle with the other power centers this season in order to show their true colors.

On a similar, but non-baseball note, I came across this map yesterday on Wikipedia. It’s called the Nine Nations of North America. I primarily noticed that some major cities in the nation are at fascinating junctions.

Dallas looks to be right at the intersection of the Breadbasket, Dixie, and Mexamerica. I’ve never been to Dallas, but I can certainly see the cultures of all three of those regions blending into that area. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area is the fourth largest of its kind in the nation.

It’s hard to tell for sure, but it looks like Los Angeles is right between Mexamerica and Ecotopia. While LA will never be grouped in the same categories as El Paso, TX or Juneau, AK in any substantive geographical survey, given the broad spectrum of this one, those groupings will have to suffice. That said, Los Angeles is the second largest metropolitan area in the nation, and could almost get its own category because it transcends any typical cultural or economic geographical labels that the southwest region of the country is given.

Chicago looks to be just inside The Foundry, but its metropolitan reach may extend into the Breadbasket. This makes perfect sense. Save the nickname of St. Louis, Chicago is really the gateway to the west. Just how all roads lead to Rome, all railroads lead to Chicago.

Miami SkylineSouth Florida–new New England. Honestly, if we’re talking about demographics and leisure life in this map, you might as well cut Florida off somewhere just south of Orlando and shade in the rest as New England. Climate wise, Florida is of course more similar to The Islands nation. And the northern reaches of the state are certainly part of Dixie America.

Finally, my hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia is not clarified by this map. The ‘burg is just about the southernmost point of Washington, D.C.’s suburban reach, and it’s a beautifully awkward estuary of the northeast and south. On this map, it looks like it nestles at the bottom right corner of The Foundry, but I could walk to Dixie.

Questions to consider:

  1. If you’ve been to Dallas, where would you place it?
  2. Where do you draw the north-south/south-north line in Florida?
  3. Can Los Angeles be grouped with Mexamerica, Ecotopia, or neither?
  4. If you’re familiar with Chicago, where’s the line between farming and industry?
  5. And will the National Capital region continue cutting south into Dixie?
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