MLB Preview and Predictions: Who Wins the World Series?

All week long, we’ve been previewing the upcoming Major League Baseball season, and after picking our top teams, it’s time to crown a World Series champion.

For those that have missed an edition or two, here’s who we picked to be among the 10 playoff teams in MLB this season:

AL West Champion: Houston Astros

AL Central Champion:Kansas City Royals

AL East Champion: Toronto Blue Jays

AL Wild Cards: Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels

NL West Champion:San Francisco Giants

NL Central Champion:Chicago Cubs

NL East Champion: New York Mets

NL Wild Cards: Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals

Now, with our picks locked in, it’s time to go through the playoff picture.

Wild Card Games:Boston over Los Angeles, Pittsburgh over Washington

The Cubs are the most complete team in baseball.

Sure, the Mets likely have a better pitching staff. Sure, the Royals are incredible defensively. Heck, the Tigers have a lineup full of mashers.

The thing is that Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have seen numerous weaknesses in this club and have used free agency to shore them up. John Lackey is going to make the Cubs’ rotation really strong come playoff time. Zobrist and Heyward are the perfect guys to get on-base ahead of power hitters.

This team has everything they need to go far this season, and even though history suggests that picking the Cubs is a fool’s errand, it makes sense to crown them as the best team in baseball.

In the National League, the Cubs will be able to set their pitching staff and have home-field advantage over Pittsburgh, giving them two critical edges to go along with their potent lineup, which can score in a variety of ways. The Giants may not have the horses in the rotation that the Mets do, but they’re defensively sound and their pitching is good enough to overcome a Mets’ offense that has been weakened a bit by the departure of Daniel Murphy, and the Giants move on.

Championship Series:Kansas City over Houston, Chicago over San Francisco

Much like the Cubs in 2015, one gets the sense that the young Astros may have a tough time figuring out how to deal with their opponent in a really tough series. With home-field advantage, we’re giving Kansas City the edge here.

In the N.L., the Giants have some serious weapons to deal with, including Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, but the Cubs are absolutely built for a playoff series like this. Jason Heyward could go bonkers at the cavernous AT&T Park, and Ben Zobrist could also help set the table for the rest of the Cubs’ power hitters.

World Series: Chicago over Kansas City

The wild card contests are a total coin-flip, but we’ll try to take a stab at justifying the picks anyway. Boston will likely pitch David Price in a winner-take-all game, and although he hasn’t been able to really come through in the postseason during his career, the tide eventually has to turn for him.

As for Pittsburgh, they are one of the most complete teams in baseball, and even though we’re picking the Cubs to finish ahead of them in the Central race, a Gerrit Cole start in this game will be enough to knock off the Bryce Harper-led Nationals.

Division Series:Kansas City over Boston, Houston over Toronto, Chicago over Pittsburgh, San Francisco over New York

The Royals are a pesky bunch, and with Price throwing in the wild card game, they jump out to an early lead and bury the Red Sox. The Astros have a better pitching staff than the Blue Jays, and with the lineups closer in terms of ability, we’re picking Houston narrowly there.

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Celebrities Converge on Phoenix for Super Bowl 49

The desert is great for stargazing, and that will certainly be the case as the Super Bowl takes over Phoenix and its suburbs.

The ESPN party on Friday will be a hub for some of the weekend’s biggest names in pro sports and entertainment. Also scheduled to make appearances at the show are “Frozen” star Idina Menzel, who will sing the national anthem at Sunday’s game and John Legend, who will sing “America the Beautiful” before kickoff.

GOOD TIMES FOR A GOOD CAUSE

Not all of the pre-game parties are simply for fun and games.

McHale will host a roast of NFL great Terry Bradshaw, a charity event that will benefit a program that brings entertainment to wounded veterans.

The Friars Club roast of Bradshaw is one of several charity events planned for this week, including the Big Game Big Give charity event. The gala is being hosted by actor Mark Wahlberg, director Michael Bay and Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams. The beneficiaries will be three charities, including Wahlberg’s foundation for inner city youth.

Gladys Knight headlines the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, which donates some of its proceeds to charity.

The evening, one of a handful of NFL-sanctioned events, will be hosted by actress Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, retired NFL player Rodney Peete. The event will feature tributes to gospel performer Andrae Crouch and broadcaster Stuart Scott, who died earlier this month.

Rihanna headlines one of the weekend’s biggest private concerts, comedians Joel McHale and Kevin Hart will crack jokes for partygoers, newcomer Charli XCX will perform for troops and then revelers at ESPN’s party, and Jamie Foxx and Drake will hold court at a pair of lounges at a swanky Scottsdale hotel.

The events range from private, invite-only festivities to fan-friendly events that are open to anyone who buys a ticket.

Participants in this year’s Madden Bowl better bring their A game — or expect to be the brunt of jokes from Kevin Hart. “The Wedding Ringer” star will host and zero in on the action on the digital gridiron.

Electronic Arts is taking over a block of downtown Scottsdale for a party that will include performances by Nelly and Florida Georgia Line, and Hart hosting Madden matches between NFL players. Last year’s winner, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, will return to defend his title.

“This year typifies the peak of what Madden Bowl has been,” said Randy Chase, EA’s senior director of North American marketing.

Not all the games are for people — Animal Planet will also open its Puppy Bowl Cafe, which features puppies taking the field and canines available for adoptions.

Grammy-nominated singer Charli XCX is one of Super Bowl week’s most sought-after acts, with at least three performances scheduled.

The pop singer is singing for troops Friday night at Luke Air Force base and performing a set at ESPN’s bash later that night. On Saturday, she’ll perform for partygoers at Rolling Stone’s bash.

Performances by top artists aren’t just for invitees of a gala or party — several paid concerts are scheduled for the days before the game.

DirecTV hosts a three-day music festival that culminates with a Friday night show featuring Snoop Dogg and Imagine Dragons. Performers on other days include the Zac Brown Band, Calvin Harris and Jason Derulo.

Twelve blocks of downtown Phoenix are being transformed into the Verizon Super Bowl Central, a free area with NFL-themed attractions and nightly fireworks shows. Pepsi has set up its “Hyped for Halftime Stage” which will feature performances by The Roots, Walk the Moon and other acts daily.

For many Super Bowl parties, you’ve got to know someone to get inside.

Rihanna headlines one of the weekend’s biggest private concerts, DirecTV’s Super Saturday Night, which has previously featured performances by Jay-Z and Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and this year’s halftime performer, Katy Perry.

Rolling Stone, Maxim and Playboy magazines are among the invite-only parties this week.

Some celebrities and athletes will also get to indulge their inner-child at Neon Carnival, a star-friendly event that features rides, games and dance music — and a stringent guest list.

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