I have never really been a New Year’s resolution kind of guy. I found I never stuck with it. And forget about predicting the future. I’m horrible at it, which is why I don’t bet on sports.
That may sound disappointing for some, who are reading this hoping it’s your typical “resolution” or “prediction” kind of column. What I am good at is the ability to wish and hope and here are mine for 2014.
I hope the San Francisco 49ers can somehow figure out a way to get back to the Super Bowl. A daunting task, for sure, with the prospect of facing Green Bay, Carolina and Seattle — all on the road — to return to the Super Bowl. But last year’s disappointing loss left such a bitter taste only a win in biggest game of the year can erase it.
I hope the Oakland Raiders finally figure it out and become a relevant NFL franchise again. This team is all but bereft of any significant amount of talent that it could still take a couple years to turn it around. It appears coach Dennis Allen will return for a third season, but unless general manager Reggie McKenzie can bring in an influx of NFL-caliber talent — heck, even NFL-caliber potential — the Raiders will continue to wallow near the bottom of the NFL hierarchy.
I hope the San Jose Sharks can finally advance to the Stanley Cup final. I won’t even get super greedy and hope for an NHL championship. Small steps. In the franchise’s 22-year history, it has advanced to one Western Conference finals series. Unlike most sports, the hockey playoffs are notorious for the unexpected. A team gets hot at the right time and it carries that to the Stanley Cup. I’m not even asking for that, I would be content — for now — for the Sharks to just get to the Big Dance.
I hope the Golden State Warriors can buck their history and finish the season not only with a playoff berth, but with home court advantage for at least one round of the playoffs. For that to happen, the Warriors will need to finish in the top four to guarantee home court for at least a first-round series. The last two times the Warriors have made the playoffs, they’ve made it by the skin of their teeth with a seven or eight seed. Given the expectations many have of the team this year, it would be nice to see Golden State live up to those and actually show the rest of the NBA that it is a legit contender in the West.
I hope the San Francisco Giants can, once again, contend for the National League West title. Again, not going to get greedy and shoot the moon, asking for a third World Series championship. Just make the postseason and then take your shot once you get there. The Giants are built more for the postseason than the regular season, so they’ll have their issues and challenges for six months. But with a more rested pitching staff, an upgrade in Tim Hudson and the addition of Michael Morse in left field (who is definitely better offensively over Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres), maybe it will add up to a spot in the playoffs.
I hope Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval comes into spring training in the best shape of his life, keeps the weight off during the season, stays healthy and puts up MVP-type numbers. Sure, all of that could be a pipe dream. He could, once again, blow up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon but, as this is Sandoval’s walk year, he has the incentive to come into camp a lean, mean, fighting machine. He has shown during his time with the Giants that he is a unique talent and can easily be one of the best players in the game — if he remains dedicated to his fitness.
I hope the Oakland Athletics can continue to defy the odds and stay in contention for the American League West crown. More than that, here’s hoping the A’s cannot only make the playoffs but finally get over the hump and win a first-round series. The A’s haven’t advanced to the American League Championship Series since 2006, where they lost to the Detroit Tigers — the team that has eliminated the A’s from the American League Division Series the last two years.
Some people tend to overexaggerate or ask for way too much in the new year. These hopes and wishes are pretty realistic and they all have a chance to come true in 2014.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117. He can also be followed on Twitter @CheckkThissOutt.