April 04, 2004

Finally, the AL

1-New York Yankees

Baseball's thermonuclear war continues. The biggest rivalry in professional sports isn't the Yankees vs. Red Sox. It's the Yankees versus the world, and it gets bigger and uglier each year.
It's really great, isn't it?
I mean, I know I should be bitching about the inequities of baseball, complaining that the Yankees' payroll is several times that of the GNP of say, Uganda. But I really don't care anymore. Baseball's economics are what they are, and they aren't going to change anytime soon. Besides, success in the sport is still based more on smarts than anything else. It's possible to be poor and smart and successful. See Minnesota and Oakland. It's possible to be rich and stupid, and lose every year. Just look at the Orioles. And of course, you can be both poor and stupid, and then you end up the Pirates. It's not really all that different that baseball has always been. The Yankees are almost always good, and baseball is better as a whole when they are. Don't worry, like any reasonable baseball fan, I hate them too.
I just can't turn away from them, this year even more than previous. With all the talk about A-Rod and how much better they are and how many All-Stars they have, people tend to ignore that this team seems deeply flawed. A-Rod is of course out of position. And how long does he stay okay with that? They have a gaping whole at 2B. Giambi will be expected to play the field, and he's a lousy defensive 1B. Lofton is already upset at his spot in the batting order. Kenny Lofton upset? Who would have guessed that? The outfield defense is atrocious. Who will be the fifth starter? Right now they stand at 1-1. If it gets to be 6-6 or 10-10 how crazy does Steinbrenner get? I can't wait. Even with all that, I'll still pick them to win the division. The overall talent, especially on offense, is unreal. And Big Stein gets what he wants. Somebody will send them what they need. Jose Vidro? Carlos Beltran maybe?
2-Boston Red Sox
Two months ago, even without the A-Rod trade, the Sox looked they had an even money chance of ending the Curse. Even with A-Rod in pinstripes they still have a good shot. Or at least, they did. The Curse strikes in many ways, and right now it seems health is the way du jour. Nomar's bad Achilles will keep him off the field for at least a month. Trot Nixon will miss half the season, maybe more. Pedro's velocity has been down, and he's been rocked throughout the spring. Nixon is important to the team, but not irreplaceable. Nomar needs to come back and come back soon though. The Pokey Reese- Mark Bellhorn DP combo is scary for most of the wrong reasons. Still, the Sox should be able to stay in the race long enough for everyone to get healthy, and Theo Epstein proved last year he's willing to make moves.
3-Toronto Blue Jays
How often do you think JP Ricciardi petitions Commissioner Bud to relocate to the AL Central? Four, five times a week? It's a pity that this suddenly very inventive club is stuck behind the big two. It would be a definite contender in the Central, but it's an also-ran here. The Jays have a very nice lineup featuring some young (Josh Phelps, Orlando Hudson, Reed Johnson) and talented players. The pitching is slowly coming around, and they have a lot of nice prospects. The question will be what to do with Carlos Delgado. He’s a free agent, and while he shouldn’t get the same money has now, he still will be out of Toronto’s price range. Do they trade him? He could bring a lot from a contender.
4-Baltimore Orioles
This is another team that seems to be on the upswing. They aren’t on the same level as the Jays, and I wonder if they’ll get there. Miguel Tejada is a great sign; he should solidify the infield and give Baltimore fans someone to identify with the team. Javy Lopez on the other hand was a bad sign, unless the unbelievable happens and he repeats last season. Even if he does he’s a below average defensive catcher. Larry Bigbie and Jay Gibbons give the O’s another set of building blocks. It would also help if Erik Bedard is for real, and Kurt Ainsworth fufills some of the expectations he’s been carrying.
5-Tampa Bay Devil Rays
It really isn’t fair that this team has to play in the AL East. Between the big two and the fast rising Blue Jays, the Rays may have their best team and STILL get buried. Which I think is pretty close to what will happen. This team is better than last years, and next year should be better still. Carl Crawford is the real deal, and Rocco Baldelli will be too, if he learns how to take a pitch now and then. BJ Upton and Delmon Young are hope for the future, Upton could be called up this year. Young is a ways off. Pitching? Don’t ask.

AL Central

1-Kansas City Royals
Can you win with 5 number 3 starters, 4 of them lefties no less? The Royals will find out. The pitching is mediocre, but if Jeremy Affeldt gets over his injury problems, he could emerge as an ace. The lineup is sweet, especially if Juan Gone can stay reasonably healthy. Matt Stairs hit .292 /.389 /.561 last season, and could give KC more offense then Ibanez did for less than 1/3 the price. Really this division is up for grabs, I can see any of the top three in any order

2-Chicago White Sox
This team will be better then most think. They have holes, but everyone else does too, and I think they have the best chance of fixing them or covering them up. Frank Thomas seems to be responding to Ozzie Guillen’s leadership, he seems primed for a big year. Loiza can’t be as good as he was last year, but Buerhle probably won’t be as bad: they’ll even each other out. The Sox are finally going with Joe Crede at 3B: he’s a plus.

3-Minnesota Twins
The Twins take a bit of a tumble this year; I can’t see their staff being good enough to win the division. Brad Radke will be Brad Radke: 200 IP, 15W, but beyond that they have to rely on some young arms. Johan Santana should be fine, providing he can handle the bigger workload. Kyle Loshe showed flashes of dominance last year. Beyond those two, there are question marks. Carlos Silva is converting to starter after spending his entire big-league career as a reliever. The bullpen looks shaky too; I can’t see Joe Nathan as an everyday closer, especially since his velocity seems to be down 5 MPH from last year. Offensively they are fine, having Shannon Stewart the full year is a plus, and Joe Mauer looks like he can hit. Defensively they are the best in the game.

4-Cleveland Indians
The Tribe is back on the upswing, with as much young talent as any team in the game. Jody Gerut, AL ROY, leads a legion of talented outfielders that the Indians will build their team around. The trade of Milton Bradley weakens them, but the situation had become untenable with the talented CF. Coco Crisp, Alex Escobar and eventually Grady Sizemore will take his place. Sizemore is the most talented of the three, but also the farthest from the majors. CC Sabathia leads a very young rotation, one that will have to deal with a lot of growing pains. David Riske could have a big year as closer.

5-Detroit Tigers
Hey the Tigers are actually still in the game. It didn’t seem like they were last year, with an absolute disaster that ended with 119 loses. The team went out and got some real grown-up players this season, with Ivan Rodriguez, Carlos Guillen, Fernando Vina and Rondell White replacing half the starting lineup. Dimtri Young is the best of the returnees; he would have collected 100 RBI had the other guys been less inept. Jason Johnson was let go by the Orioles and immediately became the Tigers #1 starter. Assuming he gets over the disaster from last year, Jeremy Bonderman will eventually take that mantle. Detroit will be better, but still not very good.

AL West
1-Anaheim Angels
Arte Moreno made the moves Mariner fans were desperate for Howard Lincoln to do. The Halos picked up an Ace (Bartolo Colon), passable #3 starter (Kelvim Escobar) and the best hitter on the market in Vlad Guerrero. Add this to the remains of their 2002 WS champions, and the Angels have a very nice little team. There are concerns of course: Troy Glaus is coming off surgery: Vladie has injury concerns: Troy Percival hasn’t been pitching well this spring: Brandon Donnelly’s horrific nosebleed problems. Mike Scioscia keeps comparing Darin Erstad’s defense to that of JT Snow, without mentioning he hits like him too. Altogether though, this team hits a ton, and has plenty of pitching. Should be just enough to win the division, and maybe more.

2-Oakland A’s

The A’s will always be a threat to win everything as long as Hudson, Mulder and Zito are on the team. Add to that Rich Harden and Mark Redman, and this is the best starting staff in the AL. The bullpen isn’t nearly as settled, or as good. Arthur Rhodes has never been a closer, and hasn’t been terribly effective in save situations. The offense is improved, especially at the top. Mark Kotsay should give the A’s their best leadoff hitter since the heyday of Rickey Henderson, and Bobby Kielty should be a quality 2-hole hitter. Hopefully for A’s fans, Eric Chavez won’t overdue it attempting to justify his new contract.

3-Seattle Mariners
More to follow in my M’s only preview, but the short of it: They aren’t good enough.

4-Texas Rangers
Well, they trade the best player in baseball; did they get any better for it? No. Of course, trading HOF talents is NEVER a good thing. Especially when you’re on the hook for almost half of his contract. Well, hopefully for Ranger fans they will fight the impulse to trade Alfonso Soriano and let a talented young infield grow up together. Hank Blalock’s breakthrough year was sort of ignored in the A-Rodmania and Mark Teixeira could have on this season. Of course, as it’s been for several years now, the Ranger’s problems aren’t on offense. The pitching is bad, maybe not as dreadful as previous years, but still bad. Colby Lewis is a quality starter. Kenny Rogers was 4-5 years ago, and Chan Ho Park was when pitching for the Dodgers. It’s bad enough that RA Dickey and Glendon Rusch round out the rotation. The bullpen is just as bad, though Fransico Cordero could be a quality closer. Hey, how long until Jeff Nelson gets traded?

NL Playoffs
Division Series

Phillies over Astros
Cubs over Giants

Phillies over Cubs

AL Playoffs
Division Series

Angels over Red Sox
Yankees over Royals

Angels over Yankees

World Series
Angels over Phillies

Posted by Frinklin at April 4, 2004 07:18 PM
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