Major League Baseball Preview

Even though Serendipity Sunday brought snow to Guilford, it was time to kick off a new Major League Baseball season. I am not too thrilled since my Detroit Tigers will set new marks in futility, and rookie manager Alan Trammell will be starting at shortstop by June 1. But there are 29 other teams, so here’s what I believe will happen this season. Teams are ranked in the order they will place in their division.AL East
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Tampa Bay Devil Rays

You read it correctly, the mighty Yankees will NOT win the division, but will make the playoffs as the Wild Card. The Sawx will win the division behind pitching (Pedro, Lowe, Wakefield, and Fossum) and a revamped lineup that will score runs. Look for Todd Walker to have a big year in Fenway’s cozy dimesions; he might be the starting second baseman at the midsummer classic. Oh yeah, Manny Ramirez may be hunting for a Triple Crown come late August, while Nomar finally stays healthy for a whole season.
Breakout player: Hideki Matsui, OF, NY
Best pitcher: Pedro Martinez, Boston
Best hitter: Manny Ramirez, Boston

AL Central
Minnesota Twins
Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Detroit Tigers

The Twinkies finally get some respect this season, and will have the division wrapped up in late July. This is the weakest division in baseball because the Indians, Royals, and Tigers will all lose at least 85 games, more like 95+ for Detroit and KC. Chicago may present a challenge for the Twins, because of a tough rotation (Colon, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland) and closer Billy Koch, but not this season. Sox-Twins could be the best rivalry in baseball very soon.
Breakout player: Carlos Pena, 1B, Detroit
Best pitcher: Bartolo Colon, Chicago
Best hitter: Magglio Ordonez, Chicago

AL West
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners
Anaheim Angels
Texas Rangers

No annoying Rally Monkey this year, and good riddance. The A’s will win the division hands down because they have the best staff in baseball with Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder, not to mention Ted Lilly who will blossom this year into an 18-game winner. Seattle has one last run in them, but Lou Piniella knew what he was doing when he bailed after last season. Alex Rodriguez is still stuck in last place, which is too bad because he is the best player in the game today, hell, maybe EVER.
Breakout player: Ted Lilly, SP, Oakland
Best pitcher: Barry Zito, Oakland
Best hitter: Alex Rodriguez, Texas

AL MVP: Manny Ramirez
AL Cy Young: Pedro Martinez
AL Champion: Boston Red Sox

NL East
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Montreal Expos
Florida Marlins

The Phillies new acquisitions include Jim Thome, David Bell, and ace pitcher Kevin Millwood, who will win 20 games this year, and his first Cy Young Award. Hotlanta has been hit with injuries already this season, and without a healthy staff they are bound to struggle to a second place finish in the division. New Mets manager Art Howe inherits a talent-rich team, but they will underachieve again, even though Roberto Alomar returns to form after a horrible 2002 campaign. Both the Expos and Marlins have some talented and exciting players, but not nearly enough to contend in this tough division.
Breakout player: Jason Marquis, SP, Atlanta
Best pitcher: Kevin Millwood, Philadelphia
Best hitter: Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal

NL Central
Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Houston Astros
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers

This is going to be a magical summer on the north side of Chitown. Sammy Sosa will hit his 500th homer by the time this is printed, and his 550th by season’s end, passing many Hall of Famers on the all-time list. The young staff (Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Matt Clement, Carlos Zambrano) will mature quickly and is second only to Oakland in overall talent. St. Louis will win the wild card but will be pushed by Houston and even Cincinnati, who have young talent even if Junior Griffey can’t stay healthy. The Pirates might surprise a couple people, but the Beer Makers in Milwaukee will be pathetic again.
Breakout player: Mark Prior, SP, Chicago
Best pitcher: Kerry Wood, Chicago
Best hitter: Albert Pujols, St. Louis

NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

If Dodgers pitchers Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort can each stay healthy, anything is possible for this squad. Brown is a dominant performer, and with the help of Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez, Kaz Ishii, and Dreifort, this is going to be a nasty staff. Shawn Green anchors a solid lineup, and the addition of Fred McGriff at first is a huge upgrade over Eric Karros, whose best days are five years behind him. The Giants still have Barry Bonds, and they replaced Jeff Kent with Ray Durham, along with adding Jose Cruz, Jr. and Edgardo Alfonzo, but I just don’t see their pitching being strong enough to beat LA. Arizona will be in the hunt, but the loss of catcher Damian Miller is a bigger blow than most think.
Breakout player: Adam Eaton, SP, San Diego
Best pitcher: Randy Johnson, Arizona
Best hitter: Barry Bonds, San Francisco

NL MVP: Albert Pujols
NL Cy Young: Kevin Millwood
NL Champion: Philadelphia Phillies

World Series: Phillies over Red Sawx, 7 games