Tuesday, March 28, 2006

 

Baseball! AL predictions...

Part Two! Yesterday I pleased a couple of baseball supporters, but heard nothing -- NOTHING -- from the teams I 'dissed, like the Braves. Oh, wait! That's because the Braves don't have any fans. Anyhoo...on with the predictions: AL West: The winner: The Oakland A's have got arms, arms, arms. Rich Harden, Danny Haren, and Joe Blanton all did well enough last year, but expect better. Harden is healthy, and Haren and Blanton will have an additional year's experience. Huson Street is a lights-out closer, and Barry Zito and Esteban Loaiza aren't too shabby either. Oh, and the offense is good enough. Barely. Runners-up, but ugly doing it: The LA/Anaheim/California (circle one) Angels have always relied on their bats. The bats are now dry outside of Vladimir Guerrero. Darrin Erstad and Garret Anderson were never that good anyway, and now they're a year older. Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman and the other young players just don't get it done. And adding Edgardo Alfonzo isn't much help. The pitching will again rely on the bullpen, and don't expect heavyweight Bartolo Colon to repeat last year's success. The Texas Rangers will mash the ball, but their pitching will, as always, dry up and wither come July. Kevin Millwood was a nice addition, but won't come anywhere near his numbers last year in the Rangers' launching pad of a ballpark and in the heat. Think 4.85 ERA. Pickups Adam Eaton and Vicente Padilla couldn't get it done in the pitcher-friendly NL and spacious home parks, so they won't get it done in Texas, either. Ugh: The Seattle Mariners will lose 85 games this year -- at least -- and everybody will be happy about it. Other than Felix Hernandez, Richie Sexon, and Ichiro, nobody's fun to watch on this team. AL Central: Winner: Duh. The Chicago White Sox. How could you not pick them? They won the whole last year then got better in the offseason by dumping Aaron Rowand on the Phils for Jim Thome, and they nabbed Javier Vazquez, who's got nasty stuff -- nasty, nasty stuff -- for the fifth spot in the rotation. Sure the bullpen is iffy, with headcase Bobby Jenks, but this is a strong, solid confident team. Also-rans: The Minnesota Twins will edge out everybody's darlings, the Cleveland Indians. Here's why: Johann Santana and Francisco Liriano. They've also got a great bullpen, and Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Bartlett can't do any worse than last year. Their only direction is up. The Indians on the other hand, will falter. Other than Pronk, the vaunted hitters tend to swing and miss a lot. And Grady Sizemore is too good lookin'. The starters don't impress me -- is CC Sabathia finally ready to step up? (God, I hope so, because he's on my fantasy team.) The bullpen is decent, but lacks a good closer. Too many holes. And how often have we seen a team finish strong the year before, get picked the next preseason as the Second Coming, then fall flat on their faces? Meet your 2006 Cleveland Indians. U-G-L-Y: The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. In Detroit, the Jeremey Bonderman/Nate Robertson rebuilding period is officially a dud. Pudge Rodriguez is done, Maglio Ordonez will never be the same. The only consolation Tigers' fans have is the Royals, who were happy to sign Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek, and if you're happy signing Sanders and Grudzielanek, you can forget getting a lengthy blurb in my predictions post. AL East: As I mentioned yesterday, I'm a fourth-generation Red Sox fan, so I know waaaaaaay too much about the teams in this division. Prepare to be shocked!!! Winners: The Yankees. This is it. It's over after 2006. Enjoy it Yankee fans. The Bombers will win fewer than 95 games and will again be the most annoying team in baseball. Johnny Damon adds to an already potent offense, but the pitching is in tatters. Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina look old. Carl Pavano and Jared Wright look hurt. If Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi have quit the juice, expect some offensive falloff. If not...a little controversey this year in NYC? But the bottom line is that Boss Steinbrenner won't be around much longer. There's rumors of poor health. The Yankees will soon be up for sale: expect the chants of "year two-thousand" to continue for some time... The muddled middle: The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles will slug it out for second place. But each of these teams could win it all. If the Sox' Becket, Schilling, and Keith Foulke pitch at their best, the Sox will cruise. If Toronto's AJ Burnett wins twenty -- watch out! If Leo Mazzone harnasses the talent of Daniel Cabrera and Eric Bedard, they could win the AL East. None of these things will happen, of course. The Red Sox will slug, Beckett will get blisters, and one of Foulke's two gimpy knees will fold like an accordian before the Fourth of July. The Blue Jay's will hit around .280, but with no walks or power, Burnett will win 8, Halliday will return to the DL. The Orioles Cabrera and Bedard will show flashes of brilliance, but the surly infighting and general indifference on this team will sabotage the season. The Devil Rays: The Devil Rays will, as always, finish last.
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