The AL East and AL Central

What's that? You'd like around 4,700 words on the AL East and AL Central? I can do that... part one of our baseball preview. The rest to follow next week.

American League East
5.) Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Win Range: 64-69)
Why they'll stink: Because they’ve got no pitching… still. How long have they been in the league? And they’ve never had pitching at any point. Though this Scott Kazmir kid is a start… their infield makes me want to throw up… and they play in the worst stadium in baseball. About ten people come to games and it looks so bad on TV that I’m shocked mass suicides haven’t been reported having taken place there in the last five years, then again maybe no one has discovered the bodies since no one’s at the game.
Silver Lining: They’re changing their name next year. They don’t actually play in Tampa Bay, but rather on land in St. Petersburg, so that’s good. And you can watch a bunch of young hitters in Jorge Cantu, Carl Crawford, Joey Garthright, Rocco Baldelli, Delmon Young, and BJ Upton eventually.
Best Pitcher: Scott Kazmir – the kid can throw
Best Player: Carl Crawford – He can run and gets on base.
Key to Season: Seeing what Upton and Young can do. But honestly, this team, until it finds pitching isn’t going any where. What a bad organization.
Wild Card Chance?: None. This is the one team in the AL East that has no hope for the year. Hopefully they won’t lose 100 games again.

Random Thoughts: This is, hands down, the worst team to be a fan of. There is little to nothing to get excited about, and unlike the Royals, they don’t even play in a nice stadium. And don’t you love how they have like six young outfielders and no where to play them? How did Chuck LaMar keep his job so long? LaMar had to be the MLB equivalent of an NBA GM… first he signed a bunch of old, bad players for too long and too much (Greg Vaughn, Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff, Vinny Castilla… what was he thinking?). Then after that failed, he either made bad trades or sat on his hands asking for too much. And in the process he ended up drafting about 43 outfielders with the first or second pick in the MLB draft (since that’s were the Rays always draft). And if Chuck LaMar was an NBA GM, wouldn’t he be hired by someone by now? I’m happy for people of the Tampa area that the Chuck LaMar era is over. By the way, who’s the manager of this team now that Lou Piniella is gone? What a boring team with ugly uniforms and a bad stadium. Get ready for a lot of 8-5 games… Yuck.

4.) Baltimore Orioles (Win Range: 70-75)
Why they won’t finish third: This is one of those teams that you think is on the right track but then doesn’t do anything. Seriously they had a great start to last year, then fell apart after the All-Star Break. They should score runs, but they still have very little pitching.
Silver Lining: They’ve got the best park in the American League, one of the best players in Tejada, and their infield is among the best if doctors were able to reattach Brian Roberts arm.
Best Pitcher: Daniel Cabrera – Can have electric stuff, but still young
Best Player: Miguel Tejada, one of the ten best players in baseball!

Wild Card Chance?: Any team that features LaTroy Hawkins in their bullpen can’t make the playoffs. This is a proven fact, or rather, maybe any team that features Hawkins as the closer can’t make the playoffs. No matter, I hate their bullpen, so I don’t see it happening along with the fact that they don’t have any good starters and their outfield stinks.
Key to Season: Cabrera pitches like a #1, Bedard improves, Benson lives up to being drafted #1, Lopez finds his 2004 form, and Corey Patterson stops being Corey Patterson.
Random Thoughts: I’m not sure any team has more #3 and #4 starters than the O’s (Benson, Chen, Lopez, and Bedard)… I like this Daniel Cabrera kid, but I’m not sure if he’s more than a #2. They’ll score runs (who won’t in this division?) but they just don’t have it. They’re outfield features 94 year old Jeff Conine, Corey “Swing at the first pitch” Patterson, Luis Matos, and Jay Gibbons. Why even bother? Plus I love the fact they signed Ramon Hernandez for no apparent reason other than to piss of Javy Lopez. What a weird organization, it’s like they try to finish with 80 wins.

3.) Boston Red Sox (Win Range: 81-86)
Why they’re overrated: Even if you forget the fact that they had the weirdest off season this side of half the NBA and NHL, I don’t see what’s to love about this team. Schilling is 39, Wells is 42, fat, and stupid, Clement is clearly a head case, and Beckett’s hand/fingers are up there with Fred Taylor’s groin and Ronald Curry’s Achilles heel. Everyone’s all excited about this Papelbon kid, but he’s pitched a whopping 34 innings at the major league level. Timlin is 39 and can’t possibly pitch as well, who knows what’s up with Foulke, and this might be the year Tim Wakfield’s arm falls off. And that’s just the pitching staff. Do we all realize that Alex Gonzalez (the sucky one) is the short stop on this team? And that Mike Lowell can’t do ‘roids any more so he stinks and Mike Loretta is 34 and not 24 right? And J.T. Snow, all 38 years of him, is starting at first where they’ll be lucky to get 15 home runs from him… On top of all that they’re the guaranteed Trot Nixon 30 day DL trip away from Adam Stern playing every day... oh wait they traded for Willy Mo Pena so that doesn’t matter as much… wait why did they trade for Willy Mo Pena? Can he play first? Is the idea to put Nixon at first? What is going on with this team? There’s a lot to hate with this team.
Silver Lining: Coco Crisp has the second best name in baseball. And they do have a ton of pitching so if someone gets hurt or stinks, they don’t have to trot them out there every day.
Best Pitcher: Josh Beckett – if he’s healthy, and that’s a big Kerry Wood like if, he’s good.
Best Player: David Ortiz, he means more to this team than Manny… and Varitek is starting to get up there. Plus I think Varitek believes he’s in the army.
Wild Card Chance?: See that list of questions marks and what if above? If they all, or 90% of them, break the BoSox way they could win the Wild Card. I just don’t see it happening especially since they have one of the worst infields in baseball.
Key to Season: Schilling doesn’t suck, Beckett stays healthy, Wells shuts his mouth, Manny stops being Manny, and they find someone to put up some sort of offensive numbers in the infield. In other words, the odds of J.T. Snow finishing the year at first base are nil to none. I sort of like the Pena deal, but they traded their most ‘constant’ starter in Aaroyo for Pena who doesn’t have an obvious place in that outfield unless Nixon moves to first. And no two of those starters can get hurt at this point.
Random Thoughts: This team has the 2005 Philadelphia Eagles written all over them. Way too much off-season drama from Theo, to Manny, to XL Wells. They’re pitching is a huge question mark and their infield blows. They aren’t the 75 win team they were back in December, but they’re looking at 81 to 84 wins. This could be a long, wild, annoying summer in New England. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2.) Toronto Blue Jays (Win Range: 84-90)
Why they’ll do the nation a favor and shut up Red Sox fans: Would you look at here… we have a team with good pitching, a decent pen, and is pretty good offensively. They aren’t great in any area, but they’re good every where. Chacin, Towers, Burnett and of course Halladay is a pretty darn good start to a rotation. Speier, Chulk, Schoeneweis and with BJ Ryan closing is a pretty good bullpen. I love the addition of Troy Glaus and Bengie Molina, and we believe that Vernon Wells is one of the three most underrated players in baseball. If Russ Adams and Alexis Rios continue to improve, this team will find itself in a Wild Card race.
Silver Lining: They are being hyped, but not hyped to the levels of the Red Sox who I bet pretty much everyone will pick to finish second… and since they’re in Canada they always fly under the radar screen.
Best Pitcher: Roy Halladay – Still some how underrated
Best Player: Vernon Wells – One of those guys that can do a little bit of everything for you.
Wild Card Chance?: Very good, they avoid the dogfight that will be the AL Central, but still no cake walk since the O’s will be one of those teams that are either one fire or very cold.
Key to Season: This team has to come together which is always a worry with teams with a high turn over rate from one season to the next, Burnett can’t stink, and Halladay and Wells have to stay healthy.
Random Thoughts: I’m not sure if I’m rooting for anyone more than the Blue Jays this year. They did a good job making over this team in the off season targeting pitching, and even though they over paid for it, I don’t think either Burnett or Ryan will be a flop. You would probably like to see more speed at the top of the order, and there are some holes on this roster, but I still like their chances to make a run for the Wild Card.

1.) New York Yankees (Win Range: 92-96)
Why they'll cruise: Because they’ll score roughly 1,138 runs and find pitching from some where since, after all, they are the Yankees (in other words, no other team would see Chien-Ming Wang, Aaron Small, and Shawn Chacon come out of no where and save their season… yet this shit happens EVERY YEAR with the Yankees). And they want to make a run at the Braves “most division titles in a row”.
Mitigating Factor: I’ll just list a few names… Posada, Jeter, Giambi, A-Rod, Cano, Damon, Matsui, Sheffield… let’s put it this way, when Robinson Cano is you’re weakest hitter, we’ll your in All-State type good hands.
Best Pitcher: Randy Johnson – even though he’s 42, he had an ERA under 4 and won 17 games and was considered a disappointment. Go figure.
Best Player: Alex Rodriguez – he’s the best player in the game 11 out of 12 months of the year… it’s a shame he stinks more than five year old cheese under a desk in Cairo during October.
Key to Season: They still have some big question marks when it comes to pitching, and they can’t lose both Johnson and Mussina.
Random Thoughts: They scored 886 runs last year without Johnny Damon at the top of the order. I know they won’t score 1,000, but they’ll have an outside shot at that number. Sure, Cano is the only starter under the age of 30, but the only guy that is really over the hill is Bernie Williams. They do have a bit of a question mark at first, since I don’t think anyone wants to see Giambi out there for more than 50 games tops. This team isn’t built for a long term series in the playoffs, but this is a very good regular season team. If you’re a pitcher and have an off night, I feel for ya.

AL Central
5) Kansas City Royals (Win Range: 49-54)
Why they'll stink: My Lord… were to start? How about the fact that they’re best pitcher last year quit the team? And their second best pitcher was Jose Lima (who is now gone). That’s what we have to work with for starters. I guess their infield is a little better this year, but seriously, is anyone excited about Doug Mientkiewicz and Grudzielanek? This team is so bad… And could someone please explain to me what the hell is going on with Angel Berroa? This guy had a nice rookie year and has regressed the last two years. His 2004 couldn’t have been much worse, yet he had basically no improvement last year, in fact he was probably worse. I would hate being a Royals fan… this team has no direction, no nothing. Easily the worst run team in the leauge. At least the Devil Rays have 7 outfielder prospects, the Royals have nothing.
Silver Lining: Maybe Zack Greinke didn’t quit and comes back? This has to be the weirdest story of the spring… the guy just walked off the field and that was it. He’s 22 btw, 22! Why give up at this point? I know being with the Royals sucks, but it’s not like he’s 32 and says screw it I had a nice career… he’s 22! What’s he gonna do? Work at Wal-Mart? Totally weird.
Best Pitcher: No one. Seriously, their staff sucks. They’re going to give up 900 runs again, I’m going to say more. This team has a chance to give up 1,000 runs. I’m not kidding. This might be the worst team we’ll ever see in our lives… and that’s saying something because the 2003 Tigers were beyond horrible.
Best Player: The 38 year old Reggie Sanders. I’m not making this up.
Key to Season: They don’t go 0-19 against the White Sox. I’m not kidding… last year the Sox were like 11-0 against the Royals at one point.
Wild Card Chance?: No. This team might have trouble beating Team Netherlands.
Random Thoughts: This team makes me mad. They’re so, so, so bad. They gave up more runs last year than the 2003 Tigers and their pitching staff is even worse this year. It’s amazing the steps backwards this team took from the fall of 2003 up today… I can’t think of any reason to go to a Royals game… I really hope they lose 120 games this year just to see what that would look like, but they’ll score enough runs so that won’t happen. But don’t think I’m not rooting for them to give up 1,000 runs.

4) Detroit Tigers (Win Range: 75-80)
Why they won’t finish third: Because they’re in the best division in baseball. This team has talent, I like what they’ve done with their pitching staff, and word on the street is that they’ve got some young arms that might make the team when they break camp… of will be waiting for a May call up. I thought Trammell got screwed when they fired him, but Jim Leland should give this team some character. They need guys to stay healthy, but they should have a chance to win 81 games. I know that’s not much, but this team needs baby steps.
Silver Lining: I really like their infield if everyone (read Carlos Guillen) can stay healthy. While they’re outfield is a weird collection of young guys with some tools and Maggs, I do sort of like their pitching. They’ve got some nice young arms (Bonderman) and hopefully Rogers isn’t a complete asshole to these kids and they can learn a thing or two from him. Why they signed Todd Jones to a two year deal is beyond me, but hey maybe he and Pervical can set a record for most saves by two really old pitchers.
Best Pitcher: Jeremy Bonderman has some great stuff… but since he’s not ‘there’ yet, I’ll give the nod to Kenny Rodgers
Best Player: When he isn’t on the DL, Carlos Guillen has made himself a hellova player.
Key to Season: Getting everyone to play together and the young guys some experience. The Tigers are able to spend some money, and while their in a bit of a limbo year between some of these older guys and the younger guys, they just seem to have a nice mix. I wonder who that guy in the clubhouse who keeps everything loose is… but with Leland in charge I think these guys should have some character by the time the year ends.
Wild Card Chance?: Not really. They play in the toughest division in baseball (yep you read that right) and will struggle to win more than 80 games. This team is a year or two away.
Random Thoughts: Any team that has Nook Logan on their 25 man roster has a place in my heart… Look we all know they over pay for guys (Maggs, Kenny Rodgers, Troy Pervical), but those guy can play some baseball and it’s not like they’re handing them NBA like contracts… Then again they also signed Todd Jones which made me throw up when I heard that this winter (on the bright that that gave me an excuse to call in sick)… About 18 months ago I was talking to someone from Detroit who was saying that if the Tigers ever got good again, the entire city would get behind them. They unite the city apparently (and the Lions would too, but there is an unwritten rule in the NFL that says the Lions can never be better than a 10 win team). So that’s cool… Don’t you love their hats?... I just like the make up of this team. They should be a fun team to watch, one of those, ‘we know they aren’t going to win anything, but boy they’re a fun team to watch and leave everything on the field’ teams… And as always is this the year that Ivan Rodriguez falls apart? He’s not able to juice any more and we saw his numbers drop last year. Something to watch for… Fun team, I wish them luck.

3) Cleveland Indians (Win Range: 85-90)
Why they'll disappoint: Because it looks like Sizemore can’t play center, they aren’t as young as everyone believes they are (Belliard - 30, Boone - 33, Hafner - 28, Broussard - 29), and there is no way their pitching is as good as last year. This is one of those teams that took a step back while not addressing any of their problems for the year before (see: not addressing first base, not realizing that Hafner isn’t Babe Ruth (though he sure looked like Ruth in August and into September), they’re bullpen is getting old and Betancourt can’t juice this year, and who the hell are the starting pitchers on this team after Lee, Sabathia, and Westbrook? Do they think that Paul Byrd is going to stay healthy and be good at the same time? This is the same guy who looked homeless during Game One of the ALCS. I’d have not faith in him… none… if I was Indians fan).
Silver Lining: We love Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Jhonny Peralta (even if he’s the Brett Farve of MLB name pronunciation). So those guys will be fun to watch. Plus the Aaron Boone watch begins… and what’s cool about the Aaron Boone watch is it’s really two fold: the first ‘watch’ is when will Andy Marte take over his job at third and the second watch is ‘Did Aaron juice with Brett or did they do it separately’?
Best Pitcher: C.C. Sabathia… he’s 25 and a lefty and already has 69 wins in his career.
Best Player: Pick between Belliard and Sizemore… we’ll take Sizemore. We fell for him back in June at the Cell.
Key to Season: They need their pitching to be as good as last year and while their bats stay as hot as they were. This team didn’t turn it on until the were so far out of the AL Central race that they had nothing to lose. There’s going to be more pressure on this team, and it’s going to be interesting how they handle it. Remember last year they had three games against a lame duck White Sox team to finish the year and really only had to win one of them to make the playoffs… they ended up choking and losing all three. Not a good sign.
Wild Card Chance?: They’ve got as good a chance as anyone in the AL, but we just don’t like what they’ve done this off-season. They’ve got nothing at first, Boone will probably have too long of a leash at third, and neither Jason Michaels, Jason Dubois, or Casy Blake makes us very excited as corner out fielders.
Random Thoughts: What’s up with really old closers in this division? First Pervical and Jones in Detroit, now Wickman in Cleveland… I guess it’s good that they didn’t go out there and sign a bunch of 32 year olds, but I still don’t like what they did this winter. Paul Byrd isn’t Kevin Millwood, I can’t see Westbrook being as good this year, and there is no way that pen is as good as last year… Let me just get his out of the way, I have an irrational hatred of Travis Hafner… Jhonny Peralta’s first name really bothers me, I don’t care if he’s going to be an All-Star for years to come, it bothers me… I just get the feeling this team is waiting for 2007 and I think that’s a mistake, some of these guys are in their primes right now and I’m not impressed with Eric Wedge.

2) Minnesota Twins (Win Range: 88-93)
Why everyone is forgetting about them: I think last year was a Murphy’s Law year for the Twins, I’m not sure much more could have gone worse besides Santana being hit by a bus in St. Paul. But this is now, suddenly a veteran team, but oh by the way, they’re the youngest team in the division. Yet guys like Santana, Silva, Rincon, Morneau, Castillo, Ford, and even Hunter are all 30 or younger yet have been around for a while it seems. While I’m not crazy about some of the guys they’ve got at a few positions, I think they play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder this year having watched the White Sox win it all last year, the Indians become everyone’s darlings, and just being forgotten about in general in this division. Don’t be shocked if they have a magical season like the Sox did last year.
Silver Lining: Maybe they’ll get a new stadium passed this year? I think this team is pissed and is looking to kick ass and take names and these are always fun teams to watch during a season. If only Tony Batista and who ever plays short didn’t suck…
Best Pitcher: Come on… it’s Johan Santana the best pitcher in baseball right now (though he sure didn’t look it during the WBC).
Best Player: I know he’s a bit overrated as a hitter, but I’ll go with Torii Hunter. They guy does a lot of things well, plays hard, and I think will have a big year coming off an injury plagued year last year.
Key to Season: Keeping everyone healthy, especially Hunter and Mauer. If those two stay healthy and everyone else does what they should, this team should be very good.
Wild Card Chance?: They’re my pick! So there you go. I like ‘em.
Random Thoughts: Don’t under estimate the Kirby Puckett factor here… love the addition of Luis Castillo… they still have a really nice bullpen, don’t forget about that… Santana/Radke/Lohse/Silva isn’t bad at all… I’m still waiting for one of these young guys to step up for them be it Mauer or Morneau or Cuddyer… Rondell White should be good for this team who seems a bit soft outside of their pitchers and Hunter… if the Twins had any sort of a left side of the infield, I’d feel much more comfortable about them, but Bartlett and Batista is not going to get the job done, y-u-c-k… this team needed a kick in the ass and I think they got it with everyone ‘forgetting’ about them (like the White Sox last year) and Puckett’s death. I know they win weird games as it is because they play at the PhoneyDome, but I expect more weird wins this year. Bounces that defy science, opponents tripping as they round third to score, balls getting stuck in air ducks… I’m telling you the possibilities are endless.

1.) Chicago White Sox (Win Range: 93-98)
Why they'll cruise: Because they have more pitching than they know what to do with. They’re the defending World Champs and good karma seems to surround these guys. I like to think of them as the Earl Hickey’s of Major League Baseball. Plus Kenny Williams was the only GM to fully understand how ‘roid testing would change the game. That’s why he dumped Lee and Maggs for speed guys and pitching. Plus they people will actually be showing up for White Sox games this year. With that South Side fan support, there will be no looking back.
Mitigating Factor: They’ve got more ace’s in the hole than any team too… guys like Juan Uribe, Tadahito Iguchi, Konerko, and Pierzynski make plays to win games. Teams like this are always dangerous. Plus they are something like 67-38 under Ozzie in one run games, which tells me they’re a good team and find ways to win. Mean while every stathead is going to tell you they’re lucky… teams that go 67-38 in one run games over two years are GOOD, not lucky. And have I mentioned that they have a lot of pitching… and a lot of good pitching. Contreras, Garland, Garica, and Vazquez would all be #1s or #2s on 25 Major League staffs.
Best Pitcher: Mark Buehrle is a warrior… he just gets it done.
Best Player: This is a tough one, this team is so pitching dominate… we’ll go with the underrated Jermaine Dye who does a little bit of everything and is one of the smarter baseball players out there.
Key to Season: The Bullpen… Ozzie doesn’t like it and expect them to cost this team a few victories early on. They’ll make deals to make sure everything is okay come late in the season, but their pen isn’t that good. Then again, with those starters all expected to go at least seven innings, you only need two arms and they’ve got three.
Random Thoughts: This team should score a lot more runs this year with Thome and Mackowiak coming off the bench. It’s amazing they did so well last year considering their best bench player was Pablo Ozuna… The South Side is going to be BUZZIN’ this summer, I’m not sure we’re all ready for what’s going to go down down there this summer, might be one of those ‘moments’. Cubs brass has to be worried… Brian Anderson should slip right into center without any major problems… It’s going to be weird to see a filled up Cell on TV… I can’t tell you how much I love the Mackowiak acquisition. He’ll fill a lot of holes and probably get 400 at bats to boot… It’s amazing to think how they go six starters deep and how their top five guys are a collection of #1s and #2s, teams just don’t have pitching depth like that… I’m convinced that Juan Uribe should have his on TV show because he’s… Juan Uribe. I can’t think of anyone not loving this guy. His arm is simply amazing and he does those little things that teams need, I’m not kidding if you can catch only one player this year and assuming you’ve seen the Jeter’s, A-Rod’s, and Pujols’ of the world, catch Juan Uribe… Over under on number of ‘controversies’ Ozzie gets into this season: 14.5… I’ve got twenty bucks that Ozzie calls out Tony La Russa next, how great would that be? How would LaRussa respond? I could see Ozzie calling La Russa a Latino wantabe and La Russa responding by changing pitchers (more on La Russa when we get to St. Louis)… Don’t be surprised if this team repeats, they’re offense is better and while odds are their pitching won’t be as good, they’ve got more than everyone else… Team to beat in the American League because they’re still good and they won it all last year.

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