Pre-Winter Prediction Classic
Today, as GMs have begun to meet and talk trade, I decided to run some predictions. These are predictions of the 2004 season, one of four or so I will do. One is now, before everything gets started, the next is December 19 or so, before the second wave of free agents. The third preseason prediction classic should run days before pitchers and catchers report in early February, with the last coming the final week of March. So, since
After a very solid winter, the Yankees are the talk of the AL East. Gary Sheffield is an obvious upgrade in right field, and the bullpen is improved with Shigetoshi Hasegawa in middle relief. Andy Pettite and newcomer Bartolo Colon (to replace the fat void left by David Wells) fill out a pretty good rotation that sees ace Jose Contreras at the top, Mike Mussina second, and Jeff Weaver narrowly beating out Jon Lieber in the fifth spot.
But, it won t be all-New York in the East, as the Red Sox are to be reckoned with. In their last season as true powerhouses, the Red Sox offense looks just as good as it was in 2003. Adam Kennedy is a Boston favorite at second, and all has been forgiven for Manny, who is two-for-three in the Triple Crown race. Byung-Hyun Kim is a pretty good fifth starter, considering the breakout year Bronson Arroyo is having. Scott Williamson is being hyped for his great closing skills, although talk of a committee begins everytime he gives up a home run.
The rest of the AL East isn t special...again. The Blue Jays will not continue their trend of third-place finishes, as improved Oriole and Devil Ray teams pass them. Vladimir
Moving on to the league s most futile division, the AL Central. The Royals are leading the division, although they stand a measly five games above .500 through 81 games. Minnesota, who managed to bring back Stewart and Guardado (to a one-year deal), have fallen apart, blaming the losses of Doug Mientkiewicz and A.J. Pierzynski. Justin Morneau is not having that huge Rookie of the Year-type season, rather looking like the 2004 version of the 2003 Hee Seop Choi.
Just beneath those two teams are the underperformers, the White Sox and the Indians. Chicago had high hopes for Sidney Ponson, whom is already injured for the season. Esteban Loaiza isn t quite the player he is last season, and the team will give Mark Buerhle to St. Louis at season s end. Injuries have limited Robbie Alomar s time, giving the city of Chicago a look at Aaron Miles, a 5-8 classic whom has won the town s heart. But most of all, it s the non-tender of Carlos Lee that is still hurting. Cleveland is bouncing back, since Brandon Phillips and Travis Hafner couldn t have been that bad, that much. Alex Escobar is still showing potential, but needed to be benched after having 100Ks through 60 games.
Cleveland pitching is still pretty bad though, constantly bailed out by the likes of Todd Walker and Jody Gerut. But, David Riske was sure a good choice at closer. And, let s not talk much about the Tigers. Let s just say that Delmon Young ripping everyone on the Tigers besides his brother wasn t good for clubhouse chemistry. But Delmon is sure doing good, on pace to hit 30 jacks in high-A.
While Billy Beane keeps getting credit for the A s, it s the pitching that is making the difference. Rich Harden is sensational, and Justin Duchscherer is getting the job done in the fifth hole. It looks like the decision to give Rod Beck the closer s role was a good one, as he already has 23 saves through June. The offense is much improved now that Jermaine Dye is above .250, and since Terrence Long has been released. A Ramon Hernandez injury tuned us in on Adam Melhuse s potential, and Graham Koonce is considered the Rookie of the Year favorite. In my opinion, it s the spark Kenny Lofton
Anaheim is looking awfully smart now that Miguel Tejada has reemerged, along with Rafeal Palmiero s veteran influence on the lineup. Darin Erstad is finally staying
Seattle was up early, but are quickly falling out of the race. Edgar Martinez and John Olerud have missed some time due to broken hips, ya know bones are so fragile at that age. Kaz Matsui is giving the team an all-Japanese one-two punch, although Mike Cameron is really missed. I did call the Raul Ibanez prediction right, but the guys at
Texas can t find themselves, but justify it by saying they ll go after Kerry Wood in a couple of months. The team s just praying that John Hart will get the clue and give
The NL is a different story, where the 2003 postseason doesn t make sense anymore. Philadelphia has an Atlanta-esque 15-game lead in the NL East, bragging they are the
Florida did manage to keep a lot of their players...on the injured list that is. Conine, Lowell, Pudge, Beckett, and Looper are all bandaged up. Tim Spooneybarger looks to be a solid closer though, and Jack McKeon is doing a good job limiting A.J. Burnett s workload. He ll be in a Red Sox uni in a matter of weeks. And...the Mets suck.
Chicago has been wonderful in the NL Central, capturing 15 of their last 18 games. Richie Sexson has been the bat they needed, but their worried about money after the
Jeff Bagwell is thinking about retiring, as Houston has all but fallen out of the race. Morgan Ensberg has even been thrusted into the leadoff role, as Craig Biggio s .220
St. Louis is swarming to take the Wild Card spot, since they ve finally found some pitching. John Thomson and Ted Lilly were good signs, and Chris Carpenter is the
Milwaukee is fourth in the division, largely because of the additions of Hee Seop Choi and Juan Cruz. Trent Durrington is doing well at second base, and J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart are about to get their shots on the left side. The team couldn t get rid of Geoff Jenkins, but Bud Selig s idea to put Lenny Harris into right field wasn t a good idea. A Selig countdown clock is enthrusted in Miller Park, leading into a huge litigation suit. George Bush backs Selig, and Fidel Castro inquires about buying the team. Ya know, he did once play for the Yankees.
San Diego is making a run at the NL West, only being threatened by the Diamondbacks. David Wells has done well in San Diego, but Adam Eaton and Jake Peavy are the biggest stories of the division. Sean Burroughs starts to find some power in that bat, and another Phil Nevin injury allows Xavier Nady to get some quality at-bats. Hoffman has become a great closer again, claiming he doesn t need stupid eyeglasses to make him effective (see Eric Gagne). And Barry Bonds? He s bitching about how the media doesn t respect him, and makes 1,724 threats to retire. Talk of him breaking Hank s record ends, as we all begin to see his real age.
That s it, and if you haven t sent me your favorite baseball books, please do so. Oh yea, and go Bulls!