We have extended our Two on Two previews among all of our panelists to include everyone's picks for each of the division, wild card, and league championship winners, as well as the World Series champions, traditional award winners, and several other "fun" categories.
With us once again today are JD Arney (Red Reporter), Tyler Bleszinski (Athletics Nation), Brian Borawski (TigerBlog and The Hardball Times), Alex Ciepley (Cub Town), Brad Dowdy (No Pepper), Aaron Gleeman (Aaron Gleeman.com and The Hardball Times), Jason Mastaitis (Always Amazin' and MetsGeek), John Perricone (Only Baseball Matters), Jeff Shaw (U.S.S. Mariner), Patrick Sullivan (The House That Dewey Built), and Jon Weisman (Dodger Thoughts).
Although not meant to be a family feud among baseball bloggers, some of our responses may not be met with clapping and the proverbial, "Good answer."
West Cent East Wild Aaron OAK MIN BOS NYY Alex LAA MIN BOS NYY Blez LAA MIN NYY Brad LAA MIN BOS NYY Brian OAK MIN NYY BOS Bryan LAA CLE BOS NYY Jason OAK MIN BOS LAA JD OAK CLE BOS NYY Jeff LAA MIN BOS John LAA MIN NYY BOS Jon LAA MIN BOS NYY Rich OAK MIN BOS NYY Sully OAK MIN BOS NYY
The Baseball Analysts consensus has the Angels nipping the A's in the West, the Twins taking the Central, the Red Sox winning the East, and the Yankees making the playoffs via the Wild Card.
In the National League, the panelists see the Dodgers winning out West, the Cardinals repeating in the Central, the Braves (yawn) capturing the East once again, and the Padres sneaking into the playoffs by the slimmest of margins.
West Cent East Wild Aaron LAD STL ATL PHI Alex LAD STL PHI SDP Blez SDP STL ATL Brad LAD STL ATL FLA Brian SF STL ATL PHI Bryan LAD STL ATL CHC Jason LAD STL ATL SDP JD LAD CHI ATL SDP Jeff LAD STL ATL John SF STL FLA ATL Jon LAD PIT FLA NYM Rich SF STL FLA ATL Sully LAD STL PHI NYM
The consensus has Boston and Atlanta facing off in the World Series, but we do not see a clear cut World Series winner (with three panelists choosing the Red Sox and three the Braves). The Dodgers and Giants are the only other teams with more than one vote. The surprise? Nobody selected the Yankees to win it all.
ALCS NLCS WS Aaron BOS ATL BOS Alex MIN LAD LAD Blez NYY ATL ATL Brad BOS ATL ATL Brian NYY SF SF Bryan BOS ATL ATL Jason BOS STL BOS JD BOS LAD LAD Jeff MIN STL MIN John NYY SF SF Jon LAA NYM LAA Rich BOS STL STL Sully BOS PHI BOS
As far as awards go, we see Hideki Matsui and Albert Pujols winning the MVPs, Randy Johnson and Johan Santana sharing the AL Cy Young and Tim Hudson narrowly beating out Pedro Martinez for the NL Cy Young, and Jeremy Reed taking AL Rookie of Year honors with Gavin Floyd and Jeff Francis in a tie for NL ROY.
AL MVP NL MVP AL CY NL CY AL ROY NL ROY Aaron Chavez Pujols Santana Hudson Reed Hardy Alex Tejada Pujols Halladay Sheets McPherson Dubois Blez Matsui Pujols Santana Schmidt Swisher Burke Brad Ramirez Pujols Johnson Martinez Reed Reyes, A Brian Chavez Pujols Santana Hudson Kazmir Francis Bryan Matsui Rolen Johnson Hudson Blanton Floyd Jason Guerrero Pujols Santana Martinez Blanton Floyd JD Hafner Garciaparra Johnson Hudson Jeff Suzuki Pujols Johnson Hudson Reed Atkins John Matsui Pujols Johnson Schmidt Swisher Dallimore Jon Guerrero Cabrera Santana Martinez Teahen Closser Rich Matsui Pujols Santana Beckett Reed Barmes Sully A-Rod Drew Johnson Martinez Blanton Francis
Rather than stopping there, we decided to pick some additional categories for fun. Lloyd McClendon may not find it fun though if the panelists are right in believing that he will be the first manager fired in 2005. Jeff sees it differently. "Lee Mazzilli will leave the clubhouse earlier than Sammy Sosa this time." John chimes in with Charlie Manuel. "The guy has no business running a big league club, and the Phillies have unrealistically high expectations, a bad combination."
Jeremy Bonderman is the only player chosen by more than one to earn the distinction of Breakout Player of the Year. Alex has dubbed him Jeremy Bandwagonderman in view of his growing popularity as a breakout choice. John makes an unconventional choice by tabbing Randy Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner, on the belief that he will make a run at 30 wins and become the first Yankee to strike out 300 batters in a season.
Jason Giambi is the runaway pick as Comeback Player of the Year and Adam Dunn (with two home runs on Opening Day already under his long belt) is the player most likely to become MLB's HR champion. There is no truth to the rumor that some of our guests tried to change their pick to Dimitri Young after his three-homer performance on Monday.
We also asked our panelists if Giambi is apt to hit more HR or spend more days on the DL and the latter wins by the narrowest of margins, 7-6. Blez adds, "If there is justice, days on the DL." No hard feelings in Athletics Nation, huh?
And the worst team in baseball goes to...the Kansas City Royals.
Fired Breakout Comeback HR Giambi Worst Aaron McClendon Mauer Giambi Dunn 47 HR COL Alex Pena Bonderman Giambi Pujols 51 HR KCR Blez McClendon Chavez Glaus Pujols 54 DL PIT Brad McClendon Bonderman Glaus Dunn 51 DL KCR Brian McClendon Kearns Giambi Dunn HR KCR Bryan Hurdle Patterson Colon Dunn 54 DL KCR Jason Mazzilli Reyes, J Giambi Pujols HR KCR JD Mazzilli Reed Griffey Jr. Dunn 52 DL KCR Jeff Mazzilli Clement Hernandez, R Guerrero HR WAS John Manuel Johnson Giambi Dunn 48 HR TAM Jon Bochy Harden Glaus Guerrero 43 HR TAM Rich Garner Capuano Halladay Dunn 50 DL TAM Sully Miley Wright Kearns Dunn 47 DL PIT
We also asked the date of Barry Bonds' return and the combined number of starts between Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. The range of answers on Bonds was April 29th (Jon) to "doesn't" (Jason). Jeff had a typically funny response. "July 15, give or take a tantrum." The Prior-Wood responses were fairly tight with Aaron and JD taking low honors (40) and Rich high (55).
In our free form category, we had panelists mail in Blue Books with their answers to the biggest surprise of the year. In no particular order...
Bryan: Last time baseball was down in the public relations department, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire saved the game. This time around it won't be two players to do so, but baseball will once again rise to the top of the sports heap. Six close division races and a few runs at some milestones (Ichiro at .400, Pedro and Randy at 300 strikeouts, etc.) will make this as exciting a year as any.
Jon: This is a complete, wild hunch, one that makes a mockery of the predictive arts, but injuries wipe out the top three expected contenders in the National League Central, opening the door for a surprise winner.
Sully: Behind only slightly below average pitching and a lineup that won't quit, the Baltimore Orioles push the Yankees, Angels and Indians for a hotly contested Wild Card berth.
John: My breakout player, if one can suggest that a five-time Cy Young Award winner can have a breakout year, is Randy Johnson, who will also give us the story of the year. All Randy Johnson needs to do to make a serious run at 30 wins is stay healthy, and I think he will. On his way, he will break numerous Yankee left-handed pitching records, finish in the top 3 in the MVP voting, and he will become the first Yankee with 300 strikeouts in a season.
Brian: Tigers win 85 and play a meaningful series with the Twins in the middle of September.
Aaron: With seemingly half the baseball world rooting hard for them and the other half rooting hard against them, the Oakland A's will have a winning record for the seventh season in a row. Everyone who predicted their demise will forget what they said.
Blez: It won't be a surprise to much of the Internet community, but the surprise of the year to the mainstream media will be how much the A's push the Angels in the AL West. Oakland is looking a lot like the 2000 team right now and if Blanton and Haren pitch to their potential, Joe Morgan, Harold Reynolds and the rest of them will be explaining how the team is successful because of their young pitching, not anything the front office has done.
JD: I think the surprise of the year will be the Cleveland Indians. They're in a very winnable division, and they've made some big strides in the past couple of years. I think they'll be the playoff team that kind of comes out of left field this year.
Jeff: Ichiro will make a strong run at .400. This will not be enough to get the Mariners into the playoffs, but will be an exciting chase for baseball fans worldwide. Twins in seven, a series for the ages. Sales of beer and ice cream bars skyrocket in Minnesota as people strive to revive Kent Hrbek's favorite snacks.
Alex: I think that, from the mainstream press's POV, the biggest surprise of the year is that not much has changed in the game despite the steroid debacle. Kids are still poppin' home runs, still striking guys out, all while apparently not indulging in those most hip fashion products, the Clear and the Cream.
Jason: The rumors of the A's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Joe Blanton, Danny Haren, and Rich Harden combine for 45 wins. Barry Zito returns to form. Huston Street paves the way to Endsville for opposing teams. The A's win the West by a healthy margin over the Wild Card winning Angels. That's right, the Wild Card will come out of the West this year, and Yankee officials will have yet another uncomfortable offseason.
Brad: My surprise of the year would be a pleasant one if it actually came to pass - no player will test positive for steroids. This is a story that could take over the game even more than it already has if there is a positive test during the season. Any player in their right mind will be clean by now, but that first guy who tests positive should have his punishment quadrupled just for being stupid.
Rich: My surprise of the Year? Reggie Sanders doesn't change ballclubs for first time since 1998, and he combines with Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker to hit the most home runs of any outfield in baseball.