Ok, It has been a while, but here is the dealio, we all know about my highly successful baseball preview, and I have finally taken he time to write it.
The major leagues in 2006 will be a large changing of the guard in a few situations, but in many ways, it will be incredibly similar to the 2005 season. On the individual player front, we may be on the verge of a baseball renaissance, as teams will be adapting to the fundamental baseball styles of pitching and timely hitting that lead the Chicago White Sox to their first world series since 1917. But as I said before, it will very much be the same contenders in the hunt for a division crown when September rears its brisk head, and only the elite will be playing in October.
Red Birds continue division dominance.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have a strong offense, one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, and Albert Pujols. They will be at 100 percent, something they could not say last year, on opening day, and thought they might not always be, it is fully expected that they can repeat their 100 win season, produced in an injury plagued year, easily.
2. Houston Astros
They might resign the rocket for the dog days of the Texas summer, but it will not be enough to make a big splash in the playoff picture, but this team is too talented not to win their fair share of games and challenge for the Wild Card.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
This team is on the upstart, but they have an over achieving pitching staff that is nothing less than suspect. Their bullpen might not be able to hold games, and they have no dominant pitcher to hand the ball off to in the 9th to save the game. This team also has the best group of young players in the league, and will be a dominant force and possibly contend for a crown…next year.
4. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs made some great off-season acquisitions (Juan Pierre), and retained some solid players (Murton, Rusch) and, if healthy, would win the Central, but when have you ever known the Cubs to be health?
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Will this be the year of Pittsburgh? Sadly, no. This team has a whole lot of talent, but not an experienced pitching staff capable of supporting a winner, a bullpen that looks called up from Scranton, and a mixing pot of different players that will not blend into winning baseball by the rivers.
6. Cincinnati Reds
Ken Griffey Jr. is back in town, and is fully expected to have a pre-trade year. Griffey truly deserves this, after enduring injury after injury, he had been put back, by default, on the podium of great power hitters. The Reds though, might never arrive in town. They might be able to score 10 runs a game, but they would give up 15 in the process.
Automatic berth to a first round playoff exit…
1.San Diego Padres
Someone has to win this division, so why not the team that nearly pulled of the amazing feat of making the playoffs with a sub .500 record. In all reality though, it is doubtful that this team could be as brutal as it was last year. They will be no great shakes, but they will play competitive baseball behind monster years from SS Khalil Greene and Ace Jake Peavey.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
This team has no identity, and if it wanted to make any noise in the playoff picture come the home stretch, it would require the pitching staff, right now mediocre, to be out of this world. The return of Gagne should be an emotional boost for a team that was ravaged by injuries in ‘05
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
This team is young, and short on starting pitching. They might have enough offense to make 2006 a respectable looking season, but in reality it will be lost, just like their rotation.
4. San Francisco Giants
A team this good does not deserve to have a player like Barry Bonds on it, bringing nothing but adversary towards it. They will never be able to shake his stigma off the team in general, and will underachieve under the spotlight of shame.
5. Colorado Rockies
Now is the time to clear house, as the Rockies will sink into another vile season at altitude. Instead of going out and getting a tough and battle tested pitching staff, they decided, if you can’t beat them, emulate them, not realizing that they were emulating teams pounding awful pitching for 20 runs a game. The Rockies don’t have the talent to go out and score 20 consistently, and until they decide to play real baseball, they will be perpetually in the cellar.
Why do you guys keep trying? Love, Atlanta
1. Atlanta Braves
Not a chance that they will not win this division this year. They won last year starting rookies, and those young players have matured. They will win the East for the 16th consecutive year.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
They are a well-balanced team that will thrive on good fundamental baseball, and Ryan Howard pounding baseballs farther than Sputnik. They field a strong group, and send to the mound a no name pitching staff that does nothing other than go out and win. This team will win the wild card silently.
3. New York Mets
Beyond all the hoopla, this is Mets team that has weak starting pitching, and an unbalanced batting order. Their bullpen is formidable, but that is the only part of the roster that is bloated on payroll and has no real theme.
4. Washington Nationals
The team will not be able to recapture the magic that it found last year in its first year in the nation’s capital. Overall the team over performed last year, and will not be able to replicate its record of the year prior. The team made some solid off-season moves, but failed to address its lack of solid starting pitching. Though the Soriano trade seems like a bust, it will be sure to self-correct itself, and brought star power to a struggling franchise. Star power that will be seen this year in the form of a young man patrolling the hot corner of RFK, Ryan Zimmerman, this rookie will blaze a path that will take over the District by June. Don’t be surprised to see Z for president signs on sportscenter this year.
5. Florida Marlins
The fire sale part deux leaves the team in a total limbo, none of this will be on the field, where the Albuquerque Isotopes will be playing the rest of the major league, and for fun, wearing a major leaguer’s uniform. Dontrelle Willis will sure have fun being the veteran leadership for this team that is destined for the cellar and greener pastures for years to come.
Old boss same as the new boss
1. Chicago White Sox
The World Champions might be the most balanced team in the history of baseball, and before you get out your stones, take into account this situation. Their lineup is perfectly built to score runs by way of either Ozzieball or the long ball, they have greatly increased their depth, and they go 6 starters deep with three of the best relievers in the game of baseball sitting in the left field bleachers of the Cell. Now, the pale hoes will not avoid all the injuries they were spared from in 2005, but that does not mean that this team is unable to match the performance of the year before. It is fully expected that AJ Pierzynski will recover from a brutal offensive year and become the leader of this team both on the field, and at the plate, solidifying the middle of the order for the power hitters at the bottom. There is a large question mark in the two rookies: starting CF Brian Anderson and Closer Bobby Jenks. While Jenks can hardly be considered a rookie, Anderson is naïve in a way to the major league game. He has literally no pressure on him from the clubhouse, where he will be one of the goons, but with Ryan Sweeney and Jerry Owens close on the prowl, Anderson will need to perform by June in order to keep his job. Jenks, on the other hand, was given the keys to the house in September by Ozzie Guillen, and performed remarkably for a rookie, while becoming the fan favorite on the South Side, and subject of many tall tales around the ballpark. Anyone who possesses the unparalleled stuff of Jenks is bound to be dominating and successful, but the real question is whether or not he can maintain the high level of pitching for an entire season. The question remains to be solved, but even with these question marks, they are miniscule in the overall issues of other teams, and the White Sox will dominate the American League once more.
2. Cleveland Indians
For such a good team, the chief Wahoo’s bunch does not deserve the bad luck they have gotten recently. After missing the playoffs on the last day of the season in ’05, the Indians were slated to overtake the White Sox in 2006. The White Sox, meanwhile, revamped their team, and the Indians lost some good players that were key in ‘05. The loss of Coco Crisp will be difficult, but not insurmountable. The team will not be able to go on the ridiculous tear that baseball had never before seen in 2006, but the team will play solid baseball through the year and contend for a Wild Card, and possibly have division title in their grasps for a few weeks.
3. Minnesota Twins
This team has no offense, but a pitching staff that will be near the top of the league. Francisco Liriano will run away with rookie of the year, and be a second Johan Santana in the Twinkie dome. Those two might be able to get 35 for the Twins this year. The rest of the staff is solid, and the Nathan led bullpen is dangerous as always. The twins just will not be able to score enough runs to contend, and the though their pitching is good, it is not flawless.
4. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are good enough to play .500 ball in 2006, but it is doubtful that they will. David Dombrowski did a good job in the off season by hiring Jim Leyland, a manager that deserves more credit than he gets, and bolstering the pitching staff. This team will be a force in the Central for years to come, and glances of that will be flashed at times in 2006.
5. Kansas City Royals
While Dombrowski was doing a fantastic job resurrecting the Tigers in Detroit, Allan Baird ran the Royals into the ground so far, that they are better off digging down some more, as it is closer to land. The team is in disarray, and being run like a AA team. Speaking of which, most of the Royals players are of that caliber, so maybe it isn’t so awful after all.
Wait. Is that…Tampa Bay?
1. Boston Red Sox
No, they will not be dominant, but they bought enough dependable starters and can score enough runs to beat the Yankees for the first time in nearly a decade. Papelbon is a bonafide number one, and will be key in the probable Red Sox playoff run. Manny will always be Manny, and this is not the inevitable year he will be traded to the Mets.
2. New York Yankees
Now the Yankees might have an overpaid 200 Million dollar, suck on this small market line up that looks like it can crush the ball to Jersey (the one in England…) but this team is not that good, will be constantly bombarded by injuries, and has huge holes in their bullpen and starting rotation. Their offense will perform to the top of the American League, but there is no way that they can stay in the hunt with a carousel of starting pitchers, a season long audition for bullpen spots, and the high team ERA that will come with it. On top of that, the Bronx Bombers will not be able to clean up on formerly weak teams like the Devil Rays and Blue Jays, who made significant upgrades over the free agent period, and look to be competitive for the first time in a long time. Somewhere, George Steinbrenner signs away another 5 million dollar a year check, only to have that player sit on the bench injured. Karma laughs in the corner.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays, looking to get out of the long slump of mediocrity did the only thing they could this off-season, overpay unproven free agents. And that they did, getting AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan, both of who have never been prone to great continual success. But nonetheless these signings are going to help boost the moral of the team, knowing that everyone has a similar goal, to win a world series, in mind. This will likely boost wins, but the team needs to overpay a few more, and better, players to contend in the near future.
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Wait, do you, no way! Indeed, yes, the Devil Rays will not finish in the cellar in 2006, because of the new ownership and a winning vibe reverberating throughout the organization. This team has always had lots of talent, and now they are maturing. While the pitching situation is still dire, the rays will be able to play competitive baseball for the first time since their inception in 2006.
5. Baltimore Orioles
Yes, Baltimore gets the fine distinction of finishing behind the Devil Rays for the first of many times to come. While Baltimore boasts Miguel Tejada and Daniel Cabrera, the rest of the team is not very good, and will bring down the overall level of play in Baltimore this season. The Palmeiro and Sosa scandals are behind the team, but not by much, and low morale from the second half crash (loosing first place) and burn (Palmeiro) will stick with this team and lead to a last place finish.
There for the taking, except if you are Texas or Seattle…
1. Oakland A’s
The A’s were decimated by injuries last year, and will get MVP candidate and all underrated team captain Bobby Crosby back for hopefully an entire year. The pitching staff on this team is a smidge over hyped, but not by much, and run a close second to Chicago for best in the AL. Zito, will be superb this year, as will Blanton and Harden. Together they make up the most intimidating top 3 in baseball. The rest of the team is solid and balanced, poised to make a playoff run.
2. Los Angeles Angels
After dropping the Anaheim name, the Angels also dropped their cool against the White Sox in the ALCS, ironically enough, from a dropped ball. This team though is strong enough to go deep into the playoffs, if their pitching staff props them up on their backs. Bartolo Colon will have a down year, as he never has consecutive good years. The team is solid, but built up for a downfall, and will just be plain overmatched by the A’s down the stretch, and will squeak into the playoffs.
3. Seattle Mariners
This team is really unchanged from a underperfoming 69 win team last year, but many of the strong moves they made a winter prior will pay off for them. Adrian Beltre will respond to an aweful year by performing at a higher level. It will not be MVP, but enough to win a few games, and deserve some of the money he gets paid. Richie Sexon is consistently going to hit, and he isn’t bad with the glove either. This will be ther year he puts himself in the category of elite AL first basemen with Konerko, Teixeira, Ortiz, and Haftner. While Jamie Moyer is like 72 and will still go out and win13-15 games, Felix Hernandez might need another year to develop fully, and if that is true, all American League hitters should be very frightened, because he will a be truly and utterly unhittable 27Ks in 9 innings pitcher. See glimpses this year and prepare yourself for the finished product.
The pitchers stink, they lost good solid position players, and the bullpen is absolutely putrid. It is a shame too, because they have Teixeira, one of the best players in the major league, stuck in the cellar in Arlington. Mark might hit .330 with 55 and 150, but no one on his team will come even remotely close to any numbers similar, and the other teams hitters will average about the same against Ranger pitching.
They might make a run at it
1- Chicago over 4- Los Angeles (3-1)
1- Oakland over 3- Boston (3-2)
1- Chicago over 2- Oakland (4-3)
1- St. Louis over 3- Philadelphia (3-1)
2- Atlanta over 4- San Diego (3-0)
2-Atlanta over 1-St. Louis (4-2)
Chicago over Atlanta (4-3)
Rookie of the Year
AL: Francisco Liriano
NL: Ryan Zimmerman