Here Comes Baseball
The weather is changing and the basketball is getting exciting… must be baseball season once again. Baseball is entering an interesting time period as steroid use has been exposed. Believe me, it has been rampant throughout MLB Clubhouses for years and it will be interesting to see how it affects some of the players, particularly the long ball and relief pitching. Some teams, like the Mets, Diamondbacks and Yankees made huge moves in the off-season to bolster their clubs. Guys, Wunderdog is chomping at the bit for this baseball season. It is truly time to start thinking baseball. 2004 ended on a 130-89 run on picks. Again, this will be a huge year for us on the diamond. Don’t miss it.
New York Yankees
Randy Johnson (Trade)
Carl Pavano (FA)
Tony Womack (FA)
Mike Stanton (Trade)
New York Mets
Carlos Beltran (FA)
Pedro Martinez (FA)
Tim Hudson (FA)
Dan Kolb (FA)
Raul Mondesi (FA)
Sammy Sosa (Trade)
Steve Kline (FA)
Steve Reed (FA)
Chris Gomez (FA)
Carlos Delgado (FA)
Al Leiter (FA)
Antonio Alfonseca (FA)
Shawn Green (Trade)
Jose Cruz Jr. (Trade)
Troy Glaus (FA)
Russ Ortiz (FA)
Javier Vazquez (Trade)
Shawn Estes (FA)
Royce Clayton (FA)
Jose Jimenez (FA)
AL Cy Young – Randy Johnson, RHP, New York Yankees
This is ridiculous. The Unit in pinstripes. He was great last year, although his numbers did not show it, because he pitched for the worst team in the league. He still had 290 strikeouts and a 2.60 ERA last year under those circumstances. God blessed him and sent him to the Yanks where he may win 30 games. You read that right….30 games.
NL Cy Young – Jason Schmidt, RHP – San Francisco Giants
If the Giants do contend, it will be behind the right arm of Schmidt. He was unhittable at times last season and should keep it going. Losing Bonds will not affect the Giants defense, it will probably help it so Schmidt should thrive. He rarely gives up many runs and should put himself in the range of 18-22 wins once again.
AL MVP – Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees
Something tells us Alex is about ready to explode. He struggled adjusting to the Big City last season, but still put up very respectable numbers. Expect him to have a huge summer and lead the Yankees to the American League Pennant.
AL Rookie of the Year – Nick Swisher – OF – Oakland A’s
The next in a long line of great young players produced by Billy Beane’s farm system. Swisher was a first round pick in 2002, and hit 29 home runs last season in Triple A. Beane let Dye go because he loves Swisher’s stick and high ceiling. Swisher was one of the centerpieces in the book Money Ball.
NL MVP – Albert Pujols, 1B – St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols is a monster, and he is becoming one of the best defensive first baseman in the game. If this lineup can stay healthy, it will be scary good. Pujols is now protected from all sides with Walker and Edmonds so his numbers may improve from his big season last summer.
AL East Champions – New York Yankees
Adding the Big Unit and Pavano sent a message around the league that the Yankees, more importantly Steinbrenner, do not plan on the letting the Red Sox relive last season in 2005-2006. This team is the most stacked we have ever seen. Again, they must stay healthy, but there will be no complacency this time around. This team could win 125 games, and we are not blowing smoke. Expect a lot of 3-1 and 4-1 lines here. Full AL East Preview
AL Central Champions – Minnesota Twins
The Twins should win this division, but they’ll be banking on a lot of rookies to get it done offensively, specifically Joe Mauer. If Mauer is as advertised this season, and able to avoid the injuries which have cost some professional seasons, this team will rule the Central. They’ll also trot out youngsters in Cuddyer, Mourneau, and Rivas. The outfield is stacked once again with Torii Hunter, Shannon Stewart and Jaque Jones. Some of those young kids will have the opportunity to drive in a ton of runs. The pitching staff is deep once again and returns Santana, Radke and closer Joe Nathan. If the Twins falter, the door will open for another young but talented team in the Indians. Full AL Central Preview
AL West – Anaheim Angels
Hard to go against a team with a lineup like this one. You have to wonder what could have happened one year ago had Troy Glaus not gone out with an injury. Vlad Guerrero and Garret Anderson are back to lead the attack, and the addition of Orlando Cabrera will bolster the defense. Much of the offensive success here will depend on whether or not Chone Figgins can duplicate the season he had last year. He did a great job setting the table for the big bats and scored a ton of runs. The suspect side here is the pitching. I still see their rotation as average, and they’ll depend on Esteban Yan as the set-up man to closer Francisco Rodriguez. As long as Rodriguez throws his fast ball for strikes, he’ll be fine. We see LA winning the West this year, as there is too much youth in Oakland right now.
AL Wildcard – Boston Red Sox
The feel good story of last year (unless you're a Yankee fan) was obviously the Sox. Gone are Pedro, Lowe, and Cabrera, who all had a major hand in their Series victory run last October. They have added some nice players though, and should challenge once again. Renteria may be an upgrade over Cabrera and Garciaparra, while Matt Clement will try to discover his form that made him a #1 draft pick years ago. The offense will score runs once again, but the bullpen is what will keep them from contending with the Yankees.
NL East Champions – Atlanta Braves
The Mets made the most noise in the NL East this Off-season, completely overhauling their roster, but they still do not have the arms nor the defense to win the division. The East should once again go to the Atlanta Braves, who have a great starting rotation once again. Smoltz moved back from the bullpen and Tim Hudson came over from the A’s. I remain miffed that the Braves let JD Drew go in free agency, but they still have a very potent offense led by Chipper and Andruw. Brian Jordan is back but he’ll get hurt pretty soon we’re sure. Dan Kolb, acquired from the Brewers will be relied on to close which should be interesting. Full NL East Preview
NL Central Champions – St. Louis Cardinals
This lineup is simply ridiculous. Pujols leads the way but Walker, Edmonds, Rolen and Sanders are no pushovers. This is nightmare for opposing pitchers. The Cardinals lost in the World Series last season due to their pitching staff’s inability to keep the games close with the Red Sox. Mark Mulder was brought over from the A’s to bloster the rotation. He takes Woody Williams spot and should make a huge difference. There just is not a team in the Central that can contend with the Cards. Full NL Central Preview
NL West Champions – San Diego Padres
Barry Bonds is a soft, guilty idiot. His injury leaves the door to the NL West wide open. Either Bonds is attempting to clear his body of the Clear, or his body cannot heal as quickly without its fix. Either way, his whining makes him look awful. The Giants will be relying on some young players on their pitching staff to come through. San Diego appears to have the best all around squad heading into the season. Jake Peavy is back as is Adam Eaton. Hoffman will be back to his old self in his second year after injuring his arm. If Ryan Klesko can have a better season than he did one year ago, this team will be very dangerous. Khalil Greene will improve on last year. The Padres are now legit once again. Full NL West Preview
NL Wildcard – Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies finally got rid of Larry Bowa and it should pay dividends as his players did not enjoy playing for him to say the least. Billy Wagner appears healthy. His presence will be big for the Phillies. Also expect Kenny Lofton to reinvent himself this season playing everyday once again in Philly. Burrell will prove that last year was a fluke and return to form, and Abreu is one of the top five hitters in the game right now. The question with the Phillies lies in the starting rotation where they’ll depend on Jon Leiber as their ace. He’ll be fine and so will the Phillies. They’re my early pick for the NL Wildcard. Other teams who will contend are the Dodgers, Astros and Giants.
Cleveland could easily win the Central this season. They essentially held a fire sale three years ago very similar to the Marlins. They got a bunch of great young talent in return and it is staring to grow up. Catcher Victor Martinez, shortstop Johnny Peralta, and outfielder Coco Crisp are all tremendous young talents who will end up being one of the best at their respective positions. Milwood was added to the rotation and Juan Gonzalez was added to the middle of the lineup. This will be a fun team. If the health holds up, they’ll definitely contend for the Wildcard and could overrun the Twins in the Central.
The Tigers keep adding quality and are no longer a laughing stock. They’ll need the young staff to come of age, but Bonderman, Maroth and Johnson are a formidable 1-3 in the rotation. They added Magglio Ordonez in the outfield. If he is recovered and kind find the form which made him an offensive juggernaut with the White Sox, this lineup will be very, very dangerous. Young is back and healthy and Pudge is back too. They overspent for Percival, and it will be interesting to see what he has left in the tank.
This may be a little early but at this point I really like the young team in the District of Columbia. Nick Johnson missed just about all of last year, and they’ll need him. Johnson is a clone of Todd Helton is Colorado. They added Guzman, Guillen and Castilla in the Off-season which will help in terms of veteran leadership. The staff remains solid, and always has been. The lack of pitching and offense has killed them in the past. This will be another entertaining team throughout the season.