September 2006


Football picksSeptember 1, 2006

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Baseball picksSeptember 1, 2006

2006 MLB Preview – American League

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2006 MLB Preview: American League

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By Issac Miller Sports-Central.org

It was an interesting offseason in the American League. The Blue Jays made some noise by signing pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J Ryan. The Red Sox added Coco Crisp and Josh Beckett. In the West, the A's acquired Milton Bradley to help the offense and the Rangers signed Kevin Millwood to help their pitching.

Some burning questions still remain. Who will be this year's Chicago White Sox? Will the Yankees regain their position on top of the American League?

To obtain a clear picture of the 2006 landscape, the success of the 2005 White Sox must be looked at. The New York Yankees should be checked out, as well, because they are always the team to beat in the AL. There is talent in every division, but in the end, the strongest team will be out West.

It seems that there is a team every year that overachieves for a while, only to lose to a hotter team in October. In 2005, the White Sox looked like another mediocre AL Central team reminiscent of the 2002-2004 Minnesota Twins. They appeared to have peaked too early, winning 57 games by the All-Star Break. Guys like Scott Podsednik and Jon Garland played outside of their minds in the first half. By the Midsummer Classic, Podsednik had stolen a ridiculous 44 bases and Garland had already won 14 games. Garland did not even start the All-Star Game; his teammate, Mark Buehrle, did.

Chicago slowed down, however, posting a 26-28 record from August 1st-September 27th. All signs pointed to a disappointing October. Chicago turned things around nicely, however, and started rolling. The White Sox went 16-1 after September 27th, including 11-1 in the playoffs. They were the hottest team in October, and maybe they were actually as good as their 99 wins would suggest.

As a Red Sox fan, I recall being thrilled when Boston got matched-up against the White Sox instead of the Angels in the first round of the playoffs. I thought the Red Sox would easily get to the ALCS. A lack of star power and household names made Chicago look beatable. Throw in a mediocre record after the All-Star Break, a terrible division, and 88 years of history and suddenly the team with the best record in the American League is an underdog. The Red Sox took Ozzie Guillen's club for granted and received a three-game wildcard beat-down. The Angels and Astros never stood a chance.

So, looking to the upcoming 2006 season, it seems unlikely that the White Sox will win it all again. The 2005 Sox will be in contention for the AL Central crown, but will likely come up short. Chicago will not be able to duplicate the magic of 2005 without repeat performances from Garland and Podsednik, among others.

So, if not them, who? The favorite to win the 2006 World Series (based on several online sportsbooks) is the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers have the best team on paper, but that is nothing new. Joe Torre has no shortage of talent, and the Yanks will be in the middle of it for sure. Nevertheless, the Yankees have not won a title since owner George Steinbrenner went insane and starting stockpiling talent. There's a big difference between the 2005 Chicago White Sox and the 2002-2006 New York Yankees.

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In 2000, the Yankees beat the New York Mets in five games to win their 26th world championship and their fourth in five years. Winning titles takes role players, defense, and chemistry. The Yankees had that down to a science from 1996-2000. Since then, the team has been completely rebuilt, replacing the likes of Scott Brosius and Andy Pettitte. Steinbrenner has acquired Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, and Johnny Damon. Some big names have even come and gone like Javier Vazquez and Jose Contreras. Despite those additions, a 27th championship ring eludes Mr. Steinbrenner. Simply hoarding big-name players does not guarantee titles.

So five years without a ring and payroll and expectations are skyrocketing for the guys in pinstripes. That being said, the 2006 squad looks like a legitimate contender. GM Brian Cashman revamped the bullpen by adding Kyle Farnsworth and Octavio Dotel. The Yankees have a monster lineup, a solid bullpen, and, barring injuries, an adequate starting rotation. Johnny Damon, signed via free agency, adds defensive help in centerfield, which was a major problem in 2005. Also, look for Robinson Cano to improve from an impressive rookie campaign in which he had 155 hits in 132 games. Overall, the Yanks look better than they did a year ago.

With all the stars in pinstripes, it's hard to pick against them. The problem is that there is always a hotter team in October. New York was eliminated before getting to play last year's hottest club, the White Sox, but from 2001-2004, the Yanks lost to the eventual champs each year. The Yankees will always be there in October, but it's hard to compete in the postseason with inferior pitching, no matter how good you're hitting is. The Bombers eventually succumb to quality pitching and defense.

For 2006, the starters must be consistent for New York to win it all. That means that Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina need to intimidate and frighten opponents. Neither did that last year. Both were way too vulnerable. If they don't perform, New York will have another painful October.

Ultimately, the Yankees will win the AL East. New York will easily get to 96 or 97 wins with that $200 million roster and with some luck, that number could end up as high as 100 or 101. Boston will be right behind them in the area of 95 wins, depending on the performances of Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox gel with all the new additions.

The x-factor in the AL East will be the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays will not make the playoffs, but they will determine the wildcard team. If Toronto wins between 85 and 87 games, the Red Sox win total will go down to around 90. This will open the door for the White Sox, Angels, or Rangers to make the playoffs as the wildcard team. The new additions to the Jays squad, along with regulars like Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay, make them dangerous to the teams in the AL East, which have to play Toronto just under 20 times each.

In the AL Central, look for the Cleveland Indians to pick up where they left off at the end of the 2005 season. Cleveland went 19-8 in September a season ago, 93-69 overall, and should take advantage of a poor division. Cleveland gets 55 games in 2006 against Minnesota, Detroit, and Kansas City. The Indians also have an easy interleague schedule, playing nine games against the Reds, Cubs, and Brewers.

Cleveland will cruise to over 90 wins en route to an AL Central title. Look for the Tribe to finish with around 94 or 95 wins, possibly as many as 97 or 98.

The AL West will be interesting in '06, as well. The Texas Rangers have a monster lineup full of young stars. They should win a lot of games if the pitching can improve even slightly from last year. Texas ranked 26th in team ERA a season ago, prompting them to sign pitcher Kevin Millwood, who led all AL pitchers in ERA last year. The overall pitching staff is still suspect, though, and middle relief will be a major problem in 2006. Look for this club to make a serious wildcard push while winning 85 or 86 games.

Oakland always hangs around with fantastic pitching and timely hitting. Oakland will win this division in 2006 with four nasty starting pitchers. Rich Harden will win 20 games if he's healthy. Dan Haren will improve from a 14 win 2005 season. Barry Zito is a former Cy Young award winner and newcomer Esteban Loaiza is a crafty veteran who will settle into his role nicely in Oakland. There could be 60 wins in these four guys. Reigning AL Rookie of the Year Huston Street anchors the bullpen and could be an all-star this year.

Oakland also added Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley to help Eric Chavez and Bobby Kielty on offense. The A's will be too much for a strong Anaheim club. Oakland wins 94 or 95 games behind the best pitching staff in the American League. Anaheim will win between 86 and 88 games competing heavily for a wildcard berth, and second place in the division, with Texas.

2006 should be an entertaining year in the AL. Texas and Toronto bulked up in an effort to finish better than third in their respective divisions. Both will contribute greatly to the overall playoff picture. When the smoke clears, however, the division champs will be New York, Cleveland, and Oakland. The wildcard representative will be Boston.

New York will beat Cleveland and meet Oakland in the ALCS. It will be the best lineup in baseball against the best pitching in baseball. Oakland wins in seven games with Harden throwing the game of his life in Yankee Stadium to win Game 7. A-Rod will bat .150 in the series.

The fact is that without a salary cap in the majors, New York is allowed to spend over $200 million. This results in regular season wins, maybe over 100 in '06.

There are more than 10 former all-stars on the Yanks and at least four future Hall of Fame inductees. But think of them like the 1980 Russian Olympic Hockey team. The U.S. team was overmatched, but won because they had more motivation and just wanted it more. Chicago wanted it more last year. Look for Oakland to be the team in 2006 that wants it more than the Yankees in the American League.

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Baseball picksSeptember 1, 2006

2006 MLB Preview – National League

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2006 MLB Preview: National League

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By Issac Miller Sports-Central.org

The St. Louis Cardinals have made the playoffs five of the last six seasons. Manager Tony LaRussa's club has also won four of the last six NL Central titles. Clearly, St. Louis is the team to beat in the National League. The Cardinals have won 205 games in the last two seasons with no signs of slowing down.

There is some competition in the NL Central, though. The Brewers may surprise a lot of people this year, but they are not realistic competition for St. Louis. The Reds and Pirates are another few years from being competitive, so the Cards need to watch out for the Cubs and Astros.

The Cubs are interesting because of their starting pitchers. With healthy seasons from Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, the Cubs can make a push for the division crown. The problem is that Wood is 11-13 over the last two years. In fact, Kerry has never had more than 14 wins in a season and has a career ERA of 3.67. He has impressive strikeout numbers, but he needs to learn to win more games and protect his body. If he posts another .500 season, Chicago will not reach 75 wins.

As for Prior, he is entering his fifth season in the league. Like Wood, he has yet to pitch up to his potential. He has 719 strikeouts in four seasons, but only a record of 41-23. Remove an 18-6 2003 campaign and Prior is 23-17 for the Cubs. He needs to step up in 2006 and win between 18-21 games in order for the Cubs to make any noise in the NL.

St. Louis is looking at a third straight 100-win season. The Houston Astros will be unable to produce enough runs to win the Central. Quality pitchers like Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Brandon Backe, and Brad Lidge will ensure at least 80 wins for Houston. This number will go up to 85 or 86 if the hitting improves from 2005, a season in which the Astros hit .256 as a club. Look for Houston and Chicago to fight for second place in the division, and also battle some NL East teams for the wildcard.

The Cardinals will win between 100 and 103 games in 2006. St. Louis has 46 games against the Reds, Brewers, and Pirates. LaRussa's team also gets interleague games with Kansas City and Detroit. With 2005 NL MVP Albert Pujols and 2005 Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter on the roster, the Cardinals will cruise to the best record in baseball. There's just too much talent in St. Louis.

Then there's the NL West. There are huge holes in all five teams that make this the worst division in the majors. This is the like the NFC North or the NBA's Atlantic Division. One of these teams will make the playoffs, but don't expect more than 88 wins from the division champs.

The San Francisco Giants still have Barry Bonds, the game's best player, but age is a concern for the Giants. SS Omar Vizquel is 39, OF Moises Alou is 40, and Bonds is 42. Also on the roster is 39-year-old Steve Finley. The Giants will contend for the division, but aging veterans tend to break down over 162 games.

A bright spot for the Giants is OF Randy Winn. He was acquired by San Francisco last season and hit .359 in 58 games for the Giants. He is also solid defensively, which SF needs to be successful.

The fact remains that the Giants will go only as far as Barry Bonds takes them. If he hits .350, 40 homers, 120 RBI, and has a .500 OBP, the Giants can win 85 games. At 42-years-old, those numbers would be remarkable. That's not to say it can't happen, but look for more modest numbers from the aging Bonds. Wins in the 72-78 range is more realistic because of a weak pitching staff anchored by Jason Schmidt and Matt Morris.

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So, who wins this terrible division? Don't look for Arizona or Colorado to win more than 70 games each. The Padres were two games over .500 in '05, which was good enough to win the division last year. San Diego will win 72 or 73 games in 2006, and finish third in the division. The new names on the Padres, like Mike Piazza and Mike Cameron, will not result in any more wins for San Diego.

The fact is that the Dodgers look ready to make a move in the NL West. Los Angeles had a disappointing 2005 season, finishing with just 71 wins after winning the division in 2004. L.A. has Derek Lowe and Brad Penny in the starting rotation, along with newcomers Jae Seo and Brett Tomko. Seo started 14 games for the Mets last year and went 8-2 with a 2.59 ERA. With these guys, the Dodgers should have the best rotation in the NL West.

The bullpen is stronger with the additions of Danys Baez and Lance Carter, but the biggest difference will be the return of closer Eric Gagne. He only pitched in 14 games last year, but should be healthy by Opening Day. The Dodgers might have the best bullpen in the NL if all of these guys perform well.

The Dodgers' pitching looks good, but they improved offensively as well. L.A. picked up Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal, Bill Mueller, and Kenny Lofton. The Dodgers will have a potent offense behind the likes of Hee-Seop Choi, Jeff Kent, Ricky Ledee, Jose Cruz, Jr., and the new guys. This is the best team on paper with a ceiling of around 95 wins. Look for L.A. to win the NL West with closer to 87 or 88 wins.

Last year, San Diego made the playoffs by winning 82 games. There were three teams in the NL East that missed the playoffs with better records. That's the advantage of a weak division. While Philadelphia, New York, and Florida were beating up on each other, the Padres breezed through garbage teams in the West. The 2006 NL East should be as competitive as last year, maybe more so.

Atlanta is looking for their 15th straight division title. The Braves don't look like the best team in the East, but after 14 seasons finishing on top, I would not bet against them. Atlanta showed off some great young talent in 2005. Jeff Francoeur hit .300 as a rookie last year. Adam LaRoche had career highs in home runs and RBI last year, as well. Wilson Betemit hit .305 in 2005, and has one of the quickest bats I've ever seen. He is a future all-star. There is some serious young talent in Atlanta to go with Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, John Smoltz, and Tim Hudson.

The Braves will win 90 games in 2006. It will be interesting to see if that's enough to win the division. The Marlins let go of most of their talent during the offseason and the guys they kept will not win 75 games. The Nationals probably overachieved to finish .500 last season. There just isn't enough talent on this squad to contend in a stacked NL East.

The Phillies just missed the playoffs a season ago, winning 88 games in the process. Philadelphia will win fewer games in 2006. The problem for the Phillies was pitching last year. Starters Jon Lieber, Vicente Padilla, Randy Wolf, and Cory Lidle all had ERAs over 4.00. Philly lacks an ace on the staff and losing Billy Wagner is going to kill the bullpen. In '06, the hitting will not be able to compensate for pitching that will be worse than it was in '05. Philly will win 83 games at most, but don't be surprised if they end up with fewer wins than Washington.

Which brings us to the New York Metropolitans. The Mets have the second highest payroll in baseball and loads of talent. Anything short of a division title will be a disappointment. In addition to guys like Carlos Beltran, Kaz Matsui, David Wright, and Cliff Floyd, the Mets added Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca. This lineup could be absolutely deadly.

The bullpen is dangerous as well with the additions of flamethrowers Billy Wagner and Jorge Julio. The Mets also added Chad Bradford, who can be tough on right-handed hitters. If this team can get to the seventh inning with a lead, these guys will do the rest.

The problem lies in New York's starting pitching. The Mets lost Kris Benson and Jae Seo and did not replace them. Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, and Victor Zambrano are the core of the rotation, but other guys are going to have to step up. If they don't get quality starts from Steve Trachsel and Aaron Heilman, the Mets will miss the playoffs.

Look for the Braves to win their 15th straight division title with 90 wins. Losing pitching coach Leo Mazzone might hurt this team over the next few years, but they still have Smoltz, Hudson, John Thompson, and Jorge Sosa in the rotation. Combined with powerful offensive guys, the Braves are the team to beat. The Mets will put together a solid season and make the playoffs as the wildcard team. New York will finish with 88 or 89 wins.

The 2006 NL playoffs will consist of the Cardinals, Dodgers, Braves, and Mets. The Mets will be beat up, having struggled through the month of September playing must-win games every night. The rested Red Birds, having clinched the NL Central in late August, will make short work of New York, winning in four games, losing Game 3 in NY.

The interesting part of all this is that the Mets and Braves will be battling for the right to play the Dodgers, in addition to the division crown. Because teams from the same division cannot play each other in the first round of the playoffs, the team that wins the NL East will get to play the Dodgers and the wildcard team, assuming it comes from the East, will play the Cardinals. That being said, the Braves are better than the Dodgers in almost every area and will win that series in three or four games.

The Braves will play the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. Atlanta will be tired from flying across the country to play Los Angeles and will be a step slow against St. Louis. It is clear that the Cardinals are the best team in the NL, maybe in all of baseball, and when October rolls around, they're the team to beat.

Look for an exciting A's/Cards World Series. St. Louis will be the best team in baseball for the third straight year, and LaRussa's club will finally have a ring to show for it.

 

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Baseball picksSeptember 1, 2006

2006 MLB Baseball Preview

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By Jeff Pohlmeyer Sports-Central.org

All of a sudden now that football is officially over, pitchers and catchers report to training camp next week, which means the 2006 Major League Baseball season is just around the corner. The first few months of the season don't really matter with teams warming up and trying to find their chemistry, which works out well considering we've got March Madness and then the playoffs in the NHL and that league where they pretend to play basketball.

Also, with the joke of a tournament called the World Baseball Classic taking place in March, it'll take a little bit of extra time for the players to get into their team chemistry because they'll have to change mindsets quickly from national pride to the reasons they're getting paid seven and eight figures a year.

In the next coming weeks and months, you'll have people on different websites and in magazines and newspapers making their predictions for this season, so let me be the first to tell you what is going to happen this season in the major leagues in a division-by-division breakdown followed by breakdowns of the playoffs all the way up until the World Series.

NL East

1. New York Mets
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Washington Nationals
4. Philadelphia Phillies
5. Florida Marlins

The NL East has moved up significantly in the standings of best division in the league as the Mets will finally be the team that unseats the Braves as division champs. They gained a lot of good players as they unloaded the players that hurt the team and as long as the players mesh, this team could push 95 wins this season.

The Braves didn't pickup enough after losing five good players, with their biggest signing being Edgar Renteria. If he can manage to anchor the infield and be as good as he was two years ago, then they should be good to compete for the wildcard.

The Nationals will be hard up to do anything special with the Mets and Braves in their division. They didn't lose anyone that they couldn't afford to replace and they finally might have some offense, but it'll be hard to make noise this season because of their division.

The Phillies have lost a bit from last season after losing too much and not picking up anyone noteworthy, and they should have a hard time finishing above this spot. The Marlins should be replaced with a triple-A team because that's pretty much all this team is. I'd be surprised if they won 50 games this season.

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NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Houston Astros
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Cincinnati Reds

There is no team in this division that really separated themselves in terms of offseason preparation. It will be hard for any of these teams to catch the Cardinals because they've managed to stay at about the same quality compared to last year. They lost some quality players, but managed to replace them with players that are capable of playing to the same ability and it will be hard for any team to match their offensive power this season.

The Brewers are coming off of their best season in a long time and are poised to make a postseason run. They lost one notable player and managed to solidify their pitching to make it better than last season. If the chemistry can stay solid throughout the season, then they should be even better than last season.

The Astros will be here if Roger Clemens retires. He was the anchor of the rotation when Andy Pettitte was struggling in the beginning of the year and neither Pettitte nor Roy Oswalt look to be able to be a good number one in a rotation.

The Cubs did a little bit of positive work this winter, but it was all voided when they stupidly signed Juan Pierre. The reason that they're here is because they can never manage to have their big two pitchers pitching to their potential at the same time when they're both healthy. The Pirates have a good core of young players, but they're not good enough to make any noise in this division. They picked up some good players, but they lost too many good ones to increase their possibilities from last season.

The Reds have underachieved for the past few seasons and this season will be different. The reason that it will be different is because nobody should expect the Reds to do anything special this year and they won't be disappointed.

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. San Francisco Giants
4. San Diego Padres
5. Colorado Rockies

Last season, the NL West should have had their automatic playoff berth taken away. Saying that the Padres limped into the playoffs is an understatement, which means that the NL West seems to be up for grabs this season. The Dodgers are the team that will move up and take control of the division. They have the pitching potential and the solid infield play that can seize control of the division early on and just hold on enough that the other teams in the division will fall around them. Good for the Dodgers that that's all that's necessary to win this weakest of the divisions this season.

The Diamondbacks are going to stay in second place this season because of the lack of quality on the other three teams. They lost some core players from last season's second place team, but they also managed to replace the lost players well enough that they can stay close to the Dodgers, but not close enough for a wildcard.

This season will show Barry Bonds' true colors. He's lost a lot of weight supposedly to help his knee, and there's no way that he'll break the career home run record this season. He's not as imposing as he was two years ago and with an above-middle-aged outfield and with only Matt Morris worth talking about in the rotation, they'll struggle and underachieve this year before needing to resign Bonds to a $4 billion contract or something like that.

The Padres are a mess: they have no pitching outside of number one and they lost more than they gained. They luckily limped into the division title last season and they should limp into a 65-win season this year. Pitching and defense win championships and a good ERA in Colorado being around 4.50 doesn't ever bode well for the Rockies.

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AL East

1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Let the "buying the division" talk start. The Yankees will yet again be the class of the AL East. They have the best lineup in the league and their underachieving rotation from last year should be better this year. As long as Joe Torre can understand that Mike Mussina isn't a number two pitcher anymore and if the young pitchers can stay healthy and solid, the Yankees have the middle relief to complete their pitching staff and rival the White Sox of last year.

A lot of ifs surround Beantown this upcoming season. Those ifs include if the veteran pitching holds up and if the new pitching plays to their potential and if the new players can hit like they have in the past. The truth is, though, they lost too many of their core from their World Series team from two years ago to contend for the division. They should still be good, though, and will be in a close race for the wildcard. Mark my words, though, David Ortiz will never win AL MVP as a DH.

The Blue Jays made some very good yet expensive moves. They improved their pitching marginally, but I'm still not sold on crowning them number two considering their two big moves are a combined 65-69 with 42 career saves. They're going in the right direction, but they don't have the money to keep up with the Red Sox and Yankees. Look for them to make a serious push for the AL wildcard and only lose out on it by one or two games.

The Orioles took a serious step back this season. They started off strong last year and then lost a lot of steam at the end of the season. They haven't done anything in the offseason to make anyone in the country think that they will finish within five games of last season.

You have to feel bad for the Devil Rays for being in this division. They have no hope in competing in this division for the next 10 years at least. There's nothing really more you can say about them.

AL Central

1. Chicago White Sox
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Detroit Tigers

This division is hard to judge in terms of the second-place team. Neither team did too much to shore up a serious advantage and all the defending World Series champions had to do to stay in control was lose some excess weight and fill in a couple of gaps. The White Sox will not repeat this season, they're not that good. They'll win the division because it's the second-weakest one besides the NL West, but after that, you can't expect the pitchers to be the same as they were last year. They'll make some noise and make some teams sweat, but they won't put together another great year.

The same sort of thing can be said for the Indians. They went 46-28 after the All-Star Break while winning 17 of 19 at one point and I guarantee you that won't happen again. The reason for that is that they lost their two top starters from last year's team that helped them win all those games. What did the Twins do this past winter? Absolutely nothing. They shored up a little bit of offensive help, but they sacrificed a solid, young pitcher to do that. The offense will still be pretty anemic and now they won't be able to hold a lead, so this is going to be another season of ho-hum baseball in the Twin Cities.

The Royals did a phenomenal job in bringing in new talent to Kansas City, but don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying they'll contend. Last season, they lost 106 games and have lost 100 or more in three of the past four seasons. I wouldn't be surprised to see a seven in the tens column of the wins at the end of the year for this team, though, as they should be a scrappy bunch.

The pitching for the Tigers got marginally better over the winter and you can expect Pudge Rodriguez to have just as bad of a season as he did last year (well, maybe not that bad) because he's done in the league. I give him two more years, tops.

AL West

1. Oakland A's
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners

This could be the best division in baseball this year. The A's are looking for their new big three pitchers to lead them to a great year this season with Barry Zito, Rich Harden, and Dan Haren. They need solid relief pitching again this season from their rookie of the year closer, and they have to have chemistry in the clubhouse for this young but very good team to stay in the hunt, which might be hard with Milton Bradley in the clubhouse this year. They'll be good, though, so watch out.

The Angels are again a very good team that will be in the playoff hunt all season long. Don't expect Bartolo Colon to retain his form of last year's Cy Young campaign, but even with the pitchers they've lost they'll have a great rotation and will be in desperate need for offense as the trade deadline approaches.

The Rangers finally have some pitching, even though they had to give up some of that good offense to get it. They'll have a very solid infield and good hitting yet again this year, but this time, they'll have the pitching to lead them to a lot of victories. They'll be looking for some relief pitching at the trade deadline and that's what will keep them out of the playoffs.

The Mariners have some bad fortune this year again. Their pitching is either too young or too old and we can see now that they grossly overpaid one of their big free agent signings from a year ago. They need an overhaul of the bullpen in order to mold their star 19-year-old into the league's next great pitcher, and they'll sacrifice this season to do it.

Playoffs

NLDS — Cardinals over Braves and Mets over Dodgers
ALDS — Yankees over Angels and A's over White Sox

NLCS — Cardinals over Mets
ALCS — Yankees over A's

World Series — Yankees over Cardinals, 4-2

 

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Baseball picksSeptember 1, 2006

2006 MLB Top 10 Players

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Top 10 MLB Players Under the '06 Radar

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By Mike Round Sports-Central.org

With the Super Bowl signifying the end of the pro football season this Sunday, it's time for attention to switch to the upcoming baseball season, which some of us are already guilty of.

I'm in the wife's doghouse at present — again. Not content with spending the winter fine-tuning my fantasy draft cheat sheets, on a walk with my 6-year-old daughter last week, I let my baseball obsession get the better of me. She innocently enquired when winter would end and what season came next.

Without thinking of the repercussions, I replied, "Winter ends when pitchers and catchers report, and then it's spring." Later, this was relayed to her mother, who corrected my error by mentioning something about wearing white again and sandals. At present, more children is listed as questionable.

The point I'm making is that it's never too early to get yourself in the right frame of mind for draft day. A winter trade can change the fantasy value of more than the players involved, so don't get caught playing catch-up the day before the draft. It's not easy ploughing through rosters in the early hours of the morning in the hope of spotting a potential bargain.

The early rounds are fairly easy to predict, but your team can be upgraded from the middle rounds onwards if you fine-tune your thinking. You can avoid having to spend hours scouring the waiver wire by taking the latter rounds just as seriously as the first four or five. Despite some spotty results in recent years in my own leagues (I blame injuries, of course), I still believe the latter rounds will make or break a draft.

So, onto my own predictions for a breakout season.

1. Chris Young (R), SP, San Diego Padres

At first, I couldn't believe the Rangers waved goodbye to the 6'8" righty in the trade that got Adam Eaton. Then I thought about it and it makes sense. Young is a fly ball biased pitcher and those can get seriously punished in Arlington. The Ranger brass thought Young got a bit lucky during his hot spell in '05 and noted after the break his ERA ballooned to 4.26. The spacious outfield in Petco will be more to his liking and he notched up a respectable 137 Ks in 164.2 innings. The Padres don't score like the Rangers, but they'll win enough games to keep his owners happy.

2. Chris Ray (R), RP, Baltimore Orioles

The perfect example of how a trade can suddenly elevate a player's value who wasn't involved in the actual trade. Ray had next to no fantasy value last year, but with B.J. Ryan taking the free agent dollars from Toronto, Ray is suddenly a relatively hot commodity. He's only had 41 appearances in the majors, but acquitted himself with great credit, striking out 43 batters in less than 41 innings and posting a respectable 2.66 ERA. The front office was so sure he's the man for the ninth that they made no attempt to bring in a vet after Ryan walked. The only worries are that he blew four save attempts last year and he walks too many. These problems can be corrected with experience.

3. Matt Cain (R), SP, San Francisco Giants

Felix Hernandez will be snagged in the early rounds by those dazzled by his September audition, but don't despair. Fellow '05 rookie Matt Cain will hang around long enough to represent the value that Hernandez doesn't. Cain came up in late August and posted a less-than earth shattering 2-1 record. Look below the surface and Cain actually had a better ERA than Hernandez (2.33 to 2.67) and a better WHIP (0.93 to 1.00). Admittedly, Felix threw nearly twice as many innings as Cain, but nevertheless, Cain showed enough to be a nice pickup. His nine-inning gem against the Cubs in a 2-1 win was the highlight of his seven starts. The Giants took Cain in the first round in 2002 and it looks a shrewd selection.

4. Brandon Webb (R), SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Webb was once firmly on everybody's radar screen after a fine 2003 when he came within a whisker of taking the NL Rookie of the Year title. A 2.84 ERA with opponents hitting a measly .212 against him put him firmly on everybody's wanted list. Since then, things have slipped. In '04, he only won seven games and had a .248 BAA. Last year, he won more games (14), but the K rate dropped again and the BAA went up to .265. But there are reasons for optimism. Arizona play in a weak division, so wins won't be a problem and the infield defense looks a lot stronger with Orlando Hudson at second, a big plus for a pitcher who gets a fair number of groundball outs. If Webb hits his '03 form again, he'll be a bargain pickup.

5. Chris Capuano (L), SP, Milwaukee Brewers

Capuano has had three seasons in the majors on two not very good teams — Arizona and Milwaukee — but still has a winning record (26-24). He's poised, on a better Milwaukee team, to make the big break out this year. The stuff is there, including a heater that touches almost 100 mph on the gun, and he's now well-versed on NL hitters. He strikes out over seven batters per nine innings. The only worries are the walks (91 last year) and the fact that he threw 219 innings in '05, a hefty rise in workload. Despite this, I want him on my roster if he's there in the middle rounds.

6. Khalil Greene, SS, San Diego Padres

Greene has had two full seasons in the majors and he's not fulfilled his potential at the plate as yet, although he has a nice glove. For a first round pick (13th overall) in 2002, he has a lot left to prove. If anything, the numbers took a slight decline last year. Both seasons have seen spells on the DL and that's a worry for a young player with few miles on the clock. But, given an injury-free year on a decent hitting team, Greene could hit .280 plus with 85 RBIs and 75 runs. Not a bad return if you grab him in the latter rounds. He's no Miguel Tejada, but he's no Adam Everett, either.

7. Matt Holliday, LF, Colorado Rockies

As usual with Colorado hitters, he's awesome at home. He hits .348 in Coors and a hundred points less on the road in his short career. His home OPS is 1.005. Those 75 games or so in Coors will seriously help your batting average if you can afford to bench him on the road. With only two full seasons in the majors, he could learn to hit away from the rarefied air of Denver. Don't go too soon on him, but if he's there late and you need a fourth outfielder, he's worth a punt.

8. Grady Sizemore, CF, Cleveland Indians

Sizemore wasn't on anybody's radar screen last year, but it will be a different scenario in '06. You won't see Sizemore still available after the third or fourth rounds in any draft, but he'll be worth a high pick. He's 23, has speed, decent power, and plays on a hot young ball club. Last year's numbers really catch the eye for a second-year player. Expect a 30-30 season with a batting average around .300 and 90 plus RBIs if he stays healthy. The base running could improve (10 CS in 32 attempts last year), but that's a minor quibble.

9. Chad Tracy, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks

On a mediocre ball club in '05, Tracy really stepped it up in his second season in the majors. This year could be even better with more men on base for him. A robust .308 average with 27 homers and 72 RBIs was a quantum leap for Tracy from his 143 games in his rookie year. With even minimal improvement, he'll crack 30 home runs and get close to 100 RBIs. The one reservation is that he's slated to be the every day third baseman, a position new to him. If it doesn't distract him at the plate, he'll be a monster and make everybody in Phoenix forget the Troy Glaus experiment. Don't leave it too late to snag him.

10. Mike Jacobs, 1B, Florida Marlins

This is a real flyer as the Marlins figure to be poor in '06. The roster has been gutted (again) by owner Jeff Loria, who wants either a new stadium, funded by the hard-pressed taxpayer unsurprisingly, or a new city to play ball in. With one or two exceptions, the Marlins will put out a AAA team, so don't figure to win much except when Dontrelle Willis is on the mound. Nevertheless, they will score runs and play hard, so don't necessarily avoid Marlin players at all costs. Jacobs looked awesome in the few games we saw him in '05 (30) with the Mets. Traded in the Carlos Delgado deal, Jacobs will be the everyday 1B in Florida and he could make a serious impact. In those 30 games, he slugged 11 homers at .310. He won't keep that pace up in the cavernous spaces of Dolphins Stadium, but he could represent a nice second option at 1B.

 

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Football picksSeptember 1, 2006

NFL Odds on Terrell Owens Confrontation

WagerWeb.com Posts Odds on Possible Terrell Owens Confrontation

Bettors Can Predict Which Member of the Dallas Cowboys Will Be The First Involved

San Jose, Costa Rica – April 19, 2006 – Wagerweb.com, one of the largest sports betting sites on the Internet, posted odds today for sports fans to bet on which member of the Dallas Cowboys players and staff, if any, will be the first involved in a verbal/physical confrontation with Terrell Owens during the 2006 NFL season. Cynicism and skepticism from various football fans and sports media surround Terrell Owens’ ability to get through the 2006 season without a face-to-face disagreement. Should there be an altercation, WagerWeb.com favors Drew Bledsoe heavily, while Head Coach Bill Parcells and Owner Jerry Jones follow.

"WagerWeb.com gives bettors the most opportunities to predict outcomes of the top controversies in the sports world,” says Dave Johnson, CEO of WagerWeb.com. He adds, “Sports fans, more than any other group, get into heated discussions about players, games and teams, sometimes even betting with their friends or co-workers. We want to be where the action is, and our sports bets reflect that."

The outcome is determined by the first verbal and/or physical confrontation reported by ESPN.com between Owens and another person from the following list. A confrontation is defined as a face-to-face hostile disagreement. The lines:

Drew Bledsoe QB  -400
Bill Parcells Coach +100
Jerry Jones Owner +300
Mike Vanderjagt K  +400
Drew Henson QB +500
Julius Jones RB +600
Marion Barber RB +800
Terry Glenn WR +1000
Patrick Crayton WR +1200
Jason Witten TE +1300
Jason Fabini OT +1400
Marco Rivera OG +1500
DeMarcus Ware LB +1600
Aaron Glenn CB +1800
Roy Williams S +2000
Remaining Cowboy Roster Players +200

The wager has action through the 2006-2007 NFL season. If Owens is not involved in any type of confrontation with any of the players listed above this season all bets are deemed no action and wagers are cancelled.

About WagerWeb
Wagerweb.com, founded in 1997, is a privately held, offshore online gaming company, fully licensed and located in San Jose, Costa Rica. With almost 10 years of experience, innovation and gaming technology, Wagerweb.com features a sportsbook, racebook and casino and has accepted more than 50,000,000 wagers since the company’s launch.

Media Contact: Dan Grody
Tellem Worldwide
310.479.6111 x10
dgrody@tellem.com

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