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American League East

Jeff
Bower
Clay
Davenport
Jeff
Hildebrand
Gary
Huckabay
Rany
Jazayerli
Chris
Kahrl
Keith
Law
New York
Yankees
1 2 1 1 1 2 1
Boston
Red Sox
2 1 2 2 2 1 2
Toronto
Blue Jays
3 3 3 3 3 3 3
Tampa Bay
Devil Rays
4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Baltimore
Orioles
5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Mat
Olkin
Dave
Pease
Joe
Sheehan
Michael
Wolverton
Keith
Woolner
Derek
Zumsteg
Consensus
New York
Yankees
2 1 1 1 1 1 1
Boston
Red Sox
1 2 2 2 2 2 2
Toronto
Blue Jays
3 3 3 3 3 3 3
Tampa Bay
Devil Rays
4 4 4 5 5 4 4
Baltimore
Orioles
5 5 5 4 4 5 5

Clay Davenport:
I got the news on Nomar Garciaparra, but I’ll still stick with the
Red Sox and the best pitching staff in the league. The Yankees finish
second and pick up the wild card, strong across the board. Toronto drops
like a rock, finishing below .500 thanks in large part to the massively
bungled Wells trade. The D-Rays are slightly improved, but still a lost
cause. The Orioles are the worst team in the majors, and getting to play
extra games against Boston and New York won’t help. I’m an optimist, so
I’ll predict just 99 losses.

Jeff Hildebrand:
Yes, Garciaparra’s absence for the early part of the season is the
difference here. If he comes back quickly, or if the Yankees run into
pitching injuries, the Sox could still squeak it out. Tampa may finally get
out of the cellar, but that’s less a matter of their doing good things than
the Orioles doing a lot of foolish things.

Rany Jazayerli:
I wanted to put Boston first, I really did. Even factoring in Garciaparra’s
absence until July, my numbers had the Red Sox a game ahead of the Yankees.
But the skirmishes between Jimy Williams and Carl Everett have
become a full-blown Cold War, and the Red Sox as an organization appear
more interested in the image that they’re making every effort to win than
in actually doing so. Not that it will prevent them from winning the wild
card. The Devil Rays are the second-worst team in baseball, but fortunately
for them, the worst team is also in their division, allowing them to escape
the cellar for the first time.

Chris Kahrl:
Sure, the Red Sox have lost Garciaparra for an extended period of time, but
now they have Manny Ramirez, now they won’t be using Troy
O’Leary
, now they won’t be trying to balance a weak rotation and an
overworked bullpen. The team that bears watching is the Yankees, in that
they’re the team that has the most ability to help themselves in a way that
makes a difference within this season. But what will they do: go with the
talent in hand that will be ready to contribute before the end of the
season (D’Angelo Jimenez, Nick Johnson, Alfonso
Soriano
)? Deal for people Joe Torre might remember from his days in the
booth? Or ride Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill and Scott
Brosius
into the sunset? The pick I’m least comfortable with in the
group is putting the Blue Jays third, because they’re the team I think
could finish anywhere between first and fourth.

Keith Law:
If Garciaparra was healthy, I’d flip the top two teams, but no matter what,
I doubt the ultimate gap will exceed three games and that the either team
has what it takes to reach 88 wins. The Devil Rays could reach third place
if the Blue Jays really do nothing to address their Pittsburgh-esque
starting rotation troubles, but ultimately I think the Rays lack the
patience and the starting pitching to get that far. (Watch for the articles
blaming their losing ways on the lack of a proven closer, coming soon to a
bad newspaper near you.) Baltimore should be sent down to Triple-A or Serie
B after this season.

Joe Sheehan:
Garciaparra’s injury made a tough decision easy, as the Sox simply don’t
have the offense to compensate for losing one of the Trinity. That’s not to
say the Yankees are a lot better, but they should be good enough. If the
Blue Jays can shift about 150 walks from the pitchers to the hitters, they
become terribly dangerous. The Devil Rays finally have a future to be
excited about, while the Orioles have a neato ballpark.

Michael Wolverton:
It’s a toss-up between the Yankees and the Red Sox, and I settled on the
Yankees because of the Red Sox’s vulnerability to injury, both real
(Garciaparra) and potential (Ramirez or Pedro Martinez). Not that
the division winner really matters here–the second-place finisher should
get the Wild Card, courtesy of the unbalanced schedule. The Cy Young Award
winner will come from this division. (Ooh, now there’s a bold prediction!)

Derek Zumsteg:
The no-youngsters-admitted youth movement in Baltimore fails. Tampa’s
pitching should be much improved, enough to take Baltimore. Boston’s only
hope is playing Olympic hero Mike Neill.

American League Central

Jeff
Bower
Clay
Davenport
Jeff
Hildebrand
Gary
Huckabay
Rany
Jazayerli
Chris
Kahrl
Keith
Law
Cleveland
Indians
1 1 1 1 1 2 2
Chicago
White Sox
2 2 2 2 2 1 1
Detroit
Tigers
4 4 3 4 5 5 3
Kansas City
Royals
3 3 4 5 3 3 5
Minnesota
Twins
5 5 5 3 4 4 4
Mat
Olkin
Dave
Pease
Joe
Sheehan
Michael
Wolverton
Keith
Woolner
Derek
Zumsteg
Consensus
Cleveland
Indians
1 2 1 1 2 2 1
Chicago
White Sox
2 1 3 2 1 1 2
Detroit
Tigers
3 3 5 3 3 4 T3
Kansas City
Royals
5 4 2 4 5 3 T3
Minnesota
Twins
4 5 4 5 4 5 5


Clay Davenport:

The Tribe returns to the top; even without Ramirez, the
offense will carry them (but they are getting on in years). The White Sox
are a close second as the offense comes back to reality. The Royals are
third, a long way behind the two leaders. The Tigers’ pitching problems
drag them down to fourth (not that the offense is much better), and the
Twins assume their usual position in the basement.


Jeff Hildebrand:

I think the unbalanced schedule may hide just how soft this division is.
Chicago’s off-season moves, especially on offense, may send them in the
wrong direction. The top two still have more than the bottom three and
should fight it out down to the wire.


Rany Jazayerli:

John Hart has one last chance to win a World Series and secure his legacy
before his team gives out. The Indians should bounce back to win the
division–but only if at least two of Ellis Burks, Juan
Gonzalez
, and Travis Fryman play 130 or more games. The White
Sox have the best young pitching in the game; they also have Cal
Eldred
and James Baldwin in their rotation. The Royals have
upside if their young pitching gels, but they should be satisfied with
their first winning season since the strike. The concern in Detroit is that
Mitch Meluskey is gone for the season, erasing what little margin
for error they had to finish ahead of the stealthily-improving Twins.


Chris Kahrl:

I’m sticking with the White Sox because they have the most weapons with
which to repair the mostly self-inflicted holes in their lineup. The
Indians will slip offensively as well due to age as much as their new
acquisitions, but unlike the Sox, they don’t have much to barter with to
help themselves. If anything happens to their core starters, they have
neither the same caliber of young pitchers to turn to nor the track record
of developing them that the White Sox do. Frankly, after the White Sox the
division is a crap shoot, because every team has a reasonable shot at
second place. The Royals, Tigers and Twins will finish within eight games
of each other.

Keith Law:
A tale of two offenses. I had Cleveland on top, thought about it, and
decided that the odds of two or three of Omar Vizquel, Kenny
Lofton
, Fryman, Burks, and Jim Thome showing
age-related dropoffs is too high. Chicago’s rotation is really awful right
now, and barring a big leap by at least two young starters, a division
title will still equal a first-round exit. The last three are a jumble;
Kansas City’s pitching and the removal of one of its few offensive threats
would seem to push them to the bottom of the pile. Minnesota has more young
players in regular roles, so I’ll give them the nod for fourth.

Joe Sheehan:
The Indians get back into the catbird seat by virtue of doing less damage
to themselves than the Sox, who spent the winter trying to get as old as
possible. That’ll cost the Pale Hose, as a young Royals team with some real
pitching upside passes them. Really. The Twins have an underrated pitching
staff and a lineup out of the Eastern League, which still gets them out of
the cellar now that the Tigers have lost their best hitter.

Michael Wolverton:
Cleveland returns to their accustomed spot atop the AL Central, thanks to a
good offense, a great rotation, and the White Sox’s return to earth.

Derek Zumsteg:
Chicago comes to earth a little, but Cleveland’s going to fight injuries
and age-related declines all year long. Kansas City declines, and will be
swindled in any number of trades.

American League West

Jeff
Bower
Clay
Davenport
Jeff
Hildebrand
Gary
Huckabay
Rany
Jazayerli
Chris
Kahrl
Keith
Law
Oakland
Athletics
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Texas
Rangers
2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Seattle
Mariners
3 3 3 3 3 3 3
Anaheim
Angels
4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Mat
Olkin
Dave
Pease
Joe
Sheehan
Michael
Wolverton
Keith
Woolner
Derek
Zumsteg
Consensus
Oakland
Athletics
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Texas
Rangers
3 2 2 2 2 2 2
Seattle
Mariners
2 3 4 3 3 3 3
Anaheim
Angels
4 4 3 4 4 4 4

Clay Davenport:
The A’s are a powerhouse, carried by a great offense and good young pitching.
The Rangers match them offensively, but can’t match up in pitching,
especially in the bullpen. The Mariners can’t replace Alex Rodriguez,
but should still come in around .500. While the Angels may be last here,
they’re better than any of my other five last-place picks.

Jeff Hildebrand:
Yes, Texas has a lineup that will score a lot of runs when healthy, but
health is going to be a major factor, as is the fact that their pitching is
pretty awful. Thus, the A’s should win the division, although they might be
an interesting case study in the effects of the new strike zone. Losing the
third superstar will finally be too much for the Mariners, as they slide
down to the .500 level or below. The Angels will continue to be another
example of why having lots of money backing you (in their case Disney)
doesn’t automatically mean success.

Rany Jazayerli:
There’s not much to say about this division; the A’s are clearly the best
team, and only some concern about their #3/#4 starters–I have yet to be
convinced that Mark Mulder will ever belong in the Tim
Hudson
/Barry Zito class–prevents them from ranking as the best
team in baseball. For all the whining about the Rangers’ pitching, the
additions of A-Rod, et al might have given them the offense to win anyway,
but unfortunately "et al" is Texan drawl for "38 years
old." The Mariners may have the worst left side of the infield in the
game; the Angels may have the worst right side, and they don’t have the M’s
pitching depth.

Chris Kahrl:
If everything hadn’t gone dreadfully wrong for the Angels this spring, the
ornery cuss in me might have put them in front of the Mariners. The Rangers
are my pick for the wild card. The challenge for Doug Melvin will be to see
whether or not he gets bull-rushed into making some moves down the stretch
to cement a playoff spot right now, lest the Alex Rodriguez contract become
a PR millstone.

Keith Law:
I don’t see how the A’s don’t at least get to the LCS, where they could
only be stopped by a healthy Yankee rotation or three Pedro Martinez
starts. The unbalanced schedule means they could win 100 games, which won’t
change anyone’s mind about what you can or can’t do with a low payroll.
Anaheim is the clear choice for last place with holes in its lineup and an
empty rotation. Put the Mariners’ rotation with the Rangers’ lineup and you
have a team that could beat out Oakland, but I don’t think either team has
enough on its own to win 85 games.

Joe Sheehan:
The A’s have a reasonable case that they’re the best team in the league,
even though I worry about how hard the front of the rotation has been
worked. Even if Tim Hudson or Barry Zito slips a bit, they should win
handily. The Rangers have the best player in the game and a supporting cast
old enough to be his babysitter. They could win the wild card if the
rotation manages to be average and the intended starting lineup is together
for half their games. Picking the Angels over the Mariners has more to do
with the Mariners’ offensive decline rather than anything the Halos have
done correctly.

Michael Wolverton:
A-Rod, Shma-rod–he won’t be enough to stop the A’s. I pick Oakland to be
the best team in the majors this year, although they may not have the best
record because of the unbalanced schedule and the general high level of
talent in the AL West. That same unbalanced schedule will make it tough for
Texas and Seattle to contend for the wild card.

Derek Zumsteg:
The clueless Angels are crippled by their inability to recognize and solve
problems. Seattle’s numerous automatic outs make them easy prey, and
Oakland will eat them both alive with the unbalanced schedule.

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