2005 Major League Baseball Preview
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 3/25/05
recently seen the steroid scandal brought before Congress I can say that nothing
can cure the game like a great season, after the shame that a number of
baseballers- most notably home run kings Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire- have
Ok, back to the real deal- my predictions last year had some good and bad. I thought the New York Yankees would beat the Houston Astros in the World series, and I came close, as both teams finished as league runners-up, with the Yanks collapsing in seven games to the Boston red Sox, after being up three games to none, with a lead in game 4 of the series. The Astros also collapsed, albeit not as dramatically, in squandering a 3-2 lead in games to the St. Louis Cardinals, who then were blitzed in four straight games by the curse-ending wildcard Red Sox- the third straight wildcard Word Series Champion, following Anaheim in 2002, and Florida in 2003, and the fourth straight surprise champion, including Arizona in 2001. I hope to do better this year, but here were my divisional picks last year:
National League W-L-GB * = wild card team
San Francisco 89-73
American League W-L-GB * = wild card team
NY Yankees 104-58
Philadelphia would end Atlanta’s 9 year reign in the National League East, but
they extended it to 10 (and it is 10, not 13 for the Braves finished second in
1994- the strike year- if there were statistical champions there were division
champions), and St. Louis had one of those everything goes right years- winning
105 games. San Francisco did a little better than I predicted but the Dodgers
vested them in the West. Houston was about what I predicted, and took the wild
card. The Yankees won their seventh straight division title, but the Red Sox
snared the wild card and won the World Series. Toronto, my wild card pick,
imploded, and finished last, behind Tampa Bay. Kansas City’s 2003 miracle was
just that, as they won only 58 games last year, while Minnesota won their third
straight Central crown. Cleveland did finish second, though. Anaheim did snare
their division, but Seattle got old all in one year, and won only 63 games, as a
last place team.
Here is what I foresee this year: In the National League the Phillies will dethrone Atlanta- a year late, the Cardinals take the Central again, but will have a much tougher fight from the Cubs, who will snare the wild card, while San Francisco reclaims the West, even though Bonds will miss a few months, due to knee surgery, to start the season. In the playoffs the Cubs will get another nightmare handed to them by the Phillies, while the Giants blitz the Cardinals. In the NLCS the Giants will outslug the Phillies in seven games. In the American League the Yankees will take their eighth straight division title, as the Red Sox snag the wild card, again. In the Central the Twins’ magic ends, and Cleveland, which dominated the division in the ‘90s, returns to power, while Anaheim takes its second straight division title in the West. In the playoffs the Yanks get revenge on the last two AL teams to oust them from the postseason, by taking out the Angels, then the Red Sox in the ALCS, after they dispatch callow Cleveland. In the World Series it’s back to the future as the Yankees oust the Giants.
Here’s the detailed prediction:
National League W-L-GB * = wild card team
St. Louis 96-66
San Francisco 87-75
W-L-GB * = wild card
NY Yankees 108-54
Philadelphia Phillies (89-73)- The hitting- with 1B Jim Thome,
outfielders Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu, and 3B David Bell, and SS Jimmy
Rollins, is solid. It all depends on the pitching, led by Yankee import John
Lieber. I think they sneak to the top for a year.
Florida Marlins (88-74)- will dogfight the Phillies all year. Juan Pierre
might be the best leadoff man in the NL, while LF Miguel Cabrera’s a stud. A
healthy Mike Lowell and 1B Carlos Delgado should compensate for the loss of 18
game winner Carl Pavano, but the bullpen could be their undoing.
Atlanta Braves (84-78)- 10 straight Division titles are nice- but
history. All that are left from the glory years are the Jones boys- Andruw in CF
and Chipper at 3B. But, with Jon Smoltz back as a starting pitcher, and Tim
Hudson over from Oakland they could steal another title, although their bullpen
is their Achilles Heel.
New York Mets (83-79)- this piss poor division could be theirs if all
goes right. Pedro Martinez is not what he was in Montreal or his early years in
Boston, but he, Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano, and Steve Trachsel
could be the top staff in the East. If CF gem Carlos Beltran has a monster year
the Mets are a team that could run away with the title. I say their bullpen
bombs, injuries hit, and they disappoint all year, before closing with a rush to
tease for 2006.
Washington Nationals (63-99)- The return of baseball to DC in the form of
the ex-Expos won’t be pretty.
the National League Central Division:
St. Louis Cardinals (96-66)- Won’t come near 105 wins this year, as
they played a good ten games over their heads, but that return to balance, and
the losses of SS Edgar Renteria and 2B Tony Womack will be offset by Oakland’s
former ace Mark Mulder. The MV3 of 3B Scott Rolen, CF Jim Edmonds, and 1B Albert
Pujols, if healthy, is the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball.
Chicago Cubs (92-70)- OF legend Sammy Sosa is gone, as is Moises Alou,
but this team will have better chemistry, and can hit- with 3B Aramis Ramirez,
SS Nomar Garciaparra, CF Corey patterson, and 1B Derek Lee. The starting staff
could be great if healthy- Mark Prior has Cy Young stuff, but Carlos Zambrano is
the most consistent, while Kerry Wood’s heat and Greg Maddux’s smarts are
still potent. Could win 100 games if all falls into place.
3) Houston Astros (84-78)- This team floundered until the last quarter, when a run to Game 7 of the NLCS almost made it all worth it. Cy Young winner Roger Clemens returns, as does a healthy Andy Pettite, to team with stud Roy Oswalt. The bullpen seems solid, but the offense will suffer without midseason pickup CF Carlos Beltran, as the Killer Bs age. Only Labnce Berkman is prime time, and he’s not enough for more than third place.
Cincinnati Reds (79-83)- The pitching is so-so but if this team is
healthy they could crack .500, with CF Junior Griffey, RF Austin Kearns, LF Adam
Dunn, and 1B Sean Casey in the lineup. That lefty Eric Milton was their big
offseason acquisition speaks volumes.
Pittsburgh Pirates (66-96)- Is there a recognizable name on this team?
They purged their sole name talent in C Jason Kendall. They could lose anywhere
from the 89 they lost last year to 110.
Milwaukee Brewers (60-102)- They are RF geoff Jenkins and right-hander
ben Sheets’ team. If Sheets improves on last year the Brewers could leap over
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, if they implode. If Milwaukee implodes they could top
Arizona’s 111 losses last year.
Now, the NL
West is in decline:
San Francisco Giants (87-75)- This may be Barry Bonds’ last hurrah, and
shot at a World series ring, especially determined to prove the steroid scandal
was BS. RF Moises Alou will help keep the offense solid, while righty Jason
Schmidt was on track for the Cy Young before injuries did him in. Armando
Benitez as closer can be solid, but he can kill the team in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Dodgers (86-76)- 2B Jeff Kent and RF J.D. Drew won’t
replace 3B Adrian Beltre and 1B Shawn Green, while a staff led by Jeff Weaver
and Derek Lowe is suspect. Last year they overachieved. This year they find
Arizona Diamondbacks (84-78)- Last year I predicted a last place
finished, but they were more than 20 games worse than I foresaw. This year they
zoom back over .500. Javier Vazquez has Cy Young potential, and will thrive in
the desert, while Troy Glaus and Shawn Green could be big boppers, if healthy.
San Diego Padres (84-78)- Overachievers in one year tend to crash the
next. Will righty Jake Peavy again lead the league in ERA?
Colorado Rockies (71-91)- Could challenge Washington, Pittsburgh, and
Milwaukee for worst record in the league.
the American League. 1st up is the East:
New York Yankees (104-58)- After a few years of tinkering the Yanks will
get back on top, via pitching. If healthy they will run away with the division,
as they are better than last year, and the Red Sox overachieved. newcomers Randy
Johnson, Carl Pavano, and oft-injured Jared Wright, will, if healthy, allow the
bullpen some rest, while 3B A-Rod and LF Hideki Matsui will have better years
than last, as will SS Derek Jeter. Gary Sheffield will be solid in right, while
anything more than last year’s production from CF Bernie Williams and DH Jason
Giambi is topping.
Boston Red Sox (92-70)- SS Edgar Renteria is not Nomar Garciaparra, and
many of the Red Sox will come down to earth- including DH David Ortiz, 3B Bill
Mueller, and C Jason Varitek. Curt Schilling may be out early in the year after
his postseason heroics, and Pedro Martinez will be missed. david Wells may be an
idiot, but he’s 41 with chronic back pains. matt Clement and wade miller will
be hard pressed to replace Pedro and Derek Lowe. Bullpen is solid enough to win
wild card again.
Baltimore Orioles (84-78)- with OF Sammy Sosa, C Javier Lopez, 1B Rafael
Palmeiro, and SS Miguel Tejada, the Birds have bop, but Sidney Ponson as an ace?
They’ll top .500, but so what?
Toronto Blue Jays (76-86)- Splitting the difference of the last two years
and this is where they end up.
Tampa Bay (60-102)- CF Carl Crawford is a stud, but the rest of the team
is pitiable. This may be Lou Piniella’s last year as a manager.
On to the AL
Cleveland Indians (90-72)- The bills come due, and the Tribe can hit- LF
Coco Crisp, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, free agent RF Juan Gonzales (if
healthy), LF Casey Blake, and 1B Ben Broussard will se to that, while CC
Sabathia and Kevin Millwood, plus a decent bullpen should help them edge out the
Minnesota Twins (88-74)- Basically the same team as the last three years.
Good, but not good enough, although a Cy Young repeat from Johan Santana could
mean four in a row.
Detroit Tigers (83-79)- A young, solid team, with some solid pitching.
Closer Troy Percival and OF Magglio Ordonez could make them contenders.
Chicago White Sox (77-85)- Lost Magglio Ordonez, but a healthy DH Frank
Thomas could make up for that. Big years from Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia
could make them division winners, but more likely they’ll merely avoid the
cellar by being in the same division as the abysmal Royals
5) Kansas City Royals (62-100)- If things go to form they merely lose 100 games. If it gets ugly they could be to 2005 what the Tigers were to 2003.
On to the AL
Anaheim Angels (87-75)- Vladimir Guerrero is the reigning MVP, and could
be better this year, but the rest of the team will probably not be. But, this
division is the worst in baseball.
Texas Rangers (83-79)- Great lineup, but piching sucks. An injury here or
there and they’re under .500. Still, that’s likely good enough for a second
straight second place finish.
Seattle Mariners (74-88)- 1B Richie Sexson and 3B Adrian Beltre could do
real damage, along with RF Ichiro Suzuki, but the pitching, which tanked last
year, is no better. .500 is possible, but 70-75 wins is likely.
Oakland A’s (72-90)- Losing Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder will hurt, but
still the best last place team in the game.
In the AL the sleeper teams could be Baltimore and Chicago, while the NL could be surprised by the Mets or Diamondbacks. But, count on the Giants and Yankees playing in the Series. The Yanks should win it because the two things their pitching has lacked the last few years is power and grit- the trio of Randy Johnson (Seattle- 1995, Arizona- 2001), Carl Pavano (Florida- 2003), and Jared Wright (Cleveland- 1997), are all post-season winners who beat the Yankees (years in parentheses). This time, they help the Yanks beat the Giants.
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