2006 Major League Baseball Preview
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 4/1/06


  While it seems that the last few years have been a down time for baseball, after the late 1990s Yankees dynasty, what with a run of one year wonders, and highly suspect World Series champions (2001-Arizona, 2002-Anaheim, 2003-Florida, 2004- Boston, and 2005- Chicago White Sox, with the middle three all wildcard teams), I think that this year will see the two best teams over the last few years, that have not won the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees battling for the crown.

  In the National League, there will be a changing of the guard in a tight and highly contested Eastern Division race. The eleven year run of the Atlanta Braves will end, and it is eleven years, not fourteen, because in 1994 the Montreal Expos won the East in that strike season. If the players stats count, and there were batting and home run champions, then the team standings are just as legitimate. Still, Atlanta won’t reach a dozen, as the revamped Mets, who added Carlos Delgado’s bat, will edge out the depleted Braves- whose most important loss was of pitching coach extraordinaire Leo Mazzone to Baltimore, and Phillies in a very weak division. Delgado’s loss will sink Florida, and look for the Nationals to have a second year letdown in DC, after their first half run to first place, and a .500 finish.

  In the Central, the Cardinals will be pushed by the Cubs, whose pitching is still solid, but whose addition of Florida’s Juan Pierre and Minnesota’s Jacques Jones could lifte them into the 100 win area, and a division title. But, the Cards are still the team to beat, and after getting swept away by the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series, and losing to the wildcard Astros in the NLCS, can see their window of opportunity is closing, even if MVP Albert Pujols will put together his best season at the plate yet, and win another MVP. Without Roger Clemens, and with an aging team, the Astros won’t even challenge for a third straight wildcard, and give way to a young and hungry Milwaukee Brewers team intent on ending years of non-winning seasons. Last year they finished at .500, and this year they’ll challenge for the division until a September fade finds them warding off a late season surge by the Astros. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh simply don’t have enough to compete.

  Out West, the Padres will defend their division title, last year won with a worst ever 82-80 record, but still won’t hit 90 wins. No other team has the talent to knock them off, even the San Francisco Giants, who’ll manage a .500 year if Bonds plays most of the games. If not, they could collapse totally, and save Colorado from another bad year. Aging Arizona, with mediocre pitching, will merely tread water, after last year’s 26 game improvement.

  In the playoffs, the Cards will take out the Mets in four games, and Chicago will blitz the Padres in three. After the Red Sox and White Sox ended their World Series victory droughts at 86 and 88 years respectively, Cubby fans will dream that the 98 year hex will end. But, the Cardinals will not be denied, and will take their second NL crown in three years, beating the Cubs in a seven game squeaker that will feature another infamous moment in Cubs lore.

  Over in the junior circuit, the Angels will probably take a third straight Western crown, pushed by a young and renascent A’s team. Seattle could be the sleeper team of the year, though. They have solid pitching- especially with the additions of former Angels workhouse Jarrod Washburn and 20 year old phenom Felx Hernandez for a full season, plus some dangerous hitters. Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson should have years better than they did last year, and the M’s are solid all around, defensively. If there is a team that comes out of nowhere to extend the surprise run of Word Series champions it could be this team, which is potentially the best Seattle team since the historic 2001 team, which won 116 games, then died in the playoffs. Yet, I see a September swoon, just as their possible sleeper counterpart in the NL, Milwaukee, will have. Texas will regress with no pitching to speak of, and despite their youthful bats.

  In the Central, the young Indians should be about as good as last year, even with no major additions, but the Twins and White Sox will push them. The Twins won three straight division titles with mirrors, then it all fell apart last year. They’ll bounce back, and just nip the White Sox for second place. Everything went right last year for the Sox, including many career years from mediocrities. That never happens two years in a row, and despite adding Javier Vazquez to the pitching corps, and Jim Thome to replace Frank Thomas, who went to Oakland, all the other regulars will regress, so split the difference between the last two years and the Sox should finish around 90 wins, challenging for the wildcard. The Tigers are mediocre and will tread water, while Kansas City will be real bad. A .333 winning percentage could be wishful thinking. They could end up somewhere between the 43 wins of the 2003 Tigers and the 51 wins of the 2004 Diamondbacks.

  In the East, the Yanks will finally have an easy time of it in the East. After everything went wrong last year, they still took the division over the Red Sox, whose disastrous winter was mitigated only slightly by the OF pickups of Coco Crisp and Wily Mo Pena. Adding Josh Beckett from Florida will, at best, barely compensate for Curt Schilling’s continued slide after his 2004 heroics. The rest of their pitching is mediocre , at best, and this will allow the Toronto Blue Jays, who got the better Marlins pitcher, in A.J. Burnett, to pass them. Along with former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay and Ted Lilly, and reliever BJ Ryan, the Jays will be going to the postseason for the first time since their back to back World Championship teams in the early 1990s. Tampa Bay has some young talent, but no pitching. They will leave the basement open for the Baltimore Orioles. The second half crash, which saw the O’s fall from first place to fourth, and 74 wins, will continue. They could have their worst season since the 54 win 1987 team that started off that season 0-21. The Yanks, meanwhile, added Johnny Damon in CF, thus hurting the Red Sox, not only offensively, but chemistry-wise, and Crisp and Pena have et to prove they’re everyday players. They also solidified their bullpen. If Randy Johnson has another great year left in him, and if Carl Pavano can recover from injury, a ninth division title is a walk. Here are the MLB standings I project:

National League  W-L-GB  * = wild card team

NY Mets       87-75  -

Philadelphia  86-76  1

Atlanta          86-76  1

Florida          76-86  11

Washington  68-94  19



St. Louis          95-67  - 

Chicago Cubs  92-70  3  *

Milwaukee       84-78 11

Houston           83-79  12

Cincinnati        69-93  26

Pittsburgh       60-102  35


San Diego        89-73  -

Los Angeles     84-78  5

San Francisco  81-81   9

Arizona            75-87  17

Colorado          64-98  25


American League  W-L-GB  * = wild card team

NY Yankees  104-58  -

Toronto          92-70  12  *

Boston            87-75  17

Tampa Bay     72-90  32

Baltimore      61-101  43


Cleveland           95-67  -

Minnesota          88-74  7

Chicago W.Sox  87-75  8

Detroit                76-86  19

Kansas City       54-108 41


Los Angeles  90-72  -

Oakland        89-73  1

Seattle           84-78  6

Texas            74-88  16


  In the playoffs, the Yanks finally get revenge on LA, after their losses in 2002 and 2005, sweeping the Angels away. The Indians will squeak by Toronto in five tough games, but their pitching, already a weak spot, will not be enough to derail the Yankees, who, in a renewal of a great rivalry from the late 1990s, will take out the Indians in five, six games tops.

  In the World Series, the Cardinals will lose to the Yankees, in a matchup of the two best franchises in each league, but the Yanks will take their 27th World Series, while St. Louis pines away for number ten. Injuries, of course, can kybosh all this, but if healthy, I think Alex Rodriguez, who’ll take his third AL MVP in four years, will finally get the monkey off his back, and be called World Champion, much to the dislike of fans in Seattle, Texas, and Boston. We’ll see if I’m right.

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