Volume 95, Issue 94

Wednesday, April 3, 2002
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Cutting the hardware in half

American League full of contenders

Walt Disney's pissed

Engineers are revving their engines and heading to Pontiac

American League full of contenders

But Yankees' deep pockets will rule the day

By Anthony Lafratta
Gazette Staff

The loosening of George Steinbrenner's purse strings can only mean one thing: another Major League Baseball season is upon us. Here's how The Gazette's self-proclaimed experts see the American League breaking down.

East Winner: New York Yankees

Talent in the AL East has once again gravitated toward clubs with cash and the Yankees continue to impress with their ability to woo big names.

This year's squad boasts newcomers Robin Ventura at third base, Rondell White in the outfield and first baseman Jason Giambi, who should take his second-straight Most Valuable Player award.

New York's already prolific pitching staff welcomes two-time Blue Jay and full-time headache David Wells back to the fold. With emerging talents like Nick Johnson, who will seize this year's Rookie of the Year, plus a slew of proven superstars, the Yanks will simply be unstoppable.

The Red Sox acquired slugging first baseman Tony Clark and speedy centre fielder Johnny Damon this off-season. If the Sox get injury-free seasons from their key players – Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez – they could contend for a wild card spot.

After dumping Alex Gonzalez, Brad Fullmer, Paul Quantrill and Billy Koch in the winter, the Blue Jays appear to be committed to another losing season.

Central Winner: Minnesota Twins

The Indians will be in for a tough battle defending their AL Central title. No one is going to replace the numbers put up by departing stars Roberto Alomar, Juan Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton. The Tribe can still compete if carried by their young pitchers Bartolo Colon and C.C. Sabathia.

Minnesota's 2001 stellar campaign was no fluke. Their pitching rotation boasts one of the best three-man combos in the league – Brad Radke, Joe Mays and Eric Milton.

The Twins line-up lacks a proficient power hitter, but speed, defense and timely hitting can carry them to a 90-win season if the pitching can hold the opposition in check.

Chicago has a strong cast of players but remains a big question mark.

West Winner: Oakland Athletics

The AL West should be the most interesting division in baseball. Seattle's 116 wins last season were a result of a dozen key players experiencing career years. Expect this team to compete, but don't anticipate another Cinderella story. The Mariners starting rotation is still strong, despite the loss of Aaron Sele.

The Athletics boast the best young pitchers in all of baseball. Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito had not even peeked last year when they combined to win 56 games.

Expect Mulder to improve on his 2001 campaign and take the Cy Young Award. The acquisition of veteran out fielder David Justice and erratic closer Billy Koch should balance out their off-season losses of Giambi and Damon.

With pitcher John Rocker and outfielder Carl Everett on board, the Texas Rangers club house is a stick of dynamite waiting for a spark. Despite some of the biggest bats and fattest wallets in the AL, the Rangers lack of pitching depth will prevent them from playing baseball this fall.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002