American league angelic again
Talking about the American League is like discussing the parts of the room not taken up by the white elephant. The perpetual pachyderm in this case are the New York Yankees, who have won five of the last seven AL pennants, four of the last seven World Series, and currently have a payroll larger than the GNP of most Third World countries.
AL East Winner: New York Yankees
With the addition of Japanese star Hideki Matsui and Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras to the already powerful Yankee roster, the rich keep getting richer. The pitching staff, however, is walking the fine line between "experienced" and "too damn old." In addition, owner George Steinbrenner is starting to get up to his old meddling ways.
The Boston Red Sox made some good additions, such as bullpen workhorse Ramiro Mendoza, but these weren't the big moves (i.e. Jim Thome) that the Red Sox front office and fans were hoping for.
And then there's Canada's Team That We Don't Share With Puerto Rico, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays have a solid set of everyday players, but besides Roy Halladay, there are a lot of question marks in the pitching staff. Then again, the role of "Young team with a good young lineup and shaky pitching" was filled last year by the Angels, and look how that turned out.
Baltimore and Tampa Bay will no doubt try very hard. Good for them.
AL Central Winner: Chicago White Sox
It's a two-horse race between the small-market darling Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. The Twins return with basically the same cast as last season, save for injured starter Eric Milton. Chicago's success will hinge on whether young players, like third baseman Joe Crede, can step up. The potential for these players is high enough that the ChiSox are contenders for not just the division, but the entire league.
AL West Winner: Anaheim Angels
The defending champs return with virtually their entire roster intact. The only trouble facing Anaheim is that the magic may have worn off after last year's out-of-nowhere run.
The Oakland Athletics and their yearly playoff chokes are turning into the AL's answer to the Atlanta Braves. Oakland's awesome starting staff of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito will once again get them into the playoffs as the AL Wild Card, but aside from MVP Miguel Tejada, their offense just doesn't have the pop to take them into the Series.
The Seattle Mariners "only" won 93 games last year, and they have the best overall mix of pitching and hitting in the division. If Seattle regains their 2001 form, watch out.
It's the same old story in Texas: great hitting from Alex Rodriguez, and pitching from the likes of... uh, er, um, we'll get back to you on that.
AL Pennant: Anaheim Angels
Good-bye Jeter, Rivera and Clemens. Hello, Washburn, Percival and Glaus. Maybe in a few years we'll be complaining about the Anaheim dynasty.
Check out Wednesday's Gazette for the National League baseball preview.