The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

3/30/2005

Baseball preview: AL Central

Prediction:
Minnesota Twins (92-70)
Cleveland Indians (90-72)
Detroit Tigers (83-79)
Chicago White Sox (80-82)

Kansas City Royals (56-106)

2004 Standings:
Minnesota (92-70)
Chicago (83-79)
Cleveland (80-82)
Detroit (72-90)
Kansas City (58-104)

The Twins are, far and away, the most complete team in this not-as-weak-as-you-think division, but the young and improving Indians are a year away from dominating this division.

The question for the Twinkies is whether success will spoil Johan Santana. Is he ready to step up and become the next great dominant pitcher in baseball? His postseason performance would indicate otherwise. The Twins will win playing the most intelligent baseball in the league. Unique in the modern era of the Twinks, they have kept together their critical components (good bye Cristian Guzman). If both of the AL East powerhouses stumble (and the Red Sox getting past the Tribe for a wild card isn't a sure thing), the Twins could make a legitimate World Series run.

The young Indians should take another leap forward. They've added some veterans (Kevin Millwood, Aaron Boone, Juan Gonzalez) to a talented young core, which is the way you're supposed to build a team. Alex Cora will provide excellent defense in the middle of the diamond until the time, if ever, that Brandon Phillips is ready to become a major leaguer. All ably managed by Eric Wedge, the best manager in this division.

The Tigers are intriguing: not enough talent to compete, but clearly good enough not to stink (even if Ivan Rodriguez gets hurt, as he is past due for). The addition of Magglio Ordonez is a triple play. The Tigers get an A-game rightfielder. A division rival (ChiSox) is weakened from his departure. And incumbent RF Bobby Higginson becomes expendable. It couldn't be better if he promised to clean the mildew out of the team shower. Big question is whether 1B Carlos Pena is ready to start hitting like a major league first baseman. A more important one, though, is whether Jeremy Bonderman is ready to live up to all the hype.

The White Sox are sure to decline. DH (and Las Vegas resident) Big Frank Thomas (who I once downgraded from "Big Hurt" to "Minor Ache") can't stay healthy and is well into his age-induced declined. New acquisition Scott Podsednik is showing all signs of having been, sadly, a one-year wonder (a Pat Listach for the 21st Century, as it were). This is an ugly roster chock full of injury magnets (e.g., Jermaine Dye) and cast-offs from uncompetitive organizations (e.g., Timo Perez). A serious injury to Mark Buehrle and 90 losses would be a cinch.

But there's only so far the Other Sox can fall, because there's a nice fat safety net sitting beneath them. In 2003, the Royals looked poised to breakthrough back to being a competitive franchise. That window hasn't just closed, it's been nailed shut, painted, then bricked over, never to be seen again. They lost 100 games in 2004 with a half a season of Carlos Beltran. How in the world can they be better without him? Mike Sweeney is the only major leaguer on a roster that otherwise would struggle in AA. If the Royals keep their losses in the double digits, Tony Pena is manager of the year.
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