It’s that time of year again, and with the season starting in a week (and me having time to sit down to write it) I now present my American League Preview. I’m going away from my 2009 prediction column and you’ll soon see why.
1. Boston Red Sox
For all the talk about no Manny behind Ortiz, Youk still managed to put up 29 homers last season. The bottom line is that Championships are won with pitching and defense. The Sox are loaded with pitching. Sure some of it is questionable (Smoltz, Penny, Wake) because of age and injuries but the depth is awesome. So awesome that despite an incredible spring, Clay Buchholz will start at Pawtucket. I say the Sox will be tops in the East with 98+ wins. A far cry from my sneaking into the Wild Card prediction.
2. New York Yankees
I know, I know. As much as I too hate the Yankees, they went out and spent over a quarter billion dollars on three players to help improve their team that finished in third place last year, eight games out of first, six out of the Wild Card. I also think the fact that Gay-Rod is on the shelf will actually help the team. Yes they’re aging, but I think that teams do better when Gay-Rod is out of the picture. They may drop to third at points in the season, but it’s going to be so early in the season, they’ll recover and make the playoffs as the Wild Card.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
I’m sure that many people are predicting them #1 or #2 in the East but I don’t see it. I think they played above their heads all of last season. Not saying they’re going to drop off the map or anything, I just don’t see them strong enough to hang with Boston and New York down the stretch. Sure the finish above .500 by quite a few games, but no go for the playoffs.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
I really want to put them in the cellar but I don’t think that Baltimore is that good. You have to figure with Roy Halladay on your staff, you’re good for 18 wins without playing a game. The rest of the team doesn’t really excite me. The loss of Burnett is going to cost them wins and the addition of Kevin Millar as your prize free agent I’m sure doesn’t excite anyone. So a terrible rotation and an anemic lineup, they’re lucky to finish in fourth.
5. Baltimore Orioles
Much like the Blue Jays, they have an anemic lineup but even less pitching. At some point they need to just blow it all up and start from scratch. They’re trying to do it with Roberts and Markakis but there’s not a whole lot of help for those two. Another very long year for Baltimore fans.
1. Minnesota Twins
I don’t know how they do it, but every year this team competes. They trade Johan Santana, lose Torii Hunter to free agency and they tie the Central last year losing a one game playoff to the White Sox. Now the team didn’t lose too much in the offseason, they have a great manager in Ron Gardenhire, and a central title win will be a great step as they move into their new field next year.
2. Chicago White Sox
I like Ozzie Guillen. I really do. And his team is built for another run this year. I think the central is going to be as tight a race as the AL East. With the Indians, White Sox, and Twins all taking their turn in first place. It’s going to come down to the wire, but I think the White Sox fade down the stretch and the Twins beat them out by 3-4 games.
3. Cleveland Indians
It’s funny, they were in the playoffs in 2007 and pushed the Red Sox to a game seven in the ALCS, and then followed it up with a stinkfest in 2008. The only highlight was Cliff Lee who owned the Cy Young from about the begining of July on. But with Carl Pavano and Kerry Wood as your pitching acquisitions this off-season, your fooling yourself thinking that you’ll have health down the stretch when it counts. They’ll keep in interesting, but by the end of August, they’ll be out of it.
4. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are going to be the victim of the economy. Which really sucks for the people of Detroit. You have people losing their jobs, auto plants are closing, and you’re going to have the Tigers selling players to whoever can take on the salary because their stands are going to be empty this summer. They’ll pretty much have a AAA team on the field by mid-July but will still finish above KC.
5. Kansas City Royals
A couple decent starters at the top of the rotation may have Royals fans excited, but their lineup really isn’t anything to get pumped up for. With the Rays winning the AL last year, many are trying to figure which teams are going to be loaded with young studs that will power them to the playoffs. KC isn’t that team. Sorry Royals fans. It’s another year in the cellar and those two guns in the rotation could be moved by the trading deadline.
1. Los Angeles Angels
They play in the weakest division in baseball. It really sucks. Seattle and Texas are doormats for the rest of the league. They lost K-Rod, Teixeira, and I’m not worried. The Bobby Abreu and Vlad combo scares me more than the Tex-Vlad combo. No offense to Tex, but he didn’t scare me and didn’t do jack in the playoffs. K-Rod was a great closer but I think part of his success was because of the way his manager used him. Fuentes should be just as lights out for them.
2. Oakland A’s
I love this team because they actually spent money this offseason. They trade for Matt Holliday, sign former Sox shortstops Nomar and Orlando Cabrera, and bring back Jason Giambi to bat cleanup behind Holliday. A decent rotation and a good lineup on paper makes me excited to see Oakland this season. If this team ended up knocking off the Angels I wouldn’t be shocked and I’d be happy to see it. It’ll come down to staying healthy if they’re going to do it.
3. Seattle Mariners
As I said previously, they’re a doormat. The bringing back of Ken Griffey Jr. is a good move to sell tickets but I’m not sure how much that helps your win total. When Griff was with the White Sox it wasn’t a good fit, he just never gelled. Hopefully he’s a better fit for the Seattle. They still have King Felix at the top of their rotation so that doesn’t hurt, but even a new manager and GM won’t help turn around this franchise too quickly. They won’t be as bad as the 101 losses of a season ago, but it’s not going to be great.
4. Texas Rangers
A team that I like and really pull for every season, yet despite all the offensive firepower never has any pitching to compliment it. This season is no different. Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla as your #1 and #2? These guys would be a three and four on a good team like the Sox or Yanks. Another long, humid, disgusting summer in the Lone Star State. Rangers lose 100 games while scoring a bunch of runs. Oh well.
Sox take out the Twinkies (3-1) in the first round while the Yankees lose to the Angels (3-0) in the first round. Joe Girardi gets fired. Red Sox ride their pitching in a four game sweep over the Angels and head to the World Series for the third time in six years.
Tomorrow, NL preview.