Consider yourself privileged. You get to see my MLB preview for The Racquet a full three days before campus distribution. You’re welcome.
After a long off-season of big spending, wheeling and dealing, the 2007 season is finally here. Here’s a look at each division, complete with predictions.
As has been the case the past few seasons, this division will come down to the Angels and A’s. The Angels are filled with young offensive talent, but most of it is not quite ready to make an impact at the major league level. The Angels’ biggest problem last season was a lack of offensive firepower surrounding Vlad Guerrero. They didn’t do much to address that besides signing one-year wonder Gary “Steroid Allegation” Matthews, Jr.
Like last season, Oakland will win the A.L. West. A brilliant one-year deal with Frank Thomas paid dividends for the A’s last season, and they appear to have done the same this year with Mike Piazza. Ace Rich Harden is fully recovered from last year’s injury, and has looked as dominant as ever this spring. Nick Swisher will emerge as a full-fledged star.
Like last year, the A.L. Central appears to be the best division in baseball (sans Kansas City Royals. Until further notice, continue dismissing the Royals as actual members of this division). I expect the White Sox to have a disappointing year. They curiously traded Brandon McCarthy and re-signed Javier Vazquez. Meanwhile, starting Scott Podsednik in left and Darrin Erstad in center gives them one of the lightest-hitting outfields in all of baseball.
Cleveland is a team to watch, and I would not be surprised to see them win the Central. C.C. Sabathia and young stud Jeremy Sowers give them a great rotation. Detroit has the same with Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander, and the addition of Gary Sheffield will give them some offensive power that they sorely missed last season. I look forward to an exciting three-team race, but in the end I can’t go against the Twins. They have Mr. Automatic in Johan Santana, reigning MVP Justin Morneau, the best average-hitter in baseball in Joe Mauer, and a lights-out closer in Joe Nathan.
As always, thanks to their free-spending ways, this division will be between the Red Sox and Yankees. The Blue Jays are a solid team that would compete in most other divisions, and the Devil Rays would have a bright future if they managed to move out of the East. The Orioles continue their inept team management and will be at the bottom of the division.
I’m taking Boston to win the division. The Yankees have starting pitching questions, and their offense is aging a bit. Daisuke Matsuzaka, after his performance in the World Baseball Classic and Spring Training, has shown me enough to convince me he’s for real (that doesn’t mean I’m looking forward to all the media hype). J.D. Drew is a big boost to their outfield, and with Big Papi and Manny, Boston should have the best offense in the big leagues.
After a poor season last year, the Diamondbacks should be right in the running. They have a wealth of young talent to go with Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. I’ll still say they’re a year away though. The Giants keep getting older and older; it’s truly amazing to watch. Throwing six gazillion dollars at Barry Zito won’t be enough to overcome that, although they have a couple nice young starters in Matt Cain and Noah Lowry.
I expect the Dodgers to hold off the D-Backs and Padres in a close three-team race. Their rotation of Schmidt, Penny, Lowe and Wolf is very strong, and competes with Peavy-Young-Maddux in San Diego. The Dodgers have the offensive edge on San Diego as well.
Last season’s most disgusting division doesn’t look much prettier. In fact, its defending champ seems to have made no attempt to improve. With aging offensive stars and a bunch of question marks in the starting rotation, the Cardinals don’t have much besides Albert Pujols at this point.
The Cubs made the most noise this off-season, but one has to question the players they spent all their cash on. Soriano had a great year, but his long-term deal will be ugly in a couple years. Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis were paid about four times their actual value.
The Astros added Carlos Lee to boost their offense (see Soriano, future mistake, above), but they lost Andy Pettitte. If Roger Clemens doesn’t return, they’re probably a losing team.
Now to the Brewers. They added rotation depth in Jeff Suppan, and return Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, and most importantly, Ben Sheets from injury. Top to bottom, the Brewers have the best starting pitching in the Central. I really don’t see a great team in this division, and I really don’t think the Brewers will truly arrive until 2008, but the homer in me is winning out. What the heck, I’ll disagree with Brad here and say the Brewers win this thing with 86 wins. Milwaukee it is.
The Mets will have a great offense again, but their starting rotation depth is pretty much abysmal. Pedro is out, which serves them right for signing a guy whose arm was hanging by a thread to a huge contract.
The Braves are decent offensively, have an ok rotation, and a strong bullpen. It’s not enough to take this division. The Marlins overachieved last year, then lost the Manager of the Year. The Nationals could be historically bad.
In 2007, the Phillies will finally get their division championship. They have two offensive stars in Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but they finally have a good pitching staff. Brett Myers is an established frontline starter, Cole Hamels is an ace in the making and Freddy Garcia comes over from the White Sox to give them depth.