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Jeff Beresford-Howe

2007 Season Predictions

American League

AL West

1. Anaheim – Angel owner Arte Moreno testified under oath last year that he meant the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” seriously, and if it’s good enough for Arte, shucks, it’s good enough for me. Best starting pitching in the division by far -- John Lackey is going to win 20 -- and in Mike Scioscia, the best manager in baseball. They cakewalk this year after years of back-and-forth with Oakland. A’s-Angels games in the first part of this decade were some of the most entertaining baseball games ever played.

2. Seattle – The Mariners can expect a better year from just about everyone, and they finally moved Ichiro to CF, where he should have been as soon as they lost Cameron, and they won’t lose 17 of 19 to Oakland again.

3. Texas – Most inexplicable move in the AL, both morally and competitively: signing Sammy Sosa. Does his return to Texas mean that some president ten years down the line is going to re-invade Iraq? If Hank Blalock and Brad Wilkerson bounce back, the Ranger line-up, already outstanding, is unstoppable. Still no pitching.

4. Oakland – The bill for the A’s being turned into an ATM machine for Lew Wolff and John Fischer comes due. The pitching rotation is among the worst in baseball, and the offense, without the Big Hurt, will settle into the bottom of the league. Lucky to win 75. Look for the A’s to trade Milton Bradley in July, thus removing the last remaining vestige of entertainment value on this outfit.

AL Central

1. Detroit – No one in baseball can match the Tiger pitching staff -- Fernando Rodney, their third best relief pitcher, would be the closer on just about every team in baseball except the Angels -- and they add Gary Sheffield and a full year of Sean Casey. It’s hard to imagine this team not winning 100 games, and how can you not root for anything with Jim Leyland in it?

2. Cleveland – This is not the strongest division in baseball, as everyone keeps saying, and Cleveland, with only three starting pitchers, some kids and a defensively challenged line-up, will prove it by winning 85 games and finishing second. Chief Wahoo remains a racist disgrace.

3. Chicago – Like a lot of AL teams, the ChiSox have a superior starting line-up and some pitching that makes you raise your eyebrows. Two years removed from their World Championship, this year their starting pitching falls apart and everyone starts yammering about Ozzie Guillen’s “overuse” of his starters in ’05. Which may be an intermediate step -- god help us -- to the adoption of the six-man rotation around baseball.

4. Minnesota – The Twins are going to conduct an experiment. If they go 27-7 in Johan Santana’s starts, and they will, can they still finish under .500? The answer is yes: they literally have not one single established starting pitcher on the team besides Santana. And Sidney Ponson made the roster. Is any further explanation necessary?

5. Kansas City – The worst management in baseball continues to piss all over some good fans, a great ballpark and a wonderful tradition. The Royals are the best argument for adopting a European-style relegation system in baseball. There should be a way to get these clowns out of the AL.

AL East

1. Boston – The ability of the Sox to finally pass the Yankees will be decided by whether Daisuke Matsuzaka is really a 15-20 game winner. He is. The rest of the rotation is solid -- two through five, the Sox are better than the Yankees at every turn -- and the line-up is still fearsome as long as they don’t let Manny be Manny in Tampa Bay and thereby expose David Ortiz.

2. Toronto – This team will pass the Yankees if Frank Thomas has 75% of the year he had last year in Oakland and four of their five pitchers pitch to their career average. Plus this is the year that Vernon Wells, with Thomas hitting behind him, demonstrates that he’s one of the best five players alive.

3. New York – Carl Pavano is starting on Opening Day. How on earth can that happen in New York? The rest of their starting pitching is shaky too; there isn’t one guy in their rotation who isn’t a question mark at some level. That’s going to be very hard to handle for a full season. The Yankee everyday line-up, except at 1B, is about the same as an average AL line-up in the All-Star game, so they still win 85-95 games.

4. Baltimore – Leo Mazzone is bound to improve their pitching from awful to mediocre, and the Oriole line-up practically defines mediocrity. Obviously that means another year of getting kicked around in baseball’s toughest division. What a waste of one of baseball’s transcendent talents -- Miguel Tejada -- the A's let him go, destroying their team and dooming one of baseball's most exuberant players to a life outside the playoffs.

5. Tampa Bay – The brass in Tampa should wake up every morning and give thanks to the baseball gods that Kansas City exists and that the D-Rays are therefore not the most clueless organization in baseball. Oh, and thanks to the Mets too, for trading them Scott Kazmir, the one genuine talent on their pitching staff. Think the Mets will miss Kazmir while they’re trying to squeeze another season out of El Duque?

National League

NL West

1. San Diego Padres – Playing in the best pitcher’s ballpark in creation, the Padres have cut the whining, slow-footed slackers from their roster -- that means you, Ryan Klesko and Mike Piazza -- and are going with a great starting rotation, a good bullpen and some outstanding glovework and team speed. They’re built brilliantly for their ballpark.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks – This team has the second best young talent in the division, the second best pitching staff, the second best line-up and the second-best ballpark. With the help of one last really good year from Randy Johnson, the D-backs contend all year. Arizona also has one of the most underpublicized and underappreciated great player in baseball: Orlando Hudson.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers – Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf were outstanding pick-ups, adding to what will be a very good starting rotation, but good god the Dodger line-up is terrible beyond words. Could finish last in baseball in runs scored. The line-up veers from the brutally over-rated (Juan Pierre, Nomar Garciaparra) to the washed up (Luis Gonzalez, Mike Lieberthal) to aging liars (Jeff Kent) and sophomore slumps-to-be (Andre Ethier).

4. San Francisco Giants – If Sosa re-upping with the Rangers is the most disgraceful thing in the AL, there aren’t words good enough to describe the brain-dead, amoral nature of what the Giants are doing with Barry Bonds. The Giants would finish 0-162 in the Karma League, but in the pathetically weak National League, and with Matt Cain’s arm and Bruce Bochy’s brain, they stagger in just below .500 and finish somewhere in the middle of the division.

5. Colorado Rockies – The Kansas City Royals of the NL. Coloradans continue to pour through the turnstiles to watch a team that looks like it was put together by the worst guy in your fantasy league. If you live outside Colorado and can name the Rockies’ starting rotation, or even half their pitching staff, you should get a life. This may be the year Todd Helton finally blows his stack and demands out.

NL Central

1. Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers, crawling out from under the dark, slimy rock under which they were placed for so many years by the Seligs, have assembled a brilliant starting rotation and some of the best young hitters in baseball, including pre-steroid era, old school, i.e., big-and-fat, power monster first-baseman Prince Fielder. They’re this year’s Tigers.

2. Chicago Cubs – By adding Ted Lilly and Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs improved both their line-up and their rotation. But they turned around and plugged Soriano into CF and leadoff, neither of which he’s suited for, and they overlooked the need to have any kind of bullpen at all. Lou Piniella is a great manager, but is he really that much better than Dusty Baker?

3. Houston Astros – Hey, here’s an idea: promise Roger Clemens he won’t have to pitch until September 15, and then only with a silk resin bag behind the mound and umpires paid for by the Astros. And for every game he pitches and the Astros don’t score at least five runs, a drawing is held among the guys who went 0-fer that day and the losing player is executed Texas style, i.e., with George W. Bush cackling at him. Except for Roy Oswalt, it’s hard to see anything terrible or great, or even interesting about this team.

4. St. Louis Cardinals – With certain long-term, successful organizations, there’s a tendency to magical thinking, a Rove-ian ability to avoid seeing a coming disaster. The Cardinals, who after all won only 83 games last year before the post-season, are going to start the season with only two pitchers on the roster who’ve ever started 30 games in the major leagues, and one of them, Pirate reject Kip Wells, had a 6.50 ERA last year. Not even Albert Pujols can stop this from happening.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates – Helluva ballpark. Might be nice if the Pirates management, charging New York prices to sit in that gem, spent some money or or hired a GM with an eye for talent.

6. Cincinnati Reds – If you build it and it’s a bullshit bandbox designed to sucker in fans who like to watch 10-9 games, then no pitchers will come and you’ll be perennially 75-87. A fitting representative of the worst division in baseball.

NL East

1. New York Mets – Like last year, the regular season is irrelevant for the Mets, not because, like the Yankees, their fans are arrogant and walk around saying “It only matters if we win the World Series,” but because the Mets are about a half mile better than anyone else in the division. They have the only line-up in the NL that can compete with the stacked AL line-ups and pitching that isn’t dominant, but will keep you in most games.

2. Atlanta Braves – After years of watching Mazzone wave his magic wand over any bullpen hack he wanted and get a performance that helped the team, the Braves lost Mazzone and had maybe the worst bullpen in baseball last year. So they went out this off-season and got themselves some talented arms out there. If Tim Hudson bounces back -- count on it -- the Braves will be in it all season long.

3. Philadelphia Phillies – Doomed by another bandbox ballpark that makes pitchers want to flee, the Phillies will still win their share of games because of a line-up that’s not far from the one the Mets put out there. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Hawai’ian speed merchant Shane Victorino are all talents in or out of the bandbox. Over/under on the number of HRs 45-year-old Jaime Moyer allows if he pitches all year in Philly: 45.

4. Florida Marlins – There is simply no rational way to know which way all the Marlins kids will go after only one year in the majors. They could win 95 games and scare the hell out of people in the playoffs, or win 70 and hasten their exit from South Florida. The only sure things are that Miguel Cabrera will continue to be one of the best players in baseball and that Dontrelle Willis, one of the sport’s delights, will bounce back.

5. Washington Nationals – They’d have the worst karma in the league if the Giants hadn’t already sewn it up, having ripped off D.C. for hundreds of millions of dollars. Is their karma instant? The Nats have very little talent, and they’ve assembled a collection of head cases -- Austin Kearns, Dmitri Young, Ryan Church, Cristian Guzman, Jesus Colome -- that must make Frank Robinson give thanks every day that he retired from managing.

©2007 by Jeff Beresford-Howe

Jeff Beresford-Howe is a writer living in Oakland.

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