Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
MLB Spring Training 2005
NEW JERSEY—At long last, it’s finally here. No, not Valentine’s Day. That can certainly come and go. Spring Training reporting dates are upon us. For at least two-thirds of the teams in Major League Baseball, there is hope. Hey, even the Detroit Tigers have a shot at doing something they haven’t done in a long time – win.
It’s been 21 years since the comissioner’s trophy has visited the Motor City, and the Tigers are poised to make a run at their first division title since 1987. They have arguably improved their team by leaps and bounds, more than anyone else(except the Mets) in MLB, and with the American League Central being a not-so-great division, another Detroit celebration(ala the Pistons) could certainly happen. Magglio Ordonez is the crown jewel of their acquistions, but reliever Kyle Farnsworth will certainly help to go with closer Ugeth Urbina. With Ivan Rodriguez in the fold, I like the Tigers in that division. Just goes to show you there’s not a whole lot there.
With the White Sox, their best move was signing an aging Orlando Hernandez. Maybe Jermaine Dye can provide a spark for them offensively. As for Minnesota, they have lost a lot, Cleveland’s best move was signing Kevin Milwood, and Kansas City’s best move? Well, maybe next year.
Of course, the favorites in the A.L. will be the Yankees and your world champion Boston Red Sox. Could it be any other way? Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson will lock horns – at least hopefully. From there, who knows what happens? Is there really a chance for anyone else in the East, i.e. Baltimore? Why did they trade for Sammy Sosa again?
In the West, it’s a division of rising stars. Too bad Oakland doesn’t have any more left. Tim Hudson is gone, and it’s not going to be a pretty picture on that side of the bay. Texas could have the inside track, simply because of their manager, Buck Showalter. After all, he has a way of building teams into contenders. Too bad he’s not around when they actually win the brass ring. Seattle has Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson. Unfortunately, that recent DWI attached to Sexson doesn’t give him a good start, and does Seattle have any starting pitching that can truly compete in the A.L.? Anaheim(Angels of Los Angeles) will need more than a name change to get back to their World Series form of 2002.
Going to the National League, the aforementioned Mets are the off-season champs. More on them in a minute. From West to East, the San Fran Giants will have to deal with the Barry Bonds steroids issue all year long, especially as he marches closer towards the home run marks of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Moises Alou will take some of the load off – at least on the field. Fortunately for the rest of the N.L., they were dumb enough to enlist Armando Benitez as their stopper. In other words, whatever runs that Bonds drives in, Benitez will donate them right back, especially in September. As for Los Angeles, San Diego, Colorado, and Arizona, you take your pick. None of them will get the wild card.
In the Central, the Sosa-less Cubs will not have the punch to last. They also lost a key component in pitcher Matt Clement to Boston, and Kerry Wood is not a 30-start pitcher. Hard times are ahead for the Northsiders. St. Louis should repeat as division champs by default, because nobody else is even close on paper. Will they come oout of the National League again? That’s a whole different story.
In the East, the best thing about the Nationals is that they will get more than 5,000 fans a night. Moving along, Florida will welcome Carlos Delgado and his 35+ home runs to go with that talented, but oft-injured pitching staff, minus Carl Pavano. I don’t give Florida much of a chance to crack the top two(Atlanta and Philadelphia).
In Atlanta, the 13-time division champs will have to figure out how to do it all over again, and get to the World Series. Tim Hudson and bringing John Smoltz back to the starting rotation will definitely help. An aging Chipper Jones won’t.
Philly will be interesting. New manager, same team. Did they really underacheive with Larry Bowa, or are they just underacheivers, period?
Getting to the Mets, the first African-American manager in New York baseball history will step to the forefront, and turn a losing atmosphere into a winning one. Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez should go a long way towards that. Of couse, this is the Mets. They have proven over and over again that paper championships are just that. Do they have the right blend of youth and experience to finally overturn the Braves?
It may not be Spring on the calendar, but who cares? It’s baseball again. Any time of the year, that brings a warm feeling to baseball fans.