BASN MLB Previews: 10 Burning Questions (Part Two)

By Tony McClean
Updated: March 14, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — After looking at the American League yesterday, we continue our peak into the 2006 baseball season focusing on the senior circuit.
Over the last two days, we’ve taken a look at both leagues to ask some of the many burning questions heading into the rest of Spring Training, the regular season, the playoffs, and finally the World Series.
While the Bonds steroid controversy has been huge news, there are other major stories entering the NL in 2006. But because it’s been on folks’ lips we must start off with this question:
1. Will Bonds be suspended, be injured, or play at all in 2006 or beyond?
One man’s opinion: Since there is no positive test, he probably doesn’t get suspended by Major League Baseball. After Bonds passes Babe Ruth in say late April, he’ll get within 10-15 homers of the Hammer at the end of the year. Then he’ll flip the script and retire. Five years later, we’ll dance this dance again with the the press as he is the lone player to be inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2011.
2. With the championship spectre of the Chisox looming, does manager Dusty Baker last the season in Wrigleyland?
Adding the likes of outfielders Juan Pierre (from Florida) and Jacque Jones (from Minny) along with relievers Scott Eyre (from Giants) and Bobby Lowry is a good start. But much of how long Dusty hangs around hinges on the health (again) of hurlers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Don’t be surprised if they’re in the race at mid season, GM Jim Hendry makes a blockbuster move (Barry Zito?? Manny??) to put them over the top.
3. Just how badly has the honeymoon ended for the Washington Nationals?
They were on top of the NL East at the All-Star break last year. Since then, they still have no owner, they may have to lose their name, they’ve chosen to play a dangerous game of chicken with a All-Star second baseman. All of this and they’re already suffering with injuries from OF Jose Guillen (wrist, shoulder) and RHP Brian Lawrence (labrum, rotator cuff). If you thought Frank Robinson was a ornery fella, just wait until July.
4. Much has been made of Omar Minaya’s “latinization” of the Mets. Just how true is it compared to the makeup of all major league teams?
At the opening of Spring Training, New York had 15 players of Hispanic descent on their 40-man roster, the most in the majors. However, seven other MLB squads also opened the spring with at least 10 or more Hispanics on their roster. In fact, Hispanics currently make up 22% on major league 40-man rosters this spring. In that same vein, African-Americans make up barely 10% of MLB rosters. Like the great Gil-Scott Heron said, the “revolución” will be televised.
5. Just how weak is or will the NL West be in 2006?
The Padres “won” the division last year at 82-80 because they were the only team that finished at least .500. As for 2006, San Diego added C Mike Piazza and 2B Mark Bellhorn to their lineup, the Bonds injury factor will have a barring on whether the Giants will be in the race, while the Dodgers have added Nomar Garciaparra (to play first base), SS Rafael Furcal (from Atlanta), and RHP Jae Seo. While the D-Backs and Rockies appear to be another rebuilding mold, the NL West on paper appears to be a helluva lot more interesting this year.
6. Are the St. Louis Cardinals one of baseball’s most overrated teams?
Since Tony LaRussa came to town in 1996, the Redbirds have won five NL Central titles including the NL pennant in 2004. They’ve been baseball’s winningiest franchise (205 wins) over the last two seasons. They have one of the best players in the planet in Albert Pujols to go along with a great starting staff for the best baseball town in baseball. So where’s their championship? That annoying window of opportunity may be closing on them if they don’t pull it off this season.
7. Can Tom Gordon and Arthur Rhodes make Phillies fans forget Billy Wagner or will they remind of them of Mitch Williams?
The biggest question on this pair may be, will they stay healthy for the whole season. Yankee fans will all remember how Flash was pretty much spent after September during the 2004 playoffs and had his ups and downs late last year as well. Rhodes has also been on and off the DL the last two seasons as well. If these guys fail, the alternatives are Rheal Cormier or Aaron Fultz (ouch!). You may either yearn for the days of watching the Wild Thing while covering your eyes or begin your screaming and cursing at Charlie Manuel right now.
8. Las Vegas? Virginia? Hoboken? (Oooooooh, I’m dying) Which city will be the new home of the Marlins?
I hope some of you caught the Looney Tunes reference. It does sort of fits in perfect with the situation of the currently Florida Marlins. After their second major salary drop in the last seven years, it appears that the Fish will be out of South Beach faster than a Dwayne Wade drive to the hoop. Don’t be surprised if the Vegas folks tries to make themselves a serious player in this silent battle to win the Fish’s favor. Unfortunately, the off the field happenings will probably be a bit more interesting than the on the field product.
9. Who could be a sleeper in the NL this season?
We talked awhile back about the Milwaukee Brewers as a possible team to watch out for. We like their lineup of outfielders Brady Clark, Carlos Lee, Geoff Jenkins, 2B Rickie Weeks, rookie 1B Prince Fielder, and 3b Corey Koskie. However, their pennant contenting chances will hinge on a pitching staff led by Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, and Doug Davis. Sheets is currently battling a shoulder injury that sidelined him the last weeks of 2005. They may not be ready to win the central this year, but their putting together the building blocks for a serious run in 2007.
10. And the winners are???………..
East: Mets
Central: Cardinals
West: Giants
Wildcard: Cubs
Playoffs: Mets over Cubs, Cardinals over Giants
NLCS: Cardinals over Mets.