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Season Picks & Preview: AL Central


Pimp Minister Sinister

1. Minnesota Twins: Unquestionably, the Twins have the best organization in all of baseball. They have a perennial playoff team mostly made up of home grown talent who excel at the fundamentals (namely a stellar defense). Not only that, but in addition they have budding stars on the rise in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and more studs down on the farm. You'd be hard pressed to find an organization with more talent from top to bottom than Minnesota. Look at how they pulled an unwanted Joe Nathan off the scrap heap last year and he turned into one of the Top 5 Closers in all of baseball. If they had any payroll flexibility whatsoever, you could be looking at a very very special team for a long time.

X-Factors: Johan Santana won't have as good a season statistically as last year, but he'll still be dominant, still be the best pitcher in the league, and will win his 2nd straight Cy Young Award. Look for a breakout season from Justin Morneau, who hit 19 dongs in only 74 games last season as a rookie. He could be primed for 40+ in '05. If the Twins get that much needed power production from him, they could be the darkhorse to win the AL Pennant.

Possible Pitfalls: The Twinkies will replace the left side of their starting infield last season. The guys they replace them with must be solid defensively, especially at Shortstop. In addition, the Twins' up-the-middle defense could have another question mark in Rookie Catcher Joe Mauer. We all know Mauer can rake at the big league level, but how good he is behind the plate is still up in the air as the season opens. Even if he develops into a solid defensive catcher, how much can you expect of him as a rookie? The Twins' Defense has carried them the past three seasons, and the team won't be as good with question marks at the 2 most important positions in the field (SS & C).

2. Cleveland Indians: GM Mark Shapiro has weathered criticism and an impatient fan base to stockpile talent and put this team on the cusp of serious contention in the AL. His trades of Bartolo Colon and Roberto Alomar (at the time) came under fire, but in retrospect he absolutely fleeced then-Expos GM Omar Minaya out of all of Montreal's top prospects, and unloaded a pricey veteran in Alomar who didn't just decline thereafter: his production disappeared completely. Adding the Expos' prospects to an already stocked Indian farm system has accelerated the rebuilding process. This team can rake with the best teams in baseball, and will make a serious run at the AL Wild Card and/or AL Central. Expect a 10 game improvement, and don't be surprised if they win a playoff berth.

Different Decade, Same Questions: Much like the 90's Indians, we know this team will score runs in bunches. Not only does this team have a lot of talent in its line-up, but Jacobs Field is a very, very cozy park for hitters. This Indian team will go as far as its pitching can take them. If Sabathia, Westbrook, and Millwood stay healthy and productive, its a dangerous team regardless of the question marks in the 'Pen.

Biggest Question (Besides the Bullpen): I'm personally very curious to see how Kevin Millwood pitches this season. On the one hand, he's leaving a dysfunctional ILL-adelphia team for a more solid organization that'll play better defense behind him and score way more runs. On the other hand, he was garbage in the inferior NL and is going to a league with way better line-ups (that usually feed on NL pitchers the way Jaws used to feed on drunk swimming teenage groupies), in a very hitter friendly park. Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other: one time can answer this question.

3. Chicago White Sox: This team will finish third for two reasons: a.) I expect big seasons from the front of their rotation, and b.) default. They've been a poorly constructed team and a poor organization for 80 some years, and the '05 version is no different. The casual fan couldn't pick 98% of their roster out of a police line-up, and the ones he could name would either be washed-up (and not that good even when they were young) veterans in Jermaine Dye, Timo Perez, Paul Konerko, and Carl Everett, or would be Frank Thomas (who might as well have retired five seasons ago).

If a tree falls in the woods and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound? Does anyone, AND I MEAN ANYONE care about this team?? Of the other two teams in baseball with long championship droughts (the Red Sox & the cross-town Cubbies), at the very least other fans would have to hear their fans bitch about it constantly: does anyone hear from the ChiSox fans? Do they have fans? Is there an AL team in Chicago anymore? They're boring, unexciting, and have had one attitude problem after another (Albert Belle, Frank Thomas, Robbie Alomar, Carl Everett, etc.) in the clubhouse over the years. Building the new Comiskey Park right before the advent of Camden Yards and the retro parks might doom this franchise for another 100 years, if there was even a glimmer of hope that it could happen anyway.

4. Detroit Tigers: What can I say? They signed Magglio Ordonez to a five year deal when no other club would give him a one year deal. That kind of personnel decision is a killer in a division that has two organizations like the Indians and Twins, and a shining reason why the Tigers are always near the bottom of this division. What's sad is that they probably have the most money, resources, rich tradition, and beautiful ballpark of any team in the AL Central, yet always finish 4th or last. DO NOT expect the same production out of Carlos Gullen in '05, cuz it aint happenin'.

5. Kansas City Royals: Awful team. Possibly the worst in baseball. HOWEVER! If you get a chance to see soph. Zack Grienke pitch, do it: the kid can flat out deal, and might be the best young pitcher in all of baseball. He has electric stuff. The everyday line-up is awful, and the only star in it: Mike Sweeney, will probably be traded on on before the July 31st trade deadline.

She's Still Preoccupied with 1985: If ever there was a case for revenue sharing in baseball, this is it. The Royals are a once-proud franchise that dominated the old AL West for years, and this year marks the 20th Anniversary of their first World Championship in 1985. If George Brett played today, he'd be gone from KC after six seasons and even if he stayed a Royal, the franchise's small-market status would keep them in the basement. We'd never get to see one of the best clutch players in baseball history play in the post-season, and that's a shame.

Lima-Time! Reason # 2 to watch the Royals: its Lima-Time! The most colorful pitcher in baseball returns for a second go-round in KC. If he can pitch the way he's capable, and Grienke can develop quickly, and firery manager Tony Pena can breath some life in this club, well then, they'd still finish last.


Never Forget 31-0
Sloopy45...excellent post...have some green.....:wink2:

I hope that we can improve from 68 in 2003, to 80 in 2004, to about 92-93 in 2005, if we do that, we will win the division. Just remember all of the blown leads and saves in the first half of 2004, which basically cost us the division.
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