Here’s my picks for the NL East, followed by my picks for the AL East.
- Atlanta Braves: The best team in the NL East only got better during the off-season. Robert Fick, Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, Johnny Estrada make up for the loss of Kevin Millwood and Tom Glavine. The Braves are solid through and through and have proven they can win with this level of talent (not true, say, of the Mets).
- Florida Marlins: I’m going out on a limb here … if Pudge can really help, if the young pitching holds up, if Kevin Millar does indeed return, if Todd Hollandsworth lives up to his promise, if the loss of Preston Wilson doesn’t hurt too much (and how can it, given how much he strikes out) … Florida has a pretty solid team. And the other teams in the division tend to be overrated.
- New York Mets : I like the additions of Mike Stanton, Cliff Floyd, Rey Sanchez and Tsuyoshi Shinjo, and any team with Mike Pizza and Roberto Alamar needs to be taken seriously — but … these guys just don’t seem like winners to me. I want to see them prove it before I have any confidence in them, but Art Howe just might be the guy to instill a little positive thinking in this group of under-achievers.
- Philedelphia Phillies: The most over-hyped, over-rated team going into spring training. Jim Thome will tank. David Bell is worthless. Doug Glanville was too much of a spark plug to let go. The only decent off-season move was picking up Kevin Millwood, but without the Braves-type offense behind him, will he be as effective?
- Montreal Expos: I know these guys are media darlings, and we all want to see them succeed, but I’ll be surprised if the team as we know it now is in tact by the All-Star break. If they are, even second place and a wild card isn’t out of the question, but I don’t see it happening.
- New York Yankees: The Yankees will win the AL East, win the AL Championshp and win the World Series. The Onion, of course, has the scoop.
- Boston Red Sox: The best the Red Sox can hope for is a wild card, and with the competitive set up of the AL West, that’s no sure bet. I like the pick up of Todd Walker, but the loss of Ugueth Urbina hurts. There were no other major player moves during that off-season. That isn’t enough to compete with the Yankees.
- Toronto Blue Jays: The most interesting question in the AL East this season is who will finish third. It’s either the BJs or Baltimore, and even though we know in baseball it’s hard to repeat, I’m going with the BJs for 2003.
- Baltimore Orioles: See Blue Jays, Toronto, above.
- Tampa Bay Devil Rays : Lou Piniella has never lost more than six games in a row. That will change this year. Still, the D-Rays have some good young players. They have a chance to lose fewer than 100 games.