A wide-open race for glory
A wide-open race for glory
A wide-open race for glory
March 27th, 2007
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Last season, the Cardinals were 11-5 favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. St. Louis rewarded its backers by defeating the New York Mets in seven games to win the pennant. However, the road the Cards took to get to that point was a bit rockier than expected.
St. Louis had won 100 games in 2005, but failed to reach the World Series. Houston won the NL despite finishing 11 games behind the Cardinals. Who would have thought Tony La Russas club would only win 83 contests during the regular season in 2006, but still have enough to win the whole enchilada? Well, thats exactly what the Cards did, as they destroyed the Detroit Tigers four games to one to bring home the title.
The Cardinals (16-1) are the 10th choice to repeat as champs, while the Yankees are the favorites once again, despite not enjoying a parade down the Canyon of Heroes since 2000.
With the NCAA basketball tournament winding down, its time to get those baseball caps on and hit the diamond for the annual World Series predictions.
1) YANKEES (4-1): New York led the majors in runs scored (930) last year, and that was without Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, who missed a combined 233 games. The 1931 Yankees still hold the American League record with 1,067 runs, which could be challenged by this version of the Bronx Bombers. Nevertheless, pitching is the name of the game, and New York brought back Andy Pettitte to aid a banged-up staff. The Yanks have to be considered the favorites to win the World Series. However, they havent been able to do so since defeating the Mets back in 2000, despite having been favored almost every year since.
2) RED SOX (5-1): Boston finished third in the AL East last year for the first time since 1997. The reasons? Ninety less runs scored than the year before and a team ERA of 4.83, good for 11th in the American League. To rectify the problems, the Red Sox signed J.D. Drew and Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka. That probably won't be enough to overtake the Yankees, but it might bring the Sox a wild-card berth. If so, they have a shot at winning their second World Series in the last four years. Five-to-1, however, is still too low to take.
3) CUBS (9-1): This time last season, the Cubs were 9-1 to win the pennant but ended up with only 66 victories. All of a sudden, they are the third choice to win the whole thing? Its true that they made a ton of changes to their roster, but it might be asking a lot to improve the 25 games needed to put them in the running for a postseason berth. Pass.
4) METS (10-1): If theres one team that will be thankful for the wild-card spot, its the Mets. With a starting staff consisting of a 41-year-old (Tom Glavine), a 37-year-old (Orlando Hernandez), two second-year players (Jon Maine and Mike Pelfrey) and a reclamation project in Oliver Perez, all New York will have to do is stay within shouting distance until Pedro Martinez comes back in August. The offense is still "AMAZIN," and the odds are right, even though the Mets might not win their division.
5) DODGERS (10-1): Los Angeles finished tied with the Padres atop the West standings with 88 victories last year, a 17-game upswing from 2005. Look for even more improvement with the additions of Jason Schmidt and Juan Pierre. The only question mark is a concerted lack of power, but Grady Littles club finished fourth in the league last year in runs scored, despite ending up next to last in home runs. A solid play.
6) TIGERS (10-1): With the exception of the addition of Gary Sheffield, Detroit's team is virtually the same as last year. The Tigers turned their fortunes around last year with pitching, as they led the majors in ERA. However, there is one nugget to keep in mind: The last time the losing team in the Fall Classic returned the following season was way back in 1992 when the Atlanta Braves fell to the Toronto Blue Jays. Pass.
7) ANGELS (10-1): The Angels are the favorites to win the AL West and tied with the three previous clubs at 10-1 to win it all. Pitching and defense wins championships, but a World Series contender should be able to mount some sort of offense. Los Angeles finished 12th in the AL in home runs and, unlike its National League counterpart, the Dodgers, ended up 11th in runs scored. Not this year.
8) WHITE SOX (12-1): The Sox won the 2005 World Series with tremendous pitching, as they tied the Indians for first place in the American League with a 3.61 team ERA. Last year, they allowed one full run more at 4.61. Offensively, Chicago improved by 127 runs to finish third in the league in that department and led the majors with 236 home runs. If Detroit and Minnesota both have letdowns, which could happen, look for the White Sox to take the AL Central and represent the league in the World Series. Remember, they still were good enough to win 90 games last season.
9) PHILLIES (12-1): Philadelphia will win the NL East, but that wont guarantee the team a spot in the World Series. The Phillies have arguably the best pitching staff in the league if Cole Hamels and Freddy Garcia can stay healthy and two of the top players in all of baseball in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. The Phils led the National League in runs scored last season and finally have the pitching to go with that powerful offensive attack. New York will be a tough foe come playoff time, but this season could be the "Year of the Phillies." Worth a play at 12-1.
10) CARDINALS (16-1): Could this team go from winning the World Series to below .500 the following year? Its certainly a possibility in the much- improved NL Central. Chris Carpenter remains one of the top hurlers in the game, but the rest of the staff has oodles of question marks. Offensively, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen are a year older, and if Albert Pujols gets injured, theres a chance St. Louis wont even finish in the top three in its division.
There are a few sleepers to keep an eye on, beginning with Cleveland. The Indians stand at 18-1 to win the World Series and should have a huge bounce- back season. They were 17-29 against the Tigers, White Sox and Twins last year, and a dismal 9-19 mark in one-run games through the first week of August. If those two figures get turned around, the Tribe will make the playoffs as the wild-card team, and from there, anything can happen.
Only the Cardinals, Mets and Phillies have had more wins the past two seasons in the NL than the Houston Astros, and the combined odds of those three teams (38-1) are far less than the Astros, who stand at 60-1. Houston bolstered its lineup with the addition of Carlos Lee, and Morgan Ensberg should bounce back from a very disappointing 2006 campaign. Even though Andy Pettitte left via free agency and Roger Clemens might not return, those two hurlers combined to finish a mere two games over.500 last season. In a wide-open NL Central, go with the Stros to make the postseason. They are definitely worth a few bucks at 60-1.
If theres one AL team that can duplicate what the Tigers did last year, its the Seattle Mariners. Look for improved run totals this season with the additions of former Washington stars Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro. The pitching staff, anchored by Felix Hernandez, received a makeover in the off- season with Jeff Weaver and Miguel Batista replacing Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro. The AL West is the worst division in baseball, and if the Mariners can improve on their 19-38 divisional record, they have a great chance at winning the West. Seattle is worth a flyer at 70-1.
Both the Astros and Mariners are 5-1 to win their respective divisions, so those plays are worthy of monetary investments as well. In addition, the OVER/UNDER win totals for those two clubs stand at 78.5. Take the OVER on both.
The Phillies, Astros and Dodgers will win their divisions in the National League, while the Mets will pick up the wild-card berth. Over in the AL, look for the Yankees, White Sox and Mariners to get automatic bids, with the Indians nailing down the extra slot.
The NLCS will pit New York vs. Philadelphia, with the Mets reaching the World Series for the first time since 2000. The ALCS will be a battle of New York vs. Chicago, with the White Sox returning to the big stage after taking a breather last season.
The Mets and White Sox finally will provide the country with an exciting Fall Classic, with New York winning the World Series in seven games.