2007 MLB Preview: American League

2007 MLB Preview: American League

2007 MLB Preview: American League
By Seth Doria

The Final Four is awesome. We have four great teams that matchup perfectly against each other. This past college basketball season was one of the best in a long while, and, for once, the best four teams are still standing at the end. It's going to be a fantastic weekend.

With that said, it's also time to turn the page (or at least peak ahead). While the NCAA tournament is the best postseason in the world, and the NFL does the best job of quenching our thirst for violent drama, baseball is still the soul of American sports. And it's that time again.

There's not a team in the league without a worry or two, and I'm by no means above using those worries to crack a few jokes. I guess that's just the kind of guy I am. Here are a few thoughts, division-by-division, in order of predicted finish.

We'll start with the AL today and go with the NL in the next few days.

AL EAST
Boston Red Sox

What's good: Moving Jonathan Papelbon back to closer. With Curt Schilling, Samurai Slim (my own personal nickname for Daisuke Matsuzaka — Dice K sounds like it was made up by a white suburban kid trying to be a rapper) and Josh Beckett anchoring the front of the rotation, Papelbon is much more valuable as a closer.

What's bad: J.D. Drew in a clubhouse with Manny, Big Papi, Schilling, and Jason Varitek. He just doesn't fit in. I don't care about his spring stats. This was a bad move. (I mean, really, really bad. Like not wearing a condom for a one-night stand bad.)

New York Yankees

What's good: With all the Alex Rodriguez nonsense, he's essentially going into a contract year. The fact Red Sox fans and Yankees fans absolutely hate him increases his value exponentially in my eyes. I'm expecting big things.

What's bad: Turns out Jason Giambi has been injecting bull semen to maintain his power. Seriously, when is baseball going to get serious about testing for these drugs? I mean, come on! Integrity of the game! Mike Lupica! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Toronto Blue Jays

What's good: Roy Halladay. After breaking down in '04 and '05, he returned to form in '06 at 16-5, with a 3.19 ERA and 132 strikeouts to only 34 walks. Will he ever top 200 strikeouts in a season again? Probably not. But he's still the man.

What's bad: Paying Frank Thomas big money off his "come on baby, just one more fat deal" season. I don't think he's getting to 39 HR and 114 RBI again.

Baltimore Orioles

What's good: Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen, and Hayden Penn (who will be in the rotation by the All-Star Break) are all super talented and still developing. With Leo Mazzone on board, there's significant hope.

What's bad: Unless I missed the news, Peter Angelos still owns the team. Also, they're not as good as Boston, New York, or Toronto.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

What's good: The Rays are the best AAA team in the majors.

What's bad: The luck. Nothing seems to go right for these guys. Either they built the stadium on an old Indian burial ground or owner Stuart Sternberg likes to kick puppies, but this organization has bad juju.

(Or maybe it's just the $24 million payroll.)

AL CENTRAL
Detroit Tigers

What's good: Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez, Craig Monroe, Sean Casey, Brandon Inge. That's a quality lineup with a bunch of hitters not prone to prolonged slumps. Give GM Dave Dombrowski all due credit. He's one of the best in the game.

What's bad: Granderson needs to do better than a .335 OBP. Also, 174 strikeouts are too many.

Cleveland Indians

What's good: The 3-4 combo of Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner is brutal. It's like asking a pitcher with a piranha attached to his balls to wrestle an alligator. The two could combine for 75 HR and 200 RBI.

What's bad: I'm not a big David Dellucci guy, especially in the two hole between Grady Sizemore and the alligator-piranha combo. I'd rather see new 2B Josh Barfield in that spot, with Dellucci down in the nine spot (or clean-up, as my parents used to call it when they wanted me to not feel bad about being the worst hitter on my t-ball team).

Minnesota Twins

What's good: How does 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA, 0.997 WHIP, 245 SO, and 47 BB sound? Johan Santana is by far the odds-on favorite to repeat as AL Cy Young.

What's bad: Without Francisco Liriano (out for the season) and Brad Radke (retired), the rotation behind Santana is suspect. Carlos Silva bottomed out (the Twins hope) with an 11-15 record and 5.94 ERA (and an astounding 38 HR allowed). Ramon Ortiz is running a three-year streak of losing records with the Angels, Reds, and Nationals and posted a 5.57 ERA in 06 with a 1.54 WHIP, 31 HR allowed, and an alarming 18 hit batters. Boof Bonser allowed 18 HR in 100 innings last year and Sidney Ponson is a fat loser.

Chicago White Sox

What's good: Jermaine Dye in a contract year.

What's bad: Everything about Ozzie Guillen. He's like Ann Coulter, except without the Nazi dominatrix sex appeal.

(Prediction: Ozzie gets canned.)

Kansas City Royals

What's good: First-year GM Dayton Moore was a top assistant to Braves GM John Schuerholz before coming to K.C. There are far worse people in the world to learn from than the consistently ahead-of-the-game Schuerholz.

What's bad: This is year one of the Moore era. He ain't Jesus.

AL WEST
Los Angeles Angels

What's good: Mike Scioscia has been one of the most consistent managers since coming to the Angels in 2000. He's had only two non-winning seasons out of seven, with two division titles and a World Series championship in 2002.

What's bad: After a break-out season from Juan Rivera in 2006 (.310 avg, 23 HR), he broke his leg playing winter ball and is expected to be out until sometime mid-season. Take a lesson from the Jermaine Dye experience a few years ago: stay away until at least 2008.

Texas Rangers

What's good: Got to love new manager Ron Washington's philosophy: "I want us to show up every day with a take-no-prisoners attitude. We want to destroy the opponent every day."

What's bad: Speaking of the Final Four, starting CF Kenny Lofton played on Arizona's Final Four team — in 1988! Dude is old!

Oakland A's

What's good: The defending AL West champions come into this season the same way they've come into any other recent season. Namely, they have top-line starting pitching (except now it's Rich Harden and Dan Haren instead of The Big Three), and a solid bullpen with a potentially dominant (but injury-prone) closer (from Jason Isringhausen to Huston Street).

What's bad: Bobby Crosby needs to play more than 100 games, something he hasn't done in either of the past two. It would help if everybody else stayed healthy, too. Only three returning players this year played at least 130 games for the A's last year, Eric Chavez (137), Jason Kendall (143), and Nick Swisher (157).

Seattle Mariners

What's good: Everything starts and ends with Ichiro, so it only seems fitting he's moving to center this season. Ichiro is still a fantasy stud, and he's going into his contract year.

What's bad: Jeff Weaver parlayed a good month of post-season baseball into a one-year, $8.3 million deal. Except Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan and catcher Yadier Molina aren't going to Seattle with him, so it's only a matter of time before he loses his confidence again, then goes back to coughing up eight runs in four innings.

***

Rangers take the wild card over the Yankees and Indians, then lose to the Red Sox in the ALDS. The Angels take out the Tigers in the other ALDS series, then beat the Sox to make the Series.

AL Cy Young: Johan Santana
AL MVP: Mark Teixeira
AL Rookie: Samurai Slim
AL Manager: Mike Scioscia
AL Biggest Disappointment: Chicago White Sox
First AL Manager Canned: Mike Hargrove

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