American League Preview
It may be fun to hate George Steinbrenner, but his Yankees are still class of the A.L. East. Boston has an annoying habit of challenging New York early on, and then fading badly during the dog days of summer.
1B Jason Giambi stood up to the pressure of performing in New York and belted 41 homers in 2002…The only first-year Yankee with more was Babe Ruth—54 in 1920…OF Hideki Matsui, who hit 332 home runs in Japan the past 10 years, gives the Bronx Bombers still another weapon…Reigning A.L. batting champion Manny Ramirez of Boston is a legitimate Triple Crown candidate if he can stay healthy. …Last season, the Red Sox were the first team with two 20-game winners (Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe) that failed to make the playoffs since the 1980 Baltimore Orioles…Tampa Bay 1B Aubrey Huff tied New York's Bernie Williams for most hits in the majors after the All-Star break (103) in 2002.
Predicted Order of Finish
New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
New York and Boston
Last season, Minnesota officially replaced Cleveland as the most talented club in the division. The White Sox are the only team with even a remote chance of preventing the fundamentally sound Twins from winning the A.L. Central title again.
CF Torii Hunter of the Twins is one of the A.L.'s most entertaining players in the field and at the plate. …All five members of Minnesota's starting rotation— Eric Milton, Brad Radke, Joe Mays, Rick Reed and Kyle Lohse—are capable of winning 15 games…Chicago RF Magglio Ordonez, who hit .320 with 38 homers and 135 RBI in 2002, is one of the game's most dangerous run producers…The White Sox substantially upgraded their pitching staff with the addition of 20-game winner Bartolo Colon and closer Billy Koch, who had a career-high 44 saves for Oakland last season…CF Carlos Beltran is a legitimate five-tool player that hot-shot agent Scott Boras is dying to get out of Kansas City.
Predicted Order of Finish
Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals
Minnesota and Chicago
This is easily the American League's best division top to bottom. Anaheim and Oakland should qualify for post-season play again. Seattle is also a highly competitive club, and weak sister Texas boasts baseball's most talented player in shortstop Alex Rodriguez.
Angels 3B Troy Glaus swings one of the A.L.'s most powerful bats, and OF Garret Anderson is one of the league's under-appreciated stars…Oakland will remain a contender as long as it can hang on to Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson—a trio that takes turns winning 20 games…A's SS Miguel Tejada probably didn't deserve to beat out Alex Rodriguez of the Rangers for A.L. MVP last season, but he's still a terrific player…A-Rod, who has 109 home runs the past two seasons, is living proof baseball isn't a one-man sport…All three of Seattle's starting outfielders—Randy Winn, Mike Cameron and Ichiro Suzuki—are speedy center field types…Hitting a ball in the gap against them won't be easy.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Anaheim Angels, Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers
Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle