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The Aaron Goldstein 2008 Baseball Predictions

Written by Aaron Goldstein

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My 2008 MLB Predictions
Aaron Goldstein

Major League Baseball is set to commence its 2008 season in Tokyo when the 2007 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox play the Oakland Athletics for the first of two games on March 25th.  The regular season comes into full swing on March 31st.  With a new season comes a new set of predictions.  


Hopefully I’ll do better this year than in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, I made the audacious prediction the Tampa Bay Devil Rays would win the Fall Classic. The Rays fell short finishing that season with the worst record in MLB. Last year, I picked the Texas Rangers to win the World Series. Although the Rangers did not have the worst record in MLB they did finish in the cellar of the American League West. 
 
This year I am predicting the World Series to return north of the border for the first time since 1993.
That is right I am picking the Toronto Blue Jays to prevail over the Washington Nationals in six games in the 2008 World Series.

American League East  

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Toronto Blue Jays*
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles
 

*-denotes AL Wild Card Winner  

The Boston Red Sox are the class of the American League East. You’ve largely got the same cast of characters returning this season including starting pitchers Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield as well as relievers Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima. Also returning are the team captain Jason Varitek, the one two punch of “Big Papi” David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and AL Rookie of the Year Dustin Pedroia. World Series MVP Mike Lowell also re-signed with the Red Sox for $37.5 million over three years. It will be interesting to see if Jacoby Ellsbury beats out Coco Crisp for the centerfield job. The pick up of veteran left handed hitter Sean Casey will spell Big Papi, Lowell and Kevin Youkilis when needed. Curt Schilling might not pitch in 2008 due to a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. That will give him time to campaign for John McCain. Although the presence of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon might compensate for Schilling’s absence in the regular season it might not do so in the post-season. 

 
The Toronto Blue Jays underachieved in 2007. Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay had sub par seasons while starting pitchers like A.J. Burnett and Gustav Chacin were plagued by injuries. But Aaron Hill and Alex Rios emerged last year and Frank Thomas enjoyed a productive season as a DH. The Jays are loaded with right handed pitching anchored by former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay accompanied by Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch and Shawn Marcum. Anything Burnett or Chacin contributes is gravy although Casey Janssen is lost for 2008 due to a torn labrum. Expect Wells and Overbay to rebound from their disappointing 2007 seasons. Jeremy Accardo filled in admirably for the injured B.J. Ryan saving 30 games. Ryan is expected to comeback sometime this season but there’s no reason to believe Accardo won’t continue to hold up his end of the bargain.  

The key additions for the Jays were the acquisition of two former St. Louis Cardinals infielders Scott Rolen and David Eckstein.  Rolen has been plagued by shoulder injuries and an even more nagging relationship with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.  Rolen is a man on a mission and Toronto could prove to be a godsend.  Look for the team to solidify around Rolen and in the process earn himself an American League MVP Award.   As for Eckstein, he has a habit of being an integral part of World Series Champion teams.  Just ask the 2002 Anaheim Angels and the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.  Eckstein won the 2006 World Series MVP.   

But the Jays have one more move to make.  They need to replace John Gibbons at the helm.   Gibbons has had difficulty establishing positive relationships with his players during his tenure in Toronto.  I believe the Jays will get off to a poor start in 2008 losing 8 of their first 10 games.   Gibbons should be replaced by first base coach Ernie Whitt.  The naturalized Canadian was an original member of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977 and was their catcher through 1989.  Whitt has also managed the Canadian national team and came within an eyelash of the bronze medal in the 2004 Sydney Olympics.   Alex Rodriguez won’t soon forget Whitt’s glance when he tricked young Howie Clark into dropping a pop up last May.   I believe the Jays can go all the way in 2008 but only with Whitt in the manager’s office.  

Speaking of managers, the New York Yankees are without Joe Torre after twelve seasons.  Torre is easily the longest serving Yankee skipper in the Steinbrenner era with four World Series titles under his belt.  However, after the Yankees were eliminated by the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series and failed to reach the World Series for the fourth consecutive season, Torre and the Yankees opted to part ways.  Succeeding Torre is former Yankees catcher Joe Girardi who managed the Florida Marlins in 2006.   Girardi nearly took a team full of rookies to the NL Wild Card but a row with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would cost him his job.   Unlike the 2006 Marlins, Girardi will manage a mostly veteran team that includes the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Mariano Rivera.   There are some young players on the Yankees including pitchers Phillip Hughes and Joba Chamberlain who will be playing their first full seasons.   Fellow youngsters Sean Henn, Ian Kennedy and Jeff Karstens will be given more opportunity alongside veterans Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte.   

The Yankees will be competitive in 2008 but will not be the same team without Joe Torre and will fail to reach the postseason for the first time since 1993.   

Baseball in St. Petersburg has been rechristened.   The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are now simply known as the Tampa Bay Rays and have blue uniforms instead of green ones.  The Rays enter their 11th season as a major league franchise without ever enjoying a winning record.   I believe this season will be a turning point.  They will not have a winning season but will finish at .500 with an 81-81 record for the first time.   For the first time they have something resembling a viable starting rotation led by Scott Kazmir, who led the AL in strikeouts last season.  Kazmir is accompanied by James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson and ex-Twins starter Matt Garza.  Their bullpen is a little more suspect.  It is hard to know what one will get from Al Reyes let alone Troy Percival but they could make for one of the great stories of the 2008 season if they are at all effective.  Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena are the heart of the lineup although they will need more production out of Akinori Iwamura and Jonny Gomes.  Any contribution from the injury prone Cliff Floyd and the even more injury prone Rocco Baldelli would be manna from heaven.    

The Baltimore Orioles have not enjoyed a winning season since capturing the AL East in 1997.  They will not enjoy a winning season in 2008.  However, the O’s obtained a boatload of prospects when they dealt shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros and starting pitcher Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners.  However, it will not likely pay dividends until at least 2011.  The days of Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray truly are ancient history.   
American League Central
 

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Minnesota Twins
 

After just missing the post-season in 2004 and 2005 and a setback year in 2006, the Cleveland Indians finally put it together in the second half of 2007 and captured their first AL Central title since 2001.  The Tribe came within one win of a trip to the World Series although the Boston Red Sox had other plans.   But Grady Sizemore, Casey Blake, Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez will not go away anytime soon.  Neither will the one two punch of 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona.  The Indians won 96 games in 2007 and yet DH Travis Hafner and starting pitchers Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook had down seasons.   Imagine what happens when they are on all eight cylinders.  I don’t know if Joe Borowski will lead the AL in saves for the second straight year but his conditioning regimen is considerably better than it was earlier in his career.  He is also backed up by great set up men in Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez and Aaron Fultz.  If Borowski does falter, Japanese relief pitching great Masahide Kobayashi is waiting in the wings.  

The Detroit Tigers made big moves in obtaining outfielder Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins.  They also added veterans Edgar Renteria and Jacque Jones.  Put them around Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Gary Sheffield they will be very good but not quite good enough to win the AL Central or the AL Wild Card.   Justin Verlander did not have a sophomore jinx as I expected he would in 2007 after winning the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year.  But Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson were inconsistent and Kenny Rogers was hurt most of the year.   Can Willis pick up the slack if Bonderman, Robertson and Rogers don’t rebound?  Set up men Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya also missed significant time with injuries and closer Todd Jones turns 40 next month.    

Only two years removed from winning the World Series, the Chicago White Sox lost 90 games in 2007 coming within three games of finishing in the cellar of the AL Central.  Nevertheless the Chisox extended manager Ozzie Guillen’s contract through the 2012 season.  Outfielder Jermaine Dye and pitcher Mark Buehrle signed contract extensions late in the 2007 season.   This off season they acquired veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Angels and outfielders Nick Swisher and Carlos Quentin from the Athletics and the Diamondbacks, respectively.   They should ease the burden on Dye as well as Paul Konerko and Jim Thome.  A healthy Joe Crede at third base would also be a big help.  Buehrle and Javier Vazquez are good at the top of the rotation but it’s anybody’s guess what Jose Contreras and John Danks can contribute.   The Chisox bullpen is anchored by Bobby Jenks but his set up men struggled around him.   The addition of Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel should help in this regard.  The Chisox won’t regain their form of 2005 but should have a respectable campaign in 2008.  

Trey Hillman inherits a young Kansas City Royals team in 2008.  Alex Gordon and Tony Pena, Jr will continue their growing pains but Hillman’s experience as a minor league manager in the Yankees system should serve them well.  After nearly missing the entire 2006 campaign while with the Mets, Brian Bannister won 12 games and finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting.  Bannister is joined in the rotation by fellow youngsters Jorge De La Rosa and Kyle Davies as well as veterans Gil Meche and Brett Tomko.  Joaquim Soria showed some promise saving 17 games last season.  The team’s elder statesman Mark Grudzielanek batted over .300 last season.  One wonders how the talented but unpredictable Jose Guillen will fit in with Hillman’s no-nonsense approach.  Still, the Royals are moving in a positive direction.  

The same cannot be said of the Minnesota Twins.  Where to begin?  They dealt two time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana to the Mets.  Two other starting pitchers, Carlos Silva and Matt Garza are also gone.  Silva signed with the Mariners as a free agents and Garza was dealt to the Rays in exchange for the talented but yet unpredictable Delmon Young.  If that was not enough, the Twins lost center fielder Torii Hunter to the Angels via free agency.  Carlos Gomez has the unenviable task of filling Hunter’s shoes in center.   

The Twins are not without assets.  They still have the new M&M boys – Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, although Mauer was hurt part of last season.  Joe Nathan is still one of the best closers in the AL but a starting rotation led by Boof Bonser might not get to him very often.  No doubt veteran starter Livan Hernandez was acquired to eat some innings.  Manager Ron Gardenhire has led the Twins to four AL Central Division titles but his patience will be tested and he might be very well tempted to jump into all 10,000 of Minnesota’s lakes by season’s end.  
American League West
 

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  2. Seattle Mariners
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. Oakland Athletics
 

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim got better in the off season with the signing of free agent center fielder Torii Hunter and the acquisition of starting pitcher Jon Garland from the White Sox.  The signing of Hunter moves Gary Matthews, Jr to right field and allows Vladimir Guerrero to spend most of his time as a DH.  Garret Anderson returns for his 14th season in an Angels uniform and continues to produce.  Garland joins a very good rotation consisting of John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Jered Weaver.  There is also every reason to believe that Ervin Santana will rebound from his 7-14 won loss record in 2007.  The bullpen doesn’t get much better than closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez and set up man extraordinaire Scott Shields.  Chone Figgins and Reggie Willits had 68 stolen bases between them last season.   Howie Kendrick looks only to get better at second base and Macier Izturis appears ready to be the everyday shortstop.   

The Seattle Mariners were one of the biggest surprises of the 2007 season and gave the Angels a run for their money.  They will continue to be competitive in 2008.  They have one of the deepest starting rotations in MLB with Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, free agent signee Carlos Silva and former Oriole Erik Bedard.  Yet Bedard is injury prone so Mariners fans should temper their joy.  J.J. Putz has enjoyed two outstanding seasons as the M’s closer and should enjoy a third.  But make no mistake.  These are Ichiro’s Mariners.   For the seventh consecutive season, Ichiro had more than 200 hits, amassing 238 in 2007.  Surrounding Ichiro’s zen are his fellow countryman Kenji Johjima, Raul Ibanez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Vidro and Adrian Beltre.  While Beltre has never regained his form of 2004 when he hit 48 homeruns with the Dodgers, Beltre has steadily improved with every season in Seattle.  Richie Sexson, however, struggled hitting a career low .205 with declining power production.  On the whole though, the Mariners are good.  Like the Tigers, they won’t be quite good enough to win their division or the Wild Card but they will contend nearly the entire season.  

The Texas Rangers have problems with pitching.  Then again when haven’t the Rangers had problems with pitching?  It might be hard to get free agent pitchers to sign with the Rangers because Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla have not been effective in a Rangers uniform.  It will be interesting to see how Kameron Loe and Robinson Tejeda develop in 2008.  Perhaps former Red Sox farmhand Kason Gabbard can make a go of it in the rotation.  C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit are respectable in the bullpen.  

Michael Young leads an offense that is joined by the likes of Ben Broussard, Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley.  Hamilton and Bradley have had checkered pasts but Ron Washington is probably good fit for them as a skipper.  Marlon Byrd had a nice first half in 2007 but struggled when the team started winning.   

The Oakland Athletics are a team in transition.  Gone are Nick Swisher and pitching ace Dan Haren.  Aside from Joe Blanton and Chad Gaudin, there’s little in the way of starting pitching.   Huston Street is a good closer when healthy.  Alan Embree and the recently unretired Keith Foulke will have to pick up the slack if Street cannot get into gear.   Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby have been inundated with injuries.  However, Jack Cust, Travis Buck and Mark Ellis had good campaigns in 2007.  Look for a greater contribution from catcher Kurt Suzuki in 2008.   

American League MVP – Scott Rolen, Toronto Blue Jays

American League Cy Young Award – Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays

American League Rookie of the Year – Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox  
National League East
 

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Washington Nationals*
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. New York Mets
  5. Florida Marlins
 

*-denotes NL Wild Card Winner  

Before the 2007 season commenced, Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Jimmy Rollins said the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East.  The Phillies proceeded to lose 11 of their first 15 games.  But the Phillies recovered and it was the New York Mets that collapsed in the final week of the regular season.  Jimmy Rollins was good to his word and the Phillies reached the postseason for the first time since 1993 and was voted the National League’s MVP.   

There’s every reason to believe the Phillies will be better in 2008 than in 2007.  Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are as a good a heart of a batting order as any in the game.  I do think the loss of Aaron Rowand is unfortunate but Shane Victorino is a hustling ballplayer reminiscent of Rowand’s take no prisoners style and will excel in centerfielder.  With the addition of Brad Lidge as the closer, Brett Myers returns to the starting rotation joining Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, the ageless Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton.  Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero will back up Lidge in the bullpen.  

The Washington Nationals will be to the 2008 season what the Colorado Rockies were to the 2007 season.  They are not the best team in the National League on paper but are capable of going on the sort of hot streak that could catapult them to the post-season.  If Manny Acta guides his team to the playoffs not only will be the NL Manager of the Year he might also be nominated by the Motion Picture Academy for Best Acta.  (Insert groan here).  The Nationals are filled with castoffs who are hungry to prove themselves.  Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard did that last season.  Perhaps Rob Mackowiak, Willie Harris, Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes will do so this season.   Nick Johnson and Cristian Guzman appear to have overcome their injuries and are ready to contribute in 2008.  Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada will catch the Nationals pitching staff.  Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, Matt Chico, Tim Redding and John Lannan aren’t household names – yet.  If one of them is ineffective veteran Odalis Perez and former Yankee prospect Tyler Clippard can fill in the breach.  Chad Cordero is one of the best closers in the NL and has a great bullpen surrounding him in Jon Rauch, Ray King, Saul Rivera and Luis Ayala.   

The Atlanta Braves are partying like its 1995 again with the return of the likes of Tom Glavine and Javy Lopez and the departure of Andruw Jones.  The days of the Braves going to the post-season are over – for now.  Don’t get me wrong.  The Braves are still a competitive team with the likes of Mark Teixiera, Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur.  Glavine, John Smoltz and Tim Hudson are still three very good starting pitchers.  Indeed, Glavine and Smoltz are first ballot Hall of Famers.  But Glavine and Smoltz are over 40 and the number four and five starters are anyone’s guess as is who will be closing games for Atlanta in 2008.   Although with Rafael Soriano, Peter Moylan, Tyler Yates and a healthy Mike Gonzalez, a bullpen by committee approach could work well for them.   

Many believe the New York Mets will return to glory with the acquisition of two time AL Cy Young Award winner Johann Santana and a fully healthy Pedro Martinez.  But as mentioned earlier, the Mets endured the biggest final week of the season collapse since the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies.   A team simply does not recover from a collapse like that in the course of a single off season even if that team includes Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright.  That isn’t to say Santana will be a bust.  Be even if he delivers that is no guarantee that John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey will.   

With the departure of Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez becomes the offensive leader on the Florida Marlins.  Ramirez is one of the very best young players in the game.  Actually, the Marlins offense is pretty good with Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham, Jeremy Hermida and Mike Jacobs.  Cameron Maybin, who was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, will have an opportunity to play everyday.  However, their pitching is another story altogether.  It’s not lacking for talent.  It is just very injury prone.  Josh Johnson missed the entire 2007 season and will also miss this season following Tommy John surgery on his elbow.  Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez, Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolasco and Rick Vandenhurk have all encountered injuries.  Lefty Andrew Miller, who also came to the Marlins in the Cabrera/Willis deal, might need to consult a shaman beforehand.  Kevin Gregg is a decent closer and Matt Lindstrom has an opportunity one of the best set up men in the league with the chance of eventually becoming the Marlins closer.   
National League Central
 

  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. Houston Astros
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Milwaukee Brewers
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates
 

After spending last season in the broadcast booth, Dusty Baker returns to managerial duty with the Cincinnati Reds.  Baker has a proven record of getting people to play beyond their ability.  This isn’t to say the Reds are without talent.  Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, Jr, Ryan Freel and Brandon Phillips are very talented.  I believe Baker could prove to be very helpful to players like Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion and Bronson Arroyo.  In a weak division like the NL Central, a strong bullpen can be difference between playing in October and going home.  Signing ex-Brewers closer Francisco Cordero to a long term contract was brilliant.   Surrounding him are capable relievers in David Weathers and Todd Coffey and ex-Rockie Jeremy Affeldt.  The Reds do not have a deep starting rotation beyond Arroyo and Aaron Harang although ex-Ranger Edinson Volquez and Matt Belisle could prove pleasant surprises.  One cannot help but think that Griffey, Jr will have a very big year with Baker at the helm.  As will the rest of the team.  

The Houston Astros were by far the busiest team in the off season.  They acquired former Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, ex-Diamondbacks closer Jose Valverde and fresh off a World Series appearance former Rockies second baseman Kaz Matsui.  They also restocked their bullpen with the likes of Oscar Villareal, Geoff Geary, Mike DeJean and Chad Paronto.  Veterans Darin Erstad and Geoff Blum were also signed.  It will also be interesting to see if Lance Niekro responds to being in an Astros uniform where his late father, Joe Niekro, had his greatest success.   

Of course, Tejada was their biggest acquisition but days later he was named in the Mitchell Report.   However, Astros fans might be willing to put that aside if he provides protection for Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee.  The Astros will be better in 2008 than their disappointing 73-89 record in 2007 but it won’t be quite enough to prevail in the NL Central.  

The St. Louis Cardinals endured a difficult 2007 with the death of relief pitcher Josh Hancock in an automobile accident.   The team struggled for much of the season although they played well enough late in the season to contend with the Cubs and Brewers largely due to the return of pitcher turned outfielder Rick Ankiel.  However, Ankiel’s alleged use of HGH diminished the impact of his comeback somewhat.   Former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter missed most of 2007 to undergo Tommy John surgery and will likely most of this season as well.  However, the emergence of Adam Wainwright has softened this blow somewhat.  It will be interesting to see if pitching coach Dave Duncan can revive the careers of Joel Pineiro and Matt Clement.   Another great cause for concern for the Cardinals are the elbow and hamstring problems being faced by former NL MVP Albert Pujols.  The acquisition of Troy Glaus from the Toronto Blue Jays for Scott Rolen might prove to be worst trade in Cardinals history since trading Steve Carlton to the Philadelphia Phillies for Rick Wise prior to the 1972 season.  

After struggling through the first two months of the season, the Chicago Cubs pulled themselves together en route to an NL Central Division Title.  However, the Cubs do not have a history of putting together back to back winning seasons.  Yes, this is a team with Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez as the heart of your order.  There is also much excitement about Japanese import Kosuku Fukodome.   The starting rotation is better than average with Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Hill and former closer Ryan Dempster.  Jason Marquis, Sean Marshall and newly acquired Jon Lieber will compete for the fifth spot.  However, if the Cubs are relying on the injury prone Kerry Wood to be the closer then the Cubs will surely go a century without winning a World Series.  The Cubs last won the Fall Classic in 1908.   

The Milwaukee Brewers were the story in the early part of the 2007 season as they won 24 of their first 34 games and led the NL Central for most of the season.  However, their strong offense could not compensate for weak starting pitching and an overworked bullpen.   I suspect this will be the case in 2008.   Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks and NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun will continue to put up good numbers but the Brewers did little to improve their starting rotation.  Ben Sheets is unhealthy, Chris Capuano is ineffective while Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas are inconsistent.  Gone is closer extraordinaire Francisco Cordero.  Taking his place is Eric Gagne, who split the 2007 season with the Rangers and a horrible stint with the Red Sox.  Gagne is not the pitcher he was five years ago and it is difficult to know what one will get from Derrick Turnbow, David Riske, Guillermo Mota, Salomon Torres and Seth McClung.   

Where does one begin with the Pittsburgh Pirates?   Why not just come to the end?  The Bucs have not enjoyed a winning season since winning the NL East in 1992.  John Russell becomes the Pirates fifth manager in a decade.  There are some bright spots with starters Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell, closer Matt Capps, outfielder Jason Bay and former NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez.  Xavier Nady and Adam LaRoche are alright and Jack Wilson is dependable at short.  But the talent on this team continues to be very thin.  That won’t get them very far even in a weak NL Central Division.  
National League West
 

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. San Diego Padres
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Francisco Giants
 

The Arizona Diamondbacks had the best record in the NL going 90-72.  They were expected to be a work in progress but boy did they make progress.   Amazingly Chris Young and Eric Byrnes were the only players to hit more than 20 homeruns on the roster.  Players like Orlando Hudson, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew, Miguel Montero, Justin Upton and Conor Jackson are only going to get better.   The acquisition of Dan Haren from the Athletics adds to the potency of former NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb.  Doug Davis, Micah Owings and Juan Gutierrez round out the rotation nicely.  Yes, NL saves leader Jose Valverde has moved to Houston but the D’Backs have Brandon Lyon, Edgar Gonzalez, Juan Cruz and former Astro Chad Qualls to balance things out.  The D’Backs were no fluke in 2007.  

With much fanfare, the Los Angeles Dodgers hired former Yankees skipper Joe Torre after he parted ways in the Bronx.  The Dodgers did make some nice off season acquisitions with the likes of former Braves centerfielder Andruw Jones and Japanese pitching sensation Hiroki Kuroda and should fit in nicely with Brad Penny and Derek Lowe at the top of the rotation.  Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Beimel and Scott Proctor make for a very good bullpen.  Russell Martin is emerging as the best catcher in the NL.  However, Jeff Kent is at the end of his career and Nomar Garciaparra is becoming injury prone.   Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp and James Loney all spell underachievers and adding Jones to the mix doesn’t help.   The Dodgers are better off with Torre than Grady Little.   But just as the Yankees need Joe Torre, he needs the Yankees.  Joe Torre won’t suddenly get dumb.   He just won’t achieve with the Dodgers what he did with the Yankees although the Dodgers will give the Diamondbacks a run for their money in 2008.  

The San Diego Padres are rich in pitching with 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, Chris Young and four time NL Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux.  This is a team that can afford to take on Mark Prior and Randy Wolf as reclamation projects.  Trevor Hoffman, who is MLB’s all-time saves leader with 524 is still going strong at 40.  It’s their offense that is a problem and I doubt Jim Edmonds and Tony Clark are the answer.   Khalil Greene is improving with every season and I think Scott Hairston will blossom in 2008.   Tadahito Iguchi will be an improvement over Marcus Giles at second.  However, Brian Giles and Kevin Kouzmanoff leave a great deal to be desired.   

If the Colorado Rockies had not won 14 of their final 15 regular season games they would have likely finished fourth in the NL West.   The Rockies were a decent team that peaked at exactly the right moment.   Even with the offensive juggernaut of Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton I believe it is very unlikely the Rockies will replicate their 2007 ascension.  Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook are good major league starters but it remains to be seen if Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales can do over a full season what they did last fall.  Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas are a solid set up man/closer tandem.   The Rockies are a good baseball team but not a great baseball team.  

The post-Barry Bonds era has begun in San Francisco.  Aside from the controversy emanating around Bonds and his pursuit of Hank Aaron, the Giants were horrible as much of the team was over 35 and as I predicted a year ago they finished dead last in the NL West.   They will finish dead last in the NL West this year but we will get to watch talented young players like Rajah Davis and Fred Lewis and see starting pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum continue to develop.  I was also very pleased to see the Giants sign centerfielder Aaron Rowand.   He is the anti-Bonds.  Rowand will run through a wall and break his nose to catch a ball.  He might have been the Chisox best kept secret on their 2005 World Series Champion team and the Phillies might very well regret not re-signing him.   Rowand is a perfect guy to have a clubhouse leader on a team of young, untested players who must learn to win.   

National League MVP - Ken Griffey, Jr, Cincinnati Reds

National League Cy Young Award - Aaron Harang, Cincinnati Reds

National League Rookie of the Year – Kosuku Fukudome, Chicago Cubs  
2008 Post Season
 

American League Division Series (best three out of five):  

Boston Red Sox over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 3-0

Toronto Blue Jays over the Cleveland Indians, 3-2  

American League Championship Series (best four out of seven):  

Toronto Blue Jays over the Boston Red Sox, 4-1  

National League Division Series (best three out of five):  

Washington Nationals over the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-1

Cincinnati Reds over the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-0  

National League Championship Series (best four out of seven):  

Washington Nationals over the Cincinnati Reds, 4-2  

2008 World Series (best four out of seven):  

Toronto Blue Jays over the Washington Nationals, 4-2  

Well, there you have it.  Honestly, I really don’t care if I’m right or wrong about what happens.  I just want to watch it happen.  

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