As I have already confessed, I am a fiend for baseball, so naturally I could not just cover the National League and stop there. Although Chemistry teacher Cyndi Lewis has a genuine distaste for the Designated Hitter position utilized in the American League, I was able to twist her arm and get her thoughts on those teams as well.
1. New York Yankees
Manager – Joe Girardi
Last year’s finish – 103-59 (1st place)
Biggest Addition – CF Curtis Granderson
Granderson is just so young and so good that it is scary what he can do when put in this lineup in New York. He brings speed and athleticism, but the low average of .249 last season. Though that should improve, given the great hitters around him in the lineup.
Biggest Subtraction – DH Hideki Matsui
In the World Series, Matsui batted .615 and drove in 6 runs in the clinching game 6, which is the most RBIs in a clinching game ever. He was also the first Japanese-born World Series MVP and has been a Yankee his entire career. Although the Yankees saw him as expendable, I think I would have retained a guy who produced like that in the Fall Classic.
Kyle Says – Not much to say here. The Yankees got better in the offseason and seem to have purchased another World Series shot.
Lewis Says – You and I can hate the Yankees all we want, which we both do, but what fan wouldn’t want that kind of owner and aggressiveness? They do what it takes every year to compete, and this year is no different.
2. Boston Red Sox
Manager – Terry Francona
Last Year’s Finish – 95-67 (2nd place)
Biggest Addition – SP John Lackey
Although I’ve always thought Lackey was a bit overrated and the Sox gave a few arms and legs to get the guy, you can’t ignore the strength of their rotation and what he could add to the staff.
Biggest Subtraction – LF Jason Bay
Bay stepped in immediately following the Manny Ramirez trade and has done a pretty good job. I really just don’t see Jeremy Hermida or Mike Cameron matching his production.
Kyle Says – A very good team with great pitching should compete for the division and a spot in the playoffs.
Lewis Says – Even though their pitching is top-notch, their hitting is suspect, which is where the Yankees own their edge in the race. Second-place finish for the team.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
Manager – Joe Maddon
Last Year’s Finish – 84-78 (3rd place)
Biggest Addition – RP Rafael Soriano
Soriano is a pretty good relief pitcher and should be the closer in the upcoming season, given the departures of oft-injured closing projects Jason Isringhausen and Troy Percival.
Biggest Subtraction – None
The losses in Free Agency won’t hurt the Rays, given their depth in the farm system.
Kyle Says – Really good team, but they play in the East with the Yankees and the Sox, so they are third-place bound.
Lewis Says – You have to feel bad for the Rays. In any other division, they would have a legitimate shot every single season. But when you have the bloated budget teams ahead of you, it’s hard to compete year in and year out. A definite third-place finish this season.
4. Baltimore Orioles
Manager – Dave Trembley
Last Year’s Finish – 64-98 (5th place)
Biggest Addition – 3B Miguel Tejada
Fans will recognize Tejada from his first stop in Baltimore a few years ago; they can finally break out that old jersey they had tucked away in the closet. Tejada is a good signing not just for nostalgia’s sake, but he’s a legitimately good player. He hit .313 and made the All-Star team last year with the Astros. He will change positions from shortstop to playing the hot corner for the O’s.
Biggest Subtraction – 3B Melvin Mora and RP Danny Baez
These guys are big losses for all the right reasons. Between the two of them, they cost the team more than $15 million last year. Considering Mora’s lack of any sort of power and Baez’s 4.02 ERA, I think the City of Baltimore will agree with me and say good riddance.
Kyle Says – I like the moves they made in the offseason, bringing in Tejada and pitchers Kevin Millwood and Mike Gonzalez to help out the staff, but the division is just too tough for them to have any real chance. I predict a fourth-place finish.
Lewis Says – They are a really decent team, but as Kyle said, the division is just too good.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Manager – Cito Gaston
Last Year’s Finish – 75-87 (4th place)
Biggest Addition – SP Kyle Drabek, 3B Brett Wallace and C Travis D’Arnaud
These are the pieces gathered in the Roy Halladay trade. I’m not all that sold on Drabek as a future ace, but Wallace should be a very good player once he converts to first, and D’Arnaud is one of the top catching prospects in the game. All three should be solid members of the team in a few years.
Biggest Subtraction – SP Roy Halladay
Halladay is the best pitcher in the game. Even though the Jays received some very solid pieces in the trade, losing a player like that definitely hurts.
Kyle Says – This is a team that doesn’t have much hope for this upcoming season and is setting sights for 2011-12.
Lewis Says – The Jays are not a great team, but they have some solid prospects in the farm.
1. Chicago White Sox
Manager – Ozzie Guillen
Last Year’s Finish – 79-83 (3rd place)
Biggest Addition- CF Juan Pierre
The trade for Pierre looks good when you look at Pierre’s stats. He has stolen at least 30 bases in each of the last nine seasons, hit .308 last year and had only 27 strikeouts in 380 at bats. However, the trade looks better when you see that the Dodgers are on the hook for $19 million of the money left on his contract.
Biggest Subtraction – RF Jermaine Dye
While it’s true Dye had a down year last season and many believe there is nothing left in the tank, he was still a leader of this club along with Jim Thome, who is also gone. It should be interesting to see how this affects the team going into next season.
Kyle Says – General Manager Kenny Williams put together a whirlwind offseason and made his team exponentially better. J.J. Putz will help the bullpen, versatile 3B Mark Teahan should thrive in the winning atmosphere and make good use of his talent and hustle, and I’ve already touched on the speed and spark Pierre brings. With a rotation that stars Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle, I see them running away with this division, as long as Ozzie doesn’t blow up.
Lewis Says – The fact that Ozzie Guillen has a Twitter and is planning on keeping it going this season scares me. He is a really bad hothead and I think he will say something really stupid that will hurt the team. It’s bad enough he gets to talk to the media after games, but with Twitter, it’s instant with no filter. I see a blow up and a third-place finish.
2. Minnesota Twins
Manager – Rob Gardenhire
Last Year’s Finish – 87-76 (1st place)
Biggest Addition – 2B Orlando Hudson
He is so much better than 2009 Opening Day starter Alexi Casilla, who batted .202 last season. Hudson will improve the team on the field as well as off, as he is a good, light-hearted guy to have in the clubhouse.
Biggest Subtraction – SS Orlando Cabrera
The Twins did trade for ex-Brewer prospect J.J. Hardy, and they hope he can return to his 2007-08 form and forget that 2009 ever happened. But I still feel they will miss Cabrera’s consistency and leadership.
Kyle Says – The Twins are a pretty good team that has a chance to compete for the division if the White Sox stumble out of the gate.
Lewis Says – They are heroes to all the small-market teams and I have them winning the division. The only thing that scares me is they open their new stadium this year, Target Field, and I’m wondering how the open-air stadium will play in Minnesota.
3. Detroit Tigers
Manager – Jim Leyland
Last Year’s Finish – 86-77 (2nd place)
Biggest Addition – RP Jose Valverde
Valverde is better than former closer Fernando Rodney and should allow Leyland to get some more sleep and a lower blood pressure. Although there was some good talent collected in the Curtis Granderson deal, Valverde provides the most immediate help at a position where they really needed it.
Biggest Subtraction – CF Curtis Granderson
There is no question that Granderson is talented, but trading him was a good move. He had a down year and they still were able to get a few solid building blocks for the future.
Kyle Says – The Tigers are simply an average team that will place third in the division, trailing the Sox and Twins.
Lewis Says – They have a really good pitching staff and enough hitting to give them a second-place finish behind Minnesota.
4. Kansas City Royals
Manager – Trey Hillman
Last Year’s Finish – 65-97 (4th place tie)
Biggest Addition – C Jason Kendall
You could argue that Kendall hasn’t had a solid season hitting since 2006 with the A’s, and you would be correct with that analysis. However, Kendall’s value to the Royals is defensively. He should be able to control their young pitching staff and ideally help develop some young pitchers in the staff.
Biggest Subtraction – UTIL Mark Teahen
Teahen is a good player who was more than likely traded for finances rather than play. Teahen played four different positions last year, and the Royals will miss his versatility and hustle.
Kyle Says – They have some good players, but as a whole they are a bad team. Nothing better than fourth place.
Lewis Says – Zack Greinke is really the only high-caliber player they have, and he isn’t enough to compete.
5. Cleveland Indians
Manager – Manny Acta
Last Year’s Finish- 65-97 (4th place tie)
Biggest Addition – 1B Russell Branyan
Considering Branyan was seeking $20-$30 million early on in Free Agency, the Indians got him at a high discount ($2 million). Branyan had a career year, knocking in 31 home runs and slugging .520.
Biggest Subtraction – 2B Jamey Carroll
Given how bad the Indians were, no one leaving could hurt them that badly. But having batted .276, Carroll is the best of those who were let go.
Kyle Says – The Indians are the worst team in the American League. They will be lucky to win 60 games this year.
Lewis Says – It seems the Indians have gone from a major league team to a minor league team. All they do is supply big-market teams with talent such as C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee.
1. Seattle Mariners
Manager – Don Wakamatsu
Last Year’s Finish – 85-77 (3rd place)
Biggest Addition – SP Cliff Lee and 3B Chone Figgins
I considered Figgins to be the best free agent available, and when the Mariners signed him, it instantly put them atop the AL West. But when they pulled off the trade for Cliff Lee, they acquired one of the best pitchers in the game for minimal damage to their farm system. Lee will pair with Felix Hernandez to give Seattle a great one-two punch at the top of the rotation.
Biggest Subtraction – Team Chemistry
Milton Bradley being traded to Seattle is a subtraction by addition. If you watched any Cubs games last year, you could see how much of a drain he was on the feel in the locker room. If I was a Mariners fan, I would be concerned about him poisoning that locker room as well.
Kyle Says – The addition of Lee and Figgins to an already good team seals a division title for me.
Lewis Says – Although I don’t know much about the American League West because I’m usually going to bed around the time their games are starting, I do know that the Mariners are pretty darn good and should win this division.
2. Texas Rangers
Manager – Ron Washington
Last Year’s Finish – 87-75 (2nd place)
Biggest Addition – DH Vladimir Guerrero
He is one of the best hitters in the game and the fact that they stole him away from a division rival makes the acquisition of Vlad even sweeter for the Rangers. Since he stayed in the American League, he won’t have to play the field, where he is a liability, and he will give Texas plenty of power and a high average.
Biggest Subtraction – CF Marlon Byrd
Byrd is a guy who is a solid fielder and a good hitter. Not a crippling loss, but it certainly won’t help.
Kyle Says – A good team at the plate, but pitching is suspect and if there is an Achilles heel, it would be the rotation.
Lewis Says – Texas always seem to lose steam down the stretch and fall apart late in the season. I imagine that will be the case again this year.
3. Los Angeles Angels
Manager – Mike Scioscia
Last Year’s Finish – 97-65 (1st place)
Biggest Addition – SP Joel Piniero
When John Lackey inked his 5-year, $82.8 million deal in Boston, a lot of people thought the Angels had a huge hole to fill. But after signing Piniero to a 2-year, $16 million contract, they should feel quite frugal. They got a guy who had more wins and a lower ERA in ’09 for a fraction of the cost. The only question with Piniero is whether or not he can keep his winning ways going away from Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, who helped him resurrect his career.
Biggest Loss – DH Vladimir Guerrero
There is no question to me that the Angels will miss Guerrero. Even with missing some time last year, he is one of the best hitters in the sport. And with all due respect to World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, whom they signed to replace Guerrero, the Halos will miss the presence that Vlad brought to the lineup.
Kyle Says – The Angels are a team that was hurt by free agency and should slip to third in a four-team division.
Lewis Says – They sure did lose a lot. However, I just don’t think Texas will stay hot the whole year and will drop off at some point, and the Angels will finish second.
4. Oakland Athletics
Manager – Bob Geren
Last Year’s Finish – 75-87 (4th place)
Biggest Addition – SP Ben Sheets
Sheets was outstanding in 2008 with the Brewers, but he sat out 2009 after having elbow surgery and hasn’t pitched in the big league in over a year. The A’s figured they would take a chance on the oft-injured pitcher. If he does well, look for him to be traded to a contender at the trading deadline.
Biggest Subtraction – None
The A’s were a bad team last year and every move in the offseason was in the right direction.
Kyle Says – They are a slightly better team this year. A few players will have good seasons and promptly will be traded for prospects. I see a last-place finish for the A’s.
Lewis Says – There was going to be a movie about GM Billy Beane and his “moneyball” strategy, but they must have scrapped the movie after seeing just how truly bad the A’s are.
I have my division winners from the American League as the Yankees, White Sox and Mariners. I also think the Rangers will finally bust into the playoffs by earning a Wild Card off the bat of Vlad Guerrero. I think they Yankees will win the AL and lose to the Giants in the October Classic.
Mrs. Lewis has the Yankees, Twins and Mariners winning their divisions and the Red Sox as the Wild Card team. She has the Yankees beating the other teams in the AL on their way to a second straight World Series title, as they will beat the Cardinals in 4 games.
Click HERE to see Ratliff and Lewis’ predictions for the National League.