Spring training is here, baseball is in the air, and we’re looking forward to another terrific season. What will the 2003 campaign bring? Well, there’s no way to know for sure, but here are some educated guesses. Or should that be wishful thinking?
World Series Winner
Dan: Oakland! All the pieces are in place, and now the A’s have playoff experience, too. Their starting pitching may be the best in the majors, so mark them down as the team to beat!
cwebb: Arlo and others might see the Yankees as the early favorites, but the Diamondbacks should triumph one more time before their pitching aces retire.
Arlo: Having kept Jose Contreras out of Boston’s hands, the Yankees look ready for another run at a title. Staying focused might be this team’s biggest worry.
Dan: The Cubbies. It may just be wishful thinking, but if they can keep their stellar rotation healthy, they have a shot at contending.
cwebb: The Cubs. Let’s face it, they have a great young pitching staff that will make trips to Wrigley nightmares for opposing teams.
Arlo: With a move to parts unknown looming, Montreal will come together like last season’s Twins and stay in the playoff hunt until August. For the first time in years, sell-outs will be the norm for the Expos… at least in Puerto Rico.
Dan: A-Rod. It’s simply his turn.
cwebb: Following another outstanding campaign, Alex Rodriguez will pick up the trophy many felt should have been his last year.
Arlo: Alex Rodriguez will lose out again, as the voters realize that no player means more to his team than Pedro Martinez.
Dan: Vladimir Guerrero. Barry Bonds will finally show signs of aging, clearing the way for the reign of Vlad.
cwebb: Vladimir Guerrero. I knew it when I picked him for my fantasy squad three seasons ago: he’s the biggest five-stat stud in the game.
Arlo: Vladimir Guerrero will finally receive the credit that fantasy owners already give him…
AL Cy Young Winner
Dan: Barry ZZZZZZito… The scary thing about Zito is that he’s still getting better.
cwebb: Freddy Garcia. The Mariners need their ace to step up and lead this team, and Garcia will deliver.
Arlo: Pedro Martinez. If he can avoid injuries (and yes, that’s a big if), he has no equal in the AL.
NL Cy Young Winner
Dan: This might be the biggest surprise among the major award winners, but I think Roy Oswalt may be the best pitcher in the NL today. Now that he has more experience under his belt, he’ll be unstoppable.
cwebb: Curt Schilling takes it this year as voters get tired of the Big Unit and recognize Schilling’s outstanding ability. And yes, he’ll deserve it.
Arlo: The Big Unit will take this award home one last time. Sorry, young guns – you’ll have to wait until next year for the changing of the guard.
AL Rookie of the Year
Dan: Mark Teixeira. His debut will be a shining one, without any Blalock-esque stumbles.
cwebb: Matsui. Just because of all the hype.
Arlo: Hideki Matsui won’t win the MVP award like Ichiro did, but he’ll be at the head of this year’s newcomer class.
NL Rookie of the Year
Dan: Lyle Overbay. While many are hoping he’ll hit for power, it’s his average that will make him a rookie success.
cwebb: Aaron Cook. Two Rockies pitchers as back-to-back rookies of the year? Stranger things have happened…
Arlo: Marlon Byrd still has a lot to learn, but he’ll pick up this award on talent alone.
Comeback of the Year
Dan: Mike Hampton, although I may be letting my heart cloud my judgment here.
cwebb: Kevin Brown, if he can display even a fraction of the skills that made him one of the greats of the game just a few years ago.
Arlo: Mike Hampton won’t quite replace Tom Glavine, but a solid season will make pitching in Coors seem like nothing but a bad dream.
Dan: Kevin Brown. Of course there is a slight chance he will be fully healthy and pitch like his old self again. But the more I think about it, the more I feel he’ll be on and off the disabled list again, and frustrate more fantasy owners than opposing hitters…
cwebb: David Wells. The only question remaining is: how will he disappoint?
Arlo: Don’t make the mistake of counting on a 3.23 era from Kirk Rueter again. Even in a pitcher’s park, Rueter spells trouble for a fantasy pitching staff.
What We’d Like to See Most
Dan: Great Baseball…nothing simpler than that. For the players to go out there and give their best, while we lean back and just enjoy the greatest game on earth.
cwebb: The Cubs winning it all. The Bears didn’t make it to the bowl, so it’s up to the Cubs to bring joy to Chicago.
Arlo: A solid comeback by Rick Ankiel. This kind of talent shouldn’t go to waste.
All of us: A long-term agreement that will keep the game free of strikes, lockouts and work stoppages for years to come.
What are your own predictions for the 2003 season? Join us in the Predictions Forum, and let us know your thoughts on everything from the World Series champion to what you’d really like to see this year…