It’s time to dust off those crystal balls and look up what Nostradamus had to say about this year’s NL wild-card race. A new season is here, and once again, we’re looking into the future.
To add a new twist, this year we’ve asked an admin (Arlo), a Forum moderator (Madison), and a Forum regular (wrveres) to go out on a limb and predict what the 2004 season will bring. Like last year, there’ll be some hits and misses as we try to forecast a sport that has proven itself to be elusively – and wonderfully – unpredictable…
World Series Winner
wrveres: The Bronx Bombers – isn’t it that way every year? I hate to sound mundane, but if George doesn’t get his trophy in 2004, it will spell the end for a certain Mr. Cashman, and we could easily see a 250 million dollar payroll for 2005.
Madison: The Yankees. New York’s roster simply has far too much firepower this year. The pitching staff might still have a few question marks, but that lineup will put a lot of runs on the board.
Arlo: The Cubs. Their lineup won’t conjure up images of Murderer’s Row, but pitching wins championships, and the Northsiders have the best arms in the majors. Never mind the talk of curses – it’s Chicago’s turn.
wrveres: Junior Griffey, Austin Kearns, and Adam Dunn combined to hit only 55 homeruns last year. Sean Casey is a career .300 hitter. D’Angelo Jimenez hit .290 after coming over from Chicago. Something here just doesn’t seem right. I bet if you toss in a greatly improved pitching staff and sprinkle in a little health, Cincinnati might actually resemble a baseball team in 2004 and could easily surprise a great many ball clubs. Shame it didn’t coincide with the “Master Plan” for last year’s opening of Great American Ballpark, but in baseball, these things rarely do. Just blame it on Griffey.
Madison: The Padres. San Diego’s hitting has been upgraded along with the bullpen. I expect the young starting pitchers – Lawrence, Peavy, and Eaton – to continue to improve, and the team should also have plenty of fan support in the brand new ballpark.
Arlo: Tampa Bay. No, the D-Rays won’t reach the playoffs, and they might not even escape the AL East cellar this year. Yet with players such as Aubrey Huff, Carl Crawford, and Rocco Baldelli, the Rays should be an exciting team to watch, and will make things much harder on their opponents than in 2003.
wrveres: I think one fact that has been overlooked in the off-season shuffle is that Vladimir Guerrero finally has a home. At long last, he can turn in those frequent flyer miles. No more bouncing around the world, and no more bouncing around on that awful carpet in Montreal. Vladimir finally has a team built around him, and an owner who will do whatever it takes to win. What a huge 180� for one of baseball’s best. Soon he will have a shiny new trophy, too.
Madison: Vlad Guerrero. A monster season would not be a surprise at all, and with several Yankees splitting the vote and spoiling an Alex Rodriguez repeat, Vlad will come out with the victory.
Arlo: Last year, Alex Rodriguez overcame the stigma of playing for a last-place team to take home this award. This time around, he’ll have to overcome the votes drawn off by his Yankee teammates, not to mention learn a new position. The results will be the same, however, as A-Rod repeats.
wrveres: When Barry Bonds turns Jeffrey Hammonds into a player worth having on a mixed league roto roster in 2004, perhaps then all the Pujols fanatics will understand why he deserves all that hardware, but I doubt it.
Madison: Albert Pujols. This year the 24-year-old phenom will take home the award for the first time. Barry Bonds can’t keep carrying an entire team, can he?
Arlo: Time to go with an underdog: Jim Thome will be named the Senior Circuit’s MVP. Few players not named Barry (and Bonds is bound to slow down one of these decades) mean as much to their teams as Thome, and a strong showing by Philadelphia will make him an attractive candidate for the voters.
AL Cy Young Winner
wrveres: With eerily similar stat lines, Kevin Brown and Curt Schilling will not be wasting time reflecting upon their mounting career strikeout and win totals en route to a pair of bookend Cy awards for the both of them. Pedro Martinez, on the other hand, will take the summer off again, and of course find time to call impromptu press conferences and complain about his contract and his manager.
Madison: Pedro Martinez. With new arrival Curt Schilling pushing him and an overwhelming desire to win, Pedro will step up his game this year.
Arlo: Pedro Martinez. When he’s healthy, Martinez is simply the most dominating pitcher in the league. This year, the wins that voters always look for will be there, too.
NL Cy Young Winner
wrveres: Ever wonder what happens when a pitcher who can go an entire month without walking a batter (Greg Maddux) meets a guy who is virtually unhittable and can strike anybody out at will (Kerry Wood)? Domination! Greg is exactly what Kerry needs. Ah, to be a fly in that clubhouse for some of those pitching lessons this summer. 2004 is the year that Kerry Wood finally breaks through and wins 20. It’s a shame that it will be the only trophy going to Chicago this year, though.
Madison: Randy Johnson. The Big Unit is too fierce a competitor to go out of the game quietly. I expect him to be back with a vengeance this year, and once again strike fear into opposing hitters.
Arlo: Not too long ago, Mark Prior would have been the choice here by a considerable margin, but with Prior’s health in doubt, it’s time to change that prediction. Nonetheless, a Cub will win this award as Kerry Wood, already a fantastic pitcher, puts it all together and raises his game even further this season. With a solid bullpen behind him and overpowering stuff, the sky’s the limit for Wood.
AL Rookie of the Year
wrveres: Patience, power, speed and a solid batting average! All seven of the Oakland A’s fans that actually attend the ball games will quickly forget all about some guy named Miguel Tejada. Bobby Crosby can play.
Madison: Bobby Crosby. He’s got all the tools. Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer might give him a run, but Crosby will end up the winner.
Arlo: AL hitters, say hello to Zack Greinke – you’ll be seeing quite a bit of him in the years to come. The sixth overall pick of the 2002 draft has all the skills, including pinpoint control that should allow him to make a smooth transition to the big leagues. The only question in whether the Royals will be cautious with their twenty-year-old prospect and leave him in the minors a bit longer.
NL Rookie of the Year
wrveres: It just doesn’t seem fair to give a rookie award to a professional baseball player from another country finally making his MLB debut, but there are many things in this game that are just straight up unfair (ever hear of the DH?). Kazuo Matsui walks away with it.
Madison: Kaz Matsui. I’m not sure he will have the best numbers, but the voters will be watching his every move.
Arlo: Kazuo Matsui won’t be left off ballots the way namesake Hideki was last season. Look for the former Seibu star to be the sparkplug the Mets have been looking for for quite some time.
Comeback of the Year
wrveres: With the exception of his horrible 2003 season, Pat Burrell has plain and simple hit at every level. This year, his confidence will return and so will his batting average. All those team-oriented stats will fall nicely into line, too. Look for this former number one overall pick to remind us why he was drafted before Mark Mulder, Corey Patterson, and JD Drew. Honorable mention: Ray Lankford.
Madison: White Sox slugger Paul Konerko. Chicago will need him to return to form and I believe he will be up to the challenge.
Arlo: It may not be in Pittsburgh, but Kris Benson should begin to approach the potential that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects before his career was derailed by injuries. After all that he’s been through, you can’t help but root for him.
wrveres: I must admit it is funny watching everybody get all worked up over those five spring training home runs by JD Drew. I guess easily overlooked is the fact that Endy Chavez had six dingers and may not even make the team. I just love spring training.
Madison: Esteban Loaiza. Nothing in his track record shows any chance of a repeat. He will be drafted as a team’s #1 starter in the early rounds of many fantasy drafts and will not be worth that pick.
Arlo: Jamie Moyer’s K/BB rate declined from nearly 3-to-1 to less than 2-to-1 last season, and that’s reason for concern. The only other time Moyer dropped below the 2-to-1 mark in the last seven seasons, his ERA jumped to an alarming 5.49. He’s had a terrific run in Seattle, but don’t expect it to continue forever.
What We’d Like to See Most
wrveres: For some reporter to pull a Tom Cruise and slip through the air ducts at Quest Diagnostics, slide down from the ceiling into the steroids testing lab, and get Major League Baseball’s NOC lists. By the way, the lab is located at 2600 Redondo Ave, Long Beach, CA; business hours are 8-5 Monday through Friday.
Madison: A great season with exciting playoffs and a fantastic World Series. No fans on the field would be nice too.
Arlo: Can we find a home for the Expos now? Please? Wasn’t all this supposed to be settled in time for the 2003 season?
|Are these predictions bull’s-eyes or whiffs? Let us know, and don’t miss all the bold forecasts for the upcoming season posted by hundreds of Cafe members, on subjects ranging from Atlanta’s finish in the NL East to Joe Nathan’s potential as a closer.|