By Kim J. Harmon
By Kim J. Harmon
Despite the steroids scandal and the thought that a cheater could one day eclipse the most treasured sports record in the world, millions of people â most notably fans of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees â canât wait for Sunday to get here.
Thatâs when the 2005 Major League Baseball season officially opens â with the first pitch from Randy Johnson due at 8:05 pm.
There will be four other games that day, but all four â Baltimore versus Philadelphia, Texas versus San Francisco, Kansas City versus Houston, L.A. Angels versus L.A. Dodgers â will be the final tilts of the spring training season as owners attempt to pull in a little more free money before they have to start writing those fat payroll checks.
With the Yankees putting together the worst choke in baseball history (even worse than the Phillies blowing a six-game lead in the final week) and the Red Sox going on to win their first World Series title in 86 years, what better way can there be to usher in the new season?
But can the Red Sox do it again? Can the Yankees â spending close to a quarter of a billion dollars â return to World Series glory? Or will there will some surprise small market team, like the Florida Marlins or Minnesota Twins, able to win while spending less than what the Yankees spend on their post-game spreads?
Here is how I see it â
How can anyone in their right mind pick against the New York Yankeesâ rotation?
Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown could be as formidable a rotation as baseball has ever seen.
The Red Sox had magic in 2004, but has that magic run out? Lot of people like to see them fighting the Yankees for the division title; me, I see them stumbling to a third-place finish as Toronto slips into second.
There used to be a time when the Kansas City Royals were one of the most dominant teams in the American League â but that statement hasnât been true for some time and it wonât be true this year.
This division belongs to the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox and since the Twins have the best young pitcher in the league (Johan Santana) and the best young catcher in the game (Joe Mauer), Iâm picking them.
Billy Beane says he had to dismantle his pitching staff this year in order for the team to succeed next year and the year after,
But what about this year?
Well, look to the Anaheim Angels or Los Angeles Angels or Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or the California Angels or whatever it is they are calling themselves these days. They have the best team.
Sure, no one can pick against the Atlanta Braves to win a division title until they donât.
But I like what the New York Mets have done with the team even if they havenât upgraded the bullpen. With a little luck, the Mets could win a division title ... right?
The Phillies will falter, as usual, and the Marlins can be a team that finishes first or finishes third.
Forget the Nationals ... for now.
When the Cubs seem to have everything going for them, they fail. Now that they seem to have nothing going for them with the loss of Sammy Sosa and health of their entire pitching staff in question, I am going to say ... this is the year for the curse to end.
But, more than likely, St. Louis will capture the title again.
How Houston can compete, I donât know. Thatâs why I like Cincinnati to finish third and, whoa, Ken Griffey Jr to play 140 games.
The weepy Barry Bonds may be on the shelf for a while, but that could be a good thing for the San Francisco Giants.
No constant media surveillance, no constant questions about steroids and the home run record ... no distractions.
I like the Giants, with the Padres â benefitting from all the revenue their new ballpark has been pulling in â snipping at their heels.
After that, it is a gaping chasm between the Padres and the lesser teams of this division: i.e., Arizona, Los Angeles and Colorado.
World Series Winner