One can dismiss Bonds’ team with a wave of the hand. I’m assuming that either injury or scandal will strike him this season and he’ll get no more than 120 games in. If not, give ‘em a .500 record. I actually like Jae Seo in Dodger Stadium, I still believe in Choi, and Furcal will be a slight plus. But there’s injury – Garciaparra, Penny, Gagne, Drew, (is Sandy Alomar really on this team?), old Kenny Lofton, and ancient Jeff Kent. They can’t all last. If they do, they’ll win the division. But they won’t. Which leads us to San Diego. Dock 5 wins for Shawn Estes, but add 9 for Peavy. Woody Williams and Chan Ho Park could be good or could be hurt or crappy; I’m assuming 30 good starts out of those two combined. I like Mirabelli, Bellhorn, Greene, Giles, and Cameron putting up good seasons, but I doubt that Klesko and Roberts will. My theory is that Klesko will disappear (injury or ineffectiveness) and Piazza will start playing first a lot. Arizona added Estrada and Byrnes, and I like Conor Jackson. If they get lucky, they can take this division filled with frail foes. Colorado makes me glad that I’m a Cubs fan. They oughta just give up and fill the roster with bombers again in order to try to fill the stands with a nightly fireworks show. I think their pitching has improved, hence the high win prediction. But unlike LA, where I projected them at the low end of their possible finishes, I have Colorado at its high end.
L.A.’s worst enemy in ’05 was the DL. Look for healthier bodies (led by Gagne) and with that, the best of the west with a vastly improved line-up. Too many Barry Bonds distractions for the Giants to win the West. Not as impressed by newest acquisition Matt Morris and his 4.11 ERA as most seem to be. The Padres seemed to be resting on their laurels (and the luckiest playoff bid in history) while others aggressively upgraded. Arizona’s mighty G – Force lost the biggest G – Troy Glaus. Their “ace” is 14-12 Brandon Webb. If I owned the Rockies, I’d sure as Pike’s Peak search for some pretty potent power hitters. Todd Helton cannot do it alone.
Watching the NL West this year should prove as interesting as watching grass grow. LA should have won last year, I think this year their pitching will get them the division – but they will be quickly eliminated in the playoffs. The Giants will be improved this year, assuming that they don’t get bit by the injury bug again. And that is a very large assumption. The Pads made a great move re-signing Giles and moving the fence in but their pitching will be real suspect. Plan on rookie Barfield being a highlight for this team; the only reason I’ve got ’em picked third is because this is a real bad division. Arizona will duke it out for third with San Diego; last year was an anomaly, these guys only have two bonafide starters. Colorado will do what they do every year – hit and be hit. Until something is done about Coors this team should be content with their station in life.
I liked a lot of the Dodgers’ offseason moves this year. They brought in Furcal, Nomar, Kenny Lofton and Bill Mueller, and if their pitchers stay healthy, LA ought to win what is still a pretty lousy division. The Giants decided they weren’t old enough yet, so they brought in Steve Finley as their 4th outfielder. I don’t see Barry Bonds playing the whole season, so I’m putting them in 2nd. The Padres turned over a lot of their roster despite winning the West in 2005, but somehow they managed to get both older and worse. Both the Diamondbacks and Rockies are in the middle of rebuilding programs. I’ll give the edge to Arizona in the race for 4th place, since they’ve got a few more useful veterans on the team, along with some promising youngsters like Stephen Drew. I think the most interesting thing about this division may end up being whether the D-Backs decide to move Luis Gonzalez, Tony Clark, Shawn Green, Eric Byrnes and Craig Counsell at the trade deadline.
This division is just flat out bad. If the Dodgers can stay healthy, they will trounce the other four. If not, it’s anyone’s division to win.
Sunday – Awards and Playoffs
Monday – Book Review “The Last Nine Innings” & Guest Stats Column