Philadelphia Phillies 96-66
With the opening of Citizen's Bank Park expectations are high in Philadelphia. The addition of Billy Wagner in the closers spot should be enough to stabilize the Phillies weak pen while Pat Burrell should be able to bounce back as Jim Thome continues to put up MVP numbers, as the Phillies end the Braves reign.
LEAGUE LEADERS AND AWARDS
National League American League
Albert Pujols Cardinals Batting Crown Derek Jeter Yankees
Jim Thome Phillies HR Leader Carlos Delgado Blue Jays
Jim Thome Phillies RBI Leader Vladimir Guerrero Angels
Juan Pierre Marlins SB Leader Carl Crawford Devil Rays
Kerry Wood Cubs Win Leader Curt Schilling Red Sox
Kerry Wood Cubs ERA Leader Kevin Brown Yankees
Randy Johnson Diamondbacks K Leader Javier Vazquez Yankees
San Diego Padres Surprise Team Tampa Bay Devil Rays
San Francisco Giants Disappointing Team Chicago White Sox
Mike Piazza Mets Comeback Player Troy Glaus Angels
Randy Johnson Diamondbacks Comeback Pitcher Pat Hetgen Blue Jays
Sean Burroughes Padres Breakout Player Aaron Gueil Royals
Randy Wolf Phillies Breakout Pitcher Jermey Afeldt Royals
Andy Pettitte Astros Best Acquisition Vladimir Guerrrero Angels
Larry Walker Rockies Falling Star Hitter Frank Thomas White Sox
Kirk Rueter Giants Falling Star Pitcher Jamie Moyer Mariners
Carl Everett Expos Worst Acquisition Kelvim Escobar Angels
Jim Tracy Dodgers First Manager Fired Eric Wedge Indians
Bruce Bochy Padres Manager of The Year Lou Pinella Devil Rays
Billy Wagner Phillies Fireman Mariano Rivera Yankees
Kazuo Matsui Mets Rookie of The Year Joe Mauer Twins
Jim Thome Phillies Hank Aaron Award Vladimir Guerrero Angels
Kerry Wood Cubs Cy Young Mariano Rivera Yankees
Jim Thome Phillies MVP Derek Jeter Yankees
Philadelphia Phillies 4 Houston Astros 2 New York Yankees 4 Boston Red Sox 2
New York Yankees 4 Philadelphia Phillies 1
Predictions Made by Frank Fleming on April 3, 2004 at 10:45 pm EST
Florida Marlins 87-75
Coming off their improbable run to the World Championship it will be nearly impossible for the Marlins to repeat their run without their leader Ivan Rodriguez. However, their pitching is for real and will keep them in the hunt all season.
New York Mets 84-78
After a terrible last place season where everything that could be wrong did the Mets begin the road to recovery by getting a taste of the wild card race, while climbing above .500 with a team that will rely on speed and defense, and is more suited for Shea Stadium, which will be celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year.
Atlanta Braves 73-89
Turn out the lights the pary's over for the Braves as they plummet from their decade long first place perch. Without Gary Sheffield, and Javier Lopez their offense will be hard pressed to produce anywhere close to the numbers they had last year, while the pitching staff is now mediocre without Greg Maddux.
Montreal Expos 66-96
The Expos have been stripped of talent again losing Javier Vazquez, and Vladimir Guerrero, as they continue to twist in the wind. Once again baseball is saying they hope to have a permanent home for the Expos by next year, but as always they are behind schedule. As the season wears on expect more players traded as the Expos continue to be dead team walking.
Houston Astros 95-67
With the addition of hometown heroes Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens the already solid Astros pitching staff only gets better, while an underrated offense make the Astros perhaps the most well rounded team in the NL, while Octavio Dotel has the stuff to make fans forget about closer Billy Wagner who was traded to the Phillies.
Chicago Cubs 91-71
Despite their heartbreaking loss in the NLCS spirits have never been higher in Wrigleyville as the Cubs have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. Look for them to battle the Astros all season for the Central Division title, grabbing the Wild Card as a consolation as their bullpen will be the team's Achilles heel.
St. Louis Cardinals 89-73
With the Astros and Cubs grabbing all the headlines, it is easy to overlook the Cardinals. However, they have team that should not be. Albert Pujols is quickly becoming of the game's best overall hitters leading a solid lineup. If the Cards get any pitching, they could sneak past either the Cubs or Astros into the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Pirates 78-84
The Pirates have a solid young nucleus that should be able to keep them in many games this year, and give Pirate fans hope for the future. However with 3 of the best teams in their division winning allot of games will be hard as the Pirates will finish below .500 again, while trading off Kris Benson and Jason Kendall to get more young prospects.
Milwaukee Brewers 64-98
Things may not be as bleak as they seem in Milwaukee after they trading away of Richie Sexson, as the Brewers have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. Sure they will be lucky to avoid 100 losses, but at least fans will be able to be excited about the youngblood coming up at the end of the season, knowing Bud Selig will soon sell the team, meaning they may stay around a while.
Cincinnati Reds 58-104
Things are as bleak as they seem in Cincinnati as the Reds pitching staff is in a word awful. Meanwhile they are stuck with a broken down Ken Griffey Jr, who is already had an injury scare. Look for Griffey to play less then 100 games again, as the Reds hope to trade him if he can stay healthy for an entire month, which will be a record in Cincy.
Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
Look for Randy Johnson to bounce back nicely as the Diamondbacks and challenge for first place all season in a mediocre NL West, thanks to the addition of Richie Sexson who will have a breakout season in Arizona, putting up MVP caliber numbers. However in the end the lack of a deep starting rotation will cost the D-Backs at the end.
San Diego Padres 87-75
Last year the Padres took their lumps playing without several key players. However knowing they will be moving into a new stadium they began positing themselves for this season by acquiring Brian Giles, expect Petco Park to revitalize the Padres as they go from worst to first winning the division title perhaps spurred by a key trade deadline deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers 81-81
The Dodgers again will have to rely on their pitching if they are going to have any hope at all of making the playoffs. However, expecting Eric Gagne to save 55 games again will be nearly impossible as the Dodgers weak hitting will cost them again, as the strain of a pitching staff trying to hold a team to 3 runs a game will be hard to overcome.
San Francisco Giants 79-83
Its hard to figure what the Giants were thinking this off season as they did nothing to improve the team or the lineup leaving Barry Bonds unprotected in the lineup, while the pitching staff is entering the season hurting without much in reserve, if the Giants make it back to the postseason under these circumstances it will be a miracle.
Colorado Rockies 69-93
Its going to be a long year in the Mile High City for the Rockies who may still have one of the best offenses, but whose pitching just simply cant measure up even when playing on the road. Expect them to settle to the bottom of the division early, and never be a factor in anything except at the trade deadline where they may be looking to get younger.
New York Yankees 107-55
The Yankees continue to get the best of the Red Sox in the ALCS, and in the off-season by grabbing Alex Rodriguez. Their starting pitching could be a question mark, but with their lineup and improved bullpen it should not hurt them too much, and if the Yanks are desperate enough they can and will make a deal to make the rotation better.
Boston Red Sox 99-63
The Red Sox have perhaps their best team ever, and could argurablly be the best in all of baseball, if it were not for 3 things the Yankees, the Curse of Babe Ruth, and history. To win the World Series the Sox have to beat all 3 and as we saw in last years ALCS something always happens. This year expect a replay as the Red Sox and Yanks are on a ALCS collsion course.
Toronto Blue Jays 90-72
The Blue Jays who have one of the best offenses in the AL improved their pitching staff with the acquisition of Miguel Batista and Pat Hetgen. They may even be the third best team in the AL. However the two teams better reside in the same division as the Jays will be the ultimate hard luck team in baseball, as the playoffs will be just out of reach.
Baltimore Orioles 82-80
With the addition of Rafael Palmeiro, Migue Tejada, and Javier Lopez the Orioles should have one of the best offenses in all of baseball. However, their pitching staff is hardly good enough for the Orioles to make any serious run, especially playing the best division in baseball. Look for the Orioles to have a winning record, but that's it.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 78-84
Warning do not take the Devil Rays lightly this year. In the AL East it will be hard for them to escape last place, but they do have a team that should be able to stay in most games as finally their farm system begins to turn out major league talent. Also don't be surprised if the Rays stay near .500 all season, as they could give the rest of the teams in their division fits.
Kansas City Royals 86-76
The Kansas City Royals can now stop singing the small market blues as their incredibly weak division opens the door for them to make the playoffs. A year after returning to contention the Royals should be able to return to the postseason as they have the most well rounded team in a division of teams that would be buried if they played in the AL East.
Minnesota Twins 84-78
The Twins had previously been the class of the AL Central. However, it did not enable them to have enough money to keep closer Eddie Guardado, whom they will miss sorely. However, they will not completely fold, as Rookie Catcher Joe Mauer will make an instant splash, playing in his hometown giving the Twins a strong line up.
Chicago White Sox 76-86
Frank Thomas is a year older not a year better, and their is no young talent on the way to help reenergize the White Sox who will fade as the season goes on. In addition the Sox pitching staff will also struggle, as Esteban Loaiza will be hard pressed to repeat his 21-win performance of 2003, as the White Sox disappoint fans on the Southside all season.
Cleveland Indians 69-93
The Indians are a far cry from their glory days of the 1990's as they celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Jacobs Field, making matters worse the Milton Bradley incident at the end of spring training has put a significant bump in their road to recovery, look for the Tribe to struggle all year as they will likely be starting from scartch all over again as Manager Eric Wedge wont last the year.
Anaheim Angels 94-68
After stunning all of baseball by winning the World Series in 2002 the Angels came back to earth in 2003 with a losing record. However, they may even be a better team in 2004 then in 2002 with the acquisitions of Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon. Look for the Angels to ascend to the top of the AL West with a team that will have to be taken seriously in the playoffs.
Seattle Mariners 89-73
The Mariners will continue to contend for first place in the AL West. However, age is becoming a factor, as the Mariners nucleus tends to struggle as the season wears on. Expect more of the same this year as they fall short again.
Oakland Athletics 85-77
The loss of Miguel Tejada, and Terrance Long already had people questioning the A's offense, now leadoff hitter Mark Ellis is lost for the season, and their bench is hardly considered deep. If they are to win the AL West again, their trico of aces Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson will have to be even better this year, and that's hard to imagine.
Texas Rangers 54-108
The Rangers spent the entire off-season cutting payroll as their $100 million payroll led by Alex Rodriguez could not keep them out of last place with the worst pitching staff in baseball. The pitching staff is not any better, while gone from the line up is A-Rod, Rafael Palmeiro, and Juan Gonzalez, even if Alfonso Soriano has a 40-40 season the losses will mount all season long.
Detroit Tigers 64-98
After an AL record 119 losses in 2003 there is only one direction the Tigers can go and that's up. The acquisitions of Ivan Rodriguez, Rondell White, Fernando Viņa, and Ugueth Urbina give fans names they can actually recognize. However it will just be window dressing as the Tigers will finish in last again, but avoiding 100 losses will be quite an accomplishment after last year's disaster.