"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 4-05-08
As the '08 MLB season is now underway, we can finally put aside an off-season that featured talk of 'roids, 'roids, 'roids--and even included a "Bride of " surfacing in . Yes, time to play ball, folks; here's how they'll finish:
Boston Red Sox
AL EAST- Yanks relying just a bit more on young pitchers than while bounces back from a sub-par '07 season--giving even MORE offense; it could go either way but a pitcher like Delcarmen may prove to be the difference. Talented staff keeps very competitive, but will closer Ryan stay healthy? Rays strictly shooting for a .500 record; Orioles won't be able to close games--and may have a legitimate shot at this division when becomes a great-grandmother.
AL CENTRAL- Tigers may BANG their way to 90+ wins, but RHP Bonderman MUST pitch better and I still question Jones as a "lights out" closer. Tribe's bullpen is shaky; White Sox are improved but are simply stuck in a tough division. K.C. will have trouble scoring and closing games; questionable starting pitching and the loss of Hunter in the outfield seals the Twins' last-place finish.
AL WEST- gives L.A. some desperately-needed offensive punch along with terrific defense. Mariners bolstered by LHP Bedard, but they need better offensive seasons from Lopez and Sexson. A's starting pitching can surprise if Harden remains healthy--but they lack overall power. Rangers' team ERA approached SIX last season--and won't be much better.
NL EAST- I just flipped a coin between the Mets and Phillies and the Phils won (yes, it'll go down to the wire)--but closer Lidge MUST capture some past glory and avoid the gopher ball; LHP obviously helps Mets, but they'll be too injury-prone. Braves' staff is too old and they'll miss the OF play of ; Nats fans excited about a new ballpark, but that doesn't help improve a bad starting rotation. The number of youngsters on the Marlins squad reminds me of an old episode of "Wonderama."
NL CENTRAL- Cubs lack a legitimate leadoff hitter, but should score enough; the club might be wise to let Marmol AND Wood share closing duties to keep both fresh/healthy. Brewers lack left-handed hitting, but will be in the wild-card hunt; Astros rely too much on Oswalt's arm and newly-acquired "steroid boy" Tejada may prove to be a distraction. Reds improved their bullpen and Dusty's motivated team could beat out Houston. Mgr. LaRussa will wish he pursued a legal career as the season unravels in ; Pirates have some decent, young pitchers, but we must remember that they are--ummmmm--the Pirates.
NL WEST- A toss-up; RHP Haren--a candidate--helps a lot, but Rockies' power is tough to dismiss. Torre to miss the luxury of a $200+ million payroll in L.A.; Padres outfield (Jim Edmonds?--sheesh) will not produce enough. Good news and bad news for the Giants: Good news is that many players are relieved to be distanced from the "freak-show" known as Bonds over the past few years. The BAD news is that the team generated only 89 RBI's from the clean-up position last year and they have NO bench; case closed.
*Postseason: Ah, SO many scenarios to be played out during a very long season--and going out on the yearly limb is always a crapshoot. I'll say that a truly battle-tested Red Sox team makes it (possibly limping very badly) to the Fall Classic once again. The Cubs and somehow emerge from an inferior National League. Will the Cubbies FINALLY erase a heartbreaking, century-long championship drought? Nahhh--Red Sox in 6.
Enjoy the season, baseball fans.