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franklin county times

Major League Baseball has already arrived

By By Austin Bishop
March 24, 2002
Soaking up Sunday's sports scene while wondering whatever happened to Jack Tatum …
Since everybody was wondering, I just thought I would let everyone know how I thought this year's Major League Baseball season would turn out.
We are a week away from kicking things off. It seems like the World Series just ended. I'm sure Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and crew feel that way.
Last year had plenty of thrills.
You had the Seattle Mariners and their incredible season, the Diamondbacks winning an outstanding World Series and the saga of Barry Bonds chasing the record.
I really don't think you have to worry about any of those three this time around.
While I do believe the D'Backs have a decent chance to repeat and the Mariners will come competitive, it is hard in the current world of sports to be dominant year in and year out.
Although the Braves have proven to be as good an any team, including the Yankees, at winning division championships, they have only won one World Series.
The Mets will load up for another run at the Braves in the NL East, as will the Phillies. While the Mets have made some serious power moves to improve the pop in the lineup, the Phillies could be the team the Braves have the most to worry about.
Some thought last year's Philadelphia success was a fluke, but the Phillies are young and very, very talented. Look for another strong run out of Larry Bowa's squad.
But I still have to go with the Braves in the East.
The Diamondbacks should once again win the west, but both the Giants and Dodgers will seriously challenge the World Champions.
The St. Louis Cardinals should have little trouble winning the Central Division. I would be surprised if the wild card team came out of any division other than the West this year.
The Yankees will be strong again in the East, but the Red Sox will certainly challenge.
The Central Division should belong to the Indians, but you can never tell there either.
The West is where things should be exciting. There will be several rather strong teams beating up on each other.
Usually when a team goes and buys the number of players that the Rangers have, the team turns out to be a real flop. It couldn't happen again this year, but I don't think so.
The Rangers will likely win the West with either the wild car either being Seattle or the Red Sox.
Either way I look for the Rangers to find a way to get to the World Series most likely by scoring a ton of runs.
That is where Texas will up with St. Louis. The Cardinals and the Rangers would make for a good, and interesting World Series, but it would be hard to have the drama that we experienced last year.
In the end St. Louis will probably prevail, but the Rangers will be winners in just getting to the World Series and all of that money will be worth it to the ownership.
Also look for a couple of breakout seasons.
Richie Sexson in Milwaukee truly has the potential to bang out 60 homers, while Andruw Jones can become the best player in the game if his offensive numbers begin to climb.
Like his style or not, he is the best defensive outfielder in the game, making it look easy. He also has some offensive tools, but is still immature at the plate.
Expect big years out of Johnson and Schilling once again, and I also believe Greg Maddux has a couple more good years in his right arm.
Although overshadowed most of the year by the story in Seattle and Bonds' chase of McGwire, Alex Rodriguez had a a super year in Texas.
Look for another big one out of him, as well as a banner season out of catching superstar Ivan Rodriguez. Being back "home" should also prove to be a comfort to Juan Gonzalez who should challenge for AL MVP honors.
It would not be surprising to see Both Rodriguezes, Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro all drive in more than 100 runs each this season.
But, as you know, all of this is just speculation.
But, speculation or not, the season is just around the corner, and besides making predictions is what makes baseball fun.
So jot down your picks, stuff them in a drawer somewhere (so you can lose them and then conveniently forget which teams you chose) and then enjoy the season.
It could be a wild one.

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