Yes, the final installment of the 2005 predictions is a tad late. All I can say is, the best-laid plans of mice and men are often messed up by jury duty.
Our final stop is the NL West, where last year the Dodgers finally came out on top, despite sending Paul Lo Duca to the Fish and keeping Cesar Izturis, edging out yet another Giants team held together by duct tape. At the other end of the spectrum, the Diamondbacks were so bad that Randy Johnson stopped caring about fetching fair value in a trade, and in the grand tradition of the late-90s A’s, the Padres underperformed statheads’ irrationally exuberant expectations.
Will Barry Bonds return in time to stop his teammates from permanently burning Halo 2 into his big screen? Can Milton Bradley avoid being killed by the home fans? Can the Diamondbacks manage to get out of their opponents’ half of each inning? Behold’
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Because I just can’t justify picking the Pads here. Not sure if I want to declare this the worst division in MLB, but it will be awfully close, especially with a half-Bondsless Giants just upstate. Although the Dodgers themselves are completely Beltre-less, the addition of J.D. Drew should compensate well at the plate, and when you consider Jose Valentin and Drew versus Juan Encarnacion and Beltre, the result might be a mild upgrade.
Similarly, getting Brad Penny back in the rotation and losing Hideo Nomo’s hideous ERA should help as well. Unfortunately, Scott Erickson is in the hasn’t-he-retired-yet phase of his career, and, well, I’m sure you know what smart people think of the Derek Lowe signing. Probably a net wash, but don’t be surprised if you see some improvement, either, especially after Eric “Zany Quebecois” Gagne returns and the starters stop playing tug-of-war when Jim Tracy comes to take the ball.
Add in Paul DePodesta’s stated desire to further improve his team during the season, and you have a winner, at least in this division.
2. San Diego Padres
Because Barry Bonds is injured. The only change to the Religious Leaders’ lineup this year is Dave Roberts, replacing Jay Payton in center, and it’s a good change. Otherwise, expect the older guys (Phil Nevin, Ryan Klesko) to decline, and the younger ones (Sean Burroughs, Khalil Greene) to improve. Hey, this prediction stuff is easy, huh?
On the mound, the Padres are clearly hoping to get a David Wells-like performance out of Woody Williams, which is a low enough bar, one might think. Overall, it seems clear that Kevin Towers thought last year’s team underachieved and just needs one more chance to hit the big score. Call him the Danny Ocean of baseball. (By the way, that’s an original Ocean’s Eleven reference. Get thee to the video store.)
3. San Francisco Giants
Because, barring a freak swell that causes SBC Park to collapse into China Basin, it’s virtually impossible for them to finish lower. Even with Barry Bonds out indefinitely, there’s enough proven quantity here to play .500 ball — that’s the one positive in having a team this old. If MLB ever allows players to use carts to get between bases, move the Giants up to first. Forget Halo — my guess is that they gather around Bonds’ TV for Matlock reruns.
Okay, I think I got it out of my system.
Not that these are bad veterans at all. The potential problems are really decline and injury, the second of which the Giants have already experienced, as Moises Alou joined Bonds on the DL. I wouldn’t want to have to field the pregame phone call wherein Omar Vizquel tells me he’s fallen and can’t get up.
Okay, maybe I didn’t.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
Because they’re at least trying to improve. It may be hard to believe a team can lose Randy Johnson and still improve, but it takes a special kind of suck to lose 111 games, kind of the inverse of the mojo that gets an Anaheim Angels to the World Series.
And speaking of Angels, Troy Glaus is going to be a chief agent of change in Phoenix, along with fellow new addition Shawn Green. In fact, there are about as many changes to the Snakes’ lineup as there are returnees in San Diego, with only Chad Tracy and Luis Gonzalez remaining from opening day of 2004. Same with the rotation (Brandon Webb is the lone holdover) but that’s not necessarily going to improve it.
5. Colorado Rockies
Because they’re really, er, pretty bad. Ever since MLB first accepted Colorado’s enormous expansion fee, the dilemma has been how to take advantage of the thin Denver air hitting-wise while minimizing both opponents’ scoring and psychological damage to the home team’s pitchers. Thus, it seems that they’re always trying something new, from stacking the hitting deck to keeping the balls in a humidor. Apparently Todd Helton has tried creatine as well.
Well, this year the experiment is “let’s try not paying anyone.” If you mumble his last name, J.D. Closser could sound like J.D. Drew. Not sure there’s much you could do with Clint Barmes and Aaron Miles, though. Even so, this bunch will hit pretty well, but if any of them get traded to the Dodgers, get ’em the hell off your fantasy squad.
about the author
Michael Cox would fit right in on the Giants. Offer him some tapes of “Amos and Andy” when you e-mail him from our Contact Us page.