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"Unless you're leading the Dog, the view never changes." - sign just outside the Yankees spring training clubhouse, Legends Field, Tampa, Florida
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Itís hard to imagine the Yankees tanking to the point where they donít win the American League East or at least the wild card. Even without the injured ďEl Duque,Ē pitcher Orlando Hernandez, and some other question marks, the Bronx Bombers are just too deep, too experienced and too cash-happy to flop. Ditto for the Mariners, who are playing like the Yankees of the past few years but with even more depth.
That leaves the Twins and the Chowdaheads, narrowly leading the wild card at the All-Star break, as the most vulnerable to slippage from their thrones.
Young Minnesota could clamp under pressure but they may not have much competition if the Indians canít figure out a way to get some semblance of decent starting pitching together. If the Tribe does however, they pose a threat to the Twinkies and the Red Sox.
Bostonís fortunes arenít complicated. Pedro Martinez needs to return healthy and remain that way and the other starters must continue to deliver at least five solid innings on a consistent basis so as not to deplete its bullpen.
Then thereís hot head Carl Everett, who needs to keep his cool. Finally thereís Nomar Garciaparra. (Oh yeah, remember him?). No-maaaa could put the Sox over the top if he can return to form quickly.
A quick turnaround is essential for the Athletics, the biggest first half disappointment. Itís hard to believe that General Manager Billy Beane would part with Jason Giambi, and itís also hard to believe Oakland will play as poorly as it did in the first half.
Make no mistake about it, the Aís will be the team to watch in the second half in the American League, posing the greatest threat to the current standard bearers in the American League.
The National League is far murkier than the American League. Neither the Phillies, Cubs or Diamondbacks are without vulnerability, especially Philadelphia and Chicago, both of which have already shown signs of cracking.
Larry Bowaís loose cannon fired more than once before the All-Star break and the heat is unlikely to simmer down. Expect the Marlins, Braves and Mets to test Phillyís will early and often in the second half and donít expect Bowaís club to survive.
The National League East is still Brave country and Atlanta will not go quietly into the night. And donít be surprised if the pitching-rich Fish also contend for the wild card.
No one would love to see the Cubs win the National League Central more than me (As a long-suffering Red Sox fan I can naturally relate!). But Chicagoís pitching appears too good to be true. John Lieber had a terrific first half but itís unclear whether he can maintain this pace. Further clouding the Cubs picture is not just the resurgent Astros, but the likelihood that the Cardinals and Brewers have yet to hit their stride.
The Redbirds have more experience but the Brew Crew more gusto, and Milwaukee is my favorite to make this a heck of a race down the stretch.
With a great staff of arms and strong hitters, the Brewers are an exciting team to watch that is only going to get better and more adjusted to its new digs of Miller Park.
Like the National Central, the National League West could remain a three-team race come September.
The Diamondbacks excellent pitching in the first half canít be denied and the Giants are the defending division champions. But Arizona tanked last year after a strong start and San Francisco lacks the role players it had last season.
Then there are the Dodgers, who had more story lines in the seasonís first three months than most teams have over two seasons.
With Andy Ashby and Darren Dreifort gone for the season, you probably think Los Angeles is finished. But Arizona doesnít have Matt Mantei either, and the Giants starting pitching has been suspect this season.
The Dodgers fortunes will rest with three men: pitcher Kevin Brown, outfielder Gary Sheffield and skipper Jim Tracy, who is top the list for Manager of the Year honors.
So who will be there in October? The ModernEra Extraordinaire sezs:
American League: Yankees (east); Indians (central); Mariners (west); Athletics (wild card).
National League: Braves (east); Astros (central); Giants (west); Dodgers (wild card).
World Series: Mariners sweep Giants.
Joe Connor is the creator of modernerabaseball.com and he has a few opinions! Tell us yours' by visiting "Scouting Report" and chiming in with who you think will win it all.
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Mar 22 2002, 06:16:05
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