2005-04-15 / Sports

Red Sox Nation Look To Repeat In American League Preview

By Denis Gorman

Last week, we here at The Wave made our National League predictions. In the interest of fairness, please allow us to make our American League selections.

The grass is freshly cut. The pitchers’ mound is in place. White chalk runs from home plate to the outfield walls. The infield dirt hasn’t been trampled by very large men running at a high rate of speed yet.

It’s time for baseball.

Following one of the most incredible post seasons ever witnessed, the 2005 season will debut under the specter of steroids. Who’s taking? Who has stopped taking? Has Jason Giambi lost a lot of weight?

But, that’s not all. Will the formerly cursed Boston Red Sox repeat as World Series champions? Can the Yankees find a way to shrug off their monumental collapse in the American League Championship Series?

We have an idea how the 2005 season will play out, and we’ve decided to share it with you, our dear readers. Without any further ado:

American League:

A.L. East: The most hotly contested division in baseball, and maybe in all of sports. As has been the case for the last six years, it will be the Yankees, Red Sox and everyone else.

After their historic collapse, George Steinbrenner opened his wallet and signed starting pitchers Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano, in the hopes that his Bombers can win their first World Series since 2000.

But, that is not to say they don’t have flaws. The Yankees are the oldest team in baseball, and there’s very little young blood in their farm system. There are questions whether Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Johnson, Wright and Pavano can handle New York’s pressure. If they can, the Yankees will win the World Series. If not, George Steinbrenner will criticize them heavily.

Boston, in the afterglow of their first World Series championship since 1918, was proactive in the free-agent market, signing Edgar Renteria, Matt Clement and David Wells.

Also, unlike the Yankees, their farm system has enough talent where they could go out at the trade deadline and deal for a Roger Clemens or Ben Sheets or an A.J. Burnett.

The rest of the division will battle to stay out of the basement. Baltimore traded for Sammy Sosa, adding to their collection of one-dimensional sluggers. For the first time in franchise history, Tampa Bay didn’t finish dead last. In the not-to-distant future, they will battle the Red Sox and Yankees for the division crown, thanks to a farm system rich in talent. Toronto ended last season bringing up the rear.

Our pick: The division that hosts the best rivalry in all of sports will, for the first time since 1997 see a new champion. The Red Sox win the division and the Yankees are the Wild Card.

A.L. Central: It’s got to be tough to be Ken Williams, the general manager of the White Sox. During his tenure on Chicago’s South Side, Williams’ team had been a collection of super sluggers that went nowhere.

Tired of watching Minnesota win the division and lose in the playoffs, Williams traded power (Carlos Lee) for speed (Scott Podsednik) and allowed Maggilo Ordonez to sign with division rival Detroit.

Still, though, it’s hard to argue against the Twins, the three-time division champion.

Our pick: The Twins.

A.L. West: This might be one of the most interesting division races. All four teams can win the division. They can also finish dead last.

Billy Beane, after watching his A’s get humiliated in the season-ending series against Anaheim (now Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), decided that his A’s went as far as they could go with the Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito trio. Beane traded Mulder and Hudson for young pitchers Joe Blanton, Danny Haren and Dan Meyer.

All three are hard-throwers and aren’t making much money, a positive in Beane’s eyes.

Anaheim won the West last season, and then was swept by the Red Sox in the ALCS. In the off-season, they traded problem child Jose Guillen to Washington for next to nothing. They also signed free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera and free agent centerfielder Steve Finley.

Last season, the only thing Mariners fans had to celebrate was Ichiro Suzuki breaking George Sisler’s single-season record for hits. With the addition of sluggers Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexon, along with second baseman Pokey Reese, Mariner fans should be happier. They still won’t win the division. Texas would be great in a softball league.

Our pick: Anaheim.

American League award winners:

Champion: Boston Red Sox

MVP: Carl Crawford, Devil Rays.

Cy Young: Johan Santana, Twins

Rookie of the Year: Dallas McPherson, Angels.

Manager of the Year: Lou Pinella, Devil Rays.

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