Afterhours Home

Message Board

HOT off the Press:
Back to April Issue
Current Issue

This Month:
At The Movies
Birthday Bash
Book Beat
Celebrity Cemetary
Chick Chat
DThrill Lady
He Sez/She Sez
Jibbles 'N' Bits
Jock Talk
krstl's karats
Out of the Closet
Sports Page
Vital Social Issues
Whisker Watch

E-Mail AH

April 2001


by Fine Diner

Once again, it's time for the big show to begin, and time to put my cursor where my mouth is. So, without further adieu, Fine Diner's 2001 Major League baseball picks are available to pick apart. Have fun.

American League

AL East
"Damn Yankees"

The way his throws take off from second (like part of the Apollo space program) maybe the Yankees should have merely traded Chuck Knoblauch to the University of Michigan even up for their Heisman hopeful quarterback, Drew Henson, rather than signing the Wolverine for $17 million. But other than "The new Outfielder on Knoblauch", the only thing standing in New York's way of yet another delivered and heavily paid for American League pennant is age.

Before the first pitch of spring training it appeared the Yankees were in trouble. The Red Sox picked up basher Manny Ramirez, the Blue Jays grabbed White Sox ace Mike Sirotka and the Orioles displayed a plethora of young talent - like first baseman-outfielder Chris Richard - in the hopes of proving that money can't buy everything. But before the season even began Sirotka's arm crumbled, Sox field MVP Nomar Garciaparra decided on arm surgery and a bad hip joint rang Albert Belle. Now, the aging bodies of Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill don't look so bad, and this confirmed Boston Yankee hater reluctantly gives them the nod with the Blue Jays possibly Koch-ing up. For two surprises, check out crafty Red Sox pitcher Tomokazu Ohka and watch New Hampshire native Cris Carpenter make a bid to join Major League baseball's pitching elite. If he does, expect Toronto to chase the Yankees to the wire.

AL Central
"All's Wells that ends Well"

The most improved teams in the league ought to be in the AL Central in Minnesota and Kansas City, at least until their latest low round draft bonanza become free agents. Leading "KC and the Run Sign Band" will be the two Carloses, Febles and Beltran, both on the verge of breaking out and hoping to make up for the loss of traded Johnny Damon.

But they still will be furlongs behind Cleveland and Chicago, the front-runners. The Indians have the experience and better fielding, but the deeply talented youth movement in Chicago, led by Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez, should give them the Division title. Ahead of the Twins and Royals and able to make a creditable run at the Central will be the Tigers. They will have the best new hitter in the division in outfield Billy McMillan, and could go far if reliever Matt Anderson finally has mastered his explosive 100-plus mile-an-hour fastball. For a breakthrough pitcher, watch out for Cleveland's Steve Woodard, benefiting from his experienced battery mates and Indian hitting, and don't be surprised to see Minnesota's Brad Radke bounce back to pre-injury form.

AL West
"A's You Like It"

Oakland should coast to the West title behind the hardest hitting infield in the American League and ace hurler Tim Hudson, perhaps the best in the AL behind Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina. Wouldn't Pedro love to have those bats scoring runs for him?

A breakout year could be expected for A's third baseman Eric Chavez, who will chase Angel Troy Glaus to the best of the league honors. While the Rangers appear strong enough to be Oakland's main problem, don't count out Anaheim if the Angels can keep everyone healthy for a change. They have Glaus, Tim Salmon, and Darren Restart, who can also play first behind aging Wally Joiner, backing up two of the best young pitchers in the division, Jarrod Washburn and Ramon Ortiz. Don't be surprised to see Ortiz become the next young Pedro Martinez.

National League

NL East
"In Arms' Way"

Pitching wins games; thus Atlanta should win again as well. Greg Maddux should bounce back and join Tom Glavine, Kevin Millwood and John Smoltz as the best rotation in baseball, and Andruw Jones should be in the MVP hunt with Ken Griffey and Todd Helton. The Mets had their fun, but it will be a Braves new world once again as they win the division and the pennant. The Mets will chase Atlanta to the wire, especially with a breakthrough year as the league's new dominant closer by Armando Benitez.

With youngsters Milton Bradley and Peter Bergeron joining star Vladimir Guerrero, the Expos could have the best outfield in the NL, and they could make it a three-team race. Bruce Chen could blossom as a Philly starter and keep them out of the cellar, but they will be hard-pressed to catch the Preston Wilson-led Marlins. Don't be surprised if the young pitching staff, led by Ryan Dempster, makes Florida an early contender in the East.

NL Central
"Beat Me in St. Louis, Louis"

If the Cardinals have the answer to two perplexing questions - will Rick Ankiel need a milk carton to find the plate and will Ray Lankford strike out less than once every two at-bats - they should repeat as Central champions. Along with basher Mark McGwire, revitalized pitcher Darryl Kyle and deft shortstop Edgar Renteria, the Cards have enough balance in hitting, pitching and fielding to make a solid run. They also add a lot of the old St. Louis standby - speed - in newcomer Quinten McCracken and retread Bernard Gilkey. They also have an up-and-coming gazelle in Esix Snead, who stile 109 Single-A bases.

The strongest bid in the Central should come from the Brewers, especially if rookie Ben Sheets continues the success that handcuffed the Cuban Olympic team and joined ace Jeff D'Amico in forming a solid 1-2 punch. Jeffrey Hammonds adds punch to a lineup built for fielding. Neither the Reds, with Ken Griffey, nor the Astros, with their deep outfield, can be counted out, but that's only because the whole division is so iffy. The Cubs, with Sammy Sosa and top 1998 draft pick Corey Patterson will score runs, but pitching depth is suspect. Pittsburgh, with the best fielding catcher (Jason Kendall) and worst fielding first baseman (Kevin Young) in the NL is an enigma.

NL West
"How Green is my Rally?"

Expect the NL West to be like the good old days - the Dodgers and the Giants. The Dodgers stole a page out of the Yankee play book when they fashioned the highest payroll in the NL, and have a murderer's row that includes Eric Karros, Shawn Green, Gary Sheffield and Adrian Beltre, fronted by place-setter Tom Goodwin. The question is whether there is enough starting pitching to support ace in the making Chan Ho Park.

The Giants are the opposite - a veteran staff without an ace that will be saved by the best closer currently in the NL, Robb Nen. If San Fran can either trade inconsistent Russ Davis or make him a valuable backup by mid-season, they could have a great-hitting infield that includes future star third baseman Pedro Feliz. The bats of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent will keep them in the hunt. Colorado has been trading for control pitchers and defense the last couple of years, but time will tell whether or not they can join lefty Gabe White as a top quality starter. Besides, Coors Field has never been pitcher friendly.

Among the highlights we should
expect to see this summer are:
Rickey Henderson's 3000th hit
Mariano Rivera's 200th save
Greg Maddux's 2500th strikeout and 250th win
Cal Ripken's 600th double
Barry Bonds' 1500th RBI and 500th homer.


AL Pennant:
Oakland - Can the aging Yanks survive three straight short series against top competition?

NL Pennant:
Atlanta - Even with Smoltz' spring setback, no one can match the Braves' big three.
World Series champion: Atlanta - A lot of pitching and Andruw Jones turns the tide.

Individual Awards:

Comeback of Year:
Ruben Mateo, TX (AL), Tom "Flash" Gordon, Cubs (NL) - Five-tool Mateo's rookie season was curtailed by injury and Gordon has looked good in the NL.

Rookie of Year:
Alfonso Soriano, NY (AL), Milton Bradley, Montreal (NL). Soriano is a slick fielding second second with little pressure in the Yankee line-up and Knoblauch detoured to left.

Top reliever:
Mariano Rivera, NY (AL) and Armando Benitez, Mets (NL). Rivera is the best reliever on the best team and if the Mets infield helps, Benitez could surpass Robb Nen.

Cy Young:
Pedro Martinez, Red Sox (AL) and Randy Johnson, Arizona (NL). With the umpires now calling the high strike more regularly, anyone with a high hard one or a rising fastball should excel.

MVP: Alex Rodriguez, Texas (AL), Todd Helton, Rockies (NL). Batting third in the Texas murderer's row will help A-Rod's numbers and Helton, one of the top pure hitters in baseball, should be enhanced by hitting at Coors Field.