Spring is in the air, the players have strapped on their stirrups and are migrating north, one and all have a blank slate, and everyone thinks they are Nostradamus. Last year though, I was able to accurately predict the first ever World Title for Smitty and his band of Egrets. I should have learned from history and predicted second place for my beloved Joes, but why jinx it? I’m doomed to repeat it anyways.
Phoenix Javelinas: Books, novels, and tomes were written about childhoods (or is that childrenhood?) shattered when the Brooklyn Dodgers moved west in the late ‘50’s after finally beating the loathed Yanks. I’m afraid to report that not even a pamphlet, flyer, or even a forced haiku has been composed on the subject of the World Champion Egrets getting the heck out of Alameda County. The fact remains, though, that this team has few holes, with the possible exception of Benitez as closer. With this juggernaut putting up 14 runs on the board every night, not even Bobby Ayala could blow many saves. Coors-juiced Preston Wilson has been replaced in the Javelinas lineup by greenhorns Morgan Ensberg and Milton Bradley, who should fill the shoes just fine. If four feet can’t fill two shoes, then they must have really small feet. Prediction: 17-5 and Dan Smith runnin’ away with a repeat title.
Jet City Joes: Bridesmaid. Runner up. First loser. Also ran. Call it what you will, but it’s destined to happen again. The Curse of Ken Griffey Jr. has been added to the psychological baggage this squad must carry around. If the Big Unit and Freddy Garcia decide to pitch (and party) like it’s 2001 again, the Joes are title contenders. If not, you’ll be reading this same whining same place, same time next year. Prediction: 14-8.
Durham Bulls: The GM’s relocation to the rarified air of Denver won’t help this offense, with the team stubbornly mired in the Carolina lowlands. 2002’s World Champion fell off the rolls of the elite last year. However, GM Alex King has ditched any semblance of a traditional 9-to-5 job and now has plenty of discretionary time to peruse free agent wires, analyze splits, and exploit matchups. The arms are solid, especially if Pedro decides to show up, but the season will hinge on how well the Bulls hit. Prediction: 14-8.
Georgia Peach Fuzz: Commissioner/owner/outspoken animal rights activist Brian Roberts would like nothing more than to become the first ever two-time champion in our league. While drinking orange juice. Skiing. This is the last team I’m looking at and frankly at this point they all kind of look the same. I’m sure Brian will do well, he always does, so what the heck, prediction is 13-9.
Issaquah Incinerators: The league’s youngest GM is keepin’ it real by drafting ethnic brutha Kazuo Matsui. GM Matt Peterson will continue his steady climb northward in 2004. Returning a solid core led by last year’s free agent plum Gary Sheffield, the Incinerators leveraged the draft this year to stockpile 10 pitchers with double figures wins from a year ago. Too bad they can’t all pitch at the same time. That would be against the rules. The offense appears solid, but appearance is often not reality and Bagwell’s production could continue to slide, Jose Guillen could turn out to be a fluke, and 41 year old Edgar Martinez may finally realize that he must drive it to the left center field fence to leg out a single. Prediction: 12-10.
Wapak Wannabes: The postman Jack King needs to purchase the additional insurance for his thin starting rotation, or else we may be looking at first class postage to the middle of the pack once again. Or, perhaps Trevor Hoffman will return his naysayers to sender, the rotation of Pettitte and friends is handled with care, Miguel Cabrera delivers on his potential, and the core of Manny and Thome decide they want to put their stamp on the postseason for once. Or, maybe we need to dispense with the postal clichés and ring up another .500 season for the Wannabes. Prediction: 11-11.
Fort Worth Armadillos: There are a lot of new faces in the clubhouse, and as they say in Texas, they don’t like strangers in these parts. They also say it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to run a fantasy baseball team, but then again, as he himself informed me once upon a time, that makes GM Dave Diercks overqualified. They also say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, but that really doesn’t apply at all to what we’re talking about. What to make of this team? If Esteban Loaiza puts up 2003-esque stats, they could contend. If not, sub-.500 is a distinct possibility. Flip a coin. Prediction 11-11.
Rounders: The first mistake is dropping the Calvin prefix to the team nickname. Or maybe Dave is finally letting go of his personal record for “most on-campus meals eaten at Calvin by one person—Knollcrest Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award”. Now all the team’s moniker evokes is oh so fond memories of one of the finest motion pictures ever produced about the underground poker circuit starring Matt Damon. And all of that means zilch when you’re playing fantasy baseball, which is what we are trying to do here. Fortunately for the Rounders, the team is much more solid than years past, and if the Rocket can hold together a thin pitching staff, and if Dave’s hometown Tigers can create enough games for Ugueth U. Urbina to save, there’s an outside chance at something. Prediction: 10-12.
Wyoming Black Sox: Who in their right mind would pitch to Bonds with this lineup behind him? Who in their right mind thinks that the bulbous thing on top of Bonds’ shoulders occurs naturally? The Sox’ pitching is OK, and I’m sure long time Jet City Joe Greg Maddux would love to exact revenge on his old team for cutting him. Fast fact: 8.3% of the roster is comprised of Detroit Tigers, clearly too high a number for any contender. GM Andy Diemer has positively ID’d himself as a lifelong Tigers aficionado currently intoxicated with worst-to-first delusions. Prediction: 10-12.
Washington Wallop: They’re young, what else is new. This year, though they’re hungry too, and if Prior can get his butt off the DL in time, perhaps the Wallop have a shot. Otherwise maybe a sandwich will suffice. The Wallop need an insane Coors year from Burnitz, a la Dante Bichette, Ellis Burks, and those who have gone before. In that vein, there happens to be more substance to a Coors light television commercial than the Wallop’s middle infield, and fewer carbs too. Prediction: 8-14.
Canby Crackers: Little is known about the new management of this franchise. According to intensive web research, this publication has learned that the possibility exists that GM Jeff Eschen moonlights as a tax accountant in Oregon. This suspicion is further confirmed as our sleuths have also positively verified Canby as a small hamlet in Oregon, and “crackers” as a popular snack in the aforementioned state. Chicken in a Biscuit? Who knows. As for the team, who knows about that either. All I know is that there are only four starting pitchers on the roster and all the washed up Baltimore Orioles money can buy can’t overcome that deficiency. Only some fancy cooking of the books could get these guys into the postseason. Prediction: 8-14.
Cal Forty Warsharks: The past two years have featured champions whose owners have won titles, and since moved out of the Bay Area. Unless I’m missing something, the Warsharks must win for this trend to have a chance of continuing. And then if they do, Brian Eschen must immediately move. As the poet Bob Marley said, you gotta fulfill the book. However, I must say that I think this is one streak that will come to a screeching halt. Expect a big drop off in wins from Russ Ortiz this year, and who knows if Robb Nen will be 100% ever again. Of course, the same could be said for most of us. Prediction: 4-18, but wheelin and dealin like a contender.