The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

APRIL  2006

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







2006 Baseball

By Jerry Keys

With the 2006 baseball season approaching, the most tumultuous question isn't who will win the World Series but will Barry Bonds be suspended for alleged steroid use.  Never fret Barry; someone who has the backbone of a snail leads the infrastructure of the baseball world.  I believe if Bud Selig and the baseball magnates had their way, steroid testing would still be nonexistent.  I think it had something to do with gate receipts.

O.K. back to the '06 season.  Although the larger market teams still have a good stranglehold on post-season spots, the lesser teams do seem to be gaining a bit (still need salary cap though).  The lesser teams are sticking around after Labor Day in hopes of a wild card berth.  Unlike five years ago when they were all but eliminated by July 4th.

The AL East will not be as close as it has been in recent years.  The Boston

Jerry Keys

Red Sox have lost too many big guns over the last couple of years.  Losing Johnny Damon was a huge blow, losing him to the New York Yankees was an even larger blow.  The Yankees have shaky pitching but so do the Red Sox.  Offensively Boston still has pop but nothing like New York.

Pencil in the Yankees to win the AL East.  Boston will be in the running for the wild card spot but will fall short.  For the first time in recent memory, the Red Sox will finish below 2nd place in the AL East.  The Toronto Blue Jays made enough upgrades (Troy Glaus, AJ Burnett, Ted Lilly) to catapult themselves into serious contention for their first playoff berth since 1993.

The Baltimore Orioles are still in a

rebuilding stage but keep an eye on their pitchers.  Former Braves pitching coach guru Leo Mazzone will make a huge impact on the O's poor pitching staff.  Over the last couple of years I had thought the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were primed to make a push out of the AL cellar.  Never happened.  Tampa has some exciting prospects but is still light years away from contending.

The AL Central torch looks to be passed to the Chicago White Sox.  Once Minnesota territory, Chicago won their first World Series last year since 1917.  And they are the overwhelming pick to repeat.  The additions

of Javier Vazquez and Jim Thome should have them finishing '06 with the best record in the AL.

The Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins will pose legitimate threats to the White Sox but will fall short.  Minnesota has one of the best pitching staff in the AL but will lose too many 4-3 and 3-2 games in '06 due to a very poor offense.  The Indians should edge out the Twins for 2nd place with a more potent offense.  Cleveland's return to the post-season will depend upon whether their rotation was filled with career years in '05 or was merely a coming out year for a few.

Laugh if you must but the Kansas City Royals will be an interesting team to watch.  They have lost 210 games over the past two years.  This year they have an interesting mix of veterans and youth.  Things could be intriguing if they are still over the .500 mark after the All-Star break.  The Detroit Tigers are still a couple of quality hitters and pitchers away from making any noise after August.

The AL West is still the Angels to lose.  L.A. has a good balance of hitting and pitching, to go along with veteran leadership.  The Oakland A's have a slight edge over the Angels in pitching and the Texas Rangers have the edge at the plate but fall dramatically short in the other area.  Oakland and Texas should contend for the AL West flag but will fall short.  They will receive strong consideration in the wild card race.

The NL East (except for Florida) is a wide-pen race between four teams.  It is very likely the wild card winner will come from this division.  As always it will be Atlanta's to lose but the New York Mets will prove to be a worthy adversary.  See next month's edition of The People News for an insightful look at the Braves and the NL East.

The NL Central is a true no-brainer.  St. Louis will try for the 3rd time to bring home their first World Series trophy since 1982.  Speculation has been swirling that this may be the last year the Cardinals have to win it

all before the team is dismantled.

With a Roger Clemens-less rotation (Clemens cannot re-sign with Houston until May 1 but can anytime before then with any other team), Houston is very shallow after Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte.  The Astros offense is formidable but does not look to be enough to receive a third-straight playoff appearance.

The team to watch in the NL this year is the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They have some nicely developed young talent and a young starting rotation.  On paper they look like a 70-92 team but they will surprise some people in '06.  The once bright future for Chicago Cub fans is slowly dimensioning.  Their once proud aces, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, have been beset by injuries the last couple of years and Wood has been relegated to the bullpen.  Their once high-octane offense is no more.  Their pitching has become thin.  We can all lament for the poor Cubbies now that the Red Sox and White Sox have finally won a World Series.

The Cincinnati Reds must be in a rebuilding process (if not they are doing a few dozen things wrong, they finished 2005 with a higher team ERA than Colorado) because aside from a couple of fence busters, they are thin at the plate and on the mound.  They will battle Selig's team (Milwaukee Brewers) for last place in the NL Central.  The Brewers actually do have a few bright spots on the mound for '06 (Sheets and Capuano) and we all want to see how Cecil Fielder's son, Prince, will do.

The San Diego Padres backed into the NL West title last year, barely finishing over .500.  That will not happen this year.  The Padres pitching is iffy after ace Jake Peavy.  And their top acquisitions during the off-season were players past their prime, Vinny Castilla and Mike Piazza.  A retooled and revitalized Eric Gagne and off-season additions of Nomar Garciaparra and Rafael Furcal should put the LA Dodgers back into the mix for a pennant. 

Surprisingly, the Dodgers weak spot will be pitching (long been a staple of success).  The Padres and Dodgers match-up quite evenly on pitching and at the plate.  It may come down to the bench and who has the best closer (Trevor Hoffman, Padres or Gagne).  The NL West will be a two-team race as the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies vie for 3rd place.

A "healthy" Bonds would put the Giants right back in the race.  Their line-up is full of All-Stars but All-Stars five years ago.  Giants pitching will keep them in lots of games but they lack the offense to win those vital "close games".  Arizona has a handful of young hurlers who may see breakout seasons, just not in '06.  The have a respectable offense but lack the punch needed for contention. 

Colorado may be finally getting the hint.  Top grade pitchers go there to die (career wise), subpar hitters go there to pad stats and go elsewhere.  Trying it with smallball and inning-eating starters (ERA is all but ignored if you can throw 200 inning in Homerland) who aren't exactly superstars may be the answer.  Winning games 17-15 wasn't.

Look for the Yankees, White Sox, and Angels to win the AL divisions, and the Mets, Cardinals, and Dodgers to win in the NL.  The wild cards?  Watch for Toronto, Cleveland, or Oakland in the AL, and Atlanta in the NL.   
Entering the '05 season Julio Franco is the oldest active player at 47 (will be 48 in August).  How old is he?  On April 25, 1982, Jim Kaat, who started his career in 1959, intentionally walked Franco. 
Other milestones, Craig Biggio is 205 hits shy of 3,000.  The future all-time home run king, Alex Rodriguez, should near 475 homers this year.  As for Bonds, he is seven away from passing Babe Ruth and 48 to pass Hank Aaron. 

The future all-time RBI king, Manny Ramirez, will easily pass 1,500 this year.  With 12 wins, Greg Maddux will enter the top 10 all-time victories list.  Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson will be within striking distance of 300 wins with a solid '06, and if Clemens retires, Johnson will need 131 strikeouts to pass him for 2nd place on the all-time SO list.  And Curt Schilling (2832) and Pedro Martinez (2861) should pass the 3,000 strikeout plateau this year.