2-New York Mets
VERDICT: It is no fun to pick the Braves every year!!! Aside from that, everything went a tad bit topsy turvy in this division. Before the season, I liked the Fish's overall talent and that "intangible" that just makes me like that team. The Nats took a better liking to DC than I figured [credit to former Reds GM Jim Bowden]....but, technically, they did finish in last place [which would have put them just 1 game back in the NL West]. The Fightin' Phillies did an admirable job moving on without Jim Thome. But that Braves farm system is not to be underrated. Guys went out...and young guys stepped in and did the job. That Bobby Cox sure can manage.
1-St. Louis Cardinals
VERDICT: It isn't some wild prediction...but I got it right. St. Louis is the class of the National League. But how in the heck do the Cubs continue to falter? There's a ton there, but they just don't get it done. What a turnaround the Astros had...for the 2nd straight season. I mean, this team was so bad on the road early in the season. The Reds, Brewers and Pirates continue to be fodder for those teams with big payrolls...though Milwaukee emerged with a surprisingly mediocre season. It was nice to see Ken Griffey blast again in Cincinnati....but so did everyone else in that ballpark.
1-San Francisco Giants
2-San Diego Padres
3-Los Angeles Dodgers
VERDICT: Well, I made this prediction under the assumption that Barry Bonds would have been back around the All Star break. If he was, they would have taken this division. I am dead sure of that. But, it didn't work out. But the team I had just below them did win the division, with a sad 82-80 record. Ugh. That was worse than 3 NL teams that didn't make the playoffs. The Dodgers felt the squeeze from their defections [but losing Beltre was worth it, eh? I mean...he isn't worth that money]. Oh, and those Rockies sure did suck.
1-New York Yankees
2-Boston Red Sox
4-Toronto Blue Jays
5-Tampa Bay Devil Rays
VERDICT: I felt before the season began that the Yankees were built better for the regular season. It took most of the year to get this done...but they won by the slimmest of margins [head-to-head]. Of course, the defending champ Boston would be there with them. Baltimore was there in the mix before the entire bottom fell out. Once Raffy was suspended....the O's just weren't the same. Toronto continues to live in that mid-level land. Did those D-Rays finish last again?
2-Chicago White Sox
5-Kansas City Royals
VERDICT: Two things. One, the White Sox exploded from the gate and didn't look back until September. And I grossly underestimated the Indians. While everyone was picking them as a vogue playoff team....I wanted to knock them down a peg. Well, the team did make a strong push which ended with a late, late, late season slump. To me, personally, the Twins were the biggest disappointment. And those Royals finished with the worst record in baseball.
1-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
VERDICT: I've liked Anaheim to win the AL pennant all year long...and I am sticking with them. Texas was rolling along nicely for a spell...until the A's took their thunder. I honestly believed that Oakland's personnel changes would kill them for this year, at least. But, never underestimate those A's. Always underestimate those Mariners.
FANTASY: I did end up crushing everyone in my work's MLB SLUGGERS LEAGUE. For a recap, ten of us each drafted 10 players [each position and one extra player], collect pts for HR, RBI, H and R....as well as Wins and Ks for the pitchers....and after lopping off the worst 4 players, whomever has the most pts wins! My team consisted of: 1B-Derek Lee, 2B-Ray Durham, SS-Michael Young, 3B-Alex Rodriguez, OF-Bobby Abreau, Gary Sheffield, Johnny Damon, C-Mike Piazza, P-Johan Santana, X-Sean Casey. Of course, A-Rod, Sheff and Santana got off for me. But my shrewd move to take Derek Lee [whom I had the previous year] paid off. Going into the draft in which I had the #2 pick [which I used for A-Rod], I was hoping to land David Ortiz in the 2nd round [who ended up being the best player in our league]. He was gobbled up pretty quickly, so I went with Sheff and made a note to eye Derek Lee later in the draft.
POSTSEASON: Hmm...here it goes. Angels over Yankees. Red Sox over White Sox. Braves over Astros. Cardinals over Padres. Angels over Red Sox. Cardinals over Braves. Cardinals over Angels.