2008 MLB Preview: American League
American League East (predicted order of finish and record)
Boston Red Sox (97-65) - The defending World Champions come into 2008 with essentially the same roster that won it all in 2007. The lineup is still very good, led by Ortiz and Ramirez, as is the pitching, headed by Beckett, Matsuzaka, and the young talent. The bullpen was one of the most efficient in the league last season, as Papelbon has become as effective as any closer in the game. As long as injuries aren't a problem for the aging Sox, they are primed to make another title run.
New York Yankees (93-69) - Headed in the direction of youth, the Yankees have brought in Joe Girardi to guide the mostly young pitching along this season, and with the help of their deep lineup should have no problem contending once again. Defending MVP Alex Rodriguez is the centerpiece of an extremely veteran-savvy lineup, and if young pitchers such as Hughes, Chamerberlain, and Kennedy can develop according to form, it should be smooth sailing to a wild card nomination for New York.
Toronto Blue Jays (83-79) - For more than a decade, the Jays have been and continue to be over their heads in this tough division. The lineup doesn't feature as many sluggers as their division foes, although both Rios and Wells have become top-notch all-around players, now complemented by some proven winners in Eckstein and Rolen. The starting staff is spotty behind Roy Halladay, and the bullpen is young, but talented. No contention yet for Toronto.
Tampa Bay Rays (75-87) - The newly-dubbed Rays still won't contend because of their lack of pitching, but the same can't be said about their emerging lineup. Crawford, Upton, and the powerful Carlos Peña can certainly produce offensively for Joe Maddon, but until Tampa Bay can move in the right direction with their pitching, Scott Kazmir won't be enough to hold the fort down.
Baltimore Orioles (65-97) - Dead set in the process of rebuilding, the Orioles gave away both their top offensive threat and pitcher this offseason. Their lineup is really nothing to speak of anymore, aside from Markakis, and their starting rotation features no quality starters. The Orioles are most likely the worst team in the A.L., and it looks to be a long summer in Baltimore.
American League Central (predicted order of finish and record)
Detroit Tigers (99-63) - A Tiger team that missed the playoffs in 2007 is reloaded with arguably the best team in baseball. Their lineup is second to none, with two of the most prolific right-handed sluggers in the game in Cabrera and Ordoñez, not to mention the surrounding Granderson, Sheffield, and Polanco. The rotation is bit deeper, led by the great Justin Verlander, though the bullpen may be a question mark. Look for the Tigers to do big things this season.
Cleveland Indians (89-73) - The Indians are very good, but might not be good enough in the extraordinary American League. The top of rotation might be the best around with Sabathia and Carmona, along with the lineup that features Hafner, Martinez, and Sizemore. Their bullpen is another strength with great arms all around, but the Indians' glaring weakness is uncertainty at a number of positions. Cleveland will definitely be in the running, but may not have enough to reach the playoffs again.
Minnesota Twins (80-82) - The Twins post-Santana are much depleted and this season depend on Francisco Liriano to return to his 2006 form. Minnesota's lineup is quite productive, but a little too shallow to contend. The starting pitching will hold them back, however, the bullpen can be one of the best around when right. Losing their workhorse may be a little too much for Ron Gardenhire's team to keep up their usual winning ways.
Chicago White Sox (78-84) - A far cry from their championship season of 2005, the White Sox come into 2008 with a very unpredictable team. Their lineup is an unbalanced mix of veterans and youngsters, with Dye as the only given. In tandem, their starting pitching is flat out bad, though their bullpen is much improved in front of Jenks. It doesn't look as good as it has in the past for the Southsiders as they will miss the playoffs for the third straight year.
Kansas City Royals (68-94) - Continuing to dwell in the basement of this division, there is no reason to believe that the Royals are breaking out of their misery. Their position players are either too young or not good enough, in addition to their inexperienced pitching. They bring in a new manager in Trey Hillman, hoping to give a fresh start to a bad franchise.
American League West (predicted order of finish and record)
Los Angeles Angels (95-67) - The Angels look to defend their division crown with a very good lineup and one of the deepest pitching staffs around. Acquiring Torii Hunter gives them one of the best all-around outfielders in the game in addition to the consistent bats of Guerrero, Matthews, and Figgins. Their rotation is solid, headed by the likes of Lackey and Escobar. The always consistent Angels should really have no problem winning the West in 2008, plus their playoff disappointment is overdue to end.
Seattle Mariners (86-76) - The Mariners have gotten better for the second year in a row, this time adding left-handed ace Erik Bedard to lead a staff that also features young Felix Hernandez. Their offense might be an issue, but a solid year is guaranteed from Ichiro, as is a great year from emerging closer J.J. Putz. Though they may not have as much firepower as some other teams in the A.L., the Mariners are a possible sleeper.
Oakland Athletics (77-85) - The ebb and flow of Billy Beane's "Moneyball" has reached a trough, and this time it comes with an anemic offense and a lack of starting pitching. Oakland isn't quite at the bottom of the league yet, but may be by the end of the season. The lack of hitting and never healthy starting pitching will prevent the A's from contending in the near future, and this time it looks like it will a number of years for Oakland to return to winning.
Texas Rangers (71-91) - The Rangers formed some semblance of an offense through free agency this offseason, but this team has been lacking pitching for nearly a decade and will continue to flounder in that area. As much of a mess their rotation is, their bullpen is even worse. As long as this part of their team struggles, Texas will continue to be cellar dwellers in this division for and beyond 2008.
All American League First Team
C - Joe Mauer, Minnesota
1B - David Ortiz, Boston
2B - Robinson Cano, New York
SS - Derek Jeter, New York
3B - Alex Rodriguez, New York
OF - Magglio Ordoñez, Detroit
OF - Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles
OF - Manny Ramirez, Boston
SP - Josh Beckett, Boston
SP - C.C. Sabathia, Cleveland
SP - Erik Bedard, Seattle
RP - Jonathan Papelbon, Boston
RP - Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles
All American League Second Team
C - Victor Martinez, Cleveland
1B - Travis Hafner, Cleveland
2B - Placido Polanco, Detroit
SS - Michael Young, Texas
3B - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
OF - Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay
OF - Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle
OF - Grady Sizemore, Cleveland
SP - Justin Verlander, Detroit
SP - John Lackey, Los Angeles
SP - Roy Halladay, Toronto
RP - Mariano Rivera, New York
RP - J.J. Putz, Seattle
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