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Pirates Paul Meyer's Forecast: American League East

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

NEW YORK
Yankees

2001: 95-65, first place, lost to Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games in the World Series.

Manager: Joe Torre, seventh season.

 
 
Baseball Preview
2002

Paul's Picks

1. New York Yankees

2. Toronto Blue Jays

3. Boston Red Sox

4. Baltimore Orioles

5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Previous forecasts

American League

West

Central

   
 

Key newcomers: 1B Jason Giambi, RHP Steve Karsay, OF John Vander Wal, 3B Robin Ventura, LHP David Wells, OF Rondell White.

Key departures: OF David Justice, OF Paul O'Neill, 1B Tino Martinez, 3B Scott Brosius, OF Chuck Knoblauch.

Should finish: First, where else? Under Torre, the Yankees have won five pennants and four World Series in six years. Not even a major shakeup in the off-season should shake up the Yankees. They'll have five new starters in their lineup from a year ago, including top free agent Giambi. ... Giambi brings more than a .342 batting average, 38 home runs and 120 RBIs with him from Oakland. He also led the American League with a staggering .477 on-base percentage. ... Yankees have to be a bit concerned about Pettitte, who was bothered by elbow stiffness much of spring training. ... Vander Wal is listed as a right fielder, but he'll probably get a good deal of time at DH.


TORONTO
Blue Jays

2001: 80-82, third place, 16 games behind.

Manager: Buck Martinez, second season.

Key newcomers: LHP Felix Heredia, RHP Luke Prokopec.

Key departures: INF Tony Fernandez, DH Brad Fullmer, RHP Billy Koch, RHP Paul Quantrill, SS Alex Gonzalez.

Should finish: Second. New General Manager J.R. Ricciardi's emphasis on on-base percentage should improve the Blue Jays' winning percentage. ... Rotation is probably a weakness until left-hander Mike Sirotka, who missed all of last year because of shoulder surgery, and right-hander Steve Parris (shoulder surgery in September), return to full strength. ... Ricciardi traded closer Koch to Oakland, and Escobar inherits that job. Escobar made 11 starts last season, but his 121 strikeouts in 126 innings show he has a closer's arm. ... Mondesi has to improve on his 2001 numbers and could be pushed by Wells, 23, who batted .312 in 30 games last season. ... Toronto has a 411-399 record the past five years.


BOSTON
Red Sox

2001: 82-79, second place, 13 1/2 games behind.

Manager: Grady Little, first season.

Key newcomers: RHP John Burkett, RHP Dustin Hermanson, DH Tony Clark, OF Johnny Damon, LHP Darren Oliver, LHP Jeff Wallace.

Key departures: RHP Rod Beck, OF Dante Bichette, OF Carl Everett, RHP Hideo Nomo, OF Troy O'Leary, C Scott Hatteberg.

Should finish: Third. Red Sox have new ownership, a new general manager and a new manager but face the same old question: Can they overtake the Yankees? Doubtful. And that will change to "impossible" if Martinez, who has spent time on the disabled list in each of the past three seasons, goes down again. ... Primarily because Garciaparra hurt his wrist and had only 83 at-bats, they were 15-23 against left-handed starters. ... Ramirez hit just .259 after the All-Star break. ... Damon, who had a subpar season in Oakland, was a solid offensive performer with Kansas City before going to the Athletics. He'll have Rickey Henderson to teach him about being a leadoff hitter.


BALTIMORE
Orioles

2001: 63-98, fourth place, 32 1/2 games behind.

Manager: Mike Hargrove, third season.

Key newcomers: OF Marty Cordova, OF Chris Singleton.

Key departures: OF Brady Anderson, RHP Jose Mercedes, 3B Cal Ripken.

Should finish: Fourth, but only because the Devil Rays are in this division. Orioles were last in the league in batting (.248) and tied with Detroit for 12th in fielding percentage (.979). Their pitching ranked 10th (4.67 ERA). ... Erickson missed all of last season because of elbow surgery, one reason Baltimore's record was its worst in 13 years. ... Orioles have had four consecutive losing seasons despite having one of baseball's highest payrolls for much of that time. ... Outfielder Chris Richard (.265, 15, 61) will be out until the All-Star break after off-season shoulder surgery. ... Roberts gets the closer role after converting six of 10 save chances as a rookie last season. ... Towers offers hope. His 4.49 ERA was fourth-best among league rookies in 2001.


TAMPA BAY
Devil Rays

2001: 62-100, fifth place, 34 games behind.

Manager: Hal McRae, second season.

Key newcomers: RHP Kevin McGlinchy.

Key departures: LHP Jeff Wallace, OF Jose Guillen.

Should finish: Fifth. Devil Rays have very little money and could become a contraction attraction if things don't improve quickly. Drew only 1,298,365 at home last season, the lowest figure in the league and almost half the 2,500,000 the team drew in its first season (1998). ... Former Pirates general manager Cam Bonifay is on board as General Manager Chuck LaMar's assistant in almost every significant department. ... Tied with the Pirates for the worst record in baseball last season. ... Also had the youngest team in baseball (average age of 26 1/2 years) by the end of the season. ... Were 27-61 at the All-Star break; 35-39 thereafter. ... Have had difficulty defensively almost since their birth. The Devil Rays' 139 errors in 2001 were second in the major leagues to San Diego's 145.

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