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Pirates Baseball 2002: The Guy in the Stand's Predictions

Sunday, March 31, 2002

By Steve Ziants, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

George Steinbrenner vowed to make changes in the aftermath of the Yankees' Game 7 loss to Arizona, and changes there were. Gone are Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius, David Justice and Chuck Knoblauch. In are David Wells, John Vander Wal, Robin Ventura and, of course, Jason Giambi. One thing hasn't changed -- The Guy's picking the Yankees to repeat in the AL East and return to the World Series. As for the rest of the picks:

AL Central: Chicago White Sox ... A healthy Frank Thomas surrounded by a rejuvenated Kenny Lofton, Magglio Ordonez and Paul Konerko will combine with a pitching staff that's better than its horrible spring numbers (8.19 ERA) to make this the best team of a bad division.

AL West: Oakland Athletics ... A's were more than Giambi. The "Big Three" of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito (56-25, 3.43 ERA in 2001) were the real muscle on the team that won 102 games a year ago.

AL wild card: Seattle Mariners ... They not only won't win 116 games, they won't win 100. But they'll win enough to beat out Boston.

NL East: Atlanta Braves ... They might not know much about winning World Series, but Greg Maddux & Co. know the secret to winning division titles (10 in a row and counting).

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals ... They're likely a better team with Mark McGwire retired. Look for them to be playing a home-and-home with the Yankees in October.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks ... They're old and fast breaking down, but Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are too much to ignore.

NL wild card: Houston Astros ... The Mets are the chic pick, but after Al Leiter, who can be a consistent winner in New York's rotation? The Astros, with Wade Miller, Roy Oswalt and now Carlos Hernandez, have one of the best young staffs in the majors.

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