I found this projection to be challenging, actually, as I can't say I found five teams headed for a big fall. Yet I do think the entire industry will be more bunched together, in terms of win-loss records. so we could have clubs that repeat division titles despite worse winning percentages. and for the purpose of this exercise, that's all we want.
Starting with the winningest team in this group and then descending...
1. Angels (97-65). They've had a subpar spring training, record-wise, and there are understandable questions about how they're going to replace John Lackey and Chone Figgins. The safe bet is that either Joel Pineiro (league transition, leaving Dave Duncan) or Hideki Matsui (health) wont work out anywhere as well as the team hopes. It helps them, obviously, that none of the AL West looks like world-beaters at the moment.
2. Dodgers (95-67). We've discussed, at length, their embarrassing winter, caused by their embarrassing ownership situation. Yet I think teams are underestimating just how good their lineup can be, and even the potential contributions of Scott Elbert and James McDonald. So why are they in this group? I think the NL West will be particularly tightly packed, so 90-91 wins could capture the division.
3. San Francisco (88-74). Earlier in the week, we labeled them as offseason losers, as GM Brian Sabean made head-scratchingly poor attempts to improve his lineup. I don't see who on this team gets markedly better, while the age issues mean that many people could regress.
4. Seattle (85-77). Yes, this list has a clear West Coast bias. Just the way it worked out. Without Cliff Lee for the start of the season, the Mariners have serious issues regarding their rotation depth, even if they go ahead and bring back free agent Jarrod Washburn. We all know that the Ms far outperformed their Pythagorean record last season, so with a few more disappointments and some bad luck mixed in, they indeed won't match last year's actual record.
5. Toronto (75-87).They have the rare honor of being on this list for the second straight season. As we've discussed, they're on the right track. But with their young rotation, and with their four AL East competitors far ahead of them, the Jays figure to get absolutely pummeled this season.
--Great column by David Lennon about the Mets, as they break camp. Look, anything is possible. But it takes some seriously rosy glasses to think this team can make the playoffs.
An interesting question to me is, can Omar Minaya save his job? I think he can if the team goes say, 81-81 and one of the young group of Ike Davis, Jenrry Mejia or Fernando Martinez blossoms. Then there will be the sense that the club is moving forward, moving away from bad contracts like Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez (both of whom are signed through next year) and that the current operation of Minaya and his baseball people making decisions - and those decisions being heavily managed by Jeff Wilpon - can work.
Jerry Manuel? I think he's gone unless the team makes the playoffs.
--It sounds like it was a terrifying scene at Steinbrenner Field, as the Twins' Denard Span hit his own mother with a foul ball. Thank goodness Wanda Wilson is all right.
--Erik Boland's Yankees notebook features updates on Mark Teixeira, Francisco Cervelli, the bullpen and others. At this point, the Yankees don't appear to have any health issues heading into the season.
--Exhibition games in Italy would be pretty cool, no?
--Happy April Fool's Day, and happy 25th anniversary to Sidd Finch. Reading the story now, and laughing uproariously at the absurd details I wondered, "How in the world did I believe this was real?" I guess it was all of the quotes from real people, published in a magazine as respected as Sports Illustrated. Also, I was 14 and actually took a half-hour each week to watch "Punky Brewster."
--Live chat at 11 this morning. Hope you can make it.