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February Folly
2003-02-20 09:14
by Jon Weisman

March Madness is coming soon, and everyone will be filling out their NCAA hoops brackets.

Part of the fun with March Madness is that you know there are going to be upsets, so you canÕt just pick who you think is the better team. You have to take a stab at who is ripe for a surprise. ItÕs even more rewarding when you gamble on an underdog to make a run to the Sweet 16 or beyond Š and they do.

Making season predictions for baseball is similar, as last yearÕs Villanova/North Carolina State run by the Anaheim Angels proved.

Here is a sneak peek at my predictions for the 2003 baseball season. IÕm going to give myself one more chance to revise them before the regular season starts, but IÕve been giving it some thought for a few weeks and wanted to put them out there now.

I donÕt have too many upsets, but there are a few that might set my bracket apart.


American League

New York
Tampa Bay

Comment: Tampa Bay ahead of anyone is an upset. But IÕm going to play a hunch that they can improve enough to pass Baltimore, which may not be as bad as its 4-32 finish last year indicates, but doesnÕt look much better. New York vs. Boston should be a fun race but I donÕt think the Yankees are done yet.

Kansas City

Comment: IÕm really tempted to pick Chicago over Minnesota Š I may reconsider that one before April. No real reason to think Minnesota is due for a decline, but I like ChicagoÕs lineup, and even if Bartolo Colon isnÕt as good as we was last year, he wonÕt hurt.

Comment: Hard to go against an Angel team that should have better pitching this year, and perhaps a better season from Troy Glaus. But Oakland was a freight train last fall until the playoffs, and I think theyÕre really going to be hungry.

AL Wild Card: Anaheim
AL Champion: Oakland

Comment: I think Art Howe deserves more respect as a manager than heÕs gotten, but without him misusing the AÕsÕ great starting pitching in the playoffs last year, Oakland might have won it all. I think this year, theyÕll get it right. Brutal division Š itÕs a bit of an upset to pick a wild card coming from this highly-competitive quartet.

(Using AÕs as a possessive is weird.)

National League

New York

Comment: The PhilliesÕ lineup looks great and AtlantaÕs does not. But I believe in Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, and IÕm not sure I believe in Phillies manager Larry Bowa. Tons of pressure on the Phillies this year. As for the bottom three, IÕm hunching that Montreal has another surprise season in them. New YorkÕs pitching is dubious behind Glavine, and Florida, despite its talent, looks totally mismanaged.

St. Louis

Comment: No real upsets here. IÕd like to pick Chicago, with its great pitching and new manager, but IÕm not convinced the overall team is superior to St. Louis or Houston. The fact that St. Louis could win last year, with all the problems it had, makes it hard to pick against them.

San Francisco
Los Angeles
San Diego

Comment: The Giants have high-ceiling pitching depth coming up from the minors, but I donÕt believe in their lineup after Barry. With Arizona, their starters after Schilling and Johnson still arenÕt great, but theyÕre better than they were last year. I think the Dodgers can hang close with the top two, but theyÕre going to need some falloff from either Bonds, Schilling or Johnson to be a factor. The Dodger starting pitching is truly fragile across-the-board, but I think theyÕre still a good bet to stay ahead of San Diego and Colorado.

NL Wild Card: Philadelphia
NL Champion: Philadelphia

Comment: If Philadelphia can make the playoffs, I think they could have the fire to blast through. IÕm willing to gamble on it now.

World Series Champion: Oakland

Comment: AL wins again, no matter whoÕs in.

IÕd love to seed these teams in a bracket and have a March Madness-like tournament Š one-game series where each team uses its best pitcher Š but Strat-o-Matic has stopped making its computer game for Macintosh, and I donÕt really have the time to spend on it. But itÕd be fun.

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