Reservations for Six: Indians, Tigers could add some excitement
The 2008 Major League Baseball season is now in full swing, and here is your American League Central Preview to round out my division-by-division preview of the coming season.
The offseason additions of third basemen Miguel Cabrera, pitcher Dontrelle Willis, shortstop Edgar Renteria and outfielder Jacque Jones make the Tigers an immediate competitor in a exciting division. A great starting rotation with Willis, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman gives the Tigers a great chance to make it back to the World Series.
Manager Jim Leyland leads this talented team, which has become a lot better this offseason. The Tigers also return catcher Ivan Rodriguez, outfielder Curtis Granderson and designated hitter Gary Sheffield to the stacked lineup. This team should be very fun to watch in 2008.
The Indians needed only one more win against the Boston Red Sox last season in the American League Championship Season to make it to the World Series. People seem to forget that the Indians won 96 games last season, led by AL Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia, who went 19-7 last year with a 3.21 earned run average.
Travis Hafner hopes to have a better season, and outfielder Grady Sizemore and catcher Victor Martinez should match the career years they had a season ago. Starting pitcher Fausto Carmona will be the player to watch for the Indians after winning 19 games in his sophomore season last year. The Tribe should make the playoffs as a division winner or wildcard team.
The Twins head into the 2008 season after losing arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana, who is now with the New York Mets. Outfielder prospect Carlos Gomez, who came over to the Twins in the Santana deal, should be fun to watch with his speed and quickness.
Veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez, outfielders Delmon Young, Craig Monroe and former Houston Astros players Adam Everett and Mike Lamb all joined the Twins in the offseason. Catcher Joe Mauer and former AL MVP Justin Morneau anchor a thin lineup, which also includes outfielder Michael Cuddyer who had 16 home runs and 81 runs batted in last season. Look for the Twins pitching to struggle without Santana, who totaled more than 230 strikeouts per season for the past four seasons and won two Cy Young awards.
Chicago White Sox
It sure does seem like a long time since Chicago won the World Series if you’re a White Sox fan, but it was just three seasons ago. The Sox went a very poor 72-90 last season after winning 90 or more games the previous two seasons.
Offseason acquisitions include shortstop Orlando Cabrera and outfielders Carlos Quentin and Nick Swisher. Starting pitcher Mark Buerhle and Jose Contreras should have better seasons this year after both pitchers only won 10 games each in 2007. First baseman Paul Konerko, outfielder Jermaine Dye and Swisher will give the White Sox some much-needed pop in the middle of the lineup. The division is too tough this season for the White Sox and they will likely miss the playoffs.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals are still an MLB franchise, and they should improve this season by a few wins. The young team includes prospect catcher John Buck, outfielder Joey Gathright and third base phenom Alex Gordon.
Gil Meche will anchor the franchise in its first season under new manager Trey Hillman, who spent the last five seasons as manger of the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. Veteran outfielder Jose Guillen, catcher Miguel Olivo and pitcher Brett Tomko were acquired by the Royals this offseason. A thin pitching staff and not enough hitting will put the Royals in the division cellar.