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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

MLB 2003 Preview

Spring Training is more than just a month long preparation for baseball players to begin a 162 game schedule. For Boston Red Sox fans, it is also a time to work themselves up into a state of unmitigated optimism.

It is an annual expectation, like the return of migratory birds. Sox fans (and some media persons) display the same pattern of early spring hopes every year, regardless of off-season wheelings and dealings. Even more unfathomable is the interpretation of Grapefruit League win-loss record. If the team’s record is ,say, 20-10, then the masses will prophesize about a 100 win season and an inevitable trip to the World Series. On the other hand, if the team wins only a half-dozen games, a list of excuses (they’ll call it reasons) a mile long will be recited over the airwaves, in bars, and by watercoolers to assure other hardball followers that the upcoming regular season will not be a campaign of doom and gloom.

Not everyone is sky-high about the local nine’s chance to win the World Series. Some people are naturally soured on life, and their prognostications, whether it’s on sports, the economy, or the weather, will always have a negative tone. “You wait and see,” they mutter. “They’ll ruin our summer again.”

Local newspaper columnists have the collective opinion that the New York Yankee will capture the American League East division title yet again. To suggest anything else is ludicrous. It would take an inordinate amount of injuries for the Bronx Bombers’ train to be derailed.

These same columnists have penciled in the Red Sox to come in second. Again, it’s a safe prediction. The Sox have played second fiddle to Yankees for the last seven years, and even though the team has marginally upgraded its roster. Both starting pitching and the bullpen remain as legitimate concerns. The guess among many is that the team will go with its current makeup until middle of the summer, and then try to make a trade for a quality starter.

Here are my predictions for the 2003 baseball season:

American League: East, New York; Central, Chicago; West, Oakland; Wild Card, California

National League: East, Atlanta; Central, Houston; West, Arizona; Wild Card, Los Angeles

The American League is not going to have many surprises. New York and Oakland are clearly the two best teams and California is coming off a Disneyesque championship season. Chicago is not a lock to win the Central division, but I figure that the pick up of Bartolo Colon and that I still think the Minnesota Twins had a fluke season in 2002 leads me to believe that White Sox will make the playoffs. The other legitimate wild card contenders are the Seattle Mariners and the Red Sox

In the National League, the Atlanta Braves will continue their decade plus long hold of the National League East, but they are no longer the tour-de-force that they once were. Starters Kevin Millwood and longtime Brave Tom Glavine have new homes in Philadelphia and New York, respectively, and Greg Maddux is a step away from receiving a Social Security check. St. Louis could put up a fight in the Central, but the starting pitching and emotion from last season (Darryl Kile’s death) will not be present this time around. It is out west where things could get interesting. Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco are all legitimate playoff teams, but giant Barry Bonds does not have babysitter Dusty Baker around (Baker has moved to the Chicago Cubs) and it will be hard to keep the clubhouse from imploding.

The Yankees will capture the American League title while Arizona, on the arms of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, will take the National League for a rematch of the 2001 World Series. This time, however, the Yankees will be victorious.