Tigers. Royals. Mets. Dodgers.
You've probably had your fill of pennant predictions, but as the closest thing the Deseret News has to a baseball writer, I feel obligated to put my shaky reputation - and feeble forecasts - on the line. So here goes:AL EAST - Tigers, because, well, why not? Nobody stands out in this mess, so there is real potential for some team to come from nowhere (where they're all starting from) and win it. Detroit was second in the AL in runs scored last season and finished third. Remember, Boston took the title last year with just 88 wins. Anyway, the Red Sox are in this every-other-year pattern, and won it last year, so count them out. And Toronto goes bust every time it is picked as the favorite, so scratch the Jays, too.
AL WEST - Kansas City, as Kirk Gibson works his magic one more time and Bret Saberhagen and Mark Davis rebound to have big years. The A's finally got a taste of their own mortality last fall, and, more importantly, other teams saw that they are not invincible. Chicago will threaten but has too many youngsters. The aging Angels will fade in the second half.
NL EAST - Mets, because of Gooden-Viola-Cone-Franco, etc. Pittsburgh didn't exactly overwhelm New York last season, beating them by four games, and this is another no-repeat division. The Cubs have the hitting but too many pitching question marks. And Montreal never wins.
NL WEST - Dodgers, because it's their turn. The last time a team repeated in this division was back in the 70s. Sure, it's bound to happen again, but not this year. The seven division winners prior to the Reds declined by an average of 13 wins the next season. Cincinnati was lucky to hang on last season, and despite a spectacular start was about one injury away from blowing it in September. If the Dodgers don't win it, the Giants will.SAY WHAT? Hitters frequently complain about not getting enough at-bats to find their stroke, but here's a new slant on that one. Twins' third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, when he was hitting .125 late in the exhibition season, said: "The reason I'm not hitting as well is I'm getting too many at-bats. I'm playing in too many games." He quickly added: "I know that sounds dumb, but what I mean is, I'm not getting any time to work in the cage with a hitting coach."
It couldn't have anything to do with your lifetime .231 average, could it, Mike?
TRIVIA ANSWER: Fernando Valenzuela, eight at-bats.MORE FERNANDO: Would somebody please explain to me what the Dodgers' release of Valenzuela has to do with race? I just don't get it. Should Italian-Americans have boycotted the Yankees for saying bye-bye to Steve Balboni? Baseball players know when they take up the profession that it's a tough business, that most decisions are made on the basis of playing ability alone, without regard to race, creed, color, religion, hobbies or cereal preference. If Saddam Hussein could throw 95 mph, he'd get a tryout.
Valenzuela was a class player and a treat to watch for years, but the fact is the Dodgers probably held on to him longer than most teams would have. Over the last four seasons, Valenzuela had lost more games than he won, and his ERA last year was 4.59. Despite that, the Dodgers continued to pay him $2.5 million annually. In his 11 seasons with the Dodgers, Valenzuela made $14 million.
By the way, at L.A.'s home-opener Friday, 49,676 fans showed up.WHIFF CITY: Don't know what the Tigers are thinking about, but can't wait to watch them. Not content just to have last season's American League leader in strikeouts (Cecil Fielder, 182), Detroit went out and added Mickey Tettleton (second place, 160), Rob Deer (147) and Pete Incaviglia (146). Members of that fearsome foursome have led their league in strikeouts nine times, have 666 more career strikeouts than hits, and have struck out once every 3.08 at-bats. Last season alone, they swung and missed 1,433 times in 4,098 swings, according to the Stats Baseball Scoreboard.
In case you're wondering, Tiger manager Sparky Anderson has this group batting fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
This report includes materials gathered from outside news sources.