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EA Sports Gives Congratulations to MIT Athletes

Column by Bo Light and Brian Petersen
Sports Columnists

In our attempt to offer more coverage of the local sports scene, we would like to extend our hearty congratulations to the MIT women's lacrosse team, who finished their season with an obscenely good record (something like 123, we heard) and a third-place finish in the New England Women's Eight Conference; and to the men's track team, who beat Springfield College last Saturday to earn their first undefeated season since the late '80s.

If you need proof that MIT students don't spend all their time locked in their rooms studying, look no further.

On the Ice

With the playoffs but days away, we wrap up our NHL review with the Northeast division, home of Quebec, Pittsburgh, and, of course, our local heroes, the Bruins. In fact, the Northeast might be the best division in the league, despite the presence of the hapless Ottawa Senators.

Much of the early season was spent watching Pittsburgh and Quebec battle for the league's best record. The battle may have already been won - by Detroit - but the race for the top seed in the East came down to the final game. This race, along with the explosive offenses of all of the Northeast teams, made this division the most exciting to watch this season.

Unfortunately, playoff goals are hard to come by, and the goaltending has been suspect on the top teams in the Northeast. Still, the home ice advantage should get Pittsburgh, Quebec, and Boston through the first round, and we can look for the Nordiques to continue their Miracle Season right into the Stanley Cup finals, where they can be pummeled by a Western Conference team.

Next week: playoff predictions.

The Batter's Box

This is the first of a two-part preview of the 1995 Major League season.

We begin with a preview of the American League.

AL East

Once again, the AL East is the strongest division in baseball. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Red Sox all have a legitimate shot at the division title.

We think the Yankees will prevail in the end, though. They were in first place at the end of last season and have since added former Cy Young winner Black Jack McDowell to an already strong rotation which includes Jimmy Key, who finished last season with 17 wins and a 3.27 ERA.

The Yanks have also brought in former Expo John Wetteland, who will strengthen the bullpen. The Yankees will punish opponents offensively with an attack led by Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, and last season's AL batting champ Paul O'Neil.

The Blue Jays still have the nucleus that helped lead them to the last two World Series crowns, led by Joe Carter and John Olerud, who is looking to come back from a disappointing 1994 season. The pitching staff, which failed the club last season, was shored up with the addition of '94 Cy Young winner David Cone, who is now on his second tour of duty with the 'Jays. If reliever Duane Ward makes a successful comeback from a shoulder injury that limited him to just three appearances in '94, the Blue Jays could very well finish in first place.

Pitching is the name of the game in Baltimore, as the Orioles have their strongest starting rotation since the days of Jim Palmer, led by Ben McDonald and 16-game winner Mike Mussina. However, the O's have plenty of holes on offense, although they are hoping that the preseason acquisition of the oft-injured Andy Van Slyke will bring power to the middle part of the batting order. Cal Ripken, who will break Lou Gerhig's consecutive game record on Sept. 6, must also have a big season, otherwise pennant fever will be non-existent in Camden Yards.

Which Red Sox pitching staff will show up more often this season: The one that has pitched two shut outs in the first six games or the one that gave up 17 runs to the White Sox last weekend?

We think the latter, as Roger Clemens is out until June with a shoulder injury and Aaron Sele is the only pitcher new coach Kevin Kennedy can consistently rely on. Fortunately, Sox fans, there will be plenty of offensive fireworks at Fenway this season with Jose Canseco, Mark Whiten, Mo Vaughn, and Mike Greenwell providing plenty of power in the middle part of the order.

We can only hope that the playoffs go through Boston next fall, unfortunately you need pitching. Look for Detroit to finish in the AL East cellar, unless Cecil Fielder and Travis Fryman can combine for 200 home runs.

AL Central

The White Sox lost out big during the off-season as Black Jack McDowell packed his bags for the Big Apple and Julio Franco defected to Japan.

Fortunately there is enough talent to lead the Sox to the Central Division title. The starting rotation remains strong with Alex Fernandez, Jason Bere (12-2 in 1994), Wilson Alverez, and former Yankee Jim Abbott. The Big Hurt, Frank Thomas, will lead a solid line-up. The bullpen is full of question marks, and could lead to the Sox undoing in September, unless help is found.

Cleveland will likely give the White Sox a run for their money. Kenny Lofton has become the game's premier lead-off hitter (sorry Deion fans) and Albert Belle has become many a pitcher's worst nightmare (36 taters in '94).

Obviously, the Indians will have no problem scoring runs. The fate of the Indians is ultimately held by the pitching staff, which is considerably weaker than Chicago's. The starters are above average, however the bullpen is dismal, as the Opening Day roster had a combined 11 saves last season. The Indians must hope that rookie Paul Shuey, who had five of those saves, will develop into a prime-time reliever or make an attempt to trade for a solid closer.

Free agency took its toll on the Royals, as David Cone and Brian McRae left town. Kansas City's hopes will ride on the shoulders of last season's Rookie of the Year Bob Hamelin, who hit 24 home runs, and pitchers Kevin Appier and Jeff Montgomery (27 saves in '94). Unfortunately a strong defense will not compensate for the Royals lack of offense.

The Brew Crew and the Twins will duke it out for the cellar, as both teams lack both pitching and hitting.

AL West

Seattle looks primed to win this one. Ken Griffey Jr. leads a potent offense that includes Jay Bruhner and Edgar Martinez. Flame thrower Randy Johnson (204 K's in '94) teams with reliever Bobby Ayala to help form the AL West's best pitching staff (We admit this isn't saying to much).

Oakland should finish second. There is plenty of veteran leadership here, including Mark McGwire, who is looking to regain his past superstar form. The A's need to pray that pitchers Steve Karsay and Todd Van Poppel will finally reach their potential this season. If they do, the A's could easily win the West.

Texas is hoping that super slugger Juan Gonzalez can return from a back injury. If he's not effective, there will be trouble in Arlington. Will Clark will pick up some of the slack, but not enough to compensate for a pitching staff that had a combined ERA well over five last season.

The Angels will finish dead last. Tim Salmon (.287, 23 HR, 70 runs batted in '94) and free agent signee Lee Smith (33 saves in 1994) will provide some excitement for Angels fans.

Playoff Teams: Yankees, White Sox, Mariners, Toronto

American League Champion: Yankees

AL MVP: Frank Thomas

AL Cy Young Winner: Jack McDowell

Trivia

When was the last baseball strike, and who won the World Series that year?

Send answers, along with comments and scripts to "Kids in the Hall" episodes, to easports@the-tech.

Answer to last week's question: The Detroit Pistons beat the Bulls in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, before going on to win their second consecutive NBA title. Congratulations to Marlo Kemp, Mark Ribick '96, Henry Huang '96, Brian Greenblatt '96, Hareendra Yalamanchili '97, Mark Hytros G, and David Hsu '98, who all supplied the correct answer.