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A.L. Central Division Is Cleveland’s Crown Again

By Rory Pheiffer

SPORTS COLUMNIST

Today we have the discussion of the American League Central, which will provide a very competitive race. Unfortunately for the fans, the only tight race the Central presents is between second and fifth place, where last year only 12 games separated these two places (22 games separated the first and second place team). Not much will change this year in that regard.

The Cleveland Indians will once again run away with the division crown. The Indians have the best batting line-up in either league top to bottom. The lead-off with Kenny Lofton (note Lofton is out with injury until June), follow with Omar Vizquel, then Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Richie Sexson, David Justice, Travis Fryman, and finish with Sandy Alomar. If that line-up doesn’t strike fear into an opposing pitcher, I can’t think of another line-up in baseball today that could. Cleveland also has a very credible starting staff, starting the likes of lefty Chuck Finley, Bartolo Colon, Charles Nagy, and Dave Burba. These four guys have shown that they can be very effective pitchers, and they will each rack up their fair share of wins this season.

Minnesota Twins & Detroit Tigers

The Twins have taken the word “rebuilding” to a whole new level. Minnesota is loaded with young prospects, who are starting to form a cohesive unit. They are waiting to prove that they can bring the Twins back to the glory days of Puckett, Gaetti, and Hrbek. They have a long way to go.

Tigers are another team that has constantly been using the “rebuilding” excuse as their reason for their woes. Their problem is that much of their talent which has been grooming was traded away in order to try and be competitive. Trading six players for Juan Gonzalez was more of a fan attraction move by the Tigers management than a game winner. He has yet to accept the Tigers astronomical contract offer of around $140 million dollars for eight years. If Gonzalez does indeed leave the Tigers after this year, Detroit management will look like fools, and worse yet, so will the team.

Kansas City Royals

They have a young, cohesive team. Last year, the Royals surprised everybody by winning 64 games with a team full of a bunch of no-names, but seeing how most were expecting a season with over 100 losses, 97 losses came as a pleasant surprise.

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox, who last year took the honor of being the best of the rest. Look for them to do so again this year, beating out the Royals, Tigers, and Twins in that order. The Chisox’s Magglio OrdoÑez was perhaps the American League’s biggest surprise, leading his team in home runs (30), RBIs (117), and total bases (318). If the Big Hurt Frank Thomas can keep his batting average above .300 and find his power stroke again, these two will be a great one-two combo. I look for the White Sox to continue to overachieve just enough to edge out the Royals for second place in the division. Related stories: