The Baseball Notebook

April 2, 2010 11:00 AM

AL Central Picks

This is the division that is the antithesis of the AL East we looked at yesterday. The only team here in a major market is the Chicago White Sox--and they're that market's "second team" in popularity and too tight-fisted to really throw their financial weight around anyway. Parity reigns, as three teams (White Sox, Twins and Indians) won divisions in the first decade of the 21st century, and a fourth (Tigers) made the World Series as a wild-card. The past two seasons have seen epic finishes with a one-game playoff being required to determine the champion. The Central looks similarly competitive this time around, although Chicago and Minnesota do appear to have a distinct edge on the rest of the pack.

Cleveland is in rebuilding mode, has no pitching to speak of and is heading for the cellar. Kansas City and Detroit are polar opposites in this sense--the Royals play good defense, have some decent talent, but have a consistent track record and failing to do it on the field. The Tigers have too many holes to take seriously as a team ready to win the division, but a manager in Jim Leyland who always manages to keep it going on the field. Look for these two to joust for the third and fourth spots. That leaves the White Sox & Twins.

The season-ending elbow injury to Joe Nathan will be seen as the decisive blow in this race. Minnesota is feisty and competitive, and that will get them to the high-80s in win total. But the loss of Nathan can't be replaced and I don't see them making the leap to get the 90 wins it will take to bring this one home. Whereas the White Sox have a deep and talented rotation headed up Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle and John Danks. They have offensive firepower on hand with Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin. And with last August's acquisiton of Peavy, even though he was on the DL at the time, this has the look of an organization ready to do what it takes to win in 2010. When they want to, they have the resources to take on some additional contracts if it's deemed necessary at the trade deadline. For all of those reasons, I like the Southsiders to return to win their second Central crown in three years.

Tomorrow is the AL West. On The College Basketball Notebook, three of the Final Four teams have been previewed and the last one in Duke goes up later this afternoon.

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