MLB PREVIEW: AL Central Division

James Evans

The AL Central was considered one of the weakest divisions last year, as the Twins controlled the helm of this ship from the beginning to the end. Throughout the season, Minnesota shrugged off talk about being contracted and turned into one of the many surprises of 2002. The rest of the division’s teams were just spectators. Cleveland traded away its chances mid-season when they shipped Bartolo Colon to Montreal, while Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit were all backseat drivers. However, as another season begins, every team starts with the same record and any organization has a chance to be crowned the champs of the AL Central division.


Key Additions: Chris Gomez (SS) and Mike Fetters (P)

Key Losses: Bob Wells (P), Mike Jackson (P) and David Ortiz (DH)

Team Motto: Contract this!

Last year the Twins seemed to sneak out of nowhere to steal the division title. At first it didn’t look like Minnesota would be a force to be reckoned with, but halfway through the season the rest of the league knew this team was for real and this time around no team will take this team for granted. The Twins’ off-season was as exciting as watching ice melt. No major additions and no major losses. However, this is probably the smartest move the Minnesota management could have made. A team that can win a division by 13.5 games must have good chemistry and the worst thing to do to that team is mess with its lineup. The only major loss this team suffered over the winter was DH David Ortiz to the Red Sox. The loss of Ortiz may hurt this squad’s power numbers, but for a team that is known to score its runs through manufacturing them, this will not be as big a loss as one might think. Deplorable playing conditions and a less than par market make the Twins a silent force that could have a terrific playoff year in the AL Central.


Key Additions: Bartolo Colon (P), Billy Koch (P), Sandy Alomar, Jr. (C), Tom Gordon (P) and Brian Daubach (1B/OF)

Key Losses: Royce Clayton (SS), Jim Parque (P), Todd Ritchie (P), Keith Foulke (P) and Mark Johnson (C)

Team Motto: We may be young, but we’re good!

Compared to the Twins’ off-season, the White Sox off-season could be described in one word: hectic. They started off with a bang, going out and getting one of the most dominant closers in the league, Billy Koch. He can bring the heat, usually hitting triple digits on the gun. Chicago, also decided they needed one of the most dominant starters in the league when they acquired Bartolo Colon from the Expos. Colon, a big burly pitcher, is known for his power, his intimidation and his uncanny ability to get stronger as the game reaches the late innings. Joining Colon in the pitching rotation is a group of young studs in Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Dan Wright. All the pitchers are coming off career-high years. Buehrle lead the team last year with 19 wins and a 3.58 ERA, going over 200 innings. Wright picked up 14 wins last season, pitching 196 innings, while Garland posted 12 wins of his own and pitched 192 innings. Joining these four in the rotation is Jon Rauch, who as a late season call-up only got six starts and looked good in all of them. Rauch is an intimidating left hander. He stands 6-feet-10-inches tall and has been compared to Randy Johnson.

The White Sox may not be a playoff team this year, but if they are able to hold on to their young pitching core, I’m sure this team will be playing in mid-October for many seasons to come.


Key Additions: Albie Lopez (P), Desi Relaford (2B), Mike DiFelice (C) and James Baldwin (P).

Key Losses: Neifi Perez (SS), Paul Byrd (P), A.J. Hinch (C), Luis Alicea (2B), Chuck Knoblauch (OF), Roberto Hernandez (P), Blake Stein (P) and Jeff Suppan (P).

Team Motto: If we have the same number of wins as sell-outs, we could be the first ever team to finish with a record of 0-162.

The Royals losses are about twice the size of their additions and they lost about two-fifths of their starting pitching rotation when Byrd and Suppan left. They also lost their all-star closer Roberto Hernandez and half of their starting line-up. I doubt this team will make other teams sweat. The Royals are now left with a weak pitching staff and a less-than-average bullpen. However, the Royals line-up is something to actually be feared this year. With a line-up filled with Mike Sweeney, Joe Randa, Carlos Beltran and Raul Ibanez, the Royals are not to be taken lightly in 2003. Sweeney is perennially in the running for the lead batting average, while Beltran led the Royals in about every other offensive category, including home runs, RBIs, runs and stolen bases. Like Beltran, Ibanez is a strong offensive threat. Ibanez hit a career high 24 home runs last year, while driving in 103 runs. Likewise, for the last four years Randa has provided Kansas City with a solid bat, hitting at least 10 homers and driving in 80 runs. However, according to the old saying good-pitching beats good-hitting, this team will be at most mediocre. But that should be good enough to win them at least half of its games and claim third in the division.


Key Additions: Shane Spencer (OF), A.J. Hinch (C), Jason Bere (P), Brian Anderson (P), and Wendell Magee (OF)

Key Losses: Jim Thome (1B), Jaret Wright (P), Charles Nagy (P), Lee Stevens (1B/DH), Eddie Perez (C) and Einar Diaz.

Team Motto: We’re screwed!

Without Thome, the Indians find themselves in trouble. Thome led the team last year in batting average, runs scored, RBI and home runs. Without that offensive force in the clean-up spot this year, the Indians’ offense has lost a lot of potency. Cleveland will now have to rely on its pitching staff to try and lead it to a title.

However, with the loss of Jaret Wright and Charles Nagy it also would seem hard to do. The Indians’ management tried to ease the pain of the losses by signing pitchers Brian Anderson and Jason Bere, but both are not stars by any mean of the imagination.

Anderson, a lefty, went 6-11 last year with Arizona, while Bere went a disappointing 1-10 with the Cubs.

A change in scenery should be good for both of these pitchers, but will it be enough to help? Probably not and once again the one-time dangerous Indians will return to their mediocrity of the early 1990s.

The AL Central is no longer Indian Country and likewise there most likely will be some empty seats this year at Jacobs Field, for the first time in the stadium’s existence.


Key Additions: Bill Haselman (C), Steve Avery (P), Julio Santana (P) and Gene Kingsale (P)

Key Losses: Randall Simon (1B), Mark Redman (P), Wendell Magee (OF), Chris Truby (3B), Juan Acevedo (P), Robert Fick (OF) and Damian Jackson (OF)

Team Motto: “Hopefully the Pistons will make the playoffs and the Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup and by the time that is over it is almost the beginning of football season, then … ”

Even with a new coach and a new look team, it is going to be the same old story for baseball in the Motor City. I don’t understand-maybe it is all the smog that is in Detroit, but for some reason this team just cannot win. The management this year is trying to hide behind the fact that they hired former-Tiger great Alan Trammell as head coach, so people won’t realize that this team is probably one of the weakest in the league. Tampa Bay must be praising God, because this is one team that will most certainly finish behind them in the standings. Last year, Randall Simon led Detroit in all offensive catergories, but for some reason management decided that it would be a good idea to trade him. Also, Robert Fick, who last year led the team in runs and wasn’t a bad offensive player either, was deemed by management unworthy to stay in Detroit and was let go to baseball heaven, a.k.a. Atlanta. Fick, did you send a Christmas card to management this year thanking them? Then, once again the Detroit management looked up and down their roster real hard, trying to find players that may or may not be worth the money to keep. And that’s when they found the one guy holding this team back from winning the World Series last year: Juan Acevedo. Acevedo, the same guy who saved 28 games for them last year, was obviously not worth the money and was also let go, as he went to baseball’s utopian world called Yankee land. Fick, hold up on that letter, I’m sure Acevedo would like to sign it. Then we come to Mark Redman. Right away management could tell he was the true cancer in the clubhouse. All he did was lead the Tigers in wins (eight) and ERA (4.21). Redman, obviously had to go and was traded to baseball’s version of purgatory, Florida.

Fick and Acevedo: don’t send that letter just yet. Redman wants to throw his John Hancock down on that piece of paper, too.