- Associated Press - Thursday, February 17, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Hank Aaron sees hitters regaining superiority over pitchers this season, one that he suspects might end with a World Series between the Red Sox and Giants.

During a telephone interview with The Associated Press, the Hall of Fame slugger said he thinks the upcoming trials of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens won’t overshadow the season. Hammerin’ Hank also predicts his Atlanta Braves will have a successful first season under new manager Fredi Gonzalez.

While much of the early spring training buzz has been about the Phillies, who added Cliff Lee to a rotation that already has Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, Aaron said Philadelphia shouldn’t count on winning the pennant.

“I know Philadelphia got Cliff Lee and all those other top pitchers over there,” he said Tuesday from Atlanta. “But hey, those kids did a heck of a job last year for San Francisco. I think they’re going to have a good account of themselves.”

As for the American League, Aaron thinks the addition of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford gives Boston a chance to set up the first Red Sox-Giants World Series since 1912.

“They’re going to score a lot of runs. I know that. And if they’re pitching comes around, they’re going to be awful tough to beat,” he said.

The 77-year-old Aaron was speaking this week to promote a new initiative by Topps, which for its 60th _ diamond _ anniversary is launching a “Diamond Dig” promotion. One of every six packs of this year’s Topps Series 1 have special code cards, and the buyer can enter the code online and receive a vintage Topps card and the chance to take part in the “dig.” Among the prizes are diamond-embedded cards as well as the chance to receive a diamond engagement ring and a Topps diamond commemorative ring.

“We look at our digital card business as our way to support our physical card business,” said Mark Sapir, the company’s vice president of sports. “We see the trend of kids spending more and more time online. And in some ways we’re competing with that, with our physical product, but in other ways we recognize we need to embrace it.”

Aaron, the Braves‘ senior vice president, said the major leagues have become harder to predict.

“At the beginning of the season last year, if anybody had told you that San Francisco would be in the World Series, you would say they were crazy,” he said.

Still, he doesn’t buy into all the hype over the Phillies.

“Everybody seems to think that they’re going to walk away with the championship, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.

Aaron, second on the career home run list with 755, does think offense will rebound this season. Last year’s average of 1.90 homers per game was the lowest since 1993’s 1.78. Runs, hits, batting average and ERA dropped to their lowest levels since 1992.

“Baseball has a way of evening out,” he said. “Last year it was a pitchers’ year. I think this year it’s going to be a hitters’ year _ at least I hope so.”

And he thinks Gonzalez, acquired by Boston from San Diego, will be among the top hitters.

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