- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

1. SEATTLE MARINERS
Projected lineup
RF Ichiro Suzuki
CF Mike Cameron
2B Bret Boone
DH Edgar Martinez
1B John Olerud
3B Jeff Cirillo
LF Ruben Sierra/Mark McLemore
C Ben Davis/Dan Wilson
SS Carlos Guillen
Rotation
Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Paul Abbott, James Baldwin, Joel Pineiro
Closer
Kazuhiro Sasaki
2001 record: 116-46 (1st place)
Manager: Lou Piniella (10th season, 747-642 record)
Key additions: RHP James Baldwin (FA/Dodgers), 3B Jeff Cirillo (trade/Rockies), C Ben Davis (trade/Padres), RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa (FA/Angels), IF Desi Relaford (trade/Giants), OF Ruben Sierra (FA/Rangers)
Key losses: 3B David Bell (trade/Giants), OF Jay Buhner (retired), OF Stan Javier (retired), OF Al Martin (FA/Cardinals), RHP Jose Paniagua (trade/Rockies), RHP Aaron Sele (FA/Angels), RHP Brett Tomko (trade/Padres)
Key questions: Can Baldwin make up for the loss of unheralded starter Sele? Can Ichiro and Boone offer repeat performances from spectacular seasons? Can they finally beat the Yankees in the playoffs?
Key stat: M's led the AL in batting average (.288), ERA (3.54) and fielding percentage (.986).
The lowdown: When you're coming off a record-setting 116-win season, what do you do for an encore? How about actually making it to the World Series for once? That's Seattle's goal in 2002 - no matter what it takes, this team won't be satisfied with another great regular season unless it reaches its first Fall Classic. The M's made some significant changes, most of which should improve this already-stacked team. The AL West title won't come nearly so easy this time, but they're still the favorites.

2. OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Projected lineup
DH Jeremy Giambi
2B Randy Velarde/Frank Menechino
LF David Justice
RF Jermaine Dye
3B Eric Chavez
CF Terrence Long
SS Miguel Tejada
1B Carlos Pena
C Ramon Hernandez
Rotation
Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Cory Lidle, Erik Hiljus
Closer
Billy Koch
2001 record: 102-60 (2nd place)
Manager: Art Howe (7th season, 497-474 record)
Key additions: 1B Scott Hatteberg (FA/Red Sox), OF David Justice (trade/Mets), RHP Billy Koch (trade/Blue Jays), IF Randy Velarde (FA/Yankees), LHP Mike Venafro (trade/Rangers)
Key losses: OF Johnny Damon (FA/Red Sox), OF Ron Gant (FA/Padres), 1B Jason Giambi (FA/Yankees), LHP Mark Guthrie (trade/Mets), 3B Eric Hinske (trade/Blue Jays), RHP Jason Isringhausen (FA/Cardinals)
Key questions: Can they withstand the major losses of Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen? Can baseball's best young rotation continue to dominate? Can an unconventional lineup with the slow-footed other Giambi at the top really work?
Key stat: The left side of the infield (Chavez and Tejada) combined for 63 homers and 227 RBI last year.
The lowdown: Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. The A's have legitimately been one of baseball's best teams the last two years, but they've been overshadowed by the Mariners in the West and the Yankees in the playoffs. Now with the heart and soul of their club (Giambi) wearing pinstripes, the Bay Area Bashers are on the verge of missing their chance for success. Fortunately, the pitching staff remains intact, and that will always keep this team in the mix.

3. ANAHEIM ANGELS

Projected lineup
SS David Eckstein
CF Darin Erstad
RF Tim Salmon
LF Garret Anderson
3B Troy Glaus
1B Brad Fullmer
DH Scott Spiezio
C Ben Molina
2B Adam Kennedy
Rotation
Aaron Sele, Kevin Appier, Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz, Scott Schoenweis
Closer
Troy Percival
2001 record: 75-87 (3rd place)
Manager: Mike Scioscia (3rd season, 157-167 record)
Key additions: RHP Kevin Appier (trade/Mets), LHP Dennis Cook (FA/Phillies), 1B Brad Fullmer (trade/Blue Jays), RHP Aaron Sele (FA/Mariners)
Key losses: IF Gary DiSarcina (FA/Red Sox), RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa (FA/Mariners), RHP Pat Rapp (FA/Pirates), RHP Ismael Valdes (FA/Rangers), 1B Mo Vaughn (trade/Mets)
Key questions: Can Erstad and Salmon rebound from off years? Is Washburn ready to make the leap to the top of the rotation? Will Sele and Appier provide veteran leadership on the pitching staff?
Key stat: Angels were 65-0 last season when leading after eight innings.
The lowdown: Let's see, they've got potentially one of the best outfields in baseball (Anderson, Erstad and Salmon), an All-Star third baseman (Glaus) , one of the top closers in the game (Percival) and solid young pitching (Washburn, Ortiz and Schoenweis). Hey, guess what? These guys are pretty good! So why aren't they included in the playoff race? Oh yeah, they're in the same division as the M's and the A's in the West. Tough luck.

4. TEXAS RANGERS

Projected lineup
DH Frank Catalanotto/Rusty Greer
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Alex Rodriguez
RF Juan Gonzalez
1B Rafael Palmeiro
CF Carl Everett
LF Gabe Kapler
3B Hank Blalock/Mike Lamb
2B Michael Young
Rotation
Chan Ho Park, Kenny Rogers, Ismael Valdes, Doug Davis, Hideki Irabu
Closer
John Rocker
2001 record: 73-89 (4th place)
Manager: Jerry Narron (2nd season, 62-72 record)
Key additions: RHP Dave Burba (FA/Indians), OF Carl Everett (trade/Red Sox), OF Juan Gonzalez (FA/Indians), RHP Hideki Irabu (FA/Expos), RHP Dan Miceli (FA/Rockies), RHP Chan Ho Park (FA/Dodgers), 3B Herbert Perry (trade/White Sox), LHP John Rocker (trade/Indians), RHP Ismael Valdes (FA/Angels), RHP Todd Van Poppel (FA/Cubs)
Key losses: RHP Tim Crabtree (FA/Dodgers), OF Ruben Sierra (FA/Mariners), RHP Rick Helling (FA/Diamondbacks), LHP Darren Oliver (trade/Red Sox), LHP Mike Venafro (trade/A's)
Key questions: Will Juan Gone return to his MVP form now that he's back in Arlington? What will management decide to do with free-agent-to-be I-Rod? Can a clubhouse of Everett, Rocker, Miceli, Irabu and Gonzalez avoid implosion?
Key stat: Rangers were tops in the majors with 246 homers, worst in baseball with 6.00 starters ERA.
The lowdown: What do you do to spruce up the most offense-heavy team in baseball? Add even more offense, silly! The high-octane Rangers may set the record for home runs in a season, that is, if this volatile clubhouse doesn't go up in flames first. Long-bombers or not, they won't come close to competing with the Mariners and A's if they don't get at least respectable pitching from newcomers Park, Rocker and Van Poppel. If not, cover your ears and hide under the nearest desk.


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