BACK TO BACK
THE SAN FRANCISCD GIANTS are armed to repeat as World Series champions, though the odds are against them. No team has won back-to-back championships in the past decade. The Yankees ran off three titles from 1998 to 2000, but the only NL team to win back-to-back titles since the 1921-1922 New York Giants was Cincinnati, in 1975-1976. Ten of the IB NL teams have advanced to the World Series in the past 13 years. Since the advent of a third round of playoffs in 1995, some have questioned the demands the postseason puts on pitching. Maybe teams don't repeat because arms become wearied in the postseason.
TRIPLE YOUR PLEASURE Carlos Gonzalez of Colorado, Albert Pujols of St. Louis and Joey Votto of Cincinnati went into the final weeks of last season with a shot at the NL Triple Crown. None of them claimed it, however. The Triple Crown has been won only 13 times in modern history. Carl Yastrzemski won it most recently, in 1967. The NL hasn't had a Triple Crown winner since Joe Medwick with the 1937 St. Louis Cardinals. All four of the NL Triple Crowns and seven of the nine AL Triple Crowns were won when each league had only eight teams. The two most recent AL wins-by Frank Robinson with Baltimore in 1966 and Yastrzemski the following year-came when the AL had 10 members. What's more, in 1973 the AL added the designated hitter to each of its 14 lineups, thereby increasing the number of players whose only purpose is to have an offensive impact.
FEELING A DRAFT
It was an off-season of roster reshaping in Tampa Bay. The future remains bright for the Rays, though. They have one of the best scouting and player development depart-
merits in baseball. It's how they built the team that, despite having about one third of the Yankees' payroll, has beenabieto hold its own in the AL East. Aside from the offseason trades of starting pitcher Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett, the Rays witnessed a free-agent migration that resulted
in the loss of outfielders Carl Crawford and Brad Hawpe, closer Rafael Soriano, relievers Chad Quails, Grant Balfour, Randy Choate and Joaquin Benoit and first baseman Carlos Peha. But the Rays have 12 of the first 89 selections in the June draft—their own, which will be numbers 32 and 89 overall, plus 10 compensation picks. The team's other picks include Boston's first-round selection (24th overall) for Crawford, eight sandwich picks and Oakland's second-round pick (number 75) for Balfour. The 12 players selected in the same spots of the 2D1D draft received $11 million in signing bonuses. Factor in inflation and the Rays could spend more in signing players out of the first two rounds of the 2D11 draft than any team has ever spent on an entire draft.
WIN DR ELSE
In a division that underscores parity, Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin dealt his team into the role of NL Central favorite during the off-season. First he acquired pitcher Shaun Marcum from Toronto and then Zack Greinke from Kansas City. The moves came at a price. Four of the players traded were among the Brewers' top 10 prospects. Brett
Lawrie, the number two prize in the organization, was sent to Toronto for Mar-cum. Kansas City, meanwhile, gave up Greinke for a package that included shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and right-handers Jake Ddorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. The pressure is on Melvin to win this season, his
eighth on the job. Melvin made the move on Greinke after it became apparent the market he was hoping to develop for potential free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder never materialized. If the Brewers struggle, they can trade Fielder and possibly Greinke, who is signed through 2012, in July.
With the addition of Cliff Lee, the Phillies have a pitching staff that will leave lineups trembling. How does it rank among the best rotations ever? The 1954 Cleveland Indians had a rotation of Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon, Art Houtteman and Bob Feller, who died this past December. The five Indians combined to start 147 of 15G games for the 111-43 Tribe. The team's five starters in 1954 were a combined 93-3G with a 2.BB ERA. Feller, Lemon and Wynn are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Despite Cleveland's strong arms, the New York Giants swept the Indians in the 1954 World Series.
The Twins are counting on closer Joe Nathan to return after he missed the 2D1D season recovering from elbow surgery, but is that enough for another title run? The off-season saw the free-agent defections of right-handers Jesse Grain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Clay Condrey and left-handers Brian Fuentes and Ron Mahay but saw no established relief additions.
Philadelphia Phillies: Four aces
win almost any hand.
Boston Red Sox: These Sox have
plenty of runs and are thankful for them.
(3) San Francisco Giants: The un-
Moneyball team hits another jackpot.
Colorado Rockies: Home is a hit
ter's haven, but arms are key.
Milwaukee Brewers: GM Melvin
bet his future on Greinke and Marcum.
Cincinnati Reds: Putting doubters
in their place.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Court for
McCourts denies dollars for Dodgers.
Chicago White Sox: Ozzie and
a postseason mike are made for
Tampa Bay Rays: No fans, no
finances, but a quality plan.
Atlanta Braves: Brave new world
without Bobby Cox.
New York Yankees: Money can't
buy pitching or happiness.
Texas Rangers: Trumped in bid to
Los Angeles Angels: No offense
meant, none shown.
Florida Marlins: Another year of
good but far from good enough.
AL MVP: Carl Crawford
AL CY YOUNG: David Price
AL MANAGER: Joe Maddon
(15) Minnesota Twins: There's minimal
relief in sight.
(16) St. Louis Cardinals: Bad shuffle of
the deck to lose Wainwright for the year.
(17) Chicago Cubs: They have been
losing so long they aren't even lovable.
(IB) Detroit Tigers: Ay caramba, Cabrera.
Toronto Blue Jays: Rebuilding
Ricciardi's mess won't be quick.
Oakland Athletics: This team is
stuck in neutral.
(21) Baltimore Orioles: The Buck stops
here, and the D's are better for it.
New York Mets: Wilpon thought
Madoff's investments were bad?
Kansas City Royals: Help is on
the way, but not for another year.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Re
building began with the hiring of
Cleveland Indians: Plenty of
reservations about this group.
Houston Astros: Houston, we have
a problem, again.
San Diego Padres: Prayers won't
(28) Pittsburgh Pirates: Ay, matey,
what a mess.
Seattle Mariners: Troubled waters
Washington Nationals: Fancy cur
tains can't cover up faulty foundation.
NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki NL CY YOUNG: Cole Hamels NL MANAGER: Charlie Manuel
AL EAST: BOSTON
AL CENTRAL: CHICAGO
AL WEST: TEXAS
AL WILD CARD: TAMPA BAY
AL PENNANT: BOSTON
NL EAST: PHILADELPHIA NL CENTRAL: MILWAUKEE NL WEST: SAN FRANCISCO NL WILD CARD: COLORADO NL PENNANT: PHILADELPHIA
WORLD SERIES CHAMPION: