20 Questions and 20 "Take It the Bank" Answers

Spring has sprung and that means it's time for baseball. Right now, 30 Major League Baseball teams are tied for first place. On the other hand, 30 teams are also tied for last place. So who's moving up, and who's going to stay put? Who should you watch and who should you avoid? The answers to the biggest questions surrounding baseball and society in general are all right here. So, without further ado……….

Q: Will the Anaheim Angels repeat as World Series Champions?
A: The Angels may want to consider upgrading to a "rally gorilla" because that little monkey isn't going to cut it this year. The Angels have a brilliant manager in Mike Scioscia and they get an A+ in the karma/chemistry department, but the "road to repeating" is a rough one, especially for a team that relies more on "magic" than talent. The Angles will put up a fight, but they won't be playing in October.

Q: What about the Giants? Will they be back?
A: That sound you heard after Game 6 of the World Series last year was the window shutting on the Giants' chances of becoming world champions. They had it and they blew it. Opposing teams can tread even more lightly around Barry Bonds now that Jeff Kent has departed, and their starting rotation is not as formidable as it was last year. Not only will the Giants not repeat as National League Champions, they may be one of the most disappointing teams in MLB.

Q: What is a more powerful force: Dusty Baker's will to win or the cosmic alignment that keeps the Cubs from meeting expectations every season?
A: Baker always seems to get the job done, but it's hard to compete with the moon and the stars. The Cubs will not be in contention this September. In other news, water is wet, the sky is blue, and Michael Jackson is a tad odd.

Q: Will J-LO and Ben last?
A: Maybe I'm just fooled by the rocks that she's got, but I don't see this one going to extra innings.

Q: Who's going to be the worst team in MLB this year?
A: Unfortunately, there are SEVERAL candidates in 2003. The Devil Rays would be the front-runners, but Lou Pinella could keep them out of the cellar. Kansas City? Milwaukee? San Diego? Very good possibilities. But Detroit is the pick here. Eminem is the hottest thing to come out of the motor city in years-wonder if he can pitch? The Tigers might want to put in a call.

Q: Is this Ken Griffey Junior's last chance in Cincinnati? If so, will he make the most of it?
A: Yes and yes. It's now or never for Junior. If he sputters this year, his stay in his hometown is most likely over, and his career will be in serious doubt. It's hard to see him going down without a fight though. He looks healthy and was a force this spring. The energy boost (and short right field porch) at the new Great American Ballpark are also in Junior's favor. Junior will be near the top of the HR list this year and be a legitimate MVP candidate.

Q: What is the best division in MLB?
A: The NL East is better than many people think, but no division can touch the AL West. The A's, Angels, and Mariners all have 90-plus win potential and the Rangers aren't a bad team to bring up the rear. This division is the prime example why baseball should eliminate the divisions and simply send the top four teams in each league to the post-season.

Q: Will the Phillies off-season wheeling and dealing pay off?
A: Most definitely. Philadelphia has become the popular pick by many "experts" to be the big bust this year, but the pieces of the puzzle are there. Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf, Vincente Padilla, and Brett Myers form one of the better starting rotations in the league, and Jim Thome adds some serious pop to an already decent line-up. The Phillies will challenge the Braves and make the post-season.

Q: So, who will be the big bust this year?
A: St. Louis could go south this season. They will be able to score runs consistently, but their line-up can't afford many injuries. The starting rotation could be a huge problem. Brett Tomko has been a bust for three teams, now that he's with the Cardinals he all of sudden has his "potential" back? Not buying it. Aside from Matt Morris, there isn't a pitcher on their staff (including the bullpen) that strikes fear into opposing batter's hearts. The Cardinals may be aided by the fact that the Central division doesn't have any clearly established threats, but St. Louis could still wind up right around the .500 mark this year.

Q: Any Darkhorses?
A: MLB is nothing like the NFL or even the NBA-what you see in baseball is pretty much what you get. The Angels were a rare, and refreshing, surprise last season, but don't count on that happening again. The division winners will look very similar, if not identical, to the way they did last year. If you must search for a real sleeper, Toronto might be a good place to look in the American League. In the NL, Cincinnati and Colorado could contend if luck is on their side.

Q: Will the Braves miss Tom Glavine?
A: Not really. The Braves had an excellent off-season, despite losing a vital cog in the Atlanta Pitching Machine. Russ Ortiz and Paul Byrd are both underrated starters that could easily combine for 30-35 wins. Mike Hampton lost his confidence in Colorado, but who doesn't? He seems like the perfect fit for a Leo Mazzone reclamation project-don't be surprised to see him return to all-star form this year. The Braves also added some nice arms in the bullpen. Ray King is deadly against lefties and Roberto Hernandez is versatile and experienced. Offensively, Robert Fick will fix their problems at first base and the Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield outfield is the best in MLB. Look for the Braves to make it back the World Series in 2003.

Q: Hootie or Martha?
A: Who cares. It's a GOLF CLUB. Both parties are clearly overstating the social importance of this issue. Wonder why people are put off by golfing elitists? Wonder why people are put off by left wing, extremist feminists? Look no further than Hootie Johnson and Martha Burke. A complete waste of time.

Q: Will Oakland get over the first round hump this year?
A: It's now or never. The A's have incredible talent up and down their roster. The Zito-Mulder-Hudson one-two-three punch is totally devastating. The A's will win 100 games this year and finally shake the ghosts of post-seasons past by winning a first round series. However, if the Yankee come calling in the ALCS, that may be too big of a wall for the young guns to climb.

Q: Speaking of the Yankees, any chance the Red Sox will dethrone them in the AL East?
A: Yes, and Vin Diesel is going to win Best Actor for "XXX Part 2." The Yankees are refreshed and have added some hungry players with something to prove. Tampa Bay and Baltimore provide New York with a consistent punching bag in their division, and they will cruise to yet another division crown. The Red Sox will manage to beat out the Mariners, White Sox, and Angels for the Wild Card.

Q: Will the Yankees be the only New York team playing in October?
A: Well, I guess the Jets, Giants, and Bills will be going at it by then, but the Mets will be watching at home. Mets management needs to realize that their time has passed and stop delaying an all-out youth movement. Glavine provides the Mets with some intrigue and Art Howe could be a good fit, but overall, this is an old, slow, overpaid, over-hyped team. Last place is not out of the question.

Q: Who is the best designer on "Trading Spaces?"
A: For practicality Laurie is your best bet, but if you're a little more daring Frank might by your man. However, his seemingly unstoppable sweating problem might be more than your average homeowner could deal with. Edward is a bit too spacey and Genevieve is a bit too wired. There is really only one choice-the name says it all. When you need to fix your room-just "Yip it in the bud." Vern Yip is the smart remodeler's choice.

Q: Do the Diamondbacks have enough gas in their tank?
A: Arizona's success depends almost 100% on their two aces: Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. The once potent Arizona line-up is now tired and old, quite possibly one of the worst in the league. But as long as the two big guns are firing away, Arizona remains the favorite out west. Schilling has shown signs of slowing down just a tad, but Johnson seems to get more unhittable by the day. Unless one of these two suffers a major injury in the coming months, the Diamondbacks will find themselves in the post-season yet again.

Q: What about Minnesota?
A: The Twins will repeat as division champions, but they won't be significantly better than they were last year-not improved enough to win the American League. The payroll is catching up to this team after this season, which is truly a shame because the Twins are a picture perfect example of how to build from within. The fact that everyone knows this team will be blown up in 9 months is still the number one problem facing MLB.

Q: Will the fans enjoy the season more now that the labor mess has been resolved?
A: With no threat of a strike looming, fans, players, writers, etc. can all focus on the games on the field, which is undoubtedly good for the game. However, if the small market teams are all out of the race by mid-May once again (and it looks as if they will be), the grumbling will still be quite evident. Seeing the Braves, Yankees, and Cardinals atop the standings creates some good national story lines and generates high levels on interest from fans in those markets, but MLB will continue to lose fans, as long as the teams in Milwaukee, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Detroit, San Diego, etc. continue to circle the drain. Blame it on the owners, blame it on the Commissioner, blame it on the rain, it doesn't matter-it simply needs to be remedied. When 50% of your fans feel their team has NO chance before the season even starts, it's hard to progress into the future.

Q: Finally, who's going to win it all?
A: The Yankees haven't won the World Series in two years-how the city of New York has survived is a mystery to behold. Tense New Yorker's will be able to relax once again this year though, as New York will outlast the A's in the ALCS. In the NL, the Braves will discover the heart they've been lacking in past post-seasons and take down Arizona in the NLCS. Atlanta will put up a valiant effort in the Fall Classic, but the Yankees will once again regain the title of World Champions. The "drought" will end.

Predictions:
(number to the right is how many games out of first the team will finish)

AL East:

Yankees
Red Sox 6 (Wild Card)
Blue Jays 12
Orioles 27
Devil Rays 40

AL Central:

Twins
White Sox 5
Indians 13
Royals 25
Tigers 38

AL West:

A's
Mariners 7
Angels 8
Rangers 21

A's over Red Sox
Yankees over Twins

Yankees over A's


NL East:

Braves
Phillies (Wild Card) 2
Marlins 8
Mets 11
Expos 16

NL Central:

Astros
Cardinals 1
Reds 6
Cubs 7
Pirates 10
Brewers 33

NL West:

Diamondbacks
Dodgers 4
Giants 9
Rockies 15
Padres 41

Diamondbacks over Phillies
Braves over Astros

Braves over Diamondbacks

World Series:

Yankees over Braves in 7 games.