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A polling of the best

Special to

December 27

In the wake of the passages of Alex Rodriguez, Mike Hampton, Manny Ramirez and Mike Mussina, has the baseball landscape been rearranged?

Not really. A poll of players, managers, general managers, other executives, coaches and scouts showed that the mainstream thought that the perceived balance of power hasn't changed much, unless you considered the 2000 win totals of the White Sox, A's and Mariners to be a long-term revolution.

The Yankees are still the overwhelming pick in the American League, and in an accompanying poll rating the significant and impact of the four major free agents on the races, Mussina narrowly edged out Rodriguez and Ramirez for first place. Of the 43 respondents who voted on the American League, only three didn't pick the Yankees as the pick as the best team in 2001. The Red Sox and Athletics ran a close second and third, respectively.

Of the 30 players, GMs, managers and scouts who voted on the NL, 20 picked the Braves, eight the Cardinals.

In what should be viewed as a strong supporting argument for Bud Selig's cry for a realignment of the wealth, only three teams in each league received a vote as the winter favorite to be the best team. Only eight AL clubs were even mentioned to be in the top five or six of the 14 clubs in the league.

"I think there's more unanimity on who'll be in the World Series 10 months before it's played," says one GM, "that there is on who'll make the Super Bowl in three weeks. That speaks volume about the playing fields of the two sports."

The third poll question was to specify players who are strong clubhouse presences. Veteran Mike Stanley got the most votes -- barely more than Travis Fryman and Ellis Burks of the Indians -- but there were more than 50 players who received mentions.

Poll Question No. 1: Rate the top teams in each league?

American League
Team First-place votes Total points
Yankees 40 332
Red Sox 2 176
Athletics 1 168
White Sox 0 103
Indians 0 88
Rangers 0 87
Mariners 0 42
Blue Jays 0 14

National League
Team First-place votes Total points
Braves 20 222
Cardinals 8 169
Mets 2 144
Giants 0 70
Diamondbacks 0 64
Dodgers 0 48
Rockies 0 30
Astros 0 8
Reds 0 4
Cubs 0 1

(Of the 57 responses, 43 voted for the American League, 30 for the National League, so obviously many felt that they were ill-equipped to predict both leagues. Eight votes were counted for first place, six for second, then 4-3-2-1 for three-through-six)

Poll Question No. 2:
Rate the four major free agents in order of their impact?

No. Name Team Votes
1. Mike Mussina Yankees 110
2. (tie) Alex Rodriguez Rangers 116
  Manny Ramirez Red Sox 116
4. Mike Hampton Rockies 174

(Votes totaled by lowest point total, i.e., one for first, two for second)

Poll Question No. 3:
What player or players do you consider to be clubhouse forces?

No. Name Team
1. Mike Stanley Free agent
2. Travis Fryman Indians
3. Ellis Burks Indians
4. (tie) Joe Girardi Cubs
  Brad Ausmus Astros
6. Darren Lewis Red Sox
7. (tie) Robin Ventura Mets
  Trot Nixon Red Sox
9. (tie) Todd Helton Rockies
  Sean Casey Reds
  Greg Vaughn Devil Rays
  Doug Brocail Astros
  Neifi Perez Rockies

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