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New York Yankees
2000: 87-74, 1st place, defeated Oakland, Seattle and the Mets to win the World Series.

Offseason transactions: Signed FA RHP Mike Mussina and C Joe Oliver. Re-signed FA OF Paul O'Neill, IF Luis Sojo, RHP Doc Gooden. Signed RHP Brian Boehringer. Lost FA RHP Jeff Nelson, IF Jose Vizcaino, LHP Denny Neagle, RHP David Cone. Released DH Jose Canseco, RHP Jason Grimsley, OF Ryan Thompson. Traded RHP Jay Tessmer and IF Seth Taylor to Colorado for RHP David Lee.

Rookies and other strangers: LH Rel. Randy Choate (2-0, 2.04, AAA). RHP Adrian Hernandez (8-2, A-AA-AAA). LHP Randy Keisler (14-5, AA-AAA). RHP Darrell Einertson (5-3, 3.24, AAA). RHP Craig Dingman (6-1, 3.05, AAA). LHP Ted Lilly (8-11, 4.19, AAA). RHP Brian Rogers (11-6, 3.94, AA). SS D'Angelo Jimenez (.219, AA-AAA). IF Alfonso Soriano (.290, 12 HR, AAA). SS Erick Almonte (.271, 15, 79, AA).

Runs scored/allowed: 871-814, +57

Runs: 871
Slugging/On-base pct.: .450/.354
OPS: .804
Home runs: 205
BB/K: 631/1007
SB/CS: 93/48
1-2-3 OBP: .381, .390, .335

There isn't the thunder that once existed on this team, even with the addition of David Justice and the blossoming of Jorge Posada. Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez could be in their final seasons in pinstripes, but Bernie Williams is a terrific force in the middle. There are likely three keys: can Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter get on base at a combined rate closer to the .417 of two years ago? Is Soriano the versatile offensive force many feel he can be (and, remember, the Oakland folks compared him to Vladimir Guerrero)? And whom will Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner decide they need during the season? Another DH/LF type if Soriano doesn't impact and a third baseman if Scott Brosius doesn't get off to a good start are possible. Shane Spencer's comeback is something to watch.

Runs allowed/ERA: 814/4.76
OPS: .758
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.08
Starters: 65-58, 4.87
Starters' innings pitched: 964.2
Quality starts: 78
Bullpen: 22-16, 4.52
Saves-opportunities: 40-57
Appearances/innings: 382/459.2

Understand that Mussina replaces David Cone, who was 4-14, 6.74; Mussina didn't have a great year., but he got 1½ runs a start less than Cone. So put Mussina into Cone's slot, remember that Yankee starters had the most wins in the division despite Cone's struggles and no real fifth starter -- and there is no question that if Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez stay healthy, they are the premier rotation in the league. Clemens, Pettitte and Mussina are 3-4-5 among active pitchers in career winning percentage, and El Duque has a .612 career winning percentage. They'll eventually need to find a No. 5 starter, maybe Gooden, maybe a kid like Keisler, or more likely a June deal for a veteran.

Granted, the Yankees have the game's best closer in Mariano Rivera, but they're a little apprehensive about the depth of the pen without Nelson, especially since it might take Ramiro Mendoza awhile to get back to full strength. Mike Stanton had a great postseason, but lefties slugged .508 against him, and the Gooden/Boehringer/Lee group in the middle is suspect. Remember, they essentially won the Series with six pitchers.

Errors: 109
Unearned runs allowed: 71
Opponents SB pct.: 71

Every time they think about replacing Brosius, the pitchers remind them that with Jeter and Brosius they have the best left side of an infield in the game. Chuck Knoblauch told reporters that he was seeking help for his throwing problems this winter; sooner or later, if he doesn't, it will come back to haunt them. Their outfield defense is average, at best.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 10th in AL
Home runs per at-bat: 9th in AL

Spring training questions
Is Knoblauch throwing naturally? How ready is Mendoza? Who will fill out the 7-11 roles on the pitching staff? Can Spencer come back?

2001 team song: "Everyone Wants to be like You"

Boston Red Sox
2000: 85-77, 2nd place, 2½ games back

Offseason transactions: Signed FA OF Manny Ramirez, RHP David Cone, RHP Frank Castillo, RHP Hideo Nomo, LHP Kent Mercker and LH Rel. Bryan Ward. Traded IF Donnie Sadler and OF Michael Coleman to Cincinnati for 3B Chris Stynes. Re-signed RHP Tim Wakefield and LHP Pete Schourek. Picked up option on RH Rel. Rod Beck. Lost FAs RHP Ramon Martinez, RH Rel. Tom Gordon, LHP Rheal Cormier, LHP Jeff Fassero, OF Bernard Gilkey, 1B Rico Brogna, OF Midre Cummings.

Rookies and other strangers: LH Rel. Jesus Pena (1-2, AA-AAA). LH Rel. Sang Hoon Lee (5-2, 2.03, AAA). RHP Sun Woo Kim (11-7, 6.03, AAA). RHP Jin Ho Cho (7-8, AA-AAA). RHP Paxton Crawford (9-7, AA-AAA). 1B Juan Diaz (.300, 28, 82, A-AA-AAA). OF-1B Shea Hillenbrand (.323, 11, 79, AA). 1B-OF Dernell Stenson (.268, 23 HR, AAA). LHP Casey Fossum (9-10, 3.44, A).

Runs scored/allowed: 792-745, +47

Runs: 792
Slugging/On-base pct.: .423/.341
OPS: .764
Home runs: 167
BB/K: 611/1019
SB/CS: 43/30
1-2-3 OBP: .349, .339, .345

The only worse offensive team in the AL East was the Devil Rays, in runs scored, OPS, home runs. Ramirez, who many believe is the best hitter in the game, makes a huge impact. Jimy Williams doesn't yet know how he's going to work the lineup, but Nomar Garciaparra likely won't lead the league in intentional walks (20) again, and there will be a tremendous amount of pressure off Carl Everett. The key is Jose Offerman's health. He was on base more than 40 percent of the time in the leadoff spot two years ago, then suffered through a miserable, steal-less season because of his knee. Williams can put Garciaparra or Trot Nixon in the two-hole, or even John Valentin if he comes back. The bottom third of the order will be far better, as well. What Williams has to decide is whether or not Stynes or Valentin will play third and how the Nixon/Troy O'Leary/Dante Bichette trio works into two positions.

Runs allowed/ERA: 745/4.23
OPS: .733
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.32
Starters: 56-54, 4.47
Starters' innings pitched: 886.1
Quality starts: 67
Bullpen: 29-23, 3.86
Saves-opportunities: 46-65
Appearances/innings: 425/566.1

When Pedro didn't start, Boston's starters were 35-46 and had 42 quality starts in 133 games. They were the first team ever to lead a league in ERA while their starters compiled the fewest innings, testament to one of the great jobs ever of handling a pitching staff. Dan Duquette looked for quality starts, and Nomo (17 of 32, and third in the league in strikeouts per 9 IP), Castillo (12 of 24) and Tomo Ohka (6 of 12) all had good records. Now, they don't know if Castillo, who had physical problems in September will repeat, or what they'll get out of Cone, whether Bret Saberhagen can come back, or whether or not Schourek or Mercker will do anything. They do like Paxton Crawford. So Jimy Williams and Joe Kerrigan will likely juggle a six- or seven-man rotation around Martinez, who started more games on five or more days' rest than he did on the usual four.

The Boston bullpen carried the team a long way, and to repeat that performance means Beck will have to keep coming back two years off surgery, Hipolito Pichardo must stay healthy and so must Rich Garces -- all tall requests. Kerrigan doesn't worry about the loss of Cormier leaving only untested questions like Lee, Pena, Mercker, et al; he feels Garces and Lowe get lefties out, and that groundball/flyball matchups are more important than lefty-righty situations. We shall see.

Errors: 108
Unearned runs allowed: 62
Opponents SB pct.: 77

Opponents look at the Red Sox and wonder if their defense won't turn out to be a major problem. If Stynes plays third, there are serious issues there. So, too, with Offerman at second, and his ability to turn the double play. If Ramirez plays the toughest right field in baseball, that could be a problem, and with only one established starter and a relief staff that puts the ball in play, defense is a concern. The catchers' records throwing out runners is deceptive; the Sox don't believe in slidesteps, they let the pitchers air it out and try a lot of pitchouts -- more than any other three teams combined.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 5th in AL
Home runs per at-bat: 13th in AL

Spring training questions
Who will settle into the rotation behind Pedro? Can Valentin, Saberhagen and Schourek come back? Is Offerman healthy? Are Ohka and Crawford ready? How about Lee? How will Williams use Ramirez, O'Leary and Nixon? One interesting note: one AL GM says, "With the additions of Rick Down, Gene Lamont and Nelson Norman to Joe Kerrigan and Tommy Harper, the Red Sox may have the best veteran coaching staff in the business, and that will go a long way during the season."

2001 team song: "Back to the Party"

Toronto Blue Jays
2000: 83-79, 3rd place, 4½ games back

Offseason transactions: Traded LHP David Wells and RHP Matt DeWitt to White Sox for LHP Mike Sirotka, RH Rel. Kevin Beirne, OF Brian Simmons and RHP Mike Williams. Signed FAs LH Rel. Dan Plesac, 2B Mickey Morandini, 2B Jeff Frye. Re-signed FA SS Alex Gonzalez. Claimed RHP John Sneed and RHP Jason Dickson off waivers. Traded RHP Gary Glover to White Sox for LHP Scott Eyre. Traded LHP Clayton Andrews and RHP Leo Estrella to Cincinnati for RHP Steve Parris. Traded LHP John Bale to Baltimore for C Jayson Werth.

Rookies and other strangers: RHP Pascal Coco (12-7, AA). RH Rel. Bob File (6-3, 28 saves, AA). SS Cesar Itzuris (.219, AAA). IF Chris Woodward (.322, AAA). OF Chad Mottola (.309, 33, 109, AAA). CF Vernon Wells (.243, 15, AAA).

Runs scored/allowed: 861-908, -47

Runs: 861
Slugging/On-base pct.: .469/.341
OPS: .820
Home runs: 244
BB/K: 526/1026
SB/CS: 89/34
1-2-3 OBP: .363, .302, .341

You look at this team and think it should be a very good offensive machine. Shannon Stewart is one of the league's best leadoff hitters. Carlos Delgado, Raul Mondesi and Brad Fullmer can mash. But they have too many high-strikeout, low OBP guys, and have to hope that Tony Batista, Junior Cruz and Gonzalez all improve. With Homer Bush's congenital hip condition in question, Morandini and Frye give them alternatives and experience. If Cruz goes, Wells is a monster talent to watch, although they've talked about trading him to the Twins for Matt Lawton. Simmons is a switch-hitter who can run and defend.

Runs allowed/ERA: 908/5.14
OPS: .810
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.23
Starters: 59-59, 5.23
Starters' innings pitched: 957.2
Quality starts: 73
Bullpen: 24-20, 4.97
Saves-opportunities: 37-52
Appearances/innings: 388/479.2

Finally, Wells is out of town, away from the fans, out of Buck Martinez's hair. He was, after all, 5-6, 4.95 after the All-Star break and led the league in hits allowed as well as wins, but he was a presence at the top of the rotation. But Sirotka has won 40 games the last three years and was third in the AL in ERA at 3.79. Now they have to hope the statue of limitations hasn't run out on the potential of Chris Carpenter, Kelvim Escobar and Roy Halladay.

Buck's enthusiasm and his new staff should help, and if Sirotka wins 15 games again, Esteban Loaiza and Parris can be over .500, Joey Hamilton is as healthy as Martinez hopes and throwing as crisply as he appeared in his last four starts and Carpenter gets past all the goofy and physical things that happened to him, he can be a 15-game winner with ease. Martinez isn't sure how and where Escobar and Halladay fit, but maintains that he hasn't quit on their stuff. Jason Dickson says he'll help in time.

Billy Koch can be better than he was in 2000, and he has close to Rivera's stuff. Plesac will help, and with Pedro Borbon, Lance Painter and Eyre they have left-handed depth. They need Paul Quantrill to bounce back, and he had the screws out of his leg this week. Right now, Escobar is headed for the pen, where he once was a big-time power 7th-8th inning guy. John Frascatore is still around, and perhaps Coco could eventually be another power arm in the middle.

Errors: 100
Unearned runs allowed: 87
Opponents SB pct.: 72

Cookie Rojas may be a big help to Gonzalez and Batista, and Cruz has improved. They aren't great, but they are adequate, although sometimes they play as if they're in a fog. They wanted another outfielder in the Wells deal rather than the Glendon Rusch/Grant Roberts package they declined from the Mets, and Simmons is a nice fourth outfielder; he missed last season with an inujury.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 7th in AL
Home runs per at-bat: 8th in AL

Spring training questions
Buck Martinez is faced with judging and assembling an entire pitching staff, from Sirotka to Hamilton, Carpenter, Halladay and Escobar. They also have to settle second base, and see if Todd Greene can platoon with Fullmer at DH. Every recent year they've left spring training in Florida talking about their pitching. Last year, they were outscored by 47 runs. Yuck.

2001 team song: "Ontario Justice"

Baltimore Orioles
2000: 74-88, 4th place, 13½ games back

Offseason transactions: Signed FAs RHP Pat Hentgen, 1B David Segui and SS Mike Bordick. Traded IF Jesse Garcia to Atlanta for IF Steve Sisco. Traded C Jayson Werth to Toronto for LHP John Bale. Traded 3B Ryan Minor to Montreal. Lost FAs RHP Mike Mussina, RHP Pat Rapp. Released OFs Karim Garcia and Trenidad Hubbard.

Rookies and other strangers: RHP Luis Rivera (0-3, AAA). RHP Lesli Brea (7-11, AA-AAA). RHP Mark Nussbeck (10-6, AA). RHP Jay Spurgeon (12-4, A-AA-AAA). RHP Josh Towers (8-5, AAA).

Runs scorwed/allowed: 794-913, -119

Runs: 794
Slugging/On-base pct.: .436/.341
OPS: .777
Home runs: 184
BB/K: 558/900
SB/CS: 126/65
1-2-3 OBP: .356, .358, .350

When the Orioles went to break up their aging, dreadful team in late July, they were woefully unprepared, at one point asking the Mets for some suggestions as to whom they should get; one of the pitchers turned out to be five years older than they thought. The one player who succeeded was first baseman Chris Richard, who hit 13 homers in 58 games -- then lost his job when they signed Segui. Unless Richard plays right, the only regulars under 30 will be 2B Jerry Hairston and CF Melvin Mora. Cal Ripken is back for a last hurrah, so they've done nothing about third base, figuring that Jeff Conine can play first, DH, 3B and the outfield.. The outfield will be a mix of Delino DeShields, Mora, Brady Anderson, Richard with Albert Belle serving as the DH. The problem appears to be that they don't know how to find the Up elevator.

Runs allowed/ERA: 913/5.37
OPS: .801
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.16
Starters: 52-67, 5.28
Starters' innings pitched: 999.1
Quality starts: 73
Bullpen: 22-21, 5.58
Saves-opportunities: 33-57
Appearances/innings: 396/434

With Mussina gone, they have Jose Mercedes, who had the year of his life; Pat Hentgen coming into Camden Yards; and Sidney Ponson, who can still be very good. Scott Erickson is likely gone for much of the year, and lefty John Parrish showed glimpses of being pretty good. That leaves a spot for Towers, Spurgeon or some kid to step in. Chuck McElroy did well in that role.

Ryan Kohlmeier (13 saves) is their top returning closer, although he is more of a middle man. Mike Hargrove will try to patch with him, Mike Trombley, B.J. Ryan, Buddy Groom and anyone else who comes along.

Errors: 116
Unearned runs allowed: 58
Opponents SB pct.: 77

The return of Bordick helps, Hairston gives them energy and Segui is a super defender. The outfield has athleticism with DeShields and Mora, which is an improvement.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 11th in AL
Home runs per at-bat: 6th in AL

Spring training questions
How has Albert Belle's hip progressed? How will the outfield work? Can Ripken still play third without back problems? Can Ponson mature, and Parrish step in? How will Hargrove assemble the bullpen?

2001 team song: "Stuck in a Moment You Can't get Out Of"

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2000: 69-92, 5th place, 18 games

Offseason transactions: Traded RHPs Roberto Hernandez and Cory Lidle in a three-way deal with Kansas City and Oakland for OF Ben Grieve. Re-signed IF Ozzie Guillen. Released LHP Jim Morris, RHP Jeff Sparks, OFs Quinton McCracken and Ozzie Timmons, 2B Miguel Cairo and RHP Cedric Bowers.

Rookies and other strangers: OF Josh Hamilton(.301, 13 HR, A). RHP Jason Standridge (8-12, A-AA). OF Carl Crawford (.301, 55 SB, A). 3B Aubrey Huff (.316, 20, 76, AAA). RH Rel. Jesus Colome (10-6, AA-AAA). 2B Brent Abernathy (.288, 5 HR, AAA). RHP Matt White (10-8, AA-AAA). LHP Bobby Seay (8-7, AA). RHP Travis Harper (10-5, AA-AAA). C Toby Hall (.291, 26 HR, AA-AAA).

Runs scored/allowed: 733-842, -109

Runs: 733
Slugging/On-base pct.: .399/.329
OPS: .728
Home runs: 162
BB/K: 559/1022
SB/CS: 90/46
1-2-3 OBP: .309, .316, .361

In spring training last season, the Tampa Bay talk shows were extolling the Rays' offense because they'd gone out and acquired a bunch of home run hitters. Well, check those on-base percentages, know there was no pure hitter in the lineup and they were the worst offensive team in the division, hands down. Gerald Williams isn't a prototypical leadoff hitter, but he brings attitude, power and an ability to score from first base. Abernathy should grow into the two-hole, and, importantly, Grieve is a pure hitter. So now Greg Vaughn, Fred McGriff and Steve Cox have support, and if Jason Tyner is ready, he can be a nice top-of-the-order guy. Grieve will open the season in right field, then when Hamilton, Crawford and Kenny Kelly are close, he can play left or DH. The D-Rays hope they can deal Vinny Castilla and see how Huff fares, and in time McGriff could go, as could Mike DiFelice.

Runs allowed/ERA: 842/4.86
OPS: .806
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.33
Starters: 43-57, 5.17
Starters' innings pitched: 902
Quality starts: 64
Bullpen: 26-35, 4.34
Saves-opportunities: 38-66
Appearances/innings: 401/529.1

They got four outs the entire season from Wilson Alvarez and Juan Guzman, and Ryan Rupe went backwards. As the season wore on, the addition of Paul Wilson was a revelation. Bryan Rekar, Albie Lopez and Rupe could end up back in the rotation, and they think one-time bonus boy Matt White is ready and that Jason Standridge can be by the middle of the season. Don't count out Travis Harper, either.

The Rays feel Esteban Yan will be every bit as good as Hernandez, and if things work out in the rotation, they could put Lopez back in front of Yan. Jesus Colome is the gas-thrower from the Jim Mecir deal, and Tanyon Sturtze, Dan Wheeler and Tony Fiore will all be in the running for relief rolls. Bill Pulsipher and Doug Creek are the lefty relievers.

Errors: 118
Unearned runs allowed: 69
Opponents SB pct.: 71

The infield and outfield corners are not pretty: Castilla or Huff and McGriff in the infield, Vaughn and Grieve in the outfield. But Felix Martinez was a superb defender down the stretch at shortstop and Abernathy is a player. Williams is the best defensive center fielder named Williams in either league and the catching is solid.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 9th in AL
Home runs per at-bat: 6th in AL

Spring training questions
Are Alvarez and Guzman healthy, and is White ready enough so that Lopez can go into the pen? Can they trade Castilla, and is Huff capable of playing third? They need to see how close White, Seay, Standridge, Hamilton, Crawford and Kelly are to the big leagues.

2001 team song: "(Talkin' bout) My Generation"

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