Time to Face the Music - NL Central
What I got right - The addition of Roberto Alomar and the emergence of Richie Sexson helped boost the offense to first in the league. The Tribe's lack of another quality starter cost them in the playoffs again, this time to Boston in the first round. Steve Karsay had a breakout year and gave the Indians a third quality starter behind Bartolo Colon and Dave Burba, as Jaret Wright struggled most of the year.
What I got wrong - Wil Cordero's impact was minimized by an injury that kept him out of the line-up for most of the year. Jerry Spradlin and Ricardo Rincon were non-factors in the Cleveland bullpen
Outlook for next year - The Tribe will start the season without Kenny Lofton, who's recovering from shoulder surgery and they might trade away Travis Fryman before spring training. Still they should be the favorites to win the Central and might get a little farther in the postseason this time, as they signed noted Yankee killer Chuck Finley.
Chicago White Sox
What I got right -The White Sox were a bad team. Greg Norton and Jeff Abbott performed to expectations, which was below average. Ray Durham, Paul Konerko and Carlos Lee had solid seasons and should continue to improve. Magglio Ordonez was not only the best Ordonez in the majors last year, but was the best player on the White Sox. The starting pitching was pretty bad with the exception of about half a season's brilliance from John Snyder. Bobby Howry had a very good season as the team's closer.
What I got wrong - Mike Caruso mysteriously disappeared and was replaced by Enrico Caruso at short. Caruso's speed, range and power all went down significantly and there was much talk about Caruso either being completely phased out of the White Sox future or simply dealt. Brian Simmons was not allowed to play everyday with the emergence of solid rookie Chris Singleton. Keith Foulke emerged as an excellent set-up man, giving the White Sox at least two good pitchers.
Outlook for next year - Not much better than last year, although if Konerko, Durham and Lee continue to improve and Caruso re-captures his rookie magic and the Sox can somehow find some starting pitching, they might finish within 15 games of the Tribe.
Kansas City Royals
What I got right - Chad Kreuter was a non-factor. Even though Rey Sanchez had his best season at the plate, he was a non-factor offensively as well. Jose Rosado showed signs of recovery from the years of abuse under ex-manager Bob Boone. If his winterball performance is any indicator, this may be the year he reaches his potential. Glendon Rusch looked good in his major league debut but still might be a year away from becoming a solid contributor in the rotation. Staff ace Kevin Appier was solid if unspectacular before he got traded to the A's in a mid-year deal. Carlos Febles, Jeremy Giambi and Carlos Beltran lived up to their billing as potential stars, and Beltran walked away with the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Johnny Damon continued to prove that Boone didn't have a clue when he restricted Damon to part-time play.
What I got wrong - Joe Randa was arguably the best third baseman in the AL last year, which shows you the sorry state of affairs at the position in the Junior Circuit. Still, Randa's year should not be discounted too much as he was pretty solid in all aspects of the game. Closer Jeff Montgomery had a bad year and his age makes him a question mark to ever close again.
Outlook for next year - The Royals farm system is beginning to produce solid major league players and it shouldn't be too much longer before they are at least competitve with the Tribe.
What I got right - The Twins did not get their new stadium, but they did continue to dumpa salary. They traded closer Rick Aguilera to the Cubs and made Mike Trombley their new closer. Of course, in keeping with their philosophy, rather than pay him more than $1 million per year, they let him go to Baltimore via free agency. The line-up was anemic.
What I got wrong - Denny Hocking was bad enough at shortstop that the Twins rushed Cristian Guzman to the bigs so they could have someone to catch the ball in the infield. Todd Walker and Matt Lawton had off years and David Ortiz hardly got a whiff of the majors. Melvin Nieves spent the summer in Japan.
Outlook for next year - Last year, I thought the Twins might only be a few players away from competing if Walker, Lawton and Ortiz continued to develop as they had. I was wrong. Even with the emergence of Eric Milton as a top of the rotation starter this team is a long way from competeing ven in the weak Central division.
What I got right - That the Tigers would finish behind the Tribe in the standings.
What I got wrong - Just about everything. Tony Clark, Damian Easley and Bobby Higginson all had off years, largely due to the inability of the top of the line-up to get on base. Juan Encarnacion and Gabe Kapler showed flashes of brilliance, but they also showed that they are still not ready to produce consistently against major league competition. Dean Palmer had a good year but it didn't significantly improve the Tigers offense which for the second consective year ranked near the bottom of the AL in runs scored. Gregg Jeffries was a non-factor for yet another team. Brad Ausmus did not improve the starting rotation as the team ERA went up by .2 runs over 1998. Nor did he shut down the opposition running game, although he was above average. The rotation was wracked by injuries. The only bright spot for Tiger pitching was the emergence of 1997 draft pick rookie Jeff Weaver. But even he tailed off in the second half. Matt Anderson could not wrest the closer's job from incumbent Todd Jones, who actually had a decent year.
Outlook for next year - Who knows? The Tigers traded for Juan Gonzales but still have not addressed their shortcomings in getting on base. The pitching is still questionable. The Tigers are more likely to open their new ballpark with a whimper than a roar.
Last year's picks:
3) Kansas City