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LAKE HAVASU CITY, AZ-There will be a tendency to mail in the season and concede the championship to Jackson, but it might not be that easy. Arizona, California, and New York could all make a run, based on their pitching, though Galapagos is rebuilding and Vernal's outlook is dismal for this year. Following is a team-by-team analysis, with a projected final record. The East will be much stronger this year, possibly having a better record than the West in head-to-head match-ups.

JACKSON-(101-61) Paul's record could be even better, especially if HAL plays some of your games against him. Albert Pujols, Javy Lopez, Trot Nixon, Jason Giambi, Marcus Giles, and even Geoff Jenkins and Luis Gonzalez present a formidable line-up, with no weaknesses. The two in the starting line-up that were not mentioned were Aubrey Huff and Nomar, who are not slouches either. Along with the best line-up, Jackson also has the best pitching, based mostly on a John Smoltz-led strong bullpen. Paul drafted perfectly (picking up Giles, Rheal Cormier, and Paul Quantrill), though Esteban Loaiza is only the 7th best number one starter in the league, and Matt Morris and Hideo Nomo are quite ordinary, sub-ordinary in their division. When factoring in one of the league's worse defenses, and no team speed, those X-factors and GIDP's could lose some games.

ARIZONA-(90-72) The starting rotation (Roy Halladay, Mark Prior, Josh Beckett, and Joel Piniero), will keep this team in contention, and with Billy Wagner and Matt Mantei, the bullpen will keep them in games. The offense is surprisingly good, with Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran and Scott Rolen in the top 3 at their positions. Weakness at DH (which can be easily remedied) and SS will hurt the team, but the Heat will be tough, as long as Steve is coaching them.

CALIFORNIA-(86-76) I'm going to give the edge to California for the final playoff spot based on Jason Schmidt (the best number one in the league) and Rafael Soriano out of the bullpen. California also has some strong offense, and the best overall defense in the league. Key players for the Dragons will be Richie Sexson, Eric Chavez, and a pretty good outfield (Garret Anderson, Steve Finley, and J.D. Drew). Roger has to be pretty excited about the seasons from Finley, and a usable (finally) Barry Larkin. Roger, you've got to try and get that Net Play thing working for this team!

NEW YORK-(85-77) If Pedro Martinez was a 4-game starter, this team would end up in 2nd place. The strength of the starting pitching makes this the second best staff in the league (Martinez, Barry Zito, Russ Ortiz, Matt Clement). The bullpen is hurting, so expect alot of complete games out of this bunch. Outside of Vladimir Guerrero, the offense is not very strong, and the defense is mediocre. Doug saw good seasons from Juan Gonzalez and Kenny Lofton, giving him a fairly strong outfield. Drafting Jose Reyes was a coup. We'll look forward to head-to-head competition with Doug this year!

GALAPAGOS-(69-93) Steve just had too many bad 2003 real-life seasons to keep this team competitive this year. Shawn Green, Kevin Millwood, Greg Maddux, and Wade Miller will be much less effective. Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu (at DH), Miguel Tejada, and Pudge Rodriguez provide a little offense, but there is not much after that. There is not much power on this team either, and Thome might suffer Bonds-like intentional walks during the season. Don't be surprised if Tim Spooneybarger's one of the top relievers in the league. According to Bill James, his ERA should have been 1.55, not 4.07, based on his stats, and not having his ERA based on the guys following him, who blew games.

VERNAL-(68-94) Bill Mueller and Manny Ramirez are the only offensive weapons this team has, and the team is very weak at 1B (J.T. Snow), SS (Omar Vizquel), and the OF (Rondell White, Torii Hunter, and Randy Winn). Perhaps Roger ought to find a way to get Frank Catalanotto into the line-up and suck up his poor defense. The team defense is not bad, with those players, but there is not much team speed, which usually goes with good defense. The pitching is not nearly as good as last year, when Vernal made the playoffs. Kerry Wood, Woody Williams, and C.C. Sabathia, are down. Kip Wells could impress, as could fireballing Kyle Farnsworth out of the bullpen. For next year, Vernal needs about four other players to break out, Bill Mueller-like.
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