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LAKE HAVASU CITY, AZ-Last year's preview wasn't even close, but a lot of that had to do with the way the league was played. I think that one of our managers should be outlawed. That would be HAL. Have you ever looked at your box scores and play-by-plays for HAL coached games? When I was believing that the 2003 Malibu Wave were better than they really were (obviously before the playoff shellacking by St. George), I went through nine games where HAL just made plain STUPID decisions. Examples: (Vs. two lefty relievers who pitched the last four innings of a tie game, not one lefty-killer pinch hit for Malibu.....In a 1-1 tie game, Randy Johnson was pulled from the game in the 6th inning, and the other team scored 9 runs off Joey Eischen and Felix Rodriguez, yes HAL, they were under-used ON PURPOSE......Matt Williams gets injured in the 5th inning, HAL brings in Mark McLemore, who plays 3rd, but HAL puts him in CF (because he played more games there), and moves CF Reggie Sanders to 3B (5e88), Sanders later commits a 2-base error which loses the game....In another game, Edgar Renteria gets hurt in a close game, Matt Williams pinch runs, when Jerry Hairston, Jr., and Jose Cruz, Jr. were on the bench.....In the same game, Andy Benes relieved for 4 innings...Hey HAL, he's not rated as a reliever!!!!!) But I digress, now on to the preview.

MALIBU-(93-69) Kim drafted for this year, as the Wave, especially the pitching staff, is getting quite elderly. Pick-ups of Morgan Ensberg and Matt Stairs will give power at the corners, where Scott Spiezio and Raul Ibanez were penciled in to start. Malibu's pitching is the best in the West, based on their starting rotation (Curt Schilling, Carlos Zambrano, Sidney Ponson, and Bartolo Colon). Some year Colon will be a good pitcher in Strato..not this year. Malibu drafted a whole new bullpen, which will be mediocre (Joe Borowski might be do well, though). SS Edgar Renteria, CF Jim Edmonds, DH Chipper Jones, LF Magglio Ordonez, RF Reggie Sanders, and C Jason Varitek will provide offense. Kim has alot of options, with Todd Walker/Jerry Hairston at 2B, and Frank Thomas/Ibanez at DH, it should be interesting.

ST. GEORGE-(84-78) It is hard not to predict Malibu's nemesis to do better this year, but there are some concerns about this team repeating last year's success. Of course, they don't come much better than Alex Rodriguez (SS) or Carlos Delgado (DH), but the Sunrays could use some improvement at 1B (Ryan Klesko), 3B (Joe Randa), C (Robbie Hammock), and maybe better offense from CF (Andruw Jones). Tim Hudson is one of the best starters in the league, but Tim Wakefield, Runelvys Hernandez, and Gil Meche are weak. Fortunately Keith Foulke and Jose Villareal....oops I mean Valverde, are the best 1-2 relief combo in the league. I'll probably pay for this!

SANTA ANA-(81-81) This team was great last year when I coached them. Because of Derek Lowe's meltdown, they are probably not as good, but with some care, should be about .500. Their strength is the bullpen, Eric (not Greg) Gagne is unhittable, and he has great support from Troy Hawkins and Ugueth Urbina, et. al. The offense is below average, with low OBA and SLG. The best offensive players are 1B Derek Lee, SS Rafael Furcal, and possibly OF's Corey Patterson and Carl Everett.
This team does have the best speed in the league, so we'll see if they run into outs, or use their speed to win games. The starting rotation is new-look with the W's (Brandon Webb, Jerome Williams, and Dontrelle Willis) helping Livan Hernandez look for W's.

WASHINGTON-(76-86) I'll probably get my butt kicked (Strato-speaking) for this prediction also. I know it is hard to go against all of that offense (OF's Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, DH Todd Helton, SS Derek Jeter), but there isn't much else...and the defense and team speed are the worst in the league. The pitching, especially the bullpen is very poor, though newcomers Wilson Alvarez and Shawn Chacon could do well in the rotation. So there we have the typical Washington profile, the second best offense in the league (behind Jackson), and the second worse pitching (ahead of only Central Valley).

CHESAPEAKE-(74-88) If I had to pick a team that will be champions in about 2 or 3 years, this would be the team. They have a great nucleus of young players with great upside, but not yet. The offense is not quite there, but 2B Jose Vidro is one of the best, and 1B Nick Johnson is a good one. I also like 2004 pick-ups 3B Alex Cintron and OF Tike Redman. The pitching is above average, as long as Mike Mussina and Javier Vazquez are on the staff, and the bullpen is fairly strong with B.Y. Kim, Mariano Rivera, and Jose Contreras, who will pile up a lot of innings. Unfortunately, the team depends on C Mike Piazza and OF Sammy Sosa for production, and they are both fading quickly.

CENTRAL VALLEY-(66-96) I am still wondering if Freddy Garcia was on Jackson's 25-man roster, or was it Karim Garcia? Well, last year was a strange one. Either way, the first pick overall was traded for a starting pitcher who won't even make the rotation of the worst pitching staff in the league. That rotation will be Kevin Brown (which was a good trade, by the way, if you want to make a one-year run), Steve Trachsel, Brad Radke, and possibly Mike Hampton. The bullpen is weak, Brendan Donnelly is not as good as his ERA, and the offense is better than people (including Derek) think. The best players are 2B Bret Boone, new CF Scott Podsednik, C Jason Kendall (ouch, that defense), and a usable-while-he-is-healthy OF Ken Giffey, Jr. Orlando Cabrera (the other player in the Garcia trade) is a slight upgrade from Jimmie Rollins at SS, for now, and 3B Mike Lowell is solid. Derek needs to hold onto his draft picks and build this team this year, they have some good core players.
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