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From http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/gammons/story?id=1775191


Five reasons this is a great time in baseball

1. One has to scroll back deep into history to see a time when two phenoms like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera walk in the door (and Joe Mauer, one day older than Cabrera, may be in that category). The game is dotted with extraordinary young players, none better than Pujols, whose first three years are comparable to only two players: Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.



2. After two ill-conceived expansions, the craze for HR-scaled ballparks and an incredible boom in the science of hitting killed that part of the game that once was known as pitching, the cycle has turned to a new boom in pitching. The A's, Cubs, Astros, Mariners, Phillies, Marlins and Indians all have blossoming staffs of potential stars. The Orioles will have three interesting young arms in their rotation. The Blue Jays are two years away from a big-time power staff and the Pirates and Cardinals are on the brink of young rotations. Then look to this year's draft: nine of the first 10 picks could be pitchers, and the college arms from Jared Weaver to The Rice Troika (Jeff Nieman, Wade Townsend and Philip Humber) to Old Dominion's Justin Verlander to Boston College's Chris Lambert are the best in a generation.


3. Cubs and Red Sox fans have always been devoted from the rooftops of The North Side to the literate, fascinating Web sites (Sons of Sam Horn, Red Sox Nation). But it's never been this loony. I mean 180,000 fans at March games at Ho Ho Kam? But there is unprecedented excitement in Houston, Anaheim and Philadelphia. The buzz is back in Baltimore and the Pudge Rodriguez signing at worst awakened the sleeping giant that is the Detroit Tigers. We in the media tend to an East Coast bias, but the six West Coast teams drew nearly 17 million last season. The rivalries between the Yankees and Red Sox, Cubs and Astros, Angels and Dodgers are great for the game.


4. The sport is on the brink of an international boom, with the World Cup a potential gold mine. Hideki Matsui's return to Japan was dramatic and a boon to baseball everywhere, and Artie Moreno's marketing throughout southern California has not only thrown a challenge at the Dodger brand, but could begin to restore the sport to its middle and lower-class roots; except in Boston, where one virtually has to be a Forbes to get into Fenway. According to the Population Resource Center, Hispanic Americans are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States, making up 13 percent of the population. By 2008, baseball may be more than 40 percent foreign born, as well as Hispanic in root.


5. With people like Indians outfielder Jody Gerut, Javy Vazquez and Pujols, the future leadership among the players is extremely promising.


15 players who could have breakout years

1. Sean Burroughs

2. Orlando Hudson

3. Admin Bigbie

4. Jake Peavy

5. C.C. Sabathia

6. Victor Martinez

7. Jon Garland

8. Johnny Estrada

9. Jeremy Affeldt

10. Brad Penny

11. Josh Beckett

12. Carl Crawford

13. Brett Myers

14. Jeremy Bonderman

15. Mark Teixeira

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I think when all is said and done, Pavano will be the one pitcher everyone will talk about from this staff. That is not to say Penny and Becks wont have a great year, they most certainly will, but Pavs is going to shock a lot of people I think.


In USA Today, only 2 writers polled picked the Marlins to even make it to the playoffs - 2 out of about 10. No one is picking them to repeat.


I dont understand why SI picked the Dbacks to win the NL West and the Astros the Wild Card. I think the Padres are going to win that division, the Astros will finish 2nd behind the Cubs, but I think we either take the WC or the NL East. It is going to be a tight race no matter what.

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