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Tuesday, April 1, 2003
Updated: April 4, 11:40 AM ET
Questions and answers


Baseball's balance of power is tilting to the West, and so are we. The A's are loaded. Barry and the Giants? Reloaded. The D-Backs have a hell of a rotation. The Dodgers' starters have been to hell and back. On a higher plane, the Angels may not make it two in a row, but they're not monkeying around, either. The Magazine's scouting reports, in the April 14 issue, take their inspiration from the widest of wide-open spaces: SportsNation. We took questions from users about their favorite teams, and we answered the high hard ones (along with a few curves).

National League answers by Tim Kurkjian
American League answers by Jeff Bradley

National League
Byung-Hyun Kim
Kim, Schilling and The Big Unit is barely deep enough.
Q. With Byung-Hyun Kim joining the Big Unit and Schilling in the rotation, is the pen deep enough? -Danny, Tucson

A. Barely. Kim, whom Mark Grace says "could start every game," will go in relief when he isn't starting. Closer Matt Mantei tore a fingernail this spring; the season may hang on less than that.

Q. If Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort can bounce back, are the Dodgers the best in the West? -Ryan, Lancaster, Calif.
A. They'll contend in an up-for-grabs division, and they can win it if Brown & Co. stay healthy. (Okay, it's a big if.) And somebody besides Shawn Green needs to drive in a run now and then.

Q. Give it to me straight: With all the new faces, are the Giants better or worse this year? -Josh, Houston
A. Worse, though they could win the West without being as good as they were last year. GM Brian Sabean reloaded around Bonds, but they'll still miss Jeff Kent, Russ Ortiz and Dusty Baker (Darren, too).

Ryan Klesko
With Phil Nevin out, Ryan Klesko will be overswinging.
Q. With Phil Nevin out, do the Padres have the NL's worst lineup? How badly will they sicken their fans? -Mike, Japan
A. Stay close to the bathroom, Mike, it's gonna be a long season. Ryan Klesko is the only true run-producer, and he'll overswing to make up for Nevin's absence. Feeling queasy yet?

Q. Why don't the Rockies build a power staff to go with power hitters Todd Helton and Larry Walker? -Chuck, Morehead, Ky.
A. The Rockies have tried everything. The bottom line? Helton and Walker will hit, but no pitcher can succeed in Denver consistently. Not even if they move the fences to Colorado Springs. End of story. Okay?

Q. Shouldn't the Killer B's have already won a pennant? Are they huge underachievers, or is it just me? -Derrick, Houston
A. It's not you. The 'Stros have tanked against good pitching. This might be their last, best chance-if Craig Biggio can play CF, Jeff Bagwell stays healthy and Jeff Kent keeps driving them both in.

Q. The Brewers aren't as bad as people think, are they? Where do they need the most help? -Dan, Elkhorn, Wis.
A. Under Ned Yost, their attitude is better. But we're not going to lie to you-they stink at the plate, and they're way short on starting pitching. If you're expecting Todd Ritchie to help, dream on.

Q. Are the Cardinals the team to beat in the NL? If anyone has a better 1-8, please tell me who. -Richard, Tucson
A. Nobody can match their lineup. We love Albert Pujols. And the only thing better than their offense is their D. But they need another starting pitcher, and they may have to trade J.D. Drew to get one.

Q. Sure, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are great, but do the Cubs have enough O to make a serious run? -Aaron, Omaha
A. It depends on whether Moises Alou stays healthy and if rookie Hee Seop Choi produces in the No. 5 hole, a lot to ask from a guy with 50 big league ABs. Prior and Wood had better win the close ones.

Kenny's a Buc, but c'mon, they're still low-budget.
Q. Will the Pirates ever be a threat again? Lie to me if you have to. -Jeff, Lakeland, Fla.
A. With Reggie Sanders and Kenny Lofton, the Bucs are better, but still a low-budget team with a middling farm system. By the time the kids mature, Brian Giles will be a ghost. They can't contend this way.

Q. With a healthy Junior, plus Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns, do the Reds have the best OF in the majors? -Zane, Cincinnati
A. The Cardinals have a better outfield-for now. But if Dunn and Kearns continue to progress, and Junior stays healthy, the Reds will give them a run, both in the outfield and in the standings.

Q. With a solid lineup, plus Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz, why wouldn't the Braves repeat? -Peter, Athens, Ga.
A. This is not a solid lineup. The OF is top-notch, but the IF is iffy, especially at the corners. Still, if Hampton rebounds and Ortiz wins 15, the Braves could win a 12th straight division title.

Q. Why can't one of those rich Canadian celebs buy the 'Spos? I bet Celine's got the cash. -James, Massena, N.Y.
A. Those rich Canadians wouldn't even buy the Canadiens. And Celine is too busy in Vegas. She should stick to singing, and let some rich politicos try to sign Vlad and move the team to Washington, D.C.

Q. I'm still recovering from the fire sale of '97. Will the hyped young Marlins pitchers ever produce? -Chris, Sarasota, Fla.
A. Not enough to win the East. A.J. Burnett is going to be great, and Josh Beckett has fabulous stuff, but that's it for star power. The Fish need more pop and a new park before hype becomes reality.

Jim Thome
With young talent and Thome's leadership, the Phils are in good shape.
Q. I can't understand why the Mets kept Robbie Alomar instead of Edgardo Alfonzo. Can you? -Dominick, Philadelphia
A. Alfonzo was a free agent while Alomar is signed for another year. Alomar is going to the Hall of Fame; Alfonzo isn't. But if Alomar repeats 2002, he'll go down as one of the most disappointing Mets. Ever.

Q. Everybody here has jumped on the bandwagon. What do you see as the potential pitfalls? -Dave, Philadelphia
A. If the Phils start slowly, drawing the wrath of irate fans and excitable manager Larry Bowa, they may not recover. But with young talent and Jim Thome's leadership, you shouldn't worry. Much.

American League
Q. Now that the Angels are no longer the underdogs, will they be able to keep their edge? -Ty, Santa Ana, Calif.
A. That's no problem with gamers like David Eckstein and Darin Erstad around. But to have a chance to repeat, the Angels need 3B Troy Glaus, their most talented player, to bust out in a Bondsian way.

Q. Who do you think is the key player or players who can get the A's to the World Series? -Joel, San Francisco
A. Maybe MVP Tejada can hit better than .143 in the ALDS. Really, there's no good reason the A's haven't been to the Series already. You have to wonder if their collars are feeling a bit snug.

Q. I've heard the M's don't have many prospects. How much longer can this old team contend? -Andrew, New York City
A. Exactly one more year-a big sendoff for Ancient Mariner Edgar Martinez. Sure, he was in Seattle's lineup when the first George Bush was in the White House, but he's still got 100-plus RBIs in his bat.

Q. With Showalter, A-Rod and a healthy Juan Gonzalez, could the Rangers do what the Angels did? -Todd, Detroit
A. Sadly, Buck, A-Rod and Juan Gone can't pitch. Until the Rangers find a few guys who can get some outs, count on more four-hour slugfests on 100° nights at The Ballpark.

Q. Hafner, Phillips and the other kids look good so far. Is the Tribe's reconstruction ahead of schedule? -Brad, Columbus
A. Travis Hafner and Brandon Phillips are for real, but ditch the schedule. The next wave of trades, which will shuffle the top of the lineup, are critical to adding pitching to the rebuilding project.

Carlos Beltran
Enjoy Beltran in K.C. ... while you can.
Q. I'm one of the few but proud Royals diehards. Please tell me there is hope in KC. -Scott, Jefferson City, Mo.
A. There's hope in every blank scorecard, every freshly dragged infield, every ... Ah, just enjoy watching CF Carlos Beltran run down fly balls and swipe bases for another year. (Well, at least until July.)

Q. Young talent, plus a manager who played for Sparky. Could the Tigers have a five-year plan? -Frank, Greenville, Mich.
A. Sure. Randy Smith and Buddy Bell had one too-it included Tony Clark and Deivi Cruz. At least Dave Dombrowski and Alan Trammell start with RHP Franklyn German and 1B Carlos Peņa.

Q. Are the Twins long-term contenders? Or was 2002 an "aberration," as Bud Selig claimed? -Jim, St. Peter, Minn.
A. Signing Torii Hunter to a four-year deal shows the Twins think they can contend for a while. With prospects like RF Mike Cuddyer and C Joe Mauer on the way, they're not going away anytime soon.

White Sox
Q. Since they got Bartolo Colon and Billy Koch, why don't you think the Sox can win? -Arman, Seattle
A. Hey, Arman, check our picks before goin' all judgmental on us. Magglio and Konerko have taken over the clubhouse from Thomas, and the cocky Koch says this division is theirs for the taking. We agree.

Blue Jays
Q. Are the budget-cutting Blue Jays more like the Expos, or the Twins and A's? -Chuck, Fort Smith, Ark.
A. No doubt, the Jays are aiming to follow the Twins and A's. (Sources tell us they have no desire to play half their games in San Juan.) But first they need to find a few arms to support ace Roy Halladay.

Devil Rays
Q. Can Rocco Baldelli and the other kids help Lou Piniella save the Devil Rays? -Justin, North Kingstown, R.I.
A. Not anytime soon. Baldelli spent most of last year in A-ball. Josh Hamilton spent all of last year in A-ball. And RHP Dewon Brazelton has just 13 big league IPs. How patient are you?

Q. With young studs like Rodrigo Lopez and Jorge Julio, can the O's contend someday? Please? -Sean, Frederick, Md.
A. Don't hold your breath, Sean-the Birds have been mismanaged for too long to turn it around fast. Lopez is a top-flight starter (page 78), but Julio needs more save chances, which he won't get here.

Red Sox
Q. The Sox have sticks, but isn't their pitching just Pedro, Lowe and nothin' mo'? -Sebastian, Greenland, N.H.
A. If the Yankees hadn't blocked the Colon trade, there'd be cause for optimism. As it stands, Sox fans had better pray Lowe isn't a one-year wonder and that Theo Epstein can deepen the staff behind Pedro.

Q. Alfonso Soriano's got serious pop. Shouldn't he hit in the middle with Bernie, Giambi and Matsui? -Zak, West Warwick, R.I.
A. Hey, the guy's definitely a force, but with the talent at Joe Torre's disposal, Soriano's got to hit 1 or 2. If the bottom of the order produces at its norm, he'll have a chance to drive in 100 again.