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By The Baseball Guru Staff

GURU Joe Mock Craig Tomarkin Bart Ewing Mike McCann Eric Gartman Charlie Haeffner Herb Rogoff
SPECIALTY Ballparks Simulations Rotisserie Minors Business Memorabilia OMI
NL EAST Braves Phillies Mets Phillies Braves Braves Phillies
NL CENTRAL Astros Astros Cubs Cardinals Cardinals Astros Cardinals
NL WEST Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Giants Diamondbacks Giants Giants Dodgers
NL WILD CARD Phillies Mets Astros Braves Astros Dodgers Braves
AL EAST Yankees Yankees Red Sox Yankees Yankees Yankees Yankees
AL CENTRAL Twins White Sox White Sox Twins Twins White Sox White Sox
AL WEST Angels A's A's A's A's A's Angels
AL WILD CARD A's Red Sox Yankees Mariners Angels Mariners A's
NL CHAMP Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Cubs Diamondbacks Giants Dodgers Phillies
AL CHAMP A's Yankees Red Sox A's Yankees Yankees Angels
WORLDSERIES WINNER A's Yankees Cubs A's Yankees Yankees Phillies

Joe Mock explains the reasons behind his picks...

NL East
Winner: Atlanta. They kept the nucleus, and adding Ortiz and Byrd to the rotation will probably help more than Hampton. And 11 years in a row of finishing first means history is on the Braves' side.
Team on the way up: Clearly Philadelphia. Will all of that spending finally translate into a contender?
Team on the way down: Expos. Talent losses, too much time on the road and uncertainty of the future will make that surprising early run last year be a distant San Juan memory by the dog days of 2003.

NL Central
Winner: Houston. Too much good, young pitching, and Kent in the middle of the line-up will perk up the other bats. Just keep him off his motorcycle! Offense, not pitching, will keep St. Louis in contention.
Team on the way up: Chicago. If not in 2003, look for Manager Baker to have this team in first place in 2004.
Team on the way down: Milwaukee. What else can they possibly do wrong?

NL West
Winner: Arizona. Normally, an aging team like this doesn't figure to rebound, but this division looks to take a competitive drop in 2003.
Team on the way up: Tempting to say nobody. However, my gut feeling is that Colorado will slowly start to rise from the ashes.
Team on the way down: San Diego. Wow, talent leaves and no talent enters. They have no momentum going into their new ballpark in 2004. SF will also probably sink this year, but never count out a team managed by Alou.

AL East
Winner: New York. Jury is still out on Cuban and Japanese imports, but Yanks have quite a habit of finishing in first place.
Team on the way up: Boston. Wholesale overhaul failed to work in 2002, but slowly but surely, the Sox are righting the ship.
Team on the way down: Baltimore. Once-proud Orioles were 4-32 during last 36 games of 2002 (the worst such streak in MLB in over 100 years), and have the talent to continue that level of play in 2003.

AL Central
Winner: Minnesota. Chicago, not Cleveland, has the best chance to challenge the young, energetic and talented Twins.
Team on the way up: Chicago. Improved itself significantly in the offsesason.
Team on the way down: Cleveland. KC and Detroit were already the pits, and will remain so. But the Indians' demise is a little harder to swallow.

AL West
Winner: Anaheim. The world has learned that Scioscia is a top-notch skipper, and he kept most of the championship roster together. A's rotation will make it a race.
Team on the way up: Texas. Not even close to contending in 2003 (Oakland will be the Angels' chief rival), but Showalter won't tolerate the Rangers' rudderless ways of recent years.
Team on the way down: Seattle. Loss of Piniella will hurt more than loss of Junior, Johnson or A-Rod.

National League Wild Card team: Philadelphia
National League Pennant Winner: Arizona. Assuming Johnson and Schilling haven't broken down by October.
American League Wild Card team: Oakland
American League Pennant Winner: Oakland
World Series Winner: Oakland. Their pitching is simply too good not to roll through the post season.

Eric Gartman explains the reasons behind his picks...

NL East: The Braves won't run away with the division like they did last year, but they still have enough to win. They lost Glavine and Millwood in the rotation, but Byrd and Hampton should make up for it. Expect a huge turnaround from Hampton now that he's out of Colorado. Of course if he doesn't, they are in trouble. Offensively, the Jones boys and Sheffield provide just enough. The Phils are a much improved team, and will seriously challenge the Braves. But they have some young pitchers, Vicente Padilla and Brandon Duckworth, who may not be ready for prime time yet. The Mets still have too many holes to contend, even with the additions of Floyd and Glavine.

NL Central: The Cards have a great lineup that will score lots of runs, and a top defense to match. The real question is the rotation behind Matt Morris. It should be good enough to put them into first place though. Right behind them should be the Astros. Adding Kent strengthens an already potent offense. The Astros also have two budding stars in Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller. Losing Carlos Hernandez, however, is more than this team can afford. The Cubs may also offer some opposition to the Cards with their bright young pitching, but they dont have enough offense to back up Sammy Sosa.

NL West: The Diamondbacks won again last year, and believe they have finally come up with a third starter behind Johnson and Schilling in Elmer Dessens. There is too much that could go wrong with this team though. They are old, and not getting any younger. The big two need to have stellar seasons again, and even a small dropoff could be fatal. Dessens is unproven. And the offense has too many holes. The Dodgers may have great pitching, but it cant make up for such a weak offense. That leaves the Giants, who lost some key players, but made up for them. They should win the West.

Wild Card: Before Carlos Hernandez went down, I picked the Astros. Without him, I'd say the scales tip to Philly's advantage. The Diamondbacks should be in there until the end too.

AL East: The Yanks have reloaded and look good again this year. The only problems are defense and age. Age may be the bigger factor, it being possible that 40 year olds Clemens and Wells may falter badly. Even then, the Yanks still have enough options with Contreras and Jeff Weaver. Adding Matsui will allow them to outslug a lot of opponents. They should be the Beasts of the East yet again. The Red Sox will be good, but they dont quite have enough to challenge the Yanks. They could be tough in the playoffs, however, if they win the Wildcard, which is a real possibility, given the strong rotation of Martinez and Lowe, backed up by Wakefield and Burkett.

AL Central: The Twins should run away with the Central. The starting pitching should be better than last year, with Joe Mays returning to form from injury. The bullpen will be just as good. The lineup, while not great, scores enough runs, and the defense is the best in the bigs. The only real challenge is the White Sox, who added Colon, but still dont have the pitching to match the Twins.

AL West: In baseball's best division, the A's will win again, thanks mostly to their big three starters. With the addition of Erubiel Durazo, the offense should be better. Anaheim, last years' world champs could make things tough for them though. We all know about their offense, and young pitchers Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, and K-Rod all the real thing. But there are questions in the bullpen, and veterans Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele aren't getting any younger. The Mariners could also challenge. They will get a big boost if Freddy Garcia returns to form, but they will be hard-pressed to make up for the loss of Lou Pinella

Wild Card: The Angels, Mariners, and Red Sox all have a great shot at the wild card. The Red Sox pitching or the Angles offense may be the tiebreaker. It could go down to the wire.

Playoffs: It seems to me that all the best teams this year are in the American League. The Yanks, Twins, and A's are better than any NL team, and even the AL wild card winner might be better as well. The Yanks and the A's are the top of the class though. With all their weapons, it seems that the Yanks may get back on top. The A's need to stop choking in the playoffs, and until they prove otherwise, the smart money is betting against them.

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