Play ball: MLB preview

After an off-season filled with steroid allegations and superstar trades, it’s time to sort out who’s got a shot (that’s you, Detroit) and who doesn’t (sorry, Kansas City). Let’s break it down, division by division.National League WinnersN.L. East: New York MetsHere’s why: While losing Tom Glavine seemed to completely handicap the Mets at first, they pulled off a deal for stud-ace Johan Santana and they didn’t give up anyone big to get him.Santana brings to the N.L. two Cy Youngs and has led the league in strikeouts, ERA and wins in the past three seasons. They also added OF Ryan Church, C Brian Schneider and extended 2B Luis Castillo’s contract. With all of these additions, look for the Amazins’ to take down the weak N.L. East this season and cruise through the playoffs to the World Series.N.L. Central: Chicago CubsHere’s why: Everyone that matters from last year’s Division Championship team has returned to the Cubs.The big addition they made was importing Japanese stud Kosuke Fukudome, who provides exactly what the Cubbies lacked last season: a potent, left-handed bat, which balances out their heavily right-handed lineup.Also, the return of Kerry Wood as the closer has Cubs fans excited.The 2008 season marks the 100th year since the Cubs have won a World Series. Anyone picking the Cubs to win it all this year?N.L. West: L.A. DodgersHere’s why: The Dodgers signed Joe Torre to manage their squad. He will come to the N.L. West, with all of his worldly experience as manager of the Yankees and manage the Dodgers right to a division title. Andruw Jones will have a bounceback season in L.A. and the Dodgers will easily take down a strong West Division.American League WinnersA.L. East: Boston Red Sox Here’s Why: The Sox did not make any significant upgrades, but other than losing Schilling, they didn’t get significantly worse.The Sox have that perfect combination of young exciting players (Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia) mixed with seasoned veterans like Jason Varitek.Most importantly, the Sox have Big Papi to anchor their lineup and Manny will be Manny.See ya’ in the ALCS, Boston.A.L. Central: Detroit TigersHere’s why: Detroit Tigers take this league down. The addition of Miguel Cabrera may be the best move of the off-season and gives the Tigers the scariest lineup in the entire league. Magglio Ordonez hit .363 last season, and that was without Miguel Cabrera batting behind him. With Sheffield anchoring behind Cabrera, the Tigers are ferocious. If Dontrelle Willis can have a bounceback season, and I think he will, the Tigers’ rotation is almost as scary astheir batting order. The Tigers will maul their opponents and take down the entire American League.A.L. West: Seattle MarinersHere’s why: Erik Bedard is a huge improvement to what Seattle has been lacking ever since Randy Johnson left, which is a solid left-handed starter. Paired up with Felix Hernandez, I really like Seattle’s team in the weak A.L.West.The Mariners have good enough hitting combined with an above-average rotation to win a lot of games in theirpitcher-friendly ball park. World Series Prediction:The Mets avenge last year’s late-season collapse by beating the Tigers in six games to win their first title in22 years.