Preseason predictions revisited

class=img_thumbleft>The first half of the 2006 baseball season is behind us, and while it hasn't exactly been a winning season per se for our dear Twinks (in any other division it might have been), it certainly has been one hell of an interesting ride. If you ask me, the Twins' troublesome year boils down to this: They are in the last year of a budgetary cycle that has allowed them to keep stars like Torii Hunter and Johan Santana on the same team. Most front offices would look at that as a good time to make a run at the playoffs while breaking in the stars of the near future, namely the M&M boys, "Franchise," Kubel and Bartlett. Instead, Terry Ryan opened the season with a 50-game experiment in the usefulness of washed up veterans, fielding the likes of Batista, Castro, White and Sierra. The experiment failed, of course, so horrifically in fact that it looks like most of my preseason predictions were made through Justin Morneau's rose-colored contact lenses.

Just what were those predictions again? To summarize: The Twins would win 86 games and finish second in the division behind the Indians; the White Sox and the Yankees would compete with them for the Wild Card (which the Yanks would win); Liriano, if he escaped the bullpen, would be the Twins' first Rookie of the Year in more than a decade; Morneau would under-perform again and Joe Mauer would be their only non-pitching All Star; giving Kubel and Bartlett everyday playing time would give the Twins' playoff-caliber offense with no hit to their defense; the Tigers could be the sleeper hit of the Central division; and the A's would win the World Series.

Actually, looking back on it, I didn't fare too badly. The Twins are on pace to better my 86-win prediction by three games, but they're going to finish third, not second, because the Tigers' stellar rotation (led by the Gambler and his young proteges Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander) has indeed sent their team roaring back into the spotlight. Mauer was the Twins' only non-pitching All Star, but not for lack of outstanding production by Morneau, who should have gone to Pittsburgh with him. Kubel and Bartlett are as good as I thought they'd be, and Liriano is not only in the running for RoY, he'll be on the ballot for Cy Young if he keeps his pace. My praise of the Indians' lineup has proven woefully misguided, however, and I'm finally ready to admit, after a year and a half of .600+ ball and one world championship, that the White Sox are a pretty good team. I was right to hate Fat Tony the Baptist, but oh-so wrong to anticipate great things from Rondell White. (You know what? I still like him, against all reason. I think it's his smile.) And I don't know who's going to win the World Series, but it sure as hell won't be the A's.

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