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American League Central Handicap

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Amidst the historic environs of their last year in the Metrodome before moving to Target Field  (which will oft be referred to, in the space, as "Kirby Puckett Field"), your 2009 Minnesota Twins will prove a mirrored gravity of our hardball return to outdoor baseball.  Here's why, and here's my predicted order of finish for their American League Central Division:

5th Place - Detroit Tigers ('08 finish -5th, 74-88)

Detroit had an abysmal '08, far deficient of the lofty expectations placed upon their high octane lineup.  Don't expect much different this year.  Sure, the top half of the order again looks potent with Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, and Miguel Cabrera; but the latter portion isn't sexy.  Injuries continue to dog a portion of the pitching staff (i.e., Jeremy Bonderman, Joel Zumaya, Dontrelle Willis) and those that aren't healthy don't have enough to keep this ship afloat.

Spicer says: 73-89

4th Place- Chicago White Sox ('08 finish- 1st, 89-74)

You thought Ozzie Guillen was crazy before?  Just watch him this season as the Chi Sox bottom out eventually.  Dewayne Wise and rookie Chris Getz atop the order will scare few and both will need to have great years to truly behoove the tough, albeit aging batting meat of Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, and Paul Konerko.  The top of the rotation looks very solid and closer Bobby Jenks is legit - but the White Sox had their taste last year; this year's flavor will prove more sour.

Spicer says: 80-82

3rd Place - Cleveland Indians ('08 finish- 3rd, 81-81)

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Much (too much) has been made of the Indians offseason additions: third baseman Mark DeRosa is a nice player, but all told he's 34 with a lifetime average of .279. Fellow newcomer, closer Kerry Wood, has had more health issues than Lindsay Lohan.  Of those returning, Fausto Carmona sported a 1.62 WHIP in his injury-riddled '08 and would seem a longshot to repeat his 18-wins of '07.  The lineup is sneaky good with Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera complementing Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Victor Martinez.  But I'm not sold on the rotation - Cliff Lee won't repeat his Cy season of last and #3 starter Carl Pavano hasn't done squat since'04.

Spicer says: 82-80

2nd- Kansas City Royals ('08 finish - 4th, 75-87)

K.C. will stand for "keeping close" this year; yeah, I'm on the bandwagon.  The Royals had their best season since '03 last year, and have had ascending win totals four years running.  The top of their staff with Gil Meche and Zach Greinke is really solid and closer Joakim Soria may be the most underrated player in the American League (59 saves in two years).  The lineup looks to finally gel with above-average talent in Mike Aviles, David DeJesus, Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler -- guys who mesh well with acceptable vets Coco Crisp, Jose Guillen and Mike Jacobs.

Spicer says: 85-77

1st- Minnesota Twins ('08 finish -2nd, 88-75)

The afore-noted all considered - the Twins boast the division's most formidable combination of youth, talent, speed, defense, starting pitching, and bullpen arms.  Power remains an issue, and, truly, sans Joe Nathan the 'pen is below pedestrian.  Furthermore, health concerns will undoubtedly become an issue should Joe Mauer and Scott Baker be out past April.  But with the glass half full (of scotch), I believe the boys will get healthy and the Minnesota Twins will send off their 'Dome years in what will prove to be a season as crazy -- and successful - as any in recent memory.

Spicer says: 90-72