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 By: Brandon Cooper > Junior > Journalism >University of Maryland, Photo by: Bill Hornstein

Cliff Lee went to the Phillies. 
 
Derek Jeter resigned with the Yankees. 
The Red Sox acquired Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.
 
Any baseball fan, from diehard to casual and everyone in between probably heard the above offseason baseball news long before they read it here. 

 With the likes of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and the other sports news outlets, major offseason news and previews of the upcoming season are easy to find. 

 
So, rather than focusing on what can be found elsewhere, College Magazine previews the MLB season by taking a look at one of the more under-the-radar questions in each division.
 
AL East
 
Will the influx of veterans to the Rays and Orioles be enough to challenge the Yankees and Red Sox for division dominance?
 
If it were 2005, Tampa Bay and Baltimore would have lineups that could easily compete with New York’s and Boston’s. Unfortunately, father time is a stubborn old man, and the players the Rays and the Orioles signed this offseason certainly are not anywhere in their prime.       
 
Baltimore signed Vladimir Guerrero to DH for the team while also adding Derrek Lee to play alongside the Bird’s younger talent. 
 
The Rays, meanwhile, decided the best way to beat the Yankees and Red Sox was to acquire two Boston heroes who made their mark defeating the Yanks. Loosing Carl Crawford left a big hole in the middle of the Ray’s lineup, Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez should at least somewhat fill that hole, but it might not be enough.
 
AL Central
 
Will Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau stay healthy enough for the Twins to make a World Series run?
 
If the all of the pieces fall in the right place, the Minnesota Twins could easily make a deep run into the playoffs. But, that is still a big if.
 
There might not be a better hitting duo than the former MVPs, Mauer and Morneau, but the key is that they both need to be in the lineup.
 
Mauer had multiple injuries to his knee, shoulder, hip and foot last year and is already having knee troubles again. While the catcher played through these injuries for most of the season last year, the wear and tear on the body could eventually be too much for him.
 
Morneau is an even bigger question mark. Although the slugging first baseman was putting up monster numbers (.345 AVG, 18 HR, 56 RBI), his season was cut short last year due to a concussion he received just before the All-Star break. The head injury occurred more than eight months ago, but Morneau is still dealing with the effects of it. It is a total mystery right now to how the concussion will impact his season. 
 
AL West
 
How many wins will Felix Hernandez get this year?
 
This is kind of a two-sided question because, ultimately, how many wins King Felix gets this year will depend just as much on how the Mariners offense supports their ace pitcher. 
 
It was well publicized last year that Hernandez won the Cy Young Award despite only having a record of 13-12. He won because of his 2.27 ERA, his 232 K’s and the fact that his average record said more about a Seattle Mariners team that ranked dead last in every major hitting category.
 
There are still major concerns with Seattle’s batting this year, but it will be interesting to see if the best pitcher in the AL last year will be given better run support.   
 
NL East
 
How well will Fredi Gonzalez fill in for former manager Bobby Cox?
 
While everyone wonders how dominant the Phillies starting rotation will be with the addition of Cliff Lee, another big story in the division is how the Atlanta Braves will do with the subtraction of Bobby Cox.
 
For as long as Cox managed in Atlanta (He worked close to 30 years in some capacity in the organization), he seemed like Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden more than a major league manager. Braves fan loved Cox and still love him because each year they knew they had a chance to compete for a division title, regardless of who was on the team.
 
Now, with former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez taking over for Cox, it will be interesting to see if Atlanta comes out and competes with the same consistency. And, even more interesting, will be to see how tight of a rope Gonzalez will be on if they do not.
 
Gonzalez had success with the Marlins and won the Sporting News Manager of the Year Award in 2008. He also has the talent to succeed. However, it would be difficult for anyone to manage after a legend like Cox.
 
NL Central
 
What will the Cincinnati Reds do with Aroldis Chapman?
 
Chapman has been a hot prospect in the MLB ever since he defected from Cuba in 2009. After a lot of hype and some so-so performances in Triple-A, he pitched in relief for the Reds towards the end of last season and dominated.
 
Aside from his 2.03 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, Chapman wowed fans by throwing a 105 MPH pitch against the Padres on Sept. 24, the fastest pitch recorded in the MLB.
 
Now, faced with the grind of a longer season and teams that are able to prepare more for him, Chapman may not put up the expected numbers. If he does though, the Reds then might be faced with the tough decision of what role the right-handed pitcher will play.
 
He is currently supposed to be the team’s set-up man, but if closer Francisco Cordero does not produce, will Cincinnati move Aroldis to his position? Or, if Aroldis’ pitching is as overpowering as last season, will the Reds move him into their starting rotation to make more use of it than one or two innings in relief would allow? If he does become a starter though, will his arm breakdown faster? 
 
As the season progress, the answers to these questions could significantly impact the Red’s chance at October baseball.
 
NL West
 
What team will challenge the Giants for division supremacy?
 
After the San Francisco Giants won the World Series last year, the division is theirs until they lose it. The team’s pitching will still be the most dominant in the NL West, and possibly the league (Sorry Phillies).
 
What is more uncertain than San Francisco leading the race for the division title is who will be fighting against them. The division has consistently been competitive over the last five seasons and the Dodgers, Padres and Rockies all have legitimate shots to take down the defending champs (Sorry Diamondbacks).
 
However, each of these clubs also have some major weaknesses to make up for going into the season. San Diego already had a feeble offense last season, so how will they score runs now with Adrian Gonzalez gone? Will the Dodgers young talent, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, stay healthy enough to finally live up to their potential? Who will step up in the Rockies starting rotation after Ubaldo Jimenez?   
 

 

With all these various plots – and inevitably so many more – playing out this summer, it’s a good year to be a baseb

College Magazine Staff

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