Chicago- Robin Ventura has taken over for the departed Ozzie Guillen, giving the White Sox back-to-back former players-turned-managers. It worked okay for Ozzie at first. I'm not sure what kind of manager Ventura will make, but I'm betting we won't see him run out to yell at too many umpires for fear of being put into a headlock.
On the field, this team looks above average on offense and pretty pedestrian in the pitching department. Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and AJ Pierzynski anchor the offense with Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham looking to bounce back from forgettable 2011 seasons. The starting rotation needs help and the bullpen needs a miracle. This will be around a .500 year for the White Sox.
Fun with promotions: If you are in Chicago on August 4, be sure to stop by for Beer Vendor Bobblehead Day, sponsored by Miller Lite. Fans 21 and over can get their very own bobblehead of a Miller Lite beer vendor. Also, on September 9, the White Sox celebrate Grandparents Day with "Seniors stroll the bases" after the game. Be prepared to stay at the park for 3-4 hours after the game to wait for Grandpa Joe and Grandma Mabel to finish walking.
Cleveland- The Indians finished the 2011 season one game ahead of the White Sox. That sounds about right for this year as well. It all depends on how well two of the Tribe's starting pitchers bounce back this year.
Ubaldo Jimenez would like to forget 2011. Not because he was traded to the Indians, but because he plummeted from Cy Young contention in 2010 to anything but in 2011. Newly signed Derek Lowe went 9-17 in 2011 with a 5.05 ERA. If Lowe and Jimenez can post anywhere near their 2010 numbers (19-8, 2.88 & 16-12, 4.00 respectively) then the Indians will be primed for a push at the 2nd wild-card.
Fun with promotions: The Indians are apparently not too excited about their current team. Thus, they are offering up bobble heads and replica jerseys of former Indians.
May 20- Joe Carter Bobblehead
June 3- Carlos Baerga Bobblehead
July 4- Sandy Alomar Jr. Bobblehead
July 22- Charlie Nagy Jersey
August 12- Gaylord Perry Bobblehead
Detroit- Probably the biggest news of the offseason in the division was that of the Tigers signing Prince Fielder. The son returns to where his Dad became famous. This lineup is the best in the division. The pitching staff with Justin Verlander as the ace of the staff and Jose Valverde in the 9th is arguably the best in the division. This team will be a media darling pick to make it to the World Series.
Kansas City- I'm really starting to feel for Royals fans. Are there any left? When was the last time you ran into someone and had this conversation?
You: Hey! Long time no see. How have ya been?
Them: Not bad. How are you?
You: Can't complain. So what are you up to this weekend?
Them: I'm heading to (insert stadium name here) on Saturday.
You: Oh! I didn't know you were a (insert team name here) fan.
Them: I'm not. They are playing the Royals.
You: Uh huh. So?
Them: I'm a Royals fan.
Bruce Chen has been named the Opening Day starter. That's the best they can do folks. Kansas City fans had to sit and watch as the region's other team....the Cardinals won their 10th World Series. This team will be lucky if they can avoid 100 losses.
Minnesota- The Twins were perennial contenders for the AL Central title while in the Metrodome. Then they would get the Yankees in the ALDS and get bounced. Now they have a new stadium and a new problem. They can't stay healthy. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer missed a combined 175 games last year (82 for Mauer and 93 for Morneau).
Keeping these guys healthy isn't the only thing holding them back from a run at the division crown. Their pitching staff will hold them back even if M&M are healthy. But take heart Twins fans. You have a beautiful outdoor stadium to watch your below-average team play in. Now you know how Mariners fans feel.
Fun with promotions: Be sure to head to Target Field when the Royals come to town (did I just say that?) on April 28 as every fan in attendance will receive an energy-efficient light bulb. Or be sure to stop by on August 14 to pick up your Twins beach towel. I know there are a lot of lakes in Minnesota. But where exactly is the beach?
Minnesota- 70-92Kansas City- 64-98
There you go. Detroit runs away with the Central for the 2nd year in a row. Agree? Disagree? Let me here from you. Tomorrow we take a look at the AL West.
Thanks for reading.