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I call 'em as I see 'em (or I just make 'em up)

April 25, 2004|by MARK KELLER

Since the Major League Baseball season is finishing up its third week, it's time I made a few predictions for the year.

Granted, it's not quite like going out on the limb in the preseason, but it's still plenty early enough that just about anything can happen (short of a Reds-Orioles World Series).

So here they are. Take them for what they're worth and for heaven's sake, no wagering.

  • Barry Bonds will not hit .400 this season. This has become the fashionable prediction over the last couple weeks as Bonds homered in seven consecutive games and saw fewer pitches per game than ever before.

    Bonds is a great hitter always has been. That's become more apparent over the last four years, because as his home run totals have skyrocketed, his averages have gone up, too.

    Still, Bonds is not as pure a hitter as guys like Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs and George Brett, and they could never get to the magic .400 mark.

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Bonds is very good at making the most of the one hittable pitch he might see in an at-bat and the bases on balls that he'll pile up will help his cause, but I think he'll fall somewhere in the .375-.380 range.

  • The Orioles will not make the postseason. I commented to Andy Mason the other day that the Orioles have become my second favorite team (behind only my beloved Reds) and that I'm glad to see them playing so well early this season.

    That said, I'm just not convinced that this year's team can maintain the level at which it is currently playing for an entire season.

    It'll need to, because guys like Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez are going to start hitting for the Yankees and the Red Sox are going to get guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon back from injury soon.

    The Orioles will have to beat those two teams too many times in order to stay in front of them in the standings. And as solid as the starting pitching has performed so far, they need to keep doing it for five more months.

    Two years ago, I was told I was bashing the Orioles by predicting they would not finish over .500. Now, as I was then, I'm only telling what I think.

    Believe me, I hope I'm wrong.

  • The Florida Marlins will be the only team to win 100 games this season. They play in probably the weakest division in baseball, with only the Philadelphia Phillies to seriously challenge them.

    The Atlanta Braves have taken a huge step backwards and the Montreal/San Juan Expos and the New York Mets are simply bad teams.

    If some of the Phillies' big bats (Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu, Mike Lieberthal) recover from slow starts, they could prevent the Marlins from reaching the century mark. But this year's Marlins team is every bit as strong as last year's, even without Ivan Rodriguez. However

  • The Houston Astros will win the World Series this year. They have revitalized hitters (Jeff Bagwell, Criag Biggio, Richard Hidalgo) and the pitching staff is a great mix of big-time veteran experience (Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte) and young studliness (Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller) that will carry the Astros to the National League Central title, the NL pennant and a win over the Red Sox in the World Series.

    My hope is they do it at home in Game 7, made possible by a towering game-winning home run by Ken Griffey Jr. in the All-Star Game to give Houston home field advantage in the World Series.

    That, by the way, is not a prediction simply a hope.



  • Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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