With a pitcher like Randy Johnson leading the way, this team will once again be in contention for the NL West crown. On the flip side, trading away Randy Johnson to the Yankees will diminish his impact. Your guess is as good as mine.
Sick of never advancing in the playoffs, Bobby Cox performs an enchanting, and quite hilarious, ritualistic championship-drought dance routine. Always the gentlemen, Cox delights the crowd with a slight curtsy at the end of his performance. Unfortunately, this showmanship changes the dance’s effect, sending 30,000 fans (men and women) into hysterical pregnancy. With Atlanta’s doctors kept busy by this sudden phenomenon, no one is available to mend Tim Hudson’s pulled abdomen, causing the Braves to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
By allowing Cubs fans to influence his decision to pawn off Sammy Sosa to the Orioles, Cubs GM Jim Hendry set a dangerous precedent. From that point on, when a trade offer is on the table, Hendry puts a poll up on the Cubs website and solicits votes on what to do. By midseason, he trades away Nomar, Aramis Ramirez, Kerry Wood, and Mark Prior for Wilson Alvarez. When it’s learned that a Web-savvy White Sox fan tampered with the votes, Hendry is fired.
A consensus “sleeper pick” by every expert in America, the Reds can’t handle the pressure of being baseball’s darling child. To get back at them, the team collectively takes up smoking, stops doing their homework, ditches class to go on joyrides with the heavily tattooed and pierced Hank Taylor, and stays out until all hours of the night, never calling to check in.
Realizing that a built-in excuse for their extraordinary power numbers lies in the non-atmospheric conditions of Coors Field, every ballplayer accused of using steroids demands a midseason trade to Colorado. Even with Bonds, Giambi, Boone, and Palmeiro in the lineup, Jason Jennings is still their best pitcher; hence the 70-94 record.
Taking on a preseason dare from newcomer Carlos Delgado, speedsters Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo line up exactly 73 yards from each other, hold pillows in front of their faces, and sprint toward one another. When they collide, the pillows do not provide adequate protection, and the two players disintegrate. Without them, the Marlins’ championship aspirations plummet.
One day before the season starts, Roger Clemens hurts his pitching hand counting his $18 million salary. The season-long injury paves the way for John Franco’s return to the starting rotation. The 44-year-old does not disappoint. Finishing the season with an ERA a hair above 2, Franco wins the NL Cy Young Award handily. By doing so, he activates a contract stipulation—put in as a joke by the Astros executives—awarding him $20 million, a lifetime supply of Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbeque Sauce, and a photo op with Yao Ming. Following the season, Franco retires to start his own malted-beverage company called FranCola.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Upset by the Angels’ trying to muscle their way into the L.A. market, the enraged Dodgers spend the season journeying down to Angel Stadium on their mopeds, strapping heat (the therapeutic pain-relieving patch kind, not the gun kind), and warming up their abductor pollicis brevis muscles for what will surely be the most anticipated name-deciding thumb-wrestling competition of our lifetime.
Known for his racy, confrontational humor, newcomer Carlos Lee will have trouble fitting into the good ol’-fashioned family values of greater Milwaukee. The relationship will start off rocky—Lee testing out his anti-Bush jokes; the town reacting with cotton balls in their ears and religious pamphlets in their hands—but soon enough they’ll simply agree to disagree, and live in Felix-and-Oscar harmony for years to come.
New York Mets
Carlos Beltran, unable to handle the Big Apple pressure, quits baseball by midseason. He says goodbye to his teammates, forks over his remaining dough to charities, and begins to travel the world, the clothes on his back and his incredulous wit his only possessions. After five years, he begins showing up on late-night talk shows, sharing the incredible stories of the people he’s met, the many blueberry pies he’s tasted (“Leadville, Colorado, had the best,” according to Beltran), and the dozens of mistresses he’s obtained. Much later, when he fills out an application to work as an Albertson’s stock clerk, he puts “Anecdotalist” as his most recent job experience.
With Larry Bowa out of the picture, the crazy Philly fans are looking forward to finally seeing the Phillies reach their full potential and make it deep into the playoffs. What they’ll find out, however, is that the Phillies simply aren’t a good team.
You don’t think they have a chance to win this year, right? Good. Then it’s agreed we’ll follow them only because of their spunky shortstop, Jack Wilson. He’s a fluffy, acrobatic dream.
St. Louis Cardinals
Adding an ace pitcher to a team that won the most games in the majors last year could only help, right? Not necessarily. With St. Louis a mere four hours from the siren-song temptation of Branson, Mark Mulder will have a hard time keeping his mind on baseball. If he can keep his visits to the City of Forgivable Sin down to a minimum, the team will succeed.
San Diego Padres
Finally getting used to the soccer-field dimensions and PETA protests of PETCO Park, the Padres will cruise through the season—winning 115 games to lead the majors—and breeze through the playoffs into the World Series. Before game one, manager Bruce Bochy regretfully accepts a congratulatory call from Marty Schottenheimer, who mystically transfers his playoff expertise through the phone line. In a Schotten-haze, Bochy names Akinori Otsuka as his game-one starter, and the Padres get swept by the Angels.
San Francisco Giants
Trying to make a name for himself as a sportswriter, a young reporter by the name of Peter Graverly asks Barry Bonds, flat-out, why he used steroids. In response, Bonds beats the shit out of him. From that point on, no reporters question the involvement of Bonds in the BALCO scandal. Instead, they comment on his “great work habit” and how “attractive he is in real life” and how “if they were gay, Bonds would be number one on my list of Celebrities To Have Sex With!” Without the distractions, Bonds hits 80 HRs and the Giants get to the second round of the playoffs.
Once they wash the egg stain off the front door of the stadium—witnesses identified a large team bus with a bird painted on the side, and a Baltimore license plate—the team will be able to concentrate on baseball, and begin contending. All indications are that the stain will be cleaned up by 2010.