NL West

Baseball 2000

April 02, 2000

Giants

That was then: The Fabulous Dusty Baker Boys led the West at the All-Star break before succumbing to injuries and Arizona's desert storm.

This is now: The Giants have traded in barren, cold 3Com Park for Pacific Bell Park, a 40,800-seat paradise in one of the warmest, sunniest parts of San Francisco. Season-ticket sales are up 24,000 from last year with attendance guaranteed to top 3 million.

Upside: Barry Bonds' career-best ratio of a homer every 10.4 at-bats could get even better with Pac Bell's 307-foot right-field corner, the majors' closest. Right-handed power hitter Russ Davis should help a lineup that was 18-28 against left-handers.

Downside: Can Ellis Burks, coming off knee surgery, track 420-foot drives to right-center? Closer Robb Nen, who had career highs of eight losses and 10 blown saves, needs to prove he has recovered from elbow surgery.

Don't miss : the "seventh-inning fetch." Don "Father Guido Sarducci" Novello has trained Labrador retrievers to, well, retrieve home run balls that land in China Basin Channel.

Don't be surprised : if Baker follows through on hints that he may use a six-man rotation. He wants to preserve the young arms of Russ Ortiz (18 wins despite a league-high 125 walks), Shawn Estes (sore shoulder), Livan Hernandez and Joe Nathan.

Don't expect : Kirk Rueter to keep winning at a .642 lifetime pace (behind only Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens) if he posts another 5.41 ERA.

Web site unseen: www.dustiny.com

D'backs

That was then: Arizona made the biggest turnaround in major-league history, going from 65-97 in its first season to 100-62. The Diamondbacks' 52-21 record after the All-Star break was the second best of the 1990s, and their 14-game margin over the Giants was the division's largest since 1970. It's amazing what money can buy.

This is now: This may be a young franchise, but it's an old team. The only regular contributors under 30 are Erubiel Durazo, Travis Lee, Brian Anderson and Omar Daal.

Upside: Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson was the first pitcher to lead the NL in strikeouts and ERA since Nolan Ryan in 1987 and somehow won 17 despite terrible run support and five blown saves. Midseason pickup Matt Mantei saved 22 in 25 tries.

Downside: Matt Williams, who had 142 RBIs, is out eight to 10 weeks with a broken bone in his foot. Todd Stottlemyre's partially torn rotator cuff could go at any time. Three-time steals king Tony Womack moves to shortstop, a position he flubbed in Pittsburgh.

Don't miss : Aug. 4-5 in New York. Arizona returns to Shea Stadium, where Todd Pratt's home run eliminated the Diamondbacks in the Division Series. Steve Finley's probably still checking his glove in disbelief.

Don't be surprised : if this is the D'backs' last year in the NL. Most realignment proposals have them shifting (reluctantly) to the American League in 2001.

Don't expect : Finley (35 years old), Jay Bell (34) and Luis Gonzalez (32) to repeat their first career 100-RBI seasons.

Web site unseen: www.diamondbucks.com

Dodgers

That was then: A season that began with general manager Kevin Malone predicting a World Series against the Yankees ended with a 77-85 record, the Dodgers' worst since 1992. The franchise's .513 winning percentage in the 1990s was its lowest since the 1930s.

This is now: Malone's humbled 2000 prediction: "We're not as bad as people make us out to be." Though hardly a great slogan, it's likely true. Kevin Brown (18-9, 3.00 ERA) justified the first year of his $105 million, seven-year contract, and expect Shawn Green ($84 million over six years) to do the same this year.

Upside: Green, who led the American League in total bases, gives the Dodgers their first lefty power threat in years. Chan Ho Park went 7-1 after a 6-10 start.

Downside: Who replaces Eric Young's 51 stolen bases? Todd Hundley must prove he's over the elbow problems that limited him to a .207 batting average and 23 percent throw-out rate.

Don't miss : July 4 at San Diego. Last year, the Qualcomm public-address operators played "I Shot the Sheriff" to poke fun at Malone, who had declared upon Brown's signing, "There's a new sheriff in town." This year? Maybe Shirley Horn's "It's Not Easy Being Green."

Don't be surprised : if scoring is up at Dodger Stadium. To make more money, Fox is adding more field-level seats, which will severely reduce the vast foul territory behind the plate.

Don't expect : another rainout. The Dodgers had their first in 4,007 games last season. When it rained, it poured.

Web site unseen: www.bleedingdodgergreen.com

Rockies

That was then: The Blake Street Bombers were 34-33 on June 23, then suffered through nine-, six- and five-game slides en route to the franchise's first last-place finish.

This is now: There's something in the light Denver air, and it's change. Convinced that "Rocky Horror Pitcher Show" sequels result in little more than cult entertainment, new general manager Dan O'Dowd brought in the classics: pitching, speed and defense.

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