Nl West

March 30, 2003|By PETER SCHMUCK

Arizona Diamondbacks

Manager: Bob Brenly

2002 record: 98-64 (first)

What's new: The Diamondbacks acquired No. 3 starter Elmer Dessens in a four-team December trade, but they are largely the same team that won the National League West title in 2002. Their title defense will again depend on the performance of top two starters Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, who combined for a mere 48 percent of the club's victories last year.

On the spot: The veteran nucleus of the club, which includes several players - particularly Matt Williams and Mark Grace - who are in the twilight of their careers. The offense, which led the league in runs last year, could be in for a drop-off.

Where they'll be in October: Johnson and Schilling could not carry Arizona back to the World Series last year, but they will return there in 2003.

Colorado Rockies

Manager: Clint Hurdle

2002 record: 73-89 (fourth)

What's new: If it's spring, the Rockies must have a heavily revamped lineup. Power-hitting catcher Charles Johnson was acquired from the Marlins in a complicated offseason deal, and Colorado also added shortstop Jose Hernandez, outfielder Preston Wilson, infielder Chris Stynes and reliever Steve Reed. Look for Hernandez to have a career offensive year at high altitude, but Colorado will need a best-case pitching scenario to be a legitimate wild-card contender.

On the spot: General manager Dan O'Dowd, who has shuffled and reshuffled this team with little success. How many more chances does he warrant if 2003 is another bust?

Where they'll be in October: Probably considering more changes, both on the field and in the front office.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Manager: Jim Tracy

2002 record: 92-70 (third)

What's new: The Dodgers have a handful of new players - including veteran sluggers Fred McGriff and Todd Hundley - but their prospects for a big October depend much more heavily on the health of $15 million pitcher Kevin Brown and long-injured right-hander Darren Dreifort. If one of them comes back strong, the Dodgers should have a solid rotation and a positive season.

On the spot: Brown, who has averaged just 11 victories a season in the first four years of his seven-year, $105 million contract.

Where they'll be in October: They should be in a tough September battle with the Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants and New York Mets for the wild-card berth, but the division title is not out of the question.

San Diego Padres

Manager: Bruce Bochy

2002 record: 66-96 (fifth)

What's new: The Padres have a few new faces but little hope of climbing off the floor in the NL West. The loss of closer Trevor Hoffman and top run-producer Phil Nevin to severe injuries should doom them to a 100-loss season. The starting rotation is thin, and the bullpen has been thrown into serious disarray. Nice-guy Bochy doesn't deserve this.

On the spot: Center fielder Mark Kotsay was supposed to develop into more than just a 60-RBI guy. If he is going to fulfill the potential he carried out of collegiate power Cal State-Fullerton, this would be a good year to do it.

Where they'll be in October: Right where they were last October ... at the bottom of the standings. They'll need to make a big push in the free-agent market to put a competitive team into their new stadium next year.

San Francisco Giants

Manager: Felipe Alou

2002 record: 95-66 (second, wild card)

What's new: The Giants hope to make up for the loss of free agent Jeff Kent with a more balanced offense that features newcomers Jose Cruz, Marquis Grissom, Ray Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo. It might work, but it remains to be seen what impact Kent's departure will have on longtime clubhouse nemesis Barry Bonds. Maybe they didn't like each other, but the tension seemed to work to the benefit of both.

On the spot: Alou, who takes over for the popular Dusty Baker on the heels of the Giants' first World Series appearance since 1989. That's a tough act to follow, even for such a highly respected manager.

Where they'll be in October: The division title is a long shot, but they may be deep enough to reclaim the wild card. It'll be a crowded race.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.