Hunches only, of course, and through the magic of blogology we’ll be able to test this in October.
Standings: Those 100 wins will guarantee a playoff spot, specifically a Wild Card spot. I think the Yankees will eke past the Sox in the division, by 3 games or less.
Playoff chances: I’d say there’s a 50% chance of a rematch of last years ALCS, and if comes to that I think the Sox beat the Yankees (finally). This is predicated on the Oakland A’s not making the playoffs, because there’s no way they lose in the ALDS again this year.
Pitching: Pedro has a year frustratingly similar to 2003. He won’t break 20 wins, mostly because of feast or famine run support. Curt Schilling is a lock to win 20, and I think Derek Lowe regains his 2002 form, also winning 20. Wake is solid with 15 wins, and the bullpen only blows about half the games they ripped from the jaws of victory last year.
Hitting: Ortiz has another monster year. Nomar, once he comes back, is going to settle into a nice groove and go .320 for the season (man, what happened to the Nomar that was on pace to hit over .400 this year?). Manny will continue to be Manny, and that means batting title. Bill Mueller (reminder, it’s pronounced “Miller”) will fall off from his career year last year, but not by much. Kevin Millar will probably dip from last year too, but overall the team will still be one of the top hitting lineups in the league.
Trot: I have a bad feeling my favorite Dirt Dog is going to have season-long problems with his back. Nevertheless, the man who once said “sometimes I hate this game so much, because I love it so much” is going to be a hero more than once in 2004.
Red Sox-Cubs World Series: it could happen. Probably won’t. But it could, and then we’d have to hear all the apocalyptica we were supposed to get last year. If the Sox get to the series (not a lock, of course), they win. Seriously, look at these guys, they are not messing around.
Can 2004 possibly top 2003? Barring a World Series win, no. Not even close. 2003 was just special, in so many ways. Even winning it all will only retroactively make 2004 better, as I can’t imagine anything topping the first 173 and a half games of last year.
There you have it. See you in October!