[editor's note, by Randy Booth] This was written last week, but was unable to be posted at the time of the writing.
By Hugh Perry (britsoxfan)
1: St Louis Cardinals
Simply, they've got the best player in baseball, and they probably have the pitching staff to back him up. They've been there or thereabouts for a couple of seasons. It might just be their year, providing Albert Pujols can stay off the DL (At the time of this writing, he was off the disabled list - not anymore).
The universe likes it - planets align, angels sing hallelujah - when the World Series team has the best player too.
2: Chicago White Sox
It's impressive how the Southsiders have built on last year's World Series team and have given themselves a fighting chance of going all the way again.
The addition of Jim Thome gives them another top slugger, and the rest of that successful line-up has remained fundamentally unaltered. They do most things baseball very well and that in itself is admirable.
But it's funny. I just can't quite see the magic dust settling on the White Sox for a second year in a row. Perhaps my opinion is tainted by the fact that it's fundamentally impossible to root for any team that includes AJ Pierzynski.
For now, though, they remain a very strong, well-balanced team and it would be difficult to place them outside the top two.
3. New York Mets
Some really excellent pitching has propelled the Mets into my top three. Pedro Martinez (0.81 WHIP) and the evergreen Tom Glavine are the stars. They've added El Duque - this could be a very smart move.
Meanwhile on the hitting side, David Wright is going to be a special player one day, if he isn't already. He's already showing flashes of brilliance.
Is third too high for the Mets? The bullpen is in a pretty parlous state. Poor old Petey's missed out on a few W's that by rights should have been his. If Omar Minaya can rustle up a decent relief pitcher or two, the Mets could be genuine contenders. Well, if *one* side from New York has to win...
4: Boston Red Sox
It isn't one-eyed fanboy behaviour placing the Red Sox in the top five. Honest. There's good pitching, decent hitting from places we wouldn't have expected before the season started (Youkilis, Lowell), and a refreshing professional, heads-up attitude in the field.
That the Red Sox are where they are, despite being in the ultra-competitive AL East, is testament to the strength of the team, even when Papi's in a slump.
And did you see that catch Coco made?
5: New York Yankees
Yes, the threat from their bats is phenomenal. Something to scare the kids with when they've been naughty. (And when that fails, just show them a picture of Posada. I'm just joking. That would be cruel.)
But the pitching is a mixed bag, to say the least. Mussina has been terrific. The rest have been so-so. Torre is working the bullpen arms into the ground and the injuries throughout the roster are starting to pile up.
If the injuries clear up, and if George digs deep for some more bullpen arms and another outfielder, we'll see... they certainly seem to be winning a lot of close games.
Just outside the top five: Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers.
NB The Cleveland Indians should be in this list. They really should. I put five pounds on them reaching the World Series and that's five pounds I won't see again. Tune in this time next year, to see the Indians topping the rankings. They've got the makings of something very special. You can bet on it.
By Anders Olsson (SweSox)
1. The Chicago White Sox
Last year, the White Sox were the best team in baseball. Once they had swept the nobler Sox, they looked to be certain champions. In the offseason, they've lost no key members and added Jim Thome. Thome has been insanely hot to start the season, leading the AL in home runs and RBI. The combination of brilliant pitching and tremendous offense leads me to believe that the ChiSox will indeed go back-to-back.
2. The New York Mets
The same combination of pitching and offense can be found at Shea Stadium. David Wright, 24 years old, has followed up last year's breakthrough season with an even hotter start this year (insanely good .322/.394/.538) and looks to be an all-star for the coming 15 years or so. Pitching-wise, a familiar face anchors the staff. Pedro has pitched beautifully, earning a 2.50 ERA and 88 strikeouts (second in all of baseball). Add to the mix Tom Glavine pitching like it's 1991 and the Mets look to be heading to the World Series.
3. The Boston Red Sox
Anyone else thinking this team is looking a LOT like the 2004 championship team? Two tremendous pitchers at the top of the order, a defensively splendid infield, the lethal papi-manny combo, a so-so start to the season... The similarities are many, and the concept is a proven one. "Pitching and defense wins games" is a tired clich? but that doesn't mean it isn't true. If we can add another quality starter before the break who's not brilliant but at least somewhat consistent, I like our chances a lot.
4. The St Louis Cardinals
I fully seriously believe that Albert Pujols could carry a team to the playoffs himself. Put him on the Royals and I'd instantly consider them a threat. That's the level of respect I have for Albie. He is, however, not the only weapon in the St Louis arsenal. They got Lil' Eck, a longtime favorite of mine, having a career season hitting .330 through May. They've got some pitching too. Carpenter, Mulder, Suppan and even Fatty Ponson are all very good pitchers when pitching at their highest level. This might be the year for Team Albie.
5 The New York Yankees
The Yankees shouldn't be number five. They have a so-so pitching staff at best, severe injury problems, aging players... But still. They always seem to win games. If a game is close and the Yanks are not playing the Sox, i feel almost certain that the Yankees are going to win it. Tonight's win against Baltimore is a prime example. Simply put, they have a consistent ability to pull games out of their asses. And that demands respect. No love, no adoration. But respect.
Where are the Tigers? Where are the Jays? Well, the Tigers are already beginning to fall apart. I predict they'll end up around .550 for the year, missing the playoffs. They are not deep enough and they are not good enough to consistently win without the insane offense they had in the beginning of the season. The Jays won't make the playoffs simply for playing in the same division as the Sox and Yanks. It's a rough deal, but it's the hand they've been dealt. Not even a healthy Halladay or the amazing Rios can take them higher than third in the division.