With spring training starting this week, CNNSI.com's John Donovan says the Indians are a force to be reckoned with in 2006, but when it comes to picking winners, he'll stick with the White Sox.
I'm not going to blame him. After winning the World Series, Chicago GM Ken Williams not only kept all his major pieces in place, he added Jim Thome to the heart of the lineup and Javier Vazquez to the starting rotation.
The White Sox aren't setting themselves up to dominate their league the way, say, the Pistons have dominated the NBA this year. But they are the best in baseball right now, and certainly did not get worse over the winter.
The only caveat with the White Sox is just how many things went right for them in 2005. Their obscene record in one-run games. The 11-1 postseason mark. Unheralded relivers Cliff Pollitte and Bobby Jenks stepping up to complete the bullpen. Those items aren't likely to be duplicated this year, especially when everybody is going to be gunning for them.
The Indians, meanwhile, might be the victim of being in the wrong division (the AL Central. How ironic is that?)
Cleveland has a good offense. But not as good as the White Sox. Cleveland has a good starting rotation. But not as good as the White Sox. While Chicago's bullpen had to endure the loss of Damaso Marte in a trade, Cleveland's bullpen, the best in baseball last year, was overhauled with arms that might not be as durable as last year.
Thanks to the White Sox, the wild card might be the most realistic chance for the Indians to reach the postseason this year, like it was for the bulk of last year.