02/02/07 10:00 AM ET
Who's got a fairy godmother?
Cinderella teams likely to come from the Central divisions
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
• Mon. Jan. 22: Who are the top remaining Free Agents?
• Tue. Jan. 23: Who are the top players switching leagues?
• Wed. Jan. 24: Whose farm system will be the talk?
• Thu. Jan. 25: Who will be this year's Frank Thomas?
• Fri. Jan. 26: Is the NL turning the tide?
• Mon. Jan. 29: Can the Cardinals repeat as champs?
• Tue. Jan. 30: Why no repeat winners since 2000?
• Wed. Jan. 31: Can Cubs break the curse?
• Thu. Feb. 1: Will Central dominance continue?
• Fri. Feb. 2: Which teams could surprise?
• Mon. Feb. 5: Which new managers will have an impact?
• Tue. Feb. 6: Which young pitchers will make The Leap?
• Wed. Feb. 7: Which young hitters will make The Leap?
• Thu. Feb. 8: How good will Matsuzaka be?
• Fri. Feb. 9: Will anyone hit 60 home runs?
• Mon. Feb. 12: Will anyone win 20 games?
• Tue. Feb. 13: Who will be this year's surprise closer?
• Wed. Feb. 14: Where will Clemens pitch?
• Thu. Feb. 15: If pitching wins, who tops the Marlins?
• Fri. Feb. 16: Who will win the World Series?
This goes beyond the obvious link to Detroit having been the site of the 2005 Midsummer Classic; there is an amazing historical correlation between serving as Star host and imminent success. Short version: the Mariners (2001), White Sox (2003) and Astros (2004) are other recent All-Star hosts to quickly make it big.Oh, you want some more practical reasons? The Bucs turned the rare luxury of two crack closers into the loud left-handed bat they'd sorely missed; with Adam LaRoche joining Jason Bay and bat champ Freddy Sanchez, they can swashbuckle with the best of 'em. But they aren't through with rare luxuries: three lefty starters (Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm) will lead the trail to the treasure. A healthy Ben Sheets joining Jeff Suppan atop the rotation can lift Milwaukee, where Prince Fielder is the biggest thing since pull-top cans. The Reds chased the leaders to the wire, even with Ken Griffey Jr. sitting out most of September. Junior broke his hand in that pre-Christmas home accident, so maybe the bad stuff now is safely part of his offseason regimen. Over in the AL, the Royals went old school by signing only pitchers -- and lots of them -- headlined by Gil Meche. With a soft lineup, manager Buddy Bell can't fight firepower with firepower, so he was given the arms to keep him in every game. The Royals winning big would be a surprise. The Cubs, not so much -- even though they lost only four fewer games in 2006. But by spending freely on marquee players, the North Siders have also bought high expectations. The Mariners and Rangers are two of five clubs that have never made a World Series. They could make this one, out of an AL West that no longer has a Zito and still doesn't have a bodyguard for a Vladi. Baltimore, itself without a winning record since 1997, has a rotation that could sustain long winning streaks. Arizona could have a Randy Johnson flashback. And no one had better turn their backs to the Braves, who might be on the ground floor of another dynasty. Say, what's with all the "could," "might" and "can"? You want us to just make the call and give you the season's upstart darlings? What, and spoil the surprise?
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.