Another outlook for the season 

Everyone’s doing it, and so it shall be done. Here’s yet another series of predictions for the 2007 season in big-league ball. Next week: Award winners.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST CHAMPIONS: ATLANTA BRAVES: The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies can swing it, but they don’t have enough in their rotations and the Phillies lack a reliable bullpen. The Braves have it all and they also have a fantastic crop of homegrown youngsters — not to mention the best general manager in the game — who will help lead Atlanta to anastounding 15th division title in 16 years.

NL CENTRAL CHAMPS: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: The Milwaukee Brewers are a trendy pick here, and what Ben Sheets did on opening day lent some credibility to the claim. But after Sheets, there’s a whole lot of ho-hum in the rotation and the Chicago Cubs are destined to discover that money does not buy baseball happiness. The Cards will go on some sort of silly 19-4 run after the All-Star break and win it going away.

NL WEST CHAMPS: LOS ANGELES DODGERS: If you could put the Dodgers’ starting rotation in Arizona D’backs uniforms, you’d have a World Series champion. But you can’t. So if you’re an Arizona fan, you get Brandon Webb, a shell of what Randy Johnson used to be and a whole lot of breath-holding. The Giants’ bullpen will prevent them from making a serious run, leaving the door wide open for the rotation-rich Dodgers to win by a comfortable margin.

NL WILD CARD: NEW YORK METS: General manager Omar Minaya will find a way to get enough pitching at the All-Star break to hold off the two surprise teams in the league, the Houston Astros and Florida Marlins, for the final playoff spot.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST CHAMPS: NEW YORK YANKEES: Come on. With that offense supporting him, your uncle could win 15 games. The steady decline of the Boston Red Sox’s offense continues, Curt Schilling spends more time on the disabled list than on the mound and Alex Rodriguez gets off the mat in the Bronx to put up his best year in pinstripes.

AL CENTRAL CHAMPS: DETROIT TIGERS: Sure, the Tigers taxed their phenomenal young arms last season, and it’s probably not wise to bet on any team that thinks Gary Sheffield is the missing piece of the puzzle. But the Cleveland Indians have an atrocious bullpen, the Minnesota Twins’ starting rotation is Johan Santana and four guys named Boof, the Chicago White Sox will regret letting Freddy Garcia loose and the Kansas City Royals will be — the Royals. What Jim Leyland did last year was not a fluke. Give him talent and he wins.

AL WEST CHAMPS: A’S: This will be a battle of attrition. The Los Angeles Angels have a terrific bullpen, but also a shoddy defense, a suspect offense and a rotation that looks good if it’s healthy but is one or two injuries away from being average at best. The Texas Rangers, as usual, will fail to win enough 11-8 games to be taken seriously come September. The Seattle Mariners are Felix Hernandez, a bunch of pretty good hitters and nothing else. The A’s don’t look like world-beaters by any means, but they look deep enough to withstand the inevitable injuries that come with six months of grinding — as long as one of them isn’t to Rich Harden.

AL WILD CARD: LOS ANGELES ANGELS: But only if the rotation stays intact. If not, look for the White Sox to wiggle in on the strength of their powerful middle of the order.

Mychael Urban is the author of "Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito" and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of "Sportsphone 680" on KNBR (680 AM).

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