Baseball Preview Edition

The Box, seeking a measured tone, likes to have opening-day jitters out of the way before offering season predictions. All right then, listen up. One team. One thing. Possibly two things. No more than five things.

AL EAST. Tampa Bay Rays. Payroll is $42 million, about 20 percent of what the Yankees spend. Some people ask why anyone would expect the Rays to finish above .500 for the first time in their miserable ten-year existence. I am one of those people.

The Rays’ ATP (average ticket price) is $17.23. (Amounts are from Team Marketing Report and are misleading, but then again, what else are the media good for? Figures should reflect median ticket price.) Outlook: futile.

Toronto Blue Jays. ATP $28.37. Averaged 4.64 runs a game last year, tenth best in the AL. Solid third-place performer. Outlook: partly cloudy.

Boston Red Sox. Fledging dynasty, won two World Series in the past four years. Highest ticket prices in baseball, ATP is $48.80. Parking is $30 to $40. Outlook: whatever the market will bear.

New York Yankees. ATP $36.58. The Dark Star. In the past 12 years the Yankees won four World Series titles, six AL pennants, ten division championships, and they still can’t get a free ride for their new 1.3-billion-dollar stadium. Taxpayers shelled out a paltry $425 million. Outlook: continued success.

Baltimore Orioles. Traded Tejada, Erik Bedard, and Jay Gibbons in return for probation and community service. This is a dreck team. ATP $23.85. Outlook: bottom of the barrel.

NL East. Washington Nationals. Boffo. This can-do franchise collected $611 million from the improvised city-state of Washington, DC, for a new stadium. In a fit of generosity, Major League Baseball tossed in $20 million. ATP $25. Outlook: bright as bright can be.

New York Mets. Still basking in the afterglow of one of the great chokes in baseball history. Led the NL East by seven games on September 12. Lost 12 of their last 16 games, 6 of their last 7. Did not make the playoffs. On the bright side, the club raised ticket prices 20 1/2 percent to reach an ATP of $34.05, fourth highest in baseball. Outlook: more of the same.

Florida Marlins. ATP $18.69. Another rags-to-riches story. Owner Jeffrey H. Loria got $600 million in public funds for a new stadium. The wonder of it! Marlins opening-day payroll is $21 million, the smallest in MLB. (Padres opening-day payroll is $68 million.) Loria receives $30 million in TV/radio money and $30 million in dole from MLB per year. That’s $60 million coming in, whether one sucker attends one game or not. Subtract a payroll of $21 million. Outlook: last place is locked in until the money stops.

Philadelphia Phillies. ATP $28.14. The Phillies had the honor of assisting in the elimination of the Mets from last year’s postseason. Pitching is a problem. Left-hander Jamie Moyer is 45 and talking to federal prosecutors. Outlook: not much.

Atlanta. ATP $17.05. Downtown closes at 5:00 p.m. and football season is five months away. Outlook: not bad, considering.

NL Central and AL Central. Flyover cites.

AL WEST. Seattle. ATP $25.29. Acquired two pretty good pitchers, Erik Bedared and Carlos Silva. Right-hander Felix Hernandez could be great and J.J. Putz is a solid closer. Lousy hitting. Overrated coffee. Outlook: second place.

Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim, brought to you by the home-town folks at Wal-Mart, presented by Marriot Hotels, in association with American Airlines. ATP $20.78. Six world-class outfielders and an SUV full of money. Outlook: first place.

Oakland Athletics. ATP $29.20. We’re going to see how good Billy Beane actually is. Outlook: either very good or very bad.

Texas Rangers. ATP $18.01. Outlook: Republican.

NL WEST. Arizona. Let’s give it up for the Diamondbacks, who have the lowest ATP in the major leagues at $15.96. What the hell is going on over there? The D’backs have been enabling Billy Beane, trading six prospects to Oakland for right-hander Dan Haren. They got reliever Chad Qualls from Houston. So, they’ll have pitching. The rest is pretty good. Outlook: higher ticket prices.

Los Angeles Dodgers. ATP $29.66. We’ll find out how bad Joe Torre actually is. Outlook: profitable.

Colorado Rockies. ATP $19.50. A miracle finish to the 2007 regular season. GM Dan O’Dowd credits prayer and Christian values for the team’s amazing 21-1 finish. On the other hand, being swept in the World Series raises theological questions. Outlook: interesting.

San Francisco. ATP $22.06. The ghost of Barry Bonds walks the parapets over AT&T Park. Outlook: gloomy.

San Diego Padres. ATP $27.43. The memory of last year’s collapse, the 14th-inning loss to Colorado lingers. So what, let’s go drinking at Petco Park! Only 57 bucks for a six-pack of premium beer. Outlook: sober.

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