see also Hopkins preview

After last week's season predictions for the Hopkins side got some strong reactions on the message board, we trudge forth into the Eagan side. With only two true veteran teams, more is unknown and more is truly up in the air, but we shall endeavor to uncover what to expect from the Eagan Conference.

Eagan NL Division
The Expos, on paper at least, are most in control of their destiny, as the only team in this division with experience from last year.  The core players return intact, as J-Ski, arguably the top left-handed batter in the league (with Chops), leads these sluggers into battle.  Brother M-Ski is the spiritual and trash-talking leader, and when he's not snuggling up with people (*shiver*), he can be counted on to be a solid bat and reliable relief pitcher when needed. J-Ski will anchor the rotation along with Christian Brandt, whose 2004 mid-season addition to the team was the key to their rise from disaster to respectability.  Rookies Andy Campbell and Marcus Munson will replace the departed Craig Olsen and Pat Reckinger.  No way these guys start 0-8 like they did last year, and will be one of the favorites to represent Eagan in the World Series.

Matt Nelson got hooked up by K-Mart to help found the Cubs, a last-minute replacement squad that was assembled rather quickly to replace the group that represented well during the Fall Sessions, only to shock the league when they announced early in March that they weren't playing. Outside of the K-Mart connection, not much else is known about these guys, other than they have three guys named Matt on the team.  Enough to formulate a prediction? No… but who cares?

The Cardinals are a rookie team, but only in the way that Ichiro or Hideki Matsui were rookies. These guys have more collective wiffle ball experience than any other team in this league, hands down.  Steve Stangler (Steve 1) and Steve Kennedy (Steve 2), known collectively as "The Steves", are hard core into the game, playing for years in all terrains and all weather.  They've wiffled together for well over 25 years, and their quality of play shows it. Not to be ignored is teammate Demetrius Matthews, who has been wowing the Spring Training crowd with his top-notch pitching and all-around athleticism. Dee is probably the most hyped rookie in this new crop, and there's no reason to think he won't be kicking ass and taking names. Factor in Dan Schaffer (a long time friend of The Steves) and Nick Kennedy, and these guys will make it tough for every opponent this year.

Pals since their high school days, Al Leverty and Bob McDonough of the Mets actually ditched the softball team they've played on for over 20 years to join the HRL, and although their Spring Training appearances have been shaky to this point, they are optimistic at being able to hold their own and compete at the HRL level. Al and Bob's friend Luis Mora will join the fray, as well as rookie free agents Tony Thompson and roommate to the Braves' Rocket, Rudy Avina.  It's up in the air how these guys will pan out.

The Commish's call:  Eagan NL Division:
1. Expos
2. Cardinals
3. Mets
4. Cubs

Eagan AL Division
Finally, it's down to this.  How does one call their own team and division?  Very carefully, that's how. We'll start with my club (the Royals) and work our way along the list.

With arguably the strongest 1-2 pitching punch the HRL has to offer-- at least based on last year's results—the Royals will surely find themselves involved in some low-scoring affairs this year, much like last year, where in 15 of 29 games, a total of 5 runs or less were scored by both teams combined. Yikes. Gone are Mike P, The Rick, and Andy Lange, and in are old Yankee refugees Josh Cota and Willie McLaurin, as well as the league's first female player, Angela Granneman.  Pitching should not be a huge problem, barring injury, as the Royals figure to alternate Cota and Truck all season long. Hitting consistently will be the key.  While the Royals will look to get their share of home runs from Cota, Truck and Willie, getting people on base and plate discipline will be the big keys.  Still a favorite to win their division based on the experience factor.

The Senators are led by former A's castoff 911, who wanted to form his own team in the name of fun, competition, and the American way.  What's happened since has been a series of roster shifts due to non-wiffle injuries, and as of now, the roster is still in flux.  Josh "Ten" Carroll figures to be most counted on from a pitching and hitting standpoint, with young guy Alex Valen expected to be a heavy contributor as well.  Alex's dad, Eric, was set to go, but the elder Valen has been forced to undergo a knee operation for a condition he's had for many years, and his return this season is in doubt.  Also, Anthony Amon was expected to join in the fray, but a recent basketball incident resulted in a broken foot, and Amon has been shelved for the season with the injury.  Depending on how they replace the injured Senators, it's not clear how this will impact the on-field results.

Chief Wahoo and the Tribe makes their HRL debut in 2005, and though we're yet to meet these guys and see how they play, it's clear that in communications with the club, it's going to be all about putting fun first and results second for the Indians.  Kudos.

The Tigers are a collection of great athletes, most of whom excelled in college at baseball and football, and according to team captain Erik Seiberlich, should be able to hang with what the HRL has to offer.  The sheer size of this team has many intimidated already, with four players well over 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds.  One guy is listed at 6'3", 255. Ouch.

The Commish's call:  Eagan AL Division:
1. Royals
2. Tigers
3. Senators
4. Indians

In the playoffs, we'll see the Royals besting the Cardinals in a tough, well-pitched series, and The X over the Tigers.

In an epic series, the Royals will get the nod over The X, and will meet the Braves in the World Series.

I'm leaving it there.

Braves.  Royals. World Series.

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