Survey: Who will be this year's champ?

Survey: Who will be this year's champ?

Ask baseball's GMs and managers at the beginning of Spring Training who they think will end up hoisting the World Series trophy in October, and you'll get a lot of the same prognostication that you'd find at the corner tavern or ice cream shop.

"Oh, probably the Yankees or the Red Sox."

While that conversation will take place in taverns and creameries over the coming weeks and months, there's nothing like getting a feel for what the people who work at the very top of the business think.

So to wrap up our 20 Questions series, we at took a survey, with each of our beat reporters asking their team's GM or manager the basic question: Who will win the World Series this year?

The respondent could not pick his own team, and we allowed them anonymity to ensure we could get their truest feelings without any fear of saying something their rivals wouldn't want to hear from them.

The results from 30 respondents, one from each club, went from the predictable to the surprising:

Yankees 9
Red Sox 8
Dodgers 3
Blue Jays 2
Tigers 2
Brewers 1
Cardinals 1
Indians 1
Mets 1
Phillies 1
Undecided 1

Seeing the Yankees at the top shouldn't shock anybody. After all, it's not hard to figure out the reasons.

"Why? 200 million reasons," one manager said, referring to the Yankees' payroll.

"I'd be shocked if that's not everybody's pick," said another manager. "They've got everything needed to put it all together. And if they do need something, they'll go get it."

It's also been seven years since the Yankees won a World Series, that one capping off a three-peat. One theory is that you can only hold them off so long, what with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui in the middle of that lineup, and so on.

"It's been awhile. I think they've solidified a few things and made changes to get younger," said one manager. "I think the urgency is there because they haven't done it in five or six years. I just have a feeling that A-Rod, Jeter and Matsui are capable of coming together. ... I just have a feeling that sooner or later, the Yankees will get it together."

Added one GM: "Too long of a World Series drought. Their front office needs to feed the Boss's appetite for a winner. [Roger] Clemens comes to the rescue in June."

That hits a point mentioned by others: The Yankees are good to begin with, and they have the wherewithal to get better if they need to in the middle of the season.

"They have the existing talent in place and they have the dollar resources to go out and make midseason adjustments that the rest of the league cannot do," a GM said. "But now, Brian Cashman went out and picked up some prospects.

"At the trade deadline, it's not just the team with the most money who ends up with the needed addition. He's got those prospects now, which makes them even more dangerous at the deadline than in the past."

But the Red Sox are as dangerous to almost an equal number of baseball minds.

The biggest reason? A balance of potentially great starting pitching and a powerful lineup. As one GM suggested, they might lead the American League in most runs scored as well as fewest allowed.

Of course, one manager pointed out that the latter scenario depends on how Daisuke Matsuzaka fares and whether Jonathan Papelbon makes the successful transition from step-in closer back to starting.

Said one GM: "The front four of their rotation is the only one that has possibly four legitimate No. 1 starters. You know they're going to be in the top three or four in runs scored. They just need to put their bullpen together."

Said another: "If they can keep Manny Ramirez on the field and figure out their bullpen early enough, there are few weaknesses and a lot of power and depth. They will be tough to beat."

The Dodgers, reinvented by GM Ned Coletti and Co. again this winter, lead the rest of the pack with three votes.

"The Dodgers are the team because their starting rotation is so deep and their bullpen is so deep," one GM said. "The only thing their lineup lacks is power hitters, but they have so much speed and so much experience that they could be a team that's good enough to win the World Series."

Next up with two votes were two teams that showed last year to varying degrees that they've arrived on the big stage.

The defending American League champion Tigers lost little and added Gary Sheffield to the mix.

"With the pitching staff they have and adding Sheffield makes the Tigers an easy favorite for me," one manager said.

Added another: "As long as that pitching holds up, they're the team to beat."

Also coming in with a couple of votes: last year's AL East runner-up, the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I might be going out on a limb a little, maybe, but I like Toronto," one manager said. "I think if you look at the additions they've made -- I really like Frank Thomas -- and I liked the team they had. I just think they have a good team."

How about a longer limb from this GM: "The Toronto Blue Jays surprise the world and not only win the AL East but win the World Series as both Halladay and Burnett combine to win seven postseason games and Vernon Wells is named MVP of the World Series by hitting. 624 with three home runs and 12 RBIs."

Mark that one down, folks.

Then there are some scattered teams that got one vote, starting with the defending World Series champions, the Cardinals.

"I think you have to pick the Cardinals, don't you?" a GM said. "They won last year. But it's not just that. They're a very good team. You saw that when they got their players back in the postseason. And they still didn't have [Jason Isringhausen]. They've got that shortstop [David Eckstein] who does so much to help them win. And [Albert] Pujols and [Chris] Carpenter and [Scott] Rolen. And Tony [La Russa]'s such a good manager. How can you pick against them?"

Obviously, a lot of others did -- 29 to be exact.

A few one-liners on the other one-voters:

Mets: "They came close last year, and they have good balance. They can score a lot of runs, and they play defense and pitch," said one manager.

Phillies: "Because of the moves they made," said a GM.

Indians: "They've got young talent and some great offensive players," one baseball mind said. "I think they're going to be a team on the rise."

Brewers: "I like [Ned Yost] and his coaching staff. The players will overachieve this year."

And then there's Mr. Undecided.

Sure, you know him -- he's the guy at the tavern who can't quite pick a beverage or the guy at the ice cream shop who likes too many flavors for one cone.

But he has a point.

"It is a crap shoot," our Mr. Undecided said. "Just look at the clubs that have won it since the start of 2000. There really isn't one that jumps out. The Tigers should be strong again. Minnesota should be strong. Chicago should be strong and those are three clubs out of one division. Yankees, Boston and Toronto. St. Louis is another good club. There are some decent clubs.

"I don't think any one club stands out. I hesitate to pick one."

But it'll be only one come the end of October.

What did the experts tell us in Febuary? Like chocolate and vanilla, you can't go wrong picking the old standards.

John Schlegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.