Who will win the World Series?

Who will win the World Series?

Baseball's general managers and managers are paid to evaluate. To project. To figure out what makes a winner. To determine what gets you to October and puts you over the top.

They're also experts at keeping things close to the vest. At being loyal to their team above all. At focusing on the best in their own and exploiting the worst in others.

So asking them which teams -- other than their own -- will advance to the World Series, especially when they're just now opening up camps for Spring Training, might be in their wheelhouse, but it also might make a few of them squirm a bit. As much as they know, there's plenty they don't want others to know they know.

Undeterred, MLB.com's ever-intrepid reporters sought out responses to that query from either the GM or the manager of the teams they cover, asking under the cloak of anonymity so those cards could be kept close to the vest.

Even with that caveat, it was clear these competitors are loathe, some more than others, to even discuss the notion that any team but their own could go all the way.

"You can't pick your own team, eh?," one said. "That's like, 'Who do you want to go out with? But you can't pick your wife.' "

Thankfully, this survey doesn't have such dramatic consequences. And, ultimately, despite the literally hundreds of years of experience in the survey field, the majority rule was probably what a lot of regular Joes and Janes of baseball fandom might pick.

As one might expect, the Red Sox reigned overall as the pick to repeat in 2008. Overall, the Red Sox earned 17 votes to make it as World Series champions, followed by the power-charged Tigers with seven.

"They're without a doubt the team with the most depth, highest caliber of talent and least weaknesses," one expert said of the Red Sox. "They should be a dominant team again, and the depth of quality Minor League talent offsets the risk of injury."

Said another: "Until someone dethrones them, I would have to say they have the best shot. They had the best team in baseball last year and have everyone coming back. There is a lot of talent in a lot of areas on that team."

Fall Classic crystal ball
How the 30 MLB GM/manager representatives voted on who will win the 2008 World Series:
Red Sox17
Most common World Series matchups as voted by the panel
Red Sox-Mets10
Red Sox-D-backs2
Red Sox-Dodgers 2
Red Sox-Phillies2
Red Sox-Rockies1
And another: "Well, you have to go with the champions from last year. They are just as strong as they were last year."

The Red Sox and Tigers weren't the only teams predicted to hoist the flag-encircled trophy in October, however. The Indians registered three votes, the Mets had two and, in a bit of an upset that wouldn't have been one at all just a few years ago, the Braves had one.

In an expanded take on the poll from last year -- when GM/manager representatives mostly favored the Yankees (nine votes) and Red Sox (eight) but spread the wealth among 10 clubs -- this year's question included a prediction of AL and NL champs as well.

Broken down to World Series matchups, there was a clear frontrunner, as 10 of the 30 thought the Red Sox and their all-tools machine will win a second straight World Series by beating Johan Santana and the Mets in a rematch -- but different outcome -- of one of the most memorable Fall Classics of all time, the 1986 World Series.

In the AL, every one of the 17 voters who thought the Red Sox would win the AL also said they'd win the World Series. But the Tigers, bolstered by the acquisitions of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, garnered nine votes and a lot of praise from the baseball experts for what's expected to be as powerful a lineup in the game.

"I think Detroit has a chance to score 1,000 runs and slug themselves to a World Series title," said one panelist.

The Indians had three votes as AL champions, and last year's darling, the Yankees, got but one vote to the win the AL, none to win the World Series.

In the NL, the field was predictably spread out, though the Mets were far and away the favorite with 13 votes. The rest of the field was made up of seven other possible suitors, led by the Phillies with four votes and the Dodgers, Cubs and D-backs with three apiece. The Braves, Brewers and Rockies also earned mention.

Said one expert: "Really, there are a lot of teams in the National League that have about the same shot. Colorado went last year and is only going to get better, and you have Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, the New York Mets and San Diego. Any one of them can win, then anything can happen in the World Series."

Pennant predictions
Who the panel picked as the league champions
Red Sox 17Mets13
For the survey to have perspective, the GM or manager was asked -- again, anonymously -- to elaborate on why a particular team might win its league or go all the way to win the World Series this year. Not all the participants expounded upon their votes so, for example, comments on the Cubs didn't emerge from the survey, just those three votes for reaching the World Series.

With that in mind, here is a sampling of some of the comments gleaned:

Red Sox
• "I think they have such great pitching and such great depth. [Daisuke] Matsuzaka is going to get better, and I'm not sure there is a better sixth man in the rotation than either Clay Buchholz or Jon Lester, whoever doesn't win out for that fifth spot. I just think they are too deep and too good not to repeat."

• "Pitching wins, and when you have great hitting too, it's a tough combination."

• "If their pitching stays healthy, they should win. And in their lineup, they could have [Edgar] Renteria hitting seventh, Pudge [Ivan Rodriguez] eighth and [Marcus] Thames and [Jacque] Jones platooning and hitting ninth. That's 10 or 15 hits every night."

  MLB.com POLL
Who do you think will win the 2008 World Series?
Red Sox

"They were there two years ago and couldn't get untracked last year, but they'll be focused on getting back, and the moves they made make them even better. Last year was a wake-up call for them to turn it up a notch."

• "At the end of the day, it comes down to throwing the baseball. I like the Indians' pitching."

• "A lot of people are picking the Mets since they got [Johan] Santana and they're a heck of a team. But they aren't perfect, either. They're going to have to bounce back from what happened last year, and they still haven't addressed their bullpen."

• "I think putting Brett Myers back in the rotation and [Brad] Lidge in the bullpen is a good move if a change of scenery helps Lidge, and I think their offense if going to score a lot of runs. . . . With [Chase] Utley and [Jimmy] Rollins and [Ryan] Howard, you've got three potential MVP-type guys.

• "The Dodgers have some real good young talent in place, their pitching is at the top of the class and Joe [Torre] will have a great influence on the kids over there."

• "Best young team in the league."

• "They're a young group and they gained all that experience. Now, they think they're good."

• "Bringing back [Tom] Glavine is a big lift. The Braves have a strong lineup with Chipper [Jones] as the leader. They have a good mix of veterans and young kids who are on the rise. This could be one last one for Bobby Cox."

Go figure. The Braves might be the Rockies of 2008.

That's the kind of bold approach that makes someone who actually pegged the Rockies a year ago -- eh, not than any in our survey did, mind you -- look like an expert among experts.

Still, it's only February, and October's a long way away, as one of the experts who picked the Red Sox to go all the way suggests.

"A lot depends on injuries and how a team happens to be playing at the time," he said. "I'm not sure how anybody predicts these things, other than throwing darts against the wall."

But, hey, if you have people throwing darts, might as well be the experts.

John Schlegel is executive editor for the West Divisions for MLB.com. Reporters from each of the 30 MLB.com club sites contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.