Mark Your Calendars

Now that Roger Clemens the Houston Astro will learn what it's like to have a bat in his hand as fastballs buzz by his schnozz, keep your eyes on all the matchups that pit him against anyone he's ever serenaded with chin music. May 14 -16: the New York Mets come to town. June/July: lots of interleague. Aug 10 - 12: Astros in NY.

The Astros now have a 4-man rotation of Clemens, Pettitte, Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt. Compared to Prior, Wood, Zambrano and Clement, I give the Astros a slight nod. Any other NL rotations compare? Let's look.

LA's got Perez, Nomo, Weaver, Ishii (with promising rookie Edwin Jackson and scrap heaper Wilson Alvarez in the mix). Not as good. The Big Unit and Brandon Webb are a great 1-2 punch in Az. but it's all question marks from there. The Giants need Jerome Williams to prove he's not a half-year fluke, or else it's Jason Schmidt and the four nice guys. Florida: Beckett, Pavano, Penny, and Dontrelle with AJ Burnett scheduled to return mid-year is very good and getting better. But no Fla. hurler has yet put together a full, dominant year a la Mark Prior. The Phils have Millwood, Milton, Myers, Wolf and Padilla. I'd rank them near the top, except Milton has to answer injury questions and Padilla consistency questions. And sorry, Kevin Millwood isn't an ace. He may yet be, but his performance down the stretch last year makes his $10 million-plus price tag ridiculous.

So, here's how I rank NL rotations:

1) Hou.
2) Cubs
3) Fla.
4) Phila.
5) LA
6) SF
7) Ariz.

Watch out for S.D. I like Eaton and Peavy; they could blossom this year. Brian Lawrence is a Rueter-type. David Wells is a fat lout. But he could prove time and the laws of physics wrong and continue to pitch well. If the Pads sign Maddux and the youngsters keep developing, they could have a very strong rotation.

Ah, yes. Maddux. Whither the Mad Dog? If he signs with an NL team, I'll re-evaluate my rankings. Coming soon: the AL rotations.


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