No, not wind, sleet, and snow, nor exhaustion and ennui, nor pennilessness and despair, nor war -- damn, damn war -- can keep this ol' grampa down. Least not as long as the March lion transmogrifies into a little lamb & weather starts going all gentle and caressing & down in Florida grown men in tight uniforms start knocking balls wrapped in horsehide around with big wooden sticks. For the few of you who might give a damn, here are Uncle Jesse's carefully considered picks for the 2003 baseball season's final standings (with win totals), playoffs, and major awards, plus a bit of glib commentary from yours truly:

NL EAST: The decade-long reign of John Smoltz and the Tomahawk Chop appears to finally have ended, but I think the Braves will give the Phillies a good chase. Just like last year the Mets give the illusion of being a contender, but I think they'll struggle to stay out of the basement.

1. Phils (93-69)
2. Braves (91-71)
3. Mets (82-80)
4. Expos (81-81)
5. Marlins (77-85)

NL CENTRAL The Astros & Cards are both very strong veteran teams with some questions, Cubs & Reds are both fascinating young teams on the rise. I'm picking the 'Stros, but this division is pretty open. I think the Cubs will win in '04.

1. 'Stros (96-66)
2. Cards (93-69) (Wild Card)
3. Cubs (89-73)
4. Reds (85-77)
5. Pirates (70-92)
6. Brewers (53-109)

NL WEST: Three strong teams here. The Baseball Prospectus guys would laugh me out of the room, but I actually think the Dodgers could win the division, or the wild card...their pitching will be great & Lo Duca, Green, Jordan, McGriff, and Beltre provide a decent enough offensive core...

1. Giants (92-70)
2. Dodgers (89-73)
3. D-Backs (87-75)
4. Padres (79-83)
5. Rockies (71-91)


AL EAST: This one has a familiar look, because the division has finished in this order every single years since perhaps '98 I think. The Yankees' pitching does look vulnerable, but I think Weaver, Contreras, and Mussina plus the incredible lineup keep the Bombers on top. Next year though the Red Sox will unseat them.

1. Yankees (94-78)
2. Red Sox (92-72)
3. Blue Jays (85-77)
4. Orioles (69-93)
5. D-Rays (67-95)

AL CENTRAL: Not a terribly compelling division. I don't think the White Sox are as good as people think they are though I love Magglio Ordonez. I don't think the Twins are as good as people think either, though they're an incredibly likeable team. I predict the Twins win the division with 88 wins.

1. Twins (89-73)
2. White Sox (88-74)
3. Indians (84-78)
4. Royals (68-94)
5. Tigers (60-102)

AL WEST: An amazing division. Despite spending a third of the season beating each other up, they're still going to all finish over .500 thanks to annihilating the AL Central and the Orioles an D-Rays. I want both the Red Sox and Mariners, favorite teams of mine, to be make the playoffs, but I don't think either is going to win the division. I'm going out on a limb and predicting the M's to win the Wild Card (by a nose); people seem to forget that they still have a pretty deep team from top to bottom, and a ton of good young talent coming in. This means that the defending champion Angels miss the playoffs this year. Wow.

1. A's (101-61)
2. M's (93-69) (Wild Card)
3. Angels (89-73)
4. Rangers (81-81)

PLAYOFFS: Astros over Giants
Phillies over Cardinals
A's over Twins
M's over Yankees

Astros over Phillies
A's over M's

A's over Astros

AL MVP: Eric Chavez
AL Cy Young: Pedro Martinez
AL ROY: Hideki Matsui
NL MVP: Jim Thome
NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt
NL ROY: Hee Seep Choi