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Monday, January 9
Bloomington Bees

2001 record:
67-95 (.414); 4th place in NL Central

Major additions:
OF Ichiro Suzuki (from Japan), RHP Steve Karsay, C Brad Ausmus

Major loses:
OF Dante Bichette, SS Pat Meares

2001 Review:
For the second consecutive season, Bloomington saw its record worsen by approximately 20 wins. First came a drop from 108 wins in 1999 to just 89 wins in 2000. Then all success faded in 2001 when the Bees managed only 67 wins, the worst total in franchise history since the team's inaugural season in 1995.

Only three National League teams scored less runs than the 2001 Bloomington Bees. Unfortunately, though, the team's offense was its strong point. Bloomington's pitching staff saw its ERA balloon to a robust 5.82 figure. Only two NL teams (Racine and Metropolis) allowed more runs per game. Put together a 9th ranked offense and a 10th ranked pitching staff and the result is a 95-loss season.

Bloomington's few bright spots during the 2001 season were OF Preston Wilson (.289, 42 HR, 129 RBI), 3B Tony Batista (.274, 46 HR, 126 RBI) and ace RHP Mike Mussina (19-12, 3.47 ERA, 228 K).

2002 Outlook:
We are all aware of the proverb that "what goes up must come down." Well, perhaps it works the other way, too. After slipping over the past two seasons, Bloomington now looks primed for success once more.

While no major acquisitions stand out for Bloomington, much of the Bees young talent is now ready to contribute at the major league level. The team did sign free agent OF Ichiro Suzuki from Japan. Long one of Japan's best hitters, Bloomington hopes he will achieve similar success on this side of the Pacific.

Bloomington will also enter the year with perhaps the most talented, if inexperienced, starting rotation in the league. Joining all-world RHP Mike Mussina are young talents like RHP Jeff Weaver (3-6, 7.34 ERA in rookie season last year) and rookie LHPs C.C. Sabathia and Mark Buerhle. Even RHP Chris Carpenter, who struggled last season (8-12, 6.35 ERA), is only 26 years old. If these raw talents can make the transition to the majors, Bloomington's pitching staff will be dominant for years to come.

On the other side of the ball, the offense has similar talent but more question marks. While young OFs Preston Wilson, and Gabe Kapler (.322, 15 HR, 53 RBI) will certainly provide punch, the team will need veteran OF Juan Gonzalez (.262, 17 HR, 59 RBI) to rebound from a sub-par season in 2001 and anchor the offense. The team is also counting on 1B David Ortiz (.288, 10 HR, 51 RBI) and 3B Vinny Castilla (.200, 3 HR, 12 RBI) to perform up to their capabilities in the infield.

If all goes well and the young talent gels, Bloomington could compete for a playoff spot as soon as this season. And even if it does not, the team's future -- led by its young arms -- is close at hand.

So BRASSball be warned...the Bees will have their sting once more.

Projected lineup
RF Ichiro Suzuki
CF Gabe Kapler
LF Preston Wilson
DH Juan Gonzalez
1B David Ortiz
3B Vinny Castilla
2B Marlon Anderson
C Brad Ausmus
SS Craig Counsell

Mike Mussina
Chris Carpenter
Mark Buehrle
Jeff Weaver
C.C. Sabathia

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