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Browns 14, Raiders 3

I still can't figure out whether my AL Central predictions were way off, or whether the AL Central is way off, waiting to be corrected over time. I picked the Indians to win the Central, I thought the White Sox, who had everything break right in 2005, would regress to solid-but-not-spectacular 90-win status and finish 2nd, I thought the Twins, on the strength of their outstanding rotation, would finish 3rd, I thought the Tigers, a talented but flawed team, would finish 4th, and I figured the Royals would find a way to finish 6th.

Currently, I'm looking a tad foolish, as the White Sox, thanks to the league's best rotation and the key acquisition of Jim Thome, appear to be better, not worse, than last year; meanwhile the Tigers have decided to put it all together, and the Indians have generally been pretty average.

But there's a reason they play 162 games to decide who's best, and for the moment I'm sticking with my original opinion. I think the Indians have what it takes to win the Central--and tonight they showed why, getting a solid start from the back-end of their rotation, and piling on the offense even on a night when Victor Martinez just sat back and watched. Cleveland leads the American League in many offensive categories, and that's no fluke. Meanwhile, the Indians have three starters (C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Jake Westbrook) who may not be aces but are either #2s or luxury #3s, and the Tribe also has perfectly solid back-end starters in Jason Johnson and Paul Byrd.

Meanwhile, the White Sox look awfully good and they may simply be better than I thought, but they are also 18-4 lately. Be careful about judging a team right when they have gone 18-4. There are worse days ahead for the White Sox; it's just the nature of being that hot. And when Chicago comes back to earth, and when the Tigers come back to the place reserved for all that is not cream, the Twins will still be hard pressed to score enough runs--and when all that happens, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner will still be hitting machines, 3/5 of the Indians rotation will still be damn good and the other 2/5 will be damn decent, and Bob Wickman will still be leaving the bases loaded with a nasty nothing-ball at the knees.

All of which is to say, tonight wasn't pretty and the A's didn't play very well, but they may have been beaten by the best. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.