We have always encouraged our writers to express their opinions below their signatures, even when those opinions represent something less than the unanimous conclusion of the rest of the staff. And, as all of us are well aware, few sports present an opportunity for more assorted conclusions than baseball. Writer X, for example, may argue that the Cincinnati Reds are a much sounder team than they appear to be and should win the pennant by 10 games. Well, that's fine with us and we print it and everyone is happy in Cincinnati. Who isn't happy is Writer Y, who was preparing to announce that the real surprise team of this year's National League race will be the Houston Astros.
This lively divergence of opinion—which really isn't quite as anarchistic as it sounds—adds savor to the creation of our annual Baseball Issue, which you are now reading. The form charts (page 65) on the 20 teams in the two leagues are the work of half a dozen editors and writers working in (more or less) harmony. The unsigned judgments offered in the Outlook section at the bottom of each form chart are the collective opinion of the whole half dozen, and therefore rarely reflect with precision any one opinion. If Writer Z (most of our writers have short names) hears some reader say "I hear you guys are picking Detroit," he beats his head against the wall because he knows that even with Johnny Sain the Tiger pitching just isn't that good. He didn't pick Detroit. Somebody else did. And so on.
As the form charts went to press with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S group thinking on the pennant races frozen in type, I asked the baseball staff to give me their individual predictions, and I found myself fascinated not only by what they disagreed on but by their surprising unanimity of opinion in certain odd areas. They couldn't settle on a pennant winner in either league (only two picked the Pirates, only two—and not the same two—picked the Orioles), but four said the Phillies, who are third in the betting odds, would collapse into the second division. And while the Cardinals are rated sixth in the odds, three of our men pick them third and all agree that the Cards will finish in the first division. But though everyone says that Baltimore, Minnesota and Detroit will monopolize the top three spots in the American League standings, there is no agreement on the order. Moreover, two think that the Kansas City Athletics will surprise and finish in the first division but another snorts that the A's will finish ninth. And nobody liked Cincinnati, not even Writer X.
As for me, last year I picked the Yankees as my sleeper (they slept). This time I think I'll switch leagues and pick the Dodgers.
Although Florida has lost its baseball teams, now that spring training is over and the season is under way to the north and west, the state is going to gain in its baseball coverage. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is now airlifting about 27,000 copies a week from our printing plant in Chicago to Post Office Sectional Centers in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami. This means that all our Florida subscribers will now have the magazine by Friday each week, and a high percentage will actually receive it on Thursday.