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The Boston Globe

Sports

Bob Ryan

World Series winner? Nobody knows

Don’t tell me you know, because you don’t know. Nobody knows who will win the 2013 World Series.

People ask me, “Do the Red Sox have a chance?” The answer, of course, is “Yes.” The Red Sox could easily win, but so could Detroit, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles. So, yes, I’m eliminating Texas, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. I don’t think any of those three could win three series in succession in this field, but the Pirates’ playoff presence is proof low budget teams can succeed.

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That leaves eight teams with a legitimate chance, two of which — Tampa Bay and Oakland — are distinctly low-budget. Oh, how Bud must be beaming.

Let’s take a look.

American League

Boston

World Series championships — 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007.

Major strength — Balance. There is no MVP candidate. The closest thing to a Cy Young guy is Koji Uehara. No position player had a monster year. A no-quit team built for the 162-game grind. Never lost more than three games in a row.

Major weakness — The lineup is equally capable of flailing its way through a three-hit shutout as it is of banging out a dozen hits. The season-long question of who pitches the eighth.

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Biggest surprise 1 — How good a manager John Farrell turned out to be. The people in Toronto can’t believe it.

Biggest surprise 2 — Who else? The Amazing Mr. Uehara.

X-factor — Health of Jacoby Ellsbury, an irreplaceable offensive component.

Detroit

World Series championships — 1935, 1945, 1968, 1984.

Major strength 1 — A deep starting rotation of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister.

Major strength 2 — The minefield represented by Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez.

Major strength 3 — Manager Jim Leyland.

Major weakness — Catching the batted ball, unless it’s to the shortstop.

X-factor — A motivated Jhonny Peralta bashing the baseball.

Oakland

World Series championships — 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, 1930 (in Philadelphia); 1972, 1973, 1974, 1989 (in Oakland).

Major strength 1 — Rotation consisting of Bartolo Colon and a bunch of guys nobody can identify except that they all get people out.

Major strength 2 — Josh Donaldson and his near .900 OPS.

Major weakness — Damned if I know.

Fascinating fact — Four ex-Red Sox — Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss, Jed Lowrie, and Josh Reddick — in the everyday lineup.

Tampa Bay

World Series championships — none.

Major strength 1 — Arms, arms, arms. And more arms.

Major strength 2 — Joe Maddon is the most innovative, forward-thinking man in all of baseball.

Major weakness — Not exactly a fearsome lineup.

Sad reality — Great franchise wasted on unappreciative baseball market.

Cleveland

World Series championships — 1920, 1948.

Major strength 1 — They get a little bit of something from lots of people. Their individual offensive stats are underwhelming.

Major strength 2 — A capable manager named Francona who is ecstatic to be where he is, working for whom he works.

Major weakness — A candidate for a playoff one-hitter thrown at them.

Extra burden — Everyone in Cleveland knows they haven’t won in 65 years, and that includes a year (1954) when they won 111 games and got swept in the Series by the Giants.

Texas

World Series championships — none, in Washington or Dallas-Fort Worth.

Major strength — One great position player in Adrian Beltre and one potentially shutdown pitcher in Yu Darvish.

Major weakness 1 — Lineup a general shell of its 2009-11 self.

Major weakness 2 — Ron Washington’s a nice-guy manager who can’t run a game.

Sad fact — Shoulda/Coulda/Woulda won it all two years ago when they were twice within a strike of victory.

National League

Los Angeles

World Series championships — 1955 (in Brooklyn); 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988 (in Los Angeles).

Major strength 1 — Killer rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Major strength 2 — Many, many people who can hurt you with a bat in their hands.

Major weakness — Traffic getting to the game.

Sober reality — Get used to this. These people have the will and resources to dominate the game.

St. Louis

World Series championships — 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2011.

Major strength 1 — A whole gang of situational hitters who all play baseball the Right Way.

Major strength 2 — Solid pitching directed by Yadier Molina, the game’s best catcher.

Major weakness — .237/.297/.369 vs. lefties.

Believe it — Best baseball city? Hold all calls. We have a winner.

Atlanta

World Series championships — 1914 (in Boston); 1957 (in Milwaukee); 1995 (in Atlanta).

Major strength 1 — Everybody they throw out there can, and probably will, strike you out.

Major strength 2 — Especially Craig Kimbrel (over 13 Ks per 9 IPs).

Major weakness — Two guys who play a lot — B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla — are hitting a combined .185 or so in more than 830 ABs, and that’s no typo.

Cincinnati

World Series championships — 1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, 1990.

Major strength 1 — Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, etc. These guys can hit.

Major strength 2 — Seamheads detest him, but players seem to like playing for Dusty Baker.

Major strength 3 — Aroldis Chapman and his ridiculous 15 Ks per 9 IPs.

Major weakness — Lots of Nos 3 and 4 starters, but no true ace.

Pittsburgh

World Series championships — 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, 1979.

Major strength — Few, if any, better all-around players in the NL than MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen.

Major strength 2 — Francisco Liriano can get you two Ws in any given series.

Major weakness — Very spotty lineup. Lots of out men.

X-factor — Will they be inspired or will they act like a happy-to-be-here team?

I’m ready. Are you?

Bob Ryan's column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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