Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Fortunately, the almost obscene four month gap between World Series victory and contract signing is finally closed, with a three year contract and a two year option Terry's prize for a job well done. Though a person's task may be eased by the use of superior tools (and Terry's had some of the best available since he came to Boston), there's no one else Robin or I would want to see in sweatshirt and windbreaker in the command position on the Boston bench.
Friday, February 22, 2008
San Francisco Giants – AARP All-Stars
The Giants are going to be pretty bad; I think pretty much everyone in the modern world will agree with this. However, normally when you have a bad team you look for a few bright spots. Let’s go down the checklist for the Bond-less Giants:
- Good young position players who might make an impact: well, the Giants’ current infield (Aurilla, Vizguel, and Durham, plus a third baseman to be named later) is a combined 112 years old (no, that isn’t a typo), and the projected outfield of Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Dave Roberts has an average age of 33 – and they’re all signed through 2009.
- No really terrible contracts while we rebuild: Well, Barry Zito is making $126 million; Rowand got $60 mil for 5 years; and Randy Winn, Dave Roberts, and Bengie Molina are all signed through 2009. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what Brian Sabean was thinking, although it’s possible he thought he gets a discount if he has players eligible for social security…
Los Angeles Dodgers – Youth Movement…Please?
Look at that lineup of stars: Rafael Furcal, Nomar, Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre, with Jason Schmidt and Derek Lowe starting; that’s the makings of a solid team, right? Wait, you mean it’s no longer 2000?
This team might be in trouble.
Sarcasm aside, the Dodgers do have some serious talent coming. Matt Kemp (OF), James Loney (1B), Andy LaRoche (3B), and Russell Martin (C), plus pitchers Clayton Kershaw (best pitching prospect in the minors) and Chad Billingsley could all be big time players. However, the Dodgers went out and hired Joe Torre, who – though he’ll do a great job with the LA media and inspire player love – is very loyal to veterans and tends to not play rookies, which is what the Dodgers really need him to do.
The Dodgers are banking on a shaky likelihood of an Andruw Jones resurgence and the even shakier durability of Nomar, Kent, and Jason Schmidt, but probably have enough talent to win somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-80 games. If the youth gets to play, toss in some exciting upside and maybe some development for future season.
Colorado Rockies – Legit Threat or a Fluke Run
The Rockies’ insane run at the end of last season was sparked by a mixed group of veterans and kids throwing their brains out. The question is: was that success a flash in the pan, or are they solid ML starters? Francis at the top is good enough to get by with, and Cook will eat innings, but the Rockies need their younger starters to give enough quality innings to be successful. The success of their staff is dependant on what Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hirsh and Franklin Morales contribute. Jimenez held opponents to a .228 batting average in 15 starts, while Morales threw 8 solid outings down the stretch (3.43 ERA, 1.22 WHIP .241 BA against), and somehow I doubt those sets of numbers will be repeated for an entire season.. Hirsch didn’t last 20 starts, and Cook checked out in August, which really makes me concerned about the Rockies starters.
The bullpen, however looks pretty good. Hopefully, they will pull a video game move and use Manny Corpas closing and keep Fuentes setting up (The Rockies started clicking when they stopped blowing leads last year right when Fuentes got hurt). Luiz Vizcaino will benefit being back in the NL and should help stabilize the back of the bullpen, but if you’re a Rockies fan, make sure to take the time to enjoy that hanging slider flying 700 feet the other way in the mountain air or the walk of a hitter in a big spot. After watching Vizcaino for a year, both events are coming: you have been warned.
Offensively, I really like this team. Troy Tulowitzki can flat out play, even if you ca’nt pronounce or spell his last name, and Hawpe and Holliday (who will be in the MVP debate again in 2008, and a Free Agent soon after, thanks to Scott Boras) are legit middle of the order bats. Helton can still hit, Atkins can hit and if Taveras can get on base he is a nightmare of the basepath. That is a seriously deep lineup, especially for the NL, if they find any kind of pitching beyond Francis the Rockies will a force to reckon with this year. With that said, I expect the pitching to regress and the Rockies to be at most an 85 win team.
San Diego Padres – A Tale of Two Teams
The Padres have an outstanding pitching staff. Peavy (consistent Cy Young candidate) and Young at the top are a legit 1-2 combo. Maddux just keeps finding ways to win 12-15 games (he’s a machine). The combination of Randy Wolf, PETCO Park, and the national league should toss up some decent numbers, and Mark Prior for $1.5 million could be the year’s biggest steal if he gives the Padres anything in second half of the season. Hoffman is a great regular season closer, and they somehow manage to find success in their bullpen, regardless of who they toss in there. If you put a good offense behind that staff, the Padres would compete in the NL.
The offense is the problem, though: Apparently the Padres management forgot you need to actually score runs to win baseball games. Personally, I love their management strategy: Let’s take 2 guys with diminishing power (Jim Edmonds and Brian Giles at ages 36 and 37) put them in the best pitcher’s park in the NL, and ask them to be middle of order power threats. Seriously, how is this good idea? Khalil Green may or may not be a 30 HR a year guy, and Adrian Gonzalez is a legit bat at first base, but with minimal power in the outfield, the Padres would need a big bat at third, which means that Kevin Kouzmanoff will have to a giant year for the team to compete offensively. Everything is going to have to click for the Padres to score enough runs to win. Given their pitching, I am thinking around a .500 season for the Padres, with the possibility of putting up 88-89 wins for the third straight year if the offense hits enough.
Arizona Diamond Backs – Younger Brothers Strike Back
Arizona has two things going for them they’re very young and very good. Getting Haren from Oakland makes them scary, with probably the best 1-2 pitching punch in the baseball: Brandon Webb is a stud, and Haren had a 3.09 ERA in the AL. Doug Davis drops back to third in the rotation, and if the D-Backs get anything but sneers from Randy Johnson, they have a legit 1-4 in the rotation, with the added bonus of Robin’s latest man crush, Micah Owings. The biggest question mark is in the bullpen; the Diamonsbacks have Chad Qualls and a bunch of young arms, and are hoping 2 or 3 step up and become effective. I’m guessing Juan Cruz starts the season closing.
The youth and talent movement continues in the offense. Connor Jackson is a legit bat at first, Stephen Drew has struck a blow for younger brothers everywhere by becoming better than his older brother (Sorry JD, that 1 homerun doesn’t make you good) – and 27 year old Chad Tracy at third base is one year removed from a 20 HR, 80 RBI season. If he gets hurt, Arizona has Mark Reynolds, who hit .280 (.350 OBP) last year with 17 HRs and 60 RBIs; a fine option off the bench.
In the outfield, Byrnes stole 50 bases last year (yes, I was shocked, too) and while he’ll probably regress some, he’s still a productive player. Chris Young hit 32 bombs last year, and with a bit of strike zone control (.295 was his OBP, not his average) becomes a legit power threat. Last, but not least, there’s the most talented guy on the roster, 20-year-old Justin Upton. Unlike his brother BJ, he can play defense, and he’ll be this team’s best player by 2011. Overall, the Diamondback won 90 games last year, and added Dan Haren. I have no qualms about naming them my pick in the west, and my pick to represent the NL in the World Series.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Anyway, now the Red Sox have this OTHER guy. This other guy Jacoby...who can catch the ball...and run like the wind...and did all this awesome stuff in last year's playoffs. He's a young guy and a fan favorite and he's even a goddamn Indian (for true!).
And it just so happens he doesn't have that same problem Coco does.
So the Sox find themselves at a crossroads. Coco is the vet and "earned" the starting center feilder spot, but Jacoby is a super-rookie that should be playing there for the next 10 years if he is as good as we all think. Now Coco isn't happy and doesn't want to ride pine. He says he'd rather be traded...
Huh... good idea! So much for the crossroads. I guess you can put me in the "Trade Coco Quick" group of fans. Thanks for all the catches, Mr. Crisp. Thanks for staying crunchy in milk.
Monday, February 18, 2008
The AL Central was one of the most active divisions in all of baseball this winter. The Tigers and White Sox both made more splashes than a pool full of 8 year olds surrounded by skeevy, van driving pedophiles and, according to all the Mets fans I know, the Twins made a trade. Even the Royals signed a couple of guys who are better than your average little leaguer.
Last season the Indians tied the Red Sox with the best record in the American League and only lost home field advantage because of head-to-head record. The Tigers were also a force for most of the season and would have gobbled up the Wild Card had it not been for a late season collapse. This year Cleveland’s team is basically a mirror image of itself and the Tigers are one of the most improved in baseball. The result is a division that is gearing up for a tight race and possibly two teams in the playoffs. How will the rest fare? Here’s what my crystal ball says:
Last Place - Kansas City Royals
Off Season: The Royals signed some bona fide free agents this winter. They took some strides to sure up their bullpen with Ron Mahay, acquired a formidable backup catcher in Miguel Olivo and replaced the craptastic Odalis Perez with a veteran starter, Brett Tomko. They also took a shot on Jose Guillen despite a possible steroid backlash and on Yasuhiko Yabuta, the latest question mark from the other side of the big tranquil pond.
Pitching: Last year Gil Meche showed everyone where they could stick their criticism of his contract by posting a respectable 3.67 ERA and a .263 batting average against. Unfortunately he only managed 9 wins to go with his 13 losses. But let’s be fair, he was the ace of the Kansas City Royals. That’s like being the head of the Ewoks: yeah, you’re the best they have, but you’re still leading a bunch of possessed teddy bears with no discernable strengths. Rounding out the Royals staff is the second year Brian Bannister (pretty great last year as an undrafted rookie), Zack Greinke (amazing comeback after suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder), and Tomko. There’s some talent here and the three youths may benefit from Tomko’s experience.
Lineup: This truly is a collection of young talent and role players with a couple of veterans sprinkled in. Alex Gordon (24 years old), Tony Pena Jr. (26), Billy Butler (21), Mark Teahen (26) and David DeJesus (28) may all become really good players. Unfortunately it will most likely be on other teams.
Bullpen/Bench: Just like every other small market team, the Royals’ weakness is depth. Other than Olivo at catcher, they really don’t have anyone on their bench worth mentioning. Similarly, other than potential stud closer Joakim Soria, the bullpen is bad enough to make KC fans want to drown themselves in those beautiful fountains they have in Kauffman Stadium.
Fourth Place – Chicago White Sox
Off Season: As usual GM Kenny Williams had a difficult time taking his finger off the trigger this winter. Honestly, this guy is like the Billy the Kid of baseball! Has he ever been happy with the team he has? This year five guys (including Jon Garland and Darin Erstad) are gone, replaced by the likes of Nick Swisher, Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink, and our beloved Orlando Cabrera.
Pitching: The rotation is anchored by perennial workhorse Mark Buehrle, along with Javier Vazquez and Jose Contreras. Unfortunately, Buehrle’s seven consecutive 200+ inning seasons may be getting to him, Vazquez is a classic National League pitcher and Contreras looked extremely hittable last year (an understatement). The rest of the rotation is rounded out by a couple of prospects who have yet to be bitten by the successful pitching bug.
Lineup: This is pretty much the same story as the pitching with different. If this lineup has any pop it will have to come from some guys who are so long in the tooth that the tooth is actually dragging on the ground (Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, and Jim Thome). These guys are breaking down and consequently their physical ages are much older than their actual ages. I do like the spark that Cabrera will provide, but during Spring Training he better get a lot of practice handing his helmet and gloves to the base coaches and strolling to his position.
Bullpen/Bench: The White Sox do have some significant 2007 experience with Jerry Owens and Josh Fields on the pine. Owens goes around the bases faster than Taco Bell goes through a human body (32 SBs last year) and Fields has some power (23 HR), but they can’t score many runs buried behind Dye and Joe Crede. The bullpen has a solid closer (Jenks) proceeded by a coveted set up man (Linebrink). Other than that, this pen is like a who’s who of suckage.
Third Place – Minnesota Twins
Off Season: To say that the Twins had a rough winter is like saying a kick to the junk with a steel-toed boot might sting. Things started off really well when they scored promising youngsters Delmon Young and Brendan Harris from the Rays for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. Things went down hill from there and in the end the Twins gave away Johan Santana for some prospects and a bag of yard tools and failed to resign Torii Hunter. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s twp “face of the franchise” types (Santana & Hunter) and three-fifths of last year’s starting rotation (Santana, Garza, and Carlos Silva) gone. They were able to add some nice pieces – Adam Everett, Livan Hernandez, Mike Lamb, and Craig Monroe – but overall this winter was a total disaster. Have fun opening up that new stadium next spring, fellas.
Pitching: The success of this team is going to be based entirely on the development of their young pitchers. Four of the starters on this team are 26 or younger and Livan Hernandez will have to be half mentor and half 15 game winner. If Francisco Liriano doesn’t bounce back from Tommy John to be an ace then Twins fans will start counting the days until hockey season in June.
Lineup: This is a young team with some serious talent. With Torii Hunter leaving, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer gain ownership of this team (not literally; if they really owned the team then they’d probably have spent some money on pitching). The Twins also have two mashers in the outfield (Young and Michael Cuddyer) and solid prospects up the middle (Harris and Carlos Gomez). They could use a power bat for DH though. Somebody give them Sammy Sosa’s number.
Bullpen/Bench: As usual the Twins’ bullpen is one of their biggest strengths. Is it just me or do these guys always have a nasty relief staff? Joe Nathan continues to be one of the most automatic closers in the league, and the set up guys are all guys you would trust to protect a lead. However, if the starters can’t eat up enough innings then all bets are off. The bench also looks pretty solid. Craig Monroe and Nick Punto are both serviceable big leaguers and will probably see some platoon time if either Adam Everett or Carlos Gomez stumble.
Second Place – Cleveland Indians – WILD CARD
Off Season: If you think the Red Sox decided not to do anything this year then hit your knees and thank God you’re not a Cleveland Indians fan. They lost next to nothing and they gained even less. Like the Royals, the Indians decided the relievers in this part of the world are so terrible that they went to the Land of Rising Curveball to bring in Masahide Kobayashi. All I can say is that I hope he’s related to the guy who wins all those hot dog eating contests. They also went out and traded for Jamey Carroll to be a super-sub.
Pitching: The strength of this team is absolutely, one-hundred percent, without a doubt the starting pitching. Last year CC Sabathia won his first Cy Young Award and Fausto Carmona gave Red Sox fans nightmares. These guys treated the league like Sean Connery treats Alex Trebek. Throw in “Mr. Consistency” Paul Byrd and a serviceable Jake Westbrook (baseball-reference.com lists Bronson Arroyo as a similar pitcher), and you’ve got a staff that will give you a chance to win everyday.
Lineup: This lineup is all about having the right pieces. They have a superstar (borderline super-duper star) in Grady (and his ladies) Sizemore, two home run and RBI guys (Martinez and Pronk), a couple of talented yutes (Franklin Gutierrez and Ass-dribble Cabrera), and a bunch of solid puzzle pieces (Blake, Peralta, Garko and Michaels). You can win with that. You just can’t win enough to take this division.
(Sidenote: All bets are off if the Indians management somehow convinces Casey Blake that every game is last year’s playoff series against the Red Sox. Seriously how many times did that guy get on base? I may have been drinking but I feel like he got like 50 hits off of us in like 5 games. By the end I wanted to light his beard on fire.)
Bullpen/Bench: The bench on this team is pretty solid with Carroll backing up the entire infield and OBP master David Dellucci as the outfield sub…you know, if you go in for that whole stats thing. The Indians’ middle relief was strong last year and should be again this year. However, having Joe Borowski closing games may prove to be like finishing a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Robert DiNero with a meaningful, heartfelt speech by Jimmy Fallon.
First Place – Detroit Tigers – PLAYOFFS (WORLD SERIES?)
Off Season: This team spent the winter going from good to terrifying. Out go big name players like Omar Infante, Chris Shelton, Sean Casey, Chad Durbin, and Mike Rabello and in come Denny Bautista, Jacque Jones, Edgar Renteria, Dontrelle Willis, and this guy Miguel Cabrera (maybe you’ve heard of him). That is like upgrading from a certificate from your local community college to a PhD from Harvard. Oh, and for all of you who keep saying Cabrera is eating himself out of the league, think about this: in Florida the guy had no veteran leadership and nothing to play for, Detroit doesn’t exactly have that problem. Can’t you picture Pudge and Sheff knocking Young Miguel’s lunch tray out of his hands and saying something like, “You can eat when you look like a ballplayer again.”
Pitching: All I’ve heard recently is that Dontrelle isn’t going to be good in the American League. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, he doesn’t need to be. The guy is going to be the number three starter in this rotation, not the ace, with two studs at the top of the rotation (Verlander and Bonderman) before you even get to Willis. Then they hit you with Kenny Rogers, who is quickly reaching “ageless wonder” status and finish up with Nate Robertson who is one of the most solid #5 starters in the league.
Lineup: Pitchers everywhere are waking up with cold sweats thinking about facing this lineup. The Tigers start All Stars at seven of nine positions (and it’s only a matter of time before Granderson joins the crowd). They have speed, power, and on-base guys. They have youthful exuberance and veteran leadership. They have one of the top leadoff hitters in the league, two of the best number two hitters (which means one will probably bat seventh) and a three-four-five of a star (Magglio Ordonez), a potential Hall of Famer (Sheff) and a budding super-duper star (Cabrera). But don’t worry, they only follow all of that up with a sure thing Hall of Famer (Pudge). Ugh, let’s move on before I start ripping shots.
Bullpen/Bench: Not only does this team have a dominant lineup, but they have the perfect medicine to combat the dreaded injury bug: a stacked bench. Brandon Inge has been really good for a couple of years, and Jacque Jones will probably be in a platoon in left with Thames. Ryan Raburn hit .304 in 138 at bats last season and Vance Wilson is a serviceable backup for Pudge. If this team does have one weakness, it’s the bullpen. Joel Zumaya is reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery from injury, which could turn out to be the X-factor. The rest of the pen looks fairly pedestrian and Todd Jones makes Joe Borowski look like Catfish Hunter. But then again, Todd Jones has never been a dominant closer and yet managed to save 38 games last season. Even as a weakness, this bullpen doesn’t scream fatal flaw.
This division looks very good. The Tigers and Indians should both make the playoffs and the Tigers have a definite chance at the World Series. The bottom three teams aren’t good enough to compete for the division but could definitely play spoiler if any teams involved in a race has to play them late in the season.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Item the first: Spring Training starts tomorrow! Officially! Now we can start obsessing over the important things, like whether or not Schilling's career is over or he's just the victim of the rumor mill (oh, the irony), if Josh Beckett became a fat sack of crap over the winter or if photographer Matt Stone is a just a vindictive SOB, how Craig Hansen's sleep patterns just matched J.D. Drew's sick kid as the "don't we feel like dicks for giving up on you" illness of the year, and whether or not they believe in business in the front, party in the back in Japan, too. That's not even taking into account the Coco/Ellsbury competition, Lester and Buchholz fighting for roster spots, Pedroia avoiding a sophomore slump, showing off the next class of Red Sox rookies, and seeing whether or not standing pat on a championship team will lead to massive ass bitings later on. I'm getting worked up just thinking about it.
Item the Second: We'll be running season previews in the coming weeks, detailing our predictions for all six major league divisions. Joining us in a reprise of our ego and superego feature will be guest columnists DC and Yankee Mike, along with Mets superfan Dave. We promise to be coherent and entertaining, which is almost too much to ask.
Item the Third: I don't like Roger Clemens. Robin doesn't like Roger Clemens. But that doesn't mean either one of us want the government running show trials in the name of finding facts about baseball. Look, guys: we understand you all love baseball as much as we do, and that as fans you want to know as much as anyone else how deeply the poison of HGH and steroids runs in the veins of the game. But the harsh light of Senate scrutiny isn't particularly illuminating when murky he said, he said statements are the name of the game and it's clear that the truth will remain buried somewhere in the darkness. Maybe Clemens is guilty, maybe he isn't, but it's a dead issue: he's out of baseball, the culture of steroids has begun to evaporate, and we've all accomplished the greater good by vilifying performance enhancements. Running an inquisition is just boring overkill.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Woah woah woah… not so fast Curt Schilling.
Apparently, Curt wasn’t so forthcoming in the injury department when Theo signed him to his 1 year $8 million dollar contract for the 2008 season. I guess when you have the reputation that Schilling has garnered, you get a simple “How’s the shoulder?” “Dude, its fine” instead of a complete physical when dealing with the Red Sox front office.
So it turns out that Mr. 38 Pitches has this major rotator cuff tear that may require season/career ending surgery OR at the very least he will be out till the All-Star break. Now besides the fact the Sox are down a major player in the rotation, they are also out a few barrels of kimchi due to Curts big ‘ol payday. Yet, it seems Curt may have knew his shoulder was no good (didn’t anyone see how banged up he was last season?) and the Sox are trying to void his contract.
That fact alone leads me to believe that Schilling will never play for the Sox again. No way you try to get out of a deal with this blabber-mouth and think that it’s all going to be hunky-dory when he gets better. No way. Do you know how much blog mileage he is gonna get out of this? I bet he’s already talked John McCain’s ear off about how nobody should disrespect him like this. Ugh… this can only end in separation.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Curt Schilling. I recognize his greatness, his accomplishments and I was looking forward to him ending his career in Boston. Also, I was expecting 12 wins out of him… but the guy is old, hurt and talks too much. Time to cut the chain.
On a similar note, I love our front office, but HOW is this a surprise to anyone? The guy was a legendary “workhorse” pitcher that’s now on the wrong side of 40! He was going to be the walking wounded even if his arm wasn’t already falling off.
Anyway, this is a roster spot easily filled by Buchholz and Tavarez paring off like oddest couple since Felix and Oscar, so it isn’t a disaster by any stretch of the imagination. I just feel that this would have been best handled a few months ago, but now we’re going to go through the whole “surgery no surgery, contract no contract” rigmarole. I can tell you right now that this is going to be draining.
But it’s not ALL bad… Truck Day on Saturday! Pitchers and Catchers! It’s almost baseball time baby!
And it's COCK FIGHT TIME! Wait... what?
UPDATE: It only took a few hours for the whole situation to get screwy. Now Schilling says he won't get surgery, didn't mean to cause trouble, and will fall in line. He's gonna rehab it out till after the All-Star break. We have to wait and see i guess.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Bobby Kielty fits into that class of players - a guy who came to Boston to fill a backup role, had enough success to make him a bit of a go to guy when the outfield fell apart in August, motivated Robin to talk in a Jamaican accent when speaking of his exploits, and established a cult hero legacy amongst those of us who know best by pinch hitting the home run that won the World Series. Rest assured: Bobby Kielty will be one of those guys we remember 20 years from now during a night of drinking and BSing about the Sox.
And now he might be coming back for another go, backing up Ellsbury in what will hopefully the young outfielder's triumphant rookie season. Non-guaranteed $800,000 contract, fighting for a roster spot with Coco Crisp? Sounds like Bobby's got a good chance of making his Boston legacy grow.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Naw I'm just kidding. Sean Casey for $800,000 and 1 year is a good deal and it gives us an option when Youk or Lowell need to sit. The guy hits for good average (but no power) and can KILL lefties. I love that. Anyone who can do that gets a special gold star in my book (it's a picture book).
Also, this is a premium clubhouse guy. The Mayor already has an established following, a great nickname and he is gonna mesh really well with this group of goofballs and headcases.
So that's the corner bench guy, Cora has the middle infield, Coco and Jacoby backing each other (and Manny and Drew) in the outfield, and Beilli and the alternate backstop. So is that the bench? This what we're going with?
I like it... I'm hip.