As Hammen pointed out in yesterday's comments, I completely forgot Detroit now has Edgar Renteria (aka Mr. National League) at shortstop this year. This apparently means Inge is on the outside looking in. Not sure if this make the Tigers better or worse. Guess we'll find out.
Onto the National League.
Atlanta Braves: Check out this starting rotation - John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton, Chuck James. If this were 10 years ago this team would be the favorite to win it all, although I'm not sure James would have been out of grammar school at that point. The lineup is decent for the NL. Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira, Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur provide some punch, but will it be enough?
Reasons to be concerned: Smoltz, Glavine and Hampton are a combined 116 years old; Hudson wasn't that effective last season; they play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball; will the fill ins for the departed Renteria and Andruw Jones pick up the slack?
Reasons to be excited: Kelly Johnson is just a stud; experienced (old) pitching staff should keep the team in most games.
Florida Marlins: I was tempted to say that this team is going to be better than many people think, but considering who they have on the roster, that would mean winning 50 games. Sanchez should be back and healthy, but will he be as effective? When you have an infield that includes Jose Castillo, Dallas McPherson and Dan Uggla you're going to have a tough time winning games. Of course, McPherson could finally figure it out and have a spectacular season, Hanley Ramirez will produce and maybe Josh Willingham will get it all together.
Reason to be concerned: Depending mightily on very young players and potential; will the young pitchers develop or crash and burn?
Reason to be excited: Ramirez. Son of a bitch!
New York Mets: Made the single biggest splash that will cause ripple effects all season. The Johan trade made this team an instant favorite. Don't forget they still have John Maine and Pedro, too. This team could be scary good if Willie Randolph finally comes out of his coma. On the other hand, Billy Wagner is still their closer. Yikes!
Reason to be concerned: Age and health of Beltran and Moises Alou; El Duque still pitching; Jason Vargas and his career 5.81 ERA could be your fifth starter.
Reason to be excited: Seriously? Johan; Pedro; Reyes; Wright; Endy Chavez making a nuisance of himself; Johan. Did I mention Johan?
Philadelphia Phillies: Did you know the Phillies won this division last year? It's true! So much attention was paid to the Mets disasterous collapse, the Phillies' manic run during the last three weeks was over looked. Sure they shit the bed in the playoffs, but that's what happens when you have mediocre pitching. Good thing they improved that....oh...um....
Reason to be concerned: Adam Eaton; Jamie Moyer; Brett Myers; Rowland no longer in center field; Burrell still in left field.
Reason to be excited: Hey, they basically did it with this same team last year; Ryan Howard; Jimmie Rollins; Cole Hamels.
Washington Nationals: Very interesting team. Could be the surprise team of the year, actually. Austin Kearns, Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo, Elijah Dukes, Dmitri Young, Ryan Zimmerman. They'll either explode and make an exciting run or implode by having daily fist fights in the dugout. Either way this is going to be one entertaining team.
Reason to be concerned: Elijah Dukes is on your team; not much pitching to look forward to.
Reason to be excited: Dukes does have the talent; so does Milledge; if both bond with former bad boy Dmitri Young there is no limit to what they could do.
Chicago Cubs: I can't shake the feeling this team isn't done dealing. Rumors have them going after Brian Roberts, but they seem to need another big bat in the outfield. All they have now is Soriano and spare parts. Will Matt Murton finally get his shit together? Is Kosuke Fukudome (the greatest name for playing in Wrigley Field EVER) that good?
Reasons to be concerned: Lack of outfielders; DeRosa's heart; Pinella's blood pressure.
Reasons to be excited: I liked the Leiber pickup over the winter. With him this team now runs out a starting rotation of Zambrano, Rich Hill, Ted Lilly, Jon Leiber and Jason Marquis. Not bad at all. Oh, and you get to watch Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.
Cincinnati Reds: I don't care that you hired Dusty Baker - who I always thought was over rated anyway - for your team, if you don't have players there is nothing a big name manager can do to help you. Other than Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr who else is on this team? Unless I'm missing something, this is going to be a long year for Red fans.
Reasons to be concerned: Honestly? Have you seen this team? I just scrolled through your roster and recognized the names of 5 players and two of them were because they played for the Red Sox at one point.
Reasons to be excited: You may be a part of the Scott Hatteberg farewell tour. Cherish the memories.
Houston Astros: Strange makeup here. It seemed like they were going into full rebuilding mode, but then suddenly picked up walking subpeona Miguel Tejada and Kaz Matsui. Carlos Lee is still around, as is Mark Loretta and Lance Berkman, but it's difficult envisioning this team finishing above .500.
Reasons to be concerned: Starting pitching; age of every infielder on the roster is over 30; no visible plan in place.
Reasons to be excited: Roy Oswalt seems healthy (for how long?); um....Kaz Matsui is your new second baseman? I guess that's something.
Milwaukee Brewers: The surprise team of last season didn't really do much to improve on that over the winter. They sort of jogged in place by picking up Mike Cameron and now have the steroid all star bullpen with Eric Gagne and Guillermo Mota. Should still be a fun team to watch with Fielder, but you would have thought they would have gone for broke this year.
Reasons to be concerned: Ben Sheets health (continued); lack of pitching upgrades; Gagne in the bullpen.
Reasons to be excited: Fielder; old friend Gabe Kapler making his comeback; Mike Cameron making a great diving catch at least once a game.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Between Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, this lineup isn't nearly as bad as I thought. LaRoche, Sanchez and Bay all had subpar 2007s, so if they pick things up.....yeah, I'm not buying it, either. I tried.
Reasons to be concerned: Here's a sure warning sign your team is in major trouble: 3rd on your relief pitcher depth chart is one Byung-Hyun Kim. He's like a weather man in New England - no matter how poorly he performs there is always another job waiting for him.
Reasons to be excited: You still have Freddy Sanchez. If it weren't for the 2 World Series wins in the past 4 years, Red Sox fans would still be mourning that trade.
St Louis Cardinals: House cleaning at it's finest. Gone are Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and arrived are Troy Glaus (who I bet thrives in the NL) and reclamation project Matt Clement. Can you imagine? Watch him win the Cy Young. We all saw what they did Joel Pineiro last season.
Reasons to be concerned: Pujols' elbow; Mark Mulder's effectiveness; Rick Ankiel's expired HGH prescription; Tony LaRussa's drinking problem.
Reasons to be excited: The continuation of the Rick Ankiel Story; watching Pujols hit every day; the career year Glaus is about to have.
Arizona Diamondback: I really, REALLY like this team. Considering they made a nice run last year in the playoffs then added Dan Haren and a seemingly healthy - if ancient - Randy Johnson to their mix this is going to be a fun team to watch.
Reasons to be concerned: Randy Johnson's back; Eric Byrnes not matching last season's production; real possibility of Brynes and Upton smashing heads as they both dive for the same fly ball; still have a Drew on the team. Wait, is that still officially a bad thing?
Reasons to be excited: How about a rotation of Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, Randy Johnson and Doug Davis pitching in the NL; outfield of Justin Upton, Chris Young and Eric Byrnes; Orlando Hudson.
Colorado Rockies: Raise your hand if you think this team can repeat last year's success? Ok, raise your hand if you aren't from Colorado. Considering the historic run they went on just to make the playoffs, I can't see them making it back. Although I did like the Mark Redman pickup and Holliday, Tulowitzki, and Helton are all back. And I like Atkins, too. You know what? I just talked myself into thinking this team could be good.
Reasons to be concerned: Starting rotation of Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez (who should be playing soccer with that name); can they catch lightning in a bottle again?
Reasons to be excited: Getting to watch Holliday; team seems greater than the sum of it's parts and actually enjoy playing together.
Los Angeles Dodgers: A minor renovation over the summer without sacrificing too many of their prized prospects. Plus they upgraded from Grady Little to Joe Torre, something I wish the Red Sox had done on October 15th, 2003. Plus, if both Penny and Schmidt are healthy all year, they have one hell of a rotation. Well done, Dodgers, well done.
Reasons to be concerned: Jason Schmidt's arm; Esteban Loaiza's ERA; Nomar being Nomar again; Andruw Jones hitting .220 again; Jeff Kent decomposing on the field.
Reasons to be excited: Addition of Mark Sweeney; potential of Furcal, Nomar, Jones, Kent lineup; Joe Torre managing a more talented team.
San Diego Padres: There is something about the Padres organization that always seems to revive a pitcher's career. Just look at Greg Maddux who is pitching again this year. I bring this up because the Padres took a small gamble with huge potential when they signed Mark Prior. Yeah, that Mark Prior. If he is indeed healthy for once, this allows the Padres to throw out Peavy (2.54 ERA), Young (3.12), Prior (career 3.51), and Maddux (career 3.11). Holy shit!
Reasons to be concerned: Prior's injury history; a pair of 37 year olds (Edmonds, Giles) in the outfield; not much done to improve last season's anemic offense.
Reasons to be excited: Seriously, holy shit! Did you see that rotation? They really don't need offense with that; Edmonds is fun to watch when healthy; Khalil Greene's hair; Adrian Gonzalez's bat.
San Francisco Giants: Hard to figure what the Giants were trying to do this past winter. They finally cut ties with Bonds which lifted $18 million a year on the payroll and the black storm cloud hovering over the clubhouse, but the only big pickup was Aaron Rowand. He's solid and plays hard every night, but isn't he just a younger version of Dave Roberts who is still on the team? Definitely not someone who will change the fortunes of a team.
Reasons to be concerned: Barry Zito having another shitty year; lineup that replaced that most prolific (if inflated) hitter in history with Aaron Rowand. Honestly....
Reasons to be excited: Maybe last year was a transition for Zito; Lincecum back and healthy (for now); beautiful ballpark; enjoying Benjie Molina's 2 minute 'run' to first base; very real possibility that Bonds was holding this team back (Ewing Theory for you Simmons' readers).
That's all, friends. I hope you all are as excited as I am for this season.
For the record, here are the things I am personally excited to watch this season:
- The ring presentation on Fenway's opening day
- Johan Santana mowing down those NL lineups
- Pedro motivated back to deadly form by Johan's presence (is this the first 1-2 punch in history where last names are unnecessary?)
- Full season of Lester, Buchholz, Ellsbury
- The drama that will be the Yankees
- Clemens being convicted of perjury
- Ortiz hitting with a good knee again
- Buster Olney's daily blog
- 'Baseball Tonight'
- Actually making a game in person this year. Yeah, good luck to me....
Today's distraction: Hit some home runs to get in the groove. You have to hit the Play Game button and make sure you turn down your volume if you're at work.