It’s about that time, don’t you think?
Time to preview the upcoming baseball season and see what’s what? Normally, I would rundown an entire league in one entry, but I need to pace myself this year. Writing those took a chunk of time and I’m maxed out as it is.
Instead, let’s just take things by division. There won’t be any schedule on when I get to each one, but I’ll try to plow through them in the next week or two.
Today is the division near and dear to my heart. The American League East.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
2008 status: 68-93 while unseating the Devil Rays' long running monopoly on last place in the division.
Key Offseason Moves: Extending Brian Roberts’ contract four years and a cool forty million; signing Cesar Ituris for two years, Gregg Zaun for one year, extending Nick Markakis for six years; trading for Rich Hill and Ryan Freel.
What’s It All Mean: A mediocre to dreadful season by the Inner Harbor. Another hodge podge of signing other players that no other teams want for more money than they needed to. I can understand locking up Roberts and Markakis, but they desperately needed some sort of pitching help and the best they could get was Rich Hill who the Cubs basically gave away for the infamous PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later).
Wild Card: This now leaves the Orioles with a top three rotation of the wildly inconsistent Daniel Cabrera, Jeremy Guthrie and Rich Hill, who’s health is more up in the air than a Nevada Ranch Bunny’s legs. There’s a chance they could pull a Devil Ray’s like resurgence and shock the world, but – like all Oriole fans – we aren’t holding out much hope.
Bottom Line: See you in 2010.
BOSTON RED SOX
2008 Status: 95-67; second place; lost to Rays in ALCS
Key Offseason Moves: Picking up John Smoltz and Brad Penny at the injured, aged pitcher flea market; being outbid by the Yankees for Mark Teixiera; not bringing Manny back; monitoring the health of David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett; trading Coco Crisp for oatmeal; resigning an over the hill Varitek; bringing in Rocco Baldelli (which might turn into the best move all year).
What’s It All Mean: While they have a potentially killer starting 5 (Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, Masterson, Penny/Wakefield/Smoltz) both the Yankees and Rays have improved themselves this past offseason while the Sox sat at the kid table picking up any scraps that fell their way. True, they didn’t over spend but, ironically, that may cost them in the long run.
Wild Card: It’s easy to point to the health of everyone (already Lowell is being held out because he’s still having trouble moving with the bad hip), but Jacoby Ellsbury is the key to this year’s team. 2008 was his first full season and he went through the struggles common to most rookies. If he’s as dynamic and sparks the offense like we all thought he would last year, this team will be tough.
Bottom Line: They’ll be in contention as always, but any long term injury issues and this could be the year they fall into third place.
NEW YORK YANKEES
2008 Status: 89-73. Third place.
Key Offseason Moves: Signing CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixiera (who should have used his initials to fit in) to a combined four trillion dollars; convinced Mike Mussina to retire; resigning Pettitte for half of what they initially offered; convincing Joe Torre to crush A-Rod in his book; leaking A-Rod’s positive test to the media in hopes of getting out of his massive contract; changing Derek Jeter’s oil; declining options on Giambi and Pavano. Remember this last item when Teixiera and Burnett shit the bed three years from now.
What’s It All Mean: On paper this team is deadly, but there is no way to tell what to expect from them. There is so much controversy and hoopla surrounding the team it basically hinges on how well Girardi motivates them and keeps the team focused. If Torre were still there, they would be fine. Unfortunately for Yankee fans, Girardi is no Torre.
Wild Card: Where do we even start here? Can Sabathia deal with the pressures of being a Yankee? Let’s not forget he was nearly begging the Angels to match the Yankee offer before signing on the dotted line. Which Burnett will show up this year? How will A-Rod react to the steroid story? I see two scenarios: 1: He has a monster season as a ‘Fuck you’ to all his doubters. 2: He curls into a fetal position and refuses to leave the dugout. Flip a coin.
Bottom Line: It may seem like the Yankees spent wildly this offseason, but there is little difference in their operating procedures from past seasons. Sabathia should have a decent season, Burnett will be considered overpaid by July and Teixiera will be his usual steady self. If they aren’t in first place by June, expect Girardi to be on the hot seat.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
2008 Status: 97-65. First place and the first AL Pennant in team history.
Key Offseason Moves: Signing Pat Burrell to a smart, two year contract; letting Rocco Baldelli get away; signing old friend (and wifey heart throb) Gabe Kapler to one year deal; keeping most of their pieces from last season.
What’s It All Mean: The defending AL champs haven’t lost many pieces and certainly improved their offense by signing Burrell. All the speed, power and pitching is still in place to defend their crown. Even their bullpen is deeper this year – letting dynamo David Price loose for a full season and signing Jason Isringhausen to a minor league deal. Formerly a laughing stock, this club is making very smart, cost effective moves that should put them in the driver’s seat for years to come.
Wild Card: The year after hangover effect. Manager Joe Maddon should be able to over come that, but it’s always a risk for a young team.
Bottom Line: Contenders in what should be another fun year for the Tampa area. Let’s hope people actually come to watch this time.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2008 Status: 86-76; fourth place
Key Offseason Moves: Signing Kevin Millar, Matt Clement, Mike Maroth to minor league deals; not resigning Burnett; cutting loose Gregg Zaun. And I thought the Red Sox did nothing. Holy shit!
What’s It All Mean: Well, they still have Halladay and Vernon Wells…I guess. Oh and BJ Ryan. Man, if I’m a Blue Jays fan I am pissed! Figure they have a chance to win every fifth day when Halladay takes the mound, but I can’t see them doing much this year. Hell, Scott Rolen is playing third and I thought he retired two years ago.
Wild Card: Unless two or more rookies bust out I can’t think of one. Not one.
Bottom Line: Considering they don’t have a fleshed out starting rotation and are picking up pieces from the waiver scrap heap, I can’t see them finishing above .500 this season.
Up next: American League Central.
Today’s distraction: I’m putting this one out there for public opinion. This is the ‘cross eyed effect’ to make two pictures appear 3D, however I could not get it to work and only succeeded in making myself dizzy. I smell a hoax. Can anyone else get this to work as they describe?