I will attempt to plow through the National League this week. The word ‘plow’ has some added meaning today as Boston is currently getting shat on by Mother Nature. At least 10 inches of snow – so far – with the possibility of more to come later this afternoon into evening .
Mother Nature can be a whore at times.
Let’s get right to it. The prospect of spring seems quite distant at the moment, so forgive my lack of enthusiasm. Maybe I’ll feel better writing about baseball. Anything to get my mind off my aching lower back.
National League East today.
2008 Status: 72-90; fourth place; era of dominance very much over.
Key Offseason Moves: Signed Derek Lowe to 4 year deal; Omar Infante to 2 year deal; Kelly Johnson, Tom Glavine and Garret Anderson to one year deals. Got Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan from the White Sox, though nobody is sure why.
What’s It All Mean: With Johnson, Chipper Jones, and Brian McCann there is a decent base for this team. The pitching, however, looks thin. Lowe and Vazquez as 1-2? Yikes. This is the National League, however, so they could have solid years.
Wild Card: Garret Anderson. What’s he got left? Also, keep an eye on Jair Jurrjens. 13-10 with 3.68 ERA last season and is only 23. For shits and giggles, imagine Lowe having his usual solid year, followed by Vazquez being reliable again, then this kid Jurrjens figuring it all out. Not a bad 1-3 if things fall into place.
Bottom Line: Unfortunately, too many things need to fall into place just right for them to even have a chance at the playoffs. Let’s not forget they share a division with the Mets and Phillies.
2008 Status: 84-77; surprise third place finish
Key Offseason Moves: Not a whole lot. Picked up some scraps like Jay Gibbons and Mike Ryan; traded for Jose Cede; resigned Wes Helms.
What’s It All Mean: The most important move they made was extending manager Fredi Gonzalez through the 2011 season. Take a look at this lineup (projected): John Baker, Jorge Cantu, Dan Uggla, Dallas McPherson, Hanley Ramirez, Cody Ross, Cameron Maybin, Jeremy Hermida, Automatic out in ninth spot. Now explain to me how this team won 84 games last year and only finished 7 games behind the Phillies – who happen to be the defending champs? Gonzalez should have won manager of the year for what he pulled with this team. (Actually, did he? I can’t remember who did. Manuel for the Phillies?)
Wild Card: Was it lightning in a bottle last year or is there something Twin-like going on in Florida?
Bottom Line: How the hell do I know? Other than Uggla and Ramirez I can’t see what this team has going for it. But Gonzalez is in charge and he can certainly gets the most out of his roster. Let’s just take a wait and see approach. That work?
NEW YORK METS
2008 Status: 89-73; second place; another suicide fall during the last month of the season.
Key Offseason Moves: Signed K-Rod and traded for JJ Putz in over-the-top attempt to prove to their fans that this year’s team is totally different than the last two; signed Ryan Church, John Maine, and Alex Cora to one year deals; Oliver Perez to three year deal; Livan Hernandez to minor league deal.
What’s It All Mean: Lineup still has their customary pop with Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado, so don’t expect much drop off from them. With Santana, Maine and Perez, the rotation looks to be in good shape, too. Still, can a team psychologically over come not one, but two late season collapses in as many years? If they’re up 3 games in September, do the collective sphincters of all the Met players tighten?
Wild Card: Santana’s elbow. He’s already being shelved for the rest of spring training until they know what’s going on, but elbow ‘soreness’ is never something you want to hear regarding your ace.
Bottom Line: The talent is here, as it’s always been. The question throughout this year will relate to mental toughness. Do these Mets have any?
2008 Status: 92-70, first place, World Series Champions
Key Offseason Moves: Signed Jamie Moyer to 2 year deal; Raul Ibanez to 3 year deal; extended Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels three years; Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton to one year deals. Released Adam Eaton and let Pat Burrell sign with Tampa Bay.
What’s It All Mean: Most of the transactions dealt with keeping the team together, the one replacement being Ibanez who will take Burrell’s spot. That should be considered an upgrade at best, breaking even at worst. With Utley, Howard, Rollins, and Ibanez this is the potentially the best lineup in the National League. Everyone would feel better if they picked up another quality starter to go with Hamels.
Wild Card: Howard. Will his batting average improve? Just think how far ahead the Phillies would have been if he didn’t have such a horrible first half. One red flag: They released Adam Eaton (which was logical) but basically replaced him with Chan Ho Park. Is that an improvement?
Bottom Line: With most of the team returning, they’re in great position to make another run.
2008 Status: 59-102; last place in division and every free agent list
Key Offseason Moves: Very busy bees this past offseason but most of the moves involved prospects or players nobody has heard of before. The exception being the signing of Adam Dunn for two years and driving the Teixiera price up for the Yankees.
What’s It All Mean: Signing Dunn and pretending to be players in the Teixiera and Manny sweepstakes makes it seem like they’re trying to put together a good team, but don’t all really good teams begin with pitching. Considering their enormous ball park you’d think they would have attempted to sign Lowe or traded for some reliable arms.
Wild Card: Two actually. Where are Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge? Could this be breakout years for one or both of them?
Bottom Line: Yes, they’ll be the bottom line for the NL East again.
Next up is the crowded NL Central.
Today’s distraction: Enjoy a Bigwheel backflip. Not sure why, but I find this hilarious. It’s impressive he manages to keep his feet off the ground the entire time.