previous years, I’ve used the six divisional columns to predict
records and make comments about the teams. This year, I’m debating
the records part. There will still be a summary column… so I’m
thinking of putting records over there if I do them.
now… let’s take a look at the AL East. The listing of teams is
in the order I’m predicting the division to finish…
doubt about it… toughest division in baseball. Yes, Tampa still
needs to prove they can deliver another strong performance, but
I actually think 88-90 wins is quite possible for them without
much of a problem at all. Toss in a man that arguably is the best
pitcher in the division taking the mound for the Blue Jays, and,
you could go a long way while arguing that the fourth best team
in this division could threaten several of the best teams in baseball
during an opening short-round of the playoffs.
it comes to winning this race the only question with the big three
is which team has come the closest to forecasting what their roster
will do (meaning they’re all good on paper… we need to find out
what will happen on the field). Will injuries strike? Will production
match expectations? Which team made investments that will work…
and which one made ones that won’t? The team that ended up preparing
over the course of a few yesterdays for what actually happens
this summer will end up taking the East.
Red Sox ~ Why do I think Boston will win this division?
One example is all I really need…
let me present this in a slightly different way. The Yankees signed
major players because they needed to get better. They
had to rebuild a rotation that was, in all honesty, well below
average coming out of 2008 and heading in to 2009. New York needed
to find help to even have a remote chance of making the playoffs.
signed John Smoltz to help them win in October. And that’s it.
went into the winter looking for help to win the World Series.
a matter of perspective… a matter of perception… and, essentially,
two different approaches completely. The Red Sox expect to be
in the playoffs this year, and they have made some tremendous
acquisitions to move in that direction.
don’t think of anyone on this club as a regular season ace. Josh
Beckett almost won the Cy Young award two years ago, but honestly,
his numbers and reputation are made in the playoffs. He’s been
the classic number two starter his entire career, and I don’t
expect much more than that through this season. But… add in Matsuzaka…
Lester… Wakefield… and you have a nice rotation there. So next
we have Penny and Smoltz and Buchholz and… well… I’m actually
expecting injuries or fatigue. (I look to Beckett and Wakefield
to miss time… but please remember that Matsuzaka didn’t pitch
for Boston the last time he starred in the World Baseball Classic,
and he had troubles last year.) But even with problems, pitching
shouldn’t be a problem.
Kotsay starts the season injured… but he showed last season that
he will be a valuable part of the club. He can join a deep outfield…
Bay and Ellsbury will be there all the time, but Baldelli can’t
play every day and J.D. Drew is… well… J.D. Drew. Nice when your
fifth option could start for most clubs.
happen to like Jed Lowrie, and I don’t think you can question
the remainder of the infield around him with Lowell, Pedroia and
Youkalis. I am concerned though… because with Lugo out, they don’t
have much depth to be giving Lowell some days off (as he returns
with a question mark or two after surgery). And with Lowrie committed
to short, that weakness is only magnified with Kotsay out, because
they can’t shift Youkalis.
these are small thoughts for a long season. The only concern I
have for Boston is after this year. Because I think Ortiz is winding
down his career. I hope I’m wrong… but I don’t know where Boston
goes to get a big hitter next season or the year after.
Bay Rays ~ Quiz time… name two similarities between the
following four players… James Shields… Matt Garza… Andy Sonnanstine…
here are mine…
number one… all of them won at least ten games last year.
number two… none of them are even close to sniffing 30-years old.
isn’t much in Tampa not to like… and there is an awful lot to
be impressed by.
offense? Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena form a great tandem in
the middle of their order. Carl Crawford is still around… and
he isn’t even one of their top names in the batting order. And
oh… by the way… for all the complaining and trade talk that has
followed Pat Burrell in recent years… the Rays stole him, he has
a record of playing that says he will be there every day for them,
and I think 35 home runs and 110+ RBIs is pretty likely as he
transitions into a role where he gets some rest as the DH and
doesn’t have to play the field as often (if at all).
Longoria is going to win some gold gloves. There isn’t much the
outfield can’t track down. And… I think Dioner Navarro is underrated.
Please… just rattled off the starting pitching. And they’ll start
the season with last year’s phenomenon… David Price… in the minors.
not expecting a division crown from them this year. I think 94-96
wins will be needed to do that, and I think they’ll drop a bit
from last season. But 90-plus is possible… and a wild-card berth
in the postseason with it.
York Yankees ~ Originally I had them finishing second
in this division. And this is what I was saying at the time: “They
don’t belong here. They won’t finish second. (No… no… no… don’t
look up. Look down. I should have them third in this division.
And yes, I will explain… in a second… but first…)” Then when it
came time to write the final draft of this column, I realized
that yes, not matter how long it is, A-Rod being out mattered.
So I moved them where I wanted to put them all along because of
it. Let’s check out why…
I have the Yankees running neck and neck with Boston in my mind.
I was even going to cheat and go this route… Yankees win the division,
Red Sox win the World Series… because I do believe New York is
better equipped in some ways to win during the regular season
(Teixeira and Rodriguez being more bankable in March predictions
for 2009 production than Ortiz and Lowell), while Boston is flat-out
scary if they are healthy when October hits because no one is
ever going to score on them.
you factor in that the Rodriguez injury may cost the Yankees a
win or two or five in April and May. There would be your division
difference… moves the Yankees to second place. Easy enough. Boston
first. New York second. Tampa third.
now… why am I putting them third?
don’t want to overreact to spring training stuff. So you won’t
find me saying much about Joba looking positively average. Who
cares? It’s March. But when
I did my baseball Q&A, and said that I
wondered about a ton of stuff when it comes to New York, I never
at that time thought Rodriguez would be missing about 25% of the
start of the year, with an injury that was being treated so he
could play but would require more surgery at the end of the year.
it just me? Doesn’t this seem strange to anyone else? When was
the last time you recall a major player… an elite level player…
having surgery to stabilize an injury that was going to require
January or February if you had made a list and asked me A-Rod’s
health against other things, I would have been significantly more
concerned about: Sabathia come October (given recent examples
of him tiring by the playoffs)… Burnett getting injured (which
just seems to be a given when he switches uniforms or isn’t playing
in a contract year)… Chamberlain being moved back and forth and
back and forth and he still hasn’t thrown a huge number of innings
in any season, but here we go with the brilliant starter talk
again. Basically, I wouldn’t have thought twice about Rodriguez
not January or February… it’s not just the media and performance
enhancing stories… A-Rod is hurt, the other things are still possibilities,
and holy crap if the Yankees start slow, Teixeira is about to
see exactly what he signed himself up for.
the way… let’s just see if you can disagree with any of this…
catcher to center field, the Yankees are bru-tal in the middle
of the field. I’d say brutal defensively, but that implies there
actually is some defense. There isn’t.
anyone else concerned that some of their players… Matsui and Posada
come to mind as leading examples… are not only arguably more valuable
as designated hitters than at their normal positions, but quite
possibly by June or July may only be available for use as designated
hitters? (That is… unless you just want to put a park bench out
in the field and sacrifice anything in that area as at least a
I’m done here.
Blue Jays ~ Yuck.
read an article the other day that pointed out the Yankees and
the Blue Jays already had more committed to the 2012 payroll than
the Red Sox, Orioles or Rays. And, of that commitment, the Sox
had Youkalis, Pedroia and Matsuzaka for about $3 million less
than Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. (This wasn’t considering opt-outs
and such, just a general examination. Anyway… think about that.
Pedroia and Youkalis in 2012 will make $20 million combined. That’s
less than Alex Rodriguez alone for that season… less than Sabathia
if he stays… less than Teixeira… less than Wells… just amazing.)
starting pitching do they have after Doc Halladay? Answer: as
the season starts, none.
you like Scott Rolen? You should. His offense has dropped… but
he still plays a good, solid game. I mean… you know… when he plays.
He was on the field for 115 games last season, 112 in 2007, and
has averaged 106 games for the past four years.
here’s the scary thing… this team is getting older. I
mean come on… I know resources are limited, and you’re competing
with Boston and New York (and now Tampa). But the Red Sox take
chances on Brad Penny and John Smoltz. The Blue Jays have Matt
Clement and Kevin Millar. Think about that and come up with something
nice I should say about this club. (I’ll give you time… but forgive
me while I move on as you consider the subject…)
Baltimore Orioles ~ And now we arrive in the
land of make believe. Let’s pretend Baltimore doesn’t have to
contend with Boston and New York. And let’s pretend they don’t
deserve to be ridiculed for incompetent ownership that let Tampa
Bay build a sound-looking foundation while they tried to find
a strong wind to piss against. Let’s just pretend… and look at
the last few months…
Gregg Zaun and Adam Eaton going to be here when they’re good again?
No… they’re not. (In fact… is Eaton good at all?) They, and most
of the Baltimore signings can be summed up like this… the organization
isn’t willing to lose 100+ games while trying to get the mess
give them a slight nod, since they are bringing in some interesting
talent and younger players. And they do have a few trade chips…
like Zaun and Brian Roberts… that other clubs might be interested
in during the year. (Stress the might… I’m just guessing here,
but Boston probably won’t be placing Buchholz on the table for
Zaun come July. And the new contract Roberts signed, from what
I can tell, lowers his trade value.)
thing is, you won’t be seeing much coverage of the 2009 Orioles.
They’re bad… just not bad enough to get any sympathy.
outfield is a great place to see what I mean. It should look like
this on most days: Felix Pie, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.
honestly… that’s not too bad. It’s not the best outfield in this
division, let alone baseball. But you’ve heard of all those names.
And it’s very young. Every one of the three has shown glimpses
of being a solid major league player… with Markakis bordering
on star. Good stuff. Two or three years away from experienced
good stuff. You can build with that. Maybe one of them doesn’t
work out… let’s say the likely name, Pie… but even that isn’t
outfield in place… who’s pitching?
not complaining. They’ve cut ties with some burdens of contracts,
if not just burdens of players. If some minor league talent develops,
2011 or 2012 could be really nice in Baltimore. But… stop me if
I’m out of line…
the Boston Red Sox or the Tampa Rays look exceptionally old to
Orioles have alot of work yet to do.