Just a few extra thoughts as the season begins…
advice as we watch the early season?
don’t get carried away.
Boston, as one example, I can guarantee you that there will be
a sketchy defensive play or two… or maybe the pitching won’t be
strong… or perhaps David Ortiz will slump. This after stressing
before the season that it was pitching and defense for them, and
the offense was just fine. Each of these may be a viable item
to critique, and critique rather early in the year, especially
Ortiz considering last season and options like Mike Lowell available.
don’t overreact. If Lester or Buchholz struggle… give them a second
or third start. (And I’m kidding about giving only a start or
two to show how ridiculous it is… give them more than a couple
of starts before predicting doom and gloom. Unfortunately, Boston
is a town that will be calling for Varitek to catch Beckett if
the rotation matches up at some point soon and Beckett looks great
that Boston idea carries over. People want immediate observations
and opinions these days. They don’t care that occasionally early
numbers for such observations will support that the Pirates are
going to win 123 games, the Astros are going to lose 135, or that
some player is on pace to hit 292 home runs.
though folks… marathon… not a sprint. Start most discussions in
mid-May or so, when about 40 games have been played and early
streaks have settled down.
don’t you seem to think the loss of Joe Nathan will hurt the Twins?
duh… of course it’s going to hurt them. If you think I was saying
the Twins wouldn’t suffer because Nathan is out, then I made a
mistake and wasn’t clear. What I was trying to say about Nathan
falls into three different categories.
the Twins are good enough to win the Central right now because
they are a solid team. A team. A group consisting of more than
one. With the exception of one particular other-worldly player,
I think you could honestly look over their roster and there isn’t
a single player on the team you would rank as a top two or three
player at any position. In fact, let’s check out closers. Rivera…
Papelbon… I think you’d have to give a nod to Rodriguez in New
York… so there’s three names right off the bat. All three of them
can claim a championship ring along with great regular seasons
on their resume and at least one effective postseason. Nathan
is in that next group, but even then he might not be the fourth
best in baseball.
Nathan didn’t look right last year in the playoffs. At least not
to me. Two innings is hardly a good sample size, especially against
New York, but that’s what I saw. I think there’s more to this
than showing up in February and the team suddenly discovering
something. In terms of this question, I do wonder if the Twins
approached 2010 thinking they would have to tread lightly with
Nathan already, and then learned he was injured much worse than
third, I just don’t see another team in the Central that will
run away from the Twins. There is no team capable of 95 wins in
the division. And unless that happens, when September arrives
the Twins will be in the race. I suppose you could argue that
Nathan would make a difference… and even I would attempt to make
that argument… but I just don’t see how it ends their season and
162 games, Minnesota can survive the loss of Nathan and win the
division. That was my point.
maybe this never occurred to you and no one is asking… but considering
some of what you have to say about the teams, how come you have
Pittsburgh struggling and Florida not?
question. I do seem to like some of what Pittsburgh did, and yet
have Florida within sight of the wild card while Pittsburgh isn’t
even fighting for an even record.
suppose more than anything else… past history.
the last time Pittsburgh made the playoffs, Florida has won two
championships. They’ve also made… as recently as last season…
unexpected runs at the 85 win level.
tells me that the Marlins can be good when you don’t expect it.
The Pirates? Not so much.
sure, maybe I have the Pirates a bit too low and the Marlins a
bit too high… still, I’m comfortable with my predictions there.
about some really solid trade thoughts?
honestly… there won’t be any interesting trades at all.
most of the big names are already settled into place. There are
only a couple of players… Adrian Gonzalez for one… that you can
point to and everyone knows eventually he will be moving, the
questions is primarily timing.
there are no big pitchers on the fringe of free agency or bad
contracts to move or glaring needs that would inspire movement.
there you have it… no big trades.
fine… I’ll give it a shot. Let’s see…)
think Brandon Webb could be an amazing player to watch when talking
trades. The Diamondbacks thought they had finished rebuilding
a few seasons ago. They made the playoffs… had solid young players…
and it all seemed to be a time for tinkering to stay at the top
of the division. Now they are heading into 2010 off of disappointment
in 2009, and Webb… the indestructible Webb that you kept on your
roster almost regardless of cost as long as he’d stay in town…
is coming off of an injury and moving closer to forcing the team
to make contract decisions that don’t seem quite so easy these
days. If Los Angeles and San Francisco… and let’s toss in Colorado…
race ahead of them, and Webb is pitching fine but not spectacular,
I could see Arizona not wanting to commit money to him if a team
is willing to give them talent in return.
he is spectacular, I could still see them trading him hoping to
get real value in return.
then, seriously, he might just be the only really interesting
pitching name out there.
has basically refused to move Roy Oswalt before. I don’t know
if they would move him this year. That said, he isn’t coming off
a major injury and I don’t believe his contract changes much in
2011, and part of his status in Houston is similar to Webb… the
Astros will have plenty of teams in front of them, and a great
return might make it worth saying goodbye.
those two names (really one name), I think the reality is that
we’ve seen the big time pitching moves made already. The rest
would be something like the bullpen. And out there, a name like
Heath Bell is the biggest one that could get dealt.
I say that because I’m trying to give you surprising, not heard
in many other places trade thoughts. Anyone can predict Oakland
dumping Ben Sheets if he looks good and someone like the Yankees
wants him. Do you really want a list of potential names on the
move, even if it’s something so vanilla as that? Really? Ok… pitching
names that could be available…)
Meche needs to prove he’s worth the risk, but a solid three months
could put him on the block. Kansas City obviously has a top of
the rotation guy now, and if Meche could bring something in return,
freeing up his dollars might be more important than keeping him
for the run in 2012 or 2013 that they hope to make.
Cleveland move Carbona? Maybe. But I sense some real lack of interest.
I don’t see them getting much. Pay attention to Westbrook when
it comes to leaving the Indians.
something you won’t see mentioned in many places… watch the White
Sox carefully. Jake Peavy could bring back a ton in return if
they feel a need to move him. And… honestly… you never know if
Chicago is looking to dump dollars or looking to add payroll.
Last season you could argue we watched them do both over the span
of just a few days. I would expect them to keep Peavy… as an acquisition
for multiple seasons… but treating him like Ben Sheets wouldn’t
be stunning if they are offered a couple of good players for him.
shopping for American League pitching will mean going to Oakland
or the Central.
maybe. Zach Duke is there and I suppose he could be had. The Pirates
are tough to really wade through because they made several short-term
deals and yet are always thinking about three to five year projects.
Diego could be interesting… mainly for Bell… but as I said in
my preseason preview, I wouldn’t be stunned if they tried to move
Chris Young as well. Once again though, I don’t know what kind
of market would appear for him if he did hit it.
the problem is that the market has regulated itself thanks to
some really fascinating moves in trades and free agency recently.
The Red Sox and Yankees aren’t likely to be looking for starters
unless injuries occur (or the unbelievable availability of Webb
and Oswalt actually materializes and they feel they can bargain
shop). The Indians and Blue Jays have already traded their big
name pitching. And… the majority of teams will be looking for
less expensive (in dollars and prospects) bullpen help.
much to move + no big names shopping = slow market.
same formula is in place, but I have a funny feeling here. See…
seem to have Prince Fielder locked in to staying with Milwaukee.
Me? I wonder about that. Should happen. Could happen. But, Adrian
Gonzalez is the big fish in the pond right now for first base
and hitting options. Right? Good… we all agree there. Call me
crazy, but I could see Milwaukee trying to test the waters before
Gonzalez hits the market, offering Fielder as an option. The idea
being that maybe they cash in by finding teams wondering if they’re
going to lose out on Gonzalez, see Fielder available, and hoping
to land something of value. Worth watching.
Red Sox won’t be sellers… but between Lowell and Ortiz and their
passion for obtaining Gonzalez, they are a team that will be looking
to tinker and adjust for the playoffs. By July they should know
if they need Lowell, and if Ortiz has steadied his problems from
last season. I expect them to be looking for bench help for their
infield and that one big splash at first base if it’s possible.
story about Boston. What happens with Victor Martinez? See… he’s
been getting moved out from behind the plate. Cleveland was doing
it. Boston did it just last year after getting him. Are we 100%
certain Boston wouldn’t consider Martinez replacing Ortiz? In
other words… Boston shopping for a catcher and holding off on
first base isn’t a true long shot. I honestly think they’d love
to have Gonzelez at first, Youkilis at third, Martinez at DH…
with Martinez available to catch a little and play first base
once in a while to get rest of some sort for the others.)
could be a really strange team. If they start losing ground they
could be looking to deal Miguel Cabrera. (Go back and read the
Prince Fielder theory I mentioned… hitting the market when teams
want a first baseman with an alternative.) They also have Johnny
Damon… and a contending team might be willing to listen.
funny thing is that here we actually have some chatter… one Adrian
Gonzalez. And, as I’ve said, some interesting possibilities of
teams trying to take advantage of the first base market he might
create. Beyond that though… once again… the big teams are set
for tinkering and not adding significant pieces… the small teams
seem to have already sent their players away.
am I crazy… and the prospect of Lyle Overbay hitting the market
excites you? (Hey… Overbay… decent average… good on-base percentage…
nice guy. But a hot trade market commodity? For who?)
Sox are interesting here as well… I don’t think they’re going
to stretch to sign Paul Konerko for 2011. So, if they drop out
of it, he might be available. But they have to be out of it.
I have one name to watch, it would be Carl Crawford. I don’t expect
him to be moved, but I also think the Rays might not bring him
back. If they unexpectedly find themselves out of it and someone
offers an amazing package for him, they might blink.
more I think about this, the more I think I’m repeating my preseason
observations. I was just about to comment on Cincinnati… but I
covered that already. Head over to Sports
and check out the divisional columns. There’s simply not that
much to be excited about, and definitely not more than this that
I haven’t already covered.
do you have the Mets fourth in the division? You like their best
starter. You admit that regular season, they have a solid closer.
And you contend that half of their order… Reyes, Beltran, Wright
and Bay… could be as solid as it gets. So really… fourth?
yeah… because Washington isn’t catching them.
fact, let’s go to the next question so I can use the Mets as an
example and answer wo questions at once.
were released… injured… does this change your mind about anything?
No. Not at all.
Reyes had a rough spring training and isn’t with New York as the
season begins. I have seen more problems with Beltran and his
timetable for returning than I’m comfortable trying to sort out.
After Santana pitches, the Mets could use one of the guys tossing
peanuts to the fans and get better consistency.
could be great… they could stink. I’m not placing that over Philadelphia,
Atlanta or Florida right now. And... none of the players available
to them or on their disabled list changes that for me.
the crazy thought for this question… when you go through the teams
and divisions and sort out a preseason opinion, it makes sense
to you. And… mine sort of does to me. I see a few places where
I could have screwed up… Colorado, or maybe even Pittsburgh. Overall
though, I don’t see Tampa catching Boston or New York. Which means…
order for things to happen that I’m not predicting, some players
and teams are going to need to prove something to me. As the joke
goes… we’re in Mississippi… show me.
think the Mets have way too many problems, and there are questions
as to whether or not they’ll ever be able to field all of their
stars at the same time. So yes… fourth for the Mets… and no, nothing
about what might be because of changing rosters alters my view
same idea then… what about the players playing great during spring
training? Did that change your mind as the season begins?
some people will tell you all sorts of stuff about why some of
spring training can be meaningless to use for observations. The
pitchers are working on new stuff and building arm strength… the
position players may not be playing full speed… and so on.
many ways, I disagree with this. Sure… players, and possibly a
majority of them, are looking to play golf or make publicity appearances
or whatever and aren’t committing all of their focus to the field.
The idea makes sense. But I have a slightly different view on
it, based on general perspective.
ask you this…
there any chance of St. Louis sending a healthy Albert Pujols
to the minor leagues? Any chance of the Cardinals releasing him?
Any chance of him being anything but a starter on their 25-man
course not. He could have struck out in every spring training
at bat and committed three to five errors per game… Pujols would
not have been anything but the opening day starter.
what I am saying is that spring training is not equal for all
players. So while you could consider that incentive and motivation
and workout goals that favor development over statistical results
make it difficult to judge, I want to go one step further. Some
people have zero to gain from spring training. It really is getting
the work in and preparing for the season for Pujols. Absolutely
nothing more. But for some… like Jason Heyward in Atlanta… a solid
spring training can convince decision makers of their final evaluations.
And suddenly we have performance that matters.
though, when the media is reporting that so-and-so looks great
and is throwing really hard, often after a game where he faced
a split squad roster… you see what I mean.
training is what it is. Unless someone is injured, don’t pay too
much attention to it.