Tag:Boston Red Sox
Posted on: April 1, 2009 9:43 pm
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Posted on: February 16, 2009 7:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2009 1:05 pm

2009 AL East Preview

Baltimore Orioles
2008 Record: 68-93, Last Place in the AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 70-92, Last Place in the AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

While most Orioles fans are probably disappointed with the teams offseason movement, I like what GM Andy MacPhail is doing. MacPhail realized long ago that the current makeup of the team could not win him ballgames, let alone the AL East. He decided to firesale the team, starting with Erick Bedard and Miguel Tejada. These two deals brought the Orioles some much needed depth in a farm system that was ravaged dry. MacPhail continued that firesale this offseason by trading away Ramon Hernandez to Reds for Ryan Freel. While Freel won't do much for the team other than be a backup, the move has now cleared an opening for Matt Wieters to eventually take over as the everday catcher. In addition, MacPhail made some under the radar moves with the Cubs acquiring both Felix Pie and Rich Hill for spare parts. Both of these players have struggled at the big league level, but they both are considered to have high upside. This team is slowing progressing forward, and even though they didn't get Mark Teixeira this offseason, the team remains committed to winning longterm. Such is evidenced by MacPhail's moves since he arrived at Baltimore. O's fans can at least enjoy Nick Markakis for another 6 seasons as he signed an extension this offseason.

Projected Lineup:

  1. 2B Brian Roberts (S)
  2. 3B Melvin Mora (R)
  3. RF Nick Markakis (L)
  4. 1B Aubrey Huff (L)
  5. CF Adam Jones (R)
  6. DH Luke Scott (R)
  7. C Greg Zaun (S)
  8. SS Cesar Izturis (S)
  9. LF Felix Pie (L)

The Orioles lineup is just average at best, but they probably have the best outfield defense in the league with Pie, Jones, and Markakis. Roberts is a good place setter to start things off, but there are questions as to whether or not Mora will be as effective as he was a season ago. Nick Markakis is probably the most underrated outfielder in the league and should once again be the focal point for this teams offense. Huff is a decent enough hitter in the four hole, but his defense is a liability if the team plans on playing him at first base. That could change though if Ty Wigginton beats out Luke Scott for a starting job. The bottom half of the Orioles lineup is pretty weak. Jones has the potential to be good, but we're still waiting on him to breakout. The same can be said for Pie. Izturis likely won't be of any value on offense, while Greg Zaun could be replaced in the lineup by Matt Wieters at any time.

Projected Bench:

Aside from Wigginton, the bench is pretty weak. Quiroz doesn't figure to keep his spot on the team for the entire season, while Gomez is a sub-par bench player that has bounced from team to team in the past years. Freel will be the teams 5th outfielder, only because when Luke Scott isn't DHing, the team is likely to put him in the lineup first. However, it's still possible that Freel could backup the infielders at some point as well as he can play multiple positions.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
  2. RHP Koji Uehara
  3. LHP Rich Hill
  4. LHP Mark Hendrickson
  5. RHP Radhames Liz

The last three spots listed here are still up for competition, but those three seem to inside edge heading into camp. Jeremy Guthrie has been the Orioles workhorse for the past two seasons and will continue to be so as the team enters 2009. There have been mixed scouting reports on Uehara (pictured at the top of this blog). Some say he could be as effective as Hiroki Kuroda was last season for the Dodgers, while others don't think he'll cut it as a starting pitcher in the league. I guess we'll find out who was right during the season. Rich Hill has tremendous upside if he can find his stuff again and Henrickson and Liz should just be stopgaps for the young arms like Tillman and Patton that the Orioles will have waiting to be called up.

Projected Bullpen:

The bullpen is now better than it was a year ago, simply because the Orioles are getting Chris Ray back from Tommy John Surgery. The injury kept Ray out all of last season. Many still speculate that Ray, who closed for Baltimore before Sherrill, will eventually overtake Sherrill as the teams closer, but that still remains to be seen. I personally think Matt Albers would serve the Rays better in the rotation instead of Liz, but apparently the team doesn't share my same feelings. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Jamie Walker can turn his miserable 2008 season around and get back to where he was 2 years ago.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. C Matt Wieters
  2. RHP Chris Tillman
  3. LHP Brian Matusz
  4. RHP Jake Arrieta
  5. OF Nolan Reimold
  6. RHP Brandon Erbe
  7. 3B Billy Rowell
  8. LHP Troy Patton
  9. 1B Brandon Snyder
  10. RHP Kam Mickolio

Spring Position Battles:

Catcher - Matt Wieters vs. Greg Zaun
Rotation - Guthrie and Uehara are the only locks
Designated Hitter - Luke Scott vs. Ty Wigginton

Boston Red Sox
2008 Record: 95-67, 2nd place in the AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 93-69, 2nd place in the AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

It wasn't a big offseason for the Red Sox, but it wasn't really a bad one either. GM Theo Epstein took advantage of a slowing market by signing some undervalued players in Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, John Smoltz, and Rocco Baldelli. Each of the players mentioned had injury problems last season which kept them out of many games, but if they fully recover, they can be very effective. As for the departures, the team really didn't lose anything useful. Sure, Epstein traded Crisp away to the Royals for bullpen depth, but he adequately was able to replace his production. Schilling and Timlin havn't been anything useful in over a year, while Bartolo Colon would have been had he not swung for the fences during interleague play.

Projected Lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury (L)
  2. 2B Dustin Pedroia (R)
  3. DH David Ortiz (L)
  4. 1B Kevin Youkilis (R)
  5. LF Jason Bay (R)
  6. RF J.D. Drew (L)
  7. 3B Mike Lowell (R)
  8. SS Jed Lowrie (R)
  9. C Jason Varitek (S)

Solid lineup until you get down to the bottom three in the order. It will be interesting to see how much Jacoby Ellsbury develops this season and whether or not Kevin Youkilis can keep the type of power production that he did a year ago. Looking at the bottom three in the order though, Lowell is coming off of surgery, so there is no telling how well he will be able to perform while Lowrie and Varitek don't really offer the team much at their respected positions. Lowrie was still a below average shortstop last year hitting the ball and his range at the position was downright terrible. Then again, the fact that he's an upgrade over Julio Lugo is pretty sad. Meanwhile, Varitek has had two poor seasons in the past three years and many people, including myself, thought the Red Sox were stupid to bring him back.

Projected Bench:

Bard remains a good backup catcher as long as they don't make him catch Wakefield. Even if he does, there is a strong possibility Wakefield might get thrown in the bullpen if John Smoltz comes back healthy in June. Wilkerson only figures to be on the bench at the start of the season as his spot will likely be taken away by Mark Kotsay, who just underwent surgery and is likely out for the first two months of the year. However, when fully healthy, a bench of Bard, Lugo, Baldelli, and Kotsay may be one of the best in the league.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Josh Beckett
  2. LHP Jon Lester
  3. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
  4. RHP Brad Penny
  5. RHP Tim Wakefield

Beckett remains one of the top starters in the American League, despote having a down year last season. It was good to finally see Jon Lester reach his potential, as he hadn't done it in any season prior. As for Matsuzaka, his numbers are wierd. The walks are alarming, but since no one gets hits off of him, the era has stayed low and he won quite a bit of games last year. If hitters start to figure him out, then Boston has to watch out as Matsuzaka has the potential to get lit up on any given night with his wildness. Penny should be decent coming off of shoulder surgery, but even if he struggles, the Sox can alway turn to either Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden in AAA. John Smoltz should be back to the team by midseason and was looking really good at drills in spring training. Wakefield still remains a reliable starter, though depending on health of others, could get bumped from the rotation once Smoltz returns.

Projected Bullpen:

The bullpen is looking revamped with the additions of Saito and Ramirez. Saito has been one of the most effective pitchers in the league since coming over from Japan, but struggled after coming off the DL at the end of last season forcing the Dodgers to non-tender him. Meanwhile, Ramirez had a good season for the Royals last year, but struggled the year prior. He's just another arm that the Sox can throw out on any given night and expect to be effective.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. 1B Lars Anderson
  2. RHP Michael Bowden
  3. LHP Nick Hagadone
  4. RHP Daniel Bard
  5. OF Josh Reddick
  6. RHP/SS Casey Kelly
  7. OF Ryan Westmoreland
  8. 3B Michael Almanzar
  9. IF Yamaico Navarro
  10. RHP Stolmy Pimentel

Spring Position Battles:

Shortstop - Jed Lowrie vs. Julio Lugo
Bench Spot - Brad Wilkerson vs. Chris Carter, Paul McAnulty , and Jeff Bailey


New York Yankees
2008 Record:
89-73, 3rd Place in AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 97-65, 1st Place in AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

The Yankees took advantage of a poor economy and snagged up the best three players on the free agent market in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. Sabathia takes the ace role, which was vacated when Mike Mussina decided to retire. Meanwhile adding Burnett makes the teams staff a lot better while it takes away a number two pitcher from a rival opponent. By signing Teixeira, the Yankees found their new first basemen of the future after 7 years of Jason Giambi occupying that spot. Nick Swisher, who was acquired for Jeff Marquez and Wilson Betemit in the early stages of the offseason, still could be moved. Otherwise, it's likely that he might spend 2009 as a bench player. As for the departures, the Yankees are losing a little offense by allowing Abreu and Giambi to walk, but they are now a much better defensive team and if injuries don't come in to play as bad as they did a year ago, the team should have a much higher run differential. Carl Pavano was useless in his time in New York, while Rasner wasn't needed. As much as Yankee fans hated Betemit, he is actually looking like a better bench option now as the Yankees only added Angel Berroa in the offseason.

Projected Lineup:

  1. LF Johnny Damon (L)
  2. SS Derek Jeter (R)
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira (S)
  4. 3B Alex Rodriguez (R)
  5. C Jorge Posada (S)
  6. DH Hideki Matsui (L)
  7. RF Xavier Nady (R)
  8. 2B Robinson Cano (L)
  9. CF Melky Cabrera (S)

It's a fresh start for the Yankees....somewhat. They have most of their key players recovered from injury and a new superstar in the lineup. However, they also have a cleanup hitter that doesn't react well to pressure coming off a steroid filled offseason. It remains to be seen just how good Alex Rodriguez will be for the Yankees this year. I think he should eventually be fine as A-rod handled the situatoin the appropriate way, but you just never know. It also remains to be seen what if the health of older players such as Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Johnny Damon will continue to hold up. This team is the best team in the league "on paper," but they need to translate that into a playoff berth. If Joe Girardi doesn't make the playoffs this year, I think he should be gone. He has all the talent and resources he needs to have a winning ballclub. Just keep this locker room in order and get the job done.

Projected Bench:

Ugh. Aside from Nick Swisher, this is probably the worst bench in baseball. I don't know how a team can spend so much money on three players and then ignore going after someone to fill the void on the bench. Berroa, Gardner, and Molina all suck, but at least Gardner and Molina are good defensive players. Perhaps the Yankees should take a flyer on Mark Grudzielanek, Ray Durham, or Adam Kennedy. I'm sure all could be had for minimum contracts.

Projected Rotation:

  1. LHP CC Sabathia
  2. RHP A.J. Burnett
  3. RHP Chien-Ming Wang
  4. LHP Andy Pettitte
  5. RHP Joba Chamblerlain

From the looks of it, it looks as if Sabathia and Burnett are already best friends. These two are going to be counted on to carry the team on its back for most of 2009. Meanwhile, the Yankees should benefit greatly from getting a healthy Chien-Ming Wang and a full season of Joba Chamberlain. Personally, I think the Yankees would have been better off going with Phil Hughes in the 5th spot in the rotation rather than Pettitte, but I guess now Hughes will be the first option when A.J. Burnett a Yankee pitcher goes on the disabled list.

Projected Bullpen:

ESPN analysts John Kruk and Buck Showalter thought the Yankees would have been better off having Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, but I'm not so sure I agree with that. In my opinion, your most effective pitchers should be pitching the most innings possible. The team still has Mariano Rivera closing games out for them, so it's not as if the Yankees don't have anyone in their pen. Bruney should still be effective in the right handed setup role, but I have my doubts about Marte. The rest had pretty good seasons a year ago, while I'm wondering what the Yankees plans are for Ian Kennedy. I put him in the long relief role as it would probably take multiple injuries for the team to even consider using him as a starter. Plus, I figured the Yankees would go with 4 bench players and 7 relievers.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

Position Battles:

Centerfield - Brett Gardner vs. Melky Cabrera
Final Bullpen Spots


Tampa Bay Rays
2008 Record:
97-65, 1st Place in the AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 87-75, 3rd Place in the AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

Burrell is a significant upgrade to Cliff Floyd in the lineup and David Price should fill in fine for the departed Edwin Jackson. I'm not too fond of any of the other moves the Rays made this offseason and I still think the team underrates what Eric Hinske's bat did for them a year ago, but I guess they'll find that out on their own. 2009 should be another learning year for the Rays. They had a bunch of success in 2008, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can repeat that same success. Many other teams in the division have now had a chance to make changes and get scouting reports on this young team and given the competition they face in their division, I think another playoff berth is unlikely, though I do think they will finish well above .500. However, I wouldn't mind if the small market Rays proved me wrong. GM Andrew Friedman has a great base here in Tampa and a team that is likely to stay competitive for a long while.

Projected Lineup:

  1. 2B Akinori Iwamura (L)
  2. LF Carl Crawford (L)
  3. CF BJ Upton (R)
  4. 1B Carlos Pena (L)
  5. DH Pat Burrell (R)
  6. 3B Evan Longoria (R)
  7. C Dioner Navarro (S)
  8. RF Gabe Gross (R)
  9. SS Jason Bartlett (R)

When Evan Longoria is projected to be your 6th hitter in the batting order, you know you have a good young lineup. The addition of Burrell at DH makes this team quite a bit better offensively. It remains to be seen if B.J. Upton can take the power he displayed in the postseason last year and put it into effect in the regular season. Meanwhlie, Carl Crawford is looking to bounce back after one of his worst seasons as a pro.

Projected Bench:

Jaso is a friend of mine from high school, so I'm really hoping he makes the team. Baseball America has him listed as the Rays prospect with the most plate discipline and he's been really good in the minors thus far. He was called up in September of last season as insurance and went 2 for 10 in mostly pinch hit situations. However, he is a better hitter than Shawn Riggans and is also athletic enough to play the outfield or first base if asked to. Meanwhlie, Willy and Ben Zobrist figure to be the key backups once again in the infield for the Rays, whlie Matt Joyce sohuld be battling Gabe Gross for the starting spot in right field. I imagine Kapler will remain a backup, but he's been solid since returning from Japan.

Projected Rotation:

  1. LHP Scott Kazmir
  2. RHP James Shields
  3. RHP Matt Garza
  4. RHP Andy Sonnanstine
  5. LHP David Price

Should be pretty difficult facing the Rays on any given night. The Rays have quality starters all throughout their rotation and are backing them up with quality starters waiting for their chance in the minor leagues. I'm most interested in seeing how the young David Price will develop. The past few years, young pitchers (such as Phil Hughes, Homer Bailey, Ian Kennedy, and Clay Buchholz) have been overhyped because of their minor league success. Will Price be the first one to break the trend? He certainly is the front runner for the American League Rookie of the Year Award and after his brilliant postseason performance, people will be expecting a lot from the young rookie.

Projected Bullpen:

This bullpen scares me. And not in a good way. Percival was inneffective for much of last year while Wheeler and Howell had their best season in years. I'm not confident anyone on the Rays bullpen can keep the same success they had a year ago. It's too bad Chad Bradford got hurt, because he was the one stable part of this bullpen. If the Rays are looking for the same October goal they had a season ago, they will need to upgrade this bullpen quite a bit. I believe Niemann will be forced to be a reliever unless he's traded as I think he's out of options and I imagine David Price will win the 5th starter competition. Perhaps he can bring some stability.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. LHP David Price
  2. SS Tim Beckham
  3. RHP Wade Davis
  4. SS Reid Brignac
  5. OF Desmond Jennings
  6. LHP Matt Moore
  7. LHP Nick Barnese
  8. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
  9. LHP Jake McGee
  10. RHP Jeff Niemann

Spring Position Battles:

Backup Catcher - John Jaso vs. Shawn Riggans
Right Fielder - Gabe Gross vs. Matt Joyce vs. Fernando Perez


Toronto Blue Jays
2008 Record: 86-76, 4th place in AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 75-87, 4th place in AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

Well....There's really not much to say about the Blue Jays offseason. GM J.P. Ricciardi did nothing but sign a bunch of below average players to minor league contracts. The team remained complacent and did not make one significant signing.

Projected Lineup:

  1. SS Marco Scutaro (R)
  2. 2B Aaron Hill (R)
  3. RF Alex Rios (R)
  4. CF Vernon Wells (R)
  5. DH Adam Lind (L)
  6. 3B Scott Rolen (R)
  7. 1B Lyle Overbay (L)
  8. C Rod Barajas (R)
  9. LF Travis Snider (R)

Marco Scutaro leading off? Somehow I think that's going to change. Perhaps Hill will eventually take over the role. The Jays basically feature the same offense as they had a year ago. The only difference is that Travis Snider, the teams top prospect, should see regular at bats at either left field or designated hitter.

Projected Bench:

The bench is weak. Barrett is a good backup, but the others don't offer much more. I really don't know what to say when it comes to the Blue Jays bench, because their offseason offers nothing to talk about.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Roy Halladay
  2. RHP Jesse Litch
  3. LHP David Purcey
  4. RHP Casey Janssen
  5. LHP Ken Takahashi

Looking at the rotation, the Blue Jays still have a Cy Young caliber pitcher in Roy Halladay, but it drops off quite a bit after that. Shaun Marcum is out for the year, while Dustin McGowan will be out for the first few months. The Jays are going to have spring position battles for their final few spots in the rotation and it remains to be seen whether or not Brett Cecil (the teams top pitching prospect) will be allowed to win a spot outright.

Projected Bullpen:

The good news for the Jays is that their bullpen is the exact same as it was a year ago. The Jays had the best bullpen era in 2008 and every single member should be healthy for the start of the year.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. OF Travis Snider
  2. C J.P. Arencibia
  3. LHP Brett Cecil
  4. SS Justin Jackson
  5. 1B David Cooper
  6. 3B Kevin Ahrens
  7. LHP Brad Mills
  8. LHP Ricky Romero
  9. LHP Marc Rzepcynski
  10. 2B Brad Emaus

Spring Position Battles:

Designated Hitter - Kevin Millar vs. Travis Snider
Bench Spots
5th Starter

Sorry Blue Jays fans for not giving you more, but blame your GM.

Posted on: February 8, 2009 3:09 am

2009 AL Comeback Player of the Year Candidates

1. Eric Chavez - 3B - Oakland Athletics

Eric Chavez

Eric Chavez missed most of last season when he reaggravated a shoulder injury he had surgery on the previous offseason. Chavez has only played in a total of 23 games since July 27th, 2007 and has had three different surgeries since. However, all signs have been positive for Chavez in his recovery so far and the A's fully expect him to be in their starting third basemen on opening day. Chavez remains the longest tenured player on the A's. The six-time gold glove winner remains a great candidate to receive the comeback player of the year award. If he can return back to form, Chavez is capable of hitting 30 homeruns and driving in well over 100. He should also have plenty of RBI chances while batting behind Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi in the lineup.

2. Travis Hafner - DH - Cleveland Indians

What has happened to "Pronk" the past couple of seasons? From 2004-2006, Travis Hafner was one of the games most feared hitters hitting over .300, driving in over 100 people, and showing 30-40 home run pop. However, Hafner started to decline in 2007 when his power numbers cut in half from the previous season and his average dipped 40 points. Then in 2008, Hafner hit a lousy .197 in 200 at bats before getting shoulder surgery. However, Dr. James Andrews found no structural damage on his shoulder while performing surgery which leaves us guessing what the real problem was with Hafner. Regardless, he has been a force on his team in the past and if he can return to form, he should be in the running for this award and the Indians in the running for the postseason.

3. Jason Varitek - C - Boston Red Sox

Unlike most Comeback Player of the Year Candidates, Jason Varitek isn't coming off of any sort of injury. The captain of the Red Sox had two bad seasons in the past three years and after Varitek hit a lousy .220 a year ago, there are questions as to whether or not he can remain an effective major league ballplayer. Last season Varitek reached career lows in batting average and slugging percentage, while his OBP was the worst it has been since his rookie season in 1998. Varitek may need to make a permanent switch to batting right handed. The switch hitter hit .284 off of left handed pitching last season, but just .201 off of right handers. While Varitek remains in Bostons lineup, he remains a good candidate for the award if he can just start hitting again.

4. Jorge Posada - C - New York Yankees

Jorge Posada is the third player in this post that had to have shoulder surgery. His ability to swing the bat hasn't declined a bit and he's only two seasons removed from one where he had an OPS+ of 154 and finished 6th in MVP voting. Posada actually has a pretty good shot at winning this award. The thing that concerns me though is his defense. He was only able to throw out 17% of baserunners a year ago and two seasons ago it was just 23%. His defensive skills are declining meaning that he would be best utilized as a designated hitter, but the Yankees already have Hideki Matsui occupying that spot. Even if he stays at catcher this season and moves their next season, that would only mean that the Yankees still have a defensive liability in Jeter at shortstop.

5. Brad Penny - SP - Boston Red Sox

Meet shoulder victim number four in this post. Brad Penny has been one of the Dodgers best pitchers over the last four seasons, but struggled mightily last year as he suffered a shoulder injury. Penny is capable of being an ace in a rotation, and given the right run support, he could win a lot of games as a member of the Sox. However, he is somewhat prone to injury and nobody really knows how he is going to react this season following his struggles of a year ago. If he is anything like the player he was two seasons ago that netted him 3rd in National League Cy Young voting, the Red Sox might have found themselves a diamond in the rough this offseason.


Honorable Mentions:

LHP Dontrelle Willis (Detroit Tigers)
RHP Bartolo Colon (Chicago White Sox)
RHP Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)
RHP John Smoltz (Boston Red Sox)
OF Gary Sheffield (Detroit Tigers)
OF Andruw Jones (Texas Rangers)
3B Josh Fields (Chicago White Sox)

Posted on: January 20, 2009 1:57 am

BP's Rewind: Winter Rankings 2009

It's been a little over a year since I did my last version of winter rankings (the first featured blog on CBS), but now that we are less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting, it is time to have a look at where each team stands this season. The offseason has been a long, slow, and drawn out process. Several impact players, including Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn have yet to sign with a team. It is because of this reason, that I will be continually editing this blog entry as those players sign.

While the Phillies are the defending champions, they have remained rather complacent on the free agent market which begs to question whether or not the team can repeat last years success. Meanwhile, the Yankees have had the biggest offseason of any team, but will a team full of superstars finally get the job done? Also, the Rays were baseballs surprise team of 2008. Can they repeat the success? Who will be the surprise team in 2009?......These questions and more are answered in my latest rankings.

Winter Rankings

1. Chicago Cubs
Say all you want about the Cubs playoff misfortunes, but this team is the real deal. Milton Bradley, arguably the games best offensive player last season, joins the Cubs offense that scored the most runs in baseball last year. Couple that with the teams stable pitching staff featuring Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Rich Harden and this team should easily run away with the National League Central for the second year in a row. I'm predicting a 100 win season.

2. New York Yankees
While the team has lost both Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi in free agency, the additions of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira more than make up for it. The Yankees now have a well rounded team. They now have one of the best offenses in the league with Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and the top 3 in their rotation should win them plenty of ballgames. If they can get a full season out of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, look out.

3. Tampa Bay Rays
Often times one year wonders like the Rays don't return to the postseason because they remain too complacent in the offseason. However, the Rays managed to land Pat Burrell for a bargain price of 8 million a season to replace Cliff Floyd in the lineup and the teams starting rotation will naturally get better with David Price entering the rotation.

4. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had a relatively quiet offseason with minor deals made. The team is still one of the best in the league, but has many questions to answer for 2009. Was Kevin Youkilis' increase in power for real? Can Jason Bay truly fill Manny's shoes in left? Will Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Brad Penny, and John Smoltz be healthy and how much can they contribute? The Sox are still a talented teams, but these factors are going to determine whether or not they win baseball's best division.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks had a dissapointing 2008 season finishing 82-80, two games out of first place in the NL West. Despite losing Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, and Randy Johnson this offseason the D-backs get my vote of confidence as one of the NL's top teams entering 2009. They have a solid three in the rotation with Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Max Scherzer. Meanwhile, I'm counting on the young stars to improve.

6. Cleveland Indians
The Indians lost C.C. Sabathia this season, but it shouldn't affect the team too much as long as Fausto Carmona gets back on track. Cliff Lee's breakout season also helps alleviate that. The team is still without a starting right fielder as Franklin Gutierrez was traded away. Adam Dunn would make more sense than Matt LaPorta as LaPorta has struggled since coming over in the Sabathia deal. The bullpen has gotten a lot better as well with the addition of Kerry Wood and I expect this team to compete.

7. New York Mets
The Mets have been baseball's biggest choke artists over the past two seasons. On paper, they certainly are a much better team than anyone in their division. Whether or not they can finally get the job done, is another question. This team should win 95 games this year, but in order for that to happen, someone on the team will have to step up as a leader. If the team is in contention in August or September, a bullpen of Wagner, Putz, and Roriguez remains the scariest 7-8-9 in the league.

8. Philadelphia Phillies
Not a good offseason for the champs. First, the team overpaid for Raul Ibanez (another lefty) to replace Pat Burrell in the lineup. Second, J.C. Romero has to serve a 50 game suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Third, No one outside of Cole Hamels scares me in that rotation. And lastly, Carlos Ruiz and Pedro Feliz still have starting jobs in baseball. Uggh....

9. Los Angeles Angels
The gap has certainly closed in on the Angels in the American League West. Without Mark Teixeira, Garrett Anderson, or Francisco Rodriguez, they certainly don't scare teams the way they used to. Brian Fuentes is an adequate replacement for K-Rod, but I can't understand why they didn't just pony up a few extra to keep their star in town. Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera remain questioable replacements and the team will once again rely on Vlad and the starting pitchers to win ballgames.

10. Chicago White Sox
White Sox GM Ken Williams is one GM whose moves I can never understand, but they seem to work out right in the end. The Sox still are without a centerfielder and a second basemen going into next season, and there are questions as to whether Carlos Quentin, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks can repeat their 2008 success. For now though, I'm giving the Sox the benefit of the doubt. I really like the Bartolo Colon signing, as it has the makings of a low risk, high reward type deal.

11. Detroit Tigers
Don't count out the Tigers. While the Tigers finished last place in the American League Central last season, they were still third in the league in overall offense. Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Nate Robertson all had their worst seasons as pros. The offense should remain just as good as it was and if Verlander can return to form, the team should be able to compete. Edwin Jackson and Gerald Laird were both nice, under the radar acquisitions by GM Dave Dombrowksi.

12. Los Angeles Dodgers
With this ranking, I'm assuming Manny Ramirez is going to be a Dodger. If it turns out to be different, I will change the ranking accordingly. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is about to find out what life is likek without Paul DePodesta's players. The losses of Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, and Jeff Kent will affect this team greatly. Unless the Dodgers give have Jason Schmidt go to some miracle worker, I don't know where this team is going to get a rotation that will compete.

13. Minnesota Twins
The Twins offense is their weakness. Both Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez featured low on base percentages last season which isn't helping the team at all. The teams offense really is only as good as Joe Mauer's knees as Justin Morneau can't do everything on his own. However, if the team can get similar production to 2008 from it's young pitchers in the rotation for 2009, this team will always have a chance to compete.

14. Oakland Athletics
The trades of Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Nick Swisher, and Mark Kotsay a year ago have paid off. The A's enter 2009 with one of the best minor league systems in the game and an offense that's ready to close the gap in the American League West. The acquisitions of Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi give the A's a ton of power in the 3-6 spots and Eric Chavez is supposed to be fully healthy headed into next year giving the teams young pitching a better chance to win.

15. Milwaukee Brewers
While the Brewers lost both C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets this offseason, its not as if they all of a sudden have a bad team. The team didn't have Sabathia for the first half of last year anyway and they've played several seasons with Sheets on the DL multiple times. The offensive remains intact with both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder leading the way. If Yovanni Gallardo can remain healthy, I'm sure the Brewers can put together a respectable season.

16. St. Louis Cardinals
I really don't know what to think of the Cardinals. I'm not convinced that their pitching staff can hold up all season long, even if Chris Carpenter is fully healthy. Albert Pujols remains the best first basemen in the National League, but he isn't going to get much help. The Khalil Greene trade won't improve the offense that much and who knows if Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel can keep it up with their bats.

17. Atlanta Braves
What a bad offseason for Braves fans. The farm system is depleted. They missed out on both A.J. Burnett and Rafael Furcal and allowed John Smoltz to sign cheaply with the Red Sox. However, this team still remains a dark horse candidate in the NL East. The starting rotation should be pretty good still with Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vasquez, and Kenshin Kawakami manning the first four spots. If they can stay in contention until August, Tim Hudson will be on his way back.

18. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays finished 2008 with a respectable 86-76 record in the American League. However, the team has lost A.J. Burnett in free agency and hasn't made any major additions. Shaun Marcum is out for the season with Tommy John Surgery and Dustin McGowan is out at least for the first month. If they can make it past the first month of the season okay, they might be considered a dark horse candidate in the tough AL East. However, don't expect much.

19. Texas Rangers
The Rangers haven't made any major additions this offseason and have let Milton Bradley walk. 2009 will be an interesting year for the team. It will most likely be the last time we see Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla in a Rangers uniform and also could feature the debuts of shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitchers Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland. Also, we'll see Chris Davis mature into a solid power hitter. As always, if this team could pitch, they'd win games, but that's unlikely for 2009.

20. San Francisco Giants
With Noah Lowry coming back from injury and the addition Randy Johnson, the Giants have a pretty deep starting five heading into 2009. However, where will the offense come from? The team does not have a superstar offensive player and the market is drying up quickly. If they can't get their hands on Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu, they might once again be wasting all that good pitching, Such a shame. Giants fans deserve better.

21. Colorado Rockies
I must be crazy, because I might be the only one that thinks the team trading Matt Holliday will help the Rockies. Huston Street replaces Brian Fuentes as the teams closer and Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ian Stewart now battle for time in the outfield. The rotation is better with Greg Smith in it and I don't think the offense will be affected. Not in that park at least. Ryan Spilborghs might be the best player no one knows about.

22. Florida Marlins
The Marlins might have finished 84-77 last season, but I'm not a believer in them....yet. The team foolishly traded Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the Nationals for nothing important. The Mike Jacobs trade will only be a good deal if Dallas McPherson can take his success from AAA last year and bring it with him to the majors. Also, there are questions as to whether this starting pitching can hold up and whether Jorge Cantu can repeat his 2008 performance.

23. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners didn't get much back in return for J.J. Putz and they haven't done anything significant to improve their lousy offense as well. The team will rely on youngsters to break through this season including Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement. Their pitching should keep them in ballgames with Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and Brandon Morrow in the rotation, but if they are out of it early, you can expect the team to start shopping Bedard.

24. Cincinatti Reds
The Reds have a bright future ahead of them with young stars such as Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto breaking through last season. Each of these youngsters are expected to continue to develop into solid ballplayers. The question remains as to whether or not this is the year the Reds finally start coming together as a team. They certainly have the foundations, but whether or not they are ready to translate that into a winning ballclub is up in the air.

25. Houston Astros
Ugggh. That's about all I can say about Astros GM Ed Wade. His trade of Brad Lidge for Michael Bourn last season looks worse and worse by the day. While the Astros finished strong last season, it was only because Wade's false sense of hope that they were somehow still in the race last year. Smart GM's would have sold. This team has no farm system and quite frankly, Mike Hampton isn't going to solve their pitching problems.

26. Baltimore Orioles
The bad news? The Orioles aren't going anywhere next season. The good news? Team President Andy MacPhail knows this and is positioning the team to develop for the future. The Felix Pie trade was a great trade for MacPhail and now the Orioles have the best outfield defense in the game. I really look forward to seeing Matt Wieters transition to the big leagues this year as well. The team has no starting pitching to speak of outside of Guthrie, but help is on the way in the minors.

27. San Diego Padres
With Jake Peavy on board, the Padres still have a respectable pitching staff and an offense led by one of the games best first basemen (Adrian Gonzalez). They could compete if things fall right offensively for them, especially considering their division, but that would require Chase Headley to stop swinging blindly and actually develop offensively. The best thing for Padres fans will be to get the sale of the team done as soon as possible.

28. Kansas City Royals
Coco Crisp? Kyle Farnsworth? Willie Bloomquist? Mike Jacobs? The Royals are going nowhere. The team has completely given up on Mark Teahen ever becoming something useful and now fans are growing impatient with both Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. Zach Greinke, Joakim Soria, and Gil Meche are the few bright spots on the Royals for 2009, but it will take another two years for their farm system to catch up and replace the mismanagement of the team under former GM Allan Baird.

29. Washington Nationals
The Scott Olsen and Josh WIllingham trade with Florida was a good one for the Nats, but they need a lot of work. Austin Kearns needs to be benched, but won't because of his contract and GM Jim Bowdens obsession with his former Reds players. The team would be better off with an outfield of Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, and Willingham, but it probably won't happen. Meanwhile, Nick Johnson needs to be healthy for this team to have any chance.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have done NOTHING this offseason. They enter 2009 without both Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, who they had in the first half of last season. They do get a full season of Andy LaRoche at 3rd base, but this team is going absolutely nowhere and is by far the worst team in baseball heading into 2009.
Posted on: October 9, 2008 3:58 am

A Hollywood Ending

The best movie of the year has yet to come out. It is a thriller filled with suspense, action, and the sound of revenge. The numerous plot twists are what makes this storyline the best movie I will ever witnessed. I can already feel it. Of course, as most of you already know, I'm talking about "Manny Being Manny," the Manny Ramirez story. There is no Hollywood screenwriter that could have written a story as good as the one Manny Ramirez is writing this year with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Cast away after guiding the Red Sox to two World Series championships, the 2004 World Series MVP has the opportunity this postseason to stick it to his former team where it hurts the most.

Since becoming a Dodger at the trade deadline this year, Ramirez has a .398 batting average with 17 home runs and 53 RBI in just 180 at bats. In that time the Dodgers pushed their way past the defending NL West Champion Arizona Diamondbacks and into the postseason for the first time since 2006. Not only that, but the new Ramirez led Dodger team swept the Chicago Cubs, who had the best record in the National League in the NLDS.

It is the first time since 1988, the year the Dodgers defeated the Oakland Athletics in the World Series, that the Dodgers had won a playoff series.

Meanwhile, in the American League, Ramirez's former team knocked off the Los Angeles Angels in four games to advance to the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Both the Dodgers and Red Sox are now only just one series away from complete chaos.

"Through all the fun and games, there is always an edge about him. He's about as confident in his ability as anyone I've ever seen, but it's more than that. Whatever it is that drives him, it drives him. It is there all the time, no matter how much fun he seems to be having....This guy wants to win more than anything else, and he wants to prove himself every time up."
-Dodgers Manager Joe Torre on Manny Ramirez

Ramirez had been asking to be traded out of Boston since the 2004 season, but never got his wish until now. In the years in between, it became commonplace for Ramirez trade rumors to heat up at the deadline, but most of the time the baseball community was left disappointed as no deal was reached. Red Sox management knew that Ramirez wanted out of Boston, but when they felt they couldn't get even value in return, they played Ramirez's constant trade request off as "Manny Being Manny." Initially, Manny Ramirez had no choice but to go along with it as fans would have reacted negatively had he not.

However, as the years went on, Manny realized that this new persona he was given gave him all the power in the world. Especially if the Red Sox kept winning ballgames. In essence, Boston giving Manny the power to be a distraction a first time promoted his behavior and much of the reasoning for the manner of his departure from Boston can be accredited to the team not handling the situation well initially. They let Manny Ramirez dictate how their team was going to play and when you let the convicts run the asylum, it never ends in a good result.

Eventually many people began to question whether or not Ramirez was purposely taking days off, faking injuries, and not concentrating on winning. The "Manny Being Manny" tagline was growing tiresome among Boston fans. However, it wasn't until the persona started to wear thing on management and other players that caused the Red Sox to actively look for trade suitors. 

So when Ramirez finally was traded to the Dodgers, many criticized him of not wanting to win. However, in my opinon, I think Joe Torre, who saw Ramirez plenty of times as an opposing manager, said it best.  "Through all the fun and games, there is always an edge about him. He's about as confident in his ability as anyone I've ever seen, but it's more than that," Torre said of Ramirez. "Whatever it is that drives him, it drives him. It is there all the time, no matter how much fun he seems to be having....This guy wants to win more than anything else, and he wants to prove himself every time up."

Maybe that is the reason he has won two world series rings in the past four years and is on the verge of making it to a 5th. Ramirez's tarnished relationship with the Red Sox will give both sides extra motivation to stick it to the other. Amping the scenario up even more, is that the Dodger team that Ramirez joined features fellow Red Sox outcasts Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe. All of which have something to prove to Red Sox Nation(though Garciaparra is out with an injury).

Manny is playing baseball as if he has a huge chip on his shoulder and I absolutely love it. It is his competitive drive to succeed that makes Ramirez's vengence with the Dodgers seem that much sweeter. I haven't watched a player play with that kind of motivation and drive to prove something in a long time.

If the two teams end up squaring off in the World Series,  it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox fans embrace the man who helped them win two world titles or if they will boo him. I'm hoping it's the former, but you never know with Boston fans. Either way, if the two teams meet, the world series is sure to have a Hollywood ending.
Posted on: June 30, 2008 1:40 am

American League Midseason Report Cards

The half way point of the season is here and it's time to grade the performance of each team. How well has your team done this season?

American League East

Baltimore Orioles
41-39, 4th Place in the AL East
Grade: A -

The Orioles made the right moves during the off-season by trading both Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada. Those two trades brought the team some quality players in return that the team can build upon. While many people wrote the Orioles off this season--some going as far as predicting the team would have 100 losses--the O's have remained competitive all year long. The only step left for GM Andy MacPhail is to continue the firesale and trade off the remaining veterans for prospects. With the team having a top 3 relief pitching staff, there will be quite a bit of demand for veteran relievers like Chad Bradford, Jamie Walker, and George Sherrill. Trading them would make the team much better in the long run.

Boston Red Sox
50-34, 2nd Place in the AL East
Grade: A

The Red Sox have played very well this season. Despite the fact that David Ortiz started out slow, Curt Schilling is done for the year, and multiple players have spent time on the DL, they still have one of the best records in baseball. However, because they play in baseball's best division, they are finding themselves in the middle of what should be a three team race for the American League East. With regards to that, I give the team an "A" for overall performance. However, because Schilling is out with injury, I don't trust anyone on their team other than Josh Beckett to start in the playoffs. Despite Tim Wakefield having his best season since 2002, he has never been a good postseason pitcher. The young guys--Lester, Buchholz, & Masterson--have only one playoff start between them and lack longevity in the regular season. Meanwhile, Daisuke's walk totals are increasing and his performance in the postseason last year was terrible. It will be interesting to see if the team pursues a veteran starter at the deadline.

New York Yankees
44-38, 3rd Place in the AL East
Grade: B

The Yankees haven't exactly been playing their best ball, yet they haven't played bad baseball either. The team has consistently remained around .500 and have just recently made a run above it. In my opinion, the Yankees can't get much worse, but they have the potential to be much better than they are playing. With Joba finally making the transition to the rotation, if the Yankees can add one more starter, they'll be right in the thick of it. The teams offense is potent, especially with the return of Jason Giambi to the lineup and the bullpen has been holding its own so far. The Yankees were my prediction to win the division and I still think they will do it.

Tampa Bay Rays
49-32, 1st Place in the AL East
Grade: A

Wow. Who would have thought the Tampa Bay Rays would have been in first place in the American League East at the halfway point? I certainly didn't. This team has been loaded with talent, but it never fully developed until now. The off-season trade of Delmon Young for Matt Garza has payed dividends as well and given the team a formidable front three of Scott Kazmir, Garza, and James Shields. In addition, Evan Longoria is showing that he will be a true superstar in this league for years to come. What the team really needs going forward is one more bat, perhaps in right field or DH, to solidify the lineup. Other than that, the Rays will stay competitive until the very end. You can be assured of that.

Toronto Blue Jays
40-43, Last Place in the AL East
Grade: D

Everyone's favorite preseason pick is in last place in the division right now. The Blue Jays haven't played bad baseball, but they just haven't been given a commitment to winning by their management. The early season release of Frank Thomas (who is hitting .319 with the A's) is a perfect example. The team has the pitching staff to be a good team and they could make a 2nd half run, but it might be too little too late in the toughest division in baseball. If the team wants to remain competitive, they need to make a trade for an impact bat. You can't expect to win too many games with Matt Stairs, Brad Wilkerson, Kevin Mench, and Shannon Stewart in your lineup. It just doesn't happen.

American League Central

Chicago White Sox
45-35, 1st Place in the AL Central
Grade: A

Maybe we were a bit too harsh on GM Kenny Williams this offseason as many of his signings have proven to work out great. The additions of Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink have shored up the bullpen problems the team has been having for years. Meanwhile, Carlos Quentin is among the league leaders in home runs this season, while Alexei Ramirez is batting over .300 and has shored up the the 2nd base spot for the team. Even the decision to keep Joe Crede is looking brilliant now. The only move that isn't looking great is the Nick Swisher deal as Ryan Sweeney is outperforming him in Oakland. However, Swisher is batting .302 with 5 homers and 18 RBI in the month of June so he might be on the verge of turning it around.

Cleveland Indians
37-45, Tied for Last Place in AL the Central
Grade: F

I don't understand how a team this talented could perform so poorly all year long. The Indians aren't even putting themselves anywhere close to contention which is making the decision to trade C.C. Sabathia easier by the day. The more and more I see of Travis Hafner, the uglier that 6 year extension is looking that he signed a year ago as well. The only two Indians ballplayers that are performing are Grady Sizemore and Casey Blake and Blake is as good as gone at the seasons end. The Indians better hope that Sabathia brings them back players that will help them in the immediate future, because the Indians window of opportunity is closing.

Detroit Tigers
41-40, 3rd Place in the AL Central
Grade: C

Well, it isn't what we expected, but to be a game above .500 and only 4.5 back of the division leaders at the halfway sign is good for the Tigers who started the season off poorly. The pitching staff is starting to come around--though Dontrelle Willis may be done as a pro--and the team should get better in the bullpen when Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney start to come around. It wouldn't surprise me if the Tigers overtook the White Sox in the American League Central by the end of the year. Then again, it also wouldn't surprise me if the team remained mediocre for the rest of the season. Much like the Yankees, the offense will be there for this team. EVERYTHING relies on the pitching staff down the stretch. I would suggest the team making a trade, but after the deals with Florida and Atlanta, they can't have much left in their farm system.

Kansas City Royals
37-45, Tied for Last Place in the AL Central
Grade: D

We knew the Royals were going to be bad to start the year, so the fact that they have a higher grade than the Indians is because the Indians failed to meet anywhere close to their expectations. However, I still don't understand how many of these players on the Royals have jobs. I mean, how long is it going to be until Tony Pena, who has a .142 batting average and an OPS of -2 (yeah...negative two) is sent down? I mean, he can't be in their for his defense either as he has the 2nd worse. Their other alternative, Angel Berroa, was recently traded away to the Dodgers which made no sense at all. At least Berroa could hit the ball out of the infield. This team has some talented players, but they are nowhere near turning into a good ballclub.

Minnesota Twins
45-37, 2nd Place in the AL Central
Grade: B+

The Twins lost both Johan Santana and Torii Hunter this offseason and are still in contention. How you may ask? For one, Hunter has always been overrated and is just an average ballplayer. Secondly, Joe Mauer has been able to stay healthy this season which has given the offense a spark. And third, the bullpen (as usual) has been outstanding. The Twins really don't deserve to be where they are with the performance of the offense (as a whole) and the poor starting pitching they've had. However, they'd remained in the hunt the entire time and had tons of success against the National League this season. I gave them a B+ because of their record, however, I think both the White Sox and Tigers will finish ahead of them by the end of the year.

American League West

Los Angeles Angels
49-33, 1st Place in the AL West
Grade: A -

The Angels got exceptional performances from Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana while John Lackey was out, and now that he's back, the team has one of the most dangerous pitching staffs in the majors. However, the offense of the Halos has been a huge disappointment this season as the team is 2nd to last in the American League in team OPS. Only two players on the team have double digit home run numbers and one of them (Mike Napoli) is just a part time player. The Angels most obvious need for the second half is an impact bat, preferably at shortstop. The Angels should be able to keep pace in the west as the A's and Rangers aren't much of a real threat, but if they want to avoid another October disappointment, they'll have to make some changes.

Oakland Athletics
44-37. 2nd Place in the AL West
Grade: B+

If there is one thing I've learned over the years, it's not to doubt Billy Beane. He's the only guy that can make his team better the next season by trading his best pitcher and his best hitter. Many people had the A's predicted as the last place finishers in the west this season, but the A's have continued to succeed with their foundation of strong pitching. The team is on pace to set another record for most people on the disabled list in a season. Much like the division rival Angels, the A's offense has been terrible this season. However, I don't think it can get much worse than it already is. Daric Barton has struggled all year long, but the A's have no other options at the position now that Dan Johnson is gone and it's probably best to let Barton swing his way out of it. Carlos Gonzalez has finally arrived at the major league level and his swing is amazing. He is only 21 and you can tell that he'll be a great ballplayer in the future. The team has a lot of potential and was initially geared up to compete in 2010-2011. Anything they do now is just a bonus.

Texas Rangers
42-41, 3rd Place in the AL West
Grade: B

Nolan Ryan......."Take That!" At least, that's what I'd be saying if I were Rangers manager Ron Washington. After feeling the heat much of the first half, Ron Washington has the Rangers maintaining a respectable winning percentage. He is getting the most out of the players he has and it's turning into wins for the ballclub. Milton Bradley might just be the best offseason signing for the Rangers as he has continued to crush the ball. Now all the team needs to do is to finally get some decent pitchers to the big league level instead of trading their best talent away (i.e. Chris Young, Edinson Volquez, John Danks). If I were GM Jon Daniels, I know my team doesn't stand much of a chance at the postseason this year, so I'd look to see if I could trade Vincente Padilla (and his contract) to a contender.

Seattle Mariners
31-50, Last Place in the AL West
Grade: F

What a joke. I think I was the only person here to question how good the Seattle Mariners would be this season. I KNEW they weren't as good as everyone has been saying and they only proved me right by having the worst record in baseball. It's about time they fired Bill Bavasi as he did nothing good for the team. I don't even know what to say about the Mariners right now other than a firesale should be about to begin (with everyone except for Ichiro). The Mariners have a lot of rebuilding to do and now that Bavasi damaged the teams future, who knows how long it's going to take.

Posted on: June 12, 2008 2:50 am

New England vs. National League in All-Star Game

The fan voting in the all-star game is ridiculous, especially if you're a fan of a team in the American League. Because of the huge markets in Boston and New York for the game of baseball, a deserving all-star player on your team could find himself off the roster. Checking the latest update, if the all-star game started today, the American League would field a starting team consisting of Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Josh Hamilton, and Ichiro Suzuki.

For those playing the home game, that's 5 Red Sox players, 2 Yankees, 1 Texas Ranger, and 1 Seattle Mariner. And we haven't even gotten to the pitching staff yet! (which coincidentally, the Red Sox's manager gets to choose this year) Heck, the American League Central isn't even represented in the starting lineup.

Some people might argue that everyone still has a month to vote and that the current results could change....What they don't realize is that Red Sox and Yankees ballplayers are 1-2 in just about every category. Does anybody realize that Mike Lowell is 2nd in the 3rd basemen voting despite having a batting average just above .260? Many of these players, such as Varitek, Pedroia, Ichiro, and Ortiz don't even deserve to start just based on numbers alone. Others at their position have been outperforming them, but will probably miss out on the game. It's not fair to the fans of teams that aren't based in the New England area. In addition, it's not fair to the players as well as many of them have all-star incentive bonuses in their contracts. Should the fans really decide who deserves a bonus or should the play of the actual player? I think it's the latter.

By supporting fan voting, MLB wants you to ignore the strong season that Milton Bradley is having as the DH of the Texas Rangers. They want you to ignore the fact that Joe Mauer is batting .327 or that Kurt Suzuki has thrown out an AL leading 40% of all baserunners. They want you to look the other way when Michael Young or Justin Moneau step up to the plate. MLB wants you to forget about Carlos Quentin and his 16 homers and 54 RBI. No one wants to hear about Jose Guillen tearing the cover off of balls in Kansas City, Nick Markakis leading an upstart Baltimore team or B.J. Upton's ridiculous first half in Tampa Bay. After all, in the grand scheme of things, Joe Crede's 14 home runs, Jack Cust's league leading 48 walks, and Ian Kinsler's 17 steals (0 CS by the way) never existed.....right?

MLB couldn't be more wrong and it's about time for some change.

As a solution, I've come up with two different ideas. Either....

(1) MLB should have the players and coaches vote (as they do for Gold Glove Awards) or....
(2) MLB should create an all-star panel that makes the selections.

MLB has been looking for a way to make the all-star game more attractive and this might just be it. Because as things stand now, I have absolutely no incentive to watch the game. Will a deserving player on your team get snubbed thanks to fan voting? If you're not a fan of the Red Sox or Yankees, my guess is that they will.
Posted on: January 31, 2008 2:11 am
Edited on: January 31, 2008 3:36 pm

American League Offseason Grades

Now that most of the big name free agents have signed and impact players like Dan Haren and Johan Santana have been dealt to their new teams, it's time to rate each teams off-season performance based on need. Did your team do a good job this winter? Matt Abedi has the answers.....


Baltimore Orioles
2007 Performance:
69-93, 4th Place AL East
Offseason Grade:
B -

For an organization that has had absolutely no direction in previous seasons, this offseason was a positive sign for Oriole fans. New GM Andy MacPhail made the right move by deciding to firesale. While the Orioles could have traded Miguel Tejada a year or two sooner, it's nice to finally see them take action. The team still needs to trade Erik Bedard, Brian Roberts, and Ramon Hernandez. Once they do that, they can get a solid foundation of players to build around and hopefully be able to compete in the American League East.

Boston Red Sox
2007 Performance:
96-66, 1st Place AL East, World Series Champions
Offseason Grade:

After winning the world series a year ago, the Red Sox have done nothing to improve their team this offseason. Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz are natural improvements, but the team could use some help in middle relief. While they still should remain one of best teams in the American League, it might be a lot more difficult for the team to repeat this season as other teams are closing the gap. In addition, you can't expect players like Mike Lowell to have another year like he did in 2007. At the very least, they were able to resign Curt Schilling, Lowe, Wakefield, and Timlin which should still keep them the favorites in the east.

New York Yankees
2007 Performance:
94-68, 2nd Place AL East, Wild Card winner, Lost to CLE in ALDS
Offseason Grade:
A -

The Yankees were able to avoid a disastrous offseason after they were able to resign Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. Although I disagree with the way the Yankees organization handled the Joe Torre situation, a coaching change was needed. The team has a lot of question marks in it's rotation to begin the season, but giving Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes a chance to start everyday is better than going to free agent market to land a pitcher. In addition, a full season of Joba should help stabilize the bullpen problems the team has had in previous seasons.

Tampa Bay Rays
2007 Performance:
66-96, Last Place AL East
Offseason Grade:
C +

The Rays surprised everyone when they acquired Matt Garza this winter. Since B.J. Upton is capable of playing outfield and because Evan Longoria is likely to be called up to start at 3rd base, Delmon Young was expendable and it wasn't a bad risk for the team to take. However, the Rays still haven't done much to help stabilize their bullpen problems (unless they somehow think Troy Percival fixes everything) which is going to kill them in the long run. It was nice to see the team spend some money this offseason though.

Toronto Blue Jays
2007 Performance:
83-79, 3rd Place AL East
Offseason Grade:

The Blue Jays should become a better team than they were a year ago simply by just getting healthy. However, I'm not too impressed with any of their offseason signings or trades. In any event, it won't put them above the Red Sox or Yankees, which is what they needed to try to do. David Eckstein is just an average shortstop, and the Scott Rolen deal only adds more years and money to an injury prone player. The Blue Jays should once again finish third in the American League East.

Joe, Andy, and A-Rod were key to the Yankees offseason.


Chicago White Sox
2007 Performance:
72-90, 4th Place AL Central
Offseason Grade: D

Does anyone have any idea what White Sox GM Ken Williams was thinking this offseason? Williams seemed to have mistake after mistake. So far this winter, Williams has traded away his most effective starter (Jon Garland) for one season of Orlando Cabrera. In addition, he traded away three top prospects to Oakland (for Nick Swisher) only to have one of the worst outfield defenses in the league. The White Sox will be lucky if they are a 3rd place team this year in the Central.

Cleveland Indians
2007 Performance: 96-66, 1st Place AL Central, Lost to BOS in ALCS
Offseason Grade: C

Other than signing Japanese right hander Masahide Kobayashi to a two year contract, the Indians didn't make any significant moves this offseason. It seems as if the Indians will be relying on C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona to put up numbers similar to what they had a year ago in order for this team to get past the much improved Tigers.

Detroit Tigers
2007 Performance:
88-74, 2nd Place AL Central
Offseason Grade: A

With one trade, the Tigers have gone from being a good team in the American League to being an elite team. The additions of Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, and Dontrelle Willis should improve this team enough to be legitimate World Series contenders. Not to mention, Kenny Rogers will be fully healthy when entering the season. GM Dave Dombrowski has done an excellent job since taking over in Detroit.

Kansas City Royals
2007 Performance:
69-93, Last Place AL Central
Offseason Grade: C+

The addition of Jose Guillen this season should help ignite the Royals offense a bit more than in the past. His contract essentially replaces that of Mike Sweeney, who did little to help the team win the past three seasons. Meanwhile, the addition of Ron Mahay in the pen gives the team a reliable lefty that they can count on. The Royals could finish as high as 3rd in the division if everything goes right. They have a great young group of players that should continue to improve.

Minnesota Twins
2007 Performance: 79-83, 3rd Place AL Central
Offseason Grade: D +

It was a tough offseason for Twins fans. Not only did they lose Torii Hunter to free agency, but their GM made a huge mistake when deciding to trade Johan Santana to the Mets for that small of a package. They should have at least gotten Mike Pelfrey included in the deal to replace the losses of Santana, Garza, and Silva in the rotation. The good thing about this offseason is that the Twins actually spent money on Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. The bad news is that this team won't be good for another couple of years.

The losses of Jon Garland, Johan Santana, and Matt Garza have hurt each teams chances of contending in 2008.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2007 Performance:
94-78, 1st Place AL West, Lost to BOS in ALDS
Offseason Grade: A

Mark my words when I say the Angels will have the best record in the American League next season. While many people bash the Angels for not trading for Miguel Cabrera, they had one heck of an offseason by acquiring Torii Hunter and Jon Garland. The addition of Garland gives the Halos the best pitching staff in the American League with John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Jered Weaver, Garland, and Joe Saunders. The team also has good depth with Ervin Santana stashed away. As for losing Cabrera, Aybar can be just as good and they have plenty of other options including Maicer Izturis and Brandon Wood. The Torii Hunter contract is bad is bad in the long run, but should help the team compete this season.

Oakland Athletics
2007 Performance:
76-86, 3rd Place AL West
Offseason Grade: B+

Billy Beane made the right choice when he decided to blow up the team. The A's were a game out of last in the west last season and were going nowhere fast. By selling high on Dan Haren and Nick Swisher, Beane was able to completely retool his team for the future and turned the farm system into one of the best in the league. In addition, Beane was smart by not accepting low ball offers for Joe Blanton and Huston Street. The Mark Kotsay deal was great for the team as well. There is a reason why Billy Beane is the best in the business. The A's might surprise a lot of people in 2008.

Seattle Mariners
2007 Performance:
88-74, 2nd Place AL West
Offseason Grade: D -

If the season started today, the Mariners only offseason acquisition would be Carlos Silva. While the Erik Bedard trade is still up in the air, the Silva signing was just a waste of money. If the Mariners do get Bedard, it would only stunt the growth of young Brandon Morrow as a starter in the league, downgrade them in right field from a year ago, and it would deplete their farm system. Once again, I'm not too impressed with what Bill Bavasi has done this offseason in Seattle.

Texas Rangers
2007 Performance:
75-87, Last Place AL West
Offseason Grade: D+

Once again, the Rangers will find themselves at the bottom of the AL West in 2008. They have done nothing to improve. The Kazuo Fukumori signing was a good low risk, high reward signing, but this team will still be lacking in 2008. The Hamilton trade is questionable given the teams lack of starting pitching. Jason Jennings? That's not going to help them at. And who is going to close for them? The Rangers always have too many needs and they never address them.

The additions of Torii Hunter and Jon Garland give the Angels an easy road to winning their division.

National League Grades to follow in the next few days.....
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com