- Let the previews begin!
With the season a week away and my book available and the people that I know have ordered it getting it soon----as early as today----(and I also know who hasn't ordered it----don't let me run into you), let's start with the public previews/predictions. Ordinarily, I'd start from left to right with the American League East, but:
A) It's Passover, so I'll get in touch with my Jewishness (even though I'm now more Sith than Jew) and start go from right to left and start with the National League West.
B) I'm extending the drama. So, while I'm sure many are looking forward to predictions for the American League East, they'll have to wait a few days.
There's no translation required; although some stat zombies might require a blow to the head to get it. I'm here for you guys too.
National League West
- Los Angeles Dodgers-----Wins-90; Losses-72; GB ---
- San Francisco Giants-----Wins-88; Losses-74; GB--2*
- Colorado Rockies-----Wins-84; Losses-78; GB--6
- Arizona Diamondbacks-----Wins-70; Losses-92; GB--20
- San Diego Padres-----Wins-65; Losses-97; GB--25
*Denotes predicted Wild Card Winner
Los Angeles Dodgers:
Much has been made of the divorce between owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie sending the Dodgers into disarray; and it's true to a certain extent. They did almost absolutely nothing this winter aside from signing Jamey Carroll, Reed Johnson and a few veterans to minor league contracts. Obviously the divorce affected the club decisions.
That said, the Dodgers are still a very good team and with their young core of talent and manager Joe Torre's magical ability to steer his club into the playoffs; they're going to be in contention. I doubt the divorce is going to prevent GM Ned Colletti from being able to make a move at mid-season for the playoff run.
They can really hit; Clayton Kershaw's restraints are being removed and he's ready to explode into superstardom. I'm talking a possible 300 strikeouts. Matt Kemp is just about ready to blossom into an MVP candidate; they have excellent, under-the-radar bats like Casey Blake and Andre Ethier ; and I've long ceased to underestimate Torre's skill at somehow, some way getting his teams to the playoffs despite any roadblocks in his path. The divorce of the owners is a small obstacle in comparison to what he had to deal with for the Yankees all those years.
Bet against Torre and the Dodgers talent at your own risk.
San Francisco Giants:
The Giants are still considered offensively challenged and mediocre non-contenders despite a devastating top two in their starting rotation of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. While they don't have the flashy names in their lineup, they have enough hitting to support that pitching staff.
Mark DeRosa is a winning player whose attitude fits right in with Aaron Rowand in the Giants clubhouse. If anything sabotaged the Cubs last season, it was the trade of DeRosa; even though they did get some young talent back in the deal from the Indians, they missed DeRosa terribly as the clubhouse tenor was diminished further by the mercurial (I'm being nice) Milton Bradley.
Pablo Sandoval is emerging into a star; the Giants have a good bullpen; and a manager in Bruce Bochy who, like Torre, gets his teams into the playoffs once they get a smell of the race.
I picked Madison Bumgarner for Rookie of the Year in the National League and he ruined my aesthetic by getting rocked in the spring, but considering how he decimated the minor leagues on the way up, a little adversity is a good thing and he'll be heard from this year.
More than the sum of their parts, the Giants are going to battle for a playoff spot with the Dodgers in the division and a couple of other clubs for the Wild Card and their pitching will get them in.
The Rockies are a trendy pick to continue their good play from last season (and they were borderline ridiculous after Jim Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle as manager) and win the division. They have an excellent lineup; a workable, though short, starting rotation; and GM Dan O'Dowd has always been good at piecing a bullpen together with random parts. They're going to be missing closer Huston Street for the first few weeks of the season (at least), but I'm not a fan of Street anyway and his absence will be negligible.
Even with Ubaldo Jimenez about to explode as a star, their rotation looks short. Who knows what to expect from erstwhile ace Jeff Francis. It would be foolish to think that Jorge De La Rosa will be as hot as he was in the second half of last season. Truth be told, if you look at his Gamelogs, he didn't pitch much better in the second half during his 14-2 run than he did when he was 2-7. He was okay----that's it----and hung around in games long enough to win. I don't believe that luck is to be discounted as stat zombies do, but De La Rosa is a journeyman lefty.
You can make a case for Jim Tracy as the best manager in baseball. Another brilliant move from Paul DePodesta as Dodgers GM was firing Tracy because he wanted someone "on the same page".
Same page of what?
The Rockies have question marks that won't be nullified by Tracy's excellence this year.
When a team is built on two Cy Young caliber starting pitchers (Brandon Webb and Dan Haren) and one gets hurt----and is apparently still not right (Webb)----they're in trouble.
And the Diamondbacks are in trouble.
They have some bats----Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds----but strikeout too much.
They have some arms, but are short at the back end of the rotation (Ian Kennedy?)
They have key players returning from injury/illness (Webb; Conor Jackson; Chris Snyder)
They have a young, neophyte manager (brilliantly intelligent) who's still fighting for respect in the clubhouse and living down GM Josh Byrnes's idiotic statement that manager A.J. Hinch would provide "organizational advocacy".
This was a two-fold gaffe on the part of the GM. First, he denigrated popular manager Bob Melvin with the players, implying that the way things fell apart in the past two years were Melvin's fault when they weren't; second, he put Hinch in the position where he appears to be a puppet of the front office.
The Diamondbacks defense is awful; they're oddly constructed. Even with Webb they've got problems; big ones. Without Webb they're going to have a terrible year.
San Diego Padres:
The Padres have many positives including a load of young arms. I really like Clayton Richard. Kevin Correia began to fulfill his potential last season; and Jon Garland is a useful cog. The bullpen is okay too with the impressive Luke Gregerson and closer Heath Bell.
Bud Black is a terrible manager. Period.
Unlike most other teams, the Padres off-field machinations are going to determine the future. New GM Jed Hoyer comes with a great resume having been a major part of the Red Sox front office, but we've seen what can happen when a resume doesn't live up to the hype with Dayton Moore and DePodesta (still a part of the Padres front office).
Hoyer did very little this past winter aside from dump Kevin Kouzmanoff's salary; sign Garland; and collect Hairstons (Scott and Jerry).
Accumulating Hairstons does not a championship club make.
Hoyer will be judged on what he does with megastar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and closer Bell. On some level it's a positive that he'll be judged almost immediately in the first year of his tenure, but such a circumstance is rife with land-mines. If he gacks up such important moves, he'll be screwed. Completely.
- More trouble for the Indians:
It's going to get bad in Cleveland.
The positives of Russell Branyan (power and walks) are overridden by his streakiness and that he's injury prone. He's going on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his back and who knows when he's going to be back or what the Indians will get from he when and if he returns?
I don't want to hear how the Indians can contend if things go right. They can't. Because they're not any good. In fact, they're atrocious.
- Viewer Mail 3.29.2010:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE GMs and their egos:
Call me naive, but regardless of what any of these GMs say, I don't think they sit around thinking about their legacies.
The concern for me about Ruben Amaro Jr. is that the implication of him being concerned about a "legacy" is coming from voices other than his. The return on the trade of Cliff Lee for prospects is notoriously questionable. While it may not be first and foremost in their running of clubs, I do think that Billy Beane and Brian Cashman (to name two) are concerned about public perception and how they're viewed. It can't be disregarded.
Peter at Outside the Phillies Looking In writes RE Ruben Amaro Jr.:
Amaro Jr's legacy, almost as absurd as the Howard and Pujols deal also sourced from mysterious insiders. I guess we'll know come October if the Lee move was better for the team, I think it was...
You can't beat me, so you might as well join me. My book is available on Amazon and I-Universe. I inspire love and hate (sometimes simultaneously in the same people for understandable reasons----don't ask). You can't deny my exceptional skills either way.