Has anyone been watching the Winter Olympics? Athletes from around the world have been giving it their all in Vancouver. I can't help notice one glaring omission. Patriotism. Is it just me? Has any American metioned the country he or she represents while being interviewed? How about when accepting medals on behalf of their/our nation?
Politics need not get involved. Patriotism is not politics. Being proud representing your country as one of its' greatest sporting competitors is patriotism.
One can't help but think we're witnessing too much individualism. It's fair to say I haven't watched every minute or event being held in Vanouver. From what I have seen, not a single American has even mentioned our nation. Not even in passing. Smacks of a selfish entitlement idiology. Patriotism isn't in their hearts which is quite surprising considering diverse backgrounds make up USA's Winter Olympics rosters. Has anyone made an statement "... on behalf of my teammates.." or any sort of gratitude for anything? Not even paying tribute to their coaches or trainers.
American viewers have been treated to tremendous games. Witnessing Olympic glory and a few devastating defeats. Compeition at highest attainable levels. "Earning" the opportunity of wearing your country's flag had always been a dream of most Olympians. Nearly all of prior Team USA participants have expressed this in countless interviews and public appearances. Even our President hasn't spoken in support of our greatest athletes as they represent the United States of America.
Perhaps individualism or lack of patriotic acknowledgement is the "in" thing these days. Maybe my observations above shouldn't be directed with broad key strokes. But, something is clearly been missing. An abundance of sportsmanship has shined for all to see. Patriotism remains in the dark.
Visit "All World All Sports" to link with your favorite sports venues from around the world.
Baseball 2010 is warming up. Team camps are open and players are getting ready to chase their World Series dreams. Fans have been signing up in record numbers to play fantasy baseball on various sites from online forums to in-person gatherings.
There's no better fantasy sports game than baseball. It's a true test of managers ability to keep teams going over the course of 162 games. Early or late season injuries can destroy an entire season if managers fail to plan ahead. I thoroughly enjoy fantasy baseball player debates when managers attempt explaining away why they chose a particular player to build their teams around.
Fantasy baseball comes in many forms. AL only, NL only, All Universe. Then we have to choose which style of play... head to head, rotisserie. Do you play in leagues which assign dollar values? Caps? No salary? Money leagues? Leagues for fun? Should I join an ESPN league? Baseball Manager? Plenty of games are out there. Do your homework before signing up.
I've decided to rank my top ten players by position for fantasy baseball impact. These rankings are without dollar considerations. It's strictly a list of best players offering biggest value (stat) returns by position. Obviously, rankings would change depending on league scoring types. Here we go...
1- Joe Mauer
2- Victor Martinez
3- Jorge Posada
4- Brian McCann
5- Geovany Soto
6- Russell Martin
7- Benji Molina
8- Matt Wieters (rookie, sleeper)
9- Mike Napoli
There's a serious dropoff in production after the top 3. Buyer beware.
1- Albert Pujols
2- Ryan Howard
3- Mark Teixeira
4- Prince Fielder
5- Justin Morneau
6- Miguel Cabrera
7- Adrian Gonzalez
8- Kendry Morales
9- Adam Dunn
Top 5 guaranteed to produce BIG stats.
1- Chase Utley
2- Dustin Pedroia
3- Robinson Cano
4- Ian Kinsler
5- Brian Roberts
6- Aaron Hill
7- Brandon Phillips
8- Howie Kendrick
9- Dan Uggla
1- Alex Rodriguez
2- Evan Longoria
3- Pablo Sandoval
4- Ryan Zimmerman
5- Aramis Ramirez
6- Kevin Youkilis
7- Mark Reynolds
8- David Wright
9- Chone Figgins
1- Hanley Ramirez
2- Jimmy Rollins
3- Troy Tulowitzki
4- Derek Jeter
5- Jose Reyes (beware)
6- Jason Bartlett
7- Alcides Escobar
8- Yuniel Escobar
9- Stephen Drew
If you don't land a top 4 SS then go after other positions offering better production. SS isn't going to give you big stats w/o top 4. Draft according to league type. Not worth ruining an entire season by taking a chance here.
1- Ryan Braun
2- Manny Ramirez
3- Matt Holliday
4- Andre Ethier
5- Adam Lind
6- Carl Crawford
7- Grady Sizemore
8- Curtis Granderson
9- Jason Werth
Clearly debates will rage here. OF rankings depend on the type of league you've joined. In head to head matchups, go for power. Rotisserie leagues might need speed or high batting average types if you already have enough power or RBI producers. Know your team and understand scoring rules.
1- David Ortiz
2- Hideki Matsui
3- Vlad Guerrero
4- Jason Kubel
Only four listed. Just go for the best hitter as DH slots are universal (anyone can hit here). No pure DH is worth drafting before later round in live drafts.
1- Tim Lincecum
2- Felix Hernandez
3- Justin Verlander
4- Zack Grienke
5- CC Sabathia
6- Roy Halladay
7- Chris Carpenter
8- Johan Santana
9- Jon Lester
Understand your league type and scoring when drafting starting pitchers. Some leagues place greater emphasis on certain statistics or may not include points for catagories such as shutouts, complete games, quality starts.
1- Mariano Rivera
2- Jonathan Papelbon
3- Jonathan Broxton
4- Joe Nathan
5- Francisco Rodriguez
6- Trevor Hoffman
7- Hudson Street
8- Ryan Franklin
9- David Aardsma
Understand your league type and scoring when drafting closers.
Let the raging debates begin. Keep in mind these rankings, as listed, are somewhat generic. Know your leagues and pre-rank players according to maximum contribution potentials. Always use your top 5 picks for maximum statistical returns. Pujols, Howard, ARod, Hanley Ramirez, Lincecum are all great and highly sought 1st round selections. Never over bid for one particular player if it detracts from completing a balanced attack. Have I mentioned... "know your league" in preparation for draft day?
NL West baseball was spectacular in '09. Joe Torre's LA Dodgers managed to hang on and win the division in the final week. Colorado pulled off another fantastic finish by getting hot at just the right time. San Francisco's younth movement surprisingly kept pressure on all foes thanks to Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Arizona was busy shoring up their roster. San Diego has seen better days.
Here's my final brief installment of 2010 previews... NL West.
Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67):
Key additions: 22 players signed to minor league contracts including Eric Gagne & Brian Giles trying to rejuvenate careers.
Key losses: John Garland, Orlando Hudson, Guillermo Mota, Juan Pierre, Jim Thome, Randy Wolf.
Dodger baseball is alive and well with Joe Torre at the helm. Back to back NL West titles for the first time since the days of Tommy Lasorda (1994-95). Great nucleus of young pitching & hitting assures this team will remain in West race for years to come.
Projected rotation: Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Vincente Padilla, ???
Bullpen: Fireballer Jonathan Broxton returns. Eric Gagne making another comeback attempt. Very deep, talented bullpen. Perhaps they have too many arms? Ideal for end of spring trading bait.
Forecast: Starting pitching might not go deep enough into games. Torre will have his hands full trying to keep relievers arms sound when the clock turns to September. Lineup comes through with clutch hit after clutch hit... until NLCS rolls around. Torre will try getting his team past recent playoff failures... assuming they can hold off rising Rockies.
Colorado Rockies (92-70):
Key additions: Melvin Mora, Miguel Olivo
Key losses: Garrett Atkins, Jose Contreras, Josh Fogg, Matt Herges, Jason Marquis, Yorvit Torrealba.
Once again, Colorado put together a strong late season push to make the playoffs. Strong performances by young rotation surprised everyone outside of Denver. All starters had winning records. Cutting down on strikeouts will go a long way towards winning the West. Rocks hope young talent matures enough to win it all. Dangerous club when all cylinder's are firing.
Projected rotation: Ubaldo Jiminez, Aaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Francis, Jason Hamel, Franklin Morales.
Bullpen: Hudson Street is loving life away from Oakland. Plenty of arms competing for roles on the big league club. Minors will be filled with pitching talent when camp breaks.
Forecast: Is this the year Colorado goes wire to wire? There's plenty of talent here to make a legit World Series run if starting pitchers continue improving.
San Francisco Giants (88-74):
Key additions: Mark DeRosa, Aubrey Huff, Guillermo Mota.
Key losses: Ryan Garko, Bob Howry, Randy Johnson, Brad Penny, Randy Winn.
Heading into '09 everyone knew SF wasn't going to win. In fact, most thought this club might not advance from the cellar. By the end of August, the Giants grabbed hold of 2nd place. Offense was their weak point most of the year outside of Sandoval (only regular to hit over .270). Giants front office has brought in DeRosa and Huff to add offensive potency in 2010. SF is a team on the rise but might still be a year or two away from passing LA/Colorado. But, don't be surprised if they're sitting alone in 1st when this season ends.
Projected rotation: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, ???
Bullpen: Brian Wilson returns to close. I'm not sold on his ability to shut down opponents in big games. Bullpen choirs will be spring time decisions.
Forecast: SF is putting together a fine club. I don't see them winning the West (yet). They'll be very competitive behind solid 1-2 punch of Lincecum & Cain.
San Diego Padres (75-87):
Key additions: John Garland, Jerry Hairston Jr., Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Stairs.
Key losses: Jake Peavy, Brian Giles, Josh Banks, Henry Blanco, Cliff Floyd, Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Padres have yet to recover since blowing their wild card lead to Colorado back in '07. As a matter of fact, they've gone backwards. 2010 will be a very long season and remaining talent could be jettisoned by MLB trading deadline. There isn't anything positive to say about the Padres. Lack of attention towards attempting to build a winning ballclub should have all San Diego fans miffed.
Projected rotation: John Garland, Chris Young, Kevin Correia, ???
Bullpen: Heath Bell returns as closer. Bullpen has talent. Unfortunately, they could easily be burnt out by the All Star break.
Forecast: Doom and gloom with no help on the horizon. Reproducing 75 wins seems like a longshot in tough NL West.
Arizona Diamondbacks (70-92):
Key additions: Edwin Jackson, Adam LaRoche, Aaron Heilman, Ian Kennedy, Bob Howry, Kelly Johnson.
Key losses: Eric Byrnes, Doug Davis, Yusmeiro Petit, Max Scherzer, Chad Tracy, Daniel Schlereth.
Arizona deserves credit for attempting to quickly return to winning ways. Injuries hurt them in recent years. They're now ready to compete. Only question is if new players can produce and if younger home grown talent matures.
Projected rotation: Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, ???
Bullpen: Chad Quails appears to be the closer. Deep bullpen, assignments to be won or lost this spring.
Forecast: Arizona is dangerous for one reason... everyone's eyes are on LA, Colorado & SF. Many pieces need to fall into place beginning with keeping players healthy. Don't be surprised if D-Backs challenge for division honors.
Get ready for 2010 AL West style baseball. It's going to be a shoot out in the West. Los Angeles has captured division title honors in 5 of 6 seasons. They'll be tested this year. Seattle was busy transforming their roster. Texas seemed ready to dethrone the Angels after beginning 30-19 only to falter during 100 degree sweltering Arlington temperatures. Oakland continues on the low payroll road which has led to dead ends of late.
Let's take a look at how these teams shape up. Only two weeks before Cactus League games begin.
Los Angeles Angels (97-65):
Key additions: Scott Kazmir, Hideki Matsui, Joel Piniero, Fernando Rodney, Brian Stokes.
Key losses: Chone Figgins, Kelvin Escobar, Vlad Guerrero, John Lackey, Gary Mathews Jr., Darren Oliver.
It's been a long time since the Angels dropped so many key players at once. Bad timing? Nope, not with Mike Scioscia calling the shots. LA did well replacing big salaried players. Angels have a young nucleus of talent in place. If they can play up to potential then LA will be the team to beat for quite some time.
Projected rotation: Jared Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Joel Piniero.
Bullpen: Rumors swirling wondering who will win the closers job this spring? Fuentes saved 48 but was often shaky. He may be challenged by Shields and newcomer Rodney. Plenty of solid arms. Bullpen should be just fine.
Forecast: Scioscia managed his butt off last season when multiple injuries nearly left this team for dead. Solid young lineup of rising stars. They do it all... speed, power, aggressiveness, defense & pitching. Repeating will not be an easy task but they have the talent and leadership to keep it going.
Texas Rangers (87-75):
Key additions: Vlad Guerrero, Rich Harden, Darren Oliver.
Key losses: Marlon Byrd, Eddie Guardado, Hank Blalock, Andruw Jones, Kevin Millwood, Ivan Rodriguez.
Rangers had a short lived great half of '09 when the led the West. Young pitchers came thru early and often before wilting in summer months. Lineup looked great at times. This team has always been able to hit. Pitching has usually been lacking. Rich Harden, if finally over arm woes, needs to become the staff leader on and off the diamond. Maybe last years' taste of winning can energize this team out of the gates? They'll only go as far as pitchers take them. Easier said than done.
Projected rotation: Rich Harden, Scott Feldman, Tommy Hunter, ???
Bullpen: Francisco Francisco will get plenty of save opp's. The rest of the pen needs to become consistent and probably won't be determined until the end of spring training.
Forecast: They'll score plenty of runs. Trick is getting pitchers to protect leads. Front office still hasn't gone hard after big time starting pitchers.
Seattle Mariners (85-77):
Key additions: Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Eric Byrnes, Ryan Garko and plenty of role players to compete for bench spots.
Key losses: Adrian Beltre, Kenji Johjima, Carlos Silva, Miguel Bastita.
The Mariners were one of baseball's busiest franchises this winter. They're ready for a serious run at dethroning LA. Lineup will have to manufacture runs without a bonified slugger. Pitching staff will keep them in games all year. Timely hits will be key to their success.
Projected rotation: Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Eric Bedard, ???
Bullpen: David Aardsma returns and needs to prove '09 was no fluke. Wide open race for middle relief and setup.
Forecast: Will they become a team to beat? Or, did they overdue it once again? Time will tell. Looking good on paper. A quick start in April is key.
Oakland Athletics (75-87):
Key additions: Ben Sheets, Coco Crisp.
Key losses: Bobby Crosby, Adam Kennedy, Scott Hairston.
Oakland is in a downward spiral. Lack of attendance hurts payroll. Lack of star power hurts attendance. GM Billy Beane had looked like a front office guru not too long ago by his ability to create playoff calibur teams on low budgets. However, back in the day he had Harden, Zito & Mulder (all long gone). Injuries to one time future star pitchers took its' toll. This is a team in transition with no immediate help in sight. AL West foes are too deep. A's lack firepower or pitching to compete anytime soon.
Projected rotation: Ben Sheets, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Justin Duchscherer, ??
Bullpen: Andrew Bailey was terrific in '09 and will be again in '10. Bullpen is lone team brightspot. Giving them a lead with a weak lineup is no easy task.
Forecast: Division rivals upgraded in a big way. A's stuck with what they have. Starting rotation trying to recover from arm woes and weakest West lineup spells trouble.
NL West up next.....
St. Louis ran away with the Central division title last year. Chicago fans suffered another disappointing season after their Cubs couldn't live up to division favorite status. Milwaukee's pitching staff didn't survive the loss of CC Sabathia & Sheets. Excitement filled the air in Cincinnati. Too bad it didn't translate into wins. Houston's demise may take years to correct. Pittsburgh's future is finally looking bright with excellent young talent.
2010 will be a very competitive season for NL Central teams. Time for a brief look into how these teams shape up heading into spring training (in order of '09 standings).
St. Louis Cardinals (91-71):
Key additions: Brad Penny.
Key losses: Rick Ankiel, Mark DeRosa, Troy Glaus, Khalil Green, Joel Piniero, Todd Wellmeyer, John Smoltz.
I have to admit when I'm wrong. I didn't give the Cards any shot heading into 2009. Thanks to a very strong pitching staff, St. Louis ran away with the division. Pitching remains strong. I'm not sure about their lineup beyond Pujols & Holliday. Plus, no solid left handed bats are to be found. Left side of infield defense doesn't scare anyone on paper offensively or defensively. Not retaining DeRosa was a monumental mistake. LaRussa's managing skills will be put to the test again this year. No reason to think this proven manager will fold. However, there's a circus-like atmosphere already swirling as the Cards hired steroid junkie Mark McGwire as batting instructor. This guy should be banned from major league ballparks nationwide.
Projected rotation: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Brad Penny, ???
Bullpen: Ryan Franklin was outstanding in his first full season as Cards closer. Middle relievers must be sharp again to secure wins or it could be a long year.
Forecast: Cards or Cubs in '10? Cards do not impress me on paper but this won't stop them from proving me wrong again. One more move might be in store to solidify infield defense.
Chicago Cubs (83-78):
Key additions: Marlon Byrd, Kevin Millar, Xavier Nady, Carlos Silva, Chad Tracy.
Key losses: Milton Bradley, Neal Cotts, Kevin Gregg, Rich Harden, Aaron Heilman, Reed Johnson, Aaron Miles.
Cubs were high on most lists heading into '09. They never got in gear. Mark DeRosa was sorely missed. Internal squabbles, nagging injuries, porous pitching and horrible team chemistry doomed Chicago. The bad actors are gone. Cubs are ready to contend. Lineup is very strong. Rotation remains competitive. Late inning pitching remains a major question mark. Cubs will rise or fall on how well (or not) they protect late inning leads.
Projected rotation: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Randy Wells, ???
Bullpen: Marmol is Chicago's new closer. Competition for bullpen roles is wide open.
Forecast: Tough to call right now. A few are returning from injuries. Bullpen slots yet to be determined. Cubs will challenge but fans shouldn't be thinking World Series. Especially after 100+ years of near futility.
Milwaukee Brewers (80-82):
Key additions: Doug Davis, LaTroy Hawkins, Randy Wolf, Greg Zaun.
Key losses: Mike Cameron, Frank Catalanotto, JJ Hardy, Jason Kendall.
Milwaukee never had any chance of success last year in my book. Not after getting rid of their best pitchers. Not when their lineup continues to make bad outs (strikeouts do not advance base runners). Defense was suspect. So, what's changed for this season? A better rotation. Overrated JJ Hardy is finally gone. Coaching staff hasn't been effectively teaching young Brewers hitters to be patient, to put the ball in play, to keep pressure on opponents. Milwaukee lives and dies by the long ball. It's not enough to count on raw power for 162 games when so many other areas are lacking. Interesting side note. Why did Milwaukee go after lefty starting pitchers when most Central teams have heavy right handed hitting lineups?
Projected rotation: Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Doug Davis, Jeff Suppan, David Bush.
Bullpen: Trevor Hoffman returns after a stellar '09 campaign. Bullpen is looking strong in all areas. A nice strength to have heading into '10.
Forecast: 2010 should be a better year for Milwaukee. Dangerous and powerful lineup has hopefully matured if these guys are to legitimately challenge for Central crown.
Cincinnati Reds (78-84):
Key additions: Orlando Cabrera.
Key losses: Willy Taveras.
Cincinnati's biggest achilles heel is Great American Ballpark. It offers no home field advantage. I believe it's a disadvantage for home team pitching staff. It will also be very hard convincing any #1 starter to become a Red. Hitters love playing here. But, managers will go crazy unless ground ball pitchers are finally brought into town. Don't hold your breathe. On the plus side. Reds are young energetic club. They should produce plenty of runs in 2010. Question is... how many will they surrender?
Projected rotation: Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, ???
Bullpen: Francisco Cordero returns to close. All other bullpen jobs up for grabs this spring.
Forecast: Reds are probably a .500 team at best right now. Outfielders are one of NL's weakest groups on paper. Reds not ready to challenge.
Houston Astros (74-88):
Key additions: Pedro Feliz, Brandon Lyon, Gary Majewski, Brett Myers.
Key losses: Miguel Tejada, LaTroy Hawkins, Jose Valverde.
Astros stuggled all year long in '09. They never got their game on track. Starting rotation was horrible. It doesn't look much better right now either. Lineup is above average but it's hard to win when trailing game after game. Looks like another year of playing from behind.
Projected rotation: Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, ???
Bullpen: Matt Lindstrom, closer? Really? All bullpen roles to be settled before game 162. Not looking good.
Forecast: Doom and gloom.
Pittsburgh Pirates (62-99):
Key additions: Ryan Church, Neal Cotts, Brendan Donnelly, Octavio Dotel, Akinori Iwamura,
Key losses: Mike Capps.
Pirates last winning season was 1992. The streak continues but their future is looking brighter. A few good young starting pitchers. Good young OF. Infielders are big question mark. So is finding someone with a winning attitude to lead this team. It's doubtful this squad will reach .500 but I expect them to play spoilers.
Projected rotation: Zack Duke, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, ???
Bullpen: Dotel's arrival is welcomed with open arms for a team unable to get key late inning outs.
Forecast: Pitchers hold the key. Pirates are a long way from challenging. 2010 could be the year Pittsburgh begins earning respect. If not, then it's time for management to step aside.
Stay tuned... AL West on deck...
After a series of trades and free agent signings, Detroit entered the 2009 season as the team to beat. They held a season high 7 game lead on September 6th and remained in first place right up until the very last pitch of the season. Minnesota beat Detroit in special one game playoff to decide AL Central. The Twins won in the bottom of 12, 6-5. Minnesota advanced, Tigers went home with tails between their legs.
2010 will be another tight race in baseball's anything can happen division. All teams not named Cleveland have either improved or matured. It's going to be a great race. Time to take a look at winter winners and losers (in order of '09 standings).
Minnesota Twins (87-76):
Key additions: Orlando Hudson, Jacque Jones, Jim Thome.
Key losses: Orlando Cabrera, Carlos Gomez.
Ron Gardenhire's Twins are good. They play solid defense, offense provides key hits in clutch situations. Rotation began slowly but solidified by years' end. Closer Nathan is lights out. Hardy & Hudson form Twins newest dp combo. I've never been high on Hardy. Limited defensive range and very high strikeout total. He will hit homers from time to time between unproductive bad outs. Mauer & Morneau are a deadly combo and lead this offense. On paper, they often don't match up well vs foes. But, when games are played, their scrappy style wins more than they lose.
Projected rotation: Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, Pavano, Liriano.
Bullpen: Lights out with Nathan anchoring talent group of relievers.
Forecast: Is there one more big season left in DH Jim Thome's bat? Twins hope so but he may not see much action unless powerful numbers are produced this spring. Which Liriano will show up this season? He went 12-3, 2.16 in '07 before posting miserable performances last year (5-13, 5.80). Pitching holds the key in '10. Twins should be right in the Central race to the final week.
Detroit Tigers (86-77):
Key additions: Austin Jackson, Jose Valverde, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke and young pitchers who should add depth when called up from minors.
Key losses: Placido Polanco, Curtis Granderson, Brandon Lyon, Edwin Jackson, Aubrey Huff, Fernando Rodney, Marcus Thames.
Tigers gained good inexperienced talent. Gave up great proven talent. Last year, I thought Detroit might challenge for World Series glory. They never lived up to expectations. Pitching doomed hopes last year. Not keeping Edwin Jackson won't help their '10 changes. New look batting lineup will scare many opposing rotations. It could be a very long year for the Tigers.
Projected rotation: Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello, Galaragga, ???
Bullpen: Valverde is their new closer. He many not see too many save opportunties. Middle relievers and setup jobs to be won in spring training.
Forecast: As of now, it doesn't look good for the Tigers heading into spring training. Too many question marks from batting lineup decisions to defense and bullpen.
Chicago White Sox (79-83):
Key additions: Jake Peavy, Juan Pierre, JJ Putz, Omar Vizquel, Andrew Jones, Mark Teahen.
Key losses: Jermaine Dye, Octavio Dotel, DJ Carrasco, Scott Posednik.
Chicago hopes woes of '09 have been left far behind. These guys struggled all season long to score runs and still found themselves within contention into mid-September. 2010 lineup will generate plenty of excitement. Starting pitchers will have new found run support. Bullpen needs to protect leads. Skies the limit. Sox looking like front runners to me.
Projected rotation: Peavy, Buehrle, Danks, Floyd, ???
Bullpen: Jenks returns as Sox closer. Plenty of solid arms will duke it out this spring.
Forecast: Deep team. Lineup will create runs. Peavy & Buehrle will win 20+ each. Back half of rotation must put up solid efforts. Chicago looks like a major challenger to winning the AL crown.
Cleveland Indians (65-97):
Key additions: Not many impact players (aging vets or castoffs from other teams).
Key losses: Kelly Shoppach.
Cleveland has given away so much talent in recent years. Not too long ago this franchise seemed destined for greatness. Not anymore. This is going to be a very long rebuilding process. Avoiding 100 wins will not be easy. Too many question marks in all phases of their game.
Projected rotation: Carmona, Huff, Westbrook, ???
Bullpen: Kerry Wood (closer) is always one pitch away from arm troubles. He's their go to guy. Middle relief was a disaster last year.
Forecast: This team will rise or fall on their pitching arms. Starters need to keep games close and reliever need to thwart rallies. 2007 ALCS appearance seems like a distant memory.
Kansas City Royals (67-95):
Key additions: Rick Ankiel, Josh Fields, Chris Getz, Jason Kendall, Scott Posednik,
Key losses: John Buck, Coco Crisp, Miguel Olivo, Mark Teahen,
I had hoped KC was going to surprise the baseball world last year. Only one player did, Cy Young Award winner Zack Grienke (16-8, 2.16). He was masterful for a dismal team. They couldn't hit or pitch in clutch moments. Guess what? 2010 Royals will turn heads. Don't be surprised at all when these guys climb the standings. Many question marks on offense. However, new players could set the stage for a memorable season.
Projected rotation: Grienke, Meche, Davies, ???
Bullpen: Soria anchors a deep bullpen. Relievers have been a sore spot for KC in recent years. Looks good on paper right now.
Forecast: Outfield defense much improved. Veteran backstop Kendall knows how to handle young pitchers which is an instant bonus. If these guys learn to cut down on strike outs and put the ball in play then 2010 will be considered a success by seasons' end.
Stay tuned... NL Central on deck.
Philadelphia was the NL's first team playing in back to back World Series since Atlanta in 1995 (won) & 1996 (lost). They're front runners to make it three straight in 2010. Atlanta tries to regain NL glory. The Braves finished first 14 of 15 seasons between 1991-2005 including 11 consecutive East titles. Florida's youth finds ways to win. New York's club invented new ways to lose day after day in '09. Washington re-tooled for '10.
Who will be the beast of the east this year? Time to check out off season winners and losers (in order of 2009 standings).
Philadelphia Phillies (93-69, Lost World Series):
Key additions: Roy Halladay, Placido Polanco, Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, Brian Schneider.
Key losses: Cliff Lee, Kyle Drabek, Pedro Feliz, Brett Myers.
Toronto dangled Halladay and the Phillies got him by way of a three team blockbuster. Time to celebrate? Maybe, maybe not. How did Philly brass cut loose post-season hero Cliff Lee? They could have had Halladay, Lee & Hamels dominating foes for years to come. Phils will not miss a beat without Lee this year. BUT.. one can only wonder what could have been only if the front office was shrewd enough to think "dynasty" instead of instant gratification. Monster batting lineup is much improved with the addition of Polanco.
Projected rotation: Halladay, Hamels, Blanton, Happ, Contreras
Bullpen: Disasterous for much of '09 before finally settling down in September. Lidge rebounded just in time for post season play after nearly being demoted (0-8, 7.21). Relievers will battle for jobs during spring training and should be fine heading into regular season play.
Forecast: Barring injuries, NL East is the Phils to win or lose. Very strong, very deep team.
Florida Marlins (87-75):
Key additions: no standouts
Key losses: Nick Johnson, Russ Gload, Jeremy Hermida, Matt Lindstrom, Scott Proctor, Brendan Donnelly.
How does this team keep threatening to win the East year after year? Simple. Great scouting. Great development system. Florida plays fundamental baseball. This franchise keeps churing out strong pitchers for future champions. Great team chemistry & attitude. Don't be surprised if they're knocking on the door once again.
Projected rotation: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, ???
Bullpen: All jobs are open. Leo Nunez will be given first crack at nailing down the closer role. Spring training battles will be fun to watch.
Forecast: Never count these guys out. They play with heart and guts. Dangerous club. Signing a veteran slugger or flame thrower would instantly turn the Marlins into playoff contenders.
Atlanta Braves (86-76):
Key additions: Troy Glaus, Takashi Saito, Billy Wagner, Scott Proctor, Erik Hinske.
Key losses: Mike Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, Kelly Johnson, Rafael Soriano.
2010 will be manager Bobby Cox final season. He's one of the all time greatest in baseball's history. The Braves got stronger gearing up for another pennant push. Atlanta hasn't finished higher than 3rd four years running since winning 11 consecutive division titles. Finger pointing begins with poor bullpen performances. It's been revamped for '10 so look out East. Now there's a new question... can this team score runs? Chipper and Glaus are nearing retirement and the rest of this lineup is very young. Defense could be troublesome too.
Projected rotation: Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrgens, Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, ???
Bullpen: Revamped and suddenly lights out group highlighted by newcomers Wagner & Saito.
Forecast: If Atlanta can create runs then they'll be back in the thick of things once again.
New York Mets (70-92):
Key additions: Jason Bay, Gary Mathews Jr, Kelvim Escobar, Mike Jacobs, Ryota Igarashi,
Key losses: JJ Putz, Brian Schneider.
Mets completely fell apart last year. Not many teams played sloppier baseball than these guys. Even their new ballpark was severly critiqued. Injuries plagued most star players in '09. Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Santana, Maine, Wagner, Pagan, Putz and a host of others all missed significant time. I'm not a fan of their current front office and baseball related decision making. They should be considered big losers this winter. Heading into 2010... no bonified starting 1B, C and weak starting rotation. Plenty of bargain salaried free agents are still available from role players to potential starters and the Mets aren't making any moves. NY needs to get every break in '10 to win more than they lose. Health is key #1. Defense #2. Solid pitching #3.
Projected rotation: Santana, Maine, Pelfrey, Perez, ???
Bullpen: Francisco Rodriguez was often victimized by shoddy defense. Setup men blew it all year long. Japanese import Ryota Igarashi is being counted on heavily. Escobar is slated as a reliever. What are the Mets thinking? Obviously, not clearly.
Forecast: If healthy, they might challenge. Far from dominating rotation. Bullpen still in trouble. Lack of batting power and defense still a question mark especially on infield's right side. Looks like another long season for Mets fans.
Washington Nationals (59-103):
Key additions: Chien-Ming Wang, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Marquis, Eddie Guardado, Adam Kennedy, Brian Bruney and many potential contributors to minor league contracts.
Key losses: No one who will be missed.
I like what Washington has done this winter. Don't get me wrong as I believe it would take a baseball miracle for the Nationals to contend any time soon. On the other hand, respectability and a winning attitude probably got a boost with the addition of a few soon to be instrumental conttibutors. Signing Pudge will help young pitchers. Rotation and bullpen positions up for grabs (as always). Pitching has always been a very big problem for Washington. These guys never seem to throw strikes. Batting lineup will put up runs led by Zimmerman & Dunn.
Projected rotation: Up for grabs. Lannan & Marquis are the only locks as of now. Wang will be a welcomed addition if he bounces back from injury woes.
Bullpen: Spring training to determines who makes big league squad. Personally, I'd like to see Bruney win the job.
Forecast: Playoffs are way off in the distant future. 2010 should be better than recent seasons.
NL East race will be great. Philadelphia remains obvious front runners followed by Atlanta & Florida giving it their all. New York & Washington have a long way to go. As for predictions, lets wait and see how I feel when rosters are finalized. Stay tuned.