Friday, March 30, 2007

Well Crap...

As I was writing the previous "Ode to April" post below, it turns out the Kenny Rogers situation, is worse than originally stated. I'm probably the last person to put up a post about this in the Tigers blogosphere, but here's my somewhat rosy outlook.

Better now, than July or August. The Tigers currently have Chad Durbin slated to take over the spot. If Durbin falters, there are Wil Ledezma, and Zach Miner, who filled in for an injured Mike Maroth last year. Deeper down the line are Jordan Tata and even Andrew Miller who could fill the role. Plus I wouldn't mind Marcus Thames seeing a little more playing time as possible bait for a trade to replace Rogers. Thames along with any one of the aforementioned pitchers (minus Andrew Miller who is untouchable) could bring in a serviceable starter. For example the Angels are a little short at the outfielder position, would Thames and Miner and maybe a lower level prospect for Kelvin Escobar be a possible deal? I'm sure if no one can fill the spot, Dave Dombroski will be on the case, pursuing a deal.

Two years ago this might have been a serious shot to the team. Of course in 2005 Jason Johnson, was the teams #1, so maybe not. But like last year the Tigers showed that they are deep enough with pitchers that they can sustain an injury. This is a blow, but not catastrophic. Plus it allows Bobby Seay to join the team as another lefty in the bullpen.

But not all news out of Tigertown is bad news. The Tigers beat the Yankees today 6-2, fueled by five shutout innings by Justin Verlander. Plus, the Tigers locked up Carlos Guillen with a 4 year $48 million extension. Now when the rest of the baseball world realizes that Guillen is one of the best shortstops in the MLB, they'll see it with Carlos wearing the Olde English "D". So there's some good news heading into Opening Day. Here's hoping for a gem by Bonderman to prolong it.

Brace Yourself

March may have Madness, but the month of April is a frenzy of events for the sports fan. Opening Day and the start of the MLB season have been my modus operandi the past month. But in addition to the start of the baseball season April has the Final Four, The Masters, the start of the NHL and NBA playoffs, and the NFL Draft.
As for the Final Four, unless UCLA wins it all, I'm boned. Hopefully the final round of the Masters is close, there's nothing like watching the last four holes of a Major tournament. This year like every year I always root for Tiger, just because I think deep down that Hootie guy gets pissed that he has let an African-American into Augusta, let alone hand him a check for winning the tournament.

For the NHL, the Red Wings have defied the consensus that a salary cap would bring them down to the pack. In fact, they are on the verge of winning there third President's trophy in a row, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since the Montreal Canadiens of 1975-77. But the playoffs have not been kind for the Wings since their last Cup in 2001, failing to make it to the Conference Finals since then. But the new NHL hasn't been kind for any top seeded teams in the West in recent years. Last year in the West all the top seeded teams lost in the first round, with 8th seeded Edmonton winning the conference. In 2005 6th seed Calgary won the West. So for this year? I think the Wings stand a decent shot. Playoffs are all about constant attacking, and hot goaltending. The Wings have more young legs (Hudler, Filppula, Franzen, Calder, Lebda) than in past season to provide the attack. Even if Hasek can't produce, Chris Osgood has been more than capable in his absence. I don't know if the Wings will win the Stanley Cup, because the NHL Playoffs are nearly impossible to predict, but I would venture a guess that the Wings are build for a long playoff run.

As for the NBA, it looks like the Pistons (despite the half of the team being sick) will win the top seed in the East. They're up 2.5 on the Cavs and up 3 on the Bulls with one game left vs. each, and 11 total. Out of those 11, beside the aforementioned games with the Bulls and Cavs only 3 are against opponents with winning records. The Bulls have only 9 games and the Cavs 10, with both teams playing each other tomorrow. A healthy C-Webb and Rip should keep the Pistons with the top spot. As for the playoff, with there vastly improved bench, I don't see a team competing with Detroit other than Miami. That series can go anyway depending on how many calls the Dwyrama Queen can get.

As for the draft well it's the only day the Lions are one of the top teams in the NFL, so they got that going for them, which is nice.

So here's to April, an awesome sports month.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


After weeks of patient waiting, and recent days of frantic pacing and hourly checking of the mailbox, my 2007 tigers tickets are here.

I'll be there Opening Day taking crappy cell phone photos. I'll also be there for the following games:

4/18 vs. Kansas City
4/21 vs. Chicago
4/28 vs. Minnesota
4/30 vs. Baltimore
5/9 vs. Seattle
5/19 vs. St. Louis
5/23 vs. Los Angeles Angels
6/9 vs. NY Mets
6/13 vs. Milwaukee
6/26 vs. Texas
6/30 vs. Minnesota
7/5 vs. Cleveland
7/7 vs. Boston
7/21 vs. Kansas City
8/4 vs. Chicago
8/7 vs. Tampa Bay
8/11 vs. Oakland
8/21 vs. Cleveland
8/25 vs. NY Yankees
8/27 vs. NY Yankees
9/6 vs. Chicago White Sox
9/8 vs. Seattle
9/11 vs. Texas
9/22 vs. Kansas City
9/25 vs. Minnesota

See you there!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Heads up Juan Uribe

If you have Former Tiger Ugueth Urbina on your fantasy baseball team, first question, why? Secondly, you might want to think about dropping him as he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempted murder. As Sideshow Bob would say "Attempted Murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?" Urbina is expected to go early in the Venezuelan Penal Draft...but that has nothing to do with baseball.

Monday, March 26, 2007

An Open Letter to Ozzie Guillen

Dear Mr. Guillen,

In the past you have drawn attention to yourself by saying outlandish statements. Such as calling Magglio Ordonez a "Venezuelan piece of shit", verbally assulting your own pitchers when they refuse to or are unable to bean an opposing player, calling Jay Mariotti a ####, and trashing other former players. Well you latest transgression has hit close to home, you were quoted as saying Sparky Anderson should be remembered as the coach of the Reds, because "he lost 100 games with the Tigers", and further enraging quote that Jim Leyland is "not a good manager". Well just like your beliefs that you can hit too many home runs, bunting will get more wins, and Darin Erstad has use as a baseball player, you are...

While Sparky did win two World Series with the Reds during the 70's, those teams featured Pete Rose and 4 other Hall of Famers. Of the 15 years he was in charge of the Tigers they finished below .500 5 times. All five were in the last seven years of his career. Those years also were years that Tom Monaghan was cutting costs and shopping the teams around. Still despite the lack of talent, Sparky's Tigers only lost more than 85 games twice. For the 1984 and 1987 season alone Sparky would be a deity here. Despite your narrow view Ozzie, Sparky is a Hall of Fame manager just as much for his getting the best out of subpar Tiger teams as he is for his World Championships with the Reds.

As for the Leyland comment, where to begin. How about Manager of the Year a record three times? How about taking basically the same team and getting an extra 24 wins out of them. You added Jim Thome to your World Series Champion team and lost an additional 9 games. Ozzie you need a couple more division titles, and maybe another World Series appearance and maybe you'll be man enough to hold Mr. Leyland's Marlboro Reds.

So on this tenth anniversary of the Red Wings-Avalanche brawl that sparked back to back Stanley Cups, we ask you Ozzie, please keep at your inane actions. Your borderline insane ramblings. Your inexplicable bond to small ball. Keep provoking and keep prodding. Keep jabbing and taking cheap shots. Look where it got Claude Lemieux...

Detroit Tiger Fans

P.S. Kudos to DTown Baseball and The Dugout (WXYZ not "Word up Thome"), for finding the story

Thursday, March 22, 2007

2007 preview: AL Review

Division Champions:
New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers
Los Angeles Angels
Wild Card:
Boston Red Sox

Divisional Playoffs:
Los Angeles def. New York 3-2
Detroit def. Boston 3-2

League Championship:
Detroit def. Los Angeles 4-2

Most Valuable Player:
Travis Hafner, Cleveland

Cy Young:
Johan Santana, Minnesota

Rookie of the Year:
Dustin Pedroia, Boston

World Series:
Detroit def. New York 4-3

World Series MVP:
Gary Sheffield, Detroit

2007 Preview: AL Central

Saving the best for last, we turn the focus on the hometown team's division today. Top to bottom, there isn't a division in baseball that can compete with the AL Central. That being said it will be a dogfight all year, and the constant competition may cost whomever isn't lucky enough to win the division, the wild card. So let's take a look at the teams:

Chicago White Sox
The story of the White Sox the last two years has been the pitching. In their World Series winning season of 2005, only one starter surrendered more than 100 runs, last year all five starters did. Why? Well hits allowed are relatively the same for the pitchers both years, but strikeouts and groundouts were down and home runs allowed were up. So basically the pitcher couldn't get the inning ending double play or strikeout when they needed it, and giving up more home runs obviously never helps your cause. Even with the regression in 2006 the Sox still won 90 games, so if the strikeouts go up, and the HR allowed goes down a fraction that could be worth a win or two. That is if Ozzie Guillen can figure out what the strength of this team is. The Sox have three really good power hitters in the middle of their lineup (Konerko, Dye, and Thome), and guys like Joe Crede and A.J. Piersynski that can hit well enough to drive people home as well. Do you know why Dye, Konerko and Thome are so good? Even if they don't drive in a run they get on base for someone else to do so. It's no surprise those three led the team in OBP. Now what it that mastermind Ozzie Guillen going to do this year? Bunt more. The problem last year wasn't that you didn't have enough people in scoring position; in fact you scored more runs than all but two teams in the major leagues. The problem is that your pitching staff gave almost a full run a game more. What you should be doing is finding two guys at the top of the order that can get on base. As of right now you have Scott Posednik (2006 OBP .330), Tadihito Iguchi (.352 better but not great), and for some reason Darin Erstad (.279...Neifi Perez's was .260). Adam Dunn struck out nearly 200 times and still had an OBP of .365. It simple, have the top of the order get on base, then your big three will either drive them home, and you score runs that will compensate if your pitching staff is more 2006 than 2005. For some reason teams have bought in to this myth that if we have people that play hard we will win. That's great if you have people that play hard, but you know what really helps...being good. I don't care how tough or gritty Darin Erstad is; in no way does he make the White Sox better. The Cardinals did not win the World Series because David Eckstein's guts, they won because the pitching staff pitched lights out, they didn't make any mistakes, and the Tigers made a lot. Having Albert Pujols didn't hurt either. So unless the pitching staff comes through for Ozzie this summer, it could be a long season on the Southside, and could end with him jobless.

Cleveland Indians
Everyone's 2006 sleeper pick to win the division last year, did just that, slept in. Here it is in 2007 deja vu all over again. Everyone loves the Indians to win the division once again. Let's see what they did this offseason to warrant the attention. Having a log jam at Third base they let Aaron Boone go, gave the job to Andy Marte, and traded Kevin Kouzmanoff to San Diego for 2nd baseman Josh Barfield. They brought in free agents Dave Dellucci and Trot Nixon, who aren't big hitters, but the field well and get on base. That bodes well for Travis Hafner, who was having an MVP caliber season before an injury shut him down for the season in August. Plus they have superb lead off man Grady Sizemore, and probably the best hitting (but worst fielding, he allowed 100 stolen bases last year) catchers in Victor Martinez. Filling out the lineup (which was 2nd in runs scored in 2006) will be platoons of Casey Blake and Ryan Garko at first base, Shin-Soo Choo and Freddy Gutierrez at the corner spots in the outfield, and Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. The pitching staff last year was a Jekyll and Hyde situation between the starters and bullpen. The starters were outstanding with C.C. Sabathia and his top 5 ERA leading the way for Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Jeremy Sowers and Paul Byrd. Fausto Carmano filled in for Sowers when he reached his inning limit for the year, and will do the same for Lee, who will start the season off on the DL. The bullpen was flat out atrocious. GM Mark Shapiro went out and brought in new closer Joe Borowski, and set-up men Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz to take the pressure of Rafael Betancourt and company. Does this make the bullpen better? Yes. But it still is an arm or two short from being the elite bullpen a contender needs. Still any team with Travis Hafner is one that needs just one swing to get back in a game, or put it away.

Detroit Tigers
After coming within five errors of winning the World Series, the Tigers didn't just sit back and bask in the magic of 2006. They went out and fired the first shot of a free spending offseason and acquired future Hall-of-Famer Gary Sheffield and locked him up for three years. Lost Jaime Walker after he was offered a three year $12 million contract by the Orioles, but replaced him with Jose Mesa for $2.5 million for one year. Re-signed Sean Casey to play first for one more year at $4 million. Some are concerned about Sheffield's ability to play the entire year. I can't see why he wouldn't be able. For one, last year was the only year that he missed an extended period of time. Secondly he hurt himself in the field, which as a DH he will see sparingly. Sheffield hopefully will act as a mentor to the young hitters, just as Kenny Rogers was to the young pitchers. If he can get his career .398 OBP habits to spread to hitters like Brandon Inge and Craig Monroe, this lineup will be deadly. Also moving Lloyd McClendon and his clipboard from the bullpen to the bench as hitting coach will make a difference as well. Cutting down Curtis Granderson's strikeout will be his task for the year (so far so good, he only has 4 in 46 AB this spring). He was second to Carlos Guillen in walks, if he can turn some of those K's into hits or walks, Curtis will be in the .300 AVG, .375 OBP range. Add to that his ability to go deep (19 HR last year) it would make him one of the most dangerous leadoff men in the league. As for the pitching, I don't expect the same type of season for Justin Verlander and Kenny Rogers. But I see Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson to continue their pattern of improvement. Each are entering their fifth year with the Tigers, and each have improved ERA and strikeouts from prior years. Robertson will finally get that run support this year and win 16 games with a sub 4 ERA. Bonderman will strikeout 200+, flirt with 20 wins, and be a Cy Young candidate. With Mike Maroth appearing healthy the Tigers have a staff 2 power guys (Bondo and Verlander), 2 finesse guys (Maroth and Kenny) and a guy that mixes both styles (Robertson). Each is capable of winning 15 games this year. As for the bullpen, Todd Jones, yes he did blow 6 saves last year (in 43 opportunities), but so did Jon Papelbon (in 41 opps.), and he almost won rookie of the year. The problem with Jones is that he should not be pitching more than one inning. The big blowups occur when he is trotted out for a second inning. Exhibits A, B, and C team to beat in . This is where the Mesa signing is a good deal. He is a closer type that can pitch more than one inning. In fact, other than Jones, there isn't a guy in the bullpen that can't go two innings or more if needed. So settle down people Jonesy will blow a save or two, or six, but nobody's perfect (except Mike Gonzales, but he's not even a closer anymore). The Tigers are no longer a surprise, and the favorites to win the AL Central.

Kansas City Royals
The good news is that GM Dayton Moore got the Royals famously cheap owner, David Glass (of course he's cheap he owns Wal-Mart), to open up the checkbook. The bad news is the spent $60 million of it on Gil Meche and Octavio Dotel. On the plus side they have probably the number one prospect in all of baseball Alex Gordon waiting to join the team. So while this year the division will be spanking the Royals, there are some bright spots on the horizon.

Minnesota Twins
Last year the Twins shook off a shaky start to came back to win the division. They did this after replacing ineffective Tony Bautista and Juan Castro with Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett, and powered by the arms of Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, and Brad Radke. The "piranhas" are back, but the arms of Liriano (Tommy John surgery), and Radke (retirement) are not. Reigning MVP Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter lead the offense. Everyone on the team can get on base, and the big three drive them home. New DH Jason Kubel looks to follow in the footstep of homegrown hitters Morneau and Mauer, and add more punch to the line up. The Twins will need it. After Johan Santana, the rotation consists of unproven youngsters Boof Bonser and Matt Garza, who were shaky at times last year; and veteran Russ Ortiz, Carlos Silva, and Sidney Ponson, who have combined for 99 losses in the past three seasons, and rookie Glen Perkins who has yet to start a major league game. The one plus side is that if spots 2-5 can hand over a lead to the bullpen it more than likely will stick. The Twins have one of the best with closer Joe Nathan, and relievers Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek, Joe Crain, Matt Guerrier, and Dennys Reyes. But I doubt that's good enough to get the Twins their fifth division title in six years.

Final Standings
1) Detroit (95-67)
2) Cleveland (90-72)
3) Minnesota (89-73)
4) Chicago (80-82)
5) Kansas City (60-102)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

2007 Preview: AL East

If you were to believe some people, there are only two teams in this division, and that when they play it's the most important event in the history of western civilization...all 18 times. But in fact there actually are other teams. One of them even broke Boston's stranglehold on second place last year. What will this year hold? To the teams:

Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore fans have reached a Matt Millen moment with owner Peter Angelos. They even staged a walk-out protest last year against, coincidentally enough, Detroit. So while the Lions fans can hope for Millen to be fired, O's fans are stuck with Stupid Angelos until death. So what did Mr. Angelos do this offseason to upgrade his team? Well, he brought in Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford, Scott Williamson, and Danys Baez to solidify the bullpen. Add Chris Ray and his 33 saves into the mix and you've got yourself a pretty decent relief staff. As for the starters, Eric Bedard is a legit number one. Daniel Cabrera has no middle ground, he is either excellent or erratic. Yankee transplant Jared Wright has had only one year with a sub-4 ERA. Adam Loewen is very young, Steve Trachsel is very old, and Kris Benson is out for the year. In the field they boast one of the better catchers in the league with Ramon Hernandez, an above average middle infield with Miguel Tejada, and Brian Roberts, and an all-star in the making with Nick Markakis. But this team doesn't have enough firepower to compete with the big boys of the division, nor does it have consistent enough pitching to shut down opposing offenses, but it just might be enough to hold off the hordes with torches and pitchforks around the Angelos manor.

Boston Red Sox
A quote from Theo Epstein last August: "We are not the Yankees. We feel our best way to compete with them year in and year out is to keep one eye on now and one eye on the future and to build something that can sustain success...So we're not going to change our approach and try to all of a sudden build an uber-team" This was in response to the Red Sox standing idle at the trade deadline, because of the fiscal strains that acquiring a big name would put on the team. Well it looks like Theo was scrounging the sofa for loose change and getting the deposit back on his bottles, after spending $51 million for the opportunity to offer Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka a contract(which he signed at $52 million over 6 years). Also joining the Sox in the offseason was DL J.D. Drew, who signed a 5 year $70 million deal, and Julio Lugo for 5 years and $36 million. So that's $209 million to tie up 3 players over 16 years, if your keeping score at home. Still the new arrivals should be able to improve on the players they replaced (David Wells, Trot Nixon, Mark Loretta). But one of the biggest questions is who is going to be the closer this year? Johnathan Papelbon was lights-out until an injury sidelined him for the year. Papelbon joins Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Dice-K, and either Tim Wakefield or Jon Lester in the rotation. In his departure the Red Sox brought in starter Joel Pinero to be the closer. If he can't do the job (early stat lines are inconclusive), the Sox do have former closer Mike Timlin and young arms Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen (who I think will have the job by June). The only question with the offense is that will "Manny being Manny" be too much for Boston to deal with, and will he be somewhere else by season's end? If so looks for David Ortiz to lead the league in intentional walks and the scoring output will plummet. But more than likely the Sox will suck it up and deal with Manny's wacky antics to help them to the top of the division.

New York Yankees
After yet another early postseason exit, George Steinbrenner opened up his wallet and signed Barry Zito, Alfonso Soriano, and Daisuke Matu...huh, they did what? Yes, this offseason was one of small shrewd moves rather than bold, pricey ones from The Boss. The trades of Gary Sheffield, Jared Wright and Randy Johnson help restock the farm system. Then came the signings of Kei Igawa (5years @ $20M) and Andy Pettitte (1yr @ $7.5) to replace Wright and Johnson. Replacing Cory Lidle will be either Carl Pavano, prospect Phillip Hughes, or Roger Clemens sometime in June. There were no other moves to the lineup, nor did any have to be made, with the likes of Jeter, Cano, Matsui, Posada, Abreu, and Giambi. A-Rod might want out of New York, but if an off year for a player still gets you 35 HRs and 120 RBI, I'd take it.
The bullpen is as good as ever despite having Kyle Farnsworth as a member. Most of the country may not like it, but don't expect any regression from the Yankees this year.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Despite this possibly being the last year for the name "Devil Rays", the team from Tampa has a number of young players ready to break out and make them contenders. Just don't expect this year. Years of high draft picks have netted the Rays, blue chippers Delmon Young, B.J. Upton and Elijah Dukes. But those three have had their share of problems. If those three stooges can keep their heads out of their posteriors, and those posteriors out of jail, they'll join Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, and Jorge Cantu, and Japanese purchase Akinori Iwamura for a solid lineup. The one thing keeping Tampa Bay down is that, other than Scott Kazmir, there is not one good pitcher to be found on this staff. Still, the young lineup is sure to top the franchise record 71 wins sooner rather than later.

Toronto Blue Jays
The defending division runners up bring back most of the line up that got them there last year. Gone are manager John Gibbons' pain-in-ass Shea Hillenbrand, and puncher-of-face Ted Lilly. In are Frank Thomas and Tomo Ohka, who should be spared Gibbons' wrath until they choke under pressure, or pretend the don't speak English. Royce Clayton also joins the merry-go-round that is the Blue Jays middle infield, joining John McDonald, Aaron Hill, and former Tiger Jason Smith. Vernon Wells is back after signing an extension worth $126 million over seven years. Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett lead the rotation with the aforementioned Ohka, the hairless Gustavo Chacin, and the kinda crappy John Thomson joining them. The bullpen is headed up by B.J. Ryan, who was third in the AL in saves and had a 1.37 ERA. If this team were in the NL, or AL West it would be a contender, but it is stuck in a tough division and a tougher league, so they will probably be on the outside looking in.

Final Standings
1) New York (98-64)
2) Boston (91-71) *Wild Card*
3) Toronto (89-73)
4) Baltimore (79-83)
5) Tampa Bay (70-92)

Monday, March 19, 2007

2007 Preview: AL West

After a weekend of imbibing Guinness and Jameson causing you to see strange things involving leprechauns and a shillelagh, and watching your NCAA bracket fall apart before your very's back to baseball!

The AL West for the better part of this decade has been a two horse race. The Angels or the A's have won the division crown six out of the past seven years, with the loser getting the wild card in 2001 and 2002. Seattle has slipped to the bottom slowly ever since Ken Griffey and A-Rod left town. The Rangers haven't been relevant since Johnny Oates guided the team to the playoff in the late 90's. So what's on tap for this year? To the teams:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Silly ass name aside, the wherever they say they reside Angels of whatever city they actually play in, have been one of the better teams of the 2000's averaging 87 wins a season. I don't know if I agree with the huge contract handed out to Gary Matthews Jr. this offseason, which looks even worse after that whole HGH story came out. No word if the Angels will take action against Matthews for his possible involvement with the scandal. If they do that leave the Angels with an depleted outfield if you factor in the offseason injury to Juan Rivera, who should return in a few months. Look for Shea Hillenbrand to shift to third, and Chone Figgins to see more time in the outfield if that is the case. The rest of the field is filled with potential breakout players like Casey Kotchman, Howie Kendrick and Mike Napoli, and solid veterans like Garret Anderson and Vlad Guerrero. The rotation, like the field, is a mix of young talent and vets as well. John Lackey was third in the AL in K's and fifth in ERA. The Angels can hope that Jered Weaver follows Ervin Santana's career path and improves in his second year. Joe Saunders looks ready to fill in if Bartolo Colon doesn't return from a litany of injuries. The Angels look like a team doing their part to stay atop the AL West.

Oakland Athletics
While the A's provided myself one of the most exciting moments of my life, Ken Macha can assure you it wasn't part of the plan in Oakland. So how did Oakland spent the offseason? A new manager, the last of the Big 3 departed, their best hitter left as well. Those losses aren't as substantial as they may seem. Rich Harden if injury free is more than capable to jump into the #1 spot vacated by Zito, and free agent signing Mike Piazza had surprising stats in a pitchers park in San Diego. There's no reason to think that with him DHing full time as Thomas did, that he can't come close to the production of Thomas. The rest of the lineup isn't spectacular (Mark Ellis, Marco Scutaro, Dan Johnson), but is very solid (Eric Chaves, Nick Swisher, Milton Bradley). The same can be of the pitching staff. If Dan Haren, Esteban Loaiza, Joe bloat Blanton, and Joe Kennedy can give the bullpen (featuring Kiko Calero and Justin Duchscherer) a lead they should hold on to it, unless it's Magglio vs. Huston Street, then all bets are off.

Seattle Mariners
In keeping with their theme of questionable offseason moves in the past decade(see Carlos Guillen trade, Adrian Beltre, Rich Aurilla, Scott Spiezio), the Mariners management offers these for your perusal:
- gave Jeff Weaver over $8 Million.
- traded awesome set-up man Rafael Soriano for a crappy starter Horacio Ramirez, who incidentally sounds like he should be a Spanish sea captain
- traded prospect Chris Snelling to the Nationals for Jose Vidro. Vidro plays second base a position occupied by All-Star Jose Lopez
- feeling the team needed more crazy after the release of Carl Everett, they signed Jose Guillen. Guillen is looking to break Reggie Sanders record of teams played for in a career.
- Did I mention Weaver got over $8 million?
A quick summation of a Seattle game this year, Ichiro gets on base, but no one can drive him home, and the pitchers give up a lot of runs. At least the denizens of the Emerald City will have King Felix to marvel over.

Texas Rangers
It seems Sammy Sosa has remembered how to speak English, and will be in the line up as a DH for the Rangers. Speaking of sort of washed up players accused of using steroids, Eric Gagne is slated to be the closer. All jokes aside the Rangers have an excellent core of young players in their infield with, Hank Blalock, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Mark Teixeria. They replaced outgoing Gary Matthews with the older, but capable Kenny Lofton, and added former White Sox prospect Brandon McCarthy to join Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla. If they get some help from young guys Kameron Loe, Robinson Tejeda, and John Koronka in the back of the rotation, The Rangers could be in contention this season. The Rangers could even be a dark horse if the A's or Angels get off to a slow start.

Final Standings
1) Los Angeles Angels (94-68)
2) Oakland A's (89-73)
3) Texas Rangers (87-75)
4) Seattle Mariners (72-90)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

2007 Preview: National League Review

Division Champions:
New York Mets
Milwaukee Brewers
San Diego Padres
Wild Card:
Philadelphia Phillies

Divisional Playoffs:
New York def. Milwaukee 3-0
San Diego def. Philadelphia 3-2

League Championship:
New York def. San Diego 4-2

Most Valuable Player:
Carlos Delgado, New York

Cy Young:
Roy Oswalt, Houston

Rookie of the Year:
Kevin Kouzmanoff, San Diego

Coming up next week the AL previews, enjoy the NCAA tournament and St. Patrick's Day.

2007 Preview: NL East

The cream of the crop for the National League, it figures to be that way once again in 2007. The Mets tied the Yankees for best record in the majors. The Phillies just missed out on the wild card. The Braves look to bounce back from a rare below .500 year, and the young Marlins have some experience and could explode this year. The race for the division will be tight just like the Central's, except with actually good teams.

Atlanta Braves
The Braves missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons, they look to start a new streak this year. Some things never change with Chipper and Andruw Jones in the field and John Smoltz on the mound. They are joined by young Brian McCann, Ryan Langerhans, and Jeff Francoeur as the catalysts of the offense. McCann, established himself as potent source from the catcher spot. If Francoeur and Langerhans can cut down on the K's and work on getting base a little more often, (Francoeur only had 23 walks and 132 K's playing in every game last year) they can overcome a very inexperienced right side of the infield. Other than Smoltz, the starters have questions. Mark Redman will do good in the 3 or 4th starter role, but Tim Hudson's health is a concern, and can Chuck James avoid a sophomore slump after his stellar year last season, and who's going to be the 5th starter? The one thing the Braves drastically improved is the bullpen. Joining Bob Wickman, is former closer Mike Gonzalez, and lethal set-up man Rafael Soriano. The Braves could be one arm away from the World Series.

Florida Marlins
The bargain basement bunch caught a lot of people by surprise with a hot August and finished just 3 games back of .500. It got Joe Girardi Manager of the Year honors for the NL. But because Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is mentally retarded, Girardi was fired. Former Braves third base coach Fredi Gonzalez inherits a 5 good young starters (Dontrelle Willis, Anibel Sanchez, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson when he returns from injury) and a great hitting line-up. The lone Achilles heel is the bullpen. Last year's closer Joe Borowski is in Cleveland, and in his place is anyone's guess. Listed as closer is Matt Lindstrom, who has yet to appear in a major league game. But the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Willingham, and Jeremy Hermida can see to that the game will be out of reach by the late innings.

New York Mets
In addition to being Apu's favorite squadron , the NY Mets were the best team in the National League last year. But to stay on top of the NL East, did they do enough this offseason to stay ahead of the pack? The only main change to the line-up was Moises Alou in for Cliff Floyd. Alou finished better in every statistical category for 2006, so yes, that is a bit of an upgrade, even if he does that weird peeing on the hands thing. He joins a line-up where the only weakness is the pitchers spot. Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Wright, Alou, LoDuca, Shawn Green, John Valentin (24 doubles, 18 HRs, .330 OBP. not bad for the 8 spot). Rod Allen might call this line-up "Durty". The pitchers are the young(John Maine, Mike Pelfrey), the old (Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez), and the broken (Pedro Martinez, Chan Ho Park). The bullpen will only be as good as Billy Wagner allows it to be. It can hand the game over to him, what he does with it is anyone's guess. Plus if the Mets need anything GM Omar Minaya will do what it takes to bring the missing pieces to the team.

Philadelphia Phillies
Many thought the Phillies were giving up on the season after dealing away Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, then a funny thing happened. They went out and tore it up in the second half of the season just missing out on the wild card. New arrival Freddy Garcia certainly should lighten the mood in the clubhouse, well light something in the clubhouse anyway. Garcia is one of six potential staring pitchers the Phillies can throw out. With the exception of Cole Hamels, none are that impressive, and actually can be confused for one another(Adam Eaton, Jon Lieber, Jaime Moyer). If the pitchers can leave the hits to the offense and away from their wives (Brett Myers), they could battle their way into the playoffs. But this is Philadelphia, anything less than world domination, and no number of outfielders running into walls can save this team from the boos of the Philly faithful.

Washington Nationals
Other than Ryan Zimmerman, the only reason I can name more than two players on this team is that: a) they are former Tigers (Dmeaty Young, Nook Logan, Robert Fick) and b) I used the Nationals as a team in MLB 06 last year. Even with that I still have no idea who Shawn Hill, and Tim O'Connor are. Supposedly the are starting pitchers, but just like the Loch Ness Monster, I'll have to see it to believe it. Plus they have Cristan Guzman at shortstop. Think Neifi Perez, only instead of being buried on the depth chart...he's a starter. At least they saved all that money not resigning Alfonso Soriano.

Final Standings
1) New York (94-68)
2)Philadelphia (90-72) *wild card*
3) Atlanta (88-74)
4) Florida (84-78)
5) Washington (66-96)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2007 Preview: NL Central

The NL Central has produced the past three NL representatives for the World Series. Don't look for that pattern to continue in 2007. The better question is will the division winner finish above .500? Don't get me wrong, the division race will be tight, since every team is equally crappy, so everyone has a shot at it...except the Pirates.
To the Teams:

Chicago Cubs
The much ballyhooed Alfonso Soriano joins Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez to make a potent 3-4-5 order in the lineup. He also joins Cliff Floyd, Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, and new Manager Lou Pinella as new additions to the team. While Floyd and Lilly, aren't flashy, they certainly are solid players and fit nicely into their spots on the team. Pinella knows what a pitch count is, so Carlos Zambrano should be rejoicing. As for Marquis, well Cubs fans better hope this Chicago performance was an anomaly. Still Ryan Dempster as the closer? I'm sure after 5 blown saves in April, Kerry Wood will be convinced to take the job over by Sweet Lou. I also propose that they stitch together the working parts of Wade Miller and Mark Prior Frankenstein style. The resulting Wark Prioller should make a serviceable 5th starter.

Cincinnati Reds
The Reds pitchers remind me of a Cincy delicacy, Skyline Chili. At first glance it looks and sounds like a good thing, but the next morning requires several visits to the bathroom. The good looks: Bronson Arroyo looked rather impressive season with 14 wins and a top 5 ERA. Aaron Harang let the NL in strikeouts last year. No seriously, look. To make that even more impressive Harang did that without facing teammate Adam Dunn who gave 194 K's to NL pitchers. Oh but here comes the morning after: Eric Milton's 29 HRs allowed in 26 games, Kyle Lohse's stellar 5.83 ERA, and a bullpen that has Mike Stanton, Gary Majewski, and Rheal Cormier. Someone should find out if Ryan Freel's imaginary friend Farney can pitch middle relief. The Reds hope is that Dunn can make contact more than he misses, and Ken Griffey Jr. will be allowed to take the field in a uniform made of bubble wrap.

Houston Astros

To fill the void left by Andy Pettitte and the retiring(until July when he picks a the team that is doing best and will cower to his ridiculous demands) Roger Clemens, the Astros brought in Jason Jennings and Woody Williams. Jason Jennings comes from Colorado so having an ERA above 5 is no big deal for him. Woody Williams will be in for a bit of a rude awakening when fly balls that would fall harmlessly into outfielders mitts at Petco Park, will now be landing several rows back in the stands. Also Brad Lidge is back at closer, what could possibly go wrong? The Astros are counting on free agent arrival Carlos Lee to score the runs the pitching staff concedes. He had better because Brad Ausmus sure isn't going to do it for you. But then again Houston's patented late season push, might be enough to get them in the playoffs.

Milwaukee Brewers
Of any team in the Central, surprisingly Milwaukee is the one with the most potential. Contributions from Prince Fielder, Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench can fill the hole left by Carlos Lee. quality players Craig Counsell, Richie Weeks, and Bill Hall round out the line-up. As for pitching, Francisco Cordero looks to solidify the closer position, and Chris Capuano is a legit number one pitcher. If they can get a healthy Ben Sheets(a big if) that gives the Brew Crew one of the best 1-2 combos in the league, let alone the division. If Jeff Suppan is as motivated to shut down opposing hitters as he is to stopping stem-cell research then look out NL Central.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Zach Duke, Jason Bay, and Tom Gorzelanny. Other than that there isn't much to look forward to for the Pirates. I guess PNC Park is kinda cool. Oh, all the Tigers coaching staff are former Pirates, so come join Tigers fans until your team gets good. Whats a few more people on the bandwagon.

St. Louis Cardinals
The defending "champs" return a line-up without a great deal of changes. The only difference in position players is Adam Kennedy in for Rafael Belliard at 2nd base. Now I know GM Walt Jocketty can feel good knowing that he has Albert Pujols is his line-up, but this is a team that went 83-78 last year. You couldn't find any way to make the team better? I don't know maybe getting rid of Jim Edmonds for an outfielder who won't shatter like fine china. Maybe a shortstop who can actually ride a roller coaster. A third baseman who actually wants to play for his manager, perhaps? Your rotation has Kip Wells and Braden Looper as starters. Kip Wells wasn't good enough for the Pirates, and now he's more than likely the number two guy in St. Louis. Braden Looper isn't that good of a relief pitcher and you're going to stick him out there for 6 to 7 innings at a time? And for some reason your putting Jason Isringhausen back in the closer role. Were you watching what Adam Wainwright did last year? Have fun watching the playoff from home. And no I'm not bitter about the Tigers losing to the Cardinals.

Final Standings
1) Milwaukee (85-77)
2) Chicago (83-79)
3) Cincinnati (82-80)
4) Houston (79-83)
5) St. Louis (74-88)
6) Pittsburgh (68-94)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

2007 Season Preview: The NL West

Last year, the NL West was a division of five teams and 2 win totals. The Padres and Dodgers tied atop the division with 88 wins while the rest of the teams were mired 12 games back at 76 (well technically the Giants were 11.5 back because of a rain out that was never made up) Will the Dodgers and Padres, stay at the top or fall? Will someone from the bottom rise up to take the division? Let's go to the teams:

Arizona Diamondbacks
A new year, with a new look. The D-backs ditched the purple for red and have added a patch on the sleeve that vaguely resembles genitalia. Also the Big Entendre himself, Randy Johnson is back after a trade with the Yankees. Also new arms for Arizona are Doug Davis (from Milwaukee) and free agent Jorge Julio. While old arms may be joining young gun Brandon Webb on the mound, the old guys like Johnny Estrada, Luis Gonzalez, and Craig Counsell have been shown the door. With prospects like Stephen Drew (J.D.'s little brother), Chris Young and Carlos Quentin filling the void, the loss isn't that substantial. Plus rounding out the line up we have everyone's favorite bed headed outfielder Eric Byrnes and solid players Orlando Hudson and Chad Tracy . The main issue with this team is the bullpen. There are a bunch of young arms with no one over two years in the majors minus Brandon Lyon, Jorge Julio and Jose Valverde. Speaking of Valverde, he is back at closer, or until he gets hurt once again. This is where the Julio signing comes into play. Expect him to fill in if/when Valverde gets hurt.
The Diamondbacks are a very young team (there are only 4 players over 31), but they do sport the defending NL Cy Young winner in Brandon Webb, and Randy Johnson (who won 4 Cy Young's in 6 years in Arizona). This team could be dangerous if they young talent comes through and they avoid injuries.

Colorado Rockies
Pros: Matt Holliday, Brian Hawpe, Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins will hit the crap out of the ball
Cons: So will opponents if anyone other than Jeff Francis is pitching.
That may be an exaggeration, but while Coors Field magic humidor has made it a less frightening place for pitchers, any team that still employs Byung-Hung Kim, must have serious holes in the rotation. Colorado does however win the Bob Cluck award for next year's potential, with Josh Fogg, Taylor Buchholz, and Jason Hirsh.

Los Angeles Dodgers
In addition to all-you-can-eat Dodger Dogs, there are plenty of reasons the Dodgers will have people in the stands this year. With the addition of Jason Schmidt to Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Randy Wolf, and Brett Tomko the Dodgers boast one of the most consistent, albeit non-threatening rotations in the NL. With a bullpen of Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, and closer Takashi Saito, six quality innings is all those starters will need. Getting those pitchers a lead will be the hard part. J.D. Drew took his bat and annual trip to the DL to Boston. They signed Luis Gonzalez for some offense about three years too late. They also added Juan Pierre to complement Rafael Furcal at the top of the order. Which will be great if Pierre can ever find a way to steal first base. About the only thing even close to being offensive on this team is Jeff Kent's moustache. But then again they always can count on some timely hitting from Mr. Mia Hamm.

San Diego Padres
The Fathers are the defending NL West champs, and how did they spend their offseason? They brought in still masterful Greg Maddux and still fat effective David Wells to complement their young aces of Jake Peavy and Chris Young. The bullpen boasts the all time saves leader Trevor Hoffman and great set up men in Cla Meredith and Scott Linebrink. They traded away up and coming 2nd baseman Josh Barfield, for up and coming 3rd baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. Joining Kouzmanoff are those wacky Giles brothers, and Adrian Gonzalez (draft him for your fantasy team this year, you'll thank me later), Khalil Greene, and Mike Cameron, giving the Padres one of the best lineup (on paper...or on a monitor as the case might be). But they will be missing the added distraction of constant trips to the Playboy Mansion that Mike Piazza took with him to Oakland.

San Francisco Giants
Barry Zito joins either a really good or really bad rotation of Matt Morris, Matt Cain, Noah Lowry and Russ Ortiz. For the Giants to do any damage, they will have to be really good. Other than Barry Bonds, the rest of the lineup answers the question "where do players go after their prime years?" Omar Vizquel, Randy Winn, Armando Benitez, Ray Durham, Dave Roberts, Pedro Feliz, Rich Aurilla, it's like a collection of the crappy players from every All-Star game since 1999. All that's missing is Ryan Klesko...wait nope there he is. The best thing that could happen to this team is every one getting hurt(which is almost a guarantee for Klesko) and them being forced to play their young players. Add to this the carnival of boos towards Bonds as he continues his quest to place an asterisk next to every hitting record, it's not going to be a fun season for baseball next to McCovey Cove.

Final Standings
1) San Diego (90-72)
2) Los Angeles (85-77)
3) Arizona (80-82)
4) Colorado (74-88)
5) San Francisco (66-96)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Good News and Bad News.

Bad news is that now I am one of Michigan's finest natural resources...the unemployed. But my job loss is this blogs gain. Since I don't have that pesky job keeping me chained to a desk, I have more time to write (when I'm not busy sending out resumes en masse). So stay tuned, starting tomorrow a series of reviews of each division for the upcoming season.

P.S. anyone out there hiring?

Monday, March 05, 2007

One Step Closer

Despite what the single digit wind chill might lead you to believe, spring is just around the corner. I've been listening to the Tigers through the magic of XM's MLB coverage. More evidence of spring's impending arrival, the first televised game (well live game, not a replay) of the year for the Tigers, today vs. the Yankees. Due to my employer not allowing me to blow off work to watch the game of the TV in the lobby, I was relegated to record it on the DVR and wait until I came home to watch. ESPN's brilliant strategy of airing ESPNEWS for 10 minutes prior to the game, spawned a mini panic attack when doubts of whether or not I recorded the right channel. After hearing about Dwyrama Wade will not have surgery and attempt a heroic comeback from his horrific boo-boo, and what NFL free agents the Lion didn't sign, the game had begun.

As for the game itself:
  • Placido Polanco is a base hit machine.
  • The Tigers were taking a lot of pitches, drawing seven walks. The bad part is when they swung, they missed resulting in 10 K's for Yankee pitchers
  • Zumaya hit triple digits. Didn't really see his 95 mph sinker.
  • Gil Felix Heredia didn't really sell himself on filling that LOOGY spot on the roster. Two hits, a wild pitch and the giving up the game winning HR to Bronson Sardinha, who sounds like a player that the computer creates seven years into a season on a video game.
Still though take it for what it is, a spring training game. Meaningless in the standing, but one step closer to April 2nd. Now back to reading "Baseball Between he Numbers" one more time