Monday, March 31, 2008

Game 1 Recap

In a repeat of last year's opener, the Tigers drop one in extra innings. It looked good early on with the way Verlander was pitching and the way the Tigers were hitting, but the Royals just wouldn't go away and took one from the home team in 11 innings.

Tigers 4 Royals 5
W: Leo Nunez (1-0)
L: Denny Bautista (0-1)

My Game Notes:
  • Justin Verlander had around 85 pitches of Cy Young candidate stuff. Then the home run to Alex Gordon, and the top of the 7th happened. Still good to see him effective this early in the season
  • Here's how the new guys did: Miguel "El Palo Grande" Cabrera 1-5 with that 1 being a solo HR, Edgar Renteria 1-5 with an RBI, Jacque Jones 0-4 and replaced by Clete Thomas who notched his first MLB hit in his first MLB at-bat, but was stranded at 3rd in the 11th. All in all, too much swinging not enough contact by the new guys as they were responsible for 7 of the 11 K's for the Tigers. I'm hoping it was just Opening Day jitters in the new park for these guys
  • 4 walks by Gary Sheffield, with the first 2 coming after being down 0-2. I think he'll have a better April this year
  • to paraphrase Rod Allen, I think the new riser seats on the porch in right and under the scoreboard in leftfield should be dubbed "The Seats Cabrera Built"
  • Rod's first "Durrty" of the season, top of the 5th after Verlander struck out John Buck
  • that 7th inning was just Grilli being Grilli.
  • I was surprised to see Aquafina Aquilino Lopez come out instead of Zach Miner after Bobby Seay
  • I'm sure the bullpen will be the focus of every story, column, and post about the game today. I'll give them a 20 game cushion to prove themselves before I hit the panic button.
  • Denny Bautista was up and down, striking out three, but allowing 5 baserunners in 2 innings of work
  • Brandon Inge has some very goos at-bats and a great play to show off his laser-rocket arm to keep the game tied (at the time) in the 11th
  • I don't know if Placido Polanco has ever gone 0-6 in a game in his career
  • On the plus side, there is a day off tomorrow to rest the bullpen
Tigers Record
W - L
0 - 1


The one day of the year where everyone is a contender (offer void in Baltimore and San Fransisco). The weather down here in Georgia is 50 degrees and rainy, so if I turn the TV around and sit on the porch it will feel like I'm there. I won't be doing that as warmth and a comfy couch are much more appealing to me. So off to walk the dog and to the store to grab supplies, and to explain to everyone at the store why I need 2 bags of chips and beer at 11 on a Monday morning. Happy Opening Day everyone

Thursday, March 27, 2008

4 Things That Worry Me (and 3 Make Me Feel Better)

Opening Day is just around the corner, and the Tigers are not the well-oiled, ready to destroy the AL juggenaut that I expected. Besides the omnipresent bullpen issue ("you can't win games if you score 10 runs if the bullpen gives up 11" is this year's "Todd Jones Sucks" statement I'm already sick of arguing) there are a few things I'm nervous about.

1) Dontrelle Willis
It not the runs surrendered that scares me as much as the walks. Willis has walked 15 this spring, the other 4 starters combined have walked 18. I'm in the same camp as Ian from BYB, thinking that these control issues might be due to a bum arm. If that's the case I hope Dontrelle addresses it sooner than later. I'd hate to see another situation like Jeremy Bonderman's last year to cripple the rotation.

2) Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney's arms
The rallying cry for the bullpen the past two years has been " Wait until Zumaya and Rodney get healthy". But what if they don't? Zumaya has had 3 injuries since the 2006 Playoffs, and if you listen to what Baseball Prospectus injury guru Will Carroll had to say to Bill at DTW, the outlook for Rodney isn't very rosy either. Oddly enough, I think the injury might help Zumaya. If it takes away a little velocity and forces him to have better precsion with his pitches it would benefit him. That is if he is still able to throw a curveball. If he doesn't have that change of pace pitch, Zumaya is no better than Jason Grilli. In any case if either Rodney or Zumaya aren't big contributors this year, you might have to start looking at trading them for whatever you can get.

3) An injury to a Starter
If indeed Dontrelle Willis is hurt or if Kenny Rogers goes down again, who replaces them? Right now the only options are Virgil Vasquez and newly converted starter Macay McBride. Yorman Bazardo and Zach Miner are two guys that could fill in as spot-starters, but I think both would be better used out of the bullpen. If a Tiger goes down, would currently unsigned Russ Ortiz, David Wells, or Jeff Weaver be getting a phone call?

4) SI picked the Tigers
This isn't really a serious concern, but since 2001 SI has been wrong in predicting every World Series winner. And only the 2001 Yankees were the only team to make the World Series.

But get down off the ledge, here are some things that keep me believing:

1) Miguel Cabrera
How can 180 hits, 30+ HRs, and 100+ RBIs not help this team? Seriously, if you can't get excited about probably one of the Top 5 players in the Majors on your team, you had better check your pulse.

2) Is the bullpen really that bad?
Jason Grilli takes a lot of crap (rightfully so), but away from Comerica he was outstanding. His line on the road was opponents hitting only .184 against him, and surrendering only 9 earned runs in 42.1 innings pitched. I don't except another season of those road splits, but if he can meet in the middle of his home and road performances, he'll be alright. Judging by his performances this spring it's a good sign that he can. Denny Bautista and Yorman Bazardo will also be a huge boost, if they translate their spring success to the regular season. Bautista in particular, I think could be a difference. His past control issues seem to have been resolved enough for Jim Leyland to designate him the 8th inning set-up man. Add to that the returning Bobby Seay and Zach Miner, and the bullpen doesn't look that bad. I wouldn't trust this bullpen with Seattle or San Diego's offense, but with a offense the will average around 6 runs a game, they'll do fine.

3) Seriously look at the line-up
  • 4 players in the MLB Top 20 in batting average and Top 30 in OBP in 2007 (Magglio, Cabrera, Polanco, Renteria).
  • 3 in the top 20 for Slugging percentage (Magglio, Cabrera, Granderson).
  • Only Gary Sheffield hit below .280 (.265 his lowest average since 1997), and with Gary guaranteed not to touch the field this year that should go up.
  • 5th in the Majors in Team OBP, then they added Renteria (career OBP of .349) and Cabrera (career .388 OBP).
Detroit hasn't seen an assembly line like this since the heyday of the Ford Rouge Factory. It's should be an interesting summer one way or another.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words


This guy's worth $153.3 Million. If you bought a #24 jersey this offseason, wear it with pride knowing that it's not going out of style for at least the next 8 years.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Atlanta: Great When Tornado-Free

In addition to year-round golf, 60 degree sunny days in February, and no snow; tonight I came across another benefit of my move to Georgia. The Braves-Tigers game was televised locally.
This time my wish of a line-up with Miguel Cabrera was granted. I also was able to see Denny Bautista for the first time as well. Here's some notes from the game:

  • Verlander looked good early. He even had a single. He did lose a bit of control late, collecting 3 of his 4 walks in the last 1.1 innings he pitched
  • Tim Hudson looked just as good for the Braves.
  • Fox baseball expert Ken Rosenthal was in the Braves booth, and said he had picked the Braves to win the World Series. The article will be out in a few weeks, so we'll see whether he was just making nice with the Atlanta broadcast team, or is for real.
  • Speaking of the broadcast team, they were very complimentary of the Tigers, Jim Leyland in particular.
  • My first look at Cabrera was disappointing, 0-3 with a walk. Although that walk ended up being the go-ahead run (at the time).
  • Yorman Bazardo broke Jeff Francouer's bat causing him to hit into an inning-ending double play to end a threat in the 6th.
  • Todd Jones threw 2 full scoreless innings, allowing only one hit. He even had a strikeout.
  • Denny Bautista gets the loss, but some terrible fielding by Freddie Guzman, Mike Hessman, and Matt Joyce should get credit for the blown save.
  • Two of the guys Ian at BYB pointed out as possible targets for bullpen help, pitched tonight, Royce Ring and Tyler Yates. Ring had a 1-2-3 inning vs. the bottom of the order, and Yates gave up a go-ahead run while walking 3 in the top of the ninth. Yeah, I think DD will pass on these guys.

All in all, just other meaningless spring game. Nice to hear a non-ESPN perspective on the Tigers. The main thing is that it's one day closer to the real thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Boy, that escalated quickly...

The national broadcast for today's Tigers-Nationals game allowed me the opportunity to view the 2008 Tigers live, for the first time this opportunity I should have passed on to do other things. First off, Miguel Cabrera wasn't in the line-up. I've been anticipating seeing him since the trade. I guess I'll be waiting until Opening Day. Second, I was cool to hear from Jim Leyland and Dontrelle Willis during the game, but that 6th inning...

I'm sure that's what it felt like for Tim Byrdak today. Well let's just be happy it was a spring training game.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

2008 Preview: MLB Awards and Playoffs


NL MVP: David Wright
Should of won last year, will get it this year as long as the Mets win the NL East

NL Cy Young: Johan Santana - He might come close to 300 Ks this year

NL Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox
Like Scorsese winning for "The Departed" will get it for getting the Braves in the playoffs on his farewell tour

NL Rookie of the Year: J.R. Towles C Houston
Only because Andy LaRoche more than likely will be platooning with Nomar

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
Another year, another 50 HRs, another MVP.

AL Cy Young: John Lackey
He won 19 games, led the league in ERA last year. There's no signs showing that he won't have a dominant season again

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon
If getting Tampa over .500 doesn't get you Manager of the Year I don't know what will.

AL Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria 3B Tampa Bay - It will be between him and Daric Barton of Oakland. But due to the Rays success, Longoria gets more attention and the votes


Division Winners
NL East: New York Mets
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West : Arizona Diamondbacks
Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
The Braves just edge out Philly and Los Angeles

Mets def. Cubs 3-0
Diamondbacks def. Braves 3-2

Mets def. Diamondbacks 4-2

Division Winners
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Los Angeles Angels
Wild Card: Cleveland Indians

Indians hold off the Yankees to make it back to the playoffs

Red Sox def. Indians 3-2
Tigers def. Angels 3-1

Red Sox def. Tigers 4-2
This one's brain over heart. Unless the Tigers get some major bullpen help, I just don't see them beating the Red Sox.

World Series:

Red Sox def. Mets 4-3
A rematch of 1986, this time no Buckner error to hand the series to the Mets. Still it goes 7 games with a classic Santana-Beckett showdown in Game 7

World Series MVP:
Josh Beckett

So there you have it, my projections for the upcoming MLB season. Based on my track record about three of these things will be right, and I'm hoping my pick of the Tigers falling in the ALCS isn't one of them.

2008 Previews: AL West

Los Angeles Angels
2007: 94-68 1st Place; Lost in ALDS 0-3

Since Arte Moreno took over ownership of the Angels, an offseason hasn't passed without the team making a big move. Under Moreno's ownership the Angels have made the post-season 3 out of 5 years, so you can't really argue with his philosophy. The Angels added Jon Garland and Torii Hunter. Garland's pick-up gains importance as Kelvim Escobar is recovering from shoulder issues, and will start the season on the DL. Torii Hunter joins an outfield that is crowded with talent in Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Matthews, Reggie Willits, Juan Rivera and Garret Anderson. Hunter will take over CF, and Anderson or Matthews will DH. The only question mark on the team is the bullpen. Closer Frankie Rodriguez is legit, but other than Darren Oliver and Scot Shields the arms are questionable. If Escobar comes back and stays healthy, either Ervin Santana or Joe Saunders could move to the pen giving it more stability. Still in a weak division they'll have all year to figure out their problems before getting tested in the playoffs.

Pivotal Player: Jered Weaver. If he can produce on the same level as his first two seasons, Ecsobar's absence will not be that painful for the Angels.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Nick Adenhart. Young prospect could see time in the big leagues if injuries strike the pitching staff

Oakland Athletics
2007: 76-86 3rd Place

Just like their National League counterparts across the bay, for the A's this season will be all about the young guys. Gone are Danny Haren, Mike Piazza, Mark Kotsay, Nick Swisher, Shannon Stewart, and Milton Bradley. This season is about Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, and Daric Barton. It's also a chance to see if Rich Harden and Bobby Crosby can make it a whole season without getting injured. A healthy Harden actually makes the rotation halfway decent. The bullpen is going to be messy though. This year isn't about success this year, it's about winning in the future. A bunch of guys will get a shot this year to see if they can help the A's in the next few years get back to the top.

Pivotal Player: Daric Barton. The centerpiece of the Mark Mulder deal, will have a chance to show what he can do at 1B this year. Should be in the running for Rookie of the Year.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Gio Gonzalez. Possibly the #1 prospect in the White Sox organization, was acquired for Nick Swisher. Led the minors in strikeouts last season. Could see some starts or relief work later in the season

Seattle Mariners
2007: 88-74 2nd Place

The Mariners started hot and were in the think of the playoff hunt at the all-Star break. They stumbled down teh stretch and were on the outside looking in. This offseason brought changes to bolster the pitching staff, none large than getting Eric Bedard. Along with Felix Hernandez, this in one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball. The also added Carlos Silva, who may not be great, but is a definite step up over the back end guys they had last year in Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez. Add to that those guys Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Bautista and you have a decent rotation. The problem for this team will be scoring runs, a problem not made easier by the loss of Jose Guillen. Guillen was second on the team in HRs, hits, and RBIs. They replaced him with Brad Wilkerson, a career .250 hitter and who has never driven in more than 80 in a season. The pitching is there, but unless they get a big bat in the line-up, the Mariners will be on the outside looking in once again

Pivotal Player: Richie Sexson. His production has dropped off each of the 3 seasons he's been in Seattle. He needs to be a 30 HR 100 RBI player again for the Mariners to sniff the playoffs.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Arthur Rhodes. Returning to the Mariners, trying to return to teh Majors after injuries

Texas Rangers
2007: 75-87 4th Place

If this season's Texas Rangers were a movie, it would be titled "There Will Be Bombs". The Rangers will give flight to many a baseball this year. New faces in the outfield Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley and a healthy Hank Blalock will see to that. The Rangers also boast a productive middle infield of Ian Kinsler and Michael Young in the field and at the plate. The downside is that opposing batters will joining in on the hitting fun as well. The Rangers pitching hasn't improved much over the staff that allowed the 6th most runs in baseball. The Rangers did not have one starter with an ERA under 4.50. Add to this their best two arms out of the bullpen last year (Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka), that film about the Rangers will be of the horror variety.

Pivotal Player: Hank Blalock. The Rangers will need to score tons to complete. Blalcok is the team's top power hitter, he needs to set the pace.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Chris Shelton. The talk of baseball two Aprils ago, now he'll be lucky to be in the Majors this April.

Final Standings:
The Rangers have the hitters, the Mariners have the pitching, Oakland has not a lot of anything. They'll all be looking up at the Angels who seem to have it all.

1) Los Angeles Angels
2) Seattle Mariners
3) Texas Rangers
4) Oakland A's

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

2008 Previews: AL Central

I was going to go out of order and save the Central for last, but I have a busy day tomorrow and the 4 team West will be an easier preview to write. So here's the Central...

Chicago White Sox
2007: 72-90 4th Place

The Sox made two big trades in the offseason, bringing in Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher. This will help the middle of the line-up and improve on the AL worst offense in 2007. The problem is they did nothing to improve a pitching staff that was in the bottom 4 in the AL in runs allowed last season. Javier Vasquez and Mark Buerhle are back, but with Jon Garland gone in the Cabrera trade the drop off after the top two in the rotation is significant. Jose Contreras is the default #3 starter, he was second to Daniel Cabrera of Baltimore to runs allowed in the AL last year. Thanks to the Swisher trade, young arms that could jump into the rotation (Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De Los Santos) are wearing Oakland A's uniforms. Bringing in Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel will help the bullpen, if Dotel is finally healthy. Seeing as he has only pitched 55 innings total since the 2004 season, I wouldn't count on it. If the White Sox are lucky enough to carry a lead into the 9th, it's almost a guaranteed win with Bobby Jenks as a closer. But, with the offense continually being mismanaged by Ozzie Guillen, that will not happen often.

Pivotal Player: Nick Swisher. The traded three high prospects for him, he needs to help teh middle of the order produce runs.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Tomo Ohka. Ohka was 2-5 with a 5.79 ERA with the Blue Jays. Sadly he has a good chance of cracking the White Sox rotation.

Cleveland Indians
2007: 96-66 1st Place; Lost in ALCS 3-4

One game away from the World Series, the Indians saw the every team in the AL Central make moves to dethrone them from the Central crown. The Indians stood firm, only signing reliever Masahide Kobayashi (over 200 saves in Japan) and trading for utility player Jamey Carroll. With two Cy Young caliber pitchers at the front of the rotation in C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona; and bats such as Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Perlata, and Ryan Garko you can see why Indians management is confident in the team they have. As a Tiger fan, here's where I think the Indians are vulnerable. First, outside of the 5 guys I mentioned, there isn't any on this team that can get on base or drive in runs. Asdrubal Cabrera started off strong after replacing Josh Barfield at 2nd in August, but cooled off down the stretch. I see this September Cabrera showing up more often, as he plays his first full season in the Majors. The corner outfielder platoon (Franklin Gutierrez, David Dellucci, Jason Michaels) drove in only 80 runs combined. Add to that, none had a OBP over .325, and you have the 1-5 guys in the order doing all the work. As for the pitching, spots 3-5 in the rotation aren't that great. Paul Byrd may of won 15 games last year, but that was more than likely is due to the Indians offense. He allowed the 2nd most hits of any pitcher in the AL, and tied for the 5th most HRs allowed. C.C. Sabathia also allows a lot of hits, but doesn't surrender HRs, and has the ability to strike out the side. Byrd doesn't have that ability, in fact the rest of the pitchers that might fill out the rotation (Jake Westbrook, Jeremy Sowers, Cliff Lee) resemble a Byrd's stats could pose a problem. The bullpen fares a bit better than the starters. Aaron Fultz and the Rafaels (Betancourt and Perez) did a great job in setting up Joe Borowski. Borowski did not do a great job finishing them off. No closer in baseball gave up more hits or runs than Borowski did, and only Tampa's Al Reyes surrendered more HRs. In 22 of the 69 games he appeared in he surrendered a run. The Indians do have some weak spots, but their also have a very good core to cover up their shortcomings. Cleveland is beatable, but they won't go down without a fight.

Pivotal Player: Travis Hafner. Troubled by injuries, had an off year HR and average-wise. If back to form, makes the line-up more dangerous than it already is.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Brendan Donnelly. Sidelined with Tommy John surgery. When he returns is a reliable arm in the bullpen, allowing other moves (Betancourt to closer?) to be made.

Detroit Tigers
2007: 88-74 2nd Place

Miguel Cabrera is a Tiger. I don't think I'll get used to typing that until at least June. He joins Edgar Renteria and Jacque Jones adding to a line-up that was behind only Philadelphia and the Yankees in the Majors in runs scored. We all know the offense will produce, the thing that the Tigers need to win is good pitching. Justin Verlander was the only starter to provide it on a consistent basis last year. Not coincidentally, he was the only starter not to have an miss significant time. Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, and Jeremy Bonderman all fought (perhaps fought too long in some cases) with injuries. The constant injuries and trading away of Mike Maroth left the Tigers at times with only 3 Major League level arms. The addition of Dontrelle Willis at worst gives them a guy that can throw 180+ innings at a high level. I'd be happy with a season like 2006's from Willis. An ERA around 4.00 and around 150 Ks. The real issue is with the bullpen. With Joel Zumaya out until after the All-Star break and Fernando Rodney's shoulder tightness issues, there are two big spots to fill. Bobby Seay and Tim Byrdak did a great job as the lefties coming out of the pen. Yorman Bazardo did well as a starter down the stretch and that arm would be useful coming out of the bullpen. Then there's the Roller Coaster. Todd Jones is the closer and will stay the closer until the end of the season, just accept that. He might not be the best closer, but at least he's not Joe Borowski. In a perfect world, Brandon Inge would be traded to a team and the Tigers would get a good bullpen arm out of it. But that's not going to happen. Tiger fans will just have to hope that the offense is good enough, the starters are consistent, and the bullpen finds some way to get better.

Pivotal Player: Zach Miner. Looking at his stats, he wasn't that bad with a 3.03 ERA. He needs to be the guy to step up and be the 7th (or 8th if Rodney's out) inning guy out of the bullpen. IF he does well this year the chances the Tigers will go deep into the playoffs increase.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Mike Holliman. Competing for the reserve infielder spot. DTW likes him over Santiago. I'll echo BYB in jumping aboard that endorsement.

Kansas City Royals
2007: 69-93 5th Place

GM Dayton Moore is trying to rebuild the Royals back into the elite team they were in the heyday of George Brett. He seems to be following the Dave Dombrowski school of rebuilding, in overpaying for free agents. Last year it was Gil Meche, this year it's Jose Guillen. Meche while having a losing record, actually pitched very well. So I'll hold of judgement on the Guillen deal until later. Also Joakim Soria was a steal in teh Rule 5 draft, and getting Brian Bannister for Amborix Burgos was a pretty good move as well. They have a number of young promising players such as Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, John Buck, Luke Hochevar, and Tony Pena Jr. But they're still a few years, and players away from condenting

Pivotal Player: Alex Gordon. The ultra-hyped 3B has a slow start to his rookie campaign. Another bad year and he'll start to hear the word "bust" being whispered around

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Mike Maroth. This time last year he was trying to regain his place in the rotation with the Tigers. Now he's trying to bounce back with the Royals after a rocky 2007

Minnesota Twins
2007: 79-83 3rd Place

Johan Santana and Torii Hunter are gone. Before we weep for the poor small market Twins, may I remind you that when they make a big trade like the one for Santana, they usually end up breaking even if not ahead. The last time they did a blockbuster trade like this they received 3 players that are still important parts of the team (Lirano, Bonser, and Nathan for Pierzynski). The Santana trade brought them Carlos Gomez, the replacement for Hunter. He may not put of the offense immediately like Hunter, but Delmon Young can help with that. The pitching staff will miss Santana and Matt Garza. But the return of Fransisco Liriano, and the signings of Livan Hernandez will help take away some of the sting. That and they still have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Micheal Cuddyer, and one of the best bullpens in the AL. The Twins most likely will not win the division, but they will be a tough team to play all year.

Pivotal Player: Fransisco Liriano. Was putting up Santana-like numbers before an injury forced Tommy John surgery in 2006. If he's back to his old self Santana might not even be missed.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Zach Day. Another journeyman pitcher who could fill in if the injury bug takes down a starter or two.

Final Standings:
Right now the Tigers lack of depth in the bullpen scares me, but then I look at the line-up and think that the runs they score might be more than enough to hold off the Indians.

1) Detroit Tigers
2) Cleveland Indians
3) Minnesota Twins
4) Chicago White Sox
5) Kansas City Royals

Monday, March 03, 2008

2008 Previews: AL East

Baltimore Orioles
2007: 69-93, 4th Place

After another disappionting finish in 2007, looking thier off-season moves, Baltimore made it apparent that 2008 all about the youngsters. They dealt away Miguel Tejada and Eric Bedard, and are rumored to be shopping Brian Roberts. The deals netted the O's two young OFs in Luke Scott and Adam Jones, matched with Nick Markakis give the Orioles reasons to look positive to the future. While the number one are was traded in Bedard, Baltimore still has potential in pitchers Adam Loewen, Jeremy Guthrie, and Hayden Penn. You could add Daniel Cabrera to that list if he finally shows control and stops walking everyone. The Orioles also have a few bullpen arms that could bring in more prospects around the trade deadline. But for now, this is a young team that will lose a lot. At least this there appears to be a silver lining to the season of losing in Baltimore

Pivotal Player: Nick Markakis. Had a good sophomore season last year, hitting 25 HRs and driving in over 100. Another good year and he'll be a block that the team is built around

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Steve Traschel. Pitched for the O's last year before being traded to the Cubs. Has more career starts then rest of staff combined.

Boston Red Sox
2007: 96-66 1st Place; World Series Champions

To the dismay of everyone outside of New England, the Red Sox return almost in it's entirety the team that won the World Series. The team was simply the all-around best team in baseball last year. The were 4th in the MLB in runs scored, and 1st in runs allowed. Pretty hard not to win the World Series with a team like that. This year they will be the team to beat. Injuires wont affect this team, as guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, and Alex Cora are waiting on the bench to fill in. The only hope is for Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Daisuke Matsuzuka, and Josh Beckett to severely regress.

Pivotal Player: Manny Ramirez. David Ortiz gets most of the credit, but if he didn't have Manny following him he'd be walked as much as Barry Bonds. A good year out of Manny will help the Sox go far, and will help Manny with possible free agency pending.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Bartolo Colon. The 2005 Cy Young Award winner, could be battling the aforementioned Buchholz for the injured Curt Schilling's spot in the rotation

New York Yankees
2007: 94-68 2nd Place; Won Wild Card lost in ALDS 1-3

After bowing out in the ALDS for the 3rd straight year, you figured some changes were in order. Joe Torre had turned down a contract offer, A-Rod wanted out; Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada were exploring there options as well. Well, Torre was replaced with 2006 NL Manager of the Year Joe Girardi; A-Rod, Rivera, Pettitte, and Posada are still Yankees. The only two players gone from the 2007 team are bullpen arms Ron Villone and Scott Proctor. Alex Rodriguez is the best player in baseball, and leads the offense that scored the most runs in baseball last year. Posada, Johnny Damon, and young stars Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano should help A-Rod in keeping the offense high powered. As evidenced by the breakdown in trade talks for Johan Santana, it appears the Yankees are confident that holding on to their young talent will help them win now and in the future. Nowhere is this infusion of young talent needed more than in the pitching rotation. Two spots are vacated by the departed Roger Clemens, and the struggling Japanese import Kei Igawa. Add to the mix a declining Mike Mussina and a Andy Pettite whose off-season was distracting to say the least, and the only dependable picther on the staff is Chien-Ming Wang. That's where Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain come in. Chamberlain is expected to be a starter at some point, but could be better served coming out of the bullpen. Other than Rivera, the only experienced options in the bullpen are LaTroy Hawkins, Brian Bruney, and Kyle Farnsworth. If Joba can show that the 24 innings of fury last season were not a fluke, the bullpen will be able to preserve the leads given to them.

Pivotal Player: Phil Hughes. Will be the key pitcher for the stability of the Yankee rotation. The fact that the Yankees did not want to included him in the package to get Johan Santana is a fact that will not be lost on Yankee fans if they have to watch Johan pitch the Mets into the playoff and Hughes struggles this year

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Morgan Ensberg. Once thought to be the next big 3B in Houston, is learning 1B, and competing with Jason Giambi and Shelly Duncan for the starting job.

Tampa Bay Rays
2007: 66-96 5th Place

The "Devil" is gone from the name, and perhaps not to coincidentally so are troubled prospects Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes. The real story of teh Rays is the wealth of young talent that this team possesses. The Delmon Young trade brought Matt Garza who joins Scott Kazmir and James Shields for a potent 1-2-3 punch in which all members are under 26 years old. Add to that the three almost ready for prime-time arms of David Price, Wade Davis, and Jacob McGee; you have a deep wealth of talented starters. The scary thing is the depth of talent is just as deep out in the field. The outfield has Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, two speedy guys that can hit for power. The infield has the reborn Carlos Pena who hit 46 HRs last season, and Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Longoria at 3B. Last year's 3B Akinori Iwamura moved over to 2B to accommodate Longoria. Iwamura looks to bounce back from a injury hampered season, and produce as well as the plate as he did in the Japanese League. The only thing keeping Tampa from being a contender right now is a shaky bullpen. Al Reyes moves from closer to the set-up for Troy Percival, who appears to be back in top closer form after allowing only 8 runs in 40 innings of work for the Cardinals last season. Another reliever to keep an eye on is Dan Wheeler, who had the worst year of his career after taking over at closer for Brad Lidge in Houston, then being sent to Tampa for Ty Wigginton. Wheeler averages a sub 2.50 ERA in the prior two seasons. Other than those three, there isn't that much to write about.

Pivotal Player: Scott Kazmir. Started of spring with some arm problems. If the Rays are going to live up to any of this hype, they need their #1 pitcher healthy.

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Eric Hinske. Went from star sub on the World Series Champion, to battling for a roster spot on the Rays

Toronto Blue Jays
2007: 83-79 3rd Place

Giving first crack to tickets for Tigers and Red Sox fans wasn't going sit well with Jays fans. Then again, neither were their offseason moves. First, bringing in David Eckstien. Everyone's favorite gritty, gutty, midget was signed in the offseason to start at SS. Great except that Jays already had a light-hitting, good-fielding shortstop on the roster with John McDonald. In fact they both drove in exactly 31 runs last season. Eckstien does have a better OBP, and hits for a better average, but MacDonald was a much better fielder last season. So why spend money on a 33 year old light hitting shortstop? The Jays swapped 3rd base problems with the Cardinals, acquiring Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus. Rolen had issues with Cards manager Tony LaRussa. What could possibly go wrong here in Toronto with John Gibbons? The one thing that isn't a problem is the pitching. Only the Red Sox allowed fewer runs last season. Add a healthy B.J. Ryan to the bullpen can only improve on last year. The question is can this team score enough runs? Most of the power on teh team last year were Frank Thomas, who turns 40 this year, and Matt Stairs, who turns 41. With the exception of Alex Rios, is there anybody on this team that can hit? The Jays need to find an answer to this question, or otherwise spend another summer looking up at other teams in the standings.

Pivotal Player: Vernon Wells. Signed a monster extension before last season, and was outhit by Aaron Hill. He needs to get back to the 30 HR-100 RBI guy that signed that extension to help the Jays

Non-Roster Invitee of Note: Shannon Stewart. Career .298 hitter could displace Reed Johnson in the outfield

Final Standings:
Like it's been for the past decade it's a two horse race between Boston and New York. The real story will be Tampa. Not only will they have their first 70+ win season, they will flirt with a win total in the 80s.

1) Boston Red Sox
2) New York Yankees
3) Tampa Bay Rays
4) Toronto Blue Jays
5) Baltimore Orioles