Saturday, March 26, 2011

Off Base AL East Preview

Offbase editors Derwood Morris and MTD haven't had much luck previewing things lately-MTD incorrectly predicted Gary Discarcina would come out of retirement to help the Angels win the 2009 World Series and Derwood thought Teen Wolf 3 would be the 2010 summer blockbuster. But here are division previews anyway.

Today we take a look at the AL East, a long-ignored division. It's about time these guys got some attention.

Yankees (2010: 95-67)
The wild card winners from a year ago didn't land free agent pitcher Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte retired, forcing Anthony from Poughkeepsie to nearly overdose on linguine with clam sauce and the Yanks to move Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett up in the rotation and audition less-desirable options for the Nos. 4 and 5 starters during spring training. The trio of Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have been battling through camp for those two spots and it looks like all three will make the opening day roster. It's not clear which two will grab rotation spots, but the Yankees did sign Kevin Millwood to a minor league contract.

Sidney Ponson was unavailable for comment.

Here's something I can guarantee: if Colon makes more than 10 appearances, I'll eat one of my socks. But forget about what's going on at 4 and 5; the Yankees will go as far as ace C.C. Sabathia, Burnett and Hughes will take them. Offensively, New York brings back virtually the same lineup (Jorge Posada to DH, Russell Martin behind the plate) that led the majors in runs scored in 2010 and several players, including Mark Teixiera and Alex Rodriguez, are looking for bounce-back years (they did combine for 63 HR in '10). The emergence of Robinson Cano as the best second baseman in baseball (sorry, Aaron Hill) has added to an already-potent middle of the order, though Joe Girardi refuses to bat Cano third where he belongs. The bullpen is improved as Rafael Soriano was added to set up for King Mariano. Elsewhere in the pen, Joba Chamberlain has some new tattoos. One more thing to talk about:

1. Derek Jeter had a tough 2010 season and is approaching 3,000 hits. I'm not sure if you were aware of those two news items.

Boston (89-73)
The Nation of Redsox (Est. January, 2005) had an exciting off-season as the team added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, which goes against Boston's recent history of employing the ugliest people in baseball (see: John Lackey, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz). Crawford and Gonzalez will only add to an offense that scored the second-most runs in baseball, though the starting pitching after perennial Cy Young candidate John Lester is suspect. Plenty of questions in that rotation:

1. Will Josh Beckett add another extension cord to his neck in time for neck extension cord season?
2. Did Clay Buchholz pass 10th grade chemistry or what?!
3. Can Tim Wakefield become the first 83-year old in baseball history to allow 10 or more stolen bases in a single game?
4. Is that Oil Can Boyd at Radio Shack?

Tampa Bay (96-66)
Last year's division winners lost a ton of talent in Crawford, Jason Bartlett (traded to San Diego), Carlos Pena and Matt Garza (both signed with the Cubs) and Rafael Soriano (signed with the Yankees), but there's some good stuff left for no one to see at Tropicana Field. David Price and Evan Longoria are two of the finest young players in the game and Ben Zobrist (.295/.405/.543 in 2009, .238/.346/.353 in 2010) should be able to bounce back. Tampa also reunited Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, though league rules don't allow a team to DH two players at once, so one of the two will have to play left field some days.

After Price, the pitching is thin as When's The Last Time I Pitched Big In A Big Game James Shields got lit up a year ago and Jeff Niemann will need to improve on his decent 2010 numbers. The bullpen was one of the best in the game in 2010, but is now missing Soriano. Lefty Randy Choate, now with the Marlins, appeared in 85 games last season and amazingly, Joe Torre was not his manager. Either way, Choate is in Florida, so those 85 games will have to go to someone else. For all three Rays fans' sake, hopefully not to Kyle Farnsworth.

Toronto (85-77)
Hey, it's the Bluejays!!

Baltimore (66-96)
So, Bucky Boy goes 34-23 down the stretch with the Orioles in 2010-the best 57-game mark for the franchise since the 1930s-and a few months later decides to take shots at Derek Jeter, one of the classiest guys in baseball and a future HOFer, and a two-time World Champion general manager, Theo Epstein. But hang on a minute, guys, just hang on. I don't remember saying that. I mean, I probably did say it, but hey, I'm 55-years old, so I might not remember saying it! Hey Buck:

1. If you're going to start babbling nonsense, start a baseball blog, like we did. That way you won't have to backtrack and look like an idiot.

2. Climb above fifth place and then maybe you can take unnecessary shots at the faces of the top two franchises in the division. So, in other words, we'll talk in 2018.

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