Posted on: March 30, 2010 8:50 pm
With the start of the baseball season less than one week away (yes, a week , with Red Sox vs. Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball), it means only thing: it is time to dust off the magic eight-balls, look into the future and predict where the 30 teams will end up at the end of the season.
(I should point out that I won a pool last season in which we made predictions about the 2009 season before its start, and so needless to say, when I use the word "prediction" I am really meaning "cerifiable locks and spoilers" for the 2010 season.
Let's start with the American League East:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, I know the Yankees are defending champs, and they had a great 2009 season. But I am not impressed with the moves that they made to stay atop the best division in baseball. CBSSports.com has the Yankees, Sox, and Rays as the top three teams in baseball heading into Opening Day, and with those other teams, the Yankees needed to do better than Javier Vasquez and Curtis Granderson. Vasquez will disappoint again as he did during his first tour in New York (he's simply an N.L. pitcher) and Granderson has to fill the roles of three outfielders (Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera - also with no Xavier Nady returning). As for the rest of the team, well this year simply makes them one year older. The Sox will indeed have enough offense to back the best all around pitching staff in baseball. The Rays remain essentially the same, but will get more from Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton. The Orioles have good, but raw, young talent (this will be Adam Jones' coming out party), enough to leapfrog the Blue Jays out of last place, who will be the designated whipping-boy of the mighty A.L. East.
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detriot Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals
Traditionally a mediocre division, the Central is shapping up to be... well, mediocre, again . Last year, the Twins made a late run to win the division last season, and they have improved by adding players such as Orlando Hudson, and have enough to overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan. (This only means that the Twins will not have to wait to the last day of the season to win the division with only 85 wins.) The White Sox have gotten better, with a very strong rotation headed by Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy. But their success is not automatic, with Buerhle falling off after his perfect game, and Peavy struggling from injuries recently, and offensively, they will be forced to rely on busts (Alex Rios), aging veterans (Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones) and still developing youngsters (Gordon Beckam, Alexei Ramirez) to fill in around Carlos Quentin. Detriot remains a couple of starters away from the playoffs, while Cleveland and Kansas City will compete for "quickest A.L. team to 100 losses."
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Oakland Athletics
Possibly the most interesting and exciting division in baseball in 2010. The Mariners stand as one of the most improved teams in all of baseball, adding Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The Lee-Felix Hernandez 1-2 punch is one of the best in baseball. The Rangers also figure to be stronger, with ample pitching and an always impressive offense. But, perhaps most importantly for the Mariners and Rangers is what is absent from the Angels, long the dominant team in this division. They lost depth everywhere, but remain the same fundamental team of the small ball philosophy, which can always prove to be difficult to play against in September. They have a decent lineup, but no power outside of Kendry Morales, and Matsui and Joel Piniero were not the solutions to the holes in the lineup and rotation left by Figgins and John Lackey, and their bullpen also remains an issue. As for Oakland, not all is as bad as it seems. They have serious young pitching depth and a their first real base-stealer/leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson in Rajai Davis. They, like the Orioles, are definitely moving in the right direction, but luckily for the Athletics they play in sunny California in the now suddenly wide-open A.L. West, which could start to attract a free-agent bat or two.
A.L. Wild Card:
New York Yankees
Is there any chance that the Wild Card will come out of any division besides the A.L. East in the forseeable future? I really cannot envision a situation where that would come about. Although the Rangers and White Sox may be worthy of post-season play, there is no way that two teams from the Central or West will win more games than either the Sox, Yankees, or Rays. Whoever wins the East should do so with around 100 wins, where the second place team will likely have at least 95, and that is just too many games for anyone else to keep pace.
Red Sox vs. Twins
Mariners vs. Yankees
These teams matchup well with each other, but it comes down to the Red Sox and Yankees having more talent in the bottom half of their roster. The Twins do not have the depth in the rotation to hang with Boston, and the Yankees overpowering style of offense will lead to another ALCS rivalry.
Result: Red Sox, Yankees, both in 4
Red Sox vs. Yankees
The two best teams in the A.L. will feature two of the best rotations in baseball. The Yankees have the advantage on the offensive side, but the Red Sox have the pitching depth. The Yankees would likely have to use CC Sabathia twice in the ALDS, while the Sox can afford to only use their starters once, which means that the Beckett/Lackey/Lester order is preserved for this series. The Sox bullpen is also stronger, as is their bench.
Result: Red Sox in 6
N.L. previews coming soon.
Tags: Adam Jones, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Andruw Jones, B.J. Upton, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Carlos Quentin, Casey Kotchman, Chicago White Sox, Chone Figgins, Cleveland Indians, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers, Felix Hernandez, Gordon Beckham, Hideki Matsui, Jake Peavy, Javier Vasquez, Joe Nathan, Joel Piniero, John Lackey, Johnny Damon, Kansas City Royals, Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Buerhle, Melky Cabrera, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Opening Day, Orlando Hudson, Pat Burrell, Paul Konerko, Rajai Davis, Rickey Henderson, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Xavier Nady
Posted on: December 14, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2009 7:06 pm
Tags: A.J. Burnett, Aroldis Chapman, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, GM Meetings, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Matt Holliday, Mike Lowell, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Scott Boras, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Theo Epstein, Tim Wakefield, Toronto Blue Jays
Posted on: July 30, 2009 9:52 pm
The baseball world was already aware that Manny Ramirez was at least at one point in his career using performance-enhancing drugs thanks to his positive test at the beginning of this season.
The breaking news today came from a New York Times report that announced that fellow longtime Boston Red Sox David Ortiz was, along with Ramirez, on the list of 103 players that had tested positive for a banned substance during the 2003 season.
You shouldn’t be.
First, take into account the mathematical odds. There are 30 major league teams, each with a 25-man roster. That is 750 players. If we throw in even another five players per team that average significant enough time to be on the roster, that would give us roughly 900 players who were in the majors in 2003.
That means that one out of every nine players is on that list of being caught using PEDs, or about three per team. Some teams, no doubt, will have significantly more players on that list because of the environment in each clubhouse and the notable players that have already been identified as users: Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, San Fransisco Giants, Houston Astros, etc.
Throw the Boston Red Sox into that distinguished mix.
Second, and this is in no way to be interpreted as racially prejudicial or demeaning, there is clearly a seperate PEDs ring in the Dominican Republic. By that I mean that it seems that in the DR, it is much easier for individuals to obtain PEDs of varying nature.
Believe him or not, if anything that Alex Rodriguez said in his press conference addressing his usage was true, it was that he was a young kid who was able to get drugs that he had no idea what they were, except that it would make you stronger.
We have seen a trend that many of the top-level players who are caught using PEDs have a Dominican connection: Sammy Sosa, Miguel Tejada, Ramirez and now Ortiz, just to name a few.
Thirdly, and perhaps most obviously, was that Ortiz was a castaway from the Minnesota Twins – a player deemed too big, too slow and too one dimensional to play in the majors. That expendable piece of the Twins organization went on to hit 41, 47, 54 (franchise record) for the Red Sox during the ’04-06 seasons.
At the time, we did see a large, very strong left-handed hitter that reminded us of Jim Thome every time the ball jumped off of Ortiz’s bat. He was 28 in 2004, the first year he hit 40+ home runs in a season, which is right in the middle of the prime of a hitter’s career.
While we thoroughly enjoyed Ortiz’s best years in Boston, and the two World Series titles that he and Ramirez helped the Sox win, this is by far the biggest moment of Ortiz’s career in Boston.
Bigger than walk-offs against the Angels and Yankees in the 2004 play off series; bigger than the Red Sox single season home run record; bigger than solidifying himself as one of the best clutch hitters and best designated hitters in the history of the game.
David Ortiz replaced Nomar Garciaparra as everyone’s favorite Red Sox player. He was always outgoing, gregarious and accepting of the media. Even through his recent struggles, Ortiz forced a smile on his face. No one outside of New York (and perhaps a few other teams still looking for ball that he has launched over their fences) had a bad thing to say about him.
Posted on: February 8, 2009 9:57 pm
The dust still has not quite settled yet from the Alex Rodriguez fall out over his positive steroid tests in 2003. While baseball fans are deciding whether or not to be surprised by this, Major League Baseball once again has a very hot issue they wish they never had to handle.
Commissioner Bud Selig will not be able to suspend Rodriguez, but his is likely currently in deep debate with the MLB player's union to decide how to handle this issue, and what to do with the other 103 names who tested positive.
In the end, it is likely that most of the names that fans care about will be leaked, sooner rather than later. Selig and MLB will be forced once again to merely pick up the pieces, sweep up the dust, and try to move on as though nothing happened.
So, since we are crunching as close to rock-bottom as possible, why not try this out:
Lift the ban off performance-enhancing drugs.
Yes, that's right, I said it.
Selig, despite what his $17.5 million salary might indicate, is not exempt from the economy's downturn. Fewer and fewer fans are purchasing seats, jerseys, and, incredible to fathom though it may be, beautifully hand-crafted Bobble-head dolls (gasp!).
In 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa almost literally held the defibrilaters to baseball and shocked new life into the game. New fans were introduced to the game, and old fans were brought back. It was a glorious time.
Until it became too good. With the "end" of the steroids era came a decrease in the number of 50+ home run seasons and 20 game winners. The fringe fans (we call them "Pink Hat Fans" in Boston) lost interest.
Baseball lost revenue.
So, Mr. Selig, why not lift the ban on PEDs? What do you have to loose? You will now have an easy way to dismiss why the best players under your reign as commissioner were all cheaters and give the fans what they want to see: longer home runs, faster pitches, and a widening of the gap that separates great players from mediocre players.
The players will bring in the guinea pigs, and you will bring in the money. After all, that's what professional sports is all about, right?
Posted on: February 7, 2009 1:36 pm
Their names have been run through the mills countless times over the last five years in connection with the seemingly epidemic use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. We already know them:
Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Jose Canseco. Mark McGwire.
And the list goes on.
Although his public appearance has been skewered since he began his tenure with the New York Yankees, who are hated by many merely on principle, Alex Rodriguez was once looked upon as the best all-around player of our generation. His ability to combine speed and power to become the youngest member of baseball's elite 40 home runs/40 steals group elevated his fame and promise to become the eventual home run champion.
Today, however, SI.com is reporting that in 2003, during his first MVP season, and last season with the Texas Rangers before being traded to the Yankees, Rodriguez tested positive for illegal substances twice.
Four different sources have independently reported the positive tests to SI, and the substances are reported to be testosterone and a designer anabolic steroid called Primobolan.
These tests were part of MLB's 2003 anonymous drug testing, which is a slight misnomer. The tests were anonymous only to the extent that the actual names of the players (of which there were 104 in 2003) were not released.
However, with the impeding trial against Bonds and BALCO, those lists and other related documents were unsealed to determine whether or not Bonds had perjured himself to federal investigators. Bonds is not being tried for steroid use, but only for lying. If admitted, this list will be used to help determine whether other players knew of Bonds alleged steroid use at that time.
With the opening of these documents comes the fallout for Rodriguez. While Canseco mentioned that the sequel of his first book Juiced would include a section detailing Rodriguez's steroid usage, many dismissed this claim.
Over his career, Rodriguez has been able to stand beside the fact that he has been remarkable consistent over his career, never achieving too far over or too far little of his career averages. With the fact that four sources have independently confirmed this news, it will be difficult for Rodriguez to side step the issue as when Canseco accused him.
Rodriguez will not be punished by MLB because of his positive test because there was no penalty for a positive test in 2003, as the tests were supposed to be anonymous. A suspension from MLB, however, is likely the least of Rodriguez's worries at this time.
Posted on: May 11, 2008 11:48 pm
The Red Sox got a very well played win against the Twins to even the series. Some thoughts on the game:
Daisuke Matsuzaka had very efficient start, needing only 96 pitches to tie a season high with seven strong innings. He only had one tough inning, when he got the bases loaded and walked home a run in the second. But on the whole, he was being much more efficient and doing an excellent job at finishing hitters when they were down in the count, instead of trying to nit-pick around the strike zone and wait for hitters to chase. Now, the Twins are a much less patient team than he faced last time, when he surrendered a staggering eight walks in five innings to the Tigers, but his stuff was better. He threw several excellent sliders, and he was able to use that pitch to go after right handed batters. His fastball looked much more under control, and he was able to challenge lefties, something he has had some trouble with. The Sox may be concerned with the very high number of walks, and they should be, but Matsuzaka really is pitching much better than he was last year, and much more like the guy the Sox thought they would be getting when they paid over $100 million total for him. The number of walks is a product of better and more patient major league hitters, but his ability to improve and work around runners on base is the reason why he is now 6-0 with a 2.45 ERA. Sox fans may still be reluctant to rely on Matsuzaka as a top of the rotation pitcher because of his struggles last year, but in eight starts this year (about a quarter of the season), he has only allowed more than three runs twice (four against the Yankees on April 13, and three against the Rangers on April 18). Sox fans should not try to be deceived by his numbers; Matsuzaka really has rounded into this type of a pitcher, at home and on the road, and should continue to provide the Sox with quality starts.
Tonight’s win was one of those textbook examples that managers envision at the beginning of the season. Seven very good innings from your starter, a good offensive showing, and lights-out, end of the game relief from the bullpen. The Sox offense had another good night, banging out 12 hits and four solo home runs, and the team average begins to creep back toward the .300 plateau it was at earlier this season. The most encouraging thing about this year’s lineup (a quality that was shared by the 2004 and 2007 lineups, though not to this extent), is that even on a night like tonight, when the leadoff, number three and clean up hitters are all hitless, the offense still generates a lot of hits, and a lot of power. David Ortiz still looks hurt and has not yet hit a consistent stride, but Kevin Youkilis is having a monster May, and is now tied for the league lead in home runs and ranks in the top four in RBIs. Julio Lugo was a late scratch from tonight’s game, and Jed Lowrie, likely to be demoted within the next 48 hours, chipped in with three hits and one of the four home runs. At this point in the season and after 39 games played, we are right at the quarter mark of the season, and there have been enough games played to analyze where the Sox stand. Check back after tomorrow’s game, as I am working on grading the Sox at each category, and they will appear on tomorrow’s recap.
Look for this recap and the Sox report card for the first quarter of the season following tomorrow’s game against the Twins. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Posted on: May 7, 2008 12:12 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2008 12:14 pm
The Red Sox won their fifth straight game behind an excellent start by Tim Wakefield. Some thoughts on the game:
Tim Wakefield delivered his best start of the year thus far, throwing strikes early and often, and dominated the Tigers’ stagnant offense. The Tigers took an approach to Wakefield that the Rangers took earlier this year, as they swung early in the count and did not wait for Wakefield to throw too many pitches. In the game against the Rangers, Wakefield gave up eight hits and five runs, but the Tigers were much less effective making contact. Tonight was the only other night, besides the Rangers game, that he did not yield a walk. Even though his delivery does not change with runners on base, almost anyone can steal a base against him, and with the occasional passed ball, a runner on first who reached on a walk can easily come around to score without the opposing team recording a hit. Wakefield settled in and worked fast as he normally does, and retired at one point 16 straight Tigers. Wakefield lowered his ERA to 3.33, and now Josh Beckett (4.19 ERA) is the only starter with an ERA above 4.00. With the back end of the bullpen a little taxed, Wakefield’s eight innings were that much more helpful. It also allowed for a rare occurrence, as both pitchers for the Sox tonight were both over 41 years old, since Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless ninth for the Sox fourth shut-out this season.
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz went back-to-back in the seventh inning to provide most of the offense. Ramirez has been in a mini-slump, entering the game with just 5 hits in his last 32 at-bats. But, more importantly, he broke out of a bad power slump, as his home run was his first since April 20. A lot of players tend to be pressing when they get close to a milestone, and with Ramirez on the edge of one of the most historic milestones in all of baseball, he has been racking up the strikeouts with alarming frequency. Alex Rodriguez went through a similar funk last year as he approached 500 home runs, but after a week or so, the great players tend to get back in their groove. Ramirez had an excellent batting practice session today, and the home run capped a very good offensive night. It is very encouraging to see Ortiz drive the ball with explosive force, and his home run was likely between 440 and 450 feet. He has been given a few days off over the past few weeks, and he has responded well going 11-25 (.440) with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI over his last six games. Since he really seems to be having trouble with his knee, look for him to be given more frequent off days, especially after Sean Casey comes back off of the disabled list, which he is eligible to do on Friday. Also, Ramirez and Ortiz have now hit home runs in the same game an astonishing 45 times in their career with the Red Sox, and seeing as they have only played together for a little over five seasons, that number is even more impressive. Not only are they the “gold standard,” as ESPN commentator Joe Morgan refers to them, for productive 3-4 hitters in the game today, but they may be the best of all time.
The Sox entered the Tigers series with a very surprising statistic: they had had as many home runs as they did stolen bases (26). The Sox also recorded two stolen bases in one game recently, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the only time such an event has occurred for the Sox for at least the last 50 years. With Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco Crisp, and Julio Lugo, the Sox may have more speed now than they ever have, and we would have to go back to the 1910s-1920s with Sox teams that included Hall of Famers like Tris Speaker. If he starts to play more regularly, Ellsbury may break Tommy Harper’s club record of 54 steals. But, if not this year, then the Sox may as well already begin penciling in Ellsbury’s name.
There was a poll on today's recap about where Ramirez and Ortiz stand in history in terms of 3-4 combinations.
Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to make it three straight against the Tigers. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)
Obviously, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
Mickey Cochrane and Al Simmons
Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews (hold the record for most times two players for the same team hit a home run in the same game, 75)
Fred Lynn and Jim Rice
These are just a few, to get the juices flowing...(no pun intended)
Tags: Al Simmons, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Boston Red Sox, Coco Crisp, David Ortiz, Detroit Tigers, Eddie Matthews, Fred Lynn, Hank Aaron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jim Rice, Josh Beckett, Julio Lugo, Lou Gehrig, Manny Ramirez, Mickey Cochrane, Mickey Mantle, Mike Timlin, Roger Maris, Sean Casey, Texas Rangers, Tim Wakefield, Tommy Harper, Tris Speaker, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey
Posted on: April 30, 2008 10:13 am
The Red Sox got another brilliant performance by their starting pitcher, and got just enough offense to win it in dramatic wall-off style. Some thoughts on the game:
Jon Lester kept the streak of very impressive recent starts by Red Sox starters. Lester was incredibly effective and efficient from the first inning on, limiting the number of pitches thrown and attacking the strike zone. In effect, he did with his pitches what the Sox have been expecting of him. Obviously, the Sox do not expect eight innings of one-hit, shut-out ball, but there is no reason why opposing left-handed batters should be batting .333 against Lester, as they were at the prior to the start of the game. A few games ago, we saw a similarly dominating performance by Clay Buchholz, but Lester’s pitching style is much different from Buchholz. Buchholz has to, and did during his last start, rely on his off-speed pitches to get batters to reach. Lester has the benefit of a very lively fastball, and he used it very effectively tonight by jamming both righties and lefties inside early in the count, and using a good moving curveball and cut-fastball. He stayed away from his change-up all night, a pitch that had been getting him into trouble in recent starts. Although there were not many base-runners all night, he did a much better job keeping his composure when someone did reach. No Blue Jay had made it to second base through the first eight innings, which speaks to the fact that his ability to work with runners on base has improved.
Lester did not return in the ninth inning, even though he was only at 98 pitches, because the Sox likely wanted Lester to feel good about the game, even though he was not leading. Since the Sox have lost five straight games, Jonathan Papelbon has had little work as a closer, so the Sox also wanted to give him some work. Since the Sox were playing at home, if the game goes into extra innings, the only way the Sox can win is via the “walk-off,” and there would be no save opportunity. (As an interesting tidbit, Papelbon had more strikeouts (18) entering the game than all but one of the Yankees pitchers, and that would be Chien-Ming Wang, who has pitched in nearly four times as many innings.) As much as the Sox have been concerned about Papelbon’s shoulder and trying to limit him over-working, the Sox also have to be conscious when he goes an extended amount of time without pitching. For relievers, especially someone who throws as hard as he does, going a long time without pitching can sometimes cause more stress on the arm. As it happens, he showed little signs of rust, and upped his strikeout total by two more.
For what seems like an increasingly bad occurrence, the Sox once again did nearly nothing against an opposing pitcher, and almost wasted another brilliant start. True, Roy Halladay is much more accomplished than James Shields and Matt Garza, and he did pitch another gem tonight, but the Sox offense has been downright non-existent for the past week. After having a day off yesterday, their first in three weeks, the Sox offense looked just as tired and anemic as they did against the Rays. The Sox team batting average after the Rangers series was an astonishing .303, but dipped to .288 prior to the start of the Blue Jays series, and since they managed only a few hits tonight, the average dropped even further. It took the Sox until the ninth inning to manage to get two runners on base at the same time, and that was still with two outs. Although they did get timely hitting in the ninth, Halladay was well over 100 pitches, and even with the win, the Sox have to put something together while their starter is still on the mound.
Look for this recap after tomorrow’s game as the Sox try to build some momentum on tonight’s win. (To view all previous recaps, follow this link.)