Sorry A’s fans. This team gave up on the season before it started when they sent Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks and Nick Swisher to the White Sox for a boatload of prospects. That’s not to say that they got robbed in these deals. Dana Eveland and Gio Gonzalez have top of the rotation talent and Carlos Gonzalez should be a fixture in the outfield in the coming years. However, this team has no chance for contention in 2008.
The lineup is inexperienced and light on talent. Mark Ellis is underrated at second base-he plays fantastic defense and offers surprising power with 19 homers last season. Daric Barton showed why he is so highly regarded by the A’s down the stretch last season and will take another step forward this season. But the A’s offense will again be crippled by injuries with Eric Chavez starting the season again on the DL, Bobby Crosby yet to have a healthy season since his rookie campaign and Mike Sweeney who is both injury prone and certainly on the downside of his career. The A’s offense will finish in the bottom three in runs scored this season but expect them to look better in the second half.
The rotation is strong at the top with Joe Blanton and Rich Harden, but its questionable whether either will be with the A’s come August. Both are strong candidates to be dealt to a contender as the A’s look to reload with an eye towards the future. Harden, in particular if he stays healthy has the talent to be a front-line starter but with his injury history, I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll ever put it together. The rotation could struggle tremendously if one or both are dealt considering Chad Gaudin is coming off hip and foot surgery in December and starting the season on the DL and Justin Duchsscherer making the move from the bullpen.
The A’s pen features hard-throwing Huston Street who is also a candidate to be moved this season. Alan Embree and Kiko Calero are serviceable but nothing special and the rest of the pen is inexperienced and will be called upon early and often this season.
Bottom Line: If everyone stays healthy and no major parts are dealt for prospects, this team will finish .500. There is no chance of either happening. By August, we’ll see a preview of the 2009 A’s with the prospects moving up to the majors. That’s about all there is to look forward to. Projected Finish 69-93.
With MLB’s two-day Japanese experiment over, we can start looking forward to the real Opening Day. Time to make some predictions for the season ahead. let’s first look at the defending champs and over the next week, we’ll preview all 30 MLB teams.
BOSTON RED SOX
The 2008 Red Sox will look very familiar. The champs everyday lineup remains fully intact with Jacoby Ellsbury assuming the everyday CF job from Coco Crisp. Manny Ramirez will have a big bounceback season-that’s right folks-its a contract year so don’t expect a repeat of his career worst 2007 numbers, 20 HR, with an OPS of .881 compared to career averages of 37 HR and an OPS over 1.0. Do not expect a sophomore slump from Dustin Pedroia who should be an all-star this season. Elsewhere, Jason Varitek will continue his slow offensive decline and Mike Lowell will come back to earth a bit but in the end, this team’s offense will again be among the top 3 in baseball.
Josh Beckett anchors a deep and talented rotation. Dice-K is a good bet to amass over 200 IP and K’s along with improving his victory total and ERA. However, Curt Schilling’s shoulder injury will keep him out until at least the All-Star break and possibly the season making the Sox commitment to keeping Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester under 180 IP each this season a challenge. Durability and experience are also a question over the course of a full season and in the heat of a pennant race. Taking a flier on Bartolo Colon is a low-risk high reward proposition. Overall, the Sox rotation will see a modest decline unless Josh Beckett’s spring injuries linger into the season which is not out of the question considering his injury history.
Jonathon Papelbon is perhaps baseball’s best closer. The bullpen in front of him is talented and deep including Hideki Okajimi and ever-reliable Mike Timlin. This is the American League’s best unit, without a doubt.
Bottom Line: This team remains one of the elite but is it good enough to be baseball’s first repeat champion since the 99-00 Yankees? Manny and David Ortiz will provide perhaps baseball’s best 1-2 punch but the rotation concerns are real and will be cause for concern all season. Projected Finish: 94-68
I don’t get it. Jason Giambi comes out and says MLB shouldn’t have turned a blind eye to steroids, the players, the owners and the league itself. He says the fans deserve an apology from all the offending parties and the press is taking him to task. Isn’t this the same press that time and again has asked for the players to come clean, and accused the owners and the league of ignoring the problem and counting their millions reaped from record-breaking crowds and lucrative TV deals. What a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites.
Sure, Giambi was on the juice and now there are rumors he’s used greenies. The guy wants to begin clearing his conscience and now we villify him for it. If he calls out specific people, the media will call him a gutless sellout. So he doesn’t and they criticize him for that. Give me a break. The man is never supposed to speak on the topic again? What if the quote had come from Mark McGwire or Curt Schilling? I have no doubt the media would have cheered McGwire for "coming clean" and Schilling for being the "pulse of fans." But not Giambi. Only the media and their favorite players are allowed to be candid on steroids.
They’re at it again. Just over a week into the season and ESPN is already showing their blatant worship of the Yankees. In their latest power rankings, http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/powerranking?season=2007&week=2&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab5pos1, posted yesterday morning the Yanks at 4-4, (now 4-5) are holding down the second spot behind the Mets. Now I know these rankings are generally complete **** and there are certainly other problems with the rankings like how the Mets are ranked first after losing two of three to the first place Braves, but seriously, how does ESPN call itself credible sports journalism when it publishes this garbage. So far the Yanks have played three games each against the Rays, O’s and Twins. Four wins, two healthy starters and a team ERA ranking 23rd in the league. A-Rod’s on fire, so what-they have four wins. ESPN-the People Magazine of Sports Reporting.
Owners enjoyed another year of record attendance, passing the 75 million mark for the first time in 2006. And to commemorate their success, they went on a serious spending spree this winter. You had to figure the Yankees would up the ante and leave the rest of baseball in the dust after another early October exit. But with revenue sharing helping to spread the wealth, every GM thinks they have the cash to join the party. With that in mind, here’s a look at the worst deals this offseason. And the winner is…
Gold Medal-Kansas City Royals
What is a small-market squad thinking giving Gil Meche a five year-$55 million deal? At 28, the good news is he’s about to enter his prime and scouts like his arm coming off 2006, his best season to date. The bad news is his career year brought just 11 wins and a 4.48 ERA in 186 innings pitched. At best, that’s #4 starter production.
Silver Medal-Seattle Mariners
For signing Miguel Batista to a three year-$24 million contract. For the bargain basement price of 8 million a season, the Mariners are getting a pitcher who boasts a career record of 68-79 with a 4.46 ERA. And at 36, I’m not sure what’s a better bet, that Batista will continue to put up pedestrian numbers or that the M’s will spend the next three years out of contention wondering why they tied up $24 million in this guy.
Bronze Medal-San Francisco Giants
Dave Roberts must have one **** of an agent. A 36 year old career 4th outfielder, the Giants inked Roberts to a 3 year-$18 million deal. Roberts offers little except for great speed out of the leadoff spot. But he’s a career .270 hitter who has never walked 50 times in a season. As the old saying goes, you can’t steal first.
There was no shortage of bad deals made by owners and GM’s this offseason. but at least now we’ve reached a point where every team has enough financial flexibility to overpay for past-their-prime free agents or project young players who will never fulfill their potential.
Check back in a few days to see a few GM’s who bucked the trend this winter and spent wisely on free agents.
Imagine adding Helton’s production and patience to a lineup already among the league’s best. With a chance to compete for a World Series and the motivation to prove his Coors Field critics wrong, Helton could make a big impact in Boston. How can Theo Epstein and Co. pass up the opportunity to rip off another small-market team without the financial wherewithal to absorb a rich long-term contract? Maybe the Sox are holding out hope that Colorado will settle for just one of their blue-chip relief prospects and who can blame them for being a little greedy. With the Rockies waving the white flag in February, the Sox will come out of this deal smelling another October run.
Thanks to the dearth of marquis arms available, GM’s are handing out around $8 million a season for average starting pitchers, making the Phillies acquisition of Freddy Garcia a major coup for next season. Garcia at 30 years old, a known commodity in the prime of his career who should give the Phillies at worst 15 wins, a 4.00 ERA and 200 IP for 2007 at the now “reasonable cost” of $10 million next season. Sounds like a bargain when compared to the 3 year, $24 million contract the Phils had to hand out to get Adam Eaton, who is only a year younger and has never won a dozen games in a season, thrown 200 innings or posted an ERA under 4.00.
The Phillies gave up a blue chip prospect in 21 year-old lefty Gio Gonzalez, who was drafted by the Sox in 2004 and a major part of the deal that brought Jim Thome to Chicago. Obviously, the Sox are high on him if they’re willing to give up a pitcher of Garcia’s caliber to reacquire him. Philadelphia fans might also remember Gavin Floyd, the other minor leaguer included in the deal. He was the “next big thing in Philly” a few years ago but he has struggled with control problems and may never have realized his potential without a change of scenery. Neither will be expected to contribute immediately in Chicago and should have a chance to develop in the minors without the pressure of being labeled as saviors for an underachieving pitching staff.
The downside of the deal for the Phillies of course is that Garcia is only signed through next season. The Phils will face stiff competition and a hefty price tag to resign him so the pressure will be on to make the playoffs next season. No doubt, Garcia’s history of pitching well under the bright lights was a major reason the Phils moved aggressively to get him. He ptiched some of his best games of the season last year with the Sox fighting for their playoff lives and threw three gems in the 2004 playoffs, capping it off with seven innings of shutout ball in the Game 4 clincher.
Speaking of postseason standouts, the Yankees finally added a big name this offseason, by bringing back Andy Petttitte with a one-year $16 million deal. Sure, it’s a little pricey for the 34-year old lefty but after two straight seasons of outright collapses in the playoffs, New York rightfully jumped at the opportunity to reacquire a proven playoff performer who can handle the bright lights of the Bronx. But regardless of what he does during the regular, the success of this move will be determined by how he pitches in October. And now of course, we can cue the Clemens to NY rumors, even though that decision is probably at least 3 months and $20 million away from being resolved.