Steroids. Alex Rodriguez. Steroids. Alex Rodriguez. Steroids.
That's all we've heard for the past week. And I'm sick of it!
I know A-Rod has his press conference later on today, but c'mon everybody, it's spring training! This is the time where baseball fans all over the world should be coming out of hibernation by making rash predictions about why the 2009 season will be fantastic...not steroids!
So I'd like to take a minute to state five things about the 2009 season that I am profoundly looking forward too. There are so many positive story lines coming into the 2009 season that I feel as though we are doing a disservice by not touching on them.
So with out further ado, here are the top 5 things that I am looking forward to in 2009:
5. Josh Hamilton
2008 was Hamilton's coming out party. The Rangers OF hit 32 home runs with 130 RBI in 2008 after battling through drug addiction and nearly being out of baseball prior to 2007. Hamilton also put together one of the greatest performances in home run derby history by hitting a ridiculous 28 home runs in the first round, many of which were moon balls that almost left the Earth's orbit.
So in theory, it should be all downhill for Hamilton from here on out, right? Wrong. People forget that Hamilton drove in 95 RBIs before the all star break before fading badly down the stretch (only 35 RBI). Who knows how crazy Hamilton's numbers could have been if he had been able to produce down the stretch like he did in the first half?
Now with a full season under his belt, Hamilton could put up RBI numbers that should only be attainable in video games. Hamilton has a realistic chance drive in 160+ runners in 2008, a number that has not been met since 2001, when a potentially juiced Sammy Sosa drove in 160. Let's hope Hamilton can put together an even better season than he did in 2008!
4. The Orioles
After more than a decade of suffering, Orioles fans finally have hope. For years, Orioles management tried to sign aging and expensive free agents in the hopes of competing with the Yankees.
Well, that didn't turn out too good. The Orioles have lived in the AL East cellar (or 4th place) since 1998 and have only finished higher than 4th place once in that time. It's been a rough go for Orioles fans, but luckily for them, hope is on the way.
Because for the first time in years, the Orioles actually seem to have a plan. They finally have a solid, young nucleus to build around (Markakis, Jones, Pie, Guthrie, Hill etc.) that does not consist of overpriced stars. GM Andy McPhail has done a masterful job bringing young talent to the Orioles and understanding the importance of player development.
In all likelihood, the Orioles will stink in 2009. But they will be fun to watch. I cannot wait to watch Nick Markakis develop into a franchise player, Rich Hill find his control again, Felix Pie establish himself as a major league outfielder, and Adam Jones track down balls in center field. Seriously, Jones is a joy to watch in the outfield.
And the under rated part of the 2009 Orioles will be the trades. With Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, and Brian Roberts coming off the books after the season, will GM Andy McPhail try to trade any of them to a contender in the middle of the season? Each guy could bring back young talent to help facilitate the rebuilding process...
3. Francisco Liriano
In 2006, Liriano was establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately, Liriano got hurt and missed all of the 2007 because of Tommy John surgery.
So when Liriano finally returned to the big leagues in 2008, the results were ugly at first. Liriano posted an ERA above 11 in the first half and looked like a shell of his former self. Many Twins fans wondered if they would ever get anything out of Liriano in the future.
But then, Liriano turned it around in the second half. All of a sudden, Liriano's trademark slider had returned and his stuff was looking explosive again. Liriano was dominant in the second half to the tune of a 2.74 ERA and 60 Ks in 65 IP. Not too shabby for a guy just coming off Tommy John surgery.
So as we enter 2009, I am interested to see if Liriano can dominate for an entire season. Even though he has been around for what seems like forever, Liriano has yet to pitch a full season in the big leagues, and is overdue for a breakout season. I see big things for Liriano in 2009...as long as he remains healthy. Twins fans should be very excited to watch their new ace develop.
2. Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis
Wow, I guess it's safe to say that I'll be watching lots of Rangers games this season. First Hamilton, now these two.
Like most Rangers teams, the offense will be incredible. Between Hamilton, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, etc, we already know that this offense should be able to keep the Rangers in lots of games even with their horrible pitching. The Rangers led the AL in runs scored, batting average, RBI, and total bases in 2008.
But it's Cruz and Davis who can transform this lineup from amazing to prolific. These two potential studs put up huge numbers in the minors and looked very impressive for the Rangers during their stints with the team in 2008 (Cruz: .330, 7 HR...Davis: .285, 17 HR). Those translate to huge numbers over an entire season and would make the lineup video game-esque.
Can Cruz and Davis put up huge numbers for an entire season? It remains to be seen. Both guys will get the opportunity to hold down a starting job (Davis 1b, Cruz rf) and if they prove to be capable big leaguers, this lineup could be impossible to pitch too.
The thought of those two studs hitting after Hamilton is enough to make Jon Daniels salivate....
The baseball world's biggest soap opera! How could the Yankees not be #1!
Where to begin....? Can Teixeira and Sabathia live up to the hype? Will AJ Burnett break down? Can Joba Chamberlain successfully make the switch to the rotation for a entire season? Will Robinson Cano rebound from a sub par 2008? How will Joe Girardi find at bats for Damon, Matsui, Nady, and Swisher? Who will start in rf-Swisher or Nady? How many stupid comments will Hank Steinbrenner make? Will Yankee fans be able to survive without their two main whipping boys-Latoya Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworthless?
Oh yeah...and there's that Rodriguez guy.
Woo. That's going to be some quality TV right there folks. Much better than Rock of Love.
And how about this...how will the Yankees fare with having a roster full of all stars? By my count, the Yankees have 11 former all stars on their roster, a number that seems to be unmatched throughout baseball. Will a collection of stars be able to win games as a cohesive unit? Will the Yankees ultimately suffer because they lack role players? Will talent alone be able to propel the Yankees to a title?
So many questions...just get on with the season already!
One final question...what will happen if the Yankees fail to win a title in 2009? I sense a Steinbrenner meltdown....
Please chime in! Post the top five things your looking forward to as we get ready for the 2009 season!