Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chicago White Sox: Five Things to Look Forward to in 2009

1. Ozzie Guillen Explosions
-Between Magglio Ordonez, Jay Mariotti, and his incentive filled tirades; there is no doubt that White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen is a loose cannon. But hey, that's why we love him. I'm eager to see what will piss Guillen off this year....any ideas?

More classic Ozzie (for your viewing and listening pleasure):

2. A full season of Carlos Quentin
-Few people outside of Chicago realize just how good Quentin was last season for the White Sox. Before missing September with a self inflicted broken hand, Quentin was carrying the Sox offense. The power hitting left fielder was a revelation in 2008 by hitting 36 home runs, driving in 100 runs, and producing a solid .394 OBP. I still believe that if Quentin did not get hurt in September that he would have won the MVP award...hopefully Quentin can put up monster numbers for the entire season in 2009!

3. Josh Fields
-Fields is another one of these prospects that seems to have been around forever. Fields had a cup of tea with the Sox in 2007 where he impressed the team by hitting 23 home runs. However, Fields was a massive disappointment in 2008, spending a majority of the time in the minor leagues before undergoing surgery on his right knee. In 2009, Fields will get the opportunity to play everyday at third base and prove his worth to the White Sox. If Fields demonstrates plus power and raises his batting average, then the White Sox might have their third baseman of the future.

4. Alexei Ramirez
-The Cuban Missile is one of my favorite players to watch for a couple different reasons. Firstly, he gives skinny dudes like myself hope that yes, we can too play in the big leagues one day and have massive amounts of success (I kid....)! Ramirez is one of the skinniest ball players I have seen (Soriano comes to mind), but he brings a fantastic array of power and speed to the table for the White Sox. In just 480 at bats, Ramirez hit .290 with 21 home runs and 13 stolen bases. I'm eager to see what kind of ridiculous stats Ramirez can put up over the course of a entire season. The sky looks to be the limit for Ramirez, but he NEEDS to learn how to get on base and take a walk. A sub .320 OBP is simply not going to cut it. BE PATIENT!

5. Rookie Hazing

I, for one, cannot wait to see what Chris Getz is forced to wear.

The Furious Case of Will Ohman

Once upon a time, Will Ohman was considered to be one of the best relief pitchers on the free agent market.

Once upon a time, Will Ohman thought he had a market for his services.

Once upon a time, Will Ohman actually had a major league contract offer from the Atlanta Braves.

Once upon a time, Will Ohman thought he was in line for a huge contract similar to those given out to Jeremy Affeldt and Damaso Marte.

But like many of the horror stories that I read as a child, this grizzly tale does not turn out well for Ohman. Reality bit him in the butt. There would be no large contract for Ohman and no teams were feverishly competing for his services. Instead, all Ohman received was a great ball of frustration, which should make him want to punch a hole in the wall (or punch his agent in the face).

Today, Will Ohman came to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers after struggling to find a home for the entire offseason. Wooohooo! Finally a home! Time for Ohman to celebrate...right?

No. Absolutely not.

The deal Ohman signed with the Dodgers today was a minor league contract. That's right folks, there is no guarantees here for Ohman and even though he put up the best numbers of his career in 2008, he was left with no other option then to take a minor league contract. I don't care how bad the economy is right now...there is no reason why a guy of Ohman's caliber should have had to settle for a non guaranteed contract unless he was given some terrible advice by his agent.

Even though Ohman will definitely be with the Dodgers by the middle of April, it's mind boggling that Ohman was not able to receive a major league contract.

I imagine that Will Ohman is furious at his agent right about now. And you know what, he should be.

On the other hand, I think a few weeks/months into the season, there will be fans from all over the country, who will be furious at their respective general manager for not making a run at Ohman. Despite the minor league contract, this guy can pitch and is an effective left handed relief pitcher in this league, especially against left handed hitters. It's baffling that Ohman only received a minor league contract, but it's equally baffling that the Mets, Phillies, Braves, Pirates, etc. did not make a stronger push for Ohman considering how low his price tag became.

As for the Dodgers, you gotta love this deal. Signing Ohman makes the Dodgers a stronger team and gives them the situational lefty they were missing. Even though the Dodgers lost Joe Beimel to the Nationals, Ohman will be a solid replacement and will probably perform better than Beimel did against left handed hitters. Ohman will likely spend the first few weeks of the season in the minors simply catching up because he missed all of spring training. But look for Ohman to have a big impact in the Dodgers bullpen in 2009. The Dodgers are shaping up as a team that can seriously compete for the pennant.

Anyone Have a 10 of Diamonds?

Because dammit, Carlos Beltran seems to be in the way of my royal flush.

(Photo: AP)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Poll Results: Who Will Win the AL Central?

In our most recent poll, we asked "who will win the AL Central in 2009?"

Well, 34 of you chimed in (c'mon people, VOTE!), and here are the results:

13 (38%)
7 (20%)
3 (8%)
9 (26%)
-White Sox
2 (5%)

We either have lots of Royals fans here or there are just lots more people who are far more optimistic about this team than I. But whatever the reason, the Royals sure found support in this poll and if they do indeed come in second, I will be surprised. Even though they have upgraded their talent, I still do not think they have enough starting pitching to compete nor can they get on base enough. Prove me wrong, Royals.

I am a long time fan of White Sox GM Kenny Williams and while some people might see this season as a rebuilding year for the Sox, I think the Sox will surprise some people and be very competitive in the Central. This team has a number of good, young players (Ramirez, Getz, Fields), who I think will fully breakout in 2009, a la Carlos Quentin last season. When you consider that the White Sox still have a strong starting rotation with Danks, Floyd and Buerhle; this team could be dangerous as long as the offense clicks.

Next Poll: Who win the 2009 AL West? VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

Kansas City Royals: Five Things to Look Forward to in 2009

1. The Mexicutioner
-For the first time in a long time, the Royals have a dominant closer. In Joakim Soria, the Royals have found themselves a diamond in the rough, who is on his way towards becoming one of the most dominant closers in baseball. Armed with a wide variety of pitches and great control, Soria has made his living deceiving hitters. If the Royals can get the ball to Soria with a lead, then they will win lots of games in 2009.

2. Zack Greinke
-Expectations are high this season for Greinke. No one really knew what to expect from him last season in starting rotation, but luckily for the Royals, he flourished. Greinke showed phenomenal stuff and at times, was absolutely dominant. His 13-10 record in 2008 with a 3.47 ERA does not come close to underscoring just how much potential he has. If Greinke can improve against left handed hitters in 2009 (.287 BAA in '08), then there is a chance that he could put together a dynamite season for the Royals. He is that good.

3. Mike Aviles
-Where in the world did this guy come from? In 2008, Aviles put up huge numbers for the Royals by hitting .325 with 10 HR and 27 doubles in just 419 at bats. The question remains: can Aviles do it again? If Aviles is for real, then the Royals truly have found themselves their shortstop for the next decade. Only time will tell if Aviles was an aberration or not.

4. Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz
-If the Royals are going to shock the world in 2009, then it will likely be largely because of these two gentlemen. Both Farnsworth and Cruz were brought in to serve as the bridge to closer Joakim Soria, a role of little glamor and high importance. These two have the potential to dominant hitters with their power stuff, which should be very exciting for Royals fans.

5. Jose Guillen's Temper

Seems like a lovely fellow...don't make him angry, Royals fans!

Should the Athletics Sign Pedro Martinez or Odalis Perez?

Uh-oh. Bad news for Athletics fans over the weekend:

"A's right-hander Justin Duchscherer, a 2008 All-Star and Oakland's projected Opening Day starter when Spring Training opened last month, is headed for surgery on his ailing right elbow and will start the season on the disabled list.

Duchscherer, who pitched for the first time this spring in a Minor League game Thursday and had to leave after allowing a walk, two singles and a home run, will miss a minimum of six weeks.

A's manager Bob Geren on Friday said the date of the surgery, an exploratory arthroscopic procedure, and the doctor who will perform it, have not yet been determined.

"We can't really answer any questions until we know what they do," Geren said before his team's night game against the visiting Padres.

With Duchscherer, 31, out until mid-May at the earliest, the A's have four spots in their starting rotation available..."
This a very interesting scenario for Billy Beane. The Athletics committed a good deal of money this offseason into bringing in quality talent on the offensive side (Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, and Nomar Garciaparra) thinking that the Athletics could compete in the AL West. However, if the Athletics starting staff cannot come together, than all of this offensive firepower will do little good.

And right now, the Athletics starting staff is a bunch of young and talented question marks. Just take a look at the Athletics depth chart of starting pitchers (with starts in the majors):

1. Dallas Braden (24 career starts)
2. Dana Eveland (35 career starts)
3. Sean Gallagher (21 career starts)
4. Trevor Cahill (0 career starts)
5. Brett Anderson (0 career starts)

As you can see, there is very little starting experience out of this group. None of these guys have had continued success on the big league stage, which has to be quite concerning to A's fans right now.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that these guys are not talented. Anderson and Cahill are two of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball right now and both guys have tremendous futures ahead of them. I'm just uneasy about "trying out" young starting pitchers during a season in which the owner has spent a good deal of money trying to improve the team and the fan base expects to compete for the playoffs. Even if experience is somewhat overrated, young players do experience learning pains and it will be no different for these guys.

So that brings me back to my original question: should the A's make a run at either Pedro Martinez or Odalis Perez? These two are the best remaining free agents out there and would provide some much needed experience to the starting rotation in the short term.

I'm going to assume that both guys are going to require a major league contract to sign...so with that in mind I would stay away from Martinez. Even though Pedro is a great leader and has tons of big time experience, I think he's too much of a risk for the Athletics. Even though Pedro pitched well against cruddy talent in the WBC, he is nothing more than a fifth starter at this point in his career. I really don't think Pedro would be an upgrade over the young guys (especially at $3-$5 million), even with his experience.

Perez, on the other hand, is a guy who I think can help the Athletics. In 2008, Perez put up good numbers for the Nationals (4.34 ERA, 119 K) and wound up revitalizing his bumpy career. While those stats leave much to be desired, Perez would be a solid middle of the rotation starter for the Athletics, who could conceivably give the Athletics a good amount of quality innings. The advantage of having Perez on the roster would be that either Cahill or Anderson would get more time to develop in the minors and hopefully, Perez would give the Athletics the best chance to win now.

The Athletics starting pitching will decide their season. If Beane decides to go with what hes got, then I'm sure the Athletics will lose some games early on because of growing pains. But the rewards could be massive, especially if Cahill and/or Anderson develop into stud pitchers. There is a heavy risk there for Beane given how much the Athletics have put into this season and I for one, am eager to see how the Athletics survive without Duchscherer.

It comes down to this: what gives the Athletics the best chance to win now? Is it Perez, or one of the young guys?

Richard Gere Does Not Throw Like a Girl

Looks like a fastball to me. Yes, Mr. Pretty Woman himself, Richard Gere, knows how to throw a baseball. Much better throwing form than Stephen King displayed throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox spring training game.

(Photo: AP)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hal McRae is Happy!

Life is good when Albert Pujols is on your side...as evidenced by Hal McRae's infectious smile/laugh/yell. Hal looks much happier with the Cardinals now than he did with the Royals in 1993....

Yes, this picture was a blatant excuse to post this amazing video. Not too mention that I'm diggin' the salt and pepper beard. Rather heavy on the salt though...

(Photo: AP)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nice Form There, Stephen King

Horror novelist and Red Sox mega fan Stephen King threw out the first pitch at the Red Sox spring training game on Friday. And as you can see, King somewhat throws like a girl. Nice watch though.

Anyone else surprised that King is not wearing a Tom Gordon jersey? That would've been too awesome. The Matsuzaka jersey just doesn't do it for me.

Photo: AP

Friday, March 27, 2009

Boston Red Sox: Five Things to Look Forward to in 2009

1. The return of Big Papi
-Last season was simply not the same for the Red Sox. Besides the fact the Sox did not make it to the Fall Classic, the beloved Big Papi missed a significant amount of time because of a wrist injury. The Red Sox lineup was never fully in sync last season, especially after the Sox traded Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers. If Ortiz is healthy and productive in 2009, the Sox could have a lineup as good as anyone in baseball, but make no mistake about it, Ortiz is THE key cog in that lineup.

2. Jason Bay
-Enjoy him while you can, Red Sox fans. Bay is a free agent after this season and all indications are that Bay is looking for a huge contract. It remains to be seen if the Red Sox will be a major player for Bay, but it would be smart for the Sox to lock up the 30 year old Bay to a 3-4 year extension. The two sides have already broken off negotiations, so this drama will probably be on hold until the end of the season. Until then, enjoy Bay and the vast talents he brings to the Sox.

3. Yooooooooooouk!
-Did anybody really think this guy was going to be this good? I certainly didn't. Youkilis has developed into one of the best first basemen in baseball, both offensively and defensively. Youkilis is still an OBP and doubles machine, but his OPS is what set Youkilis apart in 2008. Youk raised his OPS more than 100 points to .958, which was good for fourth in the American League. Can Youkilis continue to improve in 2009 or has he reached his ceiling?

4. Tim Wakefield
-For more than a decade, Red Sox fans have been spoiled by being able to watch one of the best knuckleball pitchers of all time. Tim Wakefield has become a stalwart in the Red Sox rotation over the years. However, with several young guns rising through the Red Sox farm system (Bowden, Buchholz, Masterson, etc.), this might be Wakefield's last season with the Red Sox. At 42 years old, Wakefield is obviously a living legend in Red Sox Nation, so enjoy the knuckleball while you can, and pray to the baseball Gods that George Kottaras can catch the knuckler.

5. Red Sox Nation

Yup, this just about explains it. Poor Denis Leary.

Want an Autograph? Join the Mob!

From our good friends over at the AP photo wire, we have pictures of modern day autograph hounds. Want to turn an average group of ordinary citizens into a pushy, obnoxious, and sometimes violent mob? Simply ask/plead with your favorite all star (David Wright) to sign an autograph for you at stadium, and once he proceeds over to sign your baseball, you'll notice a massive throng of men and women of all shapes, sizes, and smells rampaging behind you. Before you know it, a stampede has formed behind you and all rules of an organized society are thrown out the window.

Ladies and gentlemen, the pictures you are about to see are from 2009 spring training. They involve hand crushing, child smashing, and awkward old man climbing all in the name of an autograph. As you scroll through these pictures, just ask yourself, what would you do to acquire your favorite player's signature?

Could you imagine that many people shoving balls and pens at you?

The "Manny Mass"
The Longoria Mob
Teixeira cool under pressure
Make sure to sign only with your right hand, Cole Hamels

I love Ichiro so much that I'm willing to jam my arm in between a fence
Ryan Howard better sign this guy's ball, or else he'll fall into the dugout
Yes, this is an actual photo of people trying to get Robinson Cano's autograph. Gotta love Yankee fans!

Signing with the chest protector on...gotta love it
I must admit, I'd love an autographed copy of Hamilton's book
So in conclusion, people are crazy about autographs. Perhaps for the memories...or maybe just for the money. Thanks ebay!

You Haven't Lived Until You've Been Flashed by the Phillie Phanatic

Anyone have beads?

This picture is just too good for words.

Photo: AP

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Toronto Blue Jays: Five Things to Look Forward to in 2009

1. Roy Halladay
-Enjoy him while you can, Blue Jays fans. Halladay will be a free agent after 2010, and who knows, after all these years of mediocrity, the big guy just might walk to greener pastures. Hell, it might not even get to that point if the Jays play poorly and decide to trade Halladay....interesting.

2. Adam Lind finally gets a chance!
-After riding the AAA express back and froth from Syracuse to Toronto, the Blue Jays finally seem to have come to the conclusion that yes, Lind is talented enough to play everyday with the Blue Jays. No longer will an aging mediocre outfielder prevent Lind from from showing the world what he can do. Lind should provide some needed pop to the Jays lineup from the left side, but he needs to raise his OBP.

3. A healthy Aaron Hill
-People are quick to forget that in 2007, Hill hit as well as any second baseman in baseball by hitting .291 with 47 doubles, 17 home runs, and 78 RBIs. Hill appeared to on his way towards becoming one of the best second baseman in baseball, but then in 2008, Hill missed a majority of the season after suffering a devastating concussion. Hopefully Hill can bounce back in 2009 and regain the form that made him one of the league's rising stars in 2007.

4. Travis Snider
-We have heard so much about Travis Snider since he was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2006 that it is hard to imagine that Snider is just 21 years old. However, don't let his age fool you, Snider can hit. Blue Jays personnel drool over Snider's power potential and are giddy at the thought of watching Snider develop over the course of the season. The Jays need Snider to develop into a franchise player that will give the Jays an identity for the next decade.

5. Ok, Ok Blue Jays!!

Hands down the corniest seventh inning stretch in baseball. Gotta love Canada.

The Josh Hamilton Extension

Josh Hamilton is a special player. We all know that by now. In his first full big league season as a starter, Hamilton wowed the Rangers and baseball fans all over the world by hitting .304 with 32 home runs and 130 RBIs. The sky seems to be the limit for the 27 year old Hamilton, as his power and consistency should only improve with time.

So on that thought, the Rangers are wisely trying to sign Hamilton to a long term deal. Even though the Rangers control Hamilton's rights until 2012, his price tag is likely to go sky high in the upcoming seasons thanks to arbitration. The Rangers would probably be saving themselves money in the long run by locking up Hamilton to a team friendly and cheaper contract. Buying out all of Hamilton's arbitration years and one or two of his free agent seasons could turn into a major coup for the Rangers down the road.

However, it does not look like things got off to a rockin' start between the Rangers and Hamilton. After the Rangers made their initial proposal to Hamilton today, Hamilton was not pleased with the offer.

Center fielder Josh Hamilton said he received the first offer on a contract extension from the Rangers on Tuesday night, and he and agent Mike Moye did not jump on it.

"My agent and I were disappointed with their offer," Hamilton said. "The negotiations have begun."

My guess is that Hamilton was expecting a contract somewhere in the range of Nick Markakis (6 years/$66 million), but instead, wound up with an offer in between what Ian Kinsler (5 years/$22 million) and Kevin Youkilis (4 years/$40 million) received. Hamilton is in quite a strange spot because he has only one full season as a starter under his belt and the Rangers control his rights for so long.

And also remember that there is still risk involved in signing Hamilton. He is still a recovering drug addict and even though Hamilton is a fantastic story, his past drug use must be taken into account when the Rangers talk contract with his agent. In addition, there is no telling what kind of impact his drug use will have on his body long term, so there is always the risk of his body breaking down. The Rangers must be careful not to offer everything but the kitchen sink to Hamilton in extension talks.

My guess is that these two sides eventually come to terms on a deal, hopefully sooner rather than later. By all accounts, Hamilton loves it in Texas and the Rangers want to build around Hamilton. As for terms of the deal, I'll take two stabs at this one.

-4 years/$34 million with a fifth year team option

-5 years/$45 million

This type of deal seems fair for both sides. Hamilton would get quite a bit of loot, while the Rangers would lock up their best player at a very good price. The deal should be somewhere in the 4-6 year range this way the Rangers buy out at least one of Hamilton's free agent seasons.

The Rangers would be smart to get Hamilton locked up now because once Hamilton reaches arbitration, the sky will truly be the limit. Hamilton is a once in a lifetime talent and eventually, he will be paid like it. If he puts up big numbers again in 2009, there is a chance Hamilton could reach $10 million in his first go around in arbitration.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Payroll Implications of Marlins New Stadium

As we discussed yesterday, the Marlins finally got the OK to start constructing a new stadium in Miami. The stadium for the new Miami Marlins should be complete by 2012, which means that Marlins fans only have to suffer the horrid humidity and pouring rain of South Florida in a football stadium that has business acting as a baseball stadium. Rejoice!

And rejoice, they have. And not just the fans either, but the players have been rather vocal about their excitement for the new stadium.


"I'm so happy for the Marlins," All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez said. "They've been after it for a long time, and finally they got it. The ballpark will bring a lot of fans, and that's what we need."

Ramirez is the only Florida player under contract through 2012. Teammates hope the new ballpark will prompt management to offer more multiyear deals.

"Everybody hopes to get a deal like that so they know exactly what's in store for the future," pitcher Josh Johnson said. "They can stay here and buy a house down here. It's definitely a good feeling."

I can see it now, come 2012, all the Marlins, who have been grotesquely underpaid over the years will form a line outside the offices of Jeffrey Loria, David Sampson, and Larry Beinfest clamoring for a better contract with some security. It makes all the sense in the world to assume that in 2012, the Marlins' payroll should increase because of increased revenue from the stadium. The Marlins can finally act like a normal baseball team!

But here's an interesting tidbit to chew on: will the announcement of the 2012 Marlins stadium in anyway alter the team's plans in 2010 and beyond? As we saw this offseason, the Marlins were very stingy about giving players raises in arbitration or even talking about contract extensions. Instead, the Marlins were very proactive in trading away quality players, who were due raises in arbitration. Payroll played a major role in any decision the Marlins made this offseason.

And now that it looks like the new stadium is a definite, will the Marlins be more willing to increase their payroll? Even though the additional revenue won't be coming in for another few years, would the Marlins give out extensions to young players or at least make a better effort to keep quality players around?

Right now it doesn't sound like David Sampson is too eager to give out long term contracts to anyone:

"The last thing we want to do is saddle ourselves with many, many long-term contracts that will get in the way potentially of our competitiveness," he (Sampson) said. "Having said that, having a higher payroll certainly enables you more flexibility on either long-term deals or just higher short-term deals."

The Marlins have performed so well under such extreme budget constraints that it would be wonderful to see what this organization can do with some funds. I would love to see the Marlins sign guys like Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu to fair market level extensions at the end of this season that would ensure that quality players would join Hanley Ramirez in the new stadium in 2012. When it comes down to it, Hanley can't do it alone and for all the success the Marlins have had building through the farm, it's about time they commit to some of these guys...even before 2012.

Who knows when the Marlins payroll will actually increase, but eventually it will. But Marlins fans, you better hope that it happens sooner rather than later or else guys like Uggla and Cantu will eventually be history.

Gary Matthews Jr: This could get awkward

Just two years removed from signing a 5 year/$50 million dollar deal with the Angels, Gary Matthews Jr. probably will start the season on the Angels bench. Matthews has been a disappointment for the Angels, who are loaded with quality outfielders and suddenly have no room for the once prized acquisition.

From the Angels perspective, this is totally understandable. They want to field the best team possible and if that means that Matthews is relegated to the bench, then so be it.

But here's where it's going to get awkward. Matthews Jr. wants to play. He strongly expressed his desires to play everyday and he still believes he's a starting outfielder in the majors. There is no doubt that if Matthews wants to play everyday, it will not happen with the Angels in 2009 unless there is a rash on injuries to any combination of the four guys ahead of him (Rivera, Hunter, Guerrero, Abreu). And keep in mind, the odds of Matthews getting traded in 2010 would decrease steadily if Matthews cannot get on the field in 2009.

The obvious solution to this problem would be to have Matthews waive his no trade clause and move him to another team. However, at this time, any GM who accepts the 3 years/$30 million left on Matthews contract should be declared insane. A better option would be for the Angels to eat a good portion of the contract, but in this economy, why would the Angels want to do that? Sure Matthews Jr. might become a liability in the locker room if he becomes agitated with the Angels, but he can still be productive, even in a bench role. With Matthews Jr. on board, the Angels improve the overall depth and quality of their club even if he is not a starter.

So look for 2009 to become an awkward season for the Angels and Gary Matthews Jr. Because of his contract situation, it will be nearly impossible for the Angels to find suitors. And honestly, there is no reason why the Angels should eat a chunk of his contract unless they get something valuable in return or if they trade him somewhere far, far away (i.e Pittsburgh).

Circumstances like this one usually have a way of working themselves out over the course of the season, but for right now, it's not looking good for Matthews Jr.

Tampa Bay Rays: Five Things to Look Forward to in 2009

1. David Price
-Eventually, sometime...Price will be in the majors. Maybe not right away, but make no mistake about it, Price will play a large role in how far Rays go in 2009. Price is immensely talented as we saw last season during the playoffs and has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. He's that good. It's just a matter of when the Rays give Price the call to join the rotation and hopefully, he won't have some crazy low innings limit when he does reach the majors. Let's see him pitch!

2. Pat the Bat
-If the Rays had one substantial weakness last season, it was that they lacked pop from the right side of the plate besides Evan Longoria. But luckily for the Rays, Pat Burrell fell into their laps this offseason when the economy tanked and prices came crashing down. Burrell is exactly what the the Rays offense needed and hell, Burrell won't even have to play defense in the American League. This deal was a true win-win for the Rays and could make the team even better in 2009.

3. A full season of Evan Longoria
-It seems like Longoria has been around forever at this point, but the reality is that Longoria has not even played in a full season in the major leagues. Some folks tend to forget that because Longoria had such a big impact for the Rays both offensively and defensively. This guy is an absolute stud and I'm excited to see how Longoria performs over a full season. I'm sure he will put up some huge numbers, especially in this lineup.

4. A healthy Troy Percival
-The Rays bullpen is fantastic. Make no mistake about it. I really feel as though this group will be one of the best in baseball. However, they still need a consistent closer. Hopefully, that will be Troy Percival. When Percival was healthy last season, he performed very well and was a stabilizing force for the young Rays bullpen. A healthy Percival would make the Rays bullpen even deeper and provide consistency in the ninth inning, something the Rays lacked too often in the second half of last year and into the playoffs.

5. The return of BJ Upton
-BJ Upton has been in the major leagues for two seasons now, but his potential still remains untapped. Upton has proven that he can hit for power (24 HR in '07), steal bases (44 SB in '08), and get on base (.380+ OBP in '07 and '08), all of which is very impressive. The potential is very much there. Upton needs to stay healthy and play 150+ times this season if Upton is going to fulfill his massive potential. Hopefully BJ won't miss too much time in April because the Rays are going to need him...big time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sal Fasano's got some splainin' to do!

Hands down, the best mustache in the MLB. Sal Fasano, you sir, are a legend.

Is this picture scary or creepy? Or both? I'm undecided at this point, but leaning towards both. What could Fasano be explaining to Don Baylor? Why is a camera guy taking a picture of Sal Fasano in the first place? Comedy?

I feel as though a Sal Fasano Halloween costume could be done...just gimme a crazy looking mustache, some eye black, a batting helmet, and an intimidating facial expression; and BOOM...Sal Fasano is born.

If there is a more intimidating picture of a ballplayer than this one, I challenge anyone to find it.

Thank you, AP, for this incredible picture.

Baltimore Orioles: Five Things to Look Forward to in 2009

1. Matt Wieters
-No he's not going to start the season with the big club, but all indications are that Wieters will be up at some point for the Orioles this season. The wunderkid is the best catching prospect in baseball right now and has a chance to be the face of the Orioles for years to come. Orioles fans should be excited to see just how good Wieters really is and how he performs in the majors. If Wieters is the real deal, the Orioles could be really competative in a few seasons.

2. The real Adam Jones
-GM Andy McPhail scored a major coup when he acquired Jones last season in the now laughable Erik Bedard trade. Jones is a massive talent, who can do just about anything on the baseball diamond. Jones put up decent numbers in his first season in the big leagues (.270, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 10 SB), but the general feeling is that Jones is just scratching the surface of his potential. Look for Jones to breakout offensively in 2009 and the Erik Bedard trade look even worse for the Mariners.

3. Nick Markakis
-It's been a long time since the Orioles had a such a good, young player, who was brought up through the farm system. But Markakis really is that good and has improved immensely at the plate in each of his first three seasons. There is no doubt that the Orioles are now building around Markakis, who was signed to a 6 year/$66 million dollar extension in the offseason. Look for Markakis to continue his ascent towards becoming one of the best outfielders in baseball.

4. Trade bait: Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora
-Since Andy McPhail has been installed as the general manager, the goal has been to rebuild. So far, the process has gone very well as the Orioles have picked up a number of valuable assets. But come this July, the Orioles will probably have a fantastic opportunity to further their rebuilding efforts. They have two aging veterans (Huff and Mora), who will be free agents at the end of the season and should be valuable trade bait around the trading deadline. Neither player has a future with the club because of their age, so fans, hope and pray to the baseball Gods that Huff and Mora put up big numbers in the first half of 2009. The better these guys perform, the bigger the return!

5. What to make of Felix Pie?
-After years of teasing Cubs fans with his potential, Pie will finally get a chance to start with the Orioles. If Pie proves to be the real deal in left field, the Orioles could have a young and dynamic outfield for the next decade. But there is no doubt that Pie is the biggest question mark. Why didn't the Cubs give Pie a chance to play? Is Pie only a fourth outfielder? Can he get on base enough? Will he hit for power? How Pie performs in 2009 will play a major role in figuring out the next step of the Orioles rebuilding process.

The Marlins Finally Secure a New Stadium

Get ready, Miami. The Marlins are coming. Or at least they will be. 2012!

"The Florida Marlins will soon have a home of their own.

The team on Monday cleared the last political hurdle in its decade-long quest to get its own ballpark in Miami when the Miami-Dade County commission voted to approve the multi-million dollar deal.

After a marathon 9½-hour meeting, the county's 13 commissioners capped off the team's push for a retractable-roof park that is expected to cost at least $515 million. The commission by a 9-4 vote approved the stadium agreement itself.

The vote came four days after Miami city commissioners approved the stadium, which will be built near downtown in the city's Little Havana neighborhood on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl. Construction is expected to begin this summer, with the stadium opening for the 2012 season."

This decision is long overdue. The Marlins are currently playing in a stadium that houses the Miami Dolphins and has no business hosting a baseball team. It's impossible for the Marlins to convince fans to come to the ballpark when the ballpark is an absolute dump. It was a travesty that the Marlins did not have a world class facility to play in because without it, they could never gain credibility in the baseball world or from fans.

(Note: Remember all the talk of the Marlins potentially moving to Vegas a few years back if the team did not get a new stadium? Well now I think we can officially cross off that idea. Thank God.)

I think this stadium is not only good for the Marlins, but in the end it will be good for Miami as well. Obviously, agreeing to build a stadium with taxpayer money is not going to be a popular move right now given how poor our economy is. But the fact remains that stadiums can be huge source of revenue not only for the team, but for the surrounding community and local businesses. If they build the stadium correctly, this project in Miami could be very successful.

But a bigger question remains: will people actually show up to games?

The Marlins have been notorious for drawing terribly small crowds to their home games. At times, it makes you wonder if there are even Marlins fans. I swear, my little league games drew crowds comparable to some Marlins games in late September...ok, slight exaggeration. But will the good people of Florida, especially in Miami, show up at the ballpark? For the Marlins sake, let's hope so.

And if people do show up, the Marlins might just become a completely different organization. With the increased revenue from ticket sales, perhaps the Marlins could become active players on the free agent and maybe, just maybe, have a payroll that does not rank in the bottom of the MLB year after year. I'm sure there are plenty of ballplayers who would love the opportunity to play in the warmth of Florida especially in a new stadium, but Marlins ownership needs to make a strong commitment to the franchise and actually spend money on players for once.

As for the soon to be Miami Marlins, the name actually doesn't sound bad. Will they create a new logo? I absolutely think that should be in order...

Only three more years, Miami...get pumped!

Japan Wins! Do you care?

Last night, Japan won the second World Baseball Classic thanks to the heroics of Ichiro Suzuki.

Exciting right? Or did anyone in the States actually care about the finale of the Classic? Please chime in...I'm fascinated to know the interest level of the finale.

My take: whoppie. Hopefully no one got hurt too badly (this means you, David Wright). Now let's start the regular season already, dammit.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Poll Results: Who Will Win the AL East?

In our most recent poll, we asked "who will win the AL East in 2009?"

Well, 39 of you chimed in (c'mon people, VOTE!), and here are the results:

16 (41%)
-Red Sox
8 (20%)
10 (25%)
-Blue Jays
2 (5%)
3 (7%)

Wow, I'm surprised how little support the Red Sox got. Despite the tremendous offseason the Yankees had and the breakout of the Rays in 2008, I think the Sox should be the odds on favorite to win the east. They have a fantastic starting pitching staff that runs about 8 deep and their bullpen should be vastly improved from last season. Oh yeah, did I mention that John Smoltz will be around hopefully sometime in May...can't forget the impact that he will have on the Sox. And the offense will be better...assuming that Papi and Lowell are healthy for the entire season.

To me, this is by far the best division in all of baseball. The Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees are three of the best teams in all of baseball and by the way, the Jays and Orioles aren't so bad either. It's conceivable that there will be three teams in this division approaching 90 wins this season
, which is exciting for me as a baseball fan even though I have no particular rooting interest for either team.

Look for the Orioles to improve big time this season, especially if phenom Matt Wieters gets the call and Felix Pie turns out to be the real deal. This is a young team on the rise that will eventually challenge for the division title...just not yet.

Next Poll: Who win the 2009 AL Central? VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!

New York Yankees: Five Things to Look Forward to in 2009

1. Joba in the rotation...finally
-For all the hoopla surrounding the landmark signings of Burnett, Sabathia, and Teixeira this offseason, I still think Chamberlain is going to be the real key to the Yankees success in 2009. Joba has some of the best stuff in the league and will finally be unleashed, for good, in the starting rotation for the entire season. If Joba stays healthy, the sky is his limit. The thought of Joba taking the ball every fifth day should be VERY exciting for Yankees fans, who have not had a quality homegrown starting pitcher of this caliber since Andy Pettitte.

2. What next for A-Rod?
-Baseball's favorite tabloid star can't seem to spend a week away from the headlines? What embarrassing and very awkward story will appear next week? Will it involve hookers? How about a pop star? Any hint of steroid use involved? Any chance of this happening: A-Rod getting busted in a hotel room with Britney Spears, while getting injected with steroids by a bunch of hookers....somehow, nothing seems crazy in the weird and wacky world that is Alex Rodriguez. Strap on your seat belts, Yankee fans. May is right around the corner! A-Rod returns!

3. Brett Gardner
-Have the Yankees finally found their center fielder of the future? Well, after the Melky Cabrera experiment went sour, the Yankees have turned to Gardner this spring hoping that the young guy can inject the lineup with some speed. This spring, Gardner has been a machine at the plate, but it remains to be seen if he can keep up his torrid pace during the season. If Gardner can get on base consistently with the Yankees, he could become a real force at the end of the lineup and potential leadoff hitter in 2010 if Johnny Damon leaves.

4. A healthy Jorge Posada
-No amount of words that I type will be able to express just how important Jorge Posada is to the New York Yankees. Not only will the Yankees be depending heavily on his bat this season, but they will need a healthy Posada to anchor their star studded pitching staff while providing steady defense behind the dish. The Yankees sorely missed Posada in 2008 after he was forced to undergo major shoulder surgery, so they will need Jorge to remain healthy and productive if the Yanks are to challenge for the division in 2009.

5. CC
-This is a scary thought for all the Red Sox and Rays fans out there: the Yankees finally have an ace. After failing to win a championship in the past 8 seasons, the Yankees finally ponied up the dough (surprise, surprise!) and signed the best pitcher on the free agent market. Sabathia is a franchise changer; not only will he win lots of ballgames for the Yankees, but he will throw lots of quality innings and strikeout a good amount of hitters. When he is on, Sabathia is filthy and flat out dominant. Look for a big season out of Sabathia, who will be heavily counted on by the Bombers in 2009 and beyond.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Random Video of the Week: Barry Zito is Different...Very Different

Yup, Barry Zito is a strange guy. Pretty snazzy dresser too. Good to know that nipple-see-through-ness is included in his criteria to wear a shirt. Anyone know if Giants shirts come in polyester?

Did I mention that the Giants doled out $126 million to this guy? For that money, hopefully his shirts have plenty of nipple comfort while he's on the mound getting destroyed by opposing batters.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Will Scott Boras Redefine the MLB Draft?

Over the years, mega agent Scott Boras has become one of the most hated men in baseball. He is viewed as a money hungry villain, who will do almost anything to get his clients the richest contract he can get his hands on. Boras has repeatedly redefined the limitations of free agency by continually getting his guys gigantic contracts that most fans did not believe were humanly possible. Even after some missteps over the past few seasons (A-Rod, Manny), Boras still remains one of the best agents in baseball. There is a reason why players clamor for his services.

It now appears as though Boras is setting his sights on the MLB draft. Boras will be representing RHP Stephen Strasburg, who many believe is not only the best prospect in 2009, but one of the best prospects in a long time. Strasburg has been completely dominant this season by striking out 74 hitters in just 34 innings this season at San Diego State. Needless to say, this guy is dominant and flat out filthy.

So how is Boras trying to take advantage of this situation? By asking for a ton of money of course! As the legendary Peter Gammons writes,
"...some club officials think that if Washington takes San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick, Boras will ask for Daisuke Matsuzaka money (six years, approximately $50M) or take him to Japan for a year, a threat that may scare Stan Kasten into selecting a lesser prospect."
Let's digest that for a second. Even though Strasburg is dominant, he is still just a amateur player. There is no guarantee that he will be able to parlay his success in the college ranks into the bigs. Strasburg has no history in the bigs, yet Boras is still looking for a big league contract in excess of what many quality pitchers, who have pitched years in the big leagues, ever come close to getting. The idea that Strasburg will get a contract of that size before ever throwing a pitch in the majors is crazy.

And folks, keep in mind, the MLB draft is structured around a slotting system. Teams are supposed to try and stay within the slot that MLB recommends, but in years past, the slotting system has been overtaken by teams willing to go well above slot to ensure that a player signs. However, no player has come close to the type of contract that Boras is trying to get for Strasburg.

It will be interesting to see if any team actually meets Boras's demands for Strasburg. Because this contract is the first of its kind, I'm sure the negotiations will be long, drawn out, and very complex. Here's why:

On one side we would have Boras, who believes that he has the best prospect to come out of college in years, and possibly generations. He will try to set a high precedent for future clients and draft picks with this deal. In the process, Boras could destroy the slotting system (or what's left of it) as we know it.

But then on the other side, we have prospective teams (probably the Nationals). Strasburg is by far the best prospect on the board and there is no doubt that they would love to have him on board. But, prospective teams need to protect themselves. By my knowledge, no prospect has gotten more than $10.5 million dollars guaranteed (Mark Prior) from the MLB draft, so obviously there is no fiscal way that any team can justify paying Strasburg $40-$50 million guaranteed...or at least I hope.

I can see a prospective team guaranteeing Strasburg a bonus somewhere in the $10-$15 million dollar range, then followed by a wide range of incentives that could increase the value of the contract based on his performance. This way, both Boras and the team get what they want, while compromising with the other side.

But I'll admit it, I hate the way the MLB draft system is operated right now. The slot system has proven to be ineffective and if teams have to pass on Strasburg because of contract concerns, then MLB really needs to step up and try to institute a hard line slotting system that is far to both the team and player. It's only a matter of time before the system goes under for good.

And finally, if any team ponies up to Boras and his "alleged demands" for Strasburg, then whoever made the decision needs to have their head checked out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Can the Twins Survive without Joe Mauer?

If there is one player who the Twins cannot afford to lose this season, it's Joe Mauer. Mauer is the heart and soul of this Twins team and provides so much both offensively and defensively. Losing Mauer for a significant period of time is the worst case scenario.

Twins fans have to be nervous about Mauer and his now infamous back. The guy has not played in spring training yet and seems "doubtful" for Opening Day.
"When asked if it’s doubtful that he would be ready for Opening Day, he said: “Yeah, I just have to get healthy. I don’t think I’m ready to get out there and play any games. I know it’s getting closer. I really don’t know if I’m going to be there or not.
Not good news for Twins fans.

So the question remains, can the Twins survive without Mauer? There is no doubt that Mauer is vital to the team's success, but just how long can the Twins stay competitive for?

The answer obviously depends on how severe Mauer's injury turns out to be. If he is out for a significant period of time, then I'm sure many would be quick to eliminate the Twins from playoff contention. And quite frankly, I don't blame them.

But keep in mind that the Twins as a whole are a very good team. They have a bunch of quality arms in the rotation, a healthy Francisco Liriano, the beast that is Justin Morneau, a developing outfield, and what looks to be a solid bullpen. There is alot to like here, with or without Joe Mauer.

I still think the Twins would struggle without Mauer, but I don't think they would fall off that badly. There is simply too much talent here for the Twins not to be pretty competitive. The AL Central is not a terribly deep division, while again would play into the Twins hands if they were to lose Mauer.

Make no mistake about it: the Twins need Joe Mauer. Mike Redmond and Jose Morales might be able to produce for some time, but I have a hard time believing that either guy would be effective for a entire season. Twins fans need to pray to the baseball Gods that Joe Mauer gets healthy and remains healthy throughout the entire season.

What about Odalis Perez?

With roughly two weeks left until the regular season begins, pretty much all of the impact free agents are now off the board. Even though the offseason moved slower than molasses, players eventually found homes, even if they were for reduced rates.

One of the lone remaining impact player who remains unsigned is left handed starting pitcher Odalis Perez. Strangely enough, Perez did agree to a minor league contract in the beginning of February with the Washington Nationals, but apparently Perez was pissed that the contract was not guaranteed, so he held out. Subsequently, the Nationals released Perez.

One would figure that Perez would have a range of suitors vying for his services immediately after his release in early March. But now two weeks after his release, there has been little to no news on the Odalis Perez front.

What gives? Could it be possible that Perez's antics towards the Nationals have shied teams away from him?

I doubt it. Even though Perez looks terrible for holding out and forcing his release, more than likely, Perez is having a tough time finding a team willing to offer him a major league deal to his liking. Perez put up solid numbers last year with the lowly Nationals by going 7-12 with a 4.34 ERA while striking out 119 in 158 IP. Not overwhelming numbers, but certainly good enough for Perez to be someone's fourth starter.

I anticipate that some team will get desperate towards the end of spring training and ultimately cave in and sign Perez. Even with Pedro Martinez still on the market, Perez remains the best starting pitcher out there, despite his strange behavior this offseason.

Houston would be a wonderful fit for Perez, but will GM Ed Wade get the OK to spend the needed dough to sign Perez? Doubtful.

Any other potential suitors?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Colorado Rockies: Five Things to Look Forward to in 2009

1. The return of Manny Corpas
-It remains to be seen if Corpas will be used as the closer, but it's certain that the Rockies will need Corpas circa 2007 if they are going to compete in 2009. Corpas was fantastic in 2007 (2.08 ERA) and it looked as though the Rockies had a rising star on their hand. But Corpas regressed in 2008 and suddenly became very hittable and average. With Taylor Buchholz out until at least the end of May, the Rockies will need Corpas to perform at his peak for the team to stay afloat.

2. Ubaldo
-If there is a pitcher for Rockies fans to be excited about, it's Ubaldo Jimenez. Not only is Ubaldo one of the best baseball names out there, but he has a chance to establish himself as the ace of the staff in 2009. Sure Aaron Cook is great, but Jimenez has electric stuff (including a smokin' heater) and is a master at inducing hitters to hit ground balls. A ground ball pitcher like Jimenez should theoretically thrive at Coors Field (3.31 ERA in '08), which is known to be a hitter's paradise. If Jimenez can gain consistency in 2009, then look for him to become a rising star on the mound for the Rockies.

3. A healthy Tulo
-Make no mistake about it, Tulo is the straw that stirs the Rockies. Without him, the Rockies are a floundering team without an identity. Tulowitzki missed a significant amount of time in 2008 and without him, the Rockies struggled mightily. Tulowitzki's injury plagued season killed any chance the Rockies had to compete in 2008. But when healthy, Tulowitzki is a difference maker. He has the ability to hit around .300 with 20 HR and close to 100 RBI while playing stellar defense. Tulo could become one of the best shortstops in baseball...just stay healthy! Stay away from Bobby Crosby and Khalil Greene at all costs!

4. Humidor!
-Baseball in Colorado has survived because of this baseball steamer...pitchers can actually pitch in the thin air of Colorado. All hail the humidor!

5. Todd Helton's contract
-The countdown towards financial freedom for the small market Rockies will begin! After 2009, Helton is only signed for another 2 seasons at $35.7 million bucks total! 2011 can't come soon enough...this contract is absurd!

Joe Beimel: How Bout 'Dem Nationals!

It's not often that the signing of a middle relief pitcher excites me. Almost unheard of, really. The lone exceptions in the past have been LaTroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth with the Yankees, but those two were simply for the comedic value.

When the last place Nationals came to terms with left handed relief pitcher Joe Beimel on a 1 year/$2 million dollar contract today, I must admit that I pumped my fist. And hell, I'm not even a Nationals fan.

What this move signals to Nationals fans is that the new front office, after so many missteps by previous GM Jim Bowden, actually cares about the team and believes it can produce a competitive product in 2009. I don't think there is anyone on the planet who expects the Nationals to compete for a playoff spot, but GM Mike Rizzo is sending a strong signal that the Nationals at least want to make noise in the NL East.

Joe Beimel is far from a savior and hell, he might not make too big of a difference with the Nationals when it's all said and done. But Rizzo's plan is clear: he wants to shorten the game the best he can by having as many quality arms in his bullpen as possible. Between Joel Hanrahan, Saul Rivera, Garrett Mock, and now Beilmel; the Nationals have a developing group in the back end of the bullpen that could enable the Nationals to actually hold leads late in games.

This deal has almost no downside for the Nationals and lots of potential upside. For "just" $2 million, the Nationals picked up a quality left handed arm out of the bullpen, who should help the Nationals become a deeper and more talented club. He can get out both lefties and righties with some level of efficiency, which would make him a solid 7th or 8th inning guy (I'm not sold on Beimel as a lefty specialist).

And you know what, if the Nationals struggle out of the gate, the Nationals could simply shop Beimel around the league for minor leaguers for prospects. And if Beimel has a good enough season, the Nats hopefully will get a draft pick (or two) from this signing. No matter how you slice it, Beimel is a no risk asset, which struggling teams like the Nationals need to have around.

It's refreshing to see a team picked by most experts to finish in last place actually spend some money on quality talent. The Nationals need to give people in DC a reason to care about baseball again, and while the signing of a left handed relief pitcher won't cause Nationals fans to jump up and down like 8 year old girls, it will make the team better in the short term and might help make the Nationals somewhat watchable this season.

And for the record, yes, I still think the Nationals will finish in last place in the NL East. But playing the Nationals will not be a cake walk for opposing teams like it was in years past. Expect lots of close games from this bunch. This team is far more talented than in previous seasons and I expect the Nationals to surprise some people and come close to 80 wins this season.

Are my expectations of the Nationals on the mark or crazy?