Tagged: Red Sox

Preview: AL East

Will New York make the postseason for the seventeenth time in 18 years? And where will the rising Jays land?

By Cam Cain ◊ 3-25-12

So here we have it. It is finally spring. After a long winter break, it’s time for our nation’s pastime to be reborn for another long season. In 8 short days, the Cardinals and Marlins will play at 7:05 and kick off the new season at the new ballpark in Miami. I felt like I had to come out with my own predictions for the season. It is just human nature to feel the need to guess at these things, however accurate you may be (last year I chose Colorado to win it all.) So here are my predictions for the toughest division in the game, with 4 potential 90-game-winning teams, the American League East:

5th Place: Baltimore Orioles:
This is no shocker. In this division, Baltimore is a certain lock to be sitting in the cellar for nearly the whole season. This team should rebuild from the bottom up. They could get some good prospects for outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Baltimore desperately needs pitching. Their young pitchers need to step up, especially 25-year-old Brian Matusz. Following a solid 2010 season, his second in the league,  Matusz went 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA and bounced between the majors and minors last year. The hitting was decent, but Baltimore needs an ace. They will finish near the bottom, nearing 100 losses.
Best case scenario: Baltimore wins close to 75 games and waits until the offseason or next year’s trading deadline to ship away their stars.
Worst case scenario: The pitching actually gets worse and the Orioles fire manager Buck Showalter in May and go downhill from there.
4th Place: Toronto Blue Jays:
Like Baltimore, the Jays changed their logos to a more modernized version of what they used in the ’80s. Unlike Baltimore, this Canadian team has got talent. The Blue Jays can now easily compete in this tough division and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish higher than this. Jose Bautista had an all around better year than his 2010 season where he came out of nowhere to hit 54 home runs. His average was 42 points better and he still led the majors in home runs. J.P. Arencebia did not play as well as expected in his first full season catching in the bigs. They do have Travis D’arnaud  in place behind the plate. D’arnaud  won MVP of the Eastern League last year for the AA New Hampshire FisherCats. He has never played at AAA, let alone the majors so expect him to not get called up until September. The pitching for the Jays is also solid. They picked up Francisco Cordero in the offseason who will set up for Sergio Santos. Their rotation is led by ace Ricky Romero who went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA.
Best case scenario:  Third Baseman Brett Lawrie finishes in the 20-20 or possibly 30-30 club with a great season. Adam Lind continues to hit for power and Jose Bautista is an MVP candidate once more. Toronto makes it to the postseason for the first time since they won it all in ’93.
Worst case scenario: Pitchers figure out how to pitch to Bautista. The rest of the hitters don’t pick up the slack and the Blue Jays finish below .500 again.
3rd Place: Boston Red Sox:
Nobody is giving Boston enough credit. Despite their late season collapse which caused skipper Terry Francona to be replaced, this is a great ballclub. In his age 35 season, star DH David Ortiz still hit 29 home runs and hit .309. Remember before last season when everyone predicted them to be great? They are still for the most part the same team. Carl Crawford’s struggles were likely a fluke. He could be the missing piece. As for the pitching, the top 2 will be great as always in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Clay Buchholz in the third spot pitched a no-hitter in his second career start back in 2007 and has pitched well ever since. 4th in the rotation is expected to be Daniel Bard, a converted reliever who routinely throws 100 mph. However, Bard struggled late last season during the collapse and finished with 9 losses without starting a game.
Best case scenario: Carl Crawford comes back to play as well as he did in Tampa. Jacoby Ellsbury has another MVP caliber year and leads Bobby Valentine’s Sox on a deep postseason run.
Worst case scenario: New closer Andrew Bailey from Oakland struggles pitching in front of fans (his old team the A’s finished last or second to last in attendance the last 3 years) Carl Crawford doesn’t improve, and David Ortiz shows his age as Boston finishes in 4th for the first time in 15 years.
2nd Place: Tampa Bay Rays:
Tampa is loaded with young talent. Jeremy Hellickson won rookie of the year last season as third starter and now the Rays are going to call up top prospect Matt Moore for the entire season. This could give them a deadly rotation behind David Price and James Shields and ahead of Jeff Niemann who went 11-7 with a 1.24 WHIP last season. The Rays also signed Carlos Pena who left for a year to play for the Cubs. Pena has always had power but hit only .225 last year. Evan Longoria hit 31 home runs last year while only playing 133 games, the most important home run being that dramatic walk off heroic in Game 162 to send Tampa to the playoffs. He did only hit .244 and started out 2011 injured. Longoria will bounce back and could possibly hit 35 home runs. Joe Maddon is an artist with the bullpen and I can’t imagine a team led by him failing to play in October.
Best case scenario: The young pitchers are effective immediately. Evan Longoria blossoms into an even bigger star as he is in the midst of his prime years. Tampa cruises to the division title as the Yankees are stung by the injury bee.
Worst case scenario: James Shields doesn’t come anywhere near his impressive numbers of last year. While the hitters still hit for power, nobody gets on base  for them to drive home. Tampa finishes in a disappointing 4th place.
1st Place: New York Yankees:
Who else do you expect? This team’s hitting was loaded after the 2011 season. Now, in the offseason, they made sure their rotation was just as great. They went out and got Michael Pineda from Seattle and Hiroki Kuroda from free agency. Kuroda has impressed. Ivan Nova went 16-4 last year in his rookie year and will likely take the second spot in the rotation. Also, A.J. Burnett, the Yankee equivalent of John Lackey for the Red Sox has left for Pittsburgh mercifully. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, their cornerstones, are 36 and 37 respectively. However, second baseman Robinson Cano is one of the best all-around player in the game and could pick up some of the slack. Other than the age of A-Rod and Jeter, I see very few concerns for this team.
Best case scenario: New York wins 100 games for the 20th time in franchise history, Robinson Cano wins MVP and the rotation is strong 1 through 5.
Worst case scenario: Michael Pineda is a flop moving to the majors’ largest market. The captain Derek Jeter finally starts to show his age and Alex Rodriguez retires following a <10 home run season and a third place finish for the Bombers.

Trouble in Beantown

Where does Boston stand in the league’s toughest division?

By Cam Cain 2-9-12

Spring is almost among us. Depending on where you live, it may not look like it but I’m talking about baseball season. Pitchers and catchers report in a couple of weeks and most of the teams seem to have taken shape. However, there are question marks above many other teams. For example, there are the Red Sox, a team who probably should’ve gone into the offseason with the same strategy as their bitter rivals in New York, work on the starting pitching. They lost Eric Bedard to the Pirates and will hopefully, mercifully, find a way to get rid of John Lackey. This leaves veterans Josh Beckett and Jon Lester who are proven top-of-the-rotation guys, Clay Buchholz who threw a no hitter in his second career start in 2007 but has been inconsistent ever sinse, and Daisuke Matsuzaka who the organization hopes can pitch how he did before his injuries. Roy Oswalt is surprisingly still a free agent but had possibly his worst season in his career last year. He is only 34 and could possibly make a good third spot in the rotation.

New GM Ben Cherington also traded away the top 2 shortstops, Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro for relief pitchers. This must mean that they are planning on moving someone, likely flamethrower Daniel Bard, to the rotation. But why both of the shortstops? Next on the list are Mike Aviles who hasn’t played more than 34 games at short since his rookie season in 2008 in Kansas City. Also, there’s Jose Iglesias, a defensive-minded Cuban prospect at the position where defense matters the most. He had only 6 major league at bats and is expected to be called up sometime in June. However, some worry about his hitting. Iglesias hit .235 at the AAA level last year and only has one career minor league home run. The Red Sox also have Aruban Xander Bogaerts at short in their farm system who was ranked by mlb.com as Boston’s third best prospect and the majors’ 76th. However, he is not expected to make the majors until 2014 and he will likely switch to third base by then.

So how does Boston look for this year? Well, with no shortstop, right fielder, and questions about the pitching staff, it’s hard to see my hometown team finishing ahead of the Yankees or Blue Jays.

50 Million Dollar Gamble

Free Agent closer Papelbon signs record deal with the Phillies. 

By Cam Cain 11-12-11

This just may be the missing link to Philadelphia’s championship. Ruben Amaro Jr. has just added another name to a lengthy list of free agent acquisitions as the GM of the Phillies. This deal makes Jonathan Papelbon the highest paid closer of all time. Him and the Phillies have agreed to a 4 year deal worth $50 million dollars. This is a risky move due to Papelbon’s inconsistence. This also is a huge case of overpaying for a player. We’ve seen it last year with Jayson Werth and the Nationals. The Phillies will still be paying Papelbon over $10 mil. a year 4 years from now. I wouldn’t have paid more than $25 million for him. Jonathan was never the best closer in his time with the Red Sox. Amaro Jr. felt that he needed this large sum of money to lure Pap away from Beantown.

This now widens the gaping hole in Boston’s bullpen. Flamethrowing Daniel Bard is very inconsistent. Bobby Jenks could close but he hasn’t pitched well since 2008. There are many more viable pitchers out there. Jonathan Broxton is only 27 and has had a 36 save season only 2 years ago. Or, if they decide to go the route of Jenks, which is what I would do, Mike Gonzalez, who spent last year with Baltimore and the Rangers, is available and is a left handed reliever who would be a good fit.

In other news…

Kidnapped Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has been rescued on Friday after over 50 hours. Venezuelan authorities rescued him in a 15 minute gunfight. Ramos and his family have been provided bodyguards by Venezuela’s government.

The Florida, now Miami Marlins have switched to the official worst logo and uniform set in baseball history.  You can view them here. They remind me of a three star hotel chain. The Miami Gardens Marlin Suites. They even got rid of their iconic teal. Oh when will people learn IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT!? They do move into a nice new stadium this year. I do agree with the name switch. There is another team in the state. It’s not like Minnesota. Florida Marlins had a nice ring to it. I’m sure these new uniforms will grow on me eventually. I hope they’re not just an eyesore until they’re gone.