And now, the American League…
joined in progress !
Baltimore: birds of a feather… like their divisional rivals, the Blue jays, the Orioles have decided to harken back to their glory days. Unfortunately for fans in both cities, both teams chose to do so by revisiting old logos and uniforms rather than doing anything terribly substantial to make their team competitive. Colorado trade netted them two mediocre pitchers for the price of one slightly better than mediocre one and Tommy Hunter has shown flashes of brilliance while in Texas but all in all nothing much to suggest the O’s can improve from their AL worst 4.89 ERA of last year and given the loss of Vladmir Guerrero and Luke Scott there’s little to suggest a major improvement in weak offense. At least they didn’t make any bone-headed moves to bring in over-the-hill free agents that handcuff the small budget team financially this off season.
Ace: Matt Wieters, at 25 quickly en route to becoming the best all-around catcher in the league… will improve on his .262 avg, 22 homers of last year, doesn’t need to improve his deserved Gold Glove.
Wild Card: JJ Hardy- had major comeback year last season with unexpected power (30 homers, .491 slugging) but this followed several years of declining results. Which Hardy will present himself this year.
Joker: Kevin Gregg- never a great closer, now at 34 walks and runs allowed are up, velocity down. Marginal as a middle reliever, a washup in closer’s role.
2012 Prediction: 65 wins, 5th place. But moving up in cap sales
Boston: there are two types of people in the world- Red Sox fans and people who aren’t gratingly annoying. The latter group had reason to grin last fall after the historic collapse of the cocky Sox and the subsequent name-calling and blame assigning from within. For those of us not in the “Red Sox nation” we should have reason to grin again– there’s not much to suggest the Green Monster Mob will have to much to be arrogant about in ’12. there answer to a completely disfunctional clubhouse was not the expected huge revamp but rather a few dubious tweaks and a change in management as if Terry Francona was responsible for the lack of focus and discord.
Then again, maybe he was. It is a manager’s job to manage, and he seemed incapable of controlling the 25 big egos on his bench. Odds don’t favour firy Bobby Valentine doing much better and few of the small changes to the roster can be seen adding much value. Sure Cody Ross was a one-man wrecking crew for the Giants in the 2010 playoffs but he followed up his championship with a mere .240 avg/.730 OPS for san Fran last year- hardly the numbers of an everyday outfielder for a supposedly championship-calibre team. Andrew Bailey was hardly a replacement for Jon papelbon, but now he isn’t at all thanks to his ligament surgery in spring training. The bullpen is a mess, even when Carl Crawford returns to the roster the outfield is only mid-pack and after Jon lester and Josh Beckett, who’s in the rotation? Bucholz has ongoing back troubles, Daniel Bard has a good repetoire of pitches (as he showed already against the Jays in his first game of year) but will be on a strict innings limit after moving from the bullpen and Felix Doubront? The highly touted prospect is only 6-8 down the road in Pawtucket over the past two years and saw his minor league ERA rise by a full run in 2012. And David Ortiz, brilliant at times last year but showing signs of long-term decline, ain’t getting any younger- or slimmer.
This is still a decent enough club. But it is far from a team ready to give New England fans something to be annoying us about.
Ace: Jacoby Ellsbury- only coming into his prime now, could even up his 212 hits and 39 steals of last year
wild Card: Carl Crawford- still young enough to regain form as a top-flight outfielder but has health issues and didn’t seem that comfortable in front of Green Monster last year.
Joker: Ryan Sweeney- one home run and an anemic .341 slugging last year with Oakland. Not a good thing when a player usually evokes a “Hey! Wasn’t his brother a decent player once?” type comment.
2012 Prediction: 86 wins, 3rd place
New York: Four out of six USA todaywriters pick the pinstripes to win the division again. Yet only one of the four chooses them to advance to the World Series. Such is life for the modern day Yankees, a source of irritation to their legion of fans who note that there are already kids in kindergarten that don’t recall ever being to a World Series parade!
In general, not a lot has changed in the Bronx in the off-season. They downloaded AJ Burnett and a few bucks of his salary (a plus) but also saw Jorge Posada retire (a con). The team still has a huge payroll, talent to spare, the best second baseman in the game and a great bullpen. However, it also boasts a pitching staff similar to last year’s when it was the oldest in the league and as many as 6 players in the everyday lineup over 30 and on the downslope of their careers. Sure Jeter can still play; to suggest otherwise is dumb. However, can he still play at an all-star level? More to the point, will he and his cronies have enough gas in the tank come October to compete?
My guess is that young Michael Pineda will really shine in his sophomore year , Hiroki Kuroda will be an adequate #5 starter but not match his 202 innings and low ERA of last year and Robinson Cano will make an even stronger case for MVP after winning a batting championship and Gold Glove.
Ace: Robinson Cano- 46 doubles, 118 RBI last year and he’s still a comparative unknown on this squad.
Wild Card: Phil Hughes- both his role and his reliability are in question
joker: none. Sorry folks, this team really doesn’t have any gaping holes in the lineup nor atrocious players
2012 Prediction:97 wins, 1st place. But how far will that take them come October?
Next up we look at the Rays and the Jays… which one will take second place and a probable invite to the post-season?