2004 AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST PREVIEW

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
(Listed in 2003 Order of Finish)

ED: Ed Agner

BB: Bill Barnwell

PR: Phil Rippa


ED: We should preface this by stating that Phil is a Yankee fan, Bill is a Red Sox fan and I am stuck in the middle with you. I do have to admit to being A-#1 Columbus Clipper fan, thus giving me a very-weak alliance to the Evil Empire – even if the number of guys on the Yankee roster that I’ve seen as a Clipper is now outnumbered by the number of Expos whom I saw as Clippers.


Yanks
NEW YORK YANKEES
2003 Record – 98-60 (Lost in World Series)

Key Additions: Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Kenny Lofton, Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, Travis Lee, Tony Clark, Darren Bragg, Miguel Cairo, Homer Bush

Key Losses: Alfonso Soriano, Aaron Boone, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemons, Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, Jeff Nelson, David Wells, Chris Hammond, Randy Choate, Antonio Osuna, David Dellucci, Karim Garcia, Drew Henson, Jason Giambi’s “4 pounds”

ED: I assume the real reason Phil didn’t start the Yankees preview is that he didn’t want to jinx his team, so I will. That is start the preview, not jinx the team. Though, who can say?

PR: The real reason is that it is really difficult to focus all my thoughts into a manageable 19,000 word minimum without going off on a tangent about how much the trading of Nick Johnson enraged me.

ED: How many words will the loss of Drew Henson get?

PR: The Cowboys are compiling a nice little AAA team. What with Chad Hutchinson, Quincy Carter and now Henson. I guess you have to have played baseball to be a QB in Dallas now.

ED: Played baseball badly, you mean. Maybe the Cowboys can sign Michael Jordan. And Danny Ainge. That would make me happy. How ’bout them Cowboys!? Sorry. As a proud Clipper fan all I can say is I hope ol’ scatter arm Henson has fun driving cross-country with Nate Newton.

ED: You can’t quibble with what the Yankees did to improve their offense in the offseason. A-Rod and Sheffield are fine enough additions to pretty much guarantee a playoff spot. Kenny Lofton is…well…yeah – really-really-really bad. But defensively, when the agility-and-power-challenged Hideki Matsui looked like a better CF option than Bernie Williams at times last season, I guess…well…no. Kenny Lofton is still really-really-really bad.

PR: Of all the bizarro edicts that came from Steinbrenner this offseason (more on those in a moment), the fact that he insisted on the Yanks signing Kenny Lofton because of what Juan Pierre did in the postseason is mindboggling. If you want a leadoff guy who can steal bases, wouldn’t you want to sign someone who actually, ya know, still had the speed to actually steal bases? Plus, they already had a leadoff hitter who could swipe 40 bases a season. Soriano whiffing is just as effective as when Pierre can’t lay down a bunt and has to slap away when down 0-2.

ED: I just assumed George wanted to improve the Yankees offseason basketball team and signed Lofton as point guard. He DID lose Aaron Boone’s Bobby Hurley point guard SCRAP~! from the team, after all.

ED: As bad as Lofton is, the real black hole in the Yankee line-up will be at second base and the expected Cairo/Enrique Wilson platoon. Neither have ever really shown that they possess any, you know, major league hitting skills. But hey, these are the Yankees – they had Chuck Knoblauch displaying that he had no possession of major league hitting OR fielding skills for the last three years of his run; in a way, the Cairo/Wilson outmaking duo could be a step up. As long as Cairo/Wilson get the Pokey Reese expectations of being Dr. Gloves, any kind of offense should be considered gravy. Of course, properly contextualizing the suck won’t change the fact that the Yanks are giving away three outs per game here. Obviously, the Yanks should be able to come up with offense in other places. I will miss Nick Johnson’s yearly rehab assignments in Columbus, I admit.

BB: So will the Columbus Denny’s. I was figuring the Orioles would deal Jerry Hairston or Brian Roberts to the Yankees, but Hairston’s unfortunate fixation with David Segui nixed all that. The inevitable trade for Junior Spivey after he hits .320/.360/.460 in April will make up for it. And speaking of Junior Spivey – I really feel for the families of the 27 killed by Baseball Prospectus diving off that bandwagon. Really a sad day for everyone involved.

ED: Oh yeah, the Spivey trade happens on May 1 after the Cairo/Wilson combo hits .225/.300/.350. On May 2, Spivey makes his first trip to the DL. It’s so obvious it hurts. What’s the total of the Prospectus kill-count when adding the Spivey and Youkilis calamities?

PR: I still haven’t come to grips with the fact that neither of you realized that King George will demand that the Yanks get Robbie Alomar. That will be very upsetting on levels that one can’t even possibly formulate into words.

ED: We laugh WITH you, not AT you, Phil.

BB: I kinda laugh at him. Yankees get Alomar, Red Sox get…I dunno, maybe Chuck Knoblauch? Who knows?

PR: You guys all hate Homer Bush for some bizarro reason. Since the PEDRO KILLA~! gimmick that Wilson was doing has run its course, Homer Bush is all set for his comeback player of the year award. And I will take Homer Bush over Miguel Cairo, Enrique Wilson and Luis Sojo when he decides to unretire.

ED: The Bush’s I would take over Homer would be, Jenna, Jeb and Barbara. But that’s just me.

BB: I would even take Gavin Rossdale over Homer Bush.

PR: DOH!

PR: This is what the Yankees did. Boss George started having his 48th mid life crisis, ordered Brian Cashman to sign all the old, dislikable quality baseball players he could find just to make himself (George) feel that much better about himself (both in age and in quality as a human being). He then got extra weepy when Otto Graham died, nearly kicked it himself and suddenly Cashman was free to make some of the moves he wanted too.

BB: Personally, I want to know when Jeff Van Gundy and Brian Cashman are going to open a series of 24 hour coffee shops. And I also want to know whether Cashman has a brother that looks like Peter North.

ED: I, of course, have no idea who Peter North is. No. No I don’t.

PR: I know not of this porn that you speak of.

ED: I have to admit that I am tickled that slow-foot Jeter is getting the SS gig over A-Rod.

PR: I have to admit that I am tickled at the fact that Aaron Boone forgot what was written in his contract and the fact that he is white, and still insisted on playing pickup. Let’s all remember that if Aaron had bucked the Boone family stupidity trait, A-Rod wouldn’t be on the Yanks, and we wouldn’t be wondering why Jeter was still at SS.

ED: Ducking the Boone family stupidity trait is impossible. It can’t be done. I anxiously await Matt Boone’s idiotic tenure with the Reds.

ED: The New York media is hot and heavy about the changes in the rotation. Replacing Clemens, Pettitte and Wells with Vazquez, Brown and supposedly Jon Lieber has caused an outcry. Funny enough, if the Yanks had somehow been able to keep the staff from 2003 intact the New York media would have gone on about how the staff is old and decrepit. The lesson? The New York media is full of idiots. Objectively, Brown for Clemens is a push at least – and both have their share of age and injury concerns – Vazquez for Pettitte is a HUGE upgrade and Lieber for Wells…or will it be Donovan Frickin’ Osborne…or Jorge DePaula…OK. And then there’s the matter of Jose Contreras continuing to mystify and amaze with flashes of brilliance and mediocrity – and yet…well, c’mon, at least he’s not Jeff Weaver. So yeah, this is a staff full of questions but the Yanks will make a move for a back of the rotation guy or two who likely won’t contribute anything come playoff time. Hellooooooo, Jeff Suppan/Denny Neagle 2K4.

BB: Remember when people thought the Yankees gave up too much in that Denny Neagle trade a few years back? Say hello to Ed Yarnall, Jackson Melian, Drew Henson, and Brian Reith. Yeah – exactly.

PR: This is the one thing that bugged me all offseason. Andy packs up the cult and goes to Houston and suddenly the hip thing to rave about is how the Yanks have no lefty starter. Go look at the Boston starting rotation. I’ll wait. Okay, now go look at the Cubs projected starting rotation. We got time. Back now? NO LEFTY STARTERS!!!!! But it’s okay for them to not have a lefty starter. Stupid freaking reporters.

ED: The BoSox-Yankee race for Randy Johnson begins as soon as the D-Back’s Paleozoic OF falls into the tar pit.

ED: The big story to me is the way the Yanks have DRASTICALLY improved their bullpen. When you realize that the Yanks broke camp in the ’03 with Juan Acevedo closing and Chris Hammond and Antonio Osuna as the main set-up men, you realize that Brian Cashman did a good job. I will miss Randy Choate anchoring the Clippers pen, though.

PR: Getting Paul Quantrill might be the underrated move of the offseason. I am thinking Boston and Toronto are going to be bitter about him being back in the division.

ED: As much as I like Quantrill, the success of Yankee sinkerballers with Captain Slowfoot behind them is a mixed bag. I’m thinking the key to Quantrill’s success will be in how much range A-Rod has at third and the Cario/Wilson duo have at second.

PR: Yes, we now know the great irony in Ed writing Quantrill’s success and A-Rod’s range in the same sentence after their little run in in Japan. Poor little Canadian…

PR: AND they resigned Gabe White, who will probably have to sit Joe Torre down in front of a computer, run through the entire list of folks registered because of Megan’s Law just to earn Joe’s trust to use in games.

ED: The Gabe White registered offender jokes NEVER get old.

PR: Now Yankee fans just need to pray for the tarp to run over Felix Heredia. (There is absolutely no reason Heredia should have a job anywhere other than on the Pirates or Reds).

ED: You DO realize the Yanks got him off of waivers from Cincy, right?

BB: For a guy who had a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings as a Yankee, that’s some pretty vile hatred. I have a feeling it’s your latent bitterness for not throwing 85 and being the poor man’s Mark Hendrickson.

PR: You know, as a Sox fan, I thought you would have remembered that it was Heredia who single-handled gave the Sox life in the ALCS. Game 6. Yanks up 6-4. Top of the 7th. Contreras decides that he stinks so Heredia comes in. Bye-bye Hold. Three runs later, the Yanks are trailing 7-6. He also wasn’t afraid to blow a save in one Sept. game and take the loss in another – in both cases the games were against the Devil Rays. THE FREAKIN DEVIL RAYS!

BB: Like I remember anything about the ALCS before the end of game 7 – I was even at game 5 and that’s a blur to me.

BB: I think Tom Gordon’s the key to the bullpen; if he stays healthy, him and Rivera are a lights-out 1-2. Even four months of Gordon would be good news. Regardless, I will hear my father longing for Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton in July. Ah, proven veteran setup men.

PR: I am assuming your dad will also spend another season lamenting Graeme Lloyd not being around. Does he also harass you about Bob Wickman, John Wetteland, Jim Mecir, Brian Boehringer and Dave Polley? Oof…. how they heck did they ever win the 96 World Series?

ED: Because of Kenny Rogers?

ED: And Steve Karsay counts his money while Dr. Andrews tries one more treatment of Crazy Glue on that shoulder.

PR: I figure Karsay will finally be healthy right when Gordon separates ligament from bone again.

ED: Aww, that’s like my decision to juggle J.D. Drew and Cliff Floyd’s DL stints in my fantasy league.

ED: Of course this is a playoff team. The question is whether they’ll win the East of the Wild Card. *shrug* Six one, half-dozen the other, really. It’s pretty safe to say that you could probably go ahead and print the Red Sox-Yankees ALCS tickets now.

PR: You just want people like my sister dropping hundreds of dollars on things they will never get to use. Of course, that is a sounder economic plan than anything else going on in this country.

ED: I try my best to help.

BB: ECONOMICALLY ILLITERATE BITCHES!!!!


RedSox
BOSTON RED SOX
2003 Record – 94-65 (Lost in ALCS)

Key Additions: Curt Schilling, Keith Foulke, Pokey Reese, Tony Womack, Ellis Burks, Mark Bellhorn, Alex Rodri…err… Magglio Ord….umm…

Key Losses: Todd Walker, Jeff Suppan, Damian Jackson, Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Todd Jones, Lou Merloni, Bobby Howry, Bruce Chen, Kevin Tolar, Nomar Garci… that’s not right… Manny Ramirez… oh, he’s still on the team? Whoops.

PR: Curt Schilling meets the internet. If only that could have been the single story for the Red Sox this offseason. Honestly, is there no one on the Red Sox payroll who is willing to tell Curt that maybe he should save his $12.95 a month to Juno and not travel to the world that is the Sons of Sam Horn? Does anyone want one of their star players interacting with 13 year olds who post like they don’t have pinkies and are chatting pantless?

ED: “HEyyy, CUrt. Win yoo beet the crap out off thet Questeck machine dd you fell totaly wiked awesom?”

BB: Yeah, that sounds about right.

BB: I was on campus (I attend Northeastern University sometimes) in November, when the whole Schilling/SoSH thing came up, and these guys behind me in a class were falling over them talking about how great SoSH was since they’d discovered it the week before. I turned around and asked them, “Who’s Sam Horn?” They laughed, and I said “No – really – who IS Sam Horn?”. They thought for a second and had to admit that they did not know. That and watching game 7 of the ALCS with a girl who had to have the concept of extra innings explained to her are just two of the very, very numerous examples that make it hard to be a Red Sox fan. Bronson Arroyo helps, though.

ED: I cannot comment on Sam Horn since I think he’s still looking for me after a heckling incident in Columbus ca. ’94. Sorry, Sam. Don’t kill me, please.

PR: Boston got Schilling. Didn’t get A-Rod. Got Keith Foulke. Didn’t move Nomar or Manny. Didn’t get Magglio Ordonez. I don’t think the addition of Pokey Reese is going to be the swing vote that makes their offseason great as opposed to okay.

BB: Bb…bu….but Bill James says he’ll make up the difference with the glove! I love the Curmudgeonly Beard as much as the next guy, and Pokey Reese looks fantastic with the glove. But he isn’t making 40 runs of worth of difference. I wonder if Voros McCracken has his job on the line over this one. Or maybe this is his penance to Derek Lowe. Who knows.

ED: I’d like to know who Bellhorn has cheesed off already to get that far in the doghouse.

ED: Pokey Reese can field, no question. But so what? Are they really going to try to give him 400+ AB’s? I remember when Rey Sanchez, Red Sox second baseman, was supposed to be the greatest fielding anything ever. He hit better than Pokey too. And that got the Red Sox what exactly?

PR: Almost 200 At-Bats from Lou Merloni? Tony Clark – the first baseman with the .265 OBP? A Freddy Sanchez sighting?

ED: Meh, I thought Pokey was supposed to be the defensive replacement for Mark Bellhorn – don’t start me on the wisdom of having a middle infielder you need a defensive replacement for – and yet Pokey’s getting the bulk of playing time at second this spring. I’m certain Gammons will try to tell me that Pokey will save the Red Sox half a gazillion runs this season. I’m certain The Magnificent Beard will tell me something along that line too. I’m certain the Primer folk will come up with new math puzzles aimed at showing Pokey’s defensive worth. I will laugh as they all bad mouth Pokey’s inability to hit better than an 8 year old girl when they chase him out of town. Listen: If Pokey’s an answer to anything, I don’t want to know the question.

BB: “Who can keep Gookie Dawkins out of a job?” Bitter, bitter Midwesterner.

ED: You realize I’ve seen a succession of Bret Boone, Pokey and Todd Walker. I’ve EARNED the right to be bitter about overrated second basemen. My eyes still hurt.

PR: Actually, dumping Todd Walker, HIRED GUN~! Jeff Suppan and Todd Jones might tip the balance back to great offseason.

ED: FINALLY! The DIVE, TODD! DIVE! jokes have come back to the Midwest. Whoopee! I’m certain Dusty will appreciate his MAGIC #2-ness. Or something.

BB: I think the real concern, now, is who will compete with Johnny Damon for shampoo in the Red Sox clubhouse? The whole 25 guys, 25 Sensen bottles situation just may rear its ugly head again.

ED: 25 guys, 25 bottles? So you’re saying the rest of the team doesn’t wash their hair because Damon uses all the shampoo?

ED: I am not one to believe the hype that Schilling is the greatest pitcher ever. Oh, I know Curt will tell me all about how great he is. I don’t doubt his inflated self esteem one bit. I thought a move for Randy Johnson would have been better but who am I to question The Magnificent Beard and his Little Boy?

BB: In the worst possible Red Sox season, Schilling goes 4-6 and spends two-thirds of the season on the DL with a torn groin muscle. I’ve had that nightmare already. Every freaking night. It doesn’t get any less scary each time.

ED: Despite all the hoopla over Schilling and the Red Sox fans poking holes at the Yankees offseason moves (namely the starting rotation and the Jeter-A-Rod funniness), the Red Sox have some very serious questions that I didn’t see them address in the offseason. When you have a slew of position players emerge from average/slightly-above average to career years (take a bow Mssr’s Millar, Ortiz, Mueller, Nixon and Varitek) do you gamble on them to repeat? I think the Bill James of 1988 would have pooh-poohed the Red Sox’s decisions to stay put with the offensive core surrounding Manny and Nomah. Yet the Magnificent Beard of ’04 and his Little Boy have done little to bring in viable low-cost back-ups to help out in case of inevitable drop-off. Are they still geniuses?

BB: Millar actually performed below expectations last year, due to a bunch of nagging second-half injuries. He’s going to hit about the same as he did last year (with another year of age replacing those injuries), and probably become so annoying that I will want to car bomb Fenway sometime around August.

ED: I knew that, too. I caught the Millar error after I sent this out. I suck. Hey! Look! I can name a 1B/OF/DH who had a monster year last year who’s now in Japan without Theo causing an international incident. Poor-poor Seguignol! If only he had a dopey video from his youth and a handful of idiotic phrases.

PR: Ed, you would love MVP Baseball 2004. Fernando is still on the Yankee roster. I eagerly await the Seguignol Japan HR record watch.

ED: Ooooooo, I am drooling.

BB Everyone else is going to go down, though. Prospectus is projecting them to score 934 runs, 27 less than last year. That’s beautiful, but not going to happen. Something like 850 seems more right to me, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

ED: Of course, the Sox can afford an offensive drop-off as the pitching has improved. Eight-fifty sounds reasonable to me too. As much as I crapped all over the Sox in this, there’s still a potent offensive core here. Manny, Nomar, Varitek, Damon – all well above-average for their postions and too good to let the Sox fall too far. Since I’ve been on the Ortiz and Mueller bandwagons for ages, it was nice to see them finally have healthy seasons – should that be expected again given their track record, though? I wouldn’t bet on it. The Bill James of 1988 wouldn’t have bet on it. That’s why it’s so odd to see the Sox do little to get back-ups in place.

ED: As far as the rotation goes, I’ve seen and heard the argument that the Sox will win with pitching. Hmm. For as much attention that the Pedro-Schilling combo has gotten, for as great as they are and have been career-long, they are NOT a sure-shot one-two punch season-long for age and injury reasons. Now, in the context of a playoff series, yes – Pedro and Schilling are death. But over the 162 there should be many-many-many more questions raised about the two than has been so far. I AM very heartened and impressed, however, that Terry Francona has talked about sandwiching Wakefield between the two to get a real workhorse in the mix, allowing the Sox to go with a quick hook on the two without taxing the pen on back-to-back days while attempting to keep Pedro and Schilling fresher and healthier over the long-haul. Of course, having to plan on babying your supposed aces probably diminishes the “ace-hood” of the two to any right-minded individual/organization but hey – who am I to question genius? If I were to question genius, I’d bring up Lowe’s ever-declining K-rate or…as much as I love the knuckleball and Wakefield in general, I put as much trust and faith in a flutterballer as I do the tobacco lobby. All that’s without going into who exactly will take the 5th spot in the rotation. But then, I don’t have a really cool beard or the face of a 12 year old, so what do I know about anything?

PR: There is part of me that really wants to see Wakefield put up a Silver King/John Clarkson level IPs. It will be a true test to see if a knuckleballer can pitch forever. I also see a trade for Steve Sparks in the works.

BB: I don’t get the impression that the Red Sox plan on signing Pedro after this season; I’m not sure why, but I just don’t. Whittling his arm down to pulp, then, wouldn’t be as big of a deal.

ED: I can see that. I honestly see Pedro falling off a cliff soon enough. I would assume The Magnificent Beard would have the same concerns. But whittling Pedro’s arm down for next year is one thing – trying to keep him healthy for the entire season should be the biggest concern.

BB: For me, though, the 5th spot in the rotation is the least of the Red Sox concerns. Byung-Hyun Kim is right there, and for all the complaining everyone on the planet has done about him, he’s still got a 3.24 career ERA in the BOB and Fenway Park, two very good hitter’s parks. If he remains hurt, or gets traded, or punches someone out at Jillian’s, the Sox still have Bronson Arroyo. All Arroyo did last year (I’m gonna go off on a rant here, sorry) is be the best pitcher in the International League (with a 155/23 K/BB ratio in 149 2/3 IP), and pitch just as well with the big club in the regular season and playoffs (making Derek Jeter look foolish on more than one occasion, even without hitting a groundball up the middle). This is all due to him adding a slider that is – yes – filthy. I’m young and naïve, but I think Bronson Arroyo will have a better year than Derek Lowe this year.

ED: Fernando Seg…Aww, the joke is done all ready.

ED: The Sox pen really looks MUCH-MUCH-MUCH better than it did last year when they DIDN’T have anything at all called a closer-by-committee experiment. Of course I love me some Keith Foulke as much as anyone and his presence allows the Williamson-Timlin-Embree set-up corps to not get exposed as much as it was most of last year. Does anyone know where the hell Cy Sauerbeck went?

BB: Peter Gammons, September 29, 2003: “While the Red Sox are clearly afraid of Scott Williamson in the postseason, Jason Varitek says “Scott Saurbeck will be our biggest surprise.”” That’s neither here nor there, though.

BB: I like Williamson and Timlin as much as anyone, but I have no faith in Embree. For $3 million, though, I suppose the Red Sox don’t have a choice. Odds of a lefty being acquired towards the trading deadline are roughly equivalent to Todd Jones scoffing at Bobby Estalella wanting to watch “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. I know that joke is about four months too late but it’s all I’ve got – give me a break.

ED: Embree – ehh, he’s capable enough of LOOGY’ing against the Chavez’s and Giambi’s. I wouldn’t trust him beyond that. Then again, I wouldn’t have given him $3 million, but that’s just me.

PR: Hey, is Ramiro Mendoza still with the Red Sox. Boy, it’s such a shame the Yanks let him go. (Is that dripping with enough sarcasm? Yeah, I suck.)

PR: Grady Little became the most hated man in Boston sports for the moment (though Danny Ainge is trying his darndest). So Boston dumps him which is fine… but if you are going to replace someone who won 188 games over two seasons (a .580 winning percentage), one would think that the new manager has to not have the words “Terry Francona” in his name. I know he has embraced the sabermetrics and all but is Theo Epstein that blinded that he forgot about Terry’s 285-363 record? Are the Red Sox minor league coaches that unworthy of a chance?

BB: I was really hoping that the original reports of NESN Color Commentator and former no-hit Red Sox 2B Jerry Remy getting the job were true, if only because a Red Sox World Series victory would’ve been responded to with the Yankees handing over the reins to Michael Kay or something.

ED: Me thinks Mr. Francona will have as much decision power over that team as I do. Mmm, puppety. Not that it matters, even I could manage this team into the playoffs. You think Francona will mention coaching Michael Jordan?

BB: All I’m going to need to see to know whether the Francona thing is working out is the Opening Day lineup. If Damon is leading off and Reese is hitting 2nd, I’m going to start the Cousins of Larry Dierker website immediately.

ED: I wonder if The Magificent Beard would trot out the #2-ness line about Pokey too?

BB: The news that Trot Nixon is out till May just came across the wire. This basically means, to me at least, that Adam Hyzdu or David McCarty will grab the 25th roster slot, moving into the Gabe Kapler role as Kapler moves into RF (sure – Terry Francona might say that Kevin Millar is playing RF – but once he actually gets out there, Kapler’s going to look pretty appetizing). Kapler’s hopes of ever having a consistent starting job in the majors depends upon him hitting .290/.360/.500 in April and May.

PR: I just want Francona to get all confused and actually put McCarty out on the mound in a late-July tie game. What? Huh? He actually isn’t a member of the bullpen?

ED: Kapler should probably be platooning with Nixon anyway, so that’s not a terrible thing for the Sox. If Trot’s out longer than May, I expect the NY media to start up Roger Cedeno to the Sox rumors to make all Red Sox fans hate life.


Jays
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2003 Record – 84-75

Key Additions: Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista, Kerry Ligtenberg, Chris Gomez, Terry Adams, Justin Speier, Pat Hentgen, Chi-Hung Cheng, Valerio De Los Santos, Chad Hermansen

Key Losses: Bobby Kielty, Mike Bordick, Kelvin Escobar, Juan Acevedo, Jeff Tam, Cory Lidle, Cliff Politte, Tom Wilson

PR: Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver. Oh yeah, I’m not getting over that one any time soon.

ED: And you just know Chris Hammond will put up some ridiculous 0.75 ERA again this year, too. Don’t mess with BEANE!

PR: I don’t buy into the Miguel Batista love that has been going on for the last few years. Still, any self-respecting Blue Jays fan is hoping that he at least doesn’t get hurt because then Pat Hentgen is back in the rotation. This isn’t 1993 kids.

BB: Pat Hentgen IS in the rotation already, though. Poor lil Blue Jays. When Hentgen and Josh Towers are your number #4 and #5 guys, that’s ballgame.

ED: Ehh. Batista is probably a touch better than Kelvim Escobar – and the Jays got Batista cheaper than what Escobar got from the Angels to boot. I have no problem with that move. He’s an OK little #3 guy in the rotation. Of course, it’s the absence of true #2 and #5 guys that holds the Jays back. As far the #1 guy goes, some saber geeks raised a few eyes at the workload Halladay pulled down last year. I can imagine Bob Feller sitting back in his rocking chair mumbling about throwing 266 innings – IN SPRING TRAINING!!! AGAINST TED WILLIAMS AND JOE DIMAGGIO!!! EVERYDAY!!! WHILE IN THE NAVY!!! FIGHTING NAZIS!!! TO KEEP AMERICA SAFE FOR MOLLY-CODDLED WIMPS LIKE HALLADAY!!! YOU KIDS GET THE HELL OFFA HIS LAWN! God, I’ll miss making crotchety ol’ Bob Feller jokes. Keep hanging on, Bob!

BB: Is Joe Nuxhall dead yet?

ED: Don’t get my hopes up.

PR: I still see the Blue Jays making the playoffs. I might be drunk while writing this. Or stupid. That’s always a possibility.

ED: I could see them winning any other division in baseball except maybe the NL Central. This is the year that J.P. really needs to smooth pimp some of that over-abundant OF talent away for another starter, a SS or a real catcher.

PR: Ed – you know they do have Josh Phelps right there. Lousy DH rule.

ED: I’ve seen some pretty crummy catcher defense in my day. If Phelps is THAT bad where J.P. won’t let him put the gear on, he must be beyond Mackey Sasser. Oh man, I soooo need to see Phelps catch.

ED: I see the Jays putting a scare in the Yanks and BoSox all season but they’re just a touch too short in the pitching department for my tastes.

BB: I hear the Twins are looking for an outfielder. I agree with Ed, maybe out of pure fear – I’m too worried about that rotation and bullpen to believe in the Jays. If Alexis Rios comes on, though, who knows?

ED: I realize we’ve given short-shrift to the Jays analysis – purely based on the fact that they’re the second tier team behind a couple of giants, but also because they’re really not, you know, too exciting, to be honest. I really cannot say enough about how much I like the job J.P. has done in rebuilding the Jays from the ash…err…from the Syd Thrift-like wreckage of the Gord Ash era. This really is a real nice team offensively with Delgado, Hinske and Vernon Wells as the core. And Frankie the Cat, Reed Johnson and Josh Phelps/Jason Werth are some nifty little support staff. Intriguingly, there are like half-a-billion OF prospects in New Haven and Syracuse that should really make the Jays a force come the ’05. The concern, offensively, is the black hole up the middle – Orlando Hudson, Chris Woodward/Chris Gomez and Greg Myers/Kevin Cash – may make for a bit too much for Carlos Delgado to carry all season.

PR: I am impressed with what J.P. is able to do in light of the fact that there are some players who flat out refuse to play in Canada thanks to the fact that Canadian takes like 98% of your income out of your paycheck if you are a non-Canadian. Or something like that. I mean Eric Chavez, in his extension, has a no trade clause to some of the world’s goofiest teams…. including the Expos and Blue Jays. I can see the Expos but the only reason not to play is because they whore your paycheck and because they started making sure they closed the blinds on the hotel rooms overlooking the Skydome.

ED: C’mon, the non-stop CURLING~! on the CBC more than makes up for losing a few dollars. Be a man, Chavez!

ED: Finally giving up on the fragile and eternal pitching prospect, Chris Carpenter, took guts as the fear of him finally putting things together would hold most organizations hostage to yet another rehab attempt. But J.P.’s gone about going forward with trying to patch a decent enough staff together on the cheap. You can’t help but like Halladay.

PR: I refuse to comment on the fact that I waived Halladay last year in the first week of May when he was 2-2 with a 5.13 ERA. I hate baseball.

ED: Hey, IIIIII traded Halladay for Foulke around the All Star break when I figured ol’ Doc was going to be spent from all those innings. God I despise Saves.

ED: I don’t mind the Batista signing. And I really-really-really loved the Ted Lilly trade – and that’s even given my strange Bobby Kielty love. Then it sorta gets hazy. Hentgen’s a big gamble, Towers doesn’t appear ready and…well, there’s not a whole lot else, unless you believe Bruce Chen experiment # 700 will work. There are some decent arms down in the farm and I think Towers will be good eventually. But for ’04, I just don’t see enough pitching to hold up – and that’s without going into a shaky-at-best pen lead by Aquilino Lopez, Kerry Ligtenberg and Justin Speier. I still could really see the Jays taking the AL Central, though.

PR: I like the Ligtenberg signing. He put up perfectly acceptable numbers in Baltimore despite not having much help. Leaving the Orioles to go to the Blue Jays can only be a positive. Now his arm not going South again… that is a different story.

PR: Okay, I am officially going to say this out loud. I really think the Blue Jays are going to grab the Wild Card by one or two games. They will play Boston and NY close all year long. And either the Red Sox or Yankees are going to underperform, lose like 25 games against the AL West, and BAM! suddenly are no longer the lock for one of the two slots. And since I really don’t buy the Angels hype, the Blue Jays are in. Using this scenario, I think the Red Sox would be the ones who didn’t make it. But that breeds cockiness and my God loves taunting me (Oofff…. I just saw Matt Bryant kicking the ball out of bounds. OH GOD! Charles Smith can’t dunk a basketball). 162 games is a really really long time.

BB: So true. So much stupidity left to go.

ED: Word life. Or something. I can see Joe Carter and Dave Stewart coming out of retirement to lead the Jays to the Promise Land. Stupid nightmares.


Orioles
BALTIMORE ORIOLES
2003 Record – 61-98

Key Additions: Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sidney Ponson, Mike DeJean, Mark McLemore

Key Losses: Tony Batista, Kerry Ligtenberg, Deivi Cruz, Pat Hentgen, Damian Moss, Jason Johnson, Scott Erickson, Travis Driskill, Hector Carrasco, Brook Fordyce

PR: Welcome to this year’s version of the Orioles comical attempts at an offseason. This year should have been titled “LET’S OUT BID OURSELVES!” No one was going to beat them for Tejada or Lopez’s services yet they go and drop a huge chunk of cash on both of them. At least Tejada might end up being worthy of the cash. Javy Lopez is going to hear a lot of references to the 1996 Brady Anderson and the mother of all contract years. This also begs the question as to when Jim Palmer will accuse Lopez of being on the ‘roids.

BB: Palmer is probably just bitter that Brady didn’t need any dosh from The Money Store. The big story for me about the Orioles, this season, is whether Miguel Tejada is actually going to kill Derek Lowe. Remember – game 5 – ALDS – Derek Lowe suddenly realizes he has the best out pitch in the history of Major League Baseball, a 94 MPH fastball that breaks a foot inside on lefthanders, befuddling Adam Melhuse and Terrence Long in the process (who was probably angry that no one gave him a high-five going up to bat anyway) – and maybe he points to his crotch after the strikeout. As our boy Miguel said:

“Derek Lowe is going to be paid back for that sign,” Tejada screamed hysterically through the clubhouse, shouting expletives. “My kid is in the stands. He’s going to pay.” Oakland general manager Billy Beane escorted the crying Tejada away.

ED: The A’s had Eck and that dopey fist-pump/mullet-shake for all those years. Anyone who’s EVER played for the A’s can complain about being showed up…ohh…somehere around 2025.

ED: I hate myself a good part of the time. I had all this time to prepare my Oriole jokes and here I am drawing blanks. The sad thing is that the O’s are ran much in the same way I run my fantasy league teams. Obviously, that is not a compliment. I see Javy Lopez spending as much time on the DL as David Segui and Tejada suddenly turning 50 in a couple of years.

PR: Let’s just hope the O’s don’t misplace Lopez again like they did at the beginning of spring training. Nothing beat the Washington Post headlines this cold winter that read “Orioles are looking for Lopez.”

BB: Maybe they could send him an exploratory e-mail.

ED: I think that will get sent to Matsui’s email address again. My guess is that he has them spam blocked by now, though.

PR: Safe bet would have been that when Baltimore was trying to make an offer to Kaz Matsui, they sent it to Hideki.

PR: I am happy that they gave the managerial job to Lee Mazzilli. Mike Hargrove got a raw deal, but that is to be expected from an Angelos-run franchise. Still, Mazzilli should be real good for that clubhouse. Willie Randolph would have been my hire, but this allows him to be Joe Torre’s handpicked successor. Still, the new two-headed Os GM monster should be commended for not hiring Terry Francona, Bob Boone, Davey Johnson for the 100th time, Bud Harrelson, Jeff Torborg, Dallas Green, Phil Regan again, Stump Merrill, Tom Trebelhorn, Jim Fregosi, John McNamara, Greg Riddoch, Bobby Valentine, Jim Lefebvre, Doug Rader, Buck Rodgers, Jerry Hairston Sr., John Boles, Ray Miller again, Nick Leyva, Davey Lopes, Gene Lamont, Buddy Bell, Larry Rothschild, Jerry Manuel, Phil Garner, Tony Muser, or any number of other bad choices.

ED: I was shocked that they didn’t try to pull Earl Weaver out of retirement again.

BB: Everyone should just be thankful Cal Ripken didn’t get the job.

ED: Sr. or Jr.?

PR: See, even I was wasn’t willing to make the Sr. joke… though it did cross my mind. Just like, I was afraid to put Johnny Oates in the list because I really didn’t want the bad karma when he kicks it by mid-May.

ED: Meh. Bad karma is a way of life.

PR: Sir Sidney is back with the Orioles with his brief stint with the Giants. Shouldn’t Aruba have better things to do with their time than knighting righthanders who weigh close to 300 lbs? Still, Ponson was great after the ceremony. But that was last year.

BB: Well, you can only make so many commemorative stamps before the gimmick runs its course.

ED: I’ve seen some state that the O’s will be surprise contenders. Yes. That would be a surprise, alright. With that pitching staff the O’s contending would be a surprise along the lines of Donovan McNabb-Rush Limbaugh jungle love, or a best-selling Stephen Hawking Pilates video, or George W. Bush giving elocution lessons when he leaves the White House or…blah-blah-blah. You get the idea. Really, how hard is it for the O’s to understand that they need pitchers?

PR: I think Baltimore’s best pickup was probably Mike DeJean. Last season wasn’t great but he had some perfectly fine seasons pitching for a truly hideous Brewers team and he even managed to not have the horrific season in Coors.

ED: And you just know Mazz will have DeJean in the closer’s role after Julio blows his 5th save in April. I just hope Jack Cust can get that pinch-runner off the bench gig.

PR: Oh man, that’s what I had wanted to talk about. This is how brilliant the brain trust at Baltimore is. They realize that they have a huge hole with starting pitching. So they decided they need to move one of their white left handed Outfielders. So they are shopping the one GOOD white left handed outfielder – Jay Gibbons. I mean getting the Dodgers to send them Odalis Perez for Gibbons would be interesting and all but the fact that they are trying to shoehorn Surhoff into a slot on the roster is a joke. Cust, who has been a prospect seemingly since they started lacing baseballs, is out of minor league options so he really needs to go or get off the pot. Still, he shouldn’t have to beat out Surhoff. The only thing more absurd was the story that David Segui was giving Pedro Martinez pitching tips.

ED: You heard that B.J. is MANLY-MEATY~!, right?

BB: A joke? No. It’s THE ORIOLE WAY. The fungible pitching two-headed beast that runs the Orioles are making positive moves, though, on the minor-league level. There’s a bunch of good pitching prospects, and that’s not even considering John Stephens, who I believe, in my heart of hearts, could out-pitch Sidney Ponson this year. I will never give up the dream.

ED: You get a ton of high draft picks, you better start turning your minor league system around. I’m looking at you Chuck LaMarr.

PR: One area of improvement the Orioles need to focus on is beating the other “also-rans” of the AL East. They lost 11 games each to the Blue Jays and Orioles. They can hang with the Red Sox just fine but its hard to make up ground within the division when you can’t beat the D-Rays more than 8 times.

BB: I think the Orioles need to focus on the baseball. That’s the best advice I can give the Orioles. Try harder.

ED: Try harder. Train harder. Practice better hygeine. Quit masturbating. Whatever. They’ve got that lock on fourth now. That’ll put butts in seats.

PR: That reminds me. Living in Northern Virginia, which according to Peter Angelos is Orioles country, allows me to hear all the radio and TV ads for season tickets. I swear to God this is the marketing campaign this year. “To meet the new Orioles, you have to buy tickets”. So you are thinking okay, that makes sense in a simple and non-creative way. They will have someone like Miguel Tejada or Javy Lopez shilling to the fans. They were the big free agents signings. Nope. It’s like Jose Morban and Matt Riley. JOSE MORBAN!!!! I couldn’t even make this up if I tried. They aren’t even willing to get Sidney Ponson or Rafael Palmeiro, two of the more popular Os ever, to do the commercials. And Raffy will shill anything.

ED: Well, I guess the O’s don’t help Raffy get an erection. Or something.
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
2003 Record – 61-98

Key Additions: Tino Martinez, Fred McGriff (maybe), Mark Hendrickson, Geoff Blum, Paul Abbott, John Halama, Rey Sanchez, Eduardo Perez, Jose Cruz Jr., Brook Fordyce, Danys Baez, Robert Fick, Mitch Meluskey, Al Reyes, Damian Moss, Todd Ritchie

Key Losses: Travis Lee, Adam Piatt, Ben Grieve, Marlon Anderson, Rey Ordonez, Jason Tyner, Terry Shumpert, Josh Hamilton…. again, all that Spring Training Veteran Presence.

PR: Arrgh. I really loathe the Devil Rays. We had written lots and lots of mean things about them and the bizarro offseason moves they had made and then Chuck LaMar goes all Vincent Russo and hits the big reset button like 5 days before clubs head North. Fred McGriff to AAA. Mike Williams, Fernando Tatis, Todd Jones, Deivi Cruz all released. So it ruined all the hard work we had done. Still, we like to amuse ourselves so we are keeping all the old irrelevant stuff we had written attached. It follows.

ED: Well…hmm. Lou did a nice job weeding out some of the crap. I expect to see Fernando Tatis playing for a different AAA team every time I go to a Clippers game over the next 5 years. God it hurts when Tony LaRussa is right. I am glad that Todd Jones was released so he could sign with the Reds and continue on the spirit of Marge Schott.

PR: This is especially irritating since Bill hadn’t gotten to write his joke about how ESPN’s virtual lineup did not include Aubrey Huff.

BB: The worst part is how I’m almost positive they did it on purpose.

ED: I was kind of worried that Aubrey Huff would get screwed out of AB’s with the VETERANNESS of McGriff and Tino right there to confuse Lou. One could argue that Lou choose the wrong VETERAN first baseman to cut, though, but that’s really neither here nor there.

PR: I do wonder if the releasing of Mike Williams is part of the elaborate scam that the Pirates have with the rest of major league baseball. If Williams ends up resigning with Pirates, this will mark the second time that, after trading him away at the trading deadline, Pittsburgh will have resigned Williams in the offseason.

ED: It’s Mike Williams. It’s the Pirates. Lemmings can’t help themselves from falling off the cliffs.

PR: And we didn’t even touch on Chuck LaMar getting the contract extension. Grrr….


DRays
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
2003 Record – 61-98

Key Additions: Tino Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark Hendrickson, Geoff Blum, Paul Abbott, John Halama, Rey Sanchez, Eduardo Perez, Jose Cruz Jr., Brook Fordyce, Danys Baez, Deivi Cruz, Robert Fick, Fernando Tatis, Mitch Meluskey, Al Reyes, Todd Jones, Mike Williams, Damian Moss, Todd Ritchie

Key Losses: Travis Lee, Adam Piatt, Ben Grieve, Marlon Anderson, Rey Ordonez, Jason Tyner, Terry Shumpert, Josh Hamilton…. again

PR: Oh man. It wasn’t until I had to type in all the D-Rays offseason transactions did I fully see what they were putting together as a team. This is the worst expansion draft in the history of mankind. Brook Fordyce AND Mitch Meluskey???? They decided that they could show the Orioles how to properly make the most horrific catcher platoon with Fordyce. Look at those couple of lines again. Those are some ugly adds… and that is counting the fact that they finally got rid of Ben Grieve and Rey Ordonez.

BB: Okay – let me try and justify some of these. Tino Martinez HAS PRESENCE!! Fred McGriff HAS PRESENCE!!! and SOLVES CRIME!!! Mark Hendrickson PLAYED BASKE….you get the idea. Robert Fick really seems like he should be one of the Pirates pickups, but he might have a little bit of value. Jose Cruz Jr. is only 30 and still has some good baseball ahead of him – god knows I would rather have him in CF than Jesus Damon. There are 2.5 PVCs there. Al Reyes isn’t too shabby, and he could probably outpitch Danys Baez if given the chance (not that he will – the paint’s too faded). Fernando Tatis…it’s worth a shot, right? God – I’m beginning to sound like Chuck Lamar or Dave Littlefield now. Next I will be talking about how the trick to getting fans at the ballpark is having zany promotions.

ED: I am MIFFED that Fordyce left Baltimore! Was he not MANLY MEATY~! enough? Was he really a worse option as back-up/guy who plays too much because Javy is crippled than Geronimo Frickin’ Gil? The sad thing is that at this point, Toby Hall’s “prospect”status is about done and…EEK! I can see Fordyce getting the nod because of his VETERANNESS. It’s not like Piniella’s never gone with a bad catcher before.

PR: Actually, this looks more like a fantasy league let someone join after the draft was held so the new owner had to make his team up of guys solely on the waiver wire. “Hmm… well, Robert Fick did have 11 HRs last year. I need saves – well either Baez or Williams will have to get a couple from the 55 games that the team wins this year.”

BB: That’s TOO perfect of a description, even down to signing Eduardo Perez to fill the Corner Infielder slot.

ED: Even I would be ashamed to draft this team – unless I was drunk or something. Then I would just be proud I didn’t have Rey Ordonez.

PR: I GOT IT! Chuck LaMar is secretly filming Major League 4, isn’t he? Winter meetings had to have gone something like this:

LaMar: “Okay, McGriff will be the token old, black first baseman hanging around.”

Don Zimmer: “Umm, we already got Tino Martinez cast.”

LaMar: “Well Tino is pretty, so we need him to attract the female movie goers. Okay, we will play Tino at first and McGriff will be the DH. Now, we need a bigot to play off of McGriff. Tension sells. I got IT! Todd Jones! He can offend McGriff and whoever we get to be the token gay player.”

Zimmer: “We need some washed up pitchers, preferably near my age.”

LaMar: “Is Paul Abbott available?”

Zimmer: “I was thinking a long the lines of Charlie Hough, but Abbott works”

ED: BINGO! And of course the requisite “grizzled catcher” role featuring Brook Fordyce. Damn you Chuck LaMarr for denying Benito!

BB: I was thinking maybe Zimmer wanted Jim Abbott. And was Jaime Navarro not available? What about Lima Time?

PR: I really love Tino Martinez and Fred McGriff but to acquire both of them? How exactly does this help the franchise? Are you telling me that Aubrey Huff is THAT bad in the field that he has to get bumped in favor of either one of them? They couldn’t have spent their money more wisely and upgraded either SS or 3B better than Ray Sanchez or Geoff Blum?

BB: Dude – Geoff Blum can play three positions. And you can never have too much VETERAN PRESENCE.

ED: The thing is that the D-Rays still don’t know how to draft. I have no problem with Tino or the Crime Dog here as long as they don’t block prospects – and fortunately, the D-Rays HAVE NO PROSPECTS. Now if Piniella tries to go all John McGraw and gives away AB’s from their only true talent, Aubrey Huff, to the SUPER VETERAN TWINS then that’s a crime. It would be a real help to the entire organization if McGriff and Tino could help sorta-future-of-the-D-Rays, Baldelli and Crawford, to NOT swing at everything that moves (You DO realize that Baldelli and Crawford took 56 walks all of last year – COMBINED!) and Jose Cruz, Jr. wouldn’t be the worst thing for them as well (strike outs aside).

BB: There IS B.J. Upton. Unfortunately, there isn’t any Josh Hamilton – whose “family problems”, as suspected, were drug-related. He’ll still only be 23 when his suspension is up, though, so if he can get cleaned up, there’s still a potential career there.

ED: The sad thing is, we’ve focused in on the offensive suck in Tampa Bay and yet….the pitching staff is so woefully bad it should be criminal. Doug Waechter appears to be the first real arm drafted and developed by the Devil Rays, while the patience with the Victor Zambrano project seems to finally be paying off as something not too terrible…and then? Mark Hendrickson? What, LaMar wants to out-rebound the Orlando Magic? Whoopee!

PR: That isn’t hard as long as Grant Hill gets sucking money off the salary cap.

BB: For some reason, Tampa has pinned their hopes on Chad Gaudin, who looked like he might become a good pitching prospect, but wasn’t exactly Jeremy Bonderman; regardless, Chuck LaMar decided that saving service time for when it’s needed is a load of bull and called him up for 40 meaningless innings at the end of last season. Gaudin has one strong comp amongst his Prospectus comp list: 1955 Camilo Pascual. Pascual (like Gaudin, in his second year) went 2-12 with a 6.14 ERA. Yep.

PR: You forgot Jeremi Gonzalez who put up shockingly decent numbers last year (sub 4 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .222 OAVG) after being out of the majors for FOUR YEARS! And you thought we were kidding about the similarities between a bad Disney sports movie. Then there is Damian Moss… who might not even crack the starting rotation as he is irritating Sweet Lou with his walks.

BB: Not to mention that he apparently developed a love for fried things in Atlanta. Baseball-Reference lists him at 187 pounds. That…that’s changed a bit. Maybe he’s lost weight in the offseason, but he was Baerga-sized when I saw him pitch at Fenway in September.

ED: Every year for the past 3-4 years I’ve picked the D-Rays to FINALLY finish above the O’s. But now that Angelos opened the pocketbook to ensure 4th place, the Devil Rays will own the AL East basement until Chuck LaMarr is fired. At this rate, the Tigers will win the AL Central 10 years before the D-Rays contend for a Wild Card. UUUUUU-GLY.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *