2004 AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST PREVIEW

AL WEST
(Listed in Order of 2003 Finish)

ED: Ed Agner

BB: Bill Barnwell

PR: Phil Rippa


As
OAKLAND ATHLETICS
2003 Record: 96-66 (Lost in ALDS)

Key Additions: Arthur Rhodes, Eric Karros, Mark Kotsay, Bobby Kielty, Mark Redmond, Chris Hammond, Damian Miller

Key Losses: Miguel Tejada, Keith Foulke, Jose Guillen, Ted Lilly, Terrence Long, Ramon Hernandez, John Halama, Steve Sparks, Mark Ellis thanks to Bobby Crosby

BB: Moneyball’s such a useless, out-of-date book now. Paul DePodesta’s gone, Jeremy Brown is thin (er – re-proportioned), Scott Hatteberg is overappreciated, and the A’s value fielding over walks. I’ll devote some more time to that later on.

PR: Well, Chad Bradford is still funky and effective and they got rid of that Hernandez fella. How dare he bunt!

ED: I finally saw DePodesta. He was EXACTLY as I pictured him. All he needed was a Primer t-shirt to be the ULTIMATE babe magnet.

PR: I am glad that was less disillusional for you then when I heard Bill Simmons speak for the first time. That made me sad.

ED: It’s hard to talk like a man when your back’s all screwed up from forcing yourself to laugh at all those really-really-really-really bad Jimmy Kimmel jokes.

BB: I’m not so sold on Bobby Crosby; in fact, I’m not very sold on the A’s ability to produce position players. They did produce Tejada, Chavez, and Giambi. The tier below that has Ramon Hernandez and Mark Ellis (and maybe Bobby Crosby). And that’s about it. A short list of the guys who have either not developed, performed below what would be expected based upon some of their minor league numbers, or have regressed since coming to the A’s at a young age:

Ben Grieve

Ryan Christenson

Jose Ortiz

Esteban German

Mario Encarnacion

Jeremy Giambi

Adam Piatt

Terrence Long

Mario Valdez

BB: I could definitely see Crosby becoming a solid player, but I could also see him becoming Jose Ortiz, too; Ortiz, at age 23 in Sacramento, hit .351/.405/.575. Crosby, at age 23 in Sacramento, hit .308/.398/.544. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA comparables are mostly pretty weak (Chris Gomez, Kevin Elster, Rafael Ramirez, Jeff Blauser, Benji Gil), with some weird positive ones thrown in (Kevin McReynolds!). The #2 most comparable player they list is Jay Bell circa 1990; I think the A’s would be pretty happy with that.

PR: Heck, they would take Jay Bell circa 1999 in a heartbeat. (.289/.374/.557). Man, Jay Bell was an underrated player. Now he is on the Mets and stinks. That’s a surprise to no one. Okay, back to the Athletics.

ED: I believe Jay is done now. But yeah, what you said.

PR: Well, Crosby is already making an impact (no pun intended). His collision with Mark Ellis has knocked Ellis out for the entire year (so many ugly injuries on one little body.) It is going to be interesting to see what the As cook up to fill the gap at second. Esteban German is right there but Oakland seems hesitant to give him the job. I am not sure if there is anyone else floating around out there…. wait, JAY BELL! Perfect!

BB: Poor Marco Scutaro.Third best hitter in the International League last year (.311/.406/.520!!) and no one’s said word one about even considering giving him the job.

ED: I actually appreciate Redman, but I recognize that Lilly will be better. I understand moving Lilly for Kielty. I don’t understand the Redman love when John Halama WAS right there. Of course, I am a sad Halama fan. Sue me. But hey, looking at some of the crud the A’s have carried at the back-end of that rotation the past few years and I realize it doesn’t much matter. Of course, the A’s have declined offensively since then, but…still.

PR: In the mlb.com article about the Devil Rays cleaning house, it was actually mentioned that Halama might not actually make the 25 man roster – which is a fiasco in and of itself. But when Rich Harden blows up, I think Halama would be the perfectly acceptable cheap roster filler.

ED: One day I will win the lottery and buy the Expos and move them to…wherever someone will take them. Oh yeah. I will sign Halama, bring back Seiguignol to add to Nick and Randy Choate. Gah, OK. BRING BACK Randy Choate now. I will still lose a billion games of course, but I will be happy.

BB: Halama’s career ERAs run 5.85, 4.22, 5.08, 4.73, 3.56, 4.22. He’s struck out 4.95/9 and has a 1.74 K/BB ratio. I mean – I am very much the kind of person who attaches themselves to lost causes (ask me about John Stephens sometime), but nothing about Halama screams “100 innings” to me.

ED: *sigh* Don’t confuse me with facts, Bill.

BB: Giving Mark Redman $13m or so for 3 years seems like a weird move to me, considering the A’s will have Hudson, Zito, Mulder, Harden, and Blanton ready by the end of this season. I would guess that either Redman is being kept as trade bait, or he’ll end up being Hudson’s replacement after Hudson goes to the Yankees in free agency. I shed a simple single tear for the chairs whose future lie in the offices of William Beane, the Handsomest GM in Baseball.

PR: You are forgetting though that the hip, cool thing to spout off is that Barry Zito stinks now. Just look at the numbers man. Stinky! Stinky! STINKY!

ED: Aww, now Zito’s numbers stink as much as his taste in music. HOOHAH! But man, that’s some purty hair.

ED: I can see Hudson being done in Oakland soon – if for no other reason than the workload he’s taken on. On the whole, the A’s are still the A’s. Someone’s gotta win the division and they’ll have plenty of pitching, catch enough balls and get just barely enough offense to hold off the rest of the flawed division. I REALLY don’t like their shot in the post-season though.

PR: Bill knows how to write for my enjoyment. I am a huge Tim Hudson fan so I love the idea of him putting on pinstripes. There will be plenty of room for him when Kevin Brown cripples himself again.

PR: Maybe Bill with his youth and firmer grasp on sabermetrics can explain the Arthur Rhodes signing though. I mean Primer confused the heck out of me last year. First Rhodes was terrible. And then he was the next Sparky Lyle when the Yanks traded him away and then he was just comic PVC material. Did Billy accidentally crack a chair over his own head? Oakland blows enough playoff games without needing to import Rhodes to do the dirty deed.

BB: Maybe he can get a good deal on chains in Oakland or something. I’m gonna write a nice little treatise on the A’s sometime in the near future, and I’ll cover the pen.

PR: Did we also just violate some MLB bylaws by not stating that the “A’s will never survive without a new stadium”? Is this what keeps me from joining the fraternity? Ummm… I can fix that. “Small Market bad. Puerto Rico Expos. Portland Expos. The Washington DC/Baltimore corridor can’t support two teams. A thousand points of light. Lockbox.”

ED: New stadium? Pheh! The A’s just need to take a cure from my beloved Raiders and threaten to move to LA or something. Then A’s can get whatever they want. It works for Al every 10 or so years. Of course, considering the state of the Raider organization now, it’s probably best that no one takes any cues from Al Davis. Stupid football!


Mariners
SEATTLE MARINERS
2003 Record – 93-69

Key Additions: Raul Ibanez, Eddie Guardado, Rich Aurilia, Scott Spiezio, Ron Villone, Terry Mulholland, Quinton McCracken, Kevin Jarvis, Ramon Santiago, Miguel Tej…. WHOOPS!

Key Losses: Rey Sanchez, Mike Cameron, Arthur Rhodes, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Mark McLemore, Armando Benitez, Jeff Cirillo, Greg Colbrunn, Carlos Guillen

BB: God, is this an unexciting team. Sure – Rafael Soriano will be fantastic, if he can stay healthy. Edgar Martinez seems convinced that he should keep playing until it’s a year too late. Raul Ibanez has all kinds of moxie or whatever. This team has all kinds of veteran presence and a whole lot of potential to go 81-81. I could definitely see the bottom falling out of the Mariners and them finishing in last.

PR: Yeah, this offseason wasn’t as spiffy as Seattle wanted it to be now was it. Everyday Eddie will be filling in for the crippled Kaz. But I missed the part where Shigetoshi Hasegawa failed miserably at the closer job. Oh that’s right, he didn’t. I mean what more did the team want him to do? But instead they paid more to bring in Guardado to be the closer.

ED: Courtesy of BabelFish – In Japanese Shigetoshi Hasegawa means “veteran reliever without the magic CLOSER~! aura.”

PR: Of course this is the same organization that gave Rich Aurilia over $6 million for this season. I am sure Rich is all sorts of giddy about his dwindling offensive numbers are going to look like at Safeco.

BB: The regard that people hold Rich Aurilia in astonishes me. Aurilia’s OPS+ for his career (skipping his 19 AB rookie season): 60, 113, 93, 106, 104, 148, 95, 91. What you have here is a slightly above-average hitter (even with the monster season, his career OPS+ is 105) and fielder who, through one year, became regarded as one of the top offensive shortstops in the National League. Aurilia has what would be considered a “strikingly close” comp amongst his PECOTA comparables: 2000 Vinny Castilla. Castilla hit .221/.254/.308 that year. Yep.

ED: Well, being one of the top offensive shortstops in the NL is…not…that…difficult. Being able to brag about being a better hitter than Rey Ordonez is like harping about being the brains in the Devil Ray organization.

PR: I mean, they still have the money they saved with Kaz Sasaki hightailing it back to Japan. I swear I have read 101 different scenarios on how the Mariners were going to use that cash. Still haven’t pulled the trigger on anything.

BB: I’m just gonna say I really, really think Mario Party 6 is going to be fantastic.

ED: Will ICHIRO~! be a Mario sidekick?

PR: I do have this weird affection for Seattle in that – outside of Larry Walker – they have the giant collection of really old white guys who I have always liked. John Olerud, Jamie Moyer. Heck, throw in Edgar too. It’s a nice reminder of baseball when I was a teenager but at some point, someone has to realize that the best strategy isn’t going to be propping John and his batting helmet up at first.

ED: When I was a teenager, Jose Canseco ruled the world. Jose would make a good addition to the M’s. I would feel so much younger if that happened. C’mon, the entire Northwest needs to throw me that bone if for no other reason than it being the area that gave us Courtney Love – and you can never apologize enough for Courtney Love, can you?

PR: One of these days, Clint Nageotte and Travis Blackley will be anchoring the M’s staff and things should get better. I am figuring that day will be sometime this season after Moyer breaks his hip. Or when the devil comes to collect on the soul he bought from Gil Meche (Though it is possible he collected right around the All Star Break last year). This is the chance that it will be the day after Freddy Garcia, and his enormous head, has his first “8 earned runs allowed over the first two innings” start.

BB: Maybe Ryan Anderson will recover this year. Probably not.

ED: Aww, poor li’l pitching prospect. It was better that he blew his arm out on his own before Piniella could have done that for him.

ED: As long as I never EVER-EVER-EVER have to see that inflated midget second baseman do his bat flip EVER again, I really don’t care about the M’s whatsoever. Inside sources tell me this is a third place team all the way.

PR: As long as I never have to hear Bret Boone call another postseason ballgame again. Al Leiter needs to get traded so he can take out Boone for stealing his gig. Of course, then McCarver would frown upon this and Leiter would be all torn.

BB: I enjoy very much that Scott Spiezio came to Seattle to publicize his band amongst the grunge scene. I think this is one of the underrated stories of the offseason; the idea of Spiezio leaving the Mariners in mid-roadtrip so he can get on the Fruit Bats tour or something might be the highlight of this Mariners season. I think if I was to project the career of Sandfrog, their upside would probably be like house band on the Best Damn Sports Show, providing the rimshots when Tom Arnold talks about being unable to please Jillian Barberie or whatever. God, I hate that show.

ED: See, IIIIIII picture Spiezio as the most devoted fan of Candlebox EVER. Oh sure, he gives the props to MASTERS of the genre like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. But truly, Spiezio went to the land of flannel to restart the Candlebox army. He knows those other bands, while mightily kicking much ass, aren’t Candlebox. No sir. Not even close. Candlebox are true artists, a true credit to Seattle like bitchin’ smack and coffee that will keep you awake for days. It is Scott Spiezio’s goal in life to have Sandfrog open for Candlebox on the tiny-tiny-tiny-tiny stage of Lollapalooza next year. It’s the last dream he needs to come true since he got that World Series ring in 2002 and stands no chance at all of getting one in Seattle. CANDLEBOX!!!


Angels
ANAHEIM ANGELS
2003 Record – 77-85

Key Additions: Kelvim Escobar, Bartolo Colon, Jose Guillen, Vladimir Guerrero, Shane Halter

Key Losses: Brad Fullmer, Scott Spiezio, Shawn Wooten, Benji Gill

BB: I miss the old Angels – you know, the Angels that would hang on the edge of the playoff hunt each year, sign some irrelevant injury-prone #3 starter like Ken Hill or Tim Belcher, and have a mediocre lineup with Tim Salmon in the middle.

PR: Wait – Aaron Sele doesn’t already qualify for that spot?

ED: I love that ’95 team only because I called that collapse in like, July of that year. I wonder if Terry Collins and Gary DiSarcina still sit around and complain about Jim Edmonds not being wound tight enough.

BB: There are so many weird little aspects to the Angels nowadays that you have to look at. The Angels pen is really a beautiful thing, with them producing all kinds of random nobodies who blow away the Sauerbecks and Wendells of the world. With Brendan Donnelly and Eric Gagne both following in the footsteps of Rick Vaughn, you would think more pitchers would get the spectacles out. Me, personally, I am waiting for Jesse Orosco to come back next year looking like Buddy Holly. The bespectacled, decaying corpse of Buddy Holly.

ED: I wish I had something to add to that. But all I would do is take away from the beauty of Buddy Orosco.

BB: There are, of course, the four big FA signings. All of them have their flaws: Vlad’s back is all kinds of creaky (and he’s 28), and I don’t think his walk rate is looking forward to talking to Mickey Hatcher. If there’s any organization that’s less likely to teach plate discipline than the Expos, it’s the Angels. And the Royals, I guess.

ED: I’ve actually pictured Hatcher having meeting for hitters where the scene is exactly like Glengarry Glen Ross. You know, Mickey up there berating them that “Walks are for SISSIES!” I see Eckstein in the Kevin Spacey Sales Manager role, pacing around behind Hatcher, nodding his head in agreement. Obviously, I see Troy Glaus in the Jack Lemon role all nervous about his inability to hack at everything.

PR: Jack Lemmon, God rest his soul, would have produced just as well as what the Angels had to play at third base while Glaus was out. Of course, with Wooten and Spiezio gone this year, I am expecting Anaheim management to sign Tony Danza or Danny Glover or Christopher Lloyd or Adrian Brody or Matthew McConaughey or Dermot Mulroney…

BB: I saw Bartolo Colon absolutely shut down the Red Sox at Fenway last year, pitching a 3-hit CG shutout; I also saw Bartolo eat three large pizzas at Pizzeria Uno’s after he was finished with the White Sox clubhouse spread, too. Everything about Colon, to me at least, screams right-handed Sid Fernandez. If my hunch is right, Colon has about two more years before things start breaking up.

ED: Well, Sid would have to throw his fastball 4 times to get a MPH total rivalling Colon’s. But I know what you mean. I like Colon. I’ve had the misfortune of seeing WAYYY too many Indian games over the years, so I know my Colon. He’s…good. But he should be better. When he’s on, you see him and think, My God, how has he not won a Cy Young by now? Then he’ll get shelled by like Tampa Bay and you realize that this is a funny world. I agree with the injury concerns though. I thought his arm would’ve been fragged long ago thanks to Mike Hargrove’s handling in his earlier years. Between the innings pitched already and the weight issues, this seems like a dicey signing to me. And do we have any confirmation on his age?

BB: Kelvim Escobar has a 4.58 ERA in 800 IP, most of them coming in the 102ish PF of the Skydome. He looks to be just about league-average; considering the Angels were about to add Colon, and already had the Ortiz/Washburn/Lackey/Shields/Sele group, Escobar is extraneous. I’d rather have seen them start converting K-Rod (aww…no one remembers the poor lil guy) to starting.

PR: Oh, I remember him alright. Stupid illegal postseason player. Not that I am bitter or anything.

BB: Don’t make me bring up the Yankees keeping Jeff Nelson in Tampa for most of the 1998 and 1999 regular seasons.

ED: I quit giving in to the frustration about Escobar long ago. I like him as a back of the rotation guy, though, where he has no expectations to live down. Of course, you don’t normally give that kind of money to a back of the rotation guy.

PR: The projected Angels rotation is Colon, Jarrod Washburn, Escobar, John Lackey and Ramon Ortiz. That is one big batch of question marks right there. Seriously, Ramon Ortiz would like to have whoever stole his fastball to return it no questions asked.

BB: I’m just happy that the Pedro comparisons stopped once Ortiz revealed he was +4.

ED: I thought the Pedro comparisons stopped once he started throwing more like late-period Ramon Martinez than any-period Pedro.

BB: Jose Guillen is really the beautiful signing for me, though – how do you sell Jose Guillen if you’re his agent? Do you start with “poor man’s Raul Mondesi” and go down from there? Or is that where you try and end up? Would you even want the poor man’s Raul Mondesi?

PR: I think you need to ask the question this way “Would you like Raul Mondesi?”

ED: Jose Guillen was like Part #500 of Jim Bowden’s Tool Fetish acquisitions of the late-90’s/early-00’s. Wily Mo Pena, Ruben Mateo, Guillen, Juan Encarnacion, I’d think they were all the same person if for not the fact that they all hogged a spot on the Reds roster at some point in the last 3-4 years. And Reds fans wonder why they haven’t won anything since the first time the US had troops in the Persian Gulf. I’ve got to admit that I am giddy about the Angels having a TOOLS GOD~! on the same team with the SCRAP GOD~!

BB: I can’t wait to watch Angels/Mariners on a Sunday Night in May and hear Joe Morgan talk about how the Angels signed him just to stop Ichiro from going from 1st to 3rd on a single.

ED: God. I can actually hear this in my head. That, and Rick Sutcliffe saying the same thing. All season.

PR: There needs to be a maximum number of Angles vs. Rangers games shown on ESPN Wednesday night baseball. And if Chris Berman is calling them, the number needs to be set at zero.

ED: Sleeping pills cure all that. Or booze. Whatever.

BB: I really, really wish Disney still owned the Angels so they could write a ‘Ball Four’ the series-type comedy into ABC’s Fall Schedule. This has tons of potential: David Eckstein gets angry at the clubhouse’s salsa music and unleashes his devastating scrappiness upon Vlad…ok – maybe this has one storyline. I would pay to see it, though.

ED: In the Midwest, the scrappy guy would ALWAYS win out and Vlad would be traded for a bag of balls.

PR: The fact that Topps got its scrappy white infielders confused and put Adam Kennedy on the David Eckstein card is the greatest story that no one is talking about. This so beats out the naughty Billy Ripken card.

ED: Oh like YOU can tell them apart.

BB: I remember when they would show the baseball card commercials during the playoffs last year – not for a specific brand, but for the entire industry. That’s when you know it’s time to sell big.

ED: What do you think Phil can get for his Kevin Maas collection?

PR: I have about 18744 Phil Plantier cards and someone owes me some loose change for them.

ED: Well, that will get ya a can of Coke, anyway. That’s more than the real Phil Plantier is worth.

BB: The other big four of the Angels are their four prospects: C Jeff Mathis, 1B Casey Kotchman, 3B Dallas McPherson, and P Bobby “Big Neuge” Jenks. I have my issues with these four guys too: Kotchman is a great hitter who can’t stay healthy (think Nick Johnson with a little more power and a lot fewer walks), Jenks is still 2 or 3 BB/9 away from being respectable, McPherson is buried (for now, at least) behind Troy Glaus, and, well, Jeff Mathis’ last name isn’t Molina. Therefore, he can’t field worth a damn.

BB: I can really see this team winning 75 games or winning 100.

ED: I am torn on if the Angels will be great or a great disaster. My rule of thumb in the pre-season is to always go with the best sports cliché in the situation. So, I’m taking the “New Owner spends too much on fragile players, team flops” route.


Rangers
TEXAS RANGERS
2003 Record – 71-91

Key Additions: Alfonso Soriano, Jason Tyner, Brad Fullmer, Brian Jordan, David Dellucci, Eric Young, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Nelson, Rod Barajas, Glendon Rusch

Key Losses: Alex Rodriguez, John Thomson, Ismael Valdes, Todd Greene, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Shane Spencer, Mike Lamb, The majority of Alex Rodriguez’s contract, Two year of Alfonso Soriano’s life

BB: So…now what?

ED: Ahh, yes. I sometimes forget that John Hart got another GM job.

BB: You’re winning 70 games this year – so you sign Jeff Nelson, Eric Young, Brian Jordan, Kenny Rogers, and Brad Fullmer? I mean – is Tim McCarver secretly running this organization or something?

PR: They also STILL have Chan Ho Park, who is so going back on my Hacking Mass squad this year.

ED: I STILL cannot believe the O’s didn’t sign Chan Ho just for putting that meatball on a plate for Ripken in his…THEIR final All Star game. And if Chan Ho wasn’t so fragile, he’d be the pitching equivalent of Rey Ordonez for Hacking Mass.

ED: I’m as much a Buck Showalter fan as anyone. I thought he did a tremendous job with the Yanks and D-Backs. Sure, his teams are as boring as church but he knows what he’s doing. Obviously, he has NO control over player pick-ups whatsoever. This reeks of John Hart. Reeks-reeks-reeks.

BB: I liked R.A. Dickey as a guy who could take a step forward this year until I read that Buck Showalter’s motto for the pitching staff this year was “Pitch to Contact”. Oh well – poor lil strikeout rate down the drain. Have fun pitching to contact with Alfonso Soriano and a converted second baseman behind you, buddy.

PR: I still get scared about the whole “COME SEE THE KID WITHOUT LIGAMENTS!” vibe that Dickey has going on. I mean look at what that got Charles Nagy later in his career.

ED: The Rangers could sell themselves as the circus freaks of baseball. Alfonso Soriano – The Human Fan! Brian Jordan – VETERAN CLUBHOUSE PRESENCE! Rusty Greer – The Fall-Apart Man!

ED: I have faith that Buck will convince Soriano to lose the infielders glove and start with shagging balls in Center. I laughed a lot when some suggested Soriano go back to SS. I saw him “play” SS in Columbus. I gained a new appreciation for Derek Jeter’s defense. Yeah.

PR: All of this is assuming that Hart suddenly isn’t able to swindle someone like… Kenny Williams…. into taking Soriano and umm… Brian Jordan for Magglio Ordonez and his expiring contract. God, I just sounded like every caller I hate to Mike and the Mad Dog. “Umm… I think the Yankees should trade for Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder for Homer Bush and a bucket of balls.”

BB: Both those trades sound like NBA trades.

ED: I still see Soriano to the Red Sox for BYK. OK, I wanna see that deal. So very badly.

PR: I wonder if Buck will bat Michael Young second. The fans will appreciate the wonderful breeze that comes from first Soriano and then Young hacking away at everything. I guess the offense will be how times Teixeira can drive in Blalock (or vice versa depending on the batting order).

ED: I am always excited to see the Rangers if only to check out if Kevin Mench’s head has picked up a satellite planet yet.

PR: I feel really bad for Laynce Nix. He probably got the most backhanded compliment of backhanded compliments from an NL scout according to ESPN.com. “Eventually, I think he’ll be a better player than Rusty Greer, and he’s that type of player.” Poor little Laynce, I wonder if he ever saw the multiple stints on the DL coming.

ED: Well, Greer DID get the big contract before he Albert Belle’d away the last couple of years. Too bad Jeff Zimmerman didn’t get the same pay day before his elbow exploded.

ED: They’ll be lucky to win 70. But if Buck can start a coup and throw Hart out of there, with the decent talent in the minors, the Rangers could be OK in ’06.
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