2004 NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST PREVIEW
(Listed in Order of 2003 Finish)
BB: Bill Barnwell
ED: Ed Agner
PR: Phil Rippa
Key Additions: J.D. Drew, Eli Marrero, Gary Matthews Jr., John Thomson, Eddie Perez, Antonio Alfonseca, Armando Almanza, Russell Branyan, Chris Reitsma
Key Losses: Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, Vinny Castilla, Javy Lopez, Shane Reynolds, Roberto Hernandez, Henry Blanco, Kent Mercker, Robert Fick, Matt Franco, Darren Bragg, Jason Marquis, Ray King, Jung Bong
BB: The Braves really like to keep their fans entertained; this year, they went out and signed the Weird Flaw All-Stars: Eli Marrero had cancer, Antonio Alfonseca has twelve fingers and toes (and how come FOX never showed a close-up of Alfonseca’s hand during the playoffs? Sure – he’s sick of it – but I’M not), J.D. Drew’s body is selectively disintegratable, and John Thomson…John Thomson is just stinky.
PR: That isn’t even including Jaret Wright who seemed to have salvaged his career last year. That 1997 World Series must seem like it was in a different lifetime for not so young, not so thin Jaret.
ED: Aww, Jaret Wright. Now there’s a guy no one can feel sorry for.
PR: Who knows what the Braves starting rotation is going to be like this year? I really feel old now that not one of this group – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz or Steve Avery – is going to be in the starting rotation. I guess Mike Hampton is back to being a passable starter now. Russ Ortiz REALLY needs to cut down on the walks. I believe an anagram of John Thomson is “It’s a trap!”. Reitsma should be a really good pick up though I think he would be better suited to start than come out of the bullpen. Horacio Ramirez is a guy I could get deceived into thinking is good thanks to the absurd run support number I am assuming he is going to get. And I think we can safely say the Paul Byrd dream is dead.
ED: I’ve read enough Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor to know that the American South has a refined appreciation of the macabre, ugly, foul, wretched, twisted and profane. So there ya go. I guess that explains why Otis Nixon, Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser were fan favorites. Willie McGee really missed the boat.
PR: I am sure the crazed naked Otis Nixon who is constantly in the news now has a big fan following.
ED: Oh yeah. That’s just SCREAMING for the Dave Chappelle treatment.
BB: The Braves are going to obviously take a major knock on offense. Even though signing Javy Lopez for the kind of money he’d want would’ve been a stupid move, the options left are Eddie Perez and Johnny Estrada. Eddie Perez’s best skill is being Greg Maddux’s personal catcher; this, sadly, is a problem when Greg Maddux plays for another team. Johnny Estrada, meanwhile, has a great shot at hitting “I was traded for Kevin Millwood” this year, no matter where he plays, while pitchers rave that he “was traded for Kevin freaking Millwood”. Estrada is going to hit .290/.330/.440 this year, get a big 3 year deal from the Braves, and suck for the next 3 years. Ah, peak years – you don’t matter when your team employs Julio Franco: Age Negotiable.
ED: Are you saying the Orioles made a stupid move in giving Javy the money he wanted? But-but…I-I …Aww. I’ll save it for the Orioles bashing. Realize, the Braves are used to getting nothing from their catcher – Javy was flat-out crap for the 2-3 years previous to his mother of all contract years.
BB: Is there any chance at all Adam LaRoche will keep the first base job for more than 30 games? Of course not. I wonder if people would blame Julio Franco’s exhaustion death after playing 120 games on steroids.
PR: The whole Andy Van Slyke hated Julio Franco because Julio was on the Jesus Juice IS the best story of spring training and it was missed by everyone. “Tell Andy Van Slyke he’s right – I’m on the best juice there is. I’m juiced up every day, and the name of my juice is Jesus. … Next time you talk to him, tell him the steroid I’m on is Jesus of Nazareth.” Come on! I so would want Rev. Franco preaching to me than say Rev. Karl Malone. Plus at age 46, Julio Franco is legitimately old enough to be Ed’s Dad.
ED: I think I’m recognizing an Ed is Old theme here. Of course, I am old. I am not, however, on the Jesus Juice. At least not that I know of.
ED: I don’t care what LaRoche does, unless he learns the LaLob from his old man.
PR: Sadly, only Ed, myself, and my sister understood the Dave LaRoche reference. Man was he lights out in the mid-70s with Cleveland. Ah, Misty Water Colored Memories.
ED: And I assumed that joke was only for myself.
BB: I realistically expect Andy Marte to end up playing 3B by mid-season, with Betemit playing first. Or – since Bobby Cox loves him some infield defense – Betemit at 2B and Marcus Giles at 1B. Ah, I love the Braves.
ED: Mmm… Braves prospects. Chrispy.
BB: My best guess on the Braves’ final record would be (JDGP * .65), with JDGP being the number of games J.D. Drew plays in. He’s averaged 117 over the past five seasons; that would be 75 wins, which is unlikely, but plausible. The best kind of plausibility.
ED: C’mon! The Braves are AMERICA’S TEAM!!! Or something. OK, all of America hates them as much as they would a winning Cubs team. I really don’t like this make-up of this team at all. Seventy-five wins really doesn’t seem unreasonably, to be honest. But I hope for the worst for them every year and look what happens. If the rest of that division wasn’t so damned stupid!
PR: Don’t blame the Braves because they get to reside in the same division as TRADER JACK~!, Omar and the house that the Wilpons support with smoke, mirrors and paper mache. You just hate Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. YOU! doctored that photo of Barbarella and John Kerry. Why must you be hating?
ED: I am trying to visualize what I could do in a tragicomedic attempt at Photoshop. I somehow doubt I could make a picture of Young Abe Lincoln and Barbarella look even remotely life-like. But then, I’ve yet to see a picture of Young Abe Lincoln where he looks life-like to begin with. Hmm. Maybe it WAS me?
Key Additions: Armando Benitez, Darren Oliver, Wil Cordero, Hee Seop Choi
Key Losses: Ivan Rodriguez, Derrek Lee, Juan Encarnacion, Mark Redman, Rick Helling, Todd Hollandsworth, Andy Fox, Armando Almanza, Braden Looper, Vladimir Nunez
BB: I wonder if people would blame Jack McKeon’s heart attack death after 10 games on steroids.
ED: Something I overheard recently – “They’re all on steeeeeroids! And them human growth hearmones! Not like the EYEN-EFF-ELL! Nosuh! The EYEN-EFF-ELL makes ’em take them there pee-tests for that stuff.” Why does God test me so?
BB: There’s a lot to like: they have a lot of starting pitching, even after trading Mark Redman. Carl Pavano has a really, really, really great chance to be 2003 Jeff Suppan 2004, assuming the Marlins regress to the mean.
ED: Regression seems the most plausible situation here. They really strike me as an Angels-esque team that just caught lightning in a bottle last year and are bound for a big decline. I give them props for overcoming idiotic ownership and Jeff Torborg’s single-handed attempt to cripple the entire pitching staff last year. They’ve got plenty of arms of course and that should keep them around – unless Darren Oliver DOES get a rotation spot – but that’s not a pretty offense.
PR: Darren Oliver DOES have a rotation spot. The drop-off from A.J. Burnett to Darren Oliver is insane but yet that is what the Marlins are actually doing. And I’m pretty sure you will still see the ugly effects of Team Torborg’s pitching philosophy. I fear for Josh Beckett as they ask him to top 200 IP this year.
ED: Well, it’s not like Jack McKeon hasn’t ate him some arms over the years too. Certainly he’s not Torbogian but you know he dreams of nibbling on Beckett’s arm as he naps away on the bench.
ED: Of course, they’ll be helped by the fact that this isn’t a really good division, so I could even see contention with a .500 team but I wouldn’t put money on it. I WOULD put money on Juan Pierre not putting up a .700 OPS.
BB: The biggest shock of writing these was finding out that Mike Lowell is Puerto Rican. Mike Lowell?!? How did that happen?
ED: Well, I knew that, but I am a sad Clippers fan.
PR: These are words the four remaining Marlin fans might not want to read. Said Armando Benitez (who carries the official Veteran Presence seal), after giving up three hits and two runs in two innings “All of my pitches broke good,” said Benitez. “I don’t care if they hit me.” PVC! PVC! PVC!
ED: I hate myself for not making an Armando joke earlier on. Is this the Armando that the Primer folk called sucktastic when he was traded to the Yankees or the Benitez that the Primer folk called the greatest thing with a right arm when the Yanks moved him to Seattle? I need to know the party line, dang it!
PR: Florida’s lineup does interest me though… at least for the first 25 games or so when McKeon actually gives Hee Seop Choi the starting job at first. Mostly, though I have a morbid curiosity in seeing what the offense can produce. Richie Zisk… err… Jeff Conine is back for another season.
ED: IIIIIIIIIII saw Richie Zisk. IIIIIIIIII knew Richie Zisk very well. And Jeff Conine is no Richie Zisk. You owe Richie Zisk a HUUUUUUUGE apology. Unless we’re talking racquetball. Then it’s advantage Conine.
PR: The Fish still have one of the Alex Gonzalezs (at least their version is the one that made an All-Star team) and Ramon Castro as everyday catcher might be worth the price of admission alone. Ladies – just remember to not walk to your car alone.
ED: I still cannot tell the Alex Gonzalez’s apart, much like I cannot tell the NBA teams created from the late-80’s-on apart or the confusion I used to have with the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Really, what’s the point splitting those hairs? I would’ve been happy to see Castro finally get the shot at everyday catcher if…well…Innocent until proven guilty. Or something. Let’s move on.
PR: I am most impressed that I managed to make it through this entire section without flying off into a diatribe over how Wil Cordero could still keep getting work after beating his wife. I didn’t know a .333 career On-Base Percentage was that powerful. And full props to the person whose sponsors Cordero’s page at baseball-reference.com. I wish I had been smart enough to link to Support Battered Women. How do you think Joe Randa feels about being Cordero’s most similar player? Awww…. dammit…. I guess I didn’t quite make it all the way through.
ED: I now half-expect the Marlins to now move to Portland and give shots to Bobby Chouinard, Jose Mesa and Ben Christenson.
Key Additions: Billy Wagner, Eric Milton, Tim Worrell, Roberto Hernandez, Doug Glanville, Shawn Wooten
Key Losses: Jose Mesa, Dan Plesac, Mike Williams, Turk Wendell, Tyler Houston, Brandon Duckworth, Aaron Myette, Terry Adams, Valerio De Los Santos
BB: The Doug Glanville signing might ruin the Phillies; I can see Marlon Byrd tweaking a hamstring, Glanville hitting .290/.320/.360, and stealing Byrd’s job for VP reasons. Hey – it’s great that you like to play EverQuest, Doug; just because you managed to make it out of your parent’s basement does not mean you should get playing time.
ED: I can see Doug Glanville dropping a multisyllabic word around Bowa and getting banned from the Phillies dugout.
BB: I also want to see someone film Doug Glanville and Curt Schilling at a D&D Convention or something. That would be fantastic.
ED: This. Must. Happen.
PR: Like the Web Cam of Schilling chatting on Sons of Sam Horn won’t be shown at every Red Sox home game instead of Cowboy UP!
ED: This. I. NEVER-EVER-EVER-EVER-EVER. Want. To. See.
PR: Over the last few years, the decision was made that the Phillies would acquire every able bodied closer who has ever recorded a save in MLB history. Did Jose Mesa’s meltdown really scar them that much? Come on, Steve Bedrosian now is better than Roberto Hernandez. Ron Reed? Jack Baldschun? Al Holland is only 54. Are you telling me no one in the front office has his phone number?
ED: C’mon, Dallas Green is RIGHT THERE in the front office. He could close. Maybe Pulsipher, Isringhausen, Bobby Jones and Paul Wilson can bum rush Kerrigan for the pitching coach job and get their revenge.
BB: The Phillies will be scary good if they can get anything out of Bud Smith; yeah, you remember him – no-hitter a couple of years ago, lefty, Zito without the flashy curve or an extra K/9. If he’s healthy, the Phillies won’t have to worry about replacing Millwood next year.
ED: I pray for anyone who has to pitch for Larry Bowa.
PR: Well the injury bug is already hitting. Jim Thome may or may not be ready for opening day due to his broken finger.
ED: I figure Pat Burrell will now go until Memorial Day until he first homers with Dallas and Schmidt and Bowa on his back about needing to pick up the slack.
PR: Billy Wagner already tweaked himself (I am guessing the awesome PVC presence of Tim Worrell AND Roberto Hernandez have caused Wagner to start overthrowing).
ED: Billy Wagner getting hurt is like a passage of spring by now, isn’t it? Obviously the pressure of having Hernandez and Worrell around was too much for him. I bet the Phillies really miss Joe Table now. Or. Not.
PR: Kevin Millwood threw a no-hitter, signed a fat contract and bruised his shoulder.
ED: NO HITTERS ARE CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh yeah.
PR: Todd Pratt’s crippled and while I love Eric Milton – he isn’t the healthiest person to step out onto the diamond. Then there is David Bell. Bell is still recovering from his shoulder injury in 2003 and normally you would say “Hey, David Bell. I like it when he visits Dr. James Andrews.” But the choices at third without Bell are Placido Polanco, Tomas Perez and Shawn Wooten. Yup, Shawn Wooten.
ED: Well, David Bell getting hurt SHOULD be a good thing in that it SHOULD get Chase Utley AB’s. Of course, Utley fields like me so…you KNOW Bowa won’t be able to hack a guy who can’t save the team 3 billion runs with his glove. Hey, didn’t the Phillies used to have a really good 3rd baseman a couple of years ago?
BB: There’s no reason this team shouldn’t win the division, except for the fact that they have Larry Bowa managing them. The earlier Bowa gets fired, the more likely the Phillies are to go places.
ED: Agreed. I’ll reluctantly pick the Phils here. I can see them completely collapsing or running roughshod over the league only to get knocked out by the Wild Card team in the first round of the playoffs. I want to like the Phils. I really do. But more than anything, I just want to see Bowa spontaneously combust in the dugout. I assume Pat Burrell wants to see the same – unless Mike Schmidt is next in line for the managerial position.
PR: The best part of the early season Phillies/Yankees game (besides John Kruk mocking Harold Reynolds) was learning that the Phillies have a bunch of Bowa successors lined up on the payroll. Schmidt is one. BOB BOONE is the other one. I would feel bad if it wasn’t for the fact that I hate Philadelphia.
ED: I heard that and thought, “My God, the Phillies hate to not suck.” I think that’s pretty much an organizational mantra, really.
Key Additions: Nick Johnson, Tony Batista, Carl Everett, Juan Rivera, Pat Mahomes, Gregg Zaun
Key Losses: Vladimir Guerrero, Javier Vazquez, Michael Barrett, Orlando Hernandez, Fernando Tatis, Todd Zeile, Wil Cordero, Scott Stewart, Jose Macias, Britt Reames, Hector Almonte
PR: Seriously, look at the Losses list. I mean, yeah, they didn’t keep Vlad or Vazquez. But anyone who tells you that the Expos would be better off with any of those other guys is either a fool or Todd Zeile’s Mom.
ED: I think you just made Mama Zeile cry.
BB: I want to see Tony Batista threaten to fight Nick Johnson if he doesn’t start making some more outs.
PR: I am still trying to wrap my head around Batista’s .270 OBP last year.
ED: Oh yeah. I can see Juan Rivera joining Batista’s posse VERY EARLY on.
PR: I more see Nick confusing the hell out of Carl Everett.
ED: “See, Carl. We get the whole concept of the walk from dinosaurs who…What? No, Carl! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! My wrist! My wrist!”
BB: I want to see Omar Minaya justify trading Jose Vidro to the Red Sox in June.
PR: So that’s where Trot Nixon will end up.
ED: You think Big Stein would just turn around and recite Henry’s tirade about then A-Rod deal verbatim?
BB: I want to see Joe Vitiello get 300 at-bats for this team and I want to see the Jayson Stark article on how he should be the MVP for keeping them in the Wild Card race.
ED: I would be content if Randy Choate just got some regular work out of a major league pen.
PR: He is probably going to get it now in Arizona. Heck, he might have to make appearances in all 162 games considering the health of the rest of that pen – but that is for another section.
ED: You, as a Yankee fan, should know Bob Brenly will not do anything remotely intelligent.
BB: I never ever want to see that photo of Jayson Stark without his moustache ever again. Somewhere, there is a guy with a flannel shirt and stupid moustache who needs to give them back.
ED: Hmm, Spiezio went to Seattle. He had a funky moustache. Lord knows he has to have flannel to live up there. Hmm.
PR: Well Nick Johnson will get the chance to justify my love. He does get the benefit of those games in the world that would be Monterrey. Then the Expos will end up in Portland I will have to buy my third Johnson jersey.
ED: Haven’t we learned enough from the NBA about the dangers of a franchise in Portland?
Key Additions: Kazuo Matsui, Mike Cameron, Braden Looper, Karim Garcia, Todd Zeile, Shane Spencer, Scott Erickson, Ricky Bottalico, James Baldwin, Randy Keisler, Ricky Gutierrez
Key Losses: Tony Clark, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Timo Perez
BB: The funny thing about the Mets is their complete denial of where they are in the status of building their team. Instead of completely trying to cut bait and build with their farm system, they keep thinking that one more free agent signing is going to suddenly give them the veteran presence they need to win 28 more games.
ED: See, to me, the Mets are one of the most interesting organizations in baseball. Oh no, not to watch – this is a horrid team. But to just observe them from the outside, the Mets are endlessly entertaining. Bad GM’s making a slew of trades hoping one of them somehow won’t suck – man, that’s entertainment.
PR: They have already had an entertaining spring training. First it’s the “We might be getting Soriano. He’s NY TOUGH!” Mike Piazza was sorta moving to first base (and got hurt in the process). Then Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia decide that they need to jack a pizza delivery guy. Seriously, how much cash did they think Chris Wylde was carrying, anyway?
ED: I cannot attest to Garcia and Spencer as human beings. I CAN attest to those two being an ideal platoon duo that a team that’s somewhat in contention should’ve picked up this offseason. I mean, the Cards are talking about Kerry Robinson as a starting LFer. Spencer seems white enough for LaRussa.
BB: And it’s not going to happen, no matter how good Mike Cameron is. I really, really cannot wait for his 100th strikeout with runners in scoring position, followed by fans throwing knives at him. I also cannot wait to be in a Shea Stadium bathroom in May and hear people talking about how good Hideki is doing at shortstop. Ah, the Mets. You are so pretty.
ED: Roger Cedeno sheds a tear.
PR: This team is going to be the poster boy for Veteran Presence. I mean James Baldwin, Bitter Todd Zeile, SCOTT ERICKSON?!?!?!?!?! I am thinking the Erickson signing was a ruse just to get Lisa Guerrero to visit the clubhouse… which is wrong a variety of levels.
ED: As long as Scott Erickson has a job, I will be able to hear one of my favorite things of summer, Gammons reciting his favorite line – “Scott Erickson brings no hit stuff to the mound every night.” Poor little Peter Meltingface doesn’t know that NO HITTERS ARE CRAP!!!!!!
BB: I think the ace of the Mets staff this year will be Jae Seo. 9-12 with a 3.82 ERA last year, and a 2.4 K/BB ratio. He we…what? David Cone pitched for the Mets last year? When did this happen? Who was in char…oh – Steve Phillips. Right. And for a second, I thought ESPN’s stats page would lie to me. I’m a bad man.
PR: Tom Glavine sure wasn’t afraid to fall out of favor with everyone in a hurry. Glavine, Al Leiter and Steve Trachsel are the whitest front three in the majors right now. How has this team not acquired Jamie Moyer yet?
ED: It’s like the Mets want to be the Mavericks or something. Well, they played defense at that level, anyway.
ED: Looking over their roster now…Eww. For some reason my eyes keep going straight to Grant Roberts name. Really, why don’t the Mets just have fun with their suck and…I don’t know, have Rastafarian Night with a Grant Roberts bobblehead/water bong? Oh screw the kids! No good parent would take their kid to a Mets game anyway.
PR: There was an Orber Moreno on the 40 man roster for awhile. You know they are getting desperate in their attempts to be like the 84 Yanks when they have guys who old folks might actually confuse for Omar Moreno’s son (if not Omar Moreno himself).
ED: It was a typo. It was UBER Moreno. He’s like Omar but with more stolen bases and less OBP.
BB: My favorite drug quote, so far, is probably Cliff Floyd on ephedra: “It was amazing; you were alert and you need that for 162. Fans would boo you and you wouldn’t hear it. You were locked in.” Somewhere, Gary Bell smiled.
PR: Don’t forget that Floyd made sure he pointed out that he followed the recommended dosage when taking ephedra. (One pill a day for those of you playing at home).
ED: You know Keith Hernandez tsk-tsks that.
PR: I am sure there is a Ralph Kiner joke that should be inserted here that we are all missing.
ED: I dunno. I was just happy to get to the Keith Hernandez joke first.
ED: So far my favorite quote of the Spring comes from a Mets-Dodgers game where it was said that Todd Zeile was brought in for Mike Piazza to have a shoulder to cry on. I imagined an army of baseball geeks chucking like Beavis and Butthead over that.