2004 NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST PREVIEW
(Listed in order of 2003 finish)
ED: Ed Agner
BB: Bill Barnwell
PR: Phil Rippa
Key Additions: Brett Tomko, A.J. Pierzynski, Dustan Mohr, Michael Tucker
Key Losses: Joe Nathan, Sidney Ponson, Rich Aurilia, Jose Cruz, Jr., Eric Young, Benito Santiago
ED: Well, they still have Bonds, at least.
PR: Not that he is actually healthy. Ed, you can relate to old, creaky backs.
ED: And bald heads. And…Hey! Maybe Bonds can hook me up with his personal trainer. BEEEFCAKE!
ED: OK. First off, I forgot to add Benito Santiago as a loss to the Giants. If that is, indeed, a loss.
BB: Benito Santiago is such a weird, weird guy. A 94 OPS+ at ages 36-38 for a catcher? How does that work? Baseball-Reference has so much trouble trying to find a similar batter by age; I think it defaults back to Tony Pena, which is his comp for age 38; I think by 45 Santiago, too, will be managing a Midwestern team that plays above its head for a season so he can be anointed with the same holy water that I’m sure Ozzie Guillen’s head will bathe in at some point over the next two years. It’s all in the little things.
ED: Anyway…Hmm. Well, this isn’t the most interesting division in baseball, is it? It’s easy to get caught up in the Yankee-Red Sox war and forget that for most teams, a few minor tweaks are all you need to be competitive in any division other than the AL East. If you thin out the talent of the Sox and Yanks and pass a few guys over here, this could be a real fun little division. Of course, if if’s and but’s were candies and nuts…
PR: Yeah, just like I am sure that DePodesta wishes he could hit the reset button like he was playing one of those unwinnable Madden games on this offseason so he could get a chance to actually not sign some of the guys LA is saddled with. And once the Padres are done importing the few remaining good Pirate players and if Bonds head explodes – things get wacky and wild real quick. But yeah – no one will have a merry christmas.
BB: Basically, I figure the way it works is that the lower half of the NL West and both Central divisions are there to stock the bottom half of the Sox and Yankees lineups and pen with their one-year wonders – and in return? Economic Flexibility. YOU try telling the heartland they’re economically illiterate bitches.
PR: Now you are just trying to get all those folks in San Diego to cry.
PR: We are going to assume that Felipe Alou didn’t crack in Jason Schmidt’s skull after last offseason and that Schmidt is healthy (well pretty much healthy. Not that he is right now) so you have your #1 starter there. Kirk Rueter is back and Jerome Williams did have seven wins and over 400 rebounds last season (Oh yeah, that joke will never get old). Jesse Foppert ain’t pitching this season so he won’t help. So I guess you got Dustin Mohr and Brett Tomko rounding out the rotation… that can’t be right.
ED: Hey! Dustin Hermanson is there. He struck me out in high school…of course, who didn’t? Never mind.
ED: I guess if pressed to pick a favorite, I’ll take the Giants even though this isn’t a strong club top-to-bottom. Bonds, Durham, Alfonso and Pierzynski make up the best offensive core in the division and the pitching should be just strong enough.
BB: I’d put more faith in the offense of the Padres, personally – especially after accounting for park, even with Petco.
PR: Now you are just trying to CYA.
BB: I’m just a big Tim McCarver fan. Why do you think I’m here?
BB: And – holy geez – is that an ugly bottom of the lineup. J.T. Snow, Neifi Perez, Marquis Grissom, Michael Tucker. The real Giants story is whether they’ll have enough VETERAN PRESENCE! pixie dust to spread around.
PR: Oh man, I am certain I have had every single one of those guys on my fantasy team at one point or another. And its always “Hmm… does the 20 point drop in OBP justify the one extra home run and stolen base?” Though last season, J.T. Snow probably had a good season… mind you he wishes May and August never happened. He is just begging to have the perfect platoon buddy. If it wasn’t for that pesky GLOVE~! Also, I really want to be a fly on the wall the day that Snow meets the person who designed Pac Bell. “I USED TO HIT HOME RUNS DAMMIT!!!!!”
BB: J.T. really wanted Doug Mient…z to come over in the Pierzynski deal. They could’ve passed as twins.
ED: Run, J.T.! Run! Has he rounded third in Miami yet? Poor little slow white guy.
PR: He still runs the bases better than Jack Cust.
ED: The key will be to see what kind of deal Sabean can make for an extra bat for the stretch drive. Can Neifi top out at a .600 OPS?
BB: I could see Perez getting hurt and Sabean replacing him with a league-average SS and pocketing three wins, kinda similar to the Mets with Rey Ordonez in 2000. Awww…Rey Ordonez.
Key Additions: Jeff Weaver, Jose Hernandez, Juan Encarnacion, Jeremy Giambi
Key Losses: Kevin Brown, Paul Quantrill, Jeremy Burnitz, Rickey Henderson
ED: The Dodgers will be interesting…in ’05, when DePodesta can really work his magic. I don’t know if any team in baseball bores me as much as the Dodgers. Yawn.
BB: Well – DePo’s gonna make a few trades before the season starts. Some guesses as to who he might try to acquire (hint: the A’s 40 man roster is coming into play):
BB: Graham Koonce, 1B. Koonce has been a minor-league hitting machine in the A’s system. The Dodgers already have Olmedo Saenz for the right side of the platoon. Koonce is literally a perfect fit here. I could see him hitting .240/.340/.440 for the Dodgers. That would’ve made him their best non-$100m hitt…batter, I guess, last year.
BB: Reed Johnson, CF. He can carry center; I’m not sure if I’d want him to with Jeremy Giambi probably playing LF (aww…you remember Jeremy, don’t you?), but it’s worth a shot. He hit .293/.353/.427 in Toronto last year, and probably is in the running right now for a starting job. What I’d imagine will happen is that he’ll regress to the mean early (like Chris Woodward last year) and Smooth Pimp JP will scratch the Alexis Rios itch.
BB: Marco Scutaro, 2B. Scutaro was one of the top 5 hitters in the International League last year, hitting .311/.393/.520 for the Mets system while they started Joe McEwing at 2B. What you don’t see in that line is that Scutaro doesn’t have the label of SCRAPPY!, while McEwing has a bunch of drunk college guys who pity him, a bunch of beat reporters desperate for some color, and his skin color behind him. Scutaro’s not the best defensive 2B around, but he’s better than Roberto Alomar.
PR: Now that Mark Ellis is crippled, I don’t think DePo can charm Billy into this one. I do see moving Koonce though. Billy seems to have a special talent for knowing when supposed prospect first baseman aren’t going to deliver. Carlos Pena comes to mind. BTW – the winner of the “First Guy Traded Between The Clubs” sweepstakes is Jason Grabowski.
PR: When Robin Ventura is most likely the starting 1B you know things are bad. Though you gotta love Shawn Green, angriest first baseman ever.
ED: I don’t get Shawn Green’s beef with playing first base. Playing first base is like having a day off. You don’t do much, you don’t have to move a lot, you rarely have to throw, you just have to catch a ball or eat it. Sure, you can’t scope the stands for women as well as if you were in the OF, but you don’t have to run all over the outfield for line drives when it’s LIMA TIME~! Big frickin’ deal. Screw Keith Hernandez and that whole first basemen need to be good fielders BS. I played plenty of first back in the day. I was at least as good of a fielder as Frank Thomas. Oh. Yeah. Right.
PR: Sure, the idea of moving Paul Lo Duca to first also sounds good, in theory, but someone needs to realize that moving Lo Duca doesn’t solve the problem that he doesn’t hit anymore. Of course, no one on the Dodgers hit last year.
ED: Hey! You try hitting off of Jennie!
PR: I do love the Dodgers though… especially as a Yankees fan. Didn’t resign Paul Quantrill. Traded for Jeff Weaver. Took the bullet on signing Jeremy Giambi before Boss Steinbrenner ordered it. (Though if you believe ESPN.com, Little G is a better OF than Johnny Damon). Oh and they also added Bubba Trammell for insane comic value (though he ended up not making the team).
ED: ESPN despises sports with a passion. They have to. There’s no other way to explain it. I’d like to blame The Mouse but it started long-ago when all the ESPN anchors started trying to be Craig Kilborn – and really, what says mediocre more than that? From there it all went down hill. A website that kills browsers. Peter Gammons orgasming over Pokey Reese and writing colums as if English was his third or fourth language. Neyer making an argument point over his love of a Neil Diamond song. Simmons parlaying a column he’s been mailing in for years to a gig with..Jimmy Kimmel! Jimmy Kimmel!? Joe Morgan trashing Billy Beane’s bio. Hunter S. Thompson showing that heavy drug consumption over a lifetime WILL destroy your brain and make you write the way Gary Busey talks. Half-hearted attempts at sabermetrics that PROVES a month of Little G is more valuable than a season of Johnny Damon. I think the worst part is that when forced to watch a game on ESPN I find myself thinking, “Man, I wish this was on FOX.” I won’t even mention the MST3K opening day game – or the continued employment of Chris Berman or Rick Sutcliffe or Michael Irvin or…Ugh. I tried to quit paying attention to anything ESPN related ages ago. Though I have to admit that Stuart Scott’s funky eye does tell me to cut crop circles.
PR: I am not sure what the Dodgers are going to do about their bullpen. I guess they will have to pitch Gagne in every single game they have a lead no matter how large. I mean how else is he going to get into 55 games, let alone even sniff 55 saves. Quantrill’s no longer a bridge. I don’t think all the King’s horses and all the King’s men have put Darren Dreifort’s arm back together again. I guess Guillermo Mota will be good again assuming he can prove he no longer has a …. grr… can’t complete joke. Must not work blue.
ED: Yeah, work blue once we get the pay part of the site up. I’ve always liked Paul Shuey. But having Albert Belle’s hip only works in Baltimore.
PR: We should just start every preview with “[TEAM X]’s starting rotation has plenty of question marks”.
ED: Not the Cubs. Or the Astros. Or the Red Sox. That’s what the experts tell me.
PR: Well, Jeff Weaver got his wish and is out of New York. I don’t think Barry Bonds is going to be intimidated the first time Weaver starts trying to paint the corners with his gold chains flopping about. Edwin Jackson needs to prove he is ready. Odalis Perez is unlikely to make it through the season in LA. Hideo Nomo quietly put up an outstanding season that few people knew about because he had to take the loss in several games where his team had no clue how to drive in the runner from second. All this means is that the staff will have to be carried by LIMA TIME~!
ED: Nomo’s thrown a TON of innings the last couple of years. I wouldn’t put much faith in him this year. Edwin Jackson is so over-hyped now that he can only be terrible. Odalis will be elsewhere and Ishii is…Is he still a target?
Key Additions: Richie Sexson, Chad Moeller, Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Shayne Reynolds, Steve Sparks, Brent Mayne, Roberto Alomar, Greg Colbrunn, Jim Parque
Key Losses: Curt Schilling, Mark Grace, Lyle Overbay, Junior Spivey, Miguel Batista, Chad Moeller, Craig Counsell, Jesse Orosco
PR: When Ed first wrote up the Additions/Losses for the D-Backs, he forgot Jesse Orosco. That filled me with shame. I figured Ed is just in denial that one of the few people in league actually old enough to be his dad is now retired.
ED: Orosco shall return! Yes he shall! C’mon, Grandpa! C’mon!
ED: Arizona…let’s see, they lost Schilling, picked up Sexson and are relying on a Paleozoic OF. Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb can only do so much.
BB: Aw Ed – how can you doubt the power of ELMER!
PR: Is it possible for Sexson to drive in 6 runs a game every game? Who else is going to do it – Shea Hillenbrand? Well I guess Luis Gonzalez too but I keep thinking the bottom is going to drop out of Luis… and sooner rather than later.
ED: I thought I heard something about Shea taking walks when he was a Red Sox. Yes. I did hear something about that. Of course, I recall folks telling me that Little G was going to have a monster year with the Red Sox last year too. Hmm, would the people at Sons of Sam Horn lie? If so, what does that do for Jim Rice’s HOF chances? My world is upside down.
PR: I remember when Shea Hillenbrand was the AL MVP. Him and David Ortiz. No respect shown anymore.
BB: I think Casey Fossum is going to be very good in Arizona. Bandbox One (ok – so that’s not so catchy) is going to make him look worse, but Fossum’s minor league numbers have been fantastic. I think he’s closer to Bartolo Colon than Bruce Chen, considering Fossum’s 8.9 K/9 in his only healthy major league season (2002).
PR: Is it wrong that my favorite part of the D-Backs offseason was the rumor that Joe Garagiola Jr. was going to trade Randy Johnson to the Red Sox for Trot Nixon. Read that again. You too will think “There is NO WAY anyone would be that stupid.” Then you remember that both Joe Jr. and Kenny Williams are GMs of major league clubs.
ED: Just freeing up space to get Jennie on the roster.
PR: If Randy Johnson’s arm falls off this year, I would just like to point out that Bill will finally be correct.
BB: Stupid Yahoo team reports.
PR: There is a joke in the NL Central section about Tony LaRussa and former greatness. I am realizing now that we could have applied it to Roberto Alomar too. This has to the last chance he gets to resurrect his career. Mind you – if a Hall of Famer becomes Comeback Player of the Year in Arizona and no one actually sees it – does it really happen?
ED: Carlos Baerga says yes.
Key Additions: Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Joe Kennedy, Royce Clayton, Jeff Fassero
Key Losses: Juan Uribe, Ronnie Belliard, Jose Jiminez, Mark Bellhorn, Justin Speier
ED: Any idea what those pictures O’Dowd has of Rockies ownership must look like? Can someone explain to me why they hate their fans so much?
BB: They don’t know how to love.
BB: Colorado will not win anything until they have a pressurized dome. It sucks. That’s life.
PR: Thanks guys. Make me do the heavy lifting in Colorado. Well, I guess Jeromy Burnitz is going to be this year’s Jose Hernandez or Mark Bellhorn. The player who goes to Colorado who everyone expects to put up monster numbers and then doesn’t.
ED: What? You wanted us to say that Todd Helton will be both the most overrated AND underrated player in baseball?
PR: Someone didn’t tell Vinny Castilla that the way things normal work is that your old team signs you for one day so you can retire as a member of that team. Maybe Bud Selig hasn’t gotten the retirement papers yet. If Castilla isn’t retiring then the only reason, I can see, for his signing is to make Larry Walker feel 25 again.
ED: GLOVE~! Smell the GLOVE~!, Phil.
PR: I was giddy where I read on one site the following thing “Light-hitting Royce Clayton is a vacuum cleaner at shortstop, and Clint Hurdle will appreciate his veteran leadership.” That’s going to be on the back of our very first T-shirt.
ED: If by “vacuum cleaner” they mean he’ll suck, then yeah. SUCKING VETERAN LEADERSHIP~!
PR: OH MAN! How did we forget to mention that the Rockies are going with Shawn Chacon as their closer. This is their secret plan to make people wish Jose Jimenez was still with the squad.
ED: David Nied weeps.
PR: I am loving the story of Jeff Fassero though. Fassero, 41, told Walt Weiss of all people (NY HOMETOWN BOY!) that he wanted to pitch in Coors. Weiss, who has a job of some sorts with the Rockies, told Clint Hurdle. Hurdle called him up and Fassero is getting a shot. It will probably turn out ugly but I am rooting for Fassero, who had a couple of the most under appreciated pitching seasons of the 90s. (1993 and 1994 come to mind).
ED: Well, if Gabe White can have great seasons in the land that gravity forgot… All Fassero needs to do is grow a sex-offender moustache and – VOILA! I could see him moved to the Yankees for, say, Robinson Cano.
PR: Bill is in mourning. The Rockies released Damian Jackson and he misses the original 5-Tool God.
BB: I jumped off the Damian Jackson bandwagon when I actually had to see him play for the Red Sox last year. Like many things in life (prog rock, strip clubs, and malt liquor), they’re much better in theory than in practice. Or in someone else’s practice. You get the idea. You make the joke. I’ve given you all the words. You put them in the right order. Ugh.
Key Additions: David Wells, Terrence Long, Ramon Hernandez, Jay Payton, Sterling Hitchcock, Ismael Valdes, Jeff Cirillo, Akinori Otsuka, Rey Ordonez
Key Losses: Mark Kotsay, Kevin Jarvis, Rod Beck
ED: Mmm, New Stadiumy.
PR: Who are you to doubt the Stadium that Tony Gwynn, the San Diego taxpayers, several lawsuits and several bags of Iams built?
ED: Hehehe. Tony Gwynn. Grimus was always my second-favorite McDonalds-land character.
ED: The Padres are probably the trendy choice for the division. I fell into that trap a couple of years ago when they were the trendy choice. I ain’t getting burned twice.
BB: I actually bet $20 on 80:1 odds of them winning the NL two years ago. I’ve learned to stop being an idiot nowadays.
PR: Was this before or after you drafted Correll Buckhalter?
BB: I still like the Padres a lot though, hack-tackular bench (Jeff Cirillo! T-LONG!) aside. They have a hell of a lineup if they’re healthy: Burroughs (23, with power slowly kicking in), Giles, Klesko, Nevin, Hernandez (28, in his peak which should be somewhere around Joe Oliver with a little bit more everything), Payton, Greene, Loretta.
ED: Aww, the injuries have already started happening to…well…EVERYONE. Kevin Towers sure loves him some cripples.
ED: Giles and Klesko are the sure bets on offense – though buyer beware on those two with the new stadium being built to be Bonds-proof. If Nevin comes back healthy, Burroughs blossoms, and Payton…Well, nevermind on Jay Payton being healthy.
PR: Phil Nevin’s already having trouble understanding the healthy part though. And Jay Payton is no longer playing in Coors.
ED: I couldn’t think of any other way to drop Payton’s name into the conversation without making a cripple joke. I should’ve used it on both Payton and Nevin now that I think of it.
BB: Payton interests me – I want to do a study, if I had the time or ability to, analyzing whether hitters and pitchers leaving Colorado have their stats (hitters down, pitchers up) change more than would be normally expected.
ED: The pitching is nice but not quite in the Dodgers-Giants realm – but of course, who knows how the spacious new park will affect that. They can contend and probably will. I’m just not sold enough on the pitching.
BB: I like Adam Eaton a lot as the poor man’s Matt Morris; 7.1 K/9 at age 26 works for me. If the Padres somehow put everything together this year, he’s going to be their ace, not Wells.
PR: The good thing is that it seems like Eaton was able to recover from the disaster that was his 2002 season. And if the theory holds that it takes two season to fully recover from elbow surgery, Eaton could be looking at quite the fine season. (Assuming that he also got his groin right – tm Corey Dillon) He just should never go to baseball-reference and see that his most similar player is Marty Bystrom.
ED: Hey, Bystrom had a few nice seasons early in his career before Dallas Green ate his arm off. Eaton hasn’t even had that chance.
BB: I wonder how good Jeff Cirillo is at throwing bags of peanuts.
ED: Well, he just came from Seattle, so grinding the coffee seems more his bag.
PR: Well Rod Beck left the team due to “personal reasons” which is the hip PVC thing this year. I am guessing there was a plot of land in Oregon that Beck is off to go squat. 54 40 or Fight!
BB: That’s more than a ton of beer. I don’t know if he can do that.