Today I am completely exhausted for some reason, but I am still going to deliver to my readers my 2008 American League baseball preview. Next week, I'll bust out the National League preview and the week after I will go ahead with a more in-depth Boston Red Sox preview.
I was trying pretty hard to think of a gimmick for this entry, but those have been sort of played out in the last few years, right? I mean, if I have to see one more person use quotes from “One Crazy Summer” or the names of 19th Century German philosophers as reasons for where teams are going to end up, I'm probably going to puke. So, we're going old school and just listing the teams in the order where I think that they'll end up ... which is sort of a gimmick in itself.
American League East:
The Sox freak me out a bit, I think that they're going to win, but it's not going to be easy. Josh Beckett's back scares me. Curt Schilling's injury scares me. Tim Wakefield scares me sometimes, but is oddly comforting other times. The experience of the two kids (Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz) scare me. Bartolo Colon would scare me if I saw him coming at me with a fork and knife. About the only starting pitcher that doesn't scare me is Daisuke Matsuzaka. I think that he's going to have a monster year in 2008.
I think that the bullpen is going to be great, as long as Jonathan Papelbon is handled with care and Peter Gammons has been absolutely raving about Manny Delcarmen. Mike Timlin and Hideki Okajima are going to be solid and the team has a few other live arms as well. I just want to ask, what the hell ever happened to Craig Hansen? Wasn't he supposed to have the closer's role by now?
Dougie Parmesan is gone, which means that backup catching goes to Kevin Cash. That totally sucks, but it doesn't matter, because Jason Varitek is going to do most of the catching. And maybe the front office will get off its collective ass and get a catching prospect to intern under Varitek.
Aside from Coco Crisp, the same group of infielders and outfielders are back for another year. Is Jacoby Ellsbury for real? The front office certainly thinks so. Will Mike Lowell have a 2008 that was anything like 2007? Probably not, but J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo should be better, so that will even out. Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis are four guys who you shouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about. They're going to be fine.
I don't know what to tell you about the 2008 Yanks. Do I think that they're going to be bad? Probably not. Do I think that they're going to be good? Yes, I do, but not as good as they were last year. But I'm not ready to count them out yet. Mainly because I've been kicking dirt of the Yankees' grave since 2002 and they always come back to haunt you.
The things I'd be worried about if I was a Yankee fan are: starting troika of Ian Kennedy/Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain—and this doesn't include their asinine plan to start Chamberlain in the bullpen for two months, send him to the minors to stretch his arm for two months and then bring him back as a starter for the stretch run. Can these three rookies handle the pressure? Can Andy Pettitte handle the season after what happened to him in January and February? Is Mike Mussina going to continue to be the best .500 pitcher masquerading as an ace ever? Mariano Rivera is 36 years old, he has to slip eventually, right?
And what about the offense? Alex Rodriguez is going to rake, no doubt. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano will do the things they do. But Jorge Posada won't have the year that he did last year. Johnny Damon is left, Melky Cabrera is in center and Bobby Abreu is in right. Is that a good outfield? And Jason Giambi is playing first, while porn meister Hideki Matsui DHs. Is that a good idea?
Plus, Captain Spaz (Joe Girardi) himself is the new manager in the Bronx. This is not Joe Torre and with Hank Steinbrenner shooting off his mouth every two weeks, I can easily a Bronx Zoo situation blowing up in the summer. I think that this team is closer to fourth place than first.
BTW, Billy Crystal will not help this team. Though if he did get a fastball in his ear, that would've helped me out immensely. I hate that smug prick.
They've got good pitching and solid hitting. They can definitely go places. Of course, I've been saying that for a few years and each year, someone on the Blue Jays gets hurt and it completely submarines their season. Who will it be this year? I am going to go on a limb and say Alexis Rios or A.J. Burnett.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
These aren't your daddy's Devil Rays. They changed their uniforms, their colors, their name and maybe their luck. These Rays are going to be a solid team, no doubt about it. I wouldn't be surprised if they finished ahead of the Blue Jays for third place, but fourth is where they'll likely end up. They have solid starters (Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and James Shields) and have a solid, young lineup, especially if Evan Longoria is ready to take over the hot corner. The one thing that's going to kill them is their bullpen, especially if they're going to rely on Troy Percival, who didn't even pitch last year. Put it this way, if this young and exciting team doesn't draw anyone to the Trop this year ... end the charade and move them to a city that appreciates Major Leauge Baseball.
Give this front office credit; it took them 10 seasons but they finally realized that they have to blow the entire thing up and rebuild. And it's not going to be pretty. This team may lose 110 games this year and will be a punching bag for every team in the division. If you're an O's fan, at least you'll get to watch Adam Jones and whatever they get from the Chicago Cubs for Brian Roberts. That should be fun.
American League Central:
I like what the Detroit Tigers have done this off season, but I like the Indians a little better. Fausto Carmona and C.C. Sabathia are miles ahead of what Detroit has. Also, their every day talent is a bit younger and I expect Travis Hafner to have a more more Pronk-like season this year. Also, and this is a scary thought, I think that their bullpen is going to be better, especially when Joe Borowski is not the closer any more. This Indians team reminds me of the Indians team of the mid 90s in that there may be a flaw or two, but otherwise its a solid group of players that should do some damage during the season and post season.
Just four years ago, Detroit were the worst team in the majors, and you couldn't find a Tigers fan if you offered free Red Wings tickets. Now, they're arguably the strongest offensive team and the pick du jour for World Series Champions. That happens when you acquire Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera, and Edgar Renteria. No doubt, they're stacked, but there are a bunch of questions. Will Willis make the transition to the American League (especially after getting lit up in the NL last year)? Is Gary Sheffield healthy? Will Magglio Ordonez have the same output this year as he did last year? Is Renteria an AL player?
Maybe it's because I read three Royals Blogs a day, but I am convinced that Kansas City is going to do very well this year, or at least better than expected. Gil Meche and Brian Bannister lead off their rotation and those two guys aren't too bad. If Alex Gordon matures and Billy Butler hits like he's supposed to (draft him in the late round of your fantasy league, trust me) they could be a decent team. I like what new manager Trey Hillman is doing and if they play with some passion, third place is a good landing spot for them.
Mark this down, Ozzie Guillen will be the first manager fired in 2008. However, GM Kenny Williams should be the one to get the blame. He signed a ton of mediocre bullpen guys to long term contracts over the winter. He traded starting pitcher Jon Garland for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. He did manage to get Nick Swisher, but he's playing him in center field. I'm not predicting a lot of South Side wins this year and they're going to fight with the next team on the list to stay out of the basement.
They have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan and a healthy (?) Francisco Liriano. That doesn't add up to a lot of wins, but will that allow them to escape the cellar? I don't know. They lost a lot: Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva, Matt Garza, and most of all, Johan Santana. The one really good player they got back from all that was Delmon Young. They're building for their new building in 2010, so I think that they expect to get their butts handed to them—especially with the worst hitter in the majors as their starting shortstop, Adam Everett. It just sucks for Twins fans because owner Carl Pohlad has the money; he's just too cheap to spend it.
American League West:
They're the class of the division. They have the most balanced starting rotation, a terrific bullpen and every day lineup, as well as a pretty decent manager. They've been like this for most of this century, so why do they only have one World Series title to show for it? I don't know, maybe Vladimir Guerrero has something to do with it. They were able to sign Torii Hunter and while he was able to be a star in Minnesota, I don't think that it will translate to the left coast. I expect them to take the American League West title again and suck in the playoffs.
Last year, the M's won 88 games. Stat heads will tell you it was mostly luck and that they should have won closer to 83 games. Apparently, the front office doesn't believe in statistics as they went out and traded their entire minor league system to the Orioles for Erik Bedard. With Bedard and King Felix Hernandez, does Seattle have what it takes to win the AL West or at least get the Wild Card? I don't think so, but if you like strong starting pitching and a great closer with a funny name (J.J. Putz) look to the Pacific Northwest.
They aren't going to be a very good team, but they will be better than the Athletics. Seriously, the Orioles, Rangers, and Athletics could be some of the worst baseball teams the American League has seen in some time. I know that Ron Washington manages them, Hank Blalock, Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young make up a decent infield, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has the longest last name in MLB history and is a stud, but this team is damn terrible.
Every few years, Billy Beane is lauded as the example of a model franchise and then does the model thing—purge. Edit: Ugh, what a crappy juxtaposition... I'm going to leave it in there as a testament to just how bad I can write some times. Christ. Huston Street will probably be gone by July 31 as will Joe Blanton and if anyone wants Bobby Crosby or Eric Chavez, they'll be out of town too. That leaves a bunch of kids and Jack Cust. The A's are building for their move to Freemont, which like Minnesota will also be in 2010. Manager Bob Gerren has his hands full, but the good news is that he shouldn't have any expectations to win. Hooray for him.
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