Tag Archives: boston red sox

No Need To Panic In Boston

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For all of those worried Celtics fans out there about the team’s lackluster 0-3 start… Calm down, you’ve seen this before. As a matter of fact you’ve seen it twice this year already.

For the entire sports scene in Boston slow starts have been the norm all year long.

It started in April with the Red Sox who after a headline stealing off season jumped off to a horrendous 2-10 start to the season. However, the Sox recovered to have the best record in baseball all summer before they imploded in September.

The Bruins had an obvious Stanley Cup hangover as they found themselves in last place in the Northeast division with only three wins after the month of October. Now the Bruins sit in first place of the entire Eastern Conference heading into the new year.

Now it’s the Celtics turn.

Let’s be honest, the C’s are old and in a shortened compacted season like this one age may play a huge factor integer success.

Kevin Garnett has been hot and cold, Ray Allen has been, well, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce has been M.I.A. due to an injured heel. The best performers so far have been an ultra motivated Rajon Rondo who has responded well to off season trade rumors, and Brandon Bass has been the inside presence that the Celtics have been lacking since trading Kendrick Perkins.

The Celtics are not a full team right now. Besides missing Pierce they are without Jeff Green for the season due to a heart ailment and newly acquired guard Mickael Pietrus is still injured and not scheduled to return until mid-January. Head coach Doc Rivers has had to rely on heavy doses of Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels to fill in for those roles and so far it’s led to mixed results.

However, people should realize that it’s only three games. With 63 games left and Pierce returning to action in the next game or two the Celtics have more than enough time to right the ship.

Even though a season like this favors a young team with fresh legs this Celtics team has won too many games to not make the proper adjustments to stay in contention.

A turnaround is eminent with this team and it starts with a fairly easy schedule for the next few games. Their next four have them playing the Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets and they play the Washington Wizards twice. By this time next week the Celtics could easily be 4-3 and getting back into the swing of things.

So for the worried fans of Boston who are ready to slam the panic button, relax. There’s plenty of time left in the season to turn things around and get back in track.

The Red Sox & Bruins had early season troubles and both recovered now it’s the Celtics turn to do so.

Since history repeats itself then the C’s should be sitting on top of the Atlantic division very shortly. However, if they do recover hopefully their season, and the Bruins for that matter doesn’t mirror the Red Sox season exactly. That would be too much for the fans of Beantown to handle.


Francona Deserved Better

 

Terry Francona's dismissal was disgraceful.

At first The Boston Red Sox collapse was funny. It was one big joke that made me guffaw until I spilled my beer on the floor at Brothers, a bar in Columbus, Ohio. It was a dream come true for a Yankees fan. I got to watch the Sox get killed on TV and watch them suffer. It was like watching the pre-2004 Sox all over again.

After today’s revelation by the Boston Globe I’m not only completely over the Sox collapse, I’m disgusted by it.

After reading details entailed by the Boston Globe report on Terry Francona and the Sox September woes I feel bad for Francona and feel even more hatred towards the Sox as to how they handled the situation as it unfolded.

The Globe stated that Francona’s failing marriage and use of pain killer pills were the main factors in the demise of the Sox. Francona’s marriage to his wife of 30 years Jacque was deteriorating and it forced him to live in an apartment for the remainder of the season. To some in the organization that distraction affected the team play and maybe Francona’s decision making.

Also in the article sources said hat starters John Lackey, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett would drink beer, eat fried chicken and play video games on their off days while the team was collapsing around them. Also Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis had bailed on their leadership duties and seemed disinterested in the games.

Um… Yikes.

Beckett and Lester's actions cost Francona his job.

First of all I don’t think the Globe nor the Sox should bring Francona’s personal life into play here. What happens in that man’s home should stay there. There is a time and place for personal and business matters and in an article in the Globe is not the place for them.

To say that his marital life issues were a distraction is total BS. If they were such an issue then why were the Sox the best team in baseball from May until August? Apparently he seemed to be doing a pretty darn good job managing the team then while his marriage was crumbling.

It’s a poor excuse to use on the guy the won you 2 world titles when you hadn’t won one in the previous 86 years. I understand that collapses like these need a scapegoat but there’s a difference between professionalism and tastelessness and believe me the Red Sox and the Globe toed that line here.

Speaking of tastelessness…

If you were fighting for your playoff lives, trying to win a spot to play in the World Series and your team is falling apart around you would you be eating take out and playing video games in your own clubhouse? I don’t care how much you got tired of hearing Tito’s voice or if you lost respect for him as a manager, you’re a major league ball player. You are paid ex amount of dollars to perform and should be accountable for your action. I you have an injury, aren’t pitching well or want to help your teammates then go throw some balls around, help Kevin Weilan with his control or do some stretches. I would’ve been beyond irate if I found my players doing that while my team is fighting for their lives.

(especially Lackey. You’ve been terrible since you signed your deal and instead of wanting to get better you loof around? I would’ve shanked him the quickness.)

With that said, Francona should’ve taken more initiative and gotten control of his clubhouse. He should’ve talked to his guys and laid down the law… and he should’ve had help.

Youkilis, Varitek and Ortiz especially should have said something to their teammates about professionalism since they are captains. This whole thing shows how little respect the Sox had for Francona and why they really collapsed. I’m especially disappointed in Ortiz. I mean Francona stuck with him when he couldn’t hit anything. He kept in the lineup last year when all of his power numbers were down and showed loyalty to him and this is the thanks that he gets? If Ortiz wanted a new deal from me I would tell him to kick rocks and take Lackey, Lester and Beckett with him.

Good luck finding another guy to do this for you Boston.

Boston writer Gordon Edes said that Francona should’ve known better, in my opinion Francona deserved better. He did what no other manager in the previous 86 years did in Boston, he won titles. He took a questionable group of guys, dealt with horrible deals given to J.D. Drew, Carl Crawford, Lackey, Beckett and Dice-K and he still won 600 Games, 2 divisional titles and made the Red Sox a bigger draw than the Yankees on the road and this is how he goes out.

He goes out not just with the biggest collapse in the history of the league under his belt, but with his baggage aired out for all to see, an unloyal clubhouse that left him hung out to dry and no respect for his accomplishments.

When the Yankees bagged Joe Torre I thought it was classless to offer such a crappy extension, turns out we look like Mother Teresa compared to the Sox.

Now that we know the full details behind the Meltdown In Beantown I feel bad for Francona. He deserved more backing from the team that he led to heights they hadn’t seen in ages, he deserved more respect from players that he stuck with and ha faith in and deserved a better exit from a city that he embraced and gave a winner.

In the end Terry Francona deserved better that this Boston screw party. It gives me more reason to hate them going into next year.


Carl Crawford’s Make Or Break Weekend

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Hey Carl... It's time to wake up.

The Red Sox are reeling, The Rays are in striking distance, Daniel Bard is struggling, the rotation is fading, Adrian Gonzalez is injured, so is Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz says it’s time to panic, Theo Epstein is saying get it done…

And this is all before I talk about how bad Carl Crawford has been.

To say that Crawford has had a down year is an understatement. In a hitter’s park in a hitter’s division Crawford is batting near .250 with only 11 home runs. He’s having his worst statistical year as a professional and this is with Youk, Gonzo, Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia having fantastic seasons hitting in front him.

Maybe it’s the pressure of playing in front of a packed house every night that’s getting to him. Maybe it’s the fact that every game since April has been important. Maybe he’s not fitting in because he’s not the right fit. Whatever it is, Crawford looks nothing like a guy that the Red Sox paid $142 million to get from Tampa Bay (granted they inflated that number to prevent the Yankees from getting him but still, with that huge of a deal you have to perform).

Starting tonight the Red Sox have a do or die series with the Rays at Fenway Park that will determine what happens the rest of the way in the AL Wildcard race. They currently sit 4 games up after leading the race by as much as 7.5 at the end of August. The Rays pitching is beyond lights out and they shut down Boston’s big bats last weekend in Tampa.

Desmond Jennings, Tampa’s Crawford replacement, has all but made the Rays faithful forget about Crawford as he has been lighting it up since a mid-summer call up. The Rays have all of the juice going into this matchup despite losing 2 of 3 in Baltimore and send the kitchen sink at the Sox this week including Jeremy Hellickson and David Price.

This would be a good time for Crawford to step up. Josh Beckett comes back from a foot injury but the most important Red Sox player this weekend is Crawford.

He won’t get to .300 this year but that doesn’t matter, he needs to produce runs, get on base, show some power or something to give the Sox a boost.

In order for them to win games the rest of the way Boston will need to outscore everyone. We know the top of the order will come up big but they need more from the bottom of the order and it starts and ends with Crawford.

He has been a huge bust in his first year in Boston but he has two more weeks to show that he is worth his huge deal.

If he produces and Boston prevails this weekend and into the playoffs then all will be well in the nation.

However, if Tampa takes three of four, the Sox fall out of the playoff race and Crawford continues to struggle on the way out, it will be a long winter in Boston for all parties.

Carl Crawford is entering the biggest weekend of his career. Will he finally show that he belongs in Boston and help lift them into October or will he continue to flop under the harsh spotlight of Fenway Park and watch as the Sox continue to flounder?

To say that the nation is on pins and needles to find out is an understatement.


All Praise Jesus

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Start all of blasphemous nicknames, biblical references and praise his name… Jesus (Montero) has arrived and he’s as good as advertised.

After a slow start last week versus the Boston Red Sox Montero let his presence be known this afternoon in the Yankees 11-10 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Montero broke an 8-8 tie in the fifth inning with an opposite field blast for his first career home run that brought the fans in the Bronx to their feet and earned him a curtain call. It was a mere appetizer to his main course.

With the score still 9-8 in the seventh inning and Russell Martin standing at first, Montero took a Jason Johnson offering over the left field wall for his second blast of the game and gave the Yankees an 11-8 lead.

As it turns out that last blast was crucial as the O’s scored two late runs before Mariano Rivera shut the door in the ninth inning.

Montero’s big bat overshadowed a poor performance by Freddy Garcia and another strong day for Robinson Cano who is speeding his way into the MVP discussion again. This day was all about Montero.

Montero has been a highly touted catching prospect for the Yankees for the last few seasons and they’ve made him almost untouchable when it comes to trade bait.

When the Mariners were interested in trading Cliff Lee to the Yankees last year they were adamant in gaining Montero and the Yankees did not oblige. His name has been thrown around and about in various other trade rumors but the Yankees were very adamant in keeping him.

Those theories were put to the test this year as Montero struggled in triple a ball and saw a decline in his numbers. There has also been a concern that he may be just an offensive player and doesn’t have the defensive set to be an effective catcher.

Even with these concerns the Yankees, who desperately need hitting out of the DH spot, decided to call him up and give him a shot.

At times he’s looked lost like most rookies, but this weekend he found a little confidence and ripped a few singles against Toronto…

Today however, the guy that that Yankees think he’ll become offensively arrived in stylish fashion.

His two home runs and confidence at the dish were what the Yankees were looking for when they called him up from Wilkes-Barrie. Yankee brass figured that maybe he was getting bored with the minor leagues and needed a new test, if this is a preview of what’s to come then they maybe right.

Part of me is saying that it’s only the Orioles and he needs to face better pitching to see if he truly is ready for prime-time.

The other part of me is giddy as hell. If this truly is a preview of what’s to come from Jesus Montero then count me in as a believer in Jesus.

I can’t wait to see what clever Jesus tie ins they have for this guy when it comes to memorabilia.


The Debate: Curtis Granderson, AL MVP

AL MVP? You're looking at him.

So Adrian Gonzalez is going to win MVP in the American League. I’ve conceded this fact I know it will happen and there’s nothing that I can do about it.

Gonzalez has been everything that the Red Sox hoped for when they acquired him from San Diego. He has stabilized their lineup, hit for average and driven in a ton of runs. Basically without him in the lineup the Red Sox are not the same team they don’t have the same pop in the order and no one can really match what he does as far as production goes.

His MVP candidacy can only be trumped by two other Red Sox who are having great years in Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and maybe a dark horse candidate in Jose Bautista can steal some votes. Besides that Gonzalez should run away with this thing as the Red Sox guide their way into the playoffs and to a possible AL East title…

Ok that was my take on the AL MVP race up until today when I did my normal weekly numbers look up and checked out league leaders and to see who else was ballin out of control currently. There was Gonzalez in all of his glory with a monstrous .348 batting average and a .408 on base percentage to go with 102 RBI. Those numbers, along with his great defense at first base can more than lock up the MVP race for him.

Mark Teixiera can thank Grandy for his power numbers.

But here’s the revelation that I have come to after further review and after getting my head together… Adrian Gonzalez is not the AL MVP if the season ended today… Curtis Granderson is.

Yep, I hear the calls from all of you that this is a homer pick seeing as how I am a super crazy Yankees fan and that I’m just finding a way to diminish Gonzalez’s value to the Red Sox. Honestly I’m not; I think Gonzalez is without question the best Red Sox player right now. He is putting up great numbers and has been a great addition to the Red Sox lineup.

With that said Granderson has been much more valuable.

With Alex Rodriguez fighting through injuries, Derek Jeter’s early season struggles, Mark Teixeira’s horrendous batting average and a ton of uncertainty in the rotation with Phil Hughes arm problems and injuries to Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano it was Granderson that made all of that irrelevant.

Granderson took Teixeira’s number 3 spot in the lineup after A-Rod’s injury and took off. He’s producing power numbers at a career rate and is doing it with ease. Granderson has set career highs in home runs (36), RBI (103) and slugging (.591) and is doing it against left handed and right handed pitching.

For anyone that has followed Granderson throughout his career you know about his deficiencies against lefties. Last year he barely hit .200 against them and found himself on the bench in games against lefties and replaced in games by the likes of Austin Kearns. Yeah it wasn’t cool. This year he’s hitting .279 against them thanks to help from hitting Coach Teddy Long and looks as comfortable as ever.

Take a look at his stats for a minute and compare them to the three Red Sox Gonzalez, Pedroia and Ellsbury as well as Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista. Of all 5 contenders Granderson does have a ton more strikeouts with 135, trails Bautista, Gonzalez and Pedroia in on-base percentage and has the lowest batting average at .278. However, let’s be real about strikeouts these days, they don’t matter. This is a free swinging era and seeing high strikeout totals is nothing new. In 2006 when Ryan Howard won MVP he struck out 186 times, he also hit .300 with 50 home runs and 140 RBI. Also his OBP is almost .380 so who cares that he’s 11th in that category when you get on base that much.

Granderson has monster numbers in most offensive categories. He’s 1st in runs, triples and RBI, 2nd in Home runs and slugging, 3rd in OPS, 6th in walks and 8th in steals. Look at those runs for a minute; yes he is 11th in OBP but when he gets on base he scores almost every single time. Jacoby Ellsbury has scored 93 times, 2nd in the league, and is a league leader in steals… AND IS STILL ALMOST 30 RUNS BEHIND GRANDERSON! To get on base like that and score runs at that pace is silly. He has an outside shot at scoring 150 runs this season and breaking Jeff Bagwell’s modern day mark of 152 (the record is 198 in 1894 and that’s never getting broken).

He’s put Yankee batters in great position to knock in runs all year with his ability to get on base and his speed. As poor as Tex has been hitting this year his power numbers are still gaudy because he hits behind Granderson and has been able to get good pitches to hit, same for Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher.

(Side note: A dark horse candidate for MVP is Cano as well. Top 10 in four offensive categories, could have 200 hits, a gold glove at second base and is scorching hot in the second half. Yeah I know I’m giving my Yankees a little too much slurpage but they deserve it.

Granderson's not bad defensively either.

I honestly thought that the Yankees were going to be mediocre this year with the Red Sox getting Gonzalez and Carl Crawford as well as the Yankees pitching problems. However, you name the person and they’ve stepped up.

David Robertson has become one of the game’s best setup men, Granderson’s career year to ease the A-Rod ills, Ivan Nova emerging as the Yankees number 2 starter and Swisher finding his swing in the summer months have all lifted the Yankees to a possible playoff spot. This was an iffy year and guys have been stepping up and killing it.)

More than anything Granderson has become the most reliable man in the Yankee lineup. It’s almost as if you expect him to get on base and score runs every game. It doesn’t matter if he gets a hit or not he somehow finds a way to score a run. A few games ago Granderson went 0-3 and scored 2 runs… how does that happen? In yesterday’s 22-9 massacre of Oakland he had 2 hits and scored 4 runs… really?

He’s having a gaudy year and is as worthy of MVP as anyone in the league. If Bautista is truly MVP worthy why is his team playing so poorly even with him in the lineup? Also how can you distinguish one of the Red Sox players as MVP?

Who is truly more valuable Ellsbury, Pedroia or Gonzalez? If you take any of them out of the lineup will the Red Sox still be effective offensively? Who makes the other two guys better? Hell David Ortiz missed time in the lineup two weeks ago and the Sox went 4-4 and fell behind the Yankees in the AL East momentarily so maybe he should get MVP votes.

The point I’m making is it’s hard to choose an MVP from a team where there are three candidates because really who is more valuable. With Granderson you see his value and his effect on the Yankees lineup from top to bottom. He sets the tone, drives in runs, and has made other players in the lineup better.

Without Granderson the Yankees wouldn’t be in the position that they are in. His big numbers and big plays have the Yankees sitting pretty in the AL Wildcard and possibly winning the AL East.

He deserves props and respect for the season that he is having, but more than anything he deserves to be the AL MVP.


Random Thoughts Vol.2

Hit me... I dare you.

It’s been a month… time for more random thoughts.

I’m pretty sure that even if Dontrelle Willis’s improbable comeback as a pitcher fizzles out, he can be a DH or first baseman with that bat.

The Pirates are now dead… I knew it couldn’t last.

FC Barcelona losing to Chivas USA is the equivalent of Michigan losing to Appalachian State.

Justin Verlander might throw 6 more no hitters this year… I’m not joking about that either.

The U.S. Women didn’t choke.

(I mean did you watch the game? Japan never died. They kept fighting back and took advantage of the opportunities that were given to them. Sure the U.S. missed chances in penalty kicks where the Japan goaltender all of a sudden looked like Ken Dryden. However, you can’t say that they choked the game away when Japan played well in the face of adversity. Sometimes teams give games away but most times teams pull victory from the jaws of defeat. That’s what Japan did.)

Isn’t it funny that Ben Roethlisberger provided good off-season news for the Steelers as opposed to everyone else?

I’m surprised Steve Williams didn’t rip Tiger Woods even more than he did.

The Red Sox have not had a solid starting staff for the entire season with bullpen issues… yet have been in first place since June. And you think Adrian Gonzalez doesn’t deserve MVP?

Randy Moss aint done… seriously.

Are Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand the more extreme version of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter?

Seguin and Marchand are really enjoying winning the Stanley Cup.

I hate Merrill Hoge… but he was right about Tim Tebow…

And LeBron James would back him up wouldn’t he.

(My least favorite basketball player who shrinks in the moment defending the most overrated athlete not named Jimmer Fredette… god has a sense of humor.)

Kevin Durant dropped 66 at the Rucker… somewhere Russell Westbrook was seething.

Nice to see that Shea Weber got $7.5 million in arbitration… he’ll get that when he’s a Red Wing next year too.

The most aggravating rotation in baseball would consist of A.J. Burnett, John Lackey, Barry Zito, Edinson Volquez and Zach Greinke… with Burnett leading the league in headaches.

(I hate A.J. Burnett.)

The Eagles are the new Heat.

Osi Umenyiora can talk about a new deal all he wants. However, if he follows up another big sack season with a small sack season… kick rocks.

Ocho and Brady… Jesus.

What do you think Carson Palmer will do with all that money now that he’s retired?

Kyle Orton has lost his starting jobs to Jay Cutler, Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow…if he went on a 12 month bender I wouldn’t judge him.

Oklahoma is no.1 in the coaches’ poll. The last team to start the season no.1 and finish it as such… 2004 USC… good luck Boomer Sooner.

Strasburg is coming back… *giddy face*.

Shaq and Barkley on TNT… I need my cable back and fast.

The Red Sox traded for Erik Bedard to help their rotation… his ERA at Fenway is near 7 lifetime… I’m starting to feel ok that the Yankees didn’t get anything before the deadline.

Ryan Howard in his last 3 games has 3 home runs and 6 RBI, yep it must be August.

Michael Irvin on the cover of a gay magazine to promote equality of all people. Don’t know if I would’ve done it but very gutsy.

I win... again.

Duke being investigated for violations in recruiting… told you that no one is clean anymore.

When is Verlander’s next start again?

(We’re at a point with Verlander that he is must see TV. Verlander throws harder than anyone else in the league and his location has improved to the point where now he is close to pinpoint accurate. If you play the Tigers and Verlander is up on the mound then you might as well take it as a loss. He’s currently baseball’s best hurler and he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. Imagine this guy in 4 years… scary.)

Yani Tseng is the most dominant athlete in the world right now. And I am well aware that she is a 22 year-old female golfer and not many people watch women’s golf, but you should watch her.

Dan Uggla has a 25 game hitting streak… yet is batting .213… ummm?

NFL players like talking smack about how bad Roger Goodell is in the media, yet the signed this new CBA like everything is ok. Either take action or shut the hell up.

Is it wrong that I’m more excited for Syracuse football than Ohio State football? Keep in mind that I’m an OSU grad though I grew up with the ‘Cuse.

When A-rod retires there will be no specials on his greatness, no lauding over his accomplishments… hell there maybe a party thrown just for the fact that we never get to hear his name again.

(I haven’t been on A-Rod in a while but he’s like a bad ex-girlfriend he always finds a way to drive you crazy.

Really A-rod… illegal poker rings? And you still go after MLB and the Yankees tell you not to?

The Yankees are in a pennant race, one game back of Boston with the biggest part of the season approaching and you decide to blow a few thousand in front of low lifes, coke users and violent outcasts.

Eat your heart out Red Sox Nation.

I always say that I’m over A-rod but I really mean it this time. If this is true and A-rod did violate MLB policy then the Yankees should find a loophole in his deal, drop him like a bad habit and let Eduardo Nunez go through his growing pains at third.

I’m over the A-rod drama, I’m over the fact that there is always something with him and I’m ready to move on from him. Hopefully the Yankees brass feels the same.)

Kate Upton’s a Yankees fan, thank you God.

Had to end it off positively. Have you ever seen Kate Upton? That would make anyone feel good even when your third baseman is a perennial screw up.


Baseball Preview Day 7: The Season Preview

The Giants begin their title defense.

The human arm was never meant to throw any object over 70 mph… it certainly wasn’t meant to do it over, and over, and over again 30-80 times a year for 10+ years.

Unfortunately for that theory grown men have been doing it for over 100 years in this little game we like to call baseball. And without pitching your chances of doing anything remotely impressive during the season will be as slim as Tim Lincecum.

Pitching is the most important part of the game of baseball. Teams with good pitching do better than teams without it. Sure you could score a lot of runs, win some games and it could be a bunch of fun. However, more than likely if you don’t have a decent two or three starters or a semi-decent bullpen then your season is over by the time the NFL heads into training camp (assuming of course that we have an NFL season this year.).

The old adage that good pitching beats good hitting is as solid as defense wins championships. Look at last year’s World Series for example; the Rangers for 11 years have been a team predicated on mashing the ball out of the yard and they do so at a great rate with Josh Hamilton and company. Yet after getting by Tampa Bay and the Yankees they had the pleasure of facing the best young staff in the Majors and they got smoked. Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner shut them down and brought home San Fran’s first baseball title and first pro sports title since Steve Young and the 95 49ers.

Before that the threesome of C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettite and A.J. Burnett limited the Philadelphia Phillies potent offense in 2009, and the Phillies did it to Tampa before that.

The Rangers, Phillies and Rays were all teams that scored a lot of runs and did it at a great rate. However, once Cole Hamels, C.C. and Lincecum started to locate, their runs were over.

How important is pitching? Teams trade away the farm for it and stockpile it as if a nuclear strike were happening and the only supplies you could use were toilet paper, water and a left-handed flame thrower.

Without C.C. Sabathia they Yankees dont win the 2009 World Series

The Angels were so desperate to make a run at the AL West last year that they traded a young gun in Joe Saunders for a proven ace in Dan Haren. The Red Sox shelled out 80 million dollars for John Lackey who is at best a number 3 starter. The Mets gave up 4 major leaguers and cash for Johan Santana. The Yankees wouldn’t get Santana because it would’ve meant parting with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. The pitching market is like the drug market, its risky and more times than not you’ll get burned, but you got something good you feel on top of the world.

Pitching means everything. If St. Louis would’ve lost Colby Rasmus for the season you figure that Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols could step up. But losing Adam Wainwright knocks you out of the race for NL Central because he’s an ace on most teams but he’s your number 2 guy.

How have the Giants been able to overcome their offensive deficiencies and Barry Zito’s horrendous 7 year/$126 million dollar signing? Because, their front four have been spectacular and their bullpen was just as good.

Why didn’t the Padres win the NL West last year? Because they rode Mat Latos and had no other pitchers to back him up (that and their offense was terrible but Latos and the pen covered their tails until the last month of the year.).

It’s all due to pitching. As great as Albert Pujols is, Carpenter and Wainwright won that title in 2006. Ryan Howard is a stud, but the 08 Series belonged to Hamels. You can go back to the 90’s and the Twins, Jays and Marlins. Do they win those titles without Jack Morris, Dave Stewart and Livan Hernandez pitching lights out? Nope.

Which brings us to 2011 of course. The perennial favorites to win this year’s title are the Phillies. Why? Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels (and Joe Blanton.). That front four might be the best looking rotation in the history of the game on paper. 3 Cy Young’s, 2 rings and a lot of heat.

Philly’s acquisition of Lee made them the favorites for this year even as the Giants were still getting their names etched into their World Series trophy. Never mind that Chase Utley is banged up, and Ryan Howard has no protection in the lineup, if they score 2-3 runs a game then they’re fine.

Same for San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland, yes the Oakland A’s have one of baseball’s best staffs with Dallas

That's Trevor Cahill, he's an A, get to know him.

Braden, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson at the top of the rotation. Combine them with a bullpen featuring Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes and the A’s could make a series run at the Rangers for the top spot out west.

So who really has the best staff in baseball this year and could go for it all in October? Well as always you have to start from the bottom and work your way up, so…

30. PITTSBURGH PIRATES (last year pitching rank 30th)

ROTATION: Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, James McDonald

James McDonald has a lot of hype and rightfully so after a pretty impressive second half last year. Unfortunately he and the Pirates are staring at another year in the NL Central basement.

29. KANSAS CITY ROYALS (LY: 29th)

ROTATION: Luke Hochevar, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen

They traded away Zach Greinke and only have a 4-man rotation to start with. They have a boatload of talent in the minor leagues and they may be getting a lot of playing time this year.

28. CLEVELAND INDIANS (LY: 23RD)

ROTATION: Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Mitch Talbot

Carmona rebounded from a rough 2009 with a decent 2010. However he’s going to need to do a lot more with this young and very raw rotation.

27. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (LY: 27TH)

If this is your ace, then your pitching needs work.

ROTATION: Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman.

The Orioles added Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Reynolds to their lineup, which means we’ll be seeing lots of 6,7 run games for the O’s. the downside is that they won’t be wins with a bad pen and an iffy rotation.

(side note: can we all be in agreement that Guthrie is not a number one starter? The O’s have been trotting him out there as such but he’s never won more than 11 games and has never finished over .500. just hand the reigns over to Brian Matusz and call it a day.

26. NEW YORK METS (LY: 7TH)

ROTATION: Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese, R.A. Dickey, Chris Young, Chris Capuano

So, who here thinks Pelfrey and Dickey can replicate there seasons from last year, Niese can become a decent two before Santana returns and that Chris Young is finally healthy? Yeah me neither.

25. SAN DIEGO PADRES (2ND)

ROTATION: Mat Latos (DL), Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Aaron Harang, Dustin Moseley.

Who steps up in this rotation in Latos’s absence. Matter of fact who steps up when he’s back? While you like Richard as a number two after a pretty good campaign last year you have to be concerned that Stauffer and Moseley started 11 games total last year and that Harang has always been an up and down pitcher.

24. TORONTO BLUE JAYS (LY: 23RD)

ROTATION: Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek, Jesse Litsch.

Youth, youth, youth. Drabek has been a hot commodity since he was first mentioned in the Halladay talks in 2009. Brett Cecil was a beast going 15-7 with a 4.22 ERA and Morrow and Romero have amazing stuff. If they can put it all together they’ll be really good, but an questionable bullpen with Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch leaves room for improvement.

23. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (LY:19TH)

ROTATION: LIVAN HERNANDEZ, JOHN LANNAN, JASON MARQUIS, JORDAN ZIMMERMAN, TOM GORZELANNY

I really like the arms in Washington even without Stephen Strasburg until next year. Zimmerman could be a stud and a viable number two and Livan is a consistent, innings eater who will fill in nicely as the ace of the staff until Strasburg heals from Tommy John surgery.

Also in case you haven’t noticed, the Nats have done some nice retooling in their lineup by adding Jayson Werth and I think this is the year that Ian Desmond breaks through at the top of the order. The Nats wont be in the playoff mix but they’ll be intriguing to watch.

22. HOUSTON ASTROS (LY:17TH)

ROTATION: Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris, Nelson Figueroa

What I like: the front 3 of Myers, Rodriguez and Happ will give teams fits. I always liked Happ when he was a Phillie and he has a chance to be a top of the rotation guy in Houston.

What I don’t like: everything else. Figueroa as a starter? Norris who only relies on one pitch? And don’t get me started on Carlos Lee… lets just move on.

Hopefully the Cubs knew what they were doing.

21. CHICAGO CUBS (LY:21)

ROTATION: Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner

Garza and Zambrano, two head cases in the same rotation… 103 and counting.

20. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (LY:5TH)

ROTATION: Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan

With Wainwright this is a top 10 rotation, without him they fall out of the NL Central race. Sad to say but unless Westbrook has a career year this is a wait til next year scenario.

(also, who would’ve thought that with all of the Pujols banter this offseason that Wainwright’s injury would be the ultimate doom to their year? Internally Pujols has to love this, because lets say he goes .340/45/140 and the Cardinals make the playoffs with a shoddy pitching staff. How does he not get his 30 mil a year deal?)

19. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (28TH)

ROTATION: Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, Daniel Hudson, Barry Enright, Armando Gallaraga

Have you noticed that in the last year the D’Backs have fleeced the Yankees for Kennedy, the Angels for Saunders, the White Sox for Hudson who all looked better in ‘Zona than they did in their previous locations, and were able to suck the Orioles into Mark Reynolds? If Gallaraga goes 14-9 with a sub 4 ERA the Tigers will be kicking themselves in the teeth.

18. DETROIT TIGERS (LY:25TH)

ROTATION: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Brad Penny, Phil Coke

The “Yeah, but…” rotation of the decade. Scherzer and Porcello are young arms with experience, but can they be top of the rotation guys? Brad Penny has shown flashes, but his struggles in the last two years have outshined those flashes. Phil Coke… look he’s an ex-Yankee and I like him, but a starter… no.

17. NEW YORK YANKEES (LY:15TH)

ROTATION: Sabathia, Burnett, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova

Burnett's our number 2... lord help us.

You didn’t misread that, I have my Yankees at the bottom half of the Majors for pitching and overall this year.

You may think I’m crazy, nuts, going overboard even. The fact is that this team aint making the playoffs. Starting rotation, too many questions. Jeter leading off… not gonna work. Mark Teixeira trying to have a fast start, not gonna happen.

There are too many grey areas with this team to have faith in them. Will they win close to 90 games? Sure, why not? But contend? No way. For the first time in 15 Yankees fans will have to settle for wait til next year.

(and you can erase that top paragraph if Nova pitches as well as I think he will and this Manny Banuelos kid comes up and starts lighting it up in June. I’m realistic about this team, but I have lots of hope.)

16. TEXAS RANGERS (LY: 10TH)

ROTATION: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando

Their best starter is also their best reliever. Their biggest mistake for this season is not starting Neftali Perez out of the gate. If Holland can figure it out finally and Lewis and Wilson recapture that postseason magic then they’ll be fine. However, it’s going to be hard when you’re not sneaking up on anyone and you’re no longer the underdog.

15. FLORIDA MARLINS (LY: 16TH)

ROTATION: Josh Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez

I’ve wanted to pick the Marlins to win this division for years. And right when they unload Uggla who hindered them defensively, pick up Vazquez who is a remarkably better National League pitcher than he is an American Leaguer, and have and awesome rotation that’s finally healthy, the Phillies get Lee and the Braves staff returns to its mid-90’s form. Good grief.

14. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (LY: 13TH)

ROTATION: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilli, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland

Five innings eaters with good stuff takes you a long way. Except when Jonathan Broxton is your closer. If Broxton were Heath Bell then the Dodgers would be in the top 10 and contending for the World Series. But that’s not the case.

(by the way, this maybe Matt Kemp’s last season to get his head out of his rear and become the player he should become. Mr. Hollywood should be a .320/30/100 guy right now and should be the face of this team, but his bouts with laziness and love of the limelight are hindering him. One more year of this and its bye-bye la-la land for Kemp.)

13. SEATTLE MARINERS (LY: 9TH)

ROTATION: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Erik Bedard, Michael Pineda

King Felix meet Michael Pineda. Take him under your wing and lead him into good habits and guide him to his American League rookie of the year award. Then say bye to him when you’re traded after this season.

12. COLORADO ROCKIES (LY: 20TH)

If the Rockies want to contend, this guy has to step up.

ROTATION: Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Hammel, Jhoulys Chacin, Esmil Rogers

Troy Tulowitzky could win MVP, Carlos Gonzalez could win the Triple Crown, the Rockies could make the World Series… and none of this will happen unless Jimenez slaps some consistency into De La Rosa and he becomes a reliable number two.

11. ANAHEIM ANGELS (LY: 14TH)

ROTATION: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir, Joel Piniero (DL)

I couldn’t tell you why, but I am not particularly thrilled with this Angels team. They have a great rotation, decent closer and a lineup that can produce 800 runs. But I just feel that this team is missing a piece. Maybe a speedster, a great reliever, something. Stay tuned.

10. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (LY: 26TH)

ROTATION: Yovani Gallardo, Zach Greinke (DL), Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson

As long as Greinke stays away from a basketball court this team will be dangerous. Prince Fielder in a contract year with Ryan Braun and Corey Hart will score a ton of runs, and Gallardo is the happiest man in baseball that he finally has some help in the rotation.

9. MINNESOTA TWINS (LY: 11TH)

ROTATION: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker

More important for the Twins is that Joe Nathan returns after Tommy John surgery. More importantly Justin Morneau returns from a season ending concussion. As long as they don’t play the Yankees late in the year then they’re a AL contender.

(did you know the Yankees were taking a look at reacquiring Pavano this off-season? I want to know who smacked Cashman first after hearing that possibility a Steinbrenner or Jeter?)

8. CINCINNATI REDS (LY: 12TH)

ROTATION: Edinson Volquez, Jonny Cueto (DL) Bronson Arroyo, Travis Wood, Mike Leake

Was last year a fluke? Hardly. They get Volquez at 100% and Aroldis Chapman for a whole year. Not to mention Joey Votto and Jay Bruce leading a highly potent offense. Only one question, who’s arm will Dusty blow out first? (I joke, I joke.)

7. BOSTON RED SOX (LY: 22ND)

If Beckett and Lackey don't return to form, you guys are going to be more than winded.

ROTATION: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matzsuzaka

The Red Sox can win the World Series if:

  • Josh Beckett’s back holds up
  • John Lackey proves he’s worth 80 million
  • Clay Buchholz proves last year was a glimpse into a promising future
  • They find someone to take Dice-K’s dead weight
  • Adrian Gonzalez is the real deal
  • Carl Crawford doesn’t descend into an oblivion
  • And if Daniel Bard becomes their closer and Jonathan Papelbon becomes Kansas City’s closer

Got it?

6. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (LY: 18TH)

ROTATION: Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Jake Peavy (DL), Edwin Jackson

I’m risking my sanity again on betting that the ChiSox wont blow up into a gelatinous mess and that Peavy regains his mojo along with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko bopping home runs at will. I give it 3 months.

5. OAKLAND A’S (LY: 5TH)

ROTATION: Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy

I’d like to call this one the pick that will drive my buddy Scully up a wall. I’m putting a lot of faith into a team that will score like the Nashville Predators and is relying on Josh Willingham to do the offense’s heavy lifting.

But this rotation is a dream. Cahill was a dark horse Cy Young candidate last year, Braden is coming into his own after pitching a perfect game last year and Anderson is an innings eater with great stuff. It’s a less fragile version of the staff that they had in the early 90’s and one that can carry them to the ALCS. I really believe that.

4. TAMPA BAY RAYS (LY: 8TH)

ROTATION: David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann

Risky pick that will drive Scully mad number two. But really, who’s going to hit that rotation? The Rays have more pitching than North Korea has nukes. One problem, their closer is Kyle Farnsworth…

And with that I’ll lead into this, I like the pickups of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Why? Because this team needed plate discipline and guys that could take pitches. This team strikes out so much that it’s mind-boggling. For all of their talent none of these guys can practice any patience. Now with Damon and Ramirez they get guys that can work counts, draw walks and extend at bats that will wear down pitchers.

3. ATLANTA BRAVES (LY: 3RD)

ROTATION: Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Braves are back to their stellar pitching ways with Hudson, Lowe and Hanson who might be a dark horse for the Cy Young.

What’s different is the guy in the dugout. For the first time since the 80’s Bobby Cox is not managing the Braves. Fredi Gonzalez takes over for one of the game’s winningest managers and the Braves most memorable personality.

What he leaves behind is a team that could be a World Series contender if things fall into place. Besides the starters the lineup gets a huge boost with the acquisition of Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward looks to improve on an impressive rookie season.

But the key is the rotation and bullpen, Jurrjens and Hanson are improving everyday and Hudson, though not an ace, is a quality start every time he goes out. However, if Lowe cant pitch consistently the Braves wont make it to September. Lowe is this staff’s most important cog because of his experience and ability to make enough pitches to extend his starts into the sixth and seventh innings. If he can’t do that then the bullpen will have a hard time closing games out even with Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill bringing the heat.

As Lowe goes, this team goes.

2. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (LY: 1ST)

Sick of us yet?

ROTATION: Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Zito

Best staff and bullpen in the game period. You cant, and wont score runs on them. Even with Brian Wilson on the shelf for a month Sergio Romo will be able to hold it down until he returns.

The concern is can they stand the heat being the defending champs? They have to deal with every team’s best shot all year long and have to consistently score runs, which is something that they struggled with last year.

However, the offense has more pop this year with Buster Posey playing a full season and Pablo Sandoval dropping 40 pounds. (plus Brandon Belt coming up sooner than later, write that down.).

Plus, this is the freaking Giants. They’re the most loose, free spirited team in the league. They got this.

1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (LY: 6TH)

ROTATION: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Blanton

No Utley, no Lidge, no problem. The scariest rotation since the mid-90’s Braves. Have fun National League.

So with Philly as the number one pitching staff in the league then you’re thinking that I’m picking them to win the World Series… well not exactly.

They’ll make the Series, but Boston will win it. Why? Even with all of those concerns you feel like Boston will put it together. Beckett will be healthy, Buchholz will have a great follow up season and Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will be spectacular. They tried the whole defense and pitching thing last year but decided to make their line up manlier and it will pay off.

The have enough pitching and their guys can pitch when it counts. I like the Phillies but I wonder if Hamels is all the way back mentally and how will Halladay pitch in big game situations because against the Giants last year it wasn’t well.

The Sox have those type of guys and they’re on a mission. After an abysmal 2010 the Sox are going for broke and don’t be surprised if they come up all roses.

Wow, I picked the Red Sox to win it all, I feel dirty.

You’re probably wondering, “wait a minute, if they don’t have the best pitchers how can they have the best team after your argument.” Because sometime it’s not how much pitching you have, but the right pitching. That’s baseball for ya.

AL EAST- RED SOX

AL CENTRAL- WHITE SOX

AL WEST- A’S

AL WILDCARD- RAYS

NL EAST- PHILLIES

NL CENTRAL- BREWERS

NL WEST- GIANTS

NL WILDCARD- BRAVES

ALCS- RED SOX- A’S

NLCS- PHILLIES- GIANTS

WORLD SERIES- RED SOX- PHILLIES

NL MVP- PRINCE FIELDER

NL CY YOUNG- ROY HALLADAY

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- BRANDON BELT

NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- RON ROENICKE

AL MVP- EVAN LONGORIA

AL CY YOUNG- JON LESTER

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- MICHAEL PINEDA

AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- BOB GEREN