2010 AL East Preview
Usually, I save MLB’s headliner division until last. But I couldn’t wait any longer. It’s time to break down the AL East RIGHT NOW. With three elite teams and only two playoff slots available between them, expect to be surprised by the standings below.
That is unless you have already flipped through my season predictions in the first Around the League column of the year. In which case, since you already know who is getting the short-end of the stick, I offer you a coy head-nod and request that you continue reading, all the same.
5.) Toronto Blue Jays
You’re expecting that the first Blue Jay related name to appear, will be Roy Halladay. Well, it’s not going to happen. Halladay was then. The old era. This is now. The new regime. Halladay has nothing to do with the 2010 Jays.
So as you can see, I won’t be leading off by talking about how much losing Roy Halladay will mean to this team.
Except I just did. Four freaking times.
Halladay meant a lot to the old Jays, because while realistically they couldn’t compete with the Yankees, Red Sox or even Rays; he was Toronto’s illusion. You thought that by trotting the Doc out there every fifth day, gem after gem, it would mask the reality of the magic trick. Halladay was Toronto’s hidden mirror.
But now he’s gone. And now there’s nothing left to cover up the fact that this team just isn’t very good.
Sure there are good players: Aaron Hill (second base) and Travis Snider (left field). There are even guys that could even potentially be difference makers (on the right club anyway): Vernon Wells (center field) and his ridiculous contract and Adam Lind (DH).
There is even a guy who could be really good if he can stay on the mound: Shawn Marcum.
But everyone else is worth slightly less than the dirt they play on.
Last place it is.
4.) Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore has a nice mixture of the young and the old. Kevin Milwood (starting pitcher), Miguel Tejada (third base), Brian Roberts (second base) and Cesar Izturis (shortstop) are the elder statesmen, with Adam Jones (center field), Matt Wieters (catcher), Brian Matusz (starting pitcher) and Nick Markakis (right field) playing the parts of child stars. Fingers are crossed that they won’t burn out on fame, drugs or overzealous money hording stage-parents.
Stick the O’s in the AL Central or West and they miiiiiiiiiiiiight be cooking. But not here. Not now. Not, in the EAST.
Don’t even get me started on the zany division realignment weirdness that the league office and owners have been discussing. We will most certainly cover it at a later time, but it’s much too worthwhile to only give a paragraph. The topic deserves its own column. And it shall have one. In due time.
As for now, it’s time to dissect the big boys.
3.) Boston Red Sox
Oh Lord. It’s as if I can hear Bostonians threatening me now…
(I will even translate the gibberish for you.)
“H-UUUUUU (you)… AHHHH (are)… A (a)… Y-UUUUUUUUUGE (huge)… JAAACK-WAD (jerk wad)… BATES (Bates)!!!”
I think I’d rather severe off each one of my own fingers, than listen to a Sox fan screech for an hour or so about how little respect they get. It sickens me.
Risking hundreds of e-hate letters, I’m telling you right now; as assembled this isn’t a playoff team. Don’t get me wrong, Boston is still a REALLY GOOD team, probably the fourth best team in the American League actually, but in the heavyweight division, being the third banana doesn’t get it done. Obviously.
David Ortiz is a shell of his former self. But you already knew that.
Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron can’t really hit. But again, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know.
J.D. Drew and Adrian Beltre both struggle with consistency and are better on paper than actually at the plate. Translation: they wilt under the bright lights. Crap. I did it again. I told you something you totally already knew. I’m just like former ballplayer-turned studio analysts everywhere. Just print me my own baseball card and you’d never know the difference.
The big issue with the Sox is that while being built around pitching and defense, they aren’t better than the Yankees or Rays at either one.
The Rays have a much better defense and have a better lineup to boot. New York on the other hand has better pitching and a MUCH better lineup.
Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia (Worst MVP ever? Possibly), Victor Martinez (in the process of revitalizing his career and you probably don’t even know it), Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury (only slightly overrated) and Josh Beckett aren’t exactly schmucks. I just don’t think they will be enough; this year.
2.) Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa over-achieved in 2008 and subsequently under-achieved in 2009, when all along, 2010 was supposed to be their year to jump several levels in the AL East hierarchy.
Just about everything that could have gone wrong in 2009 for the Rays did. B.J. Upton continued his slide, which began the year before, falling nearly completely off the map. David Price had a rough rookie season, finishing with an ERA of 4.42. In fact, nearly every starter had ERAs over or right around 4.00 (James Shields 4.14, Jeff Niemann 3.94, Matt Garza 3.95), with long-time ace Scott Kazmir pitching so poorly in twenty starts (5.92 ERA) that he earned himself an exodus to Southern California (Angels).
Even Evan Longoria (see: in the game today, best third baseman) didn’t have quite the year the Rays were hoping for. Kind of sad when 33 jacks, 113 RBI, 100 runs and a .281 average, as a second-year player is a slight let-down. But that’s how good Egore can and should be.
Carlos Pena did manage to slug 30-plus home runs for the third consecutive season, but hit only .227 in the process. And their big free agent, DH Pat Burrell, totally sucked. Just a tremendous waste of ash wood in his hands.
Plus their closer-by-committee roll of the dice failed miserably.
As you can see, Tampa ran into more than their fair-share of bad luck last year. So the Rays made some changes. Namely, giving top-prospect Wade Davis a spot in the starting rotation and signing Rafael Soriano to close out games.
With the additions of those two arms, the expected mid-season arrival of the right-handed Carl Crawford, Desmond Jennings, and a little less bad luck, Tampa should be quite a bit better this year. Particularly the starting rotation.
Of course, the ugly white elephant appears in the form of a question no one seems to know the answer to. What happens to the free agents to be, like Crawford and Pena, if Tampa doesn’t improve and cannot contend?
An interesting conundrum to be sure, but ultimately I doubt it will matter. Riding fantastic defense and very good pitching, the Rays make the playoffs.
1.) New York Yankees
You hate it. I hate it. We all hate it. But facts are facts. The Yankees are the best and most complete team in the American League.
Sporting an infield with the likes of A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and oh yeah, whatever’s left of the Artist Formally Known as Derek Jeter, makes New York unbelievably dangerous on offense. Will they spit-shine the dirt and grass, cleaning up everything hit in the infield? Definitely not. But defense is at least passable.
What about the outfield? Well, trading for Curtis Granderson, who should see a significant power increase playing in New Yankee Stadium, was a strong play, making the fact that NY had to trade Austin Jackson to get him, easier to stomach. Granderson’s tools fit the ballpark well.
Left fielder, Brett Gardner, could end up being one of 2010’s best fantasy sleepers; IF the Yanks stick with him. Should the youngster struggle out of the gates, it may be a bit too tough keeping either Randy Winn or Marcus Thames out of the lineup, for Joe Girardi to swallow. Either way, having Granderson, Gardner, Nick Swisher, Thames and Winn all as options, makes for one deep bench.
And by the way, great pitching (sounds weird to say for a Yanks team) helps make the infield look better on D than they really are. C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and incumbent Javier Vasquez have a chance to win 15 games each and you could do a lot worse than Phil Hughes for a fifth starter.
People keep asking the, “when will Mariano die” (on-field production wise) question and while it’s understandable due to age, he is 40 after all, Mo keeps pumping out cutter after cutter, piecing together great seasons. And why not? If Trevor Hoffman can still make ninth inning appearances with one pitch (Whoops! After Hoffman’s start to the ’10 season, maybe I should cool down on referring to him as a viable closer) why can’t Rivera? Do you realize since 2003, Mo has posted an ERA above 2.00 only ONCE?
Yeah, he’s fine.
This is a dirty good team, nary, an unstoppable one full of players who WILL produce. They have at least two MVP candidates (A-Rod and Tex), a Cy Young candidate (Sabathia), a deep bench and a good bullpen.
All of that not even mentioning the club has a hitter compared frequently to MIGUEL CABRERA, waiting in the wings down on the farm. NY is fine-tuning the defensive skills of catcher and resident phenom, Jesus Montero, at Triple-A Scranton. He’s a good enough hitter now, that if forced into action, at least offensively, Montero could step in for Jorge Posada without missing a beat. The only real problem is that Montero is atrocious behind the plate. Honestly, he’d probably project as a first baseman for almost any other club, but with Teixeira’s lengthy contract, Montero will likely end up primarily as a DH. But the Yankees are leaving no stones unturned, giving the kid’s catching the old college try, hoping that with a lot of work, he can at least catch at the big league level for a few years.
When Posada is finally put to pasture (probably next year), penciling Montero’s name onto a lineup card with A-Rod, Texeira, Jeter, Granderson, Cano and Gardner won’t even be fair. For now, Jorge will have to do.
Hello AL East champs and hello World Series. New York has no reason to believe they shouldn’t be able to achieve both.
Instead of closing my preview on that note, let’s end on a much more scathing one. Completely unprovoked, allow me to take this opportunity to take a stab at shedding some unwanted negative light at fellow Not in HD writer and my good friend, Dan Miller’s way.
After all, who doesn’t like a good de-sensitizing Dan Miller story?
This one has to do with the Yankees, naturally.
To shed some perspective by giving a little back story, you may recall in mid-October of 2006, Yankees pitcher, Cory Lidle, tragically died when he lost control of the small aircraft he was operating (likely anyway), and it crashed into a residential building in New York City. A sad scenario to be sure.
But as time passes, the gravity and seriousness of death tends to wear off. At least, to our good man, Dan Miller.
In 2008, so just about a year and a half after the crash for all of you math whizzes, on the comment board of our fantasy baseball keeper league, Dan made a comparison referring to some random run-of-the-mill player. I can only assume that player was James Loney. It makes all too much sense.
Anyway, this was his line:
“He’s flying under the fantasy radar like Cory Lidle.”
Classic, classless Dan Miller.
EN GARDE, Dan!
And THAT my friends, is how we will end this column. Good day to you all.