Saturday, March 21, 2009

Madness Workin' Overtime

I wanted to sleep, but I couldn't. There was so much excitement at a shade past Midnight on the East Coast. Two games went into overtime, one of them a double OT. In the end, it was HUGE shot by WIsconsin and a HUGE shot by Siena that sealed the deal for both teams.

Talk about excitement! When Verne Lundquist kept shouting in disbelief time after time during the Ohio State/Siena game, he and Bill Raftery knew why they chose broadcasting as a profession.

I have to admit, before the Midnight Madness, I was really disappointed at the Tournament so far. Hardly any big upsets, and ZERO late game heroics. Even the Marquette one-point win over Utah State seemed like a formality. FINALLY some drama for the tournament...

Then today, I see Memphis dominating Maryland, 'Nova blowing out UCLA, and UConn smoking Texas A&M. Man oh mannn... So much for "parity in College Basketball"....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Pac 10 Sends a Trojan Horse to the Tournament

I can't even begin to tell you why I think USC's Pac 10 Championship is so cool.

Pac 10 Championship: USC 66, Arizona State 63

It is SO cool. Here you had a team that nobody expected to do anything, the same team on the bubble of getting into the NCAA's at all. Here's a group that lost easily its best player in 25 years, O.J. Mayo, and a considerable underdog going up against teams like UCLA, Washington, and Arizona State.

But here you are! The Trojans, usually not much in basketball, rise to the top and defeat both the Bruins and Sun Devils in the Process. I don't have a dog in the fight. In general, I don't root for other USC Sports, and I've also been pulling for Baylor and Georgia Tech for no good reason. But you know what? I am really, REALLY happy to see the Trojans win the Pac 10. This is the greatest underdog story in the Pac 10; obviously it guarantees the Trojans a berth in the tourney, and who knows? Maybe they'll get a chance to upset someone in the first round.


Other Tournament News and Notes...

How about Cal State Northridge taking care of Pacific to win the Big West? CSUN wins 71-66, despite blowing a 18 point lead and having to go to OT to do it. Pacific with all the hype they've been getting looked like the darling of everyone in the Big West. So too did Long Beach State. Yet it's Northridge who takes it all. That's a big win for Northridge, plus, its the first time they've won the Big West Tournament. Granted, they got an at large bid several years ago, but for the Matadors, a strong season for that group.

...but to think UCSB had them on the ropes three times!!!!!

Michigan State ousted by Ohio State, and it wasn't even close. Ohio State won 82-70, and honestly they were up by much more than that. I'm surprised, but I probably should be. Tony Jimenez tells us the Big Ten is really not that strong this season. Be careful about Big 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament!

North Carolina falls to Florida State, and nobody cares. FSU beat UNC 73-70 on Saturday in the ACC tournament. Boy do the Tarheels miss Ty Lawson!

The end of the Line for Baylor: Baylor gets blown out by Missouri 73-60 in the Big 12 Championship Game Saturday. DaMare Carroll scored 20 points as he carried the Tigers to its first Big 12 title since 1993. It was quite a great ride for Baylor, but Mizzou is simply a better team.

The moment I saw Louisville clobber Providence despite playing their worst game of the week, I knew this was the team to beat in the Big East Tournament. Surely enough, they took the Big East championship on Saturday night as they defeated a worn out Syracuse 76-66. The headline reads "Louisville takes its first ever Big East Title." That's obvious: Louisville didn't join the Big East until 2005. They are good. I know so often we see them choke before making the Final Four, but depending on seed, I can see them making it this year.

The Tournament in a Nutshell...

Off the top of my head, I see these teams being "Final Four" good. Again it depends on how they're seeded later this afternoon:

Memphis, GOOD
Louisville, GOOD
North Carolina, good, but iffy (depends on Lawson)
Pitt, GOOD
UConn, good, but I have a hard time thinking they'll get a #1 seed now. Losing to Pitt Twice, check that, getting EMBARASSED by Pitt Twice and now the deal with Syracuse in the Big East tourney. I just don't see them doing much past the Elite 8.
Duke, good. Once again I think they're a Sweet Sixteeen team at best.

Teams that didn't impress me.

Hey what about Kansas? No way. You don't lose to the worst team in the conference and live to tell about it. They aren't due a top seed anyway, but I'd be really surprised if they even won a game in the tournament. I don't like Kansas.

Most of the Big Ten, except *maybe* Ohio State... nope, even Ohio State! Pretty much any team with a running game will have their way against the Big Ten. I do see two teams with Final Four potential in the Big Ten, but I'll get to that in a moment. Everyone else? They ought to flame out in the first weekend.

Washington. I don't think I ever considered Washington as a legitimate contender in the Pac 10. I know they had the top seed in the Pac 10 tournament, but I just never take them seriously. It's probably my own fault, but that's been how I've seen them, even though they made a nice comeback against Arizona State on Friday.

Dark Horses

USC... well I think they'll have a chance to advance a round, and potentially get a huge upset in the second round. That's the extent to which SC would be a "dark horse".

Penn State and Purdue: ok they lost in embarrassing fashion, but since everyone loves to dog the Big Ten (like me), I have to think they'll use that as momentum to make a big run. There's an outisde shot either team makes the Final Four, but as usual, it will take a lot.

Arizona State and UCLA: Both of them have Elite Eight potential. After that, it's a coin flip. UCLA's defense is overrated, but no slouch. I wouldn't be surprised to see either team get into the big dance.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma had been without Blake Griffin for a while, and while they couldn't round the wagons with him back the other day, I still see OU as a legitimate contender. This probably shouldn't even be in the "Dark Horse" category, but if they get a seed lower than 3rd, I think it qualifies.

I think we're in for another good ride here in the NCAAs. For all we know, we could end up with few upsets, but if Conference Week was any indication, man am I ever seeing some huge upsets this time around.

Disclaimer: I watched a limited amount of college basketball this season, so most of these picks are instinctual reactions. Nonetheless, I'm proud to say I made a similar pick when I chose CSUN to win the Big West Tournament. Who's the man? Oh yeah.. I AM!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mini March Madness!!

Can you believe all these tournament upsets already?

Whether its Kansas, Oklahoma, or Pitt, not to mention UConn's fall after 6 overtimes, you have one of the wildest Conference Tournament weeks ever. The Big 12 final is completely decimated. The Big East final will feature Syracuse vs Louisville. The Big Ten Semis will have Illinois, and you get a Pac 10 finalist out of nowhere, USC, playing Arizona State.

Man! That's madness if you ever seen it.

This is the most fun I've had watching college basketball in a long while. I've noted on the podcast numerous times how pointless I thought conference tournaments are, but the sheer thrill of the little guy getting a chance to make the party is what draws me to watch.

There are some conferences, like the MAC or the Big West, which need the team to win the conference tournament to make the Field of 64+1. Generally when I spoke of my disdain for Conference Tourneys, I meant with respect to Big Conferences. Nonetheless, I'm having fun with them all! The Big Conferences and the little ones are all offering drama I did not expect.

Another example, in the ACC. Could you imagine if Georgia Tech held on to its 62-61 lead over Florida State with seconds to go? It would have been a last place team making the ACC Semifinals! I don't know if that's *ever* happened in the ACC. Florida State went on to win, but the possibility was fun to think about.

Then in the Big East, after playing a 6OT game the previous night, the Syracuse Orangemen stave off another overtime against West Virginia to win 74-69 and advance to the conference final game.

I certainly hope this is a sign of greater things to come in the NCAA Tournament next week. Lots of huge matchups are to come, I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why the Clippers are the Clippers

Usually a basketball team won't go up by 19 on the Cleveland Cavs, at home.

And then blow the lead

And then get it back on a great three pointer inside of a minute

And then give up a three right afterward to Mo Williams

And then with less than ten seconds to go your fattest player just heaves a 3 pointer from 30 feet with the game on the line, and the shot doesn't even draw iron.

And end up losing 87-83.

That's why the Clippers are the Clippers.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Preview: AL West

I got a lot of dissension during the NL Central preview yesterday, and for good reason. I really really REALLY expect the Cubs to win the Central, but I can't bring myself to make it an official prediction.

Now to the AL West, where things like curses and goats do not apply.

The AL West: Well, somebody has to win it

Best team first this time...

Angels... No matter how bad or lame their offense is, the Angels are the team to beat in this division. I'm not even doing any buildup here... because its so freakin' obvious the Angels are better than the other teams in the AL West. Starting Pitching is the big reason why. The Angels have four starters who pitched ERAs under 4 last season. Four! Thats impressive, and shows the depth of their rotation. I don't even think the Angels care that Frankie Rodriguez bolted for NY. Not a whit... They still have Scott Shields, one of the best setup guys in the game, along with new closer Brian Fuentes from Colorado.

Offense is going to be the same as it ever was, possibly worse. Anaheim (and yes I said Anaheim, Arte... live with it!) lost Garret Anderson and Mark Teixiera to free agency. Granted, they won't really miss GA, but its a bummer that they don't have much to replace him with. Torri Hunter and Vlad Guerrero have the pop of a soda can, and everyone else would celebrate if they got a ball past the infield. Nevertheless, a very capable manager, Scoscia, will make the most of whatever lineup they have and get them to a division title. Remember, this is a regular season preview, so its irrelevant if their entire rotation is "not built for October".

[that said, it would be REMARKABLE if the Angels lost in the first round again... for a third year in a row]

Now to the teams that will compete for 2nd.

A's... I like the A's, and I have no idea why. But I've always appreciated their commitment to smart management. Some good that "smart management" has done the last two seasons, but this year will be different. For one, they have Matt Holliday and got Giambi back. For two, theres also Kurt Zusuki, Eric Chavez, and a budding bullpen. Yes, we know watching A's games is like watching baseball in slow motion, but it should at least be compelling for half a season.

M's... No Ibanez? No problem! We'll bring back Jr. Griff! He's almost as good, and older, but less expensive! there ya go! The M's also feature Kenji Johjima at catcher... not great, but listen, he's a catcher, and um... ok he has good defense? Oh and they have beltre!! He's not that bad but he's not that great. Maybe Franklin Gutierrez would be a bright spot, but we have yet to see.

"Not bad but not great" is basically the M's in general. I still can't believe how dumb that Bedard for Adam Jones trade is. Unless Bedard pitches Cy Young quality innings this year, I doubt they're getting the better end of that deal. Just wait until Bedard hits the DL... again! The rest of the staff... Felix Hernandez, who's solid, and three scrubs. The bullpen isn't much better without JJ Putz. This team might have one good month of baseball in them.

Rangers... Go go power raaaaangers! More like go go steroid juicers. What a joke this franchise is. I didn't say "become", because they were a joke to begin with. Even when I was a little kid, their highlights were a 59 year old pitcher pounding Robin Ventura and a ball going off Canseco's skull. To even attempt to break them down is an insult to baseball. That is ALL.

Dave's Take: The Angels win this thing fairly easily. One could make a case for Oakland, but they'd really rely on their bullpen to get it done. Unless someone knows of farmhands in the Oak Farm System, I doubt they'll muster anyone to get through innings 1-6 consistently.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Preview: NL Central

We're continuing our MLB Previews of each division, one by one. Now we're up to the NL Central.

I'm in one of those loopy moods today, so I'll do this in order of "Teams Least Likely to Win" first.

We know where this is going...

Astros... Man oh man, the Astros. Oswalt is one tweaked elbow from turning into a frog, Ed Wade may be gone, but his stench is still destroying the franchise. Goodness... Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman may pick up where they left off, but everybody else... ugh. Tejada won't be that great, Wigginton, Towles, Pence, Blum, oof, oof, oof, and oof... The Pitching just ain't all that either. This is a bad team, no way around it.

Yeah, they suck. While overall, they're awful, they have a couple of talented guys on the team. The biggest of the bunch is Nate McClouth who can occasionally sock it to 'em. I saw that first hand in an April night game at Dodger Stadium. McLouth belted a 3 run homer in the 9th inning with, I believe, 2 outs against Saito to power the Bucs to a win. That was just the beginning. McLouth went on to hit .276 with nearly a .500 slugging percentage, 26 Home Runs, and 94 RBI's in '08. What a tremendous breakout year for the blonde-haired knick knack in Center. Doumit, ADAM LaRoche, and Freddy Sanchez will be pretty decent this season, while not spectacular.

How then, is this team consistently in last place most of the time? Generally the pitching lets them down. It hard to believe too, because Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny were supposed to be the GOOD pitchers, but last year, both posted ERAs over 5. As Andrew Jacobsen says, "Yikes!" This year, I suspect both guys will be better, joined by Paul Maholm (3.71 ERA) and a cage match between Zach Duke, Jeff Karstens, and Ross Ohlendorf. The Pirates have a good GM for once, so they won't be lousy for long, but right now, I see them as a just below .500 club.

Isn't it funny how much easier it is for me to write NL previews? Uncanny. Moving on...

Reds... Another one of those deals where you just don't know how good their pitching will be. In theory their rotation should be very good, because they're going to get another year out of Volquez, Cueto, Harang, and Arroyo. Even Arroyo is underrated, if nothing else. His ERA was never great, but he's not supposed to be an ace to begin with, one, and secondly, he still winds up with around 150 Ks a year along with 200 innings a season. Innings eaters are very valuable over the course of a long year. Again, the bullpen will be solid. It ought to be, when they pay their closer 12 million! Goodness!! Cordero, the 12 million dollar man, is flanked by Arthur Rhodes, Jared Burton, Mike Lincoln, and Dave Weathers. Yep, I like the Reds bully.

You know, usually we just pencil in "great offense" for the Reds. Not this year. It might be a down year for the Reds bats. They used to have Dunn, Griffey, and Kearns all in the outfield. Now its Willy Taveras (really?!), Jay Bruce, and possibly Norris Hopper out there. Major downgrade, albeit a younger group. The Infielders are the better hitters. Joey Votto ought to maintain pace, Brandon Phillips is solid at 2nd, Edwin Encarnacion never met a pitch he didn't like, but he'll be pretty good. The pitching might be better than most years, but the lineup is weaker than usual. Despite this, I could see a Reds division championship. Do you believe it?!

Brewers... Most of you fellas are familiar with the Brewers, so I'll just summarize. Bullpen sucks, Rotation is shaky, and the offense is fantastic. The whole universe thought Fielder was leaving, but he instead stayed put. With that, you are looking at a deep lineup, with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy, and Mike Cameron, you get a lot of tough outs. I have to admit, the entire rotation is guys who "could be good". Almost all of their remaining starters had ERAs at 4 or above last season. Not a positive sign when combined with a lousy bullpen. And Hoffman as closer? GOOD LUCK. I think the Brewers have potential to slug their way to a few wins, but how far they'll go remains to be seen.

Cubs... Basically the same team as last year, and while streaky, I still like the lineup. The ability to choke is beyond comprehension, so I simply throw that out, and look at how Cubbie hitters did in the regular year. I liked it. Lee, Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Soto, and to a lesser degree Theriot, and Milton Bradley. The biggest obstacle will be health.

Now as far as the rotation, it might be the best in the division. They have some very good starters. Zambrano, a full season of Rich Harden, Ted lilly, and Ryan Dempster are all pretty good. Definitely the deepest starting staff, when healthy, considering Aaron Heilman is in the wings as a 5th starter or a spot starter. The Bullpen isn't that bad... I loved bagging on it, but its really not terrible. Kevin Gregg will be interesting to watch, but I believe he's just setting up Carlos Marmol the closer. Combined, thats a decent 1-2 punch, depending on if Marmol can handle the role. I think he does, and I think the Cubs might be a good wild card team. I really really want to pick them to win the Central, but I can't. The Cubs normally don't even win back to back division titles... theres no way they win three in a row! I can't trust that team to stay healthy. Something will happen, maybe another goat curse or something.

Dave's Take: Again, most folks will pick the Cubbies to take this easily, and normally I would too, but... it's the Cubs. Instead I see possibly the Brewers or Reds taking it, but I'll give the edge to the Reds, because their pitching is so, SO much better. After that, the Cubs might be good for a WC, and while everyone else just plays out the string.


I'm hedging my bets here, picking Chicago to finish 2nd. AL West preview tomorrow!

The Preview: AL Central

We're doing MLB previews all week long, one a day, except today, where we'll be rolling out TWO previews. First, let's take a look at the AL Central. Yes!

The AL Central: (Middle) America's Game

The only division in baseball where you can make a case for any team to win the division. Any team except the Royals. They Royals won't be that bad this season, but likely still under .500, lets begin with them.

Royals... Its been too long since they've been any good, but there are signs of change afoot. Theck this out. We knew about Gil Meche, with a pretty decent line last season (3.98 ERA, 183K, etc), but how about Zack Greinke last year? Only 24, and already piling up strikeouts... 183 of them to go with a 3.46 ERA. Not a misprint, Meche and Greinke had the same number of strikeouts. In addition, Joakim Soria, already a VERY good closer, now has some help in the bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, and Ron Mahay, will all be stepping in to set up. Boy that Royals pitching staff looks pretty good all of a sudden!

Offensively, we're looking at a Buck and Olivo platoon at C, they're ok. but wait until you see the rest of the infield... Mike Jacobs takes 1st coming in from the Marlins... he can slug it! 29+ HRs last year. Then there's Callapso who's mostly unproven but serviceable, and Aviles barely out of the farm. Alex Gordon might be the best guy of the bunch, and he too is under 25. This infield has a lot of potential. The outfield is Coco Crisp, Jose Guillen, and David DeJesus... not fantastic, but DeJesus ain't so bad. This isn't your brother's Royals... they'll still be a non-factor but I think they'll be better than most years.

I had to be more in-depth with the Royals since I didn't really follow them last year, and neither did anyone else.

Now to the teams that matter...

White Sox... I have no idea how good their pitching is. Even Mark Burhle is good not great, and even at that I'm not sure if he'll keep it up. Last year, John Danks and Gavin Floyd had great seasons, but its hard to tell if they're keepin that up. reason is that before last year, their ERA was well above 5... no clue and given the mediocre periphs, we just won't know how good any of these guys will be. The best thing is, most of them are very young, so its not as if they're injury risks. The Bullpen is going to be interesting to watch, because Jenks will have to stay sharp to keep the Sox in games. Linebrink underperformed last season (lots of injuries, otherwise very good).

Offensively, ugh... do I really have to get into this? this offense sucks!! Even guys like Konerko and Jermaine Dye... They're ok, but just not that big a deal... honest to God! All right, well Alexi Ramirez was pretty good and so too was Carlos Quentin. Jim Thome also made decent contributions. But despite all this I get the impression we're looking at a team that was assembled using the "throw @$%! on the wall and see what sticks" strategy. The White Sox are probably a below .500 team all told. To be better, they'd have to have better rotational depth and more "WOW, look at that guy" hitters. They have neither.

Twins... Twins lose Santana, no problem! Twins lose Hunter... oh hell NO theres no problem! Hunter, as it turns out, was quite overrated. Seems to me the offense worked just fine without him. Span, Morneau, Mauer, and Punto all can slap the ball past the infield. Those are just the names I got off the top of my head. They dont have a TON of power, but they are a good good offense. Ok when I said "don't have a ton of power", I mean they were DEAD last in the AL in HRs last year (only 111). But they still averaged 5.09 runs a game, good for 3rd in the AL... boy how good is your offense when you average 5 runs a game AND are dead last in HRs? wow!!

Pitching is middle of the pack... Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn and others will be their rotation this year... mostly home grown, and no FA pitching pickups for the Twins this season. The Bullpen is again solid with Joe Nathan taking his spot at closer among others. I like the pitching on the Twins. They're as good as anyone to compete for the crown, but the complete absence of power could eat them alive!

Tigers... It's too predictable to roll out the Tigers preview last, so instead I'll go next to last. While they lose Renteria, the remainder of the lineup will be excellent. Miguel Cabrera was not as good as usual, but damn he was GOOD last year. Even in a "down year" he led the AL in HRs. Mags is still there, Sheff is still there, Guillen is still there, and Polanco is still there. Provided Granderson doesnt wreck his thumb again he'll be ready to go opening day, and that will do a lot to spark the offense. I think not having him was as big a reason as any the Tigers got off to a slow start. I'll bet anybody 5 garrets the Tigers don't lose six in a row to start the season. It won't happen.

Now for pitching, their rotation will be much better. Verlander should be good again. Jeremy Bonderman was bad last year, but he is a very good pitcher... I'm not giving up on him yet. Plus, the Tigers picked up Edwin Jackson who even now has a lot of potential. Sure I'm biased; Jackson was a former Dodger and Ray, but he can turn it around. The bully? Better! Yea Brandon Lyon is a gascan, but with that HUGE ballpark he'll get his share of saves, plus lots of run support. Lyon will be fine. Then there's Rodney and Zumaya, both likely to be at full strength. Tigers' pitching will be a TON better this season. I like the Tigers... I've liked the Tigers in this division since 2002, but still... I think they can be the team to beat.

Indians... If there's going to be a chic, popular, "in" pick for the AL Central, it will be the Indians. And why not? They have Carlos Santana waiting in the wings to take over if Victor Martinez falls apart. They have Sizemore wowing audiences in CF. They've got Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona anchoring the rotation. And this year they have............... (gasp!) a closer! While they grossly overpaid, Kerry Wood will end up being a very good pick to close for the Tribe, provided he stays off the IR. We shall see... This year, the Indians' record will be much closer to the 2007 team than the 2008 team. Roll out the barrel for the Indians!

Dave's Take: I gotta give this one to the Tigers. Isn't it obvious? They have the World's Greatest Offense. They have a much better pitching staff this year. They have a lot of experienced hitters. They have no weight of expectations. Think about it: If you thought the Red Sox were getting overlooked, how about Detroit? Nobody expects them to be any good. This is going to be the second story of MLB this year (the first story is how the Dodgers challenge the 2001 M's for the most wins in a season). The Indians are going to be very close behind. I really like the Tribe this year, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Cleveland take it. I'd leave out an olive branch for Minnesota, because their lineup has been together for a while now, give or take a guy. Love the Twins' pitching. I'd even give the Royals an outside shot... I have no hope for the White Sox... too many things are on tenuous ground. Too many "ifs" on that team. They're last.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Preview: NL East

We're doing MLB Division previews all week. Today it's the NL East.

The NL East: Feel the excitement!

Jacob Rosales referenced it in today's podcast: The NL East is the most fun division in baseball. The Drama is hard to match in any other division. Even in the AL East, you don't get fans that are this passionate about their teams.

Let's take the Mets and Phillies for example. Both fanbases feel slighted as the ugly stepchild, compared to their more popular sibling, the Yankees and Eagles respectively. So as a result, they really really want their team to win, so they can prove they belong.

For years, the Mets and Phils have duked it out for either a division crown or a WC spot. Before that, it was always about Mets and Braves. Sometimes its Braves and Marlins. The NL East is a very underrated division.

Since it's underrated, I'll start with the most underrated team in the group.

Marlins... I tell you, that infield is great. They can't field worth a bleep, but their bats are electric. Every infielder on that team hit 29+ HRs. Every one! Mike Jacobs at 1st had 32, Dan Uggla at 2nd had 32, Jorge Cantu at 3rd had 29, and who could forget Hanley Ramirez at Short with his 33 HRs.

Honestly, people who tell you "The AL has teams with much better lineups" is not paying attention. You try and find me another team where almost half the lineup is hit 29+ HRs last year. Unfortunately, Mike Jacobs was traded to the Royals this offseason, so the lineup will have a little less pop... Howver, in return they got Leo Nunez a reliever that could assuage the loss of Kevin Gregg. Frankly even without Nunez, ditching Gregg is addition by subtraction... he really folded down the stretch last year, Gregg did. The rotation is again young and inexperienced, but I trust the Fish's farm system here.

Nationals... OK, so they have Adam Dunn. OK, so they have Guzman and Zimmerman. Ok, ok... but they still have almost no pitching... and even as lame as Jon Rauch was last year he was still serviceable, yet they sent him to Arizona mid-season. Other than the big three, you get an awful lineup: Nick Swisher anyone? Lastings Milledge? No need to waste any more time breaking down this squad.

Braves... here comes another one of those "it depends" teams. It depends on how well the Braves have organized their rotation and bullpen. They now have Derek Lowe, who's been pretty good over the last decade. Offensively they'll be ok, but not great. How much longer can Chipper Jones keep up his great hitting? Will Garret Anderson (picked up from the Angels) be a waste in the outfield? The surest things on the Braves so far are catcher Brian McCann, second baseman Kelly Johnson, and Escobar. Of the three, McCann is the only one with good power. The biggest liability for Atlanta is still the bullpen. They'll be in most games if nothing else.

Now for the real showdown...

Mets... A very good team that could have been great had they had the nuts to sign Manny Ramirez this offseason. He was ready to go too, all the Mets had to do was offer a solid 2-3 year deal for about 23+ mil per, guaranteed money. That said, their lineup is still quite nice, with David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran all ready to go on cue. Best of all, they *finally* did something about that bullpen. Granted, they overpaid for two guys who I think are overrated i.e. JJ Putz and Frankie Rodriguez, but the odds are they'll be good, not great. Quite frankly, "good not great" is a MAJOR improvement for the Mets bully... this is the team that blew game after game in September two years in a row. They had to do something. I see the Mets being a serious contender not just for the East, but for the whole NL.

Phils... The Defending World Series champions. A now weaker lineup without Pat Burrell. I suppose they will still be very solid, but it really depends on how well Jayson Werth can hold up. Honestly, he had a career year that came out of nowhere. What are the odds Werth stays that healthy again? How will the Phils do without Chase Utley for a big chunk of the season? Whats interesting is that the Phils also signed Raul Ibanez to take burrell's slot. Actually, Ibanez is a very good hitter and cheaper than Burrell to boot. So all told, the Phils will still have a good offense. The only thing is, the pitching won't be anywhere near as good. Scumbag extraordinaire Brett Myers is going to get his ASS kicked his season. Jamie Moyer, now 956 years old, won't be much better.
Reliever JC Romero is suspended for the first 50 games. Lets face it: the pitching staff pitched way over their heads last year, and won't repeat it in 2009. If they win 90+ games, I'll be very surprised.

Dave's Take: This one appears wide-open on the surface, but not really. First the easy ones. Washington and Philly are both out of the running for the division. The Phils might get a WC, but post-championship hangover plus other things will pretty much bog them down all year. That leaves Atlanta, Florida and the Mets. Gotta be the Mets. Granted, their rotation is not proven for anything, but they're mostly young now save Santana. I like him, Perez, and Maine, provided they're healthy. This is the Mets division to lose. Lets go Mets to win the East this year, with the Phils or Braves close behind.

Braves (Phils and Braves will have close to the same record)

Tomorrow... ohh boy! The AL Central. I can't wait!!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Preview: AL East

It's time for MLB previews for 2009. Boy who isn't excited for baseball? I certainly am, although despite this, I feel like the season is really sneaking up on me. Know what I mean? As if it just started without any hoopla.

That would never happen in the NFL... EFCSPN (that's Entertainment and Football @#%@% Sucking Program Network) would have been trumpeting Kickoff Week since February... oh wait... THEY JUST DID!! Anyhow, its baseball time, so lets get into the divisions, one at a time. Today it's the AL East.

The AL East (in a nutshell)

Easily the toughest division in MLB. Not only do most of the teams have great lineups, but they each have good pitching staffs to boot.

Orioles... The exception is Baltimore, who has neither. But for O's fans, do not fret... Nick Markakis is a nice young hitter, and Adam Jones is a possible breakout superstar... only 23 or so, and ready to roll! Still, not a whole lot else.

Yanks... love to overpay for people on the downside of their career. This year they didn't quite do that, but came close... signed two guys arguably in their prime (CC and Tex). CC Sabathia wasn't a bad move, but I can't see him pitching as well as he did for two months in Milwaukee. Teixiera... you can have him, NY. I don't even know how he gets all those gaudy numbers, because he is such an ORDINARY hitter... an MLB equivalent to Marvin Harrison.

Red Sox... the forgotten team... dare I say that? Almost no one is talking Red Sox in the off season...
Lineup's basically the same as last year post deadline, which means, quite good. Quietly they stole the Dodgers' leftovers in Brad Penny and Takashi Saito. Another instance of "you can have 'em". Good luck trying to get Penny to give you a straight answer on injuries. However, IF he is healthy, Brad Penny ought to be a very solid option, and at a good price. The Red Sox are now Sanford and Son... who knew?

Rays... FEEL... the HEAT... RAYS!! The first step to get to the next step, Tampa Bay, is to ditch that God-awful home run song! For Christ's sake... that is a TERRIBLE song... you might as well play "YMCA" after home runs... even THAT would be better. I like the Rays... but I don't necessarily like them to be as good as last year. Lots and LOTS of young guys on that team, even a rook (Longoria). I think they got Burrell to replace Floyd... Wow is that ever an upgrade. Not sure how Pat the Bat will do, but the turf ought to remind him of the Vet. Comfort! Love the pitching... Don't love the bullpen, save Price (great stuff)... That's a serious wild card.

Jays... Halladay is not good enough to be a pitching staff. Staff = more than one person. BJ Ryan is pretty good to close, but I doubt the Jays repeat that MLB best E.R.A. from last year. The lineup is a joke... Good Lord, unless Rios and Wells just have the seasons of their lives... I can't see Overbay, Rolen, and Scutaro doing much, although stranger things have happened.

Dave's Take: This is going to be the Red Sox' year. No personality at all on that team... but the Ro-Bo sox will get it done. Less hype but more results. Not that they're this little market team or anything, but the Sox are unheralded and they like it that way. Yanks and Rays will likely challenge for the Wild Card and the other two teams will be eliminated by August, easily.



NL East preview coming tomorrow!