Well folks, it’s almost here. So grab your beer, get the hotdogs out and get ready for a marathon of baseball. I can’t believe we’re back already. It feels like a century ago though when the Yankees claimed title number 27. Anyway. I’ve ordered my Mlb.tv subscription (premium by the way, I can’t stand watching Tigers/White Sox games with the guys over at Comcast sports net – seriously – most biased guys in the game – ‘you can put it on the boaaaaaaaaaarrrrrddddd. YEEEEEESSSSS!) and now that mlb.com’s posted their probable pitching matchups, I’m getting really excited!
Well folks, were almost there. The 2010 season is set to begin in just over 24 hours with a classic – Yankees/Red Sox, Fenway, Sabathia and Beckett. ESPN. Couldn’t ask for more to begin the year.
he eternal Jamie Moyer. With Joe Blanton going on the DL, Kyle Kendrick will fill in, but when Blanton returns, that could be a solid rotation. The pen has its question marks with the health of JC Romero and Brad Lidge, but you can’t argue with that offense. Utley. Howard. Victorino. Werth. Ibanez. Rollins. And oh year, they added Placido Polanco, who, after observing him for the last 4 1/2 years in Detroit, I conclude is one of the best contact/situation hitters in the game.
te being the class of the central. I just don’t see enough depth there. I could handily pick the Rockies, but I just don’t think they’ve got the starting pitching to match up in a short playoff series. So the NLCS for me is Phillies Dodgers, but I think the boys in Blue will finally get past the Phils in 2010.
Now that I’ve concluded with the AL West, I’ve decided to jump to the East coast for this week’s bunch of AL previews. This, in my mind, has the potential to be the most intriguing division in the game. You’ve got the defending World Series champions, arguably the owners of baseball’s best rotation now they’ve added Javier Vazquez. Then you’ve got the Red Sox, who bolstered their defense and would happily say that their rotation is better than the Yankees (Seriously, John Lackey, no 3 starter???? Talk about depth!). Then you’ve got the Rays, two years removed from a visit to the fall classic, and with a bunch of up and coming youngsters. Right there, in my eyes, you’ve got three teams who could comfortably make the playoffs if they weren’t all in the same division. Then there’s the Jays, now in full fledged rebuilding mode after trading away long time ace Roy Halladay to Philadelphia.
I’ve got to admit, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Washington Nationals, but it stems from the little things. For example, I really love their alternate jerseys. I think Nationals Park is a gem. It’s currently NOT got a corporate name desecrating its’ beauty. Ryan Zimmerman is an exciting player. And Stephen Strasburg has incredible potential. However, ever since they moved from Montreal after the 04 season, they’ve struggled with bad management and bad luck. And that’s why two recently announced moves have put a smile on my face.
in a power arm, and former Nationals closer Chad Cordero could make the team, but it doesn’t look quite as rosy on paper. Now I hope I’m proven wrong. Well, either that or the M’s are banking on their starting staff going 6+ IP every night to shorten the game.
wn faster than an ice cream in the Texas sun. There’s lots of question marks surrounding this team with no real certainties. They could have it all come together as above, or it could all fall apart.
Today I’m going to look at the Oakland A’s, part two in my AL West previews. For part 1, check here.
OK folks, today I’m going to take a look at the AL West, but before I begin, I’ve got to get down this point regarding the American League!
- I consider every division to be pretty much wide open. Now, I don’t mean that EVERY team in each division could make the playoffs, but for the first time in quite a while, I can’t specifically pick out a clear winner in each of the 3 AL divisions. Seriously. In the East, I could quite comfortably take the Yanks, Red Sox or Rays, in the Central, it’s a coin flip between the White Sox, Tigers and Twins, and the West is a toss up between potentially all four.
Now, I know that most of you will instantly (that is, all 1 of you who will probably end up reading this blog entry) scream NO upon reading the title, but hear me out on this one. It’s one of the hottest topics in Spring Training, and the fact that I keep hearing about it everywhere I go, from Baseball today to ESPN’s team of baseball analysts to MLB Network, implies its profound importance. First off, let’s start by setting out why the Nats SHOULD put Strasburg on the 25 man roster come April 4th:
- He’s an incredibly talented pitcher who, by all reports thus far in Spring Training, seems ready for the bigs. He’s got amazing stuff. A blazing triple digit fastball, a nasty slider and a great changeup. Does he have the makeup? It sure seems so.
- National attention. Seriously. The media have been on about Strasburg since the 2008 draft ended. Crazy. Not only did they follow him implicitly from then on, but the fact that the Nats almost blew it by not signing Strasburg made things even bigger. For about 3 months last summer, all we heard was, will the Nationals sign Strasburg? And the media followed him intently when he went to the Arizona Fall League and came away with a 4-1 record to go with a 4.26 ERA in 5 starts for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. So now, with spring training upon us, we’re getting national coverage of the young right hander. His first scheduled spring start will be televised on March 9th against the Tigers. And you can bet they’ll be following his every move for the rest of the spring down in Viera. 150 people for crying out loud watched him throw his first bullpen. 150!! Just look at the attention this young man is getting. For the Nationals, a team that has had little success since moving from Montreal in 2005, this has got to be a boon. By bringing him up, instantly there’ll be more media coverage devoted the Washington. Hell, his first start will probably get more attention of sportscentre than the Tiger Woods controversy. His first start will probably be on ESPN at some point too. And that means, yes folks you guessed it, more green bills passing into the pockets of those running the show in D.C. I’m hoping however, that the money won’t be an issue in forcing these guys hands.
- It’s not like this guy is just coming out of high school either. College guys are known to be better developed, due to having thrown more innings, faced a little tougher competition, perhaps grown into their bodies a little more. So overall, they’re a little closer to what they might one day wind up being in the bigs. And for Strasburg, who spent 3 years at San Diego state, that’s only a good thing. So yes, it;’s not like he’s an 18 year old kid who’s just had his senior prom. He’s a little further down the road than that. And while at 21, he may not yet be what he will become, the kid’s 6’4 and 220 lbs. You try convincing me that he’s not a man.
- The Nats could do with an injection of energy and youth, and Strasburg will give the franchise an immediate sense of optimism and should excite the fans beyond. With all due respect, Nationals fans haven’t really had a lot to cheer about in their first 5 years. And while they finished .500 in their first year in 05, it’s been downhill ever since, and with two straight 100 loss seasons, Washington have assured themselves of another 1st overall selection in the upcoming draft. So even if they lose another 100 games this year, just the buzz that Strasburg will create will take away one hell of a lot of the negativity that comes with it.
- Don’t rush him. This guy is the face of your future. He personifies everything you’ve ever hoped for baseball in D.C. A prime time arm. A once in a generation type talent. The kind of guy who can turn a franchise around. Washington should know all about this sort of thing, having seen what the great Alexander Ovechkin has done for the Capitals fortunes. So in that regard, why rush him? What happens if he gets shelled? Is the big league environment the right place for a guy to have the inevitable ups and downs? These aren’t guys playing with aluminium bats anymore. They’re men. Big leaguers who don’t care if you throw 100. They can hit it.
- Protect the arm. This one is huge. By sending Strasburg to minors, Washington will be in a better position to monitor and limit the innings Strasburg throws. We all know pitchers are notorious for injuries, and while Strasburg doesn’t exactly have a herky jerky delivery, he’s still vulnerable. It just makes no sense to risk him getting injured on the national stage straight away.
- Allow the kid to learn. Yes he’s pretty damn polished. Yes he might well be ready mentally. But can he cope with the big league lifestyle? What about learning to pitch every 5th day and the toil that puts your body through? What about the travel? And what about just learning to pitch to guys who are just a bit better than those you saw in college and in the AFL? By putting him in the minors to start the year, you can set a certain level. Find out just how good he really is. Hell, start him out in double AA. And if he blows everyone away in one start, give him another to prove he’s got consistency, and then if all goes well, you can elevate him to triple-AAA. And therein lies the beauty of the minor leagues. You can bring a guy along at his own pace, when he’s ready for it, rather than chucking him straight into the deep end without a paddle. And if he does end up blowing everyone away at every level, so be it, he’ll be a better pitcher for it.
- Money. Ah. Money. Some say it makes the world go round. I’d love to say that it doesn’t, but unfortunately that’s not the case. And in this instance, money is a huge issue. A major leaguer officially becomes eligible for free agency after he’s spent 6 full years in the bigs, with a full season constituting 172 days. So, as the Rays did with Evan Longoria in 2008, by holding Strasburg back until say, May, you can get what accounts to an extra year out of him before you have to go back to the negotiating table with Scott Boras. And if you ask me, that’s a good thing. The payoff is that he’ll be eligible for arbitration a year earlier, but who’d you rather negotiate with? (Big thanks to Rob Neyer for this bullet point – I just so happened to stumble across his column earlier which stimulated me to write about this topic)
- Is it really worth it right now? In all honesty, it isn’t like the Nationals are the latest re-incarnation of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, a team who infamously avoided tying the ’62 Mets for the most losses in the modern era by beating out the Twins in their last two games of the year. They don’t need Strasburg right now. They’re not short on pitchers like the Tigers were then, when they were practically forced to take a 20 year old guy called Jeremy Bonderman with them to the bigs that year, despite the fact that he’d never pitched above high A ball. And while Strasburg is a more talented and more polished pitcher than Bondo was at that age, it was a rough year for JB. He finished 6-19 with a 5.56 ERA. The Nats have a veteran ace in Jason Marquis, a proven started in Chien Ming Wang, who was practically the ace of the Yankees staff for two seasons prior to injury plagued 2008 and 2009 campaigns. John Lannan is no slouch either. What’s my point? Well, why rush him right now when there’s not the pressing need for him to be in the pressure cooker that will be the big leagues. Let him mature at his own pace, rather than the pace of the national media on the highest baseball st
age. The Nats face a similar situation with fellow 2009 first rounder Drew Storen. Although in Storen’s case, he pitched in the minors in 09 because he signed really fast after the draft. Still, I’d send him down too for some more seasoning. But that’s just my opinion. I was against the Tigers bringing up Rick Porcello last season after he’d only spent 1 year in the Florida State League (High A ball). And we all know how that turned out.
ESPN is great. Seriously. They’ve given me so much of what I am today. Baseball. Hockey. Even Basketball when I followed it for a little while. The BEST sports coverage. Hands down. And now, they’ve given me another gem to follow along. ESPN’s baseball today podcast. If you haven’t happened to check out ESPN’s wide range of sports podcasts, you can find them here.
- Sarcasm is not held back with Peter. Once you get used to it though, you can only help but laugh at some of the things he comes out with.
- One of the catchphrases on the show is a clip of Peter saying ‘I don’t like anybody’. And it’s true. I don;t think, in over 5 months of listening to the podcast, I’ve heard Peter express anything but contempt for a baseball player. Somehow, it’s extremely entertaining and I really enjoy listening to the two of them banter back and forth.
- Because he ‘doesn’t like anybody’, Peter rants quite often too. Which is again, entertaining.