March 31 - Baseball Is Back In America
Winter, it seemed, stretched eternal as baseball fans counted the minutes from the final pitch of the Red Sox World Series victory until the first pitch of the 2008 season. While the season technically began last week with a pair of contests between the Red Sox and Athletics, and then continued last night with a dramatic first game at Nationals Park in the nation's capital, the 2008 season had its grand opening on Monday, and the stars did truly come out. Jake Peavy and the Padres pitched a shutout, Jim Thome hit his 508th and 509th homeruns, and the lowly Kansas City Royals came from behind to defeat everyone's World Series favorite, the Detroit Tigers.
While there were so many signs that baseball is back, and spring is here, perhaps no sign told of the arrival of April more than the performance of Xavier "Mr. April" Nady. Nady came into the 2008 season having hit 16 of his career 62 homeruns in April, the most of any month. And Nady did not disappoint. In the first game of the season, Mr. April hit two more homeruns while going 4-for-7 and leading the Pirates to a win over the Atlanta Braves.
March Team Previews:
If you were to play a word association game with a Mets fan some time in October or November and you asked what came to their mind when the 2007 season was mentioned, some words might have been: choke, failure, historic, humiliation, and since we are a PG-13 site, we will leave it at that. However, on Feburary 1st, the Mets made a historic trade, giving Johan Santana a six-year, 137.5 million dollar contract in the process. Not only has this signing taken their minds off the terrible September, but also many Mets fans have already claimed the NL East, ignoring the team’s huge health issues.
The Texas Rangers' front office has apparently made a decision concerning their direction and it points towards building a club with youth and a solid farm system. The Rangers’ farm system went from being ranked 27th among MLB clubs to 4th overall, in just one year! The shrewd trades of Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagne, and Kenny Lofton have allowed the team to stockpile some talented players. Of course, if your season preview begins with kudos for improving the level of prospects in your system, there’s a good chance that you’re not very good at the top levels. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case here.
Mere days from now, one of the scariest seasons anticipated to date will commence. To address the giant 800-pound pink elephant in the room for a second – the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. Ooh, shocking, look at the symmetry. 100 years. You done yet?
Hedging one’s bet on the Cubs merely because disaster awaits anything less than a World Series ring this year is a silly move, but you might get lucky in doing so, anyway.
Injuries to Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey have transformed the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from possibly the strongest team in baseball into a vulnerable target. Can these Angels survive the first few months of the season and ascend to the postseason for the fifth time in seven years?
Like the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox have not made any major changes from last year, which gives them a good chance to repeat as World Series champions, even though their starting rotation may not be all that it seems.
The Seattle Mariners, who have not won the American League West since 2001, enter 2008 considering themselves a legitimate contender to win their division. Last offseason, Bill Bavasi – buoyed by an expert-defying wins total in the 2007 season – dealt the farm for left-handed ace Erik Bedard and he signed Carlos Silva to a four year, 48-million dollar contract in an attempt to fortify the rotation. Pitching and defense wins championships, right?
Since 2004, the Seattle Mariners have been in a rebuilding phase that seems to have ended with their trading of top-prospect Adam Jones and signing of Silva. The Mariners, clearly, believe that they are past the point of plotting the future. Have they? Are the second-place Seattle Mariners of last year for real?
After missing the postseason for two straight years, the Atlanta Braves re-unite Tom Glavine with John Smoltz and prepare for a full season of Mark Teixeira, but must deal with the departures of Andruw Jones and Edgar Renteria. In a stacked National League East, do these re-vamped Braves have what it takes to make the Playoffs?
After the 2005 season, the Florida Marlins conducted one of the most extensive fire sales in the history of Major League Baseball. Their subsequent squad was almost universally selected to finish last in the NL East, usually with triple-digits in losses, and sometimes with a historically bad winning percentage. Instead, the Fish finished with a respectable 78 wins (only five fewer than they had won the previous season), and even remained in the hunt for the NL Wild Card until September.
This past offseason, the Oakland Athletics executed a fire sale rivaling Florida’s. While the A’s probably didn’t relinquish as much overall talent as the Marlins did, those whom they traded were already signed to long-term contracts, resulting in perhaps an even greater return for Nick Swisher and Dan Haren than what the Marlins received for the likes of Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Carlos Delgado, Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, and Paul LoDuca.
Can we therefore expect even more from the 2008 Athletics than what the 2006 Marlins produced? Find out what Keith thinks in his Oakland A's preview.
The Philadelphia Phillies' stubborn refusal to address their pitching needs has reached near Rangers and Orioles levels. It's same old, same old for this 2008 squad: Great hitting, good defense, and poor pitching. The one difference would be the fact that the Phillies are defending champions in what was an historically bad NL East division. The Philles can't count on no other rival winning 90 games this year, so what needs to happen for the Phillies to make the playoffs?
Do you remember the last time the Yankees and the Red Sox weren't the top two teams in the AL East? Well, it was actually 2006, when a late season Boston collapse led Toronto to an 86-76, 2nd place finish...which was also good for 7th in the AL. Other than that, the status quo at the top has remained the same since 1997. So what could possibly push the Blue Jays into the playoffs this year?
The Blue Jays' swap of Troy Glaus with the Cardinals' Scott Rolen would have been a blockbuster most offseasons, but got overshadowed this year. The Cardinals themselves are overshadowed by ambulances and medical helicopters, as they enter 2008 even less healthy than they left 2007. Can the Cardinals heal in the second half and compete in the NL Central?
A new era will dawn in San Francisco; an era without Barry Bonds.
GM Brian Sabean has stressed that the ’08 Giants will be built on pitching, speed, and defense, and they appear to have good portions of each. Then again, he also said the team would begin to focus more on developing prospects and getting younger. He then went out and re-upped with soon-to-be 41-year old Omar Vizquel before signing 30-year old free agent Aaron Rowand to a five-year deal.
One thing you can count on in 2008 is that manager Bruce Bochy’s Giants, minus Bonds, will struggle to score runs.
March 6 - On Baseball and Friendship
Want to make friends and influence people? The solution is clear: watch more baseball, and discuss it with anyone who is willing to listen. Gregory expounds on baseball's role in friendships.
There is one man who has done little else but play baseball for the past forty years of his life, but is nevertheless finding himself lacking in the friends department. According to Gregory's latest poem, Roger Clemens has been lonely indeed ever since The Rocket left Earth and went to the stars.
March 1 - Which is the Real Milwaukee Brewers?
Asher has been on the Milwaukee Brewers bandwagon for some time now, and thinks that they are the team to beat in the NL Central with an exciting young team and a defense that can't possibly play any worse than it did last season.
Keith is scathingly biased against both the Brewers and the "city" in which they play. He's convinced that the Brewers won't improve by merely shuffling around a bunch of sub-par defenders.
Who is right, Asher or Keith? Let us know in the Baseball Evolution Fan Forum.