Duet or Ménage À Trois? An AL East Prediction

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Last year the Yankees (ug) took home the ring, the year before, the Rays lost to the Phillies in the World Series, and three years ago, the Red Sox won. Needless to say the AL East is looking to have a repeat appearance this year, but who?

 

The Red Sox made some moves to shore up defense, the Yankees lost a few bats, and the Rays and Orioles reloaded with young prospects and solid trades. So who is going to win? 

 

If the Yankees could get consistent starts from their three-four-five guys, they could win the division. Is that likely? No.

The Red Sox lost a big bat in Jason Bay but added John Lackey, who could be a number one starter but is starting number three, behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. He’ll be followed by the seemingly ageless Wakefield, Dick-K, and the young, talented Clay Buchholz. Now, Dice-Ki is injured and we’re not really sure how Buchholz is going to do, but if they all bounce back, the Sox could go for a six man rotation. 

Not likely, but it could happen.

The Rays, as always, are the Dark Horse. They have iffy pitching and young guys just starting their careers, but they are faster th
an the Yankees and Red Sox and very talented. Of course that youth does lend itself to inconsistency, especially playing in Boston and New York where the fans can be pretty hostile. Taking that all into consideration, do they win over 90 games? 

Eh. Maybe. 

The Orioles are better. Not great, but certainly much better than last year. And Toronto…well, we’ll go ahead and label this a rebuilding year for them. They traded away Doc Halladay, it’s to be expected.

 

So with opening day just hours away ( hallelujah!), what else would we do but make predictions on what is going to happen six months from now? Bear in mind I am not using any sort of scientific formulas, stats, or anything on these predictions, which is contrary to the typical baseball fan’s thinking. (Admit it, we love stats!) 

I’m doing something new this year, I’m going with my gut. I’ve watched these guys all spring, and this is what I came up with it. 

First, my final division standings:

 

  1. Red Sox
  2. Rays*
  3. Yankees
  4. Orioles
  5. Blue Jays
Call me a homer, but I really like this Red Sox team. They are a little faster, their defense is better, and the addition of John Lackey is a huge boost to the pitching staff. The bullpen is good, and Daniel Bard is waiting in the wings, so if Jonathan Papelbon struggles with closing, he can be replaced. I don’t see that happening, but I’m sure that, and his last game are in his mind, getting his competitive juices flowing. 
Plus, who wants to face a weekend where your pitchers are Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey? Yikes. And you’ve got Jacoby Ellsbury who is stellar and still not done developing. Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia are great at the plate, and if Papi returns to form…double yikes. 
If they all stay healthy and the pitchers stay on their form, there’s no reason this team can’t win the division.
Now to explain the asterisk on the Rays.
Like I said, the Rays are the Dark Horse. Even Longoria is a beast, and they have a few young guys like B.J. Upton who are due for a breakout year. A few good trades and young talent means this Rays team is a lot like the one that went to the World Series in 2008. 
I just get a feeling about this team. But here’s a caveat. I think the Rays will get off to a big start, but if they start to falter around the All-Star break, I’m going to put them out of the playoffs. I just think that if they get too far behind or see themselves slipping, they might fold under the pressure. So that’s why I put the Rays as the Wild card*. 
So on to Steinbrinner and his evil Minions.
Let’s start with the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia is a beast. There’s no denying that, but after him gets a little…iffy. A.J. Burnett doesn’t like throwing to Jorge Posada, but Jose Molina is gone, so he has no choice. Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez are good innings eaters, but Pettitte’s age makes him a question mark. 
And yes, Mark Teixeira, Jeter, A-Rod, they can all hit, but the Yankees bench isn’t exactly deep this year. The losses of Judas (I mean Johnny) Damon and Matsui hurts them in terms of power. The Yankees look good this year, but repeating is very difficult, and in a division this tough? Eh.
I have them (maybe) not making the playoffs. But that’s dependent on the Rays. 
My prediction for the Yanks is third/ Wild card. They played like a team on a mission last year and I just don’t get that feeling from them now. 
Now for the other teams in the AL East. 
The Orioles really did a lot this year, and while they probably won’t make the playoffs, they will make life hard on everyone else in the East. They have a young staff that in a few years could really give the rest of the AL east headaches in a few years, and we could see flashes of that this season. My prediction, they finish in fourth place.
The Blue Jays…they won’t do much this year. They couldn’t make it to the playoffs when they had the one-two punch of Halladay and Burnett. They’ve got some good players, but it’s not enough to compete in a division that has the Yankees and Red Sox. 
We’ll start to see things heat up in this division around the All-Star break, that’s when the good teams will separate from the bad and the ugly. Then we’ll know if we have a Red Sox-Yankees duet or a Red-Sox-Rays-Yankees Ménage À Trois.

76 Days…

76 Days and counting.

That’s how many days are between now and the season opener against Tampa Bay.

22 Days, 20 hours, and 24 minutes

That’s how much time (as of this minute) there is between now and when pitchers and catchers report to Spring training. Arg! I need baseball!

Right now is like the black hole of sports. Basketball is on, yes, and Direct TV is giving us a free preview of NBA League pass (yay!) but there’s no baseball, and there’s no football (not that I particularly care about the teams left, but still…) I really hate the Steelers (as all good Pats fans do) and we absolutely crushed the Cardinals, so if they win the Superbowl…I’ll feel a lot better about the 2008 season.

But back to baseball. So, being that there is only basketball right now, and I am suffering serious baseball withdrawl, I have been absolutely glued to MLBNetwork. This weekend, they showed the 2007 World Series, and are showing the 2007 ALCS later, I think. It was nice to watch the series again because I wasn’t so nervous and I could actually enjoy the game a little more. It was almost enough to get me through the next month without the game. Almost.

Finally, for all members of Red Sox Nation who have been anxiously awaiting this moment, single season Red Sox game tickets are on sale! Yeah!

And one final, final note. I got one of the nicest Christmas presents from my Dad. He got me a framed poster-sized picture of Varitek shoving his glove into A-Rods face. Amazing!

Red Sox Edge Doc and Go Bop to the Trop

Okay, I am a High School Musical fiend. I mean, I love it and I freely admit to it. So when the Red Sox had their annual Rookie initiation yesterday, imagine my joy when I saw they made the rookies (most of them in drag) dress as characters from High School Musical. (See video here)

Hence the title. With a Sox win against Doc Halladay (masterfully out-dueled by Lester) and alesterpitch.png Rays loss to the Yankees, we are back within 1 of the AL East and heading to face the East leaders themselves at home. I think its only fair, having beat us two games at home, that we go back and sweep them at home (note, this is doubtful due to the fact that Kazmir is starting tonight).


                                        (photo at mlb.com)

After losing two to the Rays (one on a questionable “out” at first in the 9th that would have turned the game around) the Red Sox look to regain the series and win a few in the Trop. Both teams are sending strong pitchers to the mound in Dice-K and Kazmir. Dice was a little shaky in his last start, but if he gets it under control, we could be looking at another pitchers duel. (Two nights in a row, wow!)

Now, on to my campaign section:

pedey smile.pngDustin Pedroia for MVP: I don’t care how tall he really is or that he’s cooled off a little lately, this man should be MVP. He trains hard, plays harder and steps up to the plate and does whatever is needed to help the team. He gets into that batters box knowing he’s going to get a hit and thinking that no one, not Doc Halladay, not Kazmir, should be able to get him out. He leads the league in hits (200), doubles (50) and is 2nd in runs scored (113).  He’s 17-18 on stolen bases and is a great 2nd basemen. Someone like that deserves to be AL MVP! (Or Youk, but my pick is Pedroia)

2008 Roberto Clemente Award

Kevin Youkilis is nominated for the Clemente award, the nominees were chosen for their sportsmanship, community involvement and the positive things they bring to the team. Vote HERE

That’s all the campaigning I have for now. I’ll leave you with the video “Bop to the Top” just to get you in a cheerful mood before the Sox take on Kazmir and the Rays at the Trop.

Chasing the Rays is Fun, Especially if your the Sox

The Wild Card-leading Red Sox dropped one in the ninth at home against Tampa Bay last night, but relax Red Sox Nation. It’s all good. Listen to the dugout quotes following the down-to-the-wire loss last night:

Sean Casey: “This is my 11th year in the big leagues, and this is one of the best
teams I’ve been on, in terms of people…Talent-wise
and people-wise, I don’t think I’ve ever played on a team like this.”

El Capitan (Varitek): “We need to continue what we’ve been doing. Playing the game right and going out and playing good baseball.”

The ever-venerable Tito: “It’s just a bunch of guys who seem to like to play baseball, it makes my job
a lot more fun.”

So while we’re now 1.5 games behind the Rays instead of a half game up, we have some good games coming up, and good news is, we probably won’t have to face Halladay.

Bring on the rubber-match. Go Sox!

Byrd and Boston Soar to Win, but Brady’s Knee is a Big Loss

The Red Sox won. The Rays lost. The Patriots won. I should be jubilant and obnoxiously happy as a write this, but as it stands, I have almost no joy.

According to wire reports from Yahoo and another site (both citing anonymous sources “close” to the Patriots) say Tom Brady has a torn ACL and will be out for the season. However, this is not from the Patriots as of yet, and could be the same “sources” who told the Boston Herald about the Ram’s walk-through being taped, which we all now know was wrong and unsubstantiated. There is no need to panic. I, for one, will not trust a report until it is coming from Bill B or Tommy or someone who I actually can see who said it. How can they know? He doesn’t have an MRI until tomorrow! So unless you have MRI-vision, oh “sources” of Yahoo, then how can you possibly know? Or are you going on the expertise of the Jets players (who are in Miami currently), who watched the play on TV and said he had a torn ACL?

Too much speculation. I remain optimistic until the official word has come down.

Okay, on to baseball.

Papi ended a 19-game homer-less streak. Yay. Lots to smile about here.

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David Ortiz after hitting a 2-run homer. Image found here

Varitek’s average has stayed in the high 220s for over two weeks now. That’s good news for him, it meas he’s probably closer to his old hitting self.

Ellsbury hit one and walked once (a totally clutch RBI hit with 2-out), Youk is back, Coco had an amazing night, and Byrd and co held the Rangers to 7 scoreless innings. The Rays, White Sox, Twins and Yankees all won, which does nothing but help the Sox in their wild card/AL east race.

PS…anyone notice that the Rays have dropped the past 3 games? They come to Fenway for a three game series, probable pitchers: Lester vs. Jackson. The Sox are hitting .308 against Jackson while the Rays are hitting just .250 against Lester. Should be an interesting game, especially with the AL East now squarely on the line and the Rays coming in having lost three, while the Sox come in having won the rubber match against Texas.

Bring on the Rays. God, if you can hear me, please, let Tommy be okay and let the Rays lose this next series.

Hey, God cares about sports too!

Stress and the Sox

    Okay, I know, we’re reining world champions, but I am not at the point where I can take a loss or a slump without the inevitable question of whether or not we’re done. It is still as stressful as ever, I  think had we been no hit tonight, I might have given up on them for longer than 24 hours. I might have even gone a whole week. But in comes Pedroia on his shining white horse and his hot bad, come to chase to no-hitter away. And just so we weren’t shut-out, Youk knocks one into the monster seats. Do I feel bad about the Angel losing his no-hitter with one out in the ninth? Heck no. The only no-hitters I want to see in Fenway are the ones the home-team throws.

    Tonight highlighted all the reasons I hate it when Clay Buchholz pitches. He’s like the schizo pitcher. He’ll be lights out, then suddenly, its like he’s a whole different pitcher. Then he gets back to business. Tek, if you can hear me, can you figure out a way to fix that please?

    One good sign in this game that maybe we’re about to turn things around is the fact that Lackey only struck out four and gave out 2 free passes (one on a hit batter to Drew). So that means 21 of 27 outs came from fielding the ball, either with a ground-out or a pop-out or a line-out. We;re making contact, and as my coach would always say, that’s the first step. Its always better to make contact or walk than strike out. Okajima was on tonight, but the rest of the bull pen…shaky as ever. I was so glad Tito put Paps in during the 9th. I mean, if he could just be our designated 9th-inning guy (winning or not) At least until the bull pen pulls it together on a consistent basis.

    Speaking of Paps, I think 20 years from now, when we look back on it, we’ll be remembering a lot of greats from this team.  We’ll look back on Paps,  Nomar, Pedro,  Schilling, Tito, Wake and all of those guys and talk about them like we talk about Tony C, Fisk, and Bobby D. We’ll always remember Damon as a traitor (sorry, but that’s life), so long as Manny doesn’t do anything stupid and retires in Boston or goes out quietly somewhere other than the Yankees or another AL east rival, we’ll always remember Manny, but what happens after this year determines how fondly we’ll remember him. Lester? Give him a few years and we could be calling him one of the best ever. Youk? Um, its Youk. That’s it. We don’t even need to say any more. He’s a beast. If Ellsbury continues to develop (and I think he will) he could become one of the greatest base runners ever. We just have to get him on base. Mike Lowell is one of the most remarkable and likable guys to play the game, of course we’ll be telling our kids about how, at the end of the 2007 world series, hundreds of fans stayed behind to throw their support at Mike Lowell and let management know what they wanted.
 
    Then we have Papi. I mean, he’s Papi. We love Papi. Of course we’ll be telling our kids about the slugger. Drew? Maybe. If he sticks around long enough and plays well. We’ll certainly remember his grand slam forever.
   
    The guys I think we may be mentioning up there with Cy Young, Ted Williams, and Yaz someday are Pedroia and Varitek. (Note, Papi will be here too, but we already covered him) Tek could probably be in a hitting slump the rest of this year, and we’ll still be talking HOF. (In my book, anyway) Anyone who is named the Captain of his team, and then is their captain for TWO world series (and hopefully more!) wins and is one of the main reasons they didn’t get discouraged when they were down games in the ALCS (both times) is a Captain to be respected and proud of. He had one of the worst batting averages in the league and the players STILL wanted to honor him as an All-Star. That tells you something right there. And as for Pedroia, he has all the makings of a phenomenal player. Low on the errors, gets on base, a lot, fast, smart at the plate, and plays with a lot of heart. I’m not saying he’s playing at a HOF level now, I just see a lot of potential (do not let him go, Theo). Who else would have broken up the first possible no-hitter at Fenway since 1953? My money was on him or Papi.

    So now we’ve lost two series at Fenway. Can this be our home losing slump for the season and then we can be done with it? Please? We haven’t had a real good hot streak all year. We’re starting the hottest month of the year, maybe we could develop a streak to match the weather? (watch, as I say this, God is going to make it the mildest August ever)

    We are now back to two games behind Tampa Bay, but another Yankee loss puts them further in our rear-view mirror. (Thank goodness). I almost expected this, because if you compare the teams we’re playing to the teams the Rays are playing…they’re playing Toronto, who are just barely above .500, we played the Angels, who currently have the best record in baseball. But, as I say that, I have to say this: look at their division. Their only competition is Oakland, who are 12 games back. The last place team in the whole AL East is only 11.5 games back. The AL East is the only division in baseball where four teams are above .500. So right now, I don’t mind losing to the Angels. As long as we win when it counts, like when we fell out of shouting distance of first place and won five out of six (helped by a Rays 7-game losing streak) to get back into right before the break, I’m happy. And here’s a good thought to end this not-so-happy blog on: the Yankees, who were surging, have now lost three straight, two to the worst team in the AL East. How nice would it be to have the 9-2 loss on Sunday be the catalyst for the Yankee’s undoing? (I was raised to hate them, for better or worse, richer or poorer, ’til death do I stop)

Next up,  Beckett. He only allowed one run to the Yanks last time, but since no one felt like swinging the bat against the platypus (Joba C.), we lost. Maybe Becks will only give up one run this time  and we can actually do a little work on offense. Who knows. Here’s hoping for some good mojo. We certainly need it.

Keep Rocking The All-Star Vote!

We lost. I know. Our bullpen is killing us right now. Guys who have been good, who have been consistent are suddenly losing it. We’ll shape up. We’ll turn it around, and I’m predicting the young, inexperienced-in-the-post-season Rays will fall into place behind Boston.

    I gotta respect what Tampa is doing, but like most people, I’m dubious. Not because they’re the Rays and they’re historically bad, but because they’re young. While young does mean they’re fast, more athletic, and yes, right now, they’re batting smart, but how is this team going to be later in the year? I think they’ll be around, and they’ll trade first place back and forth for a while, but I just think that once they’re on the big stage, where they’ve never been as a team before, I don’t trust the grit of the second-youngest team in baseball when compared to the Phillies, Cubs, and Red Sox. I mean, these teams have been there, They’ve been in the post-season and they’ve been on the big stage and they understand the differences between regular season and post season games. So yes, I think the Rays are contenders, but I don’t think they’ll make it to the top this year.

On another note, we have ONE day left in the All-Star voting, and Tek may get bumped from the list! Here’s the All Star roster if we started right now:
1. Youk
2. Pedroia
3. Satan’s overpaid spawn (A-Rod)
        *Lowell is in a distant 2nd place by over 1,000,000,000 votes
S. Just-as-overpaid Jeter
C. Mauer
DH. Papi
O. Manny
O. Hamilton
O. Suzuki

Note: J.D. Drew moved up two spots last week, meaning he earned almost 400,000 votes in a week. Get voting people! We don’t have much more time! Tek is about 100,000 votes behind Mauer. We are Red Sox Nation! We can do this. Seriously!