Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

MLB Preview: AL East and Central

Since we're actually going to put some real thought into the AL West, I'm left with the enviable task of going through two of the most interesting divisions in all of baseball. Both are ripe with interesting season storylines that I'm genuinely interested in seeing.

Let's start with the AL East...

1. Why did the Yankees stand pat?
Of course this has to start with the Bronx Bombers. I'm still very curious about their decision to basically go into next year with very little in the way of a serious upgrade. Kyle Farnsworth, Octavio Dotel, and possibly Ron Villone (although not probably) will help out in the bullpen, but if you can't think of a starter or position player who is new that would be because there aren't any. I think they are banking on Shawn Chacon and Chien Ming Wang to be the second half starters of last year, same with Jason Giambi on the offensive side. This seems pretty 2005-ish Mariner type thinking to me. New York is another year older with a lot of 30+ year players. Randy Johnson will get worse. Mike Mussina will get worse. Same with Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada (who is already starting to break down). There are a lot of names, and this team will more than likely make the playoffs again, but I do not believe the cracks have been filled to reach that world championship.

2. Why did the Red Sox not stand pat?
Then there is the polar opposite of Boston. The Red Sox pretty much let their entire world championship roster go except for Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz (who will both still be monsters). New addition Coco Crisp has to be seen as a downgrade on Johnny Damon, although Red Sox fans are excited to see a real arm out in the field. I'm not sure Josh Beckett has the health or mental fortitude to deal with being a Red Sox ace. I don't believe Curt Schilling is back to normal, same with Keith Foulke. I like the young arms, but are they enough to go the rest of the way? Basically, the Red Sox are going to have to win a lot more games than they were used to with pitching and defense. I'm not sure the team is built to win enough that way. The starting pitching staff is still super-weak after Beckett (yes, I'm still not a huge Tim Wakefield fan as a full time starter). Matt Clement is a giant question mark and David Wells is a fat 42. This could go either way. The Red Sox could gel quickly and be unbeatable or they could unravel just as quickly.

3. Is there a chance a third team makes a run?
The top two beasts of the East have way too many flaws and way too many question marks for their not to be a shot. Toronto was an early candidate, but if AJ Burnett's health doesn't hold out they will be an expensive failure. At least Vernon Wells finally has some help with Troy Glaus (if Glaus' knee holds up in the Dome). Tampa Bay has a lot of young arms, including potential ace Scott Kazmir, and finally should be able to offensively match their bigger rivals. Carl Crawford is a super stud, and I can't wait to see what Delmon Young and Rocco Baldelli add. Baltimore started off hot last year but wilted under their lack of starting pitching. Since they didn't really add help, I'm not sure if they will be able to run off a consistent year. Any of these teams could have a magical season if a lot goes their way and none should be a pushover for Boston or New York, which is good news for potential wild card teams in other divisions.

On to the AL Central...

1. Can the Champs Repeat?
The White Sox still have Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras. They still have Bobby Jenks and Dustin Hermanson in the bullpen. A better staff there isn't in the league. If Jim Thome's health holds up, they are vastly improved offensively, with the coup of retaining Paul Konerko in Chicago. While they still may struggle to score runs consistently and we probably have to endure another season of Scott Podsednik-love (did you hear he hustles? I love players who hustle!) this is a team that will be around in the final weekend.

2. What team has the best shot at overtaking them?
This is probably a toss up between Cleveland and Minnesota. Cleveland was in it until the end last year and their young talent is another year older. The loss of Kevin Millwood is big, and it is debatable whether Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, and Jake Westbrook can hold together. Each can be maddeningly inconsistent (especially Sabathia, who was on my fantasy team last year). The bullpen was a huge strength and lost some key players. Still, they did add Paul Byrd and Guillermo Mota for depth. Byrd especially should be a good fourth starter. He's twice the pitcher Ryan Franklin is. Offensively I can't wait to see another year out of Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner. From Minny, they are banking a lot on continued growth from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Addition Rondell White isn't the answer. They will continue to struggle to score too often. That's why I still give the edge to Cleveland.

3. Will Kansas City or Detroit even be watchable?
What do you think?

Predictions, predictions, predictions...
New York and Chicago will win (yes, I know it's lame, but it's what I think today, maybe I'll change my mind in our final column)

posted by Gavin @ 2:08 PM  0 comments


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