Two of the last three years I picked the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series. The only year I didn’t, they fell just short when the Red Sox came back from down 3 games to 1 in 2007. Last year, the Indians were a popular pick, although not as “hot” as the Tigers. This year, that chatter seems to have fallen off yet again and I’m not sure why.
Last year, the Indians figured their season was over early and parted ways with reigning Cy Young winner CC Sabathia before midseason. Who was the last reigning Cy Young winner to be traded while holding the Cy Young crown? (Hint: I’ve already used this pitcher in a previous trivia question) (Double Bonus Hint: the traded pitcher was dealt for someone on this Indians team in the trade following being named Cy Young winner.)
Anytime a team adds a dependable (when healthy) pitcher like Kerry Wood and trades for an under-rated everyday guy who’s exceptional in a utility role like Mark DeRosa to a team that went 44-28 down the stretch, don’t you have to be considered armed and dangerous? Travis Hafner is expected to be healthy, Victor Martinez is expected to be healthy, Fausto Carmona is expected to be healthy and Grady Sizemore may be the best player in baseball that nobody talks about.
There aren’t many people that expect a repeat performance out of Cliff Lee in 2009 (count me among those). However, Lee is and always has been a good pitcher. The biggest question, is can he lead the team from Game 1 through Game 162 and beyond? Continuing with pitching questions, is what effect Carl Pavano can have on this staff. If he’s even mediocre, he becomes one of the best free agent moves of this offseason. If not, the Indians have plenty of youngsters to fill in, I’m just not sure the end outcome will be as bright.
1997 marked the first Cy Young of Pedro Martinez career and it was for the Montreal Expos (the only one in franchise history). Of course, 23 days after the Marlins doused the Indians in Game 7 of the World Series, Martinez was shipped to Boston for Carl Pavano (and Tony Armas, Jr. as the player to be named later). We all know how well that deal worked for Boston and Montreal.
Outside of the top three teams in the AL East, the Indians should be considered the best team in the American League. Of course all of this is tied directly to the pitching staff. CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon are no longer the aces for this staff. So long as Lee or Carmona can fill those shoes the Indians will be playing deep into October.
I have no doubts about the talent on this team. I think they stay healthy and Eric Wedge does another great job for the Indians getting another playoff berth. (you’ll have to wait for my post-season preview after I’m done with all the teams to find out how far they go)
94-78; 1st Place AL Central.
Did you know the only player the Giants lost from last year’s team was Omar Vizquel, yet they’ve added Edgar Renteria, Randy Johnson, Bob Howry and Jeremy Affeldt? I’m not going to say those four players will bring a ring to San Francisco, but talk about improving the team, the Giants may already be the most improved team in 2009 and they’re still talking about adding someone like Manny Ramirez.
Last year, the Giants were abysmal. They had ZERO on the power scale, with C Benji Molina hitting cleanup the majority of the year. That crucial piece of the puzzle remains empty, as Molina still appears to be the Giants best hope for any power.
Pitching. Did you know the Giants have 3 former Cy Young’s in their rotation (7 total: Johnson ’95,’99-’02; Barry Zito ’02; Tim Lincecum ’08). The rest of baseball’s active pitchers have a total of 17 Cy Youngs and that includes three pitchers currently without teams (Pedro Martinez -3, Eric Gagne -1 and Tom Glavine -2, meaning 11 Cy Youngs on 29 other teams). Throw in Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, and I have to believe the Giants rotation is the best in the NL West, maybe in the whole National League. The additions of Howry and Affeldt should help the bullpen and could make the Giants pitching staff pretty tough.
While it’s not terribly difficult to figure out the last team to have three former Cy Young’s on it’s rotation (Atlanta 2002 – Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz), it may surprise you which team was the last one to have three former Cy Young’s and not make the playoffs. Answer later.
I have no idea who projected starters 1B Travis Ishikawa or 2B Eugenio Velez are. There isn’t one position player on the Giants roster who I’d list even in the top 5 of his position. That said, most of the players are pretty good team guys and can be good links from now until the future.
If the Giants can somehow end up with Manny, they immediately become 1st or 2nd in the division. Or if they want to spend their money wisely, they abandon the Manny pursuit and sign Orlando Hudson to play 2B and one of the other big name OFs (Abreu, Dunn, Griffey, whomever). You have to figure even the addition of just Manny doesn’t make the Giants a World Series contender. Manny would likely draw as many intentional walks as Bonds did in his Hulk-ish years. By bringing in two guys for the price of one (especially Hudson) you may help your defense while adding some more pop to the lineup in two holes.
I’m not a huge fantasy guy, but I do play and I’m going out on a limb and calling for Barry Zito to be one of the best Sleeper picks of the 2009 fantasy season. With the Giants addition of Randy Johnson, Zito now has the chance to pick up some tips from possibly the best lefthander of the past 50 years. I wouldn’t go out of my way to take him, but if he’s around in the early to mid-teens you’ve got to think about him this year.
This one even shocked me.
Bret Saberhagen – Cy Young in 1989 with KC
David Cone – Cy Young in 1994 with KC
Pedro Martinez Cy Youngs in (with) 2000 Bos; 1999 Bos; 1997 Mon
The 2001 Red Sox finished 82-79. The Yankees won the AL East with 95 wins and the A’s won the Wild Card with 102 wins. Yet it was the Red Sox with 3 former Cy Young winners.
The Giants will be much improved in 2009 even if they continue into the season with no other additions. Even at 45, Randy Johnson makes this pitching staff that much more exciting as he could be the best “coaching” addition any team made this year for a rotation that features Zito and the two youngsters in Lincecum and Cain.
Not good enough for a playoff run as they stand, they do finish second in the division with this roster, 84-78.
1992, that was the last year the Pirates made the playoffs. Can you name the two guys on that 1992 team that are still playing major league baseball? (answer later)
As for this year’s team, only Ramon Vasquez was even able to drive the last time this organization was playoff bound. OF Jose Tabata was just 4. The Pirates have just four players with ANY playoff experience and only one player who was used for at least one full game, Adam LaRoche (Atl – 04/05).
Why all the playoff points? That’s what this team needs. There is talent here. Pittsburgh has been stocking talented young players for 16 years, but never finds a way to keep them long term, as experienced with the Jason Bay deal last season. What they need is a) a playoff run, and b) a couple of solid leaders with playoff experience to help get and keep the youngsters on track. LaRoche won’t be able to guide the team that way, as it wasn’t that long ago he made his playoff trips and he’s still a youngster himself. This team needs somebody like
(photo edited by me)
Pedro Martinez, he has a career 3.40 playoff ERA and nobody (except Pedro) expects Pedro to be an innings eater this season. The Pirates could give him a few million just to come in and pitch, plus lighten the mood for all these youngsters. You think Zach Duke or Paul Maholm could learn something from Petey?
The Good News
The Pirates showed they can win games last year. Even under their 67-95 record, glimpses of promise were not hard to find. The Buccos actually won six in a row last May (vs. SF/Atl) and had a lot of 1 or 2 run games throughout the season. They really are just a player or two away from finishing around .500 for the first time since their 79-83 (1997) or 78-83 (1999).
The Bad News
Pirates ownership will do little more than flirt with a player like Pedro. Using their flirtation as a way to tell their fans they’re “serious” reality sets in when Pedro ends up somewhere else. There is nothing wrong with bagging a season before it begins to build for the future.
But at what point does building become a stale promise? Probably around 16 years of building.
I realize Pittsburgh isn’t a go-to locale for free agents and may never get that stigma again. But guess what, the Steelers and Penguins are both playing very well of late. It’s time Pirate ownership made a commitment to at least put a fun product on the field. I imagine Pirate fans would be overtly excited for a .500 season, especially in a year where the Cubs are the only true World Series challenger in the NL Central (barring a shocking move by the rest of the division).
What that really means is Pittsburgh, with a couple of smart moves could potentially finish second place in the division and actually earn some of their fans for the first time in over a decade.
Tim Wakefield and Miguel Batista. The other three current Pirates with playoff experience: Eric Hinske (07 Bos, 08 TB); Ramon Vazquez (01 Sea) and Ross Ohlendorf (07 NYY)
The Pirates are a team that could surprise some people. There are no superstars here, but there are some good ballplayers who will make a difference in 2009 and keep the Pirates competitive on a day-to-day basis, just not for a season.
The Pirates finish last in the NL Central for the third straight season and 4th time in 5 years, but it’s with their most wins since 2004, 71-91.