Mets Merized Online » Michael Branda Sun, 19 Feb 2017 23:34:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Jumping To Conclusions and Agent-Speak Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:30:21 +0000 1438266122046

Update 11:30 am

Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt has spent the day trying to explain to fans what exactly happened. Now, in the latest tweet meant to set off yet another firestorm, Haudricourt says,

The more details I get on nixed Gomez trade, the more it sounds as if it became more financial matter than medical matter. Anyone surprised?

This to me is a fascinating turn of events and plays directly into a Wilpon lack of money issue that some fans and critics love to eat up.

Yet, if you take a second to actually think about it – how can that be the whole story?

After all, Haudricourt also reported that Brewers GM Doug Melvin told him that when report of the deal leaked out, he told Carlos Gomez about the trade and that it was set to go through if medicals checked out.

He also reported last night that Melvin CONFIRMED medicals were the reason the deal got nixed.

So, since the medicals did NOT check out – we’re now going to try and spin this into a Mets financial issue? How does a trade “go through if medicals check out” if financials are an issue? It’s not like Carlos Gomez’s contract snuck up on the Mets. I am sure at minimum, Sandy Alderson is able to access Baseball Cot’s right?

Could it be, that the medicals did NOT check out and THEN the Mets requested a financial insurance policy on Gomez or else the deal was dead, and the Brewers rejected?

Doesn’t that make more sense than just the constant banging of the drum against the Wilpon’s?

Perhaps the Mets did the logical thing and saw a red flag, and tried to protect themselves from a potentially catastrophic mistake. Now, the Brewers are stuck with Carlos Gomez and trying to probably convince others to take him since you know, he never had a hip issue…other than that one time he had a hip issue.

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Original Post

Okay so last night was easily one of the craziest nights as a Mets fan I can remember. First of all, I’m glad to be on the side of the buyer – not the seller for the first time in what… 7 years?

While I have not been a Carlos Gomez fan for various reasons, I’m not going to sit here and tell you if healthy I would have been mad about the deal. I think it was a good trade for the Mets, had it gone through.

If the Mets could do me a favor from now until the deadline and only make afternoon deals, or at least finalize deals prior to let’s just say 9pm? That’d be great, thanks. Could the Mets fan base have slept any worse last night?

I know it looked “so Mets” to keep Flores in and Alderson “blames” social media for leaking the deal – I blame people’s rush to judgment without the facts as really the problem. I don’t think the leak of the deal was the issue at all.

Last night yes – the deal was reported done pending physicals as always. Yes Sherman didn’t say that – but everybody else did. Anybody who follows MLB trades knows physicals are always the last step, and when you have a player with Tommy John Surgery on his resume – you should know it’s not done yet until the teams say so.

They were correct to report the deal. In an era of the sport where you check every five minutes, we the fans have an appetite for wanting to know when a trade is close, and when a trade is done.

Trade rumors are like the National Enquirer of sports. They rarely lead to anything – but “we” always need to feel like we know what’s going on before it happens. That’s where I blame social media. How many “rumors” have stirred up a discussion that eventually had no true end result?

Remember the rumor that had the Mets getting Tyler Clippard, or Juan Uribe & Kelly Johnson?

The most informed reaction is the one you have after you have the facts. Not before.

When Flores was still out there, the social media firestorm was insane.

People calling Collins a cold and evil person – people saying the Mets are idiots…almost everybody was BLASTING the Mets, including reporters and beat writers who often get trade details.

You had Carlos Gomez with KRod and others taking an airplane selfie because he was told he was dealt by his manager. I don’t blame the media for reporting the deal, they did what “we” ask of them.

However, two things lead to last night’s chaos.

#1 Everybody’s insatiable desire to crush the Mets for anything and everything they do. And the fact remains – they were right guys. There was no trade, and no reason to pull Flores. Instead of viewing something that doesn’t make sense to you – perhaps wait until you get the facts before rushing to judgment next time?

We all knew Collins would speak after the game, we all knew there’d be plenty of chances for him to explain the situation. Instead – many fans and critics jumped to throw Terry Collins and the Mets directly under the bus. What was fascinating to me was the amount of insults being thrown Collins’ way as if somehow overnight he became an evil person, which was comical to me since just yesterday there was a story right here showcasing what a genuinely nice man Collins is.

#2 And this is where I blame the media. If you had an internet connection – you knew the Mets were getting BLASTED for having Flores out there. If you watched the game, you knew how sad of a scene it was.

Where was everybody who is so quick to “break” news at that point?

There isn’t ONE source that could have been found to say the deal is off mid-game and that’s why Flores is not pulled?

Everybody has sources to fill an entire trade rumor report – but nobody has a single source to ask the most important question of the night?

Why can’t the Mets broadcast team relay a message to the fans that there is a holdup in the deal and that’s why Flores is out there? Why can’t any of the Mets beat writers, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman – anybody go to ONE source and ask “Why is Flores still playing?”

One report could have calmed everything down. But instead, everybody was too busy knocking the Mets, because that’s the cool thing to do right?

You can’t ask Sandy Alderson to release a statement on a trade that he didn’t even report had happened – especially when things probably got pretty ugly behind the scenes. If “sources” broke the story of the trade, then “sources” could have easily leaked a holdup in the deal.

So let’s get to why the deal broke down really quick.

The Brewers say Wheeler, the Mets say Gomez.

Maybe it’s the Mets fan in me – but I don’t believe the Brewers at all. First of all, Zack Wheeler is about 5 months removed from Tommy John Surgery, what are you finding out from a cut open elbow that you didn’t expect to see? You’re acquiring a guy who might not pitch until the summer of 2016 – what surprised you?

I refuse to believe you’ll know anything about Wheeler until he’s on a mound. They are the ones who were trading for a guy who just had his elbow cut open. I would be SHOCKED if Wheeler’s medical came through clean…since, it isn’t clean.

Plus, why would the Brewers own Manager tell Carlos Gomez he has been traded – if Zack Wheeler’s medical was the issue? Why would word get to the Manager to tell his star player he’s been dealt, if the organization didn’t tell him to?

The Brewers have to save face here because now they want to trade Carlos Gomez. The Mets do not NEED to trade Zack Wheeler. So the Brewers and Scott Boras denying Gomez’s hip issue to me is poppycock (yes, I just wanted to say “poppycock”).


But it was really the Scott Boras quote paired with how angry Sandy Alderson seemed to be that leads me down a path of believing the Mets were right here.

“Carlos Gomez has never seen a hip doctor and has never had a hip issue in his playing career. Anyone who suggests that is inaccurate and baldly misrepresenting the truth of the player’s condition.”

Really? He’s NEVER had a hip issue? I’m confused by this quote because just about a month ago, Carlos Gomez said this

“What I have been through this year has been hard,” he said. “It started with the hammy, then the hip.”  

Then the what?

How can that be? Scott Boras just said you NEVER had a hip issue. How does a guy who has never had a hip issue in his playing career – have a hip issue just over a month ago?

Carlos Gomez’s hip issue was so serious at the time that his team scheduled an MRI on it. You don’t schedule an MRI on something that isn’t an issue.

The Mets did their due diligence when it comes to Gomez’s hip, and it lead to a deal being canceled. I’m not going to sit here and blame them for last night because they were busy doing what was best for the organization at the time.

Sure, at the time his MRI was “clean” – but they saw something they didn’t like, and that’s enough for me to accept their reasoning for backing out of the deal.

I know it’s the cool thing to do to criticize the Mets, but I think they got caught in a social media fire storm and unfortunately Flores was the victim – but had the trade gone through – perhaps the entire team would have been the victim.

This doesn’t mean the Mets cannot trade for an outfielder – and I expect they will do that now because the showed the Mets fans that they recognize a need for an impact bat and are willing to do something about it.

However, if I were a betting man (and I am), I’d bet it won’t be Carlos Gomez….or Gerardo Parra.

Good thing San Diego’s in town huh?

justin upton

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It’s Time For The Mets To Define The Moment Fri, 26 Jun 2015 15:15:47 +0000 terry-collins-and-sandy-alderson-watch-bp
Ah yes, that wonderful time of the year when every Mets fan who has been waiting for this team to fail can pop out of their hole and hold up their “I told you so!” sign. It’s truly one of my favorite times of the year because you see and hear almost the same argument – but with no clear solution to the problems they point to.

“The Mets should have made a trade already!”

The media is certainly helping put this story together, just in case you needed help writing your 140 character complaint.

Two nights ago I tweeted to ESPN’s Adam Rubin this: “In 2 wildcard era, losing teams not trading best players until late July. A reality Mets fans need to come to terms with.”

And before I mention his reply – let me just be clear on something. What I said – was a fact.

Do you realize that since the two wildcard system was put into place there have been TWO “significant” additions made to a big league club via trade from April through June?

Those two moves were Kevin Youkilis being sent to the White Sox in 2012 at the end of June and Eric Young Jr being traded to the Mets in mid-June of 2013.

That’s right sports fans. Eric Young Jr. is actually in the conversation for “setting the bar” when it comes to “impact now” trades that occurred before July in the prior three seasons. Let that sink in for a second before we move on.

So Rubin’s reply was “Elite players? Or making waiver claims and acquiring stopgaps so you don’t have to play AAAA guys?”

Now I like Rubin, I think he does a great job of covering the Mets but at the same time this made me scratch my head. First of all, what waiver claim isn’t a AAAA guy?

Take a serious look at the players who were on waivers so far this year. You’ll notice such difference makers like Casey McGehee, Matt Dominguez and our own Kirk Nieuwenhuis?

Sorry but that just isn’t a valid argument to me and it feeds into this constant storyline of hoping, or should I say expecting the Mets to turn water into wine right away.

Here is the truth. Ready for it?

The Mets NEED a difference maker on offense. Those types of players are not readily available, and you can’t expect somebody to come knocking on the Mets door in May offering up a player like that.

Here’s another truth.

For better or worse, this team is waiting on David Wright. I’ve never been as pessimistic about a player coming back from an injury as I am with Wright – and I hope I’m wrong. But you have to at least acknowledge that the Mets MUST keep hope alive and must wait this out and hope that he will return to being a productive player after the All-Star Game.

They likely aren’t going to jump off a bridge and hope they land on a superstar 3B before they know where they stand with Wright.

We often hear that the Mets need a SS so that they can move Flores to 2B.

And yeah, that may improve the defense somewhat but I got news for you – Flores isn’t hitting consistently enough to be accommodated like that. He’s had some key HR for sure, but on a nightly basis he is a defensive liability and a below average hitter.

For all of Murphy’s idiosyncrasies, he’s a better ballplayer than Flores – and if Dilson Herrera or Matt Reynolds (depending on his ability at 2B) are the future of 2B in this organization then perhaps it’s time to seriously start thinking about whether Wilmer Flores has value inside a package of players to acquire a player?

The Mets shouldn’t be worried about what to do at 3B long-term without Wright right now. Sure, it’s a scary situation but they have alternatives at 3B (such as signing Murphy) in 2015.

So, that takes us back to finding a difference maker who plays SS, and maybe a backup catcher to come with him.

You know, I know that some of you will instantly say Jose Reyes – but he isn’t the guy they need whether Toronto was ever in sell mode or not.

They don’t need a table setter. They need a guy who makes everybody else better – and a guy who can produce runs.


It pains me to say this because I know that financially it’s a huge risk, and with the Mets luck the day he is acquired he’ll land on the disabled list – but the Mets should revisit the Troy Tulowitzki market. I know what many will say, and I’ll probably agree with almost all of it.

If you could tell me there was an alternative infielder who could truly make a big difference for the Mets and was actually available – I’m all ears. I’d love to see a player like Todd Frazier, but I also think he’d cost more in talent and also assumes David Wright’s career at 3B is over. I’m not a huge believer in Starlin Castro either. Since 2013, Castro is a below .700 OPS hitter with poor defense. That doesn’t do it for me.

Sometimes you have to take risks in order to achieve your full potential.

Yes his health is a risk – yes he plays in Colorado – yes he makes a ton of money – yes many months ago I talked myself out of wanting Tulo. Nobody will debate with you on any of these.

Whether you value my opinion or not, the first three points above are valid red flags that can’t be ignored.

But, you can’t be afraid to try and make your team better all the time. Remember when the Mets talked themselves out of Vlad Guerrero (of course you do)?

One of my favorite quotes in a movie comes from Tin Cup. When a defining moment comes around, you either define the moment – or the moment defines you. That is where this team is at right now. And that is why you take the risk on Tulowitzki right now.

Take Michael McKenry (unless you can get Nick Hundley which would mean Colorado moves Wilin Rosario back behind the dish) in the deal along with Tulo – and offer up a package that includes Wilmer Flores but features Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz. The Mets would have to throw in another mid-level guy of course, but I think featuring one of those arms should start a serious conversation, especially considering Tulo’s previous health record his contract and the Rockies desperate need for quality arms. 

It’d be a tough pill to swallow, but the Mets have to remember that Zack Wheeler is coming back next year and the idea that a team will take a player coming off Tommy John surgery in a trade during the winter is highly unlikely.

If you don’t give up both Syndergaard and Matz – you know your rotation in 2016 already features deGrom-Harvey-Not Traded Guy-Niese-Wheeler. The Mets can’t go into 2016 with 6 or 7 quality big league starters.

Somebody has to go, and if one must go – you have to get the best possible value for that player, and there aren’t a lot of options out there.

When you pound your fist or furiously type on Twitter that the Mets should “do something,” I rarely hear or read what that something is. So there it is for you.

The Mets need an impact player.

They don’t need Ben Zobrist (though he’d be a nice addition for depth).

They don’t need a heading out to pasture player like Aramis Ramirez.

They don’t need a 2B like Brad Miller who hasn’t proven he can hit in the big leagues – because we already have enough players like that.

They don’t need Jean Segura because we already had Eric Young Jr. once before.

They certainly don’t need waiver pickups either.

They need impact.

They need a player that would join this roster and instantly awaken players like Juan Lagares, and Lucas Duda.

They need a player that lessens the pressure on aging players like Curtis Granderson or Michael Cuddyer and allows them to be veteran leaders without feeling like they need to carry the team offensively every night.

They need a player that would instantly make the pitchers feel as though this organization is doing everything they can to ensure their talents are not wasted.

They need a player that will ignite the fan base – and give the fans a reason to believe that this organization does believe this team can be special if given the chance.

And even with all of the reasons to not make the trade – Troy Tulowitzki is that player. Of course, that’s just my opinion – I could be wrong.

mmo footer

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MMO 2015 Season Preview: National League East Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:24:36 +0000 matt harvey

Philadelphia Phillies – 5th Place

Key additions: Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley and Jeff Francoeur

Key subtractions: Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, Kyle Kendrick, and A.J. Burnett

Nobody’s failure makes me smile more than this team. To see Ruin Tomorrow Jr’s efforts here really have been a thing of beauty. Their most valuable commodity, Cole Hamels is still a member of this inevitable last place team. What are they waiting for?

This team is going nowhere, and they have a young arm. The only way this can get worse for Philadelphia is if Hamels goes down with an injury before they trade him. Mark my words, if Hamels does get hurt in a Phillies uniform, Tomorrow Jr will start to pack his bags.

The mere fact that Jonathan Papelbon is still on this roster is a huge failure in my mind. The guy couldn’t have been more clear that he wanted out, teams need a closer and they couldn’t get rid of him. Likely because of unrealistic demands.

Overall, for this team it’s all about whether they can dump players like Hamels, Howard, Utley, Papelbon and a few others onto others and what they get in return.

Their window has been slammed shut and yes, I’m gloating.

Atlanta Braves – 4th Place

Key additions: Shelby Miller, Nick Markakis, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, A.J. Pierzynski, Alberto Callaspo, Jace Peterson, Jonny Gomes, Eric Young Jr. and Manny Banuelos

Key subtractions: Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Emilio Bonacio, Ervin Santana, Aaron Harang, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter, and David Hale, Craig Kimbrel, Melvin Upton Jr.

Atlanta’s complete overhaul is quite interesting. I do believe Heyward is a player you build around, not trade away but I also understand why they felt they had to make the move.

I think a few Braves fans are buying into Eric Young Jr a little too much. He isn’t an everyday player, so if he is penciled in as one, then you have a problem.

Let’s talk about the good for a second. They have developed an infield core that showcases Christian Bethancourt, Freddie Freeman, and Andrelton Simmons. If Bethancourt can prove to be what Atlanta fans believe he can be, then the Braves have a very young, very capable infield core built.

Julio Teheran and Mike Wood together make up a 1-2 that could develop into a Harvey-deGrom kind of 1-2. Wood needs to prove it, Teheran needs to build on a great 2014.

If Shelby Miller can put together a consistent season and Wood puts together a true #2 like year, then Atlanta could be peskier than we think.

I love the addition of Trevor Cahill. I think he can be one of those guys who just finds his way back thanks to pitching in Atlanta.

The Braves had the most dominant relief pitcher in the game right now. They gave him away on Opening Night, and I think that is a sign that this team is rebuilding, and not retooling like they said.

I did think they were a 3rd place team, but after the Kimbrel deal I am pegging them officially as the 4th place team. The deal makes this franchise appear like they have no interest in winning, so why should I predict them to do so?

Miami Marlins – 3rd Place

Key additions: Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Mat Latos, Michael Morse, Martin Prado, Aaron Crow, and David Phelps

Key subtractions: Andrew Heaney, Nathan Eovaldi, Anthony DeSclafani, Garrett Jones, and Casey McGehee

Miami is a popular pick this year, and I find it fascinating because usually the people who are in love with Miami use the fact that Jose Fernandez comes back in June to their advantage. No big deal right?

How many of those same people question whether Matt Harvey can return to his 2013-self? Probably most.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Giancarlo Stanton is drool worthy. He’s offensive talent in the NL, and if Mike Trout didn’t exist – I’d say he’s the best offensive talent in the sport.

I view Dee Gordon as Emilio Bonifacio 2.0. He’s a player with excellent speed that can’t get on base enough to utilize that speed and to top it off, strikes out a lot.

There is likely some concern from Marlins fans over the fact Mat Latos has not been able to throw as hard as he once did. I like Latos, but if his velocity is dropping, then that should scare Marlins fans.

Morse is a great bench player, the Marlins need him to be an every day 1B.

If the Marlins can hang in there until Fernandez returns then it will be a very fun summer for Marlins fans. Still, I am just not too sure they have the talent and depth right now.

I think they’ll be competitive, I just think 80 wins is their ceiling probably.

NY Mets – 2nd Place

Key additions: Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Torres, and John Mayberry Jr

Key subtractions: Zack Wheeler due to injury

I’m trying not to be a homer here, I honestly do feel like they have the 2nd best team in this division. Of course, they need to put it all together over 162 games.

I think the addition of Cuddyer is going to be a huge positive for the Mets. I think the things we won’t see (as in behind closed doors) will make a huge difference in this team’s attitude and effort on the field.

I’m also really intrigued by Kevin Long. I’ve never been one to say a hitting coach makes a huge difference, but if you watched the same Spring Training as I, then you saw something different compared to years past.

The rotation is going to give us a reason to watch every game. Yes, even on Bartolo days.

I believe they have a top 5 rotation, and yes while we will all probably hold our breath every time Harvey pitches, they will be a ton of fun to watch.

The bullpen worries me a little, but I don’t want to underestimate Mejia and Familia either. I think if the Mets can tread water, more bullpen arms will become available throughout the year.

I’m not totally sure that this is a playoff team, but I am sure it will be an enjoyable season to watch all year. We deserve that.

Washington Nationals – 1st Place

Key additions: Max Scherzer, Casey Janssen, and Yunel Escobar

Key subtractions: Adam LaRoche, Tyler Clippard, Steven Souza, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ross Detwiler, and Rafael Soriano

The two players I hated seeing the most from Washington were Adam LaRoche and Tyler Clippard. LaRoche has a .845 OPS against the Mets, and take Clippard’s 1.00 WHIP in in 51 appearances with you too.

You can’t ignore the addition of Scherzer. I think long term that will be a problem for Washington, but I think for right now it makes them nasty 1-4.

This team has such high expectations, again – and it seems like it’s World Series or bust for the Nats.

So why won’t they get there?

Easy answer is, their bullpen. Drew Storen has proven that he cannot close out the big game. Overall, I’d say their bullpen is just okay and while they have enough talent to win the division, they don’t have enough to win the pennant.

NL East MVP: Giancarlo Stanton. Best player in the division, on a team that will at least be competitive.

NL East Cy Young: I’m not positive but I think if I don’t pick Matt Harvey, I get hate mail.

NL East Sleeper: Wouldn’t it be great if this turns out to be a guy like Syndergaard?  Does Alex Wood count? If he does, take him – if he doesn’t, then take Wilmer Flores and throw a party.

bryce harper

XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Philadelphia Phillies

I had the Rays drafting first overall in 2016, but I had forgotten about the Phillies. They’ll be the only team to lose 100 games.

4th Place – Atlanta Braves

They said they were retooling and not rebuilding, and I think that’s accurate. They sold a lot of payroll, but got back good, intriguing young pieces to go along with the cost controlled pieces they kept, including Freeman, Simmons, Bethancourt, Tehran, Wood and Miller. That’s more than half of a really good infield and three top starters. Jose Peraza will fill the void at second base nicely very soon and the farm system is lousy with arms. They’ll be heard from again real soon.

3rd Place – Florida Marlins

I’m not buying into the hype. Will they be better? Maybe. They won 77 games last season, so I’d think they couldn’t get much worse because I don’t honestly think they’re terrible. Before the Padres paid $27 million for a closer, I thought the Marlins swung the worst trade of the off season, sending Andrew Heaney to the Dodgers for Gordon. He’s lightning fast and has legit game-changing speed, but he’s not a good hitter and won’t get on base nearly as much as he’d need as needed to turn that speed into a weapon. That speed also makes his defense overrated, as people often confuse speed with range. I’m also not a fan of Marcell Ozuna’s approach and feel he’s going to suffer a big time power regression now that pitchers know he’s likely to swing at anything. And since his hit tool and plate discipline suffer as it is, he’s not going to offer as much in the middle of the lineup as the Marlins need. I love Stanton and Yelich as players and think Adeiny Hechavarria is a great defensive shortstop. I also like Henderson Alvarez to take a nice step forward. But in order for the Marlins to make any noise, they have to overachieve while Fernandez is out and hope he comes back no worse than 85% of his 2013 self. There’s not one other pitcher behind Alvarez I have any faith in. I just don’t see it from the Marlins this season.

2nd Place – New York Mets

This is a Mets site, so we all know the deal. I think it says a lot about the talent and depth of this organization to lose a starter the caliber of Wheeler and a reliever as important as Edgin and still be expected (by the “experts”) to win roughly 85 games and compete for a playoff spot. Some actually have the Mets grabbing a Wild Card. I do, too. I think they’re more talented and (maybe more importantly) deeper than the Marlins, Giants, Padres and Cubs.

1st Place – Washington Nationals

They’re better than the Mets, yes, but what if I told you the Mets would finish closer to the Nationals than they will the Marlins. To be better than they were last season, the Nats need Scherzer to outpitch a 2.85/3.47/3.84 pitcher slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) well enough to also overcome a huge bat they didn’t replace (LaRoche) and one of the best relievers in the game (Clippard). Not to mention the three of their top five hitters will be starting the season on the DL. They’ll win 92-93 games, but will fight the Mets for the division pretty closely until the end of September. But if one more guy gets hurt or the law firm of Span, Werth and Rendon don’t recover as quickly as expected, there could be serious problems, as the Nats have very little depth.

NL East MVP: Bryce Harper. The kid’s a two-time all star and we still haven’t seen what he can do.

NL East Cy Young: Harvey’s better.

NL East Sleeper: Mets fans know this division inside and out. How can someone fly under the radar? I’m going to be lazy and take Harper, because he’s criminally underrated and (jealous) people have actually called him a bust. But if it’s a Met, the Nationals are in serious trouble…


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MMO 2015 Season Preview: National League Central Sun, 05 Apr 2015 14:16:07 +0000 World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three

Milwaukee Brewers – 5th Place

Key additions: Adam Lind… I guess?

Key subtractions: Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks, Zach Duke, and Tom Gorzelanny

I was down on the Brewers before last year, and it’s impossible to deny that they proved me wrong. They collapsed and blew their chances at a playoff spot though. I don’t see how they improved last year’s team, and how they will be able to shake away from that feeling. To me, they were lucky to be in the position they were last year. Adding Lind COULD make the offense more potent as he will be surrounded by Braun, Lucroy, Gomez and Aramis Ramirez.

I’m not totally sold on Jimmy Nelson in the rotation and it’s my understanding that he was the reason Gallardo got sent packing.

The closer nobody seems to want (I wonder why) K-Rod returns for another year in Milwaukee. Overall, he and Broxton should provide decent relief at the end of the games.

Basically I’m picking them here because I think this is the best division in the NL top-to-bottom and I am just not sold on their rotation after Matt Garza at all.

Cincinnati Reds – 4th Place

Key additions: Marlon Byrd

Key subtractions: Ryan Ludwick, Mat Latos & Alfredo Simon

Really, so much of this team’s success depends on how healthy Joey Votto is and whether or not he can carry the offense. Another factor will be whether Billy Hamilton lives up to his hype and gets on base enough to impact games the way we all know he can.

Adding Byrd should give Votto protection in the heart of the order, something that he hasn’t really had much of. The lineup is filled with a bunch of decent hitters, and a declining Brandon Phillips.

The rotation is without Mat Latos who to me, gave the Reds a very reliable 1-2 punch with Cueto. Now, they are putting their eggs in the Michael Leake and Homer Bailey basket. I’m not sure I like either more than Latos to be honest.

Bailey will start the year on the DL which means Raisel Iglesias will join Jason Marquis at the bottom of the rotation. For some reason, the Reds decided to move Tony Cingrani from the rotation to the bullpen so that Iglesias can get a crack at a starting job. That decision will prove to be a big one if Iglesias fails and Cingrani is then forced out of the bullpen and back into the rotation.

Everybody knows Aroldis Chapman is downright nasty. The Reds finally seem comfortable with the fact that Chapman is a top 5 Closer, and won’t be a starter. He’s pretty much all they have in the bullpen though, and he can’t do it all.

The best case scenario is the Reds were right and Cueto-Bailey-Leake are as good of a 1-3 punch as they thought, I’m just afraid it might not be as good as they think, and their bullpen will likely lead to several blown 6th or 7th inning leads.

Pittsburgh Pirates – 3rd Place

Key additions: A.J. Burnett, Jung-Ho Kang, Francisco Cervelli, Antonio Bastardo, Corey Hart, and Sean Rodriguez

Key subtractions: Russell Martin, Edinson Volquez, and Travis Snider

The Pirates are becoming one of those teams that you just should not count out, ever. But they never seem to have enough talent to be seriously considered in the World Series contender conversation.

The addition of Jung-Ho Kang is really intriguing. He won’t start the year as the starting SS, but I think he’ll get that job by the summer’s start. He is a sleeper candidate for sure.

Can Gregory Polanco be a starting RF’er on a playoff caliber team? Players like Starling Marte have taken Polanco under their wing this spring, and they want to make him the final piece of a very dangerous outfield. If Polanco lives up to his Baseball America hype, you could be looking at the best offensive outfield in the sport.

The rotation is pretty good, nothing earth shattering but enough quality arms with Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett leading the way to be a competitive team in this division.

Cole is coming off a 2014 campaign doomed by injury. How he bounces back in 2015 will be a major factor in whether the Pirates find their way into the playoff race again. The Pirates seem to be pegging Cole as the face of this franchise from the pitcher side of things, so now is his chance to start living up to that expectation.

The red flag with the rotation is that their 1-2 punch of Cole and Liriano has never (not a typo) pitched 200 innings in a season. It’s going to be hard to fight in this packed division if your two best pitchers cannot be relied on all year.

I’m not totally sold on the bullpen. But, to be honest Mark Melancon was doubted by me last year and he did a great job in 2014.

I think Pittsburgh needs a little help in the bullpen to make it through the summer and into the fall to break through this division. Still, this is an 84+ win team in a very tough division.

Chicago Cubs – 2nd Place

Key additions: Jon Lester, Miguel Montero, Dexter Fowler, Jason Hammel, David Ross, and Jason Motte

Key subtractions: Luis Valbuena, Justin Ruggiano, and Carlos Villanueva

The hype machine is in full effect when it comes to the Chicago Cubs. First of all, he isn’t mentioned above but to me the biggest addition for the Cubs was Manager Joe Maddon.

There isn’t a Manager in the sport who gets more out of his players than Maddon. Bringing him into Chicago was a clear warning shot to the rest of the NL that the Cubs fully intend on being a contender from this point forward.

Let me break some news for you though. This team is not going to win the World Series. They aren’t even built for a 2015 pennant yet. The Cubs intentions are to create a culture of winning so their young talent can push them over the top…next year. This team reminds me of the 2005 Mets.

This year will be Jorge Soler’s first full season in the big leagues, and in just a short time last year he looked like a significant middle of the order threat. Anthony Rizzo is going to hit in front of Soler, so basically, good luck NL pitchers.

There are some weak spots in this lineup. For example, I’m not sold on Chris Coghlan in LF and Mike Olt at 3B still has to prove he is a big leaguer. I’m not sure he is.

Miguel Montero brings a Yadier Molina-like vibe to the Cubs. He’s going to be a very valuable commodity for the Cubs in the field, and at the plate.

The rotation is obviously lead by Jon Lester. Lester is a big game pitcher in a city dying for a big game win. Jason Hammel returns to the Cubs after being traded away last year.

The sneakiest pitcher in this rotation though is Jake Arrieta. Arrieta was a top prospect for the Orioles who seemed to flame out. He posted an ERA over 5 with Baltimore over 3.5 years and 63 starts. Then he comes to Chicago in a barely noticeable July 2013 trade, and absolutely dominates in 2014.

25 Starts 10-5 2.53 ERA .989 WHIP 167K/41BB in 156.2 IP. Filthy.

If Arrieta continues that trend into 2015, then Jon Lester suddenly becomes the #2 pitcher on this staff and the Cubs are looking not just good, but scary good.

St. Louis Cardinals – 1st Place

Key additions: Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, and Mark Reynolds

Key subtractions: Pat Neshek. Shelby Miller and Oscar Taveras (RIP). 

I think by now, if you count the Cardinals out then the joke is on you. They are the model franchise in this sport if you ask me. Seriously, what team goes through no true rebuilding phase since 2000 yet consistently pumps out young talent the way they do?

I’m going to say this right now, Jason Heyward is going to be an MVP candidate. I get why Atlanta traded him due to financial concerns, but gold glove power hitters don’t grow on trees. He’s only 25 years old, it’s not his fault he isn’t Mike Trout. I’d take Heyward over Harper though.

I know when the deal happened it seemed as though the Cardinals were getting a rental player. They are going to sign Heyward, mark my words. When Heyward experiences St. Louis baseball late in the year, and they realize giving him a 7 or 8 year deal is actually a great contract – he will be locked up.

The lineup simply does not have a hole in it. You can go across the entire diamond and say “yeah I’d take that guy on my team.” Doesn’t mean they are all the best player at their position, but they aren’t Jedd Gyorko either.

The rotation is lead once again by Adam Wainwright. As true of a veteran ace as you’ll find in baseball. They traded away Shelby Miller who never seemed to put together a consistent string of starts, but they are now plugging Carlos Martinez into the rotation in his spot. Martinez didn’t really do well as a reliever, at times he seemed unhittable and other times he seemed a little too Nathan Eovaldi for me. Knowing the Cardinals though, he’ll probably end up in the Cy Young conversation.

The bullpen is solid, and deep as well. Trevor Rosenthal may not be a household name in the Closer department, but he is very effective.

Overall, top to bottom – this is the best Opening Day roster in the National League.

NL Central MVP: Jason Heyward. I’m a believer not only in Heyward, but in the St. Louis effect.

NL Central Cy Young: I should pick Carlos Martinez for fun, but I am going to take the smart play here and grab Jon Lester since he is coming from the AL to the NL.

NL Central Sleeper: So many to choose from. Polanco & Soler could easily take this. Give me Jake Arrieta for the win. 

andrew mccutchen

XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Milwaukee Brewers

I really went back and forth here because I don’t much like the Reds or Cubs, either, but in the end Jessep is mostly right. This team will score a few runs but give up way more. The starting pitching is just not there. I’m not even counting on much out of Garza, who hasn’t had a season better than slightly-above-average since 2011. The bullpen is put together with spit, scotch tape and paperclips.  I just don’t see much from this team. Then again, that’s what most people said last season…

4th Place – Cincinnati Reds

The offense is about on par with the Brewers, but the Reds have the better front line pitcher and better closer. I also wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see not only Votto but also Jay Bruce bounce back and be threats in the middle of the lineup. Was anyone else surprised that Kevin Gregg was still in the league?

3rd Place – Chicago Cubs

There’s a lot of questions surrounding this team still and I don’t trust them to be that good, but I’d give them the nod above Milwaukee and Cincinnati because they’re young and full of potential and could be better. But right now, there’s just not enough of anything. Offensively, they’re thin. After Anthony Rizzo, who’s the threat? Castro has more power than most shortstops, but a .280/.320/.400 season with 17 home runs is still not a real offensive threat. Kris Bryant will slug all the home runs, but he still won’t hit for a high average or OBP. Fowler is decent at the top of the lineup, but there’s not one guy who can reasonably expect to hit .300 and I can only see Rizzo with an OBP above .350, so how many runs are they really going to score? Solid pitching in both the rotation and bullpen will make them a 78-80 win team and they could contend of they had one more hitter and one more starter. Maybe next year, if Baez and Soler progress.

2nd Place – St. Louis Cardinals

Wait, what? Look, I just think the Cards a little thin pitching-wise and Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, and Adam Wainwright aren’t getting any younger. That’s not to say they won’t be good, and I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if they did win the division. But I don’t see a clear-cut superstar on this team and I think the Pirates have the two best players in the division. The wild card here is Carlos Martinez, who has ace stuff, and I think the Cards need every last bit of it if they want to win the division. There’s no pitching depth, and not one backup that doesn’t scare you. This team needs 150 games out of their eight starters and 30 starts from five pitchers to be really good.

1st Place – Pittsburgh Pirates

Cutch gonna Cutch. The best offensive threat in the National League by a wide margin will be joined in his quest for another MVP by Starling Marte, who will break through as elite. And I know it’s asking a lot of über prospect Gregory Polanco, but I’d be pretty excited to see the first starting outfield in major league history with 20+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases from each. I might have to wait a year. There’s offense from every position in the infield, if you think Jordy Mercer is more 2013 Jordy and less 2014 Jordy, though it would be asking a lot of Josh Harrison to repeat. Neil Walker is the second-worst defensive second baseman in the league, and they lost a big piece in Russell Martin, so there are issues. But Martin is the only real loss while they gained some nice pieces to go along with breakthroughs of Marte and Polanco. They have a very deep bullpen and a good rotation, with Gerrit Cole ready to break out. If the team stays status quo, the Cards will win the division. But I see too much talent in Marte, Polanco and Cole to expect status quo.

NL Central MVP: Cutch. Gonna. Cutch.

NL Central Cy Young: Gerrit Cole. His first full season will be special.

NL Central Sleeper: Francisco Cervelli. Don’t ask me why.


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MMO 2015 Season Preview: National League West Fri, 03 Apr 2015 18:30:33 +0000 kershaw

Colorado Rockies – 5th Place

Key additions: Nick Hundley & Kyle Kendrick

Key subtractions: Michael Cuddyer, Josh Rutledge, Juan Nicasio, Franklin Morales

It’s going to be bad, real bad for the Rockies. First of all, they are hoping…no praying that Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can stay on the field for the entire year. Not so they can compete, but so they can trade both players and get value for them by fooling somebody (hopefully not us) that they are healthy players that can be relied on.

The lineup is a typically alright/good lineup for the Rockies. I am not a big buyer of Charlie Blackmon stock like some others are. I just cannot get past a .915 OPS at home versus a .617 road OPS last year. Sorry, sometimes I don’t bang the Coors Field drum – but with Charlie Blackmon it is so clear.

I am curious to see how the loss of Cuddyer impacts this team. He is known to be a quality clubhouse presence and they didn’t replace him with anybody really.

Tyler Matzek and Jordan Lyles are going to be asked to do more in this rotation, and they will need to grow up fast. Kyle Kendrick and Jorge De La Rosa are the veteran leaders of this rotation. I’m not sure that’s good news. De La Rosa’s 2013 season was a fluke and it wasn’t even that good, yet it occasionally seems to buy him credibility.

The bullpen is anchored by LaTroy Hawkins who is surrounded by mostly incapable arms. John Axford is interesting, but it might be too little too late in Colorado.

The Rockies will compete for something though…the #1 draft pick.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 4th Place

Key additions: Yasmany Tomas, Rubby De La Rosa & Jeremy Hellickson

Key subtractions: Wade Miley & Miguel Montero

The key here could truly be whether Tomas is the player he was advertised to be. Overall, the lineup and defense is mostly pretty sub-par. Paul Goldschmidt is a superstar caliber player, and if Tomas can match him – then at least Arizona fans will have a reason to come to the ballpark. If Tomas is a bust, then Arizona is in a lot of trouble.

The rotation is lead by Josh Collmenter who would be a #3 starter on most teams probably, maybe even a #4.

The Diamondbacks are also taking a big chance with Rubby De La Rosa in the rotation. Is he a starter, is he even a big league arm? Through 44 big league games – I’m not sold.

Jeremy Hellickson is coming off a year filled with elbow trouble, so he fits right into the rotation that is filled with question marks.

Their closer Addison Reed is also, not very good. You know as I type this, I have no idea why I think they will be better than Colorado. Can I take it back?

San Diego Padres – 3rd Place

Key additions:  Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, James Shields, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks, Clint Barmes, and Brandon Morrow

Key subtractions: Yasmani Grandal, Jesse Hahn, Rene Rivera, Seth Smith, Eric Stults, Everth Cabrera and Tim Stauffer.

Yes, if I was a Padres fan I’d be excited about the upcoming season.  It’s probably an unpopular view but I don’t believe in the 2015 Padres. They stink of the Jose Reyes Marlins to me. I’m not sure when we will learn that the off-season total revamp’s won’t work.

Let’s start with the rotation.

James Shields picked the perfect spot. He’s not that good of a pitcher, but gets to fool another small market team into thinking he is an ace. His nickname couldn’t be less accurate. It’s more like calling Robin Hood’s buddy (who is huge) “Little John” than anything.

If I take Shields and Andrew Cashner, they probably rank right around 7th or 8th as a 1-2 combo in the National League. That puts them at a disadvantage in my view.

The lineup is banking, no begging for Matt Kemp to stay healthy and for TWO small market teams to be WRONG about Wil Myers. Something has to be up with Myers right? For the Rays to dump him like they did?

They aren’t as good as you think. The hype is taking over and it’s leading you down a path that has Jedd Gyorko as your starting 2B.

Seriously think about that for a second. People worry about the Mets 2B being Daniel Murphy, while they are probably praising the Padres as a playoff threat with Jedd Gyorko as the starting 2B. Makes total sense.

I believe the Padres management had good (great) intentions, but it’s an incomplete overhaul that is built mostly on players nobody wanted or were hyped at a young age and never reached that potential.

San Francisco Giants – 2nd Place

Key additions: Norichika Aoki & Casey McGehee

Key subtractions: Pablo Sandoval & Michael Morse

Losing Sandoval obviously is not a great thing for a championship team. However, after I wrote the AL East preview I read this quote from Sandoval:

“I’m a professional and I know what I have to do,” said Sandoval, listed as 5-11 and 255. “I know where I’ve failed and how I’ve grown up. If I had signed (with the Giants), I knew I would be under a (weight) regimen for five years, and I’m not going to be happy someplace where I’m under that kind of regimen, where I can’t be myself.”

So, the superstar player was worried that his championship winning team wanted to make sure he didn’t let himself go? I don’t know, maybe it’s not going to hurt them as much as I thought. Yes, on the field, it may hurt – but perhaps the team internally is looking forward to life without Panda? Addition by Subtraction?

Matt Cain returns in 2015, which create a downright nasty 1-2 punch with Madison Bumgarner.

Losing Hunter Pence for 6-8 weeks is a crushing blow, but I am not putting anything past the defending champs when it comes to overcoming the odds. Sure, it’s an odd year – so I’m not taking them to win the pennant, but they should be a good ball club.

Los Angeles Dodgers – 1st Place

Key additions: Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Hector Olivera, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Yasmani Grandal

Key subtractions: Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon & Dan Haren

Listen, if this team doesn’t win the division – it’s a big upset. They are easily the most talented roster in the NL West and sure losing Kemp, Hanley and Dee doesn’t help but I think they did enough to overcome those loses.

A huge key to the Dodgers success will be Joc Pederson. Is he everything many of us think he could be? Is he ready to be the starting CF of a veteran team like the Dodgers?

The issue for the Dodgers is they are relatively thin. Nobody expects them to be okay if they lose a player like Clayton Kershaw, but losing mid-rotation arms could also prove to be a problem.

Still, it’s hard to predict that only the “worst” will happen to the Dodgers and not everybody else in the division. They have the best roster on Opening Day, and while I won’t be picking them to represent the National League in the World Series – they will take this division.

NL West MVP: Clayton Kershaw, I mean who else would there be? I suppose Matt Kemp would be a solid option too because the Padres need him pretty badly. But the Dodgers simply do not win without Kershaw.

NL West Cy Young: See Above.

NL West Sleeper: Does Joc count?

madison bumgarner

XtreemIcon’s Picks

This is going to be easy and there’s not a whole lot to say…

5th Place – Colorado Rockies

There are good players on that roster and there are dependable players on that roster, but no overlap at all. Nolan Arenado is the closest thing they have to a good, everyday player and even he hasn’t played more than 135 games yet in his career. He’ll probably be the de facto all star on the team, assuming the normal 100 games missed from Tulo and Gonzalez. I’m trying to find something else positive to say about the Rockies, but aside from Arenado, and that my wife’s favorite color is purple, the best thing about the team right now is John Axford’s Twitter.

4th Place – Arizona DIamondbacks

There isn’t a whole heck of a lot more to like about the Diamondbacks than the Rockies, but they get the nod for being less worse because they have an MVP candidate that you can reasonably expect to play 140+ games. There’s also considerably more potential on Arizona. I would take a finally healthy Hellickson and de la Rosa over any two pitchers on Colorado. Tomas could be great and Chris Owings is still there and only 24. Of course, Hellickson could get hurt again, de la Rosa could plateau, Tomas could bust and Owings could never reach his potential. One of those four will pan out and at worst match Arenado’s presence on Colorado and it’s likely at least two do and make them better. Also? Their catcher’s name is Tuffy Gosewisch. TUFFY GOSEWISCH!

3rd Place – San Diego Padres

I have nothing else to add to Jessep. He’s pretty dead on here. Much like the Mariners, over hype will reign and will result in a lot of disappointed San Diego-ites. San Diego-uns? San Diegans. The only things he forgot to mention is the potential for the worst outfield defense in the league, a shallow bullpen and no rotation depth. The Padres will finish closer in the standings to the Diamondbacks than they will to the…

2nd Place – San Francisco Giants

Good rotation fronted by a great pitcher, depth in the rotation, solid bullpen. I could stop there and it would probably be enough for the Giants to finish second. But they have Buster Posey who just can’t stop hitting, Brandon Belt who is primed and ready to break out and solid infield defense up the middle. Hunter Pence has already begun throwing and shouldn’t miss more than another six weeks. The Giants lost a top free agent and a postseason hero and will start the season minus two starting players and they’re still much better than the Padres, D-Backs and Rockies.

1st Place – Los Angeles Dodgers

I think the Dodgers actually got a little better, believe it or not. They downgraded overall at shortstop and left field, losing Hanley Ramirez and replacing him with Rollins, and playing Crawford everyday in left instead of Kemp, but they upgraded big time at second base and center field, now starting Howie Kendrick over Dee Gordon and Joc Pederson over Andre Ethier. Pederson could bust and still probably be more valuable than Ethier based on defense alone. I’d also much rather have Brandon McCarthy over Dan Haren, although that contract is a little rich for my blood. I don’t see how it’s not an eight-game lead at the break and a double-digit lead at the end of the season.

NL West MVP: Clayton Kershaw

NL West Cy Young: Just to be different, I’ll pick Klayton Cershaw

NL West Sleeper: I really want to pick Justin Maxwell, I really do. But he’s going back to the bench when Pence returns, so I’ll go with Brandon Belt.

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MMO 2015 Season Preview: American League West Fri, 03 Apr 2015 10:00:30 +0000 Seattle-Mariners-Felix-Hernandez

Texas Rangers – 5th Place

Key additions: Yovani Gallardo

Key subtractions: Alex Rios, Jason Frasor and sort of Yu Darvish

In what I expect to be the best division in the American League, I can’t find a reason to give Texas anything higher than 4th place. Since I think Houston will be young and fun enough to watch, I’ll peg Texas here.

Texas won’t be as bad as they were in 2014, but the loss of Darvish and the continued uncertainty of Prince Fielder is a big deal. Right now, Fielder looks like he is going to be fine – but he’s still coming back from neck surgery.

This team also is living and dying on the potential of Andrus and Odor. I’m starting to have my doubts on Andrus and it’s too early to tell with Odor. The only player you can 100% count on in this lineup if Adrian Beltre who continues to produce year after year in spite of his age.

Outside of Gallardo, I’m not really convinced this rotation of Holland, Detwiler, Lewis and Tepesch can keep up in this division which is packed with quality hitters and better pitchers.

Another rough year in Texas, just possibly not quite as embarrassing as 2014 was.

Houston Astros – 4th Place

Key additions: Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Jed Lowrie, and Colby Rasmus.

Key subtractions: Dexter Fowler & Mike Foltynewicz.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Xtreem pegs Houston in 3rd or higher, they seem like the young sexy pick this year but I just cannot buy in yet.

I will say in terms of just mashing the ball, the combination of Evan Gattis, Chris Carter, George Springer and Colby Rasmus is going to be really fun to watch. I am not sure yet what the plan is for Gattis/Carter because I don’t think Gattis is going to play the field much which means you have two DH’s. That’s going to be a tricky situation later in the year when Gattis proves to be a defensive liability.

Still, you take those four guys and put Jose Altuve in front of them and you have suddenly got a scary looking lineup.

The problem in Houston is, and will be the pitching. I cannot come up with a logical reason why the starting rotation of Keuchel, Feldman, Wojciechowski, McHugh and Hernandez can compete for a division title inside the best division in the American League.

I don’t care how scary the lineup looks on paper – that rotation doesn’t scare anybody. Their bullpen additions were nice adds, Gregerson paired with Qualls and Neshek should do just well enough.

It won’t matter though, they may be a story early in the year but that rotation is not holding up for 162.

Oakland A’s – 3rd Place

Key additions: Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Billy Butler, Ike Davis, and Tyler Clippard

Key subtractions: Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, John Jaso, Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo, Daric Barton, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and Luke Gregerson

Look, I know the formula seems to work when everybody seems to think Billy Beane has lost his mind – but I look at that key departure list and remember how their season ended and I just cannot put them any higher than 3rd in this division.

Is Oakland where Ike Davis find himself or is where he just continues to have hot streaks that make us salivate and look to blame Mets management for sticking us with a 30 HR 1B in Lucas Duda?

Realistically, if Ike Davis isn’t a power hitter then Billy Butler becomes the most important hitter in this lineup – that’s a scary situation if you ask me. This lineup looks nothing like the A’s of the past few years (the Astros do), they look more like the Rays of the past few years.

The rotation should be solid with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Hahn leading the way and then the fingers crossed with Drew Pomeranz and Kendall Graveman.

I love the addition of Tyler Clippard, he was the only Nationals reliever I hated seeing, I think the combo of Clippard with Sean Doolittle could be nasty.

Overall, I’d say this team is annoying because I think they can pitch real well – but they won’t be able to produce runs at the same clip they did over the last few years and for that reason, they slide into third here.

Los Angeles Angels – 2nd Place

Key additions: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano & Matt Joyce

Key subtractions: Howie Kendrick, Hank Conger and then possibly Josh Hamilton

For the Angels, it’s all about staying healthy and putting together quality years from the talent around Mike Trout.

Can Albert Pujols drive in 100 runs again? A .790 OPS year isn’t exactly eye popping, but it will do just fine in his current role, based on his age.

The only real hole in this lineup is the one left by Josh Hamilton, and frankly – I’m not sure how big of a hole that is. I’m not too confident that Collin Cowgill is good enough for the everyday role in LA, but I’m also not too concerned about what he’s replacing based on last year’s result.

Cowgill is having a nice spring, but he always seems to…right?

He did okay last year, not good – not the worst thing you ever saw either. We’ll see how that goes.

The rotation is once again lead by Jered Weaver following by Garrett Richards who should be back from a knee injury at the end of April, then you have C.J. Wilson. I really like Matt Shoemaker, he went relatively unnoticed last year going 16-4.

The bullpen is still pretty good – Huston Street and Joe Smith slam the door shut and while I like the combo of Clippard/Doolittle better, they are still one of the best 8/9 combo’s in the American League.

Seattle Mariners – 1st Place

Key additions: Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, J.A. Happ, Justin Ruggiano, and Rickie Weeks.

Key subtractions: Kendrys Morales, Michael Saunders, Brandon Maurer, Chris Young, Justin Smoak.

I cannot be the only person who knows Yankees fans that mocked Robinson Cano’s choice of choosing Seattle over the Yankees right?

How do you think Robinson feels about that decision right now? Put the money aside…try and tell me why he is not in a better situation right now? I still think the Yankees picked the wrong time to be “smart” with their money.

Adding Nelson Cruz to this lineup was a great move, should prove very beneficial to Cano also. You’re replacing James Jones with Austin Jackson and CoreyHart/Justin Smoak with Cruz – yeah I’d say they did pretty well there.

The rotation is lead obviously by King Felix. Hisashi Iwakuma takes his spot as the #2 – no brainer there. What will be interesting to see is whether James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are ready to step in and follow King Felix’s lead to help make this one of the best rotations in the American League. The hype and potential are there, but they have to prove it on the field.

Seattle’s bullpen was very good last year, they bring back all of the key pieces and while I am not the biggest Fernando Rodney fan in the world – I have to trust that this bullpen remaining in tact from 2014 should lead to great things.

I think Seattle has put it all together, finally. If Walker/Paxton can be the pitchers many have expected them to be, then Seattle should be considered a top 3 team in the American League.

AL West MVP: I don’t think it makes sense to pick anybody but Mike Trout here.

AL West Cy Young: King Felix took back his reign last year from Darvish, and with Darvish out – Felix is a no brainer.

AL West Sleeper: Is Taijuan Walker a sleeper? I guess he has to be right? He’s my guy.


XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Oakland A’s

Guys, they lost basically everything and added……Tyler Clippard. Look, Clippard is one of the best 8th-inning guys in the league, but he’s the key addition to a team who barely avoided missing the playoffs in epic fashion and proceeded to lose their two best pitchers, best position player and a reliever comparable to Clippard in the first place. Not to mention Coco Crisp missing two months. I do think Zobrist is a solid player and Semien will have a nice year, but there’s literally nothing on that roster you can depend on to have a really good year. There’s some potential there (Semien, and I do really like Gray), but nothing reliable. Put it this way. My bet is the A’s all star this season isn’t earned. It’ll be one of those default, every-team-needs-one loophole all stars like Daniel Murphy.

4th Place – Texas Rangers

The loss of Darvish absolutely destroys any chance this team has to compete. What makes this team a step up from cellar dweller to me is that, like Jessep said, you can pencil Beltre in for an all star season, which is more than you can say for the A’s. And I think a healthy Prince Fielder is also better than anyone on Oakland. And I ALSO think Leonys Martin is better than anyone on the A’s. I think Andrus is a very good shortstop, though perhaps slightly overpaid, and Odor has tons of potential. I think Gallardo and Holland are good pitchers, though neither is a prototypical ace. But of course, neither is any pitcher on Oakland. There are plenty of issues here, and I don’t think they’ll be a particularly good team, they’ll just be better than Oakland. Which means…

3rd Place – Houston Astros

Jessep was right! I pick the Astros for third place. This team will score a million runs. Or slightly short of that, maybe. And they can catch the ball. They have a tremendous defensive outfield with Colby Rasums, Jake Marisnick and George Springer left to right and a perennial all star at second base in Altuve. Jason Castro is a very solid defensive catcher, as well. Besides the power, Chris Carter became a well-rounded hitter in the second half, believe it or not. The left side of the infield won’t offer much production on either side of the ball, but again, I only pick this team for third place. I think the bullpen is very good and Keuchel is about ready to be one of the better lefties in the league. Feldman isn’t great, but he’s outperformed his FIP the last two seasons and actually has a good defense behind him now. He’s solid at worst. I don’t think we’ve gotten to a really good team in the AL West yet, this is just who’s less worse than the others.

2nd Place – Seattle Mariners

Over hype. To be fair, they didn’t lose anyone of value. To be honest, they didn’t really gain a whole lot of value, either. Everyone will point to Nelson Cruz as a huge splash that will put them over the top. But Cruz cooled off considerably and hit only .249/.308/.451 after May 31. And he’s moving to a stadium that greatly suppresses power. Kyle Seager’s star is on the rise, but aside from Cruz, Seager and Cano, where’s the offense coming from? Dustin Ackley stinks, Logan Morrison hasn’t played 100 games in four years, Mike Zunino is one more bad year from being a complete disaster, Brad Miller couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel and Seth Smith is a platoon player. Austin Jackson is decent, I suppose. I do think they have a great rotation and a solid pen, but this team will lose a lot of low-scoring games. There won’t be a real big gap between the Mariners and the Astros if Houston finds itself pitching better than expected.

1st Place – Los Angeles Angels

The Angels’ rotation isn’t that far behind Seattle’s (especially if Heaney is as advertised when he gets his shot) and they also have a very solid pen, but the difference here is that the Angels can actually hit. Jessep expressed his concern over Cowgill in the outfield, rightfully so, but also mentioned he’s not exactly replacing 2008 Hamilton, also rightfully so. If the former Mets legend happens to stutter out of the gate, the Angels can always trot Matt Joyce out there, who played a solid left field for the Rays the last two seasons and get C.J. Cron’s bat in the DH spot. Second base is hole for sure, and David Freese had his second straight season in decline, but the Angels aren’t only the best team in the division, they’ll probably have home field in the playoffs, as well.

AL West MVP: Michael Nelson Trout.

AL West Cy Young: King Felix. These are easy.

AL West Sleeper: Marcus Semien. He hit .272/.374/.465 in 1,740 minor league at bats, so there’s immense talent there. As a shortstop now, he could be a perennial all star if he can stick there defensively.


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2015 Season Preview: American League Central Thu, 02 Apr 2015 12:58:44 +0000 jose abreu

Minnesota Twins – 5th Place

Key additions: Torii Hunter & Ervin Santana

Key subtractions: I guess none? 

Generally speaking, this team is hoping that their days of rebuilding are drawing to a close. They brought back Torii Hunter, most likely to give fans a reason to come to the ballpark – and though there’s nothing bad you can really say about a player like Joe Mauer, he just isn’t the same player anymore. 

This team’s future will depend on Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and a few other young prospects who are just about ready, but not quite.

Unless pitchers like Mike Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco have brilliant years, I can’t see how the Twins climb out of the cellar in 2015, let alone climb into contention.

Kansas City Royals - 4th Place

Key additions: Kendrys Morales, Alex Rios, Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlen, Chris Young

Key subtractions: James Shields, Billy Butler, Norichika Aoki, Josh Willingham, Aaron Crow, Raul Ibanez

Yes, it’s true this team set the sport on fire last season in October. I look at their key subtractions though and I see some key pieces to that late stretch that helped define who the Royals were. Sure, their bullpen is what seemed to set them apart, but I think most everybody has caught on to what made this team special are are trying to replicate it. 

Bullpen arms to me are the most fickle of the bunch. Look at relievers like Brad Lidge or Koji Uehara who both had stellar performances and then everybody practically expected a duplicate result, and their teams faded away because they couldn’t anchor at the same level as the previous year.

I think now that teams around Kansas city are focusing more on the strength of their bullpen, that begins to chip away at the advantage that the Royals once had. I look at the lineup, to me it got weaker and less reliable. I look at the rotation and it all comes down to Yordano Ventura. Is he for real? He basically has to go from a mid-rotation starter to a #1 after his rookie year, I’m not sure he’s up for that.

For me, it comes down to raised expectations that a team similar to the Rockies in 2007 cannot possibly achieve in the year after. They got hot at the right time, everything clicked – and I think the pendulum swings the other way in 2015.

Detroit Tigers – 3rd Place

Key additions: Yoenis Cespedes, Anthony Gose, Alfredo Simon, and Shane Greene

Key subtractions: Torii Hunter, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello.

I am starting to get that “when will he start to break down?” feeling when it comes to Miguel Cabrera. He turns 32 in a few weeks so it is inevitable that in the next few years we’re going to look at Cabrera in almost the same way we look at a player like Albert Pujols. Here’s hoping he stays healthy and we begin to have conversations about whether Miguel Cabrera is one of the greatest hitters of all time without having to mention anything about “PED” usage. 

You can’t lose a starter like Scherzer and get better right away. I am as big of a David Price fan as they come, but I think he will find himself out of Detroit before the season is over.

I look at the team and I think about whether players like Jose Iglesias, Anthony Gose, and J.D. Martinez can play as big of a role in a playoff team as the Tigers probably need them to do. I also look at players like Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon and think the Tigers will be lucky to get back to back wins when they pitch. You pair that up with their bullpen and the uncertainty around Justin Verlander and you have potential for a nosedive year in Detroit.

I think it’s over in Detroit, I think they had their shot at being the class of the American League and their window has been shut.

Cleveland Indians – 2nd Place

Key additions: Brandon Moss & Gavin Floyd (hurt)

Key subtractions: Depends on how much stock you put into Jason Giambi as a mentor. 

I like the scrappiness of this lineup, but I’m just not totally sure if I can trust that Brandon Moss & Nick Swisher (coming back from surgery) will be the big time run producers that Cleveland needs them to be. Is Michael Brantley able to repeat his 2014? 

I do find it amazing that if you ask 100 baseball fans but not diehard’s who won the AL Cy Young, I bet a good amount wouldn’t name Corey Kluber.

Part of why I give Cleveland so much credit is I truly believe Terry Francona is one of those managers who gets the best out of everybody on the field. The rotation is good enough to compete in this division, the true test will be whether this lineup can produce runs and play the field well enough to keep the starters in the game.

I look at the heart of this order, throw in Swisher is he comes back healthy – plus a decent rotation and I see a team that should be able to compete in a division that overall got worse this winter. Toss in the Francona Factor for added value.

Chicago White Sox - 1st Place

Key additions: Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, Emilio Bonifacio.

Key subtractions: Dayan Viciedo & Paul Konerko

The White Sox probably had the most exciting off-season in this division, and to be honest – it wasn’t hard to accomplish. The addition of Samardzija to compliment Sale and lessen the burden on Jose Quintana was a great move. Quintana will be just fine in the #3 role this year.

Adding the David Robertson who is eager to prove he is one of the best closers in the game was also a great move. He was able to fill in for Mariano Rivera, that’s not something most pitchers could do effectively, and should prove to be a big factor in whether he can handle the postseason’s biggest spots.

I like adding in LaRoche, a player who always just seemed to do his job well while in Washington. I’m not the biggest Melky fan, most of that stems from his PED bust and fake website, Still, he’s an upgrade for a team that won just 73 games last year.

The biggest concern for me is whether this team can effectively jump on the back of Jose Abreu and stay the course for 162 games. If so, he’s an MVP. They lack roster depth, and I do think they could find themselves in a bit of trouble if things go south in terms of the team’s health.

On paper though, they have the most talented roster. If all goes right for every team in this division, I think they can win the division.

AL Central MVP: Jose Abreu. If I am picking the White Sox to win the division, I’m really not sure how any other MVP candidate would be logical for me.

AL Central Cy Young: Sale is nasty but I think I’m gonna go with Samardzija, mostly just because. If Sale is the best, I’m just going to delete the last part of the previous sentence and say I told you so.

AL Central Sleeper: Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians is the guy I think may have the greatest positive impact that everybody wonders where he came from.

chris sale

XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Minnesota Twins

Ervin Santana is a pretty poor contract to dole out to a team trying to finish a rebuild. There are some good, young players on the way and we could be hearing from the Twins soon, but not this year.

4th Place – Kansas City Royals

They lost sight of what made them special. Sure, they lost James Shields, but they panicked and inked Edinson Volquez, which is a disaster waiting to happen. They also replaced some departing hitters with old, injury-plagued players after riding a wave of youth to the top last season. They lost a lot of talent and did very little to replace them. I love Ventura and this he’s ready for greatness, but he’s got very little support this year.

3rd Place – Cleveland Indians

The team can’t score runs or catch the ball and it’s not a safe bet for Kluber to repeat. He’ll be really good, but can he continue to be great? I do think the rotation is very strong behind him with Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, and Cody Allen keeps getting better anchoring that bullpen, but the offense won’t be able to keep up with the unearned runs to get the ball to him.

2nd Place – Detroit Tigers

Glad to see Jessep coming around to my point of view on the Tigers. They accelerated the decline a bit, trading a pretty good pitcher in Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes, the most overrated player in baseball. They’re still good, though, and I think the division is too weak for them fall out of the race. Cabrera started his decline at the end of the 2013 season and will continue to regress, but he was so good in his prime, his slide will still be potent. Victor Martinez is a threat and I think JD Martinez is for real. Can’t forget Ian Kinsler. The rotation is still strong with Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Alfredo Simon and youngster Shane Green, who impressed me last season with the Yankees. I think the bullpen will be OK once Brad Ausmus gets Nathan out of the closer role, and potentially off the team. Joakim Soria is in mid-season form in spring training and Bruce Rondon has a lot of potential, despite a shaky spring.

The Tigers are going away, but not quickly.

1st Place – Chicago White Sox

Great timing for the Sox, as the Tigers and Royals regression paves the way for the team that most feel won the off season. The team is not well-balanced offensively and Conor Gillaspie matching last season (or even exceeding it) will go a long way in lengthening the lineup if he’s hitting well enough to slide into the second spot in the order. If Melky Cabrera has to hit second, it either leaves no protection for the cleanup hitter or forces Robin Ventura to put a sub-par hitter in the very important second spot. The bullpen isn’t bad, though I expect the team to regret the long-term, big money deal given to David Robertson well before it’s up. Probably not this year, though. The starting pitching is what will carry them. Chris Sale, new acquisition Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana are a formidable top three

AL Central MVP: J.D. Martinez. I believe far more in “outta nowhere” seasons like his 2014 if it comes from a mechanical change like his did as opposed to just a fluke.

AL Central Cy Young: Chris Sale. He was my pick last season and the upstart Kluber ruined it. I’ll roll the dice again.

AL Central Sleeper: Adam Eaton. He is primed for a huge breakout.


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MMO 2015 Season Preview: American League East Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:00:58 +0000 Dustin+Pedroia+New+York+Yankees+v+Boston+Red+KwycSvkPubIl

There is just something about March Madness that gets me so jacked up! No, it’s not the random 14 seed that hits a 3 pointer to seal an upset win over a #3 seed. It isn’t the cutting of the nets, the strive for perfection, or listening to Jay Bilas tell me how to fill out my bracket if I want to make sure I don’t win my pool.

Nope, it’s the mere fact that once the television drama of the tournament comes to a close, it’s time for what really matters. The start of the Major League Baseball season is upon us. The snow is melting, the grass is starting to show, and the winter coats are starting to head up into the attic. There’s no better time to be a sports fan than April through October, and it starts with the crack of the bat or the pounding of a glove.

Over the next few days we’ll take a look at each team, give our predictions and hope that you too will indulge us in your predictions for the upcoming season. Did you see the 2014 Royals coming? Did you see the Brewers being a red hot team that would fizzle when it mattered?

So let’s begin with what is sure to be a conversation starter… the American League East.

Division Analysis: To me, this is the most wide open division in the sport. Nobody in this division appears on paper to have an edge over the rest. In every contender, there seems to be reasons to avoid picking them to come out on top. I’m confident that this division will see just one playoff team emerge, I’m just not confident at all in who it will be – but I’ll take my best shot.

Tampa Bay Rays – 5th Place

Key additions: Kevin JepsenAsdrubal CabreraJohn Jaso

Key subtractions: Ben ZobristWil MyersMatt JoyceYunel EscobarJoel Peralta, Jose Molina

I’d love to be wrong here, but I just don’t see it. I believe that very few Managers make a big impact on their team in the way Joe Maddon did. I can’t give that same credit to Kevin Cash right now.

I look at the lineup and see players like John Jaso, James Loney and Asdrubal Cabrera being needed to have borderline career years for this lineup to produce around Evan Longoria. Steven Souza is an intriguing talent, and people in Tampa Bay seem to be excited about his potential. He’ll be interesting to see.

Longoria is the face of this franchise, he has taken team friendly deals in an effort to stay in Tampa Bay – but he struggled last year for really the first time in his career. Coincidentally, 2014 was the first time Tampa Bay looked like the “Devil Rays” in Longoria’s career. It’s easier to be the face of a successful franchise, not so easy when the team is rebuilding.

The pitching staff for the Rays is falling apart day by day. Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly are already dealing with discomfort in their throw arms (or shoulder), and Matt Moore is still trying to recover from Tommy John surgery. So right off the bat you’re heading into 2015 with Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and I guess Nate Karns?

If a team retooling the lineup with band aid parts can’t rely on their pitching staff, they can’t be successful.

Baltimore Orioles - 4th Place

Key additions: J.P. ArencibiaTravis Snider

Key subtractions: Nelson CruzNick MarkakisAndrew Miller.

Buck Showalter, like Joe Maddon is one of the very few managers that I believe makes a big difference in a team’s performance. The Orioles have overachieved in the last two years, and now they are faced with the challenge of repeating three successful season, with much less talent.

The Orioles lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis via free agency, and didn’t really replace either of them at all. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I think Travis Snider is truly the answer, nor do I think counting on Chris Davis to replicate his 2013 campaign is a realistic thought either.

This team will go as far offensively as Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones can take them. Part of the problem is Wieters is returning from Tommy John surgery (not a typo), and so it’s tough to predict how he might bounce back in 2015.

The rotation is highlighted by Chris Tillman leading the way with Wei Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez and possibly Dylan Bundy in the mix as well. You look at that team and you think they need Cole Hamels, and they probably do – but I just am not sure they believe they need the front line starter to compete. This is basically the same rotation that made it to the LCS last year and ran into a buzzsaw in Kansas City.

Would I be surprised if Baltimore won the division? No. But I look at the division and I see the teams I predict ahead of them getting better and Baltimore’s roster changes making them worse.

New York Yankees – 3rd Place

Key additions: Didi Gregorius, Garrett JonesNathan Eovaldi, Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson

Key subtractions: Derek JeterDavid RobertsonMartin PradoShawn KelleyFrancisco CervelliShane Greene

Most Yankees fans I know have changed their usual tune. You can tell that this team is heading down a dangerous path just by talking to some of their most loyal fans. No longer do they “expect” to win, now they “hope” that “if” everything goes right, they will win.

Their issues are clear, and their fans while in some ways are in denial about the roster on paper – luck has done stranger things than work its way into a divisional race.

The Yankees need a lot of luck. Yes, any player, at any time can get hurt. It’s true. But, when you have old players who normally get hurt, or young players who have had 6 injuries over the last 6 years, the odds dramatically increase that you’ll be piecing together a team through your minor league affiliate.

The rotation like their lineup will succeed if they stay healthy. Take a look around though. Masahiro Tanaka is a Tommy John Surgery waiting to happen. If his injury was as bad as they told everybody then I’m sorry, they were foolish not to have the surgery. That decision to me was about money, and the idea that not being able to showcase Tanaka as their headliner for 2015 would decrease money in their pocket. If Tanaka stays healthy and gives the Yankees 30 starts, he’s winning the AL Cy Young.

Michael Pineda can’t stay on the field. 6 injuries in 6 years, all you hear is how good he’ll be – but he simply hasn’t proven he is capable yet.

CC Sabathia has a degenerative knee problem which for a larger American should be no problem right? The rest of the rotation is a dime a dozen. Nathan Eovaldi got lit up in the National League East last year, have fun against Baltimore, Toronto and Boston.

The lineup has Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Alex Rodriguez – all practically sure things to land on the DL. If they don’t though, this is a team that not only could win the division – but could challenge for the pennant. Rarely do you find a team with such a dramatic pendulum swing where the thought of landing on the DL seems more certain than unlucky.

I can’t think of another team that ever had it’s core of talent so injury prone, yet so capable of doing great things if they avoid the inevitable. Think about it, you could make a strong and reasonable argument that 6 out of the Yankees starting 10 players on Opening Day could either have a great season leading them toward a pennant, or they could spend serious time on the disabled list.

I think the Yankees whiffed on the bullpen, because while I agree Dellin Betances is nasty, I think the way in which they handled David Robertson’s free agency hurt their plan to have a dominant bullpen. Betances could be a very good closer, but what if he’s not? Andrew Miller is not a closer, Robertson filled the biggest shoes of anybody by replacing Mariano Rivera. They had a chance to have a lights out 7-8-9, instead they didn’t even pick up the phone.

At the end of the year I think we’ll look back and see Joe Girardi does another great job piecing a season together with AAAA players, but it won’t be enough to take the division.

Toronto Blue Jays – 2nd Place

Key additions: Josh DonaldsonMarco EstradaRussell MartinMichael SaundersJustin Smoak

Key subtractions: Melky CabreraJuan FranciscoAnthony GoseJ.A. HappBrett LawrieAdam LindCasey Janssen

It’s honestly mostly a guess to be straight with you. This franchise has not see a playoff game since Mitch Williams tossed one in to Joe Carter. Karma has to catch up with them at some point right? Truth be told until I started writing this, I had Toronto winning the division.

The Blue Jays added in Russell Martin, Justin Smoak/Daric Barton and Josh Donaldson to the lineup which should in theory provide Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion with greater support and more opportunities to drive in runs. We all know Jose Reyes leads the lineup at the top, and though he has seemingly regressed every year since leaving New York – he’s still worth noting.

23 year old Devon Travis is somebody to watch in Toronto. Pairing him with Reyes across the bag could make for a nice 2B/SS combo if Travis can steal the job away from Ryan Goins.

The rotation took a huge blow by losing Marcus Stroman. They expected huge things from him and to tear an ACL on a defensive drill? Yikes. Seems karma is still not on their side.

I’m confident enough in R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. They will be fine, neither will be an ace but truly acceptable near the top of the rotation. I have my doubts about the rest of the rotation, and pair that with the fact Brett Cecil is likely their closer – you have a red flag.

I think Toronto wants to make a move, and I do think they will act on an arm or two becoming available. They need less to go their way to compete for this division, but I don’t see them having the horses right now.

Boston Red Sox - 1st Place

Key additions: Ryan HaniganJustin MastersonWade MileyRick Porcello, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley RamirezAnthony Varvaro

Key subtractions: Yoenis CespedesRubby De La Rosa, Will Middlebrooks, David RossAllen Webster

I’m not really confident here because I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this team lands in 3rd place. The Red Sox whiffed on the Jon Lester situation. After that trade happened, it seemed every Boston fan you knew was saying they’d get Lester back and it’d be no big deal. Well, we all know that didn’t happen and now the Red Sox rotation is relying on Rick Porcello to be the counterpart to Clay Buchholz. Porcello is no Lester, not even close.

The rotation is alright, just alright. I think like pretty much everybody not named the Yankees in this division – it lacks a true ace.

The lineup could be fun to watch, especially if Mookie Betts turns out to be as good as some predict. If he does, Rusney Castillo may have to wait a little while longer.

The catcher spot will be interesting to because I’ve heard Red Sox nation regard prospect Blake Swihart as the next Jason Varitek. Not sure Swihart will be with this team any time soon, it really depends on Christian Vazquez.

The heart of the order is dangerous for sure. Pedroia-Ortiz-Hanley-Sandoval will give most pitchers fits throughout the year.

In order for this team to grab the division, they need Clay Buchholz to emerge as a frontline starter the way he appeared to be in 2010. I’m not sold on this at all. I look at his body of work over the last four seasons and I can’t see how he replaced a guy like Lester.

The team will need to outslug everybody to win, and while that is possible – I am not banking on Boston having enough to steal the division, but it’s the most likely scenario I can think of.

AL East MVP: Dustin Pedroia. If I am taking Boston to win the division, I think Pedroia has a big year.

AL East Cy Young: Tanaka. I’m flipping a coin here. He either missed May-next year or he pitches long enough to set himself apart from the rest of the pitchers in this division. Simply hedging my bet here.

AL East Sleeper: Devon Travis. I think if Travis can win the starting job and stick with it, it’ll be a big bump to Toronto.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Arizona Diamondbacks

XtreemIcon’s Picks

First I’d like to address something from Jessep’s opening. “Did you see the 2014 Royals coming?” Yes. Yes, I did. Now that the horn-tooting is out of the way, on to my picks.

I think Jessep is 100% correct. Or 100% wrong. Or pretty close, or maybe really far off. How do you forecast a division that has exactly one great pitcher when that pitcher is a strong breeze away from missing eighteen months? Or when the best hitters are old and declining? The best talent in the division is still Evan Longoria, but there’s nothing surrounding him. The best hitter in the division over the last three seasons has been Robinson Cano, and he wasn’t in the division last season.

Tampa Bay Rays – 5th Place

The Rays are my choice for the number one pick in the 2016 draft.

Boston Red Sox - 4th Place

The Red Sox will finish fourth because the free agents they signed will bust to the surprise of no one and there’s no real good pitcher anywhere on that team. For the Sox to compete, every free agent they signed has to perform to their top potential, and they used up that sorcery in 2013. Additionally, Betts and Xander Bogaerts will have to to get their careers jump started early and Porcello will have to be an ace. I like Porcello, but not to lead a staff.

Baltimore Orioles - 3rd Place

The Orioles will finish third because they’re getting Machado back and Davis can certainly achieve a 2012 redux. I’m encouraged by Bud Norris’s 2013 and Kevin Gausman‘s potential. They did lose Cruz, but Machado and Davis bouncing back will more than cover that and Markaikis has been league average at best since his 2012 breakout.

New York Yankees - 2nd Place

The Yankees get the second place nod here because of potential. If they can get 140 games out of Teixeira, McCann and A-Rod, and 30 starts from Tanaka, Sabathia and Pineda, you can reasonably expect enough production to win 86-ish games and not embarrass themselves. There’s a very minimal likelihood that happens, but I won $800 at Mohegan Sun last week, so I’m feeling lucky. I disagree with Jessep about Robertson. I think the Yankees handled that well, letting him go for a draft pick and giving the team-controlled better talent the chance. I don’t love all that money for a reliever they gave to Miller, but he’s better and cheaper than Robertson and the Yankees gonna do what the Yankees gonna do.

Toronto Blue Jays –  1st Place

The off season splashes Alex Anthopoulos is famous for recently that have consistently blown up in his face (as off season splashes always do), may finally pay off, although “by default” probably wasn’t the way he pictured it. I think the Jays are the favorites because they have the most dependable roster. Nothing there is great, but you can reasonably expect health and that makes them the best offensive team in the division. Besides Dickey and Buehrle, I think Drew Hutchinson is poised for a step forward and Aaron Sanchez has tons of potential. They were able to steal top player Josh Donaldson from the A’s, they upgraded at catcher with Russell Martin and one of these days I’ll be right about Michael Saunders. The bullpen is an issue and there’s no league-best anythings outside of third base defense, but they’re the best by default.

AL East MVP: Evan Longoria. One day I’ll be right.

AL Central Cy Young: Chris Archer. I’ve always liked him. Maybe it’s his year finally.

AL Central Sleeper: Brett Gardner. He’s the elder statesman of the Yankees, believe it or not, and I think he’ll be able to reconcile the high OBP skills he has (2010) and his new found power stroke and combine them into a .290/.365/.430 season and really become a leader on that team.

button ballgame

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Sometimes A Good Baseball Decision Is Just A Good Baseball Decision Fri, 16 Jan 2015 21:18:15 +0000 ian desmond

The topic of “Who will play SS?” seems to be dominating the airwaves (or broadband waves) over the last few weeks in our beloved Mets universe. While examining the topic, I’ve started to notice that the sentiment is shifting from “make a move that makes sense,” to “just make a move!”

As many of you saw, Fox’s Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Mets should go “all-in” on Ian Desmond. I have a few problems with his take.

For starters, his argument is that the Nationals likely have not signed Desmond because they are “not offering market value.” Then he explains that Desmond “likely would command $150 million as a free agent next offseason.”

Now I’m sorry, but Ian Desmond is a nice baseball player (who has been in offensive decline the last two years) – but $150 million?

Troy Tulowitzki who EVERYBODY would agree is the best SS when he is on the field, signed a contract worth $157 million in November of 2010. David Wright signed a contract worth $138 million in December of 2012.

You’re going to sit there and honestly tell me you agree that Ian Desmond and his .764 OPS in 2013-2014 is worth the same dollar amount as Tulo or more than Wright? Really?

And it’s not like Desmond is some superior defensive player either. Each of the last two years, Depending on your favorite defensive metric, Desmond has finished roughly about 10th among SS each of the last two seasons.

daniel murphyHe’s a decent ballplayer, but his offensive numbers are declining. In Rosenthal’s example, the Mets should trade Daniel Murphy for Desmond – and then pay Desmond.

Why does that make sense on the field to rob Peter simply to pay Paul? If you are trying to acquire Desmond, you’re basically saying you don’t believe in Wilmer Flores. Yet, if you trade Daniel Murphy – who do you think becomes the 2B? Wilmer Flores.

Is Desmond SO much better to have on your roster than Murphy? I don’t see that as being true at all.

Whenever I look at evaluating a baseball player, I try and eliminate their best year. Why? Because I believe if a player is most like his best season – then that will show up when you eliminate it. However, one great season could elevate a player to a ranking he might not really deserve.

For Desmond, take out 2012. It existed and it’s worth recognizing, but could also inflate his value.

Desmond Breakdown

That is what the Mets should go “all-in” for? Not only in terms of trading away talent, but also giving $150 million to? Why? To prove they CAN pay a player, even if he doesn’t deserve it?

There is a growing sentiment as Rosenthal explains about the Mets finances stopping them from making a move like this. Why can’t it be a baseball decision? Why does everything have to come down to dollars and cents and a refusal to pay?

It doesn’t all come down to money. It all comes down to talent first. Every time the Mets choose to not make a move, it’s POSSIBLE to think about baseball first, financials second.

ruben-tejadaWhether we like it or not, Ruben Tejada was actually one of the best defensive SS in the sport last year. Whether we like it or not there is a belief that Wilmer Flores can hit in the bigs.

Moving away from Desmond for a second, getting a new SS for the sake of getting a new SS is NOT a smart baseball move.

You see a lot of people mentioning a desire to acquire SS Brad Miller and that’s great and all, but the guy hasn’t proven he can hit in the bigs either.

Quite frankly, he wasn’t a better defensive SS than Tejada either. So if you’re getting a kid solely for his potential – why can’t you see what Flores has to offer first?

The TRUTH is, the SS position is NOT very deep in MLB. It’s likely why the Mets kept Tejada because they figure if they go into 2015 with Flores/Tejada and Flores proves he cannot hit in the bigs full-time, they at least have themselves a defensive minded SS which is something worth hanging onto.

People want Tulo circa 2009 or Jose Reyes circa 2008 – it’s not happening. It’s unrealistic.

To me there are six guys you could label as real difference makers worth getting right now at SS: Tulo, Andrelton Simmons, Jhonny Peralta, Erick Aybar, J.J. Hardy and Starlin Castro.

Until Tulo doesn’t cost you Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, or Syndergaard – he simply is not a gamble worth taking. You can gamble his contract v. playing time – but you can’t ante up with an arm like those four.

I’m sorry, he’d bring a lot of excitement to the team and I hope he could stay on the field, but the Mets would be taking ALL of the risk there by taking on his contract plus losing an incredibly valued talent like Noah Syndergaard? Pass.

The Rockies also are seemingly not getting any bites on Tulo – that price tag is going to drop eventually, so why submit to it now before you even see if Tulowitzki is fully recovered from hip surgery?

Simmons, not going anywhere – move along.

Peralta, had their chance – didn’t get him… said they were aggressive, can’t live in the past.

Aybar – doubt you can get him now.

Hardy – doubt you can get him now, hope O’s falter and then maybe.

Castro – you sacrifice a glove at SS, but his bat is a difference maker and I’m not sure what is going on there.

That’s it.

With everybody else, there are more logical reasons not to get the player than to get him. I like the IDEA of Brad Miller, but I don’t think he changes much in 2015, and I don’t see how you can give Seattle a big price tag for a kid who hasn’t proven he is any better than Wilmer Flores right now.

The bottom line is – for the Mets, there are other reasons besides the Wilpons for not making moves. Making a trade for the sake of adding payroll is a terrible way to manage a baseball team, and I am glad we have somebody in charge of making those decisions who doesn’t listen to the hysteria surrounding the off-season.

The Mets could use a SS, nobody’s denying that – but they don’t have to make a bad baseball decision just to prove themselves capable of signing a paycheck.

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Featured Post: Now Is The Time To Make A Difference Wed, 08 Oct 2014 20:16:19 +0000 sandy alderson

It is officially the time of the year when every Mets fan begins to try and figure out a way to turn this franchise into a contender in 2015.

For the first time in a long time, there actually is a serious chance that with one or two moves – the Mets can be a contender next year.

The problem I have with all of this chatter thus far is that some fans are seemingly trying to once again look for the “affordable” fix. This is a team that could enter 2015 with the best 1-5 pitching staff in the sport, and saying that would not be viewed as an exaggeration.

That’s something to build around, and a formula for success. However, what they do around them will dictate just how dedicated to winning the Mets really are.

If you’re the Mets or a fan of the Mets you cannot, I repeat CANNOT accept a non-difference maker offensive player being brought to this team for 2015. End of story, not up for discussion.

markakisFellow MMO Staffer Harris Decker posted his top five free agents that could help. The first one was Nick Markakis, and I am telling you right now – if the Mets come to us this winter and claim they have solved their offensive woes by signing Nick Markakis, I might throw up in my mouth. He is a fine ballplayer, but the guy has a .707 OPS over the last two years. The Mets don’t need another .700 OPS hitter. That’s more of the same, not a true fix.

I am so tired of hearing anybody, fans, media, and the team owners talk about the payroll for 2015. Who cares what the payroll is? Seriously, why does anybody care about a number right now? The Mets could get rid of substantial payroll via trade, add a difference maker and have a far better team than 2014 and spend the same or less money doing it.

So who cares what the payroll is? The issue shouldn’t be “you better spend X” it should be “you better go get the right talent.”

That’s the statement we as fans should be making. That is the statement the Wilpons and Alderson should be making.

Rather than talk about imaginary payroll numbers as if anybody knows free agent demands right now, tell me you’re going to get the right players…no matter the cost because you recognize a chance to be a contender in 2015.

If that means your payroll ends up at $80 million or $100 million, I could care less. Just don’t tell me the payroll is the reason you backed away from a difference maker.

Let me be clear on something – there is a difference between being concerned with Troy Tulowitzki’s contract because of his health issues as it relates to the financial commitment and backing away from a player with limited risk, a quality resume but a high salary.

The Mets are in NEED of a power hitting corner outfielder, and potentially a SS/2B.

If they are confident Wilmer Flores is the SS for 2015, and they can figure out the Daniel Murphy/Dilson Herrera situation, that’s probably going to be acceptable for 2015, so long as there is a utility/backup option put into place.

What is not acceptable however, is trying to in any way claim the corner outfield position can be fixed internally, or through patch work Chris Young-style signings. Players like Matt den Dekker are nice players with excellent defensive ability, but the Mets simply do not have the luxury right now to dedicate a corner outfield spot based primarily on defense.

Jose BautistaJoe D. posted a thought about acquiring Jose Bautista on Wednesday. That is the type of move you need to make if you’re the Mets. He changes everything for the 2015 Mets, and the 2016 Mets. He’d bring life back to Flushing and would make everybody around him put up better offensive numbers as well.

I’m not sure what I would “offer,” because I have no idea Toronto’s true intention with that kind of move. I’d think if you’re dealing Bautista, you’re looking for young players, not Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese. But who knows? They need to find out though.

If the Mets give you more of the same this off-season with patch work signings, then they simply are proving to you and I, once and for all, that this is more about saving money than winning games.

I cannot remember a more vital off-season for this franchise. If it’s more of the same in 2015, even the strongest Alderson supporters will start to wonder what is really going on.

If a legitimate attempt at bringing in a difference maker is made, then the cynical fan who is quick to point out the Mets failures will start to come back, and be re-connected with the team and the rest of the fans.

I gave them a pass to get their house in order since 2011, but the time to make a splash and rejuvenate your fan base – is right now.

There are no excuses for failing to do so.

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Mets Need a New Manager: Roger That. Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:00:49 +0000 *Apr 01 - 00:00*05_Flatbed_WEB

When the initial managerial search took place, I didn’t mind the hire of Terry Collins over Wally Backman. In fact, I thought it was the right move (and still do) because I felt that a Backman hire would have simply been a move to appease fans, but not to necessarily win ball games.

Every fan who stomps their foot and says “We’d be better with Backman!” is pretty much just inventing a fairy tale. For starters, there’s no way to know that. Secondly, if “we” are so smart and “know” Backman could turn a 75-ish win team into a “better” team, then why hasn’t anybody else hired him? Heck, why hasn’t anybody else brought him into a final round of interviewing?

For every fan out there who is now using the fact Backman was recently named the PCL Manager of the Year as their evidence that he should be the Mets manager, let me toss this nugget out to you.

In 1988, Terry Collins was the PCL Manager of the Year, so take it easy with the award sealing the deal.

The truth is, none of us know if Backman will be the right man to lead the Mets – I personally do not see it happening under Sandy Alderson because (unfortunately) I do not think Alderson puts as much stock into the field manager as some of us would like him to.

For those that are in lock step with Alderson, I’d find any argument that says the Rays, Indians, Yankees, Angels, and Orioles would be as consistently successful without Maddon, Francona, Girardi, Scioscia and Showalter to be totally invalid.

This isn’t a Wally piece though. This is me recognizing that Collins is not the man to lead the Mets into what HAS to be a successful 2015 campaign. He was/is a good team-soldier but I think it’s time to move on. The problem is, I don’t think they will because I think he fits the mold for an Alderson-type manager.

But, let’s assume for a second that Alderson can do what all great executives do and go outside their comfort zone when needed.

One name that you never, ever hear tossed around is Roger McDowell.

Before I get into the case FOR McDowell, I totally understand that the incident in San Francisco back in 2011 was unacceptable and I’m in no way advocating for such behavior. However, he admitted his mistake, and hopefully learned from it.

Mets fans want a manager with Mets roots right? I don’t necessarily understand why it’s so important, but it clearly is. So McDowell obviously qualifies there.

McDowell has been the pitching coach for Atlanta since 2006, and replaced one of the greatest pitching coaches in recent memory (Leo Mazzone) and nobody really noticed.

McDowell has consistently gotten the best out of his pitching staffs in spite of injuries, age or experience.

For those looking for personality, but also a spark in the clubhouse and demand for excellence– how does McDowell not fit that criteria?

There used to be a thought that pitching coaches couldn’t win as managers in the big leagues – but then the 2013 season happened and John Farrell proved that theory to be false.

McDowell sat next to one of the greatest Managers (Bobby Cox) in recent memory for five years, and also played for Davey Johnson & Tommy Lasorda. That’s not a bad trio to have on your resume.

For a team like the Mets who are so focused on pitching getting them over the hump – a guy like McDowell leading the way sounds like a pretty good fit to me.

What if your staff for 2015 consisted of McDowell at the helm, Backman on the bench, Teufel as a base coach and Warthen as the pitching coach (not sure about hitting coach right now)?

That’s a staff that is put together based on talent and the current team philosophy, and not purely for nostalgic reasons.

I don’t know if McDowell wants to be a Manager, nor do I know for certain that he would be the right guy for the job – but I do know that his name seemingly never gets mentioned by fans because we’re so fixated on Backman, and he has the resume, paired with the personality and experience to be a serious candidate for the Mets moving forward.

Plus, who doesn’t wanna see Bartolo Colon react to a hot foot?

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My “Piazza” Like Proposal Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:30:21 +0000 The All-Star break tends to bring about random optimistic thoughts as well as trade discussions that most likely can’t or won’t happen.

So before any baseball gets started today, let me jump on the “why can’t we do this” train and propose a thought to everybody. I mean, heck, Ron Darling is even thinking we need to make a big blockbuster deal!

I think everybody who wants to see the Mets succeed is on board with the idea that they need an impact offensive player, right?

We’ve already beaten to death the idea of Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton. Yeah, I’d really like to acquire both players – Giancarlo in a heartbeat, Tulo with hesitation – but I’d do it.

You have to first think about the type of deal you’re offering to teams. So my package to acquire a true impact player includes Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero as the main components.

noah Syndergaard

I think both could be legitimate big league arms, but I’m starting to think their value may be in decline and truthfully – I don’t see a big need for them right now.

I am perfectly fine with a rotation that consists of Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. I’d put that rotation up against almost anybody in the sport.

So I look at Syndergaard and Montero as pitchers who I’d love to see crack the Mets, but I also think they are the ones we do not really “know” what they can do at the big league level yet, and I think they might net the biggest piece without impacting the current rotation.

If you’re trying to acquire an elite offensive player, you can’t be cheap with your prospects. To me, if you trade a player like Wheeler or deGrom – you’re getting less back while also impacting your 2015 and beyond rotation. Sure, we can all HOPE Syndergaard is what we think he is, but we know what we have in deGrom and Wheeler. We have mid-rotation guys that every team would love to have, but with Syndergaard you have the hope and uncertainty of a potential #1. I want to sell teams on hope.

So let’s just say the Marlins are not trading Giancarlo – fine. I’m not totally sure if I would offer my two main chips for Tulo, but I could be convinced.

I wanted to look elsewhere and find an impact player that nobody seems to be talking about, but would make a huge difference.

I landed on Paul Goldschmidt. If the Mets offered a package that included Syndergaard, Montero and Lucas Duda to Arizona, would the Diamondbacks consider dealing the 26 year old first basemen?

I think they would – in fact, I think they’d probably be fools not to consider it.

0321130917cwp PNI0905-spt DiamondbacksThe Mets could even ask for a player like Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings back if they included another minor league chip.

Thus killing two birds with one trade, acquiring a high impact elite offensive player and giving the Mets a solid SS option.

Some may say we do not need to upgrade 1B, but I disagree. Lucas Duda has done an alright job over the last 2 months– but he’s already three years OLDER than Goldschmidt and isn’t even close to as good of a player.

At 26, Goldschmidt is signed through 2018 with a 2019 team option. He will make 3.1 million next year and top out at 11.1 million in 2018 (team option for just over $14 million). That is a contract the Mets have got to love.

Goldschmidt has spent his entire career in hitter friendly Arizona, but that has not impacted his numbers in any way. He is a lifetime .302 hitter in Arizona, with .547 SLG and .947 OPS and a .315 hitter on the road with a .551 SLG and .951 OPS, and oh by the way he won the gold glove last year. If you have a gold glove 1B, it makes having one of the best hitting 2B with below average defensive talent a whole lot easier to digest.

I have no doubt that Arizona is in love with Goldschmidt, but I do think my offer is very fair and if that team wants to build around pitching – we’d be giving them two significant prospects back – both who could crack their club within a year.

No matter where you go for an elite offensive talent, you’re giving up prospects we’ve all been reading about and hyping up. You cannot expect to rob somebody of their best young player, so you have to be willing to give something up.

To me, this deal accomplishes several things, all of which are needed when proposing a blockbuster deal.

It gives the Mets an elite, no doubt about it type of player for the next SEVERAL years. It keeps the Mets current rotation in tact (Swap Harvey for Colon), and it also allows the Mets to keep Daniel Murphy, which I also think is very important.

For the Diamondbacks, sure losing Goldschmidt isn’t ideal, but they net two projected 2015 starting pitchers whom they can control for 5+ years, they also net back a guy who isn’t as good as Goldschmidt but will do just fine at 1B for the time being – and they possibly net back another quality minor leaguer to clean out their SS clog.

Will it happen? I doubt it, but at this point – if you told me the Mets have a shot at acquiring Paul Goldschmidt, I think they’d be fools to not approach Arizona aggressively.

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Mets Need the Willingness to Fail Wed, 02 Jul 2014 15:00:56 +0000 new-york-mets braintrust collins, katz, wilpon alderson

As the Mets begin their 6th straight summer of “don’t call us, we’ll call you” caliber baseball, something has to change.

The focus for this franchise has been shedding huge contracts, and building up the farm system and in reality – they succeeded in that feat. Whether players like Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud or Zack Wheeler become big stars or not, those deals were deals that made perfect sense for the future of the ballclub.

Along with the acquired three, they have some excitement building around players like Dilson Herrera, Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, and Dominic Smith to name a few.

Where this organization has failed miserably (most recently) is their lack of willingness to make a mistake.

I know, that sounds odd right? But think about some of the greatest successes in your life, you may have taken a risk for it to occur. Not many situations align perfectly where there is little risk involved in being successful.

For the Mets, I understand that they do not want to fall in the hole that contracts like Jason Bay or Johan Santana put them in – but here’s the truth. If you’re constantly afraid of long-term commitment to players, then you’re never going to A) attract established talent to play for this team and B) keep your pipeline players when it comes time to pay them a larger salary.

I’m not one to pay free agents huge contracts, but at some point – you have to push aside your thoughts on the past and do what is right for the team in its current state.

This team has done a great job on finding low risk players on the market and getting the most out of them while they could. Players like Marlon Byrd, LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Hairston, John Buck, Jeremy Hefner, Carlos Torres, and even Daisuke Matsuzaka come to mind. None of these players are winning you a championship – but they are the types of players you need to have a solid big league roster.

The problem is, the Mets have become fairly good at finding players like this, and fairly terrible at finding players they need to spend money on.

Everybody knew (pre-Astros diary) that the Mets needed corner outfield help, along with a great need to figure out the situation at 1B and SS prior to this season.

To me, signing Curtis Granderson was a low risk move to be honest. I think we all expected him to stay in New York but just switch uniforms, and sure the contract was probably longer than the Mets were comfortable with – but it was a low risk move.

In reality, there were three players the Mets scared themselves away from because they were unwilling to be wrong, or feared failure on a big risk.

Nelson Cruz, who admittedly I was at the time not interested in, has done nothing but prove the Mets wrong with every at bat. Not only was the lack of a move the wrong decision, but they doubled down by signing Chris Young as well.

In late May, this is what GM Sandy Alderson said about the hindsight of not signing Cruz and signing Young.

“Keep in mind, when we signed Chris Young, we signed him to a one-year deal. It was early in the offseason and we wanted to get a marker on the board,” Alderson said. “We had lost Marlon Byrd. The Phillies signed Marlon Byrd. So we wanted to make sure that we had ourselves covered in center field with somebody who had some pop and maybe could have the same type of bounce back year that a guy like Marlon Byrd had. “

“At the time, Nelson Cruz was looking for like $65 million to play — what? — left field for us. Not center field, where we needed some protection. He was going to have to play left field. It was apples and oranges at that point. For the fact that he ended up signing for $8 million weeks, months later, I think is kind of an unfair comparison.”

So I have two problems with this. The first is that he’s telling you that he was more interested in making a low risk move by a player that could “maybe” bounce back from previous failures. That’s a low expectation signing that you’re hoping will work out – not a signing you EXPECT to work.

Second, this shows a lack of understanding of what the Mets had in Juan Lagares. It seems funny to me that the Mets refused to upgrade other positions because they felt they have talent there (borderline talent at 1B), but when it comes to Chris Young – he was brought here to play CF and the idea of getting a big time power bat to play LF is scoffed at?

Fun fact, Chris Young has started 69 games in the outfield with 40 of them being in LF.

Now, a FAIR assessment of Nelson Cruz that seems to be forgotten frequently is that half of his offensive success has come as a DH. Totally fair point, but he’s also been very solid at the plate while starting in LF.

The Mets told you above that the reason they didn’t get him wasn’t become he’s a half and half fielder to DH ratio, they told you they didn’t sign him because they wanted production out of CF and were trying to replace an outfielder they traded away in August. You didn’t lose Marlon Byrd, you traded him away – there’s a difference.

If signing Nelson Cruz to a two year deal worth maybe $40 million is such an outrageous idea, then how do the Mets intend on ever fixing the lineup? Power doesn’t come cheap and you aren’t finding impact talent in the bargain bin.

The second mistake was clearly the lack of signing Jose Abreu. Abreu to me was a huge risk of course, but the real reason the Mets didn’t make that move in my view is because they were busy trying to sell teams that Lucas Duda or Ike Davis were better players than they really are.

They were unwilling to just cut the cord and move on, and acquire a player they likely KNEW was an answer at 1B because if they did that, then they wouldn’t have received any “value” on their current clog at 1B.

Once again, an unwillingness to be wrong, and a fear of failure bites the Mets right in the you know what.

The third move was Stephen Drew, and you know what? They were right. Not that Ruben Tejada by any stretch is the “answer” in my view, but had they signed Drew – it would have been a mistake.

Still, even if they had pulled the trigger, can you imagine how different this team would look with an outfield of Cruz, Lagares, and Granderson paired with an infield of David Wright, Stephen Drew, Daniel Murphy, Jose Abreu and Travis d’Arnaud?

Even with the FAILURE of signing Stephen Drew – this team would have been watchable. This team would have been competitive and they wouldn’t be using Matt Harvey’s injury as an excuse for having a one-way ticket toward protected draft picks. (You know, like the Braves use their Tommy John surgeries as an excuse for poor play, right?)

Hindsight is a tricky thing, and a lot goes on behind the scenes that we’ll never know about (how bad do you want a Mets journal to be leaked?).

The Mets are in a bad spot with a ballpark that is not hitter friendly at all. Which means in order to attract players to the Mets, they have to overpay – which is something they clearly are not willing to do.

If you look at the 2015 free agent market and ask yourself how the Mets can fix their offensive holes, you’re going to have a difficult time answering. So unless the Mets are willing to deal some talented young arms for offense by February of 2015 – you might as well call 2015 “The Year of Rinse and Repeat.”

When evaluating a GM you need to look at their player acquisitions in two ways. Whether they find valuable pieces in a low risk, high reward market – and whether they succeed when taking big risks.

The Mets don’t take risks. They are afraid of taking risks right now, and until they overcome that fear – this team will be known as the team with great young pitching that is consistently drowning in quality start defeats.

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The Easiest Thing To Do In Baseball? Mon, 16 Jun 2014 20:28:28 +0000 jose reyes

By now, you all have read that Jose Reyes & Josh Thole shared their views of David Wright and the New York Mets as a franchise.

You know, it’s funny to me. With Reyes, you have a guy who had his career built here in New York – a guy who took a big contract with a BAD team, talking about how he just wants to win? And he feels bad for Wright in his current situation?

Let me break this down for you Jose. In 2007, the Mets had one of the most epic collapses in baseball history – you hit .205 in September, Wright hit .352.

The Mets followed up said that epic collapse with an encore performance – you hit .243 that September, Wright hit .340.

So Jose when you say things like:

“After a little while, you just want to win, it’s not about the money, because we are already set. We’ve got a contract and it’s now about winning. We’re not getting any younger, you know? What is he, 31? I’m 31. I want to win. So I know about that.”

“At this point, we want to win. I’m tired of being in last place. I want to play meaningful games in September. The year that we went to the playoffs in 2006, oh, man, that was an unbelievable feeling. Just every game that we played, like wow, the intensity and stuff. I loved that. We’re in a good position this year to have a good year.”

Maybe you should focus on YOUR role in the Mets recent failures rather than feeling sorry for the guy who chose to stay here and try to see things through? You are one of the reasons why the Mets are where they are. Had you performed to your ability in 2007 or 2008, things could be different yet. You’re not a victim, you’re a cause.

In fact, Reyes not only was a MAJOR factor in the 2007 and 2008 choke jobs – but he also played a major role in not one but TWO teams with HUGE expectations falling flat on their face (Miami 2012, Toronto 2013). Where was Jose’s views of the Mets in 2012 and 2013? Oh right he was too busy contributing to another failure. 

You want to feel bad for David Wright because he is here now? How did you feel when you let him and everybody down in 2007 and 2008 with a AAA performance when things were falling apart? Oh but wait, at that point you apparently were not intrigued by playoff baseball as you are now since you’re team is 40-30. I guess back then you didn’t care about meaningful games in September.

Say whatever you want about the Mets, and Sandy Alderson – but Jose Reyes CHOSE to go to a bad baseball team for the money. Yeah, the Mets could have matched it if they wanted to, but I believe Reyes wanted to leave regardless – he wanted his money, he didn’t care about winning when he signed with Miami. He cared about the paycheck.

Then you have Josh Thole, the backup catcher who only kept a job because he could catch a knuckleball. Thole couldn’t even stay in the big leagues in 2013 and now suddenly is a bit chatty since he has 18 hits in 68 plate appearances.

“It was there from ’09 through ’12 and it was ‘wait till next year, wait till next year,’ ” said catcher Josh Thole, who came to the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey, Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard deal. “I always tell the guys: The hardest thing in the baseball world, in my opinion, is to play in New York for the Mets. No. 1, you have a bunch of young kids coming up. Every day, there’s something.  A story. Everything is a story there. So you can get caught up into that quickly. It’s just a tough place to play. I would say it’s been the hardest for David. He just signed that bangin’ deal. It’s just weird.”

No Josh, the hardest thing in baseball is watching you swing a bat. Stop acting like you’re some established veteran, you’re lucky to keep a big league job. You’re a backup catcher right now, and you’re 27 – keep quiet. The rest of the sentence in your quote should have read “wait till next year maybe we will find a new catcher.”

When it’s all said and done, Reyes got his money, and coincidentally he has had his three worst big league seasons since signing that contract that many of us felt he was not worth. So yet again, a guy had his career year just in time for a new contract – funny how that happens huh?

Still, the Blue Jays are leading the AL East (in a down year) – and maybe he will get his wish and play meaningful games in September (and hit .220). Good for him.

So I guess if playing for the Mets is the hardest thing in baseball, we know what the easiest thing to do in baseball is, right?

Riding the coattails of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

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Prediction Audit: Hits and Misses…Mostly Misses Thu, 12 Jun 2014 16:55:06 +0000 David-Price

So here we are, 40% of the season is done and the Mets are 61 games away from the 90 win bar set by GM Sandy Alderson before the season started. So the Mets only need to play .628 ball the rest of the way to achieve their 90 wins, totally do-able (crickets).

So, Sandy wasn’t the only one who swung and missed on his 2014 prediction, before the season started I gave you my predictions too. Let’s look at my hits and misses thus far.

AL East: Tampa, Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore – Swing and a miss! Tampa’s offense has made the Mets look like the Big Red Machine, and Boston’s luck appears to have run out. Toronto has had a pretty red hot last 30 days and has the rest of the division in the rear view mirror. You know it’s bad here when people actually wish they had an injury prone .735 OPS hitter as their SS again. As for the Yankees? Nailed it.

AL Central: Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago –   Well, I guess I was right so far with regards to the Tigers. But seriously, anybody who picked against Detroit this year was just playing the odds. I think one big miss I had was Jose Abreu – that guy is scary. Still, the rest of the division is hovering the .500 mark so I think it’s too early to tell what was right and what was wrong. Xtreem’s MVP pick has been terrible huh? Where did you go Eric Hosmer?

AL West: Los Angeles, Texas, Oakland, Seattle, Houston – Right now, you can put LA, Texas and Seattle in a hat and draw two names and you’ll be just fine. I feel okay about my predictions for those 3 teams. What still gets me is Oakland. At the next Sandy lover meeting, I’m probably going to have to do push ups when they re-read my Oakland prediction. I don’t know what it is about that team, but they defy “on paper,” so magnificently. Their critics over the last twenty years point to the lack of World Series championships – but this is a team on its way to their 9th 90+ win season in the last 15 years, second only to the Yankees who have 11. It baffles me that people do not respect that.

NL East: Washington, Atlanta, New York, Miami, Philadelphia – You know what I find funny is when people excuse the Nats current lack of a big division lead on “injuries.” Meanwhile Atlanta is thinking, “um hello?” The Braves, like Oakland just continue to defy logic it seems. It’s really telling what a well-run organization can do when faced with great challenges. Atlanta pretty much started the whole Tommy John epidemic conversation, and they have not looked like a team that lost anybody. Miami is somehow still hanging tough without Jose Fernandez, probably thanks to that Giancarlo fella everybody talks about. I totally crushed my awards though right? Harper-Colon-DiceK. That’s what horse racing fans call a Trifecta!

NL Central: St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee – Crushed it! Man those Brewers are terrible right? Probably something like 10 games out of the…what’s that? Oh they are the 3rd best team in the sport? Oh, that’s my bad. But seriously, isn’t that pretty much everybody’s bad? Is somebody going to comment that they saw this coming? Fun fact, Ryan Braun’s OPS is EXACTLY the same as it was when he was suspended last year. Weird. Still, I think the Cardinals can take this division and I’m okay with sliding Cincy and the Buccos down a slot to make room for the Brew Crew in 2nd. Before anybody does it, the fact Carlos Gomez is good now – doesn’t mean the Mets should have not acquired Johan Santana. So don’t even bother typing it. Speaking of Carlos Gomez (I know my most loyal “fans” won’t like this) but whenever a player in their late 20’s suddenly becomes a power hitter, don’t we usually have a habit of questioning that? 44 HR in 2,130 plate appearances through the age of 26, now 36 HR in 858 appearances at 27 and 28. No biggy, probably special vitamins or something. I guess I just find it odd that a guy who was never seen as a power threat is suddenly becoming one late in his career. (And here they go!)

NL West: Los Angeles, Arizona, San Diego, San Francisco, Colorado – Seems like the answer to my question “Can anybody stop the Dodgers?” is yes, “themselves.” I couldn’t have been more wrong about San Francisco and Arizona though, jeez. Back to LA, it’s amazing that a team with so much talent can be such a mess. They can’t even be looked at like the Marlins a few years ago – because this team is pretty much the same roster as last year with some minor tweaks. I saw manager Don Mattingly blame chemistry – and I hate to tell ya Donny, but that’s on you. Colorado started to play really well, but they are starting to come back to reality. This division is a two team race between San Francisco and Los Angeles – and I myself would love to see the Giants take it.

So what does this all mean?

Clearly, I am going to blame the unpredictability of the sport and ignore the fact that with 40% of the season completed – my pick average is somewhere between the batting average of Travis d’Arnaud and Ruben Tejada.

So what has surprised you about your own predictions as we head into the dog days of summer?

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Mets Hitting Approach: Back to the Drawing Board Thu, 08 May 2014 18:58:19 +0000 dave_hudgens_2012_05_24

As I was driving around for work yesterday, I was listening to the Mets broadcast on the radio, and something occurred to me.

At some point this year, this team will be no-hit, and you can pretty much assume that their current major league philosophy is the reason not only for that, but for their overall lack of success at the plate.

I’m not a huge “hitting coach” kind of guy. I like to think that when a hitter comes up to the big leagues, he earned his way up by already becoming a major league hitter. Here’s the thing about the Mets though – there is a difference between an organizational philosophy which is an attempt to educate young hitters in an attempt to get them to the big leagues, and a major league hitting philosophy which could change a hitter’s mentality after he’s already reached the big leagues.

My view of a hitting coach is the same as a pitching coach in the major leagues. They are there to help you get back on track when you’ve lost your way a bit. They are supposed to recognize and adjust to each player’s styles and tendencies and work with them to be the best they can possibly be. I feel like Dan Warthen does that, but I get the sense that Dave Hudgens wants everybody to be the same, and if they don’t fit his idea of a quality hitter, he’s going to try and change them.

It’s hard to change people as they get older, and learn more tools that help them achieve success. Think of it as learning a new language, if you’ve only learned one language and you’re successful at what you do and somebody came to you and told you in order to achieve the same success, you have to learn a second language – that wouldn’t be easy to do.

Following the Mets loss to the Marlins, hitting coach Dave Hudgens had some interesting and perhaps concerning comments with regards to the Mets hitters and their approach.

The first quote in this piece to me, comes off as a whole lot of excuses and not a lot of substance.

“It’s a whole different environment in Colorado than it is here,” Hudgens said, contrasting the Mets’ 22 runs in four games at Coors Field versus their three runs in three games at Marlins Park. “Not even the ballpark, but the pitching staffs are a little bit different. We squared some balls up. We just have to keep working through it, trust the process and keep working. There’s no real secrets in it. We’ve just got to keep pushing forward. We hit some balls hard today, squared some balls up. Their pitching is really good.”

Now, I don’t mean to be totally disrespectful to the Marlins here but a guy like Tom Koehler has been more lucky, than good. The fact you can’t beat him says more about you than it does about him. Koehler is a guy with 29 K and 17 BB in 45 innings of work, also allowing 28 hits. You know what that means? That means he has been helped out tremendously by two factors. The first, is his defense and the second is his home ballpark.

If you cannot have success at the plate in spite of the difficult ballpark, then that is not an excuse, it’s a flaw. Spare me this idea that anybody outside of Jose Fernandez in Miami is a pitcher that you are worried about facing. Just because you failed, doesn’t make them something they are not.

You’d think that if any team could succeed in a tough hitter’s park, it’d be a team with a tough hitter’s park. Instead, we’re going to use that as an excuse?

Then Hudgens added to the fire.

“I’m not pleased with the results. I don’t think anybody is pleased with the results. But we’re doing everything we’ve always done as far as getting ready, routines, trying to make adjustments. I’m pleased with how the guys are working and going about their business. Most definitely.”

Perhaps I’m a little confused, but in 2013, the Mets OPS was ranked 14th out of the 15 teams in the NL and in 2014, they remain 14th as well. Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps doing the things you’ve always done isn’t exactly the best formula for success? Maybe, just maybe, if we look at the last few years and realize the offense hasn’t been good – that perhaps a new idea or new way of doing things might be the path to take?

Then, Hudgens explains what he believes is going on with Ruben Tejada.

“I just think he’s trying a little bit too hard. He’s swinging at some very marginal pitches. Yesterday he swung at two pitches that were up and in and hit ground balls. We’re kind of searching, wanting to get hits, as opposed to having a good approach and getting a good ball to hit and don’t try to force it. I think he’s just trying to force it a little bit right now.”

So here’s the other problem I have. If I know the Mets hitting approach pretty much doesn’t change, doesn’t that mean that every team in the NL knows that? It seems that the Mets are stuck on this idea of looking for that ONE pitch. But, here’s the problem. What if you miss that one pitch? Or what if that one pitch comes during the first pitch of the at bat and you watched it go by?

I get the approach with an 18 year old kid, I really do. The problem is you can’t change a hitter when they get to the big leagues. It’s sink or swim by that point, you either are a major league hitter or you are not. Changing how David Wright approaches each at bat does nothing positive for David Wright.

To be fair to Hudgens, there is some blame to go on the players as well. My point is not that I believe somebody like Ruben Tejada is a .290 hitter being held back by Hudgens’ approach. My point is that I think at a major league level, Hudgens’ approach is doing more harm than good.

Let’s say for argument (and dream) sake that the Mets found a way to bring in a superstar caliber hitter such as a Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton or somebody of that stature. What would be the Mets approach with them? To say, “hey what you did up to this point is why we brought you here, but let me introduce you to Dave Hudgens because he is going to change your approach”?

To me, where this team is whiffing (besides at the plate) is they have a minor league instructor trying to implement his methods at the big league level. You can’t do that. You don’t have Dan Warthen trying to change the way Bartolo Colon delivers his pitch do you?

The Mets are doing a lot of things right, even if it’s taking a little more time than some of us had hoped. Their biggest flaw however might be their lack of adjusting and re-tooling after something doesn’t work out the way they hoped.

Dave Hudgens as the major league hitting coach isn’t working. At the major league level, the learning process should be as close to complete as you can get with “experience” being the final piece to the puzzle. Anybody remember Carlos Delgado’s little notebook?

At some point this organization is going to have to admit defeat on some of their practices and adjust accordingly. It’s okay to fail sometimes, it’s how you respond to failure that says more about who you are than anything.

The worst response to failure is crossing your arms, denying that the failure exists and refusing to change your methods, and right now – that sums up the Mets quite nicely.


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Stop Trying to Fix the Mets Fri, 02 May 2014 15:30:48 +0000 wilpon alderson

Everybody wants to fix the Mets, and it seems that in doing so, we tend to forget the recent past.

When articles get written by the New York Times or ESPN’s Adam Rubin we tend to forget that the Mets were on the verge of something truly amazing in 2006.

Here’s the truth about the Mets, and it’s one of the reasons I love them yesterday, today and tomorrow. They aren’t the Yankees. They don’t have to be the Yankees to earn my loyalty, they can do gimmicky promotions and I simply do not care. Whether they wear 100 different uniforms, send an e-blast, or walk around Citi Field with banners – it doesn’t impact my passion for the team one bit.

banner nd 1

The people that suggest it does, I would counter with concerns that they are only happy when it rains. 

In everybody’s “fix” the knocks on ownership spending is almost certainly going to pop up. From 2001-2011, this ownership AVERAGED a payroll of more than $116 million and what did they get for it? They got ONE playoff appearance and an average of 79 wins.

Spare me this idea that they didn’t have the tools to win either, the Wilpon’s did NOTHING wrong in 2007 and 2008 in terms of giving the team it’s best chance to win.

Ignoring the fact that their personal finances were impacted thanks to Bernie Madoff is ignoring reality. But instead of recognizing that maybe re-signing an injury prone star SS to more than $100 mil while simultaneously being sued for $1 billion is unrealistic – we see others circle that moment as a refusal to spend money on the baseball team.

But if you try to say these owners refuse to spend money in order to win – you’re just plain lying. They spent a TON of money while trying to win, and it got them nothing.

By the way, in spite of our struggles at SS this year and potentially moving forward, the Mets were right about Reyes. You can stomp your feet all you want, but he had a career year and gave Miami one of his worst seasons in return, and then since joining Toronto he hasn’t been able to stay on the field.

Back to the Mets though.

Stephen Drew

Rubin suggests the Mets should spend money to make money by signing guys like Stephen Drew, or LaTroy Hawkins.

Can we get real, please?

Why should the Mets be the only team to go sign Stephen Drew to a stupid contract? Are they the ONLY team in baseball in need of a SS right now? Yet, it’s May and Drew isn’t on a team – if the Mets wanted him, they wouldn’t even need to stand in line. Yet signing him is a sign of what? A willingness to be desperate?

Hawkins was offered a closer’s job with Colorado. The Mets couldn’t offer that. It would have been nice to have him back, but he got a better offer with a team that was a better fit. It happens. So again, we’re going to ignore the reality of the situation and force the Mets to make poor financial choices just because spending other people’s money makes us feel good?

The Mets are building a young core, I’m not going to sit here and force the Wilpon’s to apologize for the fact young homegrown players don’t make as much money as overpriced past their prime free agents.

The payroll doesn’t matter, and trying to equate payroll to wins is so “steroid era.” Anybody who covers baseball will tell you that the St. Louis Cardinals are one of, if not the best run organization in the sport. They rarely if ever go through a long rebuilding phase, and yet they consistently find themselves in the playoff mix.

Yet, during the same 11 year period of 2001-2011, the Cardinals AVERAGED a payroll of just over $89 million, they averaged 90 wins and had 7 playoff appearances, with 2 World Series victories – no big deal.

So why is the common thread on fixing this team based on players getting paid when the National League blueprint franchise is proving that isn’t what matters?

This obsession with trying to be the Yankees is growing tired. From 2001-2011, which team do you think had happier owners, the Cardinals or the Yankees?

Just recently, former Mets outfielder Marlon Byrd said this about the current Mets team:

“There’s a reason they should believe they should win 90 games — or more,” Byrd said. “Then you bring in character guys like a Curtis Granderson, a Chris Young, Bartolo (Colon). And guys that can actually play. They’re good, and they help a team win. With the chemistry of the guys over there, it was all about getting better.”

But hey writers who get paid to cover the team, let’s not expand on that thought – let’s instead focus all of our attention on an e-blast that leads to “how to fix the Mets” type thoughts. Meanwhile, guys who were just here are trying to tell you things aren’t as bad as you HOPE they are.

When GM Sandy Alderson set the goal at 90 wins, you couldn’t click on a Mets related site or twitter feed without somebody mocking the thought. Yet here’s a guy who was just here last year, he says the team SHOULD win 90 games and suddenly we hear crickets from the commentary? That is, until an e-blast goes out and all of a sudden everybody who can type has to try and rip it apart in an attempt to ensure the negativity continues.

It’s common for fans to look down on ownership during tough times, but it’s funny that in 2006 I don’t remember cries for new owners in Flushing. It’s odd that in 1999 or 2000, the Wilpon’s seemed to be a good enough fit for this team. I wonder why that is?

The truth is, the Mets make odd marketing decisions sometimes (ie Shea closing ceremony, Citi Field not celebrating the franchise etc.) but that doesn’t truly impact me as a fan.

The truth is, the “little brother” mentality is influenced by the people who enjoy mocking everything the Mets do and hoping they make poor decisions (such as spending money on players nobody wants) just for the sake of making them.

I don’t care about an e-blast, I don’t get offended by e-marketing piggy backing off a silly comment made at the Granderson press conference, I don’t care what uniform they wear in an attempt to sell jerseys or what bobblehead they give away because quite frankly, casual fans like bobbleheads. Promotions are not geared toward a die-hard fan, they are geared toward the people who think voting for David Wright as the “Face of Baseball” actually means something, or to the people who need an extra incentive to purchase a ticket.

What impacts me as a fan is what happens on the field – when the team wins I’m happy, this team is playing winning baseball yet you might not even notice it if you listen to the commentary.

If it’s going to take more than winning baseball to get you to feel good about being a Mets fan, then perhaps the Mets don’t need new owners, perhaps they need new fans.

Presented By Diehards

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And The Beat Goes On Thu, 01 May 2014 14:41:16 +0000 You know what I am growing tired of lately? It seems the people who cover the New York Mets feel it is their obligation to contribute whatever they can to ensure the fan base feels as lousy as possible with regards to their support of the NY Mets.

I don’t understand why crushing the team you cover rather than just simply reporting on them seems to be the cool thing to do.

I’m really tired of it. It seems that in order for these writers to get any attention at all, they feel the need to join the complaining minority and stir the pot with every single decision the Mets make.

When did covering a baseball team (who by the way is off to their best start since 2007) become a job that is based on poor humor and antagonizing rather than quality information?

This past week I saw three things that drove me to this post.lardball

The first was NY Post writer Mike Puma’s embarrassing attempt at humor with regards to Bartolo Colon’s weight. Here’s a fun fact for you Puma – Colon comes to the Mets as probably the third most accomplished pitcher prior to coming to the Mets in the last 20 years (After Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana). How about you report on that rather than cheap open mic night humor about his weight?

The second was Adam Rubin of ESPN posting his five ways to fix the Mets. I really like Rubin, and to be honest – this “offense” to me is the lesser of the three. But to me, it was a rain out special.

Look, there are a lot of things any team can do to improve the way their fan base views them. We can talk about that later, but the bottom line is – this all could have been a post with one word, “win.”

I think Rubin could have done a much better job here, and gotten more in detail with his views. Instead, I feel like he went the easy way out and appealed to the “little brother” mentality that we are not the Yankees, and we should aim to be just like them.

The third, is likely what drove Rubin to write his piece, but at least he did it with a little more class than Mike Vaccaro of the (you guessed it) NY Post did today.

This letter that the Mets sent out to their fan base, in all honesty – who cares? It’s a little marketing campaign clearly based off the comments that Curtis Granderson made and they are trying to drum up some heat for the Subway Series coming up.

But instead of recognizing it for what it is, we have to invent a story and mock the franchise because the Mets are the only ones out there that try and connect with their fans through e-marketing right?

I wish I could tell you I knew this type of “reporting” was going on with every team, but I am willing to bet it isn’t. It’s as though these reporters are turning covering the Mets into the National Enquirer.

My favorite part in Vaccaro’s piece is this:

“And here’s the best part: Whoever wrote this letter hasn’t a clue about the Mets’ own history. This is how the 1969 and ’86 teams’ successes are described: “a gritty, even stubborn belief in this club against the odds.

Really. 1969? Fine. That qualifies. But ’86? Would you like to know how many teams, in the history of baseball, won more than the 116 games, postseason included, those Mets won? Time’s up: three — the 1906 Cubs, ’98 Yankees and 2001 Mariners. That’s all. That’s it. Those Mets had a vapor-lock grip on the city. Why?

If you’re a Mets fan, you know why. If you’re one of the ham-fisted men who run the Mets? It probably baffles you. Because of course it does.”

Mr. Vaccaro is it POSSIBLE, that perhaps the 1986 Mets were faced with what appeared to be insurmountable odds in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series?


It is POSSIBLE that down 5-3 in the 10th inning, an out away from the season ending, could be viewed as “against the odds”?

Of course it can. But no, instead we’re going to CHOOSE to take that sentence and try and rip the Mets rather than acknowledge the point they were trying to make.

I’m just tired of it – this invented negative news cycle because mocking the team is easier than evaluating and reporting about what is really going on is becoming an annoyance.

You know it’s funny because if you look around the web you’ll notice that the Mets have the most detailed and informative blogosphere out there.

I’m not just talking about MMO, I’m talking all of the incredible sites out there combined as compared to other MLB clubs. The Mets fan site’s are far and away the most in depth, informative and interactive than any other MLB team’s.

I’m starting to understand why that is. It’s likely because the people who are getting paid to cover the team, are appealing to the folks you usually see getting banned from sites like ours for their consistent trolling.


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NL East Preview: Where Will The Mets Land? Sun, 30 Mar 2014 17:00:36 +0000 The NL East, the division we all REALLY care about right? This could be an interesting year in the East when you think about it. No division is more in limbo than the NL East. You have two teams that appear to be the heavy favorites on paper, but one of them already is decimated by injuries. You have our beloved up and coming Mets trying to get noticed again, the young Marlins trying to relive the magic of the 90’s and the Phillies… oh the Phillies.

5th Place: Philadelphia Phillies

Okay, so part of me is more hoping this happens than expects it to happen.

I recently stumbled upon this twitter account, and got a good laugh. I have been saying for a few years now that Ruben Amaro (Ruin Tomorrow) has completely ruined the franchise that was built up to be a dynasty. Now, it looks like Phillies fans are catching on.

This is an old team, with barely anything to look forward to in the future. Their biggest off-season move was bringing in A.J. Burnett. Because, pitching in a homer-friendly park is going to fit Burnett real well right?


Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are heading into the twilight of their careers. Howard has almost become a non-factor. This is a team that used to be scary to face, and instead of continuing to build around these guys, they continue to lean on them to be their former selves. It’s not going to happen.

This team is old, beat up, and if I had to guess – there will be a major shakeup here very soon. New manager Ryne Sandberg isn’t here to manage a bunch of veterans stuck in their ways. He’s here to try and build something. The problem is so many of these contracts are tied to no trade clauses, so things will need to get pretty bad in Philly before guys like Cliff Lee agree to go elsewhere (Baltimore, Cliff…Baltimore).

4th Place: Miami Marlins

I am a huge Giancarlo Stanton fan and if he weren’t in our division, I would hope to see him win an MVP very soon. This team is built around two very good, and pretty young players in Giancarlo and pitcher Jose Fernandez.

jose fernandezThe problem is, two players won’t carry you through an entire season.

Their offense is either a who’s who of “what have you done lately?” types such as Casey McGehee or Rafael Furcal mixed with players that you aren’t really sure what they can do in a full campaign yet.

For example, I imagine most fans in Miami are curious if Christian Yelich is ready to play an everyday role in 2014. We’re going to find out for sure.

Opponents will be hoping to avoid Jose Fernandez, and if they do – they will be okay. Fernandez will likely be in the top 10 again, but after him – I’m not worried about anybody else.

3rd Place: New York Mets

For me, I have to be honest – I think they could finish in 2nd place but I am going to be cautious here. I do not think the Mets will win 90 games per Sandy Alderson, but I do think they will finish above .500. So, anything is possible I suppose.

Without Matt Harvey, I still really like the rotation. I think Bartolo Colon is a very solid addition, and I think Zack Wheeler is ready to become a household name in 2014.bartolo colon

Dillon Gee and Jon Niese just need to do what they always do when healthy. If those four can do their job, then perhaps Jenrry Mejia or Daisuke Matsuzaka can surprise us and be one of the best #5 starters in the NL. I do want to see what Mejia can do, but I honestly feel like Dice-K could have a sneaky good year. He looked really good this spring.

The lineup – well we all know what is going on there. There are questions heading into the season, but I think the pitching will buy the Mets time to figure things out.

If you love high scoring games, the Mets won’t be for you this year. When you have good pitching 1-5, anything is possible and if Alderson says 90 games as his goal – then that is my goal as well.

I don’t think they will achieve it, but I don’t think it’s as difficult as some think. I think this entire year will be watchable, which is a nice break from the recent past.

2nd Place: Atlanta Braves

This team is an example for Mets fans when they think Matt Harvey will come back at 100%. The loss of Kris Medlen & Brandon Beachy are going to be really tough to overcome.

Now, the team will need to rely on starters like Julio Teheran and Ervin Santana to carry the torch – and I think that is easier said than done.

The Upton’s need to lead this team if they hope to qualify for a wildcard spot.

You know, as I write this – I am almost regretting not having the guts to pick the Mets in second place. I’d take the Mets rotation over the Braves, if the Mets didn’t have questions at 3 offensive positions, I might have done it.

I do expect the Braves to overcome whatever adversity comes their way. They always seem to do things the right way, and while I am not high on Ervin Santana – they seem happy with the addition.

The bullpen might play a huge role in whether the Braves can salvage the year – because they will likely be faced with a lot of close games that Craig Kimbrel and Jordan Walden might play a huge role in.

1st Place: Washington Nationals

Everybody who watches the Nats is expecting big things from Bryce Harper this year. Similar to Jason Heyward, I think people tend to forget how young Harper was when he broke into the big leagues. He’s still a baby compared to most.

Everybody seemed to praise the Nats when they acquired Doug Fister, and now he starts the year on the DL with a back injury.

bryce harperStill, the rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman is the most proven and consistent rotation in the division. This rotation is the one if you’re a Mets fan, you hope they 2 out of 3 stay healthy because it gives you more hope regarding Matt Harvey.

Still, the lineup to me isn’t that exciting. I’m not a big Jayson Werth guy, and with Ryan Zimmerman dealing with lingering issues, Harper needs to be an MVP caliber player in 2014. I think he can do it, but I also think the team will be carried by the pitching into the division title.

NL East MVP: Bryce Harper – As mentioned, I think he will play a huge role in whether the Nats have success or not.

NL East CYBartolo Colon – Going a little under the radar here. He was a top 5 pitcher in the AL, and it seems that whenever OTHER pitchers come from the AL to NL everybody predicts them to have a huge year…but nobody seems to be saying that about Bartolo, so I will.

NL East Sleeper: Dice-K: I cannot say it enough, I was really impressed with how he looked this spring, and I don’t think the Mets would pay him the money they did if they didn’t intend on bringing him up soon. All he needs to be is their 5th best starter, and if I am right, he’d fit into every teams rotations except maybe Washington.

XtreemIcon’s Picks

As much as I hope upon hope the Phillies take up the cellar, and I think it’s possible, I just don’t think the Marlins have enough to overtake them. Fernandez is great, Nathan Eovaldi is going to break out and be a real solid #2 starter and Jacob Turner‘s hype is real, but this team has way too many issues offensively. Sure, Stanton has legit 50-homerun power in an era where we’ve seen only twelve 40-homerun seasons this decade, and Yelich has tons of potential, but where’s the rest of the offense? The team just doesn’t get on base enough to take advantage of Stanton’s power. But if they get a surprise season from another player or two, I could see them finishing fourth.

The Phillies are the worst. I’ve been leading the charge against Ruin Tomorrow, Jr. for years now as he’s actively destroyed the championship team he was handed with reckless abandon. Besides the surprise season from an unknown Marlin or two, the Phillies can find themselves in the cellar if Hamels’ arm finally falls off, as it’s threatened to do each of the last two seasons.

I have the Mets at or around .500 this season, depending on how often Juan Lagares plays. Eric Young, Jr. has no business starting on this team. I really like the addition of Chris Young, as he’s the type of player build to succeed in this ballpark. Great defense, plus power and speed can also describe Granderson, provided both Grandy and C. Young are in corner spots with Juan Lagares in center. I think E. Young has a place on this team and could be one of the most valuable fourth outfielders in the league with his versatility, solid outfield defense and great speed, but starting him weakens two outfield positions. Food for thought: if Harvey hadn’t gotten hurt and forced the Mets to sign a pitcher, where would that money have gone? The Mets were able to avoid the Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz potential disasters. Would they have been more interested in Jose Dariel Abreu? Would they have been players for my personal favorite first base option, James Loney? The point is moot, but I’m glad the signings they made were smart, making the team better now while not blocking any of the high upside players on the brink of their debut.

Sadly, I’m not nearly as down on the Braves chances as most. I can’t see losing Beachy hurting them for two reasons: Teheran is a legit beast and probably better than Beachy, and Beachy hasn’t contributed more than 145 innings in any season in his career, and has a total of 111 combined the last two seasons. I don’t think they will miss what they essentially never had. Medlen poses a bigger problem, and Santana is certainly a downgrade. But he’s solid, and should be fine. Aaron Harang is terrible, and Alex Wood and David Hale are question marks, but I just don’t see how they’re so much worse off now for replacing Medlen with Santana and the previously non-existent Beachy with any warm body. It hurts their chances, but I don’t buy the idea that they’re in real trouble.

The Nats are one of the most complete and well-balanced teams in the league. Their rotation is deep even without Fister, their bullpen is deep, there’s an MVP candidate in the outfield in Harper, a top player at third base in Zimmerman, one of 2013′s best shortstops out there in Ian Desmond and a really exciting rookie at second base in Anthony Rendon. Wilson Ramos is underrated behind the plate and LaRoche is solid at first base, though his down season last year bears keeping an eye on. The Nats will have to suffer serious injuries to a few key guys to not win this division.

NL East MVP: Bryce Harper. He was my pick last season and had an MVP April before injuries hurt his May and cost him all of June.

NL East CY: Jessep went with Colon as the division’s best pitcher, and I’ll also throw a curveball here. Watch out for Jordan Zimmerman.

NL East Sleeper: Nathan Eovaldi. He’s going to break out in a big way.

terry collins Mets Spring Training

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AL East Preview: The Price Is Right Sat, 29 Mar 2014 19:30:41 +0000 The AL East to me, is the most interesting division heading into 2014. Last year, the World Series champions (Boston) had what some might call, the luckiest season health wise in recent memory. In reality, if you picked any of the five teams to win this division – you wouldn’t be going out on a huge limb.

5th Place: Baltimore Orioles

Part of the problem with the Orioles prediction for me is, I have great faith in Buck Showalter. However, I have not been on the Orioles bandwagon for the last two years. I have always thought this team cannot compete in the AL without the addition of a true #1 starter.

They took a step back last year, but still managed to win 85 games.

I do not consider the addition of Ubaldo Jimenez to be the #1 starter they need. Can Johan Santana be that guy? I’d love to see it, but I just do not have faith in Santana coming back near the start of summer and being a #1. johan-santana

Last year, I predicted that Chris Davis would break out and (self pat on the back) I’d say I hit that one right on the head. Now? I can’t see Davis duplicating his 2013 campaign. If you look at his 2nd half, you have a red flag heading into 2014.

You’ll often see players drop in the 2nd half, but his power decline was drastic.

Manny Machado will start the year on the DL, but everybody who saw him play last year is hoping he gets healthy – quickly.

Overall, it’s still a good team, but I just don’t think they have the arms to hang in there.

4th Place: Toronto Blue Jays

Everybody jumped on the Blue Jay bandwagon after Jose Reyes joined them, but it seems those feelings have stalled.

Now, Reyes (as some predicted) is dealing with lower body injuries heading into the 2014 season. Reyes’ health will be instrumental in the progress of the 2014 season for Toronto.

jose reyesIn many ways, this team actually leads the league in “if.” If Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes are healthy for 140+ games, Toronto will be better than many are probably giving them credit for. I just don’t think they will stay healthy.

R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle are three starters that a team like Baltimore would love to have. That is the biggest difference to me between the two teams. I think if both teams are healthy on offense, Toronto can be more explosive and their pitching to me is way better.

Still, they have so many questions on health and it all starts with Jose Reyes as we head into April. If Toronto can get healthy quickly, they will go past 4th place, but I don’t see it happening.

3rd Place: New York Yankees

One thing you can never do is underestimate the Yankees. But, I just don’t see it in 2014.

To me, they have one of the worst fielding infields in the sport right now. If Mark Teixeira can play every position – they’ll be okay. But, since he can’t, they will have problems.

It’s a nice thought to say you’re replacing Robinson Cano with Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury. But in reality, you’re replacing a durable producer with three guys with consistent health problems approaching (if not already in) the twilight of their careers.

I think part of why they got Beltran was because they believe his playoff numbers will carry them further than they have gone in the last few years – the problem is, I don’t think they will get to find out.

I don’t think you can really downplay the loss of Mariano Rivera. There’s a difference between having any other closer (let alone a guy who is new to the role), and having Rivera. Rivera gives you confidence that if you get a lead, you’ll keep it. David Robertson won’t give them that feeling. He’s good, but he isn’t Mariano.

Much of the pitching success will be based on C.C. Sabathia & Michael Pineda. I know many are looking at Masahiro Tanaka, but to me – he can be a solid starter and it won’t matter.

Sabathia needs to prove he is back, and I’m not sure that he will.

As for Pineda, this is the year where the team needs him to be the guy they thought they acquired. If he can be that guy, then the Yankees might be in better shape than I think.

To me, it’s an 83-86 win team, not a bad team – just a team begging for luck when it comes to health, and I can’t put my chips on that.

2nd Place: Boston Red Sox

Last year, the Red Sox got the most out of every player on their roster it seemed.

I knew I would not pick Boston to win the division the minute they signed A.J. Pierzynski. This is a team that thrived because of the locker room. Now they go and sign a catcher who honestly, I can’t see fitting in at all. Sizemore2

The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury could be a problem for the Red Sox, but who isn’t excited or curious about the idea that Grady Sizemore is on the Opening Day roster instead of Jackie Bradley Jr.?

Bradley likely will get his shot but it won’t be right away, and frankly, I am pretty pumped to see if Sizemore can find it again.

For me, I don’t think this rotation will be as healthy as they were in 2013. Sure, last year Clay Buchholz dealt with injuries, but guys like John Lackey who seemed lost prior to 2013 found their way back. I’m not sure I believe it will happen again.

Overall, the team is certainly a playoff contender, but I am not sure I believe they can catch lightning in a bottle twice.

1st Place: Tampa Bay Rays

This is a team that is hard to not root for, unless of course you live in the Tampa area (seriously buy some tickets!).

The Rays have the best manager in the entire sport, but they also have two of the best players in the sport in Evan Longoria and Wil Myers.

That’s right, 2014 will be the year Myers puts himself on the map as one of the best hitters in the AL.

The team is a model for depth. Unlike many of their division mates, they don’t have success based on the word “if.” They have even proven that they can succeed without Longoria, because they have so much talent coming through the pipeline.

David-PriceThe rotation is lead of course by David Price, who is possibly pitching to up his trade value, or secure Tampa’s first pitching long term deal.

Alex Cobb and Matt Moore are no slouches either. In fact, I’d take those three guys over any of the 1-3 in the AL East. Moore of course is recovering from a “near Aroldis” injury, but he’ll be fine.

Grant Balfour returns to Tampa Bay, but this time he has a resume as a closer in the regular season that cannot be denied.

Overall, with Joe Maddon at the helm and guys like Longoria, Myers, Ben Zobrist, and Desmond Jennings playing behind Price, Cobb and Moore – this will be a tough team to beat and I have them taking the division by about 5 games.

AL East MVP: Evan Longoria – He’s the best overall player in the division, and I think he is in the AL MVP conversation if not for guys like Trout and Miggy.

AL East CY: David Price – Similar to Longoria, except he doesn’t have competition standing in his way at taking the AL award. He’s just as good as anybody.

AL East Sleeper: Grady Sizemore – Why not? It’s a shot at being different, but he was one of my favorite players to watch and I am just hoping he can find his way in 2014. 

XtreemIcon’s Picks

See: Jessep. It sounds lazy, but it’s not intentional. The Red Sox got very lucky last season. They added four free agents to their every day lineup and all four not only played well, they had career years. That won’t happen again. Despite Will Middlebrooks poised for a breakout year, the team is not nearly as good as a defending champion should be.

If I were to make one unpopular pick, it would be that I can easily see Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista being healthier than Ellsbury, Beltran and Derek Jeter. I’d be less than surprised to see the Yanks finish fourth. All winning the off season does these days is basically ensure the team loses the real season. It’s not like it was in 2009 when a 29-year-old Teixeira and a 28-year-old Sabathia were available. And when people discuss the loss of Rivera, no one seems to mention how they also downgraded in the 8th inning simply by having Robertson slide into that closer role. The Yankees are better on paper than the Jays, so I’ll go with them to finish third, but the health risks are very concerning.

I feel like every team in the division got worse except the Rays. I don’t think it’ll be quite as large a runaway as the NL West, but the Rays should have this division wrapped up early and handily. There’s no real competition for them.

AL East MVP: Evan Longoria – He’s been my pick for several years running because he’s that good. He just needs to stay healthy.

AL East CY: David Price – He’s my pick for the league Cy Young.

AL East Sleeper: We’ll go with Middlebrooks. Tons of talent. This is finally the year for him.



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AL Central Preview: AKA Tiger Town? Sat, 29 Mar 2014 15:00:26 +0000 The AL Central is a division that has been owned by the Detroit Tigers since 2011, and it won’t be easy to take that crown away from them in 2014.

5th Place: Chicago White Sox

In 2012, Robin Ventura’s White Sox looked like they might actually be more of a force in the near future than perhaps many of us thought.

Then last year, the White Sox showed their true colors.


A huge factor in whether this team succeeds in 2014 will be Jose Abreu, and whether or not he can be the superstar caliber 1B that some people thought he could be. I know Abreu is dealing with an ankle issue right now, but assuming he is healthy – he is the player to watch here.

Abreu to me isn’t surrounded by a lot of dynamic talent on offense.

As for the rotation, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are clearly the two pitchers in this rotation that hold the key to any success they may desire. Quintana is probably lesser known than Sale, but he might be more important than Sale.

Sale is nasty, but I like Quintana this year to take his game to the next level.

Overall though, there just is not enough talent here and I think Chicago will have a tough year.

4th Place: Minnesota Twins

The Twins are that team that baseball fans are almost expecting to just come out of nowhere sometime soon.

They aren’t there yet though.

On offense, their fans are excited about Brian Dozier and Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia is a guy you may want to pay attention to in 2014.

mike pelfreyOn the mound, most New York fans may take note because this rotation features not one, but two “rushed” or “failed” prospects from NY in Mike Pelfrey and Phil Hughes. Ricky Nolasco might actually have a solid year in Minnesota quietly, but I’m not sure he’ll stay in Minnesota all year – buyer beware!

Overall, I’m not too impressed with Minnesota either, I just think they might have slightly more to look forward to than Chicago.

3rd Place: Kansas City Royals

This team is one I’d love to see return to the playoff scene, but I just cannot see it in 2014.

I’ve never been a big James Shields fan, and last year to be honest, Shields shocked me last year. I don’t think he’ll do it again in 2014.

Last year, the Royals won 86 games and in my view, they didn’t get better in 2014 and honestly, they probably got a little worse.

On offense, I’m not sure the addition of Norichika Aoki is really going to make that big of a difference. So the Royals are in a situation where their offensive improvement is really about whether or not guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas can take their game to the next level at 24 years old.

With the rotation, you’ve basically replaced Ervin Santana with Jason Vargas and I don’t know many who would suggest that makes your team better.

So while, I do think guys like Hosmer might improve, I don’t think it will be enough for the Royals in 2014. I see them closer to .500.

2nd Place: Cleveland Indians

I kind of thought I’d go into this picking Cleveland as kind of an “upset” pick to win the division. However, the more I look at things – I just can’t do it.

On offense, they have a great sleeper candidate in catcher Yan Gomes. Gomes will take over the full time catcher duties in Cleveland, and I think everybody should pay close attention to him.

Nick Swisher is the veteran that hopes to yet again lead this team to contention, but I have to think at some point he starts to decline, and I think we’ll see that in 2014.

When you take an honest look at their lineup, unless becoming a full time DH helps Carlos Santana become a 30+ HR hitter, you can’t really find a power threat in this lineup.

The rotation is still lead by Justin Masterson. Ubaldo Jiminez left a void in the rotation, and it was filled by – well I don’t know. I guess maybe Carlos Carrasco? Carrasco was once a highly touted prospect involved in the Cliff Lee trade with Philadelphia, but he just has not lived up to it.

I’m not the kind of guy who minimizes a great manager. Terry Francona is a great manager and he’ll get every ounce of talent out of his team just like he did in 2013. I just don’t think it’s enough to take over the division.

1st Place: Detroit Tigers

I’m starting to feel like the guy who takes all #1 seeds in his NCAA bracket.

But, in reality – unless you can predict catastrophic injuries, I’m not sure why you’d predict them to not win this division.

On offense, you know the usual suspects. Miguel Cabrera (the $300 million man), Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter. Now, you can add in Ian Kinsler…an angry Ian Kinsler.

The offense is loaded, and is far and away better than any other team in the division.


If that wasn’t enough, you have Max Scherzer, last year’s Cy Young winner who isn’t even the best pitcher on this team.

Justin Verlander enters 2014 looking to prove his critics wrong. There was some that thought perhaps last year was a sign that Verlander was hitting a wall. I don’t think that is the case.

I mean, look at Verlander’s strikeout totals last year. In a “bad” year he struck out 217 batters. That’s ridiculous.

Verlander is going to bounce back, and that is how Detroit will replace the loss of Doug Fister. They will have a two headed cy young monster.

The addition of Joe Nathan gives them a regular season closer they can trust – I just don’t trust him in the playoffs (at least DET is used to that).

Overall, I can’t see how this team would be considered a 2nd place team (or worse) in this division.

AL Central MVPMiguel Cabrera – When in doubt, go with the guy who can win the triple crown.

AL Central CY: Justin Verlander – Motivated by his critics and Scherzer winning the award, Verlander returns to dominance.

AL Central SleeperYan Gomes – A full time catcher in Cleveland, if he stays healthy, I think he could be an all-star this year.

XtreemIcon’s Picks

This division is definitely more wide open than my colleague thinks, in my opinion, but gun to my head, the Tigers win again. I have KC second and Cleveland third, but agree on the Twins finishing fourth and Chicago last. There’s really not much of a future in Chicago, but the Twins have something to look forward to. Aside from Arcia, Byron Buxton is omnipresent and there’s a good crop of kids a little further away. None of that helps now, however. I just like the Twins offense much more than the Sox.

I’m not on the Indians bandwagon at all. They won 92 games last year, turning around a miserable 2012, but I give them almost a zero chance to repeat. Granted, I gave them the same chance of being a contender last season, and that blew up in my face, but I stand firm. They had great pitching last season, helped by Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez, both of whom have moved on. Their four and five starters are now their two and three starters, and although I liked the progression of Corey Kluber and think he’ll continue to improve, I feel they lost too much. Danny Salazar has a lot of potential, but will need a real come-out-of-nowhere season to replace either Jimenez or Kazmir. But he can’t replace both.

The Royals will finish second and I’d bet they finish closer to the Tigers than they do the Indians. Aside from the best bullpen in the AL, and maybe all of baseball, Hosmer and Moustakas are primed for a break out. They have a stud catcher in Salvador Perez, a center fielder that has all the tools and ability you could ask for in Lorenzo Cain and Yordano Ventura could be this season’s Jose Fernandez is he harnesses his secondary pitches.

The Tigers need to win the World Series this year, because the Cabrera contract has basically ensured they won’t have any more chances past this season. He’s already started breaking down and is about as nonathletic as a professional athlete can be, which does not bode well for the Tigers as he ages. But that’s about their doomed future.

This season, they probably still have enough to win the division, but not easily. Consider this: despite being the most talented team in the division by a wide margin recently, they only won the division by three games in 2012 and one game last year. And this year, the margin isn’t as wide. Cabrera is breaking down and Scherzer will decline (no knock on him, but he can’t actually get better). Verlander declined significantly in 2013, and for the Tigers’ sake, I hope it’s a down year and not the start of a decline. He has about a million innings on that arm. The infield defense is atrocious and the bullpen is a strong breeze away from the first ever group Tommy John surgery.

If Cabrera and Verlander really are in the beginning of their decline, and with Scherzer leaving via free agency after this season, the Tigers absolutely have to win this season. This is their swan song.

AL Central MVP: Eric Hosmer. It’s his time.

AL Central CY: Chris Sale. Won’t do them any good, though.

AL Central Sleeper: The Royals. 90 wins wouldn’t shock me at all.


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