I just saw a segment on Baseball Tonight about the best one-two offensive punches in baseball. So here’s my top ten in order without explanation…
1. Joe Mauer / Justin Morneau MIN
2. Carlos Pena / Evan Longoria TB
3. Chase Utley / Ryan Howard PHI
4. Mark Teixiera / Alex Rodriguez NYY
5. Ryan Zimmerman / Adam Dunn WAS
6. Adam Jones / Nick Markakis BAL
7. Kevin Youkilis / Jason Bay BOS
8. Carlos Beltran / David Wright NYM
9. Michael Young / Josh Hamilton TEX
10. Ryan Braun / Prince Fielder MIL
Wild Card: Todd Helton / Brad Hawpe COL
After a 11-9 loss last night to the Nationals, the Dodgers now have 49 more games to go without Manny in the lineup. You all know the Manny story by now. He tested positive for a women’s fertility drug. Steroid users take it when they want to end their steroid cycle. And so on…
Here’s Manny’s response:
“Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”
Well, I don’t know how much to believe in there. But I would like to give Manny the benefit of the doubt. Wait, what am I saying, Manny over anyone doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to avoid the facts concerning the women’s drug, so unless he was trying to advance fertility, he’s in trouble.
If he would just come out and say it like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettite did, then he could possibly get away from all of this. No one ever really talks about them anymore, other than the positive example they set for getting out of the steroid hole. So in the midsts of Manny, A-Rod, Selena, and PEDs, there’s baseball to be played, so lets focus on that.
So the Dodgers lost to the Nationals last night, that’s an awful way to start 50 games without your offensive leader. But will the Dodgers be in trouble? Well anytime a team loses a hitter like Manny, it’s never a good thing, but this team has got some great young hitters and they play in such a weak division. I wouldn’t be suprised if the Dodgers are still in first by July 3rd when Manny returns.
Here was the Dodgers lineup last night.
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Orlando Hudson
RF Andre Ethier
1B James Loney
C Russel Martin
CF Matt Kemp
3B Casey Blake
P Randy Wolf
LF Juan Pierre
Ethier, who is hitting .312 with six homeruns and 27 RBIs, will be asked to pick up the slack, and I think he can. He had those numbers with Manny in front of him, so I don’t think that anything will be a problem.
Another note about the lineup: Having Juan Pierre as the “second leadoff man” down at the bottom is a nice touch by Joe Torre. This provides legitimate speed three batters in a row and will give the middle of the Dodgers lineup a chance to drive home runs.
The only problem I can see here is that the young hitters knew Manny could pick them up if they went down and got out, so their approach at the plate was a little more relaxed with Manny in the lineup. One of two things will happen, they’ll go back to bad approaches at the plate or they’ll rally around not having Manny and win ballgames (assuming the pitching keeps up).
What notable teams will the Dodgers be seeing until July 3rd?
Three games at the Phillies and Marlins.
Home against the Mets and Angels for three.
Four games at the Cubs.
Four at home against the Phils.
Three games at the Rangers, Angels, and White Sox.
The Yankees debut of the New Yankee Stadium was filled everything you can imagine a $1.5 billion stadium could provide, but apparently you cant buy the tally in the “W” column. Grady Sizemore and the Tribe had a different idea for the christening of New Yankee.
FIRST PITCH: Fastball misses outside from CC Sabathia to Grady Sizemore
*May have set a tone for the rest of Sabathia’s 5.2 innings–he walked five before he was lifted
FIRST STRIKEOUT: CC Sabathia gets Victor Martinez on a 2-2 fastball in the top of the first
FIRST HIT: Johnny Damon on a Cliff Lee slider in the bottom of the first
FIRST EXTRA BASEHIT: Ben Francisco double in the top second
FIRST RUN: Ben Francisco crosses the plate on a Kelly Shoppach double in the top fourth
FIRST HOMER: Jorge Posada launches one over the centerfield wall in the bottom fifth
FIRST GRANDSLAM: Grady Sizemore in the heart of a nine-run seventh
FIRST WIN: Cliff Lee has returned
Wow, does Alex Rodriguez need to return to this lineup or what? Cody Ransom is now hitting .100 on the young season and left nine men on base today. Not saying that A-Rod is Mr. Clutch but he wouldn’t be posting those numbers.
NATIONALS WIN ONE
The Nationals got their first win of the season this year. Jack Taschner got tagged for four earned runs in eighth to take any thoughts of a ninth inning rally and forget about it. I don’t want to talk about that game. Except for…
He singled and doubled today to start off his 2009 season. Going 2-for-3 with a run scored hitting in the eight spot. He had Shairon Martis previously in the minors though, and hit him pretty well down there, so good move by Charlie placing Marson into the starting lineup today.
Season Preview: New York Yankees
Projected MLB Rank: 11th — AL Rank: 4th — AL East Rank: 2nd — Record: (87-75)
American League Wild Card Winners
You think I’m kidding? Well I’m not. I do have the Yankees not ranked in my top ten teams this year.
Again, what you have just read, is correct.
Sure, I think the Yanks will make the playoffs. And of course they have the best rotation in the division, if not the league. But there’s something about the team that isn’t attractive to me.
Let’s start with what is though–that rotation. I actually have them ranked second in the entire league in the starting rotation category. A huge portion of what has them there is the two offseason acquisitions AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia. Sabathia has basically been declared the ace of the staff, recieving the starting job for both opening day in Baltimore and the home opener against the Indians. How can you not call him the ace? He did things last season for the Brewers that really no one even dreamed of. His arm and determination picked up that team and carried them into their short stay in October. Then there’s Burnett. Moving across the division from a team that could have won the division maybe if they were in the Central, to a team that has had the potential to win the division for the past 15 years and counting. AJ is a huge strikeout pitcher and a great compliment to Sabathia as the number two. What could scare Yankees fans is his potential for injury. He gets hurt all the time. He also has been known to pitch his best during contract seasons. My thought of Burnett is, his ERA will probably hover around 4.50 and when he’s fully healthy–then he’ll win you ballgames.
Chien-Ming Wang will also be pitching a full season this time around. Hopefully interleague play doesn’t cause him injuries again. He needs to regain some of the control he lost last season before the injury if he wants to make a big contribution to this team.This spring he has done a nice job thus far posting a 3.24 ERA in 16 innings while walking two and striking out seven. Andy Pettite, who turns 37 this season, should give the Yankees reliability as he returns. The fifth starter looks like it will be Joba Chamberlain (for now). They could make him a reliever by May, then a starter by July, then a reliever again by September, perhaps with some injuries in between. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, they need to settle on a role for this guy and stop messing with his arm.
Mariano Rivera anchors a bullpen that isn’t all too great. I feel like Rivera is never going to change. He’s always going to be this good. Damaso Marte had a nice strikeout rate last season in 65 innings but posted an ERA over 4.00. Edwar Ramirez looks like he will be the set up man. Although he has good stuff, he also has some control problems. Jose Veras also has control problems, but should make the 25 man roster. A highlight other than Rivera is Brian Bruney. In 32 games last season, Bruney posted a 1.83 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP and almost a strikeout per inning. The bullpen certainly has the potential to be effective, a few pitchers just need to establish their control first and cut down on the walks.
Then there’s the lineup. Some love it. Some hate it. Without Alex Rodriguez, I’m one of those haters. It’s getting to the point where Jorge Posada will have to rest more often, and Yankees fans shouldn’t like Jose Molina playing twice a week for their team. Moving on to Robinson Cano. If he’s supposed to be your top of the lineup guy, he should have an OBP higher than .305.
Captain Jeter. Still one of the best at going the other way with the ball but has become one of the worst fielding shortstops in the league and didn’t have a great WBC. Pertaining to bad fielders, let’s talk about Johnny Damon. He can still hit for .300, as he proved last season–but with Hideki Matsui in the DH role, it’s going to be an adventure in left field at New Yankee Stadium. It seems as if the quietest player with a huge bat in this lineup is Xavier Nady. He drove in 97 runs last year, so don’t overlook him. He’s basically won the rightfield spot (as if the .220 hitting Nick Swisher was putting up a legitimate fight). The centerfield job seems to have gone to Brett Gardner (who has Michael Bourn syndrome). He’s fast, but he’ll only get the Yanks the steals once he gets on base. Really though, anything is better than Melky Cabrera.
All hail the Bombers’ Savior, Mark Texeira. Big Tex has switched uniforms the past couple seasons at a good rate and should find some comfort in staying in one place. He’s a sure thing MVP candidate if he can carry this team until Alex Rodriguez returns. Ugh… Alex Rodriguez. Well we’ll see what Cody Ransom’s really got. He’s having a decent spring, leading the Yankees in at bats and hitting .286. He’s not going to come anywhere close to A-Rod production but it’s only for the start of the season.
Until A-Rod comes back, maybe May, the Yanks need to try to go at least .500 in that span. There’s just something about this team that I don’t like. I know I know, “what’s not to like?” Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up watching the dynasty Yankees. And hating them. This just isn’t the same. I say Wild Card champs.
Season Preview: Seattle Mariners
Projected MLB Rank: 30th — AL Rank: 14th — AL West Rank: 4th — Record: (62-100)
Back in 1997, the Seattle Mariners went 92-70 en route to winning the AL West. That year, Ken Griffey Jr. belted 56 homeruns and knocked in 147 RBIs while batting .304. That was also the year he won his first and only MVP award. The Mariners also played in the Kingdome. Joey Cora, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Griffey all hit for .300 or better that season. Lefties Jeff Fassero, Jamie Moyer, and Randy Johnson all had over 15 wins and under a 4.00 ERA.
Well Seattle, I’m sorry but that’s the past.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m excited to see Griffey play in Seattle again, but I don’t think this year’s going to be any better than last year for the Mariners (okay, I have them winning one more game).
The bright spot on the team is the two frontline starters they have in Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard. Bedard is coming back from injury and Hernandez is becoming a hiding elite talent in the league. Placing Brandon Morrow in the rotation could also be a promising move for Seattle. The downfall in the rotation is “big bucks” Carlos Silva who went 4-15 last season with a ERA well over 6.00. He started 28 games and averaged about five and a half innings per outing.
Losing JJ Putz in the bullpen will certainly hurt and right now, it’s not official who will step into the closer role. It could go to Miguel Batista who, as a reliever, kept his ERA under 5.00. There are many other options in David Aardsma, Ray Corcoran, Tyler Walker, and the one I believe to be the frontrunner — Mark Lowe. Lowe was one for five last year in save oppurtunities and had an ERA 5.37 out of the bullpen. But he wants to be in that role in the ninth and certainly has the stuff to do it. A hard fastball with a nasty breaking ball.
The lineup suffered when Raul Ibanez packed his bags. The left field spot could go to either Wladimir Balentien, Endy Chavez, or even Mike Morse. There is also competition at first base between Bryan LaHair and Russell Branyan. Behind the plate, they may platoon Kenji Johjima and Jeff Clement. At almost the worst offense in the AL last year (second to last in runs scored per game), this year will not be any better. Ichiro, Griffey, Adrian Beltre, and Jose Lopez will be looked to for production. New manager Don Wakamatsu has many options to shake up the lineup. Here’s how I would project it:
RF Ichiro Suzuki
CF Franklin Gutierrez
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
2B Jose Lopez
1B Bryan LaHair
LF Wladimir Balentien
C Kenji Johjima/Jeff Clement
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
Lopez could also bat two, then Griffey and Beltre would switch spots, each player would move up a spot, and then Gutierrez would be the second leadoff hitter in the nine-hole.
Overall, the Mariners have a good mix of veteran talent with some young talent but the AL West is a tough division and I can’t see them anywhere but the bottom.
I am going to try to make this my last post about A-Rod, steroids, etc, etc. But I got thinking who is next in line to capture the homerun record as their own fully clean, as far as we know. Rodriguez was supposed to be our savoir from Barry, Balco, Big Mac, and Juiced but, well, you all know the story forwards and backwards now (at least we think we do). So who could potentially top Bonds and take Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s record from him and not have an asterisk surrounding his name?
In his eight year career, Pujols has slugged 319 homeruns averaging almost 40 homeruns a season. He is one of the best right-handed hitters in the game right now, if not the best. He is 29 years old and if he can average 37 homeruns over the next twelve seasons, he will have 763 homeruns, one more than Bonds. By that time he will be 41 years old. Bonds was 42 when he broke* Aaron’s record of 755. Pujols’ career high came in 2006 when he hit 49 dingers (and he only played in 143 games that year).
POSSIBILITY: MOST LIKELY
Ken Griffey Jr.
The closest among all active clean players with 611 homeruns (are Bonds and Sammy Sosa even active anymore?). Junior’s back in the Emerald City where he hit his first 398 homeruns. Since then, the new millenium hasn’t treated Griffey well as he has been plagued by injuries and years of not contending (until his trade to the White Sox last year). Since 2000, he’s topped out at 40 homeruns (2000) and is 151 homeruns away at 39 years old. He would need to play five more seasons and average just over 30 homeruns over that span to break take the top spot from Barry.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Over four years into his career he has connected for 177 homeruns. His 162-game average in homeruns is 50 per year. He has 586 homeruns to go if he wants to take away the title from Bonds he will need to average 46 homeruns over the next 13 seasons. However, he goes into slumps like it’s in his contract. But when his bat is hot, the lumber is on fire. Another problem is that he didn’t come up to the big leagues and stay up until he was 25 and he didn’t play his first full season until he was 26. He is 29 this season and if he only plays until he is 40 he will need to muster over 53 homeruns per season. Becoming a member of the 500 homerun club should be his first priority.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Dunn has raw power and has hit 278 homeruns over his eight year career averaging just under 35 per season. He is also 29 this season and needs 485 homeruns to break the record. He would need to average 45 homeruns over the next 11 seasons to conquer that feat and has only hit over 40 homeruns once (46 in 2004). I would say that he have the same priority as Howard, join the 500 homerun club first and then see where he’s at.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Let’s let him find a team first. But he needs 236 more homeruns and he is 36 years old. He would need to average just over 47 homeruns in the next five seasons and about 34 homeruns if he were to play seven more seasons.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Others who would need a prayer to break it:
Jim Thome, Vlad Guerrero
Too early to tell:
Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Prince Fielder
Alex Rodriguez had his press conference yesterday and it seems as if maybe this whole thing will blow over. Yea, right. Up until mid-April we will be hearing about this everyday. I’m sure yesterday won’t be last time we hear adjectives such as young, naive, stupid, ignorant, and the like come out of his mouth.
Many players such as Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, Francisco Rodriguez, and others have come out and said that A-Rod’s credibility to this point has been diminished and that when substances are bought in other countries, you know if they’re legal or not in the United States. To these statements, A-Rod said,
“I mean, I’m sorry Jamie feels that way, and he’s definitely entitled to his opinion. And the baseball world and all the fans we have, I understand their doubt. I understand their concerns.”
“Well again, I’m sorry Roy feels that way. Look, everyone has their opinions and their beliefs. And I’m sorry he feels that way.”
He claims to have gotten the drug, that he tested positive for while in Texas, in the Dominican Republic through his cousin George. Royals pitcher John Bale asked the question if his cousin even existed. It’s clear that it will be hard to gain back trust from players and fans around the nation and world. He may never even regain that trust. Concerning the drug that he had taken, he stated,
“…I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs. I knew that it was something potentially that perhaps was wrong. I really didn’t get into the investigation, perhaps like I would’ve. I wouldn’t imagine thinking of doing something like that today, obviously. It’s a different world, a different culture.”
It wasn’t the tic-tacs, well obviously. Last time I checked you can’t inject breathmints and then suddenly you will never have bad breath again. Regarding the drug he also said,
“I didn’t think they were steroids at the time. Again, that’s part of being young and stupid. It was over the counter, it was pretty basic and it was really amateur hour. It was two guys, we couldn’t go outside, who couldn’t ask anyone, didn’t want to ask anyone…”
There’s the young and stupid again. Throughout the whole spring training interview and the Peter Gammons interview, he goes without saying that he still thinks that he should be a hall of famer. He was young and stupid. He says going to college may have changed that because he never really grew up–
“I’m here to say that in some ways I wish I went to college and had an opportunity to grow up at my own pace. You know, I guess when you are young and stupid, you are young and stupid. And I’m very guilty of both those.”
It cannot be clearer that he knows he made a mistake and that the drugs are a thing of his past and as he claims, a short part of his past. He said, “foul pole to foul pole” his career has been unbelievable and that his best years have been when he broke into the league (pre-Texas) and 2007. It may be hard for young and stupid to get to Cooperstown but I think that if indeed, he is telling the truth and if he continues to hit at the pace he has been year after year, these apologies that we find so annoying right now, may save him five years after he retires. He may not be forever, stuck in the shadows.