It’s finals week here and I find myself studying a bunch, but currently I’m procrastinating. Took the first final early this morning and now I have three more to go. I cannot wait to get back home for the summer. I have tickets to one of the Dodgers/Phils games at The Park next week. I’ll get to see Manny come to town along with that solid Dodgers team. But anyways…
While I’m on my study “break” (I call it a break because I plan on doing this post, and then watching the Sox/Yanks game tonight, so really it’s a four or so hour break), I’ll give you the team of my favorite players that I’ve watched during my lifetime. I’m in the team forming mode so here it goes.
– Team consists of a player at each position, five starting pitchers, and two relievers, and a manager
– Each player is my favorite at that position
– Each player will have played since 1990 (my year of birth) but I don’t remember the early 90’s so most likely a little later than that
– No DH (since the Phils are in the NL and pitchers should hit anyways)
– And other rules that I can’t think of right now
THE “MY FAVORITE PLAYERS” TEAM
Catcher Joe Mauer
This guy can catch and hit for average? Sign him up. A career .319 hitter, Mauer has a great approach at the plate and a career OBP over .400 and he’s back from injury now (which is good, he’s on my fantasy team). He beat out Mike Lieberthal and Charles Johnson here.
Firstbase Jim Thome
In an era where all the players reaching the 500 homerun club are accused of performance-enhancers, we have the players like Thome who are just pure power. My dad was a fan of Thome when he was still with the Tribe, so I followed his liking and then he ended up coming to Philly for three or so years. He’s slugged 545 total homers in his career and keeps on going with the White Sox today. The runner up here is Todd Helton.
Secondbase Chase Utley
When there are so many great secondbasemen in the game today, Utley is called by many, the best of them all, and I agree. He’s been all the hype since he came up to the big leagues with the Phils in 2003 and hasn’t dissapointed. With the quick swing and a great approach to the plate, I’ll have Utley over any secondbaseman on my team. Luis Castillo and Brian Roberts were also considered–but it was really no contest.
Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra
He was my second ever “most favorite player” while playing short for the Sox. I’ve followed him as far back as I can remember. With the Red Sox, he hit .323 and was the batting champion twice. He’s the reason my favorite number is five. From ’96 Rookie of the Year to today, Nomar’s the man.
Thirdbase Cal Ripken Jr.
The only current Hall of Famer on this team, is Ripken. I know he was a shortstop for most of his career, but as far as I can remember, he’s a thirdbaseman. One of my most favorite baseball moments ever is when he hit a homerun in his last All Star Game in 2001. Mike Lowell is the runner-up here.
Leftfield Jeff Conine
He was my very first “favorite player.” As far as I know, I’ve been a Conine fan since I’ve been a baseball fan. Supposively when I was five or six, my dad took me to a Marlins/Phils game at The Vet and Jeff Conine hit a homerun that game and I decided he was my favorite player. It is only fitting that he was with the Marlins both times they won the World Series. There was no way Pat Burrell would top Conine here, but he’s also up there.
Centerfield Shane Victorino
I’ll say it over and over and over again, Victorino is a winner. I love the way he plays the outfield. He gets one of the best jumps on the ball in the entire league. He’s also always coming up big when we need him most, he’s clutch. Juan Pierre was also in contention in center.
Rightfield Brad Hawpe
This former pitcher-turned-outfielder has a cannon from right field. He can hit the ball real well too, its not just the thin air in Denver that carries the ball because he hits just as well on the road as he does at home. Hawpe’s a hitter.
Starting Pitcher Josh Beckett
My current “favorite major leaguer” is Beckett. He played a huge role in the 2003 Championship in Florida and everytime he was on the mound, I knew the Marlins were going to win. When healthy, he has some of the nastiest stuff in the league and isn’t afraid to knock anyone back with a fastball.
Starting Pitcher Curt Schilling
Pitched a while for Phils and I got his autograph at a Commerce Bank opening. Then we traded him to Arizona where he went on to win a World Series with the Dbacks. Then he went on to Boston where he was a clutch pitcher in the playoffs, season, bloody sock, bogged by injuries, and so on. He’s a Hall of Famer to me.
Starting Pitcher Roy Halladay
This guy is one of my favorite pitchers in baseball. In an age where complete games are far a few between, Halladay goes the distance like its in his contract. I wish I could have been alive during the days where pitchers were expected to throw complete games, because I feel like that’s the way it was supposed to be. I respect Halladay because he pitches the right way.
Starting Pitcher Randy Wolf
How can you not love Randy Wolf and the Wolf Pack? A Phillie for most of his career, Wolf has become one of those players that I like to always check up on and find out how he’s doing.
Starting Pitcher Cole Hamels
Young King Cole and his dirty changeup lead the Phils through the playoffs last season. He has great tempo on the mound and has solid mechanics. This year, he has just been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball. I’m looking for him to have a great career (knock on wood).
Other Starters that were up there are Greg Maddux, Brett Myers, and Josh Johnson.
Relief Pitcher Brad Lidge
After what he did last season, how could he not be my most favorite reliever in the entire game. He was perfect, echoing the Phillies perfect season. When he fell to his knees after striking out Eric Hinske to end the World Series, it instantly became my favorite baseball moment, ever.
Relief Pitcher Jonathan Papelbon
This guy is such a character. He has the perfect mentality for the closer role. He’s crazy. Sometimes you have to be to be a closer. Papelbonfire.
Manager Charlie Manuel
Come to me before last postseason and I would have told you Jack McKeon. But Charlie proved to Philly and all its fans that he cares about and loves the fans. He knows a heck of a lot about hitting. Charlie brought a Championship back to the city. Lets do it again!
There’s my favorites of my MLB memory.
Well, I’m not sure if that’s said correctly at all, but I’m trying to say Happy Hit Parade, and be corny playing off of Pedro Feliz’s last name. Funny, I know.
But Pedro Feliz did have a nice night, he went 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored and an opposite field homer, his first of the season. It’s nice to see the guys break out the bats, something they’ve been doing well all season thus far. Along with Feliz’s three hits; Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Chris Coste all chipped in two hits a piece. Chase Utley was also on base four times last night.
Jamie Moyer pitched the usual Jamie Moyer way. As I’ve said earlier, expect six innings, three or four runs, and a couple strikeouts and walks when he leaves the game. He did it again, going into the seventh while surrenduring four runs.
Those four runs came off the bat of Ryan Braun, who homered twice off Moyer. Speaking of hit parade, Braun went 5-for-5 with the two homeruns, apparently, he sees Moyer well. He ended up raising his season average to .300. He’s the only Brewer other than Mike Cameron to have that mark on the year thus far. The Brewers, as a team this year, are hitting .231–ouch. Only the Diamondbacks and Reds can say worse in the National League.
If Joe Blanton continues to pitch like he has in the regular season so far, the Brewers will be raising their team average tonight. Blanton has surrendered ten earned runs in two starts so far this season, something he needs to improve on.
The Phils are going up against Braden Looper, who went five and six innings in his first two starts, respectively. He’s holding 3.27 ERA so far. I imagine if he gets into a jam against these hit-happy Phils tonight, the bullpen may enter the game earlier than expected for the Brewers.
Getting into a rythm is the factor here, and I think that once the pitchers start to get on a normal schedule, the starting pitching will improve. Hey, we’re .500 now and technically second place in the NL East after JJ Putz blew up in St. Louis last night.
The keys this early in the season are to keep the bats hot and to get into a rythm.
Season Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks
Projected MLB Rank: 8th — NL Rank: 5th — NL West Rank: 2nd — Record: (89-73)
The Diamondbacks are loaded with potential. Whether that potential is due to pan out this year is remained to be seen. The young players that made positive strides in 2008 will continue to blossom in 2009. That blossoming will lead to a playoff push.
Stephen Drew leads the way after he raised his average and on base percentage in the second half last season. The Diamondbacks shortstop is now 26 and should build upon his .291 average, 21 homeruns, .333 OBP, 44 doubles, 11 triples, and .502 slugging percentage. Even if he doesn’t have a better season, his 2008 was solid. Maybe Mark Reynolds would have a definate starter job if he didn’t hit .239 last year and strikeout… and commit error after error. Chad Tracy will certainly take some time from him at third, even if Reynolds hit 28 homeruns and drove in 97 runs.
Leftfielder Conor Jackson will hopefully build upon his 2008, in which he hit .300 with 12 homers and 75 RBIs. He’s 26 now and will hopefully develop some more power. Centerfielder Chris Young will also hopefully raise his average. He hit for .248 and if he could raise his batting average, maybe he could even build upon his 22 homeruns and 85 RBIs that he posted last season. Moving to rightfield, we all know about his brother “Bossman Junior,” but what about Justin Upton? He’s only 21 and has so much power potential and should definately improve on his 2008 statistics.
Chad Tracy should start at first, but initially we’ll have to see how he is after offseason knee surgery. If he doesn’t start at first, Jackson will move in there which would open up an outfield spot for Eric Byrnes. Byrnes, who is also coming back from injuries, will have to play his way to earn a starting spot. Chris Snyder will start at catcher and should improve upon his 2008 season and hopefully hit over .250 with possibly 20 homeruns. Felipe Lopez was brought in during the offseason and the Diamondbacks hope he continues what he was doing at the end of last season.
Brandon Webb, a perennial Cy Young candidate, has become one of the most reliable starters in the league. Coupled with Dan Haren as the number two, they are one of the most unnoticed one-two punches in the league. Haren posted 16 wins with a 3.33 ERA and 206 strikeouts. Doug Davis and Jon Garland are reliable as the three and four starters. Garland doesn’t strikeout too many hitters but will give the Dbacks a chance to get a W everytime he goes out to toe the rubber. Young stud Max Scherzer started seven games last season and looks to have a bid for the last rotation spot. In 16 total games last season, Scherzer struck out 66 hitters in 56 innings and posted a 3.05 ERA.
Chad Qualls is the prounounced closer after he took advantage of the late season chance to close ballgames he got last year. He saved nine games and in 77 total games he posted a 2.81 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP. Big righthander Jon Rauch assumes the setup role after he spent time with the Nationals and Diamondbacks last season and posted a 4.14 ERA in 74 total appearences. Arizona also brings in two relievers from the NL East. Tom Gordon who was a mainstay on the DL in Philly looks to rebound in the desert. Scott Schoeneweis also joins a bullpen after posting a 3.34 ERA in 73 total games. Gordon and Schoeneweis join a bullpen of young arms that will get every chance to succeed.
Overall, the Diamondbacks are still young but will continue to improve every game. If they don’t make the playoffs this season, expect Arizona to be in the playoffs next year and years to come.
Curt Schilling, at 42 years old, is hanging up the spikes. In his twenty year career he went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts. He had a career 1.13 WHIP and was a six time all star. The legacy he will certainly leave with Major League Baseball is his winning tradition.
Whether he was on the mound against the Blue Jays for the Phillies in the 1993 World Series, bleeding on the mound for the Red Sox and helping them win the World Series, or winning a World Series MVP as he and Randy Johnson lead the Diamondbacks to their first World Series win — there seems to be a trend with the righthander. Winner.
He started his career in 1988 with the Baltimore Orioles and pitched three years for them. In 1991, he spent a year in Houston. While in those two locations, he was mainly used as a reliever. He then joined the Phillies in 1992 and threw ten complete games for the fightins that year. The next season, he lead the Phillies into October (I was three years old so I don’t really remember). He remained in Philly, which was his longest stay, until 2000 when he was traded to the Diamondbacks. The next season he propelled the Diamondbacks, along with southpaw Randy Johnson, to the top of the baseball world.
In 2004, he joined the Boston Red Sox. He would help them reverse the curse that year as they became World Champions for the first time in 86 years. In 2007, he was a World Champion for the third time as the Red Sox won their second championship in four years.
Schill will always be remembered to me as a winner and a Philly favorite. He wrote on his blog (http://38pitches.weei.com/);
“This party has officially ended.”
And what a party it was.
Season Preview: Detroit Tigers
Projected MLB Rank: 27th — AL Rank: 12th — AL Central Rank: 5th — Record: (68-94)
The city of Detroit just doesn’t have the luck these days. The American auto industry,
centered in Detroit, is falling apart. The Lions, well, they went defeated and didn’t win a game. The Pistons are free falling in the eastern conference. And for the 2009 Tigers, don’t expect much.
Before the 2008 season, the Tigers had won 88 games the previous season and had just made a huge trade with the Marlins, acquiring Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. For a team with much recent success and some young talented arms, they were picked in 2008 by many to even get to the World Series. The Tigers ended up falling apart in ’08 and had the third worst record in the AL.
This season, I don’t expect much to change. They weren’t all too busy this offseason and who they did sign, aren’t going to take them to the playoffs, and most likely not even over .500.
Gary Sheffield is 40 and hit last season with 19 HR and 57 RBI. I think the fact that his name is out and paired with steroids affects his play. Adam Everett is a definite step down from Edgar Renteria, who isn’t the player he used to be, which definately says something about Everett. Brandon Inge will be playing everyday and taking his .205 average out to third base with him.
The bright spots in the lineup come from now first baseman Miguel Cabrera. This kid is still 25 years old. Last season he hit .292 with 37 dingers and 127 RBIs. Placido Polanco will hit .300 and is one of the best fielding second baseman in the league. Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez will get their production numbers as well but are 33 and 34, respectively. Curtis Granderson gives the Tigers pop at the top of the order.
Pertaining to the pitching, Detroit had a team 4.91 ERA last year and let up 5.29 runs per game (3rd to last in the AL). After so much promise from the young arms the two previous seasons, they fell apart last season. Here’s some comparisons:
2007: 18-6 / 3.66 ERA / 183 SO
2008: 11-17 / 4.84 ERA / 163 SO
2007: 11-9 / 5.01 ERA / 145 SO
2008: 3-4 / 4.29 ERA / 44 SO (12 games)
2007: 9-13 / 4.56 ERA / 119 SO
2008: 7-11 / 4.44 ERA / 108 SO
2007: 10-15 / 5.17 ERA / 136 SO (w/ FLA)
2008: 0-2 / 9.38 ERA / 18 SO (8 games)
Only Bonderman and Verlander are expected to be in the rotation this season. They brought in Edwin Jackson, and Zach Miner and Armando Galarraga should develop. But I just can’t see these pitchers getting this team anywhere.
The bullpen is questionable. Brandon Lyon saved 26 games for the Diamondbacks last season yet had a 4.70 ERA. Fernando Rodney, Clay Rapada, and Bobby Seay each had ERA’s over 4.00 and Joel Zumaya was injured last season. Freddy Dolsi was the brightest spot in the bullpen last season that returns this year and still had an ERA of 3.97.
The fact that they have a good mix of veteran and young talent could help them this season but then I look at the pitching, especially the bullpen, and realize that they cannot compete given these young arms that have seemed to tired early.