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.
Season Preview: Cincinnati Reds
Projected MLB Rank: 16th — NL Rank: 11th — NL Central Rank: 3rd — Record: (81-81)
Many are calling Cincinnati — “2009’s Rays.” Well this year’s Rays will be the team you won’t suspect — if you know what I mean. The Reds are filled with young stars and quality players, so I can see the connections between the Rays and the Reds. Let’s go further with it and make direct connections (analogies):
Carl Crawford is to Brandon Phillips…
Crawford has been a star in the league and still very young. Phillips had a great season last year and still is young at 27 years old. As long as the Reds are playing at Great American Ballpark, Phillips will continue to look like he has pop. He puts up decent power numbers and has some great speed.
as Carlos Pena is to Ramon Hernandez…
Pena has spent his career on numerous teams and the Reds are Ramon’s fourth. Hernandez has great production potential and is one of the older starters in the lineup. In Cincinnati, he may hit 25 homeruns and drive in 75 runs (and that’s probably not a stretch).
as JP Howell is to Bill Bray…
Both strikeout lefthanders coming out of the bullpen. Bray was considered a possible closer at one point in his minor league career. He’s still only twenty five years old too.
as Evan Longoria is to Joey Votto…
Votto played his first full season in the majors in 2008 and had a very productive year. He batted .297 with 24 homeruns and 84 RBIs. His numbers mirror Longoria’s and Votto has a higher average. Votto is also only 25 years old and will definately improve on his numbers this coming season.
as Scott Kazmir is to Edinson Volquez…
Both great prospects coming up, Volquez strikes out hitters at an alarming rate. He recorded 206 strikeouts last season in ten less innings than strikeouts. He had a 3.21 ERA and went 17-6. Who knows how he will do in 2009 but he will definately help the Reds out.
as Troy Percival is to David Weathers…
Both righthanders approaching 40 years of age while staying relatively successful coming out of their team’s bullpen. Weathers recorded a 3.25 ERA last season with 19 holds.
as BJ Upton is to Jay Bruce…
Bruce played in 108 games last season and had a good rookie season and should definately improve on his .254 average, 21 homeruns, and 52 RBIs. He may experience a sophomore boom or bust, but he will eventually be who the Reds hope he will become.
as Matt Garza is to Johnny Cueto…
Cueto didn’t have a very good season last year but has great stuff. Look for him to also improve upon his 4.81 ERA and 9 wins as he should start over 30 games again this season.
as Eric Hinske is to Alex Gonzalez…
Gonzalez played a total of zero games last season due to injury, but he’s a veteran who’s glove is better than his bat. He will be in competition with Jeff Keppinger for the starting shortstop spot just as Hinske competed for the right field spot most of last season.
as Trever Miller is to Arthur Rhodes…
Both veteran lefty relievers, Rhodes had a great year for the Marlins last year as a lefty out of the bullpen with a 2.04 ERA with 40 strikeouts in about 35 innings.
as Grant Balfour is to Francisco Cordero…
Balfour and Cordero both throw hard. Cordero will remain the closer this year for the Reds after he saved 34 games last season. He struck out 78 batters in about 70 innings with a 3.33 ERA.
The Reds rotation is lead by innings eater Aaron Harang who had a down year last season but is still projected as the Reds ace this season. Bronson Arroyo has also become a staple in this rotation as an innings eater.
This lineup will score a lot of runs and the pitching will keep them in games but I just don’t see this team making the playoffs as the Rays did last season. They’re definately capable of doing (as every team is) but I just think they have a few holes in the lineup and they are still pretty young.
Season Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates
Projected MLB Rank: 25th — NL Rank: 14th — NL Central Rank: 6th — Record: (71-91)
The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since they made the playoffs in 1992. In fact, the Pirates haven’t won over 70 games since 2004. Well this season, things are looking up for the team that has struggled for years. Things are sure not looking up too far, but the Pirates seem to be taking steps in right direction.
For a team that has been called, the farm system for the rest of the MLB teams, this past offseason they actually signed a couple guys to semi-long-term contracts. All Star centerfielder Nate McLouth signed a three year deal with an option for 2012. Left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm also signed a contract that runs through 2012. Maholm is becoming a very reliable pitcher for the Pirates and is considered their ace.
Then there’s Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson. The staple Pirates should both rebound from off years last season as Sanchez should bring his .271 average back up and Wilson should play a full season if he doesn’t start sharing time with prospect Brian Bixler. There’s also Adam LaRoche. A solid hitter who will give you 80-90 RBIs a season.
Who else is on this team that will continue to develop and hopefully help the Pirates compete a few years down the line? Let’s Meet the Pirates–
Catcher Ryan Doumit
This 27-year old really took advantage of a bad start from Ronnie Paulino and solidified the catching job as his. Now he’s their starter and he should continue to hit well. Last season he hit .318 with 15 homeruns and 69 RBIs along with 34 doubles. He’s always had hitting talent, just never the durability to be the starter. Now, he is the starter.
Starting Pitcher Jeff Karstens
Coming to the ‘Burgh in the Xavier Nady trade, Karstens is a quality starter and should make the rotation this season. He doesn’t strikeout many batters but he has good control of his pitches.
Rightfielder Brandon Moss
Coming off knee surgery this season, the Pirates say that Moss is their starting rightfielder. Once he plays a full season, he will probably give the Pirates 20 homeruns and a .280 average.
Reliever Tyler Yates
This righthanded pitcher is one of the best in the league coming out of the bullpen against righties, holding them to a .224 average. He throws hard and should be a solid setup man for closer Matt Capps.
Outfielder Steve Pearce
Slated right now as the fourth outfielder for Pittsburgh. The righthanded hitter should compete for the starting job in either corner outfield spot this spring. Last September, he came up and connected for four homeruns and has attractive power potential.
Thirdbaseman Andy LaRoche
Another product of a trade last season, Adam’s brother hit very well in the minors. But in 49 games with the Pirates he hit an awful .166 with 5 homers and 18 RBIs. Look for him to improve this season.
Reliever John Grabow
Grabow, at 30 years old, had a great season coming out of the bullpen for the Pirates in 2008. He held a 2.84 ERA and the lefty can pitch well to lefties and righties.
Utilityman Eric Hinske
You all saw him at end of the World Series against Brad Lidge’s dirty slider. A great addition in the offseason, Hinske will come off the bench. He hit 20 homeruns and drove in 60 last year for the Rays, so expect solid production numbers if he gets the at-bats.
Those are only a few of many Pirates trying to make a difference in Pittsburgh this season. I do think that this team will eventually compete. Just not this season, or next season. But I think reaching 70 wins should be step one for the Buccos in 2009.