TMS Baseball Preview: AL East

In the weeks preceding Opening Day, we here at the Saloon will be previewing each major league division and giving a brief rundown of the in's and out's of each team heading into the 2007 season. Last week, we finished covering the National League, so now we move our attention to that other league, where pitchers are too pussy to bat. Let's look at the AL East! Chaim was able to throw in some nuggets of genius as well this week.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

1. NEW YORK YANKEES
2006: 97-65 (1st)

So Long: P Octavio Dotel, OF Aaron Guiel, P Tanyon Sturtze, OF Bernie Williams, 1B Craig Wilson

Welcome: P Kei Igawa, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, P Andy Pettitte, C Todd Pratt

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Jorge Posada
1B - Doug Mientkiewicz
2B - Robinson Cano
SS - Derek Jeter
3B - Alex Rodriguez
LF - Hideki Matsui
CF - Johnny Damon
RF - Bobby Abreu
DH - Jason Giambi

Starting Rotation - Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano, Jeff Karstens (Chien-Ming Wang DL)
Setup - Mike Myers, Kyle Farnsworth
Closer - Mariano Rivera

It's hard for me to look at that starting lineup and not vomit. The Bronx Bombers are stacked from top to bottom with All-Stars, and Doug Mientkiewicz. If one thing ends up killing them it will be the starting rotation. Mussina continues to provide worry-free innings but beyond that who knows? Pettitte should be decent but it remains to be seen if he can stay healthy all season. Kei Igawa may or may not be the second coming of Hideki Irabu. Carl Pavano is struggling to be the first player to break out of the Alyssa Milano Curse. And with Wang hurt, they're starting the season with Jeff Karstens as the #5 starter. Look for rookie Phil Hughes to make an appearance at some point this season.

But all rotation iffiness aside, this team can flat out rake. So your starter gets shelled for 6 runs? No problem, we'll just score 8. It's because of that offense that I have them number one. The pitching will figure itself out and there's bound to be 1 or 2 pitching acquisitions at the deadline to shore up the rotation.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: SS Derek Jeter - Just like Tom Brady, even if you hate the dude, you still respect him. The guy has his own cologne for God's sake! You know you've reached a whole new level when guys are willing to smell like you. Driven has sold much better than David Wells' ill-fated attempt for a line of cologne a few years back, though not many people care to smell like buffalo wings and an ashtray full of Marlboro reds.

David Eckstein Award: 1B Doug Mientkiewicz - The Yanks are notorious for having those scrappy gamers that rise to the occasion in the postseason. Whether it be Scott Brosius, Jim Leyritz, or Luis Sojo, these guys were far from spectacular during the season, but come playoff time they got it done. Dougie M. seems to fit that mold. I can just picture him coming up with a clutch hit late in a pennant game that turns the tide. One thing though Doug. If you record the final out of the World Series again, just give the ball to the team right away. Mr. Steinbrenner will probably have you murdered if you don't.

I'm Big in Taiwan: P Chien-Ming Wang - "Uh hello? Over here? Asian media? Yeah, it's me...the guy who led the league in wins last year? No, for the last time, I don't throw a gyroball. No, I look nothing like him! I'm Taiwanese, not Japanese. Sigh. Whatever."

FOR MORE READING
Bronx Banter
River Ave. Blues
Pending Pinstripes


2. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2006: 87-75 (2nd)

SO LONG: OF Frank Catalanotto, P Ted Lilly, C Bengie Molina, P Justin Speier

WELCOME: SS Royce Clayton, C Sal Fasano, P Tomo Ohka, OF Matt Stairs, DH Frank Thomas, P John Thomson, P Victor Zambrano

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Gregg Zaun
1B - Lyle Overbay
2B - Aaron Hill
SS - Royce Clayton
3B - Troy Glaus
LF - Reed Johnson
CF - Vernon Wells
RF - Alex Rios
DH - Frank Thomas

Starting Rotation - Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Gustavo Chacin, Tomo Ohka, Shaun Marcum
Setup - Jason Frasor, Brandon League
Closer - B.J. Ryan

Was there a team that finished with a better record last year that no one seemed to give a shit about? Buried under the tight finish in the AL Central and the constant barrage of "How crappy is the National League" stories, the Blue Jays put together a pretty damn good season.

While their rotation took a hit with the departure of Ted Lilly, the batting order got a nice shot in the arm with the arrival of Frank Thomas, who put together a nice career renaissance last season. The Big Hurt will fit nicely in the clean-up role and with Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay hitting on either side of him, should put up some solid power numbers yet again.

Meanwhile it appears the hole left by Lilly has been filled by Tomo Ohka, who's been having a pretty good Spring. It remains to be seen what he'll do all season, but if he can pitch like he did a few years back in Montreal, he could be a decent asset.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: OF Vernon Wells - Alright you got your payday. Now let's see what you do with it. Wells signing long-term should really help the team's image, that management is committed to winning.

Seriously, This Guy?: SS Royce Clayton - Not particularly good at anything, save for looking like The Predator, Royce continues to stymie all forms of logic and common sense by obtaining another starting spot.

Greatest Fantasy Roster Trick: 3B Troy Glaus - Last season Glaus started in 5 games as a shortstop, which gave him roster eligibility there in Yahoo Fantasy Baseball. This has allowed the savvy fantasy manager to draft Glaus later than some of the other big-name shortstops and get good value out of that position. Here's to hoping he plays a few games there this season as well.

FOR MORE READING
Jays Nest
Bluebird Banter
D.A. Humber: Baseball Central


3. BALTIMORE ORIOLES
2006: 70-92 (4th)

SO LONG: P Bruce Chen, P LaTroy Hawkins, P Rodrigo Lopez, OF David Newhan, P Russ Ortiz, C Chris Widger

WELCOME: P Danys Baez, C Paul Bako, P Chad Bradford, 1B/3B Aubrey Huff, OF Jon Knott, OF Jay Payton, P Paul Shuey, P Steve Trachsel, P Jamie Walker, P Scott Williamson, P Jaret Wright

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Ramon Hernandez
1B - Aubrey Huff
2B - Brian Roberts
SS - Miguel Tejada
3B - Melvin Mora
LF - Jay Payton
CF - Corey Patterson
RF - Nick Markakis
DH - Jay Gibbons

Starting Rotation - Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Jaret Wright, Adam Loewen, Steve Trachsel
Setup - Danys Baez, Chad Bradford, Scott Williamson
Closer - Chris Ray

"What? You have Baltimore THIRD? You must have shit for brains." Wait, wait, wait. Before you begin pelting me with tomatoes, just hear me out. So far my predictions have been pretty tame. OK, incredibly tame. But every year there's a team that breaks out and performs way beyond everyone's expectations. Case in point: last year's Tigers. Not that I'm saying Baltimore is World Series bound by any means. I just don't think they're as bad as some have them pegged out to be.

They purged the pitching staff of Bruce Chen, LaTroy Hawkins, Rodrigo Lopez, and Russ Ortiz, which is the greatest "addition-by-subtraction" I've seen this offseason. They shored up the bullpen by bringing in Chad Bradford, Scott Williamson, Paul Shuey, Jamie Walker, and Danys Baez to compliment their young closer Chris Ray. Then they brought in Jaret Wright, who is reunited with Leo Mazzone, the guy that resurrected Wright's career in Atlanta a couple years ago, and Steve Trachsel, who has a little bit left in the tank. At least enough to be a decent #5 starter.

The batting order should be pretty decent with the emergence of Nick Markakis and the addition of Aubrey Huff, who should have something to prove after two disappointing seasons. I guess when you can bat Corey Patterson in the 8 spot, you can't be all that bad.

Of course if the O's crash and burn this season, feel free to mock me mercilessly.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: OF Nick Markakis - The big fat greek phenom, Markakis is poised to have a nice breakout season this year. Baltimore fans have to be pumped about this kid.

No Reason to Hold a Grudge: OF Corey Patterson - You may not have noticed, but Corey did in fact cut down on his K's per AB last season. Ah, it sucks to see him succeed somewhere else, but I've come to grips that he was never going to improve while in a Cubs uniform. It was for the best. At least we got Carlos Perez and Nate Spears for him. Wait, who the hell are those guys?

Seriously, This Guy?: OF Jay Payton - At least he's batting 9th. Not that Payton isn't good, but he's just another case of a guy being a little overrated after a nice little offensive stint in Colorado (cough, Neifi!, cough).

FOR MORE READING
Oriole Magic
Oriole Post
Camden Chat


4. BOSTON RED SOX
2006: 86-76 (3rd)

SO LONG: P Keith Foulke, SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Gabe Kapler, 2B Mark Loretta, OF Trot Nixon

WELCOME: P Brendan Donnelly, OF J.D. Drew, SS Julio Lugo, P Daisuke Matsuzaka, P Hideki Okakima, P Joel Pineiro, P J.C. Romero

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Jason Varitek
1B - Kevin Youkilis
2B - Dustin Pedroia
SS - Julio Lugo
3B - Mike Lowell
LF - Manny Ramirez
CF - Coco Crisp
RF - J.D. Drew
DH - David Ortiz

Starting Rotation - Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Julian Tavarez
Setup - J.C. Romero, Brendan Donnelly
Closer - Jon Papelbon

Wow, I can feel the anger in the air from Boston fans. You know, a few years ago, you guys weren't that different from us Cubs fans. With a long history of disappointment and curses, you came to accept the inevitable failure in stride. Then 2004 rolled along and suddenly everything was wiped clean. This team was a winner, and was going to be for quite some time. Well you know what? It's high time you taste some disappointment again. Looking at this lineup, I can't help but feel that you're one Big Papi injury away from playing out a "Cubs in '06" type of season. Not that they'll finish as bad as the Cubs, but once D-Lee went down, all the bolts came loose and the wheels fell off.

Also that pitching staff is scary, and not in a good way. Who knows what Schilling will do? Is Dice's gyroball going to blow everyone's mind? Beckett finally threw over 200 innings, and watched his ERA balloon with it, not to mention his K/9 ratio dropped for the third straight season. The bullpen is such a horrible mess that the Papelboner has been thrown back into the closer role, pushing Julian Tavarez and his winning personality to the #5 starter spot.

Maybe I'm just bitter and want to see Boston crash and burn, but I just get the feeling this team has drifted a long way away from their 2004 glory days.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: P Daisuke Matsuzaka - This was a given. Has anyone drew more hype without having even played in an official Major League game? He could be the greatest Japanese pitcher ever to play over here. Seeing that the bar is currently set at Hideo Nomo, he won't have to reach that much.

Do They Award a "Bronze" Glove?: OF Manny Ramirez - Seriously, is he even trying out there? I fully expect him to wear an iPod in the field this year.

The Chris Farley Show: P Curt Schilling - Remember that time when you pitched in a World Series? When you were really good? Heh. That was AWESOME. Remember when you had the blood on the sock? That was so cool. And everybody said you were..um..heros and stuff? Do you remember? I love you guys. My dad says you're just going through a rough patch. Do you still have that sock? That would be awesome if you did. Did you see Die Hard? Remember that part where he.....

FOR MORE READING
Surviving Grady
Random Thoughts
Inside the Monster


5. TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
2006: 61-101 (5th)

SO LONG: OF Damon Hollins, P Brian Meadows, SS Tomas Perez

WELCOME: 1B Hee Seop Choi, 3B Akinori Iwamura, 1B Carlos Pena

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Dioner Navarro
1B - Ty Wigginton
2B - Jorge Cantu
SS - Ben Zobrist
3B - Akinori Iwamura
LF - Carl Crawford
CF - Rocco Baldelli
RF - Delmon Young
DH - Jonny Gomes

Starting Rotation - Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Casey Fossum, Jae Weong Seo, J.P. Howell
Setup - Dan Miceli, Shawn Camp
Closer - Seth McClung

A couple years ago, Bill Simmons coined the phrase "perpetual putridity" when talking about the abundance of bad teams in the NFL. I think that term can be applied to the D-Rays as well. Like a AAA team stuck in one of the consistently toughest divisions, Tampa Bay has finished last every season they've been in existence except for one (2004, which I think was more a product of Toronto being exceptionally bad more than the D-Rays being any good).

So why have they been so bad, when their expansion team counterpart, Arizona already has a ring to show off? I'm sure there's a multitude of factors that play into it, but I'd like to think it has to do with that stadium. Is there a more depressing venue in Major League Baseball these days than Tropicana Field? I mean, Jesus, this team plays in sunny Florida, yet the City of St. Petersburg built a frickin' dome back in the early 90's to lure a team there. Way to build off your city's assets St. Pete by locking the fans in a concrete behemoth while it's bright and sunny outside. I sure hope someone got fired/voted out of office for that incredibly stupid decision. According to ballparks.com, the city built a dome despite MLB's advice not to, and the league has told them to be out of there by 2010.

Some day the sun will shine on the D-Rays, but it's not gonna be any time soon.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: OF Delmon Young - As long as he can keep from throwing bats at umpires he should be ok. He appears in much better shape then his brother Dmitri, who did all of his offseason training at Old Country Buffet. We can only hope that he fares better than fellow prospect B.J. Upton, who could be upstaged in fielding drills by Jim Abbott.

The Rock Bottom Award: 1B Hee Seop Choi & Carlos Pena - Wow. Remember when these two guys were slated as the stud first basemen of the future? Now they're fighting for the starting 1B job in Tampa Bay, and are undoubtedly going to lose to Ty frickin' Wigginton of all people. Rock bottom.

The Carlos Beltran Award: OF Carl Crawford - Given to the player whose career and profile will soar and whose potential will finally be reached once he is granted a one way ticket out of baseball purgatory. Wait, we established that Pittsburgh and Kansas City are baseball purgatory. Tampa Bay is most certainly baseball hell then.

FOR MORE READING
DRays Bay
Rays Index
Rays of Light

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