The last couple weeks have been very busy for me, all with the Olympics, school, sports, and life in general. I know this happens a lot, and I always end up apologizing for stopping every few weeks. Life is busy, and mine is very busy right now, but I have to face the facts that I don’t have a lot of time on my hands and that I should use whatever free time I do have to do the things that matter most to me, one of which is blogging.
MLBlogs is always one of my top priorities, but I sometimes just don’t get around to it. During baseball season, there is more to write about, so everyone posts more, but during the winter months things have been straight up dull. The few huge trades of the offseason came early on, and most of January up until now have drifted along at a sluggish pace, with nothing much going on. However, we have now nearly reached Spring Training, and then the season.
As the countdown clock on the MLB.com homepage alerted me this afternoon, we are roughly 19 hours away from the entrance of pitchers and catchers to all Spring Training camps (some are already there). On the eve of this glorious day, as I really have nothing negative to reflect on involving the offseason, I must say that things are good in the baseball world.
The Red Sox are looking like an above-average team at this time. All baseball fans know that the sport we love is at times extremely unpredictable, so there’s really no telling what will happen to the Sox this year. Who knows what I’ll be saying in the middle of August. Last year, we consistently “had the Yankees’ number” in the beginning of the year, but spring turned to summer, and then… well, you know what happened then. Last year, a certain team from Boston was also expected to have a fabulous pitching staff. This dream was soon forgotten, as Dice-K conveniently chose not to disclose the details of an injury suffered during the World Baseball Classic.
After the Matsuzaka’s collapse, the rest of our staff slowly declined. We had a good pitching staff, but not a great one. Additionally, these next couple years will be some of the last in which guys like Josh Beckett will be able to pitch at top form. I hate to admit it, but he’s aging, and no one lasts forever. In the end, surprisingly, it was relief pitching (even our closer, Mr. Papelbon, of all people), that really killed us, both literally (e.g. Game 3, ALDS) and figuratively.
If the pitching staff can stay strong throughout the season and hold on for that final push at the end into the playoffs, we will be helped enormously just by that effort. However, there is still a gaping hole that has been occupied by Manny, Ortiz, and Bay, respectively: the power hitter. We need an offensive spark, someone that can clean up the bases and drive in runs. There aren’t many types of offensive players that directly translate into wins like a power hitter does. Several guys could step into that role, but right now no one seems to be ready. I’m still hoping that we might acquire someone that fits this role, but it seems unlikely.
So, aside from the normal griping and doubts about the team, I am pretty happy right now. Because, in 19 hours, we will have takeoff. Away we go!
It seems to be time for another “D” themed entry, as two more “D” topics have alerted my attention today. The first of these involves the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners improved a great deal last year, and have had a great offseason so far, acquiring both Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee appears to be stronger than ever after a fantastic postseason performance for the Phillies, and the possible combo of him and 2009 AL Cy Young runner-up Felix Hernandez was seen by many people as one of the best (if not the best) duos in baseball. The only thing left for Seattle to do to make this dynamic duo a reality was resign Hernandez, who filed for arbitration this year. Today, they accomplished this, signing Hernandez for $78 million and 5 years.
Despite the large price tag, this is truly a fantastic deal. Locking this ace up for 5 years means that even if something doesn’t work out with Lee in the next few years, Hernandez is still there to anchor the rotation. Most baseball experts agree that good pitching is just about the most important factor in being a successful baseball team. Hitting and defense are instrumental for sure, but an ace pitcher is probably the most valuable type of player on the field (an all-around star like Pujols would be an exception, but players like that are so rare). Therefore, Seattle has done a great job this offseason by strengthening a good pitching staff, with the Hernandez and Lee deals and the resigning of closer David Aardsma. The Angels, who are expected to wage war with the M’s over the AL West crown in ’10, lost their ace John Lackey, and did a little bit to add to their pitching. Certainly, they didn’t do as much as Seattle, and I believe that this will hurt them this season.
Not only is a good pitching staff a must, but a good duo is always something to be reckoned with, and Seattle could have the best in the MLB. Cain and Lincecum are a fantastic duo for the Giants, both having chances at the NL Cy Young last year (with Lincecum taking the award home); Halladay and Hamels should be very strong together for Philly; Beckett and Lackey (with the added bonus of Lester) will hopefully play above expectations and should make the case for being one of the better duos in the league; Sabathia and Burnett is another great one, both playing very well last year and helping the Yankees enormously; and several others are very formidable. Not only can a dynamic duo strike fear into the hearts of opposing lineups, but it can just about guarantee 2 games out of a 3 game series when both pitchers are at their best. Hitting duos are also a great luxury, but I think pitching ones are the most imposing.
Here in Boston, we certainly had trouble with this pair last year.
Seattle’s duo will help them in many ways, and I wish luck to them in 2010. Truly a job well done in the offseason as well!
The second piece of “D” news was that of the retirement rumors surrounding Johnny Damon. Having still not come anywhere near agreement with any MLB teams as far as we know, Damon seems to either have some kind of plan, or absolutely no idea what he’s doing. Honestly, I think it’s the latter. I highly doubt that Damon will really retire (although I’ve been surprised before by this guy, *hint, hint*), but I also think that he is still a long way from agreeing on a deal with anyone as long as he keeps asking for $13 million a year. I’ve never been in a situation like the one that every baseball player faces when they become a free agent: I’ve never had to put a price tag on myself. However, I think that Damon may be asking for too much. He’s still a very good player, but the Yankees need him less than they did last year (even though he would be a great asset). The Yankees are the team that is most interested in him at this point, and they are not yet close to working out a deal with Damon. It appears that he may be forced to lower his demands, or he may find himself without a club come April. I feel bad for any ballplayer that doesn’t have a game to go to each night when Spring rolls around, and I think Johnny will see this coming and may work out a deal with someone. I can’t say I wish him luck, but he’s not such a bad guy. I’ll be interested to see how this whole thing works out.
As for any Red Sox news, there has been a shortage of it in the recent days. I hope for more this weekend. I’ll try to post tomorrow night, but I may be unable due to the varsity basketball game I’ll be attending to support my school. Let’s hope they dominate and I’m able to get home early to blog!
Thanks for reading.
It has been a hectic week for me, to say the least. School is still getting back into swing after winter break, and I’m currently facing the first round of tests in the new term. Luckily, during this chaotic week nothing affecting me at all has happened in baseball. Or maybe un-luckily, as the offseason stretches on and on. Where are the hot stove news, the signings and the blockbuster trades?! Maybe it’s just me, but this has seemed to be a particularly uneventful offseason and it is really starting to hit me. At least pitchers and catchers are just around the corner.
Or maybe at the end of a long hallway. That’s a little more realistic for the way most baseball fans are feeling.
Due to the lack of baseball in my life, I’ve turned my attention to other sports, as well as other things. The NFL playoffs have also been relatively uneventful, with the only surprise so far being the New York Jets’ upset of the San Diego Chargers. Now that a New York team is once again on a quest for playoff domination, Boston fans can only stand and watch, since our Pats were dethroned in the first round by the Ravens. It’s a lot like last October, when we watched the Yankees defeat the Angels as we stood helplessly on the side. Now we’re here again, with no means to stop New York, helplessly on the side yet again.
While we still have basketball on our side, New York has calmly seized control of both the NFL and the MLB. Some may say that the Giants and the Jets still aren’t safely in consideration as the top teams year in and year out, but I would argue that they certainly are powerhouses. The Jets may be returning to their glory of earlier years, with a squad of young stars, and the Giants need work, but can certainly come back strong after a good offseason.
The Yankees are never not in consideration as one of the top 5 teams in baseball, literally every year. The growing truth is that New York is on its way to surpassing nearly any city as the premiere American sports town, a title that many would agree Boston has held in the last decade. Unfortunately, New York has almost reached that state of total sports domination.
While we Boston fans can do little to entirely stop NYC, we can certainly surpass them, and as the NFL season is over for us, we must turn our view to the upcoming MLB season. What better stage on which to overtake New York? After all, a little competition never hurt anybody!
We play 15 games vs. the Yankees in 2010, and we will have that many chances to show the world what we can do against them. I would say that a reasonable goal to set would be to win at least 10 of those games. Last year we started off unbelievably strong against the Yanks, but we fell apart when we really needed to beat them. We only added to the Yankees’ fantastic late season run as they pulled the lead in the AL East farther and farther from us. I don’t think we would have beaten them even if we had in fact beaten the Angels; they truly were unstoppable.
The Yankees are still one of the most talented all around teams in baseball. They have improved a great deal over this offseason, but so have we. If we can keep our cool and win the big games against the Yankees, I think the rest will work itself out. I have faith in my Sox.
However, I’m not a Yankee hater by any means. I consider myself a good sport and I try not to be a sore loser. I’ll leave it at “may the best team win.” We will see, New York, we will see.