My Annual Schedule Rant

For those of you familiar with this site, you have read something similar before.  For those of you who are not, read on. 

Why does MLB insist on scheduling games in cities with lousy weather in late March and skip scheduling games in cities with great weather?  To wit…

Why is Arizona traveling to Cincy?

Why did Toronto travel to the Yankees?

Why do the Royals go North to Detroit?

Why is Tampa playing in Baltimore?

Why are the Rangers playing in Seattle?

Why are the Astros and Padres playing each other?  Why are the Giants and Dodgers and Angels and Twins doing the same? 

I am just wondering, why does MLB keep insisting on forcing games into bad weather sites?

End of rant, thanks for listening. 

 

A Note To MLB

Last night’s "Opening Night" festivities and the emphasis placed on the new stadium in Washington got me thinking.  Do not, I repeat do not, attempt to play the first game in the new Yankee Stadium at night to satisfy an ESPN audience.  That would be crass and commercial and baseball is about bigger things than that.  Right?  Right?

The Crystal Ball

I know Andy is desperately waiting for this, so to help him get over his worries, I present my 2008 predictions.  Please don’t use these for any wagering, besides being illegal in the US, I offer zero guarantees.  Anyway, here we go….

AL East

1- Boston- I go back and forth on this one and I have changed my mind all spring, but on March 30th I think the Red Sox will win the AL East, so they go first today.  Ultimately, the healthier team will prevail and I have no idea which team will have the better luck in that department.

2- Yankees- see above but I will say less runs scored but also less runs allowed equals 90+ wins

3- Toronto- I know Tampa is the trendy pick, but I think the Blue Jays will make some noise this year and probably challenge the Yankees and Red Sox for the AL East crown well into September.

4- Tampa- Kazmir is starting the season hurt and while the lineup is looking great, the pitching is very shaky.  They should easily improve on 66 their wins from last year though.

5- Baltimore- I can’t believe that the Orioles used to be the class of the AL East.  This team is simply a joke and will be the worst in the league.

AL Central

1- Cleveland- I would have picked Detroit if I liked their pitching.  Cleveland will have a better lineup and the pitching is good, so they are on top.

2- Detroit, they will score in bunches, but I don’t think they have enough pitching to take the crown.

The thing about the Central is that things really drop off in a huge way after the top two clubs.  I will pick them to finish….

3- Chicago

4- Minnesota

5- Kansas City

…but to be honest I could see the three finishing in any order.

AL West

1- Seattle- I am going to pick them as my surprise team this year and I think Hernandez and Bedard are going to be dominant.

2- Angels- Losing Escobar is a big loss.  

3- Texas- I like the direction of this team, but I don’t think they are ready to challenge the big guys yet.

4- Oakland- Clearly building for the future and it will show in the standings.

Now onto the NL

NL East

1- Mets- Until the Santana trade I would have picked Philadelphia, but I just love Santana in the NL and the Mets have four pitchers who could each win 15 games or more.  The offense is shaky, but Wright and Beltran are as good a 1-2 punch as any other team in the NL

2- Phillies- Brett Myers back in the rotation is big and I think they will stay on the Mets’ tails all season.

3- Atlanta- Back-to-back third place finishes for the Braves is strange

4- Nationals- Very interesting outfield

5- Florida- They traded their two best players and got some stars for the future, check back in 2011 or so.

NL Central

1- Cubs- I won’t predict the end of a 99-year drought, but I think they win the division

2- Millwaukee- Should be right on the heels of the Cubs, but they won’t catch them

3- Cincinnati- I think they will surprise people and finish above .500

Just like the AL Central I think there is a big drop and I think the following three teams could finish anyway but I predict….

4- Houston

5- St. Louis

6- Pittsburgh

NL West

1- Arizona- love the pitching and I think some of the young offensive players will be very good this year

2- San Diego- They will fall just short- again

3- Colorado- too bad they couldn’t win the World Series last year because they won’t be back there in 2008

4- LA Dodgers- Joe Torre is going to finish outside of the top two spots in the division for the first time since 1994

5- San Francisco- Another team that I can’t figure out.  The Zito contract looks like an enormous mistake and I have a feeling we will be saying the same thing about the Rowand deal next year.  

As for the playoffs, I am picking the Yankees and Phillies as my wild card teams and Cleveland and the Mets as the two best records.  

In the matchups I think Seattle shocks Boston and Cleveland beats the Yankees with Cleveland winning the AL crown

For the NL I will pick the Mets over the Cubs (remember they can’t play the Phillies) and Arizona over the Philies with the Mets winning the NL

And, I think the Mets win their third championship over Cleveland next October.

And now it’s time to PLAY BALL! 

The Roster Is Set

The Yankees made their cuts tonight and they chose to put Andy Pettitte on the DL to start the season which makes a lot of sense. 

The bench is not a surprise, Betemit, Duncan, Ensberg and Molina, but with 12 pitchers making the team the Yankees took a bit of a different route.  Instead of going with the long guy, they went with extra righty relievers.  Billy Traber made it as the lefty, but so did Bruney, Ohlendorf and Albie.  You know that one of the final three will be sent down Saturday to make room for Pettite, but based on Girardi repeating his earlier preference for a long reliever tonight it could be two of them.  In effect, the Yankees have extended Spring Training by a week and those three will be fighting to keep their big league positions.

As for the roster, there are a couple of problems I have with it.  First, who is the guy playing first in a tight game?  I am going to guess that Betemit or Ensberg fill that role, but I don’t know if that is much of an upgrade.  And, while we are at it, is the plan really to put Giambi at first for 100+ games?  If so, expect that plan to fail badly in 2008.

And, while Traber has nice numbers, he is the second coming of Mike Myers.  I would love to see the Yankees carry 11 pitchers and just let someone else loose on the lefties.  But, Traber is the guy for now, just don’t expect it to stick if he continues his career patterns against lefties and righties.  

But, that’s where we are and the Yankees will spend the first four weeks of the season playing 27 games with 18 of them on the road, not the best recipie to a quick start.   

 

Bummed About Bobby

If you haven’t heard already, Bobby Murcer announced today that he isn’t well enough to travel to Yankee Stadium for Opening Day.  On the plus side, it sounds like he will be in the broadcast booth soon, just not as soon as we all would want.

Bob Sheppard will also not be able to make it, which definitely puts a downer on the final opener from the Stadium.  Add in the curious decision to let Reggie throw out the first pitch and you have a strange beginning to the final season.

I have nothing against Reggie, but shouldn’t the final Opening Day honor go to Yogi?  And, if the reason Reggie was selected is to honor the 30th anniversary of the 1978 team, then why isn’t Diana Munson throwing out the first pitch?  I know we will all be excited for Opening Day, but Bobby and Bob will be missed.   

 

Still Some Work To Do

Well, the Yankees have two games with Florida before heading on the plane to New York.  Yet, less than 48 hours from that plane flight, we still don’t know the final roster. 

We now know that Jeff Karstens isn’t going to make the team because he is headed to the DL.  Kei Igawa showed that he still can grab the big moment and bombed yesterday.  That would seem to have cleared the field for Rasner to become the long guy in the pen, but nine walks in 14 innings doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence.  Bruney and Ohlendorf are both pitching well, but you can only take one of them if you take Rasner (and I am assuming Traber makes it).

Further complicating things is that the Yankees could put Andy Pettitte on the DL to start the season, but backdate the move so he could pitch April 5th.  Since he is scheduled to start Sunday against Scranton anyway, the earliest he could pitch in the bigs would be April 4th.  The Yankees could just move everyone up a spot in the rotation and pitch Kennedy on the 4th with Pettitte filling in on the 5th.  That would allow them another player to start the season.  

And, don’t forget that we still are unsure when Mekly and Duncan will have their suspension hearings, though perhaps the Yankees will have one of them drop the appeal and serve the suspension if Pettitte does go on the DL.  

Stay tuned, it’s only about 72 hours until Opening Day! 

 

Steinbrenner Field

I don’t know about you, but for this Yankees’ fan seeing yesterday’s ceremony dedicating the field in Tampa to George Steinbrenner was somewhat surreal. 

Let me say up front that I think the George of 2008 needs to be left alone.  I don’t know what exactly has happened to him, but it seems pretty obvious that he is not what he once was and anyone who takes shots at him over his current condition is pathetic.  

But, what happened yesterday was about the Steinbrenner that existed previous to this, the guy who ran the Yankees from 1973 to roughly 2006.  And, I am not sure that guy is worthy of this honor.  

Ok, sure if you want to measure things in championships, George has to get credit.  The guy has six in 35 years, and he has also won ten pennants in that time period.  In addition, George was one of the guys who recognized the change that free agency brought to baseball and capitalized on it.  He made the bold moves, Reggie, Goose, etc., that got the Yankees their first two titles.  Of course, his early success was his downfall later on, but you cannot dismiss his accomplishments in the early part of the free agency period.

And, there are the countless good deeds the Yankees and George have done.  Some fans think it is stupid, but I appreciate the fact that the Yankees perform "God Bless America" at every home game.  September 11th changed a lot of things in this city and I am glad the Yankees continue to honor those memories.  They have stood up and made a difference countless times from the terrible fire in the Bronx to the recent atrocity at Virginia Tech, the Yankees and Geroge Steinbrenner have always seemed to step up and try to ease the pain.

But, contrast that with the George we once knew.  The guy Seinfeld parodied, the bully, the mean George.  I am not saying it is all his fault, his Dad seems like he was impossible to please and the apple didn’t fall far, but Steinbrenner took it to a new level.  He gave no quarter in his pursuit of winning and gave no consideration to what that meant.  When he fired Yogi Berra after 16 games in 1985, he alienated one of the greatest Yankees for ten years.  He was ruthless in his criticism of his own players and management.  It’s hard to remember now, but before Torre and Showalter the Yankees went through more than a manager a year under Steinbrenner.  Fans applauded when he was banned from baseball in 1990 and now he seems to be a hero.

Perhaps that is a function of success, Geroge won a lot more in the last half of his ownership than he did in the first half.  The Yankees’ image mellowed under Joe Torrre and while everyone respected Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter is a 1,000-times more likeable.  Memories are short and George’s transgressions have faded, just like the idea that he wanted to move the team to New Jersey seems absurd today.

But, life is all about the sum of everything and I am just not sure where that leaves George as he heads to the bottom of the ninth, but I do hope he pulls out the win.   

Baseball Eve

Well, despite the Red Sox being 6722, or so, miles away from Boston, they are set to open the 2008 MLB season in about 9 hours.

What does the season hold for Boston?  While we need to wait until the 31st of March before Peter posts his predictions, most are thinking Boston has a good shot in 2008.  The concerns?

1.) The loss of Curt Schilling for some or all of the season

2.)  The health of Josh Beckett

3.)  The age of Tim Wakefield

4.)  Whether Jacoby Ellsbury is for real

5.)  The loss of Dr. Charles Steinberg

6.)  No replacement for Jason Varitek in sight

The positives?

1.)  The Red Sox kept Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz (and Masterson and Lowrie)

2.)  J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Daisuke Matsuzaka have a year of experience under their belts in Boston

3.)  A year of maturation for Manny Delcarmen, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia and Ellsbury

4.)  The minor league machine has been largely left to build for the past 3 seasons (save someone named Hanley something or other)

Line-up for tomorrow (my guess):

2b – Pedroia

1b – Youkilis

dh – Ortiz

lf – Ramirez

3b – Lowell

rf – Drew

c – Varitek

ss – Lugo

cf – Ellsbury

sp – Matsuzaka

For those looking for a more expert pediction than mine, Sunday’s Globe had a baseball preview.  Notice Nick Cafardo picking Toronto finishing 1st in the AL East (Nick, really?).

Anyway, you should be asleep right now if you want to catch tomorrow morning’s game.

Could Igawa Make This Team?

Sorry for making you throw up a bit there, but after today I think we have to seriously consider the thought of Kei Igawa as the long man in the pen.  Start with this confirmation from Peter Abraham about the candidates for the long guy.  Then, take a look at Chad Jennings’ report about today’s action.  Add in the fact that the Yankees have $46 million invested in Igawa and you have to assume he has a real shot at breaking camp with the team. 

Think about it, Karstens has blown up the past few weeks and while Rasner has been better, Igawa has the lower ERA.  Then, think about Andy Pettitte’s back and you have to assume Igawa is a real possibility. 

Wow 

 

An Interesting Decision

The Yankees announced tonight that they have added Morgan Ensberg to the 40-man roster.  (In a shocking sidenote, Carl Pavano was placed on the 60-man DL to make room for Ensberg)

This essentially means that Ensberg is on the team and while I think that is a good thing, it makes me curious about the final roster.

We have learned the rotation (Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Hughes, Kennedy) and part of the bullpen (Rivera, joba, Farnsworth and Hawkins)  We also know that 13 hitters are going to make the team (Posada, Molina, Giambi, Duncan, Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Ensberg, Damon, Cabrera, Abreu, Matsui and I am going to add Betemit)

That would leave three spots open and you would assume that at least two of them are going to pitchers, with three certainly a storng possibilty.  If you pencil in a Traber and Karstens as spots 10 and 11 in the bullpen, do you assume the Yankees are going to go with someone like Ohlendorf or does Ransom or Lane make the team on offense?  The depth is pretty good with a bench of Betemit, Molina, Ensberg and Duncan (assume Giambi at first)  so going with 12 pitchers wouldn’t be as damaging as usual.

But, it will be a very interesting week to see how things play out, three spots left.