Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baseball Economics: Will MLB Survive Our Recession Storm?

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-Digger’s Daily-

Will the current U.S. economic downturn sweep across baseball diamonds? Can team owners survive when gate receipts are certain to be far less than previous boom years? Small market teams could be in for a very challenging time. Owners victimized by ponzi schemes, stock market failings or floundering assets from personal business ventures could reshape baseball in 2009.

In good years, it’s been the small market low budget teams singing the blues. This season, they might be winners while the free spending teams take heavy hits on the chin. During recent prosperous years teams never worried about high ticket prices, concessions, television contracts, ad revenues and player salaries. With tempers suddenly flaring towards executives with big salaries and a new inexperienced President waging war on corporate America… will Major League Baseball suddenly fall under anti-trust regulation for the very first time?

Imagine this… if our Treasury Secretary is granted special powers to take over troubled businesses will a failing sports organization be seized? Probably not, but, we’re living in different times nowadays. Our country is being quickly changed into a government owned society. AIG, banks, insurance companies, health care, automotive industry and soon to be more corporations taken over by politicians who weren’t able to regulate during up years.

The steroids era has Congress looking closely at how baseball operates on a daily basis. What will happen if the Florida Marlins, Cleveland Indians or Seattle Mariners struggle? Imagine if one of the games big time franchises suddenly has trouble making ends meet due to wild salaries paid to players and personal fortunes lost (Yankees, Red Sox or Mets)? Would the power hungry single party government try to wrestle control away from owners? Or, demand baseball’s exemption status be revoked? A far fetched thought indeed.. except for exemption status.

How will civil disobedience groups treat baseball players and owners? Corporate executives have faced a heavy backlash as citizens around the world rage in fits of protests to death threats. There’s a tremendous protest about to take place in London as world leaders gather for a G20 economic summit. Sports figures making millions could suddenly find themselves staying out of public view after games instead of living it up in host cities.

Of course, this brief blog is a bit of imagination running as I type. Or is it? Bar talk is already buzzing on this topic and it extends well beyond baseball in sporting circles.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Tiger's Back! Ratings Skyrocket!

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-Digger's Daily-

Good news for golfing fans... bad news for the field of PGA free swingers. Tiger Woods is back. The worlds greatest ever golfer was trailing by 5 before turning it up a few notches Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (Orlando). In near darkness, he sank a 15 foot birdie put for victory.

Many of the television viewing audience was unaware of how dark it actually was when Woods winning putt sank into the 18th cup just after sundown. Tiger displayed his patented celebratory fist pump and leg kick with his first post operation victory.

"NBC Sports said the final round drew a 4.9 overnight rating with a 10 share. According to Nielsen Media Research, that's the highest rating of any golf tournament since the U.S. Open in June. The Bay Hill rating was up 23 percent from last year and attracted more viewers than the British Open and PGA Championship last year when Woods did not play because of knee surgery." (ESPN.com news services).

As more and more sports fans conserve their hard earned money it's a safe bet tv viewership in all major sports will rise. Astronomical ticket prices for 2009 baseball games in New York are cost prohibitive for most families. Two new vastly over budget stadiums are set to open in a few days. Ticket prices are out of sight for those wishing to have decent seats in either ballpark. Throw in inflated concession prices and it might be cheaper to take a vacation than attending a game. (More on the new Yankee Stadium and Citi-Field later this week).


Friday, March 27, 2009

All World All Sports Power Rankings

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-Digger’s Daily-

Major League Baseball’s season opener is only days away. NBA & NHL regular season is winding down. Teams on the bubble fight for playoff births. Time to rank my top ten’s.

1. Chicago Cubs - Has the time finally arrived for Chicago to end it’s 100 year curse?
2. New York Yankees - New stadium, new pitching staff, new energy. Yanks on a mission.
3. Philadelphia Phillies - Champs looking to repeat.
4. Tampa Bay Rays - Can they build on tremendous ‘08? Great young talent still rough around the edges.
5. Boston Red Sox - 3 AL East teams in top 5.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers - Looking good with return of Manny.
7. Cincinnati Reds - Dusty Baker’s team is loaded with talent. Rising star pitchers lead the way.
8. New York Mets - Another season of hope in April. Can they finally get over September blues?
9. Oakland A’s - They finally have a hitting lineup. Starting pitching? We’ll find out soon enough if they’re ready.
10. Los Angeles Angels - Scioscia’s well rounded team is back and ready.

1. Cleveland Cavs - Riding 10 game win streak.
2. Los Angeles Lakers - The West is playing in the wake.
3. Orlando Magic - Playing great basketball. Just climbed over Boston in overall standings.
4. Boston Celtics - Slipping and fading. Injuries have taken it’s toll in standings and team chemistry.
5. San Antonio Spurs - Gearing up for Playoffs where they usually play their best hoops.
6. Houston Rockets - Capable of beating any team on any given night.
7. New Orleans Hornets - Quickly improving young guns must learn to dominate at home.
8. Atlanta Hawks - Finally, a winning season! Their first in 10 years.
9. Denver Nuggets - Current Northwest leaders by one game looking good.
10. Utah Jazz - Strong record in the west… not competitive enough vs east.

1. Detroit Red Wings - Regained overall NHL point lead. Getting hot just in time for Playoffs.
2. Boston Bruins - Recent mini-slump knocks them off top slot. NHL’s stingiest D.
3. San Jose Sharks - Dominated all season until recently. Still one of NHL’s top teams.
4. New Jersey Devils - Look out! Brodeur is back. Offense clicking. Stanley Cup dream is alive.
5. Washington Capitals - Solid team scraps their way to victories.
6. Philadelphia Flyers - Good but can’t get past top 4 teams on this list.
7 (tie) Carolina Hurricanes / Pittsburgh Penguins - Both teams streaking into playoffs (7-1-2 in last 10)
9. Vancouver Canucks - Goalie Luongo is red hot. Low PP% has cost them at least 10 wins.
10. New York Rangers - Coaching change (John Tortorellas) paying huge dividends. NYR back in Playoff picture.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Strange News & Ramblings

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-Digger’s Daily-

In reading up on sports headlines this morning a few of wacky stories caught my eye.

Shawn Johnson, 17 year old Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast, filed a restraining order against a psycho fan who jumped a fence trying to get onto Dancing With The Stars set where the show films. What is it with stalkers? Why bother? In this case, Johnson didn’t know her possible assailant. It’s a lucky thing for her security guards caught this guy before anything screwy happened. Found inside the psycho stalkers car was a loaded shotgun, a loaded Colt .45 handgun, Johnson memorabilia and duct tape. Anything could have happened if this psycho successfully got Johnson alone. Duct tape? Now, here’s the real kicker. A Los Angeles judge set bail at a very low $35,000! You’ve got to be kidding me. Oh yeah, a restraining order was issued stating the stalker cannot come within 100 yards of Johnson, her family and her DWTS partner.

How many more incidents must occur before judges in our country crack down hard on stalkers, rapers, child molesters and others threatening violence? All too often we hear terrible stories of how the court system releases nuts who then go out and do harm? Hopefully, this will not happen here. Only two nights ago, FOX’s Bill O’Reilly sent his crew to interview a Florida judge from a different case who let a repeat offender off easy.

Terrell Owens is back in the news. He’s skipping out on voluntary practices with his new teammates on the Buffalo Bills. T.O. is no stranger to criticism. Here’s a guy who has badmouthed every one of his former teams (San Francisco, Philadephia & Dallas). Publicly, no harm no foul is how Buffalo seems to be handling his absence. It’s just not the way to mesh with a new team. His presence would have boosted a team looking to regain respectability. Instead, mini-drama stories hit the airwaves of his no show. T.O. has never been, and seems as though he never will be, a team player. True to form for his entire NFL career!

Miguel Tejada faced sentencing as baseball’s “first” high-profile player convicted of a crime stemming from baseball’s steroids era. Most of the steroid attention focused on other players, The Mitchell Report, BALCO etc. Last month, the former AL MVP pleaded guilty to withholding information when questioned by a House committee’s investigator in August 2005 about an ex-teammate’s use of steroids and human growth hormone.

He received a relatively light sentence of one year of unsupervised release, 100 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. Now it makes me wonder what’s in store for Roger Clemens and the list of others in similar situations. Clemens case is a bit different due to the lengths he went to lie. My feelings towards this whole steroids mess has been well documented in previous blogs. Until baseball’s commissioner and owners face sanctions or fines… everything else is just a sideshow.

Don’t Mess with Texas…An over zealous Dallas area cop abused his powers during a traffic stop involving NFL player Ryan Moats who was rushing to the hospital to visit his dying mother-in-law. Apparently, Moats had rolled thru a red light shortly after midnight on his way to Baylor Hospital in Plano (Dallas suburb). The newly re-assigned cop was so insensitive to the situation that he threatened Moats with arrest. Moats was pulled over in the hospital parking lot. His wife and aunt got out of the car and hurried into the hospital as Moats voluntarily remained behind. He was not combative. Not disrespectful. He explained his story (all caught on police cruisers dashboard cam). The cop detained him nonetheless and repeatedly threatened arrest. Moats remaind detained even after hospital security and nurses came out to intervene.

Abuse of power? Racially motivated? Who knows. Sitting here in the peanut gallery I tend to think this cop was way out of bounds. Moats mother-in-law passed before he was free to see her. Part of a policeman’s job is to help people in duress, not create further duress. Flag this guy for an unsportsmanlike penalty!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Sports Rockers Out of Tune

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-Digger's Daily-

"Must Be the Money" ... "Letter from Home" ... "Got it Made"... Just a few titles from professional athletes with musical aspirations or hobbies. Good thing these musical amateurs have regular day jobs in the world of sports! Otherwise, they'd be in the long line of frustrated artists trying to earn enough for milk money.

One of the most famous tunes coming out of the sporting world was recorded by members of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears. The "Super Bowl Shuffle" (preview sound clip) became a sports hit overnight. It's fame was more for the colorful cast of Bears characters led by Refrigerator Perry, Jim McMahon & Walter Payton. It became an instant MTV classic even if eardrums burst nationwide.

Here's a brief list of various athletes giving it a go in the music world including brief sound clips:
Deion Sanders (NFL) - "Must be the Money"
Rocket Ishmail (NFL) - "Gotcha Looking"
Ozzie Smith (MLB) - "Cupid"
Coco Crisp (MLB) - "We Got That Thing"
Jeff Conine (MLB) - "Plush"
Aubry Huff (MLB) - "Letter From Home"
Omar Vizquel (MLB) - "Broadway"
Macho Man Randy Salvage (WWF) - "Macho Thang"
Rowdy Roddy Piper (WWF) - "For Everybody"
John Daly (PGA) - "Who's the Man?"
Chris Webber (NBA) - "Need Somebody"
Gary Payton (NBA) - "'Livin' Large and 'Legal'"
Allen Iverson (NBA) - "40 Barz"
Shaquille O'Neal (NBA) - "Shaq's Got It Made"

(more here from Shoutmouth.com)

I don't think pro rockers and rappers need to worry. It'll be a long long time before any pro-athlete records a platinum album any time soon!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

News Makers, Rumors, Champs & More Chumps

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-Digger's Daily-

It's been another wild week in sports news with much to discuss. It's been a week of good, bad and ugly. Let's begin with good stuff today before taking aim at the rest.

World Baseball Classic has been great fun to watch. In stunning fashion, the Netherlands disposed of a heavily favored Dominican Republic team... not once, twice! DR roster looks like Major League Baseball All Star team. David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada, Robinson Cano, Pedro Martinez and many rising stars. DR's pitchers gave up only one earned run in WBC play. It didn't matter as a gutsy Netherlands team stunned everyone by taking two.

Semi-Finals: USA vs Japan (Sunday 8 pm ET). This game could be an instant classic. USA is in a zone. Oswalt will take on Japan's greatest players. Boston's Dice K will take aim for Japan against his fellow major leaguers. USA will have their hands full trying to knock off a great squad. The Japanese team plays a very well disciplined game. USA will have to play their best brand of baseball without mistakes and deep pitching counts. I'm looking forward to watching this one!

NCAA Basketball Tourney got underway this week. Much to the delight of college basketball fans. Much to the dismay of CBS daytime soap opera fans. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski responded to President B.H. Obama's bracket predictions: "Somebody said that we're not in President Obama's Final Four, and as much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets." Duke reached the Sweet 16 Saturday night.

In the Midwest bracket, #13 Cleveland State stunned #4 Wake Forrest. Their next opponent is #12 Arizona who knocked off #5 Utah. The heat will be turned up with every game as team fight for survival. Great games have already been played. Many more to come!

Shaquille O'Neal has become the 5th all time scorer in NBA history (27,411) Saturday. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is #1 with 38,387. Shaq might of had a chance to reach as high as #3. Has anyone ever watched Shaq botch free throws? He's missed a few thousand.

New Jersey Devil Martin Brodeur is the NHL's all time winningest goaltender after breaking Patrick Roy's record. Martin has 523 wins and counting. He has showed no signs of slowing down. One of my favorite hockey players ever continues to shut down opposing teams. His '09 record is 15-3-2, 1.97 GAA with 5 shutouts. NJ is red hot and ready to make a run at another Stanley Cup Championship.

Pedro Martinez wants to be a NY Met again. His signing a few years back was a complete bust. Pedro spent more time on the disabled list than on the mound. However, he's healthy now for the first time in many years. He looked terrific in limited action for his Dominican Republic WBC team. He's willing to play for a very minimum salary. Mets, or any team in need of a starting pitcher, would be crazy not to take a chance by offering Pedro a modest salary.

2008 NHL Champion Detroit Red Wings took over as top point leader with 105. Detroit is red hot and suddenly looking ready to defend their title after a somewhat less than spectacular season in '09. There dead on right now. Playoff hockey will be stronger than ever. I'm rooting for New Jersey or Boston to dethrone Detroit.

Here we go again... Dante Stallworth (NFL, Cleveland Browns) struck and killed a pedestrian with his car in Miami Beach. Initial reports alleged Stallworth was legally drunk. The dui story has been debunked, for now, by Miami police who stated results are pending. I guess the phrase "dumb jock" lives on!

#2 goes to President B.H. Obama for comparing his bowling skills to Special Olympic participants. What seemed like an innocent joke on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has become somewhat of a media nightmare. One of Obama's biggest supporters, California First Lady Maria Shriver quickly pounced on his remarks stating laughing at such comments "hurts millions of people throughout the world." Obama later called Shrivers brother Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, to apologize. This episode fueled a minor media frenzy highlighting some of the many early gaffe's of our nations new administration as they struggle to stand on solid ground.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness...NCAA Tourney Tips Off!

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-Digger's Daily-

It's time for March Madness! NCAA Basketball Tournament has begun!

Did you get your bracket entries completed on time? (live brackets from SI.com). The big question surrounding office water coolers around the country is "Who will win it all?"
Everyone's an expert on picking the winner. Millions of pools from online to bars to offices have been filled out as fans attempt to secure bragging rights ... and money! Experts have been arguing up and down which team is the best. North Carolina? Louisville? Pittsburgh? Connecticut?

Memphis (ranked #2 in West) created quite a buzz this afternoon. They were nearly defeated by an energetic Cal State Northridge team leading in the 2nd half. Memphis' savior this afternoon was little known Roburt Sallie who played the game of his life. On the season, Sallie had averaged 4.5 points/game. Today, he nailed a record 10 opening round three pointers and finished with a game high 35 points on 12 of 17 shooting from the floor. Way to go kid!

NCAA Tourney is often filled with stunning surprises. Top ranked teams getting bounced early (Kansas was famous for early chokes)... stunning comebacks... big games from backups (Sallie)... and plenty of Dick Vitale ("That's Awesome Baby!").

So, who's going to win it all? Here's a brief summation of how my brackets look:

Sweet 16:
(1) Louisville over (4) Wake Forrest
(2) Michigan State over (3) Kansas
(1) Connecticut over (5) Perdue
(2) Memphis over (3) Missouri (Memphis almost blew it today)
(1) Pittsburgh over (5) Florida State
(2) Duke over (3) Villanova
(1) North Carolina over (4) Gonzaga
(3) Syracuse over (2) Oklahoma

Final Four:Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, North Carolina.

Champion: North Carolina.

Fairly safe picks this year. It's the first time in a long time I haven't gone after upset games. In years past, it was easier to foresee favorable "upset potential" games. This year, unless a low ranked team gets flawlessly hot... I don't see too many games of concern. That said... University of Connecticut (#1 South) seems banged up and out of rythm. Watching experts on ESPN, many seem to think UConn is destined for an early bounce. Out of the four #1's, UC is best suited to falter.

For those of you who have never watched college basketball... this is the real deal. NCAA Tourney represents basketball at it's finest. Don't miss out on Sweet 16 games thru to the Finals. Energetic kids playing without million dollar contracts, without million dollar endorsements, some without professional futures... all playing for one common goal without interferences of outside influences marginalizing a great sport.

Catch all the action live on tv or via www.allworldallsports.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wright's Hit Rescue's USA!

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-Digger's Daily-

Team USA survived elimination in dramatic style last night. NY Mets 3B David Wright (video) was the man of the hour after doubling home the tying and winning runs during a wild bottom of the 9th inning come from behind victory against Puerto Rico, 6-5.

Next up for Team USA is an excellent Venezuelan team. This is more or less a game to determine the higher seed for the Semi-Final round. USA injuries have mounted recently leaving manager Davey Johnson with a very slim bench and bullpen. As I type, USA is getting slammed 6-1. Most of the fans in attendance at Dophins Stadium (Florida) are not fans of Team USA. Venezuela faithful seem to outnumber USA fans 4-1... what's up with that?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Do Or Die for USA in WBC

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-Digger's Daily-

It's win or be done time in Miami for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. They'll be facing Puerto Rico who mercy ruled USA 11-1 on Saturday.

USA's hopes rest on the left shoulder of Chicago Cubs Ted Lilly (vs. Jonathan Sanchez). Injuries will have key players sidelined. 2B Dustin Pedroia, 3B Chipper Jones, RP Matt Lindstrom and OF Ryan Braun. Key players to be missing for an important elimination game (Braun might be available). There's plenty of depth on this team for manager Davey Johnson to fill a deep lineup.

Sometimes the problem with star studded teams is they seem to swing for the fences instead of playing baseball. Hitting, running the bases, advancing runners & making good outs instead of lazy flies or strike outs. USA is by far the most powerful hitting team on paper. That doesn't translate when getting creamed 11-1.

Today's game is a revenge do or die contest vs a very talented team. Winner plays Valenzuela in a game to determine who advances to the WBC Semi-Finals in Los Angeles.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Predicting Baseball's 2009 Award Winners

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-Digger's Daily-

It's time to gaze into my crystal ball for predicting baseball's award winners and leaders:

MVP: AL - Mark Teixeira (NYY), NL - Ryan Howard (Phi)
CY YOUNG: AL - John Lackey (LAA), NL - Carlos Zambrano (Chi)
MGR: AL - Trey Hillman (KC), NL - Dusty Baker (Cin)
ROOKIE: AL - Brett Gardner (NYY), NL - Gabby Sanchez (Fla)
COMEBACK: AL - Michael Cuddyer (Min), NL - Mike Hampton (Hou)

BATTING: AL - Kevin Youkilis (Bos), NL - Albert Pujols (StL)
HOME RUNS: AL - Jim Thome (Chi), NL - Ryan Howard (Phi)
STOLEN BASES: AL - Brian Roberts (Bal), NL - Jose Reyes (NYM)
WINS: AL - John Lackey (LAA), NL - Carlos Zambrano (Chi)
SAVES: AL - Jonathan Papelbon (Bos), NL - Francisco Rodrighez (NYM)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

2009 National League West Forecast

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-Digger's Daily-

Los Angeles trailed Arizona for most of ’08. In late August, LA had lost 10 of 11 games falling below .500 (68-70). Then came the much publicized trade for Boston star Manny Ramirez. When all was said and done, Joe Torre’s Dodgers were NL West Champs and swept the heavily favored Cubs in the NLDS. 2009 figures to be another dogfight between the division’s top two teams.

Los Angeles Dodgers (Mgr. Joe Torre)
Torre had sweet revenge in 2009. One of the greatest Yankees managers ever was shown disrespect and ultimately dismissed from NY after managing them to 12 consecutive Playoff appearances including 4 World Series Championships. Guess what happened next? Yankees floundered and failed to make the post season. Dodgers won NL West. Sweet revenge! Yes, baseball is a funny game.

Rotation: Billingsley, Kershaw, Kuroda, Wolf, ?? Setup: Kuo. Closer: Broxton. LA lost a couple of starters from last year and seem set to go with younger guns. Jason Schmidt has spent most of his short Dodger career injured after signing a $47M contract. He should finally be ready to join LA’s rotation. Bullpen strength is a must in ’09 to bail out starters. So far so good as this crew has live arms. Catcher Russell Martin has a keen understanding of pitch selection in addition to his timely hitting.

Around the Horn: Looney, Hudson, Furcal, Blake. Solid infield combination of speed, defense and clutch hitting. Ramirez superb LA stats over-shadowed one of LA’s unsung heroes…. 3B Casey Blake. Blake was another vital late season acquisition who helped LA win NL West. Furcal needs to remain healthy in ’09. New 2B Hudson is a gamer. Torre hopes experience takes 1B Looney to the next level.

Outfielders: Ethier, Kemp, Ramirez. Ethier & Kemp continue progressing quickly. Both are very good hitters. Manny was re-signed last week after months of on again off again negotiations. He’s a vital ingredient to this squad’s success. I’m expecting another mind boggling stat year from one of baseball’s top sluggers. Juan Pierre is the odd man out but Torre will find a way to get him into games.

Forecast: Starting pitching is LA’s only potential weakness. Solid defensive group. Steady and improving young hitters coupled with Manny’s power stroke will help Dodgers pass 90 wins. LA has been one of the games best organizations for finding and developing talent. Now it’s time for them to shine.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Mgr. Bob Melvin)
Melvin’s team has the potential to become a force in NL baseball. Maturity must take hold this year or another late season collapse may break up the D-Backs. This is a group without discipline on and off the field. A quick study of the following stats is self explanatory as to why Arizona failed down the stretch in ’08. Rally killing hitters...batter wiff totals: 204 – Reynolds, 165- Young, 121 – Upton (356 AB’s), 101 – Snyder (334 AB’s). Shockingly terrible. Time for another batting instructor! Until this team learns the strike zone… they’ll have a hard time winning games when it counts.

Rotation: Webb, Haren, Garland, Davis, ?? Setup: undecided. Closer: Quails. A bit shaky right now with injuries to #4 starter Davis and #5 unproven Scherzer. These guys might get hit hard. Bullpen is extremely thin. Quails will have problems as a first year closer. Inconsistent catcher Snyder needs to play better heads up baseball.

Around the Horn: Tracy, Lopez, Drew, Reynolds. Not great. Tracy has not turned into the player Arizona hoped he’d become. Lopez is the newcomer at 2B. Drew, another one time highly rated player, has terrible range at SS but can swing the bat (.295, 21 HR). Highly publicized 3B Reynolds was abysmal in the 2nd half. He finished with 204 strikeouts and 34 errors. This crew had better improve quickly if they want to win games.

Outfield: Upton, Young, Byrnes. A bunch of free swinging OF’s will make their share of errors too. Upton had 11 errors and 121 strikeouts in 108 games… absolutely pathetic. CF Young was swinging for the fences all season long after 32 dingers in ’08. He fouled up his swing to the tune of 165 strikeouts. Byrnes tries to return from leg injuries which derailed any chance of an effective ’08. These guys need to focus. A repeat of rally killing strikeouts will be duplicated again this season.

Forecast: I find it amazing Arizona was even in the hunt last year. This happens to be an extremely talented group which needs to learn how to play a “team” game. Until then, selfishness will kill their chances.

Colorado Rockies (Mgr. Clint Hurdle)
Hurdle’s team is two season’s removed from their spectacular ’07 which landed them in the World Series after an incredible victory streak in late September. They took their lumps last year and will be without one of baseball’s best pure hitter in ’09, Matt Holliday.

Rotation: Cook, Jiminez, Marquis, De La Rosa, ?? Setup: undecided. Closer: Street. Rockies starters always face potential trouble when pitching at home. Jiminez has the stuff to be a great pitcher for years to come. The others will probably get hit hard in ’09. Bullpen is pretty solid. Hudson Street will close games out if he can stay healthy. Chris Iannetta is on the path to becoming one of NL’s best catchers of this generation.

Around the Horn: Helton, Barmes, Tulowitzki, Atkins. A pretty solid infield if Barmes plays as expected. Helton’s stats have been deteriorating the past few years. Colorado needs him to bounce back in a big way. Tulowitzki had a tremendous rookie year in ’07 but the wheels fell off in ’08. Atkins is another one of baseball’s rising stars. These guys need to be on everyday if the Rockies want to contend.

Outfield: Hawpe, Spillborghs, Carlos Gonzalez. Hawpe is this groups natural hitter. Spillborghs & Gonzo get their first career cracks as starters. Their defense in spacious Coors Field must be near perfect or the starting staff is in deep trouble.

Forecast: Declining power totals + questionable fielding + not so hot starting pitching = trouble. Rockies know what it takes to reach the promised land. The foundation is set for future success.

San Francisco Giants (Mgr. Bruce Bochy)
Bochy has led SF to back to back 90+ losses after a great tenure with division rival Padres. Giants have a couple of great young arms. Biggest concern, can anyone hit a baseball out of the park? This team will be at the bottom of team homeruns.

Rotation: Lincecum, Cain, Johnson, Zito, Sanchez. Setup: Howry. Closer: Wilson. Lincecum (18-5, 2.62) was outstanding in only his 2nd MLB season. Cain could easily have won 14 instead of losing 14 but fell victim to shoddy defense and no run support. Randy Johnson was signed as a tutor to these young pitchers… and to show what’s left in his tank. Zito has been one of baseball’s biggest free agent busts after signing with SF in ’07. It might not matter how well these guys pitch if teammates can’t score runs.

Around the Horn: Ishikawa, Frandsen, Renteria, Sandoval. Opening day lineup could be quite different as position battles are still in progress everywhere except SS. Minimal big league experience and not much production from the other three pose big problems. Vets Uribe and Aurilia are fighting for starting infield jobs too.

Outfield: Winn, Rowand, Lewis. OF trio covers plenty of ground and will hit for respectable batting average. No hope in the power department. Not much to speak of as of now for backups unless a rookie or walk on player survives camp.

Forecast: Dire. SF is one of the games weakest hitting bunch with no true power hitter. Starting pitchers have great upside potential. Giants will need to win a bunch of 3-2 games…. Don’t bet on it! SF on pace to lose 90+ for years to come until they can rebuilt an offense.

San Diego Padres (Mgr. Bud Black)
Padres never fully recovered from 2007’s late September debacle. Last year was ugly. 2009 might be worse. SD tried unsuccessfully to trade star pitcher Jake Peavy during the winter. He’ll be gone by the trading deadline. SD has shed payroll at every opportunity. This club is spiraling downwards.

Rotation: Peavy, Young, Baek, Correia, Prior. Setup: Meredith. Closer: Bell. Peavy will be gone well before MLB’s July trading deadline. Prior is always one pitch away from injury. He’s still rehabbing and hasn’t pitched in one spring game yet. 2007’s strong first half bullpen threw away playoff hopes. In ’08, they just threw junk. It’ll be a mixed bag of platoon’s behind home plate this season which can’t be promising for the pitching staff.

Around the Horn: Gonzalez, Eckstein, Rodriguez, Kouzmanoff. Solid on the corners with slugging Gonzalez and slugger to be Kouz. Very weak up the middle with Eckstein moving to 2B and Luis Rodriguez manning SS. Don’t be surprised to see Eck return to SS with Edgar Gonzalez taking over at 2B. Middle infield needs help. They won’t get it.

Outfield: Giles, Gerut, Headley/Hairston. Giles is on the downturn of his career but still maintains a terrific batting eye. Gerut & Headley showed brief flashes of promise last year. Hairston will get plenty of AB’s as a reserve unless he wins the starting job this spring.

Forecast: Frigid. SD is facing an identity crisis. Clearly looking to slash payroll but with very few suitors to take on what’s left of high priced players. Padres haven’t won more than 90 games in ten years. At this rate, they’ll be losing 90 for the next ten.

Stay tuned for Awards predictions…..


Friday, March 13, 2009

2009 National League Central Forecast

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-Digger's Daily-

Chicago is favored again to win the NL Central. 100 years and counting since the Cubs last won a Championship. From curses to errors to chokes… a century of players haven’t solved their drought. 97 wins in ’08 was a NL best. However, they were quickly eliminated in three straight Playoff games for the 2nd consecutive season. Cubbies will dominate again this regular season before finding a new and innovative way to extend their streak. Dusty Baker will have fun and fits with his young Cincinnati team. They’ll score runs in bunches. Houston, St. Louis & Milwaukee are all searching for answers before teams break camp. Pittsburgh can’t seem to put it together. A promising team a couple of years ago now is hoping experience finally pays off.

Chicago Cubs (Mgr. Lou Piniella)
Piniella’s team has it all. Great hitting, great pitching, speed and defense. So why can’t they win a Playoff game when it counts? Cubs are poised to dominate the Central again in ’09.

Rotation: Zambrano, Harden, Dempster, Lilly, ??. Setup: Gregg. Closer: Carlos Marmol. Chicago’s front four make up the Central’s deepest staff. 5th nod is up for grabs between two hopefuls enjoying great springs (Marshall, Samardzija). ’09 is Marmol’s first as a closer. He’ll get plenty of save chances picking up where quality starts leave off. A solid group of relievers will keep Piniella from throwing fits. Rising star catcher Geovani Soto is quickly becoming one of baseball’s premier players.

Around the Horn: Lee, Fontenot/Miles, Theriot, Ramirez. Solid group flashes leather and produces at the plate. I’m expecting all of them to put up big numbers in ’09.

Outfield: Bradley, Fukudome, Soriano. Milton Bradley brings his flamboyant style to the Windy City. Perhaps, he’s just what this team needs to loosen up in October. Then again, he’s been accused of disrupting one of his former teams. Fukudome wound up in Lou’s doghouse last year. If he starts slowly, Reed Johnson is ready and waiting to take over. Soriano is deadly when healthy.

Forecast: Cubs set to run away with Central. 100+ wins is easily within reach.

Cincinnati Reds (Mgr. Dusty Baker)Baker’s bunch plays an exciting brand of baseball. Do not be surprised to see them challenge Chicago for division honors. I see them more of a viable Wild Card candidate. It just might happen if their pitching staff plays big.

Rotation: Harang, Volquez, Arroyo, Cueto, Owings. Setup: Weathers. Closer: Cordero. Reds rotation has tremendous upside. Volquez & Cueto are unhittable when on their game. Arroyo gives innings. Harang needs to rebound after a less than stellar ’08. Chicago better not get to comfortable believing they’re the best. Cincinnati’s gaining quickly. Free agent catcher Ramon Hernandez should enjoy hitting friendly Central ballparks. His numbers should improve in Cincy.

Around the Horn: Votto, Phillips, Gonzalez, Encarnacion. Young guns will be tested this year. Votto had a great rookie year in ’08. Phillips is a top tier 2B. Gonzo and Encarnacion will need to develop better batting eyes and cut down on fielding gaffs. It’s only a matter of time before this infield starts earning attention.

Outfield: Bruce, Taveras, Hairston. Bruce was impressive during his rookie season. Sophomore jinx or the real deal? Baker hopes he’s ready for prime time. Taveras brings speed (68 steals in ’08). Oft injured Hairston continues to receive chance after chance by various teams. He’s never lived up to the hype. Waiting in the wings is Chris Dickerson.

Forecast: Reds might be a year away from becoming playoff contenders. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if they qualify in ’09.

Houston Astros (Mgr. Cecil Cooper)Cooper seems firmly in control of his team. Fundamentally sound baseball and remaining relatively free of injury are the keys for Houston. It’ll be a rough ride trying to catch Chicago. 2nd place can be had.

Rotation: Oswalt, Rodriguez, Hampton, Backe, ? Setup: Hawkins. Closer: Valverde. Oswalt is the only proven gun. Astros have been high on Rodriguez for years… in ’08 he finally showed why. Hampton will try, again, resurrecting a career nearly ended by multiple injuries. Backe returns as starter #4. Hard throwing bullpen will help put out fires. Lineup weak spot is catcher. They’re not the best game callers either. Houston should try to sign free agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Around the Horn: Berkman, Matsui, Tejada, Blum. Berkman is a professional hitter who doesn’t get cheated at the plate. Matsui has become a solid 2B. Tejada’s power numbers have declined. No surprise since he was once a juicer. Blum is another lineup weakness. Thin depth offers few solutions if the DL comes into play.

Outfield: Pence, Bourne, Lee. Prince and Bourne continue to develop. Lee provides power and clutch hitting. Erstad & Jason Michaels are the backups looking for as many AB’s as possible.

Forecast: Bland. Maybe they’ll win a few, maybe lose a few? Middle of the road Astros will not be a playoff contender.

St. Louis Cardinals (Mgr. Tony LaRussa)After 100 games in ’08, Cards were 57-43 trailing 1st by 2 games. They finished 11.5 games out. LaRussa has a few new faces in the field and one returning stud on the hill. I don’t envision StL putting up any sort of serious challenge.

Rotation: Wainwright, Carpenter, Lohse, Wellmeyer, Pineiro. Setup: undecided. Closer: undecided. It’s tough heading into the regular season without a proven closer. Rotation is all righties. Carpenter returns after a long injury rehab. He’ll be counted on to keep Cards competitive. Vet Yadier Molina, known for defense, hit .304 last year. Can he do it again?

Around the Horn: Pujols, Schumaker, Greene, Mathier. Not enough praise can be given to Pujols, both on and off the diamond. One of baseball’s greatest ever pure hitters has many stellar years to go. He’s StL only lock for this infield. Schumaker has had a rough transition learning 2B this spring. He will make at least 30 errors if LaRussa refuses to use a regular 2B type. Kevin Greene has faded in recent years. Mathier is another conversion experiment. Cards infield might be worst majors has seen in recent years.

Outfield: Ludwick, Ankiel, Duncan. These three swing for the fences. Ludwick came out of nowhere last year hitting 37 round trippers. Will he do it again? Probably not as I peg him to nail 20-25 this year. Ankiel has been a StL fan favorite since day one. It’s great to see him back in the majors playing well (converted from pitcher to CF).

Forecast: Don’t expect many positive reports coming out of Cards camp this summer. Too many experiments with key infield positions will have pitchers beating up water fountains. Distant 4th.

Milwaukee Brewers (Mgr. Ken Macha)How quickly the mighty dismantle. Milwaukee had risen out of mediocrity in recent years behind a gutsy pitching staff and powerful hitting. The pitching is now gone (Sabathia, Sheets). Hitters remain but play inconsistent defense. Macha’s Brewers were predicted by many to be Central champs in ‘07/’08. These guys are horrific by making bad outs. Hitters must learn the strike zone. They all strike out way too much to be successful for the long haul. They’ll be lucky to break even.

Rotation: Gallardo, Bush, Suppan, Looper, Parra/ McClung. Setup: undecided. Closer: Hoffman. Trevor Hoffman deserved a better send off out of San Diego. He’ll take over here hoping for many save opportunities (good luck). Rotation isn’t going to strike any fear into slugging NL lineups. Not much depth to be found anywhere on this staff. Light hitting Kendall is back doing the catching.

Around the Horn: Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Hall. Slugging weak fielding Fielder leads the attack. He’s a liability at 1B on defense… as are the rest of these infielders. Inconsistent fielders & hitters who strike out way too much.

Outfield: Hart, Cameron, Braun. These 3 can play. Cameron is best known for acrobatic defensive plays. Hart & Braun are rising slugging stars. Braun is already an MVP caliber player. As with infielders, strike outs will be costly.

Forecast: Not good. They have a shot at finishing ahead of StL if they play fundamental baseball (don’t count on it). Temporary lapses will cost these guys dearly.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Mgr. Frank Coonelly)The Bucks are one of the teams I previously thought would accomplish similar feats along the likes of Tampa, Florida or Colorado style. Young talented starting pitchers, solid up the middle defense and nearly everyone an above average hitter. Finding a winning formula never materialized. They’ve earned a last place ranking heading into ’09 (which means they’ll win it all… not).

Rotation: Maholm, Snell, Duke, Gorzelanny, Karstens. Setup: undecided. Closer: Capps. At one time or another, these front four all showed flashes of future stardom. Unfortunately, they never managed to get it right at the same time. If they can get it going a first half wild card challenge is in the mix. Don’t bet on it but there is serious talent on Pittsburgh’s mound. Bullpen is another story but it’s usually because of severe mid-season burnout. Doumit’s the man behind home & will have a big year..

Around the Horn: Adam LaRoche, Sanchez, Wilson, Andy LaRoche. Andy has been a perennial slow starter in Pittsburgh contributing to lousy team April results. Brother Andy hasn’t shown much but the job is his to win or lose. Middle infielders solid and can hit.

Outfield: Morse, McLouth, Pearce, Monroe. McLouth will try improving on a great ’08 season. He’s the real deal. Walk on player Craig Monroe has been on fire this spring. He nailed 3 homers Thursday raising his total to 6 this spring. Pirates would be nuts not to give him a shot at starting. Morse and Pearce are a work in progress and haven’t been guaranteed a job just yet.

Forecast: 2009 looks like a long year for Pirates fans. Until they learn to win in April, there will be no talk of September’s. Time for Pittsburgh to prove their worthy of charging admission to the public!

Stay tuned… NL West up next!


Thursday, March 12, 2009

2009 National League East Forecast

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by Digger

The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies wasted no time boasting of their lock on winning consecutive World Series. Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins have called division rival New York “choke artists” after Met back to back September failures. Atlanta might be on pace for 14 straight years of non-titles after more than a decade as East champs. Never count out the Marlins. Perennial youngest team is a wild card contender. Washington is the cellar dweller.

Philadelphia Phillies (Mgr. Charlie Manuel)The Champs added Raul Ibanez to the NL’s deepest team. Speed, power, pitching & defense. Manuel’s team will win 100 games.

Rotation: Hamels, Myers, Blanton, Moyer, Kendrick or JA Happ. Setup: Madson. Closer: Lidge. Gutsy cast of characters led by Cy Young candidate to be Cole Hamels. Ageless Moyer returns after leading Phils with 16 victories in ’09. J.A. Happ is only moments away from joining the big league staff. He’s been impressive this spring. Phillies staff will get deep into games. Bullpen is tough as nails but short on lefties. Ruiz & Coste will share catching duties.

Around the Horn: Howard, Utley, Rollins & Feliz. Howard (’06) & Rollins (’07) have recently won MVP awards. Utley could be next. Hands down, NL’s best hitting infield. Great defense up the middle. This bunch will come to play every day.

Outfield: Werth, Victorino, Ibanez, Jenkins. Ibanez stats should explode in his new home park after playing in pitching friendly Safeco. He’ll have plenty of RBI chances and could creep into an MVP caliber season. Solid defensive group.

Forecast: All systems go. Phillies will run away with NL East unless over confidence crumbles their game. Doubt it. Phils on pace for 100+ victories.

New York Mets (Mgr. Jerry Manuel)Where has the Mets magic gone? Back to back gut wrenching September failures. Gone is Shea Stadium. Replaced by new Citi Field (a.k.a. Bail Out Park, a.k.a. Taxpayer Field). Citi Bank is locked into a $400M sponsorship deal with the Mets for naming rights to the new stadium in Flushing. GM Minaya’s mission this off season was to strengthen their biggest weakness, relievers. Record breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez (62 saves) and JJ Putz have been brought in to shut down teams in 8th & 9th. However, getting there will difficult behind NY’s starting staff. Manuel’s slated to tinker with the batting order. Speedster Reyes will hit 3rd, 2B Luis Castillo to lead off. IS HE CRAZY? Reyes is one of the game’s best leadoff hitters. There are far better run producers who should be batting 3rd. I do not like this move one bit. September woes will not happen this season. April might shower their season early on.

Rotation: Santana, Pelfrey, Maine, Perez &?? Setup: Putz. Closer: Rodriguez. Santana is baseball’s best lefty but had early spring arm concerns. His health is suddenly in question. Pelfrey is a rising star. Maine had a rough time last year and has been off so far this spring. His #3 slot is essential to NY having a shot this year. Perez resigned after little free agent interest from other clubs. You never know which Perez will show up… wild man or untouchable. 5th slot is in shambles. Pedro remains unsigned after being one of the biggest busts in Mets history. The competition is between Freddie Garcia, Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding … all have been blasted this spring. They’re best days are long behind. Signing Pedro cheap makes sense if he can be had. Promote a hard throwing rookie. Something other than what’s on paper now. Schneider is not one of the better pitch calling catchers. He needs to start working OT with his staff.

Around the Horn: Delgado, Castillo, Reyes, Wright. Early season success is key in ’09. Delgado was out of synch in the 1st half before catching fire in July. Reyes has stolen 262 bases leading off since 2005. Manuel wants him batting 3rd. Ugh! Wright needs to find his clutch stroke this year. Way too many missed chances with games on the line. NY’s infield defense is one of baseball’s best.

Outfield: Church, Beltran, Murphy, Tatis. Rookie Murphy has won the LF job. It could be rough going if he falters. Beltran has been one month on, one month off two years running. RF can use a boost. Church is not the answer. Tatis will get plenty of AB’s filling in at multiple positions (LF, RF, 3B, 1B, PH) but lacks range.

Forecast: Magic is often found when christening new ballparks. The Mets have great defense and solid hitters. Question remains as to when they’ll finally put it all together? Phillies have challenged them. Phillies have insulted them. Mets have suffered two terrible Septembers. No team has more incentive to win than New York.

Florida Marlins (Mgr. Fredi Gonzalez)Young Marlins teams have been finding ways to win for years. Clearly one of baseball’s best scouting & farm systems cranks out future stars yearly. Problem is there’s rarely enough money in the kitty to keep them in South Florida. Marlins’ lineup has the potential to be explosive. Are their young pitchers ready to handle a long 162 game season?

Rotation: Nolasco, Johnson, Volstad, Sanchez, Miller. Setup: undecided. Closer: Lindstrom. Young, unproven bunch should receive plenty of run support. Throwing strikes and staying ahead of hitters is paramount to success. Lindstrom gets first crack at closing games. Bullpen might be a bit thin and overworked by the end of May. Catcher’s duties are up for grabs. None figure to contribute much run production.

Around the Horn: Cantu (Sanchez), Uggla, Ramirez, McPhearson (Cantu/Bonifacio). Many options are being considered this spring. Slugger Cantu (defensive liability) will start somewhere depending on spring battles. Cantu starts at 3B if rookie Gaby Sanchez wins the 1B job. Or, Cantu might start at 1B if rookie Emilio Bonifacio wins a job. Slugger to be McPhearson is also battling at 3B. Gonzalez will figure this one out soon enough. Uggla & Ramirez are two of baseball’s best. Marlins will be fielding plenty of inquiries around MLB’s trading deadline.

Outfield: Ross, Maybin, Hermidia. Corner OF’s Ross & Hermidia have huge upside potential. Big power numbers shouldn’t surprise anyone but they’re both probably one year away. Speedy Maybin is counted on to ignite Florida’s attack.

Forecast: Marlins will be streaky. This group will battle hard every game. Are they ready for prime time? Don’t be surprised if Florida is in wild card contention on September 1.

Atlanta Braves (Mgr. Bobby Cox)Volatile manager Bobby Cox is still one of baseball’s best. His team has aged before his eyes. New recruits have shown flashes in recent years. However, it’s been without enough consistency to keep Atlanta winning. Fans south of the border have complained I’m underestimating their beloved Braves. Lack of hitting power will make it hard for Atlanta to keep up with more potent attacks.

Rotation: Lowe, Vasquez, Jurrjens,??,?? Setup: Soriano. Closer: Gonzalez. Hudson is on the 60 day DL. Glavine’s return is on hold due to injury. This staff is hurting. Back end starters are struggling this spring. Cox entire bullpen figures to be burnt out early. NL backstop Brian McCann is one of baseball’s best.

Around the Horn: Kotchman, Johnson, Escobar, Chipper. 15 year vet 3B Chipper Jones hit a career best .364 during an injury riddled ’08. He’s already fighting an oblique strain. He’s one of baseball’s class acts. No signs of slowing down when he’s on the field. Keeping him there is another story. No power from the remaining infielders. Escobar needs to play mistake free SS.

Outfield: Francouer, Josh Anderson, Garret Anderson. Francouer struggled all of last season after a solid ’08. Josh A. is unproven but ranks high on Cox list. Garret Anderson has always been one of my favorite players. Steady (career .296), clutch, team oriented player makes his NL debut after spending 15 seasons as an Angel. He’ll be a force unless nagging injuries slow him down, again. Matt Diaz will get some AB’s vs lhp to give Garret some time off.

Forecast: Too many ifs keep Atlanta ranked in lower half of NL East. Cox will have to work miracles. It’s going to be a long summer in Hotlanta.

Washington Nationals (Mgr. Manny Acta)This team has been rocked by injuries nearly every season. Nats have some raw undeveloped talent. Question is when or if they’ll ever get it together?

Rotation: Lannan, Olsen, Hill, Cabrera, Ballister. Setup: undecided. Closer: Hanrahan (who?). Washington’s staff will be battered all season long. Shell shocked midway through May. Daniel Cabrera was signed after spending missing the strike zone in Baltimore. The others will tough it out. No upside to report here.

Around the Horn: Johnson, Belliard/Hernandez, Guzman, Zimmerman. 1B Johnson has played only 38 games in the past two years. He always seems to be one play away from getting hurt. Rookie Anderson Hernandez battles Ronnie Belliard for the starting nod at 2B. Guzman and Zimmerman are fine players roaming the diamonds left side.

Outfield: Dukes, Milledge, Dunn. Potentially explosive OF led by slugging Adam Dunn (40 or more HR’s 5 straight years). Dunn might see extensive time at 1B which is probably best for Nats chances to win. RF Dukes is tearing it up this spring. He needs to make headlines with good play instead of bad personal life choices. Milledge was a Mets future star. He’s a natural five tool player yet to reach full potential. Austin Kearns, once labeled a rising star, is an oft injured player who never lived up to the hype. He make get plenty of chances if Dunn takes over at 1B.

Forecast: Dark clouds hovering around Washington on the diamond too. It’s going to be a very long year in DC for Nationals fans. 100 losses could be on the way.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2009 American League West Forecast

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by Digger

Mike Scioscia’s Los Angeles Angels have dominated the AL West winning 4 division titles in 5 years. It won’t come easy this season. Oakland has made big strides re-assembling their team with a few big sticks to compliment their pitching staff. As always, injuries might derail their season. Texas ownership still hasn’t learned good starting pitching helps win championships. Seattle went bust last year and is rebuilding.

Oakland Athletics (Mgr. Bob Geren)
Injuries have really hampered the A’s chances in recent seasons. They’re already a bit dinged up this spring but I’m picking them to win anyway. GM Billy Beane signed a couple of big sticks (Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi & Orlando Cabrera) . Oakland has a very deep bench which will come in handy when players end up on DL. Everything will have to click just right to overtake LA. This could be their year.

Rotation: Duchscherer, Gallagher, Eveland, ??, ?? Setup: Devine. Closer: Ziegler. Front 3 are set, but might not be ready for opening day. Final two slots yet to be named. A few wicked arms in the mix. A’s bullpen is lights out. If the starters can go 6 strong innings odds are the A’s will win more than they lose. Ziegler is a nasty closer. Devine was untouchable in ’08. A’s have mastered tutoring young pitchers. Let’s see if they can handle a pennant race. Geren will have to manage his pitching staff wisely this year. Steady Kurt Suzuki calls the shots and contributes with his bat.

Around the Horn: Barton, Ellis, Cabrera, Chavez. Barton is developing into a solid 1B and should see better pitches with new look lineup. Giambi will get a few starts when he’s not DH. Ellis & Cabrera form a great dp duo. Chavez health is of concern once again this spring. He hasn’t played a full season in years. Nomar Gariciaparra was just signed. He’s always hurting too but has plenty of gas left in his tank when healthy. Depth includes Bubba Crosby (most likely to start at 3rd if Chavez can’t play). Smart hitters and solid defenders backing up young pitchers.

Outfield: Cust, Sweeney, Holliday. Solid group here. Holliday’s first full season outside of Colorado. Cust clocked 33 last year. Slick fielding Sweeney will contribute too. Geren will have a tough time cutting players. A talented group of backup OF’s playing hard to make the big league club.

Forecast: After a busy off-season, deep A’s squad ready to take the West. Health is issue #1. Backups will get it done. Rotation holds key to success… or doom.

Los Angeles Angels (Mgr. Mike Scioscia)LA’s solid top to bottom. Unfortunately, they too have health issues entering ’09. Vlad Guerrero, Matthews, Santana, Weaver & Escobar attempt to get back into playing form. Entire infield missed time last year.

Rotation: Lackey, Santana, Saunders, Weaver, ?? Setup: Shields. Closer: Fuentes. Angels cautiously optimistic their front four starters will be ready to go. Injuries will challenge this team’s ability to win big games. Missing in ’09 is Francisco Rodriguez record breaking 62 saves. New closer Fuentes has already pulled up lame with back spasms. Mathis & Napoli split time catching this group.

Around the Horn: Morales, Kendrick, Aybar, Figgins. Free swinging, slick fielding, speedy contact hitters will drive opposing pitchers crazy. Surviving DL stints is key to success. All have spent extended time healing in past seasons. Depth is very thin.

Outfield: Guerrero, Hunter, Rivera, Abreu. Abreu was a late free agent pickup. He’ll compliment this team very well. He could be the only player with more than 60 walks in Angels free swinging lineup. Guerrero has fought off nagging injuries lately… and might see plenty of DH time with Abreu filling in RF. Rivera has never played a full season. Not sure why everyone seems to be high on this kid. He has never lived up to flaunted potential. Hunter remains one of baseball’s premier CF.

Forecast: It’s going to be a very challenging season for Scioscia’s Angels. Injuries will mount. Lack of patient hitting might cost games. LA might not make the playoffs this year. One major factor in their favor… A’s just as banged up! LA is a Wild Card contender.

Texas Rangers (Mgr. Ron Washington)Not much good news for Rangers fans heading into ’09. Management refuses, or doesn’t know how, to find quality starting pitching. They’ve been terrific at trading away future stars. Andruw Jones will try resurrecting his career after failing miserably for Torre’s Dodgers in ’08. Michael Young moves over the 3rd making way for rising star SS Elvis Andrus. Oft injured starter Kris Benson was signed (why?). Not much else has changed.

Rotation: Millwood, Padilla, McCarthy, Harrison, Feldman, Benson. Setup: undecided. Closer: Francisco. No pitcher on this will strike fear into rivals. None could crack top 3 in any other rotation. Starters figure to get shelled all season long. No real life or fantasy value. Bullpen will suffer from too many appearances and will wind up being a revolving door. Terrible staff. Jarrod Saltalamacchia begins the year as everyday catcher.

Around the Horn: Davis, Kinsler, Andrus, Young, Blalock. Future star Andrus takes over at short. Blalock becomes DH/1B. Young moves to 3rd. Davis at 1B. New positions for everyone except 2B Kinsler. Expecting a lot of errors. Texas will probably lead the league in runs allowed.

Outfield: Hamilton, Jones, Cruz, Murphy. Josh Hamilton had a season to remember. He played large all season and electrified an All Star crowd in Yankee Stadium with a monstrous display of power during the Home Run Contest. He’s moving to RF so Jones can man CF. LF might become a Cruz/Murphy platoon. Too many if’s here. These guys do not impress unless AJ returns to form.

Forecast: Doom and gloom. Rangers continue to ignore their most pressing needs, again. Pitching, pitching, pitching. This team will never contend until they find pitchers to shut down opposing teams. Only one thing can keep them out of last place……… Seattle.

Seattle Mariners (Mgr. Don Wakamatsu… who?)This club has fallen on hard times. Not too long ago Seattle won 116 games (2001). Last year, 101 losses and should be considered lucky not to have lost 115. This will be a restart season. There is some talent on this squad as they play for respectability. It shouldn’t be too hard to pass Texas in the standings. Who else can they beat?

Rotation: Hernandez, Bedard, Morrow, Washburn, Smith, Silva. Setup: undecided. Closer: Mark Lowe. Bedard was to be ’08 prized starting pitcher free agent pickup. Arm troubles killed any chances of contributing. Hernandez is a big time talent. Everyone else needs to rebound. Overall thin starting unit. Bullpen assignments yet to be determined but it’s clear… no one really stands out here. Catcher Johjima was terrible on both sides of the plate last year (.226, 8 errors, 8 passed balls).

Around the Horn: Branyan, Lopez, Betancorte, Beltre. Branyan as an everyday 1B? This move could hurt. Not much depth behind the starters. Mike Sweeney will be given a shot at making this club. He’s a great hitter when healthy… (only one season playing 120 games since ’03). Good news is this group can make a few defensive plays.

Outfield: Ichiro, Gutierrez, Griffey. Ichiro is a lock. I was hoping he’d get traded to Mets but no such luck. Gutierrez will have to earn his keep playing in spacious Safeco. Griffey will play LF but his lack of range might hurt staff. He’s best suited for full time DH. Lack of depth isn’t helpful if Junior gets hurt or if Gutierrez can’t handle everyday play on a major league level.

Forecast: Seattle to battle Texas. Loser owns last place in AL West. Not much on the horizon for this team. Thin prospects. Tight budget. Aging stars.

Stay tuned for National League predictions. NL East on deck.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2009 American League Central Forecast

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by Digger

American League Central 2009. Baseball's anything can happen division. Last year, this division was decided by a one game sudden death Playoff. Chicago won a nailbiter over Minnesota 1-0 for the crown. Plenty of "what if's" when teams break camp in a couple of weeks. No single team stands above the rest. The experts are divided. Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota have been predicted to win. Not in my book! Here's how they'll finish in '09:

Kansas City Royals (Mgr. Trey Hillman)Ok, call me crazy. I’m picking Kansas City. Why not? In 2007 it was Colorado stunning the baseball world. Last year, Tampa Bay came out of nowhere. This year, my sleeper team is from Missouri. The Royals made some key upgrades and are serious about 2009 becoming their first playoff appearance since 1985 (World Series Champs).

Rotation: Projected to be Meche, Greinke, Bannister, Davies, Ramirez. Setup: Juan Cruz. Closer: Joakim Soria. 1 thru 3 is set with spring contenders fighting for final two starting assignments. KC’s bullpen is deep. Very deep for the first time in years. It will be up the the starting staff to pitch deep into contests. Then it could be lights out for opposing hitters in late inning situations. Many strong arms compete for bullpen duties this spring. Kyle Farnsworth could be the go to guy in middle innings. Soria will shut the door and pick up plenty of saves. Miguel Olivo will probably get most chances behind the dish to handle this group. He’ll also provide much needed offensive pop. This staff reminds me of Tampa’s heading into last year. No one expected too much up front… but they quickly gelled and propelled TB to AL East crown. If the pieces fall into place, KC will stun Central foes.

Around the Horn: Jacobs, Teahen, Aviles, Gordon. Did you say who? All of these young infielders are primed for a breakout season. Mike Jacobs crushed 32 homers for Florida in ’08. Teahen & Gordon are two home grown talents needing to show maturity at the plate by cutting down on strikeouts. Both are solid hitters and will have plenty of opportunities to deliver. Aviles hit .325 in limited starts last year. These four players must come thru when it matters most. Strikeouts will be rally killers. They must, and will, play smart ball to create runs. Their defense will be a pleasant surprise to a pitching staff hampered by past poor play.

Outfield: Guillen, Crisp, DeJesus. Guillen finally has help in KC’s new look lineup. Crisp in CF is an instant upgrade. DeJesus has proven he can handle anyone’s nasty stuff. Defensive range and strong arms will keep opposing hitters from gambling for extra bases. Not much depth behind this starting crew. Injuries could be costly.

Forecast: You’ve read it here first. Royals will win AL Central division title. They have all the ingredients. Pitching, hitting, speed & defense. Can they put it together to produce wins? Yes!

Cleveland Indians (Mgr. Eric Wedge)2008 was supposed to be Cleveland’s year after winning the Central in ’07. They sputtered out of the gate and never really contended. Cliff Lee (22-3) was their only effective starting pitcher and he wasn’t even projected to make the opening day rotation last spring. Many questions surround this club. Picking them 2nd might seem crazier than KC in 1st. Then again, this is the anything can happen AL Central.

Rotation: Lee, Carmona, Pavano are 1-3. Setup: undecided. Closer: Kerry Wood. Wedge will decide his final two this spring. Potential here can swing either way… very good or very bad. Lee will not reproduce ’08 numbers but will be very good once again. Everyone else needs to prove prior successes weren’t flukes. Tribe signed oft-injured Wood to close games which was quite a gamble. Bullpen must put out fires set by starters or Cleveland could easily become a last place team. Behind the plate is Kelly Shoppach who displayed home run power in ’08. He’ll have to keep pitchers under control.

Around the Horn: Garko, Cabrera, Peralta, DeRosa. Peralta (SS) anchors this infield group. Not much power from these guys so hitting with runners in scoring position becomes extremely important if this team expects to win games. 2nd base remains a problem position. Cabrera is not the answer unless his defensive prowess hides a weak bat.

Outfield: Choo, Sizemore, Francisco. Not good. Not good at all. Sizemore is great but might not see many good pitches to hit in ’09 as lineup protection is lacking. Choo & Francisco haven’t cashed in on brief opportunities. Very risky to have these guys open the season. It might work out.

Forecast: Cleveland will only go as far as their pitchers take them. It doesn’t look good to me on paper. Indians will finish a distant 2nd to KC. Don’t be surprised to see these guys finish dead last.

Chicago White Sox (Mgr. Ozzie Guillen)Outspoken manager Guillen will have plenty to crow about this year if Chicago starts slowly. This squad has the tools to win the division if starting pitchers do their job. Infield defense might cost this team many victories.

Rotation: Buehrle, Floyd, Danks, Colon, Contreras. Setup: Dotel. Closer: Jenks. Front three will provide innings. Colon & Contreras fighting their way back from nagging injuries remain brittle. Spring contenders are highly rated within the organization but haven’t proven themselves on the pro level. Jenks is a dominating closer when he’s not walking himself into trouble. Sox pen gives away too many free passes. If this continues water coolers beware for firecracker Guillen to start swinging. AJ Pierzynski calls the shots behind home plate. He’ll be busy with this wild bunch.

Around the Horn: Konerko, ??, Ramirez, Fields. Konerko had a subpar ’08 and might be facing declining years. 2nd base job will be won in spring training. There’s no clear cut leader here. Rookie Gordon Beckham is having a nice spring trying to win a job. Alexi Ramirez played mostly 2b last year will begin ’09 as the everyday SS. Josh Fields smacked 23 homers in ’07 as a rookie 3B but spent most of last year struggling in minors. As a group, these guys aren’t going to scare anyone. Defense will suffer. OBA is low and strikeouts high… a terrible combination. Baseball’s worst infield heading into 2009.

Outfield: Dye, Owens, Quentin. Very strong corner OF’s (Dye/Quentin) are gamers. Both hit for power. OF defense is another concern for Guillen. If Owens fails to produce, Brian Anderson will be waiting to take over. His D is pretty solid but he can’t hit. Not much depth if someone gets hurt.

Forecast: Slugging Vet Jim Thome needs to step into a leadership role if Chicago plans on challenging this season. Offense strikes out way too much. Defense is very shaky. As a result, pitchers stats will be ugly. Guillen’s antics might get him canned. GM should be first to go for assembling this group. Anything can happen here but middle of the road seems to fit.

Detroit Tigers (Mgr. Jim Leyland)Heading into ’08, the Tigers appeared to be ready to dominate the American League. A great young and improving starting rotation. Deep bullpen. Slugging lineup. They had made several great acquisitions (Willis, Cabrera) and were predicted to win. We were all dead wrong. Detroit stumbled early and often. The pitchers weren’t good and defense even worse. Not much has changed heading into ’09. However, if the rotation can bounce back then better days ahead. Don’t count on it yet.

Rotation: Verlander, Bonderman, Galarraga, Jackson, Willis, Robertson. Setup: Zumaya. Closer: Lyon. Armando Galarraga was the lone bright spot for baseball’s most underachieving ’08 staff. Verlander, Willis & Robertson imploded. What’s in store for ’09 is probably more of the same (I expect Verlander to return to form). Brandon Lyon is the new closer. Don’t expect much from a guy with a career 4.46 era. Bullpen is hurting. Many competing for a few remaining slots. New weak hitting signal callers, Laird & Treanor, will have their hands full with this erratic staff.

Around the Horn: Cabrera, Polanco, Everett, Inge. Cabrera is one of baseball’s best hitters but defense is a liability. He’s gone from LF to 3B to 1B in his brief Tiger career. Polanco/Everett should be a fine dp combo. Corner inf’s swing big sticks. Everett will need to advance runners with bunts or smart outs.

Outfield: Ordonez, Granderson, Guillen. Gary Sheffield is finally mentally ready to be Detroit’s full time DH. Carlos Guillen is slated to be Tigers everyday LF. This move should guarantee another injury plagued year. Granderson keeps improving and Ordonez is Detroit’s Mr. Clutch. All 4 can hit and will knock in their share of runs.

Forecast: I had predicted Detroit to challenge for the Title last year. They failed miserably. If pitchers struggle, Tigers will have a dismal season. If staff bounces back, then the skies the limit.

Minnesota Twins (Mgr. Ron Gardenhire)This is one team no one should pick for last place. Gardenhire knows how to tweak every last ounce of energy from his players. They don’t dominate games. They just find a way to win. In ’08, they nearly scrapped and clawed their way to the AL Central title. A one game sudden death playoff 1-0 loss to Chicago sent the Twins home. Lack of power will finally catch up to this crew in ’09.

Rotation: Liriano, Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins. Setup: Crain. Closer: Nathan. It seemed as though Twins starters made big pitches in key moments all year long until a Jim Thome homerun ended their season in sudden death. Don’t expect the same in ’09 as Twins will be trailing thanks to a less than productive offense. Except for Nathan, bullpen will be challenged and over worked all year long. Joe Mauer is one of baseball’s best hitting catchers. However, his surgically repaired back is still bothering him causing Minnesota great concern this spring.

Around the Horn: Morneau, Casilla, Pinto, Crede. Morneau represents the Twins only power threat. Bank on him not getting very many good looks at the dish. This weak lineup offers him no protection. Infield defense on the speedy Metrodome turf will be challenged with Casilla/Pinto dp combo playing their first full season together. Crede was picked up from Chicago offers some pop as a middle of the road 3B. These guys will not produce many runs unless they’re given a ton of free passes (not likely).

Outfield: Cuddyer, Gomez, Young, Kubel. Not exactly top 10 picks in fantasy baseball leagues. Cuddyer is hoping to return to ’07 form. Speedy ex-Met top prospect Gomez (CF) is a star in the making. He must cut down on strikeout totals (142 in 577 AB’s) to become an effective hitter. Pretty solid defense but it doesn’t offset their collective lack of production. Kubel will DH.

Forecast: Gardenhire’s seven year tenure has produced 4 division titles and a near miss in ’08. The run is done. 2009 will be an instructional year. Pitching, hitting, infield defense all need improving. On paper, this team does not match up will with division rivals. Games are won and lost on the field. Minnesota will lose 90+.

Stay tuned... American League West on deck!


Monday, March 9, 2009

2009 American League East Forecast

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By Digger

Baseball 2009 is here! Everyday this week I will be posting my predictions on a division by division, team by team format. First up, American League East:

New York Yankees (Mgr. Joe Girardi)
It’s going to be a big year in New York. The New Yankee Stadium debuts this season. The Bronx Bombers attempt to rebound after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1994. Yanks were busy adding new faces this winter. CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira & AJ Burnett are the prized (and very well paid) acquisitions.

Rotation: Sabathia, Burnett, Wang, Pettitte, Chamberlain. Set up: undecided. Closer: RiveraFront 4 starters are locked in and will give solid quality starts. Sabathia, Burnett & Wang could all be Cy Young candidates. Pettitte is a NY favorite and still has some gas left in his tank. Joba Chamberlain as a starting pitcher is a tremendous mistake. The Yanks best World Series teams had lights out bullpens. Rivera is recovering from off season surgery and there’s no clear cut set up man. Joba + Rivera are the Yanks best option. Joba should be in the process of being groomed as Yanks closer of the future. Instead, he’s being moved into the rotation. Big mistake! He walks too many hitters as a starter… while striking fear into batters coming out of the pen in late game situations. Bullpen assignments to be determined this spring. Catcher Jorge Posada battled nagging injuries last year and must rebound to handle this strong staff.

Around the Horn: Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, Rodriguez (out until June). Baseball’s best infield? Mark Teixeira will prove to be the best free agent position player NY has signed in years. Tremendous skills at the plate and in the field. He hasn’t reached his prime yet and will continue to improve unless the New York night life becomes a distraction. Cano had a terrible ’08 and should return to his clutch hitting ways. Captain Jeter needs to remain healthy. He had an inconsistent ’08 and really needs to “lead” in ’09. ARod is out 6-9 weeks. As of now, reserve Cody Ransom is slated to fill in. Yanks need to find a two month 3B. Another Scott Brosius/Charlie Hayes type player is what’s needed. If Ransom is named the starter… all he has to do is field his position well and improve his bunting skills.

Outfielders: Damon, Matsui, Nady, Cabrera, Swisher. It’s deep here which should be a great bonus for Girardi. Yanks bench is AL’s best. All had less than stellar ’08 performances. Centerfield D is key here. Whoever wins the spring training battle (Cabrera or Swisher) will need to play big in the field and cut down on strike outs at the plate. It’ll be Damon in LF and Nady in RF.

Forecast: Most feared lineup in AL now has pitching support and improved defense. NY can survive without ARod with solid defense on the hot corner. Yanks will win no less than 105 games assuming key pitchers remain healthy.

Tampa Bay Rays (Mgr. Joe Maddon)
Tampa was 2008 Cinderella story. Never having won more than 70 games in their brief history… Tampa Bay outplayed Boston & New York for AL East Title (97 wins). Maddon’s team then bested Chicago in ALDS before stunning Boston in ALCS to qualify for their first World Series appearance. Can they repeat as AL East champs? Not this year.

Rotation: Kazmir, Shields & Garza were tough in ’08. David Price is a future star and is projected as #4 with Sonnastine 5th. Setup: Balfour. Closer: Percival.Will there be bumps in the road this time around? Just a gut feeling says yes. Rays rotation might quickly become the gem of the division in years to come. It’s their bullpen which could cost them a shot at repeating as division winners. Percival is brittle but brilliant when healthy. We’ll soon find out if the rest of the relief crew can recreate ’08 success or return to earth in ’09. I think TB will have plenty of bullpen struggles this season. They’ll be overused and burnt out by short outings by starters.
Around the Horn: Pena, Iwamura, Bartlett, Longoria. This crew will need to play stellar defense for pitchers to succeed. Hitting will be wait and see. They’re not big on batting averages but make up for it with late inning clutch swings.

Outfielders: Crawford, Upton, Joyce & Burrell will provide range but will they hit? Crawford flashes a great combination of extra base hits, speed and base running ability. Upton and Joyce are free swingers needing better command of the strike zone. Burrell figures to see more time at DH than LF.

Forecast: Rays will challenge for another playoff appearance. Not enough power at the plate to keep up with NY this year. Bullpen will not duplicate ’08 performances. Talented team on the rise falls short in ’09.

Boston Red Sox (Mgr. Terry Francona) Red Sox want another World Series crown. Health will be the main concern. If they can stay healthy Boston will be one of baseball’s best. Don’t count on good health. Depth off the bench won’t be enough to beat out NY or keep up with a younger Tampa group.

Rotation: Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester, Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz. Setup: undecided. Closer: Papelbon. Looking great on paper. Looks might be deceiving. 2 keys here: is Lester for real? And, can Penny/Smoltz get healthy enough to contribute? BIG questions in my book . Papelbon is one of baseball’s best. Red Sox high on Justin Masterson’s future. Catcher Jason Varitek is AL’s best signal caller from behind the plate. JV gets the best out of his staff. Unfortunately, his hitting skills took a year off in ’08 and almost lead to not being resigned. Let’s see if he can get it together in ’09.

Around the Horn: Youkilis, Pedroia, Lowrie, Lowell. Left side is question mark. Is Lowrie an everyday SS? No. Lowell has been one of Boston’s steadiest contributors but has been running into health issues lately. Pedroia at 2B one of AL’s best. Youkilis is Mr. Clutch.

Outfield: Bay, Ellsbury, Drew are the starters. None strike fear into opposing staffs. Ellsbury finally takes over everyday duties but will not live up to local fan expectations. I’ve never been a fan of oft injured Drew dating back to his earliest hold out days. This trio is Boston’s weakest outfield in recent memory. I’m happily surprised GM Epstein didn’t upgrade!

Forecast: Francona will have his team ready to play every game. Too many aging stars who might be on downturn of career and players injury concerns sink Boston into 3rd (Penny, Smoltz, Lowell, Varitek, Ortiz). Has David Ortiz nagging wrist fully healed? A healthy Big Papi is needed to carry Boston’s less than powerful offense. A healthy team challenges NY. This Band-Aid bunch will make plenty of DL trips.

Baltimore Orioles (Mgr. Dave Trembley)
When will the Orioles return to respectability? This once great franchise has floundered under Peter Angelos ownership. It’s been one bad move after another. They are five managers removed from their last winning season (1997 1st place, Davey Johnson, 98-64). 2009 team has a pretty solid lineup. Pitching staff is weak.

Rotation: As of this moment, no clear cut rotation in place. Closer: George Sherrill. Jeremy Guthrie & newcomer Koji Uehara figure to be 1-2. Trembley might close his eyes and pull names out of a hat for 3 thru 5. On the upside, a couple of talented pitchers are in the mix (Baez, Hendrickson). Orioles biggest problem has been pitchers falling behind hitters and issuing free passes. Bullpen assignments have been a dogfight this spring as pitchers battle for innings. Baltimore will have some tough cuts before opening day.

Around the Horn: Huff, Roberts, Izturis, Mora. A solid infield with a good mix of speed and power. Defense will dramatically improve up the middle with Baltimore’s addition of Izturis. O’s got killed last year by seeing-eye grounders. All four have good plate discipline. Behind the plate on opening day might be one of baseball’s top prospects, Matt Wieters.

Outfield: Markakis, Jones, Pie, Scott, Wigginton. Markakis is a rising star. Trembley has high hopes for Adam Jones quick improvement. I’d like to see Ty Wigginton take over at 3B and Mora move into LF. Wigginton is steady at third and can hit. Mora is better suited to handle the switch. O’s picked up Pie from Chicago but he’s not the answer in ’09.

Forecast: Run producing offense coupled with run surrendering pitchers will make for exciting box scores. Orioles will finally become fun to watch but will continue losing more games than they win. These birds remain in a no fly zone.

Toronto Blue Jays (Mgr. Cito Gaston).
Cito Gaston has always been one of baseball’s most underrated managers. Guess what? Toronto hasn’t won a division title since Gaston’s final season (1993 World Champions). He came back to inject some life into this club after John Gibbons was canned mid-season. 2009 will be rough north of the border. This is not a good team and attendance will be one of AL’s lowest quickly highlighting potential economic doom for Toronto.

Rotation: Halladay, Litsch, Purcey are 1-3. Closer: BJ Ryan. Halladay might be a cost cutting trade bait move mid-season. He’s one of the games best hurlers. Purcey is high on Toronto’s radar. Gaston will decide who rounds out the last 2 slots between 5 pitchers. Bullpen has been this teams Achilles heel in recent seasons. BJ Ryan needs to stay away from the DL. Jays pen is anything can happen. Cito will pick the best of the bunch but this division is too tough for on the job training.

Around the Horn: Overbay, Hill, Scutaro, Rolen. Good but qualifies as divisions weakest. No power and possible short range up the middle. Not good when playing most games on turf. Overbay lacks power and Rolen is brittle. Kevin Millar will get some time vs lefties and fill in as DH from time to time. Not many runs will be produced by this crew.

Outfield: Rios, Wells, Snider, Lind. Question marks. Rios (RF) & Wells (CF) are great when healthy. Wells is already missing spring games. Thin OF.

Forecast: Toronto will give up many runs. Injury prone players visit DL. It’s going to be a very long year for Blue Jays fans.

Stay tuned...... American League Central on deck!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Baseball 2009 Predictions

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by Digger

Baseball's regular season just around the corner. Many MLB stars are currently representing their homeland during this years World Baseball Classic. All others are prepping with their teams in Spring Training.

There will be a handful of teams with new look rosters in '09. A few big names have found new homes. Philadelphia Phillies will be trying for a repeat World Series Title. Tampa Bay Rays looking to win it all this time after knocking on the door in '08.

Who will win it all in '09? Below is how I rank all teams. Coming soon... an in depth team by team synopsis from top to bottom featuring different divisions on a daily basis.

American League
1- Yankees
2- Rays
3- Red Sox
4- Orioles
5- Blue Jays

1- Royals
2- Indians
3- White Sox
4- Tigers
5- Twins

1- Athletics
2- Angels
3- Rangers
4- Mariners
Wild Card: Angels

National League
1- Phillies
2- Mets
3- Marlins
4- Braves
5- Nationals

1- Cubs
2- Reds
3- Astros
4- Cardinals
5- Brewers
6- Pirates

1- Dodgers
2- Diamondbacks
3- Rockies
4- Giants
5- Padres
Wild Card: Mets

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cowboys Drop Terrell Owens!

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by Digger

Terrell Owens has done it again. Talked & played his way off of another NFL team. TO's career stats look great on paper until realizing he's a pass dropping, team chemistry destroying, trash talking former player from championship calibur underachieving teams.

During the Cowboys disappointing 2008 season, TO had many verbal spats with teammates, coaches and media types. This guys mouth has over shadowed talent. It all began from his days as an up and coming star wide receiver with the San Francisco 49ers. TO was putting up good stats but seemed to drop key passes with games on the line. Quickly became a verbal distraction when times were challenging (a trait perfected). He publicly and proudly slammed team members all too often.

Philadelphia, starving for a game changing WR, took a chance on the disgruntled 49er. It seemed like a perfect fit for a team on the verge of a Super Bowl Title. 2004 was TO's first in Philly. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl and lost to New England 24-21. Afterwards, TO slammed Eagles QB Donovan McNabb (who tired late in the game). Owens, often sounding like a fool in desparate need of a left hook to the jaw while keeping up relentless criticisms of McNabb and Head Coach Reid until Philly finally had enough. Eagles cut him loose after 2005 season.

Dallas was next up. A young team on the rise under legendary coach Bill Parcells. If there was ever a coach to handle this crazed player... it was Parcells. Lackadaisical practice habits, bad press, fighting with teammates and trash talking rumors surrounded his first year in Dallas. They collapsed down the stretch in '07 during Tony Romo's famous Cabo vacation right before the NFC Championship. In '08 TO's mouth sounded off all season long. Paranoia seemed to set in when TO started talking conspiracy theories of how Romo & tight end Witten were teaming up against him by designing plays excluding their loudmouth WR. This became a public fued and distraction. TO then sounded off on Cowboys Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator. On the field, TO wasn't playing 100%. He seemed to give up on pass routes. He spent many games roaming up and down the sidelines screaming at players.

If this guy could have managed to keep his energy focused on playing football instead of trash talking ... TO would have been one of the games greatest. There was always a mind numbing distraction coming from this guy. The Cowboys finally had enough and terminated his contract. Now, TO is a free to sign with any team willing to take a chance. There are many teams who could use his on field talents. Wonder how much it would cost to keep his mouth shut? Chicago, Miami, NY, Green Bay and a select list of others might come knocking.

I believe there's one team extremely eager to gobble him up. Washington Redskins. Washington and Dallas are arch rivals. Their team owners despise each other. NFC East is football's best (Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins). Skins are itching to build a Championship team. Washington is the logical solution to satisfy self gratifying revenge against Dallas & Philadelphia while improving an offense in need of shock treatment.

Wherever he lands.... buyer beware! TO is NFL's version of the good, bad and ugly.