Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Looking Back; The AL East - Predictions and Reflections

Throughout the off-season, I'm going to take a look at what I have said during the course of season and some predictions I made before play started in 2007.

Today, it's the AL East's Turn as I did the AL West several weeks ago...


Boston Red Sox (96-66), World Champions:

This is what I said: After a season of spending a few bucks to strengthen the team, New England and Red Sox Nation will be waiting for the 2007 season with great anxiety and anticipation. It’s a forgone conclusion with the additions and the mainstays that the team will be competitive and Fenway will be rocking for Ortiz’s exploits and dancing when “Sweet Caroline” blazes.

Will this season get them into the playoffs and more importantly, dethrone the hated New York Yankees from supremacy in the American League East? Will the disappointment of 2006 end up in 2007 to be another 2004?

Only time will tell.

My Take Now: As we all know, the Red Sox took it at all in 2007 and it was no surprise; however, I did not have them taking the division. The pitching was strong throughout the season, and the young guns; alas, Schilling, an old hand, came through in the playoffs.

The Red Sox were strong from top to bottom, and the emergence of youngsters such as Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, Papelbon all came through and showed they could play on the highest stage. Plus, with a minor stock full with talent and veterans on the roster Ortiz, Beckett, Vartiek, and Ramirez around perhaps for another year, the Red Sox should be one of the best, if not the best team in baseball.

The only question is will the Sox re-sign Lowell, and bypass A-Rod? From my point of view, it’s a forgone conclusion – Lowell is the perfect fit for that team and he should be re-signed. Schilling may be gone, but he was an integral part in the Sox being champs twice in a 4-year period.


New York Yankees:

What I said: The Yankee brass and their fans expect big things from their players in 2007. With the highest payroll in the game comes huge and perhaps sometimes insane expectations, but the players in Bronx know now it’s the only way it can be.

Cashman now it seems has the power wants and has learned to not mortgage the future for the present. The Yankees should be the favorites once again to the win the East, but getting to the World Series is much easier said than done.

My Take Now: The Yankees as we all know are in a period of flux. Despite their amazing come back to itch into the playoffs, they have many weaknesses that were exposed; therefore, their period of dominance may come to end sooner rather than later.

In spite of the last statement, the New York still is better than ¾ of the teams in baseball, but it all depends on what happens in the off-season. If the Yankees don’t re-sign A-Rod in free agency, it will be hard to find someone to fill that big offensive hole.

The starting pitching looked average at best, but the emergence of youngsters such as Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain not only gave the Yankees a fighting chance, but perhaps helped them improve in the future. Add a prolific offense that beat up on mediocre pitching, the Yankees were able storm back.

Jeter had a solid season, as did Rivera, Cano, and Matsui; meanwhile, A-Rod and Posada has career years. Sadly, Damon and Giambi struggled with injuries leading them to career lows.

Wang was strong, but Mussina struggled at times and has started looking his age now.

Torre perhaps did his best managing ever with the team in 2007; however, with him being gone, will Joe Girardi keep the winning tradition in New York?

In addition, what role will the Steinbrennber brothers have in the ownership saga? Will the Yankees depend on young talent or return to their free spending ways?


Toronto Blue Jays:

What I Said:The Blue Jays in 2007 are primed to take on the powerhouse rival Yankees and Red Sox after a successful 2006 campaign. While the Blue Jays have a great offense, and deep bullpen, the pitching situation will be the deciding factor whether the team becomes a contender or regresses. With the improvements and additions that both the Yankees and Red Sox made, the Blue Jays have a difficult task ahead of them in 2007.

My Take Now: The Blue Jays finished where I expected them to finish. Even though the Blue Jays looked to have a relatively strong offense on paper, injuries derailed the team north of the border.

The pitching was shaky, and Roy Halladay’s absence during a portion of the season pretty much added to the problems they faced. Even though they finished with a respectable record, they faced an uphill climb from the onset with the powerhouse Yankees and Red Sox ahead of them.

It will be seen what the Blue Jays do in the off-season, but they look like they will have a good squad in 2008.

Baltimore Orioles:

What I Said: In the end, the Orioles need to decide whether they want to compete or rebuild. On paper, they look slightly better than what their 70-92 record indicates, but in my eyes, it looked like a lot of the players were not trying and accepted the way things were.

However, I think we are quite a bit away from contending, but if all goes well a .500 record is attainable. There needs to be a plan with the organization, whether to rebuild around Tejada, and get the bats we need, or perhaps consider trading our strongest chips, outside Bedard, Cabrera, Markakis and Loewen and see if we can get young talent under our control to compete perhaps in ’09 or ’10. The team looks to be greatly improved on paper, but as of now, we are no where near the Yankees, Red Sox or Blue Jays in terms of talent. We’ll have to see how the young pitching develops and if Markakis turns into the next big thing.

If competing and contending ever becomes palatable again here in Baltimore for the Orioles, there are more changes to be needed with the makeup of this team.

My Take Now: Looking back at these paragraphs nearly seven, eight months later, I could not see at the time how right I was an Orioles’ fan. Well, we finished with a worse record than in 2006, and things seem to not have not gotten better -- in fact, they are far worse.

I'm not going to repeat the problems with the team, but we know that Bedard has emerged as an ace for the team, and Guthrie was a diamond in the rough. Adam Loewen got hurt, and Cabrera, well, he's not improved.

The expensive bullpen was a bust, and the offense outside of Tejada, Markakis and Roberts was mediocre at best. There is major turnover in the staff, and front office, plus there will be more moves to come in terms of player personnel.

Baltimore will need to rebuild, there’s no choice now.


Tampa Bay Devil Rays:

What I Said: For the near future, it does not look like the Devil Rays will have much of a shot at contending in the well-stacked American League East, but the team has several building blocks to improve for years to come.

It looks like the team is making progress in terms of being a competitive team under new ownership, but as Tampa is a small market team, the new few years may also be growing pain, as they will have to build from within and develop talent than obviously improve on the free agent market.

The young core of the team may surprise, but it may be last place of for the Rays again in ’07 in the AL East.

My Take Now: It was another last place finish in 2007 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays; however, if I were a direct competitor of theirs in the AL East, I’d keep my eye on this team.

In light of their record, Tampa has a lot of promise as an organization and on the field. The offense looks to be solid with Crawford at the top of order, along with the emergence of B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, and blue-chip prospects in the minors.

If the Devil Rays could find two more top-flight young or veteran pitchers, along with a stronger bullpen, the days of them finishing the second division could be coming sooner rather than later.

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susan mullen said...

A caller to WFAN brought up the idea of Miguel Tejada as Yankee 3B. Of course, the Orioles and Yankees may never agree to trade under any circumstances. But I was wondering if you thought Tejada's character issues, ie clearly didn't want to be on the field half the time, complained, etc., were bad enough to avoid him under any circumstances.

sager said...

The Jays had shaky pitching? Yes, having the second-best ERA in the American League (third-best when adjusting for home ballpark) is shaky.

The Jays offence killed them, even when healthy.

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