The Minnesota Twins have a long history of pulling all the right strings in order to give their team the best chance to win the AL Central given minimum resources. However, someone in the organization who is soon to be fired, if they have not been fired already, lobbied for and won the decision to have Target Field, the new $390 million dollar home for the Twins, as an outdoor facility (no retractable roof, nada). In case you aren’t familiar with general geography – Minneapolis, Minnesota, is about as far from an ideal local for an outdoor ballpark given the Major League schedule as Seattle, Washington, is a great place for Gizmo (from the movie Gremlins, you’ll have to Google it if you were born in the 90s).
The average high temperature in Minneapolis won’t get into the 60 degree range until April 20th, 8 days after the Twins hope to open the season on the 12th. The Twins always seem to press the right buttons and make the most out of minimal resources, but will the Metrodome magic be gone in Target Field? Are the Twins going to be the same kind of force in the AL Central without the home field advantage of the baggy in right field? I for one, say, not even close.
After the 40 runs scored this weekend, a more appropriate title for the Alabama song should be “Song of the Shox.” The 25 Annual South Alabama Classic took place this weekend in Mobile, Al. Eastern Michigan, North Florida, Wichita State, and South Alabama made up the four team tournament. Games began Friday, and wrapped up this past afternoon with the championship.
When talking about underrated pitchers we don’t expect the names to be of the household variety. We don’t usually expect two of them to pitch on the same team. And we definitely do not expect them to pitch in Colorado. Despite this, Ubaldo Jiminez and Jorge De La Rosa fit the “underrated” mold perfectly. Very rarely do Colorado pitchers make a run at “ace” status, but Jiminez is doing just that. Call him a “soft ace” for now as his control still leave’s something to be desired, but looking at his last two full seasons we can see a star in the making. 2008 was Jiminez’ first full season in the bigs and he was pretty impressive for a rookie, sporting a 3.99ERA with 172Ks in 198.2IP. As young pitchers often do he had some control trouble, walking 103 which contributed to a base choking 1.44WHIP. In 2009 Jiminez improved all his peripherals, became a standout pitcher and the ace of the Rockies staff. His second straight season with 33+ starts saw him with a 3.47ERA with 198K’s in 218IP as well as lowering his H/9 and BB/9 and bringing his WHIP down to 1.22. Walks were still a problem, however, with 85 in those 218IP. All of this while pitching in Colorado and not mentioning that he just turned 26 in January of this year. A rising strikeout rate and falling walk rate both point to Jiminez having another great season in 2010.
With spring training now in full swing, I’ll address just a few questions about the National League East…
Will Jayson Werth shave his magnificent beard, or will he summon it’s powers to help earn a long term contract? Werth, coming off a career year in 2009, is due to become a free agent after the 2010 season. With another year similar to the one he had last year, he could be looking at a contract similar to what Jason Bay earned this past off season. Think something like 4 years/$60 million. Can the Phillies afford that? With Ryan Howard due for an extension after the 2011 season, many believe it’s one or the other. The lanky righty, who looks like Grizzly Adams in Right Field with a cannon arm and a nice mixture of power and speed, or the slugging First Baseman who is just about a lock to smack 45 round trippers and drive in 140 runs but strikeout nearly 200 times? Time will tell, but my money is on Howard getting the extension and Werth taking a walk, sadly.
Enstiein said the defintion of insantiy is, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Enter Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella, who stubbornly refuse to believe a lead-off hitter is needed (or at least useful) in this complicated game of baseball. Instead, they keep rolling out the same old same old year after year, unhappy players playing out of position and in the wrong roles and continue to believe that the players, not the management, needs to make the adjustment. Can’t get on-base, can’t drive them in, can’t get anyone who knows how to pitch in the 8th or 9th innings.
The one good thing they managed to do this off-season was find a someone to do them a solid and take Milton Bradley off their hands. They found their huckleberry in the Seattle Mariners, who gobbled up free agents the past couple months like game balls in a Hungry Hungry Hippos contest.
Brian Cashman and Theo Epstein have the money, but Andy McPhail gets the GM of the Year Award in the American League East for very quietly putting together a team built with a core group of young talent and inexpensive veterans. Impact prospects for 2010 include catcher Matt Weiters, LHP Brian Matusz, RHP Chris Tillman, and OF Nolan Riemold while 3B Josh Bell and 1B Michael Aubrey are not far off from being terrific Major Leaguers in their own right. Past All-Stars Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Brian Roberts are in their prime, while veteran additions of RHP Kevin Millwood, 3B Miguel Tejada, 1B Garrett Atkins, and LHP Mike Gonzalez could help the O’s be the Rays of 2008. Yeah, I said it.
The Angels lost three key contributors to free agency this off-season with the departure of Chone Figgins (Seattle Mariners), Vladimir Guerrero (Texas Rangers), and John Lackey (Boston Red Sox) all leaving via free agency. These three have contributed in major ways to the Angels success in winning the AL West five of the past six years and have to look to new faces to fill these roles, with the same leader Mike Scioscia working his magic as manager. Scioscia, now the longest tenured manager in baseball with ten years under his belt will continue to be the great leader he is.
My friends over at www.dictionary.com offer the following definition of hype – “Excessive publicity and the ensuing commotion.” Such is the case with Braves 20-year old outfielder Jason Heyward, who has a chance to be the opening day starter in LF for the Braves.
In case you don’t follow minor league baseball or the MLB draft, Heyward was recently tabbed as the #1 prospect in MLB by MLB.com. To give you an idea of how highly people think of him, the #2 prospect by MLB.com is a 6’4″, 220-pound, 22-year old named Stephen Strasburg, who throws 103 miles per hour and has Olympic experience under his belt, pitching for Team USA in the 2008 Bejing Games.
Fellow Braves had a chance to add their sound byte to the Jason Heyward prospect profile – keep in mind while reading these that he has 11 at-bats above triple-A.
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As if the LA Dodgers didn’t have enough weighing them down this off-season with the on-going legal depute over team ownership as if it was the family cat during the McCourt’s divorce proceedings, Manny Ramirez threw a dagger into the heart of team moral yesterday when he was quoted saying 2010 would be his last in LA.
“I already accomplished all the things I wanted to accomplish,” Ramirez said. “For me, all this is just extra. I know I’m not going to be here next year, so I just want to enjoy myself.”
I’m not sure anyone expected the aging slugger to stay in the National League with his defensive ability receding faster than his hairline, but it certainly can’t sit well in the clubhouse that your left fielder has admitted to having one foot out the door given the current state of the Dodgers. Stay hot, Manny.