Sunday, April 02, 2006

TATB's Amazingly In-Depth 2006 Baseball Preview!

. . . Also known as A Half-Formed Sentence Or Two On Every Team, Compiled At 2 a.m. After One Too-Many Skunked Shipyards. Enjoy nonetheless.

(Teams listed in order of predicted divisional finish)


AL EAST
Boston Red Sox:
Schilling and Foulke look healthy, Manny and Papi are poised to put up 90 homers and 290 RBIs between them, the defense has improved, the effervescent Covelli Crisp appears capable of replacing Johnny Damon in every way, the bullpen is deep, Beckett is the right pitcher in the right place at the right time, and hell, even mummified Mike Lowell is showing signs of life . . . yep, you're damn right I like this team.

New York Yankees: I forget, when does Johnny Damon officially become a True Yankee? It's when he gets his stitches removed from the neutering, right?

Toronto Blue Jays: J.P. Ricciardi seems intent on challenging the '03 Red Sox' record for Most 3B/1B On A Roster To Begin A Season. Nope, I don't believe the hype, though they apparently are, uh, a close-knit bunch.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Jorge Cantu: A swing like Piazza, a face like pizza. (I know, I know. So uncalled for.)

Baltimore Orioles: Talented wild child Daniel Cabrera could blossom under Leo Mazzone's watch, but it will take a true miracle worker to make this poorly constructed team (Millar and Conine?) competitive in the mighty AL East.


AL CENTRAL
Cleveland Indians: Signed for the longterm, Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta are positioned to accomplish more as a core than Belle, Thome, Ramirez and Baerga ever did.

Chicago White Sox: Thome and Vazquez make the champs better on paper, but Ozzie's zany band of misfits and lunatics could have a hard time matching last season's special chemistry. (How the hell the magic happened with Carl Everett in that clubhouse . . . well, some things are just inexplicable, I guess.)

Minnesota Twins: By my calculations, Johan Santana '06 equates to Ron Guidry '80. Very good, but no longer transcendent.

Detroit Tigers: George Mitchell might want to cast a suspicious eye toward the atrophied Pudge Rodriguez.

Kansas City Royals: Move along . . . nothing to see here . . . move along, people . . .


AL WEST
Oakland Athletics: Flamethrowing Rich Harden gets all the hype, but for my money Danny Haren is the superior pitcher. I still don't understand why Tony La Russa never used him again after his stellar relief effort in Game 1 of the '04 World Series. I guess I just don't understand his genius.

Los Angeles Angels: Expecting a breakout from Ervin Santana, the unsung hero of their ALDS victory over the Yankees. Expecting a breakdown from Francisco Rodriguez, who will soon have Dr. James Andrews on speed dial if he doesn't clean up his elbow-snapping pitching mechanics.

Texas Rangers: (Begin petty, irrational whining): Yeah, yeah, hindsight is 20/20 blah blah blah . . . but dammit, I can't help it. If only Dan Duquette had given high-school slugger Mark Teixeira the extra few thousand bucks he wanted to sign after the Sox chose him in the ninth round in '98. (End petty, irrational whining).

Seattle Mariners: Words to mark: King Felix is worthy of every single word of praise. Hernandez '06 could replicate Gooden '84 . . . and dare we say even '85?

NL EAST
Atlanta Braves:
What is it now, 14 straight division titles? Amazing. The Braves don't look as strong as they have in the past, particularly if Jeff Francoeur really can't hit a breaking ball, but then, you never bet against a streak, right?

Philadelphia Phillies: . . . well, except for this streak: The hunch here is that Joltin' Jimmy Rollins's 36-game hit streak doesn't make it to 37. But Rollins is a cool, charismatic player, and I am pulling for him to pick up where he left off.

New York Mets: If Pedro's troublesome toe keeps acting up, Omar Minaya is soon going to understand why the Red Sox were so reluctant to give the fragile ace a long-term deal.

Washington Nationals: Alfonso Soriano plays the outfield like he's afraid of stepping on a landmine. Whether that's because of incompetence or indifference remains to be seen.

Florida Marlins: In 1972, Steve Carlton went 27-10 for a Phillies team that won just 59 games. And that right there is about the only ray of hope we can offer 22-game winner Dontrelle Willis that this season won't be a colossal letdown for him personally.


NL CENTRAL
St. Louis Cardinals: Years ago, the Cardinals had a first baseman named David Green. While he was adequate in his early big league trials, he was considered advanced for his age and thus a primo prospect . . . at least until he reportedly turned out to be several years older than the Cardinals thought he was. Needless to say, he didn't last much longer in St. Louis, or anywhere else in the majors. So why do I bring this up? Two reasons: 1) Sometimes I can't control my Inner Cliff Claven when it comes to useless baseball knowledge. Dork! 2) The current Cardinals first baseman simply must be older than his listed age, because it boggles the mind that Albert Pujols could be so talented, so mature and so accomplished in the big leagues at 26.

Milwaukee Brewers: They're probably not ready for prime time quite yet, but Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder and several of their talented young peers make this the most intriguing Brew Crew ballclub since Harvey's Wallbangers were ripping up the American League two dozen seasons ago.

Houston Astros: "Okay, Roger . . . yes, yes, we agree to play all our home games in your backyard . . . yes, and your three youngest boys can be our starting outfielders . . . uh-huh, and Andy Pettitte can change his last name to Clemens and pretend he's your son . . . yes, all the Krispy Kremes you can eat, Roger, they're on the house . . . okay . . . yep . . . we'll get you a crate of Vioxx and a Whizzinator . . . oh, the Whizzinator's for the Mrs.? . . . my bad, sir. . . and Koby starts over Ensberg at third? . . . sure, okay . . . so that should about do it, right? . . . you promise you will will come back and pitch for us now, Roger? . . . please? . . . pretty please? . . . "

Chicago Cubs: Believe me, as an unabashed Orlando Cabrera fan and as the owner of roughly 1,918 pieces of memorabilia from the 2004 Red Sox season, I have zero complaints about that summer's pivotal Nomar deal. But just one question: Has it ever been adequately explained why the Red Sox also had to give up budding slugger Matt Murton?

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Bay is one of the premier players in baseball, a 26-year-old fantasy-league stats monster who won the Rookie of the Year award in '04, then put up .306-32-101 numbers last year. So I've gotta ask: How is it that he's on his fourth (Expos, Mets, Padres, Pirates) organization already? For heaven's sake, he was traded in a 2-for-1 deal for '03 Red Sox temp Lou Collier. How did this happen?

Cincinnati Reds: Bronson Arroyo is battling Aaron Harang for the title of No. 1 starter. If that isn't a reminder of how fortunate we are to root for the Red Sox, I don't know what is.

NL WEST
Los Angeles Dodgers:
Call 'em the Red Sox West: D-Lowe, Nomah, Billy Ballgame, and of course, Grady Gump. You bet I'll be watching and rooting for them.

San Diego Padres: Jake Peavy, the best pitcher no one on the East Coast has actually ever seen, wins the Cy Young.

San Francisco Giants: Balco Barry will catch The Babe, but his knees and psyche will crumble under the weight of it all before he can catch Hammerin' Hank. And all things considered, I'm okay with that. I just wish he'd go away.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Okay, how the bleep did Tony Clark hit 30 homers last year? He was officially declared a zombie during his season-murdering three-homer stint with the 2002 Sox, atoned for his sins by sucking for the Yankees in the '04 postseason . . . and now he's a slugger again? Weird.

Colorado Rockies: Free Jason Jennings! Free Brian Fuentes! Free Jeff Francis! Hey, no capable pitcher deserves to be sentenced to Coors, with the possible exception of Mike (School System) Hampton.

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