Sweet Nasty MLB Preview: N.L. West
NL West Preview
1) Los Angeles Dodgers – Whew! They kept Manny Ramirez. Now all they have to do is keep him happy. (Shouldn’t be a problem though. Manny’s easy to please.) Oh, and somebody is going to have to pitch for this team. But congratulations, Dodger Fans! You play in the worst division in baseball, so you get to stay on top.
THE SWEET: Manny-Mania! He’s one of the few division changers in baseball. Not just team, but division. With a happy Manny Ramirez last year, the Red Sox are unveiling another World Series Champion banner next week. But that didn’t happen. He went to the Dodgers and obliterated the baseball in Chavez Ravine. Not only does he tear the cover off the ball, but he makes everyone else in the line up better. A healthy Rafael Furcal (who was the NL MVP of April-May 2008) now gets 100 runs and 40 steals. Easy. A hungry-to-prove-himself Orlando Hudson is another duck on the pond. Matt Kemp, Andre Either, James Loney, and Russell Martin complete one of the most dynamic lineups in the NL. Its close to the same blend of team hitting and speed that manager Joe Torre had in the late 90’s with the Yankees. But without Manny, they are average at best. They needed to hold on to him, like Brian Austin Green is holding on with both hands to Megan Fox. (Side note: What is that about? She’s been with him for 3 years. She could have anyone. ANYONE! And she goes with OD: Original Douchebag? He was the Douchebag that started it all on 90210. The Godfather of Douchebags. We wouldn’t have Kevin Federline without Brian Austin Green. And do you know his Hot Tail Resume? Here are the highlights: Tiffany Thiesson, Vanessa Marcil, and now Megan Fox. She plays Guitar Hero. She drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon. She says she’s attracted to other girls. And yet, Brian Austin Green is the one tearing that up? Colin Farrell, sure. Jude Law, ok. Hell, Mickey Rourke, now that he’s back. But, BAG? It’s right there in the initials! Alright, enough. This is the LA preview, so it was the perfect place for me to get that load off my chest…. Damn you, Bower!)
THE NASTY: Guys Who Throw the Ball During the 1st 6 innings. Re-sign Manny – check. Re-sign Furcal – Check. Let Derek Lowe go and pray that Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw are ready to make the leap – check! (Pray they get anything from Jason Schimdt in the last year of a 3 yr/$47M albatross of a contract – check.) Hiroki Kuroda only won 9 games last year and he’s the Opening Day starter. Billingsley is the real deal and Kershaw will be. But a rotation of Kuroda, Randy Wolf, Billingsley, Kershaw, and Eric Milton puts an awful lot of pressure on a very good line up.
PREDICTION: They keep Manny, they win the West. It’s that simple. But if they want to progress further, they need at least 1 more solid starter to go with a potent lineup and decent bullpen.
2) Arizona Diamondbacks – You want a young exciting team to root for if your team goes south? Be Howard Hughes and bottle your own urine. No, wait… Head for the desert is what I meant to say. (Sorry.) Pitching, defense, and the long ball. Now if they were a little more consistent…
THE SWEET: No Holes. You look at the roster and every position is filled. There might not be an All-Star 1-9, but there are no spots that cry out for a move to be made to make them a contender. What we’re waiting for is “the leap”, since every starter is under 30. If the collective light goes on… And you pair that kind of hitting promise with the best top of the rotation combo of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren? Yikes!
THE NASTY: Sssssswing-And-A-Miss. Chase Field might not need fans with all the swinging and missing from this team. Last season, the D-Backs had 3 of the top 10 K “artists” in MLB and 4 of the top 50. Adam Dunn may be gone, but Mark Reynolds is the starter at 3rd and he led the majors with 204. He struck out 38% of the time. Lots of power. 29 HR. But 204 SO?!?!? Reggie Jackson thinks he strikes out a lot. I love the young talent on this team, but Reynolds, Chris Young, and Justin Upton, particularly, have to make more contact in order to contend.
PREDICTION: The D-Backs will be the snake to the Reds’ mongoose for the NL Wild Card. (Or mongoose to their snake. I don’t know animals…) Look for this team to contend for years.
3) San Francisco Giants – I didn’t think the Giants would win 60 games last year and they pulled out 72. Thanks in large part to one Mr. Tim Lincecum. He now headlines a rotation that boasts 3 Cy Young award winners, with Randy Johnson and Barry Zito. (Really. Barry Zito used to be good. Until he was Milano-ed. I wonder if Alyssa insisted on wearing OTHER pitcher’s jerseys when she was with Zito. “Um, Barry, no. You lasted 2 1/3 innings today and gave up 8. Why don’t I wear CC Sabathia’s jersey and you can try and find me in it?”)
THE SWEET: The Pitching Staff. I never thought I’d say this with a staff that included Zito, but the Giants have some live arms. Lincecum won the Cy Young. The Giants eventually thought better of trading Matt Cain, instead of swapping him for Alex Rios. And now add a motivated Randy Johnson. If they get 10 wins from the most expensive 4th starter EVER in Zito, then this team is in the playoff hunt. And 5th starter Johnathan Sanchez is better than almost any other 5th starter in the NL. Adding Bobby Howry and Jeremy Affeldt to the bullpen provides a nice bridge to closer Brian Wilson. Quietly, the Giants have a pitching staff you don’t really want to face.
THE NASTY: A Farce of a Line-up. How long could the scouting meeting be for opposing pitchers the night before a series with the Giants? 5 minutes? 10? Do they have it in the hotel bar? How long does it take to say, “They stink. Throw ‘em anything. Another round, sweetheart?” Here is the likely line up for Opening Day for the 2009 San Francisco Giants: RF Randy Winn (their best hitter – not a good start, but please keep going…), SS Edgar Renteria (the doorknob of short stops and it’s SF’s turn), LF Fred Lewis (could be decent), C Bengie Molina (if you squint, you can see the piano on his back as he runs – stopping anyone hitting behind him from going from 1st to 3rd), 3B Pablo Sandoval (nice player, plenty of promise), 1B Travis Ishikawa (yup…I sure did have to look him and his 119 at bats up), CF Aaron Rowand (who would be the most overpaid player on any other team and presumably thanks Barry Zito every day for forcing people to say, “At least he’s not Barry Zito.”), and 2B Kevin Frandsen. Are you taking any of these guys in the first 15 rounds of your fantasy draft? If so, someone else is getting bounced and you will be firmly establishing the floor in the Wheelhouse League.
PREDICTION: The pitching staff is going to get wasted this season. Get ready for a lot of 2-1 ball games by the Bay this year. The Giants are still a few hitters away from moving up in the standings. If only they could sign a big time, home run hitting free agent… Hmmmm.
4) Colorado Rockies – Let’s take a trip in the way back machine. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to…2007. Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, and Brad Hawpe formed a feared middle-of-the-order. Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, and Franklin Morales finally headed up a rotation that would keep the ball in the yard and the Rockies in the win column for years to come. Um…yeah. This team is 1 season removed from being in the World Series. 1! And now…they are in shambles.
THE SWEET: Being In This Position Before. In 2006, a bunch of kids in Denver were mashing, running around, and learning the Big League game, while Helton watched in traction. That team grew into the 2007 Rockies, who won 21 of their last 22 games to force a 1 game playoff with the San Diego Padres. (A game that the Padres have still not gotten over, but we’ll get to them in a minute.) Can Ryan Spillbourghs, Chris Ianetta, Ian Stewart, and Seth Smith grow into that kind of nucleus? Denver fans sure hope so. (And so does Jay Cutler. Might take the focus off of him and his sandy vagina. What? Who said that?)
THE NASTY: Um…The Roster? That’s not right. Fine. I’ll scale it back. Pitching. Two rules I follow in fantasy baseball: first, never get involved in a land war in Asia, but second is never draft pitchers on the Rockies. That rule won’t be hard to follow this year. Jeff Francis is out with arm trouble. That leaves de facto number 1 Aaron Cook, who makes Jaimie Moyer look like Nolan Ryan. But he does keep the ball on the ground, which is what this team needs. If money is no factor, Derek Lowe is the perfect pitcher for this team. Then trade for Chien-Ming Wang and Fausto Carmona, get 2 gold glovers at 2nd and SS, and burn down the humidor. Bring back the days of the Blake Street Bombers! But instead, its a rotation of Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Marquis, Jorge De La Rosa, and Jason Hirsh that will be backed up in the bullpen by dumped A’s closer Huston Street and demoted Rockies closer Manny Corpas. That staff may be asking for a stronger humidor. Or cannonballs.
PREDICTION: This team needs some seasoning. Check back in another year and see if a 2007 run can happen in 2010.
5) San Diego Padres – Any team that adds no one in the off-season (“Eckstien? Ugp…Eckstein? Don’t talk to me about Eckstein? I just hope we can win a game!”), runs off its most beloved player (because the owner is getting divorced and can’t afford a team anymore), and still hasn’t gotten over blowing the 2007 NL Wild Card is my pick for cellar dweller in the worst division in baseball.
THE SWEET: The Prospects They’ll Receive For Jake Peavy. You know Peavy’s not going to be there for long. He would have already been on the Cubs if their ownership was more stable at the winter meetings. Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez are the only 2 real bargaining chips the Padres have to start over, so fire off the pistol on the 2009 Padres Fire Sale Rumor Mill.
THE NASTY: The San Diego Padres. Put it this way, the Washington Nationals are excited for the Padres season, so they can look down on someone. It’s hard to even have hope that this team will be competitive night, and night out. Look for a lot of good young prospects, like Kevin Kouzmanoff, Chase Headley, and…well, Chase Headley to get valuable playing time. And guys like Brian Giles (who didn’t want to leave a last place team in August to go to the Red Sox and try and win a championship…what does that say about his drive to win?), Cliff Floyd, and Chris Young will be on the Peavy-Gonzalez Adios Express.
PREDICTION: 58 wins. And the worst team in baseball.