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Okay, this is a lot more work than I thought. I remember last season, TTFB’s editor and all-around righteous dude, Jon Sumple, asked me if I’d do a couple team previews for him, and I thought that it was pretty darn easy. So, how hard could it be to preview all the teams?
Very. That’s the answer. It is very hard. There are 30 teams. That’s a lot of teams. I’ve already done 15 teams and my fingers are worn down to the nub, and I think we can all agree that some of the last few teams were pretty half-assed. There are still 15 more teams to go and it’s probably going to kill me but that’s how much I love you guys (or that’s how foolish I am).
Don’t be surprised if some of these previews deteriorate down to quarter-assed. And I think I’ll do the AL Central Division last because who gives a crap about those guys. Whoopdeedoo the Royals won the World Series. No one cares.
Anyway, back to the team previews. To review: We’re taking a look at the positives and negatives for each team going into this season. If you haven’t read the other divisional previews, I can’t say that I blame you. But if you love baseball and don’t mind the ramblings of feeble-minded writer, then, holy crap, these will be a delight for you.
Next up is the AL East. I was trying to be systematic on the sequence I did these divisions, but now I’m just going to do whichever one I want. This is my article. I’m probably the only one who’s going to read it … besides my mom of course. (Hi, Mom!)
I just wrote two whole sentences about the Orioles and then deleted them. What the hell am I doing? Such a waste. No wonder this is taking so long. They weren’t great sentences but they weren’t terrible. Which pretty much describes every team in the AL East, though the Orioles are probably the most not-great of all of them.
1 UP – Manny Machado
Machado is one of the best and most exciting players in the league. He’s almost a perfect player, excelling at the plate, in the field and on the bases. Also, he’s named after a song by the Village People (or at least I like to think he is).
1 DOWN – Softball Team
Maybe this should be an UP because fans love lots of scoring. The Orioles are going to to score a ton of runs with all the big hitters they have. Unfortunately most of the big hitters are bad fielders. Add that to the mediocre and worse pitching the team has and we’ve got ourselves a company softball game.
2 UP – Chris Davis
The Orioles outbid themselves for Davis’ services this offseason to keep one of the best power hitters and overall offensive juggernauts in the league. This is the year to enjoy having Chris Davis on your team, Orioles fans. Maybe next year, too. After that, it’s going to start getting ugly. We’re talking Clint Howard ugly.
3 UP – Manager Buck Showalter
Showalter is one the best in-game managers in the league and that is best evidenced by the fact that he’s been able to keep a mediocre team like the Orioles in contention most years. However, if Baltimore was really smart, they’d fire Showalter so they can win the World Series next year, just as the Yankees and Diamondbacks did immediately after getting rid of him.
2 DOWN – Farm System Failing
It’s not that the Orioles don’t have any prospects. They do. The problem is that they seem to be having trouble developing those prospects into valuable major league assets – especially pitchers. Year after year, star pitching prospects in their system burn out – most recently, Dylan Bundy’s outlook has plummeted. Jake Arietta escaped to the Cubs and they made a slight adjustment. Then he won the Cy Young Award. Let’s all start a GoFundMe to free Dylan Bundy.
3 DOWN – The AL East
It’s been a down couple years for the division that used to rule the American League, but every team in this division improved themselves in the offseason. Except for the Orioles, who spent $243 million, but basically stayed the same.
Boston Red Sox
1 UP – Youth
Last season the Red Sox were not very good as a team overall, but they were one of the top scoring offenses in the league. Most of that was lead by youngsters Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley, Jr. None of those players has even entered their prime hitting years.
1 DOWN – Hanley Ramirez & Pablo Sandoval
So, now we all know the answer to the question “How do you get fired as the Red Sox GM less than two years after winning the World Series?” Signing Ramirez and Sandoval turned out to be terrible decisions by now-former GM Ben Cherington. Sandoval was a mess and apparently started eating his feelings. Hanley was so bad in left field that fans started reminiscing about Manny Ramirez.
2 UP – David Price
Well, the Red Sox finally got themselves an ace this offseason who can shut down other teams every fifth day. But for a player like that … (come on, you know what’s coming next) … they had to pay a steep price.
2 DOWN – The Non-Price Starters
The thing that made the acquisition of a player like Price so important for the Red Sox is that every one of their other starters varies from dubious to questionable. Clay Buchholz is pretty good but keeps getting injured. Rick Porcello got his contract extension and then immediately sucked – like sucking a baseball through a garden hose kind of sucking.
3 UP – Craig Kimbrel
The Red Sox have had a pretty good track record with closers since they started their championship-winning ways and Kimbrel fits right in. The Red Sox overpaid in prospects to get him from the Padres, but I was zero percent surprised by the move because new Boston GM Dave Dombrowski spent his entire tenure in Detroit trying to find a decent closer. In Kimbrel, Dombrowski finally got his chupacabra.
3 DOWN – The Non-Kimbrel Relievers
This might not be as bad as it looks on the surface. If most of the current guys stay healthy, and if some of the younger guys improve a bit, and if they make one more acquisition mid-season, this could be a decent bullpen. That’s a lot of “ifs” for a playoff contender.
New York Yankees
1 UP – The Bullpen
Last year’s best bullpen added the game’s best closer in Aroldis Chapman. Probably a bit unnecessary to add him, so now the Yankees bullpen will be the best-est. With this impressive collection of pitchers, New York fans should get excited – though maybe not so excited that they discharge a firearm in their garage eight times.
1 DOWN – Age
For a lot of Yankees regulars, it’s another year older and another year away from their prime. It’s going to start becoming sad soon, like when they toured around the league with the statue of Derek Jeter still playing shortstop.
2 UP – Luis Severino & Michael Pineda
Now this is a DOUBLE UP. These two young starting pitchers are just coming into their own and should be dominating the league this season and the next few to come. It’s been a while since the Yankees have developed their own quality pitching. Previously they would just poach off other teams, but things are different now … (Segue!)
2 DOWN – The Brothers Steinbrenner
Non-Yankee fans love the fiscally conscious new breed of Steinbrenner. You don’t want to pay those expensive free agents. You don’t want to pay that luxury tax. Heaven’s no, not the luxury tax for the billion-dollar franchise.
3 UP – Offense
Even with some injuries, the Yankees appear to have enough firepower to do plenty of damage. As Lloyd Christmas once said, “Senior citizens although slow and dangerous behind the wheel – can still serve a purpose.”
3 DOWN – CC Sabathia
Here’s a lesson for everyone: When your overweight pitcher wins you a World Series and then opts out of his long-term burdensome contract, let him go. The Yankees didn’t and now Sabathia has let himself go.
Tampa Bay Rays
The fancy pants computer projection systems have the Rays winning the division, but remember these are the same computers who keep saying the Royals will never make the playoffs. Looks like the computers aren’t quite ready to take over the planet just yet.
1 UP – Pitching
Through the last decade of Rays relevance, their hallmark has been strong pitching. It doesn’t matter who gets traded away, who leaves in free agency or who gets injured. They always have a steady stream of young, brilliant pitchers coming through the system. When you’re young, it’s a lot easier to maintain that steady stream, am I right, fellas?
1 DOWN – Evan Longoria
Evan Longoria has spent his entire professional career being compared to Eva Longoria in my mind. It’s just so weird how similar their names are and my simple brain can’t handle it. What’s next? A shortstop named Julian Roberts? A pitcher named Merl Streep? An outfielder named Miles Cyrus? Anyway, Evan never was quite as great as we all hoped he would be.
2 UP – Kevin Kiermaier
He’s not much to look at when it comes to hitting, but on defense this guy is just about the best looking guy in the league. He’s like having two outfielders (or three Orioles outfielders).
2 DOWN – That F’ing Stadium
There is no sporting venue on this planet worse than Tropicana Field. It’s terrible to watch on tv, and in person, it is the closest thing we have to what it would be like to live in a soulless dystopian future. They might as well just refer to all match-ups played there as Hunger Games.
3 UP – Corey Dickerson
How does a team get a player as good as the cost-controlled Dickerson for one year of an oft injured relief pitcher? Oh, right. They traded with Colorado. Now that the Phillies are starting to smarten up, the Rockies are moving to the forefront of the terrible decisions party. Some are concerned that Dickerson won’t hit away from the thin air of Denver. Of course he won’t, but he’s a very good hitter, and he’s going to rake at any altitude.
3 DOWN – Developing Position Players
The Rays organization has been a pitching factory. They churn out so much quality pitching that it’s almost not fair. Almost. The baseball gods seemed to have balanced the books by not letting them produce any position players of value. Sure, Longoria is good and Carl Crawford was good for a few years, but that’s all folks. They just seem jinxed. Man, you’d think being in Florida was enough of a punishment.
Toronto Blue Jays
1 UP – The Offense
This was the most loaded lineup in the game last year, and it will be the most loaded lineup in the game this year. They led the league in runs, runs batted in, home runs, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base percentage plus slugging percentage and even stolen base success rate. In many of these categories they lead the league by a lot – even when you factor in the Canadian exchange rate.
1 DOWN – Stadium
Look, it’s not as bad as the Rays craphole, but it’s pretty much a craphole all its own. It’s appropriate that a team whose nickname abbreviates as “B.J.s” would play their home games in the stadium equivalent of a crack house. They’re trying some new grass on the field to cut down on the traumatic effect of the astroturf they had been using until last year. Last year! Man, Canada really is behind the times. When do you think they’re going to get color TVs up there?
2 UP – Marcus Stroman
He is one of my favorite young pitchers, and he’s the best pitcher on the B.J.s. I’m still trying to process losing him in the expansion draft of my fantasy baseball keeper league. At just $2, I thought he’d be on my team for years to come. I know. I know. No one cares about anyone else’s fantasy baseball stories. It’s like jazz music. The only ones who care are the ones doing it.
2 DOWN – Starting Rotation
Well, there’s a reason the B.J.s aren’t the favorite to win the division with their incredible offense and Marcus Stroman. The rest of the starting pitchers are just a bunch of mediocre guys whose job it is to keep the score close enough that a three-run home run can win the game. This could work. It worked last year. (It probably won’t work.)
3 UP – The Offense
Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, oh, and reigning MVP Josh Donaldson. These guys are going to tear up opposing pitchers. (That sentence works regardless of whether you read it as “tear” from crying or “tear” from ripping. And Donald Trump thought he had all the best words.)
3 DOWN – No Farm
The B.J.s really only one or two decent minor leaguers, so they don’t really have any reinforcements coming and they have little of value to make a key acquisition midseason. The good news moving forward is they’re going to lose some free agents in the next year, and they’ll get some compensation picks for that. Oh, that doesn’t really sound like good news, does it? Well, that’s why this is a DOWN, because it’s not an UP.
And the winner is …
There are really four teams who could win 90 games and take this division, but they each seem like they could also come in last place. In trying to pick the winner, one has to look closely at a number of factors and … arrgh … of course I’m picking the Red Sox. I’m not going to sit here and write 20,000 words about all these teams and then not pick my favorite team.