Thursday, April 22, 2010

NHL needs a Moniker....and some American Fans

David Stern has such a strangle hold over what goes on in the NBA, that some have joked that the NBA stands for the No Balls Association. The NFL has curtailed all celebrations, leading to it being known as the No Fun League. Now that the NCAA has banned any self-expression whatsoever, one clever sportswriter nicknamed it the No Creative Athletes Allowed. While MLB's moniker has nothing to do with its initials, Bud Selig's autobiography would be titled "No balls, One strike."

Meanwhile, the NHL really has no moniker....or fans south of Leamington, Ontario. And that really is a shame. The NHL playoffs began 8 days ago. And barely anyone noticed. And that is a travesty. I am a baseball guy. I am a self-proclaimed baseball geek. I grew up loving and playing baseball. When I was old enough, I literally tattooed baseball on my body. That said, there is no greater playoff system than the NHL's. It is two months of grueling, hard hitting, intense, edge-of-your-seat, non-stop action fun. Overtime playoff hockey is the single most intense and white knuckle action in all of sports. Sure, the NFL used to be "sudden death" too. But when you have to bring on your 5'6", 125 lb kicker to ice the game, is it really sudden death? The NHL playoffs in overtime - well, there truly is nothing like it in all of sports.

Last Sunday Night, while most of the eastern seaboard slept, the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks were locked up in an absolute classic. After 60 minutes of regulation, neither team had scored a goal. But it wasn't a boring 0-0 game. Some good fights, and San Jose had peppered Colorado goaltender, Craig Anderson with 50 shots. Colorado, by contrast, had only mustered 15 shots on goal against Sharks netminder, Evgeni Nabakov. Less than a minute into overtime, the Sharks were simply trying to clear the puck behind their own goal to set up a rush up ice. San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle hit the puck seemingly to go behind the net to his fellow defenseman and they would begin to set up their offensive play. Unfortunately, he hit the puck off the heel of his stick, and the puck, rather than sliding behind the net, slid right through the goal mouth and past an unsuspecting Nabakov. Goal Colorado. Game over. Just like that. Faster than a Mike Tyson fight. And not one Colorado player was even in the picture when it happened. The camera crew had to pan down ice just to see the shocked players celebrating. And then pan back to the San Jose goal to see the crushed Sharks. And that is playoff hockey in overtime.

Some overtimes last forever....and ever....and ever. In 2000, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the first two games of their series with the heavily favored Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia. The series shifted back to Pittsburgh for game 3. The game kept going and going and going. Even the energizer bunny fell asleep. In the 5th overtime (that would be the 8th period - more than 140 game minutes later) the Flyers scored the winning goal. And used that momentum to not lose another game in the series against Pittsburgh.

In the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, the Red Wings and Penguins played a classic 3-overtime game. Before the third overtime began, NBC analyst Pierre Maguire interviewed then-Penguins forward Petr Sykora. Sykora informed him that the Penguins ran out of food in their locker room and had ordered a Pizza. Maguire joked, "from Little Caesar's?" (Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch also owns Little Caesar's Pizza). "No", Sykora said, "we made sure to order from Domino's." Sykora also told Maguire that this was just the energy he needed and he would be scoring the game winning goal in the third overtime. Less than 5 minutes into the third overtime, the Penguins won. On a goal by Sykora.

That's playoff hockey. And this year's playoffs have been spectacular thus far. Not that anyone has noticed. ALL eight first round series' were tied 1-1 after they each had played 2 games. And, the first 8 games of this year's playoffs were ALL decided by one goal (with three of the games going to overtime). That, my friends, is an edge of your seat thrill ride.

The playoffs resume tonight, with defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh looking to advance to the second round. These playoffs have been tremendous thus far. I highly encourage everyone to watch and be captivated by them. Well, the 40% of America that gets the versus channel, anyway.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Braves Caught in Unfair Schedule

Before we get to today's blog, a few notes about the competitive imbalance whining that people love to moan about in baseball and some observations from baseball's first few days. Three games into the 2010 season and 29 of the 30 teams already have at least one loss. Which means, for those of you scoring at home, 29 of the 30 teams also have at least one victory. And the lone remaining undefeated team is not the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox or Philadelphia Phillies or any of the usual suspects. And the lone remaining winless team is not the Washington Nationals or New York Mets or Kansas City Royals. It is a team that should be a pretty good team this year, that has a payroll north of $80 million.

Other early notes-

The Red Sox better find some consistent offense and soon, otherwise, not only will the Rays blow by them, but the Sox will find themselves in a battle for 3rd place with Baltimore.

The White Sox have really good pitching.......and no offense. Maybe it's just a Sox thing.

Jon Rauch seems to be sliding into that closer's role in Minnesota without a hitch - 2 for 2 in saves, on the road, in Anaheim. Joe who?

The Phillies are good. Really, really good. But.....

I still think the Cardinals are better.

The Dodgers look very disjointed out of the gate. Most people knew they would struggle stopping other teams from scoring, but if they can't get consistent offense, it could be a very long season in Southern California.

Personally, I am over the moon that the last remaining unbeaten team is San Francisco. And the fact that they did it not only with outstanding pitching....but that they also found what appears to be a pulse on offense. I don't know if it will last (Renteria is allegedly 34 years old, Molina looks like he weighs 300 lbs and I still don't trust Aubrey Huff), but if they keep scoring 4 or more runs a game, they are going to be very tough to beat.

The Atlanta Braves finished their game with the Chicago Cubs a little after 10pm last night. If they showered, dressed and hustled to the airport for their charter flight, after passing TSA inspection, maybe, and I mean maybe, they took off by 11:30 pm. The flight from Atlanta to San Francisco is approximately 5 1/2 hours. That's 5am eastern time / 2am pacific time. By the time they get their bags and get to the hotel, it would have been after 6am eastern time / 3am pacific time. They play the Giants today, in the Giants home opener at 4:35 eastern time / 1:35 pacific time. This means the Braves would have to be at the field by 10:30 am pacific time. Even as the world's biggest Giants fan, I see a major problem with this. The Giants got to rest comfortably yesterday, after finishing their series in Houston on Wednesday, and having yesterday off to rest.

I am not 100% sure, nor am I going to sift through the MLB Constitution, but I am pretty sure there is a rule against exactly what the Braves are being asked to do. It is my understanding that barring playing a make up game of some sort, a team can not play a night game in one city and then turn around and play a day game in another city. Let alone 3,000 miles away. It is my belief that if the Giants were adamant that they wanted their home opener to be a day game, that MLB should have had the Braves and Cubs play a day game in Atlanta yesterday so that the Braves could have gotten on an early flight to San Francisco. Otherwise, they should have scheduled the Giants home opener as a night game to give the Braves players a chance to rest today. In either case, the Braves are being asked to do something that is unfair and I'm pretty sure against MLB regulations. I am assuming the Braves and/or the MLBPA would have to have approved something like this. And if so, kudos to the Braves for agreeing to this. But it's still not really fair to the players.

Oh, and as long as we are discussing this weekend's Braves-Giants series, be sure to tune in Sunday for what promises to be a really fun showdown. The Giants will send their ace, Tim Lincecum to the hill (he of back to back Cy Young awards, all 5'9", 150 lbs soaking wet of him) to face the Braves' newest phenom hitter, Jason Heyward (the man who went deep on his first MLB at bat, and 6'7" 270 lbs). That will be a fun battle to watch.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

NBA & NCAA make dollars....but no sense.

Ohio St guard Evan Turner and Kentucky guard John Wall both announced they will be forgoing the remainder of their college careers to enter this summer's NBA Draft. Both Turner and Wall project to be top-5 picks - possibly even going 1-2 in the draft. There is no doubt that both of these players have massive NBA potential, and should make their new teams better. All this, and yet I see no problem with Turner going pro....and a huge problem with Wall's ability to go pro. I have nothing against John Wall. I've never met him. He seems like a good enough kid, and he should make a very good NBA player. As a matter of fact, he should be fighting for NBA Rookie of the Year right now.

After the 2004 NBA Draft, the NBA decided to force high school basketball players to attend college for at least 1 year before being allowed to turn pro. The logic that David Stern used was that the 18-year old kids were not ready for the rigors of the NBA lifestyle and it gave them another year to mature. So, in one year - of not attending classes (because exactly what incentive do they have to attend classes if they are going to be bolting after one year?), not really being a college student, other than wearing the school name on their jersey twice a week, they are supposed to magically be more mature a year later? Really?

Let's say I graduate high school and I know that the profession I will be going into doesn't require college. Sure, going to college and getting a degree would hone my skills, but it is not I now forced to at least "experience the college lifestyle" for a year before going into that profession? Um, no. College is not for everyone. Athletes are in a unique position to get to use their skills to get a college degree. If they so choose. By telling them they have to attend college for one year, they are experiencing nothing. They are not true student-athletes. They are merely athletes who may or may not be getting paid by the university in order to get the University more money - from boosters, TV deals and going far in the NCAA tournament so that the coach can then go out and recruit the next batch of 17 & 18-year olds who plan on spending exactly one year at the University. How exactly does this help that child grow up?

MLB has a enter the draft directly out of high school or you attend college for at least three years before you can re-enter the draft. The NFL's rule is simple - you can not enter the NFL draft until you are three years removed from high school. I like Major League Baseball's rule better, but I am good with both. MLB has their rule, mainly because 99% of players spend a couple seasons in the minors seasoning anyway. But I am good with both leagues' rules because it forces the student to commit to at least three years of college study before he can turn pro. So at least in theory, they have to somewhat care about classwork, or risk being suspended during their season.

Additionally, these universities are committing scholarships to students who plan on spending no more than one year at their institution. Meanwhile, the marginal player who will commit to spending all 4 years in school, and maybe even attend a class or two, now must live on a partial scholarship or no scholarship at all. Essentially, we have turned the NCAA into the hired gun league. 4, count them, 4 freshmen from this year's Kentucky basketball team are turning pro. Honestly, what was the point? Kentucky had a great team. Unfortunately, they could not have played in the NBA though, because they wouldn't have fit under the salary cap (ok, obviously, the last part is said tongue-in-cheek, but you get the point).

Ask Kobe or Dwight Howard or LeBron if they've had trouble adjusting to the NBA lifestyle. In 2004, Howard was selected first overall instead of UConn Center Emeka Okefor. At the time, the pick was widely criticized- because Okefor had college seasoning, while Howard was coming straight out of high school. Any questions now?

The NCAA did not like seeing George Mason get to the Final Four. They did not like seeing their product "watered down" because their best talent was jumping right to the NBA. So, they needed to create a way to have the best players show up for at least a year. And from that standpoint, it worked - Derek Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Xavier Henry and the like, have all shown up for one year, made their teams better, and excited college crowds. To the benefit of............the NCAA. Derek Rose allegedly didn't even take his own SATs. He allegedly paid another student to take them for him so that he could get into Memphis and play basketball for one year. So really, what's the point? Rose should have had the ability to say, you know what, my one discernible skill in this world is that I can see things on a basketball court that less than 1% of 1% of the rest of the population can see. I can run the point better than 99.99999% of people can. And therefore, I don't need to take an SAT in order to earn millions. But David Stern and the NCAA said he did. And the sad thing is, he probably never even took those SATs.

David Stern is one of the biggest scam artists in all of sports. His drafts are rigged, as are his playoffs. He is the architect of two very juicy conspiracy theories - that he forced Michael Jordan into retirement for two years as a way of suspending him for his gambling problem without actually suspending him; and sending one of his top officials - Gary Bettman - to go run the NHL into the ground, right as the NHL was about to pass the NBA in American popularity. He runs these scams and we let him get away with it. And now he is forcing 18 year old kids to go to college for one year, and probably receiving a healthy kick back from the NCAA for his cooperation.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I want my Opening Day back

Imagine the following scenario....
It's the first Monday in April. You call in sick to work. You go grab your son/daughter after letting them take a half day from school. You arrive at the ballpark about an hour and a half before the game to watch a little batting practice. Your child gets some autographs from the players and chows down on his/her hot dog. The sun beats down on both of your faces as you sit and admire for the next 3 hours. On your way out of the stadium, you buy both of you team hats. You walk out to your car and drive home. Both of you smiling, laughing and reminiscing about what you just witnessed. After you get home, you pop on the TV to watch some of the late afternoon games. After a little dinner, you go outside and have a catch. After that, you come back in for the night games. You let your child stay up just a little later than usual, to watch some of the night games with you. After all, it's opening day. A brief interlude - to flip over and see how the NCAA Championship game is going - then back to baseball. Finally, after a day of baseball, shared with your child, you crash. Your team is 1-0 (or 0-1). As a matter of fact, 15 teams are 1-0, and the other 15 are 0-1. When the day started, all 30 teams were 0-0. And now, every team has 161 games left.

THAT would be a perfect day. And it could happen. I know this, because it used to happen. Just like that. Baseball had an Opening Day that everyone looked forward to. It wasn't a game that was an event. It was an all day spectacle. The tradition was so rich that it could not be matched by any other sport. The first pitch of the season was always thrown out in Cincinnati. That's where the season began. Period. After the Reds game got underway, then and only then, could every other game get going. It's different in the other three major teams sports, because no other sport has ever been able to match the traditions of baseball - particularly on Opening Day. Football has had Monday Night Football for over 40 years now, so even on Opening Sunday, fans already know that 2 teams won't be a part of it (and now there are two Monday Night games on Opening weekend, so now 4 teams don't play on Opening Sunday). And the fanfare just isn't the same for NFL's opening weekend. And as far as the NHL and NBA are concerned, they have zero tradition when it comes to their opening games. A few teams start on one night, a few more another night, and by the time everybody has played one game, some teams have played 2 or 3 games. Not exactly awe inspiring tradition. But baseball had that. They had it. And they blew it.

The Opening Night Sunday Night game, the night before the season starts, began a few years ago. It is nothing more than a TV, dollar-grabbing sham. There is no other good reason for it. It negates everything that made the first Monday in April so special to so many. Sure, your team might be having it's Opening Day (at home or on the road - I sat on my couch yesterday and watched the Giants Opening Day in Houston, just as happily as if I was at the ballpark) on Monday. But, some of the luster is gone, because two teams have already played. There is now an Opening Night and then a subsequent Opening Day. And it makes no sense.

Baseball has a unique opportunity to create an unofficial holiday. If all 30 teams played their opening game on the first Monday in April, it would create massive buzz around the country. 15 cities opening their seasons at home on Monday......and then the other 15 cities opening their seasons at home that Friday (it could be done, trust me).

Baseball's popularity took a hit after the strike of 1994. After it rebuilt it's popularity, it took another hit this decade with the steroids scandal. Of course, the dirty little secret that seems to elude the Commissioner's office, the fans and the media is that it was because of these bulked up hitters and massive home runs that the game even got it's popularity back in the first place following the strike of '94. But now, if baseball wants to reclaim it's rightful spot as this country's National Pastime and the popularity it once had, it needs to not go for the money grab, and go for some good, old fashioned traditionalism. Bring back Opening Day. Scrap the Sunday Night Opening Night crap.

I want to wake up on April 4, 2011, with all 30 teams 0-0. All 30 teams with statistically the same chance of winning their divisions....just for that one day. If my hometown team is home that day, I want to take the day off of work, take my son out of school early and drive down to the ballpark with him - and throngs of other parents and children - and take in the spectacle that is Opening Day. I want 15 cities to get to experience this next April 4. And quite frankly, there is no good reason for it not to happen.

Oh, and happy belated Opening Day to the Orioles and Rays. While all 28 other teams have already played, you two get to open the season today. That's just wrong.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

We're Gonna Party Like it's 1987....Part II

Yesterday, I previewed and predicted the 2010 American League, and determined the AL Champions in 2010 would be the Minnesota Twins. Today, we'll tackle the National League. Unlike the American League - where only 4 or 5 teams have a legitimate shot of winning the AL Pennant - the National League is a toss up. So many teams are good in some areas and have gaping holes elsewhere, that unless you are a fan of the Nationals (who actually have the foundation to be good in a year or two), Mets, Pirates or Padres....your team begins the 2010 season with a very reasonable chance of playing for the NL Pennant. That leaves twelve teams.....TWELVE TEAMS.....that could be left standing at the end of October. Let's rank them (in my humble opinion, of course)

12. Chicago Cubs
Always an intriguing team. They got rid of a clubhouse cancer in Milton Bradley. Their lineup is good enough to compete. But their pitching is razor thin and their bullpen is full of question marks. They'll outslug teams and win enough to hang around until August, but unless they acquire some pitching or find some down on the farm, they will be waiting till next year.....again.

11. Florida Marlins
I like this team a lot this year. I flip flopped on the Fish several times....having them finishing as high as winning the NL East, all the way down to 4th place. Ultimately, I think they will finish right where they did last year...3rd place in the East, a few games over .500 and a few games out of the playoffs. Too many bullpen questions, not enough starting pitching after Johnson and Nolasco.....and they couldn't move Uggla for the pitching they wanted. Uggla was a great story 2 years ago. Now, he's just another guy who can hit 30 HRs, but only hit .250, never do it when it matters and is a liability defensively.

10. Arizona Diamondbacks
Young. Talented. Deep. Good pitching. Enough bullpen. But alas, too young, strikes out too much as a team, in a division with better pitching and more experience. With the right offseason though, could be the NL's version of the Orioles in 2011 - one of the favorites to win the pennant. In 2010, though, they will fall a little short though.

9. Houston Astros
Could surprise some people this year. I like their young pitching behind Oswalt and Brett Myers. They should settle on a closer (personally, I favor Lyon) and their offense is vastly underrated with Berkman, Lee, Pence and Bourn anchoring a lineup that will score more this year than last. I don't think they have enough to make the playoffs, but they have enough to scare some teams.

8. Milwaukee Brewers
Offense. Offense. Offense. This team can score. This team will score. A lot. And Yovani Gallardo is a legit ace. But they have serious bullpen issues, and no contender in the NL has worse pitching, and ultimately that will be this team's downfall. They may be the most fun team to watch this year, and if you own a fantasy baseball team, you should own most of their offensive players, but they'll be watching the playoffs from their couches.

7. Los Angeles Dodgers
6. Atlanta Braves
I think both of these teams are very good. The interesting thing is if you combined these two teams, you'd have your NL Pennant winner - the Dodgers offense with the Braves pitching. The Dodgers lack of pitching comes in the wrong division and will land them behind the Rockies and Giants this year. I really wanted to pick the Braves to win the East, but they have too many offensive question marks, and the Phillies are just too good.

5. Cincinnati Reds (sleeper team)
I love love love the Reds this year. Maybe it's a Cincinnati thing. I picked the Bengals to be sleeper NFL team and win the AFC North. I was right on that call. I don't think the Reds can knock off the Cardinals in the Central, but they're going to come close. I think Drew Stubbs is the real deal in CF, and if he is, than they're up the middle is as solid - offensively and defensively as any in the NL - with Hernandez (catcher), Cabrera (ss), Phillips (2B) and Stubbs (CF). Homer Bailey is poised to breakout as a pitcher and along with Arroyo, Harang, Cueto and Cuban Stud Chapman - this rotation is solid top to bottom. They will just barely miss the playoffs.

Playoff teams.....
4. Colorado Rockies
Solid team top to bottom. Good pitching. Very good offense. Good bullpen. Good team speed. Good team defense. Slow starts have kept them from winning the division twice in the last three years. They are good enough to win the division but will likely take home the wild card yet again. Never fear, Rockies fans, that path should lead the Rockies right back to the NLCS in 2010.

3. San Francisco Giants
You have to spend money to make money. The Giants nearly had a flawless offseason. They avoided a nasty arbitration with ace Tim Lincecum and locked him up for 2 years. They locked up Matt Cain and Brian Wilson for 3 years. They locked up Freddy Sanchez for 2 more years. They signed free agent Mark DeRosa to help the middle of their lineup. They are not rushing future stud Buster Posey - he will be up in June or July. All this, and somehow they pinched pennies and opted for cheaper Aubrey Huff over more expensive, but ultimately much better options in Adam LaRoche (who wanted to play in San Francisco) and Jermaine Dye. They still have pitching to burn - with more on the way. But their penny wise, will prove pound foolish in the playoffs.

2. Philadelphia Phillies
The two-time defending NL champs, who are widely favored to get back to the World Series for a third straight year. Yes, they still have the most talent in the NL. But the injury bug is biting this team to early and too often already. I don't like the omen that sets for the season. Losing three pitchers - a starter, solid left handed reliever and your closer - all before the season starts, does not give me a good feeling for the Phitin Phils. They still have too much offense and with the addition of Roy Halladay, too much pitching to be caught in the east.....and they are almost good enough to 3peat as the NL Champs. If it wasn't for........

1. St. Louis Cardinals
Yes, they have a gaping hole at 3B, unless David Freese proves up to the challenge. But, what happens last year in the NLDS if Matt Holliday actually catches that ball in game 1 with 2 outs in the 9th inning? Do they go on to beat the Dodgers and play the Phillies for the NL Pennant? And if so, didn't they match up perfectly against the Phillies last year with Carpenter and Wainwright in games 1 & 2? I say yes. Brad Penny LOVES pitching in the NL. He pitched great for San Francisco down the stretch last year after being discarded by Boston. And who is better at getting the most out of pitchers than Dave Duncan? And, for you fantasy guys, you want this year's Joel Pineiro? Rich Hill. He'll win the #5 job eventually and win 10-12 games and have an ERA under 4. And....they have the best player in baseball. That's enough for me.

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Rockies over Phillies
Cardinals over Giants

Cardinals over Rockies

World Series
Cardinals over Twins in 6

MVP - Albert Pujols
CY Young - Matt Cain
ROY - Jason Heyward

In 1987, Kirby Puckett's extra inning HR in game 6 sent the series to a 7th game, which the Twins ultimately won over the Cardinals. Jack Buck's famous call - "and we'll see ya tomorrow night." This time, with Puckett and Buck looking on from the heavens, there will be no tomorrow night. Cards in 6.

Friday, April 2, 2010

We're gonna party like it's 1987

The New Movie "Hot Tub Time Machine" takes 4 friends back in time to 1986. This year's baseball season, or at least the end of October to early November is going to look an awful lot like 1987.

In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series despite Byun Hung Kim's best efforts to thwart it. And they did it by beating the best closer ever in the bottom of the ninth in game 7. In 2002, the Angels bested the San Francisco Giants despite the Giants being 8 outs away from winning the World Series, with a 5-run lead, and Dusty Baker turning the ball over to -statistically speaking - the best bullpen in baseball that year. In 2003, the Florida Marlins closer situation was so shaky that they had to go get a closer mid-season and do a bullpen by committee with Braden Looper and Ugueth Urbina for the stretch run and the playoffs. The end result? A World Series victory over the Yankees. Last year, the Phillies had a litany of bullpen issues - including a closer controversy heading into the playoffs. They wound up winning the NL pennant and playing for a World Championship. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins had (at least by some experts' accounts) the 2nd best closer in baseball. And how did that work out? Joe Nathan cost the Twins a shot at beating the Yankees in the ALDS (note Yankee fans - I did not say he cost them the series - I said he cost them a shot at the series). The Yankees swept the Twins - in part because Nathan blew two saves in that series.

What does all this mean? It means that the most overrated, overblown story of the 2010 offseason has been the injury to Joe Nathan. The Twins somehow went from the clear cut favorite to win the AL Central and challenge the Yankees for the AL pennant to somehow being in a dogfight to even win the AL Central. All because they lost Joe Nathan? I don't think so. I still say, despite the setback because of the Nathan injury, they had quietly the best off season in the American League. They signed a veteran hitter in Jim Thome. They signed a gritty, hard nosed player that no one wanted in Orlando Hudson (and don't think that motivation is underrated). Francisco Liriano looks all the way back from surgery and has the bite on his slider he had in 2007. And they locked up Joe Mauer long term, so that distraction is gone. The other contenders in the American League just didn't match the actual benefits that the Twins added.

The Red Sox have the best pitching in the AL. But their offense looks mediocre, at best.
The Angels lost Jon Lackey, Vlad Guerrero and Chone Figgins. They are still the best team out west. Only because the AL West suddenly looks like the NFC West - where just finishing over .500 should win you the division.
The Tigers have to have a good April, otherwise whispers will start about them trimming even more payroll by trying to unload Miguel Cabrera.
The Rays have a ton of talent, but their pitching is thin and young. Can it hold up during a playoff run?
The Orioles. Yeah, I said it. This team is going to be good. REAL good. Unfortunately, it's going to be in 2011. If they can add just one more young bat to Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters and still an under-30 Brian Roberts, this lineup will be deadly. And, they have some AMAZING young pitching - particularly Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman.
And the Yankees.....the team that had a "great" offseason.......if you were building a fantasy baseball team. Yankee fans will soon learn what Tiger fans already know. Curtis Granderson look great on paper....and lousy in CF. He also has a career batting average of .210 against lefties. So how does this make the Yankees better against LHP? It doesn't. And Javier Vazquez failed before in NY. I don't see him as a good fit in the rotation. Some people just can't pitch in NY, despite great success elsewhere (see Rogers, Kenny). The Yankees lineup still makes them the beasts of the East. But they are a year older, they lost two very good clubhouse guys in Damon and Matsui (the World Series MVP, by the way). They would win my fantasy baseball league. But I don't see them winning the AL this year.

Tomorrow- a full National League Preview.

2010 AL Predictions-
AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays

AL Central
White Sox

AL West

Yankees over Tigers
Twins over Angels

Twins over Yankees

MVP - Justin Morneau
CY Young - Jon Lester
ROY - Brian Matusz