Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's Almost Here!

Three more days! Three more days until the 2006 baseball season begins. Life begins again and like springtime in nature, we'll swat away the flies of steroid talk and watch another season unfold. Here are the Fan's predictions:

National League East:
1. Mets: Reyes and Wright have big years and Beltran comes out of his sleep like Rip Van Winkle.
2. Phillies: Ryan Howard hits 49 homers but pitching keeps them from the top.
3. Nationals: Nick Johnson has his first 100 RBI season and Jose Vidro wins Comeback of the Year.
4. Braves: Smoltz will find the DL and the glorious reign of the Braves finally ends.
5. Marlins: Florida fans will wonder how this hapless team ended up in Las Vegas.

National League Central:
1. Cardinals: Pujols drags this team back to a playoff loss one more time.
2. Brewers: The Brewers will be fun to watch. The Prince has arrived! He'll hit 33 homers.
3. Reds: The rising of the Reds starts this year. All three outfielders have big seasons.
4. Pirates: Another fun team to watch with pitching woes bogging them down.
5. Cubs: Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez and another year of injuries to Prior and Wood.
6. Astros: Roger won't be back. Bagwell is gone and Biggio has little left.

National League West:
1. Dodgers: Good pitching. Great fielding. Just enough hitting. Gagne is back!
2. Diamondbacks: Will be better than expected in a weak division.
3. Padres: Great young infield. Chan Ho and Woody Williams? Nope.
4. Giants: The only team older than the Yankees. Thank goodness for the Rockies
5. Rockies: Not a Rocky Mountain High.

American League East:
1. Yankees: If their pitching falters early, they will buy more. Wang has a big year.
2. Red Sox: Hard to believe they won't have enough hitting. No wildcard either.
3. Blue Jays: Climbing back, but not there yet. Burnett will burn out.
4. Devil Rays: A year or two away from being great. Close to .500 this year.
5. Orioles: Tejada will not be enough to save this flawed team.

American League Central:
1. Indians: If the young talent gels, this team is scary. Hafner will give David Ortiz a run for his money.
2. Tigers: You just have to believe in Leyland and letting his young fireballers play. Magglio Ordonez had a big spring and is back to star strength.
3. White Sox: Leaked too much in the off season. Pitching isn't as strong as predicted.
4. Royals: Buddy Bell doesn't inspire confidence, but they will be better than they have been.
5. Twins: Joe Mauer becomes a big star, but there isn't enough pitching or offense.

American League West:
1. Athletics: Best pitching in baseball. Enough offense to win close games. Billy Beane is amazing.
2. Angels: Sagging around the edges. Oakland will beat them too often head to head.
3. Rangers: Texas will really miss Soriano in their lineup. They didn't replace his production.
4. Mariners: Ichiro will miss the WCS

Cy Young:
National League - Brett Tompko. Oh my! He finally lives up to his talent.
American League - Roy Halliday. Clearly the best pitcher in the American League.

Batting Champ:
National League - Aramis Ramirez
American League - Derek Jeter

National League - Albert Pujols. He could win it every year for the next ten.
American League - Bobby Crosby

Home Run Champion:
National League - Ryan Howard (49)
American League - Jim Thome (44)

Rookie of the Year:
National League - Prince Fielder
American League - Jonathan Papelbon

Comeback Player of the Year:
National League - Nomar Garciaparra, Jose Vidro
American League - Jim Thome

Final Career Total for Barry Bonds - 729

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Watching the Transaction Wire

The 2006 Major League Baseball season begins right around the corner and the transaction links get more and more interesting. As we get closer to the season, veterans, as well as young prospects start getting pinched from rosters. Today it was Carlos Pena (Tigers) and Darrell May (Twins).

Carlos Pena was a surprise. It doesn't seem long ago when he was a "can't miss" prospect for the Tigers. He was the Cape Cod League MVP in 1997 and then had a great college career.

Pena joined the Tigers in the 2002 season (Pena started the year in Oakland) after a brief stint in Texas the year before. The Tigers have been terrible for a while and Pena became another cog in the next and continuing youth movement for the Tigers.

His first year, Pena showed promise, batting .253 and hit 12 homers, 4 triples and 13 doubles in just 273 at bats. With more playing time in 2003, Pena hit 18 homers but his average dropped 5 points. His average dropped a few more points in 2004, but he did hit 27 homers and drove in 82 runs. He also scored 89 runs since he walked 70 times.

Last year, Pena got off to a slow start and was sent to the minors for a while. With the major league club, his average dipped further but did manage 18 homers and 44 RBI in 260 at bats.

Pena would be a good gamble for another club with a more favorable hitting park than Detroit's cavernous park. Left-handed power can help a club if a team can get him back on track. Pena does walk a lot and has a decent on-base percentage for his career despite the mediocre batting average. Some team should give him a shot.

Darrell May never had the advanced billing that Pena received. May is a left-hander who has pitched for parts of ten seasons with seven different teams. Last year was particularly painful for May.

He caught on with the San Diego and started eight games for that team and had a 1-3 record with a 5.61 ERA. He was then traded to the Yankees for Paul Quantrill. That didn't go very well at all for the pitcher.

With the Yankees, he pitched twice and started once. In seven innings of total work, May gave up 17 baserunners and 13 runs, including four homers. The Yankees sent him packing.

He signed on with Minnesota and after an unimpressive spring, the Twins cut him loose. Since MLB seems to value left-handed pitching no matter how uninspiring, May might catch on with someone. He did have one good season with the Royals (2003) where he went 10-8 with a 3.77 ERA. But the man has given up 123 homers in his career in 660 big league innings.

Baseball is a tough business and careers can end abruptly. That's why the transaction wire is such an interesting place. Every day carries a different story. Here's hoping that the story for Darrell May and Carlos Pena didn't end on March 26, 2006.