Monday, April 02, 2007

Spring Training Is Over, You Can Pay Attention Now

The longest month in baseball - March, is over, thankfully bringing an end to Spring Training, and a return to meaningful baseball.

From a fan's standpoint, the dog and pony show that is Spring Training is pretty useless. You can't watch the games, and even when you can, you don't want to. Managers and GMs may find it useful to jerk around the hopes and dreams of a bunch of aging reserve utility men and career minor leaguers, but really, the whole thing is largely a waste of time.

The Jays were particularly bad this spring, posting a batting average that ranked only ahead of Florida's - good for 29th. It doesn't matter though. March success has as much to do with regular season success as actual vocal talent has to do with winning American Idol.

The Jays have a lot to live up to this year. They are coming off an 87 win, 2nd place finish in one of baseball's toughest divisions. Last season was their, "Hey, look at us!" season, as they tried to remind the baseball world that there were more than two teams in the AL East. Unfortunately, our Jays will be in tough to challenge Boston and New York again.

Unlike baseball's twin Evil Empires (face it Boston, if you can pay $100 million for a pitcher who has never played in the MLB, you are an Evil Empire too), the Jays did not improve in any noticeable way. Born again Frank Thomas was the only headline grabbing news, the rest of JP Ricciardi's moves were more of a back-page blurb nature.

Veterans Royce Clayton is our new starting short-stop (which means our favourite Jay, John MacDonald is back on the bench), and aging Canuckle outfielder Mat Stairs will contribute depth.

On pitching, the Jays missed out on free agents Ted Lilly (unfortunately) and Gil Meche (thankfully) which left spots four an five open. Ricciardi went with the, toss everything on the wall and see what sticks approach. On said wall he tossed a motley crew of youngsters and vets looking for a second, or third chance, including Victor Zambrano, less than a year off Tommy John surgery, John Thompson, oft injured, Tomo Ohka, the Jays' embittered answer to Dice-k, Josh Towers, who I kinda thought would never ever pitch for Toronto again, Casey Jansens, who mildly impressed last year as a rookie and Shawn Marcum, who still has time to turn into something special.

Ohka and Towers stuck, with Zambrano putting up a good fight. Whether a rotation of Halladay-Burnett-Chacin-Ohka-Towers is capable of stringing together any number of wins is questionable, and the result of which will entirely determine the fate of this team.

Offensively, Toronto is more or less the same. The Big Hurt will provide more homers (speaking of Thomas, the man is huge. I used to think Troy Glaus was pretty big, but after seeing the two stand next to each other, Glaus seriously looks like he's made of matchsticks), and more strikeouts as well. Scoring runs isn't where these guys will run into problems.

I don't really care for the '07 Blue Jays, they are just a paler version of last year, but if you're not optimistic on opening day, than you really shouldn't be watching this sport. I predict the Jays will take the AL wildcard in a daring late September push.

Other predictions:

American League

EAST: Yankees win the division as the team becomes healthy at the right time of the season, that is, the end of it. Boston's pitching staff implodes, and Daisuke's gyro ball actually kills a man. Baltimore still sucks, but less so, and Canadian ace Eric Bedard makes it really, really hard to cheer against them. Tampa Bay still really sucks, except for that Kazmir guy, and their so called best outfield in baseball.

CENTAL: Detroit gets it right this time and wins baseball's new toughest division. The Indians still aren't as good as everyone wants them to be, and Minnesota and Chicago continue to be good without being great. Kansas City continues to bolster every other Central team with easy wins.

WEST: Los Angeles of Anahiem wins the division as they get all of their pitchers healthy, and Gary Matthews wins the AL MVP (Hah, just kidding). Oakland does nicely, and makes Mike Piazza a very rich man in the off season, but with another team. Texas quickly regrets their Sammy Sosa experiment, and Seattle gives no reason for Ichiro to re-sign next year.

WILDCARD: The Jays win it in the final days of September, beating out strong pushes from the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins and Oakland. No, I'm serious.

CY YOUNG: Roy Halladay pitches a full season, which as per the terms of his contract, automatically ensures him a Cy Young. Sorry Santana.

MVP: Alex Rodriguez wins another one, and Yankee fans are only too glad when he doesn't renew his contract.

National League

EAST: The Mets win this one, of course, but Philadelphia makes it close. Atlanta gets to reflect on life outside the postseason for one more year, while Washington treads water, and Florida comes no where near repeating last season.

CENTRAL: St. Louis wins this division again, but it's more because no one else is good enough than because the Cards deserve a chance at repeating. The Cubbies do not live up to the hype - gasp - Milwaukee, Houston and Cinncinati are all in the wild card hunt and Pittsburgh... still has Jason Bay.

WEST: Los Angeles wins this division, which is slowly improving as a whole. With Randy Johnson returning, Arizona slowly starts to remember what having a championship team was like, and in San Fransisco, Barry Bonds suffers an unfortunate "accident" involving cement shoes and deep water before he can commit his final act of sacrilege... Meanwhile, Colorado and San Diego continue being teams we know absolutely nothing about.

WILDCARD: Philadelphia takes it, and dreams of a Phillie-Toronto rematch stir up inside of absolutely no one.

CY YOUNG: The NL's winningest pitcher wins more than 16 games this time, and the award goes to Chris Carpenter, who is really the only thing we like about St. Louis.

MVP: Jimmy Rollins, baseball's anti-Bonds, hits a whole bunch of homers, and gets a whole bunch of MVP awards.

Check back in September when you shall be astounded to find every single prediction has come true. I promise.


No comments: