Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Busting on Buster

Yes, I am a Buster Olney fan. He posted on his blog today, which is among my daily must reads no matter what else is going on, a snippet on every team and the questions facing them. What I have presented below are some of the more curious, obvious, silly, etc., ones that I thought he should have done more with. My comments follow each. This is not meant to be a rip on Buster, mind you, just a rebuttal.

Rather than post 2-3 points on each team, why not profile a team or two a day and get that in-depth goodness that we know Buster is good for? OK, maybe he was told to do it this way, maybe he just opted for the USA Today approach (an "economy of words").

Atlanta Braves: Can John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Mike Hampton take the ball for 85-90 starts? Can Rafael Soriano stay healthy?
Are you kidding me? If Smoltz and Glavine each make 33 starts, you mean to tell me anyone would expect, in their right mind, that Hampton returns from 2 years recovering from injuries to make 20+ starts? Call Vegas; I will take the under.

Baltimore Orioles: We know the Orioles are rebuilding. If Erik Bedard is going to be traded, which seems inevitable, then who, besides Nick Markakis, can be serve as a root in that effort?

If Peter Angelos just let his "baseball people" do their "baseball things", this once-proud franchise would be in a better position that it is now, which is likely one of looking UP at the Rays, which was unthinkable just a few years back.

Boston Red Sox: Will J.D. Drew bounce back from a subpar first year with the Red Sox? He fared well in the last two rounds of the 2007 postseason. Maybe he has made the transition, or maybe not.
Call Vegas on this one, too. Drew was huge on the post-season, but his dour personality and on-field attitudes will rub the RSN faithful bigtime. The Sox look loaded, no matter what.

Chicago Cubs: With contract in hand as the 2008 season starts, will Carlos Zambrano be Big Z, or less than that? Is Kosuke Fukudome going to be as good as everybody thinks he's going to be?
100 years and counting? And what will Fukudome's nickname be? K-Fuk? Fuku-do-me? Welcome to the Fuku-Dome.

Chicago White Sox: How good are John Danks and Gavin Floyd? The White Sox will sink without solid seasons from one or both. Will the money invested in Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel pay off, or make no difference in the way that the Orioles' bullpen spending made no difference for Baltimore last year?
Kenny Williams sure thinks his team has a shot to return to 2005 glory, doesn't he? Me, not so sure. Doesn't seem like they have the rotation, especially after dealing Garland.

Colorado Rockies: Does Ubaldo Jimenez possess staying power? Does Ian Stewart have enough athleticism to make the adjustment to second base? Jimenez has added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, writes Patrick Saunders.
15 pounds of muscle? Remember when that used to be an innocent and quaint sign of "hard work" and now we have to wonder how he did just that? Remind me of him come draft time in my fantasy league.

Cleveland Indians: Will Travis Hafner hit like Pronk, or will he put too much pressure on himself and struggle, even with a contract in hand? Will C.C. Sabathia's impending free agency and on-going negotiations have any effect on him? Who will step up to be the right-handed hitter that the Indians need?
Clearly, not enough has been made about Sabathia's free agency prospects. If I am NY or Boston, I am letting Johan go and hope both or one of them hit the FA markets. This guy is a horse and will be paid a smidge below Johan but will be at least as good going forward for the next 5-7 years.

Detroit Tigers: Will the Tigers' rotation hold up? Can Dontrelle Willis make the transition to the AL? Is Detroit's middle relief deep enough?

What a lineup. They will be able to keep the rotation afloat, so long as Maroth doesn't return. Will be interesting to see Dontrelle in the AL. Wonder how often he pinch hits.

Florida Marlins: Can the stable of injured young starters bounce back? Might Hanley Ramirez be regarded as the league's best player by season's end?
Hanley Ramirez, the next MVP from a last place team? Wow, is he good. Too bad no one will see him live.

Houston Astros: Do the Astros have enough starting pitching behind Roy Oswalt? Will Miguel Tejada, generally known as a sensitive guy prone to outside forces, be able to successfully play through an FBI investigation and give Houston suitable shortstop defense?
What a mess. Yet, Drayton has no buyer's remorse. Yeah, right.

Kansas City Royals: Will Zack Greinke build off his strong finish? Can Alex Gordon produce, after not producing much last year?
Honestly and secretly, I am rooting for the Royals, despite their ownership. If for no other reason than this.

Los Angeles Angels: Will Scot Shields bounce back and again give the Angels a dominant bullpen? Will Ervin Santana gain consistency, as he has in winter ball? Will Erick Aybar or Maicer Izturis win the shortstop job?
Will AL West team anyone challenge this team? Does the SS position battle even matter? A's are down, Texas is just OK. Seattle, especially if they get Bedard, is a threat.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Is Andy LaRoche good enough to hold down third? Can Jason Schmidt give the Dodgers anything? Will Matt Kemp become the power hitter the Dodgers so desperately need?
If Torre is a good judge of talent, Kemp will play full time. If he's hamstrung by that silly Pierre contract, then that's a shame. Interesting how Mattingly bailed out before the season started.

Milwaukee Brewers: Will Chris Capuano pitch like the All-Star he has been in the past, or like the pitcher who went winless for almost five months last season? Will Ben Sheets break down? Will Eric Gagne bounce back from his Boston experience?

I enjoyed the resurgence of the Brewers. Home-grown, fairly likeable, even with Prince's constant negativity towards his dad. We get it, you don't like him. Move along. "Will Sheets break down?" Vegas, Jason here, again. I will take that bet. Sign me up.

Minnesota Twins: Assuming that the Twins swap Johan Santana before the start of the season, can their young pitchers step up to fill the gaps created by the departures of the left-hander, Carlos Silva and Matt Garza? Will Delmon Young become a more patient hitter and give himself a chance to a superstar?

I'm really interested in seeing this drama unfold. One, I'd like to see the Twins keep Johan to pair with a recovering Liriano. Those two could be dominant. And if Johan is dealt, it's going to be a case study in dealing a stud pitcher. Will Bill Smith get good value this late or will he just take whatever's out there? Or will he roll the dice, go for it this year and if out of it, deal Johan at the deadline. Talk about compelling...

New York Mets: Who will take the ball at the front end of the Mets' rotation, and is that good enough to overcome the Phillies, Braves and the mental ghosts of last September?
Oh man. My Mets fans are still in the dumps about last year. And they have no pitching. Relying on Pedro for 33 starts is more than a risk.

New York Yankees: Will the New York rotation have enough depth? The Yankees hope that three youngsters, among Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, are consistent enough to hold down two spots, but does Mike Mussina have another solid 30-start season? Will Andy Pettitte be distracted in his preparation, by the Clemens situation?

I'm worried about Pettitte's distraction. Unless, of course, he tells Congress that Clemens knew what he was doing and he can enter the year with a clear head. I'd lobby for a 6 man rotation to keep the kids' IP under control and Moose fresher than last year. I'm also hoping we keep Hughes and the others; it'd be nice to have a group of home-grown kids to root for again. It's been a while.

Oakland Athletics: Will Rich Harden and Bobby Crosby stay healthy? How long will Billy Beane wait before dealing Huston Street?
If Harden appears in more than 20 games, I will be stunned and he will have a chance at the AL CY. Crosby, overrated when healthy, rarely healthy. Yes, he signed a ball for me at Yankee Stadium when he was a rook, so I still root for him. But still, take the under.

Philadelphia Phillies: Will Brad Lidge be dominant Brad Lidge, or will he give the Philly fans reason to boo him? Can the Phillies hit enough to overcome the lack of depth in the rotation?
Talk about a fun team to watch: The Flyin' Hawaiian, Utley, Rollins, Howard, etc.

St. Louis Cardinals: Their projected rotation is Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper, Joel Pineiro, Anthony Reyes and Matt Clement -- is that enough? How quickly will the talent of super prospect Colby Rasmus manifest itself? How good is Rick Ankiel, really?
Enough for what? Last place? Yes. Hanley and Pujols can wonder what it'd be like to have a solid surrounding cast this year.

San Diego Padres: How many games will Jim Edmonds play, and how much will he hit? How soon will Brian Giles be back in the lineup? Will Kevin Kouzmanoff continue to progress as a big league hitter?
They have such a good rotation and Trevor's still Trevor despite October. Wonder if they have enough to topple Arizona.

San Francisco Giants: Is the rotation good enough to carry what will be a sluggish offense? Will Tim Lincecum hold up and develop a better off-speed pitch? How different will the Giants' clubhouse -- and offense -- be without Barry Bonds?
Lincecum and Cain: too bad they won't be dealt for two teams' farm systems to totally rebuild this mess from the ground up. Such a great ballpark, too bad it will be empty.

Seattle Mariners: We saw how good Felix Hernandez can be early last season, with his remarkable outing in Boston. Can he do that over a long season? Will Richie Sexson hit, and if he doesn't, will it matter? Will the Mariners finally complete their trade for Bedard?
If they get Bedard to pair with Felix, they could threaten the Angels of Some Place in CA.

Tampa Bay Rays: Will Matt Garza's game advance to the next level? Because if it does, the Rays will suddenly have a solid quorum in their rotation, to go along with an offense that will thrive if B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena hit as they did last year.
This team, if they had any baseball sense and discipline, they would threated the Jays for 3rd place and bury the Orioles in last. We'll see. Tell ya what, though: They have a fun team to watch, just not at home in that airplane hangar.

Toronto Blue Jays: Can the Jays' pitchers stay healthy, and if so, what could they be capable of? If A.J. Burnett makes 30 starts, might this rotation rank among the best in the majors? Will Vernon Wells bounce back from his shoulder surgery, and hit the way he did in 2006? How quickly can B.J. Ryan, coming back from elbow surgery, be a factor in Toronto's bullpen?
How about 3rd place in the AL East? It's reserved for you.

Washington Nationals: How will their new ballpark play, and how will it affect the current group of players? Who, besides Ryan Zimmerman, will anchor their rebuilding effort? With 600 plate appearances, how many homers will Wily Mo Pena hit?
Will they beat estimates again, or revert to the historically awful team most expected in 2007?

If you couldn't tell, I can't wait for the season!

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