Friday, February 15, 2008

And now, the focus shifts

I'm doing my best to turn my sights from Congressional hearings, depositions and affidavits to the greatly anticipated (and quite frankly, needed) Spring Training. We're seeing lots of previews and such but I wanted to point out Jayson Stark's latest, which is worth a read. What Jayson does well is polling insider baseball men to get their views. It's a good way to gauge what the insiders are looking at or concerned about.

In addition to "Most intriguing spring stories" for each league, here are some of the results of his unscientific polling:

Most improved teams (NL)

  • Mets
  • Diamondbacks
  • Cubs

Most improved teams (AL)

  • Tigers
  • Mariners
  • Rays

Most unimproved teams (NL)

  • Pirates
  • Marlins
  • Giants

Most unimproved teams (AL)

  • Athletics
  • Orioles
  • Twins

Worst free-agent signings

I'll add this whole section since I LOVE this sorta thing:

Best trades

  • Mets get Santana for a sprint champ who might never hit (Carlos Gomez) and three pitching prospects who might never win as many games combined as the 93 Santana won for the Twins all by himself.
  • Tigers get a 24-year-old four-time All-Star (Cabrera) and a 26-year-old two-time All-Star (Willis) from the Marlins for two tremendous prospects (Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller), plus four deal filler-outers who include one minor leaguer (pitcher Burke Badenhop) who's actually older than Cabrera.
  • Orioles get three excellent young arms (Troy Patton, Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate), plus the useful Luke Scott and a third-base prospect with power potential (Mike Costanzo), from Houston for a player (Tejada) who got scorched by the Mitchell report about 20 minutes after the press conference. "If they'd just waited two days," one of our panelists said of the Astros, "wouldn't the price tag have gone down dramatically?"
  • Poll tidbit: Here's a no-doubt-about-it sign that the most evenly matched monster trade of the winter was the six-for-two extravaganza that sent Haren from Oakland to Arizona. Three of our balloters gave the Diamondbacks "best trade of the winter" votes. Two thought the A's made one of the best trades of the offseason. And four more said both teams made out great.

Three most outrageous contracts (free agent or otherwise) [EDIT: only first one shown]

  • Yankees toss $275 million over 10 years, plus a chance to make another $30 million, at Alex Rodriguez, even though (A) no other team appeared to be within $80 million of that, (B) he turns 33 in July and (C) he couldn't possibly have been more desperate to go back there. Worked out just fine for "60 Minutes," anyhow.

Rookies to watch (NL)

  • Jay Bruce (Reds CF)
  • Colby Rasmus (Cardinals CF)
  • Cameron Maybin (Marlins CF)

Rookies to watch (AL)

Not quite sure why Joba was omitted since I think he's clearly more interesting to watch than the toolsy-Adam Jones. But maybe I'm being homerish. Certainly possible, but I think Joba's cup of coffee last year portends to something fun to watch this year. I'll let it slide.

Plenty more there to read but I can't simply pilfer his entire work....Great stuff to get your baseball juices flowing (the legal and natural ones, please).

[Quick rant: I also quickly scanned the comments section below Stark's article and they are pretty funny, lame and pathetic. Why fans get so up in arms when their team isn't mentioned is beyond me. Stark took a poll, he didn't write an entire team-by-team preview. The cries of East Coast Bias is true in many instances but to call every writer on ESPN guilty of it is just sad. NY and Boston dominate the coverage due to their outsized payrolls, attendance figures and prolonged success. Sorry if you guys in KC or Pittsburgh or whereever feel slighted. It's simple demographics. ESPN caters to the east coast faniac. That doesn't mean the Tigers are being disprespected or whatever. I'm done, resume your regularly scheduled reading or get back to work!]

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