MLB “Allowing” Rays to Look In to Montreal For Half-Seasons

Over the past few days, the baseball world has been talking about the possibility of the Rays playing their home games half of the time in Tampa and the other half in Montreal. People who are for it (which is business people mostly) are saying it is good because it will improve the franchise’s finances. Others who are in favor of it want Montreal back in the baseball world.

But the ones who are interested in it (from my perspective) are a rare few. Myself included think this ranks up as one of the dumbest ideas baseball has seen in a long time (well, the dumbest idea in the Rob Manfred era at least, and he’s come up with some real doozies of dumb ideas). More interesting, the deal only “would work” if both cities could get new stadiums.

So let me get this correct: if Tampa Bay got a new ballpark to which taxpayers in the area would foot the bill for it, they would lose half of the baseball games there. And if Montreal got a new ballpark (which eluded them 15 years ago which resulted in their move to Washington), they’d only get a small taste of MLB. And yes, Canadian taxpayers would foot the bill for that too.

Gotcha.

MLB in the Tampa Bay area (really Florida overall) has been somewhat of a mess. Bud Selig had this wonderful idea of giving an expansion team in Tampa/St. Pete because of the baseball-rich history it has with the players down there and being a hotbed for Spring Training. Great idea but just one problem: he failed to realize how strong the Yankees (who had Spring Training in Tampa) influenced the area. And he threw the Rays in the same league and division as the Yankees. Oops. And in a division where all the teams play in the nearby vicinity (Blue Jays, Orioles, and Red Sox). So to me the Rays were doomed the minute Selig announced they’d play in the AL East. My contention is if they were moved to the NL East, the major issues would have been the Braves (nearby Orlando, also part of “Braves Country”) and Phillies (Spring Training in nearby Clearwater). But the cult followings for those two teams aren’t as strong as it is for Boston and New York. And the Expos (nothing for a following at the time), Mets and Marlins (both play on the eastern side and Marlins near Miami) wouldn’t have much of an influence.

The Rays for the past decade have been one of the more exciting teams in baseball. They have won a couple of division titles (08, 10), an AL pennant (08), and a couple of wild card runs. However, because of “revenue issues” and “sky high salaries” they have been unable to keep their stars long-term, similar to what Montreal went through 15-20 years ago. And it doomed the Expos (alongside Selig’s wish to move a team to Washington, DC). However, they have not drawn well in this time period.

People point to Tropicana Field being a giant disaster. I think the ones who badmouth the Trop are the ones who have not been to a game down there. No, it isn’t going to win “Ballpark of the Year” at all. But it isn’t a large toilet. The issue is that it is a non-retractable dome and it really is an arena with more of an arena feel than a baseball feel. I don’t think the intentions were to have the Rays continue to play at Tropicana Field for the first 25 years (I thought by this time, a new ballpark would have been in play). So I don’t think people are avoiding wanting to see the Rays in Tropicana (more because of the fan bases of other teams really hurt them).

The Rays lease with Tampa Bay (I really should say St. Petersburg since the Rays play there) runs out after 2027 which means really any idea of the Rays splitting a season with Montreal is out of the question. Adding on, if local officials and fans know that if the Rays want a new ballpark only to split it with Montreal there is no way anyone in their right mind would go for it. So those are two major hurdles that I don’t think the Rays, Montreal, or MLB could climb over.

Think of the players! We rip baseball players because they have mega large salaries. But they are still humans as well. Even players who make the minimum in the majors have a nice salary (which mostly is Tampa Bay). However, telling them they have to split their “homes” during the season as they pretty much have to up and move while having go from a place with no state income tax in Florida to the high taxes in Montreal will not be fun. Good luck with taking up with that to the MLBPA (though I think Manfred has the final decision and it wouldn’t matter).

Ultimately what I get out of this is that Manfred wants baseball back in Montreal. We know pretty much the city was jipped of the Expos and how Bud Selig and his cronies handled all of that back in the early 2000’s. However, this is NOT the way to go. Montreal deserves its own baseball team (as does Tampa Bay especially if they can switch leagues) and not having to split with another city. And this whole thing doesn’t make any logistical sense. People can say whatever they want to say from a business standpoint, but this is just bad business. If push comes to shove, the Rays will likely relocate after 2027 because there would be no way that area would pay for a ballpark that would be temporarily used from April-June.

Or maybe this has been much ado about nothing. They put it out to see how people would react to the idea. But numerous hurdles would have to be cleared anyway, and those hurdles are massive ones at that. So time will only tell if this ever gains serous traction.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Facebook

Twitter

Advertisements

The 9th Inning Column: MLB Draft Week, Jose Ramirez’ struggles, and RIP Bill Buckner

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the second edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for May with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

It is almost time for the MLB Draft!

We are less than a week away from the 2019 MLB Draft and there’s a lot of speculation swirling about the first few rounds. Firstly, nearly everybody in the business believes that the Orioles have to take Adley Rutschman with the top pick. Rutschman, a catcher for Oregon State, is a switch-hitter with solid power and great defensive skills behind the plate. Secondly, a lot of people believe that the Royals will take Bobby Witt Jr. with the second pick. Witt Jr. is a five-tool shortstop coming out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas, and he’s the son of a former big league starter. Overall, we are looking at a draft class that is somewhat weak on quality arms but more than makes it up for it with high potential position players.

What is wrong with Jose Ramirez?

In the past few seasons, Jose Ramirez gave the Cleveland Indians another budding star to put alongside Francisco Lindor. Yet in 2019, Ramírez looks to be well off his game. He doesn’t look like he’ll achieve a three peat of third place AL MVP finishes. In 55 games, the 26 year old third baseman is batting a mere .211 with only 4 home runs and 17 RBIs. He’s striking out more, walking less, and seems to have lost his touch at the plate. A good thing for Ramirez is that he’s been playing well lately, batting .357 in his last three games. Still though, the Indians are struggling as a team and falling way back in the race for the AL Central, and they’ll need Ramírez to start putting up the numbers that he’s capable of if they want to get back in it.

Former batting champ Bill Buckner passes away

An MLB legend passed away on Monday after a battle with dementia. Bill Buckner played in the big leagues for 22 seasons and totaled 2,715 hits on a career .289 batting average. Buckner was a great teammate and was highly valued as a utility player during his time in the MLB. In 1980, he batted .324 and was the National League Batting Champion. In 1981, he made his only All-Star team. Buckner deserves respect across the league for his great career. Rest In Peace, Bill Buckner.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees were the best team in baseball throughout the month of May and I’ll discuss them later, because they won one of the column’s awards.

The Minnesota Twins were certainly in the mix for the team of the month award in May, but they were just edged out by the Yanks. They’re pulling away from the Indians in the AL Central, as they currently have a 9.5 game cushion. Newfound ace Jake Odorizzi was phenomenal in May, pitching his way to a 0.94 ERA in five starts. First baseman C.J. Cron led the high powered Twins offensive attack in May as he hit eight home runs, batted .301, and tallied 21 RBIs. The Twins continue to surprise folks and they are seriously one of the top five teams in baseball right now, without any doubt.

The Oakland Athletics have recently gotten themselves firmly back in the hunt for the AL West crown with a 10-game winning streak and an 8-2 stretch over their past ten games. They are alone in second place in their division and sit 7.5 games back of the Houston Astros. The Athletics were led by Frankie Montas strong pitching (2.64 ERA in 30.2 IP) and the offense was helped a lot by Josh Phegley (4 HRs and 20 RBI). With franchise cornerstone Matt Chapman and a solid pitching staff, last year’s second AL Wildcard team could be well on their way to another postseason appearance.

If you haven’t heard about Cody Bellinger’s stellar start of a 2019 campaign, then you’ve been living under a rock. Combine that with a dominating pitching staff and you can see why the Los Angeles Dodgers are continuing to build a sizeable lead in the NL West Standings. They either won or split every series in the month of May, proving that they can compete in every single game. Sitting at a 38-19 record, the Dodgers look to be well on their way to another NL West crown.

The St. Louis Cardinals were very good in the first month or so of 2019, but they’ve fallen off to a below .500 record as we turn the calendar to June. They are 4-6 in their last ten games and now sit 4.5 games back of the first place Cubs in the NL Central. The Cardinals play in perhaps the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball, so they’ll need to stop skidding before they find themselves in too big of a hole.

Remember when the Seattle Mariners were hitting all sorts of bombs every day and were in first place in the AL West? Yeah, I do too, and those days are long gone as the Mariners have the worst record in all of Major League Baseball in the month of May at 6-21. They’ve struggled as a pitching staff and had tough offensive nights, leading to their fall to dead last in the AL West standings. It looks like the Mariners have run out of magic.

In last month’s column, I talked extensively about what the San Francisco Giants should do if they didn’t start winning soon. Well, the Giants haven’t done any better and are still in last place in their division as they’ve been extremely cold as of late. They’re in the midst of a 2-8 stretch in their last ten games and they are on their way to being an early seller on the summer trade market.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The New York Yankees (19-7)

The New York Yankees have surged to the top of the American League East recently due to a continued stretch of dominance. They’ve gone 12-3 since May 12th and that includes series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays (twice) and the San Diego Padres. Masahiro Tanaka had been dominant in May until his start on Tuesday, having a 2.80 earned run average in 35.1 innings of work. Gleyber Torres (.308 AVG and 9 HRs) and Gary Sanchez (.288 AVG and 9 HRs) have carried the load offensively for the Yanks throughout the month. The bullpen is starting to round into form as well, proving it is as good as advertised with Chapman, Britton, Kahnle, and Ottavino all in peak form right now. With so many injuries, the Yankees performance has simply been impressive.

The Hitter of the Month is…

Pittsburgh Pirates 1B Josh Bell

One of the best hitters in all of the majors through the season thus far, Pirates first baseman Josh Bell has been absolutely smoking baseballs left and right. He is undoubtedly the hitter of the month of May, as he hit at a .389 batting average with a .444 on-base percentage and an .814 slugging percentage. He also has hit 12 homers in the month and has racked up 30 RBIs. He’s shown considerable improvements in the 2019 campaign so far, as he’s close to reaching previously career high numbers already. Bell is the unquestioned leader in Pittsburgh and if he continues hitting like this, he will be in Cleveland as an All-Star this summer.

The Starter of the Month is…

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Garnering praise as a “left handed Greg Maddux”, the 32-year old veteran Ryu is off to a Cy Young-esque start in 2019. In May, he was nearly unhittable, going 5-0 and pitching his way to a 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings on the mound. Opposing hitters had just a .177 batting average against him in his six starts and he continues to provide great outings for the dominating LA Dodgers club. If Ryu continues to control the strike zone and limit walks, I could easily see him being named the Cy Young award winner for the National League in the fall.

The Reliever of the Month is…

New York Yankees RHP Adam Ottavino

Adam Ottavino has started off his 2019 campaign still right in his dominant 2018 form. The veteran reliever was superb in May, appearing in 13 games and not giving up any runs. Since April 21st, Ottavino has not given up a run. Thus far in 2019, the former Rockie has a 2-1 record with 12 holds and a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched. He’s been exactly the guy that the Yankees wanted him to be when they signed him in the offseason. He undoubtedly deserves the reliever of the month award for his performance in May.

Rookie Hitter of the Month:

Boston Red Sox 2B Michael Chavis

The third best prospect in the Boston farm system, Chavis has immediately come up into the big leagues and helped provide a stable bat in the lineup. In May, he batted .255 with seven home runs and he’s showing off his advanced hitting tool. With other rookies struggling, Chavis has climbed his way up near the top of the American League Rookie of the Year award race.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month:

Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Soroka

Mike Soroka has been more than just a valuable contributor for the Braves rotation this season. He’s been dominant and looks to be firmly in the mix for the NL Rookie of the Year award. If the award was won in May, Soroka may have just clinched it. He pitched his way to a 0.79 ERA in 34 innings during the month. He only gave up three earned runs and opponents hit just .145 against him in the month. Soroka has been just as good as his prospect evaluation hyped him up to be, and he’s on his way to becoming the ace of the Braves already.

Thanks for reading the May edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

The 9th Inning (April): Vlad Jr’s debut, Mize’s Double-A gem, and what’s wrong with the Red Sox?

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is the first edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is going to be a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen near the end of every month. This is the debut article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for April with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

Vlad Jr’s debut

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his highly anticipated MLB debut this past weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays. MLB Pipeline’s number one prospect may have been the most hyped up debut since Bryce Harper. Guerrero is only batting .250 after his first series is in the books, but part of that is due to him not getting great pitches to hit. MLB.com says that Guerrero had a 37.3% zone rate over his first few games. The Blue Jays are set to take on the Angels in Anaheim in their weekday series, and it’ll be a great series to watch!

2018 top draft pick dominates in first AA Start

Not often will I talk about a player in the Double-A levels of minor league ball in this column, but I feel that this one is well deserved. Casey Mize, the number one overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, made his AA debut with the Detroit Tigers on Monday. The Auburn product dominated and sent a message to the scouts, throwing a nine inning no-hitter in a win for the Erie Seawolves. It was an impressive performance that caught the eyes of many, as Mize only walked one batter and hit another. If he continues to pitch like this, Detroit may soon have a bonafide ace on their big league roster.

What’s wrong with the Red Sox?

The defending champion Boston Red Sox are off to a sour start in the 2019 season, having a 12-17 record to show for it just one month in. They’ve cleaned it up as of late, but there’s still cause for concern with the Beantown squad. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been horrible with the bat, 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce is struggling, and Eduardo Rodriguez/Chris Sale both have ERAs over 6. If the pitching staff doesn’t get going soon, Boston may find itself in a hole too big to overcome, but there’s certainly reason to believe in this team. I mean heck, they are the defending World Series Champs after all!

Where do the Giants go from here?

A lot of talk has circulated about how the San Francisco Giants will attack the summer trade deadline. It’s the final season for manager Bruce Bochy, and it is perhaps the final year for longtime franchise ace Madison Bumgarner in the Bay Area. The Giants have built a team of veterans in hopes of competing in 2019, but it’s gone very badly thus far. They are 12-17 in the NL West, which is last in the division. They are not doing well at the plate, and Jeff Samardzija is their only qualified starting pitcher with an ERA below four. As we near June, the Giants are creeping closer and closer to being the first team to sell off their top veterans to buyers.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The banged-up New York Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now, as they’ve gone 11-2 since losing a home series to the Chicago White Sox on April 14th. Luke Voit was dominant for the Bronx Bombers last week on their West Coast road trip, winning AL Player of the Week Honors by going 13 for 30 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. In doing so, Voit has continued a ridiculous 39-game on base streak into the Yankees two game series against the Diamondbacks.

The Minnesota Twins have won 8 of their last 10 games and have taken 2.5 game lead in the AL Central over the Cleveland Indians. Eddie Rosario (11 HRs) and Jorge Polanco (.948 OPS) have lead the scorching hot Twins offensive attack and Jose Berrios continues to grow into an ace, leaving the Twins in great position to make a run at the postseason in 2019.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won 8 of their last 10 games as well, en route to taking a three game lead over the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central Division. Paul DeJong (.342 AVG, 5 HRs) and Marcell Ozuna (.271 AVG, 10 HRs) are leading a Redbirds offense that is still awaiting an inevitable annual hot stretch from All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

After a rough start to the 2019 campaign, the Chicago Cubs have gotten back near the top of the NL Central with a recent hot stretch. They are winners of 7 of their last 10 games, climbing into a tie for second in the division with the Milwaukee Brewers. Javier Baez has been otherworldly thus far, hitting .315 with 9 home runs and 22 RBIs. The Cubs are also getting great contribution from catcher Willson Contreras (1.033 OPS). They can certainly push for the NL Central, and I fully expect them to do so.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 12-6 after a win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, April 20th. Since then? They’ve been one of the worst teams in baseball, losing eight straight and falling to fourth place in the NL Central Division. With competition like the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals, the Pirates cannot have losing streaks like this and expect to stay atop the division. If they don’t figure it out soon, Pittsburgh could be in serious hot water.

The Washington Nationals have also caught a case of the cold as we flip the calendar to May. They’ve lost three series in a row to teams that I’m just not quite sure they should be losing to. On paper, the Nats have one of the best complete rosters in all of Major League Baseball, but they haven’t been able to put it together just yet in 2019. Let’s see what this team does in May before we press the panic button!

The Oakland Athletics are in serious danger of not getting back to the postseason already in 2019, and that’s not because I don’t have faith in their ability to turn it around after a rough start. The AL West is more competitive this year, and the A’s have struggled as of late, getting swept by Toronto twice in two weeks and losing 7 of their last 10. Will Khris Davis and the Oakland crew figure it out before it’s too late?

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Tampa Bay Rays (19-9)

The Rays definitely were not a lot of experts picks to lead the AL East through one month, but here we are. Tampa Bay holds a 1.5 game lead on the Yankees as we speak, and they’ve had a terrific first month of baseball. A big reason for their success is the pitching staff, as Tyler Glasgow (5 wins, 1.75 ERA), 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell (2 wins, 2.54 ERA), and free agent acquisition Charlie Morton (3 wins, 2.76 ERA) lead the MLB’s top pitching staff thus far. Jose Alvarado has been one of baseball’s best relievers (we’ll discuss him later) and the Rays are much deeper than this, but there’s too many people to name. Austin Meadows was absolutely raking before he got injured (.351, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs), and he should be back rather soon. Yandy Diaz (.298, 7 HRs, 18 RBIs) is having a breakout season at the hot corner for Tampa Bay and veteran outfielder Tommy Pham continues to put up productive numbers (.294, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs). They should be taken seriously as one of the premier World Series contenders.

The Hitter of the Month is …

Los Angeles Dodgers OF/1B Cody Bellinger

Cody Bellinger has played at both right field and first base this year, so I’m not sure what to call him with such a small sample size. But I can call him something, and that is an absolutely on-fire baseball player. The third-year superstar has been nothing short of spectacular in 2019, batting .434 with 14 homers and 37 RBIs. His on-base percentage is over .500 and his slugging percentage sits firmly at .906. What’s even more impressive is that Bellinger has increased his base on balls percentage from 10.9% to 14.1%, while also cutting down his strikeout percentage from 23.9% in 2018 to 11.7% through one month of 2019. If he continues to play like this, he will shatter records, and with this hot start, he’s certainly the favorite to win NL MVP!

Starter of the Month is …

Cincinnati Reds RHP Luis Castillo

When called up to the bigs in 2017, Luis Castillo was the tenth best prospect in the Reds farm system. With a lot of patience by Cincinnati’s staff, Castillo looks to be turning the corner into one of the best pitchers in the National League. His first month of 2019 certainly proved such, as the 26 year old rising phenom has made six starts, going 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 36.1 innings of work. He’s striking out more batters than he has at any point in his young career, and has reduced his home runs per nine innings rate from a sour 1.49 in 2018 to an impressive 0.25 thus far in 2019. His HR/FB rate sits at a solid 4.5%, showing that Castillo has been stingy in terms of preventing the longball. At this point, batters just haven’t been able to hit his stuff, as hitters are hitting just .165 against him. If he continues to pitch like this, he may just deliver the NL Cy Young Award to Great American Ball Park.

The Reliever of the Month is …

Tampa Bay Rays LHP Jose Alvarado

Dating back to 2018, the 23 year old Alvarado has been one of the best relievers in all of Major League Baseball, and that trend has continued to pick up steam as we turn the calendar to May. Thrust into a big late-inning role in 2019, the lefty has been nothing short of excellent thus far. He’s made four saves in 14 appearances, pitching his way to a 1.38 ERA and a 1.82 FIP, proving his performance is no fluke. Alvarado has not surrendered a home run yet this season, and he’s striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings. The only negative in 2019 is that Alvarado’s walks per nine innings rate has increased a bit from 4.08 to 4.85, but it’s not too severe of a jump.

The Rookie Hitter of the Month is …

New York Mets 1B Peter Alonso

A second round selection by the Mets in the 2016 MLB Draft, Peter Alonso has made a quick transition to the pros. He is a phenomenal hitter and subpar defender at first base, and he showed that in the minor leagues all the way up until earning the Mets starting first baseman job in 2019. Since he earned the job, Alonso has proven why he was one of the Mets untradeable chips as they rebuilt last year. He’s an early frontrunner for the NL Rookie of the Year award, as he’s batting .304 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 2019. He will have to continue to work on balancing his approach and limiting strikeouts, but right now, Alonso is hot and off to the races, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The Rookie Pitcher of the Month is …

San Diego Padres RHP Chris Paddack

Paddack is the 31st best prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to MLB Pipeline, but after one month of him in the bigs, I think he may deserve a huge boost before he loses his eligibility on such lists. He’s 23 years old and has been firing on all cylinders to start his MLB career. He’s made five starts, going 1-1 and pitching 27 innings with a 1.67 ERA, ranking third amongst all National League pitchers with 25 or more innings pitched. He’s just been purely unhittable, as opposing hitters have a .111 batting average against him. He’s striking out 10 batters per nine innings, only walking about 2.6 per nine, and only surrenders 0.6 home runs per nine. If he continues to pitch like this, he’ll be right in the thick of the battle for NL Rookie of the Year with his teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mets slugger Pete Alonso (mentioned above).

Thanks for reading the season debut of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

The Obstructed AL East Preview-2019

The Red Sox, Yankees, and everybody else? Or will it be the Red Sox, Yankees, and the Rays? Or will Toronto climb back up? Or will Baltimore…nah.

Last year, Boston won their fourth World Series in 14 years, the most out of any team in the Majors in that timespan as they were probably the best team from beginning to end of the season. They handled their hated rival Yankees and then the defending champion Astros while taking care of the Dodgers. The Yankees were strong enough to win any other division but ended up having to face their foes and losing in 4. The Tampa Bay Rays, a team that is polar opposite of the Red Sox and Yankees “quietly” won 90 games last year doing things very differently as they used a “bullpen by committee” starting rotation that some teams are starting to pick up on. Toronto, with injuries galore and struggles all season, was not any factor in any race but have gotten fans intrigued by the “Vlad Jr. Watch” (which should have been last year but they are going to use the most out of his services). And Baltimore…..um, I love Camden Yards!

I will go do a preview of where I think the teams are, though it many not be too surprising in the order. But here we go.

Judge has his sights set on a world championship in 2019

(1) NEW YORK YANKEES

Last Season: 100-62, lost to Boston in ALDS

KEY ADDITIONS: SS-Troy Tulowitzki (FA-Toronto), C-DJ LeMahieu (FA-Colorado), P-James Paxton (Trade-Seattle), P-Adam Ottavino (FA-Colorado).

KEY LOSSES: SS-Adeiny Hechavarria (FA-New York Mets), 2B-Neil Walker (FA-Miami), OF-Andrew McCutchen (FA-Philadelphia), P-Lance Lynn (FA-Texas), P-David Robertson (FA-Philadelphia)

The Yankees by most standards in an off-season were very quiet. They did add James Paxton in a trade with Seattle, but many figured and possibly hoped they could have been a player in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes (Harper grew up a Yankees fan) or the Manny Machado sweepstakes. But ultimately, they just added pieces to improve the rotation, depth, and bullpen and given they already have a $300+ million player on the team with one, maybe two others looking for a similar deal down the road, it was not surprising they “stood pat.” And that to me is pretty scary. The Yankees will still crank ’em out of the Bronx with Stanton, Judge, and the youngsters of Andujar and Torres. If Gary Sanchez gets his head on straight and return to the high hopes many have for him, it is going to be a lethal lineup. But if he doesn’t, they do have a veteran catcher in DJ LeMahieu that can take over and may be their best move if Sanchez struggles. The rotation was probably the one thing that separated the Red Sox with them. The Paxton trade is huge but if Tanaka and Happ can hold up and give them quality outings on a consistent basis to turn it over to Ottavino, Betances, and Chapman, the Yankees will have a very strong winning formula to get World Championship #28. PREDICTION: 101-61

Betts may be the next great sports hero in Boston, if he isn’t one already

(2) BOSTON RED SOX

Last year: 108-54 (Defeated Yankees in ALDS, defeated Astros in ALCS, defeated Dodgers in World Series)

KEY ADDITIONS: None

KEY LOSSES: 2B-Ian Kinsler (FA-San Diego), P-Drew Pomeranz (FA-San Francisco), P-Joe Kelly (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), P-Craig Kimbrel (FA)

Boston, much like their foes in the off-season did very little. They exercised options on Chris Sale, Eduardo Nunez, while keeping World Series hero Steve Pearce and late trade acquisition Nate Eovaldi around. However, the two major cogs to the Red Sox bullpen in Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly are nowhere to be found, which is a bit concerning as it may have been the one “not so major strength” of the team last year. Now, if the Red Sox starters can stay healthy and do what they are capable of, then another division title and another World Series title is in reach in 2019. However, the one trend of Dave Dombrowski-run teams is slowly continuing in Boston: bullpen needs weren’t addressed and the prior trades made has knocked the once stacked farm system down. So the Red Sox right now hope the arms in the bullpen step up and the rotation keeps healthy for an entire season. Regardless of the pitching, we know Boston’s offense will be rolling with MVP Mookie Betts and JD Martinez leading the way. Xander Bogaerts will continue on the upswing, but at some point Red Sox fans have to hope that Jackie Bradley Jr and Rafael Devers can be legitimate answers for them. If they struggle, then the Red Sox will fall back behind the Yankees. But still, to think this team is going to have a major drop-off from 2018, it won’t happen, but enough of one that the Yankees can reclaim the East. MY PREDICTION: 99-63

If Snell has another Cy Young caliber year, Tampa Bay will be in the thick of a postseason race.

(3) TAMPA BAY RAYS

Last year: 90-72

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Avisail Garcia (FA-Chicago White Sox), C-Mike Zunino (Trade-Seattle), IF-Yandy Diaz (Trade-Cleveland), OF-Guillermo Heredia (Trade-Seattle) P-Charlie Morton (FA-Houston), P-Emilio Pagan (Trade-Oakland)

KEY LOSSES: OF-Mallex Smith (Trade-Seattle), 1B-Jake Bauers (Trade-Cleveland), P-Brock Burke (Trade-Texas) OF-Carlos Gomez (FA-New York Mets), P-Sergio Romo (FA-Miami) OF-CJ Cron (Waivers-Minnesota)

The Rays may have been the most active team in the American League East this year. I will say it again: the Rays may have been the most active team in the American League East. Granted, it doesn’t look like “much” but if Avisail Garcia looks like what he was a few years ago in Chicago and the hope that came with him coming in the Tigers farm, he could be a massive steal of a signing. Mike Zunino is probably the best defensive catcher in the game while being able to work with a good group of young pitchers. Charlie Morton will be the veteran of the bunch of the starters that should help stabilize them a bit (and that was a big move I think for the Rays, assuming he can look like first half Charlie Morton and not second half Charlie Morton). And of course there is Blake Snell, who won the Cy Young for the Rays last year as it could be a tough rotation in the front if all goes well. For a while it seemed like the Rays were hot on the pursuit of Nelson Cruz before he opted to go to Minnesota. So the one thing I will say on Tampa Bay is if they are in the thick of a post-season chase, don’t be surprised if they push for a deal to land a big name bat, albeit a rental one. The Rays will have to get some hope for the offense with Garcia, but will need Willy Adames, Austin Meadows (part of the Chris Archer deal), and Tommy Pham to step up in 2019 to really make a legit run. The one thing I will never do again is doubt the Rays and Kevin Cash. And this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if they see some October baseball. And I do think they will make a big trade during the season to get a key bat (Nick Castellanos?) MY PREDICTION: 92-70

Stroman may be an integral part of the Jays rebuild by moving him

(4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Last year: 73-89

KEY ADDITIONS: SS-Freddy Galvis (FA-San Diego), P-Matt Shoemaker (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Clayton Richard (Trade-San Diego), P-John Axford (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), SS-Eric Sogard (FA-Milwaukee) P-David Phelps (FA-Seattle)

KEY LOSSES: SS-Troy Tulowitzki (FA-New York Yankees), IF-Yangervis Solarte (FA-San Francisco), P-Marco Estrada (FA-Oakland), P-Tyler Clippard (FA-Cleveland)

Paging Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Paging Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blue Jays fans are wanting your services badly. Unfortunately, it looks like Vladdie will make his appearance in May. Until it happens and even when it happens, it may be a very long year North of the Border. Toronto is looking more in rebuild mode than anything at this point. The days of Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion are long gone. And the hope now may be Marcus Stroman gets a good year going to up his trade value and the Jays net a good return to have a quality rebuild as opposed to their divisional birdie brethren in Baltimore, where they just dropped the ball. However, it doesn’t seem like the Jays, even with Guerrero, will be a major force this year or the next couple of years unless they can make some moves to replenish the farm, but how aside from Stroman? Morales and Smoak may help some returns, but by and large, this team is a long ways from competing and in a division where you have to see New York and Boston all the time, a rebuild is pretty difficult unless you know how to do it right like the Rays do. MY PREDICTION: 68-94

Trey Mancini may be one of the lone highlights for the Orioles in 2019

(5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Last year: 47-115

KEY ADDITIONS: IF-Alcides Escobar (FA-Kansas City), IF-Drew Jackson (Trade-Philadelphia), P-Nate Karns (FA-Kansas City)

KEY LOSSES: C-Caleb Joseph (FA-Arizona), OF-Adam Jones (FA-Arizona), IF-Tim Beckham (FA-Seattle)

Baltimore didn’t learn from Detroit, who didn’t learn from Philadelphia. Meaning, instead of the Orioles selling back in the 2017 trade deadline, they strangely opted to go in. And now it is a disaster. The contract of Chris Davis is immovable. Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, and Dylan Bundy are inconsistent at best and the rest are just not close to the same talent as the rest of the AL East (they do match up better with Toronto). However, a new manager is at the helm as Brandon Hyde takes over for Buck Showalter. And there are some pieces to look at like Renato Nunez and Trey Mancini (who played decently in the second half). But let’s face it, it’s hard to think the Orioles will have less than 100 losses again this season. There’s just not a lot of hope. But losing 115 I doubt will happen again. MY PREDICTION: 55-107

That’s it for this division.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Why MLB is to Blame for the Rays Fan Base

For the record, I live in Atlanta. I am constantly tired of hearing about how bad the Atlanta fan base is being such a bandwagon-esque place (i.e. when the Atlanta teams are winning fans will show up and when they are not winning, the venues are empty-fact: all cities are like that). And being one who travels around the country to see MLB and NFL games (as well as college football & basketball games), I gain newfound respect for the fan bases, including fan bases of teams I don’t like (New Orleans, Carolina, Chicago-for my Detroit roots) and my disdain for those teams aren’t as high as they were before I went.

One place I went to (twice) was in the Tampa Bay area to see the Rays play baseball at Tropicana Field. The Rays fan base is one of the most maligned fan bases in pro sports, let alone baseball. The attendance speaks for itself. There isn’t much of a following around in the area, let alone the nation. They play at Tropicana Field, which is from a baseball park standpoint a massive dump. With all this said, they MUST have the makings of a consistent 90-100 loss team on a yearly basis.

Well, nope. Granted, from 2014-2017 Tampa Bay had an under .500 record in each of those seasons but in two of those years they were 80-82 and a third year of winning 77 games. The 2018 season marked the end of that run by winning 90 games practically with their own farm system and veterans that more or less “nobody wants.” And remember, they are doing this in a division that has the two evil empires of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees (that alone makes me become a Rays fan).

So even with 90 wins in their pocket and being a team that has been far more competitive than the likes of the White Sox, Angels, Blue Jays, Tigers, Pirates, Giants, etc. in the last couple of years, why can’t the Rays generate much attraction to their own?

Evan Longoria, who until his trade from the Rays to the Giants was “Mr. Ray” (to me at least) made comments last may about the fan base: ”
“Honestly, and this is maybe not something I should say, but my gut tells me that the best decision might be to move the team…I say that only because I look at the example of the Miami Marlins, and (a new stadium) didn’t really solve their attendance issues. So from purely an attendance standpoint, somewhere else might be better.”

Of course this blog was spurred by comments by current Rays player Tommy Pham who said recently after going from St. Louis to Tampa Bay:
“It sucks going from playing in front of a great fanbase to a team with really no fanbase at all,”

Obviously harsh comments by the players. But I see their point. Longoria was on some strong Rays teams from 2008-2013, 3 times seeing October baseball. However after that 2008 season, the next two times Tampa Bay made it, the crowds were sparse and those who were there pulled a lot for the other teams.

I mentioned I went to Tropicana Field on two separate occasions. First time in 2005 when the Rays still had “Devil” in front of their name and they were hideously bad and saw them play against the Orioles. A lot of Orioles fans packed Tropicana Field, but I also went on Wade Boggs night (it was his Hall of Fame year and they honored him before the game), but there were fans pulling for the home team. And the Devil Rays won in a close game where Scott Kazmir was dealing. Fans were pumped and there was “hope” that with young players like Kazmir and Carl Crawford, things were on the up and I thought “just think if this place could be fully packed with Devil Rays fans how loud this place can be!” It kinda showed in 2008.

I went back in 2012 to see my beloved Tigers play in Tropicana Field (rarely see them play because of living in a National League town). So of course I was on the enemy side and the place was Detroit Florida. Tigers fans packed it in (remember this is when Detroit was in the midst of their big run in the AL Central with Verlander, Scherzer, Fielder, and Cabrera in his prime). But the Rays fans who were there still supported the team and cheered their tails off. And the Rays were a very good team that year too.

So the question begs: why isn’t there much of a fan base for the Tampa Bay Rays?

My answer? Major League Baseball, circa 1995.

Cop out answer? Perhaps. But the logic was that while Spring Training was a hit and any game you saw on TV during March was packed with fans, that MUST mean they will support a Major League franchise, right? The early results for the Marlins were okay (they drew 3 million in its first year in 1993). Tampa, MLB officials thought, “had just as much if not more of a storied baseball past as well. It will draw great. In fact, let’s put them in the American League where a large sum of those teams have Spring Training spots in the area (Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians-at the time, etc.) and it will be great and fans can pack it in! And heck, we can appeal to the fans who moved from those towns!”

Of course it was also swayed by the fact that at the same time MLB awarded a franchise to Tampa Bay, Phoenix was awarded one and a push was to get that team (the Diamondbacks) to the NL West. And boom. Tampa Bay was in the AL East alongside the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles (who were also lavish spenders at the time), and Blue Jays. And all of those teams had established fan bases in that area thanks to the location of Spring Training. Heck, the Yankees have a radio station in Tampa.

And on top of it, they played in a ballpark that wasn’t “modern” by any means and was more of an arena with Tropicana Field (disclaimer: I LIKE Tropicana Field and it is actually fun to watch a game. You’re close to the action and it is a unique place, but truth be told, it’s no ballpark). So, combined that with other teams’ fan bases around and 10 straight seasons of losing records (which that lone will stunt any fan base) and you have a team destined to not be successful in winning over the locals.

MLB messed up badly with the Rays. Granted, it probably doesn’t get much better if you moved the Rays to the NL (worth trying though) as you still have bases of the Braves and Phillies in the surrounding area, but nothing like to what you originally have with the American League squads. But the issue is, you can’t build a fan base when there are already other fan bases solidified in the area.

Is there a solution with the Rays and the Tampa Bay area? Probably not. Building a new ballpark won’t cure all ills (see their in-state brethren Marlins). Moving the Rays to the NL may help, but again, what will it be like when the Braves, Phillies, and Mets visit 3 times at Tropicana Field (or whatever ballpark they build there) per season?

There may be no simple answer to increase and energize the fan base for the Tampa Bay Rays, and worse, an answer may involve hearts to break. But the ones who do go to the games and support the home team, I applaud you and a great answer will come out of this. But MLB has done you no favors.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Is Evan Longoria Right About The Rays Moving? No, Not Yet.

Earlier in the week Evan Longoria, who is going to be known as the greatest Tampa Bay Ray of all time made some interesting comments.

“Honestly, and this is maybe not something I should say, but my gut tells me that the best decision might be to move the team,” 

He continued, “I say that only because I look at the example of the Miami Marlins, and [a new stadium] didn’t really solve their attendance issues. So from purely an attendance standpoint, somewhere else might be better……It pains me to say that, but players want to play in a place where you have consistent support. It’s a selfish thing to say probably as a player, but I don’t know, does anyone really want to play in front of 10,000 a night?…..There are a lot of dedicated Rays fans and obviously it would be a shame for those people to lose the team. But you just hope there is consistent fan support, and it historically hasn’t been there. I don’t know that it’s the easiest case to lobby to build a new stadium in the area. It’s not a slam dunk,”

So let’s divulge into this.  The then-Devil Rays from 1998-2007 were probably baseball’s worst franchise.  They couldn’t get it together at all.  I went to a couple of games in 2005 at Tropicana Field and while I thought it was a ballpark that wasn’t too bad (compared to some of the jibberish that writers say about the place), it wasn’t what I would say an ideal MLB park.  However, when I thought if they could ever consistently win and see October games (which I thought was a pipe dream thanks to the Yankees and Red Sox and I do have something to say on that), Tropicana Field would be packed to the catwalks and make the Metrodome in 1987 and 1991 look like a library.

So, in 2008, the Rays played late October baseball, getting to the World Series for the first time ever.  Leading up to those games, the Tropicana Field was a loudhouse.  A start of something grand a la what we saw in Atlanta with the Braves in 1991? Not exactly.  The Rays continued to be near the bottom of the ranks in attendance, unable to crack 2 million fans at the gates and never finishing higher than 9th in the AL in attendance (the Rays could always thank the Indians and Athletics for being lower).  Adding on, Tampa Bay consistently lost their home-grown stars to free agency or trade (Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Matt Garza) because the payroll was dirt low and in order to increase payroll, you need to get more money.  And getting more fans meant getting more money.  And…..well, they didn’t.

So, at really the onset of the Rays/Devil Rays arrival to the Majors, they have always talked of getting a new ballpark especially after when their fellow 1998 expansion brother Diamondbacks built a retractable roof ballpark with a swimming pool inside the place (of course irony is now, the Diamondbacks are likely shopping around for a new ballpark and may end up getting one before the Rays leave Tropicana).  However, with a decade’s worth of losing, interest of a new park waned.

However, for the last 10 years the Rays have been a solid contending baseball squad inside a division that sees the lavish evil empires of the Yankees and the Red Sox go out and get whoever they want and even the other AL East foes of the Blue Jays and Orioles have resources to spend while the Rays have to do best with what they have.  And they have done well, netting four October appearances in that span.  Not bad.  But even with a solid farm system and a team that has a great cycle, the Rays are really a farm system for the MLB teams of plucking their stars similar to Oakland and before them, the Montreal Expos.

So, let’s go back into Longoria’s statements which alluded to “can the Rays get consistent support from the area?”

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

Here is my problem with this one and honestly, this is a tricky situation.  When Bud Selig announced Tampa/St. Pete would get a new franchise, he hoped it was the perfect situation as baseball was a hotbed for some players in that area who called Tampa/St. Pete home, such as the likes of Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff.  But this is where it went wrong: the Devil Rays were placed in the American League East.  Remember, this is the same area where the Yankees were going to move their Spring Training at in 1996.  So not only did the Yankees base their new Spring Training digs in Tampa but you could go see future Yankees stars every night in the baseball season in the Florida State League.  And while the entire state holds Spring Training for a lot of teams, putting one at the heart where the face of Major League Baseball calls home and putting them in the same division was bad for business (yes, I know Arizona had first crack of which league they wanted to be in and chose the NL).  So when you go to Rays games against the Yankees, the place is packed with Yankee fans.  While it isn’t as large as the Yankees, but other teams in the area during Spring Training (Tigers, Red Sox, Orioles), if the Rays host them, the place is pretty solid with fans of those squads too.  Now yes, the fans of the Braves (which is a daily double of having Atlanta train close to Orlando and had been the only MLB team in the Southeast from 1966-1992) and the Phillies (training in nearby Clearwater) pack it in especially when those teams are winning, but not as bad as having the Yankees come in.  So that was the first whammy for Tampa Bay.

The next bit of “who wants to play for 10,000 fans every night?” I get that from Longoria.  You dream of playing on the biggest and grandest stages in baseball with 40,000 fans screaming.  And again as I said before, while Tropicana Field isn’t horrible to me, it isn’t as aesthetic as the likes of Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium, or Wrigley Field.  And as a player you want to have that.  You don’t want to wish that you were up in Triple-A Durham at their park where it is a true gem (yes, I’ve been to that place and it is a gem) instead of playing in an odd baseball venue that fans don’t want to spend indoors with cement walls all around in July, even in the hot Tampa/St. Pete Area.  I went back to Tropicana Field in 2012 and noticed plenty of good changes to the place since my first stint in 2005, but I felt like then that the park was maxed out in what actual improvements they could use.  And by then I felt like they needed a new park soon.  But what he did was irk the fan base off and say that there weren’t many fans supportive of the team.  Well, I mentioned with being placed in the heart of Yankee City among others, that it was a giant mess-up there.  That’s like having Michigan training camp in being placed right by Ohio State’s campus.

Longoria then points out the lack of success the Marlins have had with drawing fans to their new ballpark in Marlins Park.  This is where I differ with Longoria.  The Southeast has been more known for their passion of college sports, not necessarily pro sports.  And any city that hosts pro sports teams in the area somewhat gets vilified for being a bandwagon town (Atlanta) as the fans of the teams only show up when they win (newsflash people: every city does it with their teams, even the sports rabid Boston, New York, Philly, and Chicago fans; just look at pictures when the Cubs have stunk or when the Browns stink or the Patriots in the early 90’s).

However, Miami is a different ball of wax compared to the other cities in the southeast.  It doesn’t really act as any kind of regional city.  But Longoria messed up on this comment saying that the fans don’t show up to the new park at all.  Well, the area was footed with a bill they didn’t want, with ownership that has dismantled the franchise time after time after time (and carried over to the new ownership led by Derek Jeter) which has not given the fans of that area much faith of the team and a ballpark that doesn’t really have a ballpark feel (which ironically they were leaving from a multi-purpose stadium but somehow that park had more of a baseball feel to it and yes I’ve been to both Marlins venues to watch a game) and then the parking is horrible as well.  And the Marlins have been one of baseball’s worst teams for the past decade.

And to me, after being in the Tampa Bay area a few times, that area doesn’t strike me as a typical “southern” city.  If you look at the Lightning for the last 15 years, they draw very well and have a great support system there.  The Bucs are somewhat of the typical “when they win, the fans pack it in and when they lose the fans prefer to booze” franchise, which again, they aren’t the only fan base to do that.  The Rays I think if changes are made can be a VERY SUCCESSFUL MLB franchise.  Here’s what I think needs to happen and there are only a few.

First: Move them out of Tropicana Field.  Duh to this.  Get them a true ballpark that defines the area and has a great ballpark vibe.  I think whenever construction starts, you can have an amazing ballpark that would be the envy of Major League Baseball, given the history and the players that have come out of that area.

Braves.jpg

Second: Flip the Rays into the NL East.  There’s going to be some steps before this: First thing is MLB would want to make sure that new stadium deals are placed with the Rays and A’s so they can move forward with expanding the league to 32 teams, which means one would be placed in Montreal and the other Portland.  To keep fan interest, I think they would want to see a lot of Toronto/Montreal games more than just the 4 or 6 games they would play each other via interleague play so Montreal would probably be an AL squad, and in the AL East, meaning the Rays would be a great contender to go to the NL.  And it would work because they wouldn’t have to see the Yankees all the time and they can possibly take a large chunk of the northern Florida area which many still consider “Braves Country.”  They could flip some of those Braves fans perhaps.  As for the others, well, there wouldn’t be a strong draw for the Nationals and the Mets training/fan base is more near Miami than Tampa Bay.

If these two things happen however and the Rays still draw poor, then I’d agree with Longoria, but I think given how the MLB butchered the Rays from day one in my eyes, I would love to see what this franchise can do if they were placed in an ideal situation as opposed to what they started out with.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

 

The Obstructed AL East Preview

The AL East has always been the Yankees/Red Sox division since the 5-team division realignment began in 1994.  They are of course, the Evil Empires of baseball.  Both are.  Sorry Yankee and Red Sox fans, you both are.  Accept it and move on.

But for nearly a decade now, the other three teams, the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rays have gotten into the mix as since 2008, only the Yankees and Red Sox have won 60% of the division titles, as opposed to winning the division 12 of 13 years from 1995-2007.  But maybe we are back to the trend as the Yankees and Red Sox are going back to the great arms race of stockpiling stars and the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays fall back again as we somewhat saw in 2017.

 

To me, the Red Sox and the Yankees are a cut above while the Rays seem to zero in on getting the farm for their (finally) new ballpark down the road while Baltimore and Toronto face serious questions on replenishing their farm and starting over.

My outlooks are where I project the teams to finish in 2018.

1ST PLACE: BOSTON RED SOX

Sale

2017: 93-69 1st place (Lost in ALDS to Houston)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-JD Martinez (FA-Arizona)  SUBTRACTS: OF-Rajai Davis (FA-Cleveland), OF-Chris Young (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Doug Fister (FA-Texas), P-Fernando Abad (P-Philadelphia), P-Blaine Boyer (FA-Kansas City), P-Addison Reed (FA-Minnesota)

Outlook: Boston may have won the division last year but they did an unusual thing, well at least for them.  They lacked major power.  Losing David Ortiz to retirement stung obviously, but they really had no sting in the bats.  While the Red Sox had 4 players with 20 or more HR and 3 others with double digits in HR, they finished dead last in the American League in home runs.  So the need to get a power-hitter was high and they did so in JD Martinez, who punched out 45 HR in both Detroit and Arizona in 2017.  Martinez fills the need of the power and will likely see most of the time at DH, which could be more helpful given he’s had his own injury woes in the past.  But Boston still has a formidable lineup with Betts, Bogaerts, Benintendi, and if Devers shows he can play 3rd and Jackie Bradley can figure out how to be consistent at the plate, Boston can be a legit threat.  The pitching, on paper, should be excellent with 2 former Cy Young winners in the rotation with Price and Porcello, but both have to improve last year’s performances (and Price has to keep healthy and not act like a knucklehead either).  But Chris Sale is one of the game’s best pitchers and if the Red Sox pitch what they are capable of pitching, they can rival the Astros rotation without question.  And they have probably the game’s best closer in Craig Kimbrel, who heads a solid relieving group.  What more can you ask for?  It is time for Boston to show it on the field and not just on paper.

2018 PROJECTION: 96-66 (I like Boston to get better with their bats and arms in 2018)

2ND PLACE: NEW YORK YANKEES

Stanton

2017: 91-71 (Beat Minnesota in Wild Card; Beat Cleveland in ALDS, Lost to Houston in ALCS)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Giancarlo Stanton (Trade-Miami), 3B-Brandon Drury (Trade-Arizona); 1B-Adam Lind (FA-Washington) SUBTRACTS: 3B-Chase Headley (Trade-San Diego), 2B-Starlin Castro (Trade-Miami), P-Bryan Mitchell (Trade-San Diego), 3B-Todd Frazier (FA-New York Mets), P-Jaime Garcia (FA-Toronto), P-Michael Pineda (FA-Minnesota)

Outlook: The Yankees, already having young superstar Aaron Judge in the lineup, added a piece that many Bronx Bomber fans hope will become a New Murderer’s Row in Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for Starlin Castro. Of course, it has gotten most baseball fans thinking the Yankees are the team to beat in the AL, over Boston, Cleveland and Houston.  And for me, to quote Lee Corso, “not so fast.”  The Yankees offense is still top notch, don’t get me wrong with those two, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and others.  But the question will be the pitching.  Are they capable of pitching well with Severino, Tanaka, Gray, and Sabathia?  It’s possible yes, but save for Severino (who is young), the others are question marks with consistency (Tanaka, Sabathia) or durability (Gray).  The bullpen, however, when they are on, is lights out with Green, Betances, and Robertson to go along with Chapman, but Aroldis has to pitch better because he nearly imploded everything at the end of the season.  So there are some questions as well as if Aaron Boone can manage as he hasn’t managed on any level yet.  But overall, the Yankees should be in the thick of things especially if their rotation pitches well.

2018 PROJECTION: 95-67 (Still unsure if they have the same arms as the other AL powers, but the bullpen will save face).

3RD PLACE: TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Donaldson

Last year: 76-86, 4th place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Curtis Granderson (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), OF-Randall Grichuk (Trade-St. Louis), SS-Aledmys Diaz (Trade- St. Louis), IF-Yangervis Solarte (Trade-San Diego), P-Jaime Garcia (FA-New York Yankees), P-Seung-hwan Oh (FA-St. Louis), P-Tyler Clippard (FA-Houston), P-John Axford (FA-Oakland) SUBTRACTS: P-Tom Koehler (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), Mike Bolsinger (FA-Japan), 2B-Ryan Goins (FA-Kansas City), IF-Darwin Barney (FA-Texas), C-Miguel Montero (FA-Washington), OF-Michael Saunders (Pittsburgh), OF-Jose Bautista (FA)

Outlook: Toronto is going to be very different as it looks like they are fielding a team more to just field a team in the season as opposed to being a threat in the AL East.  And they do have a farm that is up and coming.  If the Jays are out of it by the deadline, don’t be surprised if they try to move Josh Donaldson before as he is a free agent at season’s end.  Whether the Jays compete or not will be dependent on Marcus Stroman and JA Happ.  If they can pitch like they did in 2016, the Jays may push for the second Wild Card spot.  If not, Toronto will have some pieces to sell at the deadline.

2018 PROJECTION: 79-83 (Toronto just doesn’t have the same firepower that they had when Bautista and Encarnacion were there in 2015 and 16).

4TH PLACE: TAMPA BAY RAYS 

Kevin

2017: 80-82, 3rd place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Denard Span (Trade-San Francisco), OF-Carlos Gomez (FA-Texas), 1B-CJ Cron (Trade-Los Angeles Angels), IF-Christian Arroyo (Trade-San Francisco), IF-Joey Wendle (Trade-Oakland), P-Daniel Hudson (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Anthony Banda (Trade-Arizona) SUBTRACTS: 3B-Evan Longoria (Trade-San Francisco), 1B-Logan Morrison (FA-Minnesota), IF-Trevor Plouffe (FA-Texas), OF-Peter Bourjos (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Steve Cishek (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Jake Odorizzi (Trade-Minnesota), P-Tommy Hunter (FA-Philadelphia), OF-Steven Souza Jr (Trade-Arizona), P-Alex Cobb (FA)

Outlook: The Rays begin life without Evan Longoria, which may be a blessing in disguise.  Yes, he was the face of the franchise, but the money locked into his contract, but with a new park finally in the picture, the Rays can save some money, get the farm ready for the move, and things are good down the road.  But in 2018?  Not so sure.  But the Rays way is simple: if you are looking for a re-birth, Tampa Bay is the place and you have to think the likes of Denard Span and Carlos Gomez are hoping that is the case.  Adding Christian Arroyo, a top prospect in the Giants farm system in the Longoria trade will give hope that the Rays will be at least competitive in 2018.  If Chris Archer has a good year, he can probably net a good return for the Rays if they do end up being out (which many believe they will be) and it will only help Tampa Bay’s future even more.

2018 PROJECTION: 73-89 (The Rays play hard every night and the pitching will keep them in games, but they’re outmatched by the talent on other teams).

5TH PLACE: BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Manny.jpg

2017: 75-87, 5th place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Colby Rasmus (FA-Tampa Bay), IF-Engelb Vielma (Trade-San Francisco), P-Andrew Cashner (FA-Texas) SUBTRACTS: C-Wellington Castillo (FA-Chicago White Sox), IF-Ryan Flaherty (FA-Philadelphia), P-Wade Miley (FA-Milwaukee), SS-JJ Hardy (FA), P-Ubaldo Jimenez (FA), P-Jeremy Hellickson (FA), OF-Seth Smith (FA)

Outlook: One does wonder if Baltimore may have doomed themselves similar to the Orioles teams of the late 90’s where they held on to players too long (similar to what the Phillies did early on this decade and the Tigers had done recently).  The Orioles are somewhat of that all-or-nothing power team.  Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo are either going to send baseballs 450 feet away into the outfield at any park, or they will take a walk back to the dugout on strikeouts as that is what they are primarily good for at this point.  There are some key players like Trey Mancini, Jonathan Schoop, and the reliable Adam Jones for offense and Tim Beckham tore the cover off the ball when he came from Tampa Bay at the deadline, but it seems like it won’t be enough in the division.  And if Manny Machado has the year like he had last year where he was nearly in a slump for the entire first half, Baltimore will likely be sellers because the rotation is a gigantic mess.  Which of course brings up the possibility of Machado being dealt as he too, is a free agent.  Baltimore’s best bet is if they are not in the mix of a Wild Card is to just clear the deck and start anew, which is what they really need.

2018 PROJECTION: 68-94 (porous pitching and some holes in the lineup will really doom the O’s in 2018).

That’s it for the AL East

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook