With the season starting tomorrow with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s meeting for the Opening Series in Tokyo we’ll motor through the final two portions today. First, this morning we will look at the NL Division winners and follow that up this evening with a look at the AL Division winners.
New York Mets
2007 Record: 88-74
Manager: Willie Randolph
Johan Santana, SP
Johnny Estrada, C
Ryan Church, OF
Brian Schneider, C
Brian Stokes, RP
Matt Wise, RP
Tom Glavine, SP
Guillermo Mota, RP
Lastings Milledge, OF
Paul LoDuca, C
After a collapse last season that won’t be forgotten around Shea anytime soon GM Omar Minaya decided he needed to make a big trade. Trading for possibly the best pitcher in baseball is about as big as you can go.
Adding Santana and having Pedro Martinez back makes the Mets staff one of the best in the NL. Of course Pedro may not have the firepower to be the Pedro of old, but now he also doesn’t need to be the staff ace. The rest of the staff is pretty solid with Oliver Perez, Orlando Hernandez and John Maine. Barring injury this staff will win a lot of ball games for the Mets.
The lineup that placed in the Top 10 in every major batting category returns, and is hungry after last season’s disappointment. MVP-candidate David Wright anchors an infield that has Gold Glove caliber players and some firepower as well. The outfield is just as dangerous when you have Carlos Beltran manning CF. Questions about Moises Alou’s health and Carlos Delgado’s bat will be addressed my management if they don’t go away.
As the Mets enter the final season at Shea Stadium they should have the firepower on the mound and at the plate to lead the East for most of the season. A collapse on par with last year’s does not seem likely and the Mets should win the division fairly easily.
2007 Record: 85-77
Manager: Lou Pinella
Kosuke Fukudome, OF
Jon Lieber, P
Jason Kendall, C
Jacque Jones, OF
Craig Monroe, OF
Cliff Floyd, OF
Mark Prior, SP
Last season’s NL Central winners were swept by a hot Arizona Diamondbacks team in the NLDS, and should be back in the playoffs again this year. The loss of role players such as Jones and Floyd should not be a big change for the Cubs, and Prior will not be missed by many on the northside.
The Cubs pitching staff is good, but also with a few question marks. After the top three in the rotation (Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Rich Hill) who fills out the rest? Ryan Dempster, Jason Marquis and Jon Lieber are all making a play for those final two spots. In the bullpen who will be the closer? Odds are that Kerry Wood is going to get that nod at some point this week. The bullpen is good, and Lou Pinella has some arms to experiment with.
The lineup is much like the pitching staff, full of questions. Sure the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, but who is catching and who is playing center? At catcher the Cubs do have the veteran Henry Blanco and Geovany Soto. The Cubs aren’t looking for huge numbers, but would like some consistency from catching. In center it appears that Felix Pie will get the majority of time there. Pie has a lot of skeptics and many people see the Cubs making a move for a center-fielder before the season is done.
Even with those questions the core of this Cubs team is very good, and in a very mediocre NL Central they should have no troubles winning the division. Any injuries to those core players though, and the Brewers will not be far behind.
2007 Record: 90-72
Manager: Bob Melvin
Dan Haren, SP
Chris Burke, 2B
Chad Qualls, RP
Jose Valverde, RP
Full of talented young players this team overachieved last season, and won the NL West before being swept by a red-hot Colorado Rockies club. One would have thought that some changes would have been made to add some veterans to this team, but management liked what they had and probably liked the payroll even more.
The starting rotation is one of the best in the majors with the addition of Haren. Having Brandon Webb follow Haren is nasty and the team should not have problems ending losing streaks. The loss of Valverde as the closer might be a bigger impact than adding Haren if the new closer cannot get the job done.
The lineup is still pretty young, but they now have playoff experience. The fact that they finished last or close to last in almost every offensive category doesn’t seem to bother them, but they will need to score runs at some point this season. The Diamondbacks have no problem manufacturing runs when they need to, and if they ever added a legit power threat to the lineup they could be a force in the National League.
With no new additions to the lineup the Diamondbacks will have to win games like they did last season. If they don’t have the dreaded playoff slump the pitching staff is good enough to carry this team this season, and help them beat the Rockies in the NL West.
– Detroit Tigers CF Curtis Granderson broke his right middle finger after being hit by a pitch. He was placed on the 15-day DL Sunday and should be out at least two weeks.
– Reports at ESPN have the Tigers and 3B Miguel Cabrera agreeing to an eight-year/$153.3 million deal. This is the richest deal ever for the Detroit Tigers.