Saturday, April 19, 2008

AL North preview

Season five was a disappointment for the Toronto franchise that had, up until then, owned the division. They slipped back to second place but still had a strong enough season to make the playoffs. With the club under performing tmf was in no mood to take a wait and see approach. Feeling like this was more regression the a off year for the club he started dealing. First they dealt slugger Kid Holtz and his 4.5 mil salary. Soon after Trent Jackson's 5.4 mil followed. Then the waiting game that netted them Benjamin Liniak for a modest 4.5 mil one year deal with the hopes of proving he still can produce at an All Star level. With some hungry younger guys making the bigs out of camp it is obvious that the idea is to make a transition to younger guys. Toronto still gets a lot of power out of their line up lead by former MVP Ed Tanner. The pitching is still top notch, and this team could easily steal the division. While a slow start out the box has Toronto at 1-6 the feeling is they will make a run at some point. The only question is will it be to late? Predictions: Second place; Wild card playoff birth.

New York has been able to make a steady climb from the worst record in all of Cooperstown in season one to the best record in all of Cooperstown in season six. The team made some bold off-season moves which may come back to haunt them in the long run. After losing two of their starting pitchers (Kim and Ortiz combined for 34 wins) they took their savings and traded for Little Rocks two biggest stars, Rick Florie (30) and up and coming SS Jordan Stoops. The deal cost them super DH Copper Ruffin, who promises to be one of the best hitters for seasons to come. The win now approach continued with signing of SP Walter Simmons. Simmons is an under rated .500 pitcher with Milwaukee. New York will have a hard time improving on their 1032 win campaign but should approach the century mark again this season. A strong top of the rotation should win a ton of games with the powerful line up that New York has. The third and fourth starters are a question which might force NY to hurry SP prospect Benito Bonilla a season early Predictions; First place. This is a young and cheap team. They should be able to stay together for many seasons.

Cleveland has been mired in sub .500 seasons since the inception of Cooperstown but feel they have a decent shot of over coming that obstacle this year. Last season dmurphy was able to bringing talent across the board, acquiring DH Johnny Beiser, RF Wilfredo Rosado and set up man Eric Roberts, Adding to that this off-season he brought in aging closer Davey Montanez (37) for a three year 27 mil contract. A risky move but this does show dmurphy willingness to roll the dice in an effort to win games. Stud in the making Alex Hernandez comes back looking to improve on his career best season to anchor the staff. This kid has future Cy Young written all over him.
While the team is still a little light in the hitting department, they do have some strong arms. The pen is one of the more solid aspects of a team that is young and still growing.
Predictions; Third place, no playoffs. Until this team can show the 5-1 start is not just a good couple of games or that Toronto has fallen they will remain a third place team

After a second straight last place finish Augusta picked up and left for north of the border. Say hello to the Ottawa Octopus. Ottawa did some house cleaning by letting go of a couple older players such as strong man Ramon Masato (signed by New Orleans) who hit 57 four baggers last year. They did however bring in a group of 30 somethings that tells us they are no going into a rebuilding mode. They were all one or two year deals, which tells me their is a youth movement on the horizon. Still with these moves it was a mild surprise to see the winter meetings come and go with out and trades being made. The choice to grow the team from with in is often a good one albeit a slower process. Even with the loss of Masato the team looks to have pop up and down the line up. The team should hit some and surprise a few people but the pitching is a little behind the bats. The biggest down fall will be a lack of defense. The North is developing into a tough division and Ottawa will need to show something to get out of the basement.

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