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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    MLB Opening Day

    There are a lot of things that signal that spring has arrived. The weather begins to heat up ever so slightly, flowers blossom, outfits become more revealing and baseball season kicks into gear. With many fans firmly entrenched in the ‘casual’ category, here are some nuggets of wisdom about teams and offseason happenings that you should know to get up to speed.

    The Detroit Tigers offense is going to be good. Really good: Placido Polanco(.341 average), Edgar Renteria(.332 avg), Magglio Ordonez(28/139 .363 avg), Gary Sheffield(480 career home runs), Miguel Cabrera(34/119 .320 avg at the age of 24), Carlos Guillen(21/102 .296 avg). Curtis Granderson(23/74, 26 steals .302 avg), and Ivan Rodriguez(though he’s slowed, still one of the best catchers in history). That’s eight out of the nine batters in their lineup. Detroit will score more than Wilt Chamberlain did on and off the court this season. This means the beneficiaries will be their pitchers. Justin Verlander, Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers should win games even when they get hit hard by other teams.

    Joba Chamberlain will start at some point this year: The Yankees have made it clear that they want to limit Chamberlain to 150 innings this year. Well, even a workhorse reliever will only get to 80 innings, so the way to maximize his value this season is to start him in the pen in the first half where he will get 30-40 innings. Then when the second half rolls around you suddenly have a fresh flamethrower from Nebraska pitching lights out during the second half of the season. Throw in the fact that the artist formerly known as Mike Mussina is ‘throwing’ 85 miles per hour and Andy Pettitte hasn’t really been a model of health make it imperative that they have strong results from Chamberlain.

    The Braves are not an afterthought in the NL East: Everyday seems to bring new and hilarious trash talk from the Phillies and the Mets but the Braves should not be forgotten. They have Chipper Jones, Jeff Francoeur and Mark Teixeira in the middle of the order along with John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, and Tom Glavine in the rotation. Mets fans who haven’t forgiven Glavine for his terrible pitching during their September collapse might scoff at his inclusion but he might somewhat rejuvenated going back to the team that he knows and loves.

    The NL West will continue to be one of the most exciting divisions to watch: It doesn’t have the powerhouses of the American League or even the NL East but the NL West showed last year that they are to be taken seriously. Fans who were used to the usual playoff teams were shocked to see that both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks made the playoffs last year. With the Dodgers adding Andruw Jones and the calming influence of Joe Torre, and the Padres always a contender, the West will once again be hard to win. The Giants, on the other hand, will be horrible.

    The Mets ripped off the Twins. Right?: While you can count me as one of the skeptics to the trade that sent the best pitcher in the galaxy to the Mets for some minor leaguers, I have changed my opinion somewhat. Carlos Gomez was the main piece that went to the Twins and he has batted .282 during spring training with 10 steals while locking up the center field job and the lead-off spot in the order. I don’t know how good he is or if he just caught lightning in a bottle, but he has clearly endeared himself to the manager and he’s worth watching. I guess all you need to know about this trade is that Twins fans are praying Gomez is good while Mets fans are hoping they get to see Santana toy with National League lineups and pitch a no-hitter.

    The Reds and Rangers trade worked out for both sides: Last year’s feel good story was Josh Hamilton. After years off because of drug addiction, Hamilton got his life in order and as if he was living out a movie script bypassed the usual plan of years in the minors to hit 19 home runs for the Reds. The Rangers traded young prospect Edison Volquez for the chance to get Hamilton’s amazing power in Texas’ hitter’s park. Volquez pitched very well for the Reds with a 2.70 era during spring training and locked up a spot in the rotation. Hamilton had a torrid spring where he hit over .450 and seems primed for an amazing season. The key with Hamilton will be hit health and with Volquez it will be how he can adapt to pitching in Cincinnati’s bandbox for half of his season.

    The Angels are in trouble: Kelvim Escobar had offseason arm discomfort and no one was really shocked. He has always had difficulty staying healthy but last year was a career year for him. Then his injury got worse and he was going to be out until May. Now he had to stop his throwing program when he felt pain while long-tossing. He has been shut down indefinitely and says he might have season ending surgery with his career in jeopardy. On top of that huge injury concern comes the news that staff ace John Lackey will miss five to six weeks with a triceps injury. Who knows how much time he will actually miss? The Angels traded for John Garland from the White Sox, but he is more of an innings eater than a difference maker. The best chance for the Angels is for their top prospect, Nick Adenhart, to join the rotation and deliver like a veteran. He won’t have time to get acclimated to the big leagues in the thick of the AL West race.

    New Cup o’ Joe? So far so good: Joe Torre led the Yankees to four world championships and countless comebacks and you won’t hear disparaging remarks from me but just because Yankee fans loved him doesn’t mean that a change wasn’t good for the team. These aren’t your fathers or grandfathers teams, players make much more money now and its tough to coach a team for so many years in a row. On top of that its fair to say that while Torre has some amazing pluses as a manager that can’t be recreated by others, those characteristics can still lead to problems elsewhere. He was a players manager but even more to the point, a veteran’s manager. It seems as if players got a little comfortable with his light guiding hand. Not so under Joe Girardi. So far Girardi has expertly balanced being one of the guys with being someone who will hold every player accountable. He made offseason phone calls to players to let them know that he was going to run a tough spring training and many responded by coming into camp in great shape. While it can be argued that players should do that anyway, it’s a fruitless debate.

    Year after year, Torre guided teams started slow out of the gate but picked it up late in the season. That strategy might not work in the crowded American League field. A contender might win 92 games and be on the outside looking in to the playoffs. Winning in April is important in this environment and Girardi has the Yankees poised to succeed. Good for him. Good for them. And good for Yankee fans. Play Ball!

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