Monday, April 02, 2007

Reflections on the opener

Opening Day is here, I'm watching three baseball games, and all is right with the world.
  • The MLB season opened last night with the Mets beating the Cardinals 6-1. Chris Carpenter struggled but didn't seem to be too off. Tom Glavine wasn't perfect, but pitched through his problems and survived to take home career win #291. 9 more wins and he will become the fifth left-hander in history to win 300 games.
  • Tigers starter Kenny Rogers had surgery to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder and will be out until the All-Star Break at least. This isn't the worst of news for Detroit; you can't be surprised when a 42-year-old pitcher goes down with injury. And the Tigers more than most teams can compensate for his loss. Their 1-3 of Bonderman-Verlander-Robertson is still arguably the best in the division. #4 Mark Maroth may not be any kind of sure thing, but the Tigers have several promising guys who can adequately fill the #5 hole. Chad Durbin will get first crack at the job, with uber-prospect Andrew Miller waiting in the wings.
  • A lot has been made of the fact that the superpower Yankees are starting free-agent bust Carl Pavano on opening day. It's not the end of the world, but it does illustrate that the Yankees' starting rotation isn't as strong as they'd like. There are questions surrounding every starter on the staff, not just Pavano. But the Yanks should be able to cobble together a decent bunch out of Wang-Mussina-Pettite-Igawa, and when Phillip Hughes arrives, they should be plenty good enough to win with their lineup.
  • The Tigers removed one of the top names from next year's free agent market by signing shortstop Carlos Guillen to a four-year, $48 million deal. The deal is utterly reasonable, even if Guillen is forced to move to first base. Guillen as a shortstop is worth far more than $12 mil. per year, which should make up for the fact that he may be slightly overpaid as a first baseman. Guillen is especially valuable to the Tigers, who don't have anyone else on the team with his well-rounded offensive skills. Well, except for Gary Sheffield, who's not exactly the rock to build a team around. Good move here.
  • The succession plan for the New York Yankees was called into question recently. With an aging George Steinbrenner nearing the day when he must step away from baseball operations, his successor was supposed to be his son-in-law, Steve Swindal. But recently, Steinbrenner's daughter filed for divorce from Swindal, effectively scrapping that plan. There's no immediate crisis at hand; Steinbrenner is delegating power more than ever to team president Randy Levine and GM Brian Cashman. But as with any big business, a plan of succession is important to ensure future stability. We'll have to stay tuned and see who emerges as the new favorite to succeed the Boss.
  • In an utterly surprising move, the Colorado Rockies gave 2-year contract extensions to both GM Dan O'Dowd and manager Clint Hurdle. Both O'Dowd and Hurdle were considered by many to be on the hot seat to some degree this year, with their jobs very much on the line if the team failed to improve. This move is hard to fathom, as it gives a vote of confidence to two men who honestly haven't earned any such confidence.
  • In a move that no one expected coming into the spring, Mark Prior failed to make the Cubs' roster out of Spring Training. Prior will start the season in Triple-A. Needless to say, he was less than pleased at the news, not even stopping to talk to reporters after the game.
  • With Spring Training over, teams have finalized their roster and made their share of bizarre selections. Every year, teams will make rash decisions based on Spring Training and overestimate the importance of a player's March stats. The prize-winner this year for craziest roster move goes to the Florida Marlins, who selected 22-year-old Alejandro de Aza as their starting center fielder. The Marlins have thus assured themselves that they will be getting the worst production from center field of any NL team yet again. de Aza has only 69 career games above class A in his minor league career. That was last year, when he hit 278/346/374 with Double-A Carolina. Players like this successfully jump to the majors about once every millennium.
    Even worse for the Marlins though, is that de Aza's only competition was Eric Reed and Alex Sanchez. The team's refusal to trade for a real center fielder just goes to show that ownership really doesn't give a damn.
  • This year unfortunately marks the last year of Braves baseball on TBS. From now on, TBS will join FOX and ESPN in airing national games, ending their exclusive relationship with the Braves that's existed since the network became a superstation. It will be hard not to mourn, as the season goes on, the end of an era of great baseball broadcasts that I've enjoyed since I was a kid. One can only hope that TBS will keep the same announcers when they move to a multi-team schedule in 2008.
  • A short list of notable players beginning the season on the DL: Rafael Furcal, (LAD); Eric Gagne, TEX; Freddy Garcia, PHI; Dan Johnson, OAK; Nick Johnson, WSH; Corey Koskie, MIL; Mark Kotsay, OAK; Cliff Lee, CLE; Jon Lieber, PHI; Esteban Loaiza, OAK; Juan Rivera, LAA; Duaner Sanchez, NYM; Freddy Sanchez, PIT; Mike Timlin, BOS; Chien-Ming Wang, NYY

More baseball to come, thank goodness.

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