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Monday, March 29, 2010

MLB Prediction Time for 2010




The final countdown to the beginning of the MLB season has begun in earnest as we are now 6 days from opening night on ESPN where the Yankees face the Red Sox in what looks to me as it should be some of the closes races for all the divisions in recent years.

CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett should stir even the most casual fans as the Yankees attempt to repeat in 2010. They will be missing some key elements from last years championship club. Gone are Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Melky Cabrera and with Joba Chamberlain losing the battle for the 5th spot in the rotation to Phil Hughes, some of the experts are concerned that age may be creeping up on them as many of their key players, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are all 35 years old and above.

Since the steroid issue is being monitored at it's highest level since the testing began a few years back we are seeing less and less of career seasons from this age group. It's nice to see the playing field becoming more level than in the past decade or so.

This still won't stop the Yankees, Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays from fighting it out for the two spots for October baseball. They will clearly be the favorites in the American League along with the two other division winners to play in the post season.

However don't be fooled into believing that the runner up in the Central Division won't be fighting the AL East for the lone Wild Card position. Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota are all very capable of winning 90 plus games this year so all and all this could be real fun.

The two other long shot Wild Card contenders may just come from the AL West where the Angels, Rangers and Mariners are going to have a knock em out drag down battle for that crown.

For the American League that makes it nine teams by my calculations will be battling in September.

The National League may have even more.

The Philadelphia Phiilies, the NL representative in the World Series for the past two seasons with one win and one loss, have their sights set on three straight appearances, something that has not been done in the National league since the St Louis Cardinals from 1942-1944.

Their first challenge for that appears to be coming right out of the NL East where the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins are poised to challenge the Phils. I'm one of the few few writers who actually believe that if the New York Mets can stay healthy this year that they too will be vying for the division crown. Most writers are picking them fourth in the division closer to the Washington Nationals than the eventual winner of the NL East.

If that does in fact happen then there definitely will be changes in the Mets organization starting with the end of the Omar Minaya/Jerry Manuel era which quite frankly suits me just fine.

The Central Division is a crap shoot in that no fewer than five of the six teams can lay on a claim to be in the hunt. The St.Louis Cardinals are and should clearly be the favorites if for nothing else that the top of their rotation could easily win 35-40 wins from Carpenter and Wainwright.

The Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers should be right there and will go as far their starting rotation will allow. The Cubs have to get a Cy Young effort out of Carlos Zambrano and The Brewers bats will have to stay hot all season long.

The Cincinatti Reds and the Houston Astros are the long shots here but to count them out now would be a mistake in my humble opinion. each year it seems the Reds are the sexy, trendy pick to be a dark horse that succeeds but I'm not a big Dusty Baker fan. He ruins pitchers by simply over working them and if that trend continues he will be on the outside looking in perhaps even before the season ends.

The National West is perhaps the most intriguing division in all of baseball. in each of the last few years the bottom feeders of the National league have all improved their teams considerably with perhaps the exception being the San Diego Padres but the Dodgers, Rockies, Diamondback and the Giants are likely to finish the season with perhaps a few as seven games between them. The big question here should be however can any of the teams reach 90 wins?

Personally, I think not.

Ok, so here goes. These are the Official "Vegas Rich" MLB Predictions. Please feel free to pick your own and blast these. I know you will because you always do.

AL EAST AL CENTRAL AL WEST

Red Sox 95-67 Tigers 89-73 Angels 90-72
Rays 91-71 Twins 88-74 Rangers 88-74
Yankees 88-74 White Sox 85-76 Mariners 82-80
Blue Jays 74-88 Indians 75-87 Athletics 72-90
Orioles 73-89 Royals 73-89

AL Playoffs

Red Sox 3 Tigers 1
Rays 3 Angels 2

Red Sox 4
Angels 3

NL EAST NL CENTRAL NL WEST

Phillies 92-70 Cardinals 88-74 Rockies 89-73
Mets 88-74 Brewers 86-76 Dodgers 86-76
Braves 88-74 Reds 84-78 Giants 85-77
Marlins 83-79 Cubs 80-82 Diamondbacks 83-79
Nats 73-89 Astros 79-83 Padres 59-103
Pirates 74-88

NL Playoffs

Mets beat Braves in Tie Breaker Game

Phillies 3 Cardinals 2
Rockies 3 Mets 1

Rockies 4
Phillies 3

World Series: Red Sox 4 Rockies 2

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Spring Dilemma For The NY Mets



This is the time during Spring Training that all Major League teams starts to cut down on its rosters sending some players down to their Minor League affiliates while others are sent on their way right out of the organization.

The funny thing about this process is that there are very few surprises as to who stays and who goes. Sometimes a young player with just a little minor league experience makes such an outstanding impression the management feels that he is ready for the big leagues and they can't see him not being with the parent club.

Steven Strasburg of the Washington Nationals comes to mind this year as he has not allowed a run in three appearances so far. It was expected that the number one overall player in last years draft would start the year perhaps even as high as AAA. He did have an advantage of playing college ball under Hall of Fame great Tony Gwinn but still there would seem to be no real reason to rush him into the fray. It's not like the Nationals will be in the playoff hunt this year.

On Sirius/XM Radio yesterday Rob Dibble, who I love as a color commentator and sports talk show host, said when he was in his first couple of years of Spring Training and he knew he wasn't going to make the Reds big club he actually asked the team to cut him early enough so he could get more work in the level he would be playing at.Amazing.

For the Mets as they start their cuts the big controversy, at least among the Mets faithful, revolves around whether or not K-Mart (Fernando Martinez)and Jenrry Mejia, the young pitching sensation, should be on the big club at the opening of the season.

It has been well chronicled that Martinez, still only 21 years old, has been the Mets best prospect for the past five years and has a history of injuries. During the injury fest of 2009 K-Mart, as he is affectionately called, had what's known as a cup of coffee with the Mets and was not very effective with a batting average just somewhat north of 100.

He was and is still slated, according to Mets General Manager Omar Minaya, to start the season at AAA Buffalo and if he does well he should see action with the Mets no later than September 1st.

The problem is, he's tearing the cover off the ball, this spring after an excellent showing in the Caribbean World Series. Right now it looks like Angel Pagan, who had a walk off Home Run yesterday, will begin the season in Center Field until the return of perennial All Star Carlos Beltran.

Newly acquired Gary Matthews Jr. is also having a torrid spring and will definitely make the team as it's 4th outfielder again once until Beltran's return. If that be the case where would Martinez fit in? Personally, and what most writers and fans agree on is that Martinez needs to play everyday and Buffalo is the obvious place for him to be.

Mejia's situation is even more complex. From here it doesn't look like the Mets organization has decided what their expectations are of the role that Mejia will play. Is he a starter, perhaps even a top of the rotation starter, or can he become a lights out closer?

There is a case for both sides. He can crank it up to 98 mph on the gun and is developing some pretty good secondary pitches. He has drawn favorable comparisons to Dwight Gooden who at Mejias age, 20, was already dominating Major League batters. That in of itself is not too shabby.

The other comparison has been to Mariano Rivera who some are already calling the greatest closer in the history of the game. His "cutter" over the years has been practically un-hittable and his post season performances have become legendary.

Former Met and Yankee, Darryl Strawberry ha said that Mejia's "cutter" is just as good as Rivera's and the Mets need to use him right now, this season, in the pen.

So what are the Mets to do. Jerry Manuel, not my favorite Mets manager, to say the least, has said Mejia could wind up as the 8th inning specialist this year if all falls into place.

What the Mets must be concerned about is not falling into what I call the "Jaba Catch". The Yankees have perhaps ruined this guys chances for super stardom as they vacillate between having him in the bullpen and as a starter. Most pitching experts agree that the transition from starter to reliever is much easier and likely to be more successful than the other way around.

So the Mets must decide which way to go with Mejia. I just want them to make a decision either way and more important, stick to it. What it comes down to, as I see it, is what's the better long term solution. You have Frankie Rodriguez as your closer for the next two years. Mejia, if on the big club, would serve as the apprentice waiting to move into the closers role in 2012 if the Mets chose not to resign K-Rod.

If he goes to the Minors he would have at least a year or maybe two to develop his arsenal of pitches and at 22 he could become the ace of the staff for the next 10 to 15 years. My opinion, which amounts to nothing more than a hill of beans, is that Mejia and Martinez need to be sent down to develop. I think in the long run that would give the Mets the best opportunity to compete for the playoffs for years to come.

Agree? Dis-agree? Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Way Too Soon To Panic



Here it is, one day before "The Ides of March" and the so called pendents as well as the vast majority of the Mets faithful are in full panic mode and have come to bury Caesar long before the body is cold.

Come on everybody 2009 was officially over on Oct 3rd or if you believe in the Julius Caesar calendar how about 11:59PM and 59 seconds on December 31st.

Just because two out the top five players will not be in the starting lineup on opening day and the so called starting rotation has looked a trifle bit shaky three weeks into spring training, it doesn't mean we should holding our Hari Kari swords about 18 inches from the point of entry.

It's true that I have been a Mets fan since opening day 1962 and believe me there were years that the season was over before the first pitcher threw a their first fastball in February.

It wasn't until the spring of 1968 did any Met fan on the planet see this team with the possibility of showing some real competition between the lines. Seaver and Kooseman were young arms with a world of potential and the manager was a patient man who was going to observe his team very carefully for the entire season and make the adjustments to turn them into a perennial winner and contender for years to come.

But I am digressing a bit here so let's flash forward to 2010. What is it going to take from the Mets organization to put a winning and competitive team out there and challenge the Phillies while keeping pace with the Braves and the Marlins as well.

Are we closer to last place than to first?

I don't think so. Outside of Mets training camp all the talk has been about the injuries to Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes and why it's "Deja Vu" all over again. No!, it is not by a long stretch of the imagination. Let's take a better look.

In the case of Beltran who started off the 2009 like a house on fire and seemed to be heading for his best season as a Met, Carlos had his surgery in January, not May, not June of 2010, but in January. Early reports said we wouldn't possibly see him until June. Panic time? NO!

With opening day still three weeks away now we are hearing the possibility for a mid April return. Not too shabby.

For Jose we are hearing anywhere between two and eight weeks, but that started a week ago, not yesterday, and since this been a mild thyroid case, according to medical experts, a return by May 1st is certainly not out of the question.

I remember and Angels team as recently as last year that had none of it's starters ready for opening day and winding up taking the Yankees to six games for a World series appearance.

My worst nightmare is to see an opening defense with Alex Cora and Luis Castillo moving in slow motion for a ball hit up the middle. Oh no, that thought is in real time.

Rueben Tejada is a very acceptable one month replacement.

Here's what I have seen so far that has me greatly encouraged.

David Wright has three spring home runs and he is looking very comfortable at the plate and not lunging after fastballs that he couldn't catch up to last year.

I like that Mike Pelfrey got banged around against Boston in the first inning and then bounced right back and threw three almost unhittable innings striking out batters in the process.

I liked that Ollie Perez is in the best shape of his life and is also throwing strikes. Four hit-less innings wasn't all that shabby either.

I like the fact that Nelson Figueroa doesn't look 35 and would my choice as the fifth starter ahead of both Jon Niese and Fernando Nieve who are both quite capable of pitching in the five spot.

I like the energy and emotion that Jeff Francoeur is bringing to this club and for those of you who think his totals for the Mets last year were an aberration, you are all in for a big surprise.

I like that Fernando Martinez and Ike Davis are tearing the cover off the ball and with 400 ab's in AAA these two guys may still contribute to the big club before the end of the season.

I like the professionalism that Jason Bey has brought to the team. For those of you who don't believe he is a 25/100 guy, you are dreadfully wrong.

I like the way that Daniel Murphy gets better everyday both in the field and in the box. I watched every inning of every game last year and this guy doesn't know the meaning of quit. There will be a lot less pressure on him this year and I expect a very solid if not outstanding performance from him. No he isn't Keith Hernandez of John Olerude but he's only 24 and he will wind up to be a very productive player in 2010.

I like the fact that those who see our farm system as weak and without depth need to look no further than 20 year old pitching sensation Jenry Mejia who is already drawing comparisons to Dwight Gooden and Mariano Rivera.

I like the catching situation with two extremely capable veterans in Barojas and Blanco being there to mentor future catcher Josh Thole who has Major League written all over himself.

What I like the best is that this years New York Mets will be underestimated by every team they play this year and like Tampa Bay of 2008 this Mets team is going to surprise a lot of people, especially it's fans and those who cover this team in the media.

Most of you reading this are probably thinking this guy's nuts and the Mets will be closer to last place then to first by seasons end and that's your right to believe and think that way. I just want to go on record early enough to pick the team for a definite run for the playoffs in 2010. Playoffs? Did he really say playoffs?

Yes I did and living here in Vegas I get the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. Right now the Mets over and under for the season is 81 wins. Are you kidding me? They will have 81 wins by September 10th. You heard it here first and blast me if you will but mark this one down and take it to the bank.

Let's Go Mets!