Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
(transferred; posted Oct. 6)

The dust has settled. Nobody's going to miss the Yankees and D-backs more than Fox, whose TV ratings will suffer. The rest of us will enjoy seeing new and exciting teams in the World Series for a change. I'm on record as the biggest detractor of Arizona management's irresponsibility, and predict not only a competitive slide, but bankruptcy in Phoenix by 2004. It's harder to assess Mr. Steinbrenner's empire.

They are stuck with another year of Raul Mondesi showing off his RF cannon in between whiffing on curves in the dirt and getting thrown out at third or home. They can't intend to keep all three of El Duque, Rocket and Boomer; it's not just a waste of money, these guys are well past their "best before" dates. Unless football hero Drew Henson suddenly develops pitch recognition skills and patience, the same applies to 3B, where the fine career of Robin Ventura, never a speedster, is slowing to a crawl.

Posada, Giambi, Soriano, Jeter, Williams and Johnson are two-thirds of a great lineup, but unless Juan Rivera is the real deal over a full season, both corner OF spots, and the hot corner, present a problem. The indestructible, unbeatable closer showed he's human this year, and wasn't a factor against Anaheim because the aging Stanton and unreliable Karsay couldn't get him the ball. It's a very expensive bullpen to be springing leaks, and the vaunted rotation is full of question marks. They may regret trading Ted Lilly, a consistent sort, for the higher upside of Jeff Weaver, an immature redneck who seems uncomfortable under the Big Apple microscope. Lefty prospect Brandon Claussen better be ready, or the 2003 Yanks may have to prevail in a lot of high-scoring games. And you know they won't just test the free-agent waters, they'll jump in over their heads; a poor decision could be worse than standing pat.

The balance of power in the AL has tilted West. Neither the A's nor the Angels need a single roster move to look better than the Yankees beginning 2003 , and Seattle is a decent starter away from 100 wins. Boston, assuming Pedro stays healthy and Lowe can come close to duplicating his terrific season, will make it very tight, and the Blue Jays are a couple of arms away from making the East a three-way battle. The Twins should still be in the Central driver's seat, but the White Sox, despite their inept management, have a much better chance with the kids (Crede, Rowand, Borchard...) supporting the brilliant Ordonez and Konerko than they did with the Big Pout, I mean Hurt. If young arms like Garland and Wright develop behind Buehrle, and they decide on a closer, Chicago may be on the fringes of contending next year.

You can forget about Texas under John Hart; the longer he stays, the more difficult the rebuilding job for his successor. He'll have traded Hank Blalock and Mark Texeira for bad pitchers before Hicks realizes the cupboard is bare again. Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City and Tampa are hopeless. Cleveland has the right idea, but it will take a few years for their numerous talented prospects to develop. So it's a wonderful time to be a Blue Jays fan, as the Bombers may be slipping just as the Ricciardi plan starts to pay dividends. Not that J.P. would ask my opinion (he's got stathead Keith Law for advice) but I think he should keep looking in the NL for pitching help, as this brief review of the junior cicuit has reminded me how thin the available mound talent is.

Houston's system has produced the great Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller recently, with lefty Carlos Hernandez and Kirk Saarloos also showing promise; they are doing something right at the draft table and in the minors. Toronto is already owed one of their young arms (the PTBNL from the Borbon deal) and the 'Stros could be in the market for an OF like Cruz (a Houston boy) or Stewart. Florida, under the seedy and greedy "leadership" of salesman Loria and his designated thug Samson, is ripe to be plucked, and boasts plenty of young hard throwers. A J Burnett is the most obvious, but may already have been damaged by manager Torborg's ignorance of pitch counts. Matt Clement and Ryan Dempster were both dealt in 2002, but big Brad Penny remains, and is coming off a disappointing year because of nagging injuries, and the unbelievably talented Josh Beckett, also victimized by things like blisters, is the prime target. The tricky thing is, the Marlins would prefer to get cash for players, so Loria can line his pockets while fielding an embarrassment, and I don't think Toronto will spend.

There are a few Expos pitchers worth a look. MLB will keep a close eye on the payroll and not allow its house team to sign all their free agents, so Bartolo Colon and Javier Vazquez may be available for a package of less expensive bodies. I would love to see Tomo Ohka in Toronto; he's consistent and keeps improving as his knowledge of hitters grows. It will take a creative offer, but it's possible. I think the Phillies are going to be contenders if they keep Brett Myers, Randy Wolf and Vincente Padilla together, but Ed Wade traded Cliff Politte for a half-season rental of Dan Plesac, so if I were J.P., I'd dial that number again, dangling Kelvim Escobar and Felipe Lopez.

There are other NL clubs who might trade pitching; the Giants don't have a "stopper," but are quite happy with their depth -- Russ Ortiz, Jason Schmidt, Kirk Rueter, Livan Hernandez and Ryan Jensen -- and have a guy as good as Kurt Ainsworth waiting to crack the rotation. The Rockies have drafted, and are developing, a slew of sinkerball pitchers, with Jason Jennings already making an impact, and their GM is one who loves to deal for the sake of dealing. The Cubs are going to have a fire sale, the Brewers are under new management, and the Mets, feeling ever more pressure to be competitive immediately, might continue to gut their farm system.

Even though Luke Prokopec had elbow and shoulder problems, and it will be 2004 (if ever) before he pays any dividends, that's the type of trade Ricciardi needs to make. A young starter or two from NL teams could make the Jays more competitive, sooner, and tilt the balance of power in the pitching-thin AL.
Winds Of Change | 0 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Winds Of Change | 0 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.