Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Season 12 Preview - NL South

NL South

Huntington Hillbillies (74-88) 2nd place
Question: Can the Hillbillies rebound from a disaster of a season where they only won 74 games with a 123 million dollar payroll?
Answer: Pedro Chavez has got the skills to pay the bills, and should lead a high scoring offense.
Player to watch: Kent Upshaw was a revelation in his first full season in the bigs, finishing with a 16-6 record on a losing team.
Outlook: 89-73 - 1st place. The Hillbillies proved Lars an idiot last season with their horrific underperformance, where instead of winning their division going away they lost it on the last day of the season with a losing record. Lars thinks that things will be different this season, as this team simply has too much talent not to win. Their hitting is top notch, and their pitching should be enough to get them by. The only concern is if the defense falls apart and errors lead to too many runs for the bats to overcome.

Richmond Cohibas (75-87) 1st place
Question: Can the Cohibas win the division with a winning record this time around?
Answer: The Liriano/Ordonez/Barkley OF is the NL's answer to Cleveland's three headed outfield beast.
Player to watch: For Richmond to have a chance they need a big season from SP Jerry Ross.
Outlook: 86-76 - 2nd place. The Cohibas will finish the year with a winning record, but Lars thinks that Huntington will be back in the saddle just a little to tough for Richmond to overcome. But if the Cohibas get some pitching, look out because with the players on the way in the minors, this has the potential to be the most talented lineup in the league.

Jackson Pollocks (68-94) 3rd place
Question: Will David Garrido take the place of Wiki Vasquez as the most overpaid injury prone player?
Answer: Trent Billingsley was pretty good last year, and should benefit from a better supporting cast in the lineup.
Player to watch: Rookie Norm Gibson brings a powerful bat that could propel him to a ROY award and 40+ HR's.
Outlook: 85 - 75 - 3rd place. The Pollocks were very active in the offseason, acquiring many veteran players and pitchers to support their young home grown talent. If they mesh this should be a very competetive team, and could contend for the division title. Ultimately though Lars thinks that while they will return to a winning record, Jackson just doesn't have the pop in the lineup that Huntington or Richmond do at this time, although Lars does think their pitching is a bit better than their divisional rivals. In any case it will be close.

Montgomery Burns (55-107) 4th place
Question: Will Montgomery be able to capitalize on their #4 overall draft pick and pick up a stud?
Answer: Larry Sabel is the new man in town, and clearly the best player on the team.
Player to watch: Sabel is going to be counted on in a big way to anchor the offense, and hopefully he can handle the pressure.
Outlook: 65-97 - 4th place. The Burns, while playing in what was the weakest division in the league last season, still don't have the pitching or enough depth in the lineup to compete with their rivals. Lars likes what they are doing in the minor leagues, but until they get some ace quality arms and a player who can hit more than 25 HR's in the lineup, he thinks that they will hold down the cellar once again.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Season 12 Preview - NL West

NL West

Omaha Sluggers (109-53) 1st place
Question: If Jose Barrios engaged Pedro Cerrano in a home run derby, who would win?
Answer: 4 out of the last 5 World Series titles says dynasty in Lars' book.
Player to watch: At 36 years old, closer Bobby Flores hasn't showed any signs of his age.
Outlook: 110-52 - 1st place. The Sluggers are the best team in the league until someone can prove otherwise on the field, which hasn't happened in recent memory. But all good things must come to an end, and Lars can see the sheen starting to dull in Omaha as their core group of stars age past 30-32 years old. With many stars still 28-29 years of age the Sluggers aren't done by a long shot, and Lars still thinks they will win the World Series yet again, but not even Jose Barrios or King Ong can stop Father Time, and time will start catching up with them soon.

Honolulu Islanders (65-97) 2nd place
Question: Will Honolulu top .500 in their quest for 2nd place?
Answer: Clay Henry not only has a classic Subway TV jingle, but he can rock it at the plate as well.
Player to watch: Lou Brow is the anchor in an erratic starting rotation for the Islanders, and has complete game potential every start.
Outlook: 74-88 2nd place - The rest of the NL West chose a good time to have off decades as Omaha has really owned the league. In the meanwhile Honolulu has accrued some very nice prospects in the draft, and as a result their AAA team is stacked, and could start impacting the ML squad pretty soon. The future is pretty bright on the island, and although Lars doesn't see them coming anywhere close to Omaha this season, next season might be a different story. But as a consolation Lars does think that they should have a lock on 2nd place.

Iowa City Corn Dogs (52-110) 4th place
Question: Is it possible to hyperannuate Francisco Espada?
Answer: Mike Boudreau is wild and crazy at times, but he has the best stuff in the rotation.
Player to watch: Carl Alexander on the AAA team had his #1 uberprospect status usurped by the Corn Dogs #1 draft pick Francisco Espada, and you can bet he will try to get it back by making some noise in the minor leagues.
Outlook: 64-98 - 3rd place. The Corn Dogs are making some progress in getting back on track, with new blood Espada, Alexander, Tomas Sanchez and John McGowan all looking to make a big impact in the future. However, Lars doesn't see quite as many grade A prospects in Iowa as he does in Honolulu, which is why he is picking the Corn Dogs to finish 3rd.

Salem Bitches (63-99) 3rd place
Question: Will the Bitches muster up enough hitting to support what might be a competitive rotation?
Answer: Spud Upshaw has cemented his status as the anchor in the lineup, and woe be to Salem if they trade him.
Player to watch: Brook Lennon has electric stuff, but his control issues sometimes gets the better of him.
Outlook: 63-99 - 4th place. The Bitches know they are in a predicament, trying to hang with the Sluggers is nigh impossible. But they are making some good progess in the draft and by trades for young talent. Lennon and Upshaw are keepers, as is Rico Cruz, and woe betide the franchise if they trade can't miss pitching prospect Pablo Vicente. But that being said there just isn't enough on the ML roster to compete this season, unless their role players step up and produce more than Lars thinks they will.

Season 12 Preview - AL East

AL East

Boston Freedom (93-69) 1st place
Question: Will the new and improved veteran pitching staff bring the wins?
Answer: Rico Estrada should break the 2000 hit barrier this season, and he is only 30 years old.
Player to watch: Vladimir Segui will be counted on to provide the pop in a lineup without much power.
Outlook: 99-63 - 1st place. Lars likes what the Freedom have done with their pitching staff, and think that their lineup is the most balanced in the AL East. There isn't much power in the offense, but they have just enough home run threats that they should be able to small ball their way to victory behind their veteran rotation and lights out bullpen.

Pittsburgh SSP (90-72) 3rd place
Question: Will Pittsburgh recover from last seasons devastating end of year collapse, where they lost a playoff spot on the last day?
Answer: Roosevelt Ingram leads a balanced lineup, and should produce another .300+ BA 100 RBI season.
Player to watch: The SSP bulked up their rotation with Ugueth Posada, and are counting on him to help them keep pace with Boston.
Outlook: 93-69 - 2nd place. Lars feels for the SSP, who for much of season 11 were in 1st place in the AL East. Then either a black cat crossed their path, a goat was denied entry into their stadium, or pieo put a voodoo hex on the team and they proceeded to not only lose 1st place, but slip to 3rd as Cleveland snuck past them for the final wildcard spot. This season Lars thinks things will work out better for Pittsburgh, as their pitching is improved, and their lineup is solid, and Cleveland is a historically underperforming regular season team.

Cleveland Steamers (91-71) 2rd place
Question: Will the Steamers turn their playoff success into a division championship?
Answer: The Steamers outfield is the heart of the team, with all three having all star potential.
Player to watch: Ruben Gonzalez is the ace of the staff, and Cleveland will try and get him as many starts as possible.
Outlook: 89-73 - 3rd place. The Steamers seem to be establishing a pattern where they just scrape their way into the playoffs, then proceed to destroy every higher seeded AL team, only to be dismantled by Omaha in the World Series. Lars thinks there is a very good possibility of that happening again, if they can survive the regular season with their primary competitors having improved their squads. Ultimately though Lars has seen a costly injury or two in his crystal ball, which will strike at the achilles heel of the Steamers, their depth, ultimately costing them a playoff spot.

Indianapolis Raging Slowheads (85-77) 4th place
Question: Will the new management keep the team competetive, or will there be a trade deadline free for all?
Answer: Bernie Almonte is the star in the rotation, and looks to dominate the regular season.
Player to watch: Roosevelt Lowell is getting old, and needs to justify his big contract.
Outlook: 85-77 - 4th place. Lars thinks that the Raging Slowheads will be competitive, but that the other three teams in the division will be a little better. The impressive core of players that won the World Series in season 4 are starting to get old, and Lars knows that it is hard to fend off father time. Look for this to be the last gasp before major changes are enacted to breathe some youth into the franchise.

Monday, April 20, 2009

AL South

Nashville Rebel Riders (93-69) 1st place
Question: Will Nashville once again lose to Cleveland in the playoffs?
Answer: Gerald Kojima has quietly managed to rack up 149 wins in his career, and should have at least one more good season in the tank.
Player to watch: Jeremy Hernandez was a nice FA signing by the Riders, and should form a nasty middle of the lineup with Enrique Guardado and Pedro Franco.
Outlook: 92-70 - 1st place. Nashville is a very solid team and well balanced in the lineup and the rotation. The addition of Hernandez to the lineup will help fend off Mexico Cities up and coming pitching stars, but Lars thinks that the Nashville fans had better enjoy their run while they can, because outside of the big three in the middle of the lineup and a few of their starters, this is a team that is aging in key positions, and might not be able to hold off the young guns south of the border that much longer.

Mexico City Diablos Rojos (90-72) 2nd place
Question: Can the old fogies in the lineup keep their bats young for another season?
Answer: The fans in Mexico City aren't experiencing double vision, it really is Eric Collins x2 in the rotation, and both of them are quality starters.
Player to watch: Hades Booker needs to fight off father time and his injury prone history for the Diablos Rojos to have a shot..
Outlook: 91-71 - 2nd place. Lars really likes this team, but gets the feeling that there is much more to be had from the rotation and lineup than what the fans in Mexico City have been getting the last few years. The rotation features three electrifying young arms in the Collins' and Geoff Washington, and a powerful lineup with Booker, Domingo Montana, and Woody Olerud, but for some reason the team just hasn't meshed the last few seasons. So even though Lars likes their team better than Nashvilles, he is going to pick them to finish second just to be safe. But if this is the year they put it together, they could do some damage.

Charlotte Dogs (66-96) 3rd place
Question: Will the call up of the two best pitching prospects in the system result in more wins?
Answer: Milt Serafini anchors an improved offense, and should challenge for the AL batting title.
Player to watch: Eric Holdridge is the most touted pitching prospect in the history of the franchise, and makes his ML debut this season.
Outlook: 82-80 - 3rd place. With the offseason improvements made by the team in signing Ignacio Lopez, and calling up rookies Holdridge, Rod Ross, Pete Jensen, and Ossie Bryne the Dogs are making an attempt to finish above .500 for the first time in team history. Lars thinks that the Dogs are much more balanced then they have been in the past, and could cause some troubles for the rest of the AL South. That being said Charlotte still can't match Nashville or Mexico City.

Kansas City Express (53-109) 4th place
Question: Who will Kansas City select with the #2 draft pick?
Answer: the 34 million dollar payroll leaves a lot of flexibility for signing international prospects and draft picks.
Player to watch: Thurman Tresh has all the potential in the world, but you can bet he won't be seeing time in the bigs this year as K.C. doesn't want to stunt his development.
Outlook: 51-111 - 4th place. Lars is nothing if not brutally honest, and in being honest he will tell Times Herald readers that the Express ML squad is more like snail mail with free 20 shipping. Of course everyone knew that this was going to be the case, as the team was not in good shape when the management of rawdk took over. It will take a few more seasons of solid drafts and prospect signings for this ship to be turned around, but things are definitely on the right track in Kansas City.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Toronto Off and Running

Cleatus Mayberry - Cobb Times Herald

Carlos Lopez
Blue Jays
Age: 18B/T: R/R
Born: Monte Cristi, DO
Position(s): SS
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

Toronto is off and running in the international market already. With a signing bonus of 20.4 mil. they landed a very nice SS. Lopez not only will be a nice offensive shortstop, but a fine defensive one as well. This is one of the fastest signings I have noticed in the early part of the season. When asked about his signing with Toronto.....Lopez said" In my country this is alot of money, it could really help my family live a better life than the one they have now. My mom can come to the U.S. with the rest of my family. Now we can buy a big screen TV and watch Sanford and Son." Lopez will be staying right on the border of Toronto and Buffalo, near Niagara Falls. He wants to be high up, so the reception on his satellite will be better.

Season 12 Preview - AL North

AL North

Pawtucket G-Maniacs (110-52) 1st place
Question: Will this be the last year for the G-Maniacs that the Dean of Pawtucket is dropping knowledge on opposing hitters?
Answer: Dean Hernandez won his 3nd Cy Young in season 11, asserting his dominance in Cobb World.
Player to watch: Brace Davey should flourish with guaranteed playing time now that he is no longer in Cleveland.
Outlook: 102-60 - 1st place. Lars is seeing what will in all likelihood be the end of an era in Pawtucket, as the G's win the AL North for the gazillionth time in a row. But the fans in Pawtucket had better enjoy it while they can, as their three best players will either be gone or much diminished in their capacity to contribute next season as Dean Hernandez is looking to become the most coveted free agent since Phillip Brown, and Tom Petitte and Albert Franco are both on the wrong side of 35. Still, this season there should be no problems taking out their divisional opponents and making it to the playoffs, where they will perhaps get a third chance to be upset by their hated rivals the Cleveland Steamers.

Philadelphia Cheese Steaks (66-96) 3rd place
Question: Will the once again entirely new lineup and pitching staff mesh, or will this be another losing season in Philly?
Answer: Shawon Lee is a beast at the plate, and will be a welcome addition to a lineup that lacked a true slugger.
Player to watch: SP Gary Ferguson will be one of the most hyped rookies in the league this season, and Philly hopes he delivers.
Outlook: 81-81 - 2rd place. With yet another move to another city, The Cheese Steaks are looking for that magic combination that will get them a winning season. Scary as it is, Lars actually likes their team a lot, and thinks that they have enough in the tank to improve upon last season and reach .500 for the first time in franchise history. A lot depends upon the collection of veteran rentals and young rookies staying healthy and producing, and speedy but OBP nightmares Andres Cruz and R.J. Hunt getting on base, but Lars thinks it will happen, and the fans will be rewarded.

Toronto Blue Jays
(58-104) 4th Place

Question: Will this be the first year since season 5 that Toronto surpasses 60 wins?
Answer: Larry Gant won the ROY last season behind his .304BA, 41HR, 130RBI year.
Player to watch: Ace SP Benito Beltre went 8-9 last season despite a 3.31 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. With just a little more run support he could easily be a 15-20 game winner.
Outlook: 68-94 - 3rd place. The Blue Jays have some major pitching talent on the ML squad and rapidly moving through their minor league system. Their solid core of Beltre, Steve Kerr, Paulie Gilbert, Justin Barnes, and Jesus Pujols will be causing nightmares to AL hitters for the coming decade, that much is certain. But Lars doesn't see them taking the next step from good to great until they get some more offense. Outside of Bosco Simon and Larry Gant, their positional players are pretty anemic at the plate. The Blue Jays made a nice early season move in signing International FA Carlos Lopez, but it take several more players with some pop to keep Toronto moving up the standings. Still, with pitching like they have coming down the pipe, they have some wiggle room.

Chicago Sabercats (67-95) 2nd place
Question: Will there be good promotions and beer specials to get the Chicago fans through the season?
Answer: Kip Zeile came off a monster season 10, and channeled his green rage into 40 HR's, and 120 RBI's, far and away the best production in the lineup.
Player to watch: Rookie SP Placido Tarrasco has big expectations, but will calling him up this early cause a Mark Prior like flame out?
Outlook: 60-102 - 4th place. Lars likes the Sabercats. He really does. But Lars also can't deny his third eye, which is telling him that this will probably be an adjustment period for Chicago as Kip Zeile throws one last monster season in the books, cementing his Hall of Fame status as one of the greatest players to have never won a World Series. There are some nice young players to watch, like Guillermo Segui, Tarrasco, Jesus Henriquez, and Odalis Ramirez. But Lars sees a team in flux, executing a youth movement while still retaining 83 million dollars in payroll, and knows in his all seeing and all feeling heart that those two factors cannot align in the heavens.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Season 12 Preview - AL West

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

Last season Lars beheld the cryptic cyphers, and unraveled them with predictions of impeccable quality. This season he is back to look into the areas between space to determine the ultimate designs that season 12 will unfold upon Cobb World. So without further ado, here are the season 12 predictions from the enigmatic prognosticator, Lars the Greek.

AL West

Anaheim Sharks (97-65) 1st place
Question: Who will step to replace the old and departed starting pitching that was an exceptional strength for the past 8 seasons?
Answer: Sammy Bennett had a year to remember in season 11, belting 54 HR's and knocking in 134 RBI's.
Player to watch: IF Lew Allen makes the leap from AA to the ML squad this season, bringing yet another player capable of 60+ HR's and a high average into the Sharks lineup.
Outlook: 92-70 - 1st place. The Sharks lineup will be loaded, with more power, speed, and OBP potential then almost any other in the American League. The question lies with their pitching, where Olmedo Contreras is a shadow of his Cy Young days, and J.T. Kidd is also aging rapidly. They brought on veteran SP Nate Rodgers, but he is clearly not a long term solution. If the lineup can overpower their opponents enough to cover for the aging starters, and talented but wild young pitchers being brought up to replace them, they have a chance to repeat yet again as division champs. But it won't be easy.

Vancouver Grizzlies (81-81) 3rd place
Question: Can the Grizzlies get enough pitching to back up Tommy Wakeland?
Answer: The lineup is as deep as Vancouver has ever had in team history, and still young and improving.
Player to watch: If Vancouver is to challenge Anaheim, they will need a 20 win season from Tommy Wakeland.
Outlook: 90-72 - 2nd place. With a little luck, Vancouver could overtake Anaheim for the division championship, but as it stands right now Lars thinks that their pitching is just not deep enough yet to make a sustained run for the AL West. Patrick Stanton lost a lot of power from his season ending injury last season, but still remains an elite catcher, and Alex Brantley is rapidly becoming a beast at the plate. The rest of the youngsters need probably another year before they hit their collective strides. But they are very close, and Anaheim had better watch out.

Arizona Phoenix (82-80) 2nd place
Question: Will Skeeter "Bling Bling Skeet" Robertson live up to his 107 million dollar contract?
Answer: Buzz Boswell lived up to the hype in his rookie season leading the pitching staff and making the all star team in his first full year in the bigs.
Player to watch: All eyes will be on Skeeter Robertson, and not just because of his contract. He is an electrifying pitcher with incredible skills, but is also fragile and will be watched for his injury potential as much as his skill.
Outlook - 89-73- 3rd place. The Helena Hellraisers bid farewell to Montana and all time great Orber Olivo, and now seek a resurrection of fortune in Arizona as the Phoenix. Lars sees some great hitting coming out of the ballpark, and pitching staff that could be lights out if everything goes as planned, but could just as easily fall apart with a key injury or two to Robertson or the also injury prone Boswell, and fellow health risk starting catcher Trenidad Palaez. If they stay healthy the Phoenix will challenge for the division title, but Lars isn't willing to bet on it.

Tacoma Jerry Gang (81-81) 4th place
Question: Will the Jerry Gang finally break through for their first winning season since season 2?
Answer: Tony Arnold was a revelation last season, proving the Times Herald staff completely wrong in their draft assessment, and leads a rapidly improving lineup.
Player to watch: Rookie SP Joaquin Rivera will be counted on to make an impact in the Jerry Gangs rotation.
Outlook: 87 - 75, 4th place. Tacoma almost broke through to winning record territory last season, but fell just short with a 81-81 record. This season Lars sees them finally getting over the hump, especially if their young bats can keep up their improvement. Ultimately though Lars thinks that Tacoma's pitching, while solid, isn't quite as good as the rest of the AL West. That will change as their pitchers grow and mature, and they could surpass their divisional counterparts as early as next season perhaps, but at this time they are filling gaps with last gas veterans Flip Heathcott and Matt Perkins. Once their starters get a little more skill vs. right handed hitting, this will be a team to watch out for. In any case, the winning season Lars sees happening this season is a huge improvement for this historically troubled franchise.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bling Bling Skeet Rising in Phoenix

Buster Gunns - Cobb Times Herald

The Arizona Phoenix held a press conference yesterday to introduce their major free agent signing, 26 year old all star pitcher Skeeter Robertson. The talented hurler inked a 107 million dollar contract, scoring the largest deal in Cobb World since the days of Phillip Brown in his prime. The news of this major signing took the league by storm, causing even the massive number of retired fans in Phoenix to spit out their dentures in shock.

The conference started with team GM cosmicblob issuing the statement, "With the probable retirement of Orber Olivo, and moving into a new stadium, we needed a new face of the franchise. This is what becomes possible with a state of the art stadium and all of those luxury boxes. Most of my fans in the Phoenix area are retired, and so aren't worried about losing their jobs." Indeed, the new stadium in Phoenix does have many luxury boxes, most of them equipped with MCL Cafeteria buffets, which is a huge draw to the local population. Arizona Phoenix Head Chef Chico Cortez commented, "We are very exicted about the food offerings in our new stadium. In addition to the traditional beer and hot dog vendors, we will also have pudding, jello, and peas on mashed potato vendors as well." With this innovative new food marketing strategy, Arizona was able to afford the services of Skeeter Robertson.

Just before Robertson entered the room to answer questions, the lights went dim and strobes started circling the room. Crunk music then started blasting through the speakers and Robertson entered the room in an oversized Phoenix jersey, low pants, Air Force Ones, 12 gold chains, and a Phoenix cap tipped to the side. His smile as he took a seat revealed a massive grill. "I is pleazed to announce that the era of Bling Bling Skeet has beginned in Phoenix y'all! I'z gonna strikes out me foes, and bring some bling to the streetz of Arizona! And to help me wit dis, I has gots me a new agent, my homie Lil' John!"

At that point the notorious rapper entered the room in his usual crunk attire, and took the mic. "YEAH! How you all doin' out there Phoenix?!" he yelled into the mic, continuing, "I had such a great time workin' the streets with my main man Orber Olivo, that I wanted to continue with the new face of the franchise, Skeeter Robertson. Or should I say, 'Bling Bling Skeet!' From the window, to the wall, to all skeet skeet skeet skeet!" He continued his statement, saying, "If there is one thing both me and Skeet know, it's bling and bitches, and with this massive 107 large contract, Bling Bling and I will be up in this bitch! What?"

Robertson then continued, "I had to check meself before I wrecked meself when I saw the contract offered by Arizona, buts the blob knows talent when he seez it, and I knowz that me is gonna rock dis' town, from the MCL to the streetz! Boo-yah-ka-sha!"

Reaction to the signing was mixed. In Phoenix, the fans were thrilled. "I'm just happy we have a team again, and one with some talent. I'm also really excited about the pudding vendors!" exclaimed fan Clarence Morrow. "I really like the fact that the stadium is air conditioned, but I don't know about the way those young whippersnappers dress nowadays," said fan Elthel Mayberry.

Meanwhile, fans in Helena weren't so thrilled. "We gave that team 10 good years, and this is how they repay u
s, by moving to Arizona and signing a wankster?" exclaimed visibly irritated fan Jack Straw. "I think it's just plumb ridiculous how the team owner cosmicblob would consider a new city for this team. He's a backstabber in the vein of the Irsays or Art Modell, and I hope he rots!" voiced former Hellraiser superfan Mike Lawson. The Mayor of Helena was also stunned by the events of the offseason, "I just don't know what to say, they just packed up in the middle of the night, and traded in their cowboy boots for gangster sneaks and dentures. We gave everything we had to that team, and now we're just left with nothing but dust and bones."

Still, the future looks bright for a franchise that is seeking a new identity as it attempts to dethrone the Anaheim Sharks in the AL West. One thing is for certain, it will be interesting to see how Robertson and Lil' John, the new faces of the Arizona franchise, mesh with a fanbase that is more familiar with Lawrence Welk.