Category Archives: 2013 Diamond Hoggers Season Previews

Philadelphia Phillies 2013 Season Preview

lee

This may very well be the last running of the bulls.

The Phillies have entered the past three season with enormous expectations. In my mind, they had enough heavy artillery to win the World Series entering 2010 and 2011. I was sure they were at least going to the World Series in 2010 after they steamrolled the Reds in an NLDS sweep. They lost in six games to the Giants, who were the eventual champion. Then in 2011 they lost in the NLDS three games to two to the St. Louis Cardinals after winning 102 games. The season ended with Ryan Howard blowing a tire and laying crumpled on the infield. Again, a Phillies team that should have competed to win it all had fallen short. Last year they finished .500 and missed the playoffs entirely. The Phillies of this generation began to show their age.

This season will be one of interesting story lines in the City of Brotherly Love one way or another. The Phillies will either make one final triumphant run towards the postseason as a surprise party guest or show the rest of the baseball world that they need a remodeling. The latter scenario could see some veterans shopped and traded, and is probably more likely.

Major Off-season Moves:

  • Traded Ben Revere
  • Traded for Michael Young
  • Signed John Lannan
  • Signed Mike Adams
  • Signed Delmon Young

That’s a very solid, if not spectacular off-season of moves. The Phillies have put themselves in position to make one final run towards what should have been a window full of title teams, but they’re going to have their work cut out for them in the National League’s finest division.

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New York Mets 2013 Season Preview

harvey

I’m not all that excited about writing the Mets preview this year. I’ve had the same feeling for a few years now when I write the Mets preview. They’re still part of the fraternal order of Major League Baseball. Due to that, I’ll settle in and do my best to give them their share of the spotlight.

It’s just that the Mets might be without David Wright to open the season due to a ribcage injury he suffered in the World Baseball Classic. If the Mets don’t have their newly crowned captain, they’re not that interesting of a team.

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Traded for John Buck
  • Traded for Travis d’Arnaud
  • Signed Shaun Marcum
  • Traded for Collin Cowgill
  • Released Jason Bay

Getting out from under Jason Bay’s albatross of a salary was probably their biggest move of the winter. The Mets are in one of baseball’s primo divisions this year, and it’s going to be tough for them to provide bright spots for their fan base. Gone are R.A. Dickey, Scott Hairston, Mike Pelfrey, and Andres Torres. All decent players who make the everyday Mets more interesting, albeit still mediocre. The Mets didn’t do enough to make themselves better. It’s going to be a long year.

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Washington Nationals 2013 Season Preview

Davey+Johnson

Sergeant Gunnery Hartman/Davey Johnson is baseball’s best manager. We only get one more season of him.

Any conversation about baseball’s most-loaded team must begin with their R. Lee Ermey style manager, Davey Johnson. Johnson is baseball’s finest manager, having been perched on dugout top steps since Small Pox was a problem; he’s seen more baseball than any living man has forgotten.

Johnson is a no-nonsense, tough loving, thick skinned son of a gun. He’ll probably live to be 120 years old before crawling off into the woods somewhere and dying alone with his dignity like only the toughest old hombres would do. We actually were lucky enough to obtain footage from the Nationals Spring Training barracks just a few days ago. Let’s take a good look at Johnson addressing his troops during a routine, middle of the night bed check:

If there’s one thing Sergeant Davey hates to find, it’s an unlocked foot locker. How did you like when he went off at Dan Haren there in the video for having a jelly doughnut in his foot locker? In all fairness to the Gunnery Sergeant Davey and Haren; this came after Haren’s most recent troubling spring start.

Biggest Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed Rafael Soriano
  • Signed Denard Span
  • Signed Dan Haren
  • Traded away Mike Morse

The Nationals had an already absolutely loaded roster, even down into their minor leagues before any of these moves were made. Things seemed to line up perfectly for them to add three key veterans in spots that could afford some touching up with the perfect addition.

I have loved everything that this team has done in building it’s organization since General Manager Mike Rizzo took over. Now they’re in a position to really reap the benefits over the next five to seven years. They’ll have a chance to win a World Series every year in that window unless something goes wildly wrong. They’re also in position to trade a highly valued prospect in the farm system; of which there are many, should they need to acquire another Major League ready player to help them in their current run. Times are good right now for the Washington Nationals, and that is putting it lightly.

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Atlanta Braves 2013 Team Preview

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Braves fans are in for a fun year. You have to admire this organization. Chipper Jones exits stage left as possibly the greatest Atlanta Brave ever. The organization waits just a few months and brings in Justin Upton, a kid that many scouts said would be the next Ken Griffey Jr. type player and added him to a lineup who scouts said would be the next Ken Griffey Jr. type player (Jason Heyward).

The Braves have had a recent string of postseason letdowns. The had the eventual champion Giants on the ropes in 2010 and let them off the hook. They’ve lost one-game playoffs in each of the last two years. Braves fans must feel like they’re a bit snake-bitten.

Major Off-season Moves:

  • Traded for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson (for Martin Prado and Randall Delgado)
  • Signed B.J. Upton
  • Signed Gerald Laird
  • Traded for Jordan Walden (for Tommy Hanson)
  • Chipper Jones retired
  • Michael Bourn, David Ross, Jair Jurrjens signed elsewhere

The Braves run their organization in a professional manner. They’re going to have a really successful season. I expect them to be in the market for a starting pitcher along with St. Louis. If they can shore up their starting rotation, this team is going to be one of the top teams in baseball. They might be anyways, but at the end of the day I like their division rival Washington’s starting pitching a bit more.

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2013 Toronto Blue Jays Team Preview

Check out the jerseys hanging up for the Toronto Marlins Blue Jays.  Reyes, Johnson, Bonafacio, Buehrle.  Just a part of the new players Toronto got to play north of the border this year.  The Blue Jays have long seemed a team ready to take the next step, but they never have.  They tried a few different methods.  Former GM JP Ricciardi, tried to do it with big signings such as AJ Burnett and, ahem, BJ Ryan?  New GM Alex Anthopoulos spent several years building the farm system starting with trading ace Roy Halladay.  Well, after acquiring a nice core of young players including Brett Lawrie, and Brandon Morrow, Anthopoulos made some deals to swing for the fences this year.  He picked a good year to do it too.  The Red Sox are down for sure, the Yankees have serious injury concerns.  Is this the year that Toronto gets back to the playoffs after a 20 year absence?  If it is, it will be greatly dependent on how this next group of players perform this year and adapt to playing in the great white north.

Let’s see who they acquired to make that playoff (and maybe more) berth a reality.  This could be long.

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Acquired SS Jose Reyes
  • Acquired SP Josh Johnson
  • Acquired SP Mark Buehrle
  • Acquired OF/2B Emilio Bonafacio
  • Signed OF Melky Cabrera
  • Acquired SP RA Dickey

Toronto acquired 5 of the 6 players acquired in the off season are former or current All-Stars.  This is a serious influx of talent for a team that  already had a pretty good major league roster.  Now they had to pretty much deplete their prospects still in the minor leagues, but sometimes that’s what you need to do.  In a prefect world, a team can have a stocked minor league while still being a top major league team.  I can guarantee that most fans would trade one World Series title if it means there will be a rebuilding phase a few years later.  All these players are going to fill starting roles (Bonafacio being the shakiest) and will be significant upgrades over their predecessors.

We’ll get down to the nitty gritty after the jump.  Onto the lineup. Continue reading

2013 Boston Red Sox Team Preview

One of the iconic images in all of baseball lives in Boston.  The Green Monster.  Even just two years ago, I used to see this all the time when the Red Sox were playing on Sunday Night Baseball every other week.  Boston is a big market with lots of baseball fans, but even ESPN knows they can’t put a 69 win team on TV every other week and expect people to watch.  Last year was horrible for the Red Sox.  They thought they re-loaded with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, but those two were quickly jettisoned from Boston for little more than a salary dump.  The one year experiment of bringing in Bobby Valentine failed miserably.  Most say his style was too different from Terry Fracona’s that the clubhouse vets never let him take control.  Most baseball managers should just get the hell out of the way if they want to do what’s best for there team anyway.  red Sox didn’t win shit for 100 years then they won two World Series and have been competitive every year since 2003 until last year.  The Celtics have been good and the Patriots are good.  They won’t put up with 69 win seasons for long.

So the Red Sox made some moves to bring the team back from last place, right?

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed C Mike Napoli
  • Signed OF Jonny Gomes
  • Signed OF Shane Victorino
  • Signed SS Stephen Drew
  • Signed RP Joel Hanrahan
  • Signed SP Ryan Dempster

Is there anyone in this group under 40?  Joel is, right?  The Red Sox spent  all that money they saved from Crawford and Gonzalez on this.  I know Red Sox fans probably aren’t too happy about this.  Three of them are on one year deals so that’s not too bad – Napoli, Drew, and Hanrahan.  Dempster and Gomes are on two year deals.  But Victorino is one a three year deal at $13M per.  That doesn’t seem like a good way to spend the money you just saved Carl Crawford huge contract.  They needed to fill significant holes, but I think they will be regretting the Victorino deal very soon.  The bright side of these deals is that they did fill those holes.  Each one of these players will get major at bats or innings pitched this year.

Now onto the lineup after the jump. Continue reading

2013 Baltimore Orioles Team Preview

The Orioles exceeded anybody’s wildest expectations last year.  They made the playoffs as one of the wildcard teams.  Beat a Texas team that had represented the AL in the last two World Series and then nearly beat the Yankees in the Divisional series, losing 3-2.  The Orioles had the moniker of luck hanging over them all season and they did come up on the sunny side of the average.  They won 93 games but were only projected to win 82 based on run differential.   They were 29-9 in one runs games and 16-2 in extra inning games.  That’s probably not going to happen again this year.  Baseball being good in Baltimore is a good thing.  The ballpark is great and it’s a team with some nice tradition.

Did they make moves to take the next step?

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • None

The Orioles took it easy this offseason.  They have been building a solid team with Adam Jones and Matt Wieters.  They didn’t really need to add much to the offense – there is plenty of capability there.  They could have added a top line starter, but you can’t just go out and pick one off the shelf.  I’m assuming Baltimore figured it out and stood pat.

So they if they didn’t do much in the offseason, who’s left. Continue reading

Cincinnati Reds 2013 Team Preview

Jay+Bruce

If you want me to be 100% honest, I thought it was the Reds year last year. I truly thought after they won the first two games of the NLDS in San Francisco that this team was headed to the World Series. The Reds were going to do one better than my prediction I made before the season of just reaching the NLCS; they were actually going to win the NL pennant and give themselves a shot at the first Cincinnati World Title since 1990 when I was eight years old.

The Reds completely broke my heart when they collapsed. Truth be told, I’m still not recovered from it. While I’m excited for  baseball season, I don’t necessarily think that this team in this window will ever be any better positioned to win it all. You can tell me that I’m wrong, and you can tell me that they’re better for the experience they gained and all that. My opinion is the Reds missed a golden opportunity to win it all last year and will never have a better opportunity.

The American League as a whole was suspect last season and I knew at the time that the hot team from the National League would probably win it. At first glance that team looked to be the Reds. Then Johnny Cueto got hurt. Then the Reds couldn’t make a few plays when Homer Bailey threw the gem that should have ended the series. Then the Reds had to throw Leake and throw away game four. Then in game five, Buster Posey drove a stake in my heart that will never be removed.

With that, I decided that I’ll never again believe it’s going to happen until the moment actually arrives. I am forever skeptical; forever jaded. There is no such thing as ‘we’re going to win the whole damn thing’ before we do it as I declared last year on Opening Day. Not this year. You have to prove it to me now.

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed Jack Hannahan
  • Traded for Shin-Soo Choo
  • Re-signed Ryan Ludwick
  • Re-signed Jonathan Broxton
  • Re-signed Manager Dusty Baker

I know this team so well it’s scary sometimes. When I wake up in the morning during the season and the Reds have a game on their schedule, I know if they’re going to win or lose 95% of the time before the game is even played. I still watch and see the results play out. But at the end of things when the final out is recorded, I usually had a pulse of how things were going to go. My wife sometimes asks me why I don’t just smell the roses when following this team. Why don’t I just enjoy things a little bit more? I wish it were that easy. When this much passion gets involved; when you want something so badly, you can’t help but expect the zenith.

I want that damn trophy at the end of the year. There’s no reason that this group in this era shouldn’t win a title. They’re as good as anyone in the league right now. Everyone has their breaks, their weak spots, their bad luck; it’s time to go out and get it done. Anything less is considered an absolute failure. And if and when that happens I can’t help but be completely exasperated, usually after an emotional explosion.

Here’s a look at yours and my 2013 Cincinnati Reds after the jump. Continue reading

2013 Tampa Bay Rays Team Preview

It’s really hard to not like the Rays if you are just a fan of baseball.  They do more with less than pretty much any team in the league.  They have the worst ball park in the majors, they play in front of sparse crowds most nights (19k on average – lowest in the league), and still manage to compete in usually the toughest division in baseball year   in and year out.  They haven’t finished lower than 3rd in the AL East since 2007.  Their highest paid player is David Price who signed for a one year arbitration deal of $10M.  There only long term contracts are Evan Longoria and Matt Moore who both are likely under market value.  They aren’t afraid to trade away great players or even just simply let them go in FA (see Carl Crawford and BJ Upton).  They have managed to keep the farm system stocked for years.  They are what every smaller market team wishes their team could be like. (given financial constraints)  This past offseason they parted with two major contributors in James Shields and BJ Upton, both of whom were in line for market priced pay days the Rays couldn’t afford.

What did they do to replace that production?

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Acquired OF prospect Wil Myers from Royals
  • Signed 2B Kelly Johnson
  • Acquired SS Yunel Escobar
  • Acquired 1B James Loney

This looks about like what the Rays would do.  Traded for one blue chip prospect in Wil Myers.  He’ll likely be a superstar for the Rays while they control him and he’ll either sign him to a team friendly extension or trade him for more prospects.  The rest of the signings look like mildly liked veterans that the Rays could get for discounted prices and hope to hit on a few of them.  Kelly Johnson is a solid player and will allow Ben Zobrist to play full time in the OF.  Yunel Escobar didn’t endear himself in Toronto after an unfortunate makeup incident.  He’s talented, but comes with some baggage.  I’m not so sure the talent will come to fruition in Tampa.  James Loney will play first, but will likely platoon a decent amount while Ryan Roberts slides over to fill in.

Let’s get tot he rest of that lineup. Continue reading

2013 New York Yankees Team Preview

Is it bad that this is what I think of when I think of the typical Yankees fan?  27 rangz yo.  I don’t even dislike the Yankees.  This is just what happens when your the team everybody loves to hate and even file and win a lawsuit claiming that only your team can be called the evil empire.  For years the Yankees rode a huge TV contract to massive free agent signings, although many of the key players during their late 90′s World Series runs were home grown, and drew the ire of many sports fans that felt like they bought wins and rings.  I never really thought you can blame them for playing the pocket aces they were dealt.  These are the new Yankees though.  they haven’t really had a recent huge signing after Mark Texiera and CC Sabathia, their best current player, Robinson Cano, is home grown, and they’ve even vowed to get below the $189M luxury tax cap.  If anything, the Dodgers, are the new Yankees.  As the try to pare payroll back, they face the reality that their high priced veterans are getting old – they still owe Alex Rodriguez over $100M dollars – and they don’t have a excess of young talent to fill those voids.  I don’t know if they’ll get back to their spendy ways to fill those spots or if they’ll suffer a few worse years in order to restock for another 5-6 year run of dominance.  Those are long term questions, and we can only talk semi-intelligently about this year.

So what does a “light” offseason for the Yankees look like?

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed 3B Kevin Youkilis
  • Signed DH Travis Hafner
  • Resigned SP Hiroki Kuroda
  • Resigned SP Andy Pettitte

The Youkilis signing turned a few heads since all fans think a long time Red Sox player would hate the Yankees and never sign – right Johnny Damon?  Youk still swings a nice bat will be serviceable at 3B.  This is a good 1 yr signing.  I think taking a chance on Hafner is good idea.  The Yankees lost some nice production from Nick Swisher and Hafner will fill that power gap some.  (You know, as long as e can play more than 20 games)  the Kuroda and Pettitte signings were absolutely necessary to fill out the rotation with some quality arms.  If they hadn’t. they would be looking at signing a free agent and potentially giving up a draft pick – hello Kyle Lohse.  Some of the bigger off season moves were the ones the Yankees didn’t make.  They let Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano – players that had very good years – walk because they both wanted bigger money long term deals.  The Yankees were not going to make that commitment.

Now onto the lineup after the jump. Continue reading

Chicago Cubs 2013 Team Preview

rizzo

I just want to preface this post by saying, you haven’t read a Cubs season preview post until you’ve read our Cubs 2011 season preview post. It could be the Cubs preview post every year, and it should be. But I don’t want anyone to accuse me of laziness other than my wife–so I’m going to give you a real Cubs preview instead of just telling you about how much the Cubs fans love their weed. We also told you that in the 2010 Cubs season preview post. If you haven’t read them yet, you need to. Trust me.

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of this preview instead of telling you the things you should already know about the Cubbies fan base (hint: they do smoke up a lot!).

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed Scott Baker
  • Signed Scott Feldman
  • Signed Kyuji Fujiwaka
  • Signed Nate Schierholtz
  • Signed Carlos Villaneuva
  • Signed Edwin Jackson

Whew. If that’s not enough to get you excited I don’t know what you were hoping for. The Cubs shored up some spots in the rotation but most of their acquisitions were of stop-gap in nature.

As we experienced first-hand in our first and only trip to Wrigley Field this past spring, Wrigleyville is a hard place not to have a good time. There’s never an excuse not to party. Even if Edwin Jackson headlines your off-season signings, you can still drink 312 beer for breakfast, toke your one-hitter just before passing through the turnstiles into the cathedral and then just space out and get lost staring into that ivy. Continue reading

St. Louis Cardinals 2013 Team Preview

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Never trust a guy with two first names, unless that guy is Allen Craig.

The Cardinals. The pesky, annoying, fire-ant in your ass-crack Cardinals. These fucking annoying shits. In case you have forgotten, here was what ruined my postseason experience in 2012:

You had them right where you wanted them all along, didn’t you Matheny? Sure you did, you needle-dick. The day before, my Reds completed their collapse. I decided to cast my anchor to the Nationals and their red-assed manager. Things were looking great, and then suddenly it was over. I didn’t watch another full game the whole postseason. The Reds collapse combined with their arch-rival’s unlikely triumph was enough to make me sick.

It’s like; it was cute in 2011. I felt good for the Cardinals getting that title. Last year, those resilient little shits didn’t belong. I don’t care that they took the NLCS to seven games. That team out-kicked their coverage.

Now you’re going to try and tell me that the Cardinals have the best offense in the National League? With all due respect, I disagree.

I know this team well. I’ve watched a lot of them over the past decade. This is a fine organization from the top down, and their players will grind and represent their organization on the field with a lot of pride. They’ll get more out of less. Their role players will over-achieve. Their prospects will almost certainly all develop. Things go that ways for the lucky Cardinals. Thank God that guys like La Russa, Pujols and Carpenter aren’t there anymore. It makes the Cardinals a little more difficult to hate–but not much.

I’m here to tell you why the Cardinals aren’t going to win the National League Central after the jump. Continue reading

Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Team Preview

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The Dread Pirate: Pittsburgh’s newest chosen son.

Lets face it, the Pittsburgh Pirates being relevant again would be good for baseball. Other moribund teams have enjoyed short revival runs that energized their fan base and became the league’s big story for that given year. The Pirates haven’t finished a season over .500 since the first President Bush was in office. I still believed in Santa Claus.

Last season that was supposed to all change. The Pirates had that .500 finish in the bag it appeared. And then it all came crashing down–another horrible chapter in the Pirates recently horrible history.

But not all is lost. The Pirates have one of baseball’s top five players at the center of their franchise in Andrew McCutchen. They have the only two Clint’s in baseball donning their threads (Hurdle, Barmes) and that counts for something. Expectations are so low in the Steel City that if the Pirates can just win more games then they lose, it will become a league-wide story.

For a team that failed to get it done last season, they’re dressing a lot of the same guys up in the same part in the play this year.

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed Russell Martin to a 2-year, $17 million dollar contract
  • Signed Francisco Liriano
  • Traded for Vin Mazzaro
  • Traded for Jerry Sands
  • Traded for Travis Snider

Seems like a little bit of shuffling deck furniture on the Titanic doesn’t it? Don’t feel that way, Bucco-faithful. The Pirates have shored up some key areas just a bit. If a few guys can realize their potential and others return to their old form, the Pirates are going to treat you to a fun season.

Here’s a look at the Pirates in-full after the jump. Continue reading

Milwaukee Brewers 2013 Team Preview

Ryan Braun

How much of this Brewers season will Ryan Braun be a part of?

The biggest storyline for the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers will be whether or not they get a full season of Ryan Braun. There is a rumor circulating that in a few weeks Braun will receive a 50-game PED suspension from the MLB front offices.

I used to really enjoy Ryan Braun. But you know something? A quick browse of his career numbers, and they suddenly look a little bit out of control to me. Too perfect. Too clean. Not enough blemishes. There’s no doubting that Braun is a generational talent type. It’s possible that these numbers were achieved cleanly. But the fact of the matter is that when you’re hearing his name whispered amongst the cheaters, you start believing there’s a possibility. If I had to wager one way or another, I would say that Ryan Braun has used something that would give him an extra edge. That’s just my instinct at this time.

Braun receiving a 50-game time out would change the entire landscape of this Brewers team this season. With Braun this team can be formidable on a lot of nights. Without him, the cupboard looks a little bit bare.

The Brewers had themselves a nice little D+ off-season, at best.

Major Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed LHP Tom Gorzelanny
  • Signed LHP Mike Gonzalez
  • Traded for Burke Badenhop

Almost like a rite of passage into spring time, Mat Gamel hurt himself again. Never trust a Mat who spells his name with just one ‘t’. It’s bad karma. I don’t know any. Also, Corey Hart will miss his usual six or so weeks to start the season and then spring into action and tear the shit out of the baseball for the final five or so months.

Your 2013 Milwaukee Brewers, after the jump. Continue reading