O Winter Doldrums and Oft Repeated Rumours!

Since I'm growing weary at the slow pace of both the drearily sweeping broom of the potential Mike Cameron to the A's for Loco and a worn out reliever trade and even more weary with the Mets In Final Four For Delgado Sweepstakes non-news dairy product, I thought I'd break the snooze pattern of the news and have a reasonably brief and somewhat shallow look at where everybody else in the NL East stands to date.

Atlanta Braves
Record in 2004: 96-66, first place

BIG off season moves involved getting outstanding and young starting pitcher Tim Hudson from the Oakland A's in response to our signing of Pedro. Hudson v Pedro will probably favour the Mets this season and according to Hudson, if he isn't signed by the Braves by March, he will be a free agent next season. So if the Braves don't ante up quick, this will be a one and out year for their future starting pitcher. They also got reliever/closer Dan Kolb from Milwaukee and Jorge Vasquez from Kansas City. And of course, if you're like me you wonder Jorge Who? and then you realise he didn't even merit having his face on the ESPN player page. Just No Photo Available - rather ominous.

In between gaining and losing is the John Smoltz story. Smoltz will go from great closer to starting pitcher this season. I'm not so sure about this one. He's been a closer for several seasons now. How does the arm suddenly readjust to starting again?

They also lost Antonio Alfonseca to the rival Marlins, which you may or may not argue is a good thing. They saw starter Paul Byrd fly off to the Angels, lost a future star in reliever Jose Capellan (in the Kalb trade), lost another future pitcher in Juan Cruz to Oakland. More pitching was lost when Russ Ortiz was dramatically overpaid by the Diamondbacks and Jaret Wright was overpaid by the Yankees. No harm in any of those losses but they still need to be replaced.

Unless you think Julio Franco and his Social Security bones are the offensive answer to the Braves batting woes, the loss of JD Drew has not been compensated for. They lost three fair to middling starters, gained one very good starter and possibly inherited another if Smoltz's move works (but even if it does, they lost one of baseball's best closers in the process and replaced him with a Milwaukee Brewer.)

I dunno. So far, the Braves look to have been wounded more than helped by the offseason. Then again, they are the Braves and I suppose no matter who they lose and who they gain, there will be suprises and there will be pitchers you never heard of suddenly winning 15 games for them.

Philadelphia Phillies:
Record in 2004: 86-76, second place

Losing Larry Bowa is a plus, no question. Whether or not the answer was Charlie Manuel would require a redefinition of the question: What In the World Do I Hate More Than Recycled Managers? - recycled managers with losing records!

Fortunately for Phillies fans, at least Manuel was fired from the Indians in 2002 still 31 losses shy of a career losing record so, well done. Then again, you'd have been hard pressed to find a worse answer than Larry Bowa so there wasn't all that far to fall to begin with.

Otherwise, the Phillies were relatively quiet. They answered their CF leadoff hitter problems by trading Felix Rodriguez to the Yankees for Kenny Lofton.

And, in their tireless quest for recycled Yankee rejects, they signed free agent pitcher Jon Lieber, to an aggrediously inflated three-year contract.

They lost the way overpayed and frankly disappointing Eric Milton. Bravo. They lost Kevin Millwood to the Indians. A rapidly sinking career.

They shucked almost as much flotsam from their 2004 starting rotation as the Braves but don't get nearly as much in return. Then again, not having Bowa overstring the starting lineup every night will be worth 10 wins all by itself next season.

Florida Marlins
Record in 2004: 83-79, third place

Lost ace Carl Pavano. In return, Al Leiter. Not a good swap for starters. We are well familiar with Al Leiter's deficiencies as a starter and a clubhouse politician. They signed Todd Jones, whom the Phillies didn't want, to a one-year contract.

They signed free agent pitcher Antonio Alfonseca from the rival Braves. Overall, unexciting, unless they manage to pry Carlos Delgado from the Mets.

Montreal Expos Washington Nats
Record in 2004: 67-95, last place

It's a busy offseason when you move your franchise from one country to another, change your team's nickname, hire a temporary GM, elicit the political equivilent of a food fight in America's capital over a stadium deal for a franchise that might have not even stayed in America's capital, FAILED to find a buyer for their franchise and remain doomed to be owned by an owner's collective AND still find time to sign a few free agents.

Signed switch hitting shortstop Cristian Guzman and his .685 career OPS to a 4 year deal.

Signed the 200 year old Vinny Castillo to a two year deal. Castillo, by the way, was like alot of players, fantastic at Coors Field for the Rockies last season and absolute crap on the road. .324 batting average at home, .221 away is about all you need to know about my cousin Vinny. To his credit though, he hit 21 homers on the road and only 14 at home. His .275-35-131 stats for last season will be remarkable for the Nats if he comes anywhere near them in DC.

The other big signing was the volatile and troubled Mr Jose Guillen who was so bad he was kicked off the team in the middle of the pennant race. He is allegedly learning about anger management which is not really what you usually want your slugger to be focused on during the offseason. Anger management should come from smacking balls in the batting cage.

They also free agent infielder Wil Cordero, another anger management victim whom frankly, I thought had retired about 10 years ago.

I think the Washington Nats occupying the NL East basement for many years to come is pretty much a foregone conclusion. However, if it makes Peter Angelos sweat, if it causes that little monkey angst and pulls fans out of his stadium, well good for the Nats. I'll be rooting for them despite themselves. The New New York Mets of the NL East. Good luck kids, you'll need it.

No comments: