American League East Thoughts

 

 
 


Everyone in America knew that this blog was coming. Everyone who follows my blog and baseball on MLBlogs knows that my team is itching to defend their American League Pennant. We know that 2009 will be the year where the Tampa Bay Rays will be between the crosshairs with everyone gunning to put us out of our misery every night. And you want to know something, that is fine with me. I am that kind of guy. Bring it on, I  think this team reloaded pretty good in the off season. We did not spend almost a half a billion dollars, but with millions we did invest in players went to needs, and that is the name of the game.
 

Most pre-season blogs and predictions have this as a two-team race in 2009. That is fine, they thought the same in 2008, and did not even acknowledge the Rays were a good team until almost the end of August. Everyone spent millions of words and letters chatting on the fall of the team. That the team was propped up by other teams getting caught off guard and the Rays just manipulated the system. Really? manipulated a system where New York and Boston were destined to win  it all, but one sat at home in October for the first time in many years.
 

Can you really think that I was going to post a blog putting a Boston or new york team up in front of us even before the first game?  Seriously people, I am not saying we are winning 162 games, or maybe not even 100, but I do think this team is for real and the race will be close until the last breathe of summer. And why do I think that with the multitudes of Yankees fans breathing down my neck chatting about their outstanding pitching. Well, Yankees fans, pitching only gets you so far, and do you really think that entire top5 will be on the mound the entire year? Seriously here, I can see C C Sabathia dominating the A L East, But A J Burnett might get his 15 wins, or he might be sitting in the dugout after a weird injury.

 


 

You guys have not even thought about if Joba Chamberlain is going to be 100 percent effective in the rotation. Once you begin playing with a guy running him in and out of a rotation, you can do more damage than good to the poor guy. If you have a solid 5 without him, let him stay as a set-up guy. Who is it going to hurt Mariano Rivera?  I am not going to throw any predictions out this year at all in the A L East war, but I will throw out a few challenges to teams. The first challenge is to the Yankees pitching staff. Since you have already been deemed the pitching staff of the century by experts, will it be a downfall if the staff doesn’t get 100 wins?
 

With that in mind, has the Yankee’s new stars sent flowers to A Rod yet thanking him for taking all of the Spring Training pressure off them so they can pitch like normal guys while the media froths over A Rod. Can you seriously think that the cousin/bad trainer/steroid situation will end in April? It will be a wild time in the Trop and other cities in 2009 as the fans show either their support or voice some loud chants about this entire situation. Want to make a bet on what is said? 
 

Also, people have dominated the off season with Yankee talk about the pitching upgrades. Did they do anything beside secure a good first baseman this past off season. Where is the offensive dynamo beside Mark Teixeria? Did the Yankees upgrade by getting Nick Swisher, or just plug in someone for a year in right field until something better comes along. And will Jose Posada come back as a stronger Yankee hitter, or be seeing more time at D H. Question are everywhere about the Yankees, but then again, even when they had a Championship team people had questions about weak spots.
 

Besides on the mound, is this really a strong Yankee team? They had better hope so, or the crowd will be on them soon. The A L East will get a fast idea on if the aggressive will dominate early in the season. The entire month of April will be spent mostly in divisional battles. This is where Boston took that early lead in 2008 before the Rays rose up and past them. So again in 2009, will the pattern remain the same, or will another team push towards the top and stay there.
 

Boston also did not weaken itself in the off season. They added Brad Penny and John Smoltz to their pitching staffs, with Smoltz maybe providing a cushion in the second half of the season.  This staff is the best in the A L East on paper. They have the experience and the stamina to out pace most teams in the division. But there are questions on their staff. They bulked up on set-up and relievers in the off season, but did the rotation really get that much better. I mean is Tim Wakefield still your best number 5 pitcher? Or will someone else step up and take that spot from him and make a decision even tougher about the Bullpen members.
 

I see the Boston pitching as another area where 2009 could make or break them early. Josh Beckett is a great pitcher, but until he get a few starts in we might not know if that lingering injury in 2008 is gone or might pop back up and take him down in 2009.  Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka are just going to come out ans reload after a great 2008. The 2 and 3 spot in this rotation might be the best Boston has seen in a long, long time. But let’s take a short look at the Bullpen. They have upgraded themselves, but with mostly National League pitchers. People forget that the National League is known for finesse and off speed pitches, while the American League is a power pitchers paradise.

 


 

But bright spot in Boston with no signs of disaster yet is their returning offense. The only blimp on the radar might be David Ortiz. Will the big guy be able to respond and get back into his former form and boost the offense in 2009? He is my biggest question mark on the entire Boston roster. Will we see the dominating Ortiz, or a shadow of himself like after his wrist began to hurt in 2008. You know that Boston wanted to upgrade somehow in that area, but with his contract it might have been bad at this moment. But can you see changes if he gets into a rut and stumbles out of the gate?  Will the team make that change and maybe upset the stadium masses, or will any injury make that decision for them? 
 

Can the upgrades in the Boston relief corps be enough to keep them in the game, or will the A L  bat them around for a bit until they settle in and pitch effectively. Questions ,questions. I am not trying to incite a riot online with these question marks. I am only trying to show that the A L
East will be a war that will have to be fought nightly this year. I really do not see Toronto or even Baltimore laying down at all this year. The Rays resurgence has shown small market clubs that anything is possible. One of these two bottom dwellers from the past two years might even rise up and bite one of the top three more than once in 2009.
 

It is not impossible for the eventual A L East division winner to have a .500 record against their  division rivals. I think it is a bit out of this world to think that, but it is possible. No one picked the Rays to even get into the playoffs, much less make it to the World Series. Boston and New York will  not lay down for  anyone in 2009. This division will be a sign that money and talent can battle each other and the best team will win no matter what the payroll. The Rays payroll might be upwards of $ 60 million plus in 2009, but that is pale in comparison to the millions dealt out just for pitching help by both divisional rivals.
 

                   
 

So will the money win out in 2009, or will the confident and determined show up again on top? We have a few days until we again get it started and go to the plate for real.  I have a feeling this spring will also be highly charged as all three teams want to prove some thing even before the season to their rivals. This might be one of the best Spring Trainings to watch in Florida for a long time. All three will be gunning to win, and wanting to put pressure on the others to either step up or shut up before even April. Now the real question might be, Is you team going to be talking or walking come October 1st?

Photo credits for today’s blog: Associated Press Photo Corps, ESPN.com, RRCollections.

 

26 Comments

Glad to see you’re fired up and ready to rumble, Renegade! (Do you like all those r’s?) I, for one, have never said it’ll be a two-team race in the AL East. Count out the Rays? Fat chance. The one thing I do know is that predictions are guesses at best. No one knows how a team will do over the course of a long season. Too many variables. All I can do is hope my Yankees emerge victorious.

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

I agree whole-heartedly with the variables. In 162 game anyone can stumble, but some of the feedback already oozing out of the mouth of Red Sox and Yankee fan have gotten under my skin. We have not even played 1 Spring game and they are proclaiming victory over even the National League in 2009.

I will not pound my chest until after the All-Star game, then might be more like tubthumping until September. If they waited until maybe May 1st to proclaim superiority I would have more respect for them………..but on Feb 22nd?

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

The Yanks loaded up because of the new fear that the Rays pose!! Nothing has changed though. The Sox and Yanks have been the favorites for the last 13 years! The Rays shook up the establishment last season, but people are still not giving them a second thought. I hope a team like the Rays or Jays can do it again, if we don’t kill each other in the process. Part of the reason the Rays got in last season was the fact that you squeaked away a number of wins from the Jays. It should be interesting to see this year. I just hope we don’t have to go to Orlando again, that wasn’t a good series for the Jays!
http://homerfoodandhistory.mlblogs.com/

The Rays have not posted any reference to going to Orlando again in 2009. But it is still early on and anything can happen when Mickey Mouse throws money around.

I was actually hoping the Jays would have gotten a few more pieces this year, but if Matt Clement can come through, they got a legitimate starter in the wings ready to go. As for the Jay offense, Alex Rios should again partner with Vernon Wells to produce some punch, but I am not sure how much Scott Rolens still has in his tank.

Jesse Litsch is a year older and wiser, and has been a Red Sox-killer for the Jays. I just hope they stay in it until late in the year. I would hate for Roy Halliday to be gone before the year is over…………he might be a key players in how Boston and New York do this year. He also has owned them in the past…guess we shall see soon enough!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I hope the Rays can hold on and repeat as AL East Champs. I still hope CC stands for Cancer in the Clubhouse and this time its for the Yankees. The Red Sox I hope have a down year too. Hopefully the Rays can win in 2009.
Aaron
http://mlbtribefan.mlblogs.com

Wow,
Well I think old Carsten Charles might be the good news for the Yankees this year. I tend to view a pitcher like him to be good until proven wrong.

He does have an A L pedigree, so he has an advantage. I am not sure he will be the cancer in that clubhouse. I tends to think the Yankees manager Joe Girardi is his own illness in that clubhouse, but that is only my opinion.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Baltimore Orioles: 2009 RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why Not Us?!?
Orangebird
Up In Section 360

Orangebird,

I think you guys are a year away from competing. You have a few guys in the minors like Matt Wieters who will make the 2010 team more competitive.

Not disrespect, just knowing the O’s might not force them up to just try to win a few more games. The future is bright for the boys from Camden Yards, just might not 2009.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

You had to put up the picture of the Cask n Flagon! I think the AL East this year is in for a wild ride and I can’t wait for it to start!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com

I tease because I care.
Seriously, a friend sent me that picture in a email and I loved it from the first moment I saw it.
It will be a war, and I am okay with it. I just hope that any POW’s taken during the clashes are given back after the game.
2009 hopefully will have all the battles decided on the field and not by the benches. I know there will be a few balls thrown towards the upper regions of the body throughout the season, but hopefully no one will be hurt by them.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Let’s get this show on the road! Seriously the wait is killing me. I hope the Yanks are ready for third place…They have to learn you can’t buy a team. Boston’s ready to go, they will be a force to be reckoned with. All the series against them will remind us of the playoffs no doubt.

I was thinking the same thing today. We will have 34 playoff caliber games against New York and Boston in 2009.

Hopefully we can win a majority of them, well at least 19 of them, but it will be a totally uphill battle all year long. I agree 100 percent, let’s skip the Spring Training games and get started tomorrow!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Whew my keyboard and computer are smoking from that fire you were spitting out. You know how I feel about predictions as I said in my blog I “wiz” on them. I wish the Rays the best of luck and should we ever battle in the Series I’d be looking the stands for ya brother! I had a blast rooting for them last year in the playoffs and I’d like to see them whoop again this year. Congrats on that ranking too. Looks like nobody really reads up on the Renegade. lol
Tom
http://rockymountainway.mlblogs.com

#8 on the latest Leader’s List! Congrats!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Rays Renegade,
You raise some really interesting and awesome points. Honestly, I’m afraid of the Rays this year! I mean, who knows if they’ll be the same team as last year (they could just be a fluke like the Indians or Rockies) but I know that playing them won’t be a walk in the park. I think the Red Sox’s pitching staff is their strong point. Their bullpen will make the difference when it comes down to September. I like having Wake as our number five starter… we saw what happened last year with Buchholz *kaboom*. I think Lester is going to get even better, or if not level out, and as for Dice-K, I don’t know if he’ll post 18 wins, but I can see him going deeper into games (and maybe not loading up the bases with no outs… just a hope).
As for the Yankees, yes they have a great pitching staff (but Burnett is still a HUGE risk), but what more is there? Their offense is decent, not the best.
Great post RR!
-Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

Tommy,
Did not mean to drive your computer nuts. I really did not make a prediction, just made a list of things to basically watch out for this year per se.

I understand the “whizzing” angle of it all. I really feel the same in a lot of ways. How can some make a prediction this early in the year with major battles left to be decided even on the teams before they leave camp. Most teams have most of their positions set, but someone always comes through and ruins the party somewhere on the roster.

Always fun…………..making people squirm a bit

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I have not even seen the ranking yet. I was busy watching Anthony Bourdain east some interesting food in Egypt, Sweden, and Lower Manhattan in old NYC.

I promise not to make a obscure refernece to anyone in a dedication………I promise.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I know that when Wakefield has pitched indoors, we have slugged him around a bit in the past. I will bet you on that Bullpen situation between the 5th and 8th innings.

It has to prove itself after failing during the ALCS. But they are strong-willed, and that is a scary thing to face sometimes. I will just leave this by saying that your offense has strong intentions, but could be weakened by only two guys going down. Ortiz is the key this year. If he is healthy in the 4-slot, you guys have a big year. If he struggles and Lugo becomes a bust……..You still might win a lot of games, but they will not be by more than 1 or 2 runs.

New York has never scared me. They have now loaded up for 6 years and we still have a decent record against them. They will be as good as their pitching this year.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

It will be very interesting to see what happens when a third bona-fide contender (the Rays) battle the Red Sox and Yankees for another season. Like you say, the Yankees get all the hype, but one must remember that they will have to play your Rays and the perennially tough BoSox more times than anyone else in the league. It may not take 100 or even 95 wins to take the division crown considering the level of competition.

http://zkonedog.mlblogs.com/

You are preaching to the choir on that pulpit. I actually think it will take maybe 92 wins to secure the title.

People are discounting the Toronto and Baltimore teams, and I truly feel they will decide the champion in the long run. the big three will just put the teams in position to win it, but the bottom of the division will decide it……….that is the only prediction I plan on giving out this year in the A L East until after the All-Star break.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

This “blog” is so factually inaccurate, it’s dangerous. MLB.com maybe facing Libel claims just for featuring it on its home page. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t make it through the whole commentary, but here are the things I did catch:

“People forget that the National League is known for finesse and off speed pitches, while the American League is a power pitchers paradise.” – I’m pretty sure you’ve got your leagues mixed. The National League is the fastball league. The American League is far more dependent on breaking pitches as a necessity for success.

“but that is pale in comparison to the millions dealt out just for pitching help by both divisional rivals” – How much did Boston actually spend on its pitching? Tazawa, Penny, Smoltz, Saito? And you’ll have to spend money too. Cause now your team doesn’t get top draft picks for a decade for being a joke.

“So will the money win out in 2009, or will the confident and determined show up again on top?” Like Boston and New York aren’t confident and determined?

“Besides on the mound, is this really a strong Yankee team?” YES, that’s why they generally finish ahead of you.

This is such a homer-blog. At no point have you questioned anything about your team. Can your rotation hold up? Do you have NO questions about Sonnantine, Garza, and Shields. Who all had their first good year last year? Or why you call him Big Game James when he really hasn’t won one? Or who Dioner Navarro is gonna hold down for Johnny Gomes to blind side this year? One good year, and you start talking like Perennial Contenders. This is why The Rays went from Feel-Good to Obnoxious last year.

Without a doubt, this is the division to watch in ’09. Nothing else comes close.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Peoplchamp – By obnoxious, you mean good, right? Every team has question marks on them. Even Boston. Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek…are they back at playing at 100%? The Rays have a lot to prove, and they are up to the challenge. Why dwell on the bad or on questions that have no answers yet? In Toronto they have great news about Aaron Hill being back at 100%. I just don’t see them as much of a threat. They will definately play a major role in September as spoiler to any team in the AL East. Boston and New York have a new rival. Play Ball!

Funny thing about blogs they hold both opinion and fact in them. This is not a blog about the Rays in 2009, but about my opinion about the top two guys that everyone has alreay anointed to the cream of the crop again after one year Yankees absence.

I still consider the American League to have the dominating pitching basis off the fastball and cutter. And this is my opinion. Just like if anyone else, newspaper or even ESPN writers posts you do not have to agree with it. that is the thing about blogs. Of course Boston and New York are confident, but if you read some of the pre-season predictions around the blog-world, those two words are used to describe the Rays.

Funny, you ever thought that the blog that will describe some of the questions and the pluses of the Rays might be after I finish the division makeup on Wed? Guess you have all the answers, but that is fine, blogs are meant to make you happy, sad and even obnoxious. that is why we write them to try and pull emotion out of people…like you.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jeff,

I agree it will be a fight every night in this division. And because MLB has put the schedule where everyone faces their division foes in the beginning of the season, we will have a fast idea who might be the better teams.

I am looking forward to it, and no matter what happens, I am there in the ball park.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

See,
Someone gets it. Toronto might have a young and unproven staff, but the injury to Vernon Wells did not help their offense. And in Baltimore, will the Orioles be better for getting Ryan freel, or is he going to just be another piece that is inserted in the infield and hope he fits.

The bottom teams have the same troubles the Rays had for the last 4 years. They have the talent, but it has not meshed yet. For most of the year it seemed like Toronto was going to be the thirds best team before New York regrouped and caught fire. That shows that the effort can be there, and that they should be viewed with caution, not arrogance.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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