BASN MLB Previews (Part One of Six)

By Tony McClean
Updated: March 25, 2008
NEW HAVEN — Yeah, we know the baseball season “officially” started early Tuesday morning over in Japan. But we here at BASN also know that most hardcore fans (including those wacky fantasy folks) aren’t really acknowledging the regular season until Monday.
So in keeping with our tradition of giving the people what they want, BASN will take a look at all six division races leading up to Monday’s “real” Opening Day. Today, we take a peek at the AL East.
If you’re not a fan of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, you may wanna skip some parts of this preview. Maybe you can read the Cliff notes version of the Mitchell Report (Hint: just like “Titanic”, the boat sank…), or checkout your NCAA pool without screaming the words “Freakin’ Davidson???”, or plan a cocktail party with Jose Canseco and ARod.
Hey, it’s just a suggestion.
(Teams are listed by predicted order of finish)
Boston Red Sox1. BOSTON RED SOX
They start the season with two of their starters on the DL and one of their sluggers in his walk year, but despite all that are still favorites to be in the thick of it all over again. Why? Because of their continued commitment to quality pitching. For example, Clay Buchholz no-hit the Orioles in September and couldn’t crack Boston’s postseason roster. Throw in youngsters like John Lester, Hideki Okajima, and other bullpen stalwarts and you have a recipe for another title. Not to mention a lineup with Big Papi Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell and others. While no team is unbeatable, Boston really has one of the game’s most balanced teams.
Toronto Blue Jays
The main reason why we have our neighbors up North finishing second (and yes!!, ahead of the Yankees) is our aforementioned reasoning — it’s pitching, dummy!!! A rotation of Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, and Dustin McGowan is one of the AL’s most underrated and can get better if Burnett stays upright for 200 or so innings. They’ll also need reliever B.J. Ryan to bounce back from his elbow injury. On paper, the lineup has question marks with ex-Cardinals David Eckstein and Scott Rolen. However, look for Vernon Wells to bounce back from his sub par 2007 and help Alex Rios and the Blue Jay lineup. They may not be a playoff team, but they could be one helluva spoiler.
Just when did the Yanks turn into the Red Sox of the 1970′s (i.e. a big lineup with aging and or suspect pitching). Yes, they have youngsters like Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain, but when you counter them with Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, and Carl Pavano (remember him??) it cancels themselves out. Right now, the Yankees are a team that will just good enough to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. And to be honest, we think even that postseason run will come to an abrupt end this October. There’s something to be said when the highlights of the Yankees spring is Pettitte’s first news conference and picking fights with the team formerly known as the Devil Rays.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
The Tampa Bay management has asked all of us media folk to please refer to them now as the Rays. In lieu of doing a “You can call me Ray or You can call me Jay” comedy routine, we’ll politely adhere to their wishes. As for the team on the field, the annual goal of .500 ball remains the No. 1 priority. They got rid of a pair of budding, but troubled stars in Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young without losing much in return. The Young trade with Minnesota gave them another experienced starter in Matt Garza to go along with Scott Kazmir and James Shields. With young veterans like B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, and All-Star Carl Crawford, the future appears bright. Are they ready to contend yet?? Probably not. Check back in about 2010.
Baltimore Orioles
I could very easily have Dave Chappelle come in and do his best Clayton Bigsby routine yelling “They Stink!!!” to sum up the Orioles. But that wouldn’t be fair to Baltimore season ticket holders, no matter just how dead on that statement would be. To be honest, the Birdies are doing the right thing by starting from scratch. Trading guys like Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada not only opens up salary, but it gives new GM Andy MacPhail a chance to see exactly what direction he wants to go. There is some talent with guys like OF Nick Markakis, P Daniel Cabrera, and 2B Brian Roberts. These will be the nucleus that they’ll build around. They may show some flashes at times, but they’re likely headed to the basement this season.
Tommorrow: The NL East.