The Egg McMuffin of Spring Training Previews

We have a repeat winner of the Egg McMuffin of… Award, people!

C’mon, Hacksaw. Isn’t it bad enough that people have to listen to your claptrap on the radio? Why do you have to go writing garbage like this?

Don’t think I’m letting you off the hook, Mighty 1090. You let this go out over the interwebs. That series of tubes is going to need to be scrubbed. Get to it.

Fair warning: I was fighting a cold and was experiencing a NyQuil hangover when writing most of my responses. So, don’t expect much.

Spring training forecast as pitchers and catchers report

By Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton

Hope springs eternal across the 30 major league cities as baseball training camps open this week in both Arizona and Florida.

It’s time for baseball’s spring training, and the most popular words fans can hear — pitchers and catchers report.

And reports from Hacksaw about Anthony Rizzo hitting home runs in Spring Training batting practice or Andrew Cashner throwing 100 mph in pitching drills

Here’s a quick look at the story lines unfolding as teams report to the Cactus League and the Grapefruit Circuit with new faces in new places:

Teams in Town

Dodgers — What a difference one calendar year makes. This time last February there was anger everywhere and empty seats in Chavez Ravine thanks to the legacy of Frank McCourt. This year, the Dodgers have positioned themselves to win, or maybe, buy themselves a pennant.  They spent over $600 million in salaries and extensions. They are so good, so deep, people on the East Coast refer to the Dodgers as the new “Evil Empire.” Biggest questions in camp: Can Adrian Gonzalez be the power hitter he used to be? Does Carl Crawford rebound from elbow surgery? Will Chad Billingsley’s shoulder hold up?

LAme. Second place is expensive. And when did the Dodgers move to San Diego?

Angels — Write a check, get a star and here comes power hitter Josh Hamilton, stolen away from the arch-enemy Texas Rangers. The Halos added starting pitching and upgraded the bullpen. Pitchers Tommy Hunter, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton pick up the back of the rotation, while Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett will solidify an untrustworthy bullpen. But getting the 45-home run hitting Hamilton to complement Albert Pujols and Mike Trout puts them atop the division standings, and maybe the entire league.

Wait…the Angels moved to San Diego, too? Where the Hell are all these additional teams playing? Qualcomm? Fowler Park? One of the Little Padres Parks?

Padres — They are not real happy in San Diego. There was not one key off-season acquisition in the off-season for a team that was buried deep in the standings most of the summer. The small payroll remains intact and the only hope is that five of their injured pitchers will be back by mid-June. The Padres tried to sell the slogan “New Owner — New Ballpark Dimensions.”  The real phrase should be “New Owners are Just Like the Old Owners — Low Payroll.” A long summer for fans, but at least the weather is nice.

Ok, why in the name of Jebus weren’t the Padres first? You know, considering this is the only team actually in town. And don’t tell me it has anything to do with Baja California and the Canadian Rockies. Because that would include EVERYONE on the West Coast. Even those damn Mariners. I hate them so much…

I won’t bore you with my analysis of the Padres’ lousy off-season. We all know the deal. Or the lack of deals, as it were…

Insert “Modify the fences” snarky comment here.

So Hacksaw basically stole the “real phrase” from the Change the Padres video? Nice. Good start. It can only get better from here.
[WARNING: Sarcasm detector overload!]

The Good

Atlanta — The Braves have young star hitters in Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman and a load of arms. Now they add sluggers Justin Upton from Arizona, and brother B.J. Upton from Tampa Bay in deals, and didn’t give up any of their top young pitchers to do the deals. The Braves look to be back.

My preseason pick to win the NL East.

Washington — Stockpiling and hitting on all their draft picks, the future is now thanks to pitcher Stephen Strasburg, reliever Drew Storen and young slugger Bryce Harper. Now they add outfielder Denard Span and pitcher Dan Haren.  Washington could be looking at a pennant race with the Braves.

Provided they don’t shut Strasburg down again. Because that worked out SO well for them last year.

Philadelphia — The Phillies will be either very dangerous, or very old and very hurt.  If slugger Ryan Howard and veteran stars Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins can stay in the lineup, this will be a good team.  There are a lot of innings on pitcher Roy Halladay’s arm. Michael Young came from Texas, Delmon Young from Detroit and reliever Mike Adams from Texas, but the key is what happens health-wise to the big money stars.

I love how Hacksaw considers “good” to be “either very dangerous or very old and very hurt.” That doesn’t sound all that good to me. Pick one. Or put them in another category.

Toronto — The era of Joe Carter’s home runs, and 4 million fans per year at the Skydome are long gone. The Jays had the busiest offseason of anyone, thanks to the fire sale in Miami. Incoming pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson and everyday stars Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera make the Jays a frontrunner for postseason.

And they still will come up short of the postseason. It’s what they do.

Tigers — There is a bad taste in everyone’s mouth from the way last season ended.  A burned out pitching ace Justin Verlander could not carry the staff alone and much of their other pitching let them down. Adding big hitter Torii Hunter from the Angels gives Detroit a reliable leader in the clubhouse and in left field.  They should/could win the division again, coming off a long winter’s rest.

Who else can beat them in that division? Seriously. Who? The Royals?

Royals — Kansas City has been building towards better days and they have to because recent years have been wretched. The young power bats of Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon have now been complemented by the arrival of starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis in a deal with Tampa Bay.

This isn’t the year. I’m guessing two seasons from now. Maybe next year, IF they don’t regress back into the Royals.

The Bad

Hacksaw should be first on this list.

Yankees — Can Derek Jeter fully recover from a broken ankle? Can Mariano Rivera come back at age 42 after missing last year?  Will Alex Rodriguez be suspended again for involvement in PEDs?  Will Curtis Granderson stop striking out?  How many innings does Andy Pettitte have left in his left arm? Can you say era over?

Every year everyone questions if the Yankees can compete with their aging roster. And every year, they find a way to compete. Kind of like Hacksaw. He just keeps popping up on my radio dial for no explicable reason.

Not that I’m comparing Hacksaw to the Yankees. That would just be stupid.

Red Sox — They got rid of virtually all the big money players — Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. Getting healthy on the mound will be the key to Boston staying above .500.  Finding hits and runs will be the challenge for young kids coming from the farm system or the newcomers Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli.  Baseball in Boston this year might resemble what it was like decades ago — not very good.

Tom Werner strikes again! Next up, a tarp over the upper deck of Fenway Park and Chelsea Handler singing “God Bless America” at a Red Sox game.

Rangers — Josh Hamilton will hit home runs, but in Anaheim, not Arlington. Do-everything clubhouse leader Mike Young is gone too, as are four veteran pitchers.  And who knows about a possible drug suspension for big bat Nelson Cruz. Yes, Texas has a talent-laden farm system and Japanese pitching star Yu Darvish was brilliant for much of the season, but the Rangers just are not as scary as before.

They won’t make it past the Wild Card play-in game, if that.

Cardinals — St. Louis survived the loss of Albert Pujols to free- agency last year. But now they have lost pitching ace Chris Carpenter with a likely career-ending shoulder crisis.  The Redbirds have good everyday players, but a weather-beaten pitching staff.  They may wake up this season and be middle of the road; no longer top tier.

See the Rangers.

The Ugly

Astros — There’s nothing left but the embers of a once-proud Houston franchise. They’ve dealt virtually everyone away and will play the youngest, lowest paid lineup in baseball.  And by the way, they move to the American League West to face the Angels, Rangers and A’s on a regular basis.

They’re going to get murdered this season in the American League. There will be blood.

Mets — In the biggest market in the nation, they are heading to the season with little talent on the roster surrounding slugger David Wright and pitcher Johan Santana. Young players are coming, but this might be a 100-loss season with a payroll reduced from $140 million to likely $75 million this year under general manager Sandy Alderson.

Moneyball, baby. Money. Ball.

Twins — They play in a shiny new ballpark, but they do not have a glittering array of talent on the roster to help stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. And the pitching staff is made up of refugees from places like Pittsburgh, Oakland and Cleveland.  Maybe young arms like Vance Worley or a reclaimed arm like the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey might make a difference.

I guess Target Field really IS the Petco Park of the American League

Pirates — They might have the best fans in the country. They keep supporting a franchise in a nice ballpark that has strung together 19 losing seasons in a row. Manager Clint Hurdle is a fiery sort, but yelling lasts only so long.  You need pitchers and hitters, and they don’t have many of them to put around all-star Andrew McCutchen, young slugger Pedro Alvarez, or starter A.J. Burnett.

Everyone is up in arms over the Marlins, but the Pirates have been doing the exact same thing for nearly 20 years. And no one says anything.

Rockies — Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton. That says it all, because that is all there is left in Colorado. Even highly regarded manager Jim Tracy walked away from the franchise.  Their pitching might be the worst in baseball, and that’s dangerous considering the hitter’s haven Coors Field is.

Best they can hope for is a 4th place finish. And that would be thanks to the sorry state of the Padres’ starting rotation more than anything, in my opinion.

Marlins — There is no way to accept the way Miami did business. Getting a new Orange Bowl Stadium built and paid for by public funds, hiring the volatile Ozzie Guillen as manager, and then spending wildly on free agents a year ago.  They would either explode on the field and win the division, or implode in the clubhouse.  You know what happened.  Everyone lost — games, jobs, the fans.  They fired the manager, dumped the players and will operate this year with the lowest payroll in baseball and maybe a very young roster.  Last place, lost fans and lost credibility – a disgraceful way to do business.

Oh, God. I agree with Hacksaw. What is happening? Were the Mayans right? Is this inception?

 

It’s not entirely disgraceful, until you look at which teams aren’t  in his preview:

Cincinnati (A postseason team. And no “Kid Gun” preview? Surprising.)
Cleveland (To be fair, who doesn’t forget Cleveland?)
Tampa Bay (See above.)
Milwaukee (Really? Even with Ryan Braun? Ok…)
Baltimore (Understandable. Strasbur–I mean–Washington is overshadowing them.)
Arizona (The Gunslinger gets no love.)
Mariners (I hate them so much…)
A’s (Another postseason team, but see “Cleveland”.)

And the best one yet:

Giants (He forgot the friggin’ defending World Series champions?)

How can you have a Spring Training preview and no mention of — not only nearly one-third of the league — but THREE teams who made the postseason last year AND the F**KING DEFENDING WORLD SERIES CHAMPION!

I mean, I hate the Giants as much as anyone else. Maybe more. But to leave them out…

And two teams — count them, TWO — from your home team’s own division, no less! I suppose that mentioning that Atlanta got Upton from Arizona counts?

And he does the same thing with Tampa Bay. He mentions that the Royals got Shields and Davis in a trade from them, and then leaves them out.

Inexcusable.

Look, I’m not saying I don’t make mistakes. I find them all the time. Last year, I said the Padres beat the Rangers in a game I was at, and didn’t realize my mistake for a month. But at least I caught it and corrected it.

Oh, Hacksaw. You don’t even realize you’ve become the punchline of a sad joke.

I’ll keep my radio on XTRA Sports 1360 and The World of Sports with Chris & Ben in the mornings.

Way to go, Hacksaw. You get to hold on to that title of the Egg McMuffin of Sports Talk Radio for a little while longer.

egg-mcmuffin

He’s won awards!

Follow The Ghost on Twitter: @GhostofRAK

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