East Coast Bias: MLB 2007 Preview Part 3

East – The Power Division

Did you hear? A-Rod’s contract has an opt-out clause and the Red Sox have a pitcher that throws a pitch that may or may not exist? My column is entitled “East Coast Bias” and even I’m sick of hearing about them already.

Toronto Blue Jays

What’s To Like: Their pitching. If Roy Halliday and AJ Burnett could go a season without spending two months on the DL, they’d be phenominal. John Thompson and Tomo Ohka have potential. BJ Ryan is the closer I wish the Mets got instead of Billy Wagner. They were able to keep Vernon Wells, bring on Frank Thomas and Lyle Overbay to add two more bats to the lineup (if Overbay can prevent himself from being distracted by shiny lights).

What’s Not To Like: Their rotation is fragile. Halliday has a terrible tendency to take line drives off various parts of his body, Burnett hasn’t made more than 20 starts a season in years, and Thompson speaks for himself. Their 7-8-9 hitters are “meh” in a division holding loaded lineups and their middle relief is nothing to write home about. The Jays could be great if everyone stays healthy, but asking them to stay healthy is like asking Nomar to stay off the DL. Nice in theory, but it just won’t happen.

The Verdict: Another solid, over-.500 season for a team stuck in a division with two teams that will win 90 to 100 games. I could even sign on for 88-wins from the Jays, but that still might be third place.

Boston Red Sox

What’s To Like: Coco Crisp’s 2007 won’t be as bad as his 2006. JD Drew, when healthy, is a good addition assuming Fenway doesn’t turn on him. Josh Beckett pitched to a 5 ERA and still had 16 wins last season and there’s no way he’ll be that bad this year. The original draft of this column had me goofing on the front office for making another mind-numbing decision to put Papelbon in the rotation, but that’s already been fixed.

What’s Not To Like: Schilling looks like he ate Theo and seems to be taking his blog more seriously than Spring Training, their five starter has cancer and their corner infielders are old. To top all that off, their new right fielder is about two mis-steps from being turned on.

The Verdict: Assuming the Red Sox don’t get crushed out of baseball by the Yankees in a five-game stand, there’s no good reason they shouldn’t be competing for both the division and the Wildcard all season long. Much like last year, there’s no reason the Red Sox shouldn’t be able to compete. This year, they don’t get to use the “we’re so poor” excuse either. Let’s see if they notice

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

What’s To Like: Young pitching and they own the Yankees and Red Sox. Somehow, the Devil Rays play .700 ball against the Yankees and drop 30 to other under .500 teams. They have a really good young base to build around and they’re not as bad as the Orioles.

What’s Not To Like: They’re still “building.” They’ve been building for ten years now and not really going anywhere. I could make a statement here about how they should be contracted, but I won’t.

The Verdict: They’re not the worst team in the division anymore… it’s only taken ten years. By 2017, they should be better than the Jays. It’s like a soap opera, only more expensive and frustrating.

Baltimore Orioles

What’s To Like: They own the Red Sox.

What’s Not To Like: The trifecta of ex-New York pitchers anchoring your rotation (assuming Benson plays). An owner that really has no desire in making his team better. I also hate them because they’re the reason Roy Oswalt isn’t training with the Mets in Port St. Lucie right now.

The Verdict: The bottom of the AL East on possibly one of the worst teams in baseball this year. Way to rock, Peter.

New York Yankees

What’s To Like: Everything. They traded off their two most surly mal-contents for pennies on the dollar. They have Matsui back. They have a lovable 4th outfielder in Melky Cabrera that’s young and spry to spot Damon and Abreu as needed. A-Rod seems like he finally grew a chip on his shoulder over the offseason and probably won’t have another “off” season where he “only” hits 35/121/.290. Pettitte’s one-half of the winning-ist post-season pitchers. Two of their infield competed for the batting title into the last week of the season (one of whom made a solid case for the MVP).

What’s Not To Like: I could make a statement here about how the Yankees shouldn’t have given Bernie Williams the kiss-off when the guy they replaced him with was Doug Mientkiewicz but that would be silly. Bernie probably should have bowed out gracefully and let the team move on. Mike Mussina is old, Andy Pettitte’s body is held together with chicken wire, rubber cement, and happy thoughts, Carl Pavano is a basket-case, and Kei Igawa is a question mark. All that said, the Yankees lineup alone will win them 90 games and Andy Pettitte was hired to be healthy enough to pitch game 3 of a playoff series. He will be, come hell or high water. Also, the Mariano Rivera death-watch is on, as his contract is up after this season.

Verdict: I’m done with the fantasy world where I think other teams are going to win this division. The Yankees are terrifying this season. Vegas has their over/under set at 96.5. The next closest is 90.5. I can’t see any way they don’t win the division. I can’t really even see a way they win less than 100 games. And besides, Joe and Bryan are taking lessons from the Sith Lord.

That does it for the American League. By the time you read this, I’ll be halfway between New York City and Boston on my way to a weekend of drunken bachelor debauchery. Hopefully, there will be a full recap available on my blog with names omitted to protect the guilty.

Central and West should be up tomorrow should be up tomorrow while the East should come up before the Mets open the season on Sunday, where I’ll be joining Widro, Matthew Michaels, Grutman, and SMS for the Wrestlemania/Mets extravaganza.

Till then.

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