Posted at 12:00 PM on March 30, 2008
by David Zingler
1. The Twins WILL regret trading Johan Santana.
I think trading Santana at the height of his career will go down as one of the biggest blunders in Twins history. It will compare to the Cubs letting Greg Maddux go to Atlanta in 1993 and the Red Sox jettisoning Roger Clemens in 1996. In light of the Joe Nathan signing, it even looks more absurd (see below).
I am even willing to take it one step further: this trade will go down with the Herschel Walker fleecing as the worst in Minnesota sports history. I hope I am wrong, but I doubt it.
2. Justin Morneau WILL hit 40 homeruns.
I made this same prediction last year and, in the first half anyway, it looked good as gold. Then Morneau faded faster than the Twins playoff hopes, hitting just 3 homeruns after July 30 to finish with 31. If the same thing happens this year, it will lead to some serious questions about the slugger's consistency. I got the feeling from him late last year that he won't let it happen again.
3. Carlos Gomez WILL do a stint at Rochester.
Denard Span outplayed Gomez in spring training, plain and simple. The only reason Gomez won the job is because he was a key piece to the Santana trade and not sending him north would make the deal look even worse than it already does.
Gomez is the classic anti-Sabrmetrics player. He's 6-4, athletic and runs like the wind. He looks great in his uniform, but has never really hit all that well at any level. His minor league line of .278/.339/.399 attests to that. The Twins aren't doing him any favors sticking him at the high profile lead-off spot either.
If the 22-year-old gets off to a slow start, he could end up in Rochester and centerfield could become this year's third base - who knows if Span is ready and Craig Monroe doesn't seem to have the range....stay tuned.
4. The Twins offense WILL be fun to watch.
Let's face it, for most of last year watching the Twins hit was about as enjoyable as watching Sid Hartman trim his nose hair. This year should be different. Delmon Young is one of the most exciting young players in the game, Brendan Harris can swing the bat, Mike Lamb is solid and Jason Kubel looks to have finally turned the corner. If Joe Mauer and Micheal Cuddyer can stay healthy, this could be an above-average offensive squad.
5. Joe Mauer WILL play with a (tiny) chip on his shoulder.
There is nothing to not like about Joe Mauer. He has the perfect image and it appears to be legit. The only rap on him may be that he's too nice and too passive. He had to hear the whispers of criticism after last year's injury-riddled season and I think he'll come back with a vengeance in '08. I look for more power from the 6-5 catcher and I think he'll become the all-round superstar everyone knows he can be.
Posted at 8:45 PM on March 30, 2008
by Chris Dall
I can't say I disagree too much with David's assessment of the coming Twins season, although I guess I'm a little higher on Carlos Gomez than he is. No, he's not been a sabremetric star to this point, but it's hard not to be tantalized by a guy who has the potential to steal 60+ bases and maybe hit 20-25 homers. But I wouldn't be surprised if he at least gets benched for awhile. His highs are going to be really high, and his lows really low.
But as I sit here watching the Nationals take on the Braves in their spanking new ballpark in DC, listening to Joe Morgan prattle on (I've counted only one Big Red Machine reference so far, but we're only in the 6th inning), I thought I'd do a quick run through the divisions, with some predictions.
Only once in the last ten years has an AL East team besides the Red Sox and the Yankees finished in the top two spots in the division, and it's unlikely this year will be any different. Unless Josh Beckett's back continues to be a problem and Manny Ramirez loses it overnight, the Sox and their growing-more-insufferable-by-the-minute fans appear to be too strong. New York won't be far behind, but a questionable pitching staff could mean no playoffs for the Yankees this year. Somebody call me when Toronto actually backs up their talk about challenging for the division. Bold prediction. The
Devil Rays win 80 games.
Let's just say the Twins are going to spend a lot of time looking up in the standings this year. On paper you have to go with the Tigers, who are going to be scary offensively, and if Dontrelle Willis can return to form, will have a formidable rotation. But the Indians will be right there, especially if Fausto Carmona shows last year wasn't a fluke. At best I see the Twins coming in third. Bold prediction: Ozzie Guillen will be gone by June, and not for punching AJ Pierzynski in the face
I thought the Angels were the team to beat going into last year's playoffs, and I was wrong. But I don't think I'll be wrong picking them to win this division. Torii Hunter will provide a huge boost for the Angels, mostly by giving Vladimir Guerrero some much-needed protection. The injuries to pitchers John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar will put pressure on Jared Weaver (and I don't trust any pitcher named Weaver), but I don't see the Mariners having enough offense to overtake LA. Bold prediction: Milton Bradley challenges all of Texas to a fight.
As much as it hurts me to say this, I still think the Phillies are the team to beat in this division. Johan Santana gives New York the best rotation in the division (maybe even in baseball), but the Mets are old at some key positions, and that age could catch up to them. And you can't forget about the Braves, who could sneak up and win this division if the Phils and the Mets slip up. And then they'll lose in the first round of the playoffs. Bold prediction: Willie Randolph starts throwing chairs after the Mets first two-game losing streak.
Worst. Division. In. Baseball. I don't even know what to say about this division. If the Cubs are counting on Jon Lieber as a key part of the rotation and Kerry Wood as the closer, then that tells me all I need to know. The Cardinals don't seem to have enough pitching, nor do the Astros. For David's sake, I'm going with the Brewers. Bold prediction: Lou Pinella kicks dirt on an umpire.
The Dodgers spent about half last season in first place before falling apart, but maybe the wise counsel of "St. Joe" Torre will make the difference this year. Their pitching staff is solid, and adding Andruw Jones to a lineup of good young hitters like Russell Martin should give them a potent offense. The Rockies were a great story last year, but the difficulties of pitching in Denver make me question if they can have any long-term success. The Diamondback have great pitching, but they can't score any runs. Ditto San Diego. Bold prediction: The Giants won't miss Barry Bonds, now matter how bad they are.
World Series: Detroit over Philadelphia in 6.