2010 record: 88-74
Biggest offseason acquisition: Adam Dunn, who hates the game of baseball so much he hits 40 home runs every year without fail.
Biggest offseason loss: Jake Peavey’s fleeting healthiness
What outrageous thing will Ozzie Guillen do this season?: To top previous incidents, it will have to involve farm animals.
Best name on 40-man roster: Jhonny Nunez, currently being sued by Jhonny Peralta for copyright infringement.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Juan Pierre, who is apparently still considered employable.
Probable Opening Day starter: Mark Buehrle, who promises to get everyone back on the road in a lean 90 minutes.
Biggest question for 2011: How long can a team run counter to modern baseball thinking and still perform reasonably well?
Strengths: Lineup well suited to home ballpark, willingness to spend stupid money if needed
Weaknesses: Hawk Harrelson
Semi-serious assessment: The loss of Peavey (for however long that lasts) will hurt them, and after Buehrle the pitching staff is not fantastic. But they do have a pretty good bullpen, and a lineup that will hit many homers at their home ballpark (Dunn and Paul Konerko for starters). I would expect them, Detroit, and Minnesota to jockey for first place this summer.
2010 record: 69-93
Biggest offseason acquisition: Orlando Cabrera. I checked with the front office and yes, this is technically an acquisition.
Biggest offseason loss: None to speak of. The Indians’ roster was uncoveted by the rest of the league, for some reason.
How long will Manny Acta remain a sabermetric darling?: At least until he has a decent team to work with. In other words, possibly forever.
Best name on 40-man roster: It feels too obvious and a little racist to say Shin-soo Choo, but here we are.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: N/A. Everyone on the roster seems to suit this team just fine.
Spring standout: Matt LaPorta, chip in the CC Sabathia trade, has 10 RBIs. Yay?
Probable Opening Day starter: Fausto Carmona, who presumably earned that honor with his 4.50 spring ERA.
Biggest question for 2011: How well will Grady Sizemore perform before his inevitable breakdown?
Strengths: Carlos Santana, roving bands of killer midges
Weaknesses: Low civic self esteem
Semi-serious assessment: It wasn’t too long ago that the Indians looked poised to build another dynasty based on locking youth to long term contracts. Then Sizemore became a walking MASH unit, Travis Hafner became a ghost, Sabathia and Cliff Lee became trade deadline fodder, and Cleveland has yet to recover. Santana is already one of the best catchers in baseball, but there isn’t much to speak of beyond him.
2010 record: 81-81
Biggest offseason acquisition: Victor Martinez, one of the few players the Red Sox failed to sign this winter.
Biggest offseason loss: Johnny Damon, gone to Tampa Bay, because at his age you really need to live in a warm climate.
Have the Tigers dealt sufficiently with Miguel Cabrera’s drinking problem?: They gave him a whole week to get over it, didn’t they?
Best name on 40-man roster: Charlie Furbush. Junior high must have been fun for that kid.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Brad Penny, who despite his injuries and ineffectiveness, keeps turning up like a bad…like a bad…how does that saying go? Oh, it’s on the tip of my tongue…
Spring standout: Cabrera, who’s knocked 12 runs and hit 3 homers. And it’s all due to clean living.
Probable Opening Day starter: Justin Verlander, who may also be asked pitch in during games two and three.
Biggest question for 2011: Can Cabrera carry this team? And if not, can he at least stumble down the street with it while singing off key?
Strengths: Pitcher friendly ballpark, large statue-to-paying-customer ratio
Weaknesses: Knowing that at any moment, Kid Rock may show up
Semi-serious assessment: The Martinez signing bolsters their lineup and prevents Brandon Inge from ever having to catch. Their rotation is a tad suspect beyond Verlander, and the same can be said of their bullpen, with Joel Zumaya having his yearly breakdown. However, Minnesota and Chicago aren’t better than them by leaps and bounds, and the Tigers should compete with both for the division.
2010 record: 67-95
Biggest offseason acquisition: Jeff Francoeur. Yup.
Biggest offseason loss: Zack Greinke, dealt to Milawukee in exchange for eight magic beans.
Do the Royals have any hope of competing any time soon?: Yes, if you have a geological perspective of the word “soon.”
Best name on 40-man roster: Kanekoa Teixeira, who despite his name is no relation to either the Yankees first baseman or a volcano.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Wilson Betemit, the source of one of my favorite Dugout puns ever.
Spring standout: Once-highly-touted prospect Alex Gordon has 13 RBIs and 3 homers. Maybe this is the year he finally plays well enough to genuinely disappoint.
Probable Opening Day starter: Luke Hochevar. Again, yup.
Biggest question for 2011: If the Royals could promise you they’d be a fun and exciting young team by 2013, would you come to the ballpark this year?
Strengths: Deep farm system, awesome barbecue
Weaknesses: Having to play at the major league level
Semi-serious assessment: Many baseball folks have praised the Royals’ new approach, saying that they are finally poised to build from within, develop talent, and seriously compete with homegrown players in a few seasons. The counter to that is the fact that they’ve handed out contracts to the likes of Francoeur and Jason Kendall. Their new philosophy may very well pan out in a few seasons, and I hope it does. For now, though, more of the same.
2010 record: 94-68, won division title, lost division series to Yankees
Biggest offseason acquisition: Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Biggest offseason loss: Orlando Hudson.
Did a division title erase any worries about how the Twins would deal with playing outside for the first time in 30 years?: Yes, but it did not erase the sting of a ball-shrinkingly cold April.
Best name on 40-man roster: Jeff Manship. There’s no way there’s not a gay porn star named Jeff Manship.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Drew Butera. I still remember him being a highly touted Mets prospect at some point. Time flies.
Spring standout: Australian native Luke Hughes has hit 5 dingers in spring action. AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE! OI OI OI!
Probable Opening Day starter: Carl Pavano, who has yet to give up a run this spring. It’s amazing what he can accomplish when he actually bothers to try.
Biggest question for 2011: Can they become the first team to be swept in the first round by the Yankees three years in a row?
Strengths: Adherence to a top-down system-wide philosophy, northern Midwestern stoicism
Semi-serious assessment: The Twins have been my non-Mets man-crush for many years now. The entire organization is run so well, and they manage to compete year in, year out, no matter who comes and goes through their clubhouse doors. Ignore them at your peril. Until the playoffs, that is.