2010 record: 66-96
Biggest offseason acquisition: Vladimir Guerrero, still owner of the ugliest/most beautiful swing in baseball.
Biggest offseason loss: Kevin Millwood is pretty much it. I remember him from his Braves days, when he would consistently murder the Mets. That was a long time ago. I am old.
Can this mix of young talent and spare parts finally put the Orioles over the top?: Yes, right over the top and back to the bottom.
Best name on 40-man roster: Rick VandenHurk, ex-Marlin and current Dutchman. Sounds like a nickname for the “hero” in Space Mutiny.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: A tie between Guerrero and Derrek Lee. I imagine they each eyed the other first day of spring training and shared an unvoiced “So it’s come to this, has it?”
Spring standout: Zachary Britton, who’s only given up one run in 14 innings so far. The gulf between his performance and other potential starters is not small, to put it kindly.
Probable Opening Day starter: Jeremy Guthrie, who’s pitching to an ERA of 6 this spring. Sure, why not?
Biggest question for 2011: Do the Orioles have what it takes to finish in first in the AL East, non-Yankees/Red Sox/Rays division?
Strengths: Beloved ballpark, John Denver singalongs
Weaknesses: Civic dysfunction symbolic of the abandonment of the American city in the 21st century
Semi-serious assessment: The Rays have showed it’s possible to compete with New York and Boston, but there’s only so much room at the top. I like the low-key moves the Orioles made, and these plus their core of young talent means that they’re nowhere near as bad as their reputation. This is not a horrible team. Unfortunately, in the AL East, Not Horrible = 4th place at best.
2010 record: 89-73
Biggest offseason acquisition: It’d be much easier to name who they didn’t get, so here it goes: Cliff Lee, David Eckstein. There, that’s it.
Biggest offseason loss: Adrian Beltre. This, plus the Adrian Gonzalez trade, allows Kevin Youkilis to move back to third, where his forest-like beard can help spear sharp grounders.
Have the Red Sox become everything they once purported to hate?: If by that you mean “enormously rich and successful,” then yes.
Best name on 40-man roster: Stolmy Pimentel, since my man and I ain’t togethel.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Tim Wakefield, just because it’s amazing he’s still pitching. He’s rapidly approaching the Jamie Moyer Jokes Zone.
Spring standout: John Lackey’s rebounding from a disappointing 2010 with a 1.72 ERA, thus making a mockery of my own mockery of those who wanted the Mets to sign him last year.
Probable Opening Day starter: The unkillable Jon Lester.
Biggest question for 2011: Will anything less than a World Series title be a disappointment? If so, is there any cure for the Yankee Fan Virus?
Strengths: Strong pitching staff, powerful lineup, excellent front office
Weaknesses: I dunno, it might rain sometimes?
Semi-serious assessment: If you want to look for weaknesses–and hey, who doesn’t?–you can say that Josh Beckett is probably on the downside of his career, and that it may be folly to squeeze another year out of Jason Varitek, even in a semi-backup role. But this is quibbling. If Adrian Gonzalez (I refuse to call him A-Gone) could mash at Petco, there’s no telling what he can do at Fenway. Their starting staff might be as good as the Phillies’, even accounting for Beckett and whatever Daisuke Matsuzaka is nowadays. There’s a reason why they’re the prohibitive favorites to go to the World Series this year: because they won 89 games in a “down year” and have improved exponentially since then. Expect Bill Simmons to be completely insufferable through October (not that he isn’t already).
2010 record: 95-67, wild card, won division series against Twins, lost ALCS to Rangers
Biggest offseason acquisition: Rafael Soriano, welcomed to the Bronx by Brian Cashman through gritted teeth.
Biggest offseason loss: Andy Pettitte, who in retirement can do HGH to his hearts’ content.
Have the Yankees kept pace with the Red Sox?: In the personnel department, not quite, but the two teams are still neck and neck in terms of fan entitlement.
Best name on 40-man roster: Romulo Sanchez, for the second straight year. Collect your prize at the bursar’s office, Romulo.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Russell Martin, once the darling of Chavez Ravine, now reduced to taking over for Jorge Posada behind the plate. Actually, sounds like things worked out just fine.
Spring standout: Ivan Nova, the Yankees’ most exciting pitching prospect since Joba Chamberlain. Which means the poor guy will probably get jerked around between starting and relieving.
Probable Opening Day starter: CC Sabathia, in the best shape of his life, which is still round.
Biggest question for 2011: To compensate for his reduced range, will Derek Jeter be allowed to use his experimental glove that’s 10 feet in diameter?
Strengths: Excellent bullpen, assets worth more than the GDP of half of Europe
Weaknesses: Aging core, insanely high beer prices
Semi-serious assessment: I can’t decide if the Yankees’ “woes” are overstated or understated. For all the griping about their starting pitching, they still have Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and AJ Burnett (who’s pretty good when he pulls his head from his posterior). And any lineup with Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira must be reckoned with. On the other hand, giving the back end of the rotation to Nova and Some Guy has its risks. Not to mention that Jeter and Posada are not getting any younger (or better). Still, the 1990s Yankees proved you could win a lot of games with a good lineup and a lockdown bullpen, and that’s clearly the model for this team. They shall be in the thick of it again.
2010 record: 96-66, won division title, lost division series to Rangers
Biggest offseason acquisition: Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, who’ve already bored all the kids in camp with their tales of the days when the Yankees were unbeatable.
Biggest offseason loss: Tie between Rafael Soriano and Carl Crawford, each of whom turned heel by signing with a division rival. Boo! Hiss!
Will The Extra 2% earn the Rays as much hate as Moneyball did for the A’s?: Not possible.
Best name on 40-man roster: Sadly, the Rays are bereft of mockable names. Are non-silly names are the new market inefficiency?
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Rowdy Kyle Farnsworth, whose presence on this team is surely to throw people off the scent of whatever it is they’re doing to succeed.
Spring standout: Casey Kotchman is batting .381 this spring, which should give you an idea of the validity of spring stats.
Probable Opening Day starter: David Price, despite his teammate’s nickname “First Game James”.
Biggest question for 2011: Will the Rays be forced to field Ramirez and Damon in the outfield at the same time? If so, will every hit be a triple?
Strengths: Prospects galore, copious amounts of citrus fruits to ward off scurvy
Weaknesses: Stadium that looks like an inverted coffee can, the occasional hurricane
Semi-serious assessment: The signings of Ramirez and Damon could be the steals of the winter and go a long way to making up for the loss of Crawford. The rest of the team is essentially unchanged from the one that won the division last year. I’d expect a slight drop off just because of Boston’s improvement, but they will definitely vie for the division/wild card again.
2010 record: 85-77
Biggest offseason acquisition: Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco, both of whom are already injured.
Biggest offseason loss: Shawn Marcum, gone to Milwaukee for a minor leaguer. Batting 1.000 so far.
Can Jose Bautista reproduce his monster 2010 season?: Sure he can, on a Playstation.
Best name on 40-man roster: Adeiny Hechavarria, which I believe is located next to the Islets of Ryan Langerhans.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: For me, it’s Dotel. I can’t think of him and not think of three rainy innings at Shea on this day.
Spring standout: Youngster Eric Thames, who’s clubbed 8 homers in spring action. So it won’t be long before TJ Simers tries to destroy him for no reason, too.
Probable Opening Day starter: Ricky Romero. There you have it.
Biggest question for 2011: When you’re basically assured finishing no higher than fourth, how easy is it to completely give up?
Strengths: Universal health care, a stadium with a built in hotel where you can totally see people doin it
Weaknesses: Unfavorable exchange rate, low horizons
Semi-serious assessment: The Blue Jays shocked virtually everyone by winning 85 games in 2010–and they still finished fourth. I wish I could think of reasons why that won’t happen again, because this not a team without talent. In most other divisions, the Blue Jays could compete. Alas, life, she is not fair.