2009 record: 79-83
Local weather: Broad-shouldered
Namesake: Article of footwear whose color could be changed in an ironic fashion to indicate infamy or shame
Is Hawk Harrelson the biggest tool in all of baseball announcing?: Perhaps, though John Sterling gives him a run for his money.
Perpetually overused team-related headline: Joy of Sox, or Sox Appeal. The thought of A.J. Pierzynski in conjunction with a word that even vaguely sounds like “sex” is vomit-inducing.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Omar Vizquel, who I’m surprised is still on any team at this point. He’s become the Jamie Moyer of shortstops, though he throws harder than Jamie.
Spring standout: Mark Kotsay, batting over .400 and once again proving the complete meaninglessness of spring stats.
Probable Opening Day starter: Mark Buehrle, which means Chicago’s opener will probably clock in at a cool 90 minutes.
Biggest question for 2010: Will Ozzie Guillen’s Twitter account be shut down before it incurs some sort of lawsuit or police action?
Advantage to start the season: Umpires intimidated by roving bags of scumbags in the crowd.
Semi-serious assessment: A full season of Jake Peavey could push them into contention, but I don’t know how likely that is. Their lineup is Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, and not much else, and the bullpen is not much to write home about, either. I foresee a thoroughly meh year on the South Side.
2009 record: 65-97
Local weather: Flammable
Namesake: A no longer acceptable term for Native Americans, or a still acceptable term for certain Asians.
How often do the midges swarm on the field?: Only when lured by the irresistable musk of Joba Chamberlain.
Perpetually overused team-related headline: A Tribe Called Quest (they’re Q-Tip’s favorite team).
Best name on 40-man roster: I can’t pick; there’s a buffet of awesome names on this team: Fausto Carmona, Jeanmar Gomez, Wyatt Toregas, Jhonny Peralta, Shin-Soo Choo, Nick Weglarz…
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Carlos Santana. You’d think “Smooth” alone would give him financial stability, but now he’s trying to make it as a major league catcher.
Spring standout: I choo-choose Choo, who’s batting .380.
Probable Opening Day starter: Jake Westbrook, purely by default.
Biggest question for 2010: Which promising young player will inexplicably fall off the face of the earth this season?
Advantage to start the season: Locals distracted by lakes bursting into flames.
Semi-serious assessment: I was amazed to find out the Indians finished tied for last with the Royals. There’s so much talent on this team–or there was, anyway. But it seems like all of those young’uns with bright futures (Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Carmona) have either stalled or been injured since they came within one game of the World Series in 2007. I like Manny Acta and I think he will be a great manager when he gets a chance to manage a halfway decent team, but this ain’t it.
2009 record: 86-77
Local weather: Abandoned
Namesake: A fearsome jungle cat, which is ironic now that downtown Detroit is actually overrun by wild animals.
Is Miguel Cabrera over his alcoholism?: Yeah, that’s totally the kind of thing that can be erased in one single offseason.
Perpetually overused team-related headline: Anything with the word “tribe”.
Best name on 40-man roster: Fu-Te Ni. If finding this name hysterical is racist, I don’t wanna be not racist! Wait, that came out all wrong.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Johnny Damon, who Boras-ed his way out of the Bronx. I hope this means he grows back his beard, because without it he looks vaguely deformed.
Spring standout: Also Damon, who’s batting .360 with 5 doubles in the spring training equivalent of a revenge fuck.
Probable Opening Day starter: Justin Verlander, who I have nothing snotty or sarcastic to say about. Sorry.
Biggest question for 2010: Will Mike Francesa’s love for Brandon Inge finally be consummated?
Advantage to start the season: To get to visiting dugout, opponents have to pass through enormous Thunderdome in the stadium parking lot.
Semi-serious assessment: As awesome as last year was for the Twins, it sucked just as much for the Tigers, who blew their division lead in September, then lost a one-game playoff at the Metrodome. It’s really hard for a team to recover from something like that (just look at the Mets), but I feel that the Tigers have the talent to do so, particularly in their pitching staff. My main concern with them would be keeping injury prone guys like Damon and Magglio Ordonez off the DL, and Cabrera away from the bottle, but I see them battling the Twins for the division yet again.
2009 record: 65-97
Local weather: Barbecue-y
Namesake: A regal personage, something the Royals have not resembled in a long time.
How have the improvements to Kauffman Stadium enhanced the in-game experience for fans?: We’ll let you know as soon as the Royals draw a paying customer.
Perpetually overused team-related headline: Royal Flush.
Best name on 40-man roster: Kila Ka’aihue, Hawaiian god of first basemen
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Rowdy Kyle Farnsworth. It seems like just yesterday he was busting chumps up on the Yankees.
Spring standout: Mitch Maier, with 3 homers and a .444 batting average. I wonder what horrible thing will happen to him?
Probable Opening Day starter: Zach Greinke, who was awarded with last year’s Cy Young Award, and was disappointed to discover it did not also come with a transfer to a decent team.
Biggest question for 2010: Can the Royals set the record for the earliest mathematical elimination?
Advantage to start the season: Sparse crowds make each Royals game feel like an intimate club gig.
Semi-serious assessment: You can pretty much copy and paste my comments about the Pirates for this space. Suffice to say: It’s terrible that teams like this have no hope, year in, year out. And it’s also terrible that they’re run by incompetents who waste what little money they have on meaningless signings like Jason Kendall and Scott Podsednik. The Pirates, at least, are mostly going with a Showcase The Kids philosophy, while Kansas City adheres to a moronic Showcase The Guys No One Else Wanted philosophy.
2009 record: 86-77, won one-game divisional playoff, lost division series to Yankees
Local weather: Cheerful, frigid
Namesake: A sexist male fantasy
What’s the best feature of the Twins’ new stadium, Target Field?: An innovation known as “natural sunlight”.
Perpetually overused team-related
headline: Twin Killing, weirdly aggressive for such a genial town.
Best name on 40-man roster: Trevor Plouffe, rugged woodsman of the Acadian Forest, mais oui!
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Joe Mauer. It’s great that he signed an extension, because I thought for sure Bud Selig would force the Twins to trade him to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar.
Spring standout: Michael Cuddyer, batting a stunning .431 in an effort to eschew the DJ Cuddles moniker.
Probable Opening Day starter: Unclear. Kevin Slowey’s got a sub-2 ERA. Francisco Liriano has bounced back nicely. And Carl Pavano is apparently trying this year.
Biggest question for 2010: After decades of teams built for indoor baseball, how will the Twins fare at their new outdoor stadium? And will it be covered in three feet of snow on opening day?
Advantage to start the season: Visiting teams distracted by the constant stream of crazy emanating from Michelle Bachmann’s office.
Semi-serious assessment: The Twins are my favorite non-Mets team, because they’re everything the Mets aren’t–primarily, smart. Their farm system consistently produces quality major leaguers. They make shrewd trades. They build up a good bench. In sheer defiance of baseball economics, they compete every year, and their success is sustainable in a way Oakland’s wasn’t. I suspect they won’t miss Joe Nathan as much as people think they will, and I also suspect they will–if not win the division–be right there in September yet again.