The UCB Radio Hour crept up on us again last night. I find that the show is much like Christmas…I always know when it’s coming, but somehow it always surprises me when it’s here. If you haven’t listened yet, head on over and do that now by CLICKING HERE.
Now, let’s get into it:
1. Who are the Boston Red Sox? This is going to be perhaps one of the most interesting stories – at the team level – in baseball in 2012. Which Red Sox team will show up? It’s interesting to me how many people believe a new manager will “spark” the Red Sox early on. This is a team led by Francona for several years – a manager who won two World Series championships within a few years…in Boston! And was widely regarded as one of the better managers in the game until the you-know-what hit the fan in 2011 and everyone started pointing fingers. I just don’t know if there’s much room for a “spark”…unless a person believes there will be a hang-over from the 2011 collapse…in which case, I have to believe it will take more than shipping a beloved manager out of town to spark this team. I truly believe Boston could get left out of October baseball by the Yankees, Rays, and Angels (Wild Card #2). It seems more likely that this team could take a step back rather than forward.
2. Soria ain’t gonna’ make or break a season for the Royals. People seem to be broken up over the loss of Soria in KC. I hate to break it to you, KC fans…but he ain’t the difference between your team and a contending season. To say that is to say that the difference between the Royals and a division championship right now is a handful of blown saves. That’s just not the case. As much promise as there is in KC…it just ain’t your time.
3. Oakland or Seattle? I already made my picks…but I really wish I had swapped the two last place teams in this division. I picked the Mariners to finish dead last…but there’s just not a lot to like about the A’s. Ah well. It’s not like any of my other predictions won’t be laugh track material by September anyway.
4. The Miami Marlins may be the most interesting team in baseball this season. After adding so many personalities and free agents to go with their new-look organization make-over, the team managed by the biggest personality in baseball should actually be pretty good. But the margin for error is HUGE! Zambrano could self-destruct. Ozzie could tank. Hanley could attempt to play SS from third base…and so on. I’m honestly excited to see what this cauldron of eclectic ingredients produces. Spicy jambalaya? Or stone soup?
5. Now that Magic’s group owns the Dodgers, does that mean TLR will work for them? Remember the rumor that Tony La Russa would serve in the front office if Magic’s group won the bidding war? That would mean Tony would be working – in a highly influential position – for the “other team” in LA…the team that competes with Albert’s Angels for the LA market share. I think I really like that it worked out that way. When Albert left for the Angels, and Tony said he wanted a baseball job but didn’t want to travel, I was terrified he was going to join Pujols with the Angels. The idea of Albert’s “father figure” competing directly with “The Betrayer” in California…it just gives me warm fuzzies.
6. Excellent points about the NL Central. For years, the NL Central teams have had to listen to “experts” poke fun at their division…but the reality is that this division is one of the more interesting and competitive in baseball. Jon made a great point about the division putting two teams in the NLCS and winning the World Series…and neither team was the Reds. Daniel followed that up with a reminder that the Cardinals and Astros had a pretty heated rivalry going there for a while…and I would add, represented the NL in the World Series three straight years (2004 – 2006). Going a few steps further, the Cards/Cubs rivalry is, more often than not, one of the best rivalries in the game right now…heated or friendly, it doesn’t matter. But speaking of heated, all three potential contenders in the division have bad blood between them…and the Cubs aren’t even one of them. Like it or not, the NL Central is worth watching.
7. Tyler Greene could be the most intriguing…or the most frustrating…player on the Cards’ roster. I’ve been saying it for a while now – he has some pop. We’ve seen his speed and his potentially solid glove, but his power is truly underrated at this level just because we haven’t seen it for any stretch of time, yet. The big key is going to be the team playing well enough to give him enough time to settle in. If we start well enough to open the season, any issues with Greene’s play will blend into the background until he can catch fire. But if we don’t get it done early, Tyler could end up being a lightening rod for criticism. Honestly, if second base ends up being a platoon…the Tyler Greene experiment should be considered a failure. If Greene can’t play well enough to seize the position, then what’s the point of keeping him in the organization?
8. Skip Schumaker vs. Daniel Descalso. A few things to remember…one, Skip improved dramatically last season at second base…but it seems like many people still judge him by his first season turned in at second base. Now, maybe some of that had to do with positioning…but it happened to coincide with a modified off-season program Skip engaged in that resulted in a slimmer, more agile body type. Is it any wonder he ended up with improved range at the position? Also, a lot of noise is made about Descalso…after one season of utility work…primarily at third base. His bat showed a LOT of vulnerabilities last season, even considering his late game heroics, and I would prefer to see more from him before anointing him the better option at second over Skip.
9. Bryan Anderson should be Yadi’s back-up. He has more experience at the position, and I love his bat. But let’s be clear…a decision on your back-up catcher should not be made based on whether or not he is a left-handed bench bat. If you have to use your back-up catcher to pinch hit, things have gotten pretty out of control already. Match-ups may not be possible at that point in the game, anyway.
10. The Cardinals will be hammered by Springfield area fans if the big boys don’t show up. Daniel made many excellent points about why it’s a touchy subject in this part of the state, so I won’t expand on it here…but I will say I think it’s more likely the Washington Nationals get the shaft on March 31st when it comes to regular starters appearing in the lineup. We’ve seen this before…a weaker, minor league dominant team staying behind in Florida to wrap up the Spring Training games while a more MLB representative squad makes the trip to Springfield or some other location. We could very well see that here. By giving the players Saturday off and flying them up to Springfield a day early, the Cardinals could lessen the jet lag effect for Opening Day.
That’ll do it for this edition of “What Were They Thinking?!” Enjoy the last few days of Spring Training…real games are right around the corner.