As presented to you by me, EJ the Kid From New York. Sorry that I couldn’t make a blog entry yesterday, I was babysitting kittens with wings.
Today, I’m doing a blog that I’ve planned on doing for a long, long time. You read the title. You know what this is about. As we head towards the All-Star Game(props to Prince Fielder for juicing those balls last night), it’s time to review the disappointing players and the players who have come out of the blue and delivered more than their ballclubs could’ve imagined.
I will separate all of the surprises in this ’09 MLB season by category. and give one to three things by category. So let’s get it started, as the Black Eyed Peas say.
We begin with one of the more obvious categories when you’re discussing baseball surprises.
The Breakout Stars
Aaron Hill, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays
There’s a second baseman in the American League who isn’t as tall and as strong-looking as a lot of his fellow baseball players, but he’s already hit 20 homers prior to the ’09 All Star break and has made the All-Star Game. To go along with that, he’s been great defensively, has 114 base hits, and steals a base every now and then. He’s been one of the main reasons his ballclub has been in contention in one of the toughest divisions in the game. He is not Dustin Pedroia, he is not Ian Kinsler, or Robinson Cano. His name is Aaron Walter Hill. He is 27 years of age. He plays for the Toronto Blue Jays. His 20 big flies already give him a career high, his previous mark being 17 home runs. This year, he is better than Dustin Pedroia, better than Ian Kinsler, better than Robinson Cano,, than Brian Roberts, than almost any second baseman in this game that you can give me(Chase Utley is a rare exception). Go ahead. I dare you.
Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Adam Jones was one of the players that the Orioles recieved in the Erik Bedard deal with the Seattle Mariners. and oh boy, is he showing it now. When you talk about athletes… when you talk about five tool players… when you talk about talent… this has to be one of the names you bring up, and if you don’t bring him up, shame on you. 12 longballs, 6 stolen bases, a .303 batting average, and not to mention Gold Glove defense. If he and Hill don’t win those Gold Gloves, it’ll be just another year in which the defensive award isn’t given to the best defensive player.
Honorable Mentions: Russell Branyan, Juan Pierre, Adam Lind
Andruw Jones, OF, Texas Rangers
You know the story.
New York Mets, 42-45, 6.5 Games Out of NL East
This is a ballclub that even I predicted would make the World Series– boy, how naive I was. These Mets have David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado on offense, Johan Santana leading a rotation with talented on-the-rise sinkerballer Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, a guy who can be so nasty at times and is inconsistent but he could work that out, and they had a bullpen that after blowing so many games last year was revamped and supercharged with Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, and JJ Putz and they were going to be so good! What possibly could have happened? Well, almost all of the players I just named have been sidelined for a long while now with injuries, and after trading away so many minor leaguers for Johan Santana and Putz and not focusing on building that farm system, they have absolutely no depth. Depth is what separates the contenders(Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers) and the pretenders, namely the Mets.
Chicago Cubs, 43-43, 3.5 Games Out of NL Central
The Chicago Cubs were supposed to, for the second consecutive year, be the powerhouse of the National League(mainly in the regular season). They had signed Milton Bradley, a guy who put up great offensive numbers in the 2008 season and who was a switch hitter, able to mix things up in that right handed heavy lineup. They had the returns of All Star starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano, and they had Gold Glover Derrek Lee at first who can also swing it with the best of ’em, and Hank Aaron Award winner and good fielding 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez, and Rookie of the Year backstop and All-Star Geovany Soto. So what happened here? Basically, Milton Bradley, defensively and offensively, stunk. Really bad. Aramis Ramirez got injured. Alfonso Soriano, after a good start, couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. And even though they haven’t been that bad this year, they certainly have disappointed their fans and a ton of people who predicted they’d win it.
Honorable Mentions: Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics
That’s it for today.
Stay positive, Yankee fans.
If there is anyone I missed, please say so in the comments below.
-EJ the Kid From New York
These are my playoff predictions for this season, on today, Opening Day.
What about the Red Sox?
What about ’em?
In all seriousness, I’m really not buying the Red Sox’s rotation this year. Aside from Jon Lester, I really don’t feel that the contributions of Boston’s starting 5 will be as good as everybody predicts. Josh Beckett is past his prime year, he’s a fairly large injury risk, and if he pitches 200 innings this year, he’s not going to duplicate his statistics in 07, when he nearly lost the Cy Young award–to current Yanks pitcher CC Sabathia. With Matsuzaka, you’ve got to throw strikes to succeed in the MLB. I don’t care how well you set up your pitches, how big your arsenal is, if you can’t pitch efficient strikes and get your pitch count low, hitters will know what you do against you and your lack of command will end up exploding in your face. Tim Wakefield is Tim Wakefield. He’s just not going to put up great numbers. He’ll be average, and nothing more. As for Brad Penny, I think you understand why I’m iffy on Penny. Not only that, but their lineup is full of either overrated players, injury risk players, or players who had a fluke year in 08. For example: Kevin Youkilis.
The Giants? What?
I’m aware that the Frisco Giants have not been a contending team for a while– 181 losses in their last two years– but I like their pitching. I like it a lot. Lincecum, the NL Cy Young award winner, and Matt Cain, a very talented flamethrowing righty who’s a workhorse, Randy Johnson, the ageless wonder who can still throw good fastballs and sharp sliders where he wants them, and two guys who have really underachieved. Jonathan Sanchez is a guy with phenomenal stuff, and he’s a lefty. Barry Zito stinks, let’s face it. He’s just ridiculous. But I feel he’ll get better. He had a 4.59 ERA in the 2nd half last year. He pitches in a pitcher’s park. I think he’ll do better, but not phenomenally well in 09. They also have an improved offense, with young guys and veteran players combined. Their bullpen is at least average. I like their chances in the weak NL West.
Yes, the Braves. They have a few good hitters, a stellar, solidified rotation, and a bullpen that has the potential to be fantastic. You don’t need power to win: the Braves don’t have sluggers up and down the lineup(although it sure seemed like it on Opening Day, 3 homers, 2 long doubles),
What about the reigning champs?
The Phillies had a very flukey year in 2008. They’re not that good. Their rotation looks very meh: other than Cole Hamels, there are no solid pitchers in that starting five. They were lead to the playoffs by an overachieving closer in Brad Lidge: look at his stats from the previous year, you’ll see he’s a good pitcher, but not fantastic, as his 08 numbers suggest. One could also look at Chad Durbin: Durbin was a key to that 08 Phillies ‘pen, leading the NL in innings pitched and putting up a great ERA. But he has never had that kind of success in the major leagues. He’s not nearly that good. JC Romero is going to miss 50 games with that suspension on substance abuse. The only guy that I really like in that Phils bullpen is Ryan Madson. He’s solid. Everyone else is up or down.
And that’s it.
Stay positive, Yankee fans! Even though we’ll lose in the ALCS…
-EJ the Kid From New York
Who will be the best hitter/pitcher? Surprise player? Let me give my opinion on it. We’ll start wiiiith…
NYY Surprise Player of 09
My Pick: Brett Gardner
Other Possibilities: Phil Hughes, Humberto Sanchez
Brett Gardner was called up in 08, stunk with the bat, and was sent down. He was called up again, and got redhot at the plate, hitting .343 in his last 35 at bats. He hit .300 in his last 50 at bats. He’s shown the ability to hit, in the majors and the minors. He’s shown patience in his plate appearances, he has shown good defense (Luke Scott anyone?), and he obviously has that fantastic speed, 13 steals in 14 attempts. With this in mind, I think the Yanks should start him in center field. He can be a catalyst for the Yankees, and he can give them a chance to boast their prospects along with their free agent signings.
NYY Best Offensive Player of 09
My Pick: Alex Rodriguez
Other Possibilities: Mark Teixeira, Xavier Nady
Look. You can complain about how clutch he is, you can complain about postseason, you can complain about how he’s only in it for the money, et cetera. In the end, he’s still Alex Freaking Rodriguez, and Alex Freaking Rodriguez is the best player in the American League and the 2nd best player in the game, currently. He can still steal 20 bags and hit 40 home runs, he can hit .310 and have 130 RBI. He’s an all around fantastic offensive player, so I pick him for best offensive player.
NYY Best Defensive Player of 09
My Pick: Mark Teixeira
Other Posibilities: Brett Gardner, Jose Molina, Melky Cabrera
The above picture shows Mark Teixeira swinging a bat, which he is fantastic at. However, let’s not forget that he might be the best defensive first baseman in the game(Douggie Mientkiewicz also comes to mind). There are no better defensive players on the Yanks, so Marky Mark will be their best.
NYY Best Pitcher of 09
My Pick: CC Sabathia
Other Possibilities: AJ Burnett, Mariano Rivera, Chien-Ming Wang
Come on. As fantastic as Mo is, it’s hard to go against CC Sabathia. He’s a lefty with great stuff and he’s put up great numbers. He was the 07 Cy Young winner, and did spectacularly down the stretch for Milwaukee last year. There’s that risk of his arm falling off, of course, but unless that happens, he should be the best pitcher.
NYY Most Valuable Player of 09
My Pick: Mark Teixeira
Other Possibilities: Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Mo Rivera
Along with being the best defensive player of the year, and the second best offensive player in my opinion, Mark Teixeira will rake at the plate and dominate on the field. He’s always had a knack for starting out slow and being fantastic in the second half: well, doesn’t that sound familiar? The Yankees have been that way for the past couple of years: Teixeira will be able to carry us to the postseason.
One last thing: here’s a song I discovered not long ago, it’s called Before I Forget by Slipknot, I really like it. Take a listen if you like hard rock.
Stay positive, Yankees fans!
-EJ the Kid From New York
So yeah. It’s the year 2009 (I’m 2 days late) and about time for another year of The Squad. I came into blogging mid-season in 08 and did a fairly good job, if I do say so myself. I often missed a couple of days due to either business or laziness. Usually the latter.
Well this year, since the blog made no. 93 in the top 100 charts on mlblogs.com, I’ve now almost devoted myself to the blog, trying to improve it and it’s popularity.
So, here are some pictures and stuff for the next year of optimistic Yankee blogging. Ladies and gents, I present to you The Squad 2009!
This is just a simple little, you know, banner. I had a lot of fun making it, it was quick to make, but it looks really cool. For these 3 pics, I went with the theme of a picture of Yankee Stadium II in construction colored navy blue, and then some white “The Squad” text. On this one I made the text glow!
This one isn’t navy blue, but it’s still fairly nice. It’s like a little button thingy you can put into your blogs to show your support, and I THINK you can link it to the site. I’m not sure.
A signature that you can use for message boards! Whoo!
Anyway, that’s it. Stay positive, Yankee fans!
-EJ the Kid From New York
Yes I am alive and in good health, unless the doctors aren’t telling me something…
I’ve been posting on the MLB message boards since my last post, and I’ve been neglecting my posting duties. Well no more.
It hasn’t been a particularly good year at ALL, in any sense of the word. Injuries and inconsistensies have held back an undeniably talented New York Yankee lineup. While the efforts of Girardi have been valiant, it’s simply a huge disappointment of a year. The Yankees will not go to the playoffs, it’s official. No more speculation, no more “one more chance”, no more “just a little hope”, and certainly no more “mathematically possible”. It’s done now. So now the focus shifts to the 2009 season.
It’s an aging ballclub, no doubt about it. Jeter, Damon, Abreu, whoever we plug in at catcher, etc. etc. You can’t expect success in a few years with these same ol’ guys. That’s why we have talented prospcts in the minor leagues. I’ll bring them to you. I’ll exchange my thoughts on possible offseason transactions. I’ll share my notions on what the young callups of this year could do next year; Cervelli, Gardner, Christian, Sanchez. All of these guys can make an impact on 2009.
So stay tuned!
Stay positive for next year, Yankee fans,
-EJ/Kid From New York