A lot has happened in Major League Baseball since the San Francisco Giants, led by exciting (and strange) closer Brian Wilson, beat the Texas Rangers to win the World Series back in the fall. Many playoff and non-playoff teams alike made big moves in hopes of changing their fate in 2011.
Catchers and pitchers reported to spring training last week and full rosters hit the fields of Florida and Arizona this week. Spring training games will begin on February 25th and teams will begin the process of trimming down their rosters immediately. Just like every season, there will be surprise youngsters who make big league squads as well as veterans who will be cut lose.
We all know that the games are played on the field and not on paper. But, as of right now, (I think) these three teams made the best off season moves (or didn’t even need to) and sit in the best position to win the World Series before the season begins.
1.) Philadelphia Phillies: Due to winning the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, the Phillies have a murderer’s row of pitchers. This rotation is so good that Cole Hamels, a #1 starter in almost any other rotation, is fourth in line for Philadelphia. He’s behind Roy Halladay, Row Oswalt and Cliff Lee. Along with either Kyle Kendrick or Joe Blanton, I don’t see how opposing teams are going to score any runs on the Phils. Also, they still have a really good offense. This team is scary good. Sorry, Mets fans. You don’t stand a chance.
2.) Boston Red Sox: Boston didn’t make the playoffs last year. That isn’t the biggest news in the world since they play their ball in arguably the hardest division in baseball: the AL East. I would be very surprised, however, if that happened again this season. The Red Stockings added first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford and pitchers Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks. Also, since the Yankees didn’t get Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte retired, Boston has the best rotation in the AL East on paper. Add their already potent lineup and you’ve got the makings of a team primed to make a deep playoff run. The only big question mark is how Jarrod Saltalamacchia will handle being the every day catcher.
3.) San Francisco Giants: It wouldn’t be wise of me to leave out the team that actually won it all last year. They didn’t make a ton of changes besides the addition of veteran Miguel Tejada, but they didn’t need to. Their rotation can be downright dominant and the relief corps led by Brian “Gorton Fisherman” Wilson (Pictured in normal attire) is above average. If Tejada hasanything left and Buster Posey doesn’t have a sophomore slump, this team can challenge the Phillies as the top team in the NL.
Other teams that are either on the cusp of being championship contenders and/or could surprise this season: Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.
The Regular season begins on March 30th, but a lot will happen before then. We are in for many injuries, trades and cuts before rosters are finalized and we seriously can play ball. Today alone, the St. Louis Cardinals already(most likely) lost 20 game winner Adam Wainright for the season with a ligament injury. *Check back in the coming weeks for AL and NL previews.