Tuesday, March 20, 2007
BP Hope and Faith versus Deadspin Snark
My two favorite sites are both posting daily MLB team previews. Baseball Prospectus titled its series "Hope and Faith" with the caption How Your Team Can Win The World Series. Deadspin turned the podium over to a different guest blogger for each team, so while you wouldn't expect a recurring theme, it seems that nearly everybody writing needs a refill on the ol' Xanax prescription. We're still a few weeks from Opening Day so not all the previews are up, but I think you'll see what I mean. Have a look:
BP - "It is still early in spring, but so far Markakis is hitting .440 and Huff is right behind him at .409. The pitchers are doing great, the Red Sox can't figure out who their closer is, and Igawa and Matsuzaka have both been knocked around. It's all coming together, Oriole fans."
Deadspin - "Another item on my distressingly long list of reasons I know I'm getting old is that it is harder and harder every year to remember when I would get excited for an Orioles season ...As things stand, this is an utterly forgettable franchise. When is the NFL draft?"
Boston Red Sox:
BP - "Combined, the offense and pitching in our rosy scenario post a 560 VORP. That would lead to a projected record of 104-58, and while any 100-win team has a legitimate shot at the World Series, those with three dominating starting pitchers do better than those with equivalent-but-deeper total talent. If Schilling, Beckett, and Matsuzaka are humming along, the wait for the next Red Sox World Championship won't be anywhere near as long as the last one. "
Chicago White Sox:
BP - "[H]elping out the cause is the fact that their main competition is the Tigers, who are about to be a victim of the plexiglass principle, and the Twins, who have a rotation that includes Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz...'nuff said. The Indians will be better, certainly–-but 21 games better? I don't see it.
Deadspin - "Some things still concern me. If Mark Buerhle can't bounce back, I don't think we have a chance at the postseason. Can Scott Podsednik stay healthy, let alone raise his batting average? Will he still be cute? Can this team convince me they're really a team, and don't just wear the same uniform -- despite the back office dealings that become front page news?"
BP - "Put another way, the upside is that an improved pen, a pitching staff, an offense that replicates their 2006 output, a defense that picks up a couple extra wins, and a little help from lady luck could all combine to put the Indians right back at the 90-95 win level. That should be enough to put them in the hunt come September."
Deadspin - "So yeah, this year's team will be better than the one that played in 1987. They'll be better than the one that disappointed Clevelanders last year, too. The problem? Just like in 1987, the Twins, Tigers and White Sox are still all better than the Tribe. And the Royals won't be pushovers, either."
BP - "If the Sheffield, Casey, Verlander, and Polanco scenarios come through–-and each of those are fairly plausible--the Tigers are looking at 93-95 wins and a spot in the playoffs. The Tigers rate to be a good secret sauce team, and if they can get into the World Series again, I don’t expect to see Brandon Inge diving around like an Italian soccer player."
Deadspin - "These days, there is no way to be a well-informed fan of most teams and get through the spring without having a cold bucket of calculus-based pessimism poured on your baseball fever... So I guess we just have to be nice to strangers and hope that the karmic wheel will not deal us some sort of cruel, White Sox-like, getting-better-but-not-making-the-playoffs fate." (To be fair, this preview was guardedly optimistic, but it's funny that the Deadspin author is blaming statheads for drowining fans' hopes while the BP crew marshals its resources to present best-case scenarios.)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
BP - "The Angels had the best record in the majors from the first of July through the end of the regular season. After a 35-44 start, the Halos were in last place in the AL West at the end of June--five games out of third, and 7 1/2 behind the front-running Oakland A's. The team then went 54-29 the rest of the way, outpacing even the hard-charging Minnesota Twins (53-31), but they nevertheless fell four games short of first."
Deadspin - "Perhaps that's why, thrilled as I am about another baseball season being right around the corner, I can't seem to muster any great optimism for the Twins this season."
New York Yankees:
Deadspin - "Sure, we may not make it to the World Series every year. But, like a fantastic shit, being a Yankees fan, overall, is pretty damn satisfying." (More disturbing than depressing.)
BP - "All of this makes for a certain giddy anticipation--two shots of hope with a perhaps-unavoidable fear chaser. As long as we're on top of a volcano, at least we've got our dancing shoes on. Sure, the roster could go totally Krakatoa on us, but I have faith that this year, we'll wind up enjoying the view from the top."
BP - "Both the Athletics and Angels appear to be better teams headed into the season, but not by much. If the players the Mariners believe in to defy the odds all reward the team’s faith in their potential, they’ll easily contend all season long."
Deadspin - "Rooting for the Mariners is futile, draining, and infuriating. It's not easy to document in a blog post; a baseball team this willfully and historically bad needs to be documented and exposed in a book like Fiasco. Thomas Ricks wouldn't even have to change the title."
Tampa Bay Devil Rays:
Deadspin - "So, 2007 ... the year the Rays come out of the cellar for the second time in their decade long history? Perhaps. The year the Rays win 72 or more games, setting a franchise record? Maybe. Come April 2, Scott Kazmir on the mound at Yankee Stadium against the vaunted Pinstripers, we'll begin what should be, if nothing else, the most fascinating and perhaps exciting season in D-Rays' history."
Texas Rangers: (Both sites must be in a bidding war to get Jamey Newberg to write the preview.)
Toronto Blue Jays:
BP - "Isn’t it just time for the Yanks and Sox to step aside and let the other AL East teams try their hand at representing the division in the playoffs? Neither Baltimore nor Tampa Bay appears poised to take advantage of any slippage that may occur in 2007. In contrast, the Jays already knocked Boston out of the #2 spot in 2006, and New York may just have enough concerns about their pitching for the Jays to succeed in moving past them as well."
Deadspin - "The era when 50,000 people packed the Skydome-slash-Rogers Centre every game are long gone, but we're gonna keep it raucous all summer long in Mr. Rogers' neighbourhood as Doc, B.J., Vernon, Big Hurt and the boys go after a playoff spot. The Blue Jays are back, and we aren't keeping quiet about it." (Canadians are generally more optimistic than Americans.)
BP - "This Diamondbacks team is returning to relevance, and can win the World Series just by making the right choices for the roster and catching some breaks with a couple of older pitchers in the rotation. They’re closer than you think."
Deadspin -"Thanks to this offseason's most significant Braves news -- the sale of the team from one megalithic media conglomerate to another in some kind of hypercomplex three-card-Monte asset swap -- Atlanta's fans enter the 2007 season realizing that, in corporate terms, their team is as disposable as an extra ketchup packet."
Chicago Cubs: (Even though the Cubs are favored to win the NL Central, nobody really thinks they're going to win the World Series.)
BP - "While other teams in the division appeared to upgrade their rosters, no team in the NL Central seems strong enough to run away and hide. If the Reds make just a few marginal improvements, they could get their record over .500, giving them a chance to win the NL Central. Once they get there, as the Cardinals showed, anything can happen."
Deadspin - "It's hard not to be optimistic when Bronson Arroyo is one of your two staff aces. Wait, did I just write that? Was Rick Mahler not available anymore? Can we get Jose Rijo back? Arroyo has never won more than 14 games in a season. And while he and Aaron Harang are not a bad one-two punch, you get the feeling both guys would rather be doing back-up vocals for a band at Bonnaroo."
BP -"We were kind of like that team taking batting practice," [George Brett] said, nodding at the Colorado Rockies. Now, let’s not get carried away. A run like the Royals made–-seven of 10 years in the postseason capped by a world championship in 1985-–is more dream than reality in the everchanging world of major league baseball. There is, however, some validity to Brett’s comparison, and there is definitely a feeling among the Rockies that they have reached a point where it’s time to start winning."
Deadspin - "I can't construct any reasonable argument for anyone to become a Rockies fan. (Neither, apparently, can the team; their business model focuses on selling as many as season tickets as possible to local corporations that mostly won't use them and jacking up the ticket price scale for holidays and series against the Cubs, Mets and, in 2007, the Yankees.)"
BP - "In Willis, they have a Chris Carpenter-like starter with series-dominating potential, and in Cabrera, they have that game-breaking slugger that can make his opponents seem puny. Add in some good choices from Fredi Gonzalez, Beinfest finding a league-average cener fielder, and the talent blossoming, and you've got a team with a shot."
BP - "You, Tim, shall have your ring. This very year. There is no one to stand in our way. Only so much luck to go around for some, so much money for others, but even if he does not come, we have enough. (Looks around.) By god, we have enough." (Will Carroll wrote the Astros' preview as a baseball-themed Waiting For Godot. I don't know what to say about this.)
Deadspin - "We have never won a World Series, and there is little to no chance we will do that this year, so huzzah! Have another inning-ending double play, Adam Everett! Yes, so long as this blessed streak continues, we can go on about our business, secure in the knowledge that God is in his heavens and all is right with the world."
Los Angeles Dodgers: (Dodgers fans are notorious for showing up late.)
BP - "The Brewers are the only team in the league which could take an injury at almost every position and still have a solid replacement there the next day (aside from Sheets going down again). There’s no team in the division with the bench depth and versatility. There’s no bullpen in the NL with the combination of role players, power arms, and potential. With all that, the team simply has to do what’s expected. For once in Milwaukee, that’s enough."
Deadspin - "They won't make the playoffs because the 2007 Brewers lack the most important feature necessary for a baseball team to be successful in Milwaukee. They lack the one thing the Brewers teams of the 1980s had in spades. The 2007 Brewers lack mustaches." (Fantastic theory!)
New York Mets:
BP - "To assume that the only team to win 90 games in the league–-first order or actual--is going to come all the way back to the pack is folly. Perhaps a case can be made for the Braves--who underachieved last year–-moving ahead of New York to grab the title, but there is no way that two National League clubs are going to outstrip the Mets this coming season. Therefore, at the very least, then, they will be the wild card team."
BP - "What is certain is that the Phillies should be right in the thick of things. They haven’t built a great club, but they have a good one, and with an intelligent move or two they’ll be worth watching for more compelling reasons than being the only ballgame on free TV that night."
Deadspin - "But even without the long-gone grit of Vet Stadium, 2007 is one of the more hope-filled years in a decade. This year, there's more polish, more shine, more hope than usual, about a team that's been a giant tease for five years straight -- even though their off season moves resulted in neither a Jim Thome signing or a Billy Wagner trade." (Daulerio's too hopped up on Burrell's 'swordsmanship' to worry about the actual, you know, baseball.)
Deadspin - "14 consecutive losing seasons and a total of just seven winning seasons since 1979. This is a franchise that went from 1927-1960 between postseason appearances, so there's some history of long droughts. Although as droughts go, we may be in for the baseball version of 'The Dust Bowl.' "
San Diego Padres:
Deadspin - "The strategy for the Pads this year is the same as always: assemble a solid pitching staff, view offensive output as purely optional and just count on the Dodgers and Giants to screw the pooch. In recent years, this strategy has been enormously successful." (MJD expects another NL West title.)
San Francisco Giants:
BP - "The Giants are not the favorite to win the NL West, nor should they be, and much less is the chance they get through the 1/8 coin toss that is the postseason. But it doesn’t require the same suspension of disbelief to see them win the division and get a shot at the ring that it does to watch an entire episode of '24.' " (Huckabay damns with faint "hope and faith.")
Deadspin - "I'm not your garden variety Brian Sabean basher; I think he's done more with fewer resources than just about any GM one could name. But like the aging team he's constructed, time is not on his side. As another notable San Francisco character, Robin Williams, once said (and probably stole), 'You had an hourglass figure, but your time is up.' "
St. Louis Cardinals:
BP - "The best part is that it can happen again. I mean, it’s not as though the credulity-straining scenarios I am about to lay out could be more improbable than what actually happened last year, right? After a season like 2006, the fictions come easily. So let's take a look at what needs to happen if the Cardinals—bless you boys—are to repeat in 2007."
Deadspin - (I assume the Royal We is going to preview the World Series champs himself when every other team is done. Or, he'll just retell that story about Leyland's smoking PSA.)
BP - "About the only way this year can create some hope and faith for Nationals fans that involves their getting to a world championship, you pretty much need to start off with positing a full-scale meltdown of the rest of the NL East, and top it off with a deal with the baseball gods thrown in for good measure should you expect them to win the World Series."
Deadspin - "Let's face it: If your team isn't going to win the championship, the next best alternative for any fan is superlative achievement. In the case of the Nats in '07, not simply being the worst team in baseball THIS season, which is just sorry, but maintaining the promise to become the worst team ever to take the field. Crapportunity!" (Shanoff is legit, ladies and gentlemen.)
Perhaps Xanax should sponsor the Nationals this season.