The view from the top of the mountain ….
They’re now perched at the top of the hill and probably not seen as realistic favorites to successfully defend their World Series title, John Farrell and the Boston Red Sox are being admired from afar by the other twenty-nine Major League Baseball teams , believing they too can do something special this season . However, before that becomes a reality , one has to assess the teams that legitimately have a chance to win the title. Though it has been several years since baseball had a repeat champion , if things play out, as some feel that it could , then a fourth World Series title in eight years is most certainly possibility for one of baseball’s most renowned and revered franchises.
As usual, the AL East , a division that will remain competitive, with the likelihood instead of the expected two-horse race between the Boston Red Sox and the free-wheeling and dealing New York Yankees , we could also see both the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays also added into the mix. All four franchises are managed by four managers, who have taken teams to postseason play, with differing levels of success. John Farrell , having won in 2013, would like to join a select group of managers to have taken a team to successive World Series and winning both, is quite an achievement .
Buck Showalter , is a manager known to come into a franchise and over a period time has been known to have turn things around. Consider the fact, that prior to the success achieved by Joe Torre during the mid to late nineties with the New York Yankees. It was Showalter, who as Torre’s successor was very much responsible and grooming of several of the players who would be the centerpiece of that success of winning four titles within the space of seven years . The praise has been heaped upon Torre’s shoulders and quietly right so, but it should also be remembered Buck Showalter played a part in the nurturing of those players and the success that would come about.
Joe Maddon may well be seen as one of the best managers of his generation not to have won title , but having won a Manager of the Year Award , I doubt that will be enough for a manager who strives for excellence , while simply seeking the best out of his players. Since his succeeding Lou Piniella in 2006, Maddon’s career with the Tampa Bay Rays, has been extraordinary to say the very least. From humbling beginnings with the incumbent manager , this ball-club with a front office headed by senior managing partner Stuart Sternberg , Matt Silverman and general manager Andrew Friedman , the franchise has operated under the usual premise of frugality and not overspending to acquire players and in keeping the payroll within their means. While there have continued to be issues concerning the franchise and attendance levels for their games at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida , the one constant has been group of about 15,000 hardcore Rays’ fans who have continued to support the ball-club through thick and thin , while Maddon has presided over the team as its most successful manager. With that elusive title, being the one thing prize that the owners would like nothing better to see , than it being on display in the trophy room of the Rays’ headquarters. This could very well be the season, where the players on the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster could very well make it happen.
Baltimore for its part, now has to prove to their fans, that they have finally turned the corner and are back to some semblance of respectability . For much of last season, the team was definitely in contention for a wildcard berth and at times. It seemed that, there might well have been a possibility for the franchise to have won their first divisional title in several years. . If this current Orioles’ team is to have any semblance of real success, then it will be predicated upon the players such as Manny Machado , one of the game’s brightest young stars and that of All Star slugger, Chris Davis repeating the form shown in 2013 , when he led the Majors in home runs , well as being in consideration for the AL MVP , which had a repeat winner with the Detroit Tigers’ … Miguel Cabrera laying claim to the crown for the second time in his career.
While I believe that the Baltimore Orioles are capable of pulling off perhaps a number of game and series’ surprises over the course of this season , I am still not convinced that there is the depth needed or the talent on the roster for the team to prevail . I may well be proven wrong, over the course of the season and we will just have to wait and see, what unfolds over the course of the year. Pitching and a steady flow of both Davis and Machado should prove to be an exciting spectacle to watch for the fans in attendance at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, as they take on their divisional rivals.
Having committed over $300 million to free agency acquisition signings , either Brian Cashman is seeking to prove doubters wrong , with both he and Hal Steinbrenner having a plan of action , in terms of how the New York Yankees will acquit themselves this season . A great deal of talk by the owner , in wanting the reduce the team’s payroll , well below $200 million , in order for the ball-club to avoid paying the league mandated “luxury tax” , does seem to be something of anathema to front office and organization in general . It has been a considerable amount of time, since the franchise’s salary obligations were considerably lower than $200 million . Over the past seven seasons the organization’s commitments in terms of payroll obligations have fluctuated between $192 million to a preposterously ridiculous figure of approximately $218 million , when the Opening Day payroll commitment in 2013, for all of baseball’s teams exceeded $3 billion for the very first time in the game’s history. Yet it remains so asinine that you would have the MLB Commissioner Bud Selig seeking some sort of financial restraint from the MLBPA (union) , when neither the owners or the general managers seem to unable to any show constraint, themselves , when many of the most ridiculous contracts offered , in a great many cases , where many of the recipients in question have barely a year of optimum productivity.
As great as most feel, that the New York Yankees’ hopes are likely to be ” win or go home “ and with the emotions now surrounding the club, as Derek Jeter ends his final season with the organization. It is my belief, that even with that, as a lure for the fans , we are likely to see the team fall short of expectations ! Last season , the Yankees were simply uncompetitive throughout much of the year and though one could put down to the litany of injuries suffered by the team , it still did not hide the fact that an aging core of players , with little managerial ingenuity being shown Joe Girardi and his managerial staff , ultimately ad.c led to their demise , with a fourth place finish in the AL East and missing the postseason completely . The hard part for the players this season, will be to gel as a team, while playing at a consistently high level over the course of their schedule.
There are four teams within baseball that are to my mind , are inept, in terms of the front office decisions being made and the constant wish to pay out lavishly for players , only to see them fall from grace in terms of productivity or simply giving the necessary effort. During much of last season , the vast majority of fans were riding on the coattails of the Los Angeles Dodgers with their star laden team , and their top-heavy payroll created the perception that the team would be a shoo-in for the World Series . Were it, not for the efforts of Yasiel Puig the team would never have made the postseason , much less win the NL West , with such ease . That being said , the Dodgers’ inept play in the NLCS against the St Louis Cardinals exposed the team as being flawed in a number of areas that have not necessarily been critically addressed by Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti , other than to make Clayton Kershaw one of the highest paid pitchers , players and with one of the largest contracts ever guaranteed within the game . I guess having a twenty-year $ 8 billion television contract as well as being backed by an ownership group, whose venture capital and investment firm with over $125 billion in assets , does have its merits and perks !
The two leading managing partners in the Dodgers’ hierarchy , Mark Walters and Todd S Boehly , along with former NBA great Magic Johnson have made it known that “ money will be of no object “ as the ball-club seeks to win their first World Series’ title since 1988 . Hard to believe that it has been that long, since the franchise won baseball’s biggest title and were seated atop of the game of baseball . Where the challenges will come from within the division, as Don Mattingly and his staff lead the team into their 2014 schedule will undoubtedly be predicated upon the play of the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants , two teams with a great deal of ambition for this upcoming season .
I believe that the Dodgers can have a great deal of success , but if the team becomes complacent , as was .noticeably seen with a number of their performances last season , then I firmly believe that they will ultimately fail in their goal of winning another World Series’ title this season !
Over the past five seasons Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers have come repeatedly close to winning a World Series’ title, only to fail at the final obstacle. Former team President Nolan Ryan is no longer with the franchise , having in part, alienated many of partners in the ownership group with his gregarious antics , as well as seeking to usurp the authority of Daniels as the Rangers’ general manager. . Back to back appearances in the Fall Classic, in 2010 and 2011 , only fall short of their goal , has not stymied zeal of the Rangers’ fans , but at this juncture my question would be , can Ron Washington and his staff take this team any further ? Two attempts have ended with two failures , with their being doubts around the game, as to whether or not the Texas Rangers are simply good enough to win the game’s biggest prize.
The Rangers’ team , on paper looks good , but looking good doesn’t necessarily equate with the results on the field, as borne out by last season and Texas’ colossal failure in the AL West . Granted , it is a highly competitive division , where over the past two seasons the Oakland A’s have been the dominant force , and then some . With some major upheavals in the Texas Rangers’ roster during the off-season and with Jon Daniels and this managerial staff are under a great of pressure to succeed. A great deal of money has been vested in the player personnel over the past few seasons, and even with the apparent postseason appearances in two successive World Series, the end results were definitely not to the hierarchy’s satisfaction . This may well be, the last gasp chance for Ron Washington and certain players on the team, by way of the impending free agency status and pay.
If Texas are to contend within the division (AL West) and the AL as a whole, then players such as Adrian Beltre , Prince Fielder , Shin-Soo Choo , Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus will have to be very productive in terms of the team’s offense , and with the pitching having to be, equally effective over the course of the season . That is where the likes of Yu Darvish , Alex Ogando , Martin Perez , Nick Tepesch and Tommy Hanson will have to be totally consistent in their starts over the course of the season with the equal amount of support coming from the bullpen . Texas will officially begins their regular season with an away series against the Tampa Bay Rays on the 4th April April in a three-game series at the AL East divisional contestant’s venue .
Perhaps I am mistaken , but in assembling a roster , with such players such as Mike Trout , Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton , you would have expected a hell of lot more than a team batting average of .254 which ranked third amongst the AL’s fifteen teams last season . Yet, in the case of the Los Angeles Angels , I cannot believe that this would have been enough to satisfy Arte Moreno , the team’s owner or Jerry Dipoto , the general manager ! The team pitching with an ERA of 4.24 , ranking it eleventh in the American League, was obviously the biggest hurdle for the team managed by Mike Scioscia and his staff .
A third place finish, eighteen games out of first place , behind the Oakland A’s , who ran away with the AL West division for a second successive season and there was nothing at all to show for the Los Angeles Angels. Perhaps, the only bright spot for the franchise, remains the blossoming career of Mike Trout , while more celebrated players such as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, were either sidelined through much of last season with recurring injuries or simply mediocre productivity over the course of the Angels’ season. It is has been far too hefty a price to pay , with Pujols now beginning to make excuses for his own woes, as well as taking slight , about comparisons being made between he and Trout , in terms of their productivity through their first two seasons within the Major Leagues. Pujols may well be a multiple winner of the NL MVP and one of the most productive hitters the game has seen over the past ten years , but now he is becoming something of a grouch , while a number of fans and analysts alike begin to question the value of the contract signed with the ball-club.
Josh Hamilton, has simply been a non-factor with the Los Angeles Angels since joining the ball-club. While he remains extremely popular amongst the fans, I am not so sure that he is seen as the player with the stature of Albert Pujols or the popularity of Mike Trout ! Over the past two seasons , it has been Trout who has literally led the Angels while holding it together, in some semblance of actually being a team of sorts. Now comes the hard part for the Angels’ front office, with their All Star outfielder now arbitration eligible , do they offer the player a multi-year deal , compensatory to his stature , knowing that he does not become a free agent until 2018 , where undoubtedly, were his productivity to remain consistent , he would likely garner the financial offer that would most certainly make him the highest paid player in baseball. This is something that Arte Moreno and Jerry Dipoto will have to mull over as well as the long-standing future of Mike Sciocsia , whom, in having led the Angels to their only World Series’ crown . In the subsequent years since 2002 , they have not been at all that generous for the Anaheim based franchise .
It is hard to view which of the two franchise may well be the worst, the AL West domiciled Houston Astros , who in each of the last two seasons has managed to lose in excess of 100 games or the forever embattled New York Mets , whose fans continue to be delusional and completely out of touch with reality.
Astros’ owner Jim Crane , apart from owning an uncompetitive franchise, is now in the midst of a litigious battle with broadcast partners CSN Houston . CSN’s parent company Comcast , wishes to take the unit into bankruptcy proceedings , having not been able to find a suitable buyer for the Houston based cable outlet and program provider. Crane’s franchise, also happens to be a minority stakeholder in CSN Houston and possible court proceeding, are likely to further hurt the already troubled ball-club from a financial standpoint , in spite of Crane’s insistence the Astros still remain a viable concern. Personally, I would not take anything that a current ball-club owner has to say about their franchise as the truth , from an economic standpoint or with a grain of salt ! Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner, Frank McCourt suggested that his franchise at the time, was on a sound financial footing. It would not be long after that, we would be made aware as to the gross financial mismanagement that took place under McCourt , with him having contravened several of the league’s most “cardinal rules” , as it relates to the operations of a ball club. Taking the Dodgers into bankruptcy proceedings, with Bud Selig , then intervening somewhat surreptitiously , led to the Dodgers being sold to a consortium led by Mark Walters and Magic Johnson , for the now record figure of $2.156 billion.
I do not envy anyone, who now happens to be an Astros’ fan, because I do believe that this season , we are likely to see the franchise lose one hundred games for a third consecutive season. Something, that I do not believe that has happened within the annals of baseball’s history , or since the one hundred and sixty-two game schedule came into being . Bo Porter , manager of the Astros and his staff , will be hard pressed this season, to make a significant improvement over 2013 , during which the team 111 games (51-111).
Since Terry Collins’ installment as the manager of the New York Mets , there has been nothing to suggest that he and his staff possess the wherewithal to make this team a contender , never mind this continued insistence that Sandy Alderson and JP Ricciardi are on the cusp of turning things around as the lead executives in charge of player personnel decisions. If anything, things have deteriorated for the franchise , albeit , that there have been one or two bright spots , but nothing to suggest overall that the team in its current guise will be able to be competitive against the rest of the NL. That certainly was not the case last season , with the Mets falling to a third place finish with 74-88 record , considerably behind the second placed Washington Nationals (86-76) and the Atlanta Braves (96-66) as the winners of the NL East .
Picture gallery .
David Wright will remain the focal point of the Mets , as the franchise’s best player and around whom Sandy Alderson has committed to building a competitive roster , through the MLB Draft , frugal trade , acquisitions and assessing the team’s farm system for a crop of good , young and productive players. What now happens concerning the Mets, as a competitive ball club, will be predicated upon the mindset of the players on the team and whether or not under Terry Collins’ guidance they can get the job done. For far too long, the franchise has remained the unwanted stepchild within the New York based media market, as they looked on enviously of their crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees . I think at the end of this upcoming season the Met are liable to be doing the same thing once again , even if the Yankees, themselves, do fail to win the World Series. Your thoughts, on the merits of this piece and anything else you believe to be pertinent, concerning the subject matter.
Picture and slideshow details below .
(1) Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell , left , is seen here with team owner , John Henry , as they hold the World Series’ trophy. In his first season as skipper of the team , Farrell was able to guide the franchise from a last place finish in the AL East in 2012 , to winning the division , the AL Pennant and World Series’ crown in 2013 by easily defeating the St Louis Cardinals . There is a strong belief within the organization that they are capable of making a successful defense of their title , with Series’ MVP …. David Ortiz making a case for that argument . AP Photo/ Phil Carson …..
(2) Buck Showalter , manager of the Baltimore Orioles is seen here with Dan Duquette (right) , EVP of Baseball Operations for the Orioles’ organization . A disappointing third place finish within the AL East has given both the impetus to make changes within the roster , in an effort to be more competitive within the division this upcoming season . Showalter and his staff hope to make that a reality for the franchise . Getty Images / Parker Hughes ……
(3) Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman , seated left , is seen here alongside team manager Joe Maddon as they discuss the team’s prospects for the upcoming season with the convened press at Tropicana Field , in St Petersburg , Florida , home to the AL East based franchise . picture appears courtesy of TBO.com …
(4) Derek Jeter , captain of the New York Yankees is seen here the team’s principal manager partner and Chairman, Hal Steinbrenner after the team’s triumph in the 2009 World Series . With Jeter announcing that after a two decade career with the ball club that it is his i intent to retire at the end of the 2014 season . The question now becomes, who will now seek to fill the void , once the short-stop and All Star finally steps down ? Furthermore, in many circles, while the Yankees have turned to ways of old, in terms of their capricious spending , the feeling more than anything else , with the front office and managerial staff of Joe Girardi having very little faith in the development of the players within the farm system , the organization is being forced to take drastic measures in order to bolster the team’s roster . AP Photo / Robert Matthews ……..
(5) New owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, from left, Robert Patton , Stan Kasten , Mark Walter , Earvin “Magic’ Johnson , Peter Guber , and Todd Boehly pose for a photo at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 2, 2012. The $2 billion sale of the team to Guggenheim Baseball Management whose parent company is the multi- faceted capital investment company Guggenheim Partners Inc , in a deal which was finalized on finalized Tuesday . AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes …..
(6) Texas Rangers’ senior managing partner and Chairman Ray C Davis , left , seen here alongside Nolan Ryan and Bob Simpson . All three partners were part of the consortium that purchased the ball-club from then owner , Tom Hicks and business partner Ken Gillette . At the time of the sale , the franchise had been placed into the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings , having failed to make payments to a number of its creditors and also defaulting on a bank loan . Ryan has seen been ousted as the Rangers’ team President , with the role no longer being recognized by the board members . GM Jon Daniels beyond his role as the general manager , also interacts with the senior executives within the organization. Getty Images / Chris Prentice ….
(7) From left to right , Josh Hamilton , Mike Trout and Albert Pujols . If the team is to contend this season within the AL West , then it will be incumbent upon the trio remaining healthy and productive all season long , along with starting pitcher CJ Wilson regaining the form that made him a once dominant pitcher , during his days with the Texas Rangers and then with some of his early form with . the Angels . Mike Sciocsia as the manager , is under a great deal of pressure to deliver this season , with the growing impatience of team owner Arte Moreno now beginning to echo within the franchise , calling for a major shakeup within the organization at the managerial level , as well as, amongst the playing roster . LA Times / Matt Santos ….
(8) Jim Crane owner of the Houston Astros is seen here seated along with the Astros’ Chief Legal Counsel Giles Kibbe , as Crane reads from a written statement of the ball-club’s intent to sue CSN Houston , Comcast Inc. parent company of the affiliated sports’ broadcast outlet and McClane Champions , the holding company of Drayton McClane , former owner of the franchise . The Astros are one of collective of sports’ franchises that have a minority stake in CSN Houston . Partners also include the Houston Rockets of the NBA and the Houston Dynamo of MLS Soccer . The suit has been filed in the US Federal District Court in Houston , Texas , with a trial date yet to be set for the litigation to begin . This all could have serious ramifications for the viewers within the greater Houston , Texas market area , as the defendants Comcast and CSN Houston are seeking to shutter the operations of the local broadcast outlet, due to sever financial losses . Crane’s counter argument , appears to be that Comcast and its affiliate, are seeking to dupe the consumer and its partners , in order to avail themselves of a greater share of the revenues and profits and not the claims of having lost millions of dollars the operations of the Houston based broadcaster. AP Photo / Martin Groves ……
(9) New York Mets’ shortstop David Wright is seen here in dugouts seated besides manager Terry Collins . Wright was withdrawn from the game against the Milwaukee Brewers by his manager , having suffered a slight injury . There has not been a great deal to smile about since Collins assumed the role as the skipper of the Mets as the team has labored under his guidance . Front office executives Sandy Alderson and JP Ricciardi are steadfastly behind their much talked about manager and his record with the franchise and their being a general view that this season will be all or bust for Collins . A failure to win the NL East or gain a playoff berth is likely to lead to his dismissal , albeit, that he signed a contract extension with the organization recently . Such are the inner workings of the New York Mets , the question now being asked , “is there any common sense to be found within the front office , much less amongst the managerial staff ” ? AP Photo / Martin Inglis ………. .
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