Trevor Freeman
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February 11 - American League Preview

For the first time in four months, I am ready to talk about baseball again.  The Oakland A’s and I had
to take a little break from each other as I was beginning to question the fairness of life after the
Magglio Ordonez walk-off.  Luckily I was able to immerse myself in a 49er renaissance and
preparation for March Madness.  If you discount the Ken Macha baseball card hanging off the
dartboard in my office and the Magglio Ordonez baseball card, which was used for a brief three-day
stretch as a urinal bullseye then for the most part I have responded to the loss in a mature fashion.

In my opinion the American League is still tougher from top to bottom than the National League
(which I fully expect to be won in a convincing fashion by the New York Mets).  I know the St. Louis
Cardinals won the World Series………however I look at that the same way I respond to news that
Adam Brody may have nailed Kirsten Dunst.  Every now and then being in the right place at the right
time supercedes having talent.  There are a full eight teams in the American League that can go into
Spring Training knowing that they have a shot to get to the World Series.  The wild card race should
be the most crowded in history.  With all that being said, let us begin our American League
breakdown with……..

“When does football start?”

14.  Kansas City Royals

“There’s probably some fuse missing in his fuse box that makes it work on a consistent basis.”
-Bill Bavasi, GM of the Seattle Mariners in regards to Gil Meche

Signing Gil Meche to a 5 year $55 million dollar deal is like doing the hibbity-dibbity with the 300-
pound ex-softball team catcher at your five-year college reunion.  It’s a mistake that you will never stop
paying for nor never stop hearing about from the people who witnessed it.

13.  Seattle Mariners

You look up and down this roster and nothing really excites you.  The Beltre and Sexson signings
have destroyed their flexibility to improve.  Putting Jose Guillen on a bad team is like dropping a
match into gasoline.  He will be a problem and it will be sooner rather than later.  If you are a Mariner
fan, you just have to hope that Felix Hernandez shows some improvement from last year.  If
Hernandez develops into a solid ace then at least the Mariners will have something to point at and
build on.

12.  Baltimore Orioles

I’m not sure what is worse.  The Peter Angelos era or the Daniel Snyder era.  As an A’s fan my heart
goes out to Miguel Tejada.  Tejada is like Sienna Miller toiling away in “Sh*tsburgh” while everybody
else is partying it up in New York.  For the good of the game he should be traded back to Oakland with
Bud Selig picking up his salary.  

11.  Texas Rangers

Mediocre Texas high school football teams will be doing better at the gate than the Rangers by early
September.

“Looking Frisky”

10.  Tampa Bay Devil Rays

This team has frisky written all over it.  I guarantee they steal a couple key series down the stretch
from the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Yankees.  Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Delmon Young are a
dynamite, young outfield.  B.J. Upton and Dioner Navarro both have a ton of upside at third base and
catcher.  Scott Kazmir is a future Cy Young Award winner and he is joined by Edwin Jackson who has
explosive stuff.  The Devil Rays win 70 games this year and start looking like a team with a promising
future………..which will come to a halt three years from now when the Yankees/Mets/Red Sox/Angels
buy up all their good players.  

“Yeah……..it’s okay to book that trip to the Bahamas for October”

9.  Anaheim Angels

Here’s what I don’t get.  The biggest problem with Anaheim is that they do not have any protection
whatsoever for Vladimir Guerrero.  This isn’t a new problem.  In fact, it is the same problem they have
had for the past two years.  Instead of spending the money or trading their multitude of prospects to
try and solve this issue, the Angels sat on their hands and did nothing.  Their doing nothing proved to
be a catastrophic mistake when Juan Rivera or…….the ONLY other guy in their lineup who did
ANYTHING at all to protect Guerrero broke his leg on December 27th.  In other words………Anaheim
is completely screwed.  The Angels only offseason additions were Gary Matthews Jr. and Shea
Hillenbrand.  Or in other words…..a guy who overachieved in a contract year and a team cancer.  The
Angels will struggle to get to 85 wins this season.  

8.  Cleveland Indians

The Rip Van Winkle of the American League.  Last year they were the sexy preseason pick to win the
American League.  This year people abandoned the Indian bandwagon faster than people rushing
out of a subway car inhabited by a homeless person and his shopping cart.  I have them ranked
eighth………..however it wouldn’t shock me if they found their way into the postseason.  Travis Hafner
is a beast and Grady Sizemore might be the best all-around outfielder in baseball.  Perhaps this
team arrives a year later than expected.

7.  Minnesota Twins

A team I honestly feel bad for.  Years from now we may look back on this group of Twins like we do
the Montreal Expo team that got their season ruined by the Strike.  If Francisco Liriano stays healthy
then the Twins are probably the team to beat in the American League.  At most they will only have
2008 to throw the Santana-Liriano 1-2 punch at baseball before the Yankees/Mets/Red Sox/Angels
make their move for Santana.

6.  Toronto Blue Jays

If Frank Thomas plays 90 games or less then Toronto finishes in third place.

If Frank Thomas plays between 91-110 games then Toronto finishes in second place.

If Frank Thomas plays 111 or more games………..then New York’s reign of terror will come to an
end.  It is as simple as that.  My money is that Frank Thomas only plays half a season.  His foot will
not hold up on turf.

5.  Boston Red Sox

The last big-time Japanese pitcher to hit America was Hideki Irabu.  I’m not saying “Dice” will be like
the “Toad”…….I’m just saying I wouldn’t write his name on a Hall of Fame ballot just yet.  I did not like
the J.D. Drew signing at all.  Bringing in a guy who the Fenway faithful will turn on within three months
just does not seem like prudent business.  To top it all off, the Red Sox are holding open tryouts for
the role of closer.  There are just too many moving parts and too much that can go wrong here.  I think
Boston has a tough time holding off Toronto for second place.

“Should Be Home In Time To Bring The Kids Out Trick or Treating”

4.  New York Yankees

The Yankees will be in the mix for the American League title and I really like what Brian Cashman did
over the winter in terms of getting back some prospects.  People forget that the best players on the
dominant Yankees teams from 1996-2000 were mainly guys that came up through the system in
Jeter, Pettitte, Williams, and Rivera.  The Yankees actually began to suffer when their approach
changed towards trading prospects and buying older players.  It ballooned payroll, left lesser margin
for error, and made for an aging roster.

The team the Yankees put on the field in April will be much different than the one that finishes the
season and it will be for three reasons.  They are:

 1. The two spots held in the rotation by Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa will be held by Roger Clemens
and Phillip Hughes.  If I had to put a date on when the full transfer happens, I’d go with July 15th.
 2. The Yankees will find out that they are better off with Melky Cabrera in the lineup instead of Bobby
Abreu or Hideki Matsui.  The reason being that Cabrera is a much better glove who has no qualms
about situational hitting.  To top it off, his ceiling is much greater than either of those guys.  Don’t be
surprised when you start hearing the “Yankees are working with Matsui on how to play first base”
stories by mid-June.
  3. I fully expect the Yankees to purchase the best bullpen arm on the market at the trading deadline.  
Last year they burned Scott Proctor out.  Cashman will not let that happen again this season.   

3.  Chicago White Sox

The White Sox remind me a lot of Rob Van Dam before he beat John Cena at ECW’s “One Night
Stand”.  Just like people forgot he was “Mr. Monday Night” and the greatest ECW wrestler of all-time,
people are forgetting that this Chicago White Sox team is essentially the same team that won the
Series two years ago.  I think Chicago bounces back in a big way and wins the wild card.  Trading
Freddy Garcia for prospects will not hurt them that much as they have Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland,
Javier Vasquez and Jose Contreras still in the rotation.

“The Runners-Up”

2.  Oakland Athletics

If Bud Selig follows through on moving the Extra Innings package to DirecTV prior to the beginning of
this season……….I am going to hit Taco Bell and load up on the Nachos BellGrande and Bean
Burritos, relieve myself in UPS Package and overnight it to his work address.  Moving the Extra
Innings package would absolutely kill baseball fans that have moved away from their hometowns.

Getting back to baseball, even without Barry Zito and Frank Thomas, Oakland will be loaded again
this season.  People forget that Oakland won 93 games last year despite being one of the most injury-
riddled teams in baseball.  Rich Harden, Milton Bradley, Bobby Crosby, Huston Street and Esteban
Loiaza all missed significant playing time.  Eric Chavez was playing hurt all season and it showed in
his numbers.  It was a wonder that the A’s were able to get to the American League Championship
Series so easily with all of these injuries.  As long as Oakland remains healthy they will runaway with
the American League West.  

(Just as a note, grab Mike Piazza in any MVP prop bets you can find.  He is going to have a monster
year at DH.  Last season in 126 games at catcher he hit .283 with 22 dingers.  And that was playing
81 games at Petco, which is a bigger pitcher’s park than Oakland.  The move from catcher to DH and
from Petco to Oakland will lead to a .285, 35 homer and 120 RBI season.  I guarantee it.)

“The Champs”

1.  Detroit Tigers

Here’s the thing about Gary Sheffield.  He is always good for one productive year before he poisons
up the clubhouse and starts badmouthing the manager/owner/GM/third base
coach/ballboy/trainer/team bus driver/caterer.  I think he does that for the Tigers this year.  Adding
Sheffield gives the Tigers that middle of the order presence they missed last year.  Detroit had a
young pitching staff who should only get better.  On paper this is a better Tigers team than the one
that made the World Series.


If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at
trevor.freeman@realityfanforum.com.