AL dominates my 2009 playoff-team seedings (cont.)
Plusses: That it's hard to name a weakness may be their biggest plus. They were easily the best team in the NL in the second half and are 74-42 under manager Jim Tracy. Troy Tulowitzki (1.042 second-half OPS was third-best in baseball) is a budding star at shortstop. Their defense is solid. Closer Huston Street is tough (though he hasn't been as good since returning from a biceps injury). Ubaldo Jimenez has ace potential.
Minuses: They are still very young. They remain much better at home than on the road (their 40-41 road record is the worst of NL playoff teams). Jorge De La Rosa, who's key to their rotation, is out for the first round with a groin concern.
Odds to win World Series: 10-1.
Plusses: They bring momentum, having become the first team to make the playoffs after being three down with four to play. Certain MVP Joe Mauer is great on both sides of the ball. The bullpen is very good (3.87 ERA), especially closer Joe Nathan. They have scrappiness on their side, having come back from seven games down in September. ("This is one tough team,'' one scout said). The Metrodome is a great home-field advantage, especially in its sentimental last season (49-33 there this season).
Minuses: Rookie Brian Duensing starts Game 1 out of necessity. Their one experienced starter, Carl Pavano, is perhaps the biggest bust in Yankees history and the Bronx Bombers and their fans will relish taking it out on him (the players didn't like him, either). Historically they have trouble with the Yankees, including very recently, going 6-18 in their last 24 games (including 0-7 this year).
Odds to win World Series: 25-1.
Around the majors
Cagey way for the Marlins to suggest that Fredi Gonzalez is returning without having to make an announcement, wasn't it? They instead announced on Tuesday which coaches would be returning "under Gonzalez.'' Club officials are saying behind the scenes that Gonzalez does indeed appear safe, so perhaps the reassignment of pitching coach Mark Wiley and first base coach Andy Fox will be it. Club owner Jeffrey Loria is said to believe that the 87-75 team underachieved, and he has been in contact with Bobby Valentine, although the low-budget team always had an uphill battle to sign Valentine.
If Gonzalez was going to be fired, several teams would be interested. The Braves are said to see him as the perfect successor to Bobby Cox. The Nationals' team president Stan Kasten used to run the Braves, though there appears to be a decent chance that the Nats will wind up keeping interim manager Jim Riggleman, who did a decent job after taking over for Manny Acta (33-42 for Riggleman).
There are those who say that Astros interim manager Dave Clark has made himself a real consideration in his short time on the job, though the Astros need to consider a list after rushing to hire Phil Garner and upsetting the commissioner's office by not considering minorities.
Many baseball people believe that Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer is the favorite to succeed Kevin Towers as Padres GM. If so, good choice.
Joe Girardi made his toughest call as Yankees manager by sitting Jorge Posada for A.J. Burnett's start. This isn't the first time a pitcher has preferred pitching to the backup over Posada, and it's obvious that Burnett does, but as Posada said, they "better win'' that game now.
Early impression: The Mets favor Matt Holliday for left field over Jason Bay, though either would help immensely. Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said they expect to spend money this winter, and really, they have no choice.
Mets higher-ups made it fairly clear that the heat is on both GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel. "Omar would be gone if not for that extension,'' said one Mets person loyal to Minaya, referring to his $3.5 million, three-year deal. One tipoff that Manuel's in slightly better stead is that he got to make coaching calls (such as keeping Razor Shines), while Minaya was pressured to fire friends Tony Bernazard, Ramon Pena and Julio Franco. One plus for Minaya, according to several sources, is that Fred Wilpon likes him.
Minaya is considering jobs for Kevin Towers and J.P. Ricciardi, particularly with longtime scout Sandy Johnson telling Mets people that he's likely to retire. Towers has proven to have excellent scouting instincts over the years.
Magglio Ordonez rewarded the Tigers for doing the right thing and allowing him to trigger his $18 million option for 2010 with a huge finish (.374 in the second half).
Great season for Tigers 20-year-old Rick Porcello, who should win the Rookie of the Year award.
I didn't have an MVP vote this year. But if I did, I would have left Miguel Cabrera off my ballot. A drunken episode (0.26 blood alcohol) and late-night antics don't work when you go 0 for 11 in the final series of the season. He needed to care more than he obviously did.
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