Thursday, February 28, 2008

And So It Begins

The Dodgers' first spring training game (against the Braves) begins in about a half hour. Here are the things we're looking at as the long march to the season gets underway:


  • Chad Billingsley was supposed to start today's game, but was pulled due to some pain in his groin area. So, instead, non-roster invitee Jason Johnson will be on the mound.

  • Mike Myers and Tanyon Sturtze will also pitch in the game, along with Tom Martin, Myers' competition for left-handed specialist.

  • The stories have been coming out that LaRoche and Garciaparra are still competing for the third base job, but Torre has gone on record, saying that Garciaparra, "being a veteran, he has the inside track..." This should be interesting, and Garciaparra is getting the start today. Nomar has given interviews stating that he thinks this will be a good season, and he knows what was wrong last year and intends to fix it. We'll see how that goes.

  • And I've saved the best for last: Juan Pierre will, no shocker here, be leading off the game and playing left field. Excellent choice, Torre. This is going to work out just great.

I'll do my best to get you some news about the game once it's over, and then I'm heading to Phoenix to get my first taste of spring training.



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Smeghead52
DATE: 03/03/2008 01:10:35 AM

It's probably just as well that you don't care about spring training as the Dodgers have only won one game so far.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spring Breakdown

I know I've already told you about how I don't really care for spring training. But don't let my tough exterior fool you-- I still like to watch some baseball. That's why, next weekend, I'll be heading a bit east to catch a game in Mesa.

I am going to be in the Phoenix area anyway, so I decided to give in, embrace the meaninglessness of it all, and catch a game while I'm out there. My grandparents used to have season tickets to Cubs' spring training back when they (my grandparents) spent winters down in Arizona. I never took the opportunity to go with them to a game, so I figured it's better late than never.

I don't particularly care about the Cubs or the Giants, but there wasn't much else of interest happening anywhere, and I'm not going all the way to Florida to see games with teams I really care about. So, Cubs/Giants it is. And, after a quick stop at ebay, I found some pretty good seats at a pretty good price (I only paid $6 more than the face value). I'll give you a write-up after the game, along with a few pictures (maybe I'll convince my dad to do the Shooter in front of Zambrano or something). If you have anything specific you'd like me to cover while I'm there, let me know.



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Mike
DATE: 02/24/2008 08:16:02 PM

Good for you, Erin!

I went to see the Yanks last year in Tampa and had a blast. Even though you don't care for either teams, I'm sure you'll have a fun time.
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra
DATE: 02/25/2008 08:59:43 AM

Pictures, pictures, pictures......I'd love to see some pics of Cubs players.....maybe you'd even let me borrow them to put on my site? Also, stay away from the Circle 'K' where the Cubs reliever was punched out at this past weekend.
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AUTHOR: Erin
DATE: 02/25/2008 02:08:57 PM

Thanks, Mike. I think it's going to be a good time.

And Jack, I will definitely take lots and lots of pictures, and of course you will be allowed to use them. It's too bad about that Circle K. I can't tell you how many times I've dreamed of having a hot dog and an Icee there before a spring training game.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Uncertain Futures

Not a lot happening as of yet, since we are eight days from the first spring training game for the Dodgers. But, there are a few stories to keep your eye on as we approach the beginning of the season.

First, coming off a year in which he was dramatically hindered by a bum ankle, Rafael Furcal has a lot to prove this season. And it doesn't hurt that it's a contract year. That's right--Furcal's three-year deal with the Dodgers ends after the 2008 season, and it remains to be seen what the Dodgers intend to do about it. Furcal says he wants to remain a Dodger, but as the Dodgers' website itself points out, that's exactly what Furcal said about Atlanta, right before he signed a deal with Los Angeles. So, take it with a grain of salt. The Dodgers have options at shortstop, should they decide to let Furcal (who will be 31 at season's end) go explore other avenues.
Chin-lung Hu, 23, is an interesting option, but the most I can say about him right now is he's got a great name (particularly if he plays when Scully is still in the booth). The better option might be Tony Abreu, although I tend to think the Dodgers are looking at him more as a second baseman, since Kent is obviously getting up there in years. Obviously, this Furcal issue is more of a story for the end of the season, but it's important to think about now, since I'd like to see Furcal have a great year, particularly if (my dream) he's hitting leadoff.

And speaking of leadoff hitters, there's Juan Pierre. A story on the Dodgers' website right now talks about how Pierre is ready to move to left field, since he knows it can help the team. But, he's not interesting in losing a starting position. Says Pierre, "Some people value what I do, and some people don't." It seems like most people should be in that second group, considering that what Pierre did last season was get on base at a .331 clip, which included a grand total of 33 walks. There is absolutely no way to look at this guy as a lead-off hitter, as your starting center fielder, and "value" what he does. I don't care how you stretch the numbers. They just don't move that way.

For a quality player like Andre Ethier to lose a chance to become a star (and he really could be amazing, if given the chance), all because Ned Colletti feels like he wants his money's worth (that was a stupid contract you gave him, Ned, and everyone knew it then, and we certainly know it now), or because Joe Torre feels obligated to veterans (even ones he hasn't coached until right this second), is a travesty. Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts wrote a perfect piece about this, and it should be required reading material for everyone on the Dodgers' coaching staff and, in particular, members of the front office. Here's a highlight:

All the criticism of Pierre since he signed with the Dodgers basically boils down to one simple, nothing-personal fact: He's not one of the team's best three outfielders. It's not that he's the devil, or that he isn't a better ballplayer than more than 99 percent of the people in the world, or that he doesn't have skills. But Andre Ethier is a nice guy, too. Andre Ethier has skills. And at this time in their careers, Ethier, a rising player with a .279 equivalent average over the past two seasons (that's park-adjusted offensive value, including stolen bases or the lack thereof) and better defense, deserves to start over Pierre, who is over 30 with an EQA below .260 for the past two seasons.

Amen. Can we get someone to messenger that over to Colletti and the boys? I'd appreciate it.
Frankly, if Juan Pierre starts in left field over Andre Ethier, here's what you're going to be looking at all season, no matter what kind of numbers Pierre puts up. Consider it my form of protest:



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra
]DATE: 02/20/2008 02:42:39 PM

you know its baseball season when the Pierre-O-Meter is busted out!
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AUTHOR:
DATE: 02/24/2008 01:38:20 AM

I was going to say the same thing Jack Cobra.

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AUTHOR: Smeghead52
DATE: 02/24/2008 01:49:08 AM

Alyssa Milano has returned to her blog for this season. She discusses Pierre as well and voting for Obama.
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AUTHOR: Erin
DATE: 02/25/2008 02:10:08 PM

Smeg, that's good to know about Alyssa. Hopefully she'll post as frequently as she did last year. It's a good blog, and worth the read, since Alyssa is such a big fan.
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Friday, February 15, 2008

Three Good Causes

I've been working out a little bit lately, and I recently decided to start running, despite my bum knee. I'm a slow runner, and I'm not ever going to be training for a marathon or anything. But, I decided to get on a training plan to allow me to run a 5K with relative ease. Trust me, even those 3.2 miles would kill me if I tried tomorrow, so I need the training. Anyway, I wanted to find a race in my area that would coincide with the time that my training plan is over. Luckily for me, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is on March 15 here in Los Angeles.

My friend Lindsay Weiss was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma about a year ago, and though it's not breast cancer, I'm still going to run this race for Lindsay (I can't find any lymphoma runs anywhere). And since I have a blog, I figured this is the best place to advertise that I'm looking for donations. Of course, don't feel obligated, but if you want to give me any support, head to this site [link no longer valid].

And since I'm on a health kick, I thought I'd check out other things I could do to stay in shape and help to make the world a better place. So, I'm also going to do a walk for MS on April 6. My awesome cousin Nicole was diagnosed with this disease several years ago, and she kicks ass, so any money I can raise to help make her life easier would be great. If you're still feeling charitable, this is where you go to donate [link no longer valid].

Also, as I'm sure you've heard, Sean Casey signed on to be a backup first baseman for the Boston Red Sox. When I was reading about this signing, Surviving Grady pointed me to the charity that Casey founded a few years ago. The organization, Labels Are For Jars, works to feed the homeless in one of America's poorest cities--Lawrence, Massachusetts.

The deal is that they have t-shirts for sale with various labels printed on them. When you order a t-shirt, it comes packaged in a plastic jar, which you can then use to raise money for the charity. It's a pretty neat idea, and I immediately ordered my own shirt (mine says "Pacifist"). If you're interested, or want to learn more, go over and check out the site.

Okay, I think that's enough charity for one day.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Promo

When I saw this commercial during the Super Bowl, I laughed out loud. I figured people would jump all over it, but no one has. So, my friends, it is up to me.


Okay, so at the 0:10 mark, you heard what he said, right?

Isn't that a strange thing to say? I mean, there is fast motion and there is slow motion (and regular motion, obviously), but how many other kinds are there? It's one of those things that might sound good on paper during an ad meeting, but it kind of doesn't make much sense when you actually listen to it.
And, of course, the real reason I laughed about it is because of the things rival fans like to say about Jeter. I refrain from it, but I won't go so far as to say I don't have a good chuckle now and then when I see things like this and this.

And given those examples, it seems very strange to me that Derek Jeter would agree to actually read those words out loud. Someone, somewhere, had to know the slang term 'mo (go here and read #3 if you still don't get it). And now that this is out there, I can refrain from the homophobic gay jokes no longer. Guess what the next t- shirt I make is going to say?


Production will begin immediately.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Genius

It seems my girlfriend was inspired by most recent post She just sent me this email (she's in Chicago), with the subject, "do you see a resemblance?"



One word: awesome.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Disparity

Shockingly, here comes a post on NBA basketball. Brace yourselves.

I follow NBA basketball because, for the first time ever, I have a fantasy team, and I like to know how everyone is doing. I'm also a very big San Antonio Spurs fan, and I have followed them for the last four years (since I met my girlfriend, who is from San Antonio, so please don't call me a fair weather fan or anything). I like a basketball team that plays like a team. I don't think the Spurs are boring in any way, and if you want to spend some time arguing with me about whether or not they're "dirty" or "complainers", then I suggest you A) bring evidence other than Robert Horry's dumb foul on Steve Nash in last year's playoffs (and don't show me Bruce Bowen, either, since the stuff he does is no different than, say, the flailing elbow of Kobe Bryant when he takes a shot with a defender near him), and B) watch a few Laker games and see how Kobe reacts every time a foul is called on him. Then tell me the Spurs are the only ones to complain. Or, watch Mike D'Antoni every single time the camera is on him during a game.

But I digress. In this post I am going to state the obvious--the Western Conference is just unbelievably better than the Eastern Conference. This is not news. It's been that way for a few years now. But I was looking at the standings this morning, and a few things jumped out at me. Take a look:

Picture no longer exists.

Five games separate the top eight teams in the Western Conference. Five! That's nothing. In fact, looking further down the list, the top ten teams are only separated by 5.5 games. By comparison, in the East, the top eight teams are separated by 18.5 games. The current #8 seed in the East (the Nets) is nine games under .500, while the current #8 seat in the West (the Warriors) is nine games over .500. Two teams who are ten games under .500 are only a half game out of the playoffs in the East.

If you're a fan of an Eastern Conference team, isn't this sort of thing embarrassing? The Celtics are doing well this year, and all of their losses come from in the conference, which means they're taking care of the games they have to play against the west. But of the current playoff teams in the East, only the Celtics and the Pistons have winning records against the West. In fact, nine of the fifteen teams in the east are at .500 or worse against the Western Conference.

Conversely, every current playoff team in the West has a winning record against the east. In fact, only four teams in the entire conference (Seattle, Minnesota, L.A. Clippers and Memphis) have losing records against theEast. That means eleven of the fifteen have winning records against the lesser conference.

Want more stats? The point differential for five of the teams in the Eastern Conference is in the plus column. That means ten of the teams are being outscored this season. It's the opposite in the Western Conference, where ten of the teams have a positive point differential, and only five are in the red. In the East, the average point differential is -6.92, and that's including the Celtics and their +10.8 differential. In the West, the average is +0.99.

And if you care about points, well, in the Western Conference, eight teams average more than 100 points per game. In the east? Two. Western Conference teams average 100.85 points per game. In the East, that number is 96.79.

Maybe part of the problem is the length of the playoffs. More than half the teams that play in the NBA get into the playoffs every year. 30 teams, sixteen playoff spots. That means that teams that play terrible ball (i.e., ten games under .500) have a shot of getting in and maybe causing problems for better teams. If that weren't the case, it wouldn't matter how bad the lower seeds in the east are, because they're not going anywhere after April 16.

Let's compare this to other sports. In baseball, there are also 30 teams, but only eight of them make the playoffs. That's less than a third, compared to more than a half in the NBA. 32 teams in the NFL, and twelve make the playoffs. Still less than half. The only sport to compare it to is the NHL, where there are 30 teams, and sixteen of them make the playoffs. Would you want to be compared to the NHL in any way? I think not.

The Spurs head to Boston on Sunday to play against the Celtics for the first time this season. The game will be on ABC, and I can't say that I necessarily expect the Spurs to win. I expect them to play well, but Tony Parker is still out, and the Celtics can be a tough team. Despite all the hype that will be surrounding the best in the East facing the defending champs, I don't think this game will mean a whole lot either way. Obviously I'll be happy if the Spurs win, but this will be the seventh of nine games in a row on the road for San Antonio, so I wouldn't be surprised if they're a little sluggish. Besides that, Kevin Garnett hasn't played since January 25, and if he comes back at home to play against the reigning World Champions, he might have a monster game. Too many variables right now, so I'm just looking forward to watching a good game.

I don't have a conclusion to this, really. It just surprised me when I
started looking more closely at the standings. I like the Spurs, but I
don't have any particular Western Conference
pride or anything. I don't care whether the conference dominates or
not, as long as the Spurs continue to. But the disparity between the
conferences is fairly shocking. Obviously these things come in intervals, so, in theory, it will only be a few years until the Eastern Conference is on top again. It's just hard to believe that with the way things look right now.

And since every blogger on this network is a fan of a team in the Eastern Conference (Bulls, Sixers, Knicks, Nets, Pacers--wow, I'm really in the minority, huh?), I'm expecting some responses any minute now.




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Brian
DATE: 02/08/2008 02:14:06 PM

There's no argument to be had. The West is just a much stronger conference. It's kinda like the A.L. and the N.L. in that the National League has no hitting whatsoever and pitchers immediately look to flee to the N.L. because it's so much easier to pitch there.

The funny thing about the balance of power in the NBA is that teams from the East have won 2 out of 4 the past 4 championships. A lot of people thought the balance would shift to the East when Shaq came to Miami, but it never really happened.

It's self-perpetuating to a degree right now. To even have a chance in the West you have to have a solid squad out there, so the teams in the West are more willing to take chances and invest in players, in that sense a lot of the teams in the East are like small market baseball teams. Looking to save a buck and possibly build for the future.
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra
DATE: 02/11/2008 01:49:38 PM

The West just has more veteran teams than the East, not just talent. If you look at the East, what teams other than the Celtics and Pistons would you call a 'veteran squad'? Maybe New Jersey and....Washington?

Go to the West...San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix, LA, Denver, Houston, N.O (although Paul is young), Clippers, Kings, etc. are all veteran teams....In the NBA, veteran teams are going to be more consistent and win on a nightly basis.
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AUTHOR: Erin
DATE: 02/11/2008 01:56:16 PM

Yeah, I was watching the Wizards/Suns game last night (not because I was interested, but because I needed Brendan Haywood to score at least three points and get one steal, which he did) and they put up a list of the oldest teams in the NBA. The Spurs are number one, with an average age of, like, 31.6 or something. The Suns are second. The other three teams in the top five are all in the Western Conference (the Rockets were one of them, but I can't be certain about the other two).

Will the pendulum swing back to the east once all these "veteran" players start retiring? Or will the Western Conference teams, based on their successes, be able to attract younger free agents, thereby keeping that conference dominant?
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Good News?

UPDATE: Schilling's doctor doesn't think Schilling has a snowball's chance in hell to pitch this season, with or without surgery, but he thinks surgery is the best chance Schilling has to ever pitch again. Assuming Buchholz is limited in terms of innings, I hope Epstein has some contingency plans working. And I hope they don't involve putting this guy in the rotation. Ever.


Curt Schilling has announced on his blog that he will agree to the Red Sox trainers' less aggressive course of action and not have surgery, which means hopefully he'll be able to pitch at some point this season. And let me just say--of course he writes it on his own blog. The man loves everything about himself, so it must just make him positively giddy that places like ESPN and Sports Illustrated have to quote "38 Pitches" as a source (no, I will not link to it. It's not hard to figure out the address).

I guess the idea is that he will hopefully be able to pitch by the All-Star break. That makes things a little easier on the Sox, I suppose, since Buchholz will probably be on a little bit of a leash in terms of innings thrown, given that it will be his first full season in the majors. Who knows if Schilling will even be in shape when he comes back, or if his shoulder will ever really heal. This is truly a wait-and-see deal.

One more thing--look at that picture up there. Have you ever seen a paler group of people in your life? Look closely, and you can see through all of them to the Christmas tree behind.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bad News?

I woke up from my afternoon nap to find reports that Curt Schilling's shoulder is bad enough that it may end his career. According to these reports, in fact, it's so bad that the Sox have looked into voiding Schilling's contract. There's even a dispute between the team and Schilling regarding whether or not Schilling needs surgery (a doctor is recommending Schilling have surgery, which would make him unavailable for the season, and the Sox obviously would like to see a different course of action).

Theo Epstein isn't commenting, and neither is anyone from Schilling's camp, so this is all a lot of conjecture from people with sources at this point, but let's assume it's true.

It's no secret, I think, that I don't like Curt Schilling as a person. I think he's a pompous gas bag and I turn the channel whenever a program is going to show him doing anything other than pitching winning games for the Boston Red Sox. I do like what he's done for my team in recent years, but I was very worried about him last year. Somehow he managed to trick batters in the playoffs, and they never swung at the 80 mph stuff he was throwing up there. Every pitch made me nervous, though, and I couldn't imagine how he was going to make it through another season looking like that.

The Sox saw things differently, I guess, and decided Schilling was worth another year. They gave him a contract full of incentives, mostly relating to him being able to show up to games without his big, fat beer belly. So I thought maybe he had another year left in him. But I've still been not so confident about the guy.

And now this news, frankly, has me feeling a little good. I feel like it would be harder for the team to shut down Schilling once the season started and it turned out that he has nothing left. So maybe it's better to know that he won't be ready at spring training, and the Sox will have excuses for not parading him out there every fifth day.

Without Schilling, I think the Sox will be just fine. The rotation will have Beckett, Matsuzaka, Buchholz, Lester, and Wakefield. I'm expecting Matsuzaka to have a great sophomore season (much like Beckett did last season after he got used to the AL), Beckett will be masterful yet again, Buchholz will flat out dominate, Lester will be solid, and Wakefield will be a toss-up (but we're hoping for first-half of 2007 Wakefield). The bullpen is strong (no Gagne!), too, so I think the pitching staff will be just fine without Schilling hobbling around the clubhouse.

There will no doubt be a whole lot more news about this in the coming days, so I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Spring Training Preview

I know you think I've abandoned you in your time of need, but you're wrong. With nine days left until pitchers and catchers report to Vero Beach for the Dodgers, I have written up a spring training guide. Updates will follow when things get underway down in Florida. For now, enjoy the preview.

Oh, and renovations have been going on at Dodger Stadium for a few months now. The stadium should be looking pretty good by Opening Day, what with twice the number of restrooms and concessions, not to mention grilled Dodger Dogs at every stand. Sweet. I leave you with this picture, courtesy of John Soo Hoo and the Dodgers' team website. Something about it gets me even more pumped for the coming season. How about you?

Picture no longer exists.


COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra
DATE: 02/07/2008 08:12:29 AM

I have to admit, I laughed a little bit when I saw Juan Pierre leading off....I figured you'd move him down the lineup out of spite.
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AUTHOR: Erin
DATE: 02/07/2008 11:21:47 AM

Believe me, I toyed with the idea of putting him ninth, and giving the eighth spot to the pitcher. But, I figured this "projected lineup" title means I should put what I think the Dodgers will do. And, based on all the stubbornness of the last two years, I just find it hard to believe they would move the guy from his leadoff spot. I pray for it every night, but I can't quite see it happening.
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra
DATE: 02/07/2008 02:44:07 PM

maybe you are praying to the wrong God? (I'm sure Paine will now rant on in the next comment about which is the best God)
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Dodgers Vital Signs

By: Beantown West
Location: Holman Stadium - Vero Beach, FL
Pitchers and Catchers Report: Feb. 15th
First Game: Feb. 28th


Projected Opening Day Lineup

1. Juan Pierre (LF)
2. Rafael Furcal (SS)
3. Russell Martin (C)
4. Andruw Jones (CF)
5. Jeff Kent (2B)
6. Matt Kemp (RF)
7. James Loney (1B)
8. Nomar Garciaparra/Andy LaRoche (3B)
9. Brad Penny (SP)


Projected Rotation

1. Brad Penny
2. Derek Lowe
3. Chad Billingsley
4. Hiroki Kuroda
5. Jason Schmidt


Projected Bullpen

Long: Rudy Seanez, Hong-Chih Kuo, Esteban Loaiza
Situational: Joe Beimel
7th Inning: Scott Proctor
8th Inning: Jonathan Broxton
Closer: Takashi Saito



Key Battles: That projected lineup is assuming the Dodgers do what most knowledgeable fans don't want them to do, which is stick with last year's lineup (with the exception of Andruw Jones). But Juan Pierre shouldn't be batting leadoff, so I hope to see that lineup change dramatically by the time opening day rolls around.

And speaking of Pierre, the biggest questions for the Dodgers heading into spring training deal with the skinny centerfielder and Nomar Garciaparra. With the acquisition of Andruw Jones in the off-season, the team makes a big improvement in center, but the question now becomes-- what do with Juan Pierre? Most Pierre detractors (like me) believe he should be riding the pine all season, filling in when necessary. He had his chance to prove himself, he failed, let's move on. But, Ned Colletti and the Dodgers' front office aren't big on admitting their mistakes, so they might want Pierre to have more chance to prove he's worth the $50 million they are paying him. If Pierre does end up sitting more, Andre Ethier is willing and very able to play left field (so the lineup would change, since Ethier wouldn't bat leadoff). Ethier, Jones and Kemp is an outfield I can get behind.

Garciaparra is sort of the same story. We all know he's been a great hitter in the past, but age and injuries have caught up to him, and last year's performance was just plain terrible. Andy LaRoche seems to be healthy, and it would appear the Dodgers are actually going to give the kid a chance to win the spot in spring training. That's a big story right now, since Nomar is a fan favorite. He moved to third base to make room for James Loney last year, but the move to the bench is much bigger. Keep your eyes on this one.

The pitching rotation is likely set, with just differences in the order. I would put Chad Billingsley third, based on the numbers he put up last year, but I don't know how the powers that be see it. Schmidt has had plenty of time to recover from last season's injuries, but his health is obviously a major concern. No one wants to see Loaiza in the rotation, but Kuroda is an unproven, slightly old (33 when the season starts) player who has never seen action in this country. We have a strong Japanese pitcher in Saito, so let's hope we catch the same lightning in a bottle with Kuroda. If not, Loaiza can step in and be a terrible fifth starter. Lowe should be fine after his hip problem at the end of last year, and Penny is a workhorse, so we should expect more of the same from him.

Joe Torre is the new manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in case you hadn't heard. It's hard to know what impact that will have on the team. Torre has been a successful manager for the last decade, but is that attributed to the Yankees' talent (and payroll) or to his skills as a manager? I think this season will be a test for him, but I'll take anyone over Grady Little.

What to Expect: Controversy. No matter what happens with Pierre/Ethier and Garciaparra/LaRoche, there will be people upset. There will also be a lot of focus on Jason Schmidt, since his health (or lack thereof) will affect the rotation significantly. There's always one guy who surprises people in spring training, right? My money is on LaRoche. I think he'll be at third base on March 31. Plenty of other stories should be popping up in the next two months, and I, for one, can't wait to see what happens next.