MLB Offseason Review

Hey everyone, Dan here.

Ever since the San Francisco Giants recorded the final out against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series last year, this date has just been flashing in my head…. April 5th… April 5th….

Despite the winter seeming to drag on forever, the Super Bowl is now over. And that means we are officially on the fast track to baseball’s opening day. But that’s not to say that the winter didn’t produce some real highlights. This was perhaps the most crazy, active, and wild offseason in baseball in the last 20 years. But who put themselves in the best position? Who gutted their team? It’s time for thefoulline.com’s official offseason review!

The Nationals Don’t Need Any More Pitching

So what do you do if you lead Major League Baseball in ERA and get knocked out of the postseason because you scored 9 runs in 4 games? You make upgrading your offense the goal of your offseason, right? Nah, you go out and give Max Scherzer $210 million. The Nationals go with the “you strengthen your strength” approach and it gives them the strongest MLB rotation since the 1995 Atlanta Braves. If they can get anything close to what Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman are capable of, Washington has to be considered the World Series favorite.

The Padres Want to Be Relevant Again

Finish last in the majors in runs? No problem. Add Matt Kemp? Check. Add Justin Upton? Check. Add Wil Myers? Check. The Padres GM gets a gold star for his offseason, taking big steps to rebuild this team and energize a franchise that hasn’t been interesting in a long time. The real kicker here is that they managed to completely rebuild their offense without giving up a single one of their top three prospects. New Padres GM AJ Preller looks to be a rising superstar in the GM ranks.

Cole Hamels Is Still a Phillie… For Now

I expect this to change. The Phillies have nothing to gain from keeping Hamels. They’re easily the worst team in that division, and it would serve them well to get Hamels’s contract off the books and bring in some young talent to fully start their rebuilding process. Add Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon to the list of Phillies players that need new homes in 2015. I still think the Hamels deal gets done. The Phillies will lower their price as the season approaches. Prediction? Hamels is pitching in Fenway Park in 2015.

Billy Beane Has Either Lost His Marbles, or He’s Five Steps Ahead of Everyone

So is Oakland trying to contend, or trying to rebuild? I’m lost here. They trade their best player, Josh Donaldson, for prospects, then turn around and flip their #1 prospect to Tampa Bay for Ben Zobrist. They sign Billy Butler for $30 million, but then flip away Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and Derrick Norris. I know Billy Beane has entered into the Bill Belichick territory of “trust him no matter what,” but even I can’t figure out what he’s doing. I think I’m gonna go watch Moneyball again.

The Red Sox Retool; the Rays Restock

The two best teams in the AL East in 2013 both tanked to the bottom of the division in 2014. The Red Sox rebuilt their entire rotation and the left side of their infield. I’m not a huge fan of Pablo Sandoval, but leaving AT&T Park can only be good for him. I think Hanley Ramirez loses a lot of his value moving away from shortstop, but there’s no debate, if he’s healthy, his bat will tear up Fenway Park. I don’t think the Red Sox are done. In a division that’s really up for grabs in 2015, a Cole Hamels trade could make the Red Sox favorites to take back the AL East crown.

The Rays dealt away several fan favorites, lost Joe Maddon and Andrew Freidman, and hired the youngest manager in the Major Leagues. But this was necessary. Tampa Bay went all out trying to win a World Championship in 2014, and it failed miserably. Now it’s time to get younger, rebuild the farm, and take a new approach to contending. This will be a down year for the Rays, but they’re not quite in full rebuilding mode yet.

What did your team do this offseason? Are they contenders or pretenders? Let us know what you think of how your team’s winter went. Spring training is right around the corner, and I think 2015 is going to be the best year at thefoulline.com in a long time.

Pitchers and Catchers report in 12 days!

2007 Red Sox year in review

Coming into spring training in 2007 the Boston Red Sox were a very different team than the one that finished in third place in the AL East. After a very disappointing 2006 season, the Sox made a huge splash in the free agency market, landing notable players Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, and the biggest prize, Dice K Matsuzaka. Boston had set a few goals in the offseason to improve team speed and starting pitching and bolster an inconsistent bullpen.

With a bunch of new players added to the roster, there were a lot of questions concerning the 2007 Red Sox in spring training. With Jonathan Papelbon set to join the starting rotation, the Red Sox had open tryouts for the closer position. Guys like Joel Piniero, J.C. Romero, and Mike Timlin all took their turns trying to close, all with out success. Curt Schilling came in to camp looking heavy and out of shape after an offseason of promoting his video game company. Josh Beckett was a question mark after his disappointing first season in the American League. Boston gave the starting second base job to an untested rookie in Dustin Pedroia, even after he failed miserably during his 2006 September call-up. Of course Manny was being Manny, going back and forth on wanting to play for the Red Sox. And it seemed like David Ortiz had something hurting from day one. It was hard to predict how this team would do. This was a team that had the potential the play in the World Series or suffer the same fate as the 2006 team.

We all know what happened next. The Red Sox jumped out to huge lead in the AL East behind some great early season pitching by their starters, and Jonathan Papelbon jumped back into his closer role. Even though new starters Lugo, Pedroia and Drew were struggling miserably the first months of the season, Terry Francona kept running these guys out there, giving them every chance to turn things around. Despite the poor performances by these players, the Sox kept winning, eventually increasing their lead in the AL East to a whopping 14 1/2 games over the New York Yankees.

There were times during this season that I really thought I was in Bizzaro World. Big Papi went from a home-run crushing powerhouse to an on-base percentage machine. Manny Ramirez stopped hitting home runs and seemed to ground into a thousand double plays. Mike Lowell went from a career .280 hitter to the Red Sox MVP and team leader in clutch hits and RBIs. Kevin Youkilis turned into the best defensive first baseman in the American League, committing zero errors at the position all year. And Japanese import Hideki Okajima went from Dice K’s security blanket to an All-Star set-up man.

Going into the All-Star break, the Sox had finally started to get some production from Pedroia and Lugo. Beckett was pitching the best baseball of his career and Boston was holding the best record in the major leagues. Then things began to change for the worse. Schilling’s lack of offseason conditioning finally caught up to him, landing him on the disabled list for six weeks. Manny strained his oblique muscle and began the longest oblique-muscle rehab in the history of baseball. The New York Yankees started playing great baseball, eventually cutting the Red Sox lead to 1 1/2 games.

All these things turned into a blessing in disguise. Without the injuries to Schilling and Ramirez, we may have had to wait another year before seeing rookies Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury take the league by storm. If the Sox didn’t get beat up by the Yankees at the end of the season, they may not have learned the resilience to never give up when the playoffs rolled around. With this team, it seemed like they seized every opportunity and dictated their own fate.

The Sox eventually won the AL East and with a healthy roster and the playoffs starting, the Red Sox looked to be a team of destiny. They buzzed through the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, sweeping them in three games behind the pitching of Beckett and the offensive rebirth of Big Papi and Man-Ram. In the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, it was time to jump on Beckett’s back again. It was also time to put our faith in the future as Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Youkilis carried the offense, helping Boston to rally from a 3-games-to-1 deficit and advance to the World Series.

In the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, it was men against boys. Boston got solid contributions from every player in the lineup. Every game someone new stepped up to be the hero for the Red Sox, eventually leading to a four-game sweep and the second World Series title in four years.

The Boston Red Sox came into the 2007 season full of question marks. Would Manny be back? Who would be the closer? Will Dice K live up to expectations? Could Boston finally dethrone the Yankees? As these questions were eventually answered, a new one popped up.

How many World Series can the Red Sox win in a row?