Cliff Lee stayed true to himself and signed with the Phillies, spurning more money to go to a place he and his family felt comfortable (and it didn’t hurt that they are the odds-on-favorite the be the Pennant Winners in 2011). So, if you want to argue who has the best starting rotation in baseball, it would be hard to envision a Top Four any better than Halliday, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels. For me, it conjurs up memories of the 1971 Baltimore Orioles whose Top Four went an incredible 81-31!
All four pitchers won 20 or more games. If you remember, it was Mike Cuellar (20-9), Pat Dobson (20-8), Dave McNally (21-5) and Jim Palmer (20-9). The Phillies quartet is capable of doing that well. On paper, they look hard to beat. But remember, the game is not played “on paper,” and let’s not forget that 3/4 of that rotation is in their Mid-thirties.
Before we all throw in the towel to the Phillies, just remember a few years ago when the Giants gave a sililar contract to one Barry Zito. I’m not saying Lee will be Zito, but I think we should probably go ahead and play out the 2011 season,
Here’s a fact: the Dodgers have some question marks for 2011, but the starting rotation is not one of them. The Dodgers have 6 to 8 options for starting pitchers and I feel that they are looking good in the relief pitching department as well. Most likely, the rotation will be Kershaw, Billingsley, Kuroda, Lilly and Garland – not a bad 1-5! The Dodgers also have Vicente Padilla and John Ely as well as Carlos Monasterios (who is probably headed to AAA, but also fared very well as a reliever last year).
The Bullpen has to be better than last year. With Kuo and Jansen in the pen, we have two young guys who were nearly unhittable last year (you say Kuo’s arm could fall off? So could yours!). Belisario is a question mark because of his erratic season last year, but his stuff is filthy and if his head is on right (and he can get a Visa), he can be a real asset. Jon Broxton is another big question mark, so big that I just wish they would trade him already (and that was not “tongue-in-cheek” like what I wrote about Russ Martin yesterday.
Just so you know, I have an autographed Russ Martin photo on my desk, a Russ Martin bobblehead, a signed Russ Martin baseball and a Russ Martin Poster on the wall of my man cave. My son has the same stuff in his room. However, the Dodgers were right in non-tendering him and letting him walk. He was a big question mark and not worth the risk – maybe someday he’ll return. I know many people are putting it on Torre, but I just don’t buy that. Look at Johnny Bench’s statistics. He played as many games a year over an extended period of time (not just 3 years), as Martin, so I don’t think it’s reasonable to blame it on Torre. Bench played like that for about 10 years. Maybe it was something he took at the beginning of his career (I’m not alleging anything), but you never know…
Back to the issue at hand: Vicente Padilla is slated for the pen and make no mistake about this: VICENTE PADILLA HAS CLOSERS STUFF! Let’s not discount the possibility that Rubby De La Rosa could see activity out of the pen. Scott Elbert showed his promise in the AFL and could be a LH specialist out of the pen. Ramon Troncoso suddenly “lost” his sinker. Can he get it back? Leach, Link are Schlichting are all capable of fitting in, but you never know. This is a question mark. Blake Hawksworth is a question mark as well. What will he do? Then there’s the newest Dodger, Matt Guerrier who has been a successful set-up man. Can he keep it up? The Dodgers are paying him big bucks. That’s a question mark.
On offense, there are many question marks. Let’s start at 1B. Can James Loney become the player Logan White thinks he is capable of being (.300/25 HR/100 RBI) or is he a classic underacheiver? At 2B, can Juan Uribe be even better than last year or will he be a bust? That’s another question mark.
If healthy, Rafael Furcal could be a TOP 10 MVP candidate, or a complete bust, and at 3B, does Casey Blake have anything left or is he toast? If the Dodgers sign Bill Hall, LF could be good for a combined 50 HR with a Hall/Gibbons platoon or it could be complete bust. Maybe Gwynn plays CF and Kemp moves to RF and Ethier to LF and Gwynn wins a Gold Golve in CF or maybe he’s a complete bust. The outfield is a question mark.
Another question mark is at Catcher. Can Barajas, Ellis or Navarro be anything to write home about? Could catcher be a strength… or a weakness? Boy, I have no clue. I s Beltre on the radar? Hummmmmmm….
The 2011 Dodgers could be very good or average (not bad). It will be interesting to see what happens. This team could win 81 games or 101 games. I also have a feeling that the deals are not over. Watch and see!
P.S. Why sign AAA quality players? Here’s why: Guys like Juan Castro, catcher JD Closser and Eugenio Velez probably won’t make the Big Team next year, but they are insurance and in Castro’s case, he is probably promised a position in the Dodgers’ organization if he doesn’t make the team. The main factor is that AAA teams have fans and to put “butts in seats” you have to have a viable product (i.e., players who can play). A few years ago in Indianapolis, the Indians (AAA affiliate of the Brewers) had Corey Hart, Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy, Bill Hall and a plethora of players who made the big show, but the team wasn’t great because they had no AAA vet players who can put on a show for the fans but aren’t good enough for the Big Club. The AAA affiliates have to sell tickets too and make a profit and it’s up to the Big Club to gibe them to players to do that. Nothing more, nothing less!