Sunday, February 05, 2006

FROM THE RED STATES...

Ok, since my posts on the blog have been few and far between the last few weeks since I have started school once again, and since they have been preoccupied with the Bears run into the playoffs, and their going up in flames almost before it even started, and with the Illini's choke job last night, I felt it was time to talk a little baseball.

Spring training is just around the corner, and I am starting to get the jones' for one of those Albert Pujols moon shots and Chris Carpenter sinking fastballs. I love the Bears and the Illini, but I am in love with the Cardinals, as they were and always will be my first love, sportwise that is.

I must say I have mixed feelings about the off season this year. I was expecting a huge spending spree with the Cardinals new stadium and all, only to find that Walt Jocketty was doing everything short of seperating two ply toilet paper into two roles to save money. Especially after the ridiculous ammounts of money being thrown around at mediocre players such as A.J. Burnett and Kevin Millwood. I'm not sure what to make of the Cardinals moves this off season, in Walt I Trust and he seems to be a genius at managing a baseball budget and finding the bargains that are available. My two predictions for those bargains this year are second baseman Junior Spivey, and pitcher Sidney Ponson.

Junior Spivey has been an All-Star before and his career OBP is a respectable .354, which should increase if LaRussa does as I suspect he will, and place Spivey in the two hole right after Eckstein and right before Pujols. The advantage of batting in front of Pujols did wonders for players such as Vina and Womack, although they were lead off hitters I expect the same results for Spivey. My concerns are with his health which has been suspect at best the past few seasons, and his defense. I am most concern with his glove because the Cardinals are exclusively ground ball pitchers and are depending on a solid infield defense, and the ability of the infielders to turn double plays, which they did last season at a record setting pace.

I also suspect the Cards will find a bargain in Sidney Ponson. I'm not sure why, I guess I just have a soft spot in my heart for guys that have struggled with things such as alcohol. I have faith that Dave Duncan can turn around the career of Ponson much in the same way he did for guys like Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, and Todd Stottlemyre. Ponson has had some good years with a bad Orioles team until his struggles, and I suspect that if he can stay off the sauce, stay out of jail, and listen to the tutoring of Duncan he can have a big year, or atleast a decent year, and for what the Cardinals are paying him it won't take much to get their money's worth. It's a no lose situation as far as I'm concerned, if he wins great, if he shows up half in the tank and goes to jail 7 or 8 times while in St. Louis then we just get rid of him and were not out much.

As far as the other moves I like Encarnacion a little bit and suspect he will give us about what we got out of Sanders, so I call that a wash. The other outfield slot is up in the ait but as long as that outfielder plays solid defense I think we will score enough runs to win. A lot of people say the Cards will miss Larry Walker, which I suppose is true but we were winning just fine in 2004 before Larry came on board and won just fine when he was out with an injury last year.

The rotation is solid from 1-4 with Carpenter, Mulder, Suppan, Marquis and look for a good battle between rookie Anthony Reyes and Ponson for the 5th spot. The pen is decent with Interestinghause who has Cardinals fan buying up the Maalox in mass quantities but he usually gets the job done. I like that we got rid of Ray "Burger" King and Tavarez and think the additions of Rincon and Looper can fill those roles. Nelson adds depth and a veteran who has won before. I call the pen a wash compared to last season.

As far as the Cubs are concerned I like the addition of Pierre at the top of the order. I think the questions for the Cubs will be health (as usual) and will Derreck Lee have even half the season he had last season? If the pitchers get healthy and stay that way, and last year was not a fluke for Lee then I expect the Cubs to be serious contenders for the division.

So this leaves me with my predictions, so here goes and remember I suck at sports predictions but I will give it a shot anyway...

NL Division Winners: Cardinals, Dodgers, and Braves (I went to pick the Mets but the Braves always seem to find a way to win the East and who am I to pick against 14 years in a row).

NL Wild Card: Mets, I think the Cubs will contend and expect Lee to have a good year but I think Ramiraz will be hurt (as usual) and teams will pitch around Lee down the stretch and the Cubs offense will go in the tank and the Cubs will come up just a little short.

AL Division Winners: Yankees, White Sox, Angels

AL Wild Card: Cleveland Indians, I think the Red Sox have lost quite a bit and really have done nothing to replace them. Beckett gets hurt and they rely on Clement down the stretch and that spells doom.

World Series: Cardinals and Yankees, the two winningest franchises in baseball history will meet up in the fall classic and the Cardinals will win 4-2. Hey if Mike can predict MSU to win the Big 10, I can pick the Cards to win the World Series.