With the abnormally warm weather outside Tuesday afternoon, and my XM radio set on the MLB Home Plate station, I couldn't help but begin wishing baseball season was already here. Not that I'm not enjoying the great action of the local high school athletics at the moment, but something about the smell of the fresh-cut grass and the feeling of spring just brightens the day.
The MLB season is still months away, and the winter meetings have just passed, but there is plenty of discussion flying around the air waves. I'll just delve into the off-season for a few moments, so bear with me.
Let's begin with everybody's favorite, the Cardinals. The National League Central was a bust last season, and this year, it looks like the beloved, I mean, hated Cubbies may have the slight edge over everybody in the division.
Breaking news came in on the radio as I traveled home from the Oran/ East Prairie boys game Tuesday night, that the Chicago Cubs had reached an agreement with Kosuke Fukudome to play right field, in an alleged four-year, $48 million deal. Add him to the mix with Alfonso Soriano, arguably the best all-around player in the NL, and Felix Pie, an up and coming star, not to mention Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, whom I've dubbed the "Cardinals Killer", and there's a pretty smoking-hot lineup just waiting for the post-
season. That's right, I said postseason and Cubs in the same paragraph.
It gets a little more hairy for the Cardinals, as the Astros recently acquired Kazuo Matsui to go along with sluggers Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and a roster full of other great players including Hunter Pence and Luke Scott. The pitching staff is a little dwindled down, but we'll have to wait and see what they can add to the mix.
The "Brew-Crew", aka the Brewers, just picked up closer Eric Gagne and catcher Jason Kendall to bolster their roster. Drop in Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun to the starting lineup, take your pick with hurlers Chris Capuano, Yovanni Gallardo and Claudio Vargas and there's a pretty stout roster in front of your eyes in Milwaukee too.
The Cardinals' counter to all of this, Cesar Izturis and Adam Kennedy up the middle. Sure, they have Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds, but with questions at third base with Scott Rolen and several outfield spots, the ole' Redbirds have a pretty big hill to climb. Not to mention, the horrible starting rotation that is returning. Who's not hurt? Johan Santana's not hurt, but he's not a Cardinal. Too bad. Hopefully they'll open the checkbook up and start shelling out some change to some players that can give something to the fans who fill the seats night-in and night-out.
In the American League, there's been a lot of rumored talk about the Minnesota Twins' Santana lately, but as it looks now, he may end up in the Red Sox Nation. I'm not going to go into that one, as I'm at the top of the "I dislike the Red Sox because..." list. I could write for days on that one, but if they would happen to sign him, in addition with Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and the rest of their starters, they would be pretty difficult to win a division against. With Dustin Pedroia, Manny Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon thrown in there, it's all kinds of havoc for other teams, including my New York Yankees.
I hear you booing.
The new Steinbrenner era is beginning with sons Hank and Hal, and the recently vacated manager's spot of Joe Torre had me a little worried. Torre is reason enough, along with Sikeston's very own Blake DeWitt, to start watching the LA Dodgers. (DeWitt will be there before you know it. Keep watching.)
Back to the Yanks. The new operating owners made it a point to re-sign Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best player of all-time, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada this off-season. Add the young talent in Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in the pitching staff, and the captain, Derek Jeter, and it's going to be quite a fight for the AL East once again.
If new skipper Joe Girardi can keep the storm quiet in the locker room, and can put up with the Steinbrenner clique, then things could go well in the Big Apple once again this season. Also, don't count out the Yanks on the Johan Santana deal just yet. With the prospects they have, it's very possible he could be in pinstripes next season, instead of Beantown. It's also possible that the Red Sox were just getting in the mix, to play keep-away from the Yankees.
All that said, we've got a lot to look forward to, including warmer weather, so for now, feel free to just sit back, relax and take in some of the great high school athletics that the area has to offer. But, mark it on your calendar, Opening Day is just over 100 days away, March 30, 2008. We'll have to wait and see what the season holds.