MLB Preview 2008

Louis SklenarikContributor IIIMarch 15, 2008

There is something wonderful about the start of baseball season. The grass has re-grown and been cut for the first time since October. The sharp, pointy spikes of cleats being dug into the ground by the players who have not stepped on the field for months. For everyone, it is a new chance. A time for players and fans to dream of winning a World Series. A time for young players learn about the new teams they have signed with for millions of dollars or been traded to. Time to forget last season, whether you were successful or not. It’s a new season. This is spring training. Let’s play baseball!               

Several key moves have been made this offseason that will most certainly effect the upcoming season. There is no division, in my eyes, that is more interesting than the AL East. This is a division that is followed by fans who constantly demand success from their beloved teams. As usual, the Red Sox and the Yankees battled to see who would spend more money. The Yankees mainly focused on re-signing their stars, some of whom were free agents. Despite the fact that Joe Torre left his long time team, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez all returned. The Yankees also attempted to trade for All-Star pitcher Johan Santana, but were unsuccessful. They decided Joe Girardi was the right man for the managing job over fan favorite Don Mattingly, who eventually left New York with Joe Torre and followed him to Los Angeles. The Red Sox made moves as well. They re-signed their All-Star third basemen Mike Lowell and also attempted to trade for former Twins ace Johan Santana. After coming close to a deal, they pulled out like the Yankees did. The Baltimore Orioles decided that they were going to begin rebuilding by trading away their franchise favorite shortstop Miguel Tejada and young, talented ace Erik Bedard. The Blue Jays felt they were going in the right direction with a very talented team and traded away Troy Glaus for Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen. Finally, the Tampa Devil Rays made a significant move: changing their name to the “Rays” and changing their logo. (Ha-ha!)         

No division made more moves than the AL Central. Cleveland, however, who won the division last year, made no moves at all. They will continue to try to win with the young talent they have, such as center fielder Grady Sizemore, shortstop Johnny Peralta and pitcher Fausto Carmona. The Detroit Tigers decided that finishing eight games out of first place and missing the playoffs was not acceptable. They first traded for shortstop Edgar Renertia. Then they traded for star third basemen Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis, in the biggest deal of this offseason. The White Sox had a very good offseason. They re-signed their right fielder Jermaine Dye to a long-term deal. They also traded for former Oakland slugger Nick Swisher and Anaheim’s Orlando Cabrera. The Twins did exactly the opposite, trading away their stars. They traded their best pitcher Johan Santana and let go of their best defender, Torri Hunter. They did receive one good player in return: Tampa’s young star Delmon Young. The Kansas City Royals will continue to build around their 55 million dollar investment Gil Meche and third basemen Alex Gordon.The AL West also made some key changes this offseason.  The Anaheim Angels signed All-Star center fielder Torri Hunter. They now have a stacked outfield with Hunter, Garret Anderson, and Vladimir Guerrero; possibly the best in baseball. Backing them up is another great player in Gary Matthews Jr. The Angels should be a force to be reckoned with come the regular season. The Mariners also made a great move this offseason trading for Baltimore’s Erik Bedard. The Athletics traded away slugger Nick Swisher, in a move that was confusing to many, for three prospects. The Texas Rangers signedformer Brewer Kevin Mench and made all-time strikeout leader Nolan Ryan their team president. 

Then we have the NL East, probably the best division in National League. First there are the Braves, who expect even more out of their star first baseman Mark Teixeira this year. They signed former Met Tom Glavine to a one-year contract, hoping he can still do for them what he did from 1987-2002.  Then you have the New York Mets, who made the offseason’s biggest acquisition by trading for former Twins ace Johan Santana. Santana will bring his Cy Young potential to the Mets, something they haven’t had since they signed Pedro Martinez in 2005. The Philadelphia Phillies acquired Brad Lidge from the Astros and signed slugger Geoff Jenkins. They also very quietly signed pitcher Kris Benson, a former Met. The Phillies are hoping that Ryan Howard can hit another 47 home runs and bring them a second straight NL East title. The Washington Nationals will move into a new stadium and are bringing some new stars with them. They acquired former Yankees pitcher Tyler Clippard, former Met Lastings Milledge and slugger Elijah Dukes from Tampa Bay. They also signed Aaron Boone, Odalis Perez and Paul Lo Duca, and re-signed Wily Mo Pena.  The Florida Marlins decided to let go of their young talent and traded away third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

Next there is the NL Central. The Milwaukee Brewers signed slugger Mike Cameron (who is suspended for the first 15 games of this season, due to a violation of league policy) and catcher Jason Kendall. They hope that Prince Fielder can continue to hit home runs and eventually lead them to an NL Central title. The Chicago Cubs are hoping to end their 99-year drought and win the World Series. They signed former Phillie Jon Lieber and Japan’s Kosuke Fukudome, who looks like another Hideki Matsui.  The Houston Astros traded for Orioles aging shortstop Miguel Tejada. They also signed young talent in Kazuo Matsui from the Rockies. The St. Louis Cardinals, who are only two years removed from winning a World Series, finally decided to deal away their injury prone players. They traded third baseman Scott Rolen to the Toronto Blue Jays for Troy Glaus. They also signed former Yankee workhorse Ron Villone.  The Pittsburgh Pirates signed injury prone Jaret Wright and utility outfielder Xavier Nady. They also decided to acquire some defense and signed first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. The Cincinnati Reds focused on re-signing their talented second baseman Brandon Phillips. By the end of the offseason they had done just that, signing him to a four-year deal. 

Lastly, there is the NL West. The Colorado Rockies, who had a magical run at the end of last season, re-signed their star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and also signed outfielder Scott Podsednik from the White Sox. They are hoping for another shot at winning the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers made a huge managerial change by hiring Joe Torre, who won over 1,000 games in New York with the Yankees. They also signed All-Star outfielder Andrew Jones. The San Francisco Giants finally cut all-time home run leader Barry Bonds. Bonds is still a free agent at this time. To replace him they signed CF Aaron Rowand. The San Diego Padres made a quiet trade for Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds. They also signed the injury prone Mark Prior.  The Arizona Diamondbacks made a very good trade for pitcher Dan Haren and signed Orlando Hudson.     

This should be a great MLB season, loaded with new players and new talent on every team. If I had to make my predictions now, I would pick the Detroit Tigers out of the American League and the Chicago Cubs out of the National League. I believe that by the end of this season the Detroit Tigers will be the 2008 World Series Champions. Good luck to all your favorite teams and have a great season!