MLB teams change while in critic’s unrelenting spotlight
Daniel Gallen, Managing Editor
May 21, 2009
Filed under Sports
The 2009 Major League Baseball season is shaping up to be one full of intrigue, drama, and suspense. With teams moving to new stadiums, marquee players getting injured, and the cloud of performance enhancing drugs hanging over the game, baseball will try to move forward and build on the 2008 season.
Much of the scrutiny will fall on the defending World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies and the runner-up Tampa Bay Rays.
The Phillies feel they can repeat, with their high-powered offense of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, but they recently ran into a minor hurdle as World Series MVP and staff ace Cole Hamels suffered from arm stiffness and is doubtful to start the April 5 season opener. Hamels’ situation has Phillies fans on edge due to his importance to the team’s success.
Tampa Bay is out to prove that their run to the World Series in 2008 was no fluke.
With phenom David Price expected to be a major asset to the pitching staff, the Rays look stronger than ever. They kept most of their lineup intact, while adding a big bat in leftfielder Pat Burrell, former member of the Phillies.
Both clubs face challenges within their divisions from the New York teams, the Mets and the Yankees.
The Mets underwent a massive offseason overhaul to prevent chocking down the stretch that has plagued the organization for the past two years. The front office felt that the problem was in the bullpen, and they signed relievers Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz to big money to remedy this situation.
The Yankees, after missing the playoffs for the first time since the strike-shortened1994 season, reloaded this offseason, signing pitchers CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and first baseman Mark Teixeira as part of a $423.5 million spending spree.
The team also had to deal with the Alex Rodriguez drama carrying over into the season, with the slugger admitting to using steroids, which became one of the most talked about stories of the MLB offseason.
The Yankees will attempt to rebound from the disappointing season to challenge the Rays and the Red Sox in the American League East.
Out west, the Los Angeles Dodgers were active on the free agent market as well, trying to make themselves into a legitimate contender. The Dodgers signed Casey Blake, Mark Loretta, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, and Manny Ramirez to bolster their offense and defense behind a depleted pitching staff.
The Ramirez signing is the most interesting, as it involved a five-month soap opera between the Dodgers, Ramirez, and agent Scott Boras.
Ramirez wanted lots of money and a long-term deal, which the Dodgers refused to give. Eventually, the two parties agreed to a two-year deal worth $45 million, giving the Dodgers a legitimate power bat in the middle of their lineup.
Closer to home, the Baltimore Orioles have positioned themselves to be future contenders. General manager Andy MacPhail locked up cornerstone outfielder Nick Markakis to a six-year contract extension and franchise second baseman Brian Roberts to a four-year extension.
With those two players, along with uber-prospect catcher Matt Wieters, Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara, and pitching prospects Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Tillman, the Orioles have constructed a young nucleus to build with towards the future.
The intrigue of the season runs deep. Can the Phillies repeat? Or will the spending power of the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox dominate the game as it has in the past? Stay tuned for the intrigue, drama, and suspense.