Yesterday, was a HUGE day for me. Everyone has their own definition of when the baseball season starts. Some say it isn't until the first pitch of Opening Day, some people say it is when Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training, and some people say that the baseball season starts when there isn't any snow left on the ground. But for me, the baseball season officially starts when I hold the first official Baseball Season Preview in my hands.
I now hold The Sporting News 2009 Baseball Preview in my hands and it is beautiful. Spring is officially here and I am endlessly happy. Over the next couple of months I will spend about $50 indulging my baseball addiction. I still have to buy the Beckett Baseball Preview (awesome despite its dozens of spelling and grammatical errors), the ESPN Magazine baseball Preview, the 2009 Baseball Prospectus, the Regional Baseball Preview and the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview. I can't wait! Now onto the other thing I know you want to hear about.
I hate talking about steroids so I will be brief.
Alex Rodriguez took anabolic steroids. I am admittedly fairly surprised but I am not upset. Many people have said throughout the week that they wouldn't be surprised if anyone's name came up. But I was.
I have a hard time being outraged when it is clear that steroids are a prevalent part of global sports everywhere you look. I suppose I should be upset that the Home-run record will be "tainted" for the foreseeable future but I am not. Records have been "tainted" for as long as records have existed. Everybody changes and everybody cheats: athletes, accountants, journalists, managers, construction workers, priests, everybody.
There hasn't been an untainted record in baseball since the game was invented. Ruth played in an era in which only white men could play. Maris played in an era in which seasons were longer. Aaron played in an era where the nature of hitting was inherently changing. And now Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez are playing in an era where performance enhancing drugs are prevalent, accepted by the culture of baseball and easy to obtain.
In a way, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds are the absolute poster children to represent this era of baseball in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Who better to represent the Steroid Era of baseball than steroid users themselves? Baseball cannot deny that it happened, especially since it did nothing to prevent it.
But Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds probably won't make the Hall of Fame and I just can't help but think that is a little backwards.
Now onto happier things.
Here is my final review of the entire NL off-season. Obviously, there are still a lot of players yet to be signed. But I am tired of letting the poor economy effect timing of this blog post. So here it is in all its glory. I listed only the additions and subtractions to and from the 25-man rosters and did not record any re-signings that teams made. The result may not be COMPLETE, but I like to think that it is fairly accurate.
Atlanta BravesAdditions - Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, David Ross, Javier Vazquez
Subtractions - John Smoltz, Mike Hampton
Result - D The Braves have had a turbulent off-season, so much so that I was surprised to see that they had only added 4 to their Major League players to their rosters. In the end, Atlanta added some talent to their Starting Rotation about B- to B talent-wise but the money that it took to get that talent was about Quadruple F-.
Florida MarlinsAdditions - Leo Nunez, Emilio Bonafacio, Scott Proctor
Subtractions - Scott Olsen, Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham, Joe Nelson
Result - B Marlins off-seasons must always be looked at through different lenses than every other team. They are in a perpetual state of payroll reduction and they did a fairly decent job of pruning the areas they could while keeping the essentials and even adding to their bullpen at the end of the day. Marlins fans should be hoping that Emilio Bonafacio starts at 2B, pushing Uggla to 1B and Cantu to 3B.
New York MetsAdditions - Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia, Francisco Rodriguez, J.J Putz, Alex Cora, Sean Green, Jeremy Reed
Subtractions - Scott Schoeneweis, Joe Smith, Endy Chavez, Aaron Heilman, Pedro Martinez
Result - A- Everybody and their mother knew the Mets needed to revamp their bullpen. They may have technically overpaid for Francisco Rodriguez but the market for closers has been inflated for a while now. It seems questionable to dump Schoeneweis, Smith and Heilman but I respect Omar Minaya's decision to go with a completely clean slate. Green, Putz and K-Rod are more than capable of holding down the late innings. Redding and Garcia were good bargains and the Mets get a high grade because Ollie Perez's deal doesn't factor into my rankings because he is technically a re-sign by the Mets. The Mets are lucky he was or their grade from me would have been significantly lower.
Philadelphia PhilliesAdditions - Raul Ibanez, Chan Ho Park, Ronny Paulino
Subtractions - J.C Romero (Kind of), Pat Burrell
Result - C+ Can you believe how ridiculous $33 million for Raul Ibanez looks now. I'd take Burrell or Dunn instead any day of the week for less money. Not having Romero for 50 games is going to hurt more than they think. The defending World Champs spent most of the off-season locking down their core and there is nothing wrong with that, but defending World Champs or not, they had flaws and they did not fix them all this off-season.
Washington NationalsAdditions - Scott Olsen, Josh Willingham, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Dunn
Subtractions - Chad Cordero, Emilio Bonafacio, John Patterson, Tim Redding, Aaron Boone
Result - B I am surprised how little they had to give up for Olsen and Willingham. With Olsen and Daniel Cabrera, you have to be reasonably satisfied with the additions to the rotation, Lord knows they needed them. They obviously over-paid for Adam Dunn, but hey, they're the Nationals. Sometimes they have to overpay. Plus, Adam Dunn rocks! Losing everyone they lost (aside form Bonafacio) really won't hurt them.
Chicago CubsAdditions - Aaron Miles, Milton Bradley, Aaron Heilman, Luiz Vizcaino, Kevin Gregg
Subtractions - Kerry Wood, Bob Howry, Jason Marquis, Mark DeRosa, Jim Edmonds
Result - D+ What were they doing? It's not that the Cubs off-season was TERRIBLE, it was just confusing. They moved parts that they didn't need to move (DeRosa) and completely revamped the most successful aspect of their team (bullpen). And everyone in the world but Jim Hendry knows that Milton Bradley was a bad signing. I just don't understand what they were trying to do this off-season.
Cincinatti RedsAdditions -Ramon Hernandez, Willy Taveras
Subtractions - Ryan Freel, Jeremy Affeldt
Result - C- Speaking of confusing...why give up Affeldt over $4 million a year? Why overpay for Taveras when you had a better version in Freel. Actually, why give up Freel in the first place? When the Orioles don't want Ramon Hernandez, you shouldn't either. The Reds get a slightly higher grade than the Cubs because they didn't dismantle a successful team for no reason. They merely tried to improve their team and just happened to do a poor job of it.
Houston AstrosAdditions - Mike Hampton, Aaron Boone, Jason Michaels
Subtractions - Ty Wigginton, Reggie Abercrombie
Result- C- Ewwwww. Their is not one Astros fan who can be happy about "getting" Aaron Boone and Jason Michaels. Take it from an Indians' fan: "J-Mike" and "Booney" are not worth the roster spots in a weak economy. Hampton could actually end up being a shrewd signing though. Wigginton is alright, but if the Astros had to pay him, they made the right choice in letting him skip town.
Milwaukee BrewersAdditions - Jorge Julio, Trevor Hoffman, Braden Looper
Subtractions - CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Eric Gagne, Salomon Torres, Guillermo Mota
Result - F+ Oh God, what is Doug Melvin doing. You can't fault them for losing out on the CC sweepstakes. No one but the Yankees really had a shot in this economy and the Brew Crew knew they really only had about a 5% shot of re-signing him. Gagne and Mota won't be missed but Torres will be...not that the Brewers made that decision. Here is what I don't understand though: if you have $100 million to throw down for CC, why don't you have $15-30 million to resign lifetime Brewer Ben Sheets. Jorge Julio and Trevor Hoffman were AWFUL signings. The Brewers might not actually be terrible in '09 (I think their rotation can certainly sneak up on people) but their off-season was terrible, regardless of a last minute Braden Looper signing or not.
Pittsburgh PiratesAdditions - Eric Hinske
Subtractions - Ronny Paulino
Result - C They signed Eric Hinske and traded Ronny Paulino. It is even worth the time to write about this off-season? The better question is: will anyone in Pittsburgh actually pay to see this team in 2009?
St. Louis CardinalsAdditions -Khalil Greene, Royce Ring
Subtractions - Aaron Miles, Cesar Izturis, Tyler Johnson, Braden Looper, Russ Springer, Adam Kennedy
Result - D+ I am a big supporter of trimming the fat off the roster, but I think the Cards dropped some good players while doing so...and some how also manage to add some (figurative, of course) fat to the roster. Why axe your entire middle-infield if it means you have to trade for Khalil Greene? Aaron Miles and Cesar Izturis weren't hurting anybody. Brian Fuentes would have been an excellent fit...Royce Ring isn't. Among Tyler Johnson, Braden Looper and Russ Springer, you have to keep one of those guys.
Arizona DiamondbacksAdditions - Tom Gordon, Jon Garland, Scott Schoeneweis, Felipe Lopez
Subtractions - Orlando Hudson, Randy Johnson, Adam Dunn
Result - C- It is tought to criticize the D-Backs too hard because it is clear they are undergoing financial issues...but I am going to do so anyway. Jon Garland was a good pick-up and losing Randy Johnson isn't going to hurt but my God, how can you lose Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson when the only other lefty in the line-up is Stephen Drew? Dunn signed for $20 million and if O-Dawg signs for $10 million or less, Arizona should be kicking themselves. Not spending money when you don't have it isn't a crime, but the Diamondbacks can't expect to seriously compete in 2009 if their only hope is that the young talent develops.
Colorado RockiesAdditions - Carlos Gonzalez, Alan Embree, Greg Smith, Matt Murton, Huston Street, Jason Marquis
Subtractions - Matt Holliday, Luiz Vizcaino
Result - A- I am still shocked that Colorado got what they did for Holliday when everyone already knew that the Rockies had to get rid of him regardless. Billy Beane was in a generous mood. The object for a small-market team is always to get younger and cheaper. I think the Rox did that and did it in a way so that they can still compete in 2009. I am still not sure why they thought they had to have Jason Marquis though.
Los Angeles DodgersAdditions - Guillermo Mota, Mark Loretta, Randy Wolf
Subtractions- Manny Ramirez, Takashi Saito, Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Andruw Jones
Result - C- Most of the Dodgers big moves were re-signees so they don't factor into their grade. The Dodgers didn't shock the world with any other their signings, but they didn't hurt their team either. I think the only one they are going to regret is Mark Loretta (Seriously, why sign Casey Blake-lite when you already have Casey Blake?). You can't fault them for saying goodbye to Saito, Lowe and Jones but I am flabbergasted that they didn't give Brad Penny another go if all it took was a 1 year, incentive-laden deal. If the Dodgers get Manny for anything less than the 1 year, $25 million they offered than their grade will dramatically go up.
San Diego PadresAdditions - David Eckstein, Cliff Floyd
Subtractions - Josh Bard, Khalil Greene, Trevor Hoffman, Michael Barrett, Randy Wolf
Result - D "SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL" These words should be posted all over Petco Park and the Padres executive facilities. This team is terrible and it isn't getting better any time soon. Got rid of Bard? Good. Got rid of Greene? Good. Got rid of Hoffman? Good. Got rid of Barrett? Good. Got rid of Wolf? Good. Signed David Eckstein and Cliff Floyd? OH MY GOD, WHAT IS KEVIN TOWERS FREAKING DOING?
San Francisco GiantsAdditions - Edgar Rentaria, Randy Johnson, Bob Howry, Jeremy Affeldt
Subtractions - Rich Aurilia
Result - B+ This was an absolute gem of an off-season...until Edgar Rentaria came in and ruined everything. I wouldn't sign Edgar Rentaria for half a year at the veteran minimum, and Brian Sabean thought he was worth two full years and $18 million. Booooo!
Well, that is the NL. Congratulations to Adam Dunn on getting $20 million when I thought he was destined for one year, $8 0r 9 million.