Monday, April 14, 2008

Season Preview Part One - AL North

Welcome to the first in a series of division previews. This year we start with the AL North, because, well they're on the top of the standings page. For each division I'll give you predictions, strengths and weaknesses, and a little bit of history including the reason for each team's name. If you're wondering how I know why they were named, well, I don't. In most cases I'll be completely inventing that for your enjoyment. Hopefully I don't offend anyone in the process. If I do, hopefully you're not one of the handful of owners that knows where I live :-)

Rochester Rockets
History - Rochester, NY is actually the southern most home of this storied franchise. The franchise was founded by welsh5 in Toronto. They briefly played in Fargo as the Fargin' Idiots under evancan. Unfortunately a legal battle related to franchise succession caused the team to be put up for sale. ewd won the team at auction for a fraction of its true value. Since acquiring the team, ewd has won the North every season, 3 times winning 114 or more games and culminating in a trip to the World Series last year.

The Rockets were named for ewd's favorite college football team, the Toledo Rockets. Why is Toledo his favorite team? He won $20 on the 1995 Las Vegas Bowl when the Rockets edged Nevada 40-37.

Strengths - There may be no team in Second City with the offensive firepower of the Rockets. Ventura (68 HRs), Mateo (64), Padilla (44), Greer (39), and Lee (33) all return and have the ability to hit it out of the yard. They aren't afraid to run either, Jenkins (63 of 67), Lewis (53 of 62), and Fischer (34 of 35) steal bases like kmueller eats kabobs. They will scores runs in bunches so you better be ready to hit back.

Weaknesses - They're not great with the gloves. Jenkins made 28 errors @ SS last year, but that's just nit-picking. The real concern is the staff. Nobody in that rotation scares you, but they're plenty good with that offense behind them.

- 1:2 to win the division, 3:1 to win the pennant - the odds on favorites to win both the division and the league, they will continue to club their way through the AL.

Vancouver Jets
History Vancouver is an original franchise, having played in Vancouver from the very start. The franchise hit its low-point in Season 7, going 62-100. While they've never reached the playoffs, the Jets are aiming for a turnaround.

The Jets are named for the hockey team that played in Winnipeg. Owner hcohenmb, a known Canadian sympathizer, was so shocked when he heard the Jets were leaving Winnipeg to head west, he only assumed they'd be headed to Vancouver, making it hockey's first 2-team market in the Canada. Alas, the Jets went to Phoenix (now the Coyotes). This franchise makes his dream come true.

Strengths - 1B Miguel Machado, 3B Nolan Sweeney and C/DH Allen Villone are all quality hitters that carry an average offense. The pitching staff is full of quality veterans but lacks a true leader.

Weaknesses - This team lacks star power. While 14 players make $1M or more, no player makes over $6.8M and it shows. Help may be on the way though; future ace Winston Silvestri reached AAA last season and is almost ready to contribute. Fellow season 6 1st rounder Graham Reynolds is hot on his tail. The two should form the core of a solid rotation in season 9. Wilfredo Moraga is the big position prospect, but he's a couple years away.

Odds - 15:1 to win division, 150:1 to win the pennant - the young pitchers aren't quite ready to carry this team.

Cincinnati Great Americans
History - Cincyredlegs is the 7th owner in 8 seasons of this franchise. The team has never made the playoffs but has finished 2nd three times. The franchise seems to gravitate toward Ohio with 3 different owners choosing to make Cincy their home and a fourth locating the team in Cleveland.

While the Reds play in Great American ballpark, the franchise is actually named for a long-lost relative of Cincy, Captain William S. Tough. Read his story here:
Despite the reputation - cincy considers Cpt. Tough to be a GREAT AMERICAN

Strengths - This squad is full of above average hitters including future stars, 22-year old Manny Corey and 23-year old Roosevelt Gilkey. A cadre of young middle infielders drafted over the past 3 years promise to improve both the lineup and the defense in the near future.

Weaknesses - Grover Little and Alex Bautista lead an ok staff that's been punished by a porous defense and hitter-friendly ballpark.

Odds -
4:1 to win the division, 25:1 to win the pennant - young hitting and defense will start to pick up the pitching.

Montreal Clouseaus
History - After winning division titles in seasons 1-3 playing out of Detroit, a furious sportsnut threatened to move the franchise following 2nd place, wild card finish in Season 4. After being convinced to stay by city authorities, sportsnut missed the playoffs and left Second City forever.
The Clouseaus are named, as you might presume, for Inspector Clouseau, of the Pink Panther series. The Inspector is of course French, as is the culture in Montreal. This is all very creative, but what you don't know is that Clouseauss owner Jackster89's 2nd cousin Leonard Rossiter actually played Superintendent Quinlan in The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976).

Strengths - Slugging C Brad Banks (58 HRs) leads the offense along with Mitchell Hammonds. Moose Gates and JR Milton head the rotation and stopper Carl Brooks (222 career saves) anchors the pen.

- Depth and defense are issues. There's only one true SS on the roster and he can't hit. Five Rule V selections (3 from the Sioux Falls Dakota) are an attempt to address the issue but the minor league system requires similar additions. Most of the top picks the past 3 seasons have been high schoolers, so while there's talent, it's not all that close to helping the big league squad.

Odds -
10:1 to win division, 100:1 to win the pennant. Consistent ownership could turn this club around fairly quickly.

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