What we'll be arguing about in 2010

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I’m not the biggest fan of “storylines” in the “what storylines will we be following . . .” sense. Stuff is going to happen on its own anyway, so taking too much time to frame the issues beforehand seems somewhat artificial to me.

But I’m obviously swimming against the tide here, because I’ve seen several “what to expect in 2010” stories already, so I may as well just give in and riff a bit. The bolded items are what MLB.com’s story thinks will be the big issues:

Roy Halladay vs. Cliff Lee: People will be talking it up all year, trying to figure out if the Phillies made the right “choice” between the aces. Almost everyone who talks about it, however, will neglect to mention that these were separate deals, and that if they really wanted to, the Phillies could have kept both of them and gone all-out for the pennant instead of fighting off the Braves or whoever all year.  False choice, is what I’m saying here.

See you at Target Field, and bring blankets: I’m tired of this one already. You’d think that they didn’t play outside baseball games in Minnesota for twenty freakin’ years before they built that monstrosity of a dome.  There will be some cold and icky Twins games in the early going. No more so than there will be cold and icky Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox, Cubs, Mets and Phillies games in April.

The Stephen Strasburg Show:  I think the most interesting question is about when he actually plays for the Nats. I’d be shocked if he actually broke camp with the team. You keep him down a few months so he can avoid Super Two status at least, right?  But if they do break camp with Strasburg because they think he’ll be a big draw, the big question is if the Nats will be smart and make him the second or third day starter instead of the Opening Day starter. Everyone comes to Opening Day anyway. If you’re going to use him as a gate attraction, wait pitch him on a random Wednesday against the Marlins.

Joe Girardi’s jersey:  This one is really about whether the Yankees can repeat. This sentence rocks the house: “Competitive balance is greater now than it was a decade ago, so it figures to be even harder.” Call me crazy, but I think there are some people who would disagree with that assertion.

Pujols finishes The Best Decade Ever. The article says “The Cardinals’ first
baseman enters his 10th season, and that will complete the best first
decade of Major League service by a position player.”  I hadn’t really considered that before, but I guess it’s true. Can Pujols keep it up? Or will he join this crowd of players who fell the farthest after ten seasons of excellence?

Cubs, cont’d. Are we really going to ask if the Cubs can break the 100+ year title drought when they (a) kind of stunk last year; and (b) their two biggest offseason acquisitions are Marlon Byrd and Carlos Silva?

There are some other storylines raised. The only really interesting one is whether we’ll see a changing of the guard in the AL West this year, with Seattle passing Anaheim. If the season started today I’d have to say yes. I’d even have to say that Anaheim might fall to third behind the Rangers.

But let’s just let it all unfold, OK?

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.