Wilson Opening Day

The HardballTalk Season Preview

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Opening Day is upon us.  Well, one of them anyway. We had one in Japan last week. And then the Cardinals-Marlins game and then more staggered Opening Days across Thursday and Friday. It’s all a conspiracy, you know. The red, white and blue decorative bunting industry and its high-powered lobbyists are what made that happen. More “Opening Days” means more of those banners and that means more money for Big Bunting. Alas.

But baseball is back, and that’s good. And to hold you over until the Cardinals and Marlins face off, here are links to all 30 of HardballTalk’s Springtime Storyline posts.  Read all of these and you’ll be able to talk intelligently about every team in the game.

Unless the predictions are all wrong, of course. In which case this will still be useful as a quick-reference for our collective ignorance and folly.  We believe, however, that we did a pretty darn good job with these.

AL EAST

Are the Yankees the best team in baseball?

Does anyone remember that the Boston Red Sox were really good last year?

Do the Tampa Bay Rays have the best rotation in baseball?

Have Toronto Blue Jays brought in enough help for Jose Bautista?

Can Dan Duquette lead the Orioles out of the wildnerness?

 

AL CENTRAL

Can anyone in the AL Central beat the Detroit Tigers?

Will the Cleveland Indians build on last season or take a step backward?

Are the Kansas City Royals finally ready to contend?

Are the Chicago White Sox rebuilding or contending?

Can the Minnesota Twins get back on track after 99 losses?

 

AL WEST

Can the Rangers win the AL once again?

Did the Angels buy themselves the A.L. West?

Who are the Oakland Athletics?

Can the Seattle Mariners score any runs?

 

NL EAST

Are the Phillies still a juggernaut?

Will standing pat get the Braves back to the playoffs?

Are the Marlins the most interesting team in baseball?

Are the Nationals ready to contend?

 How long will the Mets spend in baseball purgatory?

 

NL CENTRAL

Will the St. Louis Cardinals survive the loss of three legends?

Is there life after Prince Fielder in baseball’s smallest market?

Have the Reds built themselves a World Series contender?

Are the Pittsburgh Pirates getting any closer to breaking .500?

How will year one of the Cubs’ rebuilding plan fly in The Friendly Confines?

What will the Astros’ final year in the National League look like?

 

NL WEST

Was 2011 a fluke for the Arizona Diamondbacks?

Are the San Francisco Giants going to give Brandon Belt a chance?

Will the Rockies make us all look like suckers again?

How long until new ownership puts the magic back in the Los Angeles Dodgers?

What did the Mat Latos deal do for the San Diego Padres?

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
Getty Images
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.