Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Play Ball!


I can't say the word without hearing it in Earl James Jones voice.

The spring has been so long, that tomorrow's opener has almost snuck up on me. I had April 10 drilled in my head as the home opener so much that tomorrow's real opener almost slipped my memory. For me baseball always starts that first time you walk into the park and see all that green grass. It brings back of the memories of Childhood and all the promise that maybe this year will end differently.

At least this season we don't open with Chicago. The promise of snow has already wiped out the Sox's opener. Opening in Texas should bring safe weather. Nothing worse than an opener that isn't.

Last year hopes were high so it led to a brutal summer. This year is just filled with questions.

Can Lee remain an elite starter and be a true ace?
Can Carmona bounce back to be the ace he looked in 2007?
Can Reyes and Pavano stay healthly and balance the rotation?
Can any young left hander be consistent?
Will Wood anchor the bullpen?
Can Rafi right and left return to 2007 form?
Is Hafner done?
Are Francisco and Choo every day players?
Can Garko hit when it means something?
Is Peralta coming into his prime?
Can Cabrera hit in the first half of a season?
Will Shoppach hit enough to make Victor a first baseman?
Can Victor stay healthy?
Will DeRosa be to our club what he was to the Cubs?
Is Grady ready to be a superstar?

I dunno.

The starting rotation will answer the question whether the Tribe can contend. Last year what killed the team wasn't loss of production from Hafner and Martinez. It was the slow starts from Sabathia and Carmona plus the injury to Westbrook. The team hung tough until Westbrook went to the DL and then the 10 game losing division road trip derailed the season. Lee started last season as the fifth starter. Many of the local "experts" wanted Lee traded. And then when Lee started strong, these "experts" kept saying he can't keep it up. They are saying that again this year. And it makes sense. Not many pitchers have had a season he had last year let alone twice. He doesn't have to be that good but can he be a reliable stud again? I dunno. Carmona was our fifth starter in 2007. He was only there because Lee got hurt in spring training. And then when Lee was ready to go, Carmona only stayed because Westbrook went down. Neither Carmona or Lee have been the man heading into a season. Carmona had high expectations last year but he didn't live up to them. Can he be as dominant as his stuff indicates he can be? I dunno. I feel like Shapiro and Wedge are looking for lightning in a bottle out the fifth spot again. And that is why Reyes is really slated for that spot. Lets put a guy with potential great stuff in the fifth spot and get a beautiful surprise. It will take a career year out of Reyes or Pavano for the Tribe to contend. Or at the least a decent year from both. The bullpen looks on paper to be much stronger this year. If Wood can be the man then everything should line up. A set-up of Perez, Betancourt, Lewis and Smith could be one of the strong pens in the league. But if our starters can't get out of the fifth inning, the pen will be overworked and it could get ugly.

At one point Vegas and many "experts" were picking the Tribe to win the Central. Which is not a good thing. Lately it seems the favorite never wins the Central. But in the last few days more and more "experts" are picking the Twins and their pitching. It makes sense. Minnesota's pitching seems like more of sure thing. But will they have an offense? It depends on the health of Mauer and Crede. You can't discount the White Sox as unlikable as their manager and general manager are, they seem to know what they are doing. Detroit did themselves a favor getting rid of Sheffield. It will help the clubhouse. The Tigers can hit the crap out of the ball but can they pitch. Who knows if Kansas City is ready to grow up or not?

Like I said a lot of questions.

I think we will know fast. As easily as this roster could be a house of cards, it could be the real deal. If and it is a big if, the starting pitching falls together this team could very good and very dangerous. There looks to be hitting through out the line-up. There are plenty of near major league talent in the pipeline. A quick start can build confidence. A slow start could start a chain reactions of horrors.

But not knowing is half the fun. If they fail the Wedge/Shapiro haters can revel in I told you so's. If they win, there is nothing better than a pennant run.

Play Ball!