This chat session was originally printed at Camden Chat.
Blez: Everyone talks about the Red Sox and Yankees being on another level than anyone else in the division. Does anyone else really have a shot? Let's start with Scott and David.
Camden Chat: It would take serious injuries to at least one of the big two for any of the other teams, and even then you're left with three teams that have a lot of their own problems even if they stay healthy. So I say no, no one else has a legitimate shot.
DRays Bay: The Rays have almost no shot, I'd give the Blue Jays a chance because they are committed to spending some money over the next few years, but Ya Gotta Believe.
Blez: Randy, since your team is one of the beasts of the east, how do you think this team stacks up against last year's WS Champions?
Over The Monster: I'm one of the few that believe this year's team is better. We lost Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe in the rotation, but we added Matt Clement, David Wells and Wade Miller, who are cheaper and will get more and, in some cases better results than Pedro or Lowe. But the Sox upgraded at shortstop with Renteria, Trot Nixon is healthy this year, and our lineup is intact from last season.
Blez: Minus the defense of Cabrera and Pokey Reese.
Over The Monster: Renteria is better defensively than Cabrera and Reese, but the Sox will miss Reese and Dave Roberts pinch-running late in games. We lack a real 'speedster' off the bench now with Reese, Roberts and Gabe Kapler gone.
DRays Bay: Is David Wells really going to pull what Pedro did, and what about health of Wade Miller?
Over The Monster: As long as Wells is healthy, and Miller doesn't miss anymore time than expected, they can out-perform Pedro.
Blez: I'm more skeptical on that. I think it's more realistic to say Clement might be able to outperform Pedro and Wells can match what Lowe did.
Over The Monster: It can be looked at any way, but in my opinion Wells/Clement/Miller > Martinez/Lowe.
Blez: But remember Wells was pitching in an enormous park last season.
Camden Chat: If Wells pitches, park-adjusted, to what he did with the Padres last year, he will outperform Lowe's horrible 2004 with ease.
DRays Bay: How much can your farm system help out, considering you have an array of injury questions. Wells is 41, could there be any regression?
Over The Monster: Not too much, really. Unless the Sox really want to push Hanley Ramirez (if Renteria gets hurt) we don't have much. George Lombard can be a guy off the bench for speed and to play the outfield. But the depth is definitely not there.
Blez: And who has the better rotation, Yankees or Red Sox?
Over The Monster: I think the Red Sox have the better rotation. The Yankees have Johnson who, like Wells, is old. They also have Pavano who has only had one good season, and I can see Wright breaking down just like Weaver and Vasquez did in NY. Schilling, Wells and Wakefield are old, but seem to be consistent. As long as Arroyo performs like last season (or better), and the injuries stay down, the Sox have a better rotation.
DRays Bay: I have to go with the Yankees with Johnson, Pavano, Mussina, Wright and Brown.
Camden Chat: Red Sox. Yankees have two new guys with injury histories, Mussina is coming off of an unstable 2004, and Johnson and Brown are old and dealing with their own injury stuff. They're just not reliable enough for me. Johnson was out most of the season in 2003 and Brown's already having problems with his back.
Over The Monster: Not to mention Brown's hand which has problems with hitting walls.
Camden Chat: And I think Brown might be getting mentally worn out.
DRays Bay: Who fills in if there is an injury to their rotation then?
Camden Chat: Tanyon Sturtze? Jorge de Paula? I'm not even sure.
Blez: Who has the best offense in the division? Red Sox? Yankees? Maybe even Orioles?
Camden Chat: Red Sox, I've said it a lot but 1-9 they are just too good. The Yankees are still ahead of the Orioles by a fair bit. I hate to be down on the O's, but some of their hitters are overrated, guys like Palmeiro and Gibbons. And Sosa needs to bounce back.
Over The Monster: I'm a homer, once again. But the best offense the past two seasons have been the Red Sox, and I see no reason for that to change. This year it may even be better with Renteria in a hitter-friendly ballpark.
Blez: For the record, I think people underestimate Pedro's contributions and Lowe came up huge in the postseason. I've never been a big believer in Wells.
Over The Monster: Palmeiro had a real bad season last year. His home run numbers are dropping steadily.
Camden Chat: Lowe was terrible in the regular season though. He'll be a Boston icon forever for what he did in the playoffs, but they were right to let him go at that price.
DRays Bay: They need more depth it would seem. I have to go with Yankees, Womack certainly will be better than whoever they had at 2B last year.
Camden Chat: Miguel Cairo. And I don't think Womack is a whole lot better.
Over The Monster: I thank Lowe for being great in the post season, but he was just awful during the regular season. And Scott Boras made way too much money off of him in the offseason. I wouldn't say Lowe is an 'icon,' but he will be remembered -- sort of how Buckner is remembered, except in a good way. Icon is more like David Ortiz's game winning hits.
DRays Bay: Or like Mookie Wilson.
Over the Monster: Yeah, that's a better comparison.
Blez: Actually, remember Lowe was really hurt by the shoddy Red Sox defense last season, and his K/9 was better than Wells. Course he walked about a million people which didn't help.
DRays Bay: What about this Red Sox team calling out A-Rod and no Yankee defending him? Is he that disliked?
Blez: I think the only people that could answer that are the Yankees players.
Over The Monster: I think the Yankees are just skittish to say anything at all.
Blez: Big Stein might've had a gag order on the clubhouse.
Over The Monster: I was just thinking the same thing.
Camden Chat: I don't think I'd talk after that chokejob, either.
DRays Bay: Not a good sign for that club house. Its going to be a zoo with the media this year it seems.
Blez: So, besides the Yankees and Red Sox, which team is the team that will eventually dethrone one of the two? Or both for that matter?
Over The Monster: Tampa Bay has the best chance. As long as their prospects become stars like they are supposed to.
DRays Bay: Hate to say it, but it could be the Rays in three years.
Camden Chat: I really think the D-Rays are building to something, but it's a ways off and no guarantee since it's mostly based on their prospects. The Orioles are the team that can spend the most money to do it, especially with Angelos' newfound pile of money.
Blez: What does everyone think of the O's rotation?
DRays Bay: With a nuclaus just starting to devlop with CC, Delmon, BJ, Huff, ownership might be changed after 2006.
Camden Chat: I like Bedard and Cabrera's stuff, but neither will be a 1 or 2 starter I don't think. Lopez is a fine middle of the rotation guy but not a frontline starter either. Ponson has things he needs to get right on and off the field.
Over The Monster: The O's rotation is the worst in the East. But the sad thing is, the O's really owned the Sox last season.
Blez: Sad for you, not for Scott.
Camden Chat: Baltimore's rotation is amazing for a team that has so desperately stockpiled sluggers or pretend sluggers. They've paid no mind to the pitching whatsoever.
DRays Bay: Sternberg currently owns 48%, an investment guy, who is rumored to be behind these long term deals given out, just like an investor, buy low.
Camden Chat: And there is only one truly promising arm in the farm system, and that's Hayden Penn, who's a ways off.
Blez: Should they have give up some of their young pitching to have acquired a Hudson or Mulder this past offseason? The rumor was that Billy Beane wanted Bedard and Penn.
Over The Monster: Rumor my butt. You heard that from BB didn't ya, Blez? ;-)
Camden Chat: I'm not sure it would've helped immediately, but if they could've inked Hudson long-term it might've been a decent idea. They could've also tried a cheap one-year guy like Kevin Millwood, but they gave up on pitching so quickly into the free agent season.
DRays Bay: It just seems since Peter Angelos took over, they have depleted the farm system
Camden Chat: I've heard during the Syd Thrift era they kept telling Angelos that the system was in good shape, which was of course untrue. I think Peter got a little too hands-off for a few years. And the system is still in bad shape, but it's slowly rebuilding.
DRays Bay: Is the GM pair a good system to work with?
Camden Chat: It's too early to be completely sure probably, but two of their deals (Bautista-for-Grimsley and Riley-for-Nivar) have been pretty bad.
Blez: The Riley one seemed puzzling to me.
Over The Monster: Riley for Nivar was confusing to say the least. They should have given him some more time to develop.
Camden Chat: You know, Riley may never work out, but Nivar is at best probably going to become a very spare part in the majors. I just don't understand the deal at all. Riley was not going to hurt anything in the bullpen, but if they didn't have room for another lefty, surely someone out there was willing to take him for more than Ramon Nivar. He's still a talented arm.
Blez: OK, I've asked about offense and rotation, now I want to hear who has the best pen. And Randy, you can't say the Red Sox.
Over The Monster: It's hard when you support the defending World Champions ;-).
Camden Chat: Well, I'll say the Red Sox, especially if Matt Mantei can stay healthy. The Yankee bullpen seems spotty to me. The Orioles could emerge if Ryan is a reliable closer and Julio works out as a righty setup guy.
DRays Bay: Devil Rays pen is their strength.
Camden Chat: I do like Tampa's pen, yes. The Blue Jays have the worst in the division easily.
DRays Bay: The Devil Rays had the fourth best team ERA in the AL with a 4.81.
Over The Monster: Umm .. I'd have to say the best pen other than the Sox are the Yankees. But I honestly think the Sox have the best pen. Yanks have Rivera, who everyone believes may be the best closer ever, and we have Foulke. But the Sox have a very questionable bullpen, because at any time Embree and Timlin can crack due to age, and we are done.
DRays Bay: Put the Rays bullpen on the Sox, it would do wonders for your team.
Blez: So, let me get this straight, Randy thinks the Sox have the best offense, pen and rotation, Scott thinks the Sox have the best pen, offense and rotation, and David thinks the Yankees have the best rotation, offense and the Rays have the best pen. Is that all right?
Over The Monster: For me, yes.
Camden Chat: I really think the Red Sox are baseball's most complete team.
Over The Monster: I think Scott is a very smart man ;-)
DRays Bay: I may be sorry I said this later, but yes.
Blez: One last one, who has the deepest bench?
Over The Monster: For once, it's not the Sox.
DRays Bay: Nor Rays.
Camden Chat: You know, I honestly think again it's Boston. Jay Payton, Kevin Youkilis, Doug Mirabelli and Ramon Vazquez beat out the other clubs. The Yankees have a horrible bench.
Over The Monster: I think the Sox need speed off the bench. Hopefully we can get that when Adam Stern comes off the DL.
Camden Chat: None of the benches are particularly deep, but I think Tampa's is actually solid enough. Baltimore has Newhan and Gomez, but that's it. Surhoff is a decent hitter still but can't play the field.
Blez: I don't think it's the Yankees either. If the Yankees get a few injuries, they're done. I also love Youkilis. I can't believe he hasn't had a shot yet. But then again, with Mueller at third, that is a deeper bench.
Camden Chat: The nice thing about Youkilis and Mueller being there together is that if Bellhorn goes into a prolonged slump, you've got a solution just moving Mueller to second.
Over The Monster: As long as Mueller's knee holds up this season. Youkilis, odds are, has the starting job next season.
Blez: OK, let's hear the order/win total predicitions.
Over The Monster: BOS - 96 W, NYY - 92 W, BAL - 83 W, TB - 74 W, TOR - 68 W
Camden Chat: Boston 97 wins, New York 90, Baltimore 82, Toronto 76, Tampa Bay 75 - call it nothing more than a gut feeling, but I really do not like the Yankees' makeup this season. I think they'll be pressured for the wild card spot.
DRays Bay: Wow, actually somone who put someone other than rays in last, smart man.
Blez: I think the Jays are fumbling a bit, putting Batista as their closer.
Camden Chat: I think they'll have him on a short leash, but I agree.
DRays Bay: Is that the money ball trick? Turn your starter into a closer?
Blez: The moneyball trick is to do whatever you can to compete on a limited budget, but the A's had liked their best pitchers as starters.
DRays Bay: 94w Yanks, 90 Sox, 81 os, 80 rays, 75 jays
Blez: Do the Red Sox or Yankees get the Wild Card?
DRays Bay: Sox.
Over The Monster: Yankees.
Camden Chat: I think the Angels get the wild card with the A's taking the West. The Yankees are left out in the cold and Steinbrenner's head explodes.
Blez: That's a conclusion I can live with. Thanks, guys. Good luck this season, except against the green and gold.