A working vaction: Spring training questions and answers

TODD’S 10 SPRING QUESTIONS

1. Is the Red Sox’s move toward pitching and defense a wise one, or did they sacrifice too much offense? This is the way to go and is an approach a lot of clubs will adopt. But Boston fans initially might have a tough time embracing 3-hour games over 3-run homers.

2. Is new Astros manager Brad Mills inheriting a veteran-laden team that could surprise people or an aging team destined to be a disappointment? Houston has a good mix of talented veterans and good young players. The veterans must get the younger guys through the cold streaks; the youngsters must help the old guys through the dog days. I like the Astros’ battle-tested guys (Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, Pedro Feliz).

Texas needs a healthy Josh Hamilton to be dangerous in the AL West.
Texas needs a healthy Josh Hamilton to be dangerous in the AL West.

3. Which team has the potential for the biggest turnaround? Last year, the Nationals won about 17 games, which is good for a college basketball team. They added good veteran arms in Matt Capps and Jason Marquis, and they still have the Big Donkey, Adam Dunn.

4. Which playoff team from 2009 has the most cause for concern? The Phillies. The bullpen will be in flux until Brad Lidge is healthy. And they dealt Cliff Lee for no reason at all. (Why not keep him and Roy Halladay?) Instead, they will hang their hat on Joe Blanton.

5. What other team could be doomed by the back end of its bullpen? The Yankees are one 40-year-old elbow away from a disaster of epic proportions. Then again, they have been that way for the past several years, and they won it all last season.

6. Which player who missed much of the 2009 season most needs to prove he is healthy? The Rangers need Josh Hamilton to produce like he did in 2008. But he can’t play at a high level with a sore back.

7. Which player who struggled last season most needs a strong spring to rebuild his confidence? Manny Ramirez. Did the 50-game suspension hurt him, or is this an example of a slugger aging right before our eyes? The Dodgers don’t want a repeat of last season, and neither does Manny.

8. Which contenders have the most work to do after major offseason roster turnover? The Mariners, Tigers and Angels. The players have to get used to playing with one another and get to know personalities. Because these teams all have strong managers, I don’t expect any problems.

9. The Angels have five solid starters, but do they have an ace after losing John Lackey? Plenty of teams would love to have Scott Kazmir, Joel Pineiro, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders or Jered Weaver atop their rotation. They all can be big-game pitchers, but a No. 1 gives your team a chance to win every time he pitches. The Angels have a collection of No. 2 starters. With good coaching, they could have more than one No. 1.

10. How much will new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo help the Cubs? Jaramillo is the best hitting coach in the game. He takes guys’ swings and works with them in a way that helps them feel confident. His pedigree is unprecedented, and Jaramillo will get the Cubs to hit.

TODD’S TOP WINTER ANSWERS

1. The Cardinals re-sign left fielder Matt Holliday. He hit .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 63 games after joining St. Louis in late July.

Matt Holliday signed on to wear the birds on the bat for the next seven years.
Matt Holliday signed on to wear the birds on the bat for the next seven years.

2. The Phillies finally complete a trade for ace Roy Halladay. He is hoping to make his first postseason with the two-time defending National League champion Phillies.

3. The Mariners trade for left-hander Cliff Lee. With Lee and Felix Hernandez, Seattle now has perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the majors.

4. The Yankees trade for center fielder Curtis Granderson. Prepping for a repeat, the Yankees get younger, stronger and faster.

5. The Mets sign slugging left fielder Jason Bay. Bay, who hit a career-high 36 homers for Boston in 2009, joins a team in desperate need of offense.

6. The Mariners sign third baseman Chone Figgins. Seattle gets stronger—and weakens the AL West rival Angels in the process.

7. The Red Sox sign right-hander John Lackey. With Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Lackey, the Sox have arguably the best top three of any rotation in the majors.

8. The Angels sign World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. He hit 28 homers in 2009 and will replace Vladimir Guerrero at DH.

9. Atlanta signs closer Billy Wagner. He will anchor a bullpen that lost late-game relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez.

10. Detroit signs closer Jose Valverde. His 116 saves since 2007 are tied for fourth-most in the majors.

Todd Jones, a former major league closer, is a regular contributor to Sporting News.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 15, 2010, edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.

TODD’S 10 SPRING QUESTIONS

1. Is the Red Sox’s move toward pitching and defense a wise one, or did they sacrifice too much offense? This is the way to go and is an approach a lot of clubs will adopt. But Boston fans initially might have a tough time embracing 3-hour games over 3-run homers.

2. Is new Astros manager Brad Mills inheriting a veteran-laden team that could surprise people or an aging team destined to be a disappointment? Houston has a good mix of talented veterans and good young players. The veterans must get the younger guys through the cold streaks; the youngsters must help the old guys through the dog days. I like the Astros’ battle-tested guys (Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, Pedro Feliz).

Texas needs a healthy Josh Hamilton to be dangerous in the AL West.
Texas needs a healthy Josh Hamilton to be dangerous in the AL West.

3. Which team has the potential for the biggest turnaround? Last year, the Nationals won about 17 games, which is good for a college basketball team. They added good veteran arms in Matt Capps and Jason Marquis, and they still have the Big Donkey, Adam Dunn.

4. Which playoff team from 2009 has the most cause for concern? The Phillies. The bullpen will be in flux until Brad Lidge is healthy. And they dealt Cliff Lee for no reason at all. (Why not keep him and Roy Halladay?) Instead, they will hang their hat on Joe Blanton.

5. What other team could be doomed by the back end of its bullpen? The Yankees are one 40-year-old elbow away from a disaster of epic proportions. Then again, they have been that way for the past several years, and they won it all last season.

6. Which player who missed much of the 2009 season most needs to prove he is healthy? The Rangers need Josh Hamilton to produce like he did in 2008. But he can’t play at a high level with a sore back.

7. Which player who struggled last season most needs a strong spring to rebuild his confidence? Manny Ramirez. Did the 50-game suspension hurt him, or is this an example of a slugger aging right before our eyes? The Dodgers don’t want a repeat of last season, and neither does Manny.

8. Which contenders have the most work to do after major offseason roster turnover? The Mariners, Tigers and Angels. The players have to get used to playing with one another and get to know personalities. Because these teams all have strong managers, I don’t expect any problems.

9. The Angels have five solid starters, but do they have an ace after losing John Lackey? Plenty of teams would love to have Scott Kazmir, Joel Pineiro, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders or Jered Weaver atop their rotation. They all can be big-game pitchers, but a No. 1 gives your team a chance to win every time he pitches. The Angels have a collection of No. 2 starters. With good coaching, they could have more than one No. 1.

10. How much will new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo help the Cubs? Jaramillo is the best hitting coach in the game. He takes guys’ swings and works with them in a way that helps them feel confident. His pedigree is unprecedented, and Jaramillo will get the Cubs to hit.

TODD’S TOP WINTER ANSWERS

1. The Cardinals re-sign left fielder Matt Holliday. He hit .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 63 games after joining St. Louis in late July.

Matt Holliday signed on to wear the birds on the bat for the next seven years.
Matt Holliday signed on to wear the birds on the bat for the next seven years.

2. The Phillies finally complete a trade for ace Roy Halladay. He is hoping to make his first postseason with the two-time defending National League champion Phillies.

3. The Mariners trade for left-hander Cliff Lee. With Lee and Felix Hernandez, Seattle now has perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the majors.

4. The Yankees trade for center fielder Curtis Granderson. Prepping for a repeat, the Yankees get younger, stronger and faster.

5. The Mets sign slugging left fielder Jason Bay. Bay, who hit a career-high 36 homers for Boston in 2009, joins a team in desperate need of offense.

6. The Mariners sign third baseman Chone Figgins. Seattle gets stronger—and weakens the AL West rival Angels in the process.

7. The Red Sox sign right-hander John Lackey. With Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Lackey, the Sox have arguably the best top three of any rotation in the majors.

8. The Angels sign World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. He hit 28 homers in 2009 and will replace Vladimir Guerrero at DH.

9. Atlanta signs closer Billy Wagner. He will anchor a bullpen that lost late-game relievers Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez.

10. Detroit signs closer Jose Valverde. His 116 saves since 2007 are tied for fourth-most in the majors.

Todd Jones, a former major league closer, is a regular contributor to Sporting News.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 15, 2010, edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.

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