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MLB 2011 Preview/Predictions

March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

A Guest Blog By Fanspeak contributing writer Kyle Howard:

Just about a month away from the offical start of the MLB 2011 season. Many offseason publicity and free agency moves make this year in the MLB very interesting. Crawford to the Red Sox, Cliff Lee back to the Phillies, Werth to the Nationals, and Rafeal Soriano are only some of the new faces, in new places from this years offseason transactions. Here is my run through on my projections for this year:

AL East:

1) Red Sox; It kills me to put the Soxs as my division winners being a diehard Yankees fan but the Red Sox really beefed up their line up with the acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Their line up is as good as any in baseball and their pitching staff when healthy is top 5 in the league. Look for the Sox to make it back to October with either a division title or a wild card spot.

2) Yankees; Many Yankee fans look at this offseason as a failure. Not being able to convince Cliff Lee or Zach Greinke to come to New York was a tough pill to swallow. Their line up is still as lethal as any in the game and with the acquisition of Rafeal Soriano to help set up Rivera in the 9th really helped the needs of the bullpen. The starting pitching is going to be the real question mark throughout the season. If Burnett can turn his season around, Nova can turn into an every 5 day starter and the Mark Prior project can make strides, the Yankees will be pushing for yet another division title. Look for them to contend with the Sox until the last month of the season and either walking away with a wild card spot or best case scenario a division title.

3) Orioles; The Orioles are my surprise team of the league this year. They have done a great job of loading up on young talent and I feel that 2011 is the year they start making some noise. With Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters being the focal points of this team, the pitching talent needs to step up and you may be looking at a very dangerous team in the next few years. Look for the Orioles to have an above average year and finishing 3rd in the AL East.

4) Tampa Bay; Tampa Bay is in a transitioning period. They lost Crawford, Garza, and Soriano to free agentcy/trades and that leaves some big holes to fill for some young talented players in their farm system. With the acquistion of Manny and Damon, the Rays bring in some experience to their club with a more risk/reward mentality. The Rays staff is still a dangerous one lead by David Price and Evan Longoria will only improve and maybe a darkhorse candidate for MVP this year. Give the Rays some time to develop and they will be back in the postseason within the next couple of weeks.

5) Toronto; With still lingering questions on what Toronto’s next move is going to be, look for them to have a down year this year. Jose Bautista coming off a 54 home run year campaign and getting an extention I could see having a downer year. With some young potential pitching talent, look for the Blue Jays to use those as trade bait especially strikeout specialist Brandon Morrow.

AL Central:

1) Twins; It is difficult for me to pick a winner in this division being as the parity is so well distributed, so I will take experience and choose the Twinkees as the division winner. With Morneau coming back and the ability to resign Pavano, who is an innings machine, the Twins are poised to be the front runners of this jam packed division. If Nathan comes back healthy from his season ending surgury last year look for the Twins to be the winners of this division.

2) White Sox; Last year was a disappointment for the White Sox. With much publicity hovering over Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox struggled for most of the season. With the key offseason acquistion of Adam Dunn and resigning Paul Konerko this team will have quite a powerful 4 and 5 spots in their line up. Also, Buerhle leading the staff followed by Floyd and Danks, look for this team to contend with the Twins for the division title and the loser will be in the wild card hunt.

3) Tigers; The Tigers 2011 season is on the shoulders of how healthy/sober Miguel Cabrera can be. The man has as much talent as their is in the MLB but, off field troubles have put the Tigers in a spin. Offseason acquistion Victor Martinez adds some power to a line up that was in desperate need for help around Cabrera.  Verlander leads this young staff, and when he is on is one of the most powerful pitchers in the league. A sophmore slump from promising young star Rick Porcello was a key difference maker in the Tigers 2010 season. If Porcello can get over his 2nd year struggles, look for the Tigers to contend for a majority of the season, but I feel the off the field publicity and inexperience in pitching will lead them to a 3rd place finish.

4) Royals; Its been a bad decade for the Royals but, this year,  I can see them making some strides to becoming a better squad. Alex Gordon needs to become the player we all thought he would become when he was drafted 4th overall in 2005. Luke Hochevar splashed onto the scene last year with a decent season and showing signs he could become a decent starter at the Major league level. The Royals still have a long way to go but, if their draft picks start stepping up the next 5 years could look promising for this squad.

5) Indians; The Indians are in the rebuilding stage as an organization. With many young prospects gained from the Cliff Lee trade and Victor Martinez trade, look for this team to show a lot of new faces this year. Shin soo Choo is a rising star in the outfield showing signs of power and batting average and a good piece to build around. This will be a struggling year for the Indians and will stay that way unless they make some noise at the trade deadline.

AL West:

1) Angels; Coming off a very disappointing season last year look for the Angels to make it back to the postseason this year. With a star studed staff lead by Jared Weaver, Scott Kazmir, and Ervin Santana look for the pitching to help carry this team into October. Kendry Morales maybe the biggest difference maker on this team this season. If he comes back as healthy as he was before his ACL accident, look for him to be another darkhorse MVP candidate.

2) Texas; Losing Cliff Lee to free agency crippled this teams potential for years to come. Coming off of the organizations first World Series experience the sky was the limit for this team. Led by MVP Josh Hamilton and power slugging OF Nelson Cruz, this team will go as far as these 2 stars can stay healthy. With questions surrounding the starting staff, look for the Rangers to pick up an arm at the trade deadline in hopes of making another push into October.

3) Athletics; The Athletics have one of the best young pitching staffs in baseball and they live and die on how well these young guns can do. Grant Balfour, Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill,  Brett Anderson, and Andrew Bailey are the cornerstones of this young franchise. Dont be surprised if they A’s make a push at the deadline by moving one of these players for a bat in an often weak line up with an aging Eric Chavez. Look for the Athletics to continue rebuilding and continue improvement for years to come.

4) Mariners; The Mariners need power and they need it fast. The Mariners were last in almost every statistical batting category last year and they need to add some power to that line up. With much promise in former 2nd overall pick Dustin Ackley from UNC, it wont be a surprise to see him starting by mid season. Felix Hernandez is just a decent offensive team away from being arguably the best pitcher and baseball and look for him to continue his dominence in 2011.

NL East:

1) Phillies; Many analyst have it already penciled in that the Phillies will be holding up another World Series Title come October in 2011. With possibly the best 4 starters ever to be assembled on a single team, look for them to dominate most of the teams in the NL. Additions such as Cliff Lee only make this team even stronger and a star studded line up to back him up it will be quite a challenge to take this team in a 7 game series. With Werth gone that opens up the spot for top prospect Dominic Brown to take the rains of right field. The Phillies will walk away with this division and by July be focusing on the Playoffs.

2) Braves; The Braves suprised many of us last year and this year are a team not to mess with. With Hudson, Hanson, and Lowe leading the staff and the emergence of Jason Heyward becoming a star in the MLB, and the acquisition of Dan Uggla,  look for the Braves to win a wild card and being on an upset alert come playoff time.

3) Marlins; The Marlins have been trying to develop young talent for most of the past couple of years in hopes of turning into a legit playoff squad. Lead by MVP candidate Hanley Rameriz and pitching stud Josh Johnson, the Marlins are looking for an additional bat and arm to help make a charge at a competitive East division.

4) Mets; I really do not know where to start with Los Mets. They have as much talent as a team would need to make an apperance in the postseason but, for some reason they never seem to all click at the same time. Look for this years Mets team to be centered around David Wright and a healthy Jose Reyes. Pitching is very suspect due to Johan having elbow surgery. Look for the Mets to try and compete but come up short in the East race.

5) Nationals; Being from Northern Virginia and having been to multiple Nats games its difficult for me to put them in this position. Strasburg is what brought this team alive and made them play with passion and pride but, with Tommy John Surgery dont look for Strasburg to be throwing until September, if they even decide to let him throw at all. With key acquistion of Jayson Werth, the Nats will be along the same lines of production as last year. The future looks bright in Washington and if Strasburg can come back as good as he left, and Harper doesn’t disappoint down in the minors, this team will be fun to watch in the coming years.

NL Central:

1) Cubs; I know its as shocking to you as it is to me that the Cubs are going to finish first in the division. The Cubs made a key move in acquiring Garza this winter, and if their young talent continues to produce look for them to be a sneaky good team come playoff time. This pick is definitely a stretch and my upset of the year.

2) Reds; The surprise team of the year in 2010, the Reds will be looking to capitalize on thier run last year and continue it into this year. Joey Votto is the leader of this squad and looks to duplicate is MVP year last year and transition it to this year. Pitching was a strong point for the Reds last year but, I feel that they will struggle this year with to much inconsistentcy. Look for the Reds to make it back to the post season and be a contender as a wild card.

3) Cardinals; The Cardinals would be first in the Central if it werent for the staggering news on Adam Wainwright out for the season. The loss of Wainwright equals trouble for this club. With the huge injury to the staff and an unhappy Albert Pujols, look for this club to have a difficult time with all the distractions and end up chasing a wild card spot.

4) Brewers; The Brewers have 2 young stars in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, arguably 1 of the best tandems in the league. With the line up set up to produce runs the Brewers made a huge trade in aquiring Zack Greinke to help with the staff. Look for the Brewers to improve and possibly take the Cardinals spot and fighting for a spot in the post season.

5) Astros; It is easy to say that the Astros are in a rebuilding year. Losing Roy Oswalt to a trade pretty much sums it up. With young talent in the minors and an aging outfield minus Hunter Pence, look for the Astros to struggle most the year and look to being sellers at the deadline

6) Pirates; This team is the only team that manages to get great prospects and trade them away. The Pirates have not had a well established club since the 80′s and I don't see that happening this year. Their one true star Andrew McCutchen is a lead-off hitter and you can’t build a team around that. Zack Duke will finish with a sub .500 win record and they will use many new arms from their farm system this year. Sorry so called “City of Champions” but you may want to concentrate on NFL happening in the fall and Crosby recovering over watching this squad this year.

NL West:

1) Giants; The defending World Series Champions have to be the favorites to come out of this jam packed West division. Offseason loss of World Series MVP, Edgar Renteria, leaves a big hole at shortstop and Juan Uribe’s departure to division rival LA leaves a big spot open at the utility role. With the young guns on the pitching staff such as Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner leading the way and crazy Wilson closing out games, look for this team to make it back to the Postseason in a coinflip of a division.

2) Rockies; the Rockies struggled last year despite the fact they are known as being a second half team only 2 years removed from their prolific playoff run. With flame thrower Ubaldo Jimenez leading the staff and Troy Tulowitzki the captain of the team. Look for the Rockies to make some noise and be a strong challenger for being the wild card team come October.

3) Padres; the Padres had a banner of a year last season coming down to the wire last season with the Giants going into the last game of the season. The Padres have an underrated pitching staff lead by rising star Mat Latos, with verterans such as Jon Garland to help mentor the fire baller. Free Agency hit the Padres hard by losing their superstar first basemen Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox. I can see the Padres relying on their arms to keep them in the race but with no one significant to replace Gonzalez, runs are going to be hard to come by for this club.

4) Diamondbacks; This team is tricky to pick. One day their hot the next day their not. After giving up Dan Haren to the Angels in return for some prospects, the diamondbacks are clearly a process in the making. Relying heavily on star outfielder Justin Upton is going to be too much for this team to overcome.

Playoff Predition:

AL                                           NL                                         World Series

Red Sox                              Giants                               Phillies vs. Red Sox

Yankees                            Cubs                                         Phillies win 4-2

Angels                               Phillies

Twins                                 Rockies

American League Teams' Christmas/Winter Meetings Wish List

December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

With baseball's Winter Meetings starting next week and X-mas just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to look at what is on every team's wish list this December. If a team is expected to make any significant signings or trades I'll feature them. But if they are likely sitting on the sidelines this winter, then they only have three wishes: good health, development by their prospects, and bargain shopping in 2011 before the season starts.

First up American League:

AL East:

New York Yankees:

Cliff Lee: There is little surprise on what tops their wish list, as landing an ace starting pitcher is their top priority.Lee is really the only guy available who fits the bill. New York needs to hope their money and winning reputation sway Lee away from his other suitors.

Derek Jeter: The Yankees negotiations with their 'Captain' haven't been too pretty and have in fact served as more of a distraction than anything else. The Yankees need Jeter to come to his senses quickly and sign his deal, before it looks any worse than it already is.

A.J. Burnett: New York invested big money into Burnett two years ago and already they are regretting their decision. Burnett needs to figure out his issues quick, as he can't afford to start off the season badly. Not only will it hurt the Yankees playoff hopes, but a bad start will doom him in New York, meaning the Yankees may have to eat his contract just to appease the fans.

Boston Red Sox:

Crawford or Werth: Boston is in hot pursuit of the top two free agent outfielders and they need to land one if the Yankees make a big move (i.e. signing Lee). Either OF will fit in well in Boston and continue to make that lineup one of the best in the league.

Gonzalez or Fielder: While it is a bit quite of late, I still think the Red Sox will end up with either Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder from the trade market this offseason. Both are impending free agents and likely to be dealt by their current team. Gonzalez is a better fit for Boston given his defense, and higher likelihood of negotiating a more team friendly extension. If Boston lands one of them, plus one of the top outfielders, they should pass the Yankees for the best lineup in baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Trade Jason Bartlett: This could happen in the next few days, as Tampa does not want to pay Bartlett's arbitration salary this coming season. While Bartlett won't bring back a major haul, they should expect to get back a solid middle reliever, who is young and cost controlled.

Rebuild Their Bullpen: The Rays have a number of free agent defections from their bullpen and given their budget, they will likely have to build from within or through trades. In addition to the likelihood of  a Bartlett for middle reliever swap, I'd look for Tampa to make a bigger deal with their considerable prospect depth to add a back of the bullpen arm.

Add a Quality Bat: With holes at 1B, LF (could be filled by rookie Desmond Jennings) and DH, the Rays could use at least one bat to keep them on the cusp of contention. Since the free agent market is likely too expensive, the Rays will likely look for a bat on the trade market. I would count them out of the Gonzalez/Fielder markets given their salary price tags, and what it would cost in terms of prospects. Names like Billy Butler, Josh Willingham, Luke Scott could all be on their radar this offseason.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Make a Splash: The Blue Jays might be rebuilding, but this team was competitive without any of their top prospects making a significant impact. I think Toronto will make a bold move such as trading for Greinke or Justin Upton (Billy Butler could be on their wish list as well). Trading for a star caliber player could really make this team a threat in the East, though I don't think they should give up too much in the way of young talent.

Find a First Baseman: While Adam Lind is a distinct internal possibility, I would expect the Jays to find a new first baseman for next season. Trading for Billy Butler should be high on their list, but if they decide to move some of their young talent for a different star, the Blue Jays still have options on the free agent market (though they are dwindling fast). Adam LaRoche or Derek Lee would be good fits in Toronto, as could Carlos Pena if they expect a bounce back year.

Add a 3B/2B: Right now the Jays have a hole at 3B that they could fill by moving 2B Aaron Hill there, but that would only create an issue up the middle. The free agent market won't yield any great 3B (unless they buck up to sign Beltre), so a trade could be an option. They could also look to bring back Orlando Hudson to fill 2B and move Hill over. Hudson wouldn't be a long term fix, but he'd be a solid short term addition.

Add some relievers: The Jays are losing a couple quality relievers in the free agent market and will either need to add some arms via trade or from the market. Given their young staff, and the likely ascension of some young prospects, they could use a good bullpen to help protect their young arms.

Baltimore Orioles:

Add a 1B/DH bat: The O's have struck out with two of their top free agent options, Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn so far this offseason and they are likely to miss out on another one, as Paul Konerko is likely to resign with the White Sox. The 1B/DH market is drying up fast with Adam LaRoche, Carlos Pena, Derek Lee and Lance Berkman the only real options left. The O's need to land one of them, but at this point they need to make sure they aren't overpaying, since none of them are true stars. Baltimore should look to focus their money on their other needs such as 3B.

Go Hard After Adrian Beltre: At this point the O's are going to have to overpay to land a star, and Beltre is probably the best chance the O's have at landing one. Now they aren't alone in the market and it will cost quite a bit, but Beltre could be worth it. He is a very good defender at 3B, and at 32 should be productive for another couple of years. It still could be a pipe dream, but Baltimore needs to be aggressive.

Add Some Relief Pitching: The Orioles have a promising young staff, but their bullpen was a mess last year. They need to add a couple free agent arms to turn that into a strength and help protect their rotation.

Add a Shortstop: It is not a good year to be needing a shortstop, but the Orioles need to find someway to get better production out of that position. Jason Bartlett and J.J. Hardy head their list, but other options could become available. Who ever they find, Baltimore needs to ensure they offer some production from that area.

AL Central:

Chicago White Sox:

Bring Back Konerko: With the addition of Adam Dunn, the White Sox finally have the hitter who can help protect Paul Konerko in the middle of the lineup. Now they just need to ensure Konerko is in that lineup. I fully expect a deal to get done in the next couple of days, which will fully cover their DH/1B positions.

Find a LF: I know a lot of people like Juan Pierre for his speed and defense, but he is a bit of a liability in LF. He just doesn't get on base enough or have any power to speak of to justify a corner outfield spot. While his defense was exceptional in LF, you have to get better than a .312 wOBA from your LF if you want to be a contender. There aren't any real free agent options available, but don't be shocked if the White Sox target someone like Josh Willingham or Luke Scott. Alex Gordon could also be an option if they go for a more unproven player.

Add Relief Pitching: In their pursuit for adding Dunn and Konerko, the White Sox made a tough choice by releasing long time closer Bobby Jenks to save some money. While fiscally it makes some sense, it leaves that bullpen a little short right now. A couple relievers should be acquired by trade or through free agency to help offset the loss.

Kansas City Royals:

Make the Best Deal(s) Possible: The Royals are in an enviable position with the best farm system in baseball, and a number of quality trade-able pieces. The Royals have the best SP (Greinke), Closer (Joakim Soria) and one of the top bats (Butler) on the trade market. In addition to their big names, the Royals have Alex Gordon and Robinson Tejada, who are both good 2nd tier trade targets. Now I wouldn't expect to see all 5 dealt before the start of the season, but at least 2 should be moved by then, and all of them could be gone by the start of 2012. The Royals need to make the best trades possible and should target middle infield help, outfielders (in particular center fielders), frontline starting pitching, and maybe a 3B. Kansas City can basically name their own price.

Detroit Tigers:

The Tigers have already done most of their heavy lifting this offseason, with Victor Martinez their top prize. I don't think they are done just yet, but they might not make any more major moves. If they do here is what they might target:

OF help: The Tigers are rumored to still be in the Werth and Crawford sweepstakes, but I'm not too sure they can swing a deal. My guess is they will look to the trade market for a quality OF bat (usual suspects, Willingham, Scott etc.) to fill their need.

Relief Pitching: They have already added Benoit, but my guess is they add another solid arm before the start of the season. I don't see them adding a starter, but I think their staff could use some help.

Minnesota Twins:

The Twins aren't supposed to be too active this offseason beyond resigning Jim Thome and agreeing to a deal with the Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who can play either SS or 2B. The Twins could be trading J.J. Hardy, though that is far from being set in stone. The one thing the Twins could be looking at is making a big trade:

Make a Splash: In back-to-back years the Twins have gotten swept out of the Playoffs by the New York Yankees, so they need to find a way to get better if they want to advance further in 2011. The Twins have a quality system, so they do have the pieces to swing a major deal or two. Given their depth across the board, they could target any number of positions. Starting pitching is a top priority, but I don't see them getting in the Greinke sweepstakes (more because I really don't see the Royals trading him in the division unless the Twins vastly overpay).

Cleveland Indians:

Cleveland falls into the category of teams who are really not expected to do anything significant this offseason, and they will be bargain shopping this year.

AL West:

Texas Rangers:

Sign Cliff Lee: The Rangers are the Yankees toughest competition in the Lee Sweepstakes and if the money is close enough he could prefer to stay in Texas. If the Rangers land Lee, then they won't have much additional money to spend, but they should be pretty well set for another World Series run.

Trade for Zack Greinke: If the Rangers fail to land Lee, they should be one of the favorites to land Greinke. It will cost quite a bit in prospects, but his team friendly contract will allow the Rangers to add another free agent or two.

Add A DH: Vlad is gone, so it is time for Texas to find another decent designated hitter to insert into their lineup. The usual 1B suspects could be options, though most likely could find an actual 1B job. Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui could fit, but neither would have any impact in the field. The could go down the trade route for a Billy Butler (especially if they sign Lee) or a Luke Scott. Both are fairly cheap, while having the ability to help in the field as well.

Los Angeles Angels:

Carl Crawford: The Angels are expected to go all-in for Crawford and basically make him an offer he can't refuse. Crawford would be a huge free agent signing for the Angels and it would drastically improve their chances for reclaiming the AL West. If they miss out on Crawford, they will go hard after Werth, but he seems to be not nearly as high on their wish list.

Adrian Beltre: Whether they get Crawford or not, Beltre figures to be high on the Angels wish list. They need more power in their lineup and 3B is an issue for them. He won't come cheap and it is possible that he and Crawford would cost to much, but the Angels should be a serious suitor for him.

Add Bench and Relief Depth: The Angels have a good lineup and starting rotation, but they need to add better depth to ensure that injuries don't sink their season like last year. I'd look for them to have a couple known players on the bench/bullpen, as they look to build a playoff contender.

Oakland A's:

The A's have already done some of their hard work this offseason by adding David DeJesus to their outfield, but they still have a ways to go. For the most part I'd expect them to fill their needs from within, but they could make at least one significant move.

Add a DH: The A's seem poised to try power hitting 1B/DH prospect Chris Carter in the outfield (not too sure if that will work), and add a legitimate designated hitter this offseason. It is no shock that the A's need to generate power, but it might make more sense to play Carter at DH and add an OF. Right now I don't see that happening, so I'm guessing they end up signing one of the 1B/DH types on the market this year.

Outside of that 3B and RP could be an issue, but one that might not be fully addressed this offseason.

Seattle Mariners:

The Mariners are expected to sit quietly this offseason as they look to rebuild. One of two moderate signings may occur in January, but I think that is all you will see right now.

Check back later as I look at the NL's X-Mas/Winter Meetings Wish List!

What The AL East Teams Are Most Thankful For:

November 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

There is little doubt that there are 'haves and have nots' in baseball as there are in any sport, but every team has at least one player, person or thing to be thankful for this holiday season. Here is a fun list of what each team in the AL East has to be the most thankful for:

New York Yankees: New York obviously has a lot going for them going forward. With a massive payroll, an All-Star lineup, and a very good farm system, the future is bright for the Yankees. The thing the Yankees are most thankful for though is the willingness of Cliff Lee to maybe come to the Yankees.

As good as the Yankees are, they have some serious holes in their rotation that will prevent them from competing in the tough AL East. Although the Yankees seemingly have unlimited resources, if Cliff Lee doesn't come to New York, the Yankees don't have a fall back plan. The starting pitching on the free agent market is extremely thin past Lee. No one else on the market is better than a number 3 starter, and a couple of the better options Carl Pavano and Javier Vazquez, aren't likely to be welcomed back to New York with open arms. The trade market isn't any more promising for the Yankees as they don't seem to be a fit for many of the top arms out there. Zack Greinke has a no trade clause for the Yankees and seems to have little interest in waiving it, and the next couple of quality starters potentially on the trade market are from the Rays (possibly the Red-Sox if Dice K is available) and I don't see them helping fill the Yankees 'needs'.

The Yankees need Cliff Lee maybe more than possibly any other free agent in their history (unless another top pitcher comes on the market). He might not come cheap, but the fact that he is listening and is a favorite to sign in NY is promising.

Boston Red Sox: Boston is in a similar position with the Yankees, with money to spend, a great team, and a top notch farm system, but the thing they have to be most thankful for is good health.

Last year the Red Sox missed Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Mike Cameron, Mike Lowell, and Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett all missed significant time with injury. Despite so many starters missing time, the Red Sox still were competitive all season and finished with an 89-73 record (they would have only been 1 game out in the West). While the Red Sox will be looking to make some changes this offseason, the most important thing to them is getting healthy. Youkilis, Pedroia, Beckett and Ellsbury all are important cogs for Boston as they look to get back to the post season. Luckily, while all those injuries were devastating at the time none should have a long term impact on the Red Sox. Continued good health will be the key for the Red Sox this season, but right now things are looking up.

Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have a lot of young talented players, but there is little doubt what (who) they are most thankful for, Buck Showalter. Baltimore finished 66-96 last season split between three managers, but more than half of those wins (34) came when Showalter was at the helm.

In 57 games under Showalter the Orioles went 34-23, meaning the Orioles would have 97 games based on their winning percentage under him. That would have been good enough to win the AL East (as well as being the best record in baseball). Showalter also went 14-13 against the AL East (they went 10-35 before he started). Now I don't think they were legitimately a 97 win team, but they also weren't a legitimate 66 win team either.

Showalter completely revitalized that team and gives the Orioles hope going forward. They have a number of young talented pieces and Buck seems to be making the most out them. The addition of Showalter could be exactly what the Orioles need, as they look to become an competitive franchise once again.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays had the home run king last year as well as one of the best power teams in the league, but they are most thankful for their G.M. Alex Anthopoulos.

The Blue Jays had lost Roy Halladay, Scott Rolen and Alex Rios from the summer of 2009 to the beginning of last season, yet somehow the Blue Jays still managed to win 85 games. What's even more impressive than their win total is the collection of young talent that Anthopoulos has picked up. The young Blue Jays G.M. was in the unenviable position of having to trade their top player, Halladay, when his value was the lowest. Despite not having the leverage he would have wanted, Anthopoulos made a very good trade for the Blue Jays, and remained active all offseason to rebuild the Blue Jays farm. Combined with his shrewd trades and signings, as well as a top notch draft the Blue Jays 'rebuilding' process actually made Toronto a better team than they were before.

Tamp Bay Rays: The Rays won the division and if not for Cliff Lee and those pesky Rangers, very well could have been in the World Series. Things though aren't all rosy in Tampa as they need to slash their payroll, which will mean the loss of a number of star players including All-Star Carl Crawford. While it looks bleak, I wouldn't be too worried about Tampa as they have plenty of talent on the way from their bountiful farm system, which needs to be number 1 on their thankful list.

They Rays have already added a number of young players these last couple years, but should add a couple more uber-talents this season with RHP Jeremy Hellickson and OF Desmond Jennings leading the way. Hellickson is the best pitcher in the minors and saw a little bit of time with the Rays last season. He profiles as a potential number 1 and should at least be a 2 or a 3 starter on a playoff caliber team. Jennings is one of the top young outfielders in the minors and he is capable of playing any position. He will likely start by replacing Crawford, but could eventually move over to CF and become the Rays lead-off hitter. In addition to the two stars, I'd expect to at least a couple more arms throughout the season, with LHP Jake McGee likely to start the year in their bullpen. The Rays system is loaded that they can not only absorb their impending losses, but make a couple big trades as well.

As I said, at the top every team has something to be thankful for this holiday weekend, but these are what I think the 5 AL East teams have to be most thankful for. What do you think?

What Should The Nationals Do With Josh Willingham? Part I

October 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

With Adam Dunn's impending departure in Free Agency, it seems like now is the time to lock up Josh Willingham long term. That idea is further reinforced by Nationals fans with reports that Willingham is open to negotiating an extension now. While it is hard to see where Mike Rizzo and the Nats brass fall in the 'Extend Josh' club, I hope they explore all their options and seriously consider trading him.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Willingham and think he has done some great things with the Nats, but it is obvious that this team needs more. The Nationals have finished in last place each of the last two seasons with Willingham (and Dunn for that matter) in the heart of their lineup. This past year was even worse with the influx of young talent (Desmond, Storen, Strasburg) and a vastly improved bullpen. Now Willingham isn't to blame for the Nats failures, nor is Dunn. The point that I'm making is that even with these big time bats, this team wasn't a contender (or even close to being one). Their needs are great and they should be looking to build a young team that can compete for years to come.

Willingham, who will be going into next year at 32 years old, doesn't fit the mold of what the Nationals are trying to develop. On top of his being on the wrong side of 30, Willingham has serious injury issues, that have affected each season of his career. The Nationals can't rely on Willingham to be in the lineup for 150+ days, and given the lack of a supporting cast, that really sets the Nats back. Although, Willingham's injury concerns does cut into his trade value, plenty of other contenders will still be interested. So while it is possible that by 2012 the Nationals are ready to contend, they are more likely to reach that goal by trading Willingham than resigning him.

Willingham could appeal to contenders in need of a LF (primary position), RF (secondary position), 1B (hasn't really played it in the majors, but has said he is willing, though most contenders will have a better option), or DH. A number of American League teams would be interested to have him split time in between the OF and DH, but I wouldn't rule out National League suitors since Willingham is an average defender in LF. Here are some teams that could be interested in Willingham and what they might have in return that the Nationals want:

Red Sox: Boston might not look to get into the Werth or Crawford sweepstakes, and instead look to spend their money on pitching (i.e. Lee). If that is the case, they could look to acquire a bat like Willingham to split time in the OF and DH. David Ortiz might not be back, and even if he is, he likely won't be an every day DH. With the Red Sox having a number of young OF's nearly ready in the minors, Willingham being under contract for 1 year isn't as big of a concern. The Nationals could be interested in 1B prospect Lars Anderson as well as some of their OF/SP prospects.

Rays: Crawford is leaving, and while they have Desmond Jennings there to replace him, Willingham would be a good fall back if he struggled. If Jennings performed well, Willingham could DH and play 1B primarily, and fill in for the OF as needed. The Rays are looking to move one of their young starters, either Matt Garza or James Shields. Either pitcher would be a big upgrade for the Nats and both are under team control for at least 3 years. While the Nats would probably still need to kick in a prospect (as well as through in some money to offset Willingham's contract), but it would be better than giving up the 2-4 quality prospects they'd have to move if Willingham wasn't part of the deal. The Rays also might be interested in trading prospects for Willingham (likely young pitchers), instead of moving an established arm. Either way, if the Rays look to contend Willingham would be a nice addition.

White Sox: While Willingham likely won't factor in the Sox's 1B opening, he would be a good fit in DH/LF. Chicago didn't have the hitting to go along with their pitching last year, which is a mistake they won't make again. Chicago doesn't have the traditional pieces the Nats are looking for though CF Jordan Danks could interest them. A 3-team deal might be possible (and they are much more easy to do in the offseason than at the trade deadline).

Tigers: The Tigers like the White Sox had the pitching last year to contend, but were really a 1 bat team. The good news for the Tigers is their bat is definitely returning, Miguel Cabrera. The bad news is they need to surround him with some big time hitters this year. Willingham could fit in the OF or at DH, and would be a big improvement for Detroit. The Tigers have a number of interesting young pitchers that could interest the Nats, though not sure if Detroit is willing to let them go.

Braves: If Atlanta doesn't add a 1B and hands the reigns to Freddie Freeman, they will need to add a veteran bat elsewhere to help protect Heyward (and Freeman). Left field wasn't a good spot for the Braves last year, and Willingham would be a big upgrade. While Freeman won't be going anywhere (unless they sign Dunn), the Braves have a stable of young pitchers that would interest the Nationals, and help them develop a top flight future rotation.

Cardinals: St. Louis already has Matt Holliday in left field, but they are looking to add another bat to help protect Holliday and Pujols in the middle of that lineup. Willingham isn't a great RF, but he is passable, and more importantly he is more of a sure thing. The Cards had a very disappointing season considering their core of players, so I'd look for them to make a big move. They don't have the money to go after Werth, Lee or Crawford, but could easily afford Willingham. Their system is a bit weak, but Allan Craig would be an interesting option, and if Colby Rasmus were to become available, Willingham could be one of the keys for that package.

Reds: Cincinnati was a fun and surprising team this year, but they could use another bat. They used a platoon of Lance Nix and Jonny Gomes last year, and didn't have the best results. If they could upgrade this spot, they would be very dangerous going forward, and they don't have the money to get one of the top tier free agents. The Nationals might even need to send some money to make this deal work, but it would be interesting. The Reds have a redundant 1B prospect in Yonder Alonso, as well as a young OF in Chris Heisey whom the Nats should target.

Check back later for Part II, where I weigh the risk vs. reward of dealing Willingham, as well as list some OF options for the Nats if they move him.

Morning Roundup:

October 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

Rangers Finish off Rays Behind Cliff Lee: For the second straight postseason, Cliff Lee is proof of why you make midseason trades to help your ball club. Lee went just 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA after the Rangers acquired him, but is now 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA this postseason. Lee twice knocked off the Rays at home, and really is the reason why Texas is moving on to round two. In both games Lee out dueled fellow ace David Price, as the Rangers offense was too much for him to handle. While pitching and defense usually win playoff series, the Rangers offense is capable of disproving that theory. Now Texas has a quick turn around and starts their next series Friday at home against the Yankees. Unfortunately Cliff Lee won't be on the mound for their first game (and will have to start Game 2 on 3 day's rest). In a classy move the Rangers celebrated their postseason victory with Ginger Ale out of respect to Josh Hamilton, who has battled alcohol and drug addiction in his past.

Braves Waste No Time Replace Cox with Gonzalez: Gonzalez isn't much of a surprise as Cox's replacement, since speculation has been around since he was fired this season by the Marlins. Gonzalez has a long history with the Braves and was Cox's 3rd base coach earlier in the decade. Gonzalez not only got a raw deal in the way he was fired from the Marlins (basically for benching Hanley Ramirez one game for lack of hustle), but for his entire tenure there. The Marlins run on the league's lowest payroll, and continuously dump players to remain at that level. Even when they didn't move players, Gonzalez played every year wondering if the team would have a mid-season fire sale. Now Gonzalez will have big shoes to fill and a number of questions to answer, but he should have the resources to succeed in Atlanta.

Kraft Believes New CBA Possible This Year: It was a positive sign yesterday, even if it was a bit unbelievable, to hear that the owners think that they can reach a new deal this year. That is a lot of work to be done in the next 2 and a half months, but the owners sound like they don't want to risk a lockout. And in all honesty why would they? Both sides have a reason to come to the table, as a lockout would mean a major loss of money for both sides. The NHL may have needed a lockout earlier this decade, but it also hurt them. While it won't hurt the NFL as much, it will turn fans away. In this economic climate, the last thing the NFL can afford to do is turn fans away. By the same token the players don't want to lose a year of their earnings while the CBA is being worked out. While I'm still skeptical they can work out an agreement this year, I think they will have it done by the time the Super Bowl rolls around.

AL Playoff Previews

October 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

A Guest Blog By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Brian Murphy

This is my preview for the American League Divisional Series.  The AL playoffs kick off Wednesday starting with the Rangers @ Rays at 1:37 and then the Yankees @ Twins at 8:37.

Texas Rangers (90-72) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)

The Rangers travel to the Trop to take on the Rays, who had baseball’s best record in the regular season.  It will be interesting to see if the home-field advantage actually makes that big of a difference in this series considering Tropicana Field drew about 12,000 fans in a potential playoff-clinching game.  This is the playoffs though and the fans were rowdy two years ago in the postseason so I’d be shocked to see them not show up in large numbers.  Anyway, let’s analyze the two teams:

Pitching: The first game will be the best pitching-duel of the series as David Price takes on Cliff Lee.  Price was 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.19 WHIP this season.  He pitched one time against Texas this year going 6 innings, giving up 2 earned runs, and striking out 8 in a 6-4 win.  I will look to see the same type of outing from Price Wednesday against one of the most productive batting lineups in the AL.  Cliff Lee is the one pitcher on the Rangers that I can see winning a game in this series.  What he did in the postseason last year was just ridiculous and if he can repeat that, the Rangers can maybe scrap up a couple of wins.  Lee was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.00 WHIP this year.  However, Lee has had a rough time pitching against the Rays this year.  He lost all 3 games he pitched to the Rays going 26.2 innings, giving up 12 earned runs, and 24 hits.  EDGE: Price

Game 2: C.J. Wilson (TEX) vs. James Shields (TB).  I give the edge to Shields here because he will be pitching at home and had relatively good success against Texas this year going 1-1 in 14 innings and only giving up 4 earned runs.  Wilson actually won in his only start against Tampa thanks to great run support, going 5 innings and giving up 3 earned runs.

Game 3: Matt Garza (TB) vs. Colby Lewis (TEX).  Yet again, I feel like Garza has what it takes to win this battle as he went 2-0 against Texas this season including a shutout in 7 innings in his last outing.  Lewis did not pitch against the Rays this season.

Game 4: Wade Davis (TB) vs. Tommy Hunter (TEX).  I’ll give the edge to Hunter in the battle of the #4 pitchers.  Hunter had a CG win early in the season against the Rays giving up only 1 ER.

Hitting: There are some All-Star caliber sluggers on both these teams with the Rangers featuring Kinsler, Young, Hamilton, Guerrero and the Rays featuring Crawford, Upton, Pena, and Longoria.  The Rangers were 1st in the bigs in batting avg (.276) and 5th in runs (787), whereas the Rays were a lowly 27th in batting avg (.247) yet 3rd in runs (802).  The Rays have what it takes to put up some high numbers but the Rangers seem more consistent.  EDGE: Rangers

Prediction: I think the Rays will be too much for the Rangers in this series.  They have better pitching and they are the Champs of the best league in baseball, the AL East.  It would be interesting if the Rangers can squeak out a win in Tampa in the first two games and then head to Arlington for two more.  RAYS IN 4

New York Yankees (95-67) vs. Minnesota Twins (94-68)

The World-Series Champs look to defend their 27th championship as they head to Minnesota for the ALDS.  The Yankees have beaten the Twins three times in a row since 2003 in the ALDS, however this is the first time Minnesota gets home field advantage.  It will be interesting to see how Target Field plays a factor in the stadium’s first playoff series in history.

Pitching: Game 1: One of baseball’s most automatic, consistent pitchers C.C. Sabathia (21-7, 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) will be dueling against Francisco Liriano (14-10, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP).  Liriano has shown signs of dominance in his career and had two decent outtings against the Yankees earlier this season going 0-1 in two starts and giving up 5 runs in 13 innings.  C.C. did not pitch against the Twins this season but has been one of baseball’s best and the Yankees’ ace. EDGE: SABATHIA

Game 2 and 3: The Yankees have not announced who their probables are for Games 2 and 3, but I assume Pettitte will go Game 2 if he is healthy and ready to go and that will leave either Nova or Hughes to pitch Game 3.  The Twins are pitching former Yankee-bust Carl Pavano in Game 2 and former relief pitcher Brian Duensing in Game 3.  With Pettitte’s unbelievable October and postseason track record, I see him having the edge in the game he pitches.  If Duensing goes up against the rookie Nova I would give the edge to Duensing.  Hughes could have a great game if he starts and throws his best.

Game 4: Nick Blackburn (MIN) vs. A.J. Burnett (NYY).  Blackburn is an impressive 2-0 in 2 starts against the Yankees, giving up 5 runs in 14 innings.  Burnett is just a mystery; will he pitch dominant like he did when signed by the Yankees or will he be the league leader in wild pitches and throw countless walks like he has shown this year?  Burnett is 1-0 against the Twins this year in 2 starts, giving up 2 earned runs in 11.2 innings, but I have just not been impressed with his consistency and lack of control.

Hitting: The Bronx Bombers sport another powerful lineup from top-to-bottom this postseason.  When fully healthy, they have the most dangerous lineup in the league with such All-Star caliber as Jeter, Cano, Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Posada.  It will be interesting to see if the clutch A-Rod of last postseason continues and if Teixeira can step up.  Don’t count out the Twins though as they were 2nd in batting avg (.274) and 6th in runs (772) this season with such sluggers as Mauer, Cuddyer, Thome, and Young.  The Twins can definitely put up some runs but it is hard to find a better lineup on better than the Yankees — the only question is can they prove it on the field? EDGE: YANKEES

Predicition: This will be a great back-and-forth, nail-bitting series that I think will be decided in 5 games.  Home-field advantage should play a key role and it will be interesting to see what the Yankees do with their starting pitcher situation after Sabathia.  Overall, I think the Yankees will continue their postseason success against the Twins and strive for their 28th World Series title. YANKEES IN 5

MLB End of the Year Awards: ROY and Manager of the Year

October 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

Rookie Of The Year:

AL: Brian Matusz-SP Orioles: While there are some other candidates like the Tigers Austin Jackson, the Rangers Neftali Feliz and the Twins Danny Valencia, Matusz is the most talented rookie in the field. While his 10-12 record with an ERA over 4.00 doesn't look the greatest, he did pitch in the A.L. East this year with the Orioles' offense, defense, and bullpen supporting him. Matusz proved himself a future ace, and that says a lot more than a solid CF like Jackson, a closer like Feliz and a decent 3B like Valencia.

NL: Jason Heyward-OF Braves: The number of quality candidates for the National League ROY is incredible, as guys like Pedro Alvarez, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Leake, Drew Storen, Neil Walker, Ian Desmond, and Jose Tabata aren't even in the conversation. And as impressive of a list of prospects as that, it might pale in comparison to the players that Heyward just beat out. Fellow N.L. East Rookies Ike Davis and Mike Stanton look to have bright futures, but couldn't match Heyward's overall numbers. Jamie Garcia came up with a big year for the Cards, but struggled some down the stretch. Giants catcher Buster Posey was probably Heyward's biggest competition, but with the Giants starting him out in the Minors this year, it was clear that Heyward is more valuable. Going forward Heyward (as are many of these guys) is a cornerstone for the Braves and a complete middle of the order hitter.

Manager of the Year:

AL: Joe Maddon Tampa Bay Rays: While I think an honorable mention should go to new Orioles skipper Buck Showalter, Joe Maddon wins this award based on what he has done all season. You can make a case for any of the playoff teams, for their manager to get the nod. Or even the Red Sox based on just how well they played despite the numerous injuries. Overall though I give this award to Maddon, who got the most out of his players each day. The Rays don't have the budget to match up with the Yankees or Red Sox, but they ended up winning the division. Although no one debates that Maddon had plenty of talent to utilize, at the end of the day this is still a young team and Maddon did a great job getting the most out of them.

NL: Bud Black San Diego Padres: Black might be a surprising choice given the fact that his team missed the playoffs, but he is the most deserving candidate. While Dusty Baker's Reds were a surprise team in the Central, and you can make the case for Bobby Cox in his final season 'willing' the Braves into the postseason, my pick is still Black. And I even agree with those who talk about how Charlie Manual dealt with a high number of major injuries was deserving, but its not nearly as impressive as what Black's team did. The Padres weren't expected to go anywhere this season as they had MLB's second lowest payroll, and on top of that didn't have the youth, talent or farm system of say a Florida Marlins team. There were only a handful of truly quality players on this team, and I didn't think they would go anywhere. Had I fallen asleep through the entire season, and was told two separate stories of the Padres season; In one they finish one game away from trying the Giants and forcing a playoff and in another they finish last not only in the N.L. West but in all of baseball, I would have immediately chosen the latter.  This team wasn't supposed to come close to competing but where in the race right up until the very last day. That to me is pretty well deserving of the Manager of the Year award.

Morning Links:

September 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

Torre Leaves Open the Possibility of a New York Return: While this might peak Yankees fans interest if they don't win the World Series this year, Torre was talking about their cross town rivals the New York Mets. While it might sound shocking to some, Torre finished up his playing career and began his managerial career as a member of the Mets, so it is hard not to see how those ties run deep for him. All-in-all its a lot of speculation based on one radio interview while the season is still in progress, but I wouldn't rule it out entirely. The Mets will obviously make a managerial change,  and have the desire and money to make a big splash. Torre would get the most out of that lineup and give the team instant credibility. While i'm not buying it yet, it will be an interesting story to watch this offseason.

Yankees Add a Game to Their Lead Over the Rays: In an emotional night in which the Yankees unveiled a statue honoring the late George Steinbrenner, the Yankees held off their division rivals 8-6. It was a big win for the Yankees who now have a 1.5 game lead over the Rays for the division. Not only did they win the game, but they did so behind rookie pitcher Ivan Nova. Nova didn't have a great game by any means, but the fact that he was able to pitch well enough to set up the team to win, means that the Yankees still have Hughes and Sabathia throwing in this series (as well as Burnett but that could be a long shot for a win). While the bullpen allowed the Rays to get a little closer they hung on when it counted and got New York their 91st win. This series is a crucial one for New York and will go a long way to determining who takes the East and who ends up with the Wild Card.

Steelers Without Dixon, Resign Leftwich to Battle Batch: The news on Dennis Dixon isn't promising as it looks like a torn lateral meniscus, which will keep him sidelined 2-5 weeks. The Steelers quickly resigned Byron Leftwich who was released over the weekend, who has missed the last two weeks after spraining his knee in preseason. Leftwich was originally supposed to be the seat warmer for Ben Roethlisberger as he sits out this 4 game suspension, but now his healthy return to the field is a priority with Dixon's injury. If Leftwich can't go Charlie Batch will start this Sunday against the Buccaneers. Batch came in for Dixon this past Sunday and the numbers were less than impressive, as the Steelers really had to play a vastly more conservative game than they would have liked. With a limited passing attack the Titans were able to stack the line against the run slowing down Mendenhall. While a full week of practice could allow Batch to be more active in the passing attack, the best thing for the Steelers will be a healthy Leftwich, who has the arm to allow the Steelers to go vertical. While the Buccaneers have been a surprise team this year, the real test will be week 4 at home against the Ravens. For the Steelers to have any chance of winning they will need some sort of passing attack to try to balance out the run game.

Yankees Lose a Tough Series To The Rays

September 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

Yesterday the Yankees lost the third game of a three game set in Tampa, to drop the series to the Rays. While this game didn't go into extra innings like the first two games, it still had its share of drama.

The Yankees jumped off to an early 1-0 lead in the first, only to lose it in the bottom of the 5th inning on one swing by DH Dan Johnson, whose 2-run home run gave the Rays the lead. The Yankees retook the lead in the 7th on a very controversial call. Lead-off batter Derek Jeter was apparently hit by a pitch, according to home plate umpire (and his acting). But the Rays and replay (as well as sound) argued (and showed) that the ball hit off the end of Jeter's bat before it ever touched him. Rays manger Joe Maddon came out to argue the call and was eventually thrown out. According to reports Jeter later admitted that he knew the ball hit him, but did his job to get on base anyway possible. And honestly while it sucks for the Rays, it was a close play and Jeter's acting worked. Next batter Curtis Granderson nailed a two run home run to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. By the same token though Joe Maddon arguing the call might have worked as well, because the Yankees lead was short lived. The Rays came out in the bottom of the 7th and after a two-out single by Matt Joyce, Johnson once again gave the Rays the lead with one swing.

The Rays held on to win 4-3, which not only preserved their season series lead over the Yankees (8-6), but regained them a half game lead in the A.L. East. While the lead is slim, the Rays are peaking at the right time. They still have a 4 game set up in New York next week, but seem much more ready to handle the Yankees. New York meanwhile has been reeling of late and needs to figure out what isn't working as the postseason is quickly coming upon them.

Although whoever loses the division will end up the Wild Card team (barring any major late season collapse), there is a lot at stake here. Not only does the division winner have homefield advantage in the first round, but whoever comes out of the East should have (though the Twins could overtake) homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if it isn't throughout the playoffs because of a late Minnesota push, the division winner would still have the opening series against the Rangers at home.

The Yankees can easily redeem themselves, and comeback and win not only the season series, but the division as well, but right now the Rays seem to be pulling away a bit. This series will go down to the wire, and is some of the best baseball you will see this season.

Morning Links

September 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

Rays Take 1st Place In Spectacular Fashion: Reid Brignac hit a walk off home run in the 11th inning last night as the Rays beat the Yankees 1-0. With the win the Rays not only took the game from the Yankees but the wrestled away first place as well. While this division will likely go down to the wire, the Rays continue to show that they can play with anyone. Tampa won't go down without a fight and I actually really like the Rays chances going forward. While they didn't make any major moves this year, they have been able to bring up some young talent from their farm system to supplement their already young team. They might not be as recognizable and might not have the experience, but no one can argue that the Rays don't have the talent.

Jenkins Hurt and Jets Lose A Tough One: Kris Jenkins went down with an knee injury in last night's game and the prognosis doesn't look good. Jenkins had ACL surgery last year and missed the final two-thirds the season, and that is the same knee that was injured last night. While the team will know if he will need surgery again today, it is a huge blow to the Jets defense. Jenkins is one of the best 3-4 nose tackles in the game, and while the Jets have a good backup in Sione Pouha, he is no Kris Jenkins. Hopefully for Jenkins and the Jets sake he is only out a couple weeks, otherwise the Jets will lose one of their key defensive players. The Jets will still have a top notch defense without Jenkins, but as last night's game showed their defense will need to be perfect for them to win this season.