Chat with Jerry Crasnick
The case for AL EastBoston has won two World Series in the past four years. The Yankees have averaged 97 victories a year since 1996, and Toronto should be better after being crushed by injuries last season. In addition, Tampa Bay is finally making strides in assembling a pitching staff to complement its impressive core of young offensive talent. By the way, the AL East posted a 101-85 record vs. the AL Central last year.
The case for AL CentralDetroit was a legitimate World Series threat until a slew of injuries hit the team last season, and Cleveland took Boston to the limit in the American League Championship Series. If Francisco Liriano returns from Tommy John surgery and Johan Santana stays put, Minnesota could be very intriguing. In addition, Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Edgar Renteria, Nick Swisher, Scott Linebrink, Orlando Cabrera, Delmon Young and Jose Guillen will be new to the division in 2008.
The case for NL WestArizona, Colorado and Los Angeles are all loaded with young talent, and San Diego is always a threat because of its pitching. Arizona also managed to land Dan Haren in a trade with Oakland without hurting the big league club. On the down side, the NL West posted a 34-44 record in interleague play last season, and the division lacks firepower. With the exception of Colorado, no NL West club scored 750 runs last season.
The ChoiceThis is a close one. But we'll go with the AL East, in part because of the improvement of Toronto and Tampa Bay. So let's commence with the chat -- and the obligatory "East Coast bias" rants. Vote: Which division is the best in baseball?
Archive: Hot Stove Heaters
Matt (Pittsburg, Pa)
When do you see the "rays" in the playoffs, anytime soon???
Jerry Crasnick (1:01 PM)
Matt, I don't see the Rays in the playoffs anytime soon, unfortunately, because they're so outgunned financially. But if the young pitching progresses quickly, I think they could crack .500 in 2009. That might not sound like much, but keep in mind that the franchise has yet to surpass 70 victories in a season.
I understand the arguement for some of the other divisions...but with the player additions to the central, how could they not be the strongest?
Jerry Crasnick (1:02 PM)
Chris, Here's one of my problems with the AL Central: Minnesota, Kansas City and Chicago ranked 12th, 13th and 14th in the American League in runs scored last season. And Cleveland ranked 10th in the league in runs after the All-Star break. Discounting Detroit, you're looking at some pretty suspect offenses.
Nick (Philadelphia, PA)
No cred for the NL East?? The past two NL MVP's, the best short stops in MLB, certainly, with some of the best young talent in the league they should be in the consideration. While the Mets and Braves are perrenial post season studs, the Phillies have been getting better year by year and the Nationals are going in the right direction and the Marlins... well they have nice weather.
Jerry Crasnick (1:04 PM)
Nick, I know head-to-head divisional record isn't the be-all and end-all, but the National League East went 73-96 vs. the West last season. Atlanta was the only East club to post a winning record vs. the West.
josh (ashland, or)
I'll tell ya what, the N.L. west was by far the most entertaining division last year. As a fan of good and exciting games, great competition, and payrolls like CO and AZ this division can not be beat, in my mind.
Jerry Crasnick (1:07 PM)
Josh, The NL West has some weak lineups, but geez, look at the pitching in that division. On any given night you might see Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy, Jeff Francis, Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Greg Maddux or Chris Young, just to name a few. And now the division has added Dan Haren and Hiroki Kuroda, who might be every bit as good as Dice-K. That's a pretty strong statement in behalf of the NL West for me.
David (Ann Arbor, MI)
Which players are the key in each division to making his division the best in baseball?
Jerry Crasnick (1:09 PM)
David, Interesting question. In the AL East, A.J. Burnett and Scott Rolen are huge factors for Toronto. In the Central, the Indians need a big bounce-back year by Travis Hafner. In the NL West, I think Arizona needs more offense from Stephen Drew and the kids. Those are a few of the key guys this year.
John (Portland, ME)
When was the last time both the Red Sox and Yankees went an offseason without making one major free agent signing?
Jerry Crasnick (1:10 PM)
John, Well, A-Rod was technically a free agent, right? I hope so, given that the Yanks spent $275 million on him.
Ward (Columbus, OH)
With all of the moves that were made this offseason by the other teams in the AL Central, are the Indians still the best team in the division? If not, what moves do they need to make?
Jerry Crasnick (1:12 PM)
Ward, The Indians go into spring training as the clear No. 2 behind Detroit. At this point, it doesn't look as if they'll be doing much more. They're hoping Dave Dellucci can come back from his injury and share time in left, and they want Franklin Gutierrez to emerge in right. It still wouldn't be a shock to see them trade Cliff Lee, but it's getting a little late in the game for that.
Jerry, how far can the Tigers go this year?
Jerry Crasnick (1:13 PM)
Jackson, It all depends upon the pitching, obviously, because that team is going to score a ridiculous amount of runs. But the loss of Joel Zumaya really hurts, and you have to wonder how much Dontrelle's numbers will bounce back now that he's pitching in a tougher league.
Conner (Medford, Or)
The Padres made some moves that could either turn out to be flops, or great deals. How do you think the moves of getting Jim Edmonds and Mark Prior will do for the Padres.
Jerry Crasnick (1:16 PM)
Conner, The Mark Prior deal was worth a shot, even if he misses the first couple of months. He's potentially worlds better than the other guys who were out there on the free agent market this winter. I have some doubts whether Edmonds and Brian Giles will hold up in that spacious outfield. San Diego really needs some more OF depth.
Jerry, aren't you exposing yourself to that dreaded "East Coast Bias" label? The AL East had two very good teams (NYY & BOS, a decent one (TOR), an improving team (TB), and a debacle (BAL). For my money it's the NL West. While it may not be as top heavy as the AL East, the depth of the division makes for a tougher time playing through the season. With so many games against Arizona, San Diego and Colorado it's tougher to get out of that division than any other. The Dodgers are not push-overs themselves and the Giants are at least on par with Tampa Bay. Three tough teams and another decent one make for many more games that are a real fight to win.
Jerry Crasnick (1:19 PM)
Rich, Like I said, the NL West is more balanced and entertaining than any other division. But I think Toronto has enough talent to win that division, and Tampa Bay would be competitive. Just look at the SD outfield of Giles, Edmonds and Scott Hairston. Tampa has Carl Crawford, BJ Upton and Rocco Baldelli, and Toronto has Vernon Wells, Alex Rios and Reed Johnson/Matt Stairs/Adam Lind. I'd take either of the AL outfields in a heartbeat.
Jonathan (Vista, Ca)
What do you think of the chances of the Chicago White Sox rebounding this year, especially when everyone in the lineup had a down year last year? Do you think that they can compete with the Tigers and Indians for the division?
Jerry Crasnick (1:21 PM)
Jonathan, I'm not sold on the White Sox. They're getting older, and the arrival of Nick Swisher isn't going to solve the team's OBP issues. I also have my doubts about Swisher playing center field all season. Most important, the Sox' current rotation has Jose Contreras, John Danks and Gavin Floyd in the 3-4-5 slots. That's pretty shaky.
John, (Wooster, Ohio)
You mention Toronto and Tampa Bay improving, what about Kansas City. I think Minnesota and Kansas City will finish with better records than Toronto and Tampa in 2008.
Jerry Crasnick (1:23 PM)
John, I'm a big Dayton Moore fan, and he has that team headed in the right direction. But I thought he was overly generous with Jose Guillen, and the team's other recent acquistions (Ron Mahay, Miguel Olivo, Brett Tomko, etc.) were more of the patchwork variety. The Royals are going to have to settle for incremental progress this season.
Dan (Minneapolis, MN)
Am I the only one that thinks Delmon Young is an upgrade over MR. GIDP Torii Hunter? I expect the Twins to score more runs with 3-4-5-6 of Mauer/Morneau/Cuddyer/Young. If Johan stays and Liriano bounces back, could we actually compete with Detroit and regain the AL Central crown we used to hold?
Jerry Crasnick (1:26 PM)
Dan, Minnesota's offense could be marginally better with Mike Lamb at third base and Brendan Harris at second, but Delmon Young needs to learn some plate discipline before he takes that next step. And who's going to play center field?
I agree with you Jerry, but where's the love for the NL East?
Jerry Crasnick (1:28 PM)
Justin, Look at the Phillies, Braves and Mets, and their rotations are all basically three deep. Florida completely gutted its payroll, and Washington's pitching rotation consists of Jason Bergmann, Shawn Hill, Tim Redding, Matt Chico, John Patterson & Co. I just don't think the NL East has enough good arms.
I've had this argument before and we tried to settle it by making an all-star team from each division and deciding which was the best. Doing that I don't know how you can avoid the NL East, it's just overflowing with talent. How do you even begin to pick a shortstop for that team???
Jerry Crasnick (1:29 PM)
Eric, See above answer. I know the NL East has some great position player talent. But Florida and Washington aren't going to be very good this year, and the other clubs all have pitching issues.
Mark_H Loveland, CO
Wow, something interesting on ESPN.com that I don't have to pay to be "in". What does Troy Tulowitzki's new contract say about the future of Matt Holliday in Colorado?
Jerry Crasnick (1:31 PM)
Mark, We aim to please. The Tulowitzki-Holliday contracts are related because they give the Rockies some cost certainty through arbitration. But the Rox would have preferred to lock up Holliday through a couple years of free agency, and that didn't happen. So we can look forward to a Dan O'Dowd-Scott Boras staredown in a couple of years.
Please Jerry give the AL West some love. It never gets its due.
Jerry Crasnick (1:33 PM)
Brandon, I just don't see it. The Angels haven't completely addressed their offensive issues. Texas is in rebuilding mode and lacks pitching. Oakland just traded away Dan Haren and Nick Swisher. And who knows with Seattle? I'd still put the AL West ahead of the NL Central, but that's about all the love you're going to get from here.
I can't agree that Toronto is a team that would translate well into other leagues. They did not have a single player hit over .300 and only Thomas hit over 25 homers. Also Holliday was the only pitcher to pitch over 170 innings. They haven't made many improvements, and I think playing in the AL East overrates them because of the tough competition up top.
Jerry Crasnick (1:36 PM)
Artimus, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay both had terrible years because of injury. I think they're both major bounce back candidates. And Alex Rios is good enough that the Giants at least contemplated trading Tim Lincecum for him. The Jays need a healthy Rolen, but I think they'll score enough runs. Keep in mind that they ranked third in the majors in team ERA last year ... And by the way, it's Halladay, not Holliday.
1.5 Years ago Carlos Quentin was borderline untouchable. Kenny Williams got him pretty cheap? Brilliant move or sideways move?
Jerry Crasnick (1:37 PM)
Dan, I liked that move by Kenny Williams. Carlos Quentin has had some injuries -- and he has a tendency to get down on himself -- but he was definitely worth a shot. A couple of years ago, you never would have been able to acquire Quentin for a minor league first baseman.
Tim (Omaha, NE)
Jerry - Of the three; AL East, AL Central & NL West, which do you feel has the potential for the most dominating pitching - from the perspective of young, future pitchers in their division?
Jerry Crasnick (1:40 PM)
Tim, Good question. I'll have to go with the AL East. There's Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Papelbon in Boston, and Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in New York. And everybody raves about Tampa's young pitching -- with Garza, David Price, Jake McGee, Wade Davis, et al. Those three clubs are all stocked with impressive young arms. Baltimore has some intriguing young pitchers as well.
scott crasnick (Acton, MA)
that is the wrong claim... the yankees have lost a lot of their veterans, so they will need huge production from young pitchers, which will be too difficult. the sox are dominant, but they are really the only dominant team in the east right now. the al central has to be the top division, the parity within the top 3 teams in the division (minnesota, detroit, and of course my indians) equates to the lower records. they all beat each other up because each of them has a legitimate chance to win the division. come on, you should realize that by now
Jerry Crasnick (1:43 PM)
Scott, That's a pretty compelling argument for a guy with the last name of Crasnick. What are you doing to earn some coin this summer -- mowing lawns?
Dave Grand Rapids, MI
Jerry- Where do you think the Tigers lineup will rank among the greatest lineups of all time?
Jerry Crasnick (1:45 PM)
Dave, We might be getting ahead of ourselves here, but it has the potential to be awesome. The Yanks led baseball with 968 runs last season. With a healthy Sheffield, the Tigers might be a threat to top that.
Alex (Columbus, Oh)
Come on, at least my pro-central arguments don't make the midwest sound borderline stupid. Scott only got through because of his name, didn't he?
Jerry Crasnick (1:46 PM)
Alex, Yeah, it didn't hurt. He's my nephew and a good kid, so I thought I'd give him a break. Score one for nepotism.
Matt (Tacoma, WA)
The reason I think its the AL Central is that there is no guaranteed series win. In any other division, there is one team who most of the rest of the league is expected to take 2 of 3 from. In the AL Central, the Royals are going to lose 85 games, but they will win a bunch of series. In Minnesota every series you will have to face Santana or Liriano, or both. The White Sox are good, the Indians and Tigers both got better. The NL West has same kind of depth, but the elite teams in the NL West don't scare (who is the elite team anyways?).
Jerry Crasnick (1:49 PM)
Matt, I think it's a stretch to refer to the White Sox as "good" -- at least based on their performance last year. And as I've mentioned, the lineups in Minnesota and Kansas City aren't going to scare anyone. I'd take Colorado's lineup over any of those teams in a heartbeat. It's also hard to say that Cleveland got "better," given that Mark Shapiro's biggest offseason move was acquiring Japanese reliever Masahide Kobayashi.
Everyone is focusing on offense and pitching, but which division is the best defensively?
Jerry Crasnick (1:51 PM)
Michael, I think it's a mixed bag. Colorado was tremendous defensively last year, but San Francisco has a bunch of statues in the field. Boston is pretty darned good with Lowell, Crisp, Youkilis, etc., but the Yankees' defense is substandard. Does anyone out there have a response to the overall defense question?
nick (new lenox, IL)
Why is ESPN obsessed with east coast teams when there are better teams out west and in the central. They need to expand their coverage of baseball and not constantly televise Yankees-Red Sox games.
Jerry Crasnick (1:52 PM)
Nick, This question doesn't really relate to the conversation at hand, but I figured I'd post it as a public service while I'm searching for one that's more relevant. Thanks, guy.
Chris (Davison MI)
The tigers might be the best defensive team in team in baseball with guillen moving to first and the best second basemen and centerfielder in the came and the best catcher in the history of game
Jerry Crasnick (1:53 PM)
Chris, Good point, although Detroit's defense took a major step backward with Miguel Cabrera taking over for Brandon Inge at third base. But given Cabrera's bat, I think Jim Leyland will take that tradeoff.
NEHEAT (Lincoln Nebraska)
The Giants removed Klesko and Bonds.. If Fransden beats out Durham, the "statues" will be gone. N.L. west best defensive division.
Jerry Crasnick (1:55 PM)
NEHEAT Yeah, but the shortstop is over 40, Dave Roberts is better suited to left than center, and a lot of people think Benji Molina's defense has slipped. So I still wouldn't categorize the Giants as imposing in the field.
Jerry....show the Twins some love. How will they be this year?
Jerry Crasnick (1:57 PM)
James, If they keep Santana and Liriano comes back strong from his surgery, they could be a handful. If Santana gets traded for a package of young players and Liriano hits the obligatory speedbumps, I don't think it'll be a particularly fun summer in Minnesota.
Drew (Gainesville, FL)
I'd say the NL West is the best defensively. Looking at Gold Glovers (or those with obvious potential): Todd Helton 1B, Tulo SS, Andruw Jones CF, Maddux P, Russel Martin C, and Arizona has a slew of young players with GG potential.
Jerry Crasnick (1:58 PM)
Drew, Thanks for the insights. You won me over.
Kris (Chicago, IL)
I don't know about best division defensively, but is there any doubt that the Blue Jays are the best defensive team in baseball? The only position where you can make a case that they're below average at is shortstop. I consider Eckstein to be average, though.
Jerry Crasnick (1:59 PM)
Kris, We'll see how Rolen fares playing on the turf everyday. But yeah, the Jays have some nice defensive pieces in Overbay, Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells and Alex Rios.
Mark (Grand Rapids, MI)
Will the Tiger's bullpen be good enough to compete with the likes of Boston and the Yanks?
Jerry Crasnick (2:00 PM)
Mark, If the offense clicks, I think the pen could be good enough to get the Tigers through the regular season. But with the loss of Joel Zumaya, David Dombrowski really needs to make an upgrade if they plan to go deep into October.
Jerry Crasnick (2:01 PM)
Thanks for the responses, everyone. I'm going to call it a day and avoid a marathon, Keith Law-caliber chat today. Let's do it again soon.