In the immortal words of Derek Jeter, "To stride or not to stride, that is the question." Let's begin the chat.
When will Jaime Garcia get the proper respect nationally? This guy is good!
Perry, Well, Garcia did finish third behind Posey and Heyward in the National League ROY race last year, so I wouldn't say he's flown completely under the radar. My impression was that he didn't pitch very well for much of spring training, but he seems to have picked up right where he left off last season.
Will Tampa Bay finish last in East or perhaps all the AL?
Gregory, Have you seen Seattle? Sure, the Rays are off to a bad start, but they've been hit hard by Longoria's injury and the Manny fiasco. I never liked the bullpen much from the outset, and I think they did it with mirrors offensively last season. But they have enough good young starting pitching to be better than they've shown so far.
Break up the Indians! No way they can keep this up, right?
Dan, I don't see them playing .778 ball all season, if that's what you mean. I think they caught Boston at the right time, and they beat up on a Seattle team that's just plain bad. Still, Manny Acta has that team playing with a lot of energy, and I love some of their pieces (like Santana at catcher and Asdrubal Cabrera at short). And just think -- Choo hasn't started hitting yet and they're doing it without Grady Sizemore.
Is this the year Travis Hafner finally gets back to his old self?
Chad, Hafner had an OPS of better than .900 in the second half last season, so the Indians thought he was on his way to rediscovering the old Pronk. They've come to realize that even though he's DHing, he can still use a day off or two a week because of the old shoulder injury. But I'm impressed with what I've seen so far. He really seems to be swinging the bat with authority.
WHAT'S GOIN ON WITH MANNY HE'S ON MY FANASTY TEAM!
AWESOME, Last I heard, Manny was taking a vacation trip to Spain. Unless you have a slo-pitch softball fantasy team, he probably won't be of much use to you from here on out.
How good are the Reds? can they win back to back NL Central titles?
Corey, The Reds are very good. Really good defense, some dynamic young talent, and from what I've seen of Joey Votto, he's locked in again this year. The key for them is going to be the progress made by Volquez, Cueto, Homer Bailey and Travis Wood. Those guys are good enough to take them through a regular season, but can they knock heads with the Phillies and other elite rotations in October?
Is your book "License to Deal" coming back in print any time soon? It goes for alot on Amazon since it seems to be OOP.
Al, That ship has sailed, unfortunately. I do have a box of them collecting dust in the attic.
I think this weekend we saw the real benefit of the Phillies rotation.. one bad start by one of the big four isn't a huge problem, because they'll get very good starts almost every game. Not too many losing streaks for the Phillies this season, barring injury to the top 4?
Mikey, Yeah, while there was reason to be concerned with all the bad news in spring training, the Phillies are going to be in almost every game because of that rotation. Hamels had a bad one and came back and threw brilliantly. Cliff Lee just had a bad one too. I would expect him to be lights out in his next start.
If the Orioles bullpen holds up they have a legit shot at being over .500, correct?
Jim, I think the bigger question is how Britton, Tillman and the young kids will fare in the rotation. That AL East is a gauntlet, and it's not the easiest place to learn on the job. But the Orioles are now 40-26 under Buck Showalter, I believe, so they've clearly tapped into something good. I can see them finishing at .500, sure. But that might be the ceiling for this season.
Could the Dodgers end up being a 'sleeper' this year? They may not hit very much, but that has to be the most under-rated pitching staff in the majors...
Bob, The Dodgers went into this season wondering where their offense would come from beyond Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. And two weeks into the season, that remains a burning question. I still think they're the third best team in that division behind the Giants and Rockies (feel free to pick the order)
All I hear is how everyone's concerned about the decline in velocity for Phil Hughes and Scott Kazmir. I watched Chris Young last night and he couldn't touch 90 on the gun, but still pitched great. If he can do it surely it shouldn't be a problem for others!?
Nathan, Some guys learn how to pitch with reduced velocity, and others don't. Chris Young is clearly much further along the learning curve than those other two guys. And the fact that he's 6-10 gives him some deception like nobody else. He must lead the majors every year in infield popups.
Two things about the Brave baffle me: A) why take solid 2b Prado and put him in LF instead of hiding Uggla there (groundball pitchers need good infielders!) and B) Why waste your best OBP guy setting the table for your 7, 8 and 9 hitters? What's going on down there??
Yon-Yonson, Prado is comfortable playing anywhere, and if you're going to sign Uggla to a long-term deal for $12 million a year, I think you want him to do what he does best -- which is play a serviceable second base and crank out 30 homers. As for the lineup, I'll be interested in seeing what they do with McLouth. If he struggles, they're going to have to drop him out of that second spot and re-jigger things, aren't they?
Best division in baseball is....
Javy, I still think we're looking at the AL East, despite the early struggles of Boston and Tampa Bay. With Baltimore and Toronto improving, the division just has a more balanced look to it now.
Jerry, what's closer to reality, the Brewers that started 0-4, or the Brewers that are 5-1 in their last six?
Joe, Hey, if the Brewers pitch the way they're capable of, they're going to contend in that division. I just had too many questions about the defense and the supporting cast for Prince and Braun to pick them ahead of Cincinnati. Worst case, they probably win 85 games or so. Best case, they win 93-95 and make the playoffs.
Hi Jerry. What has impressed you about the Blue Jays so far?
Craig, I like the presence of Ricky Romero and his new wing man, Kyle Drabek, in the front of the rotation. They've stockpiled some good young arms, and you have to think John Farrell is going to get the most out of that rotation. The lineup has some nice pieces, but I'm not sure how much they'll get out of guys like Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion. He's really an adventure in the field, isn't he?
Man forget the Red Sox. When you bat your fastest leadoff hitting in the 3 hole and not your best hitter and RBI guy to start the season, you dang well deserve the atrocious record to start. Anyway, to my Cubs: I think the Rays fleeced them in this Garza trade. Never been a fan of him. It's not like we were winning this year anyway. Why didn't Hendry with his incompetent self just hold on to Archer and the other youngsters; develop them further; and just bring them up in 2012 ready to go? Also, Casher should have been stretched out in AAA ball to start and then brought up. Pitching in cold weather as a starter was bound to be bad. Am I right? Thoughts? Let's hear them.
Madman, Garza probably will always be that kind of guy: Great stuff, but he can seem distracted and sure tease you at times. Given where that team is, I agree that they probably would have been better served holding onto the package they sent to Tampa Bay. But it's hard to know what kind of pressure Jim Hendry is under to win now. As for Cashner, I'm in no position to second-guess the way they handled him this spring.
Joey Votto is off to a hot start, what are his odds of winning back to back MVP awards and getting some more respect from the baseball community.
Mike, Sending the question once would have been sufficient, big guy. I was in Cincinnati opening day, and Votto really looked focused and locked in with his swing. Hitting in that lineup, in that ballpark, he's going to put up some big numbers. At the very least, he's getting an early headstart on Albert Pujols.
What do you think about the Pirates?
JT Hamm, They're fun to watch. I tuned in over the weekend and saw Pedro Alvarez make a couple of sweet defensive plays at 3B, which surprised me. Andrew McCutchen is a really good player, and Neil Walker and Jose Tabata can hit. I just think their pitching is going to get ground down over the long run. But the pitchers really seem to be responding to the new pitching coach, Ray Searage.
I am a huge baseball fan but really dont have a favorite team. If you could choose one team that will be very good team in the future who would it be?
Jerry, Is this a trick question? Given your location in Omaha, I would have to go with an AL Central team that's loaded with prospects. (And it's not the Cleveland Indians, although they have some legitimate promise). I'll let you figure out the answer yourself.
At what point in a season do you start getting optimistic (or depressed) about your team? What's a decent sample size?
Dan, I've always believed that 40 games, or a quarter of the season, is a legitimate barometer. But think about last year: People spent five months doubting the Padres, then jumped on board and embraced Bud Black's team en masse in August. And then, naturally, the Padres slumped in September and missed out on the playoffs. If a team has deficiencies, they're going to show up eventually.
Would you say that one of the biggest advantages of the Phillies over the Giants and Braves is their defense? They seem to make the routine play 100% of the time, and the non-routine play, well, routinely. Giants and Braves... not so much...
Eddie, I can buy that -- although I went to a Phillies game last week, and a couple of baseball people told me that they're going to miss Jayson Werth's defense in right field this season. Ben Francisco has done a nice job at the plate so far, but he's no Werth in the field.
is this the year for billy butler?
Nate, Billy Butler hit .301 with 51 doubles two years ago, and .318 with 45 doubles last year, so we know he's a solid hitter. I think the more appropriate question is, "Is this the year for Alex Gordon?"
Ian Kennedy, Joba, Hughes....too early to wonder if the yanks let the best one go?
Chip, Yeah, I wouldn't jump to that conclusion yet. Ian Kennedy has made a nice jump to the NL (and that park in Arizona is no picnic). But he's more of a finesse guy, and I just don't know how well his stuff would play in the AL East with the DH and all those power-laden lineups.
Is the most important sign of Howie Kendrick maturing as a legit MLB hitter his walks thus far?
Tom, I wouldn't draw too many conclusions through 9 games, but Kendrick has 6 walks and 6 strikeouts so far, and that's a good sign. Nobody ever doubted his bat speed or hand-eye coordination. Scouts were saying three years ago that the kid should win a batting title one day. Maybe this is the year he breaks through and contends.
Any early reviews on how the Rangers are using Michael Young? It seems this super-utility/DH combo is exactly what this team will need in the dog days of July and August.
Rick, The Rangers are 8-1 and Michael Young has 37 at bats already, so there's not much reason for anybody to complain. It's a long, hot summer in Texas, so this arrangement might be the best thing for everyone involved to keep all the Texas position players fresh for the stretch run.
Do you see the Padres being a serious threat to win the NL West this year?
Lance, I don't see it, but I didn't see it last year and they won 90 games. Bud Black, Darren Balsley and Darrel Akerfelds do a great job with that pitching staff, and the lineup is pesky enough that they'll find a way to win their share of games. But I have a hard time seeing them finishing any better than third in that division.
Say Jimmy Rollins stays healthy, hits about his career avg this season, say .280, with solid (for him) rbi and runs, steals 35+bases, plays his usual great defense. If you're the Phillies do you re-sign him? I worry that his recent regression would just be delayed because it's a contract year.
Ricardo, Jimmy Rollins looks rejuvenated, and he's still only 32 years old. It's a tough call for the Phillies because they have such a top-heavy payroll. But when Rollins is healthy, there aren't many shortstops who bring such a varied skill set to the park every day. He really makes that team go. I can't imagine them letting him leave without making a legitimate run at keeping him.
Would you be terribly surprised if the Giants struggled all season and finished with like 85 wins? Other than Lincecum, Cain and Posey, they are the weakest defending champs i've seen in years.
Rich, Are you an A's fan? When I suggested in spring training that the Giants might underachieve this season, some Giants diehards took offense. I think it really comes down to that rotation staying healthy all season. They'd be awfully fortunate for Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez to all make 33 starts again this year. On a positive note, Pablo Sandoval looks like a new man, and Miguel Tejada keeps finding a way to get it done (at least, at the plate).
Do you think any of the Phillies pitchers have a good chance at winning a Cy Young award? Do you think Halladay could win it again? I know its prolly too early to tell but the start they are having is making me wonder.
Wes, I picked Roy Halladay to win the Cy Young. The entire rotation is superb, but that guy isn't even human.
Good afternoon Jerry. How good can the Marlins be this year? Clearly the Phils have a stud Pitching staff but their offense(albeit early) isn't scaring to me. The Fish i believe are just as balanced/talented as the Braves. Barring injures the Fish can win atleast the Wild card. Am I too optimisitic? What say you?
Marcos, I've talked to some scouts who think the Marlins have sleeper potential. But they really need Mike Stanton to stay healthy and put up big numbers. He seems to have a lot of nagging injuries, and that concerns me. And how is the starting pitching going to be after Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco? We shall see. I do like Edwin Rodriguez, the manager. I hope Jeff Loria gives him a legit chance to work with those kids.
Jerry, I like how you address each person in your answers. Justin Upton has looked good at the plate so far, is this his big breakout year or is he destined to the same taunting promise and inconsistencies of his brother BJ?
Patrick (in Peoria), Thanks for the kind words. When I was in spring training, Don Baylor talked a lot about Justin Upton and how he's taking a more all-fields approach this season. People forget that it's not easy, no matter how talented a kid is, to come in and immediately light it up at age 19 or 20. That's why I thought all the Upton trade talk wouldn't amount to anything. I think Justin Upton has a breakout year in him.
Do you think texas will win the west again this year theyhave not lost a game yet in 2 weeks and we are not even half way through yet. your thoughts.
Victor, I was concerned about the starting pitching in Texas, so I went outside the box and picked the Angels as a surprise AL West winner. But the more I watch the Rangers play, the more convinced I am that they're a playoff club. That team just mashes, and Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre were great additions. Even with mediocre pitching, they should win 90-plus games.
Thanks for the emails, everybody. Sorry I couldn't get to more. Let's do it again next week.