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March 16, 2009

Milestone Preview: American League East

Now that we’ve all got the Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy in our rearview mirrors…it’s time to focus on the upcoming baseball season.

It would be cliché to say that this year, just like every other season, begins with a clean slate…but I’d be lying to you. Rather I’ll tell you this...just like every other season, we’ve got a number of milestones that look to be eclipsed. From now until the start of the season, The Hall of Very Good will be breaking now each division, team by team, and lay out what milestones you SHOULD be watching for this upcoming season.

For example, did you realize that Randy Johnson is within shouting distance of becoming only the second player ever to notch 5000 strikeouts? Clearly not as monumental, but did you know that both the Houston Astros have three players that are inching closer and closer to 300 home runs?

Let's start with the AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

It pains me to say it, but since Cal Ripken, Jr. saved baseball in 1995, packed up his 3184 hits and retired following the 2001 season, Baltimore hasn’t had much to cheer about. Sure, Rafael Palmeiro notched his 3000th hit as an Oriole, but given the way he ended his career, I’m not sure “Monument City” is about to put up a plaque to honor his accomplishments.

Last season at this time, we’d be counting down the games until Manny Ramirez joined the 500 home run club. This year, there is no Manny and, more than likely, no Curt Schilling (3116 Ks) gearing up to surpass Pedro Martinez (3117), Bob Gibson (3117) and Fergie Jenkins (3192) on the all-time strikeout list.

In their place is slugger David Ortiz and his 289 home runs. It’s safe to say that he’ll get his 300th sometime in early to mid-May. Should Ortiz slump early on…I’m wagering number 300 comes the weekend of June 12-14 when the Sox travel to Philadelphia. The last two seasons, “Big Papi” has hit his 11th home run of the season off former Oakland (and current Phillies) hurler Joe Blanton.

Newly acquired John Smoltz looks to draw some attention as he and his surgically repaired shoulder take the bump to add to his 3011 strikeouts. Currently fourth on the active list, he is not very far from overtaking Schilling (3116) and Martinez (3117).

Considering we don’t actually know the severity of Alex Rodriguez’s hip injury, it’s hard to speculate how far up the home run ladder, “A-Rod” will climb. If he wasn’t starting the season injured…I’d say that moving up five spots on the all-time list and surpassing Frank Robinson was a probability.

So here's a pop quiz, hotshot…who is going to be the next member of the 3000 hit club? If you answered "Derek Jeter" you’d be right. Sure, he’s currently at 2535 and listed as seventh on the active list, but let’s be honest…Barry Bonds isn’t getting those last 65 hits anytime before Jeter gets his next 465. And the other five (Ken Griffey, Jr., Omar Vizquel, Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez and Luis Gonzalez) are either (A) not every day players or (B) not currently under contract.

Mariano Rivera is 18 saves away from joining Trevor Hoffman as the only two closers with 500 saves. Next on the active list…Bill Wagner with 385. Savor save number 500 baseball fans…it’ll be a while until we see it again. Saves are tricky to predict because it’s all dependant on how the Yankees fair this season. If you’re curious, Rivera has been awarded with his 18th save as early as May 29 (in 2004) and as late as August 6 (in 2007).

The 2008 American League champion Rays will have two reasons to follow their bullpen beginning in a couple of weeks. Closer Troy Percival (352 saves) is 15 saves away from surpassing former all-time saves leader Jeff Reardon (367) for seventh on the all-time saves list. I’d make a prediction as to when he’ll top the bearded one, but given he has Jason Isringhausen (himself only 7 saves away from becoming the 22nd player to get 300 saves) battling him for the closer job…I think I'll I’ll pass.

Ummm…third baseman Scott Rolen is 28 home runs from 300. Does that suffice?

No?!? Damn.

Sure, manager Cito Gaston has led his Jays to four AL East crowns and back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, but jumping up and down when he gets win number 50 this season and passes up Buck Rodgers to become 70th on the all-time list for wins would be a little much.

Later this week, I’ll cross another division off the list…stick around. In the meantime, surf on over to Comedy Central and enjoy the roasting of the very unfunny Dan Whitney.

BallHype: hype it up!

1 comment:

E said...

I think the big milestone for Toronto is that they're looking for a guy who's been out of baseball for a decade to return them to their former '90s glory. It's much like the Packers digging up Vince Lombardi.

If they're lucky, they might win enough games to finish as high as second in the AL West.