Last year at this time, the big question was…can the Phillies repeat?
And they did.
They won the National League pennant, but as anyone with a pulse knows…they lost the World Series to the New York Yankees.
Along the way, Philadelphia saw their young superstar Ryan Howard add two new achievements to his already growing resume.
First, he reached 200 home runs quicker than anyone else in Major League history when he went deep against the Marlins on July 16. Three months later, in his final at bat of the Fall Classic, the 2006 MVP set a record when he went down swinging for a World Series record 13th time.
And with that…here’s the NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST.
Long gone are the days of Greg Maddux (now in the Braves front office), Tom Glavine (finally, officially retired) and John Smoltz (whereabouts unknown). Thankfully, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox are still drawing a paycheck in “The ATL”.
Jones is looking at eclipsing a couple benchmarks this season…2500 hits, 1500 RBI and 450 home runs are all in his sites. The first two being the easiest to accomplish given he is sitting at 2406 hits and 1445 RBI. But with 426 home runs, reaching 450 might be a stretch.
Any way you slice it, the Braves third baseman will be adding to his already Hall-worthy resume as he is the only switch hitter in Major League history with a career batting average better than .300 (.308) and more than 400 home runs.
He’ll enter the season 14th all-time among switch hitters on the career hits list, but should end up ninth. And with a mere 64 RBI, he’ll surpass Mickey Mantle and move into second place on the all-time list of RBI by a switch hitter.
Manager Bobby Cox enters his last season as a big league skipper fourth all-time in wins with 2413. He won’t leap frog Tony LaRussa (2552), but if Atlanta should make the playoffs…it will be a record setting 16th appearance for Cox.
In 2007, the fiery manager became the all-time leader in ejections (he now has 151) and was the last manager to get the boot from a World Series game back in 1996. Incidentally, he is also the only skipper to have been kicked out of two World Series games for arguing.
After a 2009 season that saw him bounced from his closer role in New York to setting up Jonathan Papelbon in BeanTown, Billy Wagner is being looked at as the every day closer for the Braves.
Should “Billy the Kid” do the expected and notch at least 15 saves, he’ll reach 400 for his career…something only four other relievers (Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith and John Franco) have done.
Not bad for a “rat” who was run out of Philadelphia following the 2005 campaign.
Take a quick glance at the Marlins 40-man roster and you’ll notice one thing…only THREE of their players (Wes Helms, Brian Sanches and Dan Uggla) were born prior to the Reagan Administration.
Simply stated, they’re young, gang, and if you’re expecting some sort of Braves-like write up here…you’re sadly mistaken.
All that aside, third baseman Jorge Cantu is only ten long balls away from 100 home runs for his career.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets, on the other hand, are looking to stay healthy. Last season, the Amazins saw their players spend a league best (worst?) 1480 days on the disable list.
One of the guys who spent the most time on the DL is former All-Star Carlos Beltran who opens the season 27 home runs away from 300 for his career.
And while it isn’t likely he’ll reach the plateau in 2010 (he’s starting the season, where else…on the disabled list), every swing of the bat inches him up another rung on the “Puerto Rican Born Major Leaguers” ladder.
In New York’s bullpen, Francisco Rodriguez is sitting at 243 saves. Now, on the all-time list, that’d put him smack dab between Dan Quisenberry (244) and Sparky Lyle (238), but considering this cat is only 28…we’re going to witness the youngest reliever ever to reach 250 saves and could be looking at someone to challenge Trevor Hoffman’s career numbers.
At the same age, Hoffman had yet to save 100 games…but from age 29 to 41, dude added close to 500 more.
Before last season, former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery told The Hall that he wouldn’t “be surprised if K-Rod blows out his arm next year”…and he didn’t. I’m sure the Mets are hoping Monty’s bold prediction never comes true.
But since we’re supposed to be talking tangible milestones here, let me throw this one at ya. Did you know that Rodriguez is 45 games finished behind fellow Venezuelan (and convicted murderer) Ugueth Urbina on his countries all-time games finished list?
Yeah, something tells me that that won’t be the lead on SportsCenter when it happens come late-August.
As if you needed to be reminded of this…but Jamie Moyer is old.
How old? He is the one player out there that can tell you where he was when JFK assassinated. And not only is he the oldest player out there…he bests John Smoltz (should he end up somewhere) by close to four and a half years!
So, given he’s older than a number of managers out there, it makes sense that, with 258 wins, Moyer is the active leader. Unfortunately, with 195 losses…he’s tops among active pitchers there as well. If/when Moyer loses his 200th game, he’ll be the first pitcher to hit that mark since Glavine lost his 200th April 13, 2008.
But back to victories. As far as wins go, the next in line is Andy Pettitte with 229 and before anyone starts to wonder aloud about Moyer’s Hall of Fame chances…it’s not going to happen. However, there are only two lefties (Jim Kaat and Tommy John) who have more wins and won’t see their ticket to Cooperstown punched anytime soon.
All others have been or will be enshrined.
An interesting sidenote on Moyer…dude is just 14 bombs (491) behind Robin Roberts total of 505 when it comes to home runs allowed. Should he get the opportunity, he’ll tick closer and closer to Hall of Famer Roberts and, hopefully, surpass the one-time Phillies hurler on the all-time list.
Also of note…closer Brad Lidge is a handful of saves (five) away from notching 200 for his career.
Prior to 2009, Ron Villone was looking to get some time with his record tying twelfth team. On May 7, “Suitcase” found his way to the mound for the Nationals and tied pitcher Mike Morgan as the game’s most traveled player.
This year, Matt Stairs is looking to get some playing time in San Diego (coincidentally, his twelfth team)…so let’s all hope that Villone finds his way to lucky number 13.
With only three home runs in his last 30 games, Adam Dunn topped out at 38 home runs last season, failing to become only the second player with more than 40 home runs (or more) in six straight seasons.
Only Babe Ruth did it more (seven times), but here’s the big question…isn’t six seasons of 38 or more home runs in a season an accomplishment?
Someone should look that up!
Now with his fifth different team in the last three seasons, 14 time All-Star Ivan Rodriguez is looking to secure his spot as the greatest catcher ever.
The 1999 American League MVP has 13 Gold Gloves behind the plate, has appeared in more games than any other backstop (2288) and also leads all catchers in hits.
Lastly, the Nationals are looking to be the first National League team to lose 100 or more games in three straight seasons since their rival 1962-1965 Mets did it for four straight seasons.
The American League East is next on the slate.