Since I was a kid I’ve always looked forward to picking up The Sporting News baseball preview magazine. There’s a lot wrong with it, of course, it’s written way too early in the offseason to catch all of the transactions, their predictions suffer as a result, and well, it’s The Sporting News.
But it’s always been–along with finding out if Yosh Kawano saw his shadow on February 2–one of the first real signs of spring.
I picked up the 2010 preview a couple of days ago. And it’s chock full o’ the stuff you expect it to be.
There’s a feature about all of the big offseason changes and how they expect the Phillies and Yankees to play in the World Series again. Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald has a feature in there about how Japan does not appear to be producing that many really good players. What, So Taguchi and Kosuke Fukudome aren’t doing it for you, Scot?
They have an article about how the money the top pick in the draft gets is seldom worth it. And the fossilizing corpse of Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Dispatch has a feature about how this is the golden age of managers. He includes Dusty Baker in the golden age. Let’s just move on.
After features on Joe Mauer explaining that catching is hard and Augie Garrido tells about the joys of driving while shitfaced, you actually get to the baseball preview part of the magazine.
The Sporting News has the Cardinals winning the Central, the Cubs winning the Wild Card, the Rockies winning the West and the Phillies winning the pennant. They have the Yankees, Twins and Angels winning the divisions in the AL and the Red Sox winning the Wild Card with the Yankees beating the Phillies in the World Series.
Strauss was given the chore of writing the capsules for each team in the NL Central. And every team has a projected lineup for 2012.
If Strauss is right about the Cubs lineup (and the scary part is that he just might be pretty close)…guh.
Brett Jackson, cf
Derrek Lee, 1b
E-ramis Ramirez, 3b
Josh Vitters, rf
Alfonso Soriano, lf
Geovany Soto, c
Starlin Castro, ss
Mike Fontenot, 2b
Ace: Carlos Zambrano
Setup: Angel Guzman
Closer: Carlos Marmol
Immediately, some things jump out at you.
Mike Fontenot? That doesn’t seem unlikely, it seems impossible. There’s a decent chance Fontenot won’t finish 2010 with the Cubs, and since he proved last year he can’t play every day, that one seems out.
Derrek Lee is still there? He’ll be 36, and even if he is, he probably won’t be spry enough to be batting second.
Angel Guzman’s arm will have fallen off by then.
Some of it seems inevitable though. I’m sure the Cubs will try before 2012 to find an American League team to dump Soriano off on, while eating most of his contract, but Alfonso has a n0-trade so it’ll have to be somewhere he wants to go and somebody’s going to have to pay him extra to go. So chances are he’ll still be flailing away in the middle of the lineup. The Cubs don’t exactly have a horde of catching prospects challenging Soto.
But E-ramis could very well be gone after this season. He has a player option for 2011 and figures to want a big raise to avoid testing the market. It’s likely the Cubs will let him test the market and he’ll be playing third for the Red Sox or Angels in 2011. And heavy legged Marlon Byrd will still be under contract for 2012, making $6 million. But apparently he’ll be on the bench? We can only hope.
The Cubs have great hopes for the three prospects in the lineup. But Jackson doesn’t project to be a leadoff hitter. (Not that anybody in the Cubs farm system ever does.) Vitters is probably going to have to move to a corner outfield spot or first base, so that seems about right. The Cubs hope Castro will be hitting at the top of the lineup. But honestly, they’d be happy if he’s just in the lineup somewhere.
These kinds of projections are tough. You can’t really forsee free agent signings or trades, so it just becomes a fools’ errand of determining who’s likely to be gone and what prospects will fill their spots.
And the early Sporting News deadlines don’t help, either.
Strauss’ projected 2012 Cardinals lineup is missing somebody who is all but guaranteed to be in the lineup (unless they’re wearing big MH 15 patches on their uniforms that year):
Skip Schumaker, 2b
Brendan Ryan, ss
Albert Pujols, 1b
Colby Rasmus, cf
David Freese, 3b
Allen Craig, lf
Yadier Molina, c
Tyler Henley, rf
Cubs fans hope that Schumaker and Ryan are the best the Cardinals can do in three years. And the odds of Molina not weighing 400 pounds by 2012 aren’t really good. But you’ll notice this lineup doesn’t have Matt Holiday in left. He re-signed in early January. So that’s why Joe doesn’t have Xavier Nady in the Cubs 2012 lineup. Right? Oh, never mind.
For what it’s worth, the 2012 Brewers do not have Prince Fielder in their lineup. The 2012 Reds have Johnny Cueto (probably after this third Tommy John surgery) as their ace. The 2012 Astros still have Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee in the lineup (they’d have to drive Carlos around left field in a golf cart by then.) And the 2012 Pirates haven’t traded all of their prospects away…yet.
If you’re interested, the 2012 White Sox still have Alex Rios, Paul Konerko (hah!), Mark Teahen and JJ Putz (uh, no.) But you’re probably not.
You might notice the magazine also identifies Gregor as being from the Chicago Daily News. By 2012 the paper he writes for might be defunct like the Daily News, but for now it’s the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.