In most discussions of the greatest American bands and artists, the name that should come up but never does is R.E.M. And why is that? Well, it could be because they haven't made a good album since my junior year of high school, despite trying and bombing multiple times (c'mon, Monster blew), and it could be because Stipe looks like he just checked out of the Mayo Clinic at all times. Still, to date, Murmur remains a great first album, Automatic for the People is still fantastic, and their scattered singles are superb. But undoubtedly the band's masterpiece is Reckoning, an album that gets forgotten rather quickly when discussing greatest rock albums, a horrendous oversight. As argued by this dude, it wasn't too long ago that U2 and R.E.M. were in the same conversation. Now it's comical to even insinuate this is the case.
To partially honor R.E.M., and partially because this team sucks enough that doing a conventional preview is beyond uninteresting, we're taking a step out of the norm here and doing the preview through the relevant lyrics from Reckoning, provided in red below where appropriate. I would pay Bill Simmons royalties, but I'm convinced he was stomped to death at Bumbershoot last summer.
Team History: Why're you trying to second guess me? Second guessing hasn't been apporpriate for this squad, who's been all over the map in their finishes, much like the co-author of this genius blog. As one of the Original Six, a very good 3rd place finish in the seminal year was followed up by a couple of middling efforts, until a huge run was made for the top in 2005, which resulted in a 2nd place finish that looks even more inexplicable now---not that Scot's team overachieved, but this squad was fricking stacked. Last year was a tad on the disappointing side...for reasons that are tough to ascertain. The team couldn't have been that bad, as the 1-2-3 picks in this year's draft were all refugees from the 9th place team. Nonetheless, it's clearly rebuilding team with an eye to '08 for this year. Right?
Infield: Victor Martinez, Adam Hoffman LaRoche, Howie Kendrick, Carlos Guillen, Eric Chavez. Knock, knock, knock on wood. Youth is definitely being served here, with a lot of upside, returnside, and questionside. I mean, Adam LaRoche? The Braves couldn't dump him fast enough for a middling reliever, and you're going to tell me he's more Jermaine Dye than Melvin Nieves? I remain skeptical. Kendrick & Victor are tough not to like, and Guillen remains underrated, but he & Chavez make up a left side of the infield that could crater from injuries. Lotta risk here, but no guts...
Outfield/DH: Adam Dunn, Juan Pierre, Delmon Young, Josh Willingham. Going where nobody says hello, they don’t talk to anybody they don’t know. Geezus, there's a ton of potential strikeouts in this outfield. To recycle a joke I make every month and never gets a single laugh, Teddy, you realize K's are pitching category, right? Ok, Dunn is a stud for the OF, and Young should bloom in the next year or two, provided he doesn't try to kill an umpire, but Willingham's a huge dice roll, and Pierre provides only one category of assistance while killing you in 3 others. In other thoughts, if Dukes & Delmon get lockers next to each other in the Devil Rays locker room, is it possible we'll have a media member killed by May? This is a surly group of guys to put together.
Bench: Andy Marte, Jeff Kent, Milton Bradley. The biggest wagon is the empty wagon. Suffice to say, I think this group will change during the year. Kent has no staying power and may find himself in another clubhouse imbroglio by June. (And if you thought you could get an impartial thought regarding Jeff Kent out of me, you don't know me well enough.) Marte's a fair flyer, but given the strength of 3B's in general right now, he's gonna have to be pretty special to make himself stick. As for Bradley....well, now at least we know that Delmon's the kinder gentler Defrocked Principal.
Starting Pitching: Johan Santana, Josh Beckett, Brett Myers, Justin Verlander, A.J. Burnett, Kelvim Escobar, Mark Buehrle, Esteban Loaiza, Adam Loewen. Heaven’s yours, heaven’s yours, heaven’s yours where I live. Finally, something good to write about. There's a ton of starting pitching here that's already good (Santana, Myers, Verlander), a guy who should be a stud (Beckett), and a ton of fun rebounders and/or young guys. Some thoughts: what to make of Beckett, who's about to get to Expensive Keeper status? Is Santana more valuable as trade bait? Will Brett Myers punch his wife again? These are good questions though.
Relief Pitching: Mariano Rivera, Tom Gordon. A handshake is worthy if it's all that you've got. For a Red Sox fan, this is inexcusable. Why would you want to re-create the 2004 Yankees' bullpen? Oh wait...
Breakout Player: What will be your look this season? Howie Kendrick takes the league by storm, wins the batting title, and scores 100 runs as the Angels go to the playoffs. There, I said it. The downside? Teddy screaming out Howie every fricking time the guy comes to bat. Call me happy that the bastard can't get the Extra Innings package.
On the Wrong Side of the Hill: If your friends took a fall, are you obligated to follow? Sorry, I think Buerhle's near done. I do give Don Cooper the utmost respect, but I think he's about to hit creaky veteran status that execrable commodities like Steve Trachsel and Kris Benson inhabit.
X-Factor: Cannot shuffle in this heat, it's all wrong. Beckett really could be the turning point and make this staff into something special. He wasn't awful last year, and probably isn't worth the riches of prospects that they gave up for him, but there's no reason he can't enter this year as a bad-ass and throw down a 18-6 year with a strong ERA. He also could re-blister his groin and be a poor man's Matt Clement.
Verdict: I'm sorry.