Reservations For Six: When the music stops, we’ll all have players
The National League West has kept "left-coast" baseball in the headlines over the past year. Off-season moves involving high profile players will make the division very intriguing in 2008.
San Diego Padres
A season ago, the Padres lost a great tiebreaker against the Rockies, leaving them out of the postseason. San Diego is starting rotation led by Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, Greg Maddux, Chris Young and new acquisitions Mark Prior and Randy Wolf, doesn’t have many holes.
The team also added outfielder Jim Edmonds, infielder Tadahito Iguchi and veteran first baseman Tony Clark. First baseman and slugger Adrian Gonzales will lead the experienced Padres offense this year in their attempt to avenge Last year’s late season collapse.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers, like the Padres, have great starting pitching led by Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe and Jason Schimdt, who’s returning from injury. The Dodgers offseason acquisitions include iconic manager Joe Torre and Gold Glove centerfielder Andruw Jones. Jones will come in and start for the Dodgers while anchoring the middle of the lineup alongside catcher Russell Martin and second basemen Jeff Kent.
The Dodgers need to stay healthy and Andruw Jones must hit better than last season’s .222 average. Outfielder Juan Pierre and shortstop Rafael Furcal provide speed at the top of the lineup. The Dodgers should earn a wildcard spot this season.
Arizona’s season ended with the Rockies sweeping them in the NL Championship Series last October, giving this year’s team something to prove. A pitching staff featuring Brandon Webb, future hall of famer Randy Johnson and the newly acquired Dan Haren give the D’Backs a nice rotation.
A speedy young lineup led by second basemen Orlando Hudson and outfielder Chris Young gives Arizona a great shot to compete in this division. The inability to score runs a season ago and the loss of closer Jose Valverde to Houston will be too tough to overcome, though, and the D’Backs will miss the playoffs this season.
The Rockies are looking to defend their NL title in 2008. Colorado gained a lot of postseason experience after having to win almost every game down the stretch to make the playoffs and the World Series. The loss of second basemen Kazuo Matsui and while only getting pitcher Mark Redman didn’t make for a good offseason.
Re-signing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and 2007’s MVP runner-up Matt Holiday was necessary for the Rockies to have a bright future.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants released slugger Barry Bonds, their best player for the last 15 years, in the offseason, leaving a weak offense. A very old team includes veteran infielders Omar Vizquel, Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham and outfielder Dave Roberts, but they did acquire outfielder Aaron Rowand from free agency, which should improve their defense.
Barry Zito anchors a very young pitching staff, which includes Noah Lowry, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and highly touted prospect Pat Misch. The young pitching should be fun to watch, but the Giants will be in the West’s cellar for most of the season.