I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a rationale for the Phillies' decision to commit $125 million to Ryan Howard's ages 32 through 36 seasons 20 months before a decision point on doing so. The ones I see fall into two categories: soft factors, such as keeping a perceived key player happy, fending off two years of stories about Howard's impending free agency and showing the fan base that the team will keep its most popular players in Philadelphia; and poor player-evaluation skills: using runs batted in as a primary measure of player value, not taking into account the career path of players with Howard's skill set and badly misreading the replaceability of players like him.
No combination of these factors can justify the contract. Howard is a good, not great, player, a mix of obvious skills — his ability to hit for power and against right-handed pitching — and obvious flaws — a contact rate that limits his ability to reach base, middling defensive skills, terrible problems against left-handed pitching. The package makes him an asset as he moves through his prime, and he has been a key contributor to the Phillies' success since 2006. He has never been the best player on his team, and now, he is no better than the third-best Phillie, and could be rated lower depending on what kind of years Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth have. The Phillies have missed badly on Howard, committing maybe 20% of their payroll down the line to a player who will be contributing, at best, 70% of the time at the plate and not at all in the field.
With Opening Day a little more than a week away, here is a look at the projected rosters for each of the 16 National League clubs following conversations with club executives and media members. Keep in mind these are projected rosters and subject to change. American League lineups are here. You can also look at the fantasy depth charts at any time to see our latest updated projections.
Today's slate of interleague games was particularly unappealing as only one matchup featured two teams with winning records - the 2008 World Series rematch between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the pitching matchup of Antonio Bastardo (5.21 ERA) versus Andy Sonnanstine (6.60 ERA) left a lot to be desired. The lone National League contest had two winning teams, the first place St. Louis Cardinals and the second place New York Mets, and featured a face-off between two Cy Young winners on the mound: the resurgent Chris Carpenter and struggling Mets' ace Johan Santana. While the mainstream buzz before and after was about the Cy Young matchup, the real story of the game was the showcase of Tony Larussa's incessant managing style which gave mixed results.
Can a manager cost his team a game? It's hard to tell, as the players throw the balls and swing the bats, leaving the managers to fill out the lineup cards, give the steal sign, pinch hit, and bring in numerous relievers. We don't get to mark down a home run or a strike out for the manager, as the best we can do is see what did happen when he made a choice, and surmise what might have happened with the opposite choice.
Lineup shuffling in St. Louis, a San Diego surprise, plus news and notes from around the leagues.
The Cardinals may be one of the hardest teams to figure out this season. With first baseman and reigning National League MVP Albert Pujols in the lineup, they always have to be considered a threat to contend. They also have a good rotation, especially since Chris Carpenter flashed his 2005 Cy Young form in his first start of the season, though he exited his second outing with what will hopefully be a minor injury. The Cardinals also have holes and question marks in the lineup, however, along with a bullpen that could easily undermine much of the rotation's good work.
The latest comeback by the Cardinals ace represents challenges both new and old.
One of the great speculative themes you find in any spring training occurs when we ask "can he come back?" about any given player rehabbing from injury. The answer for Chris Carpenter is "yes," because he's done this before. But if you ask "can he come back again?" the answer is less clear. Carpenter is such a unique case with a unique combination of circumstances that he demands a nuanced look, not only at how his problems mesh together, but at how his strengths might help him return to the mound.
Full predictions and ballots for the senior circuit, plus who might be on their way to winning it all.
Yesterday we started our predictions miniseries with a look at the American League. Opening Day means that it's time for our National League and World Series picks.
Each author's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division, plus the results of our preseason MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting. Coming off of their win on the season's inaugural night, BP likes the Mets to take the NL East again, and sees a three-team horse race in the Central.