News Home Page
Area Pro Teams
High Schools
Leagues and Sports
  '02 Preview
Inside Sports
Photo Galleries
Live Online
Sports Index
 Home & Garden
 Weekly Sections
 News Digest
 Print Edition
 Site Index
American League East Capsules

Baltimore Orioles  |  Boston Red Sox  |  New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Devil Rays  |  Toronto Blue Jays

By Mitch Rubin
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, March 29, 2002, Page H4

Baltimore Orioles
O's Section

Baltimore Orioles
Manager: Mike Hargrove (third season, 137-186).
2001 Record: 63-98 (fourth, AL East).
Who's New: LF Chad Allen (signing/Twins), RHP Chris Brock (trade/Phillies), OF Marty Cordova (signing/Indians), OF Chris Singleton (trade/White Sox).
Who's Gone: OF Brady Anderson (signing/Indians), OF Damon Buford (signing/Red Sox), 3B Ivanon Coffie (trade/Cubs), 2B-OF Willie Harris (trade/White Sox), RHP Ryan Kohlmeier (signing/White Sox), RHP Jose Mercedes (signing/Indians), RHP Alan Mills (signing/Expos), 3B Cal Ripken (retired).
For the Defense: Though the "youth movement" has officially begun in Baltimore, the Orioles will be helped most defensively by the return of SS Mike Bordick, 36, who suffered a season-ending right shoulder injury last June. Jerry Hairston showed promise at 2B and Chris Singleton is an upgrade from Melvin Mora in center field, but losing 3B Cal Ripken -- even a 41-year-old Ripken -- would hurt any team's infield defense.
All-Time Best: Brooks Robinson is the best fielding third baseman to play the game. He holds 10 major league fielding records, including most putouts, assists, chances, double plays and career fielding percentage for his position.From 1960 to 1975 he won 16 Gold Gloves (yes, that's all of them), and he was the AL all-star third baseman for the first 15 of those 16 seasons. Reds manager Sparky Anderson on Robinson after losing to the Orioles in the 1970 World Series: "I'm beginning to see Brooks in my sleep. If I dropped this paper plate, he'd pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first."
Bottom Line: The 2001 season was the Orioles' worst since the infamous 0-21 start to the 54-107 1998 season. Without Cal's farewell games and Boog's barbecue there wasn't much of a reason to head to Camden Yards. This season shouldn't be much different. Baltimore pared $40 million off its payroll, in part because of the inability to sign free agent OF Juan Gonzalez or trade for Phillies 3B Scott Rolen. But not all is bad news. RHP Josh Towers had an eye-opening start to his career (6-2, 2.17 ERA through June before finishing 8-10, 4.34) and 1B Jeff Conine had a fine offensive year (.311 avg., 97 RBI). And with the return of number one starter Scott Erickson (missed season after Tommy John elbow surgery), Bordick (missed 104 games with shoulder problems), and David Segui (the oft-injured 1B-DH played just 82 games because of a variety of ailments), the Orioles should creep closer to .500.

Boston Red Sox
Red Sox page

Boston Red Sox
Manager: Grady Little (first season).
2001 Record: 82-79 (second, AL East).
Who's New: 2B Carlos Baerga (signing/Mexico), OF Damon Buford (signing/Orioles), RHP John Burkett (signing/Braves), 1B Tony Clark (signing/Tigers), OF Michael Coleman (signing/Yankees), SS Gary DiSarcina (signing/Angels), OF Johnny Damon (signing/A's), OF Rickey Henderson (signing/Padres), RHP Dustin Hermanson (trade/Cardinals), LHP Darren Oliver (trade/Rangers), INF Rey Sanchez (signing/Braves), LHP Jeff Wallace (signing/Devil Rays).
Who's Gone: OF Izzy Alcantara (signing/Brewers), RHP Rod Beck (free agent/unsigned), OF-DH Dante Bichette (signing/Dodgers), RHP David Cone (free agent/unsigned), RHP Todd Erdos (free agent/unsigned), OF Carl Everett (trade/Rangers), C Scott Hatteberg (trade/A's), INF Mike Lansing (signing/Indians), OF Darren Lewis (signing/Cubs), LHP Allen McDill (signing/Phillies), RHP Hideo Nomo (signing/Dodgers), OF Troy O'Leary (signing/ Devil Rays), C Joe Oliver (free agent/unsigned), RHP Hipolito Pichardo (signing/Astros), RHP Bret Saberhagen (retired), INF Chris Stynes (signing/Cubs), INF John Valentin (signing/Mets).
For the Defense: After a season in which star SS Nomar Garciaparra played only 21 games and emerging star C Jason Varitek only 51, simply getting them back and healthy will dramatically improve the defense. With Garciaparra's wrist fully healed, he can once again dazzle defensively and the acquisition of SS-turned-2B Rey Sanchez will quickly enable Boston fans to forget the less-than-dynamite middle infield combo of Mike Lansing-Jose Offerman. The free agent signing of Johnny Damon dramatically improves the outfield in a couple of ways. CF Damon is an outstanding fielder despite his average arm, and it allows Trot Nixon to return to right field, where he is much more comfortable and has played very well in the past.
All-Time Best: Carl Yastrzemski was a seven-time Gold Glove winner (1963, '65, '67-71, '77) who became the expert in playing the caroms off the Green Monster, and with his strong arm, the master of holding hitters to singles despite banging balls off the wall. But it is Dwight Evans who made a career of playing defense in Fenway's tricky right field. He began his career in 1972 as a good-field/no-hit right fielder, but took his place in Red Sox lore after a leaping catch off the bat of Cincinnati's Joe Morgan in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. His catch made an inning-ending double play out of a possible Series-winning extra-base hit and set the stage for Carlton Fisk's famous HR in the 12th. Evans's bat warmed up in the '80s but his defense is where he earned his paycheck. His arm was the strongest in the majors and his knowledge of the right field corner in Boston kept many a base runner from even considering a dash for second on a ball down the line. Evans appeared in only three all-star games, but won eight Gold Gloves (1976, '78, '79, '81-85), an outfield honor surpassed only by Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline and Ken Griffey Jr.
Bottom Line: New owner. New GM. New manager. The Red Sox have undergone a personality makeover this offseason. Will it translate to a clubhouse that was ready to explode late in 2001? Little, who is universally portrayed as a players' coach, takes over a team that can hit top to bottom, but still has pitching problems -- after its number one starter, Pedro Martinez (7-3, 2.39). They signed RHP John Burkett from the Braves (12-12, 3.04) and traded for Cardinals RHP Dustin Hermanson (14-13, 4.45). Burkett, who will start the season on the DL because of shoulder inflammation, is 32-35 in the AL (109-84 in the NL) and Hermanson is a .500 pitcher (61-61). Derek Lowe (5-10, 3.53) and Frank Castillo (10-9, 4.21) fill out a rotation that -- for the 84th consecutive year -- Boston fans hope will bring them a World Series championship.

New York Yankees
Yankees page

New York Yankees
Manager: Joe Torre (seventh season, 582-387).
2001 Record: 95-65 (American League champion).
Who's New: C Alberto Castillo (signing/Blue Jays), INF Ron Coomer (signing/Cubs), 1B Jason Giambi (signing/A's), RHP Brett Jodie (signing/Padres), RHP Steve Karsay (signing/Braves), INF F.P. Santangelo (signing/A's), OF John Vander Wal (trade/Giants), 3B Robin Ventura (trade/Mets), LHP David Wells (signing/White Sox), OF Rondell White (signing/Cubs), C Chris Widger (signing/Mariners).
Who's Gone: INF-OF Clay Bellinger (signing/Angels), 3B Scott Brosius (retired), OF David Justice (trade/Mets), OF Michael Coleman (signing/Red Sox), OF Chuck Knoblauch (signing/Royals), 1B Tino Martinez (signing/Cardinals), OF Paul O'Neill (retired), OF Ruben Rivera (released), INF Randy Velarde (signing/A's), RHP Mark Wohlers (signing/Indians), RHP Jay Witasick (trade/Giants).
For the Defense: The Yankees lost three longtime anchors with the retirements of RF Paul O'Neill and 3B Scott Brosius and the departure of 1B Tino Martinez, but the club remains solid. The double-play combination of Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano is one of the best in the league; 1B Jason Giambi has gotten significantly better in the field, but is not Martinez, who routinely saved runs with his mitt; 3B Robin Ventura can't make the Brosius barehand play, but is a dependable replacement; and anyone (likely the oft-injured Rondell White) who takes over in LF for Chuck Knoblauch is bound to make him look like the fish-out-of-water he was. On the downside, C Jorge Posada had problems with passed balls and errant throws last season, and while better than average, the tandem of Shane Spencer and John Vander Wal cannot approach the excellence of O'Neill defensively.
All-Time Best: Joe DiMaggio's teammate of eight seasons, SS Phil Rizzuto, once said that he never saw DiMaggio run his hardest for a batted ball, but that balls somehow always seemed to find a way into his glove. DiMaggio rarely needed an all-out sprint even in the massive outfield of Yankee Stadium. He studied the game as he played it. His position in the outfield was based on the pitcher, the batter, the count, the game situation, and he was always in the right place. "I hit a tremendous line drive one day in Yankee Stadium that went at least 450 feet to deepest center field," recalled Hank Greenberg in Lawrence Ritter's book, "The Glory of Their Times." "Joe turned and raced toward the bleachers with his back to the plate; still running full speed without turning around or looking back, he stuck his glove up and the ball landed in it. Sheer instinct."
Bottom Line: The Yankees walked off the field last November disappointed for the first time in four seasons. And owner George Steinbrenner did everything in his power to see that that wouldn't happen again this fall. After scoring just 14 runs in a seven-game World Series defeat, he immediately courted and signed one of the baseball's best hitters, Giambi, to a seven-year, $120 million deal. He let GM Brian Cashman do the rest, and Cashman filled every hole he saw. Brosius retired, so he traded disappointing David Justice for Ventura. They needed a left fielder so he signed White (.307, 17 HR). He thought Spencer might not be a good enough replacement for O'Neill, so he traded for Vander Wal (.270, 70 RBI) to set up some competition. He felt that the team never filled the hole left when righty set-up man Jeff Nelson signed with Seattle in 2001, so he signed RHP Steve Karsay. Manager Joe Torre will be in charge of blending this group of newcomers with the established veteran Yankees. The only remaining problem seemed to be how to select a five-man rotation from six quality starters (Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Sterling Hitchcock, Orlando Hernandez and David Wells), and a poor spring from Hitchcock seems to have solved the problem. Together with a bullpen of the reliable Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza and nearly unhittable Mariano Rivera, the Yankees are once again clearly the team to beat in the AL.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Rays page

Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Manager: Hal McRae (second season, 58-90).
2001 Record: 62-100 (fifth, AL East).
Who's New: SS Wilmy Caceres (trade/Angels), LHP Steve Kent (Rule 5/Angels), RHP Kevin McGlinchy (Rule 5/Braves).
Who's Gone: RHP Manny Aybar (signing/Giants), RHP Mickey Callaway (trade/Angels), OF Jose Guillen (signing/Diamondbacks), RHP Juan Guzman (released/unsigned), OF Troy O'Leary (released/unsigned), RHP Brian Rekar (signing/Royals), LHP Jeff Wallace (signing/Red Sox), Dan Wheeler (released/unsigned).
For the Defense: After 3 1/2 years of depending on poor-fielding veteran free agents (Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff, Vinny Castilla), Tampa Bay decided midway through last season to cut payroll and give their prospects some playing time. The combination of half-season vets/half-season rookies left the Devil Rays with the worst defense in the league (139 errors). But there's finally some hope. C Toby Hall, a converted 3B with a good arm, calls a good game and has risen in the organization with the young pitchers that will make up the staff. LF Jason Tyner has tremendous speed and Brent Abernathy is the first bona-fide 2B the team has ever had. 1B and 3B are still up in the air and there is not one good arm among RF Ben Grieve, Tyner and CF Randy Winn. But for a team that has never come close to fielding a good defensive team, a real possibility for improvement is all that matters.
All-Time Best: It would be silly to pick the all-time best Devil Rays fielder. Their defense has been bad since the team was born in 1998. No player in a Devil Rays' uniform has ever won a Gold Glove. In fact, the only player the Devil Rays have had on their roster that once won a Gold Glove is 3B Wade Boggs. So let's pick the worst. That's much tougher. The honor goes to -- 2001 3B Aubrey Huff. In 73 games, Huff made 15 errors and was sent back to Class AAA in late August.
Bottom Line: The original Devil Rays strategy was to sign a few free agents, play decent baseball and gain some credibility while developing their many early-round draft picks. Thus far, the Devil Rays have never won 70 games and have become a completely unattractive team for available free agents. Phase One was an abject failure, and has been abandoned in favor of Phase Two. The transition was quick and effective. Tampa Bay got rid of almost all players over 30, trading 1B Fred McGriff, 38, and RHP Albie Lopez, 30, releasing 3B Vinny Castilla, 34, and OF Gerald Williams, 35. And then the train of prospects rolled in: LF Jason Tyner, 24, (.280, 31 SB), C Toby Hall, 26, (.298), 2B Brent Abernathy, 24, (.270, 33 RBI), 3B Aubrey Huff, 25, (.248, 45 RBI), CF Randy Winn, 27, (.273, 50 RBI), LHP Joe Kennedy, 22, (7-8, 4.44) and LHP Nick Bierbrodt, 23, (3-4, 4.55). The team finished 24-23 with the lowest average age in baseball (26.42). This season all youngsters, but Huff, will likely be starters along with 1B Steve Cox, 27, and 3B Jared Sandberg, 24, (nephew of Cubs great Ryne). And as soon as GM Chuck LaMar can find takers, DH-OF Greg Vaughn, 36, and C John Flaherty, 34, will be dealt.

Toronto Blue Jays
Blue Jays page

Toronto Blue Jays
Manager: Buck Martinez (second season, 80-82).
2001 Record: 80-82 (third, AL East).
Who's New: INF Dave Berg (signing, Mariners), RHP Brian Cooper (trade/Angels), LHP Felix Heredia (trade/Cubs), 3B Eric Hinske (trade/A's), RHP Justin Miller (trade/A's), RHP Luke Prokopec (trade/Dodgers), RHP Chad Ricketts (trade/Dodgers), C Tom Wilson (trade/A's).
Who's Gone: C Alberto Castillo (signing/Yankees), DH Brad Fullmer (trade/Angels), INF Tony Fernandez (retired), INF Jeff Frye (free agent/unsigned), SS Alex Gonzalez (trade/Cubs), INF Cesar Izturis (trade/Dodgers), RHP Billy Koch (trade/A's), INF Luis Lopez (released/unsigned), RHP Paul Quantrill (trade/Dodgers), OF Brian Simmons (signing/White Sox).
For the Defense: One of the many teams in baseball looking to cut costs, the Blue Jays hired Oakland personnel director J.P. Ricciardi as GM with the directive to trim payroll and get younger. Two players traded to get that accomplished were promising young infielders SS Alex Gonzalez and utilityman Cesar Izturis. They will be replaced by rookies. Eric Hinske (acquired in a trade for closer Billy Koch) will take over at 3B, moving former prospect Felipe Lopez to SS. On the right side, injury-prone 2B Homer Bush hears the footsteps of prospect Orlando Hudson. So, at some point this season, the only infielder with more than four games of major league experience at his position could be 1B Carlos Delgado, an average fielder. That seems to portend bad news for last year's second-ranked AL defense. Meantime, the outfield is four-deep wih talent -- RF Raul Mondesi, CF Jose Cruz Jr., LF Shannon Stewart and impressive late-season call-up Vernon Wells.
All-Time Best: Roberto Alomar began his run of 10 consecutive Gold Gloves (the most ever by a second baseman) in his first year in Toronto and made his second of 12 straight trips to the all-star game in his first of five years there (1991-95). Since his early days with the Blue Jays, Alomar has become one of the game's greatest fielders. He fields the slow rollers between first and second as easily as he does the bouncers hit up the middle. And while his personality has been mercurial, his defense has remained smooth and steady. He's a second baseman with a shortstop's arm, which has allowed him to range left and right farther than any other second sacker. And while his range has to some degree lowered his fielding percentage, he has led the AL three times -- including 2001 -- and set the record (in 1995) for consecutive errorless games (104) and chances (484) by a second baseman.
Bottom Line: Even with an outfield that hits like the Jays' does, it's difficult to imagine Toronto contending for the East Division title. But if the talented rookie infield comes together, contending for the wild card is not out of the question. Much of the team's success will depend on starting pitching, especially given the significant weakening of the bullpen following trades of closer Billy Koch to Oakland and setup man Paul Quantrill to the Dodgers. With top starter Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter, who also finished strong in 2001, and Luke Prokopec (acquired in the Dodgers deal), Toronto has a strong top three. And with a little luck and a successful transition to closer by Kelvim Escobar (6-8, 3.50), 2002 could be more than a transitional season.

© Copyright 2002 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top


Search Options
Site Search