Sunday, June 22, 2008


(New York, NY) Continuing with our series on Camp Baseball Franchise Previews, we finish off the American League.
AL South

Austin Chin Music / 108 wins – 54 losses / AL South Champs
Season 8 in Review: The perennial AL South Champs were a bit of a disappointment last season, regardless of their record. The Season 7 Runners-up were universally expected to be building towards their first Championship in 6 seasons; however they were ignominiously bounced in the 2nd round by Louisville. Needless to say that went over like a lead zeppelin in Central Texas as the entire coaching staff has yet to be given new contracts for this season. Nevertheless the pitching staff deserves special mention for their tremendous regular season; the entire starting rotation was selected for the All-Star game, led the league in all major categories and was for the most part lights out all year, until the playoffs.

MVP: RHP Rafael Osuna (19 wins -8 losses, 3.17 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) Take your pick of anyone from the rotation, the envy of 31 other franchises.

Underachiever: 1B Fritz Galliard (.301BA, 41HRs, 124RBI). Nitpicking to be sure, but Galliard once again came up small when it mattered most, the post-season. He needs to step up in October if Chin Music is to be heard in the World Series again.

Outlook: No team in Camp has more of a stranglehold on their division than ACM. Hell, a division title is a forgone conclusion when you look around the AL South... the rest of the teams ran for the hills and are starting over in new cities. Despite the post-season collapse, all the pieces are in place for another title run, no question. Heart and desire are all that is up in the air with this club.
100-62, AL South Champs yet again.

Richmond Cavaliers / 77-85 / No Playoffs
Season 8 in Review: Any team mired in the same division as the Chin Music has to take their moral victories where they can, and for Florida/Richmond, Season 8 qualifies. What looked to be a franchise on the skids rebounded skillfully... especially down the stretch, which certainly bodes well for the upcoming campaign. Pitching was the strength of this team as the then Florida Breeze scored in the top 5 in the AL for all major pitching categories highlighted by a tie for the league lead for least HRA. The offense by contrast was offensive, near the basement in all major categories with a troublesome knack for running themselves out of innings, being caught stealing an incredible 133 times for an abominable 59% success rate!

MVP: RHP “Starvin’” Marvin Stevens (13-6, 3.43, 1.26) Strong #1 who is another Comeback Player of the Year candidate.

Underachiever: RHP Dezi Guzman (12-18, 3.96, 1.43) They need more from Guzman if Richmond is to challenge for a playoff birth.

Outlook: Things seem to be heading in the right direction for this club. That being said the previous ownership group and coaching staff were still bounced out of town along with the entire franchise. Goodbye South Beach, hello…Richmond? Perhaps with fewer distractions the Cavs will make even greater strides in Season 9.
75-87, No Playoffs

Kansas City Monarchs / 65-97 / No Playoffs
Season 8 in Review: A franchise that had some real promise 3 seasons ago took a serious turn for the worse in Season 8. Take your pick of weaknesses; starting pitching, power hitting, speed, defense and a bullpen, yikes…borderline catastrophic! The team from Little Rock had little to show for their efforts, their fans had little to cheer about and their attendance dwindled little by little as the season ground interminably on. Pitching was uniquely poor, finishing last or 2nd to last in every major category…but that bullpen surrendered games at a heartbreaking rate. Some brutal numbers, 5-12 in extra innings, 19-28 in one run games!

MVP: 3B Will Kennedy (.308, 20, 83) All you need to know about the Ballers season last year is summed up in the fact Kennedy was traded midway through the season to Tacoma, and he still shook out as the team MVP at the end.

Underachiever: The entire bullpen. Period.

Outlook: New name; KC Monarchs, new front office; welcome dougiefresh, same roster. Sometimes you need to tear down in order to build anew.
60-102, No Playoffs in the foreseeable future.

Louisville Legends / 53-109 / No playoffs
Season 8 in Review: A real shit sandwich.

MVP: Please.

Underachiever: Take your pick, but to be fair this team talent-wise was a AAA club last year.

Outlook: Nowhere to go but up! The baseball fans in Louisville are in for a real shock after witnessing eight years of the Flame Throwers. We will say this, there are some youngsters in the Louisville system with some real potential, but the new owners will need to spend some money and surround them with a modicum of talent to at least work towards being competitive in the future. The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step and this club is looking at a long march back to respectability.
55-107, more of the same in the near term.

AL West

San Francisco Slumpbusters / 95 - 67 / AL West Champs
Season 8 in Review: This talented club has been unable to advance in the post-season going on three seasons now, once again losing in upset fashion in the 2nd round to a very beatable opponent. We’ll say it; the Slumpbusters are in a real post-season slump. Season 8 certainly had its share of highlights however, as the top rotation in the league this side of ACM dominated lineups all season long, racking up stat totals across the board second only to the wunderkinds in Austin. The offense was pedestrian at times but still finished top 6 in runs scored and led the league in steal % and triples.

MVP: RHP Skeeter Duncan (20-8, 2.85, 1.06) AL Cy Young winner, we cannot argue that.

Underachiever: 3B Alex Stone (.257, 19, 87) Took a real step backwards from Season 7 and his inability to carry some of the offensive weight hurt the team badly and Hayes McBride in particular. His number's reflected this especially down the stretch and in the playoffs.

Outlook: Did SF miss their opportunity? The pitching staff is on the wrong side of 30 now and it is hard to imagine getting a better performance from them than the tremendous one just turned in last season. Defending the title of arguably the toughest Division in the AL with the fact Portland and LV are coming on real strong is certainly ominous for the Slumpbusters and their rabid followers.
90-72, AL West Winners

Portland Salmon Kings / 89-73 / Lost in 1st Round of Playoffs
Season 8 in Review: A breakthrough performance for the Kings was highlighted by their first playoff appearance in five seasons. Portland slugged their way to the playoffs, finishing 2nd or 3rd in HRs, SLG%, Runs and extra base hits. One glaring concern all season was the wildly inconsistent bullpen, which finished leading the league in win % in one run games but had one of the worst blown save %. The biggest highlight of course was fan favorite and League MVP…

MVP: 1B/DH Julian Juarez (.296, 70, 158) Juarez won more games single handedly than any other position player in Camp last season.

Underachiever: LHP Homer Baker (1-3, 5.66, 20SV, 9BSV) The youngster has to step it up to be a full time closer in this league.

Outlook: The offense will do its thing again this year but the pitching staff will need to improve, especially in the bullpen. Consistency is key and like many teams in Camp, Portland’s bullpen is a glaring liability entering Season 9.
83-79, No Playoffs, victim of their tough division.

Las Vegas Gamblers / 86-76 / No Playoffs
Season 8 in Review: The good news, LV has gotten consistently better each of the past three seasons. The bad news, the AL West has gotten progressively tougher each of the past three seasons, to the point where it is unquestionably the toughest in the league. This is evidenced by 3 straight third place finishes and three straight years on the outside of the playoffs looking in. The strength of the team and reason for its success all season was a resilient and effective bullpen which led the league in saves at 53. In fact the club had no real weaknesses to speak of last season, turning in average to above average statistics across the board, except for a poor SB%.

MVP: 3B Benny Marrero (.310, 39, 310) Only Finalist for Season 8 AL MVP to win a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and to start the All-Star game. LV has the makings of a monster lineup this season with Marrero anchoring a young powerhouse of talent, if he re-signs!

Underachiever: RHP Slim Herrera (9-12, 5.47, 1.49) Another overpaid, underperforming #1 starter. LV needs more if they are to make a playoff run this season.

Outlook: Young squad looks to improve on a good season by maintaining consistency in the bullpen and bringing along their young sluggers to the starting lineup. Look for some early fireworks from them! The rotation is a concern coming into this season as free agency and injury have taken a toll, combined with unproven talent down on the farm.
We see one step back this season in order to take two steps forward in the near future.
80-82, No Playoffs for now.

Albuquerque Angry Drunks / 79-83 / No playoffs
Season 8 in Review: The archetype “Franchise in Decline”. This former playoff stalwart has seen better days with Season 8 by far their worst effort in franchise history. Let us count the ways this past season was brutal for them; first season not making the playoffs, first season without a Cy Young candidate, first season without a legitimate MVP candidate and first season without a power hitter in the middle of the lineup. Last season the pitching was just as consistent as the season before but the offense really fell off. A glaring lack of power cost them this time around as they finished at or near the bottom in all the power categories; HRs, SLG%, extra base hits and OPS. The front office seemed unaware that this league is a power league and that is how teams score these days. Station to station baseball is a novel idea but it just did not pan out for Tacoma/Albuquerque at all.

MVP: RHP Tony James (15-7, 3.98, 1.36) Has been a consistently excellent #1 starter since the day he arrived in Camp.

Underachiever: Tacoma Front Office. The inability or unwillingness to replace Escuela, Parnell and Leon from the middle of that lineup proved poisonous to their chances, and remain so going into this season.

Outlook: Age issues, fading superstars, a lack of power hitters and a bloated payroll would be a concern in any division. In the AL West it means real trouble and a one way ticket to the basement. The long goodbye continues for this once proud franchise. Perhaps the time seems to have come to rebuild and start over.
70-92, No Playoffs.

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