Thirty New Years Wishes for Thirty Teams

The end of the year is upon us. Time for reflection. Time for a really long list that accomplishes nothing.

(It could be worse. I’d originally planned to analyze Paul Splittorff‘s 1980 season, but figured I was in trouble when it failed to hold even my interest.)

Here, then, are 30 wishes for 30 teams:

Angels: A designation that properly identifies their location. The “Los Angeles” thing is cute but it annoys locals and confuses everyone else. Even if “California Angels” didn’t tell the whole truth, at least it wasn’t lying to us. When I was in college some years ago, I worked at the school library. I once spent 10 minutes trying to convince some woman from the East Coast that Baja California wasn’t part of the United States—seems the word “California” was throwing her. Now we’ve got folks wondering which part of Los Anegeles Anaheim is in. My stock answer? The part that isn’t in Los Angeles. Not a very helpful response, I realize, but one that amuses me.

Astros: Someone to replace Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio as the faces of the franchise. With Bagwell officially announcing his retirement and Biggio almost a decade past his prime, the Astros need a player who the public associates with the club. Lance Berkman is the obvious choice. He’s a great player who hails from the state of Texas and who played his college ball at Rice University in Houston, but he lacks, say, the stance of a Bagwell or the pine-tar-stained helmet of a Biggio. Now would be a good time to make Berkman a little less anonymous to the casual baseball fan. Anything short of growing a soul patch and dying it team colors will do.

Athletics: A manager who can get them deep into the playoffs. I wonder what Crow and Tom Servo are doing these days.

Blue Jays: Health and continued production from Vernon Wells. The Jays have invested a lot of money in someone who’s had two stellar seasons and three decent ones in his big league career to date. If Wells can maintain last year’s levels, then no problem. But if he slips back toward v. 2004-2005, that’s not so good.

Braves: Plate discipline for Jeff Francoeur, and the reincarnation of their pitching staff from the ’90s. Francoeur is an unbelievably talented young player, but 17 unintentional walks against 132 strikeouts over a full season is just insane. Does the world really need another Corey Patterson? As for the pitchers, aside from freak-of-nature John Smoltz, and possibly Chuck James if he can keep his homers down, there isn’t a lot of cause for optimism. Maybe the spirit of Greg Maddux can inhabit the body of Kyle Davies. Wait, if a guy isn’t dead yet—oh, never mind.

Brewers: Proof that Bill Hall‘s 2006 wasn’t a fluke and Rickie Weeks‘ was. Hall posted a .553 SLG last season. That’s higher than he’d ever posted in the minors, including a stint at High Desert, one of the most favorable hitting environments in professional baseball. Weeks, meantime, is supposed to be a hitting machine, which is pretty much a prerequisite for a second baseman who commits 20-plus errors a year.

Cardinals: An 83-win team that takes the World Series doesn’t need any wishes.

Cubs: A way to get back some of the $294 million they spent on free agents this winter. Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but giving huge wads of cash to the likes of Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis just ensures more desperate times. In Lilly’s case, though, he at least has one consecutive year of not sucking.

Devil Rays: More production, less drama from their prospects. Between Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes (heck, throw Josh Hamilton into the mix while we’re at it), the Devil Rays have had their hands full. They need some of these kids to grow up and play ball for them. Maybe this will be the year.

Diamondbacks: A pitcher or two to go with Brandon Webb. This is a club that has scary good young offensive talent (the thought process that led to their extending Tony Clark‘s contract in August 2005 escapes me, and frankly, I hope it always will). If the Diamondbacks can find a couple decent arms, they could be dangerous sooner than people think. Doug Davis and a full season of Livan Hernandez should help. Having both of them return to 2004 form would help even more.

Dodgers: A front-office staffer who can convince Ned Colletti that former mentor Brian Sabean’s strategy of giving away promising young players and signing old guys whose specialty is playing defense isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. Sending Joel Guzman to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for a month of Julio Lugo made no sense, and the Juan Pierre signing has the potential to be even worse. Oh well, at least the Dodgers aren’t trying to convince anyone that they represent the city of Anaheim.

Giants: A general manager who doesn’t overvalue defense, particularly in older players, and a manager who recognizes that Pedro Feliz makes way too many outs to be given a starting job. Bruce Bochy’s third baseman last year in San Diego was Vinny Castilla. Just sayin’.

Indians: Patience. This club is a starting pitcher or two away from being a serious contender. The Indians appear to have a plan and have been disciplined in sticking to it thus far. They still need a few more pieces to complete the puzzle, but if Andy Marte is ready to step in at third base and Jhonny Peralta can bounce back from a disappointing season, folks in Cleveland could be in for a fun ride next summer.

Mariners: A mascot that makes sense. When I think “Mariner” the next thing that comes to mind certainly isn’t “moose.” Maybe “albatross,” but that’s another story.

Marlins: An owner that isn’t bent on destroying big-league franchises. The Marlins and their fans have suffered through two of the worst ownership groups in recent history. At least Wayne Huizenga won a championship. Jeffrey Loria’s primary role is to come in and shut down operations. He did it in Montreal, and he may well pull it off in Miami as well. Baseball deserves better.

Mets: A youth potion for Moises Alou, Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, Pedro Martinez, and Jose Valentin. An aging potion for Philip Humber, Lastings Milledge, and Mike Pelfrey.

Nationals: Health for John Patterson and Nick Johnson. More trade opportunities with the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners.

Orioles: A plan that involves something other than throwing too much money at mediocre middle relievers. I get that Baltimore’s bullpen was terrible in 2006, but is overpaying Danys Baez, Chad Bradford, and Jamie Walker a legitimate solution? Hey, at least Scott Williamson was cheap.

Padres: A postseason that doesn’t involve the Cardinals.

Phillies: Health for Cole Hamels. A better appreciation of what Pat Burrell has done for the franchise.

Pirates: Continued development from young pitchers Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, and Ian Snell. Someone to complement Jason Bay on offense. Proof that Freddy Sanchez wasn’t a fluke.

Rangers: Learning from Vicente Padilla what Kevin Millwood evidently failed to teach them. More than two innings from Eric Gagne. A resurrection of Hank Blalock‘s once-promising career.

Reds: A general manager who won’t trade their good young players for spare parts. Sending Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Washington Nationals for middle relievers was a generous gesture, but not the sort of move that fosters a winning environment. If the Reds are serious about getting rid of Adam Dunn, someone had better make sure they get more than a Hello Kitty backpack in return.

Red Sox: Health and consistency for the starting rotation. The Red Sox invested a ton of money in Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has yet to pitch in the major leagues; they gave up Hanley Ramirez (among others) to get the disappointing Josh Beckett; Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield are 40 years old; and Jonathan Papelbon, last year’s closer, has made just three big-league starts in his career. Talk of a great rotation may turn out to be a reality, but it strikes me as extremely premature at this point. The projected starting five combined to make 87 starts in 2006, posting a 4.53 ERA in those games. There is upside here, but none of these guys is anywhere close to being a sure thing.

Rockies: A domed, pressurized stadium with a see-through roof. Actually, the effects of Coors Field have softened over the past few years, so maybe not. The Rockies saw three young hitters—Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, and Matt Holliday— take significant steps forward in 2006, and all are just entering their primes. On the other side, even with the loss of Jason Jennings, the Rockies still have two young pitchers (Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis) who appear to be comfortable pitching at altitude. Still, a domed stadium with a see-through roof would be pretty sweet.

Royals: Sorry, I’ve run out of Gil Meche jokes.

Tigers: Continued health for Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez; continued development from Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, and Joel Zumaya. Was it really just three years ago that Alan Trammell was coaxing his team to five wins in its final six games to avoid breaking the all-time record for losses in a season? Trammell led the Tigers to an improbable 29-game improvement the following season and held them steady in 2005 before yielding to Jim Leyland, under whom they improved by another 24 games. Stuff like that just doesn’t happen. Or maybe it does, and they’ll pick up 24 more games in 2007, finishing with the same number of wins—119—as they had losses in 2003.

Twins: A few starting pitchers to follow Johan Santana in the rotation. This team can hit. With any kind of pitching, the Twins should contend again.

White Sox: A different division. With the Detroit Tigers’ unexpected success in 2006, the steady presence of the Minnesota Twins, and the improved Cleveland Indians all in the AL Central, it’s going to be difficult for the White Sox to reach the postseason (90 wins wasn’t enough last year). With that in mind, they’ve done probably the smartest thing they could given their inability to move, say, to the NL Central: the Sox have started to reshape their roster, shipping out pitchers Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy, with more changes likely on the way. On the bright side, there’s always Kansas City.

Yankees: A relaxation of team grooming rules. Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Randy Johnson all look weird without hair and it’s giving me the creeps.

Finally, a 31st wish to you and yours: Happy New Year!

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