History has shown that chemistry is a big factor in winning teams.
The star players help, the coaching matters but without players bonding a team is nothing more than a bunch of people in the same uniform.
That is why, in the face of many deals, team chemistry will be huge in deciding who contends and who doesn’t in the 2009 MLB season.
That’s not to say the Yankees should be written off and the Phillies should be heavy favourites. New York made deals that improve their depth on the mound while Philly won it all last year with a boatload of veteran grit.
With Opening Day upon us today it seems only right to look at the notable teams in each division and discuss their chances in 2009.
In the National League West LA seems to be on the right track. The rotation may look slim without Penny and Lowe. But their excellent bullpen is relatively unchanged. With Manny back in the fold look for the Dodgers to be near the top of the division yet again.
About the only team with a realistic chance of challenging them is the Arizona Diamondbacks. A year to mature as a team should reap benefits for the club and allow Chris Young and the offense as well as Dan Haren and the starting rotation to find the staying power to be a threat through 162 games.
Over in the NL Central it’s hard to not go with the Cubs in 2009. Last year was a great one, even if the playoffs were a disaster. Soriano, Lee and Ramirez look to be solid again though Zambrano’s health and focus will be key.
Even with losing C.C. Sabathia Milwaukee figure to be a factor again in 2009. The Brewers stayed with the Cubs all the way in large part behind a solid offense starring Fielder and Braun. If their bullpen is set and healthy they should be good.
The Astros and Cardinals are in striking distance. However Houston’s rotation after Oswalt and the St. Louis offense are the biggest question marks.
After their last two consecutive late-season surges Philly deserves to be a favourite in the NL East. They got offense with Howard and Rollins in tow, pitching in Hamels and Lidge and depth.
The New York Mets have been right with them though and their changes point to a tight race in 09. K-Rod will make a difference but the key will be what the starting rotation does after Santana.
The American League boasts some of the tightest races in two out of three divisions.
The AL West is the odd one out as the Angels, even without Teixiera and K-Rod, should be top dogs. Vlad steadies a robust offense, Santana leads a solid rotation and the bullpen holds its own.
Aside from the Halos the most intriguing team to watch is Oakland. Holliday, Giambi and company make the Athletics a threat at the plate. If the pitching can do anything then they could make a run at the Wildcard.
The AL Central has been wickedly tight the last five seasons or so. This year the key players seem to be Minnesota, Chicago and maybe Cleveland.
The fundamentally sound Twins have a way to contend with few stars and the addition of Crede is big. The White Sox have all sorts of offense with Quentin in tow though Contreras and the rest of the pitching staff is suspect. The Indians can do it all with Lee on one side of the ball and Sizemore on the other though the team’s overall consistency is seriously in question.
Lastly attention falls to the AL East. Without question this is baseball’s roughest division as the teams truly beat up on each other. With Tampa a legitimate threat and Toronto constantly gaining it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top.
Many are raving about Tampa and see them running the table again. It’s hard to fight that argument when they beat Boston on numerous occasions in and out of the postseason. Burrell and Crawford could be the biggest reasons why the Rays shine again in 09.
The Red Sox have done anything but sit still however. With Penny, Smoltz and Saito in the fold pitching will not be a cause for concern. The health of Ortiz and Lowell is but there are enough pieces for runs to come in bunches.
Yet the team that could hamper both squads is the Yankees. Everyone knows adding star pitchers in Sabathia and Burnett plus a heavy hitter like Teixiera has made New York dangerous overnight. The key though, whether fans like it or not is A-Rod. His health and production is key for any sort of postseason run.