For those of you that received nothing but coal, or if your Freddy Garcia is still in the mail (there's still plenty of time for transactions, by the way), it could always be worse. You could have been born a fan of the Indians or the Royals.
The Indians are going through a myriad of tough times lately: AL Central contention in 2011 is all but laughed at by their MLB-assigned reporter (at the bottom), there are rumors of bringing in Bartolo Colon to start, and their biggest off-season move was to re-sign outfielder Austin Kearns for 1 year/1.3 million. Some fans are skeptical that Indians' GM Chris Antonetti attended the winter meetings at all this year, and rightly so. Jayson Nix, the in-house candidate for opening day third baseman, missed nine games of winter ball after being hit in the head by a pitch. This clearly derails his development at the position. The club finished dead last in attendance in 2010, hemorrhaging a major league worst 4,625 fewer fans per game than in 2009. For the coming season they've resorted to drastically reducing ticket prices (bleacher seats for $10!) and luring potential fans by turning Progressive Field into an equally impressive and embarrassing snow park, complete with heated dugouts so attendees can feel good about the Indians' bench for a change. On top of all this, Indians icon Bob Feller recently passed away at the age of 92. Yes, he no-hit the White Sox on opening day 1940; we'll share in honoring him anyway. Helluva damn pitcher. Finally, tickets to get a first regular season glimpse of our ‘All In' White Sox are on sale now. Feel free to flee to the Cleve. It's not all bad; Fantastic beer is made not far from the Jake.
Kansas City does not fare much better. The Royals have already won the 2011 Farm System World Series, but the rest of their perpetual rebuilding plan has yet to find any sort of truly meaningful success. With Zack Greinke waiving his no-trade clause to pitch in Milwaukee (Rany has level-headed and greatly extended analysis and trade comparison), the pitching situation left in KC looks downright ugly, no matter the youth and future upside. Fangraphs' player links: Luke Hochevar, he of the 65% strand rate, complimenting a robust .350 OBP against in 2010, figures to be the opening day starter. Kyle Davies (intensely average), Vin Mazzaro (if he limits walks, he could be alright), Sean O'Sullivan (untested, problems with control, could be a gas can) and perhaps Gil Meche, who would be bouncing back from shoulder surgery, figure to fill out the rotation. Let's just say that walks will be a problem for this group, to put it quite mildly. There are also calls to trade Billy Butler and Joakim Soria (insider), the other players of real value held by the Royals, while they're still cost-controlled. It seems the date set for the Royals to finally contend continues to be pushed further and further back.
What Sunday Links are spelling out here is that the White Sox had a combined 19-17 record versus the Indians and Royals in 2010; the 2011 version simply must perform better. White Sox batters should treat their starting pitchers with utter contempt and disrespect. Professionally, of course.
Finally, some best-of-the-week stuff, not to be lost amongst threads. mechanical turk gives us an archive of numbers worn by White Sox players, from their first appearance in 1931 to present day, larry shares the details of Crain's deal, and Daniel Berlyn linked to the merits and drawbacks of throwing a split-finger fastball.
The new year is six days away, and it will be chock full of exciting baseball. These are good times, people.