If you plan on catching a home game at new Nationals Park this year, you better wear your walking shoes. Why? The classic looking stadium can hold 41,000 fans and has 1,200 parking spots. No, I didn't miss a zero. If there's a sellout, there will be plenty of parking as long as everyone drives a bus with 35 of their closest friends. In reality, the 1,200 spots are only for the high end seats and aren't even enough to hold the season ticket holders. According to this story on www.myfoxdc.com, parking in the nearby residential area will be restricted, so your options will public transportation, watch at home, or get your evening jog in on the way to the park. Not exactly a fan-friendly beginning for the ballpark.
A lot of the early spring talk has been focused around the Tampa Bay Rays and how excited they are this year, thinking they have a club ready to compete for once. Many reporters are hopping on board, but I just don't buy it. Looking at the depth chart, there's simply not a lot of overall talent.
Regarding the pitching, I really like James Shields and Kazmir is solid but is already facing some injury concerns. Relying on Troy Percival as a closer is risky at this stage of his career.
On the offensive side of things, the middle infield is shaky, Carlos Pena is unlikely to come close to the anomaly he put up last year, and they are hoping a 22-year-old (Longoria) with little major league experience can handle the job at third base. The only area of strength is in Tampa Bay's young outfield, and beyond Crawford, the rest are steady but hardly All-Stars.
Top it off with Tampa having to face Boston and New York 36 times, as well as their fair share of games against the almight Indians and Tigers, and I can't see how the Rays can possibly finish above .500. I think 72-90 would be a success given the schedule, but in baseball, stranger things have happened. I just don't think it will happen in Tampa Bay in 2008.
TCO's Season Preview is only about a month away, but in preparation, I have been poring over as much material as possible this offseason. The one tidbit I will share with you is the more I look at the Rockies current roster, the more I realize they don't appear to be a flash in the pan. They may not knock off a couple dozen wins in a row or anything, but they have the depth and talent to compete the whole season. Improving on their 90-win season of 2007 is not out of the question. The NL West will be interesting to watch as Arizona, San Diego, and Los Angeles boast nice starting staffs, Colorado appears at least as good as last year's World Series squad and San Fran... well, regardless of how well Zito, Cain, and company pitch, the Giants need some serious upgrades in the lineup. For those of us living in the Midwest, there should be plenty of reasons to stay up late this summer.
I know what you're thinking: where have you been Commish? Are you ok?
Thank you for your concern and yes, I am fine. It has been a busy winter and the biggest news in the baseball world of late has been off the field antics which I know you don't want to hear about from me. We will get back into regular baseball discussions soon, especially with pitchers and catchers already starting to report to spring training.
In the meantime, let me spout off on a non-baseball topic quickly, namely politics. Politics? Yes, politics. In the latest Foul Territory, I tell you how best to spend that $50 you planned on sending to the Mickey Mouse for President crusade.