Season Preview: Return to Prominence

By Ryan A. Gold
Wahoo! Sports

“See, they return; ah, see the tentative
Movements, and the slow feet,
The trouble in the pace and the uncertain

Ezra Pound wrote these lines in a poem called “The Return” about a group of old warriors stumbling back home. Probably not the triumphant return affable owner M Max hopes to conjure with his team’s name, but the word return cuts in different directions marching backwards and forwards in time. Sometime the past returns to join us in the future but sometimes return speaks to a desire to take the present back to the past, back to halcyon days. Which way the return manifests itself will have a lot to do with how R2P fares this season.

The core of this team consists of a number of key veterans and if they show up this season on wobbling legs like Pound’s returning vets, it might be a long season. Go back five, maybe even ten years, and a roster featuring the likes of Chipper, Tejada, Damon, Furcal, Hoffman and Hudson might look pretty formidable. All have the potential to produce useful seasons but health and diminished production will be something to watch. These guys will have to bring some of that old magic back with them into 2010 if this team is going to compete.

Return can be read yet another way, as a trip back home, and the hometown is well represented for R2P. Hey, if you’re not entirely sure which way to draft, there’s nothing wrong with getting guys you want to root for anyway. McCann, Chipper, McClouth, Cabrera, and Hudson will all suit up for the squad and you have to wonder if M Max has been informed that Furcal is no longer a Brave. You also have to wonder how he’ll feel if super rookie Jason Heyward breaks out for somebody else’s side this year.

Ryan Howard will lead the offense, well complimented by an underrated Brandon Phillips. Granderson could approach 30/30, but his BA has to be a concern. There are batting average risks in other places too, with four likely starters who hit below .270 last year. The OPS outlook is similarly dicey and with all the veteran players, there doesn’t seem to be any high ceiling guys to come to the rescue with break out seasons. This looks like a middle of the pack team offensively with steals being a possible bright spot, especially if Rajai Davis swipes the 80 bags that Rickey Henderson is predicting for him.

One return that could really benefit this team would be a return to form for Jake Peavy, who seems healthy, happy and ready to deal for the White Sox. Changing parks from Petco to the Chicago launching pad won’t help, nor will changing leagues, but Peavy will compete. If he does put together a strong season he’ll combine with two front of the rotation studs in Halladay and Johnson to present a tough pitching match up for anybody.

Given the middling offense, you’d like to see the pitching staff rounded out by a slightly stronger bullpen. We probably shouldn’t read too much into Papelbon’s year end struggles, but he doesn’t seem quite the sure thing he did at this time last year. Hoffman keeps on doing it, but you just have to wonder if he has another year in him. Some health concerns and a homer friendly park might be ready to catch up with him. Fuentes is just flat out Earl Weaver smoking in the dugout scary. Sherrill will provide some holds.

‘Return’ has a partner in this team’s name and ‘prominence’ carries it’s own double meaning. In one sense prominence means a leading position, the head of the pack. But it can also simply mean a place of attention, as in “prominent in our thoughts.” While M Max and his fans will hope for the former, they may have to content themselves with the later meaning as baseball returns to prominence in our thoughts and keeps us company through the long hot summer.

Prediction: Outside shot at the playoffs with a few breaks


Position Players

Brian McCann (Atl – C)
Mark DeRosa (SF – 1B,3B,OF)
Brandon Phillips (Cin – 2B)
Chipper Jones (Atl – 3B)
Miguel Tejada (Bal – SS)
Johnny Damon (Det – OF)
Melky Cabrera (Atl – OF)
Curtis Granderson (NYY – OF)
Rajai Davis (Oak – OF)
Ryan Howard (Phi – 1B)
Rafael Furcal (LAD – SS)
Nate McLouth (Atl – OF)
Ryan Doumit (Pit – C)


Roy Halladay (Phi – SP)
Josh Johnson (Fla – SP)
Jonathan Papelbon (Bos – RP)
Brian Fuentes (LAA – RP)
Jake Peavy (CWS – SP)
Trevor Hoffman (Mil – RP)
George Sherrill (LAD – RP)
Tim Hudson (Atl – SP)

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