Another humiliating batting collapse condemned the England cricket team to a 5-0 Ashes series whitewash. Based on the way the first four test matches had gone, it was a crushingly inevitable way to end a wretched series for the tourists and I had no desire to watch the carnage.
Yet in 74 days it will be a very different story. I’ll be glued to my TV – or PC depending on the coverage – as the SCG hosts the first of two regular season MLB games between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now the calendar has switched to 2014, it’s a good time to catch up on the comings and goings at the 30 MLB teams so far this offseason. We start today with the AL East division.
Boston Red Sox
The 2013 World Series champs haven’t made any major moves so far and that has been as expected. It didn’t even look too likely that they would make a strong push to retain centrefielder Jacoby Ellsbury when he hit the free agent market and, sure enough, he will not be wearing a Boston uniform in 2014 and beyond.
The fact that he’ll be wearing a Yankee uniform instead will sting a bit, but the Red Sox have every reason to be confident that making a few solid signings – bringing back Mike Napoli on a two-year contract and adding reliever Edward Mujica and catcher A.J. Pierzynski – whilst giving youngsters Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley the chance to play regularly will see them continue to be one of the favourites to win it all again in 2014.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays’ offseason so far has been dominated by a major move that hasn’t happened. Ace starting pitcher David Price is under contract for two more years and the financially-limited Rays will trade him if they receive a suitably impressive package of players. Right now he’s still set to lead their rotation and Tampa Bay will be happy enough with that, with the option still open to trade him during the season or over next winter.
First baseman James Loney returns on a three-year deal and outfielder David DeJesus has also signed a two-year deal to remain with the team, whilst catcher Ryan Hanigan and closer Heath Bell have been acquired via trades. Last year’s closer, Fernando Rodney, is still on the free agent market looking for a team.
The Orioles made a surprise return to the playoffs in 2012 after more than a decade in the doldrums; however they were not able to build on that achievement in 2013 and look like they are going backwards in 2014. They’ve made no notable additions so far and pulled out of the one deal they looked like completing, signing former Oakland A’s closer Grant Balfour, on highly questionable medical grounds.
Balfour was supposed to replace Jim Johnson, who the Orioles traded to the A’s for second baseman Jemile Weeks, and the team has also lost Scott Feldman (to the Astros) and Nate McLouth (to the Nationals). It is a depressingly familiar tale in Baltimore under owner Peter Angelos.
New York Yankees
It’s been a typically busy offseason so far in the Bronx. Multi-millions have been invested in Jacoby Ellsbrury, ex-Braves catcher Brian McCann, ex-Cardinal outfielder Carlos Beltran and a return for pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, as well as several other free agents (Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton etc).
However, the Yankees were sensationally out-bid by the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano and still look vulnerable following the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, the pending drug-suspension hanging over Alex Rodriguez and continuing fitness doubts over Derek Jeter. Don’t be surprised if they come out on top in the bidding for Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tankaka in the coming weeks.
Toronto Blue Jays
What a difference a year makes. The Blue Jays dominated the 2012/13 offseason with headline-grabbing trades and free agent signings. The result of all that hard work was a last-placed finish in the AL East, with a 74-88 record, and little room for manoeuvre in terms of payroll and trading chips this offseason. Catcher Dioner Navarro is the one offseason addition so far likely to become a regular on the 2014 team, whilst pitcher Josh Johnson will take his ace-type potential and long injury list to the San Diego Padres after he left Toronto as a free agent.