The 2005 season is over, and well done to the White Sox. There can be little argument they were worthy winners of the World Series: the best record in the league, division leaders from Opening Day to the end, and then going 11-1 in the playoffs. The Astros much-vaunted pitching rotation proved something of a damp squib, though as sweeps go, a total margin of six runs over four games is pretty close.
Still, it means the American League kicks the National League's ass, for the second sweep in a row - the steam-rollering no doubt compounded the apathy of most of the nation. In TV ratings terms, the series was 30% down on last year, and an average 17.2 million viewers makes it the least-viewed Fall Classic ever. Multiply that by a four-game series will have hurt, even though game three was probably worth two in terms of commercial spots.
Mind you, it's not so long ago that the AL - specifically, the Yankees, won 10 World Series games in a row. They swept the show in 1998 and 1999, and then won the first two of the Subway Series in 2000. Before that, you've got to go all the way back to 1937-1940, and again in 1927-29: on both occasions, the AL also won ten straight.
Enough of such things. It's time to draw a line under the 2005 season, and start up the Hot-Stove, as we look forward into 2006. The main plan here is to cover one position a week: allowing one each for the rotation and bullpen, that would be ten weeks. Given a week or two off over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, that'll probably be enough to keep us going to the end of January...when the sight of pitchers and catchers reporting will be lurking on the horizon.
Of course, things will change somewhat over the course of the winter, so these reports should only be considered a snapshot at the time of writing. If we trade, say, Javier Vazquez for Paul LoDuca, this would render previous comments made about our catching position no longer valid. We'll cross that bridge (creaky and questionable in the particular example given) when we get to it, but I'll try and keep all the relevant pieces valid and up-to-date.
Let's start off with a new poll, which can be found at the right - and congratulation to Tony Clark, who is hereby crowned AZ Snakepit's MVP for 2005. But what's the biggest priority to be addressed in the off-season? If you were our newly-employed GM (more on which in a minute), what would be your #1 task? You could, I think, argue a credible case for any of the options - I know what my choice would be, but am interested to see what the tide of public opinion feels with regard to the matter.
Of course, there's one guy who now actually gets to decide these things. As noted in the diary on the right, we have a new GM, Josh Byrnes - it's somewhat sad to realise the Diamondbacks General Manager is now younger than I am. :-( [And is also earning about $1m per year...] And looks like he's cast his vote: according to the East Valley Tribune, pitching and middle-of-the-field defense are his personnel priorities.
Somewhat relieving qualms that have been expressed in certain quarters, General Partners Jeff Moorad and Ken Kendrick seem to be willing to give Byrnes enough rope: "For the most part, we have concluded that we needed to recognize that we aren't baseball guys," Kendrick said, though added, "Things that constitute major franchise shifts, absolutely, a lot of people need to be involved before we proceed on anything." This could, depending on interpretation, mean anything above the previously-scheduled purchase of paperclips, but one hopes they mean it, and will leave baseball decisions to those who know best about them.