March 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Spring training winds down

It's hard to believe, but the 2009 regular season is right around the corner, and Opening Day is just one week from tomorrow. The 2009 spring training hasn't yielded any big surprises that I'm aware of, and the drama about Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers was mostly a sideshow. The main question is whether the big-spending teams in New York will finally get their money's worth (in terms of payroll) this year, as they each inaugurate their new stadiums. C.C. Sabathia has lived up to the Yankees' high expectation during the preseason, while the Mets are pinning their hopes on former Twins pitcher Johan Santana. Two former Nationals, Ryan Church and Brian Schneider, both have a secure place in the Mets' lineup, which is still subject to some adjustments. (I still think the Mets got the better deal when they traded away Lastings Milledge in late 2007.) The Mets are hoping that young left fielder Daniel Murphy will bat as well as he did last August and September, when he began his major league career. See

Prospects for the Washington Nationals have been lifted by the arrival of Adam Dunn, and that may be why the other former Cincinnati Red, Austin Kearns, is batting better so far this year. I hope he keeps it up. The Nats' pitching staff is young but very promising, and Jordan Zimmermann was almost unhittable in his first few starts, but he will play in the minor leagues for at least a while. A respectable season (meaning at or above .500) is entirely possible for the Nats this year.

R.I.P. Johnny Blanchard

I learned from Bruce Orser that former New York Yankee Johnny Blanchard has passed away. He began playing for the Yankees in 1955, and even though he remained a bench player for most of his career, he earned a reputation as a clutch performer: "In five World Series [1960-1964], he batted .345 (10-for-29) with six runs, four doubles, two home runs and five RBI." See, which includes fond remembrances from Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron, and other team mates. On most other teams, Blanchard probably would have been a first-stringer.