Preseason Burning Questions
Feel free to volunteer your own answers.
NOTE: I said this was coming sooner, but my computer died. It happens.
1. What are the strengths of the Spirit?
Pitching, pitching, pitching, experience, and pitching. The Spirit had by far the best rotation and bullpen last year and it looks to be bolstered with the addition of Jamie Baker and a few other strong arms. The Spirit are also a very experienced team. New guys Torres, Blakely and Gill all bring Indy ball experience, and the Spirit also return veterans like Cordova and Bryan Morse.
2. What are the Spirit's biggest question marks?
The lineup, specifically power production; health of the rotation; team chemistry; the manager; and whether or not Fitzgerald can repeat his performance as a closer.
The Spirit lineup is certainly a big question mark. The offense put up some good numbers last year but it was exposed as the team's Achilles Heel in the postseason by Quebec's good pitching. The re-retirement of Vic Davilla leaves a gaping hole in the order and there are a lot of new guys patched together.
The production of big man Brad Rea will be important to the team because he will probably be the guy expected to put up the biggest power numbers.
Additionally, as is always the case in baseball, the Spirit will need their starters to stay healthy, which is questionable given the age of some of the starters. Morse has always been a durable guy, and the Spirit need that to continue. Also, having a dominant closer is critical to any team's success and Fitzgerald was that last year. However, time and time again we've seen 'lights-out' closers fade after a good season or two.
The Spirit always seem to put together a good group of guys with great chemistry - it will be interesting to see how that changes with the departure of John Kennedy and with Vic Davilla being named manager. Will he command the respect of the players the way Kennedy did? How will all these new guys come together?
3. Spirit: Bottom Line
If Vic proves to be a qualified manager, the new guys have decent power numbers, and the pitchers stay healthy, there's no reason why this Spirit team can't be the one that brings home the Can-Am League championship --- finally. I'll go ahead and predict they will, on the strength of their pitching.
4. Who are the three most important players to the Spirit's success this year?
Kevin Fitzgerald, Bryan Morse, and Rob Fischer. Fischer will have to be the centerpiece of the Spirit offense - assuming he'll be here this season. Losing him would be a huge blow. But since we're very close to the start of the season and he's still on the roster, I'm feeling optimistic.
5. What will the Spirit's off the field/attendance situation be?
I believe that attendance will remain constant and steady. I'm guessing the average attendance will be at about 2,000 a game, which will hopefully be enough to keep the team around for Year Number 6. Also, expect more aggravating tape delays from 1510 the Zone to bring us Tuesday Night Bass Fishing Talk on Sporting News Radio, without the option of a live webcast.
6. Can Quebec defend their crown?
It's so hard to repeat as champions in any sport, but with the turnover in Indy ball it's particularly challenging. The Caps have lost some pieces that were key to last year's team but still look to have a strong side this year. However I do believe that this year the Spirit will win the title.
7. What team will be the most improved on the field?
Sussex. First of all, anything is an improvement compared to last year. But more importantly, they re-shaped the entire roster and added a bevy of new, decent arms - you know that they don't want to repeat the embarrassment of last year. They won't contend for the league title, but they could get up to mid-table.
8. What team will slide back the most on the field?
Quebec. They still have a good team, but they overachieved in the playoffs and lost some pieces from that team to boot.
9. What team will improve the most in terms of off-the-field, attendance, publicity etc.?
Nashua. Their local ownership group is very dedicated to improving and promoting the franchise, and the addition of El Guapo will add an extra buzz around Holman Stadium and should get the Pride mentioned all over the New England media.
10. Who will slide back the most off-the-field?
Atlantic City. We've seen time and time again that first year teams in the Can-Am League in cities that used to have higher level teams experience a significant drop off in attendance. I wonder why the league keeps trying it. Atlantic City is an aberration in that they are a great, big market for the CanAm league, but teams like Sussex and New Haven were doomed to failure from the start.
11. Who will win the league title?
The Spirit. Yep, I said it. Shoulda' had it last year. They'll finally do it this year.
12. Who is a dark horse to win the league title?
New Haven - they had a solid run late last year but ran into a hot Brockton team.
13. I know predictions like this are silly early in the season, but take a stab at ranking the teams 1-10, first in order of record, then in order of average attendance.