New year carries renewed expectations

Tim Brown

I'm not much on resolutions.

(Obviously. Mine's to surf more, which isn't so much a resolution as a retirement/exit strategy.)

There is, however, a natural tendency to assess one's life this time of year, often enough while in Aisle 12 at Staples searching for a calendar that doesn't feature A) Yosemite's snowy peaks, B) kittens napping or C) Dilbert.

(Not that these aren't all fine and inspirational institutions, but a year – that's a significant commitment. What if, by August, you hate the dopey kittens? Then what for four months?)

Among us, there are those who skitter merrily along, who don't take the time to assess, because that would be risky. And there are those who, maybe, over-assess. I've got a buddy, for instance, who, upon picking up the telephone, doesn't even say hello anymore. He moans and says, "I hate women," so every conversation starts from there.

Still, as 2009 passed and while choosing between the tabbies and Angoras, I got to thinking about the people who not only should be pleased to leave '09 behind, but need to have a big '10. Think Tiger, but maybe not quite that big.

It's the beauty of baseball, of course. There's always another game, always another season, redemption in Aisle 12.

Here they are, then, the men who need to put a few hits together in '10:

• Bud Selig. The Commish absorbs criticism for being indecisive (and a bit slow on the trigger), but we'll perhaps never have a man on Park Avenue who cares more about the game. He's working his way toward the door now. As he does, it is time to address the extreme payroll disparity, because new ballparks and revenue sharing clearly aren't enough. Selig might never be known as more than the steroids commissioner, but making the smaller markets relevant again would soften that.

• Michael Weiner. Presumably, the players will fight to the end over a cap, hard or soft, and/or contraction. We'll need some ideas from the new players' union chief, then, rather than threats to walk.



Manny Ramirez(notes). The franchise is on fire. The owner and his soon-to-be ex-wife have clowned each other in the papers for months. There might not be enough pitching. Manny, who will be 38 in May and will take up about one-fifth the payroll, has to start hitting again. Staying off the commissioner's suspended list would be a good start.

David Ortiz(notes). The game's a better place with him in it and the Red Sox are better with him hitting. The Boston icon is 34 and his final four months of '09 were stronger, but he faces the final guaranteed year of his contract (the Red Sox hold a $12.5 million option with no buyout).

• Omar Minaya. It's a big year for Jeff Wilpon, too, but he probably won't be fired from the family. Minaya has put together some real clunkers, and now he has a whole different kind of ballpark to build around. By all appearances, the last thing he needed was another variable like Citi Field.

• Jerry Manuel. To some extent he stands at the mercy of Minaya. But if he can make something of that pitching staff and get Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran(notes) on the field for a full season and convince David Wright(notes) the left-field wall is not evil at all and he can get New York back on his side, maybe he'll get a contract extension out of it. But probably not.

• The Steinbrenner boys. You'd think, at the end of a year in which they threw almost a half-billion dollars at the payroll, hit on all of it, won the World Series and had the organization return to its place at the center of the hardball universe, Hal and Hank would be carefree. Well, there is this: Derek Jeter(notes) has just this season left on his contract. And this: "I don't do extensions. It's a policy I have. One I've always had." – Hal, to AOL Fanhouse, on his thoughts on extending Joe Girardi's contract. And this: Jeter will be 36 in June. And this: In three or four years, you plan to play him … where?

• Arte Moreno. The Angels suddenly have a knack for finishing second or third or fourth in the American League. Moreno, one of the game's better owners, suddenly seems to have a blind spot for Scott Boras, and passed on two organizational favorites (Chone Figgins(notes) and John Lackey(notes)), and hears the Mariners and Rangers coming.

• Jim Pohlad, Twins CEO. If the Twins open a new outdoors ballpark and then can't make it rain on Joe Mauer(notes), then it's time to sell to someone who can.

• John Lackey. Well, to be more specific, John Lackey's elbow. That baby gives out and Big John's pitching for small change (the league minimum) in five years.

• Jim Hendry. He's a fine GM. Thing is, the poor decisions – Milton Bradley(notes), Alfonso Soriano(notes), Kosuke Fukudome(notes), Carlos Zambrano(notes) – are starting to pile up. Joe Ricketts might be paying attention.

• Ken Macha. There seemed to be some indecision regarding Macha in Milwaukee at the conclusion of '09. Yet the Brewers added an option year to his contract and have added a pitching coach (Rick Peterson), but a losing season – or bad start – won't reflect well on Macha.

Josh Beckett(notes). He didn't get near enough love for his 17-6 '09. He can be a free agent after the season and, at 30, a really big one.

• Jack Zduriencik. Building a winner, and momentum, and a community in Seattle, he risked at least some of it by trading for Milton Bradley.

Vernon Wells(notes). It's OK if he has another down season; only five years and $98.5 million left on the contract. He's had his surgery, maybe that will bring him around.

• Jed Hoyer. He's sitting down there in San Diego, fresh on the job, an organization to rebuild and with Adrian Gonzalez(notes) and Heath Bell(notes) burning a hole in his pocket.

Dontrelle Willis(notes). One of the mysteries of the game. He's got another year on that contract (for $12 mil), and then what?

Travis Hafner(notes). Teams in Cleveland can't afford to make $57-million mistakes.

• Frank McCourt. You can't get a lot of pitching for $165,000, which is how much McCourt recently told a court he had in his checking account. And that was before he paid the DirecTV bill and pool boy.

• Dave Trembley. A young staff and young position players, the Orioles might be on the come. First, though, they might cost Trembley his job. Other potentially short ropes: Trey Hillman, Dusty Baker.

• Mark Shapiro. He's traded away CC Sabathia(notes). He's traded away Cliff Lee(notes). Maybe he had little choice. But now – or soon – those blockbuster deals have got to start showing a return.

• Billy Beane. That's three losing seasons in a row in Oakland.

Miguel Cabrera(notes). That was quite the stunt he pulled on the season's final weekend. You gotta grow up sometime, though, Miggy. Might as well be 2010.

Alex Gordon(notes). Tick, tick, tick …

Mark DeRosa(notes). Through no fault of his own, he'll have a big role – as Panda's wingman – in running San Francisco's offense.

Chris Young. Entering Year 2 of the five-year, $28-million extension with the Diamondbacks, along with Year 4 of a .315 or worse OBP. He's only 26. He wore his two weeks at Triple-A well and had a decent September. If it's not time, it's almost time.

• Milton Bradley. Eventually he'll run out of chances. Maybe this is it. Probably not.