2016 Blazers Preview
New Milford (AP) After a disappointing end to the 2015 season with yet another loss in the OLCS to the Los Altos Undertakers, the New Milford Blazers are primed to win the McGowan Division again and return to the playoffs for a 6th straight year. “We have to get this OLCS monkey off of our backs,” says NM GM Anthony Peburn. “We’ve had a great run over the last 7 years, with 7 straight seasons of 90 wins or greater, 5 straight division championships, 4 straight 100+ win seasons, and absolutely NOTHING to show for it. We think this could be the year, but we’ll need to make a few deals to do it.”
Back are many key players from the 2015 division champs including perennial CY contender Clayton Kershaw to lead the staff. “Coming in top 2 in the CY race is fun and all (which is all Kershaw has done in his short career), but I would trade it all in a heartbeat for a trophy,” he states. “I think our starters are as good as ever.” Returning from part of an epic rookie class is #2 starter Masahiro Tanaka. He will be followed in the rotation by newcomers Adam Warren and Hisashi Iwakuma to form one of the best front four in the BDBL. Mainstay Jose Quintana and a healthy Brett Anderson give the Blazers plenty of depth in the rotation.
The bullpen is anchored by Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod will close games and looks to break Pat Neshek’s one year old save record. Matt Thornton and Darrin O’Day return to set up K-Rod from the left and right side respectively. Charlie Furbush and Matt Albers are a second dominant lefty righty combo. Aaron Thompson was brought back to the organization which drafted him out of high school to pair with Blake Treinen to form a third, albeit less imposing lefty righty combo. Aaron Barrett will return to be the other arm in the pen. “We will look during the season to improve one or two spots in the pen for the playoffs,” explains Peburn. “Because the rest of the division punted, we have time to find the right deal.”
The offense is lead by returning captain 2B Matt Carpenter and super sophs Mookie Betts and David Peralta. “Carp will reprise his role at the top of the line up and Peralta and Mook will start in center and left respectively, as they have earned that right. The departure of Werth and Pearce were OK with us as these two dynamic youngsters are top of the order bats.” Shin Soo Choo will regain his starting RF spot which he lost mid season to Werth last year. Big 2015 FA signing Troy Tulowitzki will man SS and Kelly Johnson will platoon at 3B with Jed Lowrie who was brought back on a FA deal. Clint Robinson has the first shot at the 1B gig in a platoon role with FA Martin Maldanodo. “We will also look to upgrade at 1B, but feel Clint and Maldy can get the job done in the short term. We also like having a third guy who can play C on the roster, and one with a VG arm.” Speaking of catcher, Jason Castro returns in a platoon role with promising rookie James McCann. Derek Dietrich returns as a big lefty bench bat and Blazer fan favorite Ryan Raburn will be the big RH batter off of the bench.
“This team has goals,” states Peburn. “We are trying to win 90 games for a (BDBL record) 8th straight year, the McGowan division for a (BDBL record) 6th straight year, 100 wins for a (BDBL record) 5th straight year, and then hopefully advance to the World Series. We realize these are lofty goals, but we are on a plateau as an organization. Eventually plateau’s end, so we are either going to go up or down. We hope like hell we go up before we go down. But we do it one game at a time.” Only time will tell.