Today is known across much of the internet connected world as Cyber Monday.
While Black Friday involves sales from the brick and mortar stores, Cyber Monday is the chance for online retailers to lure shoppers in with discounts and free shipping on everything from Apple Computers to Zenith televisions. (Granted Zenith is now owned by LG but I needed something that started with the letter Z for the sake of an A to Z analogy).
Personally, I have never understood the herd mentality that has people camping out at stores to save a few bucks on an off brand appliance or some fleece pullovers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bargain as much as the next person. I am just not going to body check hundreds of other people trying to get the same item.
Online shopping provides the ability to get deals without feeling like one has survived a heavyweight title fight, but it still only includes savings on the items that the retailers want you to buy.
So, instead of getting corralled into buying things that I don’t need on this Cyber Monday, I am going to focus on four baseball teams and what needs they should address in terms of their holiday shopping.
Let us begin with the defending American League East Division winning Baltimore Orioles.
Earlier today, it was announced that the O’s had failed to sign free agent Nelson Cruz. Instead, Cruz is taking his league leading home run bat west to Seattle for the next four years.
In the end, it may prove to have been a wise decision by the Orioles to not overpay for a slugger who has battled injures throughout his career.
Recent history is full of examples of teams who have overpaid for players long past their productive years. The contracts of Josh Hamilton, Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder come to mind.
But in the short term, the Orioles need to do something to replace the bat of Cruz if they want to defend their division title. With that in mind, for the residents of Birdland, I will put find a new Designated Hitter on their Christmas list.
Further down the American League East, in both geography and the standings, sit the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays have already traded several players since the end of the season. They will likely make more tweaks to the roster as they look to regroup and rebuild after a disappointing 2014 season that started with preseason predictions of a playoff run, and ended with the team’s first losing season in six years.
The Rays were also left with the departure of manager Joe Maddon, who decided to take his muscle cars and hoodie up to Wrigley Field.
While it is unlikely that the Rays can find a manager right out of the gate with the same skill set as Joe Maddon, they need to find a manager who can handle the challenges the Rays face in a way that sees them remain competitive and not fall into the devilish ways of their pre-Maddon years.
Failure to find a strong manager who can find a way to remain competitive in the toughest division in baseball against retooled Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox could very well doom the Rays for decades to come.
So, while many may think replacing Tropicana Field is the team’s biggest need this Christmas, I maintain finding the right manager is the most crucial holiday need. I just hope that one of the three identified finalists becomes at least a fraction of the manager Joe Maddon is.
If he does not, then even a new Ballpark would not be enough to help the team’s long term future.
At that point, they may as well dust off the green uniforms that took the field for many previous losing campaigns.
For our third holiday need, we travel west from St. Petersburg, FL and find ourselves in Houston where today marks the 50th anniversary of the Astros being called the Astros.
For most of their five decades of existence, the Astros found themselves in the National League. The 2015 season will mark the team’s third season of American League play, and yet another season of rebuilding as the front office tries to find the right formula for building a winner on a budget.
Of course, the build a winner on a budget approach only works when the other teams in the division play along. With skyrocketing salaries within the American League West and the Mariners, Angels and Athletics entering an arms race, the best the Astros can realistically hope for in the coming years is to do better than their in state rivals the Rangers.
A division title is likely not in the cards for the Astros in the American League any time soon. One can preach the sermon of rebuilding until they are blue in the face, but that does not “make it so” when other teams aren’t reading from the same playbook.
With that said, my Christmas gift for the Astros would be a move back to the National League. Of course, like that brown Matchbox police car that Santa could never locate for younger version of me despite the best of intentions, a move back to the National League is likely another unattainable wish no matter how much one wants it to happen.
For our final stop along the holiday gift giving trail, we move a little south of Houston to Sugar Land, TX home of the Sugar Land Skeeters. The Skeeters, who play in the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, will start the 2015 season as defending champions of their division and with new ownership in place.
With all of their opponents located on the Atlantic Coast, my gift to the Skeeters, were it in my power, would be closer opponents to make those road trips not so long.
There are plans to expand the Atlantic League’s footprint in Texas in the coming years. So, it is likely that the Christmas wish will become reality before too long.
Those are my four Cyber Monday gift ideas that are not available in stores. However, if they were, they would certainly make the perfect stocking stuffers for the Orioles, Rays, Astros and Skeeters.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take care of a little Christmas shopping while I am in the Holiday spirit.
Copyright 2014 R. Anderson