Great Britain: Doomed for 2009?

We're approaching a new season in the World Baseball League, and there is one question on everybody's mind: How will Great Britain fare? After a meltdown in the World Series led to a loss to Montreal, Great Britain's players and fans are steaming. Skeptics and fans alike have started to question whether or not Great Britain is losing too many key components of their roster to compete again next year. They're losing all-stars, and a lot of them. But do they have enough in their minor leagues to replace them? Does Red Coat owner Joe Slugga have a few tricks up his sleeve? We're going to look at the projected Red Coats lineup to see how they stack up against their 2008 lineup and then Montreal's projected lineup. We'll break it down, piece by piece, to find each team's weak spots and figure out just which team will be having the advantage in 2009, if any. Plus, we'll settle once and for all whether or not Great Britain is getting better or worse in 2009 and if they have what it takes to win another Western Hemisphere title.

First, we'll start with Great Britain's activity, and find out what they're gaining opposed to what they're losing and see how they get better or get worse. Then we'll take a look at Great Britain versus Montreal. This is not the official lineup, so don't tell me I made a mistake because this is just what I would do with these players.

Great Britain

Leaving via free agency: Max Powers, Josh Poole, Shammond Guzman, Francisco Rodriguez, Josh Poole, Victor Vargas, Manny Martinez, Smith N Wesson

This is the main reason that everyone thinks that Great Britain will falter this year. A lot of their big names or up-and-coming stars are all leaving due to free agency. Great Britain got hit hard that two of the four expansion owners had players on Great Britain, claiming Max Powers to South Africa and Shammond Guzman to Caracas. Josh Poole is also following Guzman into Caracas because Guzman is basically his mentor in the league. Martinez surprisingly decided to leave Great Britain, after having great success here, and is now leaving having hurt the team badly. He is the third starting pitcher to decide to leave Great Britain this off-season and leaves them with a large hole to fill. He is the only player leaving with the team having hard feelings towards him because he had expressed interest in returning to the team and did not sign. This ruined the plans for Great Britain and they are not happy. Vargas has decided that his time has come and he should be leaving. He will test the free agent market looking for a place to play. Smith N Wesson is the final free agent to leave the team. After spending most of the year in the minors, he surely wouldn't have wanted to sign with Great Britain and did not, leaving to play with the Chill. All of these players, besides Martinez, are leaving without hard feelings; they just feel that it's their time to move on for one reason or another. Losing a player of this quality is tough for any team, but losing eight of them should be a big hit to Great Britain and they will need a lot of dealing to make it up.

Added via free agency: Vin Distasio II, Enrique Gonzalez

The Red Coats added a few solid free agents this off-season and these players look to replace the great number of players that left via free agency. Vin Distasio II is a closer and if he starts to update, he can possibly even move into the closer's role for 2010 or even 2009. But his competition could pull ahead if Distasio II does not update much. His name is Enrique Gonzalez, and he recently joined Great Britain as well. He has been created only recently but could still earn the closer's role as early as 2009. Both Distasio II and Gonzalez are good prospects and both are competing for a roster spot.

Leaving via trade: Tony Kobbs, Dave Smith, Andrew Biggs, Ty Quigly

When you look at the players leaving Great Britain via trade, it may look like they lost a lot and maybe even hurt themselves by trading them. But after looking at the circumstances, such as the players they got in return, their salary situation, and their remaining players, you'll see that they are a relatively small price to pay. Dave Smith was traded to Dublin in exchange for Sirbeepalot, straight up. The others, adding up to Kobbs, Quigly, and Biggs, were traded to Frankfurt to pick up Ken Griff and Greg Mojonnier. Smith was told he would be traded a while ago and Slugga came through by sending him to Dublin. Smith really didn't have a position on the team and was dealt to a team where he would play. Kobbs was only really signed to be traded, and Slugga also delivered on that. He was traded because he makes a lot of cash and Great Britain has a great 3B in AAA waiting to come up in Eric Mayo. Quigly failed last season, losing his closer's spot early on in the season and only continued to struggle. Andrew Biggs played in the outfield last year and was also dealt to Frankfurt. He has proven that he is a great player and an asset to any team but Griff was a higher priority then he was. Overall Great Britain really didn't give up anything key to their success, although they gave up two good players, in order to get two of the best players in the game and two seventy homerun hitters.

Added via trade: Ken Griff, James Sirbeepalot, Jr., Greg Mojonnier

The two trades this off season brought outfielder Ken Griff and pitcher Greg Mojonnier to Great Britain and also acquired James Sirbeepalot. Griff hit over 70 homeruns last year and fills in for Andrew Biggs, one of the many players traded for Griff. Griff is getting better every year and should only continue with the protection that he's getting this year. Again, watch out for Griff to continue hitting like he has and become a very good fielding outfielder as well. Catcher was a point of concern for Great Britain after Victor Vargas announced that he would not be returning to Great Britain, but the Red Coats settled that one, in a big way. Beepalot, Jr. is coming off a huge season and Great Britain hopes to get him active again so he can try to repeat the performance. He plays third base natural so he will probably play there while Eric Mayo moves to catcher. He hit over 70 homeruns last year and adds yet another 70 homer hitter to Great Britain's lineup. Mojonnier had a rough rookie campaign, to say the least, but he is a young, active, and most importantly promising pitcher. Great Britain was very interested in him over the off-season and since they couldn't sign him, they had him thrown into the Griff deal. Mojonnier will fill out Great Britain's rotation and he should have more success with a little more offensive support.

Re-signed: Shawn Walker, Tony Kobbs, Carson Wheeler

Re-signing Walker was something that was basically settled back about a month ago and just recently was finalized. He is now part team owner and is being rewarded for his performance. He is a huge part of this offense and they could not afford to lose him of all people. Tony Kobbs, the reigning Western Hemisphere Rookie of the Year, was also re-signed. He was only signed as trade bait, which was very important for Great Britain. They were able to pick up a great player at their weakest position and cut some salary in addition. Wheeler was picked up also to solidify the bullpen, and he'll also compete for the closer job. He is a solid reliever, which is really the team's weakness, the bullpen. If they aren't too tight on salary, they may look to add more bullpen help, but they may be too close to go for anything big. Even after re-signing only three out of twelve free agents and trading one of them, the Red Coats pick up enough in that remaining two players to make up for the lack of players.

I'm going to list the player playing each position, their stats, and the player who filled that position in 2008's stats along with an explanation for each. If they were the starter for Great Britain last year I will just list them both times and specify that they were also last year's starter. The lines are BA/HR/RBI/OPS and W/L/ERA/K to clear up any confusion there may be. One more thing, when someone has a DNP by their name, it means they did not play enough games to qualify for ROY, not that they did not play at all.

Lineup

Catcher: Eric Mayo
2008 Stats: DNP (GBR)
2008 GB line: .270/8/62/.763 (Vargas)
Mayo, a solid to good player, is looking to break out in 2009 with a huge year. He hit .290 in part of the season, but his power numbers will managers hesitant to play him full time. Eric is a natural shortstop, but played third base for Great Britain last year and will be expected to change totally this year. He is being asked to play catcher this year, and for him to accomplish that means that he has to use a lot of his points to become better there. Having a weak fielding catcher, which Mayo would be, really kills your team and Great Britain doesn't need any extra stolen bases or runners advancing on passed balls. If worse comes to worse, Eric can play catcher without many points there, but Slugga would not like that to happen. Even if Mayo has some defensive struggles, I'm sure Great Britain can accept that if he hits like he can and even hits some homeruns. Mayo may have some struggles while adapting to a new position, but he's a sure upgrade over solid-at-best Victor Vargas at catcher, at least offensively, if he does not fail. If Mayo comes in and works on his homerun and catcher ratings, look for him to become one of the best all-around catchers in the league and help Great Britain from the top of the lineup.
Advantage: Eric Mayo, 2009

First baseman: Joe Slugga
2008 stats: .311/75/129/1.256 (GBR)
2008 GB line: .311/75/129/1.256 (Slugga)
Slugga is obviously a proven ultra-superstar and it's pretty clear that he'll have another great year in 2009. After having his very long streak of MVP awards snapped by his own teammate this past year, he should be hungry for another one and will definitely look to start another streak of winning. Slugga has been a staple in Great Britain's lineup for years and is looking for another title. After another seventy plus homer season he should retain his number three batting spot and continue to dominate. Slugga is probably the most-feared hitter in the league, or at least is one of them for sure. He is one of the surprisingly few starters returning for the 2009 season so neither year will have the advantage in this one. I personally would say that 2009 will have the better Joe Slugga because there is no doubt that he will come out "slugging" after an overall disappointing season in 2008 and look for Joe Slugga to once again tear up the league. Still, itís tough to beat what Slugga did last year, and I canít expect anyone to do so.
Advantage: Push

Second baseman: Richard Amato
2008 stats: DNP (GBR)
2008 GB line: .285/73/132/1.215 (Guzman)
Amato, one of the many highly touted prospects of the Great Britain Red Coats, will have some big shoes to fill in 2009. Shammond Guzman put up a monster season in 2008 and is most likely more than Amato is capable of doing. Amato is one of four ROY candidates on Great Britain alone, and should pick up a lot of RBI batting behind all these superstars. Amato is a powerful hitter against righties and should be feared, even for a rookie. But even with the fear Amato will instill into right-handed pitchers, he's nothing special against lefties and doesn't compare to Shammond Guzman, who hit 75 homeruns while hitting .289 last year. Amato is certainly capable of breaking out and even making the All-Star game, but he's not at the level of Shammond Guzman just yet and it will show in 2009. I can see Richard Amato hitting maybe 25 homeruns, but no more, and maybe hit around .270. He could surprise a lot of people, but he doesn't have any experience and right now only has his hype Amato should be one half of one of the best young double play combinations but should not be considered elite just yet.
Advantage: Shammond Guzman, 2008

Third baseman: James Sirbeepalot, Jr.
2008 stats: .258/78/145/1.118 (DUB)
2008 GBR line: .275/15/60/.811 (Kobbs)
This was probably the toughest decision to make out of the whole lineup. Both of these players come into the league as great players, with totally different styles of play. Kobbs lived up to the hype with a great season, winning the Eastern Hemisphere's Rookie of the Year award. Sirbeepalot doesn't have quite as much hype, but he's a great player with good attributes. Kobbs also had good attributes going into his first full season, but I think Sirbeepalot is more evenly spread and was better overall. But, as you know, players with a high homerun number have big seasons while the other areas are usually less important. Kobbs had a very high homerun number and succeeded the whole season. Sirbeepalot's homerun number is very high; therefore he should have more success than he would have thought. He did hit 78 homeruns in 2008, but he did have many at-bats and mostly all of his hits were homeruns. Both are very talented players and solid fielders, but very different from each other. This is very close to a push, but because of how the game weighs homeruns more than anything else and Sirbeepalot had higher homeruns, Sirbeepalot gets this one.
Advantage: James Sirbeepalot, Jr., 2009

Shortstop: Vin Distasio
2008 stats: DNP (GBR)
2008 GBR line: .277/26/82/.916 (Smith)
Dave Smith contributed a lot to Great Britain over the years and didn't get much credit for it. Actually, he really didn't get any credit at all, but he produced nicely and was more valuable than anyone ever saw him as. Distasio is a top prospect and should produce nicely. He did not overly enjoy riding AAA all of 2008 and should come out in 2009 playing for something. He saw his team robbed of a championship in 2008 and you can bet he's ready to go out there and win this next one. He plays to win every game and never gives up, but he's never proven anything and is really a big question mark for this team. Smith has proven to be a great player, even a borderline star. Smith could be the best shortstop in the entire WBL and until Vin Distasio backs up his former top prospect status with some stats, Smith will be one step ahead. I do think that Distasio will hit over .300 but he may not put up the power numbers and does not have the intangibles that Dave Smith brings to any ball club, not just yet at least. If Distasio becomes a better team leader and works on hitting more consistently, he'll be a star, but he only has hype thus far as well.
Advantage: Dave Smith, 2008

Leftfielder: Ken Griff
2008 stats: .319/77/150/1.367 (MON)
2008 GBR line: .283/29/78/.833 (Biggs)
Great Britain's major deal of the off-season brought superstar Ken Griff to Great Britain. Griff is one of those rare all-around players, because hitting .300 with 75 is rare in any league, but even rarer in the WBL. Andrew Biggs filled this slot sufficiently in 2008, but did not provide that superstar presence in the lineup that Griff will bring. 2009 will be only Griff's third full season, having won the ROY award in 2007 and the World Series in 2008. Griff is a proven winner and a good leader, and he hopes to carry these things to Great Britain. Griff was traded from Montreal to Frankfurt after the 2008 World Series to complete an earlier deal between the two teams, and Great Britain ownership jumped on the opportunity to help struggling Frankfurt with a few solid players. Frankfurt accepted and Griff will man either left field or center field for 2009, either way occupying an outfield slot and a middle of the order batting spot. Griff was Great Britain's main priority in the off season and now that they've gotten him, they should be able to look for other parts to complete their roster. Griff beats Biggs in all four categories shown, and easily gives Great Britain an advantage over last year in this position.
Advantage: Ken Griff, 2009

Centerfielder: Scott Travers
2008 stats: .259/12/57/.710 (GBR)
2008 GBR line: .259/12/57/.710 (Travers)
The second of only three 2008 starters to return to the lineup in 2009, Travers should only continue to improve. After a solid rookie season in 2008 look for him to continue to rise and be even better in 2009. There could be a problem with him, as he owns an expansion team and may start to become less active. That is a worst-case scenario though, and in all likelihood Travers will continue to improve on his rookie season. You've seen what K-Rod is capable of doing with Francisco Rodriguez, so don't count Scott Travers to become a start in his second season like K-Rod. The starter may have remained the same from 2008 to 2009, but I really believe that the player didn't. We could see a new Scott Travers playing centerfield for sure and being so young and promising, you can't really expect him to only hit around .260 again. This is the only starter returning from the 2008 Red Coats that I think will have an even better season in 2009, so although the same starter is in centerfield, I give the advantage to the new and improved Scott Travers
Advantage: Scott Travers, 2009

Right fielder: Shawn Walker
2008 stats: .327/91/164/1.435 (GBR)
2008 GBR line: .327/91/164/1.435 (Walker)
Walker, the third and final returning starter in the lineup from 2008, put up a monster season in winning the MVP. He broke Joe Slugga's streak of MVPs with an incredible 91 homerun season, good enough to lead the entire league. It takes a special player to hit that many homeruns and maintain a .327 batting average, and Walker is clearly a special player. I don't know if Walker can match what he put up in 2008 during the 2009 season, but he should be able to come close to a repeat. After receiving a 15 million dollar contract and co-ownership of the team in the off season, he has an extra perk for playing for the team and maybe that will help his game, albeit it needs very little help as it is. Walker was Great Britain's top priority in the off-season and it's clear why. He is the cornerstone in the lineup for now and provides much of the production from it. He is the fourth of four batters that hit over 70 homeruns in 2008 that Great Britain can brag in their lineup. Walker should definitely come out hot, looking for another MVP title to add to his shelf along with a World Championship. Still, he has nothing on his 2008 season so I cannot give anyone the edge.
Advantage: Push

Rotation

1.Joe Slugga
2008 stats: 13/3/3.14/208 (GBR)
2008 GBR line: 13/3/3.14/208 (Slugga)
Chad Slugga is a great player, and is one of two players returning to the rotation from 2008. He had a solid season in 2008, but did not play up to his standards. He's not really used to having an ERA over 3, but that's what he had last year. He barely had 200 strikeouts as well, and that shouldn't be. When a player has a 3.13 ERA and 208 strikeouts, nobody should complain. But Chad is well above these standards and he should put up another great season this year. Slugga should lead this staff and really needs to be amazing because he has not much support. Other than his number two starter, the rest of the rotation is pretty weak and so is the bullpen. Because of this, they will need Slugga and his number two starter to step it up and pitch late into games. The offense will give them leads to work with often; it's just a matter of staying in the game long enough to not allow the weak bullpen to blow it. You can obviously expect Slugga to be good, and no one would complain if he had another season like 2008, but it should be important for him to step it up. I think he will do better in 2009, but like Joe Slugga, it's unfair to assume any better than what he put up.
Advantage: Push

2.Dustin Parmelee
2008 stats: 16/3/2.13/224 (GBR)
2008 GBR line: 16/3/2.13/224 (Parmelee)
Parmelee is a great pitcher and lived up to that title in 2008. He led the Great Britain staff with Max Powers, for the most part. When other players went on cold streaks, Parmelee stayed solid and continued to play like the star he is. He is the second of two starters returning to the rotation along with Chad Slugga. He is the other player that has to really step it up like everyone knows that he can. It's pretty tough to step it up more than he has in his career, but believe it or not, the Red Coats may have to ask him to. He is a team leader and all the young players look up to him. Everyone was disappointed when he lost in Game 2 of the World Series, so you know he'll come out this season ready to get back to that point. He is probably the ace of the staff statistically, but by starting him second in the rotation, he gets to face some weaker pitchers, giving him more run support. Parmelee can pitch with the best of them though, and with Great Britain's new offense, he should get the run support that he needs day in and day out. But like Chad Slugga before him, you can't expect more than he's currently giving you, especially at what Parmelee's doing.
Advantage: Push

3.Ken Griff, Jr.
2008 stats: DNP (GBR)
2008 GBR line: 19/2/2.53/296 (Powers)
Griff, Jr. is coming into the 2009 season having been the number one prospect for a long time and being very hyped. He is playing with his relative now, Ken Griff, and doesn't have to worry about facing him. Griff, Jr. could be the frontrunner for the Eastern Hemisphere's ROY award, even with all the contenders on Great Britain's roster, if you think about it. He is a solid pitcher, and will be facing other teams' number three starters. With the run support that he'll surely get and the low amount of runs he should allow, his win-loss record should be very good and if he puts up a decent ERA, he could be an easy choice. Griff, Jr. pitched solidly in the playoffs as a closer, although he did allow the three run homerun to Sam Baig to lose Game 3 of the World Series. As long as Griff remains active, he should continue to improve his pitching attributes and in no time should be an elite pitcher. But, Max Powers was Great Britain's 2008 number three starter, and Max Powers may be the best starter in the whole WBL. Griff, Jr. is a great prospect and should do well in his rookie season, but Max Powers is amazing competition and he wins this one easily.
Advantage: Max Powers, 2008

4.Greg Mojonnier
2008 stats: 0/8/9.94/18 (FF)
2008 GBR line: 13/4/3.13/156 (Rodriguez)
Don't let Greg Mojonnier's line fool you; he's really not as bad as that would tell you he is. He played most of the season out of the bullpen, so whenever he let up a run, it hurt his ERA more because he didn't play many innings. He still had a bad season, walking more batters than he struck out, but he's a promising young guy. He's very active and could become a solid pitcher in Great Britain. He was a top prospect a while back, and there is still the possibility of him living up to that in a new environment. He came to Great Britain as a throw in to the Ken Griff deal, and he was actually very high on the Red Coats' list of wants. But, Like Griff, Jr., he has some big shoes to fill. Francisco Rodriguez was the number four starter last year, and put up great numbers in his second season. He signed with his team, the Cancun Riptide, after the season, leaving Great Britain with some work to do. They were able to acquire Mojonnier, which they were happy with, but he's not at K-Rod's level yet. He could be there soon, but like Powers/Griff, Jr., this one is blatantly clear as well.
Advantage: Francisco Rodriguez, 2008

Bullpen

1.Carson Wheeler
2008 stats: 1/1/2.84/8 (GBR)
2008 GBR line: 1/1/2.84/8 (Wheeler)
Wheeler is the only player returning to the bullpen from 2008. He is the only player with any experience whatsoever in the bullpen. He had a good season last year, really the only player in Great Britain's bullpen who could say that. Expect the same to happen this year, with two-thirds of the Red Coat bullpen consisting of recently created players, neither of whom has been updated. The bullpen is obviously the weakest part of the team, and is relying on the starters going eight or nine innings every game. Wheeler can expect to pitch a lot of innings out of the bullpen, even if he plays the closer role. With a bullpen as shaky as the one Great Britain has now, Wheeler will be called on probably over half of the team's games and that could work either way. He could have a better season because he's pitching more innings, getting more used to certain hitters and teams, and has more of a chance to lower his ERA, but it could also go the other way. He could get too tired, hitters and opposing teams could start to catch on to any patterns they see, and he could let up more runs because he's pitching more innings. Because of all these variables, it's tough to tell if Carson Wheeler will do better or worse than 2008.
Advantage: Push

2.Vin Distasio II
2008 stats: DNP (not created)
2008 GBR line: 5/8/3.84/6 (Quigly)
Vin Distasio II, as promising as he may or may not be, has never pitched in any WBL-related game ever. He has never worn a WBL uniform, he's never thrown an official WBL pitch, and heís never even updated his player. Therefore, basically anyone who you try to compare him against will most likely have an advantage. That is true to this case, as Ty Quigly filled this role last year. He lost his closer's job early on in the season, after putting up already 14 saves. He continued to pitch decently from there, and finished with a solid 3.84 ERA. Distasio II could turn out to surprise us and start getting active, but only time will tell. He'll need to do a lot of work to get enough points to be good for the 2009 season, and should not be expected to have a great season. The best I can really see him doing is a mid-5 ERA, and I don't even know if he can do that. Eventually he should be solid, but Quigly is proven to be a reliable reliever and has a clear edge here.
Advantage: Ty Quigly, 2008

3.Enrique Gonzalez
2008 stats: DNP (not created)
2008 GBR line: 6/2/3.38/17 (Poole)
Gonzalez is only another example of a weak bullpen. Another player just created and not updated, he's another player you can't count on to do much. Another person who makes Great Britain's starters need to go eight innings or more every time, look for Slugga to be reluctant to call on Gonzalez and Distasio II. Gonzalez can become active soon, but should not upgrade too much in the next few weeks, certainly not enough to sustain a solid season. Josh Poole filled this role in 2008, and actually was very solid. He kept his ERA in the mid-3's and had a good win-loss record. He also got a decent amount of saves to go with it. Poole has recently declared himself inactive, but he had a nice season last year and there's not much more to say about this one.
Advantage: Josh Poole, 2008

Now I'm going to recap and review everything, add everything up, and see how 2009's team stacks up to 2008's.

Lineup Recap

Final Score: 4-2-2, 2009
I think 2009's lineup is really better than 2008's, but there are too many question marks. Joe Slugga and Shawn Walker were the two pushes, after having monster seasons. Behind the plate in left field, and at third base they got clear improvements, picking up two of the best hitters in the game. They should also have the edge in center field because Travers was young and inexperienced in 2008 and will come out hot in 2009. Around the horn, besides first base, is the reason that 2008 is even close in the lineup. At second base and shortstop Great Britain will start rookies in 2009. They both are at disadvantages because of that, although they could end up being better. They haven't played regularly and may never live up to the hype surrounding them. I think 2009's lineup flows more smoothly and they have better role players than 2008 did. So don't let the score fool you, Great Britain's offense is stacked more than ever and they can hit off any of the best of them now. They are very capable of putting up runs in bunches and probably will do so on numerous occasions in 2009.

Rotation Recap

Final Score: 2-0-2, 2008

Just by looking at the names without even comparing them, you could tell that 2008's rotation was stronger than the predicted 2009 one. The Red Coats decided to sacrifice pitching for hitting, although some of it they could not control. Losing three of your five starters will hurt any team, and Great Britain did a nice job filling in the last two slots while staying under the salary cap. The last two pitchers in the 2009 rotation are going to need to come up big for the Red Coats to try to get back to the World Series. They cannot survive on winning half their games, when Slugga and Parmelee start, and losing half, when Griff, Jr. and Mojonnier start. Great Britain had five great starters last year, and they have a clear advantage over this year's rotation. It's always possible for the bottom two of the rotation to surprise and have great seasons, but they won't be able to do what Max Powers and Francisco Rodriguez did last year. That's why 2008 had the clear edge in the rotation. Even if they had to use their fifth starter against 2009's third starter, they'd have the advantage.

Bullpen Recap

Final Score: 2-0-1, 2008

The obvious weakness of 2009's team, their bullpen is a disaster. They traded one of last year's relievers, and another left for free agency. They retained Carson Wheeler, but their bullpen is still terrible. If there is any downfall of this team, their bullpen is it. 2008's bullpen was actually solid, with Quigly, Poole, Wheeler, Griff, Jr. for part of the year, and Smith N Wesson for part of the year. But this year's bullpen is horrendous, with only one respectable arm in it. Expect Great Britain's pen to blow a lot of leads this year, unless something gets done. The Red Coats had better hope that they get some kind of pitching in the inactive draft or acquire something through a trade, because if they remain this same way the whole year, they could be in big trouble.

Team Recap

Final Score: 6-4-5, 2008 wins

By the final score, 2008's roster is much better and they weren't good enough to win the World Series. Obviously, by that, Great Britain has no chance to win the 2009 World Series, right? Wrong. Great Britain did get hit hard by free agency, but so did everybody because four new teams were added. They added enough to be able to compete again, and they finally figured something out about the WBL. The old cliché, "Pitching wins championships" does not stay true for the WBL. For years Great Britain has gone with the strong pitching approach many times and only has one ring to show for it. Montreal beat them with offense in 2008, so Great Britain is fighting back. They went all out on the hitting, adding Sirbeepalot and Griff to give them four 75+ homerun hitters, added with Joe Slugga and Shawn Walker. The score may give the edge to 2008, but Great Britain's 2009 rookies are all capable of stepping up and most, if not all, of them will. Still though, you have to take into account the effects of expansion. Because of the four new teams, Great Britain is paying roughly the same amount as they did in 2008 for fewer players. In 2008, you had to have a five man rotation, so that gives 2009 an advantage that they don't have to replace all three of the starters they lost, instead they just have to bring in two new guys. Because of this Great Britain was able to stack their hitting a little more. Either way, both of these rosters are very similar as both are amazingly talented and both have enough to win it all. So the final conclusion is that the 2008 Red Coats are the better team, but it's very possible and even probable for next year's team to play better.

So for all of you too lazy to read, this is a very basic rundown of what I just wrote about:

CA: Mayo>Vargas
1B: Slugga=Slugga
2B: Amato<Guzman
3B: Sirbeepalot>Kobbs
SS: Distasio<Smith
LF: Griff>Biggs
CF: Travers>Travers
RF: Walker=Walker
SP: Slugga=Slugga
SP: Parmelee=Parmelee
SP: Griff, Jr.<Powers
SP: Mojonnier<Rodriguez
RP: Wheeler=Wheeler
RP: Distasio II<Quigly
RP: Gonzalez<Poole

6-4-5, 2008 wins.

So now that we've determined that the 2008 Red Coats are better than the 2009 version, let's look at Great Britain's main competition for 2009, the Montreal Menace. The Menace and the Red Coats have a long rivalry, and now it is stemming further because the two teams are fighting to be the best team in the WBL. The Great Britain Red Coats lost the 2008 World Series to the Menace, and their dynasty was said to be over. Now Great Britain may have lost a lot of key players, but they did a great job coming back from it to put up a great roster. With that having been said, maybe it is Montreal whose dynasty could possibly be over. Maybe they got hit hard enough, or weren't good enough to begin with, to fall behind. Now we'll do something similar to what we just did, comparing Great Britain's 2009 roster with Montreal's 2009 roster. It should be a good battle and I'll try not to be biased. First, to clear up any questions, here are the rosters I am using to compare the teams, by position. Again, this is not the official roster or positions for either team, just my opinion of where everyone would be best suited.

Great Britain

CA: Eric Mayo
1B: Joe Slugga
2B: Richard Amato
3B: James Sirbeepalot, Jr.
SS: Vin Distasio
LF: Ken Griff
CF: Scott Travers
RF: Shawn walker
SP: Chad Slugga
SP: Dustin Parmelee
SP: Ken Griff, Jr.
SP: Greg Mojonnier
Pen: Carson Wheeler, Vin Distasio II, Enrique Gonzalez

Montreal

CA: Sam Hill
1B: Dice Jackson
2B: A NX
3B: Brock Weathers
SS: Kal Jordan
LF: Jason Hernandez
CF: (empty)
RF: Sam Baig
SP: Jeremy Shirley
SP: Carmelo Jackson
SP: Mujuri Shipal
SP: Nolan Ryan
Pen: Ryan Magana, Huben Puten, Jamie Cliff

Players(s), stats (separate or combined) from 2008, same lines as before

Catcher
MON: Sam Hill, .269/49/96/1.049
GBR: Eric Mayo, DNP
Sam Hill is a great player, and of course he should be because he is owned by the commissioner himself. Eric Mayo has not put any points to catcher fielding yet, but he is planning on moving there. Mayo put up a good season in the small portion he played, but he's not really at Hill's level yet. Hill hit an amazing 60 doubles in 2008 to go along with his 49 homeruns. He is one of the best all-around catchers in the league and should only keep getting better. Mayo is a good player, but still very unproven and is looking for a spot in the league. After starting off as a shortstop, he was forced to move to third base because of Vin Distasio. After getting his third base ratings up, he was forced out of there as well by Sirbeepalot, Jr. Now he is trying to move to catcher and will lead off for the Red Coats. He is still young and should improve greatly in a short period of time, but seeing how great Sam hill is right now and how far Mayo has to go to get these, you have to give this one to Sam Hill at catcher.
Advantage: Sam Hill, Montreal

First base
MON: Dice Jackson, .236/10/32/.662
GBR: Joe Slugga, .311/75/129/1.256
There was a toss-up between the easiest decision to make, and this was the first one that was blatantly obvious. Joe Slugga is one of the best, if the not outright best, players in the game. Dice Jackson came in late in 2008 and played sub par baseball for the whole year. He's a decent updater and could be good someday, but Joe Slugga hit .311 with 75 homeruns last year. You tell me who is the winner of this one. Slugga won three MVP awards in a row dating back to 2005 and was most likely second in the voting for 2008's, to Shawn Walker. Jackson has a long way to go to catch up to Slugga, and Slugga wins this comparison over any other first baseman in the league, and there aren't many batters in general who would be ahead of this guy. He is easily a top 5 player all time, and will continue to dominate. Jackson could have a good year, but he's not on Slugga's level and an amazing year for Jackson would most likely only be a solid year for Slugga.
Advantage: Joe Slugga, Great Britain

Second base
MON: A NX, .307/92/166/1.411
GBR: Richard Amato, DNP
Like I said before, there was a very close race for the easiest choice for any of the comparisons, and this is the other candidate for it. Richard Amato has never had a hit in the WBL. He is a top prospect, but still has proven absolutely nothing in his career and just as easily could be a bust as he could be a star. A NX, on the other hand, has already established himself as the league's best third baseman and is now looking to take over second base. Always a team player, he has offered to move to second to make room for Brock Weathers and help the team as a whole. Not only is he a great player, he is a good teammate and a great guy. He managed a .300 batting average while still being able to hit 92 homeruns, both of which are feats in themselves. As A NX makes the switch to second, he is leaving his legacy as the best third baseman up for grabs, probably to go to one of our next comparisons. But for now, as a second baseman, he beats out rookie prospect Richard Amato as the better player overall.
Advantage: A NX, Montreal

Third base
MON: Brock Weathers, .253/6/46/.656
GBR: James Sirbeepalot, Jr., .258/78/145/1.118
Now the A NX is gone, when you talk about best third baseman, it looks like that title falls to James Sirbeepalot. The guy may not hit for great average numbers, but he can hit homeruns with the best of them, as shown by his 78 bombs in 2008. He's a great player and is making teams configure themselves just so he can play his natural position. Weathers used to be a solid player, but going to Frankfurt somehow always brings out the worst in players, and Weather's' 2008 season shows it. Weathers used to be an all-star, but hasn't caught up to the rising pitching level and is slowly falling behind. Sirbeepalot is also inactive, but he has better ratings to begin with and should have two or three more prosperous seasons before he starts falling behind. Sirbeepalot is now probably the best third baseman in the WBL, and makes an instant impact to any lineup and can also field quite well at third. Weathers is a solid player, but is not the superstar that Sirbeepalot has become and Sirbeepalot takes this one fairly easily.
Advantage: Sirbeepalot, Jr., Great Britain

Shortstop
MON: Kal Jordan, .241/1/22/.652
GBR: Vin Distasio, DNP
Some people would give this to Jordan just for having played in a considerable amount of games, but I disagree. Kal Jordan only has an overall rating of 1 at homeruns, which as you all know, is a very important stat in the WBL. Jordan did have a great year in 2007, but he had a huge drop-off in 2008 and who knows if he'll rebound? Distasio is a promising young shortstop, already having 74 overall attribute points. He will bat second for Great Britain and score a ton of runs batting ahead of all the stars in the lineup. Distasio balanced his ratings off nicely and is now boosting his homerun number up. Jordan is not considerably active, and has solid attributes, but nothing stellar. They are both solid players with similar talents, but Distasio's homerun number may push him over the top. Of course, Jordan has proven that he can hit the ball and get on base with success, and 2008 may have just been an off-season. Because of all the uncertainties surrounding this comparison and how similar the players are, this one gets a push.
Advantage: Push

Leftfield
MON: Jason Hernandez, .213/7/40/.516
GBR: Ken Griff, .319/77/150/1.367
This was another fairly easy one to do, as anyone with eyes can see just by the stats that Ken Griff blows Jason Hernandez out of the water. Griff had a great year in 2008, hitting over 75 homeruns as well, and brings a winning attitude to Great Britain. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2007, and then won the World Series with Montreal in 2008. Maybe his history will carry over and he can win an MVP or a World Championship. Hernandez is a less than solid player for the most part, and won't make a huge contribution to Montreal's lineup. Griff is one of the best outfielders in the game and is a natural centerfielder. He might have to play left field in 2009, though, if Great Britain decides to allow Scott Travers to stay in center. Either way, Griff's offensive production should not go down at all. Hernandez may put up a decent season, but although Griff is only entering his third full season, he's not on Griff's level yet. This one was another simple one, giving Ken Griff the edge.
Advantage: Ken Griff, Great Britain

Centerfield
MON: (empty)
GBR: Scott Travers, .259/12/57/.710
Montreal currently has no centerfielder on their roster. Since it wouldn't seem fair to give it to Travers on a technicality, because they will get a center fielder eventually, I am making it a push right from the start. There have been rumors of A NX moving to center field, and although that looks like it's certainly the case, there is no confirmation from any inside sources just yet. I would have out NX here for the comparison, but it is not official and it would just leave me without a second baseman. Travers is a good young player and should only get player. K-rod's second player, he had a solid rookie season and with some updating should continue to get better. He will probably bat 8th for Great Britain and is very important to the team. They need him to field well and get on base. If they can get him on, the pitcher can bunt him over and they'll frequently have a runner on second for the top of the order. So although A NX has been rumored to be moving to center field, until there is clear evidence this one will remain a push.
Advantage: Push

Right field
MON: Sam Baig, .258/77/133/1.190
GBR: Shawn Walker, .327/91/164/1.435
A battle of the heavyweights, this was one of the closer comparisons. Sam Baig is a full-blown star, having hit a league record 99 homeruns in 2007 and following it with 77 more. He had an off-year batting average wise, but he still produced greatly, and it seemed like everyone had an off-year batting average wise. On the other hand, Shawn Walker had an amazing year and won the Eastern Hemisphere MVP award. He topped Baig in nearly every key stat category and clearly had the better 2008 season. Walker is a good fielder, and so is Baig. They are both great team leaders, as they lead by example and also with their words. They are both great players and although Baig has the more illustrated history, Walker had a much better season in 2008. This was very close to a push, but it looks like Walker is on the major rise while Baig may be falling off slightly, so that's what I based my decision on. Walker gets the edge here, and look for him to put up another huge year in 2009 to support my choice.
Advantage: Shawn Walker, Great Britain

Rotation
MON: Jeremy Shirley, Carmelo Jackson, Mujuri Shipal, Nolan Ryan, average: 12/5/3.21/150
GBR: Chad Slugga, Dustin Parmelee, Ken Griff, Jr., Greg Mojonnier, average: 10/5/5.07/90
The stats on this one can be deceiving at first look. Both players have a pitcher in their rotation that did not play a full season in 2008, so they balanced each other off and were not really taken into consideration. The problem was that Greg Mojonnier, Great Britain's fourth starter, had a horrific year in 2008 for Frankfurt but seems to be on the rise. Therefore, his season was so terrible that he killed everyone else's average by having to average in his terrible stats. He is active and young and should only go up from his season last year. In fact, he went 0-9 with an ERA shades under 10 and only had eighteen strikeouts. Slugga and Parmelee are stars and their averages were outstanding. On Montreal's side, Jeremy Shirley is an amazing pitcher, but Parmelee's season was better so he was better for the average. Jackson also put up a good season, but not on the level of Chad Slugga's. Ken Griff, Jr. and Nolan Ryan didn't play last year so they balance each other off well enough. That leaves Shipal versus Mojonnier, which Shipal wins easier. But since no one knows how well Griff, Jr. and Ryan will do, and no one knows if Mojonnier and Shipal were flukes, so it's easier to just go by the definites and give this one a push.
Advantage: Push

Bullpen
MON: Huben Paten, Ryan Magana, Jamie Cliff
GBR: Carson Wheeler, Enrique Gonzalez, Vin Distasio II
To be blunt, both of these bullpens suck, but I have to choose a winner. Montreal's bullpen is by no means full of stars, and neither is Great Britain's. Great Britain has the only shade of activity right now in Carson Wheeler, who anchors the amazingly weak pen. The other two players, Distasio II and Gonzalez, have both never been updated and should be very shaky starting off the season. They can become good if they start getting active, but it doesn't look like that will come soon. In Montreal, Magana had a solid season, but he is banned from the league and will most likely never come back. That means he cannot improve from where he currently stands, which is nowhere impressive. Puten has had a horrible career, and is also inactive. Cliff is the only player in both bullpens to have a great season, but that came as a starter. Cliff is a good player, the only player who can boast that in either bullpen. He may end up being a starter while Ryan moves to the bullpen, but as for now, Cliff is the deciding factor in this one, giving Montreal the slight edge.
Advantage: Montreal

Final score: 4-3-3, Great Britain wins

As you can see, the Great Britain Red Coats who were supposedly doomed for 2009 has made a complete turnaround to have the better team, on paper, out of themselves and Montreal. Of course, there are a lot of possibilities that were not determined by this article, as almost anything is possible at any time. Great Britain's team seems to be a little worse than 2008's super team, but still a step ahead of Montreal's 2009 team. If anything will hurt these two teams, it will be weak bullpens and that should be a point of concern in the inactive draft and the last few days of the off-season. Even without a bullpen, these two teams are still stacked with hitting. They can score runs with the best of them and will win games on offense, not with their bullpen. Both teams are looking to get big seasons out of their young guys and if they come through, these two teams can certainly meet back up in the 2009 World Series. Either way, look for these two teams to be atop their respective divisions at season's end, if all goes as planned. The teams are close and Great Britain barely pulls ahead.

Just for all of you that are curious, here is what Great Britain's 2009 batting order is going to look like. It is basically what Slugga has confirmed as the lineup and is here for you to view:

1.CA Eric Mayo
2.SS Vin Distasio
3.1B Joe Slugga
4.RF Shawn Walker
5.LF Ken Griff
6.2B Richard Amato
7.3B James Sirbeepalot, Jr.
8.CF Scott Travers
9.Pitcher's slot

And so concludes my article. We have come to the conclusion that Great Britain's 2009 roster is behind 2008 World Series runner-ups Red Coat roster. Despite that, they have managed to put together a roster for 2009 that seems to outweigh Montreal's 2009 roster in the battle of the heavyweights. I hope you've had fun reading my article because I have had fun writing it, and I hope I get to write more for you in the future.