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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 1:44 pm 
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By Hamish Campbell
Special to Streit and Smythe PEBA Annual
2028-03-31

The only suspense in last season’s race for the Trans Atlantic Division crown was whether Havana could even pretend to sustain interest through the end of April.

Turns out, no.

As it was, the Leones won the division by a whopping 34 games over their nearest challengers and the Havana players spent most of their summer experimenting with exotic Mojito recipes.

But now, with the 2028 season opener upon us, the Havana players have stowed the rum and the other Trans Atlantic teams have checked out of detox with new hope of at least staying competitive this season.

It’s a slim hope, to be sure, given that Scotland and London both lost 99 games in 2027 and San Juan lost 102.

Still, there have been enough changes in the division over the offseason to perhaps prevent Havana from running up an astronomical bar tab before the All Star Break.

Here are a few big questions facing each team as regular season play gets underway.

The Havana Leones


We start, appropriately enough, with the defending champs.

The league’s best pitching staff returns, for the most part, led by last season’s Imperial League Golden Arm winner, Enrique Vázquez, who went 19-1 with a stellar 1.76 ERA at the top of the rotation.

But there is a $4.4 million question mark here in the form of newcomer Arinori Mochizuki. Owner Patrick Hildreth signed Mochizuki from the disabled list following his release in 2026 by the Duluth Warriors, and waited patiently for his year-long recovery from a serious elbow injury. He’s expected to begin the year as Havana’s fifth starter, and how that will go is anybody’s guess.

Other questions loom, too.

Havana released three familiar faces who made considerable contributions to the Leones over the past several years, including first baseman Pancho Moreno, catcher Yosuke Imai, and second baseman Yeong-Hun Kim. Imai and Kim both signed with division rival Scotland, while Moreno is still a free agent.

“It is painful to say goodbye to talented veterans, who also have many friends and fans in our great city,” said manager Yoshihiro Seki. “But they take with them our lasting gratitude and some killer bartending skills.”

Perhaps the most intriguing mystery, though, is in right field, where the starting nod has gone to Claudio Hernández. He’s a talented free agent out of Panama with no big league experience who, nonetheless, signed a $106.8 million contract for the next six years.

So where does that leave his $32 million-a-year predecessor, Motoki Suzuki?

“Riding the pine and crying in his rum,” said one teammate, who asked not to be named. “It’s a shame, really, that Suzuki hasn’t been the same since he tore up his ankle back in ’24, but this isn’t a business that runs on sentiment. If you want that, write romance novels.”

If it were any other team in any other division, you’d be tempted to say the warning signs are there for a fall.

But once you look at the rest of the division, well, you’re probably smart to just ignore those signs and take a hike to the nearest Mojito joint.


The London Underground



As Albert Einstein almost certainly never said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So what will London do to avoid suiting up in a straitjacket?

Spend money like a drunken sailor on a Mojito binge, for one. Underground management has hit the free agent market with a vengeance in recent weeks and signed some impressive talent.

Examples:
• Martin Ramirez, a starting pitcher who went 13-7 with Havana last season, signed for $6.5 million on March 14.
• Miguel Angel Galvez, an elite defensive catcher who played for the Canton Longshoremen last year, signed for $6 million on March 4.
• Clark Snow, a starter who went 13-7 for the Aurora Borealis last season, signed a $5.2 million contract on April 1.
• Bruce McGuire, a center fielder who hit .303 and compiled a .907 OPS for Duluth in 2027, signed a $13.1 million contract on March 28.

These players, among others, figure to transform London from a 99-loss team into, well, something better than that in 2028.

In an introductory statement on the Underground’s team forum, new owner Derek Tronsgard said the team needed to rebuild from the ground up and to expect “lots of comings and goings.”

If London’s transaction wire is any indication, Tronsgard is a man who says what he means and means what he says.

But will that be enough to topple Havana from the top of the division?

“Who knows? That’s why they play the games,” some genius once said.

And it definitely wasn’t Einstein.


The Scottish Claymores



Scotland was a bad team in 2027.

So, as bad teams are wont to do, it cleaned house after the season, bringing in a new general manager, a new manager, and a host of new free agents.

And guess what? Likely as not, Scotland will be a bad team in 2028.

There’s some talent in the new signings, for sure.

Francisco Robles, who spent the last few seasons with the Florida Featherheads, would be a serviceable third or fourth starter on most teams. With the Claymores, he’ll be totally miscast as the ace of the rotation.

And at age 35, Yosuke Imai still has some pop in his bat, but his days as an effective catcher are behind him. The Scottish will use him as a DH, and go with unproven Aaron Jason behind the plate.

So, the really intriguing questions facing the Claymores aren’t especially compelling in a competitive baseball sense, since the team is unlikely to be, um, good.

But they do make for good melodrama.

Question No. 1: Can new manager Hayato Sasaki, a sabermetric whiz kid, coexist with new GM Vic Caleca? Their relationship is already off to a choppy start, with Caleca overruling Sasaki’s desire to put talented but petulant hurler Soichiro Ogawa in the bullpen. When the Claymores struck training camp, Ogawa was ensconced as the fifth starter. How many more decisions can Caleca override before the situation implodes?

No. 2: Will talented malcontent Naomi “Dr. Evil” Honma produce enough to make his personality worth keeping around? He balked at playing third, where he’s a good but not great fielder. So Sasaki has installed Sixto Dueñas there, allowing Honma to flash his elite skills at shortstop. Arguably a good move, but will the clubhouse interpret this as a new manager knuckling under to a petulant player? We’ll see.

One last observation, which can’t be repeated enough.

The 2028 Claymores, like the 2027 edition, look like a very bad team.


The San Juan Coqui


Hey, speaking of bad teams …

A year ago, the Coqui lost 102 games en route to finishing 37 games off the lead. Clearly, it was time for a change. New owner Mike Best was the first domino to fall, and he has pushed over a bunch more in an effort to give his beleaguered franchise a facelift.

So, the overarching question: What’s the plan?

Pitching and defense.

“We have a tough budget to work with,” Best said, “but we've brought in a bunch of guys who maybe have fallen through the cracks elsewhere and they are going to get their shot to prove themselves.”

Among the new faces: SP Hou Hao, who comes from the West Virginia Alleghenies farm system; LF Mike Rose, another pickup from West Virginia; and Phil Anderson, a shortstop who played last year in New Orleans.

How’s it all stack up?

Most likely as another long summer in Puerto Rico. But given the competition in this woebegone division, it must also be said that it adds up to one thing more:

Hope.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 1:48 pm 
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I posted a version of this with copious links, etc., on the home page -- mostly to see if I could figure out how to do it.

If there are any mistakes, misquotes, blatant mischaracterizations, or character assassination included herein, blame Hamish Campbell. I'm pretty sure he was drinking when he wrote it ...

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 2:14 pm 
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:clap: Yogi is back to pitching against where his career started in London!

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 2:17 pm 
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Excellent preview, Vic!! I do think the TA will be a closer division - though as you point out, that's kinda a relative thing...

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:37 pm 
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Awesome article!

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:45 am 
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That was a good read. Well written article! Great to see the Trans Atlantic getting a heartbeat again. :clap:

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:27 pm 
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The Trans Atlantic: it’s hot, it’s happenin’, it’s sub-.500 ...

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:20 pm 
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Nice one Vic :clap:

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