71-91 (.438); 4th place in AL East
RHP Curt Schilling, RHP Orlando Hernandez, OF Luis Gonzalez, 3B Robin Ventura, RHP Kelvim Escobar, OF Ellis Burks, SS Omar Vizquel, OF Benny Agbayani, OF Stan Javier, LHP John Rocker, LHP Arthur Rhodes, RHP Jeff Zimmerman.
OF Tim Salmon, SS Tony Womack, RHP Pedro Astacio, LHP Jamie Moyer, LHP Jesus Sanchez
At first glance, a 71-win season may not seem like a great achievement. When it comes just one year after a 44-win campaign, however, it represents a 27-game improvement. And that, my friends, is quite an achievement.
In its dreadful 2000 season just one year ago, Morris had the worst offense (707 runs scored) and defense (1051 runs allowed, 6.16 ERA) in the American League. Just one year later, though, the team scored 865 runs, good for 9th in AL. And while the teams pitching still struggled (1013 runs allowed, 5.72 ERA), at least it moved out of the cellar into 11th place in the 12-team league.
Leading the resurgent Morris offense were OF Barry Bonds (.279, 46 HR, 122 RBI), OF Tim Salmon (.278, 28 HR, 80 RBI) and a half-season of Jim Edmonds (.299, 46 HR, 137 RBI) before his trade to Fleetwood. Its top pitchers were RHP Elmer Dessens (9-7, 4.59 ERA) and RHP Curtis Leskanic (45 IP, 3.20 ERA, 19 SV).
While its 71-win season was certainly a great accomplishment given the circumstances, Morris management recognized that it was only a step (although a big one) in the right direction. This off-season, Morris took the necessary actions to insure that it will once again be one of the most improved teams in the league.
First, the team made some much needed moves to improve its pitching staff. Most significant is the return of RHP Curt Schilling (17-11, 5.04 ERA, 170 K). After being shipped from Morris to Ocala last season (where, incidentally, he picked up a World Series ring), Schillings return via free agency once again gives Morris an anchor to its staff. Also important is the acquisition of RHP Orlando El Duque Hernandez (14-7, 5.75 ERA) via an off-season trade with Santa Barbara. While neither pitcher posted a dazzling ERA last season, both are proven winners and should perform better in 2001.
Other important additions to the pitching staff are RHP Kelvim Escobar (12-4, 4.51 ERA), LHP Arthur Rhodes (67 IP, 5.75 ERA, 72 K) and RHP Jeff Zimmerman (68 IP, 4.90 ERA, 63 K). Like Schilling, Escobar also returns to Morris after one season away from the team, his with Toledo. Escobar seemed to mature last season and provides Morris with the versatility to contribute either in the rotation or out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, Rhodes (also acquired from Santa Barbara via trade) and free agent Zimmerman add further depth to the bullpen. In fact, Zimmerman is expected to challenge incumbent Curtis Leskanic for the closer role.
On the other side of the ball, Morris addressed the losses of OF Tim Salmon and SS Tony Womack (.229, 76 R, 63 SB) by trading for OF Ellis Burks (.306, 19 HR, 88 RBI) and SS Omar Vizquel (.240, 90 R, 27 SB). Even more important, though, are the additions of 3B Robin Ventura (.286, 38 HR, 100 RBI) and OF Luis Gonzalez (.317, 33 HR, 151 RBI). Both players are veteran run producers who know what it takes to win.
With its upgrades on both sides of the ball, Morris seems poised for another significant improvement in 2002. In fact, with its core of proven veterans, Morris may even find itself in the AL playoffs. If so, the feat would be one of the greatest (and quickest) rebuilding stories in BRASSball history.
CF Torii Hunter
DH Luis Gonzalez
LF Barry Bonds
RF Ellis Burks
3B Robin Ventura
2B Bret Boone
DH Brian Daubach
C Einar Diaz
SS Omar Vizquel
Elmer Dessens/Kelvim Escobar
Curtis Leskanic/Jeff Zimmerman