Every good baseball team has one. They're the players who can stop a losing streak, who can give their team a chance to win every time they take the mound. They make the other players around them better, and can be counted on to give their all in a big game. When the season is on the line, these are the guys you want to give the ball to.
They are known as the aces of a pitching staff. They are a team's best starting pitcher, athletes with the ability to completely shut down the opposing team.
Off-Season: Even though Opening Day is more than three months away, baseball is buzzing about aces this week. The off-season is a time for teams to make themselves better, to address the problems they had last season and figure out how to fix them. Often, picking up an ace, either through a trade or free agency, is a great way to immediately make a team better.
Lackey: For the last eight years, John Lackey has been the ace of the staff for the Anaheim Angels. He started Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, leading the Angels to their first world championship. He also made a splash in this year's playoffs, pitching well for the Angels in a losing effort against the New York Yankees. Now, Lackey will have plenty of chances to pitch against the Yankees. The Boston Red Sox signed Lackey this week, putting him in the midst of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. His addition to the team gives Boston one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and makes them a stronger contender for the American League title.
Lee: After winning the Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians in 2008, Lee was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies last season and helped them reach the World Series. He pitched extremely well in the Fall Classic, giving the Phillies a chance before they eventually lost to the Yankees. Now, Lee is on the move again. As part of a big, blockbuster trade, the Phillies sent Lee to the Seattle Mariners. In Seattle, Lee will team with star pitcher Felix Rodriguez to give the Mariners one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball. With two legitimate aces in their starting rotation, Seattle will compete for the American League West championship.
Halladay: As part of the same deal that sent Lee to Seattle, the Phillies will receive Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays. Halladay, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2003, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for many years. He gives the Phillies a true ace, somebody who expects to win every time he gets the ball. With Halladay, the Phillies have the talent to return to the World Series.
With the addition of just one new player, the Red Sox, Mariners and Phillies made themselves better. That's what an ace means to a team.
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