Smoke and Mirrors?


We are just over two weeks into the season and hitting that fun early time of year when some teams are doing surprisingly well early and making excited fans wonder: Are they for real? Let’s seperate the pretenders from the contenders.

Baltimore Orioles Sure, the O’s may have started out 6-1, but c’mon. This team has nobody on it except for some young players who are still a few years away from making an impact. Pretender.

Kansas City Royals I know, they’re the Royals. Still, Zach Greinke and Brian Bannister are the real deal — exciting young arms with great stuff. Gil Meche might be considered the ace of the team, but in reality he gives the Royals a very good Number Three. The lineup has some exciting young players with a world of upside, the tops being Alex Gordon who after disappointing last season looks ready for primetime. Funny as it may sound, this might be a team who could really use a stick like one Barry Bonds. They could stick around long enough to contend for a wild card this season, so consider them a contender, but this team is truly poised for next season.

Chicago White Sox The White Sox are a tough, tough team to read. On paper they have more talent than a team like K.C., so if I’m going to consider the Royals contenders, then . . . Still, there is something uneasy about a team that tanked so badly last season and is made up of a lot of aged vets. Given that the division suddenly seems wide open, it is hard to count anybody completely out of it. Still, I just don’t believe in the White Sox. Call it a gut feeling. Pretender.

Detroit Tigers Okay, so they’re not surprising in a “good” way for their fans. Still, their start has been surprising to say the least. The national media, which was on the Tiger bandwagon in a big way a month ago is suddenly jumping off like it is the Titanic. Slow down. This is still a very, very good team. And by August their mini-slump in early April will be a distant memory. Contender.

Oakland Athletics In the midst of a rebuilding phase, the A’s seemed poised to battle the Rangers for the basement of the division. However, despite three losses to the Red Sox, Oakland has started off the season in first place. But don’t believe in them. They have good arms in Joe Blanton and Rich Harden, but Billy Beane knows this isn’t his year. The team will fade toward the back of the pack quickly, and don’t be surprised if Beane deals Harden this summer (Boston is a nice place to live, Rich). Pretender.

Florida Marlins Before last season, I picked the Marlins as one of the teams I thought could surprise in 2007. But, they didn’t. Still, this is a team stacked with great young talent. It could be that time when that young talent clicks, and if Anibel Sanchez comes off the DL looking strong in June, watch out. All that being said, at the end of the day I liked this team a lot better when they had Miguel Cabrera. And, the team that won it all in 2003 was built by one John Henry — not MLB Public Enemy Number One Jeffrey “The Bandit” Loria. That team also had some vets on it, including Ivan Rodriguez. And there are too many other titans in the division. So where do they stand? Hell, if I know. They probably won’t beat out the Mets and Phillies, as those teams have the resources to make a mid-season deal. But, the Marlins could conceivably contend for third place, which is a good season for them. So . . . Contender.

St. Louis Cardinals What’s up with the Cardinals having the best record in baseball right now? They have no business doing that, especially when I picked them to contend for the division’s basement. They’ll fade soon . . . I think. Pretender.



  1. mikeeff

    great stuff, i agree that the royals are surprisingly real…all about greinke and bannister though- we’ll see if they can keep this up.

    after watching john danks and the white sox yesterday and with swisher as a team leader- these guys could go far.

    loved your take on big papi- agreed- any “fan” who would boo him is an impostor-at best.

  2. welikeroywelikeroy

    What has really suprised me about the Tigers is their pitching. Man, has Verlander ever been terrible. If they don’t have a legitimate ACE on that staff, I don’t see the Tigers going anyware. I agree with all your other picks, except I think the A’s might have a good year. They will, at least, contend for the wild card, but so will every other team in that division, probably. Great work!

  3. dmathers

    Dan —

    Good piece (for a change). I’m glad you turned off Brett Michaels long enough to jot down some notes. I agree with most of this. The White Sox, though, are probably better than you give them credit for. More importantly, I think you missed on team: The Pirates! They are off to a (gasp) .500 start. Their line-up is looking solid all of a sudden and that pitching has… potential. If they are able to hang past July, watch our for the Buccos!


  4. dmathers

    Jason, surprised you found your way to the blog. Also surprised you are able to recognize good, intelligent baseball analysis. But you are right — it was a good piece.

    Glad to see you were able to write something. Not a post, a halfwit comment, but you wrote something nontheless. And your point was actually a good one. Obviously, you had an intern right it for you.


  5. kozmo

    Terrific stuff, Dan. On the whole, I agree. I’m not even strongly going to disagree about the White Sox, but think that’s the one team that can contend. Chicago sunk so far and so badly by 2007, with essentially the same team no less as 2005, making them an enigma. But they might prove the flip-side of momentum this year compared to last year. That is, they might show the importance of intangibles such as confidence and momentum as related to play. If Chicago continues to hit, get pitching and some defense, they’ll certainly compete with that lineup. Last year, the offense went into the tank as a whole. The pitching is key for them. We’ll see about the starters. But my gut tells me they’ll be in the hunt because of the offense.

    By the way, I’ve moved Heartland Pinstripes from MLBlogs to WordPress, and the new digs can be found at The format, maintenance, and text options, are much better for me than at MLBlogs. Your blog is on the Non-Yankees Blogs I Like list at the new blog. I’ll still be by to comment, and sorry I haven’t been lately. Between dissertation stuff, teaching, and family, I’ve been swamped. All Best.


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