Early in the season, when teams and players are very hot or very cold, I often say “Wait and see where they are come Memorial Day.” Now here we are, at the end of May, and we can finally take a look at who are real players this year, and who are pretenders. So here are some of my thoughts on the year so far:
–Goodbye, Toronto. Thanks for playing.
–You have to be happy with where the Sox are considering Papi’s woes and that their starting pitching has yet to click.
–I hate to say it, but Papi looks done. Consider that this slump extends well back into last season. This happens a lot in baseball. You just hoped it wouldn’t happen to such a pivotal great in Sox history.
–I don’t know what’s more surprising: That the Devil Rays are four games under .500, or that the Orioles are only four games under .500. Actually, yeah I do. The more surprising one is the Orioles.
–The Tigers are winning the Central. But what’s up with the Indians? They just can’t put it together. Eric Wedge, meet the unemployment line.
–The Rangers are good, but not that good. They benefit from a weak division. And, yeah, I am saying the Angels are weak.
–Stick a fork in Matt Holliday. He’s done.
–Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would own the title of Team Owner I’d Most Like To Hit With A Shovel . . . if Mark Cuban wasn’t so damn annoying.
–The Cardinals won’t be near the top of their division come September.
–Ha ha ha ha. The Cubs are .500 and more than 4 games out! Ha ha ha ha ha . . .
–The Dodgers own the game’s best record by nearly 6 games . . . and they are probably only about the sixth best team in the game. They should send thank-you notes to all those Four-A teams that make up the rest of their division.
- How do I get through the offseason? Preparing for fantasy baseball. It’s never too early to build a champion.
- At this point, there’s only one way the Jason Varitek saga can end: The Sox get him at a bargain-basement price. The Sox still want him back, but on their terms. And they have the captain over a barrel. With other teams signing catchers, his potential other options have all but dried up. Given that, he has zero negotiating leverage. Sure, the Sox could still go out and get a young catcher like Saltalamacchia or Montero, but if they don’t like the pricetags — which they don’t — they know they can just wait Tek out at this point. He’ll come calling. He’ll end up with a base salary around $2 or $3 million, with a bunch of incentives built in.
- I keep thinking about doing pre-Spring Training team predictions, but there are still so many impact free agents that it is impossible to do them. I’m surprised the Angels – weakened after losing Teixeira and K-Rod — haven’t been more proactive in pursuing a bat like Abreu, Dunn or even Manny (despite that they’ve said they’re not interested). I also keep waiting to see when the Rangers will pull the trigger on Ben Sheets, who could be a difference-maker in Arlington. If the Angels don’t improve themselves, with the A’s bringing in Holliday and the Rangers possibly snagging Sheets (and/or a power bat), the AL West could turn out to be surprisingly open. And — call me crazy — don’t be surprised if the Mariners have a big bounce back year; they could do it with Bedard and King Felix carrying their rotation, and if they sign one of these available bats . . . well, remember you heard here first.
- I love the Pirates, and would love to see a bounce-back year from Pedro in Pittsburgh. With talented young arms like Ian Snell and Tom Gorzellany hitting the age of 27, you could see the Pirates start moving in the right direction. (But, then again, I’ve been saying that for years.)
- Considering how the prices for free agents have been dropping, don’t be surprised if the Yankees make another move that drives fans crazy.
Each April, as the baseball season is still in its infancy, we watch as favorites struggle out of the gate, and hopeless underdogs tantalize fans as they hover near first. And each year I say the same thing: Talk to me on Memorial Day.
During those early weeks of the season, we don’t have enough material to work with in judging what teams are for real and which ones aren’t. To me, it seems you can’t really take stock of the contenders and pretenders until you reach Memorial Day.
Now, here we are a few days past the holiday weekend, and, as I look at the Major League Baseball standings, I just don’t know what to think. With so many pre-season favorites struggling, and so many pre-season clunkers hanging tough, this to date just may be the most topsy-turvy baseball season in recent memory.
As fans oohed and aahed at the early struggles of the Tigers, Indians and Yankees, I patiently waited for them to spend May rising toward the top of the heap. Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for the Devil Rays, Athletics, Marlins and Cardinals of the world to plummet back down to their rightful places near the basement. And now that we’ve passed Memorial Day, I’m still waiting.
Entering June, what are the Rays still doing hanging around? They’re good, but not this good, are they? Can you really see this team hanging around til September, or even making a push for October? At this point, I’m hesitant to make a guess either way. Given my Memorial Day theory, they should have started to fade by now. Maybe they’ll hang til August . . . but that’s got to be it. It’s just got to be.
The Yankees? I thought they’d have pitching problems . . . but while I’d like to say I saw this coming, I didn’t. This team is not good, and there may be too many holes for them to plug this year.
Still waiting for the Tigers and Indians to play like they are supposed to. Maybe they haven’t received the memo that we’ve reached Memorial Day. And someone please tell Ozzie’s Sox they are overdue to start fading. Not too long ago I said they weren’t for real, and that the Royals were real. Brilliant.
And what is more surprising: That the Athletics are still contending (and just swept your Sox), or that the Mariners added another ace this year and are absolutely, positively terrible?
I thought the Marlins would be good . . . . good enough to challenge for third place. And the Cardinals should have been making their golf plans for October by now, not thinking about playing baseball in the fall. And remember when we thought the Giants would be so much worse — SO MUCH WORSE — than the Padres. Ah, yes. Those were the days.
- Listening to Cedric “I Am A Crazy Person” Maxwell on the radio and Tommy “Super-Homer” Heinsen on TV during Celtics games has really, really — REALLY– made me appreciate the quality of the Red Sox broadcasters.
- You have to like how the season has gone so far. The Sox are at the top of the American League, and you just have that feeling that they haven’t even started playing to their full abilities yet.
- The way things stand right now, it’s hard to see where the American League Wildcard will come from this season. My suspicions about the Yankees pitching staff is so far proving mostly true, although their ability to go out and get an arm or two mid-season may give them an advantage. The AL Central has so far been mediocre top to bottom. In fact, it seems the entire American League (outside of the Angels and Sox) are treading .500. And don’t talk to me about the Athletics; there’s no way they are this good. In fact, if they keep up this success it could prove trouble for Billy Beane who no doubt knows this team isn’t a real contender and wants to justify dealing some players mid-season to boost his stock of young talent.
- For fans of The Office: If you want a laugh, check out Dwight’s chart from the May 1 show, now posted online at http://www.nbc.com/The_Office/downloads/dunder_mifflin_org_chart.pdf.
- I recently said the Marlins were for real. But I’m not sure I really believed it. They sure are making me look smart.
- Meanwhile, the Cardinals are making me look really stupid. They just can not be this good.
- Lost really is that good of a show.
- You have to feel for the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite what many Cubs fans have told me, the Brewers really did have a great chance to win that division this year. But their pitching is decimated with injuries, and it looks like they may plummet into mediocrity this season. If that’s the case: Go Cards . . . or anyone but the Cubs.
- Travis Hafner is single-handedly screwing me out of a fantasy baseball championship. As if I needed any more reason to hate the Indians (see my previous post).
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.
Great performance by Daisuke last night. Encouraging to see him bounce back like that and to be hitting his spots, where he had missed badly in Japan. Just like we say after the bad games, this was just one game, so don’t get too excited. And the Oakland offense won’t strike fear in anyone. But his control was rather encouraging.