Friday, July 27, 2007

Midseason Reviews, Part I

I meant to do this at the All-Star break, but naturally, I had only one day off and that was during the Home Run Derby. I came home around 9 PM and the last thing I had energy for was writing about baseball. By this time I'd usually had quite enough of reality and all the attendant irritants that go with it. I'm so disgustingly perky at Starbucks that no one knows I am in reality a cynical introvert who lives largely in her head and is prey to a flotilla of disturbing obsessions. (Some of my friends know some of them, I refuse to divulge the rest). So I decided that writing fiction about baseball was better than writing about real baseball, as I have detailed in preceding posts. Explanations over, here are my one-paragraph summations of the 30 MLB teams' season to date, and a look at how badly I suck at predicting things. They are outlined in standings order, AL East to NL West, and will probably be split by league.

I also have three days coming up this weekend, even if the great majority of the time will be occupied with sleeping. Hey, people, I had to get up at 4:45 this morning. Don't judge. Also, I'm having a royally, royally rotten day, am consumed in bitterness and misery, and will try to tone down the venom.

AL EAST

Boston: I predicted their usual second-fiddle finish to the Yankees in a top-heavy division, but instead they're burning up the league, leading everybody at a ridiculous 61-40 clip, just edging out the Tigers for the best record in baseball and enjoying a margin that's been as wide as 14 games, even if it's been whittled to 6.5 at the moment and making the Beantown fans sweat it out again. Second Half: Although their fans have been conditioned to expect collapse, it would be fairly surprising indeed if the Sox turned into the 1978 versions of themselves and let the Yankees come all the way back... but you never know.

New York: I bowed to the mojo, even if I hate them violently, and figured they'd be setting the tone atop the East again, but they've looked extremely mortal for large portions of the season. They briefly put together a hot streak, winning 11 of 12, then came to Colorado and got swept by Todd and the Toddlers (proudest moment of my life) , skidding aimlessly into the break and looking like a done deal. Of course, then they began winning games against weak opponents and trying to find their own Bucky Dent, attempting to build on a 54-46 record and chip away at the Sox lead. Second Half: I hate the Yankees (I may have mentioned this) but I can't deny that they bear an unnerving resemblance to a cockroach or an earthworm (in more ways than one). If anybody has learned anything, it's that you can't count George Steinbrenner's Traveling All-Stars out completely.

Toronto: I thought they'd at least be competitive, and predicted that they'd make at least a few fans in New York and Boston sweat, but instead, the Blue Jays haven't done that much (not that they ever had a realistic shot of cracking the Sox/Yanks stronghold, and at least I tabbed them to end up in third, the slot they're currently inhabiting). Despite the Rocky Mountain News' readers bewilderingly naming Toronto as the majors' best team, they have a strong offense (Wells, Glaus, Thomas, and an emergent Rios? Yikes) and yet can't mount enough of a push. They currently stand at 51-50, one game clear of the break-even mark -- and ergo, not bad, not good. Second Half: Barring an intercessory act of God, there's little chance Toronto clears their accustomed spot. They should pick out curtains and a wallpaper pattern for third place.

Baltimore: Peter Angelos, recently (and deservedly) named in Jon Heyman's SI.com article as one of the worst owners in baseball, still has his talons embedded in this floundering franchise, so until then, there's not a realistic chance that somebody will perform the overhaul needed to transform the Orioles from pretender to contender. MLB K leader Erik Bedard is a pleasant surprise, establishing himself as an ace on anybody's staff, and youngster Jeremy Guthrie has also stepped it up. Sam Perlozzo, to nobody's surprise, was fired and was replaced with interim manager Davey Trembley, who has skippered the O's to nine wins in 13 games coming out of the break. Still, they're 47-53, and they have more of a chance to win the East than I do of marrying Jason Hirsh. (And don't ask me about that, I'm still upset). Second Half: Not much of interest. Have hot streaks, have cold streaks. Finish in fourth again.

Tampa Bay: Unpopular opinion time: The Devil Rays are given far, far too much credit. Everyone talks about how they're a tough young team, how Maddon will pick up Piniella's slack and lead them from doormat to sudden contender, but let's face facts: Rocco Baldelli stays healthy for five minutes at a time. James Shields has turned back into a pumpkin. Scott Kazmir and Carl Crawford can't do it alone. And as long as the Tropicana Juice Box attracts 5000 fans a night (8000 on promo days) the Devil Rays are going to continue to play exactly the way their 38-63 record suggests. Second Half: More of the same.

AL CENTRAL

Detroit: I expressed skepticism that they'd be able to follow up their Cinderella run with another successful season, but they're doing just that, ripping along at a 60-41 mark and just behind the Red Sox for the best record in baseball. They're actually better on the road than they are at home (34-20 vs. 26-21) and despite Joe Morgan's bewildering insistence that Gary "Loudmouth" Sheffield is the sole reason for their offensive prowess (Joe, A) they were a good-hitting club last year, and b) have you, uh, heard of Magglio Ordonez) their strength still lies in their pitching. Rogers went down and they didn't miss a beat, as Justin Verlander is turning in a sterling sophomore effort and already has a no-hitter to his credit. Second Half: If the Tigers can fight off the marauding Indians, they should make a return playoff visit. They'll have their work cut out for them to get back to the Fall Classic, though, let alone win it.

Cleveland: I underestimated them, figuring they'd resemble their 2006 selves more than their 2005 selves, but I was wrong yet again, and they're fighting the Tigers tooth and nail, currently only one game arrears of the Motor City Kitties and sporting a shiny 59-42 record. Cleveland is usually a solid club, and is making a very real push for the AL Central title. Detroit lost it (thanks to the Royals) in the final few days of the season last year, so nothing's impossible. Second Half: My previous pick to click in the Central, the Twins, uh... didn't live up to it, so I'll jinx the Indians by picking them. Apologies to Tribe fans.

Minnesota: The Twins made a sweep of the major awards last season -- Cy Young for Santana, AL batting title for Mauer, and MVP for Morneau (who has 28 HR this season and is trailing only Alex Rodriguez -- I think -- in the AL). So why are they so bad, or at least, not that good? (51-50 as of this writing). Answer: No one after Santana in the rotation, His Johanness looking mortal, not enough hitting, and just plain bad luck. I thought they'd be the team to beat in this division, but overestimated them while similarly undervaluing the Tigers and Indians. Second Half: Unless they can snatch out the Central title with hours on the clock like they did last year, the Twins really don't have a realistic shot at unseating the leaders.

Chicago: Man, what a meteoric plummet. I guess the White Sox realized that although they've gotten off the World Series schneid, they're still supposed to be a bad team. They've fulfilled that billing admirably, waffling along ten games under .500 and only two ahead of the Royals for possession of the cellar. The offense I talked up in the beginning of the year has taken a season-long catnap and GM Kenny Williams has gone into rumored fire sale mode with his starters, who I correctly tabbed as mediocre. (At least I got SOMETHING right). Jon Garland, Javier Vasquez, and Jose Contreras are all on the block for the right price, as Williams tries to wring a king's ransom for average-to-bad pitchers. But since the market for starters is so thin, he may be able to command a decent return anyway. The same can't be said of his team, who will tread water at best. Second Half: Nothing worthy of note. The Sox already got their highlight with Mark Buehrle's no-hitter (conversely, the only pitcher that's definitely staying after he got an extension).

Kansas City: Like anybody's surprised. 43-57 and still solidly in last in one of baseball's toughest divisions, in this case by a 16.5-game gap. Gil Meche, the much-maligned, has been all right (7-7, 3.76) and, just as I predicted, got named an All-Star. While it wasn't quite the Mark Redman silliness, it still shows that the All-Star Game is a joke.... What? The Royals? They're still not worth mentioning and are a few years at least, possibly a decade, away from contending. Plus, they're still owned by David Glass. Second Half: Does anybody still follow the Royals? Well, if they do, they are brave souls, are to be commended, and will probably be treated to more bad baseball.

AL WEST

Anaheim: I refuse to call them by their full (and ridiculous) name. And they are fulfilling my prediction that they'd take the West, except they're doing it quite a bit more handily than I thought they would. They're leading by three and a half games, but their chief challenger is not the Athletics -- it's the surprising Mariners. The Angels have a stable of prospects to shop, strong pitching, and have a few holes they need to patch, but they still have Vlad Guerrero, who one of these days will probably swing at an intentional walk pitch and hit it over the fence. Second Half: I was right, there's no unseating the Ridiculous Names atop the West, who will probably win yet another playoff berth. As long as they take out the Yankees in the first round, it's all good.

Seattle: Everyone, myself included, didn't really expect the Mariners to make a push this year -- and then they went and did it anyway, kicking into a higher gear after a typically disappointing start to the season. They currently sit at 54-45, but are currently embroiled in a bit of a skid, just breaking a five-game losing streak. Mike Hargrove's puzzling resignation as the Mariners were their hottest didn't appear to matter much at first, and interim manager John McLaren has done a fine job. The Mariners locked up franchise cornerstone Ichiro Suzuki at five years and $90 million, which I expect will be another mistake contract by the time it's run its duration -- what big-money pact isn't? -- but I guess they weren't going to let him walk. The rotation is still suspect, but it remains to be seen how long Seattle can make it work. Second Half: May make Los Angeles Angels of Huntington Beach Lakewood hot under the collar, but doubtful that they'll unseat them.

Oakland: Well, I blew it. Perhaps I have a tendency (well, yes, I do) to bias my predictions in favor of teams I like, and I guess I failed to properly take into account that Oakland has a team made of china men who fall over at the slightest breeze. Well, I did, but one has to wonder what the hell Larry Davis is doing to make the A's use the DL whenever and wherever somebody breathes too hard. That and Joe Kennedy really is as bad as his numbers suggest, Chad Gaudin is becoming human again after a Cy-like start, and Dan Haren, despite starting the All-Star Game, has scuffled in July to tarnish his previously sub-2 ERA. The A's have been forced to use so many call-ups they might as well rename themselves the Rivercats, and I think I'm officially done with Rich Harden. Makes a few starts, does brilliantly, hurts himself and disappears. The best theory now is try to keep him in bubble wrap for a couple weeks and peddle him off on a GM who still thinks he's not the next Kerry Wood/Mark Prior/Mike Hampton. Second Half: The A's entered the break in need of a patented second-half surge to get them out of the doldrums and back into contention, but it's not going to happen. They're 48-53, under .500 and pretty much done for the season, and it'll be interesting to see who stays and who goes come July 31.

Texas: If the Rangers thought that hiring fiery Ron Washington was going to help light a fire under their underachieving rears, they were mistaken. They're a sad 46-56, solidly in the cellar (although Oakland has only three games to work with) and rumors have bubbled up of Washington's hard-nose style not playing well in the clubhouse and creating a schism between manager and players. The Rangers still have no pitching (hard to believe Kevin Millwood was the AL ERA leader a few years ago) and Mark Teixeira is seemingly a lock to be traded before the deadline. On the bright side, they have C.J. Wilson. Read his blog. Second Half: Nothing really worth remarking on. C.J. may write some more and make me laugh.

Okay, that's done. Gah... that took too long, spanned the entire time it took for me to watch the Rockies lose 5-4 to the Dodgers, and didn't make me feel better about this royally rotten day. Seriously, everything that could go wrong did, and I'm hoping that tomorrow will be better. It pretty much has to be.

I'm out.

1 comment:

Sports betting said...

It's been ages since i posted here. Been sick, busy etc. There are not many games left this season. It has had it's up's and down's. Meet some new Reds i adore. Meet David Ross again. Knew of him when was a Dodger. Missed Sean Casey a lot. Reds then got rid of Austin Kerns. Seen the Reds 9 times this year at Busch Stadium. Saw the Phillies 3 times. Seen The Astros 3 times. Gonna see the Astros for my 4th time September 13th. Gonna go to games in 2 weeks to see Brian Giles.No idea who will make the playoffs.First Choice Reds. Second Choice Phillies. 3RD Astros. 4TH Choice Padres. Padres just because of Brian Giles, Geoff Blum and Trevor Hoffmann. I hope to at least attend one playoff game. But if the Cards don't make it won't go to any. Because i can't afford to travel. But if i had to choose. I'd rather the Reds win the Central and just have to watch them on tv.Seeing them on tv would be better than them not making the playoffs at all.
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